God Protects Me

Today’s Reading: 1 Samuel 18 – 30; 1 Chronicles 12:1-22; Psalm 54

Come with great power, O God, and rescue me!
Defend me with your might.
Listen to my prayer, O God. Pay attention to my plea.
– Psalm 54:1-2

The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help.
He rescues them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.
The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time
. – Psalm 34:17-18


After David killed Goliath, Saul no longer saw David as a humble servant but as a threat to his own popularity and throne. David spent the next few years running from Saul’s anger and attempts to kill him, a time when he possibly wrote many of the Psalms that now help us when we face hard times. Saul hunted him day after day, but God didn’t let Saul find him (1 Samuel 23:14b). Once more, God was protecting David.

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy!
I look to you for protection.
I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings until the danger passes by.
I cry out to God Most High, to God who will fulfill his purpose for me.
He will send help from heaven to rescue me, disgracing those who hound me.
My God will send forth his unfailing love and faithfulness.
– Psalm 57:1-3

For years Saul continued to chase David in an attempt to kill him. Time after time David was given the opportunity to retaliate and end Saul’s life but he refused. David saw value in Saul’s life by looking at him through the eyes of God instead of through his own victim eyes. He showed no signs of hatred or vengeance towards Saul but instead pleaded with him time after time to see his heart – to see that he loved the king and would be loyal to him.

“Some of my men told me to kill you, but I spared you. For I said, ‘I will never harm the king – he is the Lord’s anointed one.’” – 1 Samuel 24:10b


David’s men encouraged him to kill Saul, but David was looking to God for his reward, not for the praise of men. “The Lord gives his own reward for doing good and for being loyal, and I refused to kill you even when the Lord placed you in my power, for you are the Lord’s anointed one. Now may the Lord value my life, even as I have valued yours today. May he rescue me from all my troubles” (1 Samuel 26:23-24).

David had the opportunity to carry out vengeance against another wicked man – Nabal from Maon. Nabal’s wife, Abigail, was a sensible and beautiful woman. She wisely went to David with generous gifts of food for he and his men. She recognized that God was with David and asked for David to trust God instead of retaliating against Nabal.

“…The Lord will surely reward you with a lasting dynasty, for you are fighting the Lord’s battles. And you have not done wrong throughout your entire life. Even when you are chased by those who seek to kill you, your life is safe in the care of the Lord your God, secure in his treasure pouch!…” – 1 Samuel 25:28b-29

David praised God and thanked Him for Abigail’s good sense. He sent Abigail home in peace and promised not to kill Nabal. The next morning, Nabal had a stroke and 10 days later the Lord struck him and he died. David recognized that the Lord was again taking care of him; that he could trust God to fight his battles for him. Sometimes the Lord sends us into battle with our enemies and sometimes He calls us to do nothing and let Him fight the battle without us.


David married the beautiful and sensible Abigail. He also married Ahinoam from Jezreel, making both of them his wives. David moved on from that area with his men and continued to hide from King Saul. Because of Saul’s jealousy, David was forced to live among the Philistines – who also rejected him. He tried to join their army, but they sent David and his men back home because they were foreigners and the rulers did not trust them. When David and his men returned to their home, it had been destroyed and their families captured. His men wept and became bitter, but David “found strength in the Lord his God” (30:6). God was faithful and gave David and his men victory over those who had raided their homes, and they were reunited with their family members receiving back all of their possessions and more (30:19)

So what can I find in my morning coffee to energize me spiritually today? To value life as God values life, and to trust God with all He has given me, finding my strength in God and God alone. There may be times when we suffer due to the choices of others. There may be times when we would be justified in our retaliation or anger. But my soul will NOT find rest in hatred or self-pity. It will find rest in God alone. God is God and if we truly trust Him, we will leave justice in His hands and look to Him for our reward and for our rescue.

Let’s make these words of David our prayer to God today:
When I am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn…
I pray to you, O Lord.
I say, “You are my place of refuge. You are all I really want in life.”
– Psalm 142:3a,5

I will always trust in God’s unfailing love.
I will praise you forever, O God, for what you have done.
– Psalm 52:8b-9a

But God is my helper. The Lord keeps me alive!…
I will praise your name, O Lord, for it is good.
For you have rescued me from my troubles and helped me to triumph over my enemies. – Psalm 54:4-7

But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.
I praise God for what he has promised.
I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?
What can mere mortals do to me?…

You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.
My enemies will retreat when I call to you for help.
This I know: God is on my side!

So now I walk in your presence, O God, in your life-giving light. – Psalm 56:3-4, 8-9,13b

God Defines Me

Today’s Reading: 1 Samuel 16-17; Psalm 59

The search for a new king began for Samuel. It was time to stop mourning the failures of Saul and move on. The Lord sent him to Jesse, telling Samuel that He had selected one of Jesse’s eight sons to be the next king. Taking one look at the oldest son, Samuel immediately thought Eliab would be the Lord’s anointed.


But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7

One by one, Jesse’s sons stood before Samuel and, one by one, Samuel said, “This is not the one the Lord has chosen” (16:8). Jesse finally sent for his youngest son who was out in the fields watching the sheep and goats. He was dark and handsome, with beautiful eyes.

