Sunday, October 30, 2016

A Rare Find...

I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;
very pleasant have you been to me;
your love to me was extraordinary,
surpassing the love of women.
(2 Samuel 1:26 ESV)
In the first half of his two-volume set, the historian used numerous descriptions of the close relationship to describe the unique bond between David and Jonathan.  Their hearts were knit to one another. They understood one another's vision for life and values.  When no one else could find David in hiding, Jonathan knew him well enough that he could.  There was absolutely no sexual reference here in their relationship, and that is what made it so intense. Their bond did not need that to help keep their relationship in tact.  David had several wives, some who loved him deeply, yet his bond to Jonathan was even stronger. Now Jonathan was dead.  Irreplaceable.  He was a rare find.  The question for us is not so much whether we have such a friend, as it is whether we are willing to be that kind of friend.  Sometimes it can be even more than one - a band of brothers, one of which may be more pronounced.  But are we so true to the Lord, so true to ourselves, and so true to our convictions and commitments, that someone, anyone, could say of us what David said of Jonathan.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

How the Mighty Have Fallen...

And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and Jonathan his son, and he said it should be taught to the people of Judah; behold, it is written in the Book of Jashar. He said:
“Your glory, O Israel, is slain on your high places!
How the mighty have fallen!
Tell it not in Gath,
publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon,
lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice,
lest the daughters of the uncircumcised exult.
“You mountains of Gilboa,
let there be no dew or rain upon you,
nor fields of offerings!
For there the shield of the mighty was defiled,
the shield of Saul, not anointed with oil.
“From the blood of the slain,
from the fat of the mighty,
the bow of Jonathan turned not back,
and the sword of Saul returned not empty.
“Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely!
In life and in death they were not divided;
they were swifter than eagles;
they were stronger than lions.
“You daughters of Israel, weep over Saul,
who clothed you luxuriously in scarlet,
who put ornaments of gold on your apparel.
“How the mighty have fallen
in the midst of the battle!
“Jonathan lies slain on your high places.
I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;
very pleasant have you been to me;
your love to me was extraordinary,
surpassing the love of women.
“How the mighty have fallen,
and the weapons of war perished!
(2 Samuel 1:17-27 ESV)
David was a musician.  We would expect that he would respond as such to the death of his king and his best friend.  To the Philistines it was a cause for celebration.  To him it was a loss that seemed overwhelming and unavoidable. If only Saul had chosen a different path, he would have had a mentor, and not have been separated from his kindred spirit.  But did the people realize what they had lost? The backbone of their military. The leadership that had provided wealth. So often we do not know what we have till it's gone. The struggles of Israel were far from over.  The repetition of the phrase is intended to knock the wind out of us: "How the mighty have fallen!"  May it bring us to our knees, humble our hearts, and compel us to ask God for godly leaders.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Big-time Bragging Backfires...

Then David took hold of his clothes and tore them, and so did all the men who were with him. And they mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and for Jonathan his son and for the people of the LORD and for the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword. And David said to the young man who told him, “Where do you come from?” And he answered, “I am the son of a sojourner, an Amalekite.” David said to him, “How is it you were not afraid to put out your hand to destroy the LORD's anointed?” Then David called one of the young men and said, “Go, execute him.” And he struck him down so that he died. And David said to him, “Your blood be on your head, for your own mouth has testified against you, saying, ‘I have killed the LORD's anointed.’”
(2 Samuel 1:11-16 ESV)
This opportunist had come to David claiming to have killed Saul as a "favor" to David.  Actually he was pillaging the bodies of Israeli soldiers when he came to Saul, and thought he had found the golden opportunity to get in David's good graces.  What he failed to understand is what David believed and how David thought.  David believed in the sovereignty and providence of God - that is was in God's timing and way that Saul would be removed and he would become king. He also believed, and had lived out, the fact that we are not to mess with God's ways, even when they seem "easier" or faster, or even "make more sense." He has this man killed not on the basis of the truthfulness of his claim, but because this man's bragging and lack of character are so dangerous, who knows when he would set his mind and sword against David when given the opportunity. This man had no regard for the ways or words of God, living up to the reputation of the Amalekites, and thus God's command beforehand for Saul to eliminate them. May we understand and follow David's comprehension here of the ways of God, and may we resist the temptation to fall into the false thinking of the Amalekite.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

No way to earn brownie points...

After the death of Saul, when David had returned from striking down the Amalekites, David remained two days in Ziklag. And on the third day, behold, a man came from Saul's camp, with his clothes torn and dirt on his head. And when he came to David, he fell to the ground and paid homage. David said to him, “Where do you come from?” And he said to him, “I have escaped from the camp of Israel.” And David said to him, “How did it go? Tell me.” And he answered, “The people fled from the battle, and also many of the people have fallen and are dead, and Saul and his son Jonathan are also dead.” Then David said to the young man who told him, “How do you know that Saul and his son Jonathan are dead?” And the young man who told him said, “By chance I happened to be on Mount Gilboa, and there was Saul leaning on his spear, and behold, the chariots and the horsemen were close upon him. And when he looked behind him, he saw me, and called to me. And I answered, ‘Here I am.’ And he said to me, ‘Who are you?’ I answered him, ‘I am an Amalekite.’ And he said to me, ‘Stand beside me and kill me, for anguish has seized me, and yet my life still lingers.’ So I stood beside him and killed him, because I was sure that he could not live after he had fallen. And I took the crown that was on his head and the armlet that was on his arm, and I have brought them here to my lord.”
(2 Samuel 1:1-10 ESV)
Despite all that was going on in his own life - the destruction of his city, the capture of his family, the rebellion of his troops, and the subsequent deliverance God provided from them all, David still had in his mind the battle between his homeland and the Philistines.  He was waiting to hear word, and he finally does. It is brought by a most unlikely, yet very likely source.  An Amalekite. David had just defeated most of them. This stray survivor  had the mindset of most of them: use any opportunity to take advantage of others to get for yourself.  That is what the invaders who had taken David's family had done, and so he does here. He hoped that David would be like him - heartless and self-seeking, willing to lie to get ahead. In his mind, his "lie" had saved David a lot of aggravation: Killing Saul would earn him brownie points from David. Nothing was further from the truth.  We live in a culture of heartlessness, self-seeking, and lying. Have we become infected by it?  Are we looking for ways - any ways - to get ahead, at the expense of other?  It may at times fit in the agenda others have for themselves, but it will make no brownie points with God in the big scheme of things. Some day the selfishness of others will overrule our own.  May we have no heart, and no ear, for those who call to the selfishness of our hearts.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Some Rare Respect

