Monday, November 24, 2008

1 Samuel 30

When I began writing about the life of David, I wanted to try and understand some of the more subtle aspects of his character. His background was pretty unremarkable. He was the youngest son of a shepherd. In Israelite society, the youngest son of many often received very little and toiled in obscurity. David’s faith was rewarded throughout his life as he eventually became the greatest king Israel ever had. David’s life is a message to all of us. His story is in the Bible to show us what can happen if we place our faith in God and put His plans first in our lives. David was far from perfect, but his life is still a great example. That is especially true here in 1 Samuel 30.

If I am attacked, my first thought is to strike back. Often this leads to irrational behavior. I was actually in a situation such as this last night when I thought I saw someone who had seriously wronged me. Despite the fact that I was in a very public setting (a rock concert), my first instinct was to charge after this person and exact my revenge. Fortunately, a cooler head prevailed. First of all, I wasn’t even sure this random person was the person in question. Second, it wasn’t the right place to do what I had in mind. Third, if I struck my own blind revenge I don’t think there would be very much to gain, but there would be much to lose.

David faces a similar situation in 1 Samuel 30. The town where he had been staying was attacked by an enemy and both of his wives, plus the wives and children of many of his men, were taken away. Davis was furious. He surely wanted to chase immediately after his enemies and take back what was rightfully his. Instead, he sought God first.

3 When David and his men came to Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. 4 So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep. 5 David's two wives had been captured—Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. 6 David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the LORD his God.

7 Then David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelech, "Bring me the ephod." Abiathar brought it to him, 8 and David inquired of the LORD, "Shall I pursue this raiding party? Will I overtake them?"
"Pursue them," he answered. "You will certainly overtake them and succeed in the rescue." – 1 Samuel 30:3-8

The ultimate answer here was still the same. David wanted to go after the Amelikites, and God told him he would have success in going after them. The message, however, comes in David seeking God’s will first. Despite the personal anguish David was certainly feeling, he took the time to properly approach God and seek what he was supposed to do. This shows an incredible amount of humility. David was able to overcome his personal feelings and admit that he was ultimately powerless to do what he wanted. This is what we must do when we face adversity. It, like many things, is a lesson I continue to struggle with daily.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

1 Samuel 29

In 1 Samuel 29, David faces a difficult choice. Since Saul had virtually banned him from Israel, David had to live with the Philistines. They had long been Israel’s enemy, but Achish had always treated David with respect. At this time, the Philistines were preparing to face the Israelites in a battle that would ultimately lead to Saul’s death and David’s ascension to the throne. David was going to the battle in support of Achish, but it had to be difficult going against his own people.

Naturally, the Philistines were afraid that David would turn on them in battle. Though he had been loyal to Achish, it was a calculated fear at this point. Achish understood why David wanted to fight, but the Philistine leaders wanted to send David and his men home despite the fact he had long been loyal to them.

8 "But what have I done?" asked David. "What have you found against your servant from the day I came to you until now? Why can't I go and fight against the enemies of my lord the king?"

9 Achish answered, "I know that you have been as pleasing in my eyes as an angel of God; nevertheless, the Philistine commanders have said, 'He must not go up with us into battle.' 10 Now get up early, along with your master's servants who have come with you, and leave in the morning as soon as it is light." – 1 Samuel 29:8-10

This once again shows David’s character. He still had much to gain by Saul’s death, but he still removed himself from the fight. He once again put his faith in God to allow whatever outcome God wanted without his influence. Great leaders know when it is time for even them to serve. What made David a great leader was this characteristic that he exhibited time and again.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

1 Samuel 28

In 1 Samuel 28, we see the perspective shift back to King Saul for a moment. For David to take the throne, Saul first had to be deposed. This chapter represents the prophecy of his own downfall. Though Saul had once found God’s favor, he turned away from him. As a result, God would, in time, turn things over to David. We see Saul’s own hypocrisy here, as he consults a spiritual medium even though he had already banished them from the land.