And the Lord said, “This is the one; anoint him.” So as David stood there among his brothers, Samuel took the flask of olive oil he had brought and anointed David with the oil. And the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David from that day on. – 1 Samuel 16:12b-13


I love the humble servant attitude with which David started out his reign. He had just been anointed king and, although God saw his heart, everyone around him continued to define him by his age, appearance and past. Instead of stepping into power, David became the harp player for King Saul. When told about David’s musical talent, Saul was also told that David was a brave warrior, a man of war, and had good judgment – that he was a fine-looking young man, and that the Lord was with him (16:18). But Saul only saw a servant who could meet his own needs.

So David went to Saul and began serving him. Saul loved David very much, and David became his armor bearer. – 1 Samuel 16:21

Saul was not the only one who did not see David as a brave warrior and a man of war. When David arrived at the battle against the Philistines to deliver supplies, his brother Eliab asked him, “What are you doing around here anyway? What about those few sheep you’re supposed to be taking care of?” (1 Samuel 17:28)

As David was talking with his brothers, the Philistine warrior Goliath came out and began taunting the Israelite soldiers, just as he did every day. “Why are you all coming out to fight? I am the Philistine champion, but you are ONLY the servants of Saul…” (17:8b).

Hearing that the reward for killing Goliath was one of the king’s daughters for a wife and the exemption of the winner’s family from paying taxes, David volunteered to fight Goliath. Saul’s reaction was, “Don’t be ridiculous! There’s no way you can fight this Philistine and possibly win! You’re only a boy, and he’s been a man of war since his youth” (1 Samuel 17: 28, 33).


David could have announced to all of them in that moment that he was the new king of Israel – that he was God’s anointed one. But, instead of informing them of who he was, he pointed out to them who God is!

“I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats. When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death. I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God! The LORD WHO RESCUED ME from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!” – 1 Samuel 17:34-37a

Seeing the small shepherd boy coming his way, Goliath sneered in contempt saying, “Am I a dog that you come at me with a stick?…Come over here, and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and wild animals!” (1 Samuel 18:43-44)

David confidently informed Goliath of his own future. “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies – the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head. And then I will give the dead bodies of your men to the birds and wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel! And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us!” (17:45-47).

It will help me today to remember that no matter what I face today or tomorrow, THIS IS THE LORD’S BATTLE – NOT MINE. Titles are not important, but a humble servant heart is – a heart willing to do whatever God asks me to do today. And it is important that my head remain focused on who God is and not on who I am or on who others say I am. GOD DEFINES ME – no one else. Because when it comes right down to it…


You are my strength; I wait for you to rescue me, for you, O God, are my fortress.
In his unfailing love, my God will stand with me.
He will let me look down in triumph on all my enemies…

But as for me, I will sing about your power.
Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love.
For you have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress.
O my Strength, to you I sing praises, for you, O God, are my refuge, the God who shows me unfailing love.
– Psalm 59:9-10, 16-17

Choose My Battles

Today’s Reading: 1 Samuel 13 – 15

Have you ever had a difficult decision to make? Did you inquire of your closest friends and family as to what to do? Perhaps you listed out the pros and cons of your decision, or wondered what someone you respect would do in the same situation. Did you spend time asking God for direction and wisdom on the decision you were facing?

In the next two chapters of 1 Samuel, there are three different scenarios of someone inquiring of the Lord, each different in the timing.


First, King Saul selected 3,000 special troops from the army of Israel and sent the rest of the men home. They defeated a garrison of Philistines, starting a fight they felt unprepared to finish.

The Philistines mustered a mighty army of 3000 chariots, 6000 charioteers, and as many warriors as the grains of sand on the seashore!…The men of Israel saw what a TIGHT SPOT they were in; and because they were HARD PRESSED by the enemy, they tried to hide in caves, thickets, rocks, holes, and cisterns. Some of them crossed the Jordan River and escaped into the land of Gad and Gilead. Meanwhile, Saul stayed at Gilgal, and his men were TREMBLING WITH FEAR. – 1 Samuel 13:5-7

When in a tight spot, when hard pressed by the enemy, God’s people chose FEAR INSTEAD OF FAITH. They chose hiding places or ran for safety. After seven days of waiting for Samuel to come and offer a sacrifice to God, Saul panicked and offered the burnt offering himself – breaking the Lord’s command. His men were fleeing the battle and their fear was contagious, causing Saul to get impatient and move ahead of God.


“The Philistines are ready to march against us at Gilgal, and I haven’t even asked for the Lord’s help!” – 1 Samuel 13:12

Have you ever found yourself part way into a decision or situation or simply into your day, and then realize you haven’t even asked God what He wants you to do or asked for His help? I can relate to Saul in this situation. There have been times when it has dawned on me that I am impatiently charging ahead without inquiring of the Lord. In this situation, Saul finds himself reacting out of panic and making a bad choice because he had not taken the time to involve God sooner. Been there, done that.

Then there is Saul’s son, Jonathan. His statement in 1 Samuel 14:6 describes a slightly different scenario: “PERHAPS the Lord will be us, for nothing can hinder the Lord. He can win a battle whether he has many warriors or only a few!”


Jonathan did not take the time to consult with Saul, Samuel or with the Lord. Instead he came up with his own plan and charged ahead! Jonathan’s attitude was one of – I’m going to do what I want to do and hopefully the Lord will bless it. Ouch! I’m afraid I have been guilty of this one too.