But when the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, all the valiant men arose and went all night and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan, and they came to Jabesh and burned them there. And they took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree in Jabesh and fasted seven days.
(1 Samuel 31:11-13 ESV)
The Philistines were having a hay day with the bodies of Saul and his sons, abusing them and parading them about with total disrespect.  The armies of Israel were not much better, abandoning them and leaving them behind.  But these men did not forget what Saul had done for them, delivering them from the attack of the Ammonites.  Despite the downhill slide of Saul over the past several years, they recognized that he was still the king, still human, and still worthy of respect. So they gave it to him the best ways they could: burning the bodies to hide the marks of abuse; burying the bones, which many patriarchs had requested, so that some they they could be dug up and buried in a more appropriate place; fasting: a sign of sincere sorrow and respect.  It was the least they could do, and the most they could do. They were not afraid or ashamed to show some respect. What a lost concept in our society.  What words, what antics, what thoughts have we had in the last seven days that demonstrate a lack of respect.  Let us repent and respect.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

On Display for All to See...

The next day, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. So they cut off his head and stripped off his armor and sent messengers throughout the land of the Philistines, to carry the good news to the house of their idols and to the people. They put his armor in the temple of Ashtaroth, and they fastened his body to the wall of Beth-shan. 
(1 Samuel 31:8-10 ESV)

Make no mistake about it: When we fall or fail, there will be someone there to make sure everyone sees and hears, in any way possible.  It may be in the form of personal abuse, publishing it for all to "read", or even using it to make him or her look better to someone else (like placing Saul's armor before their goddess.) You can count on it.  But are you ready for it?  Saul was afraid of such treatment when he was still alive.  But did he understand what such treatment meant for everyone else around?  It was not just Saul who was being insulted; it was God. In their minds Saul had lost, so he God had lost as well.  It is not that we will never fall or fail, but that we consider what the fallout of our failure will be for others, and for the name of God.  Sadly, news of Saul's death was spread here as "good news."  It was far from the good news of the gospel.  May we live in such a way that even when we fail, there is something positive for all to see. We'll see an example tomorrow...

Monday, October 24, 2016

Giving up...

Now the Philistines were fighting against Israel, and the men of Israel fled before the Philistines and fell slain on Mount Gilboa. And the Philistines overtook Saul and his sons, and the Philistines struck down Jonathan and Abinadab and Malchi-shua, the sons of Saul. The battle pressed hard against Saul, and the archers found him, and he was badly wounded by the archers. Then Saul said to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and mistreat me.” But his armor-bearer would not, for he feared greatly. Therefore Saul took his own sword and fell upon it. And when his armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell upon his sword and died with him. Thus Saul died, and his three sons, and his armor-bearer, and all his men, on the same day together. And when the men of Israel who were on the other side of the valley and those beyond the Jordan saw that the men of Israel had fled and that Saul and his sons were dead, they abandoned their cities and fled. And the Philistines came and lived in them.
(1 Samuel 31:1-7 ESV)
From the moment Saul had hardened in his disobedience, refused to repent, and was rejected by God as king, he started giving up and giving in. That tendency was reinforced as he saw the people embrace David, while God repeatedly protected David from Saul's wrath.  The most recent reinforcement came when Saul sought the medium, only to hear that he would surely die in this battle. But Saul gives in rather than dying valiantly.  The Philistines divided Saul and his 3000 or so choice soldiers from the rest of the army and made them an example. Then, the rest of the army gave up - not only on the battle, but on the Israeli dream. The gave up their cities and let the Philistines waltz right in.  How many of us, in how many ways, have given up on so many things to the enemy? We have allowed one stronghold to the enemy and let him build on it to such and extent that the whole war seems hopeless? Let's stop giving up, and trust in God.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Mercy, Justice, and a whole lot of Humility

Then David came to the two hundred men who had been too exhausted to follow David, and who had been left at the brook Besor. And they went out to meet David and to meet the people who were with him. And when David came near to the people he greeted them. Then all the wicked and worthless fellows among the men who had gone with David said, “Because they did not go with us, we will not give them any of the spoil that we have recovered, except that each man may lead away his wife and children, and depart.” But David said, “You shall not do so, my brothers, with what the LORD has given us. He has preserved us and given into our hand the band that came against us. Who would listen to you in this matter? For as his share is who goes down into the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage. They shall share alike.” And he made it a statute and a rule for Israel from that day forward to this day.
When David came to Ziklag, he sent part of the spoil to his friends, the elders of Judah, saying, “Here is a present for you from the spoil of the enemies of the LORD.” It was for those in Bethel, in Ramoth of the Negeb, in Jattir, in Aroer, in Siphmoth, in Eshtemoa, in Racal, in the cities of the Jerahmeelites, in the cities of the Kenites, in Hormah, in Bor-ashan, in Athach, in Hebron, for all the places where David and his men had roamed.
(1 Samuel 30:21-31 ESV)
David had been anointed king a long time back.  Yet he seems geographically and practically to be moving further and further away from the throne. He is homeless, having been rejected by both the king of Israel and the kings of the Philistines.  He has made some unwise decisions, and caused a lot of pain for people along the way.  Now he has hit the jackpot and has a lot of loot. What does he do with it? He gives it away wisely. He gives it to his faithful, though somewhat fickle friends - even those who had not gone to retrieve it. He has mercy on them and makes his first law of the land, a proclamation filled with justice.  And he blesses everyone who has believed in him, helped him, and housed him during those difficult years. He humbly demonstrates that he never could have survived alone.  What does it look like when you finally achieve or receive something? Is it all about you deserving it? Enjoying the fruits of your labors? Or do your thoughts, words and actions turn outwardly to all those through whom God has brought you to that point?

