Monthly Archives: March 2017

Through the Bible, March 31

Reading: Psalms 34, 56, 57, 63, 142

Summary: We’ll return again today to Psalms that are ascribed to the time of David’s life prior to his reign as king (see the March 30 reading introduction). These Psalms relate to his experiences among the Philistines as well as his hiding in caves and the wilderness as he eluded King Saul.

Devotional Thought:

What Comes Out of Your Mouth

The mouth is the bucket that brings up what is in the well of our hearts.  (I can’t take credit for that thought, but I don’t know to whom credit is due.) A very good indicator of the genuine interest and concern and focus of our lives is what we talk about.

Think about that in terms of your every day speech and your relationship with God.  Are the names of God and Jesus on your lips daily?  Is praise of Him and the telling of His great love for us reserved only for certain places and times and in certain company?

Listen to the opening lines of Psalm 34:

I will bless the LORD at all times;

his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

My soul makes its boast in the LORD;

let the humble hear and be glad.

Oh, magnify the LORD with me,

and let us exalt his name together!

(Psalm 34:1-3)

This certainly is behind the otherwise curious statement God made to Joshua when commissioning him as Moses’ successor to lead Israel into Canaan.  He charged him to keep all the Law which Moses had given, not to turn from it to the right or the left, to meditate on it day and night, and that it “shall not depart from your mouth” (Josh.1:7-8).

What we love we think about, and what we think about we talk about.

How does God fit in that formula for you?

Through the Bible, March 30

Reading: Psalms 18, 52, 54, 59

Summary: The inscription at the heading of Psalm 18 reads, “A Psalm of David the servant of the Lord, who spoke to the Lord the words of this son in the day that the Lord delivered him from the hand all his enemies and from the hand of Saul,…”

A number of the Psalms have inscriptions (many do not, and the inscriptions, though old, are not inspired) that ascribe them to incidents in David’s life, especially those times while he fled from Saul.  Today’s readings relate specifically to Saul’s efforts to apprehend David.

Devotional Thought:

With God or Without

The Psalms of today’s reading (18, 52, 54, 59) all have a common theme.

18:4-5–“The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction assailed me; the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me”

52:1,2–“Why do you boast of evil, O mighty man?…your tongue plots destruction, like a sharp razor you worker of deceit”

54:1,3–“O God, save me by your name,…For strangers have risen against me; ruthless men seek my life”

59:1–“Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; protect me form those who rise up against me”

David, the ascribed author of each, faced many serious problems, challenges, and threats.  It is obvious there were times he did not believe he would make it through them alive.

There is another corresponding theme as well:

18:1–“I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God , my rock, in whom I take refuge”

52:8–“I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever”

54:4–“Behold God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life”

59:9–“O my Strength, I will watch for you, for you, O God, are my fortress”

By the very nature of life we are going to face hardships and trouble as did David. That’s a given.

What is not a given is how we will meet these hardships.  David met them with God.  God was his strength, rock, fortress, deliverer, refuge, trust, helper, and upholder.

We too may face them with God, or we can try it alone.

I wonder how that would work out?

Through the Bible, March 29

Reading: Psalm 95, Hebrews 3:1-4:13

Summary: The writer of Hebrews draws upon the distinction between those people of Israel who were allowed to enter the promised land and those who were not (about whom we read in week one of this month).  He observes how those who died in the wilderness had been ones who had received God’s blessings, yet were not permitted to enjoy the ultimate destination.  Like that, Christians are such as ones who have been blessed by God, but they too may fall short of the ultimate destination.  “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience” (Heb. 4:11).

In Hebrews 3, the writer relies heavily on the words of Psalm 95.

Devotional Thought:

Why “No God” is So Popular

Do you ever wonder why people seem so ready and willing to accept the notion that there is no God?  I do.

I think Psalm 95 provides a good part of the answer.

Besides referencing the Israelites’ experience in the wilderness (the reason for which the Hebrews writer quotes from it in Hebrews 4:7), he first speaks of the creation:

 

In his hand are the depths of the earth;

the heights of the mountains are his also.

