Saturday, December 30, 2017

The leader every nation Needs

Read 2 Samuel 23.

These are the last writings of David in this book.  He heard and communicated leadership principles that he received from the LORD.

His character and ability as a leader may be evaluated by those closest to him.  The descriptions of his mighty warriors explain that these men were the best of the best in all of Israel.

What does leadership look like if it is just and done in a way that understands one’s accountability to God?  Here are a few of David’s comments from verse 4.
1. It is like a new day dawning; a fresh start with lots of light on every place.
2. It is like the sun shining on a perfect day.  Everyone enjoys it.
3. It is like a good rain that waters everything for growth.

The opposite is true when leadership is unjust and ungodly.  There is darkness and many things taking place unexposed.  It is not a happy time.  Growth and prosperity are stagnated.

David's testimony of his leadership was: "Does not my house stand so with God?"  May that be the testimony of all our nations' leaders.

"Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people."  Proverbs 14:34

Friday, December 29, 2017

He is a personal Savior

Read 2 Samuel 22.

This is one of the Psalms (songs) not in the book of Psalms.  God had delivered David and he could not help but sing.  He wrote this so others could join in and sing with him about who God is and what He has done.

Notice how personal the LORD is to him in just the opening verses.
-my rock
-my fortress
-my God
-my rock
-in whom I take refuge
-my shield
-the horn of my salvation
-my stronghold
-my refuge
-my savior
-you save me from violence
-I call upon the LORD
-I am saved

The God of heaven is interested and involved in every detail of our lives.  He wants us to run to Him and find safety, deliverance, and comfort.

"The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be my God, the rock of my salvation." (v.47)

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Dealing with sin of the Past

Read 2 Samuel 21.

For three years the nation suffered through a famine.  David prayed earnestly to the LORD for relief.  The famine was not the problem, only the symptom.  God used the famine to gain the attention of the nation and its leader.  Once He had their attention, they were then ready to hear His message.  The reason God inflicted them with the famine had to do with Saul's killing of some Gibeonites years prior.  The incident is not recorded in scripture.

In Joshua 9, the Gibeonites used a cunning ruse to make a covenant with Israel in order to spare their lives.  A few hundred years had passed, but a promise is a promise and Saul violated this covenant.  King Saul had been dead for decades, yet this sinful injustice had not been resolved.  God forced the nation to make it right. 

Once David understood the root problem, he took action.  The king asked the Gibeonite leaders, not what would appease them, but what he could do so they would "bless" the people of Israel.  This wisdom goes far beyond a judicial act.  David sought to restore Israel's good name, resolve a broken relationship, and please God in the process.

Their request seems harsh.  It was a different time in a different culture.  The punishment hearkened back to the law in Exodus of "an eye for an eye."  Perhaps, Saul had killed seven of their own.  We have to trust God that He was at the same time dealing with the sin of these seven male descendants of Saul.  The proof that this was what God wanted done is evident in the resulting rain that came.  Finally, they could grow their crops again.

Personal and national lessons to learn:
1. God want us to keep promises.
One of the primary characteristics of God is that He is faithful.  He keeps His word.  He cannot lie, nor violate what He said.  His followers are to be faithful people and to keep their promises to Him and to others.

2. In plenty people play; in pain people pray.

3. God wants us to know His message.
He has always wanted people to know what He wants done.  In times past, He used visions, prophets, and sent the Messiah.  Today, we have the written Word of God and the indwelling Holy Spirit.  The first step is gaining our attention so we will listen.

4. Individuals and nations pay for unresolved injustices in future generations.
This passage in 2 Samuel makes one wonder how much of the world's grief and conflict is the result of unrepented sin of the past.  On one hand, it seems unjust that one generation would pay for the sin of another, but this chapter is an example.  It should drive us to inquire of God like David did.

5. Sometimes, it is not your fault, but it becomes your responsibility.

Psalm 139:23-"Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts!  And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!"

Sunday, December 24, 2017

First, Identify the Problem

Read 2 Samuel 20.

In spite of a leader's best efforts for unity, there will always be those with their own personal agendas.

After the put down of Absalom's rebellion, this was a perfect time for national healing.  David never lost, because he depended upon the Lord and the Lord guided his victories.  The king, in reestablishing his government, showed great grace and kindness to those who had opposed him.  Yet, at the end of chapter 19, there was no small contention between the tribe of Judah and the other tribes.  David was of Judah, but the other tribes felt some alienation.

Then Sheba rose up.  The scripture refers to him as a worthless man of the tribe of Benjamin.  Remember, Saul, Israel's first king, was from this tribe.  He tried to take full advantage of the rift, probably to make himself the national leader. 

With civil war brewing, David sent Amasa, the new general, to muster Judah's army; Joab having been demoted for his killing of Absalom.   But when Amasa did not return on time, it seemed that he may have joined the opposition.  The king then called upon Abishai to go after Amasa, but Joab followed with his own men.  Joab killed Amasa, one of his own cousins (1 Chronicles 2:16-17), presumably out of jealous revenge for his demotion.

Taking matters into his own hands, Joab laid siege to the city of Abel without telling them why.  One very wise, peaceable woman saved the entire city that day. 

Insights for living:
1. Asking the right person the right question puts people to work on the right solution to the right problem.
It is unthinkable that all these soldiers spent enormous effort and time working on a project that was not needed.  No one thought to communicate first.

2. Peace comes as a result of getting rid of rebellion. 
Today, negotiations continue to be fruitless between contentious nations world-wide.  Why?  At its root is the fact that at least one of the parties, if not both, maintains a spirit of rebellion and demands of superiority over the other. 

Proverbs 22:10-"Drive out a scoffer, and strife will go out, and quarreling and abuse will cease."

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Everyone needs a Friend

Read 2 Samuel 19.

There is perhaps no grief like that of a parent who loses a child.  David was no exception.  A baby son died in chapter 12 and now his handsome and gifted, but rebellious, son was killed in battle.

His grief as a father is more than understandable.  However, he allowed his personal loss to place a pall on the nation's time of celebration.  David's kingdom had been restored.  Men warred and some died on his behalf.  The return to Jerusalem should have been one of triumph.  But instead, the atmosphere was like one of shame and as if the people had done something wrong.

Joab took responsibility to perform the very touchy and difficult task of confronting David to snap out of it.  The leader was sending a message that he loved those who hated him and hated those who loved him.  In short, Joab told David to get up and get back to work.

As David and those with him crossed the Jordan to return from their exile, they were met along the way by those who had both cursed the king and those who had shown kindness.  David forgave Shemei for what he had done in chapter16 and displayed grace to others.

Proverbs 27:6-"Faithful are the wounds of a friend."
We need at least one friend who will speak truth to us.  For personal sin, God sent the Prophet Nathan to David.  For this national concern, God sent Joab, the general of Israel's army.  A trusted friend is a God-send to aid us in sorting out our thoughts, emotions, and decisions.  The result should be personal growth and mature behavior.