Saturday, October 22, 2016

From Full Blame to Full Credit.

And when he had taken him down, behold, they were spread abroad over all the land, eating and drinking and dancing, because of all the great spoil they had taken from the land of the Philistines and from the land of Judah. And David struck them down from twilight until the evening of the next day, and not a man of them escaped, except four hundred young men, who mounted camels and fled. David recovered all that the Amalekites had taken, and David rescued his two wives. Nothing was missing, whether small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything that had been taken. David brought back all. David also captured all the flocks and herds, and the people drove the livestock before him, and said, “This is David's spoil.”
(1 Samuel 30:16-20 ESV)
Not too many verses back, many in David's band were ready to stone him.  He had gotten them into one hot mess: They were enemies of both Philistia & Israel; they had lived life on the run, going from one place to another, and now they had absolutely nowhere to call home; the families and possessions they had managed to accumulate were nowhere to be found.  Then David sought the Lord, and started making wise decisions again.  The command of God to destroy the wicked Amalekites was still in effect, so he did all he could.  In the eyes of all his men, their families, and everyone in the Negev, David was once again a superhero. All of the spoil was considered at his disposal to do with as he pleased.  How often this plays out over and over, especially with our leaders: they either get all the blame or all the praise.  Rarely is there a balance: it is one extreme or the other.   How easily do you go to extremes?  Is your life a roller coaster of love/hate, blame/bless, let them have it/let them have it all??? Keep in mind the kind of people who had surrounded David: the discontents. Have you and I learned to be content in whatever state we are?

Friday, October 21, 2016

In the Middle of nowhere...

They found an Egyptian in the open country and brought him to David. And they gave him bread and he ate. They gave him water to drink, and they gave him a piece of a cake of figs and two clusters of raisins. And when he had eaten, his spirit revived, for he had not eaten bread or drunk water for three days and three nights. And David said to him, “To whom do you belong? And where are you from?” He said, “I am a young man of Egypt, servant to an Amalekite, and my master left me behind because I fell sick three days ago. We had made a raid against the Negeb of the Cherethites and against that which belongs to Judah and against the Negeb of Caleb, and we burned Ziklag with fire.” And David said to him, “Will you take me down to this band?” And he said, “Swear to me by God that you will not kill me or deliver me into the hands of my master, and I will take you down to this band.”
(1 Samuel 30:11-15 ESV)
David was heading south, into the desert, to locate his family and the families of those who had been taken captive by the Amalekites. But there was a lot of desert out there to cover.  Which way was there to go?  No need to worry. David had just sought the Lord's direction; He just said "go."  Nothing else about where to go, just "go."  But He had also given David the promise of success.  Then, out in the middle of nowhere was this man, left behind, who knew exactly where to take David.  It makes one think of the Ethiopian Eunuch, out in the middle of the wilderness, seeking direction from God, and Philip shows up.  God does things like this, when we are truly open and seeking direction from Him. It comes out of "nowhere," which is always somewhere, with someone, to God.  What or who will He bring to you today?

Thursday, October 20, 2016

It's about time...

And David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelech, “Bring me the ephod.” So Abiathar brought the ephod to David. And David inquired of the LORD, “Shall I pursue after this band? Shall I overtake them?” He answered him, “Pursue, for you shall surely overtake and shall surely rescue.” So David set out, and the six hundred men who were with him, and they came to the brook Besor, where those who were left behind stayed. But David pursued, he and four hundred men. Two hundred stayed behind, who were too exhausted to cross the brook Besor. (1 Samuel 30:7-10 ESV)
David had been on the run, trying to hide wherever he could from the rage of Saul. He kept on moving. As he did, he had done and said some questionable things.  Finally, when all seems lost, there is nowhere to go, and his support system is shakey at best, He seeks direction from the Lord.  He has been travelling around for months having Abiathar and the Ephod with him, but we have no mention of him utilizing them in a series of major decisions about where to go and what to do. Saul had wanted to seek God, but had trouble as the Ephod was with David in the land of the Philistines.  David had the ephod, but did not use it.  Finally, when all else seems lost, he does.  It's about time. Its about time we stop depending on our own wisdom, going through life, having the Spirit of God and the Word of God at our disposal, and never utilizing them to direct us.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Gone just like that...

Now when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day, the Amalekites had made a raid against the Negeb and against Ziklag. They had overcome Ziklag and burned it with fire and taken captive the women and all who were in it, both small and great. They killed no one, but carried them off and went their way. And when David and his men came to the city, they found it burned with fire, and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. Then David and the people who were with him raised their voices and wept until they had no more strength to weep. David's two wives also had been taken captive, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel. And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.
(1 Samuel 30:1-6 ESV)
David had settled in to a new lifestyle in the Negev - leading a band of robbers who raided and destroyed pagan cities.  He attempted to join the rank of the Philistines as they headed to battle against Israel, but God turned him back, just in time to find this.  His new home and family and possessions were gone. Gone also was the trust of his motley crew of followers. They as well had nothing. No longer would his cunning mind, ability to win people over, or warrior talents do him any good.  There was only one place to turn: the LORD.  How much do we need to lose before that is the ONLY place we have to or want to go?  What skills - be they physical, mental, or social, do we rely upon instead of Him?  Don't wait to lose it all before you trust him with all.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Outnumbered by Objectivity...

