God Does Not Sweep Life Away

Today’s Reading: 2 Samuel 13 – 18; Psalm 3, 58 & 63

David thought he could have Uriah killed and no one would notice, no one would care. But God cared! God cared about Uriah and God cared about the choices David was making. God loved David enough that He desired to find a way to bring David back to Himself and continue to bless David. God desires the same for us when we fall away from Him.

GOD CARES WHEN WE CHOOSE SIN AND DEVALUE LIFE

All of us must die eventually. Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God does not just sweep life away; instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him. – 2 Samuel 14:14

These are the words of a woman from Tekoa who was known for her wisdom. Joab sent her to David at a time when he needed a reminder of how God had forgiven him. His son Absalom had killed his half-brother Amnon for raping their sister, Tamar (2 Samuel 13). Although, Absalom had good reason to administer justice, David became very angry and refused to forgive his son.

In response to Tekoa’s words and the request of Joab, David chose to extend grace to Absalom by letting him return to Jerusalem but he continued to ban his son from his presence. Even when Absalom rebelled against David and tried to take the kingdom from him, the change in David’s heart was evidenced in these words to Joab: “For my sake, deal gently with young Absalom” (2 Sam. 18:5).

When Absalom was killed in battle, Joab knew this would not be good news for David, even though Absalom had been so disloyal. At the news of Absalom’s death, David cried, “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you! O Absalom, my son, my son.” – (2 Sam. 18:33)

THE GOD OF MERCY IS WILLING TO FORGIVE AND CAN HELP US FORGIVE OTHERS

The way in which God loves us and values each life changed David and it can change us too. Perhaps we have good reason to stay angry or refuse to forgive someone, but we must remember that we also have sinned against God, yet he loves us enough to continue to draw us to Him. The God we have sinned against still wants a personal relationship with us. If God is willing to forgive us, will we allow him to do a miracle in our hearts, giving us the strength to forgive others?

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. – 2 Peter 3:9

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. – Luke 6:37

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. – Ephesians 4:31-32

GOD DOES NOT JUST SWEEP LIFE AWAY

When I was a teenager, I asked God to break my heart at what breaks His. I believe in response to that prayer, God called me to the pro-life ministry. I believe it breaks the heart of God when the lives of the unborn are devalued. I also read the above scriptures and know in my heart that God loves the mothers and fathers who have chosen abortion. He loves them enough to want them to come to repentance so that He can forgive them and restore them.

If you are in need of forgiveness today, know that your Savior loves you. Know that God is not done with you, He does not just sweep your life away. As He loved David, He loves you! As He forgave David, He wants to forgive you. He has not given up on you but continues to devise ways to draw you back to Him. Perhaps today is the day to stop resisting His pull and allow God to change your heart as He changed the heart of David.

GIVE US A HEART OF FORGIVENESS, OH LORD

If you are in need of forgiving someone else today, know that Almighty God has the power to do a work in your heart – even what seems impossible. Just as God wants to forgive you, He wants you to let go of the hurt and pain, forgiving others for all they have done to you. God does not just sweep life away and neither should we.

But you, O Lord, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.
I cried out to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy mountain.
I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me.
– Psalm 3:3-5

O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land where there is no water.
I have seen you in your sanctuary and gazed upon your power and glory.
Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you!
I will praise you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
I will praise you with songs of joy.
I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night.
Because you are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely.
– Psalm 63:1-8

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David Made a Choice

Today’s Reading: 2 Samuel 8-12; 1 Chronicles 18-19; Psalm 51 & 60

Does it seem to you that many television sitcoms have the same plotline? The main character makes a mistake and tells a lie to cover up the truth, but then they have to tell another lie and then another lie to cover up the first lie. Everything becomes a mess, the truth comes out, and they realize it would have been better to just tell the truth right away. In today’s passage, David is that main character.

David takes a break from the battlefield and goes up on his roof to walk around. From there he sees Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, taking a bath. In this moment, David makes a choice. God is telling him to look away but the enemy is telling him to look closer. God is telling David you can’t have that and the enemy is telling David you need that, you deserve that – after all, you’re the king!

