Thursday, April 30, 2009

Wither away? Or Attack?

David is King of Israel.

Sort of. He is living in Hebron, and rules over the southern half of the country.

After seven years the leaders of the rest of the country come and install him as king.

Not all the land has been conquered. Right in the middle of their territory, is a fortress, a stronghold of the Jebusites. They know David is a mighty warrior. They also know their city is impregnable.

So they mock David. "Even the disabled and blind can defend this place against David!"



David consults with his "guys." He promises the commander of the army position to the first one in. Joab gets in, and becomes the first general of David's reign.

4 -6 David and all Israel went to Jerusalem (it was the old Jebus, where the Jebusites lived). The citizens of Jebus told David, "No trespassing—you can't come here." David came on anyway and captured the fortress of Zion, the City of David. David had said, "The first person to kill a Jebusite will be commander-in-chief." Joab son of Zeruiah was the first; and he became the chief.

The waterway is mentioned. I think he found the underground tunnel that fed water to the city and used it to penetrate their defenses.

This is a major victory for David.

7 -9 David took up residence in the fortress city; that's how it got its name, "City of David." David fortified the city all the way around, both the outer bulwarks (the Millo) and the outside wall. Joab rebuilt the city gates. David's stride became longer, his embrace larger—yes, God-of-the-Angel-Armies was with him!

So what was David's biggest obstacle, became his hallmark. His namesake.

How about you? Facing obstacles.

Wither away? Or Attack?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Who's in your family tree?

Chronicle - a record or narrative description of past events.

We are in the BOOK of Chronicles, chapters 7-9. It is a record of the family tree of Israel. Most of it drones on... Sometimes there is a tidbit of interest.

So this one family had sons, and among the sons were two cattle thieves! Dangerous profession, even if exciting and lucrative. Sure enough, they were on a raid and got killed! Dad mourns his two thieving sons... It's all in the Bible!

20 -24 "The sons of Ephraim were Shuthelah, Bered his son... Ezer and Elead, cattle-rustlers, killed on one of their raids by the natives of Gath. Their father Ephraim grieved a long time and his family gathered to give him comfort."

I think I would rather be remembered in the Bible as the following family:

"These were Asher's sons, all of them responsible, excellent in character, and brave in battle—good leaders."

Or there is the dude called Shaharaim. (Lookin' for a name for your soon to be born son? Maybe pass on this one) He had some family problems.

8 -12 "In the land of Moab, Shaharaim had children after he divorced his wives Hushim and Baara. From his new wife Hodesh he had Jobab, Zibia, Mesha, Malcam, Jeuz, Sakia, and Mirmah—sons who became heads of families. From his earlier wife Hushim he had Abitub and Elpaal. Elpaal's sons were Eber, Misham, and Shemed, who built Ono and Lod with all their villages."

There were the preachers and pastors...

10 -13 "From the company of priests there were Jedaiah... the son the son of Ahitub, who was in charge of taking care of the house of God; Adaiah son of Jeroham... The priests, all of them heads of families, numbered 1,760, skilled and seasoned servants in the work of worshiping God."

Worship leaders...

33 -34 "And then there were the musicians, all heads of Levite families. They had permanent living quarters in The Temple; because they were on twenty-four-hour duty, they were exempt from all other duties. These were the heads of Levite families as designated in their family tree. They lived in Jerusalem."

And the passage ends with Saul's final epitaph:

Here lies Saul, first king of Israel.
13 -14 "Saul died in disobedience, disobedient to God. He didn't obey God's words. Instead of praying, he went to a witch to seek guidance. Because he didn't go to God for help, God took his life and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse."

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Singing da Blues...


Ya EVER felt down?
Da DA da da da...
Worl' STOPPED going roun'
Da DA da da da...
No POINT goin' on
Da DA da da da...
God's NOT coming down
Da DA da da da...
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Ever felt like singin' da blues?
o
Here is the prayer for you...
o
Psalm 88
A Korah Prayer of Heman
1 -9 God, you're my last chance of the day. I spend the night on my knees before you. Put me on your salvation agenda; take notes on the trouble I'm in. I've had my fill of trouble; I'm camped on the edge of hell. I'm written off as a lost cause, one more statistic, a hopeless case. Abandoned as already dead, one more body in a stack of corpses, And not so much as a gravestone— I'm a black hole in oblivion.
o
You've dropped me into a bottomless pit, sunk me in a pitch-black abyss. I'm battered senseless by your rage, relentlessly pounded by your waves of anger. You turned my friends against me, made me horrible to them. I'm caught in a maze and can't find my way out, blinded by tears of pain and frustration.
o
9 -12 I call to you, God; all day I call. I wring my hands, I plead for help. Are the dead a live audience for your miracles? Do ghosts ever join the choirs that praise you? Does your love make any difference in a graveyard? Is your faithful presence noticed in the corridors of hell? Are your marvelous wonders ever seen in the dark, your righteous ways noticed in the Land of No Memory? 13 -18 I'm standing my ground, God, shouting for help, at my prayers every morning, on my knees each daybreak.
o
Why, God, do you turn a deaf ear? Why do you make yourself scarce? For as long as I remember I've been hurting; I've taken the worst you can hand out, and I've had it. Your wildfire anger has blazed through my life; I'm bleeding, black-and-blue. You've attacked me fiercely from every side, raining down blows till I'm nearly dead. You made lover and neighbor alike dump me;
o
the only friend I have left is Darkness.

A Song to Our Strong God!


Did David and his boys know how to light up the night?
I think so-o-o-o-o-o

Psalm 81
An Asaph Psalm

Si-i-i-i-i-ng...

1 -5 "A song to our strong God!"

now - - SHOUT!

"a shout to the God of Jacob!"

Ready? Bring in the choir...

"Anthems from the choir,"

one... two... three... four...

"music from the band,"

Come in strings...

"sweet sounds from lute and harp,"

Now brass...

"Trumpets and trombones and horns:"

ALL TOGETHER...

"it's festival day, a feast to God!"
A day decreed by God,
solemnly ordered by the God of Jacob."

Repeat!

On the beat!

1 -5 "A song to our strong God! a shout to the God of Jacob! Anthems from the choir, music from the band, sweet sounds from lute and harp, Trumpets and trombones and horns: it's festival day, a feast to God! A day decreed by God, solemnly ordered by the God of Jacob. He commanded Joseph to keep this day so we'd never forget what he did in Egypt. I hear this most gentle whisper from One I never guessed would speak to me: 6 -7 "I took the world off your shoulders, freed you from a life of hard labor. You called to me in your pain; I got you out of a bad place. I answered you from where the thunder hides, I proved you at Meribah Fountain."


Or on a more majestic note...

Psalm 93
1 -2 "God is King, robed and ruling,
God is robed and surging with strength.
And yes, the world is firm, immovable,
Your throne ever firm—you're Eternal!
3 -4 Sea storms are up, God,
Sea storms wild and roaring,
Sea storms with thunderous breakers.
Stronger than wild sea storms,
Mightier than sea-storm breakers,
Mighty God rules from High Heaven.
5 What you say goes—it always has.
"Beauty" and "Holy" mark your palace rule,
God, to the very end of time."

Music to exalt God has been going on since before the creation of the world...

Monday, April 27, 2009

Faith


So what do you do when your world is turned upside down and God seems to have abandoned you?

What do you do when you have prayed and prayed and prayed and it did no good? What a waste of effort. And for what?

What do you do when you've been a "good little girl", a "good little boy" and the result was just as bad or worse than the people "livin la vida loca"? And you think, "What's the use?"

We just finished a study by Andy Stanley in our Sunday School, and he made the point that our faith is the ultimate prize in the battle between God and Satan. Sure - our souls - but before that, our faith.

Know this.

Our faith is under all out attack.

It is not subtle.

It is not hidden.

Our faith is under all out attack.

What did the guy writing Psalm 77 do?

Look back.
11 -12 Once again I'll go over what God has done, lay out on the table the ancient wonders; I'll ponder all the things you've accomplished, and give a long, loving look at your acts.

Look up.
13 -15 O God! Your way is holy! No god is great like God! You're the God who makes things happen; you showed everyone what you can do— You pulled your people out of the worst kind of trouble, rescued the children of Jacob and Joseph.

