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Category Archives: 1 Samuel

DAVID, GOLIATH AND OUR GIANTS

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We all know and are inspired by the story of David and Goliath. We love rooting for the underdog and we love it when the underdog wins, especially if the underdog represents right and the one with the perceived advantage represents wrong. We join the story of David and Goliath when the cocky, condescending giant defies the armies of Israel:

And the Philistine said, “I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.” When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid (1 Samuel 17:10-11).

King Saul and all Israel lost whatever courage they had and were paralyzed with terror. Day after day the same routine happened with the same result: The Israelite army saw the Giant as an enemy too large to overcome.

In different ways, this is very common in everyday life: We size up our challenges or enemies and see them larger than they are. Our giants may be health issues, financial issues, relationship problems, addictions, guilt or whatever. We see the situation, whatever it is, as an unconquerable giant, forgetting that we have a God who is even bigger than the giant.

Back in Moses’ day 12 spies were sent to the Promised Land to assess the situation there and size up the enemy. They came back with a report about how big and undefeatable the enemy was. They said, “When we saw the Nephilim (giants), we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” The spies focused on the size of the enemy rather than the size of God. They also imagined that the enemy looked down at them and found themselves intimidated by the enemy’s superiority or perceived superiority. They enumerated the reasons why they would lose and the enemy would win. The glass was definitely half empty, or maybe all empty.

We often see our problems the same way. We often think they are giants that are undefeatable. We forget that millions that have gone before us endured and overcame these same giants. The solution to this problem of perspective is to train our eyes to see Him who is invisible; to see the solution instead of the problem, or at least see the solution conquering the problem. As it so often is, it’s about trust in a powerful and loving and trustworthy God. It’s about having faith that, with God’s help, we will win rather than faith that we will lose. We can either see the mountain and declare it unclimbable or we, even with the smallest faith, can command it to be removed.

Way too often we count on losing instead of winning. Our faith is actually in the enemy instead of God because our focus is on the enemy, not God. We see the enemy as bigger than our God or at least we see God as unwilling to overcome our enemy for us. Maybe we believe He can, but don’t believe He will. Part of ascribing to the Lord the glory due His name is trusting that He is a good, loving and willing God. Sometimes we unintentionally accuse or charge God with being a removed or distant God who cares little about our lives and needs. We may not actually believe that, but our lack of faith for victory suggests it. Like David, we need to presume willingness on God’s part and call upon Him in our time of trouble, fully expecting Him to intervene rather than be totally shocked if He does. We need to learn to wait with expectation for the deliverance of the Lord.

For me, trusting in the goodness of God and His willingness to help has come by knowing Him better. And there is only one way to know Him better; we must spend lots of time with Him. When we do we begin to see Him as bigger than our giants. We learn to trust Him more. To know Him is to trust Him. He really is a good, willing God who loves to bless and help His kids. By spending time with Him and getting to know Him, we come to believe and expect to see His help in our times of challenge and trouble. And expectation is a very close relative to faith. And faith in God is what gets things done.

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THE RISE AND FALL OF KING SAUL: PARTIAL OBEDIENCE

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On Dan’s Pulpit, we have talked before about lessons from the life of King Saul. I recently read his story again and have some more thoughts that I will add to the previous series of blogs.  We start with God’s commandment to Saul to destroy an ungodly tribe of people called the Amalekites:

Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, do not spare the. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey (1 Samuel 15:3)

When the Israelites crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land, God used them to judge many of the nations on that side of the Jordan. The price for generations of wickedness was finally coming due. And the hand of God for judgment was Israel. In the verse above we see that His instructions were very specific and clear. Amalek was to be no more. But Saul thought he could improve on God’s commands:

But Saul and the people spared Agag (the king) and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed (1 Samuel 15:9).

So Saul and the troops obeyed regarding the unwanted things but disobeyed regarding the things they deemed valuable. Surely God wouldn’t really want them to destroy perfectly good stuff! They valued the stuff more than they valued the words of God. Do we ever do that? Do we ever value stuff more than the words of God?  Hmm? So they partially obeyed. Of course, they followed orders on the worthless things; there was no sacrifice there. The valuable stuff, however, wasn’t as easy to destroy. It had value and surely Saul and Israel could put it to good use…all for the glory of God, of course. But God’s instructions were clear…destroy it all.

I am reminded of the times our children only partially obey or just blow us off altogether. There is a saying for this: Partial obedience is disobedience. What we asked them to do or not do either doesn’t make sense to them or they don’t understand the significance of the timely obedience. Most of our requests of our children have a purp0ose in the big picture—something that at their age they haven’t become skilled at considering. All they think of is the now, themselves, and the inconvenience of obedience. But we have a greater purpose not fully appreciated by them.

