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?

Friday, November 3, 2017

The test of Success

Read 1 Samuel 13.

Whenever there is a success, a victory, a blessing, or a decisive stand taken on an issue, expect that it will be tested.  Saul demonstrated national leadership and experienced a win over the Philistines.  This launched his reign as the first king of Israel.  Next came the test.

Israel continued to be oppressed and controlled by their neighbors, the Philistines.  They would not stand by and let Saul flex anymore military muscle against them.  When the Philistines amassed their army to fight against the Israelites, all the men of Israel feared for their lives.  They fled and hid themselves.

There is nothing like a threat to cause people to lose all self-reliance and cast their total dependence on God. 

The situation called for a time of national repentance and worship.  Saul had been given instructions to wait for Samuel, the High Priest, to offer sacrifices and to deliver God's instructions for the nation.  But Saul, out of his own insecurities, his impatience, and his fear, took matters into his own hands.  He was the king; he was the leader.  Who needed Samuel?  In doing so, he abused his power, he violated the Mosaic Law from God, he broke fellowship with God, he damaged his relationship with Samuel, and he lost the dynasty of his kingship.  This was a test.  Saul had failed.

It is never right to do wrong.

When Samuel arrived, his words were clear, straightforward, and painful.  "You have done foolishly.  You have not kept the command of the LORD your God..." (v.13)

A leader must understand the real issues.
-The real challenge was not the Philistines.
-The real problem was not the ritual of the burnt offering.
-The real test was obedience to the LORD from the heart.

From then on, “The LORD has sought out a man after his own heart.” (v.14)

Determine to make an A on God’s tests today.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

An example of Spiritual Leadership

Read 1 Samuel 12.

While the national leadership transferred to Saul, Samuel continued to be the spiritual leader of the nation.  The inauguration of the king afforded Samuel the opportunity to preach one last challenging message to the people.  Notice the development of his sermon.

Samuel's Integrity (vv.3-5)
Imagine beginning a Sunday sermon in this manner.  The people acknowledged that in all his life of ministry he had wronged no one; not one person had anything bad to say about him.

Israel's History (vv.6-13)
Starting with Moses and the exodus from Egypt, Samuel recounted for them how they arrived to where they were.  The story of Israel was one of God's leading, the sin of the people, their repentance, and God's faithfulness.  It was a theocracy but at this point they cried out for a king.

The People's Charge (vv.14-15)
If the people fear, serve, and obey the LORD, "it will be well."  If they do not, then "the LORD will be against you and your king."

The Confirmation of the Message (vv.16-20)
At that exact time and place, an unusual storm of thunder and rain came.  This validated that Samuel's message was not from him, but came directly from the LORD.  The people got it.  They feared for their lives.  In other words, it put the fear of God in them.  The people cried out for Samuel to intercede for them.

Now that God and Samuel had their attention, they were ready to listen to some instruction and responsibilities.  What do they need to know and do?
1. God's Character and Ownership.
He will be faithful.  Why?  These are His people. They belong to Him.  He will do this, not for them, but for Himself.  It is His name and His reputation on the line.

2. The Spiritual Leader's Responsibilities to the People.
Two basic responsibilities: First is prayer.  Failing to pray for the people under his care would be a sin.  Second is wise instruction based upon what God has said.

3. The People's Responsibilities to God.
-To fear God.  This requires diligent respect His presence and dread the consequences of any disobedience.
-To serve God.  This requires one knowing how God designed them and finding an appropriate place to put that purpose into practice.
-To be grateful.  This requires thinking and thanking the LORD for all He has done.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

6 Insights for organizational Achievement

Read 1 Samuel 11.

Saul had gone back home and continued farming.  But when he received word that his home town was threatened by the Ammonites several things immediately took place.
1. The Spirit of the LORD "rushed upon Saul".  This ignited a godly motivation.
2. Saul became angry.  He could no longer continue doing what he had been doing.
3. He took drastic and immediate action.  Indeed, he killed his own oxen to get the message out.  That was his livelihood he sacrificed.  There would be no turning back.

330,000 men responded at Saul's call.  Saul organized them and they experienced a great victory.  Previously he had been selected as king, but now he demonstrated national leadership.  This prompted Samuel to inaugurate Saul to the position.

6 insights:
1. There was an urgent need.
This was not just a nice idea or the selfish plan of a leader.  It was about others.  Lives were in the balance.

2. The Holy Spirit moved on the heart of the leader to act.
This was not personality or position driven.  This is what God wanted done.

3. The people responded in unity.
There is great power when people are willing to drop their own concerns to meet an urgent need that God wants done.

4. Everyone followed through on the plan. 
They did not show up to discuss and vote on a plan.  No.  These people showed up ready to follow the leader and to take action.

5. The leader remained humble in victory.
In verse 13a, Saul refused to use his position and the opportunity to exercise power against others.

6. The glory was given to the LORD.

Saul said, "For today the LORD has worked salvation in Israel" (v. 13b).  God empowered the leader, gave them unity, and ensured the deliverance of Jabesh-gilead.