The sea is his, for he made it,

and his hands formed the dry land.

(Psalm 95:4-5)

 

The creation belongs to God because He made it.  Simple enough.

Now watch what he does: “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!” (v. 6).

Did you catch that?  He is our maker too.  If He’s our maker, then we belong to Him.  And if we belong to Him, we owe Him something–at the very least, reverence and praise and thanksgiving (see vv. 1, 2, 6).  We are answerable and accountable to Him.

That’s it.  That’s the reason why people don’t want God to be.  That’s the reason why humanity has latched on to explanations of origins (think evolution, big bang, etc.) that require no God.  If He didn’t make us, we are not answerable to Him.

But He did; and we are.

March 29-31, Supplemental Readings

Extra Days: Supplemental Readings

March 29-31

            Since this month contains days beyond 28, as did January, we will use these last three days of the month for supplementary readings.  As explained then, these are further readings based on ideas or concepts introduced during the regular reading schedule of the month.  These are intended to provide further insight and illustrate how the Bible is a connected, unified whole–not just a loose collection of spiritual writings.

Through the Bible, March 28

Reading: No scheduled reading

Thoughts and Reflection: Today is the scheduled Catch up day (if needed) for the fourth week of March (22-82). No reading is planned but following are some things to think about based on this week’s readings.

  1. God’s lesson to Samuel in the house of Jesse is as difficult as it is necessary. People do judge others by superficial criteria: looks, age, achievements, etc. “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).
  1. God’s Spirit had come upon Saul at the time of his selection as king (1 Sam. 10:6,9). The presence of that Spirit was no guarantee that this man would remain true and faithful, which he did not. Neither is God’s Spirit in us as His children a guarantee of our faithfulness.  God does not allow the presence of His Spirit to overrule our own spirit and our own will.  We make the choice whether or not to honor God’s Spirit in us by remaining obedient to Him.
  1. The account of David and Goliath is so well known that it has taken its place in modern culture. Unfortunately the primary lesson has been lost. Instead of simply showing that sometimes the underdog can overcome despite overwhelming odds and win, it is that success and victory are all about relying on God and not one’s own abilities and strength. “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts” (1 Sam. 17:45).

Devotional Thought:

Is God Pleased?

How can I know if God is pleased with me?

The criteria most frequently used for this assessment is how things are going in my life.  If things are smooth, problems seem to be at a minimum, and I’ve got no real issues or challenges ahead of me, that must signal God’s favor, right?

If we don’t look at it that way, we probably do this way: when things seem crummy, problems are everywhere and at every turn is another issue and challenge to face, we wonder why God is upset with us.  What am I doing wrong?

Does that sound familiar?

Think about David’s experience in 1 Samuel.  He’s a talented, courageous, likable, and even a handsome young man.  Everything seems to be going his way, but then it’s not.  His life becomes very hard.  His king (and own father-in-law) wants him dead and seems determined to let no obstacle stand in the way of that goal.

David lives life on the run; in caves and in the wilderness.  His companions are people of less than stellar character, and he must depend on the help of strangers. It gets so bad he resorts to finding refuge among his people’s arch enemies, and then even those who have benefited from his leadership turn on him in anger.

All the while, he has the favor of God.

It just seems to be so easy, and even natural, to equate good times with God’s favor and bad times with His displeasure.

The Bible never gives such a simplistic formula.  What it does tell us is that He disciplines His own children and uses various trials to mature our character (Heb. 12:7-11; James 1:2-3).  Further, Satan and sin and unrighteousness are all part of this world too.  God has allowed it.  The Bible even says “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19).

Instead, I’m assured of God’s favor through the blood of His Son and faithful obedience to His will (Matt. 25:21; Col. 1:10), difficult days notwithstanding.

Through the Bible, March 27

Reading: 1 Samuel 29-31

Summary: As one would expect, David’s relationship with the Philistines–to whom he had fled–was an uneasy one.  An understandable lack of trust prevented them from allowing David to join them in the fight against Israel.

Meanwhile David has his own battle to fight with invading Amalekites.