Look Around.
16 -19 Ocean saw you in action, God, saw you and trembled with fear; Deep Ocean was scared to death. Clouds belched buckets of rain, Sky exploded with thunder, your arrows flashing this way and that. From Whirlwind came your thundering voice, Lightning exposed the world, Earth reeled and rocked. You strode right through Ocean, walked straight through roaring Ocean, but nobody saw you come or go. 20 Hidden in the hands of Moses and Aaron, You led your people like a flock of sheep.

Ultimately?

Get on your knees and surrender...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

When Faith Dies...

Did you think anger at God was recent?
Listen to Psalm 77.

An Asaph Psalm
1 "I yell out to my God, I yell with all my might, I yell at the top of my lungs. He listens."

I think all people everywhere turn to God when there is trouble.

2 -6 "I found myself in trouble and went looking for my Lord; my life was an open wound that wouldn't heal. When friends said, "Everything will turn out all right," I didn't believe a word they said."

"I remember God—and shake my head. I bow my head—then wring my hands. I'm awake all night—not a wink of sleep; I can't even say what's bothering me. I go over the days one by one, I ponder the years gone by. I strum my lute all through the night, wondering how to get my life together."

There is distress so deep that no one can share it. Typically we turn to God for help, for comfort. But what if He doesn't meet our expectations?

7 -10 "Will the Lord walk off and leave us for good? Will he never smile again? Is his love worn threadbare? Has his salvation promise burned out? Has God forgotten his manners? Has he angrily stalked off and left us? "

That's when we come to some conclusions. I need God. He isn't there. Maybe He doesn't care. Maybe He is powerless. What if? What if it is all a myth? A Sunday School story? A fantasy?

What if there NEVER WAS anything to this? It really is just a crutch? Leaned on by those too weak to face life head on?

"Just my luck," I said. "The High God goes out of business just the moment I need him."


What if?

What if?

That ain't right

Don't know if you ever saw the 2003 movie "Head of State." Chris Rock makes this great off the cuff speech that brings the crowd to its feet. The phrase he repeats again and again is, "That ain't right." The crowd chants with him... "that ain't right!"

Long before Chris Rock made up this movie, or wrote the speech, the writer of Psalm 73 had the same sentiment.

Psalm 73
An Asaph Psalm
1 -5 No doubt about it! God is good-good to good people, good to the good-hearted. But I nearly missed it, missed seeing his goodness.

I was looking the other way, looking up to the people At the top, envying the wicked who have it made, Who have nothing to worry about, not a care in the whole wide world.

"That ain't right!"

6 -10 Pretentious with arrogance, they wear the latest fashions in violence, Pampered and overfed, decked out in silk bows of silliness. They jeer, using words to kill; they bully their way with words. They're full of hot air, loudmouths disturbing the peace.

"That ain't right!"

People actually listen to them—can you believe it? Like thirsty puppies, they lap up their words. 11 -14 What's going on here? Is God out to lunch? Nobody's tending the store. The wicked get by with everything; they have it made, piling up riches.

"That ain't right!"

I've been stupid to play by the rules; what has it gotten me? A long run of bad luck, that's what— a slap in the face every time I walk out the door.

"That ain't right!"

Then the Psalmist turns a corner.

15 -20. . . Until I entered the sanctuary of God. Then I saw the whole picture: The slippery road you've put them on, with a final crash in a ditch of delusions. In the blink of an eye, disaster! A blind curve in the dark, and—nightmare! We wake up and rub our eyes....Nothing. There's nothing to them. And there never was.

"That there's RIGHT!"

21 -24 When I was beleaguered and bitter, totally consumed by envy, I was totally ignorant, a dumb ox in your very presence. I'm still in your presence, but you've taken my hand. You wisely and tenderly lead me, and then you bless me.

"That there's RIGHT!"

25 -28 You're all I want in heaven! You're all I want on earth! When my skin sags and my bones get brittle, God is rock-firm and faithful.

"That there's RIGHT!"

Look! Those who left you are falling apart! Deserters, they'll never be heard from again.

"That there's RIGHT!"

But I'm in the very presence of God— oh, how refreshing it is! I've made Lord God my home. God, I'm telling the world what you do!

"That there's RIGHT!"

"That there's RIGHT!"

"That there's RIGHT!"

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Break Out in Song!



I like to sing.
In fact, I am singing a lot of the time. Sometimes I don't even know if the song is inside my head or out where others can hear it. Sometimes I am just humming.

A while ago a rather sensational study was published that said that many people found a more intense pleasure from music than even from sex!

Well, King David was musical. He played the harp. He composed music. He made up poems, and set them to music. Many of his prayers were songs. Maybe he prayed as he sang, or sang as he prayed. He was comfortable with praying, and worshipping and singing.

Don't remember reading anything at all about King Saul and worship. If you remember a few blogs ago, Saul kept his religion right to the end, but his religion was empty of any relationship with God. It was an empty shell of ritual for show...

David had relationship with God. So it is not a great surprise to read this...

David's Worship Leaders
31 -32 "These are the persons David appointed to lead the singing in the house of God after the Chest was placed there. They were the ministers of music in the place of worship, which was the Tent of Meeting until Solomon built The Temple of God in Jerusalem. As they carried out their work, they followed the instructions given to them.
33 -38 These are the persons, together with their sons, who served by preparing for and directing worship: from the family of the Kohathites was Heman the choirmaster, the son of Joel... the son of Levi, the son of Israel.
39 -43 Heman's associate Asaph stood at his right hand. Asaph was the son of Berekiah... the son of Levi.
44 -47 Of the sons of Merari, the associates who stood at his left hand, was Ethan the son of Kishi... the son of Levi.
48 The rest of the Levites were assigned to all the other work in the place of worship, the house of God." (IChronicles 6)

A former pastor said, "lift your arms to God, and your heart will follow..." I remember looking around, and seeing all these old guys like me (I was 40 at the time) raising their arms and worshipping God with all their heart. Tears were not uncommon. I was impressed.

So I raised my arms to God, and found my heart followed!
We are built to worship.

The one we are designed to worship - is God.

So follow David's lead and pour your heart out to God - in music, in song, in prayer, in worship.

Friday, April 24, 2009

All for Nothing

Our reading today is I Chronicles 3-5. You might expect with a name like that to read a report or a list. It does not dissappoint.

For example, we read that David had 7 wives and 19 sons plus a daughter Tamar mentioned by name. She comes up later. He also had concubines in addition to the wives and had an unnumbered amount of children with them.

Plus lots of other names and lists of families.

At the end of today's reading are two paragraphs. At first, this family group trusted God and cried out to God.
18 -22 "The families of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had 44,760 men trained for war—physically fit and skilled in handling shield, sword, and bow. They fought against the Hagrites, Jetur, Naphish, and Nodab. God helped them as they fought. God handed the Hagrites and all their allies over to them, because they cried out to him during the battle. God answered their prayers because they trusted him. They plundered the Hagrite herds and flocks: 50,000 camels, 250,000 sheep, and 2,000 donkeys. They also captured 100,000 people. Many were killed, because the battle was God's. They lived in that country until the exile."
So they flourished.
But laterthat group was not faithful to God.

23 -26 "The half-tribe of Manasseh had a large population. They occupied the land from Bashan to Baal Hermon, that is, to Senir (Mount Hermon). The heads of their families were Epher, Ishi, Eliel, Azriel, Jeremiah, Hodaviah, and Jahdiel—brave warriors, famous, and heads of their families. But they were not faithful to the God of their ancestors. They took up with the ungodly gods of the peoples of the land whom God had gotten rid of before they arrived. So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria (Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria) to take the families of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh into exile. He deported them to Halah, Habor, Hara, and the river of Gozan. They've been there ever since."
All their work and effort was for nothing.

God allowed the Assyrians (modern day Iraq) to attack, conquer and deport the entire bunch of them as foreigners and slaves.

Like the old TV show Lost in Space says: "Danger, Will Robinson. Danger!"

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Testosterone Driven Prayer

David was a musician, a poet, an artist. So he had the sensitive side to his personality. He could feel things deeply, and express them articulately.

However, he was also a "tough guy." As a kid, he is out in front, all alone, confronting the giant. In battle, he is in front of the troops, in the place of greatest danger. When chased by Saul, he and one other guy go right into the middle of the enemy camp and cut a piece of Sual's robe off. Gutsy!!

So it is really fun to hear this guy pray.

I call it testoterone driven prayer. Listen...
23 -26 "Get up, God! Are you going to sleep all day?

Wake up! Don't you care what happens to us?