Fortunately for Jonathan and all the Israelites, God did choose to use the immature actions of the king’s son to confuse the Philistines and help the Israelite army of 600 men defeat the large Philistine army. God caused panic to break out in the Philistine camp and He sent an earthquake to strike fear in the heart of the enemy. The vast army of Philistines began to melt away in every direction (14:16) – just like our enemies fade away when God fights our battles for us.


Lastly let’s look at a statement made by the priest Ahijah, Eli’s great-grandson: “Let’s ask God first” (14:36). Now this is more like it. Thankfully I can relate to this statement as well and this is where I want to start my day as I drink my morning coffee, going to God in prayer.

Saul and Jonathan were both doing a good thing. After all, they were putting their life at risk by leading the Israelite army in efforts to protect all of the people – they were prepared to fight to defend the freedom of their families. But in the words of Samuel in 15:22, “Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.”

What I plan to do with my day today may be a GOOD thing or even a sacrificial thing but, if I have not consulted with God to see what He wants me to do today, then I may miss out on what is better – the opportunity to do a GOD thing!

Precious Father, before I get any farther into my day, I submit to your plan – to your sovereignty. Guide me down the paths you want me to walk today. Use me in whatever way you desire. I want to do more than just make sacrifices for what seems like a good purpose, I want every action to be in obedience and submission to your leading. God, nothing can hinder you. You can win a battle whether you have many warriors or only a few! Choose my battles for me and lead me into your will. Thank you for living in me and working through me today. Amen.

Hidden in the Baggage

Today’s Reading: 1 Samuel 8-12

Pastors’ kids started getting a bad reputation even as far back as Eli and Samuel. Just like Eli’s sons were wicked in the sight of the Lord, Samuel’s sons “accepted bribes and perverted justice” (1 Samuel 8:3). The people of Israel saw this and, because they had their eyes on other nations instead of on God (8:20), they asked for a king. Samuel did what all of us should do – he “went to the Lord for guidance” (8:6).


God’s people were asking for something that was outside of His plan for them. He warned them they would someday beg for relief from this king they were requesting/demanding (8:18). But God, being a merciful God, heard the cries of his people and gave them what they were asking for – a king.

We read a couple of days ago of how each year Samuel would have to discard of the comfortable coat he had finally grown into and replace it with the new “bigger coat” that his mother had brought him (2:19). We now meet a young man who is about to receive a “bigger coat” and his reaction might be similar to our reaction when God moves us into a situation that seems beyond what we can handle.

I guess you could say Samuel told Saul that he would receive a “bigger coat” (more like a kingly robe) and Saul’s reaction was one of humility and fear. He did what many of us have a history of doing when God tries to stretch us – he told God He had the wrong person.

“But I’m only from the tribe of Benjamin, the smallest tribe in Israel, and my family is the least important of all the families of that tribe! Why are you talking like this to me?”– 1 Samuel 9:21


Just like He promises us, GOD EQUIPPED SAUL for what He was calling him to do. Saul was “changed into a different person.” Samuel encouraged Saul to do what must be done (the thing God was calling Saul to do) for God would be with him. God gave him a new heart to go with his new “coat” and everything God had promised would happen happened (10:6-9). Doesn’t that sound just like the wonderful God we serve!

As I drink my morning coffee, I know what God is placing on me right now (my “bigger coat”), but what is God calling you to that seems beyond what you are capable of? Are you nervous or scared or intimidated by God’s plan? So was Saul. When they went to crown Saul king, they found him hiding among the baggage (10:22).

Are you hiding?
Are you using the “baggage” in your life as an excuse to avoid what God is calling you to?
Are you allowing God to give you a new heart to go with your new “coat”?

Friend, please know that God is with you. The first situation that came up during his reign, “the Spirit of God came powerfully upon Saul, and he became very angry” (11:7). Just one month after being placed in the position of King, Saul was finding his way and stepping into the leadership for which God was equipping him – just like HE WILL EQUIP YOU.


So let me do what Samuel did in his farewell speech to God’s people. Let me remind you of all the great things the Lord has done for you and for your family (12:7). Look back and see how faithful God has been time and time again. Consider Samuel’s words of reassurance to the Israelites:

“Don’t be afraid. You have certainly done wrong, but make sure now that you worship the Lord with all your heart, and don’t turn your back on him.” – 1 Samuel 12:20

God understands that you are not feeling worthy or that you are uncomfortable with what is happening around you against your choice. He knows you have not lived a perfect life or that you want things back to the way they used to be. But what God is asking for is that you worship Him with ALL your heart. Don’t hold back or turn away from what He is asking you to do but worship God by accepting His plan.

Step out from behind the baggage.

“And I will continue to teach you what is good and right. But be sure to fear the Lord and faithfully serve him. Think of all the wonderful things he has done for you.” – 1 Samuel 12:23b-24

May I Not Get Fat

Today’s Reading: 1 Samuel 2:23-7:17

Am I so relaxed that I have become lazy?
Has comfortable slowly turned into sloppy?
Have I become apathetic to the needs of others?
Do these blessings make me look fat?

There were some treacherous things going on at the place of worship where Samuel was now living. Eli’s sons had no respect for the Lord or for the sacrifices God’s people were coming to Shiloh to offer. Eli went to his sons saying, “I have been hearing reports from all the people about the wicked things you are doing. Why do you keep sinning? You must stop, my sons!” (1 Sam. 2:23-24).