Then Achish called David and said to him, “As the LORD lives, you have been honest, and to me it seems right that you should march out and in with me in the campaign. For I have found nothing wrong in you from the day of your coming to me to this day. Nevertheless, the lords do not approve of you. So go back now; and go peaceably, that you may not displease the lords of the Philistines.” And David said to Achish, “But what have I done? What have you found in your servant from the day I entered your service until now, that I may not go and fight against the enemies of my lord the king?” And Achish answered David and said, “I know that you are as blameless in my sight as an angel of God. Nevertheless, the commanders of the Philistines have said, ‘He shall not go up with us to the battle.’ Now then rise early in the morning with the servants of your lord who came with you, and start early in the morning, and depart as soon as you have light.” So David set out with his men early in the morning to return to the land of the Philistines. But the Philistines went up to Jezreel.
(1 Samuel 29:6-11 ESV)
David had won his way into the heart of Achish. Not only did Achish entrust his own head into David's hands as bodyguard; he entrusted his men and the army of all Philistia in having David around.  But the kings and leaders of the other four cities did not see it that way. Echos of "Saul has slain his thousands, but David has slain his ten thousands" still rang in their heads.  Disappointed, Achish tells and retells David that he totally trusts him.  But do you wonder what David is thinking as Achish says: "You have been honest."? David had not been totally honest.  Yet David pushes the point, and forces Achish to say: "I know that you are blameless."  You cannot fool all of the people all of the time. Davd is not going on this trip, and we will see soon why it is best for him, as well as them.  How open are you and I to objective correction and rebuke?  Do we push back, trying to convince more and more people of something we know is not fully true? Are we blinded by the smooth talk of others, so that we cannot see or hear objectively what everyone else can see clearly, and continue in our illusions?  What or who does it take for us to face the facts?

Monday, October 17, 2016

Let's Not lose our heads...

Now the Philistines had gathered all their forces at Aphek. And the Israelites were encamped by the spring that is in Jezreel. As the lords of the Philistines were passing on by hundreds and by thousands, and David and his men were passing on in the rear with Achish, the commanders of the Philistines said, “What are these Hebrews doing here?” And Achish said to the commanders of the Philistines, “Is this not David, the servant of Saul, king of Israel, who has been with me now for days and years, and since he deserted to me I have found no fault in him to this day.” But the commanders of the Philistines were angry with him. And the commanders of the Philistines said to him, “Send the man back, that he may return to the place to which you have assigned him. He shall not go down with us to battle, lest in the battle he become an adversary to us. For how could this fellow reconcile himself to his lord? Would it not be with the heads of the men here? Is not this David, of whom they sing to one another in dances,
‘Saul has struck down his thousands,
and David his ten thousands’?”
(1 Samuel 29:1-5 ESV)
David had successfully kept Ashish at arm's length, not realizing that he was just using him for safety for himself and his men from Saul's wrath.  Achish was totally unsuspecting.  Not so with the rest of the Philistine leaders. They had a more objective view:  this man had cut off the head of their champion, Goliath, and had killed many Philistines in battle. They were not about to lose their heads by letting him infiltrate their ranks. Thus, God did what he can and does so often do in accomplishing His plan despite the predicaments we get ourselves into: he uses the clear thinking of these pagan leaders to release David from the quandary he had gotten himself into: he will not have to chose fighting against Saul or the one who had trusted him with his head.
How has God used others, even unknowingly, to keep you from your own fears, stupidity, and lack of faith or obedience?  He does it. He does it well. He does it faithfully.  May we not test Him to see how often He does so.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Full Force of Fear...

Then Saul fell at once full length on the ground, filled with fear because of the words of Samuel. And there was no strength in him, for he had eaten nothing all day and all night. And the woman came to Saul, and when she saw that he was terrified, she said to him, “Behold, your servant has obeyed you. I have taken my life in my hand and have listened to what you have said to me. Now therefore, you also obey your servant. Let me set a morsel of bread before you; and eat, that you may have strength when you go on your way.” He refused and said, “I will not eat.” But his servants, together with the woman, urged him, and he listened to their words. So he arose from the earth and sat on the bed. Now the woman had a fattened calf in the house, and she quickly killed it, and she took flour and kneaded it and baked unleavened bread of it, and she put it before Saul and his servants, and they ate. Then they rose and went away that night.
(1 Samuel 28:20-25 ESV)
Saul had struggled with fear for some time, causing indecisiveness in leadership, impulsiveness in his reactions to David and others, and an inability to accept his own responsibility for the consequences of his life actions.  Now fear hits full force. He falls to the ground, immobilized with fear, and with no desire to eat or live.  He does not want to complete the rest of his role on this earth. But that is not an option.  One way or another, the Philistines will win the battle and he will lose his life.  Will it be with courage, or a final loss to fear?  Whatever our past, the rest of the story starts here, with our response to the challenges and fears of life.  Get up. Eat. Take courage. Face the day. Don't even think of trying to leave God out of the picture.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Do We Really Want to Hear the Truth?