Why do you bury your face in the pillow?

Why pretend things are just fine with us?

And here we are—flat on our faces in the dirt,

held down with a boot on our necks.

Get up and come to our rescue.

If you love us so much, Help us!" (Psalm 44)

I picture Sylvestore Stallone praying like this. Or Dolph Longren. Or David the warrior...


8 -9 "God-of-the-Angel-Armies, listen:

O God of Jacob, open your ears—I'm praying!

Look at our shields, glistening in the sun,

our faces, shining with your gracious anointing.

10 -12 One day spent in your house, this beautiful place of worship,

beats thousands spent on Greek island beaches.

I'd rather scrub floors in the house of my God

than be honored as a guest in the palace of sin.

All sunshine and sovereign is God,

generous in gifts and glory.

He doesn't scrimp with his traveling companions.

It's smooth sailing all the way with God-of-the-Angel-Armies." (Psalm 84)


4 -7 "Help us again, God of our help;

don't hold a grudge against us forever.

You aren't going to keep this up, are you?

scowling and angry, year after year?

Why not help us make a fresh start—a resurrection life?

Then your people will laugh and sing!

Show us how much you love us, God!

Give us the salvation we need!" (Psalm 85)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

How Majestic is Your Name!


David is now king of part of Israel. All during his adult life, he continued to journal, and write poems, and put his poetry to music.
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A collection of his writings are in the book called Psalms. Many of them were written during this time. Psalm 8 is one of my personal favorites, and a very well known worship song is based on it.
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It is S-O-O-O beautiful, and elegant, and worshipful, I have included it in its entirety...
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Psalm 8
For the director of music. According to gittith [a].
A psalm of David.

1 "O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
above the heavens.
2 From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise [b]
because of your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings [c]
and crowned him with glory and honor.
6 You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet:
7 all flocks and herds,
and the beasts of the field,
8 the birds of the air,
and the fish of the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.
9 O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!"

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Assasinations, War and Consolidation of Political Power

Dirty politicians!

We all say this with a certain amount of glee. They are rotten to the core. The whole bunch of them.

Bill Clinton and Blogoyavich are the faces of lying and corruption, but they are all a bunch of crooks...

Today we read about the second king in Israel, David, a man after God's own heart.

In this reading he takes on four more wives. One he rips away from her loving husband.

He "kills the messenger."

His guys start a civil war, which lasts for 7 years.

There are political assasinations.

There is intrigue, and plotting, spying and killing.

Wow! And this is only the SECOND king in Israel. And HE is a GOOD GUY!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Transition


David does not know it yet, but his life is about to turn dramatically for the better.

The experience that he is living does not seem that good. He tried to become part of the Philistine army and was rejected. He and his men went back to thier little town and discovered it had been raided and all their families as well as their property had been taken. The town burned to the ground. And Saul was still chasing him to kill him. Not great circumstances.

BUT!

They chase the Amalekites, get not only their own families and possessions back, but also all the other vast booty that had been siezed. So they got from broke to wealthy in the space of a few days.

Three days later, they get word that Saul and his sons have been killed in battle.

David asks God if he should return to Israel. The answer is yes, and the town of Hebron crowns him king. Big change in a few short days...

Here are some of the things David blogs during this time in his life.

Psalm 130
A Pilgrim Song
1 -2 Help, God—the bottom has fallen out of my life! Master, hear my cry for help!
Listen hard! Open your ears!
Listen to my cries for mercy.

Psalm 121
A Pilgrim Song
1 -2 I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains?
No, my strength comes from God,
who made heaven, and earth, and mountains...
7 -8 God guards you from every evil,
he guards your very life.
He guards you when you leave and when you return,
he guards you now, he guards you always.

Psalm 124
A Pilgrim Song of David
1 -5 If God hadn't been for us —all together now, Israel, sing out!—
If God hadn't been for us
when everyone went against us,
We would have been swallowed alive
by their violent anger,
Swept away by the flood of rage,
drowned in the torrent;
We would have lost our lives
in the wild, raging water.
6 Oh, blessed be God!
He didn't go off and leave us.
He didn't abandon us defenseless,
helpless as a rabbit in a pack of snarling dogs...
8 God's strong name is our help,
the same God who made heaven and earth.
He put his poems to music and had the whole country singing God's praises.
I especially like the phrase "—all together now, Israel, sing out!— "

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Hypocrisy!

Today we read the tragic end of Saul's downhill slide.

It began with willful disobedience, hypocrisy and lying.

When confronted he did not repent, but made excuses.

The Lord left him, and sent him a tormenting spirit in His place. Saul never did repent, but he did continue to be religious right to the end.

So can you live without the Spirit of God, yet maintain a posture of religiosity and self righteous pomposity? HECK YEAH! Happens all the time.

Here is the story.

3 Samuel was now dead. All Israel had mourned his death and buried him in Ramah, his hometown. Saul had long since cleaned out all those who held séances with the dead."

So Saul had obeyed the command to have no witches or seers or necromancers in Israel.

Once again the Philistines are on the attack.

4 -5 "The Philistines had mustered their troops and camped at Shunem. Saul had assembled all Israel and camped at Gilboa. But when Saul saw the Philistine troops, he shook in his boots, scared to death.
6 Saul prayed to God, but God didn't answer—neither by dream nor by sign nor by prophet."

Saul is still religious. He wants and needs God's favor. At the very least, God's direction.

7 "So Saul ordered his officials, "Find me someone who can call up spirits so I may go and seek counsel from those spirits."
His servants said, "There's a witch at Endor."

Of course, his response should have been, "What? A witch? She needs to be killed. And how do YOU GUYS know she is there? Haven't I given orders that there be NO witches in the land, according to God's very specific instructions.?

That SHOULD HAVE BEEN his response. But it wasn't.

8 "Saul disguised himself by putting on different clothes. Then, taking two men with him, he went under the cover of night to the woman and said, "I want you to consult a ghost for me. Call up the person I name."
9 The woman said, "Just hold on now! You know what Saul did, how he swept the country clean of mediums. Why are you trying to trap me and get me killed?"
10 Saul swore solemnly, "As God lives, you won't get in any trouble for this."
11 The woman said, "So whom do you want me to bring up?"
"Samuel. Bring me Samuel."

So Saul blatantly disobeyed God by doing this. I guess his justification would be "desperate times call for desperate measures..." As far as I know, this is the only time in the Bible that an ACTUAL dead person came up in response to a witch. Usually it is a demon who impersonates the dead person. It appears obvious the Samuel HIMSELF actually came up from the dead.
12 "When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out loudly to Saul, "Why did you lie to me? You're Saul!"
13 The king told her, "You have nothing to fear ...but what do you see?"
"I see a spirit ascending from the underground."
14 "And what does he look like?" Saul asked.
"An old man ascending, robed like a priest."
Saul knew it was Samuel. He fell down, face to the ground, and worshiped.
15 Samuel said to Saul, "Why have you disturbed me by calling me up?"
"Because I'm in deep trouble," said Saul. "The Philistines are making war against me and God has deserted me—he doesn't answer me any more, either by prophet or by dream. And so I'm calling on you to tell me what to do."

He is still religious. He is still unrepentant. Samuel lays into him...

16 -19 "Why ask me?" said Samuel. "God has turned away from you and is now on the side of your neighbor. God has done exactly what he told you through me—ripped the kingdom right out of your hands and given it to your neighbor. It's because you did not obey God, refused to carry out his seething judgment on Amalek, that God does to you what he is doing today. Worse yet, God is turning Israel, along with you, over to the Philistines. Tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. And, yes, indeed, God is giving Israel's army up to the Philistines."
20 -22 Saul dropped to the ground, felled like a tree, terrified by Samuel's words. There wasn't an ounce of strength left in him—he'd eaten nothing all day and all night. The woman, realizing that he was in deep shock, said to him, "Listen to me. I did what you asked me to do, put my life in your hands in doing it, carried out your instructions to the letter. It's your turn to do what I tell you: Let me give you some food. Eat it. It will give you strength so you can get on your way." 23 -25 He refused. "I'm not eating anything."


Big battle. Army of Israel is slaughtered. Saul and his three sons are all killed.

End of Saul, his hypocrisy, his dynasty.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Trust? Or Suspicion?

David was an honorable man.

But he was also a warrior, a political leader, and very cunning.

In today's reading of Samuel 25 - 27 there are many great stories. I am struck today by the very last one, where David goes to live among the enemy - the Philistines.