Eli did not remove his sons from their place of honor even when they continued sinning so the Lord sent a message to Eli through a man of God: I have revealed myself to your ancestors, I chose your family for this ministry, I assigned you to something VERY holy. Why do you scorn all of this by giving your sons more honor than you give me? You and your sons have become fat from the best offerings of my people Israel! (2:27-29). In essence, God was saying – they are sacrificing while you are indulging; with my blessings you have made yourself comfortable instead of making yourself useful.

Eli’s sons were sinning against God by what they did. Eli was sinning against God by what he did NOT do. All were disobedient and all were punished by God. God had placed Eli in leadership within the people of Israel and his failure to be the spiritual leader God had called him to be caused his death, the death of his two sons, the death of 30,000 Israelite soldiers and the capturing of the Ark of the Covenant by the Philistines (1 Sam. 4).

Our sin and disobedience to God can destroy our lives and destroy those around us. God has a plan to use us in the lives of others but what happens when we choose our own ways instead of His? What happens when we disobey or delay our obedience rather than respond as Samuel did? What happens when we keep God’s blessings for ourselves instead of passing them on and using them as He directs?

Hannah knew the joy of giving God’s biggest blessing back to Him. God generously responded to Hannah’s prayers and she responded back with a generous heart toward God. God blessed Hannah for serving Him in this way. Eli had also been blessed by God but became comfortable in his leadership position, not taking action when he should have.


One night, Samuel was lying in bed and heard a voice call out, “Samuel!” He went in to check on Eli, but Eli had not called to him. Samuel returned to bed and heard the voice again. Rushing in to Eli, Samuel said, “Here I am. Did you call me?” The third time this happened, Eli gave Samuel very good advice: “Go and lie down again, and if someone calls again, say, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening’” (3:4-9).

Samuel had never heard the voice of God, but Eli knew how to recognize a moment when God is calling. When the voice called out as before, Samuel’s response to the voice of God was, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” – 1 Samuel 3:10

Samuel’s obedience resulted in the Lord continuing to speak to him, giving messages for Samuel to repeat to the people of Israel. They would, in turn, repeat the message and God’s message would spread to all the people of Israel because of Samuel’s obedience (3:21).


Samuel knew the purpose to which God had called him and his heart’s desire was to live out that purpose. He knew he had been given to God – he knew where he came from and Samuel knew to whom he now belonged. Because Samuel was obedient and willing to be used by God in the lives of others, the Israelites got rid of their images of Baal and Ashtoreth, and worshiped only the Lord (7:3-4).

Samuel prayed for God’s people and led them in confession and fasting. His humble servant attitude led the people of Israel to know that it was not Samuel who could save them, but the God to whom Samuel prayed.

“Don’t stop pleading with the Lord our God to save us from the Philistines!” they begged Samuel…He pleaded with the Lord to help Israel and the Lord answered him. – 1 Samuel 7:8-9

Samuel was Israel’s judge for the remainder of his life (7:15). He served God faithfully and his leadership helped God’s people to return to Him.

Dear Jesus, I desire to have a servant heart as Samuel did. God, show me any disobedience in my life – disobedience by what I am doing or by what I am NOT doing. May I not get fat on your blessings but know that I am saved to serve, that I have been chosen by you for a role in the lives of others. Lord, use me and hear my prayers on the behalf of others as I plead for their salvation and healing. Forgive me and empty me out of anything that is me so that I may be filled with You and You only today. May I always know to whom I belong. Amen.

The Strength of God

Today’s Reading: 1 Samuel 1:27 – 2:21


“I asked the Lord to give me this boy, and he has granted my request. Now I am giving him to the Lord, and he will belong to the Lord his whole life.” And they worshiped the Lord there.

Then Hannah prayed: “My heart rejoices in the Lord!
The Lord has made me strong, Now I have an answer for my enemies,
I rejoice because you rescued me. No one is holy like the Lord!
There is no one besides you; There is no Rock like our God.”
– 1 Samuel 1:27-2:2

Hannah prayed for a larger sacrifice and God answered her prayer. After giving her son to the Lord, Hannah was filled with joy as she worshipped God – a much different emotion for Hannah then the bitter anguish she was experiencing before God answered her prayer. After making what had to have been a difficult sacrifice for a mother, God faithfully gave her joy in place of her sacrifice. Her faith was strengthened and she knew the Lord, the Rock, was the source of her strength.


…Samuel, though he was only a boy, served the Lord. He wore a linen garment like that of a priest. Each year his mother made a small coat for him and brought it to him when she came with her husband for the sacrifice. – 1 Sam. 2:18-19

In 2011, my dear friend, Dave Brown, gave me this passage of Scripture as we were grieving the loss of one ministry and preparing for the next. He pointed out that the coat Hannah brought Samuel each year must have been too big for him in order for him to be able to grow into it by the end of the year. As soon as the coat fit, she’d give him a new one.

Sometimes God gives us a new coat, a bigger coat. The price of our faithfulness in what God has given us is that sometimes He takes that away and gives us something new that requires that same faithfulness. He moves us out of our comfortable, broken-in coat into a new “bigger coat.”