Then Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” Saul answered, “I am in great distress, for the Philistines are warring against me, and God has turned away from me and answers me no more, either by prophets or by dreams. Therefore I have summoned you to tell me what I shall do.” And Samuel said, “Why then do you ask me, since the LORD has turned from you and become your enemy? The LORD has done to you as he spoke by me, for the LORD has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David. Because you did not obey the voice of the LORD and did not carry out his fierce wrath against Amalek, therefore the LORD has done this thing to you this day. Moreover, the LORD will give Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me. The LORD will give the army of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines.”
(1 Samuel 28:15-19 ESV)
Saul had risked his life to get this message. He had gone a route he knew deep down was wrong - through a medium.  When he asks what he should do he gets the cold hard facts: give up and die.  His punishment had not changed: he was still going to lose the kingdom.  Added to that was an even more depressing thought: he and his son would die in battle.  I'm sure those are not the words that Saul wanted to hear.  It was like getting the worst news possible.  Sometimes the truth seems more than we can bear.  But it does not have to be that way. In Saul's case and in ours, when we accept the truth he gives now, such as "confess and repent, you've really messed up", and accept the consequences of our actions, then it becomes much more workable for us to blend into God's plan for us. The road will be smoother, and the "shocks" less jolting.  It will not be like hitting a semi head-on because we kept barreling down the wrong way on the road of life. Now is the time to head the warning signs, seek directions, and listen to instruction.

Friday, October 14, 2016

What are you hiding?

So Saul disguised himself and put on other garments and went, he and two men with him. And they came to the woman by night. And he said, “Divine for me by a spirit and bring up for me whomever I shall name to you.” The woman said to him, “Surely you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off the mediums and the necromancers from the land. Why then are you laying a trap for my life to bring about my death?” But Saul swore to her by the LORD, “As the LORD lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing.” Then the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” He said, “Bring up Samuel for me.” When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice. And the woman said to Saul, “Why have you deceived me? You are Saul.” The king said to her, “Do not be afraid. What do you see?” And the woman said to Saul, “I see a god coming up out of the earth.” He said to her, “What is his appearance?” And she said, “An old man is coming up, and he is wrapped in a robe.” And Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground and paid homage.
(1 Samuel 28:8-14 ESV)
Saul disguised himself, and for good reason. He was going behind enemy lines to get to this medium, so he would not want any Philistines to spot him and capture him.  He also knew that because he had outlawed mediums, any of them who saw him coming would run away.  But beyond that, he was afraid, and had something to hide.  He was living in fear, had a chain of sin around him, and was doing something he knew was wrong.  When you get yourself caught up in that, you recognize how low you have come; you are ashamed.  You feel like you are lower than six feet under.  The only way out is to come into the Light, to admit what you have done, what you are afraid of, and ask for deliverance. Hide no more.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

When You've Burned all your Bridges...

Now Samuel had died, and all Israel had mourned for him and buried him in Ramah, his own city. And Saul had put the mediums and the necromancers out of the land. The Philistines assembled and came and encamped at Shunem. And Saul gathered all Israel, and they encamped at Gilboa. When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. And when Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD did not answer him, either by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets. Then Saul said to his servants, “Seek out for me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.” And his servants said to him, “Behold, there is a medium at En-dor.” (1 Samuel 28:3-7 ESV)
Saul was in mess. He was facing the battle of and for his life. The Philistines were in a position to cut him and his army off from the main army of Israel in the north. He never had been good about deciding to attack the enemy; when God told him to utterly destroy, he held back, and when he had golden opportunity, he waited until someone like Jonathan stepped out in faith. He needed some advice. But who could he go to? He had ignored Samuel, who now was dead. His dreams had turned into nightmares. He had killed the priests who used the Urim to give answers, and He refused to listen to the prophets. Even his last resort, the evil mediums, he had driven from the land. And that's who he goes to - the last place he should have- the place of evil spirits. He had burned all his bridges and stepped onto the shakiest one. Who do you have to go to when you need to? Have people stopped trying because you've stopped listening? Do you go to the lowest level because that's the easiest one to reach? Maybe it's time to start building bridges for when you need to cross them.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A False Trust...

Now David and his men went up and made raids against the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites, for these were the inhabitants of the land from of old, as far as Shur, to the land of Egypt. And David would strike the land and would leave neither man nor woman alive, but would take away the sheep, the oxen, the donkeys, the camels, and the garments, and come back to Achish. When Achish asked, “Where have you made a raid today?” David would say, “Against the Negeb of Judah,” or, “Against the Negeb of the Jerahmeelites,” or, “Against the Negeb of the Kenites.” And David would leave neither man nor woman alive to bring news to Gath, thinking, “lest they should tell about us and say, ‘So David has done.’” Such was his custom all the while he lived in the country of the Philistines. And Achish trusted David, thinking, “He has made himself an utter stench to his people Israel; therefore he shall always be my servant.”
(1 Samuel 27:8-12 ESV)
Fear does strange things to people.  David had withdrawn into the land of the Philistines to escape Saul's wrath. In doing so, he came up with a plan to maintain safety - pretend to be one of them.  He had hoped that by moving into a rural community, he could blend in and lay low.  There Achish could not see his every move, but he still held him accountable.  David had to do something to show his loyalty, and to earn his keep.  So he came up with this cunning plan of attacking and destroying mutual enemies of Philistia and Israel, and leaving no survivors.  On a human level, this is "pretty smart." David would have spoil to support his band of misfit toys and to pay tribute to Achish, maintaining his trust. But it was all an illusion, a smokescreen.  As we read, we can almost sense that something is going to happen, and it's not good. A false trust, based on half truths never leads to a good end.  Are you living "above board?"  Do people trust you because you have led them to believe things that are not fully true? Are you always wondering in the back of your mind: "What will happen when they find out?"  How long are you doing to let this go on?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Long Term Lease...