2 -4 "So David left; he and his six hundred men went to Achish son of Maoch, king of Gath. They moved in and settled down in Gath, with Achish. Each man brought his household; David brought his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, widow of Nabal of Carmel. When Saul was told that David had escaped to Gath, he called off the hunt."
So this king took in David, his 600 fighting men, and their families. Should he have trusted David? Well, the deception has just started.

5 "Then David said to Achish, "If it's agreeable to you, assign me a place in one of the rural villages. It doesn't seem right that I, your mere servant, should be taking up space in the royal city."
6 -7 So Achish assigned him Ziklag. (This is how Ziklag got to be what it is now, a city of the kings of Judah.) David lived in Philistine country a year and four months."
David didn't want to be right under the nose of the Philistine king, because he would have been exposed sooner or later. So he asked to take over a town on the outer edge of the king's territory.

8 -9 "From time to time David and his men raided the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites—these people were longtime inhabitants of the land stretching toward Shur and on to Egypt. When David raided an area he left no one alive, neither man nor woman, but took everything else: sheep, cattle, donkeys, camels, clothing—the works. Then he'd return to Achish."
Achish thought he was keeping tabs on his enemy, but he didn't do due diligence. He accepted the answer at face value.

10 -11 "Achish would ask, "And whom did you raid today?"
David would tell him, "Oh, the Negev of Judah," or "The Negev of Jerahmeel," or "The Negev of the Kenites." He never left a single person alive lest one show up in Gath and report what David had really been doing. This is the way David operated all the time he lived in Philistine country.
12 Achish came to trust David completely. He thought, "He's made himself so repugnant to his people that he'll be in my camp forever."
Didn't happen that way. Once Saul was killed by the Philistines, David would rise to be King of Israel.
Be careful whom you trust...


Friday, April 17, 2009

Abigail

Samuel died.

But it is only FIRST Samuel 25. There is more to First Samuel, then there is all of Second Samuel. So I'm guessing that Samuel didn't write these books!

So David, still on the move, goes to Maon, which I gather is the Siberia of Israel.

He is now a guerilla warfare warrior, whether he wanted to be or not. 600 men, moving around from place to place, need a lot of food and supplies. They are also a rather terrifying presence to have move into your area.

A rich man called Nabal lived in Maon, married to Abigail.

"The woman was intelligent and good-looking,
the man brutish and mean. "

So, how this THESE two get together? I guess wives were assigned in those days, rather than being wooed and courted. Reminds me of the joke, "We got married for better or for worse. He couldn't do any better. She couldn't do any worse!"

4 -8 "David, out in the backcountry, heard that Nabal was shearing his sheep and sent ten of his young men off with these instructions: "Go to Carmel and approach Nabal. Greet him in my name, 'Peace! Life and peace to you. Peace to your household, peace to everyone here! I heard that it's sheep-shearing time. Here's the point: When your shepherds were camped near us we didn't take advantage of them. They didn't lose a thing all the time they were with us in Carmel. Ask your young men—they'll tell you. What I'm asking is that you be generous with my men—share the feast! Give whatever your heart tells you to your servants and to me, David your son.'"

David needs food, Nabal is the big landowner of the area. We protected you, now cough up the dough. Nabal isn't impressed...

"Nabal tore into them, "Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? The country is full of runaway servants these days. Do you think I'm going to take good bread and wine and meat freshly butchered for my sheepshearers and give it to men I've never laid eyes on? Who knows where they've come from?"

Now it's David's turn to not be impressed.

12 -13 David's men got out of there and went back and told David what he had said. David said, "Strap on your swords!" They all strapped on their swords, David and his men, and set out, four hundred of them."

Enter Abigail.

18 -19 "Abigail flew into action. She took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five sheep dressed out and ready for cooking, a bushel of roasted grain, a hundred raisin cakes, and two hundred fig cakes, and she had it all loaded on some donkeys. Then she said to her young servants, "Go ahead and pave the way for me. I'm right behind you." But she said nothing to her husband Nabal.
20 -22 As she was riding her donkey, descending into a ravine, David and his men were descending from the other end, so they met there on the road. David had just said, "That sure was a waste, guarding everything this man had out in the wild so that nothing he had was lost—and now he rewards me with insults. A real slap in the face! May God do his worst to me if Nabal and every cur in his misbegotten brood aren't dead meat by morning!"
23 -25 As soon as Abigail saw David, she got off her donkey and fell on her knees at his feet, her face to the ground in homage, saying, "My master, let me take the blame! Let me speak to you. Listen to what I have to say. Don't dwell on what that brute Nabal did. He acts out the meaning of his name: Nabal, Fool. Foolishness oozes from him...
25 -27 " Now take this gift that I, your servant girl, have brought to my master, and give it to the young men who follow in the steps of my master.
28 -29 "Forgive my presumption! But God is at work in my master, developing a rule solid and dependable. My master fights God's battles! As long as you live no evil will stick to you.
If anyone stands in your way,
if anyone tries to get you out of the way,
Know this: Your God-honored life is tightly bound i
n the bundle of God-protected life;
But the lives of your enemies will be hurled aside
as a stone is thrown from a sling..."

David is impressed. VERY impressed.

32 -34 "And David said, "Blessed be God, the God of Israel. He sent you to meet me! And blessed be your good sense! Bless you for keeping me from murder and taking charge of looking out for me. A close call! As God lives, the God of Israel who kept me from hurting you, if you had not come as quickly as you did, stopping me in my tracks, by morning there would have been nothing left of Nabal but dead meat."
35 Then David accepted the gift she brought him and said, "Return home in peace. I've heard what you've said and I'll do what you've asked."

End of the story? She returns home to find her husband rolling drunk at a big party he threw.

She waits until morning to tell him what happened.

He has a massive heart attack and dies!

David (who was VERY IMPRESSED with Abigail) loses no time. He sends for her to be his wife.

She agrees, and marries him.

Drugs, sex and violence. Sounds like a modern movie...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Blogging - Old Skool


The Story
David had done nothing wrong.
He was running for his life.
He went to the priest, and asked for something to eat. The priest gave him the holy bread, and Goliath's sword.
One of the king's officials happened to be there. He accused the innocent priest of aiding and abetting the enemy. Saul had the priest killed, plus 85 other priests. David was furious!

The Blog
So David worshipped, and fumed, and prayed.
And wrote down his jumbled thoughts.
Here they are - blogging old skool...

A David Psalm, When Doeg the Edomite Reported to Saul, "David's at Ahimelech's House"

1 -4 Why do you brag of evil, "Big Man"?
God's mercy carries the day.
You scheme catastrophe;
your tongue cuts razor-sharp,
artisan in lies.
You love evil more than good,
you call black white.
You love malicious gossip,
you foul-mouth.
5 God will tear you limb from limb,
sweep you up and throw you out,
Pull you up by the roots
from the land of life.
6 -7 Good people will watch and
worship. They'll laugh in relief:
"Big Man bet on the wrong horse,
trusted in big money,
made his living from catastrophe."
8 And I'm an olive tree,
growing green in God's house.
I trusted in the generous mercy
of God then and now.
9 I thank you always
that you went into action.
And I'll stay right here,
your good name my hope,
in company with your faithful friends. (Psalm 52)

Seasons


The sunshine came out yesterday.
This morning the birds are singing before dawn.
I think Spring has come to the Northwest.
Our winter was long, and cold, and dreary. Snow several times. Cold (for us) even in April. Lots of rain for a long time.

But life has seasons.
For a long time I was in a very good season. This time is a hard and bitter one for me. But it will pass, and better times will come again.

David in the Bible had seasons too. Right now he is running for his life. There are plots to kill him all around. Many folks are deceptively nice, but intend to betray him and hand him over to the out-of-control king. Fortunately for us, he liked to journal. Listen...