When tossed to and fro by circumstances and varying opinions, the LORD provided the church where we may find such friends.  To the church at Ephesus, the Apostle Paul wrote: "Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love."  Ephesians 4:15-16 

Friday, December 22, 2017

Rebellion has no happy Ending

Read 2 Samuel 17-18.

In the past, Ahithophel had been a source of godly counsel to King David.  When Absalom seized the throne, his loyalties changed quickly.  He suggested that Absalom openly violate his father's concubines to embarrass David.  Ahithophel even devised a plan to kill David.

Absalom then called for David's friend, Hushai, for a second opinion.  Hushai presented a plan even more pleasing to Absalom.  In 15:34, David sent Hushai back to Jerusalem for the very purpose of overthrowing the counsel of Ahithophel.  Once the decision was made that Absalom would lead the battle against his own father, Hushai sent word to warn David.  Ahithophel soon realized that his counsel was no longer of value.  Sensing all was lost, he committed suicide.

David may have been older, but his experience as a warrior and leader proved to be no match for any opposition.  He organized his men and prepared for battle.  In spite of all that had happened, he asked for mercy for his son, Absalom.  Twenty thousand men died.  Apparently it did not take long for Absalom to run from the battle and be killed by Joab.

There is no way that this story could have had a happy ending.  Rebellion against God and God-given authority will always bring punitive consequences.

When Samuel told Saul that God had rejected him from being king due his open disobedience, he said, "For rebellion is as the sin of divination (witchcraft)." (1 Samuel 15:23a)

Humility, submission to and respect for authority are hallmarks of one who lives to please God.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

A perspective on painful Problems

Read 2 Samuel 16.

Whenever there is a change in leadership, some are sad, some are mad and some are glad.

Wherever there is a leadership vacuum, a rush to power is sure to come.

Amazingly, none of those who rushed to seize control of the kingdom appear to have consulted the LORD on what He wanted done.  This entire picture is one selfish desire for power and/or revenge.

Ziba feigned sadness at David's departure, even bringing refreshments.  He told David that Mephibosheth remained in Jerusalem in hopes to be king.  Remember, he was Saul's grandson.

Shimei, also from the tribe of Benjamin, was mad.  He threw rocks at David as the king journeyed in exile. 

Absalom was glad.  He entered Jerusalem as some conquering hero.  In order to establish himself as the leader and show complete separation from David, he put on a public display of violating his father's concubines.  Nathan prophesied this in 12:11 as one of the consequences of David's sin.

All of this, of course, was enormously painful for David to endure.  The rejection, betrayal, disrespect, abuse and sinful acts against him were unprecedented.  Yet, he demonstrated unusual spiritual insight into what was taking place. 

He could have retaliated.  He could have stayed to fight.  He could have beheaded Shimei.  He could have cursed and blamed the LORD.  Instead, he recognized that all power belongs to God.  It is He who raises up one and puts down another.  David accepted the humiliation as from the LORD's hand.  Then, he expressed his faith that God had a hope and future for him.

"It may be that the LORD will look on the wrong done to me, and that the LORD will repay me with good for his (Shimei) cursing today." (v.12)  This is a strong faith-statement of looking at problems from God's perspective.  Our trust is in Him today to complete His plan in us in His time.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Unresolved issues do not go away by Themselves

Read 2 Samuel 14-15.

Absalom escaped before any revenge might have taken place for the murder of his half brother Ammon.

The general of David's army, Joab, witnessed the story technique of Nathan that stirred David to action.  So, he coached a woman to deliver a made up, sob-story to arouse David's attention.  This resulted in David ordering Joab to bring Absalom home.  However, there remained a rift between David and his son.  David continued to show a lack leadership initiative in not resolving this widely known family problem.

Then in a moment of frustration, Absalom committed arson to get attention.  He demonstrated again some serious character flaws.  But David welcomed him affectionately and without dealing with the sins, all seemed to be at peace.

Next, Absalom began to assemble a following.  He openly took advantage of David's inaction to woo the loyalty of the people to himself.  It was nothing short of treason against his father!  This conspiracy went on for four years.  Absalom even lied about his true intent to leave the city, saying he wished to worship the Lord.  Indeed, the real purpose was to stage an outright coup.

This mighty warrior-king, now an older man, refused to fight his son's challenge and mournfully left Jerusalem.  Chapter 15, verse 30 states that "David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went, barefoot, and his head covered."  It is the same mount where the Lord Jesus prayed the night He was betrayed and arrested.

1. When it seems that someone got away with sin, remember sin does not go away by itself.  It must be confessed or confronted.  Without either, things will only get worse.

2. When it seems everything is turned against you, there are still those who will remain your friends.  See the words of Ittai and Hushai in the second half of chapter 15.

3. When it seems all is lost, remember the story is not over.  God is still in control.  What David did not resolve, God will take care of, but it will be even more painful.

"Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.  But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called 'today,' that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin."  Hebrews 3:12-13

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Inaction leads to further Injustice

Read 2 Samuel 13.

The prophecy of Nathan in 12:10-11 began to unfold upon David and his family.

With David's multiple wives, there were many half siblings within his very large family.  Tamar was a beautiful and obedient virgin daughter of King David.  When she realized Ammon's sexual intentions toward her, Tamar displayed an unusual sense of wisdom in four strong statements.
1. This is an outrageous violation, not only against her but against the nation of Israel.
2. This will result in shame with no hiding place.
3. This will make Ammon a common fool in the nation.
4. If he really loved her, all he had to do was ask the king's permission.

Ammon was guilty of lust, lying, and the rape of his half-sister.  He did not love her.  The proof is in his feelings after the rape.  He hated her.  Her full brother Absalom took Tamar into his home and care.

David's leadership as father and king was AWOL.  He knew what happened and did nothing.  This added insult to the injury and caused the anger of Absalom to fester.  Two years passed with no justice or attempt for reconciliation for this known heinous sin in the family.  Finally, Absalom carried out a plot to murder Ammon.

Everyone cried and mourned; over what?  There are no recorded tears for Tamar.  There are no recorded outcries due to Ammon's sins against the family.  The family did not come together to mourn until Ammon was murdered.

And, David failed again in not dealing with Absalom.

As a father of adult children, he was not responsible for their decisions, or their behaviors.  However, he remained their father and if he truly loved them he should have at least spoken up and used the family circle for influence.  As king, he was ultimately responsible in overseeing Israel's justice and spiritual purity.  David's inaction only compounded the problems for himself, his family and the nation.

Lack of swift justice only breeds more sin.  One of the hallmark verses that should guide all levels of justice is Ecclesiastes 8:11-"Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil.”

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The purpose of exposing Sin

Read 2 Samuel 12.

David probably thought the incidents that took place were over and he could now relax.  But he failed to deal with the sins in his life.  So, God sent His messenger, Nathan, to confront the king and deliver a powerfully effective message.

Nathan used a story method to capture David's full attention.  As a former shepherd, David's emotions quickly raised to anger in order to right this terrible wrong.  He announced that such a man deserves to die "because he had no pity."  It was at that point that Nathan confronted the king with four words, "You are the man!"