In 2012, our family again experienced the mixed emotions of having a comfortable coat removed as God placed on our shoulders a new coat – a coat that has taken some time to get used to and that still requires some “growing into.” Perhaps God is trying to place a new coat on you as well, one you are resistant or uncomfortable in. Like Hannah, we can rejoice with confidence that we serve a holy God who is strong like a Rock and gives us strength for whatever sacrifice He is asking us to make.

Before they returned home, Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife and say, “May the Lord give you other children to take the place of this one she gave to the Lord.” And the Lord gave Hannah three sons and three daughters. Meanwhile, Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord. – 1 Samuel 2:20-21


Hannah’s circumstances were radically reversed as God blessed her generously. She sang of how her Creator is able to drastically change someone’s circumstances:

“…The bow of the mighty is now broken, and those who stumbled are now strong.
Those who were well fed are now starving, and those who were starving are now full.
The childless woman now has seven children, and the woman with many children wastes away.
The Lord gives both death and life; he brings some down to the grave but raises others up.
The Lord makes some poor and others rich; he brings some down and lifts others up.
He lifts the poor from the dust and the needy from the garbage dump.
He sets them among princes, placing them in seats of honor.
For all the earth is the Lord’s, and he has set the world in order…”
– 1 Samuel 2:4-8

Hannah sang of God’s protection on his faithful ones and that NO ONE SUCCEEDS BY THEIR OWN STRENGTH ALONE. God empowers his king and increases the strength of his anointed one (2:9-10). What a great reminder this morning as I drink my morning coffee. While God saw the heart of Hannah, Hannah saw the strength of God.

There are times when we may not feel strong enough for the new coat God has placed on our shoulders, but perhaps it is in these weakest moments that we begin looking up and reaching out. God’s hands of mercy cover us and HE IS STRENGTH ENOUGH for both of us. We don’t have to be “strong enough” – we need to give up and let God be strong enough.

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. – Philippians 4:13

I love the chorus of the song “Strong Enough” by Matthew West: I know I’m not strong enough to be everything that / I’m supposed to be. I give up, I’m not strong enough. / Hands of mercy won’t you cover me. / Lord, right now I’m asking you to be strong enough, strong enough, for both of us.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:9-11

The Heart of Hannah

Today’s Reading: 1 Samuel 1 & Psalm 67

1 Samuel starts with the story of Hannah, which I find in direct contrast to Naomi’s story. When Naomi found herself without her sons and without grandchildren, she felt sorry for herself and blamed God for the pain life had dealt her. Where is Naomi’s prayer life? Did she call on God? Even after Ruth gave birth to Obed, we hear the women in Bethlehem praising God but the author leaves out Naomi’s praise. We know she found great joy in caring for her grandson but did she spend as much time thanking God as she had blaming God and taking pity on herself?

Hannah was just as grief stricken to be without children as Naomi was to have lost hers. But what we see in Hannah’s story is a woman who prayed to God and her prayers were answered. Her story teaches us how to pray and reveals the heart behind her prayers.


Hannah was barren and wanted to have a baby so she prayed to God. Scripture says Hannah prayed “out of great anguish and sorrow” (1 Samuel 1:16). I’ve read this story many times and have always been able to relate to Hannah’s heart because of my own struggle with infertility before I was healed. But one day, while again reading through this first chapter of 1 Samuel, God graciously showed me something different in Hannah’s story.

Each year Elkanah would travel to Shiloh to worship and sacrifice to the Lord of Heaven’s Armies at the Tabernacle…On the days Elkanah presented his sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to Peninnah and each of her children. And though he loved Hannah, he would give her only one choice portion because the Lord had given her no children…Each time, Hannah would be reduced to tears and would not even eat. “Why are you crying?” Elkanah would ask. “Why aren’t you eating? Why be so downhearted just because you have no children? You have me – isn’t that better than having ten sons?”

Once after a sacrificial meal at Shiloh, Hannah got up and went to pray…Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord. And she made this vow: “O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime, and as a sign that he has been dedicated to the Lord, his hair will never be cut.” – 1 Samuel 1:3-11

I used to think Hannah wanted a child so that she could have a child. That makes sense to me. But then she gives him back to the Lord and is again without a child – a part of the story that has always confused me. Hannah’s intent was always to GIVE THE CHILD BACK TO GOD, not just in the way we do when we dedicate our children to the Lord, but to literally give her child to the Church and again be without him. If I focus on the annual sacrifice, I see the heart behind Hannah’s desire to have a son.

The portion of the meat Hannah was given to sacrifice was choice (some translations say it was a double portion) and it showed Elkanah’s great love for her, but it still reflected the reality that she was without children. She prayed for a child so that she would have something of great worth to give back to God. She could give the most incredible sacrifice a mother could ever give, her son. God saw Hannah’s heart – saw it was out of love for God that she asked for something God would see as priceless and beyond the value of any other sacrifice. God, who knew He would one day offer His own son as a sacrifice, understood the cost – He understood Hannah’s heart and answered her prayer.


When Hannah explained the reason behind her great anguish and sorrow to the priest, Eli, he responded: “In that case, go in peace! May the God of Israel grant the request you have asked of him” (1:17). And that is exactly what Hannah did – she left with a peace and confidence that God would indeed answer her prayer. No longer sad, Hannah went back and began to eat again.