1 -2 God! God! I am running to you for dear life; the chase is wild.
If they catch me, I'm finished:
ripped to shreds by foes fierce as lions,
dragged into the forest and left
unlooked for, unremembered. (Psalm 7)

Be kind to me, God—
I'm in deep, deep trouble again.
I've cried my eyes out;
I feel hollow inside.
My life leaks away, groan by groan;
my years fade out in sighs.
My troubles have worn me out,
turned my bones to powder.
To my enemies I'm a monster;
I'm ridiculed by the neighbors.
My friends are horrified;
they cross the street to avoid me.
They want to blot me from memory,
forget me like a corpse in a grave,
discard me like a broken dish in the trash.
The street-talk gossip has me
"criminally insane"!
Behind locked doors they plot
how to ruin me for good." (Psalm 31)


A David Prayer—When He Was in the Cave
1 -2 I cry out loudly to God, loudly I plead with God for mercy.
I spill out all my complaints before him,
and spell out my troubles in detail:
3 -7 "As I sink in despair, my spirit ebbing away,
you know how I'm feeling,
Know the danger I'm in,
the traps hidden in my path.
Look right, look left—
there's not a soul who cares what happens!
I'm up against it, with no exit—
bereft, left alone.
I cry out, God, call out:
'You're my last chance, my only hope for life!'
Oh listen, please listen;
I've never been this low.
Rescue me from those who are hunting me down;
I'm no match for them." (Psalm 142)

Most of his writings (probably after a pause) end with praise to God.
10 -11 I'm proud to praise God,
proud to praise God.
Fearless now, I trust in God;
what can mere mortals do to me?
12 -13 God, you did everything you promised,
and I'm thanking you with all my heart.
You pulled me from the brink of death,
my feet from the cliff-edge of doom.
Now I stroll at leisure with God
in the sunlit fields of life. (Psalm 56)

Some seasons are great. Some seasons suck.
All seasons pass.
God's love and goodness are the only constants...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Who do you trust?

Who do you trust?

As you get older you get more cynical. It is the inevitable result of seeing more, and experiencing more, of the deceptions and betrayals that people do to each other (and to you).

David came fresh from the country, as a young man, to the palace of the king. He was a talented musician, so he got to be IN THE PRESENCE of the king! Imagine. Right there with the king himself. In the same room!

Well, time went on, and he became a celebrated warrior, and part of the royal family (by marrying the king's daughter). So things should have been great, right?

Well not exactly. The king first tried to kill him by hurling a spear at him. Not once, but three times. Enough to make you a little paranoid!

It got worse. Finally it was all out war. David had 600 men. And went from place to place, trying to hide, and avoid the king, who was out to kill him.

Could he trust his wife? Well, she saved his life, so, probably. However, eventually she was given to another man as husband.

Could he trust the Samuel? Yes he could, however, Saul sent men to kill him when he visited, and only God's miraculous intervention saved his life.

Could he trust the priests? Yes, Ahimelech the priest took him in, and gave him the holy bread to eat, and the sword from Goliath to use. But later Saul had Ahimelech and 85 other priests killed for this act of kindness.

Could he trust his enemies? No. He fled to one of their towns and they recognized him. He pretended to be crazy and got out with his life.

Could he trust a town he and his men rescued? The Philistines attacked the town of Keilah so David and his men attacked the Philistines and beat them. David and his men settled into the town - local heroes. Saul and the army soon set out to fight against the town. David asks the Lord, "Will Saul attack the town?" The answer came back, "Yes." "Will the people of the town turn me over?" The answer came back, "Yes".

Whoa! David beat it out of there...

Who can you trust?

So how did David survive in this crazy, treacherous, world he was in?

Here is the answer...

  • Psalm 27
    A David Psalm
  • 1 Light, space, zest— that's God!
  • So, with him on my side I'm fearless,
  • afraid of no one and nothing.
  • 2 When vandal hordes ride down
  • ready to eat me alive,
  • Those bullies and toughs
  • all flat on their faces.
  • 3 When besieged,
  • I'm calm as a baby.
  • When all hell breaks loose,
  • I'm collected and cool.
  • 4 I'm asking God for one thing,
  • only one thing:
  • To live with him in his house
  • my whole life long.
  • I'll contemplate his beauty;
  • I'll study at his feet.
  • 5 That's the only quiet, secure place
  • in a noisy world,
  • The perfect getaway,
  • far from the buzz of traffic.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dysfunctional Family

It's the first Royal Family in Israel.

Only one son is mentioned, and two daughters. Saul had two other sons who are only mentioned when they died.

David has come on the scene, first as a paid musician, then as a battlefield hero, then a permanent resident of the royal house. He spent some time as musician and soldier, then as son in law. Now he is a hated enemy and threat both to Saul and eventually, to his heir - Jonathan.

Saul has desended into bipolar disorder accompanied by a lot of family violence and double dealing. He offers David his oldest daughter in marriage, then renigs. The next daughter is in love with David, so he gives her to him. Three times he throws his spear at David. Three times David ducks in time to not get impaled to the wall. Apparently he was deft enough to get his harp out of the way as well, because he continued to play it.

Now his violent anger explodes on his son.

30 -31 "Saul exploded in anger at Jonathan: "You son of a slut! Don't you think I know that you're in cahoots with the son of Jesse, disgracing both you and your mother? For as long as the son of Jesse is walking around free on this earth, your future in this kingdom is at risk. Now go get him. Bring him here. From this moment, he's as good as dead!"
32 Jonathan stood up to his father. "Why dead? What's he done?"
33 Saul threw his spear at him to kill him. That convinced Jonathan that his father was fixated on killing David.
34 Jonathan stormed from the table, furiously angry, and ate nothing the rest of the day, upset for David and smarting under the humiliation from his father. "

This is the first family of the nation. The Royalty. The rulers.
They had all the "goodies" available at the time.
But I don't think there was a lot of happiness.

Did someone say once, "money doesn't buy happiness?"

Monday, April 13, 2009

What impresses God?

Wouldn't you like to know?

What impresses God.

Is it looks?
That has always been a powerful advantage over the ages. Never more than now, in the age of television. The very good looking are rewarded, and lauded, and given huge amounts of money, and fame. Their every movement is watched, and every event of their life recorded and broadcast.

Is it talent? In America we reward all kinds of talent richly. The best in their field are given hundreds of millions of dollars a year. God is the giver of talent. Is He impressed by talent?

Is it strength or physical dexterity? We reward people who are the best in feats of physicality, whether in sports, or the Olympic Games, or other feats of strength. Is God impressed by that?

In today's passage Samuel is sent to anoint the next king. He knows the king is going to come from the house of Jesse.

He has called everyone together to worship God. Jesse's first son presents himself. Hmmm, Samuel thinks to himself. Tall, dark and handsome. This is the one...

6 "When they arrived, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, "Here he is! God's anointed!"
7 But God told Samuel, "Looks aren't everything. Don't be impressed with his looks and stature. I've already eliminated him. God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart."

God looks at the heart!

All the sons present themselves. None of them is the chosen one.

11" Then he asked Jesse, "Is this it? Are there no more sons?"
"Well, yes, there's the runt. But he's out tending the sheep."
Samuel ordered Jesse, "Go get him. We're not moving from this spot until he's here."
12 Jesse sent for him. He was brought in, the very picture of health— bright-eyed, good-looking.
God said, "Up on your feet! Anoint him! This is the one."
13 Samuel took his flask of oil and anointed him, with his brothers standing around watching. The Spirit of God entered David like a rush of wind, God vitally empowering him for the rest of his life.
Samuel left and went home to Ramah. "

God looks at the heart.

He can use the talent. He can use the looks. He can use the strength, or bravery, or dexterity, or competetive spirit.

But what He cares about above all is the heart.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Greed, Hypocrisy, Lying, Manipulation, Disobedience


We all have a legacy.

How would you like this title to be your legacy?

Saul commits all of these in Samuel chapter 15.

Here is the story

1 -2 Samuel said to Saul, "God sent me to anoint you king over his people, Israel. Now, listen again to what God says. This is the God-of-the-Angel-Armies speaking:
2 -3 "'I'm about to get even with Amalek for ambushing Israel when Israel came up out of Egypt. Here's what you are to do: Go to war against Amalek. Put everything connected with Amalek under a holy ban. And no exceptions! This is to be total destruction—men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys—the works.'"

So God wants this people wiped out. That would seem like an unsavory task to us now a days. In fact, the term "ethnic cleansing" sends shivers of revulsion down our spine.

However, that part caused Saul no pause at all.

7 -9 Then Saul went after Amalek, from the canyon all the way to Shur near the Egyptian border. He captured Agag, king of Amalek, alive. Everyone else was killed under the terms of the holy ban. Saul and the army made an exception for Agag, and for the choice sheep and cattle. They didn't include them under the terms of the holy ban. But all the rest, which nobody wanted anyway, they destroyed as decreed by the holy ban. "

What he had a hard time doing, was destroying all that great booty. After all, the reward for winning a war was that you got to take over everything they owned. It was all or nothing. You either lost your life (and everything you owned), or THEY lost their life, and you got the land, the houses, the fields, the clothes, the gold - you got it ALL.