The message reviewed how good God had been to David.  "And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more."  Then, the sins were specifically named aloud.  It is clear from verse 10 that the sins were not only against Bathsheba, Uriah, and others, but they were against God Himself; "you have despised me."  What David tried to hide, God exposed openly.  The purpose of doing this was to lead David to repentance.

The cost was severe.  There would be war (v.10), immorality in his household (v.11), and the death of the child (v.14).  David did repent of his sins and he fully returned to worship God.  Psalm 51 was one of the outcomes of this confrontation.

Here are some excerpts from David's prayer of repentance in Psalm 51.
"Have mercy on me...wash me...create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me...then will I teach transgressors your ways...then will you delight in right sacrifices..."

God loves us too much to allow us to continue with unconfessed sin.
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

(1 John 1:9)   

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

3 Proactive thoughts regarding personal Sin

Read 2 Samuel 11.

Power and privilege are bestowed upon individuals by God to use in doing good for others.  The responsibility is weighty.  In Luke 12:38, Jesus said, "Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required."  The most dangerous thoughts a powerful and/or privileged person can have is "I accomplished this by myself" and "I can do whatever I want." 

All of us must exercise personal discipline if we are to guard our moral character and remain faithful to our commitments.  If we do not, we will only prove the scriptures to be true, "pride comes before a fall."

It was the season for military leadership, but David did not go.  On the surface, at least, this appears to be a poor decision on the king's part in the stewardship of his time.  David had numerous wives and concubines but his unguarded desires set in motion a series of sinful decisions.  He had the time, the opportunity and the power to fulfill his lust.

The sins are graphic and self-evident.  There was sex with another man's wife.  Next came the attempted cover up of the resulting pregnancy.  Then, there was the death warrant for an innocent and loyal solider.  Uriah served as one of the elite in Israel's army (23:29).  And, Uriah was not the only one who died in the conspiracy that killed him.  Others died also.  Joab merely followed orders, but in doing so David involved him in this sin.  David's guilt was staggering.  The better part of a year went by without any sign of repentance.

"The thing displeased the LORD." (v.27)

Lessons for all of us.
1. Be self-aware.
We must be vigilant regarding potential compromising situations.
When David saw her, he should have wheeled around and gone back inside.  Instead of sending for her, he should have sent word to her to about her lack of discretion.  When we give in to our weaknesses, we are no longer thinking about the presence of the LORD, the best interests of another person, or the consequences of sin. 

2. Be self-disciplined.
We must be ruthless about our vulnerabilities. 
Everyone is vulnerable in some areas of their character, whether it is in the use of power, the desire for possessions, or the pursuit of pleasure.  The abuses of any or all of these will 100% of the time lead to sin.

3. Be self-less.
We must maintain a respectful and eternal view of other people.
David showed no inkling of regard for God, his own family, for Bathsheba, her husband, for her father, nor even his own military.  There was no display of pity.  His selfish behavior caused him to vacate his spiritual leadership and ministry to others. 

How can God forgive such sinfulness?  How could David continue his leadership after this?  With repentance, God can forgive sin.  Only God could take this convoluted mess and redeem it for His glory.  He did and He does.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

7 Lessons on Kindness

Read 2 Samuel 10.

Some wag once quipped, "No good deed shall go unpunished."  We see that here in chapter 10.  David showed great kindness to Mephibosheth because of his commitment to his best friend, Jonathan.  Next, he decided to show kindness to a neighbor at the death of his father.

Nahash, king of the Ammonites, had been kind to David in the past.  With the death of Nahash, Hanun, the son, became king.  As a caring good neighbor, David sent a small group of men to represent Israel to convey condolences and bring a message of comfort.  However, when David's men arrived they were perceived as spies and a threat.  The Ammonites abused the men and sent them home shamefully.  This resulted in a regional war.  Tens of thousands of enemy soldiers died.  God gave David victory and eventual peace with these nations.

Lessons on kindness from the leadership of David from Chapter 9.
1. He had a heart of compassion even for those who did not expect it and who could be a threat to him.

2. He took the initiative to be kind.

3. He demonstrated his kindness with peace and restorative acts.

4. He treated even a potential rival as royalty.

But kindness on our part is not always appreciated as we read in chapter 10.
1. Sometimes our best and purest motives may be completely misunderstood.

2. Sometimes our good intentions may be rejected and the very ones we are trying to help turn on us.  They may even enlist others to join them in the rejection.

3. Sometimes there is no choice but to face the false accusations and/or threats head on and trust God for the outcome.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Keeping our Word

Read 2 Samuel 9.

Many people make promises.  People of godly character make commitments.

David's man to man covenant with his best friend Jonathan was life-long.  They made a commitment to care for each other's families in 1 Samuel 20:14.  It did not change with the death of Jonathan, or with the change in national leadership. 

Once the new kingdom was established and surrounding enemies put down, David turned his attention to some unfinished business.  "Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan's sake?"  Indeed, there was one crippled son of Jonathan whom a servant, Ziba, had kept safe.

A tyrant would have killed all the family of the previous king to protect himself; not David.  When Mephibosheth appeared he bowed in fear before the king.  But David quickly sought to alleviate any fear, restored the inheritance of his grandfather, and then publicly committed to treat him as one of his own family.  In addition, David charged Ziba and his very large family to care for Mephibosheth's estate.

Keeping our word is not only important to the receiver but the LORD takes note as well.
"Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether."  (Psalm 139:4)  And, Jesus said, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified and by your words you will be condemned.”

Sunday, December 10, 2017

3 Leadership traits of a godly Superpower

Read 2 Samuel 8.

Once in full command of the unified nation of Israel, David expanded the kingdom by defeating all the surrounding enemies.  He made survivors to be servants of the kingdom.  The wealth of the spoils he brought back to Jerusalem.  A ruthless dictator would have abused this power and wealth for his own selfish aggrandizement; but not David.

Why?  What made this superpower different?

1. The leader recognized the ultimate source of all power and authority. 
Twice in this chapter we are told "the LORD gave victory to David wherever he went."  As good a warrior as David was it would never be enough to sustain a lasting kingdom and achieve God's expectations. 

2. The leader recognized the ultimate owner of all things.
David was a faithful steward of all that God had allowed him to have.  Concerning the gold, silver and bronze that he amassed in Jerusalem, verse 11 states, "These also King David dedicated to the LORD..."  Giving ten percent to God was not enough for this leader.  One of the evidences of godliness is generosity.

3. The leader recognized the ultimate judge of all required him to act justly.
God placed him in this position of leadership to be a faithful steward of the people.  In great contrast to selfish rulers or corrupt kings, "David administered justice and equity to all his people." (v.15)

Friday, December 8, 2017

God keeps His Promises

Read 2 Samuel 7.

For about 500 years, the Ark of God, and the center of Israel's worship, had been a tent.  It bothered David that his house was better than God's.  Building a beautiful place worthy of the LORD became his lifelong dream.