What great faith Hannah had! Her prayer had not yet been answered but she believed that God would grant her request and she allowed Him to fill her heart with joy again – even before her prayer was answered.

When Elkanah slept with Hannah, the Lord remembered her plea, and in due time she gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, “I asked the Lord for him.”

The next year Elkanah and his family went on their annual trip to offer a sacrifice to the Lord. But Hannah did not go. She told her husband, “Wait until the boy is weaned. Then I will take him to the Tabernacle and leave him there with the Lord permanently.”

“Whatever you think is best,” Elkanah agreed. “Stay here for now, and may the Lord help you keep your promise.” – 1 Samuel 1:19b-23a

And now we see the heart of Hannah’s husband. Let’s not miss the fact that he would soon be losing the son he loved so much. In fact, Elkanah could have forbidden such a sacrifice, but he instead affirmed and supported Hannah’s promise to God. Elkanah loved Hannah (1:5) and had seen her joy return in the birth of her son, but recognized the struggle that was ahead. They knew it would be difficult to give Samuel to the Lord and he prayed for help from the Lord. He recognized that the God they served could give them the strength to do exactly as Hannah had promised.


When the child was weaned, Hannah took him to the Tabernacle in Shiloh. They brought along a three-year-old bull for the sacrifice and a basket of flour and some wine. After sacrificing the bull, they brought the boy to Eli. “Sir, do you remember me?” Hannah asked. “I am the woman who stood here several years ago praying to the Lord. I asked the Lord to give me this boy, and he has granted my request. Now I am giving him to the Lord, and he will belong to the Lord his whole life.” And they worshiped the Lord there. – 1 Samuel 1:24-28

Hannah went from carrying a small sacrifice of meat to Shiloh to pulling along a three-year-old bull for the sacrifice. What a difference! She was traveling to Shiloh to give God her best – to loving place her son in the arms of the Church and allow God to use his life for HIS kingdom. The bull represented the value of all God had blessed her life with and all she was looking forward to giving back to God. God had blessed her generously so that she could give back to Him. God had seen the desire of her heart!

Lord, give me the heart of Hannah – give me her PASSION TO BE GENEROUS with you and her great FAITH to trust you. Then give me the strength to do all you have called me to do and all I committed to you. I thank you from the depth of my heart for the three wonderful daughters you have given me. I will forever be blessed by this gift of motherhood and I commit to leaving them in your hands. Amen.

Don’t Call Me Naomi

Today’s Reading: Ruth

In the days when the judges ruled in Israel, a severe famine came upon the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah left his home and went to live in the country of Moab, taking his wife and two sons with him. The man’s name was Elimelech, and his wife was Naomi. – Ruth 1:1-2a


We read back in Genesis of the disturbing origin of the Moabites. After Lot fled from Sodom and Gomorrah, he settled in a small village of Zoar. He became afraid of the people there and retreated to a cave in the mountains with his two daughters. These young women began to fear they would never marry and have children now that they were isolated and living away from their people. So they shamefully got their father drunk and took turns going in to lie with him and do things that should never be done. As a result they both became pregnant with their own father’s child. Instead of trusting in God to meet their needs, they took their future into their own hands and sinned against both God and their father.

The oldest daughter gave birth to a son and she named him Moab. The younger sister gave birth to a son and named him Ben-ammi. These two boys grew up and their families became the Moabites and the Ammonites – two perennial enemies of Israel with a history of grotesque wickedness, just as their incest-born origin (Genesis 19:30-38).

The reason this history is significant to me is that Elimelech and his family were able to peacefully settle in the land of Moab regardless of the history of these two nations (Judah and Moab). In time of severe famine, when their family needed a place of refuge, God graciously provided a peaceful resting place for them. But trouble and sorrow are often a part of everyday life and Elimelech died, leaving Naomi alone with her two sons. Contrary to God’s command for Israelites to not marry foreigners, Naomi’s sons married Moabite women – Orpah and Ruth. Ten years later, tragedy struck again and Naomi lost both her sons.


“…the Lord himself has raised his fist against me.” – Ruth 1:13b

These are the words of a woman with a broken heart, struggling to understand why the God who had provided so well for her during her everyday existence would now allow such tragedy to strike her family. She had praised God during times of plenty but now only pitied herself during times of loss.

Naomi encouraged her two daughters-in-law to return to their families, but Ruth loved Naomi and begged to return to Naomi’s homeland with her, pledging “…Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God…” (1:16b).

When Naomi returned to Bethlehem, the entire town was excited to see her. The women could hardly believe they were seeing their longtime friend, Naomi, returning home. It did not take them long to realize this wasn’t the same person who had left years before. Naomi had suffered tragedy and lost her joy for life. Naomi left seeking God and returned bitter towards God.

“Don’t call me Naomi,” she responded. “Instead, call me Mara, for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me home empty. Why call me Naomi when the Lord has caused me to suffer and the Almighty has sent such tragedy upon me?” – Ruth 1:20-21

Naomi left Bethlehem during a severe famine but she described herself as “full” at that time. Her physical needs were suffering but she had her family and, therefore, joy. She returned to Bethlehem with her physical needs met and the blessing of a loyal and virtuous daughter-in-law but she could not see beyond her pain to rejoice in what God had blessed her with. She only saw what she was without.