So Saul had rallied the troops. They had wiped out all these people. They had wiped out a lot of good booty. But to completely destroy ALL of this great property? It seemed like a waste of a good war.

So he kept the king alive - and a lot of the best sheep and cattle.

Of course, his conscience bothered him, because Samuel had been pretty clear about what God had said. "Put everything connected with Amalek under a holy ban. And no exceptions! This is to be total destruction—men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys—the works.'"

So his greed was in play. But he wasn't finished demonstrating bad character.

In a different playing field altogether, God and Samuel were talking. 10 -11 "Then God spoke to Samuel: "I'm sorry I ever made Saul king. He's turned his back on me. He refuses to do what I tell him."

Samuel's reaction? 11 -12 "Samuel was angry when he heard this. He prayed his anger and disappointment all through the night. He got up early in the morning to confront Saul."

Here comes the hypocrisy... Samuel finds Saul trying to appease his guilty conscience by sacrificing some of the plunder (that he was not supposed to have) to God. Saul sees Samuel coming and says, "God's blessings on you! I accomplished God's plan to the letter!"

OK. Hypocricy AND lying.

Saul doesn't know that Samuel has heard from God and has spent the night praying and sorrowing over Saul's disobedience.

If you are going to lie - lie big! 15 "Only some Amalekite loot," said Saul. "The soldiers saved back a few of the choice cattle and sheep to offer up in sacrifice to God. But everything else we destroyed under the holy ban."

Oh! And some manipulation also. The SOLDIERS kept some, in order to sacrifice them. Saul had NO control over his soldiers. They just did whatever they pleased. (YEAH RIGHT!)

Samuel confronts him. So does he repent? No way! He justifies himself, lies again, and tries to manipulate his way out of the situation.

20 -21 "Saul defended himself. "What are you talking about? I did obey God. I did the job God set for me. I brought in King Agag and destroyed the Amalekites under the terms of the holy ban. So the soldiers saved back a few choice sheep and cattle from the holy ban for sacrifice to God at Gilgal—what's wrong with that?"

That is the end of Saul's reign. Oh he is still king for some 13 years. But God is finished with him, and his reign is over in God's eyes.

Saul's legacy is Greed, Hypocrisy, Lying, Manipulation, Disobedience.

What's mine going to be?

Yours?

Irrational

What followed was simply - Irrational

Jonathan and his guys are busy killing Philistines. 25 -27 "There were honeycombs here and there in the fields. But no one so much as put his finger in the honey to taste it, for the soldiers to a man feared the curse. But Jonathan hadn't heard his father put the army under oath. He stuck the tip of his staff into some honey and ate it. Refreshed, his eyes lit up with renewed vigor. "

Saul doesn't hear from God, so decides (quite on his own) to consult God through the priest and see who has "sinned"

42 "Next Saul said, "Cast the lots between me and Jonathan—and death to the one God points to!"
The soldiers protested, "No—this is not right. Stop this!" But Saul pushed on anyway. They cast the lots, Urim and Thummim, and the lot fell to Jonathan.
43 Saul confronted Jonathan. "What did you do? Tell me!"
Jonathan said, "I licked a bit of honey off the tip of the staff I was carrying. That's it—and for that I'm to die?"

Right here - Saul had a choice. Follow common sense, or press forward in his foolishness.

44 Saul said, "Yes. Jonathan most certainly will die. It's out of my hands— I can't go against God, can I?"

Fortunately, the soldiers had more sense than their new leader. 45 "The soldiers rose up: "Jonathan—die? Never! He's just carried out this stunning salvation victory for Israel. As surely as God lives, not a hair on his head is going to be harmed. Why, he's been working hand-in-hand with God all day!" The soldiers rescued Jonathan and he didn't die. "

Leadership is a tricky skill. Part art part temperament part wisdom part courage.

In this incident, Saul blew it. In today's politics, he would have been thrown out of office. Although he stayed on as king, I'm sure his soldiers had less respect and admiration for him after this event.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Impetuous


im·pet·u·ous
1 : marked by impulsive vehemence or passion 2 : marked by force and violence of movement or action

Today we read a gripping story. But in the background is this looming tragedy.

It starts with an act of bravery. "Jonathan attacked and killed the Philistine governor stationed at Geba (Gibeah). When the Philistines heard the news, they raised the alarm: "The Hebrews are in revolt!" Saul ordered the reveille trumpets blown throughout the land. The word went out all over Israel, "Saul has killed the Philistine governor—drawn first blood! The Philistines are stirred up and mad as hornets!" Summoned, the army came to Saul at Gilgal. "

Act 2 is disaster. Saul assembles an army, but they melt just looking at the huge and invincible Philistine force. They start running away, hiding in caves and pits, even running away as far east as the other side of the Jordan river!

Now Saul only has 600 warriors left, and they haven't even started fighting!

Act three is an incredible story all by itself. 23 "A patrol of Philistines took up a position at Micmash Pass. (1 Samuel 14)1 -3 Later that day, Jonathan, Saul's son, said to his armor bearer, "Come on, let's go over to the Philistine garrison patrol on the other side of the pass." But he didn't tell his father."

Jonathan and his armor bearer kick butt! 14 -15 "In this first bloody encounter, Jonathan and his armor bearer killed about twenty men."

Not only did they fight incredibly, but their little victory had a cascading effect on the rest of teh Philistines. " That set off a terrific upheaval in both camp and field, the soldiers in the garrison and the raiding squad badly shaken up, the ground itself shuddering—panic like you've never seen before! "

Act 4. All the Israelites join the fray and get a huge victory. 20 -23 "Saul immediately called his army together and they went straight to the battle. When they got there they found total confusion—Philistines swinging their swords wildly, killing each other. Hebrews who had earlier defected to the Philistine camp came back. They now wanted to be with Israel under Saul and Jonathan. Not only that, but when all the Israelites who had been hiding out in the backwoods of Ephraim heard that the Philistines were running for their lives, they came out and joined the chase. God saved Israel! What a day! "

Act 5. Saul is Impetuous. 24 "Saul did something really foolish that day. He addressed the army: "A curse on the man who eats anything before evening, before I've wreaked vengeance on my enemies!" None of them ate a thing all day. "

Of course, he didn't know that the ONE person who had had the courage to confront this huge and fearsome military force was Jonathan, and Jonathan, who was too busy fighting to sit around and hear his father's impetuous burst of idiocy, was the one person who was going to eat something that day.

Have you ever done something impetuous?

Do you have the courage and wisdom to realize it was stupid, stop it, correct it and change course as needed?

Impatient


There are lots of great stories in today's reading of Samuel 13 and 14. Especially the one of how brave Jonathan was, and how he and his armor bearer single handedly turned the tide of war.

However, what has always bothered me is Saul's relationship to God. I think he was a very typical North American. So I am reading about me. And about you.

Impatient.

Saul is in a big battle with the Philistines. 6 -7 "When the Israelites saw that they were way outnumbered and in deep trouble, they ran for cover, hiding in caves and pits, ravines and brambles and cisterns—wherever. They retreated across the Jordan River, refugees fleeing to the country of Gad and Gilead. But Saul held his ground in Gilgal, his soldiers still with him but scared to death.
8 He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel. Samuel failed to show up at Gilgal, and the soldiers were slipping away, right and left."

The odds are against him. His soldiers are leaving him. He waits SEVEN days. Action is called for. Enough sitting around, waiting. Samuel hasn't come. Just because Samuel is a loser doesn't mean that Saul has to be a loser. What is an insecure, young, newly appointed king to do?

Well - he takes matters into his own hands. We need God's direction, and we need it now. God is like a puppet on a string. A genie in a bottle that you rub and it does what you command. God needs offerings before He will speak? OK. Let's make offerings. 9 -10 "So Saul took charge: "Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings!" He went ahead and sacrificed the burnt offering. No sooner had he done it than Samuel showed up! Saul greeted him. "


Hi Sam. How are you doing? What took you so long? Samuel is neither amused nor pleased. 11 -12 "Samuel said, "What on earth are you doing?"