AGAINST YOU, AND YOU ALONE, HAVE I SINNED

This is the moment when David makes a huge mistake – not an accident but a choice. He gives in to temptation and to his own fleshly desires instead of listening to the Spirit. David’s behavior is self-serving, instead of God-serving. David did not fall into sin, he stepped into it. When Bathsheba becomes pregnant with David’s child, David makes another choice. Instead of confessing his sins, he tries to cover up his indiscretions through manipulation, lies and murder.

If you read through this story in 2 Samuel 11, take notice that Uriah the Hittite is not even an Israelite and yet he is so dedicated that he refuses to go home and be with his wife as long as the Ark of the Covenant and the army are out on the battlefield. David, on the other hand, is less concerned about his soldiers and the safety of the Ark and more concerned about himself. The king of Israel has always gone into battle with his army, but David remained safe in the palace while his men risked their lives.

I HAVE DONE WHAT IS EVIL IN YOUR SIGHT

When did this shift happen? In 2 Samuel 6:14, David is dancing before the Lord with all his might, rejoicing that the Ark of God was coming to the City of David. In Chapter 7, the Lord is reminding David of where he was and to what God has brought him – “I took you from tending sheep in the pasture and selected you to be the leader of my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have destroyed all your enemies before your eyes” (2 Samuel 7:8-9).

It would have been wise for David to remember all God had done for him. It would have helped David to remember God was with him wherever he went. Even when he was sinning in secret, God knew all.

So the Lord sent Nathan the prophet to tell David this story: “There were two men in a certain town. One was rich, and one was poor. The rich man owned a great many sheep and cattle. The poor man owned nothing but one little lamb he had bought. He raised that little lamb, and it grew up with his children. It ate from the man’s own plate and drank from his cup. He cuddled it in his arms like a baby daughter. One day a guest arrived at the home of the rich man. But instead of killing an animal from his own flock or herd, he took the poor man’s lamb and killed it and prepared it for his guest.” David was furious…Then Nathan said to David, “You are that man!” – 2 Samuel 12:1-7a

REMOVE THE STAIN OF MY GUILT

David confessed his sin and suffered greatly due to the consequences of his first sin and the many sins he committed in an attempt to cover up the first. God forgave David but there were consequences and David’s baby lived only 7 days. This is where the plot might end but David’s story continues. God forgives David and still has a plan for his life.

The enemy has plans for us today, plans to trip us up and lead us into temptation. God has another plan – a plan that involves keeping our eyes on Him and saying “no” to temptation. When the enemy says to look closer, may we hear God’s voice telling us to look away. When the enemy tells us we need something, may we accept God’s answer of “No”. Today may we give in to the urgings of the Spirit instead of the urgings of the sinful nature.

DO NOT BANISH ME FROM YOUR PRESENCE, AND DON’T TAKE YOUR HOLY SPIRIT FROM ME

Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace…

Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. – Romans 8:5-6,12-14

God will give us the strength to follow Him today. We were just worshipping and praising God yesterday, weren’t we? Let’s not forget who He is, who we were and who we now are in Christ! Let’s make a choice today – let’s choose God and walk away from sin.

Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins.
Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin.
For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night.
Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
I have done what is evil in your sight.
You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just.
For I was born a sinner – yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
But you desire honesty from the womb, teaching me wisdom even there.

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;
Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me – now let me rejoice.
Don’t keep looking at my sins.
Remove the stain of my guilt.
Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a loyal spirit within me.
Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.
Then I will teach your ways to rebels, and they will return to you.
Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves; then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness.
Unseal my lips, O Lord, that my mouth may praise you.

You do not desire sacrifice, or I would offer one.
You do not want a burnt offering.
The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.
– Psalm 51:1-17

The Unmerited Favor of God

Today’s Reading: 2 Samuel 7, 1 Chronicles 17 and Psalm 132

“I will not go home; I will not let myself rest.
I will not let my eyes sleep nor close my eyelids in slumber
until I find a place to build a house for the Lord,
a sanctuary for the Mighty One of Israel.”
– Psalm 132:3-5

DAVID DESIRED TO BUILD A HOUSE FOR THE LORD

Now David built several buildings in the city of David, including a palace to live in. Then he said, “I am living in a beautiful cedar palace, but the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant is out there under a tent!”

Nathan replied to the king, “Go ahead and do whatever you have in mind, for the Lord is with you.” – 2 Samuel 7:2-3

David’s desire was to build a house for the Lord but that was not God’s plan for David. God loved the heart with which David served Him and He told David of His plans to build a house for David – a dynasty of kings.