We struggle to understand why the same God who has blessed us so generously could allow heartache and pain to come into our lives. We live in an imperfect world where death and disease are a reality, yet we blame God for not intervening and saving us from the worst pain we have ever felt.

God saw the broken heart of Naomi and He was not done blessing her. Through a “family redeemer”, God provided Ruth with a husband and a son. Then the women of Bethlehem said to Naomi:

“Praise the Lord, who has now provided a redeemer for your family! May this child be famous in Israel. May he restore your youth and care for you in your old age. For he is the son of your daughter-in-law who loves you and has been better to you than seven sons!”

Naomi took the baby and cuddled him to her breast. And she cared for him as if he were her own. The neighbor women said, “Now at last Naomi has a son again!” And they named him Obed. He became the father of Jesse and the grandfather of David. – Ruth 4:14b-17


God knows the good things He has planned for us and our children. From Naomi’s grandson would come the first King of Israel and then the King of Kings, Jesus Christ. What a great reminder for us to trust God through the tragedies – to let the hard times increase our faith and trust in the God who knows what is ahead and loves us enough to send His son to die on a cross for us – to become our ultimate Redeemer.

Praise the Lord, who has provided a Redeemer for all of us!

Samson, the Avenger

The Incredible Hulk comes to mind when I read the story of this next judge for Israel. Samson was strong like the Hulk and his biggest weakness was losing his temper. When the Hulk’s blood pressure reached a certain level, or in times of extreme anger, he turned into this strong green creature. One of the famous quotes from the television series I watched when I was a little girl was: “Mr. McGee, don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

This quote comes to mind as I read the story of Samson because, I must admit, I’m not a big fan of this judge of Israel. But God chose him before he was even born to be used by God to lead the people of Israel, so I have to see the good in Samson’s life, even though he comes across as more FULL OF HIMSELF than FULL OF THE SPIRIT.

When her son was born, she named him Samson. And the Lord blessed him as he grew up. And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him…His father and mother didn’t realize the Lord was at work in this, creating an opportunity to work against the Philistines, who ruled over Israel at the time. – Judges 13:24-25; 14:4

Samson might have been a little spoiled by his parents. When a young Philistine woman caught his eye, he demanded his parents get this young woman for him. When they tried to change his mind and choose an Israelite woman instead of a pagan Philistine woman, Samson demanded “Get her for me! She looks good to me” (14:3b). Samson’s SELFISH NATURE would be his downfall but God would be sure to accomplish His good through Samson’s temper tantrums and foolish behavior.

As Samson and his parents were going down to Timnah, a young lion suddenly attacked Samson near the vineyards of Timnah. At that moment the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him, and he ripped the lion’s jaws apart with his bare hands. He did it easily as if it were a young goat….Later, when he returned to Timnah for the wedding, he turned off the path to look at the carcass of the lion. And he found that a swarm of bees had made some honey in the carcass. He scooped some of the honey into his hands and ate it along the way. – Judges 14:5-6a, 8-9a

Samson was physically strong but HE WAS A PLAYER and his own games resulted in destruction. During his wedding celebration, he created a riddle related to the honey and the lion in order to gain material wealth for himself and brag about what he believed he had accomplished with his own strength. He made a bet with the Philistine men in the wedding party, challenging them to solve his riddle. When they could not, Samson’s bride tormented and nagged him until he shared the answer with her. She in turn explained the riddle to the other men and Samson now owed them each the clothing he had hoped they would be giving him. Instead of taking the loss himself, Samson went out and killed thirty men, taking their belongings and clothing to give to the thirty men he owed a prize.

Furious with how this wedding celebration had ended, Samson went home to his parents and left his bride behind. Later he returned to collect his bride but his father-in-law had given her in marriage to the best man. In anger (more like a good old-fashioned temper tantrum), Samson tied the tails of 300 foxes together in pairs, attached lit torches to each pair, and set them loose in the Philistine grain fields, vineyards and olive groves (14:19-15:5).

When the Israelites heard of how Samson was attacking the Philistines, they asked him to stop. Samson was picking a fight they were not prepared to finish for him so, in fear, they handed him over to the Philistines. When Samson arrived at the camp, the Spirit of the Lord again came powerfully upon him. He snapped the ropes, grabbed the jawbone of a recently killed donkey and killed 1,000 Philistines with it. Then Samson cheered for himself:

“With the jawbone of a donkey, I’ve piled them in heaps!
With the jawbone of a donkey, I’ve killed a thousand men!”
– Judges 15:16

Here is where I see Samson’s biggest problem. He thinks HE is winning the battles. He sees himself as the HERO in his stories, but he is missing who the true Hero is. He does not recognize that his battles are won when the Spirit of the Lord comes upon him. He thinks he is AVENGING himself but God is using this AVENGER to bring trouble to the Philistines, who were oppressing God’s people.

Samson judged Israel for 20 years during the time of the Philistine domination but He did not follow the laws of God. Chapter 16 tells us of a night he spent with a Philistine prostitute – a night that ended with Samson tearing down the town gate of Gaza.

Samson then fell in love with a Philistine woman named Delilah and he, THE PLAYER, began to play games with her. Over and over again, Delilah would ask Samson what the source of his strength was. He would give her a wrong answer and she would attempt to hand him over the Philistines. Even though her lack of loyalty to him was obvious, Samson enjoyed the game and so he continued to give her wrong answers. Delilah nagged and tormented Samson until he was sick to death of it (16:16) and Samson foolishly gave in to her.