16 Samuel said, "Why do you consult me, now that the LORD has turned away from you and become your enemy? 17 The LORD has done what he predicted through me. The LORD has torn the kingdom out of your hands and given it to one of your neighbors—to David. 18 Because you did not obey the LORD or carry out his fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the LORD has done this to you today. 19 The LORD will hand over both Israel and you to the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The LORD will also hand over the army of Israel to the Philistines." – 1 Samuel 28:16-19

This speaks to our responsibility to God when we are given much. Nothing in this life comes for free. We are all given gifts, but they are given so God can use said gifts to accomplish the most through us. Each person’s gifts are different as well. In Saul, God gave him gifts of leadership and power, yet Saul did not use them the way God wanted him to use them. As a result, God was going to replace Saul with David because David was a steward of His gifts. We must remember this as we seek to apply the gifts we are given.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

1 Samuel, Chapter 27

I apologize for the break in publishing, but a brief trip to Florida was much needed in order to rest and recharge my batteries. It already feels like I never went, and I have been back for only 36 hours. Such is life, however. Today I wanted to return to the life of David where we left off in chapter 27 of 1 Samuel.

When I began writing about David’s life I wasn’t quite sure where it would take me at first. The Jewish faith views the Old Testament as both a sacred historical text and as a manual of Jewish traditions. In the Christian faith we tend to view it more as strictly as a historical record. We believe that Christ Himself rewrote most of the traditions when he established the new covenant. In that view, the Old Testament serves to show why a new covenant was needed between God and man. Still, the tendency to view it simply as a book of stories instead of something hat God is trying to tell us.

On the surface, that is what chapter 27 and much of the rest of 1 Samuel looks like. There is no huge, “I am the way, the truth, and the light” type of revelation here. Instead, we see more insight into the life of David and the type of man he was before becoming king of Israel. This chapter shows his patience. He was waiting for God to deal with Saul, rather than dealing with Saul himself. For 16 months he had to live with the Phillistines and in that time he continued to seek God first. Though this chapter is short, it still teaches us this overlying message that God sometimes has us mark time in a place where we don’t want to be in order to accomplish His goals.

Monday, November 10, 2008

1 Samuel, Chapter 26

If given the chance to exact revenge or spare the life of someone who had caused you copious amounts of undue grief, what would you do? Would you allow God to exact His vengeance, or would you take matters into your own hands for personal satisfaction? That is what David faced again here in chapter 26 of 1 Samuel. Saul had continued to comer after him, but David had another chance to take his life without Saul even knowing he was there. I do not know if I would have the strength or conviction to stay my hand as David did, but he did so because he knew ultimately that vengeance was the Lord and the Lord’s alone.

8 Abishai said to David, "Today God has delivered your enemy into your hands. Now let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of my spear; I won't strike him twice."

9 But David said to Abishai, "Don't destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the LORD's anointed and be guiltless? 10 As surely as the LORD lives," he said, "the LORD himself will strike him; either his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. 11 But the LORD forbid that I should lay a hand on the LORD's anointed. Now get the spear and water jug that are near his head, and let's go." – 1 Samuel 26:8-11

David knew that it was not his place to judge Saul. Saul had been placed in his role by God and God alone. Though David could have killed him and taken the throne with very little controversy, he did not. Saul’s judgment would come at God’s hand. David knew he himself would be judged by God for his actions as well. This was a test to prove his worth in god’s eyes, and David passed it.

We often face tests like this on our own. We are not always presented with a chance to gain revenge on our enemies, but we face similar tests when God presents us with the easy way or the right way. The easy way may accomplish something, but it is not always right. Sure, you can cheat on a test and get away with it, but I don’t want the surgeon that cheated his way through medical school to good grades. That same person probably didn’t earn anything they needed to learn, and that’s the last person I want cutting on me. David had a shortcut to his ultimate destination right there in front of him, but in taking it he wouldn’t have been properly prepared to be the king of Israel.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

1 Samuel, Chapter 25

Chapter 25 of 1st Samuel is a lesson in listening. We have another story of David and basically what he was doing before he became king of Israel. He is now in command of about 600 men, but he is still a kind commander. In this story he confronts a man that is less than pleasant to his men even though David’s men provided protection for his shepherds. This seems like a pretty innocuous story at first. David was wrong, so he sought vengeance on Nabal. The listening comes from Nabal’s wife.

While Nabal had a hard heart, his wife did not. Abigal spoke from her heart and showed gratitude. She knew that her gruff husband had spoken out of turn, so she approached David herself. This was an incredible feat simply because women of the day had very few rights. She was essentially overstepping her bounds, especially in speaking with another male. This paid off for both parties though. It ended up saving most of the men in Nabal’s household, and She ended up gaining David’s trust so much she became his wife.