GOD DESIRED TO BUILD A HOUSE FOR DAVID

“I took you from tending sheep in the pasture and selected you to be the leader of my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have destroyed all your enemies before your eyes. Now I will make your name as famous as anyone who has ever lived on the earth!…

“Furthermore, I declare that the Lord will BUILD A HOUSE FOR YOU – a dynasty of kings! For when you die and join your ancestors, I will raise up one of your descendants, one of your sons, and I will make his kingdom strong. He is the one who will BUILD A HOUSE – a temple – FOR ME. And I will secure his throne forever. I will be his father and he will be my son. I will never take my favor from him as I took it from the one who ruled before you. I will confirm him as king over my house and my kingdom for all time, and his throne will be secure forever.” – 1 Chronicles 17:7-14

David recognized the magnitude of God’s blessing and was humbled at God’s words. He did not think too much of himself, but saw that God’s favor was a gift from God – something any man would be unworthy of. The gift was out of the righteousness of God, not David’s own righteousness.

His response could have been – This is exactly what I deserve for look at all I have done for God. Instead his focus was on all God had done for him as he recognized God’s unmerited favor. He could have reacted in disappointment that God’s plan would not grant the desire of David’s heart to build a temple, but instead he reacted in gratitude for what God would choose to bless him with.

“Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And now, O God, in addition to everything else, you speak of giving your servant a lasting dynasty! You speak as though I were someone very great, O Lord God!

“What more can I say to you about the way you have honored me? You know what your servant is really like. For the sake of your servant, O Lord, and according to your will, you have done all these great things and have made them known.

“O Lord, there is no one like you. We have never even heard of another God like you!…” 1 Chron. 17:16b-20

“How great you are, O Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you…YOU made a great name for yourself when you redeemed your people from Egypt. YOU performed awesome miracles and drove out the nations and gods that stood in their way. YOU made Israel your very own people forever, and you, O Lord, became their God.

“And now, O Lord God, I am your servant;…You are God, O sovereign Lord. Your words are truth, and you have promised these good things to your servant. And now, may it please you to bless the house of your servant, so that it may continue forever before you. For you have spoken, and when you grant a blessing to your servant, O Sovereign Lord, it is an eternal blessing!” – 2 Samuel 7:22-29

Lord, we humbly recognize your unmerited favor in our lives. You are so good, O Lord, and we do not deserve all the blessings you pour into our lives. We are your servants, O God. Help us to accept your answer and give you all the praise even when we do not receive the desires of our heart. We are praying for you to use us as YOU desire. Your words are truth and we believe that all You have promised is true. How great you are, O Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you!

When I look at the night sky and see your fingers –
the moon and the stars you set in place –
what are mere mortals that you should think about them,
human beings that you should care for them?
Yet you made them only a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor.
You gave them charge of everything you made, putting all things under their authority –
the flocks and herds and all the wild animals, the birds in the sky,
the fish in the sea, and everything that swims the ocean currents.

O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth! – Psalm 8:3-9

Stopping to Dance it Out

Today’s Reading: 2 Samuel 6; 1 Chronicles 13-16

WHEN YOUR ENEMY SAYS YOU CAN’T

David then led his men to Jerusalem to fight against the Jebusites, the original inhabitants of the land who were living there. The Jebusites taunted David, saying, “You’ll never get in here! Even the blind and lame could keep you out!” – 2 Samuel 5:6

David, who was now anointed King of Israel, did exactly what his enemies said he could never do. Jerusalem became his home and is still referred to as the City of David today. When what we face seems impossible and those around us are reminding us of what we can never accomplish, we must remember that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies is with us. When God asks us to do something, He will be there with us.

And David became more and more powerful, because the Lord of Heaven’s Armies was with him. – 1 Chronicles 11:9; 2 Samuel 5:10

WHEN THINGS DON’T GO YOUR WAY

David made two attempts to bring the Ark of God to Jerusalem. The first attempt was going well at first. David and all the people of Israel were celebrating before the Lord, singing songs and playing all kinds of musical instruments. But when the oxen stumbled and Uzzah reached out to steady the Ark of God, he fell down dead because the Lord’s anger was aroused. The celebration ceased and David GAVE UP on doing what God had called him to do. Things were not going his way, and he let grief and discouragement sidetrack him from the mission (2 Sam. 6:1-11).