God responded with a special message through Nathan, the prophet.
-The LORD did not ask for house.  Though God's presence was over the Ark in the Tabernacle, God cannot be contained, nor does He need humans to take care of Him.
-The LORD reminded David that it was He who took care of the nation.  Indeed, God took David from a pasture to a palace.
-The LORD made eternal promises to David and his descendants.  This is commonly called the Davidic Covenant. 
     1. He will make for David a great name.
     2. He will plant the people on this land and give them peace.
     3. He will give David a son and establish his kingdom forever.

As we shall see that son was Solomon and it is he who will actually build the temple that David only dreamed about.  Also, this promise of a forever kingdom underscores the importance of Messiah's lineage.  According to the family tree in Matthew 1, Jesus was born into the royal family; a direct descendants of David.  The familiar Christmas story explains it: "And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David" (Luke 2:4).

Such an announcement humbled David.  It caused him to go immediately to prayer.  He praised God for what He had done and for who God is.  "For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you..." (v.22).  

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Party but remember the Principles

Read 2 Samuel 6.

With David now fully in charge as king, the nation united, and the Philistines defeated, David then acted on a central priority for establishing his leadership.  He wanted to the Ark of God brought to Jerusalem and to establish that city as the center of worship.  The parade began with 30,000 elite soldiers on the march with music and great celebration.  The Ark had been placed on a brand new cart for the procession.

Immediately, a good Bible student would notice a huge violation of the scriptures.  The Ark was to be carried on poles by the priests, not driven on a cart (Exodus 25:10-15).  When one of the oxen stumbled, Uzzah put his hand on the Ark to steady it.  This again was a violation of the scriptures on how the Ark was to be moved.  God killed him instantly.  That stopped the music and the parade. 

David became angry with God.  Here they were trying to do a good thing and this happened.  As a result of David's feelings, they found a local farmer, Obed-edom, to temporarily house the Ark.  God richly blessed this unsuspecting farmer and his family.  After three months, David finally brought the Ark to Jerusalem.  First, he worshipped.  This may have been in repentance for his anger and certainly to honor the LORD before they went any further.  He became so caught up in the celebration that he broke out in dancing "with all his might."  It was a happy day!

Meanwhile, back home, Michal, Saul's daughter, could not wait to criticize him.  She overlooked entirely the spiritual impact of what just took place.  Her surface issue was David's actions during the celebration.  But her root issue was the lingering hurt and anger at David.  She had been promised to David by Saul.  David paid the dowry, yet Saul gave her to another man.  After the death of Saul, David took Michal by force from her husband (2 Samuel 3:12-16).  We are not told if this conflict was ever resolved between them, only that she never bore children.

This story gives us four reminders to live by:
1. God's Word is written down for us and is there for our instruction.  It does not change with time or culture.  It is always our reliable source.  There are direct consequences for our obedience or for our disobedience.

2. God can take care of Himself.  He really does not need our help.  It is a privilege that He calls us to participate with Him in what He wants accomplished in this world of His.

3. Many are too quick to blame God when things do not go as they had planned.  Seek first to know if there was a violation of His Word.  If so, then repentance is the next step in order to make things right with God and to get one’s life back on track.

4. There will always be someone who will misunderstand our pure motives.  Most often the misunderstanding is related to a previous hurt or anger.  Seek to resolve the real issue, if at all possible.  

Monday, December 4, 2017

5 Qualities that united a Nation

Read 2 Samuel 4-5.

At the death of Abner, Saul’s son, Ishbosheth, lost hope of ruling as king.  His two top military leaders lost faith in his leadership.  They murdered Ishbosheth.  Then, they brought the head of Ishbosheth to David, believing they had done him a great favor.  Once again, David demonstrated his sterling character.

-As an honorable warrior, killing a man in his sleep was a dishonorable act to David. 
-As Saul's son-in-law, David refused to rejoice in the death of anyone in the family, even though they treated him as an enemy. 
-As a humble servant, David he was quick to give the LORD the credit for delivering him from trouble. 
-As a godly man, he had no tolerance for wickedness.
-As a righteous leader, he treated other leaders with respect.

Who would not want such a man to lead the nation?  All the other tribes came to officially proclaim David as king and, thus, united the kingdom once again.    Saul had reigned for 40 years.  David reigned for the next 40 years, until he died at age 70.

He reclaimed Jerusalem as his headquarters and the city became known as the city of David.  His home, his family and his leadership all thrived.  When challenged by the Philistines, he relied on God and there was a great victory.

Here is the key thought to know and to cling to from this section:
4:9-"...the LORD lives, who has redeemed my life out of every adversity..."

And, this same LORD ever lives to deliver us today.  Trust Him.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

3 Essential character qualities of a Leader

Read 2 Samuel 2-3.

For years, David had lived with the Philistines being alienated from his own people.  With the death of Saul, David prayed for direction from God.  The LORD instructed that it was time to go home.  Once in the southern part of the land, the people of Judah made David their king.  However, Saul did have one son still alive.  The northern part of the country anointed Ishbosheth as their king.  It was predictable that such a division would lead to conflict.

David's leadership and influence grew in power, while his opposition waned.  Indeed, even Abner, the general of the northern army, joined forces with David.  Abner then began working on David's behalf to unite the nation.  But David's general, Joab, only looked upon Abner as an enemy whose only goal was to spy on them.  Joab avenged his brother’s death by murdering Abner.

At every turn in David's life his character was on public display.  When he heard the news of Abner's death, he took decisive action for all to see and hear.  He pronounced a curse on Joab and his descendants to be diseased and poor.  He gave Abner a royal funeral and even walked behind the casket to the burial.  He openly mourned and fasted.  David wanted everyone to know of his innocence.

There is no question regarding David's cunning and ability as a warrior.  But the exercise of those skills was always under control by his character.  In this section, several elements of his true self are demonstrated for us.
1. Kindness and appreciation.
When he discovered what Saul's home town people had done in recovering and burying Saul, he sent them a thank note and blessed them.  In this case, underneath this kindness was a huge amount of forgiveness of the past.
Ephesians 4:32-"Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you."

2. Loyalty
David thanked the people of Jabesh-gilead for their loyalty.  He treated his promises to others as a serious commitment of loyalty, as with Abner.  He counted Joab's actions as disloyal and an embarrassment. David learned about loyalty by putting his life on the line in order to protect his sheep from wild animals.  He experienced the loyalty of a friend with Jonathan.  His word was his bond.

3. Unity
David could have distrusted Abner as an enemy and killed him himself.  But he took the high road in the relationship in order to unite the nation and live in peace.  Unity and peace always requires us to consider the needs and interests of others above our own. 
Philippians 2:4-"Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Honoring a fallen Leader

Read 2 Samuel 1.

The book begins where 1 Samuel left off.  An Amalekite came and told David that Saul and his sons had been killed in battle.  There was no rejoicing over the slaying of his pursuer.  Instead, David mourned the losses.  Israel lost its first king.  David lost his best friend.

After all he went through, one cannot help but be astonished at David's respect for God-given authority, for his loyalty to his nation, and his commitment to doing what is right.  He honored Saul in death and even wrote a song for the occasion.  He wanted the nation to know his thoughts and feelings. 