“My hair has never been cut,” he confessed, “for I was dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as anyone else.” – Judges 16:17

And that is exactly what Samson became – weak and unable to save himself. The PLAYER had been PLAYED. Delilah shaved his head and the Philistines captured him. Samson thought the source of his strength was due to the presence of his hair, but his failure to acknowledge God in his life was really the reason he lost his strength. His strength was never in his hair. The Lord left Samson to suffer the consequence of his games.

When Samson realized the foolishness of his ways, he prayed to the Lord. The Philistines had gouged Samson’s eyes out, leaving him a blind servant forced to grind grain in prison. One day they brought him out as a source of entertainment and leaned him against the pillars of the temple. Samson asked God to remember him again and to give him one more opportunity to destroy Israel’s enemy. Pushing the two center pillars with the strength he now realized was from the Lord, Samson caused the temple to crash down on all the Philistine rulers, killing everyone in the temple including Samson (Judges 16:28-30).

Praise the Lord! He has heard my cry for mercy.
The Lord is my strength and my shield.
I trust him with all my heart.
He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.
I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.
The Lord gives his people strength.
– Psalm 28:6-7-8a

The Amazing Lord

Today’s Reading: Judges 8:22-13:25

The Israelites were so excited about their MIGHTY HERO, Gideon, that they asked him to become their ruler or king. Knowing God was the true Hero and King, Gideon denied their request.

After Gideon passed away, the Israelites started worshiping false gods, once again forgetting who had rescued them from all their enemies. God blessed Gideon with 70 sons and his son, Abimelech, revisited the idea of Israel wanting a ruler. To make sure none of his brothers rose to the occasion, Abimelech had all but one of his brothers killed. His youngest brother, Jothan, escaped and went into hiding. Abimelech had the opportunity to be a HERO, but his greedy pride made him into a MURDEROUS VILLAIN instead (Judges 9).

More judges came and went for the people of God – Tola judged for 23 years and Jair for the next 22 years. Again the people did evil in the eyes of the Lord and he turned them over to the Philistines and the Ammonites, who oppressed them for 18 years. Next God used Jephthah, the son of a prostitute, to rescue the people of Israel, who had cried out in misery for God to rescue them again. Jephthah was a GREAT WARRIOR (Judges 11).

Next, Ibzan from Bethlehem judged Israel for 7 years and then Elon from the tribe of Zebulun judged Israel for 10 years. Abdon son of Hillel judged Israel for 8 years and then the people of Israel again started sinning against God, so He handed them over to the Philistines for the next 40 years. Again, God’s people needed a HERO to rescue them from their troubles.

If you have ever seen the movie “The Amazing Spider-man”, perhaps you remember this famous quote from Peter’s Uncle Ben: “Peter? I know things have been difficult lately and I’m sorry about that. I think I know what you’re feeling. Ever since you were a little boy, you’ve been living with so many unresolved things. Well, take it from an old man. Those things send us down a road…they make us who we are. And if anyone’s destined for greatness, it’s you, son. You owe the world your gifts. You just have to figure out how to use them and know that wherever they take you, we’ll always be here. So, come on home, Peter. You’re my HERO…and I love you!”

Ben Parker saw that his nephew was special – that he had a larger purpose in life. He intentionally spoke into Peter’s life, encouraging him to accept his calling and live to his full potential. In Judges 13, God reveals to a husband and wife that they are about to have a son who will be born for a special purpose.

In those days a man named Manoah from the tribe of Dan lived in the town of Zorah. His wife was unable to become pregnant and they had no children. The angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah’s wife and said, “Even though you have been unable to have children, you will soon become pregnant and give birth to a son. So be careful; you must not drink wine or any other alcoholic drink nor eat any forbidden food. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and his hair must never be cut. For he will be dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth. He will begin to rescue Israel from the Philistines.” – Judges 13:2-7

Manoah’s wife ran to him and told him all the angel had said. Manoah prayed for God to send the man of God back so he could receive more instruction about this son who was to be born. I love this portion of Scripture because it speaks to the heart of Manoah. He was so thankful that God was going to bless him with a child that he wanted to be the PERFECT FATHER to this child for whom God had a magnificent plan.

Manoah inquired of God and God faithfully responded by sending the angel back to appear to Manoah and repeat all that he had said to Manoah’s wife. Manoah responded in thanksgiving by offering to the Lord a grain offering and a burnt offering.

Then Manoah took a young goat and a grain offering and offered it on a rock as a sacrifice to the Lord. And as Manoah and his wife watched, THE LORD DID AN AMAZING THING. As the flames from the altar shot up toward the sky, the angel of the Lord ascended in the fire. When Manoah and his wife saw this, they fell with their faces to the ground. – Judges 14:19-20

Lord, we inquire of you today – What do you want us to do in order to prepare the way for your plan? How can we be the parent you have called us to be? Father God, we long to see you do AMAZING things for you are an AMAZING God! We inquire of you and wait for you to faithfully respond. As I’ve heard Beth Moore say – make your word a holy fascination to us and a flame leaping upward to its sacred source. Be an all-consuming fire, Oh God! We love you so much! Amen.