Saul’s reign finally comes to an end at his own hand when the Philistine threat appears to him to be hopeless.  Sadly, Jonathan and his two brothers are also killed in this battle.

Devotional Thought:

The Dark Side of Leadership

Like it or not, leaders are targets.

Yes, there’s the sense in which a person must be careful not to get too far ahead of those whom her or she leads.  As in, if you’re two steps ahead, you’re a leader, but if you’re ten steps ahead you’re a target.  There is that.

Also there’s the fact that as leader, when things don’t go well, you become the target for blame and bitterness.

Right or wrong, fair or not, it’s reality.  There’s nothing to be done to avoid or prevent it.  That does not mean, though, that one is helpless.

David experienced this reality of leading.  After returning from his appeal to join the Philistines in battle against Israel–I know, weird; read 1 Samuel 29–he and his men found that the Amalekites had raided their homes and captured their families.  “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” (1 Sam. 30:6).

That’s just part of the heat of leadership which one must be willing to endure, the only option for which is vacating the kitchen.  (You know, “If you can’t stand the heat…”).

So how does a leader survive such unjust treatment?

Look at David again.  He “strengthened himself in the LORD his God.”

David was careful not to make the adoration and adulation of those whom he led the source of his worth or well-being.  Leaders must be wary; this is an intoxicating drug.  Who does not revel in the admiration and compliments of supporters?  But inevitably, the time will come when adoration turns to anger.  What then?

David’s affirmation came from God, not those whom he led.  There is nothing wrong with sipping the sweet nectar of another’s compliment or favor.  But do not become addicted.  It soon becomes a quest for men’s approval; a path of spiritual suicide (John 12:42-43).

“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psa. 27:14).

Through the Bible, March 26

Reading: 1 Samuel 26-28

Summary: David again has opportunity to end his fugitive days by killing Saul, but again, refuses to do so.  Finally he resorts to fleeing to the Philistines, Israel’s archenemy.

Saul also resorts to desperate measures in an attempt to regain some control and address the imposing threat of Philistine armies.

Devotional Thought:

What They Deserve or What I Want?

That person that cut you off in traffic; what do they deserve from you?  Anger?  Hateful words? Crude gestures?

The one who has spoken unkindly about you or to you; what do they deserve from you?  Or what about the one who uses their authority to their advantage and at your expense?  Or how about the spiteful one who just seems to take pleasure in your misery?

What do these people deserve from you?  Not from God, or from some other authority, but from you?

That’s really not the right way to look at any of this is it?

David teaches us a great lesson in his response to King Saul.  David had the opportunity to kill Saul, the man who relentlessly pursued David to kill him, when David had done no wrong.

David didn’t think in terms of what Saul deserved from him.  Instead, he said, “Behold, as your life was precious this day in my sight [David could have killed him but he didn’t], so may my life be precious [now watch this] in the sight of the Lord, and may he deliver me out of all tribulation” (1 Sam. 26:24).

David knew what we are supposed to know as followers of Jesus, God treats us the way we treat others.  So, God blesses the merciful with mercy and forgivers with forgiveness and the compassionate with compassion (Matt. 5:7; 6:14-15; 18:33-35).

It is not a question of what do these people deserve from me, but rather how do I want to be treated by God?

Through the Bible, March 25

Reading: 1 Samuel 24-25

Summary: David finds himself with an opportunity to end this horrible life on the run when Saul accidentally provides an easy chance for David to kill him.  Few people would ever do as David did.  He refused to kill the one who so desperately wanted to kill him.  No matter what, Saul was still God’s anointed king.

After a very brief (almost unfairly so) announcement of Samuel’s death, the incident of Nabal and Abigail is related.  This event gives some insight into David’s life on the run.

Devotional Thought:

Who Will Be Remembered?

“After I’m dead I’d rather have people ask why I have no monument than why I have one” (Cato).

First Samuel chapter 25 opens with the matter of fact statement, “Now Samuel died.”  Another sentence follows, but that’s it.

Taking notice of Samuel’s death in understated fashion is typical for the Bible: two sentences and twenty words total (in the ESV).  That’s barely an acknowledgment and seems hardly fitting for such a spiritual giant and courageous leader of God’s people.  Does he not deserve more than that?