Then David said to Achish, “If I have found favor in your eyes, let a place be given me in one of the country towns, that I may dwell there. For why should your servant dwell in the royal city with you?” So that day Achish gave him Ziklag. Therefore Ziklag has belonged to the kings of Judah to this day. And the number of the days that David lived in the country of the Philistines was a year and four months. (1 Samuel 27:5-7 ESV)
David was tired of running from Saul.  Philistia was the perfect place to avoid any more run-ins with him.  But he also did not want to get caught up in the mainstream paganism around him.  So he settled in to wait, trying to blend in to the background.  "Settling" is what we often do, hoping to avoid any conflict in our lives, blending in to the culture around us. We want to live in peace.  What is wrong with that?  Contrast what David had done before this: he had delivered cities wrongly  attacked; he had added more and more of the hurt and abandoned to protect them; he had taken stands for justice.  Now he is sitting and waiting. But when we are called by God to step up and make a difference, "settling" with a long term lease will not last long.

Monday, October 10, 2016

What does it take to make you "feel safe"?

Then David said in his heart, “Now I shall perish one day by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will despair of seeking me any longer within the borders of Israel, and I shall escape out of his hand.” So David arose and went over, he and the six hundred men who were with him, to Achish the son of Maoch, king of Gath. And David lived with Achish at Gath, he and his men, every man with his household, and David with his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel, and Abigail of Carmel, Nabal's widow. And when it was told Saul that David had fled to Gath, he no longer sought him.
(1 Samuel 27:1-4 ESV)
God had brought David through some very trying times: having the spear thrown at him more than once, having Saul pursue him with a well-trained army, even having Saul use Michal to try to trap him.  God delivered him out of them all, and even told him through Abigail that the LORD would fight his battles for him. But after all of this, David did not "feel safe." So he ran to the land of the enemy. In his mind, that was his best option.  He was right; Saul did stop seeking him. But was this "the safe place"? Or was David putting himself, his family and men in a different kind of danger?  A place of compromise and inconsistency?  When we think "safety and security", is it just from immediate danger? Physical danger?  Or are there other things we should beware with even greater intensity?

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Do you see the difference?

Then David went over to the other side and stood far off on the top of the hill, with a great space between them. And David called to the army, and to Abner the son of Ner, saying, “Will you not answer, Abner?” Then Abner answered, “Who are you who calls to the king?” And David said to Abner, “Are you not a man? Who is like you in Israel? Why then have you not kept watch over your lord the king? For one of the people came in to destroy the king your lord. This thing that you have done is not good. As the LORD lives, you deserve to die, because you have not kept watch over your lord, the LORD's anointed. And now see where the king's spear is and the jar of water that was at his head.”
Saul recognized David's voice and said, “Is this your voice, my son David?” And David said, “It is my voice, my lord, O king.” And he said, “Why does my lord pursue after his servant? For what have I done? What evil is on my hands? Now therefore let my lord the king hear the words of his servant. If it is the LORD who has stirred you up against me, may he accept an offering, but if it is men, may they be cursed before the LORD, for they have driven me out this day that I should have no share in the heritage of the LORD, saying, ‘Go, serve other gods.’ Now therefore, let not my blood fall to the earth away from the presence of the LORD, for the king of Israel has come out to seek a single flea like one who hunts a partridge in the mountains.”
Then Saul said, “I have sinned. Return, my son David, for I will no more do you harm, because my life was precious in your eyes this day. Behold, I have acted foolishly, and have made a great mistake.” And David answered and said, “Here is the spear, O king! Let one of the young men come over and take it. The LORD rewards every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness, for the LORD gave you into my hand today, and I would not put out my hand against the LORD's anointed. Behold, as your life was precious this day in my sight, so may my life be precious in the sight of the LORD, and may he deliver me out of all tribulation.” Then Saul said to David, “Blessed be you, my son David! You will do many things and will succeed in them.” So David went his way, and Saul returned to his place. (1 Samuel 26:13-25 ESV)
David and Saul had previously had a similar encounter when David was hiding in the cave.  David could have ended it there once and for all, but refused to kill Saul.  That event ended with Saul making false promises and going away, then David going back into a safe place.  But so many things are different here: David comes out after Saul, and in his words implies that he is open to God's judgment, but in fact, God has already judged their actions and intentions, as demonstrated by what had just happened. This time, it is David who had turned and walked away first. What is the big difference? David has overcome his fear.  That is what we have seen in the Psalms David wrote while in hiding: "What time I am afraid, I will trust in You." We see that taking full fruit here, when he takes the initiative in coming, acting, and walking away. His faith in God's faithfulness has overcome his fear.  Have you made any progress on your fears?

Saturday, October 8, 2016

A Lesson Learned

Then the Ziphites came to Saul at Gibeah, saying, “Is not David hiding himself on the hill of Hachilah, which is on the east of Jeshimon?” So Saul arose and went down to the wilderness of Ziph with three thousand chosen men of Israel to seek David in the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul encamped on the hill of Hachilah, which is beside the road on the east of Jeshimon. But David remained in the wilderness. When he saw that Saul came after him into the wilderness, David sent out spies and learned that Saul had indeed come. Then David rose and came to the place where Saul had encamped. And David saw the place where Saul lay, with Abner the son of Ner, the commander of his army. Saul was lying within the encampment, while the army was encamped around him.
    Then David said to Ahimelech the Hittite, and to Joab's brother Abishai the son of Zeruiah, “Who will go down with me into the camp to Saul?” And Abishai said, “I will go down with you.” So David and Abishai went to the army by night. And there lay Saul sleeping within the encampment, with his spear stuck in the ground at his head, and Abner and the army lay around him. Then Abishai said to David, “God has given your enemy into your hand this day. Now please let me pin him to the earth with one stroke of the spear, and I will not strike him twice.” But David said to Abishai, “Do not destroy him, for who can put out his hand against the LORD's anointed and be guiltless?” And David said, “As the LORD lives, the LORD will strike him, or his day will come to die, or he will go down into battle and perish. The LORD forbid that I should put out my hand against the LORD's anointed. But take now the spear that is at his head and the jar of water, and let us go.” So David took the spear and the jar of water from Saul's head, and they went away. No man saw it or knew it, nor did any awake, for they were all asleep, because a deep sleep from the LORD had fallen upon them.
(1 Samuel 26:1-12 ESV)
David had been running, running, running from Saul.  Though promising othewise, Saul continued to pursue him.  At first glance, we might think that the historian accidentally retold the same event all over again: people tattling on David, Saul getting his best 3000 soldiers, etc. But this is a different event, especially in the response of David.  He does not hide; he comes out. He does not cut Saul's robe; instead, he takes the very things Saul relied upon the most; those things that he clung to in his fear.  David had learned God was protecting Him - not because David was perfect, but because God was perfect and kept his promises.  David had no way to know HOW God would do it, but he knew He would work it out. As the writer records, God's way was to put a supernatural sleep on Saul.  God keeps His promises. He wants us to live like He does, and not worry about how He will do it.  Then we will have a life filled with WOW moments at HOW He has done so.  He is that Good.