Saul feels no smidge of humility or repentance. No way! "Saul answered, "When I saw I was losing my army from under me, and that you hadn't come when you said you would, and that the Philistines were poised at Micmash, I said, 'The Philistines are about to come down on me in Gilgal, and I haven't yet come before God asking for his help.' So I took things into my own hands, and sacrificed the burnt offering."

Listen Sam. I'm doing the right thing here. Things are desperate and I need to hear from God. He likes offerings, so I did an offering. How is that such a bad thing?

13 -14 "That was a fool thing to do," Samuel said to Saul. "If you had kept the appointment that your God commanded, by now God would have set a firm and lasting foundation under your kingly rule over Israel. As it is, your kingly rule is already falling to pieces. God is out looking for your replacement right now. This time he'll do the choosing. When he finds him, he'll appoint him leader of his people. And all because you didn't keep your appointment with God!"
15 At that, Samuel got up and left Gilgal. "

Saul heard. But he didn't hear. He didn't repent. Didn't ask for direction. Didn't change his course of action. Waiting to God was too hard. Too risky. Action was called for. So... "What army there was left followed Saul into battle. They went into the hills from Gilgal toward Gibeah in Benjamin. Saul looked over and assessed the soldiers still with him—a mere six hundred! "

Round one. Saul is impatient. Although he wants God's direction, and God's blessing, he is not willing to either wait for God (God is WAY too slow!) or do things God's way. Samuel says that God is already looking for someone different to be king instead of Saul.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Eye eye, sir!

Today is Good Friday, but in our reading, we are introduced to Saul, son of Kish. "Saul, a most handsome young man. There was none finer—he literally stood head and shoulders above the crowd! "
What an auspicious beginning!

God tells Samuel that Saul is the chosen king. Samuel gives Saul four miraculous signs that he is the chosen one, and anoints him. All come true, and Saul recieves the holy spirit and starts prophesying with a group of prophets.

Later, 17 -18 "Samuel called the people to assemble before God at Mizpah". He gives them a message, lines them up, and begins a process of elimination to pick the king. Saul is chosen.

Samuel presents Saul to the people as their new king, and they all go home. Nothing much has changed at that point. In fact, "the riffraff went off muttering, "Deliverer? Don't make me laugh!" They held him in contempt and refused to congratulate him. But Saul paid them no mind."

Things were about to change. Over across the Jordan, the Israelites were suffering.

"Nahash, king of the Ammonites, was brutalizing the tribes of Gad and Reuben, gouging out their right eyes and intimidating anyone who would come to Israel's help. There were very few Israelites living on the east side of the Jordan River who had not had their right eyes gouged out by Nahash."

(OK, the picture shows the patch over the LEFT eye. Sorry!)

Word goes out, and 6 -7 "The Spirit of God came on Saul when he heard the report and he flew into a rage. He grabbed the yoke of oxen and butchered them on the spot. He sent the messengers throughout Israel distributing the bloody pieces with this message: "Anyone who refuses to join up with Saul and Samuel, let this be the fate of his oxen!"
7 -8 The terror of God seized the people, and they came out, one and all, not a laggard among them. Saul took command of the people at Bezek. There were 300,000 men from Israel, another 30,000 from Judah.
9 -11 Saul instructed the messengers, "Tell this to the folk in Jabesh Gilead: 'Help is on the way. Expect it by noon tomorrow.'"

With that kind of manpower, and an unsuspecting enemy, "At first light they broke into the enemy camp and slaughtered Ammonites until noon. Those who were left ran for their lives, scattering every which way."

BIG victory for Saul and his brand new kingdom.

15 "They all trooped out to Gilgal. Before God, they crowned Saul king at Gilgal. And there they worshiped, sacrificing peace offerings. Saul and all Israel celebrated magnificently. "

Lovely ending to a beautiful story, right? Not quite. Old man Samuel has some things to say...

13 -15 "So here's the king you wanted, the king you asked for. God has let you have your own way, given you a king. If you fear God, worship and obey him, and don't rebel against what he tells you. If both you and your king follow God, no problem. God will be sure to save you. But if you don't obey him and rebel against what he tells you, king or no king, you will fare no better than your fathers...
19 Then all the people begged Samuel, "Pray to your God for us, your servants. Pray that we won't die! On top of all our other sins, we've piled on one more—asking for a king!"

God is telling them through Samuel, and us too - I God am sufficient for you. I want you to live your life in dependance on me. When you depend on any of your human props, you dishonor me. Don't depend on yourself. Dont depend on your money. Don't depend on your skill, or talent, or beauty, or health or connections. Depend on me, and me alone.

Aye aye, SIR!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

widespread, fearful movement toward God

This treasure is from Samuel chapter seven.

There are so many stories in a reading of 4 chapters, that it is hard to get more than a taste of the good things God has to show us.

Listen to this:

2 From the time that the Chest came to rest in Kiriath Jearim, a long time passed—twenty years it was—and throughout Israel there was a widespread, fearful movement toward God.
3 Then Samuel addressed the house of Israel: "If you are truly serious about coming back to God, clean house. Get rid of the foreign gods and fertility goddesses, ground yourselves firmly in God, worship him and him alone, and he'll save you from Philistine oppression."
4 They did it. They got rid of the gods and goddesses, the images of Baal and Ashtoreth, and gave their exclusive attention and service to God.
5 Next Samuel said, "Get everybody together at Mizpah and I'll pray for you."
6 So everyone assembled at Mizpah. They drew water from the wells and poured it out before God in a ritual of cleansing. They fasted all day and prayed, "We have sinned against God."

These few short verses represent the last 20 years of Samuel's life. Imagine! Twenty years. He followed God all his life, without deviating. He lead the people to follow God also.

The Philistines prepared another battle, and God defeated them.

13 -14 "The Philistines learned their lesson and stayed home—no more border crossings. God was hard on the Philistines all through Samuel's lifetime. All the cities from Ekron to Gath that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored. Israel also freed the surrounding countryside from Philistine control. And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites. "

The slavery they had suffered was over. They were free in their land to prosper and enjoy the benefits of their own work. Samuel faithfully ministered the words of God to all the people.

15 -17 "Samuel gave solid leadership to Israel his entire life. Every year he went on a circuit from Bethel to Gilgal to Mizpah. He gave leadership to Israel in each of these places. But always he would return to Ramah, where he lived, and preside from there. That is where he built an altar to God. "

The story moves on - because nothing stays still forever. But in this interlude, Samuel is faithful. He teaches the people to be faithful.

And there is "widespread, fearful movement toward God."


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Doan Mess Wid Da Ark!

Tragedy!

The Israelites attack the Philistines to get their freedom. After a small failure, they go get the ark of God and bring it to the war front. The Israelites rally for a while, but the Philistines rout them. 40,000 soldiers dead. The ark is taken by the Philistines. The two sons of the high priest dead (as Samuel had prophesied)

A runner goes to Shiloh, where the ark had come from. The town erupts in sorrow. Old man Eli, the high priest, falls off his stool and dies. His daughter in law is giving birth and she dies.

Did I mention it was a tragedy?

This is where God steps in. The Philistines, of course were happy. They went back home to Ashdod, and put the ark in the temple of their pagan god Dagon. 3 -5 "Next morning when the citizens of Ashdod got up, they were shocked to find Dagon toppled from his place, flat on his face before the Chest of God. "So what do they do? What every pagan idol worshipper does. "They picked him up and put him back where he belonged. First thing the next morning they found him again, toppled and flat on his face before the Chest of God. Dagon's head and arms were broken off, strewn across the entrance. Only his torso was in one piece."

God wasn't done with them yet.

6 "God was hard on the citizens of Ashdod. He devastated them by hitting them with tumors. This happened in both the town and the surrounding neighborhoods. He let loose rats among them. Jumping from ships there, rats swarmed all over the city! And everyone was deathly afraid.
7 -8 When the leaders of Ashdod saw what was going on, they decided, "The chest of the god of Israel has got to go. We can't handle this, and neither can our god Dagon." They called together all the Philistine leaders and put it to them: "How can we get rid of the chest of the god of Israel?" Asdod sent it on to Gath and the same thing happened. So they sent it on to Ekron. They didn' want it either! Finally they asked for help how to get rid of it. They were told to put the ark on a cart and send it back to Israel, along with some gold replicas of the rats and tumors they had been plagued with.

It came back, and there was rejoicing in Israel.