His number one enemy just died.  How could David do this with integrity?
1. He honored the heritage, not the history.
The history of Saul was sullied with his spiritual rebellion and signs of insanity.  However, Saul was the first anointed king of Israel and that alone was worthy of respect.

2. He consistently had only wanted to serve, never to usurp Saul's leadership.
Though he had opportunities, David never took vengeance or retaliated against Saul.  He stood blameless and this led Saul to repent of his actions more than once.

3. He knew the rest of the nation would be watching his response.
As Israel's next king, this was David's first act of national leadership.  He treated Saul as he would have wanted to be treated and remembered.

These are good lessons for all of us when dealing with difficult authorities in our lives.  When all is said and done, we want to be able to maintain our dignity, respect and integrity.  If David could behave like this with Saul, then we have a great example to follow.  

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

4 Sobering Life-Reminders

Read 1 Samuel 31.

This is not a happy ending.  But with Saul there was little hope that it could end any differently than it did.  In fact, the tragic conclusion had been foretold by Samuel.

Saul died while fighting the Philistines.  Saul's three sons also were killed.  Included among them was Jonathan, David's best friend.  This was most likely the battle David would have participated in if Achish had not sent him home.  God protected David from being involved.

Saul's sin and repeated disobedience to God not only cost his life and the lives of countless others, but the enemy gained a great victory.  The people of Israel abandoned some of their cities to escape.  These towns became part of the spoils of war for the Philistines.

When the Philistines found the bodies of the king and his sons, they desecrated them and celebrated.  It was good news throughout the enemy's land.

Saul's home town people recovered the royal remains, brought them home, and mourned for seven days.

4 Sobering Life-Reminders:
1. "None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself."  (Romans 14:7)
The way we live our lives and the way we respond to God's claims on our lives directly affects all those around us...for good or evil.

2. "...and give the adversary no occasion for slander."  (2 Timothy 5:14b)
"...the accuser...who and night before our God."  (Revelation 12:11)
Satan is energized when God's people mess up.  He goes right before the LORD and points out our wrong doings.  Then, he often mobilizes his own evil followers to take advantage and celebrate over our failures.  This is spiritual warfare that every believer faces daily.

3. "For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?"  (1 John 5:4-5)
The good news of the gospel of Jesus is that we do not need to live in failure.  Forgiveness is ours.  Failure is not final.  We may stumble in the battle, but we have already won the war.

4. "Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is."  (Ephesians 5:15)

Let's determine to use ours lives doing what God wants done.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

3 Attitude Indicators

Read 1 Samuel 30:7-31.

Once David "strengthened himself in the LORD his God" he then took action in facing this heartbreaking situation.  He went to his spiritual leader in order to seek God's direction.  With assurance from God to move forward, David and his men went after the Amalekites to rescue their wives, children and belongings.

Along the way, God provided a man who gave David the details he needed to locate the enemy.  The Amalekites surely thought David and his army were far away fighting as an ally with the Philistines.  While they celebrated, David launched a surprise attack and recovered absolutely everything and everyone the enemy had been taken.

Not all the men in David's army were physically able to endure another battle.  In order to move quickly and decisively, David left a third of his army behind to take care of themselves and what supplies they had with them.  Upon their victorious return, we discover that not every soldier in David's army was a godly man.  Some were "wicked and worthless fellows" (v.22).  They did not want to share the spoils of the war with those who did not go to the fight. 

Here David demonstrated his wisdom as a leader.  He treated everyone with dignity, respect, and appreciation.  Notice his response in verse 24.  "For as his share is who goes down to battle, so shall his share be who stay by the baggage.  They shall share alike."  That statement became a statute for the nation of Israel.

3 insights into our attitude toward others:
1. One of the indicators of a sinful heart is selfishness.
2. One of the indicators of a godly life is generosity.
3. One of the indicators of a good leader is equal appreciation for those who serve in support roles in the organization.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Get a Grip

Read 1 Samuel 29-30:6.

As the Philistines mustered for war against Israel, the commanders noticed David and his men.  Though David had lived among them for some time and had served as the king's bodyguard, these military leaders did not trust him.  Telling elite fighting men that they cannot go is an unbelievable rejection.

Though the disappointment must have been great, God knew what He was doing.  What was God doing?
1. He protected David from being party to the Philistines defeating and killing Saul, Jonathan, and fellow countrymen.
2. He sent David home to take care of an emergency involving his own family.

While David and his men were gone, the Amalekites attacked their home in the city of Ziklag.  They burned the city and took everything they could, including all the women and children.  Gratefully, the Amalekites did kill anyone.  With the soldiers gone, there was no resistance.

David and those with him sat down and cried until they could cry no more.  Quickly, the loss and hurt turned to blame.  They wanted to stone David to death.  What is this leader to do?  He experienced the same losses they did.  He was hurting too.  Note the end of verse 6: "But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God."

The very first step he took was to spend time alone with God to gain strength to face this overwhelming stress.  In Hebrew, the word strengthen means to fasten, to lay hold of, to grip.  Where did David learn to strengthen his grip on God as he faced life and death circumstances?  Previously, in chapter 23, when Saul came to kill David in the Wilderness of Ziph, his best friend Jonathan found him.  In 23:16, Jonathan did not come merely to warn David but he "strengthened his hand in God."

A couple of reminders when we are in pain:
1. We all need those people in our lives who can come alongside to encourage us, comfort us, remind us, and urge us on in our faith.  It is called discipleship.  No one grows as a believer without it.

2. When God closes a door there is a reason that matters to everyone involved.  Life is not just about us.  Each action directly affects the lives of all those around us, in one way or another.  Though for the moment all appears to be lost, the story is not over.  The rest of this chapter has a happy ending.  And, so does ours as we maintain our grip on the Lord.  

Friday, November 24, 2017

Looking for help in all the wrong Places

Read 1 Samuel 28.

The Philistines prepared for war against Israel.  But this time Samuel, the High Priest and spiritual leader of the nation had died.  Threatened and without his spiritual mentor, Saul panicked.  He prayed but God did not answer him.  With a broken relationship with the LORD, Saul sought out a medium to tell his future.

This was a satanic and cheap substitute for a personal relationship with the living God of heaven.  There is no end to these man-made pursuits such as horoscopes, positive self-talk, star and planet calculations, pyramidology, crystals, crystal balls, séances, fortune tellers, Ouija boards, etc.  Each, to one extent or the other, worships the creation rather than the Creator Himself.  This is not a game or an amusing diversion.  In verse 9, the practice resulted in the death penalty in order to rid the nation of such devil-inspired worship that pulled people away from the truth.

Saul knew it was wrong.  So, he disguised himself.  In one of the most unique miracles in the Bible, Samuel appeared.  This was not a validation of the witch.  Indeed, she was shocked that it worked.  Her method had been to dupe her clients with a made up storyline.  But here was Samuel and he spoke. 

Samuel reminded Saul of his rebellion against God that resulted in his alienation.  He reminded Saul that David would be king.  Then, he announced that Saul and his sons would die in the battle to come.

Two truths for us today:
1. Unconfessed sin alienates us from God and hinders our prayers.  Psalm 66:18 "If I regard iniquity in my heart the LORD will not hear me."