Friday, October 7, 2016

A Woman Who is a Blessing

When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Blessed be the LORD who has avenged the insult I received at the hand of Nabal, and has kept back his servant from wrongdoing. The LORD has returned the evil of Nabal on his own head.” Then David sent and spoke to Abigail, to take her as his wife. When the servants of David came to Abigail at Carmel, they said to her, “David has sent us to you to take you to him as his wife.” And she rose and bowed with her face to the ground and said, “Behold, your handmaid is a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord.” And Abigail hurried and rose and mounted a donkey, and her five young women attended her. She followed the messengers of David and became his wife.
David also took Ahinoam of Jezreel, and both of them became his wives. Saul had given Michal his daughter, David's wife, to Palti the son of Laish, who was of Gallim.
(1 Samuel 25:39-44 ESV)
Abigail had acted and spoken wisely, sparing David from foolish action. What better woman could he ask for, once she was a widow?  In gratitude he took her as his wife, promising to provide for her.  He would have done well to leave well enough alone. Instead he had other wives who caused him problems.  Life on the run can do that to you.  It reminds me of the words to Desperado:

Don't you draw the queen of diamonds boy
She'll beat you if she's able
You know the queen of hearts is always your best bet

Now it seems to me, some fine things
Have been laid upon your table
But you only want the ones that you can't get

Contentment.  Whenever we lose it, we're headed for trouble.  God had provided a wonderful, wise woman.  David wanted more. Watch out!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Feeling Foolish...

And David said to Abigail, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt and from working salvation with my own hand! For as surely as the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, who has restrained me from hurting you, unless you had hurried and come to meet me, truly by morning there had not been left to Nabal so much as one male.” Then David received from her hand what she had brought him. And he said to her, “Go up in peace to your house. See, I have obeyed your voice, and I have granted your petition.”
And Abigail came to Nabal, and behold, he was holding a feast in his house, like the feast of a king. And Nabal's heart was merry within him, for he was very drunk. So she told him nothing at all until the morning light. In the morning, when the wine had gone out of Nabal, his wife told him these things, and his heart died within him, and he became as a stone. And about ten days later the LORD struck Nabal, and he died.
(1 Samuel 25:32-38 ESV)
Nabal means "fool." He lived, and died, true to his name.  When he heard what his wife had done to save their lives and all they had, "his heart died within him." He lost all will to live.  The thought of repentance never entered his heart or mind. He did not handle rebuke well.
David also felt foolish.  He had reacted to word of Nabal's scorn and was ready to march in and take revenge, until Abigail came and gently rebuked him. He had lost sight of the big picture: God had promised he would be king, no matter what Nabal had to say about it.  Also, for him to carry out this vengeful act would be the opposite of the character he had consistently been demonstrating. He would end up losing the trust of others, the respect of the people, and the worthiness to be the King.  Her wise words hit deeply into his soul, and he received them as well as her gifts.
We do foolish things every day.  The most foolish are when we refuse to admit when we are foolish, harden our hearts, dig in our heels, and become bitter. May God grant us the wisdom to confess our foolishness and respond to righteousness.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A Wise, Worthy Woman...