David was now afraid of God, and he asked, “How can I ever bring the Ark of God back into my care?” – 1 Chron. 13:12

When God does not move as we want Him to or as expect Him to, how do we react? Do we let fear keep us from trusting God with what comes next? Do we let tragedy paralyze us?

WHEN YOU STOP TO PRAISE GOD SIX STEPS IN

Three months later, David tried again to bring the Ark of God to Jerusalem. This time was different for David. His men took six steps with the Ark of God and David stopped the procession to sacrifice a bull and a fattened calf. Just six steps into the journey and David was stopping to make a sacrifice of praise.

And David danced before the Lord with all his might… – 1 Sam. 6:14a

So all Israel brought up the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant with shouts of joy, the blowing of rams’ horns and trumpets, the crashing of cymbals, and loud playing on harps and lyres…King David skipping about and laughing with joy… – 1 Chron. 15:28-29

WHEN YOUR PRAISE IS FOR THE LORD’S SAKE AND NOT FOR OTHERS

David let out all the stops for this celebration! The Levites formed a choir of singers and musicians (1 Chron. 15:16) and David danced before the Lord in praise and thanksgiving. His wife Michal was ashamed of his behavior and David responded: “I was dancing before the Lord, who chose me above your father and all his family! He appointed me as the leader of Israel, the people of the Lord, so I celebrate before the Lord. Yes and I am willing to look even more foolish than this, even to be humiliated in my own eyes…” (2 Sam. 6:21-22).

Oh the joy of worshipping before the Lord for His eyes only! God welcomes our exuberant expressions of joy and He delights in our uninhibited worship when it is for Him only. Oh the glory we bring to God when we dance and sing as David did when the Ark of God entered into the special tent David had prepared for it.

“Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness.
Let the whole world know what he has done.
Sing to him; yes, sing his praises.
Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds.
Exult in his holy name; rejoice, you who worship the Lord.
Search for the Lord and for his strength; continually seek him.
Remember the wonders he has performed, his miracles…
He is the Lord our God.
His justice is seen throughout the land.
Remember his covenant forever – the commitment he made to a thousand generations…

“Let the whole earth sing to the Lord!
Each day proclaim the good news that he saves.
Publish his glorious deeds among the nations.
Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.
Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise!…
Honor and majesty surround him; strength and joy fill his dwelling.

“O nations of the world, recognize the Lord, recognize that the Lord is glorious and strong.
Give to the Lord the glory he deserves!
Bring your offering and come into his presence.
Worship the Lord in all his holy splendor…

“Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, who lives from everlasting to everlasting!”
And all the people shouted, “Amen!” and praised the Lord.
– 1 Chron. 16:8-15, 23-36

When our enemy says we can’t, praise the Lord!
When things don’t go our way, He is worthy of our praise!
Before we get even six steps into what He has called us to do, let’s praise Him for the outcome!
Let’s praise Him with uninhibited worship! Let’s dance as David did for an audience of One!

God Leads Me

Today’s Reading: 1 Samuel 31; 1 Chronicles 10-12; 2 Samuel 1-5, 23

GOD WAS WITH DAVID

After Saul and his sons were killed in a battle against the Philistines, David wept. Judah anointed David king. Later, Israel anointed David king and he led them in battle against the Jebusites, capturing Jerusalem which is now known as the City of David. David became more and more powerful because God was with him (2 Samuel 5:6-10).

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
Even at night my heart instructs me.
I HAVE SET THE LORD ALWAYS BEFORE ME.
Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
– Psalm 16:7-8

Next the Philistines came in an effort to capture David. Now David knew his victories were not because he was a great man but because he served a great God, so he went to the Lord for direction:

So David asked the Lord, “Should I go out to fight the Philistines? Will you hand them over to me?”
Then the Lord replied to David, “Yes, go ahead. I will certainly hand them over to you.”
So David went to Baal-perazim and defeated the Philistines there.
“The Lord did it!” David exclaimed. “He burst through my enemies like a raging flood!”
So he named that place Baal-perazim (which means “The Lord who bursts through”).
– 2 Sam. 5:19-20

While Israel’s first reaction was to celebrate what David had accomplished, David’s first reaction was to celebrate what God had done! He recognized his human abilities vs. the powerful and mighty strength of the God who called him. David knew that once again the battle belonged to the Lord and not to him.