God also has reasons for His commands, even the inconvenient ones. He knows the end from the beginning. He is a big picture God. His commands have a greater purpose in the big picture. It’s a matter of trust. Do we trust He has the best for us in mind? Are we willing to just go with it rather than kick against His will? Must we analyze it to death? The truth is, He is always right and we are always right to submit. Eventually, we may see the wisdom of His instructions, or maybe we won’t. But do we trust Him anyway? Is He God or not? Is He a good God or not? Is He a trustworthy God or not? Do we trust Him?

 

For more in the Rise and Fall of King Saul, follow this link:

https://danspulpit.wordpress.com/category/the-rise-and-fall-of-king-saul/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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DELIVERANCE IS ON THE WAY!

At one time or another, we all battle with some kind of ungodly bondage to something. Because this is so common, the Bible addresses how to be delivered from bondage repeatedly. God’s people Israel found themselves the tail instead of the head every time they traded their affections for God with affections for other gods or anything that competed with Him for first place in their lives. The prophet Samuel spoke to Israel one of the several times they were enslaved by their wicked enemy the Philistines:

If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, get rid of the foreign gods that are among you, dedicate yourselves to the Lord and worship only Him. Then He will rescue you from the hand of the Philistines. (1 Samuel 7:3).

Most believers would concede that we should worship and obey the Lord with all our heart, but don’t always follow through with it. There are numerous verses that talk of single-mindedness and whole heartedness in our devotion to the Lord. One very well-known but less well-practiced verse is:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind (Luke 10:27).

And a couple more:

Only fear the LORD and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you (1 Samuel 12:24).

You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13).

Suffice it to say, nowhere in the Bible is halfhearted devotion to God tolerated. Surely the God who created us and saved us deserves the whole deal. Yet many endeavor to serve two masters, contrary to Jesus’ admonition to serve only one. In the context of our original verse in 1 Samuel seven, we have a little explanation of what turning to Him with all our heart looks like:

  1. By putting away any and all competing loves, for He is a jealous God.
  2. Dedicate ourselves to the Lord pledging allegiance to only Him by offering ourselves as living sacrifices, denying ourselves, being transformed by the renewing of our mind.
  3. Worship only Him. No divided affection, no just throwing Him the left over scraps of our lives. Ours is to seek first the Kingdom of God, being all about the Father’s business.

In this context, the whole hearted turning to the Lord preceded deliverance from the Philistines. And most of the time in scripture that’s the way we see it; first a major change of heart, then deliverance. God’s people were subject to the Philistines because of divided devotion and would remain that way, well, as long as they remained that way. While Israel continued in sin and experimented with competing affections, the hand of the Lord was against them. When they turned back to the Lord, the hand of the Lord was against their enemies. Better to have the Lord against our enemies than against us! But, as 2 Chronicles says, turning to Him is the 1st step toward deliverance:

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land 2 Chronicles 7:14).

Are you struggling with enslavement to sin or some other kind of bondage? Deliverance usually doesn’t just happen without our cooperation. Turning to Him with a whole heart precedes deliverance. As long as we have divided allegiances we will always run the risk and increase the likelihood of long-term bondage and defeat. Do you need deliverance from some kind of spiritual enemy? Use the method God’s people have found effective for thousands of years: Turn to Him with all of your heart, turn away from any competing affections, and deliverance from whatever enemy is pestering you will soon be on the way!

 

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THE ROAD BACK TO GLORY

Ichabod is a funny sounding word and an even stranger name. But when Priest Eli’s daughter in law heard that the Ark, representing the presence of God, had departed from Israel, she decided to mark the event by naming her newborn son Ichabod, meaning “The glory has departed.”

The departure of the presence of God is a major downer, no matter where His presence has departed from. For His presence to depart it had to have first been present. For anyone used to the presence of God, the departure of the Presence is about as bad as it gets. To have God and then not have Him is a crisis of, well, Biblical proportions. Now to be sure, God desires to be present and bless His people now and forever. But the departure of the Ark wasn’t the last time that God blessed and then left. Unfortunately, it has happened over and over again throughout history.

There are countless churches that once didn’t consider the position of the clock as the most important thing in their services. They were packed with people who were basking in the sweet presence of the Lord. That was then. Now everything happens on time, is done very professionally and goosebumps and tears are only a memory. The programs are well – defined as if the church were merely a club or business. Many churches are a great example of how to run a business or club. And certainly order is good, but not at the expense of the presence of God.

The church is to be a house of prayer, but that would include lots of praying. When the glory departs, so does prayer. Or maybe when prayer departs, so does the glory! Real, fervent prayer doesn’t necessarily fit well into today’s programs. And if there is a program for prayer, it is usually poorly attended.