2. God loves for us to come to him in our time of need and cast our dependence upon Him alone.  Psalm 34:18 "The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Character is demonstrated when Pressured

Read 1 Samuel 26-27.

The incident and words of chapter 26 are so similar to what took place in chapter 24.  The Ziphites told Saul where David was hiding. Saul marched his army to that area and camped.  This time, David crept up to the very place where Saul slept, took the king's spear and water, and refused to kill the king when he clearly had the opportunity.

David's character was demonstrated in three ways:
1. He continued to respect the position of the king.
This was not because Saul deserved it, but because he recognized that all authority comes from God.  So, out of respect for the LORD, David respected the human authority over him.

2. He continued to demonstrate humility toward the king.
Humility may be described as strength under control.

3. He continued to trust God for rewarding his commitments in doing what is right.
"The LORD rewards every man for his righteousness and faithfulness." (26:23)

Though Saul again confessed that his actions were "foolish" and "a great mistake", and even though Saul publicly blessed David and left, David still did not trust him.  To put an end to the pursuit, David took his men and made a cunning alliance with the Philistine king of Gath.  Achish thought David had completely turned against Israel and would conduct raids against Saul's border cities.  Instead, David used his inside access to destroy Philistine cities.  Saul stopped hunting David.  Meanwhile, David waited for God's timing to return to Israel.

There is a picture of Jesus in David's character and actions.  It turns to an application for all of us.

The Apostle Peter described Jesus' sufferings like this: "He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.  When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly." (1 Peter 2:22-23)

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

4 Principles when we feel Mistreated

Read 1 Samuel 25.

On the run with 600 men, David needed supplies, especially food.  In their route, they guarded and protected those of Israel who were vulnerable to attack by the Philistines.

They camped near Nabal at the time of sheep shearing.  He was a very wealthy descendant of Caleb, one of the faithful men of Joshua's day.  Yet, Nabal had a harsh and offensive demeanor.  In fact, his name means "fool".  He saw David as just another rebel, one "breaking away from his master" (v.10).

This rebuke and insult was about to turn to war, but an unnamed young man appealed to Nabal's wife for intervention.  Abigail approached David with humility, an apology, and a present of some food.  It is interesting to note how discerning and godly her appeal was.  It possessed a total spiritual perspective on the circumstance.  She also included her knowledge that David had been "appointed...prince over Israel."  David recognized that the LORD sent this woman to stop him and protect him from retaliating.

After a night of drunkenness, Abigail told her husband how she had spared his life.  Evidently, Nabal experienced a stroke and ten days later "the LORD struck Nabal, and he died." (v.38) 

David praised God for avenging the "insult" and then, out of care for the widow, sent for Abigail to be his own wife.  Being without a husband in that culture, this was a huge provision for her.

Here are four principles to remember when we feel mistreated.
1. The LORD can protect us from making foolish decisions, if we are willing to listen when He says, "Stop."

2. The LORD can use us to protect others, if we are willing to intervene when He says, "Go."

3. The LORD hears and sees evil and wrongdoing.  He will avenge these in His time when He says, "Enough."

4. The LORD will provide for those who are innocent and endeavor to do what is right when He says, "Enjoy."   

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

3 Godly responses when a leader is Wrong

Read 1 Samuel 24.

Running for his life with 600 men, David turned south to the wilderness areas of Israel.  First, he hid in Ziph, then Moan, and in this chapter he was hidden in a cave of Engedi.  When King Saul heard of David's location, he amassed 3,000 troops and headed south.  Surely, with an overwhelming ratio of 5 to 1 Saul could be successful.  But God...

Of all the places Saul could have selected to "relieve himself" he walked right into the cave where David was hiding.  This could have been David's opportunity to do away with Saul, seize the throne, and put an end to this awful chapter of suffering in his life.  Indeed, his own men wanted David to do that very thing.  To prove a point, David sought only to embarrass the king by sneakily cutting off part of Saul's robe while he was indisposed.  After his success in doing so, his conscience bothered him so badly that David became the one to experience embarrassment for what he had done.

David took a huge risk coming out of the cave and calling to Saul.  When the king realized what had happened and that David did not harm him in any way, deep conviction came upon him.  Saul wept and confessed his actions as evil.  Further, he admitted that he knew David would be the next king.

David's turn will come and Saul will be dealt with in God's time.  In the meantime, note how David treated the God-given authority over him, even when the authority was wrong.
1. Respect.
David referred to Saul as "the LORD's anointed".  That did not mean he agreed with Saul or was in anyway accepting of Saul's behavior.  The respect was for Saul's position of authority in his life.  To have such respect requires one to look beyond the person and see the ultimate Authority, the One who has all power in heaven and on earth.  Matthew 28:19-20.

2. Honor.
David bowed down and paid homage to his king.  This is closely coupled with respect, of course, but honor goes one step farther.  One may be forced to show respect but honor must come from within.

3. Humility.
In verse 14 David humbled himself by comparing his life and stature before the king as a "dead dog" and a "flea."  This was the opposite of what David could have demanded, but he did not.  All he wanted to do was serve.  True humility is best demonstrated when we voluntarily give up our rights in order to do what is right. 

The Apostle Peter wrote, "Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.  For this is a gracious thing, when mindful of God, one endures sorrow while suffering unjustly."  1 Peter 2:18-19.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Get a Grip

Read 1 Samuel 23.

As David endeavored to lay low and stay out of sight, the Philistines crossed the border from Gath and attacked the city of Keilah.  If he were not on the run, Saul would have given David orders to launch a counterattack with Israel's army.  But now it was no longer David's job.  David could have stood by and let the enemy win and let Saul experience the failure of not protecting his own people, but these were David's people too.  He prayed and God said, "Go."

There are times when we act, not because it is our responsibility, but because it is the right thing to do.

The LORD gave the victory (v.4) and provisions for David's small army.  While there Abiathar, a priest, joined David and informed him of Saul's plans to lay siege to Keilah in order to kill David.  David again inquired of God as to what to do.  What thanks did he receive for saving the city and people of Keilah?  Instead of gratitude from Saul, he launched a full scale pursuit against David.  Instead of gratitude and protection of the city of Keilah, the people would easily have surrendered him to Saul. 

When David left Keilah to hide in the wilderness of Ziph, his band of men had grown to 600.  Daily, he feared for his life.  The questions remained as to why this was happening to him without cause and how long would he be running for his life.  Surely, questions of his faith arose. 

Two faith-strengthening things then took place.  First, God sent Jonathan.  Saul could not find David but the Lord directed Jonathan right to him.  Why did Jonathan risk being seen as a traitor and come to David?  Verse 16b shows the true mark of godly friend; he "strengthened his hand in God."  The implication is that under the stress, David's faith may have been slipping a bit.  We all need people in our lives that will come alongside us at those times of crises and help us increase our grip on our faith in the Lord. 

Next, the Ziphites betrayed David and gave Saul the general location of the hiding place.  It was under such life-threatening conditions that David penned some of the Psalms.  Psalm 54 was written in the wilderness of Ziph.  "Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life." (Psalm 54:4)

God’s help and a godly friend will increase the grip on our faith.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

When things go from bad to Worse

Read 1 Samuel 21-22.