GOD WENT BEFORE DAVID

But after a while the Philistines returned and again spread out across the valley of Rephaim. And again David asked the Lord what to do. “Do not attack them straight on,” the Lord replied. “Instead, circle around behind and attack them near the poplar trees. When you hear a sound like marching feet in the tops of the poplar trees, be on the alert! That will be a signal that the Lord is moving ahead of you to strike down the Philistine army.” So David did what the Lord commanded, and he struck down the Philistines all the way from Gibeon to Gezer. – 2 Sam. 5:22-25

Do you hear it? Do you hear the sound of the Lord moving ahead of you? A few days ago we talked about our tendency to sometimes move ahead of God, but isn’t it great to know He is always moving ahead of us?!! Whatever is ahead of you, inquire of the Lord – ask God for wisdom and direction. Then listen closely to the sound of our great and powerful God going before you, prepared to fight your battles for you. That is the kind of God David served and that is the same God we serve – Praise His name!

GOD LED DAVID DOWN THE PATH HE HAD PLANNED

I will instruct you and teach you in THE WAY YOU SHOULD GO;
I will counsel you and watch over you.
– Psalm 32:8

Lead me in the RIGHT PATH, O Lord, or my enemies will conquer me.
Make YOUR WAY plain for me to follow.
– Psalm 5:8

The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul.
The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for the living.
– Psalm 19:7-8

O Lord, I give my life to you.
I trust in you, my God!
Do not let me be disgraced, or let my enemies rejoice in my defeat.
No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced,
but disgrace comes to those who try to deceive others.

Show me the RIGHT PATH, O Lord;
point out the ROAD FOR ME TO FOLLOW.
Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me.
All day long I put my hope in you.

Remember, O Lord, your compassion and unfailing love,
which you have shown from long ages past.
Do not remember the rebellious sins of my youth.
Remember me in the light of your unfailing love, for you are merciful, O Lord.
Do not remember the rebellious sins of my youth.
Remember in the light of your unfailing love, for you are merciful, O Lord.

The Lord is good and does what is right; he shows the PROPER PATH to those who go astray.
He leads the humble in doing right, teaching them HIS WAY.
THE LORD LEADS with unfailing love and faithfulness
all who keep his covenant and obey his commands.
– Psalm 25:1-10

Teach me how to live, O Lord.
Lead me along THE RIGHT PATH…
– Psalm 26:11a

Put your hope in the Lord.
Travel steadily along HIS PATH.
– Psalm 37:34a

We thank you, Lord, for being with us. Because we are never alone, we can face what lies ahead. Thank you for going before us and leading us down the right path. This morning we feel the reality of your unfailing love and faithfulness, and we praise you! Amen.

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

DAVID FOUND PROTECTION IN THE LORD HIS GOD.

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 FOUND HIS VALUE IN THE LORD HIS GOD.

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 FOUND STRENGTH IN THE LORD HIS GOD.

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.

THE LORD LOOKS AT THE HEART

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

OTHERS DEFINE US BY AGE, APPEARANCE OR OUR PAST

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).

DEFINING OURSELVES BY WHAT GOD IS CAPABLE OF

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…

IT IS NOT ABOUT WHO I AM, BUT ABOUT WHO HE IS.

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.

CHOOSING OUR OWN BATTLES

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.

MOVING 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!”

CHARGING AHEAD WITH OUR OWN PLAN

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.

ASKING GOD FIRST

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 WILL GUIDE US THROUGH THE UNFAMILIAR.

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

GOD WILL EQUIP US FOR THE CALL.

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.

GOD WILL BE FAITHFUL SO DO NOT FEAR.

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.
HE WILL EQUIP YOU.

“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).

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE RECOGNIZE GOD’S VOICE BUT FAIL TO OBEY?

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.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE RECOGNIZE GOD’S VOICE AND RESPOND IN SUBMISSIVE OBEDIENCE?

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 HAD A HEART THAT DESIRED TO OBEY AND GOD USED HIM IN THE LIVES OF OTHERS.

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.