Compare that to David’s son Absalom.  Hardly a more conniving, scheming, disrespectful, and self-absorbed person can be found in Scripture.  Yes, when he died, this rebel’s body was thrown into a pit and covered with stones (2 Sam. 18:17), but previously Absalom had taken measures toward preserving his posterity:  “Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and set up for himself the pillar that is in the King’s Valley…and it is called Absalom’s monument to this day” (2 Sam. 18:18).

Absalom had a monument; Samuel did not.

Or did they?

Really, Samuel’s monument is his own life.  His service, faithfulness, commitment, and love for God and His people are unequalled.

To this very day, we are blessed by knowing about Samuel and are encouraged to a deeper and stronger relationship with God by his life.  That is Samuel’s monument.

Where’s Absalom’s?

Through the Bible, March 24

Reading: 1 Samuel 21-23

Summary: David soon learns that even those who would provide assistance to him are not safe from Saul’s fury, even priests of God.  As David begins his life on the run from Saul, he finds many other troubled people are drawn to him and he becomes the leader of a growing group of people–his own private following army.

Devotional Thought:

Do the Best You Know to Do

Do you have dreams?  Aspirations?  Goals? Are you on your way to achieving them?

Really? Or are you like most people who think about them and wish for them, but no real move has yet been made on your part?

Frequently that inactivity is justified on the basis of “waiting on the Lord.”  It’s as if they’re expecting God to drop something in their lap, give them a discernible nudge when the right opportunity comes along or something like that.

It’s one thing to act like God plays no role in our lives and just barrel ahead with no regard for Him or His will.  I believe the Bible has something to say about that (see James 4:13-17).  It is another to just sit around and expect God to do it all for us.

Notice what David did when he had to run for his life from King Saul.  He hid out at the cave of Adullam and when his family heard, they came to him there (1 Sam. 22:1).  That was not a good place for his parents so he went to the king of Moab and said, “Please let my father and my mother stay with you, till I know what God will do for me” (1 Sam. 22:3).

David did not yet know for sure what God’s plans were.  But David didn’t just sit around waiting.  He did the best that he knew to do given the circumstances and his limited knowledge.  He was confident that given time, he would better know God’s will, but for now this is what he would do.

Sure we would all like to possess a clear and definitive understanding of what we should do in every circumstance.  Rarely are we afforded such a luxury.  Rather, like David, we need to do the best we know to do in the given situation.

Don’t just sit around, get going!

Through the Bible, March 23

Reading: 1 Samuel 19-20

Summary: Saul’s anger and hatred toward David only grows stronger.  Fortunately, David and Jonathan’s friendship has also grown very, very strong.  Jonathan is able to arrange for David’s successful escape, much to his father’s indignation.

David will never again be able to live in the comfort and security of a home, much less the king’s household, as long as Saul remains alive.

Devotional Thought:

Crazy Saul

King Saul was a crazy man. Some people diagnose him as severely bi-polar.  I don’t know about all that, maybe he was.

What I do know is that he was a selfish man.

Notice this fundamental difference between Saul and David; Saul thought David should die because as long as he lived Jonathan, Saul’s son, would not be able to become king. Yet David thought Saul should live, solely based on the fact that he had been anointed by God as king (1 Sam. 20:31; 26:6).

Saul’s thinking was purely Saul-centered; David’s was God-centered.

When Jonathan challenged his father’s reasoning and suggested David had done nothing worthy of death, Saul maliciously hurled his spear at Jonathan, his own son (1 Sam. 20:33).  The idea of what was right and just only enraged him.

When David’s men argued that Saul should be killed when the opportunity arose (1 Sam 26:8), the idea of what was within David’s rights (self-defense) wasn’t motivation enough for him to act. He refused to use a notion of justice to his own selfish ends.  Greater than his own rights was God’s honor.

The same issue that separated Saul and David challenges us as followers of Jesus. The Savior said that if we are to follow Him, the first requirement–the first–is that we deny self (Matt. 16:24).

When it comes to following Jesus, am I more like David or Saul?