2 "From the time that the Chest came to rest in Kiriath Jearim, a long time passed—twenty years it was—and throughout Israel there was a widespread, fearful movement toward God.
3 Then Samuel addressed the house of Israel: "If you are truly serious about coming back to God, clean house. Get rid of the foreign gods and fertility goddesses, ground yourselves firmly in God, worship him and him alone, and he'll save you from Philistine oppression."
4 They did it. They got rid of the gods and goddesses, the images of Baal and Ashtoreth, and gave their exclusive attention and service to God. "

So what is the application?

First of all, even when the child of God is defeated by the gods of this world - like materialism - don't admire and respect or worship the false gods. They are empty of power and will always fall before the God above all Gods.

Second, we must do our part, but always cry out to God, because when He does His part, big things happen.

Third, even in the midst of terrible tragedy, God is still working. We may not see it, or notice it, or even know about it for a period of time. But He is still working. The Israelites were consumed in their own sorrow and grief and confusion over what had just happened. They had no way of knowing that God was putting on a show of His power over satan in the Philistine towns.

But He was...

Doan mess with the ark!

Hearing God's Voice

Does God speak today?
If He speaks how do you hear Him?
If you hear something and you think it may be Him, how do you know?
Does someone with more experience and wiser in religion have a "leg up" on you in hearing God's voice?

Today's story also starts in tragedy. A godly husband. A godly wife. But no children. Did it bother the mom, Hannah, at all? Read with me:

8 "Her husband Elkanah said, "Oh, Hannah, why are you crying? Why aren't you eating? And why are you so upset? Am I not of more worth to you than ten sons?"
9 -11 So Hannah ate. Then she pulled herself together, slipped away quietly, and entered the sanctuary. The priest Eli was on duty at the entrance to God's Temple in the customary seat. Crushed in soul, Hannah prayed to God and cried and cried—inconsolably."

If you are a couple wishing for a child, these emotions are all too familiar for you. Why, God? Why us? What have we done? We have all this love. We want so badly to love and nurture and care for a little one. Why Lord?

"Crushed in soul, Hannah prayed to God and cried and cried—inconsolably."

That's how the story starts. Hannah makes a vow - if God will give her a son, she will give him back to God. Literally. Well, He does, and she does.

Hannah's dance of joy in 1 Samuel chapter 2 is worth printing and posting on your mirror. It's THAT good! Hannah brings her little little boy to the temple where he will grow up and spend the rest of his days. This is a much loved and adored little child, with all the simplicity and innocence of a beautiful little boy.

Now today's story:

1 -3"The boy Samuel was serving God under Eli's direction. This was at a time when the revelation of God was rarely heard or seen. One night Eli was sound asleep (his eyesight was very bad—he could hardly see). It was well before dawn; the sanctuary lamp was still burning. Samuel was still in bed in the Temple of God, where the Chest of God rested."
4 -5 Then God called out, "Samuel, Samuel!"
Samuel answered, "Yes? I'm here." Then he ran to Eli saying, "I heard you call. Here I am."

This happens three times. Finally Eli catches on. God is talking to this pure, innocent, eager child. He says, "Go back and lie down. If the voice calls again, say, 'Speak, God. I'm your servant, ready to listen.'"

He does, and God does. God gives the little boy a message directed at his boss. It is not a pretty message. God tells the boy that He is going to bring down Eli the priest and his "could-care-less-about-God" family. Eli gets it out of him and accepts it.

19 -21 "Samuel grew up. God was with him, and Samuel's prophetic record was flawless. Everyone in Israel, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south, recognized that Samuel was the real thing—a true prophet of God. God continued to show up at Shiloh, revealed through his word to Samuel at Shiloh."

How do you hear God's voice?

Listen, for starters.

Have your heart open to God and your ears open to God.

Obey what you know.

God will keep talking to you.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Tica

We have a dramatic change of pace today. The entire book of Ruth only has 4 chapters, so the entire book is today's reading.

My sister is called Ruth. "Ruthie", we called her sometimes. Our favorite name was "Rutica", the diminutive form of the name in Spanish. Of course, that got shortened to "Tica." So, today's blog is called "Tica", diminuitive for Ruth, and dedicated to my sister.

So the story starts out as a tragedy. 1 -2 "Once upon a time—it was back in the days when judges led Israel— there was a famine in the land. A man from Bethlehem in Judah left home to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The man's name was Elimelech; his wife's name was Naomi; his sons were named Mahlon and Kilion—all Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They all went to the country of Moab and settled there."

Financial hardship led to a move. In the new country the boys married.

3 -5 "Elimelech died and Naomi was left, she and her two sons. The sons took Moabite wives; the name of the first was Orpah, the second Ruth. They lived there in Moab for the next ten years. But then the two brothers, Mahlon and Kilion, died. Now the woman was left without either her young men or her husband."

Over time dad dies, older brother dies, and younger brother dies.

6 -7 "One day she got herself together, she and her two daughters-in-law, to leave the country of Moab and set out for home; she had heard that God had been pleased to visit his people and give them food. And so she started out from the place she had been living, she and her two daughters-in-law with her, on the road back to the land of Judah."

So Naomi's going back home. This is clearly a loving and lovely woman. Both daughters in law want to go with her.

8 -9 "After a short while on the road, Naomi told her two daughters-in-law, "Go back. Go home and live with your mothers. And may God treat you as graciously as you treated your deceased husbands and me. May God give each of you a new home and a new husband!" She kissed them and they cried openly."

She tells them to stay in their country, with their people. Orpah stays (she started a TV show and became very successful). Ruth goes with her. Ruth has found an older woman that she loves and respects, but also there was something about the God that Noami worshipped that really impacted her.

Ruth put out a statement so strong and moving that we often use it in wedding ceremonies.
"Where you go, I go; and where you live, I'll live.
Your people are my people, your God is my God;
where you die, I'll die, and that's where I'll be buried,
so help me God—not even death itself is going to come between us!"

So the two women come back into Israel, settling in Bethlehem.

What do you do when you are poor and life has dealt you a hard blow?

Look up your rich relatives. Of course!

Naomi did that. His name was Boaz. So she moved near to him.

Ruth, meanwhile, was not only sincere, and sweet, and loving; but she was also plucky and a hard worker. God's laws had established that the gleaners were always to leave some grain for the poor. Well Ruth was poor. So she found some fields nearby, asked permission, and went to work.

Here is where the story gets really cool. (Do you hear the music building in the background? You KNOW something is up...)

Rich man Boaz comes to his field and greets all his workers. By about this time, Ruth had come to his fields. Boaz notices her. (I think she was attractive, in addition to all her other good qualities) Who's the young lady over there, working away?

"Oh", he's told by his foreman, "Why, that's the Moabite girl, the one who came with Naomi from the country of Moab. She asked permission. 'Let me glean,' she said, 'and gather among the sheaves following after your harvesters.' She's been at it steady ever since, from early morning until now, without so much as a break." He calls her over. Stay in my fields. I have given orders for my servants to treat you well. If you need water, go ahead and have a drink.

Her reaction?

10 "She dropped to her knees, then bowed her face to the ground. "How does this happen that you should pick me out and treat me so kindly—me, a foreigner?"

He says, "They told me all about you. You are a good person. You are caring for your bereft mother in law.
13 She said, "Oh sir, such grace, such kindness—I don't deserve it. You've touched my heart, treated me like one of your own. And I don't even belong here!"
14 At the lunch break, Boaz said to her, "Come over here; eat some bread. Dip it in the wine."
So she joined the harvesters. Boaz passed the roasted grain to her. She ate her fill and even had some left over. "
Mutual admiration. Mutual respect. I think a healthy dose of attraction as well! This interchange turns into caring, into friendship, into romance, into marriage.

10 -13 "He said, "God bless you, my dear daughter! What a splendid expression of love! And when you could have had your pick of any of the young men around. And now, my dear daughter, don't you worry about a thing; I'll do all you could want or ask. Everybody in town knows what a courageous woman you are— a real prize!"

All the legal necessities are taken care of.

9 -10 "Boaz then addressed the elders and all the people in the town square that day: "You are witnesses today that I have bought from Naomi everything that belonged to Elimelech and Kilion and Mahlon, including responsibility for Ruth the foreigner, the widow of Mahlon—I'll take her as my wife and keep the name of the deceased alive along with his inheritance."

Out of tragedy - a beautiful story of love, loyalty, hard work, romance and marriage.

A special bonus! "Tica" is in the bloodline that Jesus the Messiah came from...