A similar departure happens to believers who once exhibited the fire and presence of God in their lives. Little by little compromises were made, a little more of the world and its ways were tolerated, and eventually the glory that once shown bright, dimmed or even departed. One of the saddest things I have ever seen is a once on fire believer who is now a mere shadow of the warrior they once were. It is usually a slow fade, but if not dealt with, eventually he or she is basically no different than the average sinner.

However, there is good news in the midst of all this bad news. Throughout the Bible, we see a God that, even after removing the blessing and glory from a church or believer, greatly desires to return. Time after time we see examples of God’s people, both Israel and individuals, realizing the error of their ways, repenting and returning to a God who has His arms wide open. The parable of the prodigal son illustrates this beautifully. The son was in fellowship with his father, strayed and disgraced his father, then came to himself and returned, asking for forgiveness. Churches and individual believers can do the same and will have the same response from their heavenly father. God is love and desires to forgive and restore. He is waiting and ready to bring the wayward son, daughter or church back and way beyond what they once were. Today is a great day to start the road back. No one has ever regretted returning to the loving God who awaits their return.Perhaps we can apply this familiar verse to those churches or individuals from whom the glory has departed:

If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14).

 

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DAVID, A MAN AFTER GOD’S OWN HEART PART 6

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As we continue to examine the life of David and why God called him a man after His own heart, let’s review some his attributes so far:

  • David was first and foremost a worshipper and a God lover
  • David was not casual in his faith but had great zeal for his God
  • David had complete faith that God was a good God and could be completely trusted
  • David was obedient to his superiors and obedient to the Lord
  • David grew in wisdom and exhibited wisdom in his everyday life
  • David was a man of principle
  • David was a patient man
  • David strengthened himself in the Lord
  • David was a generous man
  • David was a humble man

David walked with God, pure and righteous living was the rule and sinning was the exception. We all know the story of David’s notorious sins with Bathsheba and subsequently having her husband killed for David’s own convenience. We read that what David did displeased the Lord. David’s reaction to his sin being pointed out was the opposite of his predecessor King Saul’s reaction to his sins. Saul made all kinds of excuses for his sins and even blamed his short comings on others. Not so with the man after God’s own heart. David reacted appropriately when he faced his sin. He grieved over it with great regret and wholeheartedly repented of it. Consider his well-known response:

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence. And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit (Psalm 51:10-12).

Sinning greatly displeases God and affects our fellowship with Him. Sin is not to be lightly thought of. Sin is why people go to hell and our reaction to our own sin should be that of great regret, a plea for forgiveness and much resolve to not repeat it again. David sinned, but set a great example for us in how to respond if we do sin.

David was a man of war but also made peace whenever possible. In his life he was challenged by Saul, his son Absalom and others for the throne and for other honors that belonged to David as King. David went to the extreme of leaving his rightful place in Jerusalem and fleeing just to keep the peace and for the benefit of Israel. Most leaders would have done no such thing, but rather had their challengers killed or exiled. David valued the virtue of peace and did what he had to do to maintain it for the greater good. Good leaders are humble and look at the big picture, not just a picture of themselves.

Of course it is no secret that David was a thankful man and praised his God endlessly. As stated before, he was a God lover. One cannot overemphasize the importance of becoming one who truly and passionately loves God. Loving God greatly affects one’s entire life and sets its course for good decisions that please Him. If one loves God, they hate anything anti God. The apostle Paul reminded us of the need for this when he exhorted us to abhor that which is evil, and cling to that which is good. One who loves God is also constantly thankful, no matter what live throws at them. Again, the apostle Paul weighed in encouraging us to give thanks…always!

In conclusion, we are blessed to have our Bibles and God has preserved the holy scriptures all these years for our benefit. We read about how we are to live and the consequences. We read about how we are not to live and the consequences. We read about how great our wonderful God is, all He has done for us and something in us rises up and praises that great God. Also, we have examples of lives lived for the Lord that we do well to learn from. One of these lives is King David, a man after God’s own heart.

 

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DAVID: A MAN AFTER GOD’S OWN HEART 5

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As we continue to examine the life of David and why God called him a man after His own heart, let’s review some his attributes so far:

  • David was first and foremost a worshipper and a God lover
  • David was not casual in his faith but had great zeal for his God
  • David had complete faith that God was a good God and could be completely trusted
  • David was obedient to his superiors and obedient to the Lord
  • David grew in wisdom and exhibited wisdom in his everyday life
  • David was a man of principle
  • David was a patient man

As we press on we come across another attribute that worked wonders in carrying David into victory. We read:” But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God” (1 Samuel 30:6). David acknowledged his weakness and utter dependence on His God. This dependence on God is key for us to walk in victory too. What match are we against the world, the flesh and the devil on our own? We have all tried to battle evil by ourselves and failed miserably. David says in the Psalms:

Give us help from trouble, for the help of man is useless. Through our God we shall do valiantly, for it is He who shall tread down our enemies (Psalm 108:12,13).