But one of the young men told Abigail, Nabal's wife, “Behold, David sent messengers out of the wilderness to greet our master, and he railed at them. Yet the men were very good to us, and we suffered no harm, and we did not miss anything when we were in the fields, as long as we went with them. They were a wall to us both by night and by day, all the while we were with them keeping the sheep. Now therefore know this and consider what you should do, for harm is determined against our master and against all his house, and he is such a worthless man that one cannot speak to him.”
Then Abigail made haste and took two hundred loaves and two skins of wine and five sheep already prepared and five seahs of parched grain and a hundred clusters of raisins and two hundred cakes of figs, and laid them on donkeys. And she said to her young men, “Go on before me; behold, I come after you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal. And as she rode on the donkey and came down under cover of the mountain, behold, David and his men came down toward her, and she met them. Now David had said, “Surely in vain have I guarded all that this fellow has in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that belonged to him, and he has returned me evil for good. God do so to the enemies of David and more also, if by morning I leave so much as one male of all who belong to him.”
When Abigail saw David, she hurried and got down from the donkey and fell before David on her face and bowed to the ground. She fell at his feet and said, “On me alone, my lord, be the guilt. Please let your servant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your servant. Let not my lord regard this worthless fellow, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name, and folly is with him. But I your servant did not see the young men of my lord, whom you sent. Now then, my lord, as the LORD lives, and as your soul lives, because the LORD has restrained you from bloodguilt and from saving with your own hand, now then let your enemies and those who seek to do evil to my lord be as Nabal. And now let this present that your servant has brought to my lord be given to the young men who follow my lord. Please forgive the trespass of your servant. For the LORD will certainly make my lord a sure house, because my lord is fighting the battles of the LORD, and evil shall not be found in you so long as you live. If men rise up to pursue you and to seek your life, the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living in the care of the LORD your God. And the lives of your enemies he shall sling out as from the hollow of a sling. And when the LORD has done to my lord according to all the good that he has spoken concerning you and has appointed you prince over Israel, my lord shall have no cause of grief or pangs of conscience for having shed blood without cause or for my lord working salvation himself. And when the LORD has dealt well with my lord, then remember your servant.”
(1 Samuel 25:14-31 ESV)
The entertainment industry is full of sit-coms, movies and even documentaries which portray men as bumbling idiots and women as the ones with their heads on their shoulders.  Here we find the same portrayal of Nabal and Abigail.  Whereas the stereotype does not always hold true, sometimes it can be seen big time, like here.  Nabal had no regard for the anointed king-in-waiting. He ignored David, his request, and his men; he was a rude dude.  Abigail was in sharp contrast: she listened to the facts, developed a plan, and personally carried it out.  Those steps are an example to us, male or female. We must listen, hear people out, open up to the facts of life.  Then we must respond, not react; we must tackle the issue at hand head on - not ignore it or run away.  Finally, we must take personal responsibility.  Abigail did not merely send servants; she went to David himself. It was a sign of both respect and responsibility. She was able to add to her actions words and non-physical communication which made all the difference in the world.  She was as wise woman, worthy of the many verses dedicated to her here, and worthy as well of the time to examine our lives for the same response.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Decisiveness: Good and Bad

Now Samuel died. And all Israel assembled and mourned for him, and they buried him in his house at Ramah.
Then David rose and went down to the wilderness of Paran. And there was a man in Maon whose business was in Carmel. The man was very rich; he had three thousand sheep and a thousand goats. He was shearing his sheep in Carmel. Now the name of the man was Nabal, and the name of his wife Abigail. The woman was discerning and beautiful, but the man was harsh and badly behaved; he was a Calebite. David heard in the wilderness that Nabal was shearing his sheep. So David sent ten young men. And David said to the young men, “Go up to Carmel, and go to Nabal and greet him in my name. And thus you shall greet him: ‘Peace be to you, and peace be to your house, and peace be to all that you have. I hear that you have shearers. Now your shepherds have been with us, and we did them no harm, and they missed nothing all the time they were in Carmel. Ask your young men, and they will tell you. Therefore let my young men find favor in your eyes, for we come on a feast day. Please give whatever you have at hand to your servants and to your son David.’”
When David's young men came, they said all this to Nabal in the name of David, and then they waited. And Nabal answered David's servants, “Who is David? Who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants these days who are breaking away from their masters. Shall I take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers and give it to men who come from I do not know where?” So David's young men turned away and came back and told him all this. And David said to his men, “Every man strap on his sword!” And every man of them strapped on his sword. David also strapped on his sword. And about four hundred men went up after David, while two hundred remained with the baggage.
(1 Samuel 25:1-13 ESV)
Decisiveness: a good characteristic of leaders. I tend to be bad at it. Don't take me shoe shopping or expect any other kind of quick responses.  Some people are good at it.  Not Nabal. He made a snap decision to ignore David and his request. Culturally speaking, David's request was proper and timely.  Whereas many bands of men would go around snatching a sheep or two for survival, David's men, because he himself was a shepherd, had a heart to protect the sheep and their guardians.  The celebration of sheering was an appropriate time to step back and be thankful for the "harvest" of wool. Why not give David the party leftovers?  But Nabal, like Saul, reacted true to form, being ungrateful, rude and repulsive. David himself gets caught up in this reactionary pride. These men are being decisive alright. But reactions can reject reasoning and righteousness. Is there any hope for "decisive" men like this?  Let's wait and see. (Yes, let's put off that decision and appear indecisive.) And let's do some self-examination about how we have decided to react these past few days...

Monday, October 3, 2016

We interrupt this story...

Now Samuel died. And all Israel assembled and mourned for him, and they buried him in his house at Ramah.
Then David rose and went down to the wilderness of Paran.
(1 Samuel 25:1 ESV)
Less than a verse.  That's what it takes to describe the death of Samuel, a pivotal player in the history of Israel.  But what a statement it makes.  Everyone mourned.  Israel had asked for a king, and God gave them Saul, in place of Samuel.  Samuel had stepped down; they had Saul.  Saul kept messing up. Now Samuel died.  But something significant had happened. Saul finally had admitted that David should and would be king.  He had confessed the truth of God's plan. Now Samuel could go.  He had left behind a significant contribution to history. He had learned to take his part in the Big Story, so that when he was gone, he was truly missed.  That is what we need to learn: when we find our place in God's story, and step back and don't have to have all the glory, we get our verse, we make our contribution that is an integral part of a beautiful story God is telling.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

A Great Deal...

I cry to you, O LORD;
I say, “You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living.”
Attend to my cry,
for I am brought very low!
Deliver me from my persecutors,
for they are too strong for me!
Bring me out of prison,
that I may give thanks to your name!
The righteous will surround me,
for you will deal bountifully with me.
(Psalm 142:5-7 ESV)

Prison.  Many of us have never been behind bars physically.  But there are many ways we can feel trapped, boxed in, with no way out.  At best, we can feel surrounded by four walls, with nowhere to go. At worst, we can be surrounded by enemies out to get us.  In any of those situations, chronic or critical, we have someone to cry out to,who will deliver us, free us, relocate us, or help us to see that we are not alone, or outnumbered.  He will "deal bountifully" with us.  There is no better deal out there anywhere.