32 David said to Abigail, "Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. 33 May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands. 34 Otherwise, as surely as the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak." – 1 Samuel 25:32-34

This is another insight into David’s character. He easily could have continued with his desire to exact revenge on Nabal, but he did not. Instead, he listened. God had another plan in mind other than vengeance. If David had enacted his plan, he would have missed out on a wife and on gaining everything her husband hand. Because he listened, God blessed David. This is a lesson we can all take to heart.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

1 Samuel, Chapters 23 and 24

I delayed publishing by a day to put these two chapters together. I did this mostly because chapter 23 is just a continuation of David’s flight from Saul, but chapter 24 is the climax of this pursuit. In chapter 24, we have a beautiful example of David’s nearly unparalleled character. It is unclear how long Saul pursued David all over the map of Israel. Saul threatened David’s life, forced him from his home, and generally disrupted his entire life. David had every reason to take vengeance if he had the chance, but as wee see in chapter 24, he did not.

8 Then David went out of the cave and called out to Saul, "My lord the king!" When Saul looked behind him, David bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. 9 He said to Saul, "Why do you listen when men say, 'David is bent on harming you'? 10 This day you have seen with your own eyes how the LORD delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, 'I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the LORD's anointed.' 11 See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you. Now understand and recognize that I am not guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. 12 May the LORD judge between you and me. And may the LORD avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. 13 As the old saying goes, 'From evildoers come evil deeds,' so my hand will not touch you. – 1 Samuel 24:8-13

This is another area of Scripture that speaks to my heart. Vengeance is not ours to take. Still, it is very hard to avoid the urge if it does come up. By human terms, David had every right to get even with Saul then and there. It is not what God wanted, however. He knew that true vengeance would be meted out between God and Saul. David not only did this for his own reasons, but he placed God’s desires ahead of his own. David could have done it solely to regain favor and seek the throne as king of Israel. Instead, he humbled himself before God and allowed the Lord to decide what would happen in this case.

This is why he mentions the Lord’s anointed. He knew that Saul, despite all the evil he had done in turning away from God, was still chosen by that same God to lead Israel. This is another lesson to me as far as learning to put God’s desires ahead of my own. God wanted Saul to lead Israel, even if it was for a little while longer. David didn’t know why, but he accepted it. God wants me to suffer in this job for at least a little while longer. I don’t know why, but I must accept it. As much as I want vengeance against those that have wronged me, and as much as I want out of this prison of a job, I have to go the opposite way, at least for now. I also must trust that God will take care of both.

In my humanity, it is tough to accept this. If I were given the opportunity to hurt someone who has hurt me, I am not sure if I would have the faith to turn it down. With this job, it is clearly what God wants for me at the moment because of the way He answered prayer directly, but I still feel trapped and like it is a complete and utter waste of every second I spend here. It is my prayer today that I will see what God’s will is in both of these situations, and that I will have the faith and strength to accept this will.

Monday, November 3, 2008

1 Samuel 22

The term “Guilty by Association” take center stage in today’s passage on the life of David. David is still on the run from King Saul. As a result, he finds refuge, but those who assisted him early in his flight are punished for helping him. Why would God allow something like this? In this chapter we clearly see that David is in the right while Saul is in the wrong. Saul, driven by jealousy instead of the will of God, wanted to punish David because he knew David would take power from him. It is a classic case of the ways of this world against the ways of God.

3 From there David went to Mizpah in Moab and said to the king of Moab, "Would you let my father and mother come and stay with you until I learn what God will do for me?" 4 So he left them with the king of Moab, and they stayed with him as long as David was in the stronghold. – 1 Samuel 22:3-4

While most of this chapter is dry, I wanted to focus on this small section because it shows the patience David had. In the midst of everything, he knew that he still had to wait on God. He was trying to protect not just himself, but his family as well. Still, he knew he needed to wait on God. It wasn’t even about what he needed to do for God or anyone else. It was about what God needed to do for him.

I find this very hard to do, especially now. I feel like God is doing nothing for me because nothing ever changes. Things only seem to get more stressful and farther from God each and every day. Today is a prime example. I want nothing more than to retreat into my shell and just be with God, but I’m not even allowed to do that. I don’t want to speak unless spoken to by anyone here at work, yet that is an impossible request because of the nature of my job. I long for silence, but there is chaos and useless noise going on all around. David found peace and knew to wait for God even in the most chaotic situation of his life. I long to find a way to do the same.