Until we also recognize our utter bankruptcy without our God our lives will be mediocre at the very best. Miserable failures, at worst. Humbling calling on the name of the Lord must become our default, always, in good times as well as the bad. Seek God first , and the help of man second, every time. We must stir ourselves up to lay hold of God and hold on tight to weather the storms of life and also to glorify Him in our victories.

David was a benevolent man. When David went out to battle some of his men stayed back and watched their various possessions. David insisted on sharing the spoils with those who weren’t directly in the battle in the face of danger. Those who were in the battle were incredulous. Surely those who stayed back deserved nothing at all. But David declared all would share the bounty.

Benevolence or generosity is a virtue spoken highly of throughout the Bible, and we do well to take it to heart. Benevolence is the nature and heart of God. It is just like God to be generous and those who are generous are acting like God, just as those who love are like God. Everything we have received in life is from the Lord and we are to hold all our blessings loosely. Jesus said, “Give, and it shall  be given unto you (Luke 6:38). The main point to take away from this verse is, GIVE!

Lastly for today we notice David exhibiting humility. He says:

Who am I, O Lord God? What is my house, that you have brought me thus far (2 Samuel 7:18).

Unlike other kings like Nebuchadnezzar, David was very aware that whatever good happened to him and whatever good he did came from His great God. Again, David was very aware of his limitations and his utter dependence on the Lord. We do well to live the same. We live in an age where if we prosper in our jobs, ministry or whatever we receive great glory from our peers and admirers. It really is a fearful thing to excel in ministry these days. If we do well, we are nearly made out to be gods. And, if we are not careful, we might even start to believe it!

Humility is always a must to maintain a godly existence. In Proverbs we read:

Before destruction the heart of a man is haughty, and before honor is humility (Proverbs 18:12).

 

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DAVID, A MAN AFTER GOD’S OWN HEART PART 4

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As we continue to examine the life of David and why God called him a man after His own heart, let’s review some his attributes so far:

  • David was first and foremost a worshipper and a God lover
  • David was not casual in his faith but had great zeal for his God
  • David had complete faith that God was a good God and could be completely trusted
  • David was obedient to his superiors and obedient to the Lord
  • David grew in wisdom and exhibited wisdom in his everyday life

Now we come to something that characterized David famously. He was a man of principle. We see this exhibited repeatedly in his dealings with King Saul. David had been chosen to replace Saul yet he continued to submit to Saul as his superior. Surely David saw Saul’s many faults and wondered or maybe was convinced he could do better. When Saul made attempts on David’s life and it was clear he was in grave danger, he fled, along with a company of lowly men. We read of twice that David had the opportunity of a lifetime to fulfill the prophecy that he would be king and get the show on the road by ending Saul’s life. He was, after all, anointed to be king instead of Saul. But both times, when David easily had the kingship in his hands, he refused to be the one to make it happen. If God wanted David to be king, He would have to make it happen. David would not touch Saul, God’s anointed, no matter how Saul treated him and no matter what David’s rightful future held. He was a man of principle: right was right, and wrong was wrong, and nothing would change that.

It is easy to grade our lives on a curve and justify getting ahead of God or sanding the edges off of right and wrong. Our present society had become masters and calling good evil and evil good, and it’s rubbing off on the church. But in the Bible we see good and evil clearly defined for thousands of years and never changing, because God does not change. And He still hasn’t. What God said two thousand years ago is evil, still is. And what God has always said is good, also still is. He said, “I am the Lord and I do not change” (Malachi 3:6).

In these same stories we see David was also a patient man. It was no small deal to have Samuel the prophet anoint you king and then be chased all over the country side by the present king. Most of us would want what is due us with all the benefits right now, if indeed we were to be king. It was similar to being chosen as the new head of a corporation but having to submit to the present abusive head…for years until realizing the promotion. Add to that fearing for one’s life. We would want him gone and to begin our reign, now! But David trusted in the timing of God, and His timing is perfect. As the saying goes, “God is never late, but seldom early.” No kidding.

Most of us have seen opportunities to advance in jobs, ministries and the like and assumed that it most certainly must be the will of God. Well, not always. The man or woman in their 20’s want’s badly to go up in the ranks in the military, his job or in ministry. But God isn’t in such a hurry. That man or woman may not be even close to prepared for what God has in store for them. Waiting time is character building time. And character is what makes the man or woman worthy of the promotion and what keeps them promoted. It is a mistake to get ahead of God. His timing is always perfect. He knows what He is doing, He is God after all. Many a godly saint has had to wait to advance in their lives and, when they finally did, completely understood why they had to wait. Waiting was God’s best for them, after all.

 

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