David pleased God and did everything well.  But he was on the run for his life to escape King Saul.  When he came to Nob, he visited with the priest, Ahimilech, for food and weapons. 

The only loaves of bread available were those used for worship and just taken off the altar.  The law allowed only the priests to eat this particular day-old bread.  Jesus commented on this incident in Matthew 12:1-7, teaching that the law was made for man, not man for the law.  The only weapon on the premises was Goliath's sword that had been stored there.  Also, we are told that Saul's chief herdsman, Doeg, witnessed these things.

David crossed the border into Philistine territory.  In fact, he went to Gath, the hometown of Goliath.  The people recognized David immediately.  To escape, David pretended to be insane prompting the King of Gath to dismiss him.  Next, David hid in a stronghold cave in Adullam.  Here an assembly of four hundred men gathered to follow him.  He made sure that his parents and family were taken to safety.

Meanwhile, Doeg reported to Saul all that he saw at Nob.  In retaliation for what he deemed as treason, Saul ordered to Doeg kill 85 innocent priests of the LORD.  From there Doeg annihilated every living thing in the city of Nob.  The only one to escape was a son of Ahimilech who found and informed David of what took place.  Surely, David felt the weight of their deaths and even some responsibility for involving those priests.  His response was to write Psalm 52.

The whole episode seems so unnecessary and meaningless from a human viewpoint. 
-Why did God allow Saul to continue his murderous behavior?
-Why did David, a faithful man and anointed to be the next king, have to suffer?
-Why the slaughter of innocent servants of God?

By faith we trust the living God with our lives, our futures, and our unanswered questions.  There is much about life that is beyond our understanding and our ability to control.  Charles Spurgeon wrote, “When we cannot trace His hand, we must trace His heart.”

The old hymn underscores this truth.
"Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!  How I've proved Him o'er and o'er!
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!  O for grace to trust Him more!"

Monday, November 13, 2017

6 Identifying marks of a true Friend

Read 1Samuel 20.

An old adage that dates back over 500 years states: "A friend in need is a friend indeed."  Many can be friendly, but it is in times of personal crises that one discovers who their true friends are.

David found himself in a life and death crisis.  King Saul and all his minions were on a pursuit to find and kill David.  At the core of his stress, perhaps more than his potential loss of life was the question, "Why?"  In verse 1 he asked, "What have I done?  What is my guilt?  And what is my sin...?"

Every suffering person asks those same questions.  "What did I do wrong that this happened to me?  What could I have done differently?  What is my sin that God has allowed this?"  If there has been some obvious foolish decision or outright sinful behavior, then one can more easily admit they brought it on themselves.  But, when after self-examination there is no answer, the confusion can become unbearable.  That is when it is most helpful to have a friend.

Such friends are few and far between.  No one has a lot of friendships on this level.  Fortunately for David, God provided Jonathan.  Here are just a few transferable characteristics of a true friend found in this chapter.

1. A true friend is willing to just listen. (v.1)
A person on the front end of a crisis does not want to hear platitudes; does not want the subject changed to your story; does not want to hear a countering view; or your solution.  The first thing they need is someone who will just listen to their emotions and even to vent their questions without judgment.  That does not mean silence but words of understanding and support are needed.

2. A true friend is available and willing to help. (v.4)
Some real friends may care deeply but due to other circumstances or commitments simply cannot be available or in a position to help.  In times of deep need, a friend is needed who can drop what they are doing to serve whatever is required.  Jonathan's words, "Whatever you say, I will do for you," had to be reassuring to David.  In verses 5 and 42, this commitment extended to the needs of their families.

3. A true friend is meeting real needs, not just temporal ones. (v.14)
The greatest need of anyone is to experience the eternal love of the LORD.  The second is to experience the faithful love of a friend.  This type of love is best defined in the word commitment.  David looked at Jonathan and said, "Show me the steadfast love of the LORD".   We have the opportunity in such cases to be the hands of Jesus in demonstrating what true love looks like.

4. A true friend has a plan to help. (vv.18-22)
Without specifics of what to do, the moment will only melt into a puddle of emotions.  There must be some substance that will genuinely help the one in crisis to take the next step.  It may not be the ultimate solution, but at least there is movement and progress toward hope.

5. A true friend has your back. (vv.28-34)
Jonathan defended David when he was not there to defend himself.  When others say bad things about your friend in their absence, what do you do or say?  That is a test of true friendship.  Standing up for David almost cost Jonathan his life.  Willingness to put one's own life on the line for another is the highest commitment of a true friend.

6. A true friend is emotionally invested. (v.41)
Sometimes there is nothing left to do but cry together. 

"A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." (Proverbs 18:24)

Friday, November 10, 2017

7 questions when in confusing Circumstances

Read 1 Samuel 19.

King Saul increasingly showed signs of insanity or, at least, some level of schizophrenia.  His behavior could quickly change.  In one moment he displayed rage and murderous intent.  Then, in the next he was repentive and conciliatory.

Saul knew that his days were numbered as king.  It was obvious to him that David would succeed him, even if he had not already been told of Samuel's anointing of David.  On one hand Saul knew the facts of David's loyalty and service to him.  Saul knew God's hand was upon David and this had blessed Saul's reign.  Yet, jealousy and insecurity caused him to react unjustifiably. 

When Saul proved incapable of killing David by himself, he ordered his servants to do it.  He even sent out a posse after David.  But each time Saul's plans were thwarted.  God protected both men.  He protected Saul from committing murder and protected David from rebellion against the king.

The last part of this chapter shows God's intervention and, perhaps, even a bit of humor.  As the messengers approached the place where Samuel and David were, "the Spirit of God came upon them."  The same thing occurred when Saul arrived.  Eugene Merrill wrote, "This means that they fell into a trance of an ecstatic state, a condition which immobilized them and made them incapable of accomplishing their evil intentions."

The agony for David was not just from Saul's pursuit of his life.  David was being tested by God through this horrific time.
-Will he rebel against his God-given authority and take matters into his own hands?
-As a proven warrior and the support of the army, will he take revenge and kill Saul?
-He had been anointed to be the next king; would he question God's plans for his life?
-Would he become a door mat, a continuing moving target for Saul, or a willing martyr?
-Will he use this time to hone his skills as a warrior-leader?
-Will he write down his feelings and his faith to express his pain in ways that can help others (Psalms)?
-Will he cast his dependence upon God and do what is right regardless of what others do?

The answer to those test questions are determined in advance by first having a heart that belongs to God, coupled with a commitment to be obedient to Him no matter what.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Attitude and Authority

Read 1 Samuel 18.

The victory over Goliath elevated David in every way. 
-Saul appointed him in charge of Israel's army (that would include his own brothers).
-Jonathan became his best friend.
-Women sang his praises.
Indeed, "David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him." (v.5)

From that time on, Saul was overcome by jealousy and fear of losing his popularity and position.  The truth was he had already lost both of them.

He feared David because he knew the LORD was with him (v.12).  In addition, Saul "stood in fearful awe" at David's continuous successes (v. 15).

The jealousy, fear, anger and wickedness of Saul led to his attempts to kill David one way or another.  He had promised to give the one who killed Goliath his daughter in marriage.  But after the engagement was announced Saul gave that daughter to another man. 

What is astounding to read is David's humility and servant's spirit toward the King.  Through all of this, he declared himself to be but a poor man of no reputation (v.23).

His respect for the position of authority, even when that authority was wrong, speaks to all of us.  As believers, we know full well that all authority in heaven and on earth belongs to Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20).   All human authority ultimately is instituted by God and will serve His purposes (Romans 13:1-2).  

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

5 checks for facing today's Challenges

Read 1 Samuel 17.

For forty days, several times a day, Goliath challenged Israel with his words.  No one had the courage to take on this bully.  Saul offered money, his daughter in marriage, and literally the royal treatment if someone would step up.

What moved David to act with such confidence?  It was his spiritual of perspective on the problem.  And, that made all the difference. 
-David never saw this as a territorial, political, or even a physical fight.
-It was not a matter of stirring up enough courage with skill, experience, and luck to kill Goliath. 
-David did not see these men as the army of Israel, but the army of the living God.
-It was not a battle of them against us, but them against God.

Why didn't God just strike Goliath dead on the spot?  He could have, but most often God will use the right person at exactly the right time to do His will.

1. The Motive Check. (v.36)
David could not stand by and do nothing while God and God's people were being ridiculed and cursed.

2. The Faith Check. (v.37)
David’s trust was not solely in his own ability and experience but in God's deliverance.

3. The Method Check. (vv.38-40)
He learned from his past.  God had tested him previously in life threatening situations.

4. The Message Check. (vv.45-47)
He was there for one reason: "that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel."

5. The Humility Check. (v.58)
His response was not about replacing Saul as king, but "I am the son of your servant."

How do you see your challenges today?  Is it us against them, or them against God?  As tested servants of God, we trust Him to deliver us.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The number one evaluator of People

Read 1 Samuel 16.

The LORD announced to Samuel, "I have provided myself a king".  It was not wrong that Israel wanted a king, but the timing and the selection of Saul proved to be a temporary concession.  God had foretold of them one day having a king, but he would come from the tribe of Judah.  Saul came from the tribe of Benjamin.  Samuel's instructions were to go to Bethlehem and choose from the family of Jesse.

We learn nine things about David in this chapter.
-He was the youngest of eight sons.
-He tended the family's flock of sheep.
-He had a ruddy complexion, beautiful eyes, and a handsome face.
-He was a skillful musician.
-He was a man of valor.
-He was a man of war.
-He was prudent in speech.
-He presented himself well.
-Most of all, people knew the LORD was with him.

With his good looks, skill and experiences David would, of course, be an obvious pick, right?  God gave to Samuel an important principle for evaluating people.

"For the LORD sees not as a man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart."

A heart that is right with God will always win in the long run over good looks and great skill.

Monday, November 6, 2017

4 Powerful statements for Self-examination

Read 1 Samuel 15.

Warren Buffet once said, "In looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if they don't have the first, the other two will kill you."

In Saul's case, he lacked integrity and his intelligence was questionable.  This particular episode in Saul's life began in 14:16.  God used Jonathan to put the Philistines into great confusion, fleeing and even killing each other.  When an Israeli scout saw this, he alerted Saul and his army.  The full attack and rout was on.  The men were exhausted from battle but Saul inexplicably decided to declare a fast.

Out of his own insecurities, he sought reassurance from God.  It seems that every time Saul became hard pressed he wanted to do something religious, even if it meant disobedience to the word of the Lord.
-He summoned the ark of God in battle, a symbol of God presence.
-He declared a fast for a battle-weary army.
-He pronounced a curse of death on the starving that might disobey his order.
-He built an altar to sacrifice to the LORD.
-If the people had not intervened, he probably would have executed his own son to save face.
-He built a monument to himself (15:12).

However, he was the king and as such God used Saul to turn back all of Israel's surrounding enemies.  It was a time of victory for the nation and exalted Saul's leadership.  One of these enemies that the LORD wanted destroyed was the Amalekites.  Though centuries had passed, God never forgot their mistreatment of His people during the exodus (15:2).  The order from God was clear; total annihilation.  But 15:9 describes how Saul disobeyed.

God sent Samuel to confront Saul about this sin.  The first response from Saul to Samuel was a lie (15:13).  The second sentence he spoke was another lie (15:15).  He blamed the people for his own disobedience and tried to make it sound like a good thing.  Samuel was already angry (15:11) and yelled, "Stop!"

Even when confronted about his disobedience, Saul stuck to his story, claiming he did what he was supposed to do and blaming the people.  It is only when Samuel pronounced God's judgment upon him that Saul repented.  In chapter 13, Saul lost his dynasty as Samuel told him "the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart" (13:14).  Here God rejected Saul from even from being king of Israel "and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you" (15:28).

Samuel made four powerful statements that exposed Saul's sin. (15:22-23)
1. Sacrifices to the LORD are to represent a heart and life of obedience to Him.
2. Obedience is better than going through the motions of religious ritual.
3. Disobedience is rebellion and compared to witchcraft and divination. 
4. Stubborn arrogance is compared to the sin of idolatry.

The Apostle Paul wrote: "But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.  But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world." (1 Corinthians 11:31-32)

Saturday, November 4, 2017

5 keys to confronting a Challenge

Read 1 Samuel 14.

Quite often the focus of this chapter is on Saul's continued foolish decisions.  In doing so one might miss the sterling character of Jonathan.  He became overshadowed by his father and then later by the rise of David's leadership.  But this man was as cunning, brave, and godly as any in the Bible.

When confronted with a threatening challenge, we learn 5 things from Jonathan's example.
1. He took courageous initiative.
-He did not sit and wait for someone else to do something.
-He did not ask permission or approval to investigate.
-He ventured as close as he could without risk.

2. He thoughtfully considered the opportunity to see if this is what God wanted done.
"It may be that the LORD will work for us..." (v.6)
God's power and ability are unquestionable!  But is this what God wants us to be doing?  If it is, then He will demonstrate His power.  If not, we should not proceed.

3. He had predetermined what would indicate whether to go or stay. (vv.9-10)

4. He willingly exposed himself in taking the first step.
-There is always a risk when exposing one's ideas or availability.
-Mark Twain said, "Courage is resistance to fear, not the absence of it."
-When ridiculed he did not flinch.  He was prepared.

5. His ultimate trust was not in himself but the LORD.
-"...for nothing can hinder the LORD from saving by many or by few." (v.6)
-Try to find in the Bible where the will of God was ever determined by a majority.  Indeed, all the rest of Israel’s soldiers, including the king, were sitting in camp.
-Though he certainly was cunning, possessed skill, and had a supportive partner, the only explanation for what took place is the Hand of God.

This incredible victory happened because one man sought an opportunity for success and was willing to go see if God was in it.

What opportunities do you see today?