How Long Oh Lord, How Long

I am fighting a battle that You have already won – and I know how the story ends – I will be with You forever.

” If you allow your eyes and your thoughts to focus on the battle – all you will see is flashing swords, squirting blood, damaged souls and even corpses. That is why you should live in the light of what I have done to overcome the enemy – the enemy of your soul– And lift your eyes above the conflict to see Me in all My majesty, the eternal Victor. You are in My team and My team always wins in the end. As you continue to travel on the narrow path you will experience the serious tempest of the battle from time to time, but he who hopes in the Lord will fly with wings of an eagle and soar above where the storms rage and the battle is fiercest and in Me you will have peace. This is My promise – trust in Me and trust in My promise and you will have peace.”

As what seems like a long year draws to an end, I have decided to focus today on a psalm that I have turned to a number of times this year. Psalm 13, a psalm written by the very David whom we have been reading about in 1 Samuel. Although already anointed as king David had to undertake several risky maneuvers to avoid the jealousy and hate of Saul. Many times, as he hid in caves and consorted with the enemy in an effort to escape, he must have called out “How long oh Lord, how long?”

This past year I have experienced times of great joy and release. I have often spent much time just appreciating God and what He has done for me and my family. However there have been a number of challenges. I am sure that each one of you have experienced something similar. Not the least was having “Long Covid”.

Several times during this period I have found myself waiting on the Lord for relief and an answer to my deepest prayers. Not the least, as I said during the time of my Long Covid. Sometimes these challenges have been more a question of comfort or relief from a situation.

What has, however become increasingly clear to me is that God uses this method to build our faith in Him. Time and again I have sensed Him saying to me, “Don’t you trust Me?”. Then I wait some more and often feel like David calling out “How long oh Lord, how long?”. When I look at the psalm, that seems exactly what David was experiencing. See vs 5 as he comes to that exact same conclusion, “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation”.

Recently I read something by Paul Tripp. He said that waiting is a characteristic of Christianity. He suggested that it had to do with change. God is continually busy building us up. Change however, does not usually happen in a flash of realization, although it can of course. Change is usually a process and God uses this waiting often in the process of bringing change to our hearts and minds.

Ultimately real change is initiated by a realization of the need to repent in a certain area. The realization of the need to change is the first step to accomplishing this. Hence the importance of confession in Church services.

Finally, when faced with a period of waiting, where we are called to be still and trust in the Lord, the temptation is to lose our patience and rush in to solve the problem ourselves. There is a time for waiting and a time for going into action at the Lord’s guidance.

May these thoughts help you as you prepare for the coming year. Finally remember the words of Jesus at the Sermon on the Mount, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own”.

May the Lord bless you all out of your socks as we move into a new possibly exciting year of opportunity for the Lord.

Saul starts His downward Slide.

How wonderful, how marvelous is my Saviour’s is love for me.

”My Love is demonstrated at this time of the year with a new urgency and intimacy – as you celebrate the visible manifestation of My love for you and for the whole world in sending My Son on a mission to planet Earth, a rescue mission, the most important mission of all time – to provide a rescue avenue. Not an impersonal path or way out, but a personal rescue involving a personal encounter with Me through My son. He undertook the mission knowing the cost but did it gladly because of my overreaching love for the whole world. My desire is that at this time and in this season this mission would become even more real to you and to all who love Me and it will be discovered by many who never knew it before. All the pain and hurt and sorrow will soon be behind you as My mission is completed and I bring all My loved one’s home. So be a light on a hill so that many may see in you My light which I have brought to the Earth”.

As we turn now to 1 Samuel 18, the story of Saul and David continues to unfold. It is a story of gathering antipathy, anger and fear from Saul towards David. Before we enter the full text of the chapter there is this beautiful interlude of Jonathan and his love and friendship with David. It is a sharp contrast which highlights the evil of Saul even more. Jonathan, the eldest son of the king had every right to expect to follow his father to the throne. Here we see that he is more than happy to befriend David and support him.

From appearing to accept David and promote him and his role we see that the real feelings behind these actions were driven by a growing unreasonable jealousy of David’s popularity and a fear described several times raised by the repeated statement, “Because the Lord was with David” vv 12,14,29.

As the narrative unfolds we see how Saul tries to get rid of David. His efforts fail and instead, another member of his household falls in love with David, Saul’s daughter Michal. Saul even tries the same trick with David that David would later try with Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah. Send them into the thick of the battle hoping they will be killed.

Sorry for this but I had this little giggle as I imagined David returning from battle with a bag filled with 200 foreskins. In my mind’s eye I saw him shake it out on a table for Saul to count. Or well maybe they just kept count on the battlefield.

The Lord spoke to me in several ways from this passage. Here are three.

  1. I was struck by how treacherous and unreliable people can be. I am sure you have all experienced the pain of someone close to you or whom you have a high regard for turning on you or letting you down. It highlights again the exceptional value of having a Lord and Friend i n Jesus who is always faithful and will never let you down. The description “Rock” is so valuable.
  2. The picture of Saul’s hate towards David is a preview of the intense hate people had towards David’s Greater Son Jesus while He was on earth. This is carried over to us today as people recognize in some way that God is with us and this seems to generate intense feelings of antagonism towards us.
  3. As God’s plan for David unfolds we can see how, in several ways, God is guiding and using events to accomplish His ultimate purposes. This does not necessarily mean that His children don’t experience discomfort from time to time. But it does mean that nothing will stop God from carrying out the plan He has for each one of us. And ultimately the climax of that plan is to take us into the New Heavens and the New Earth when He is ready to do so.

May our loving Lord Jesus bless each one of you who have followed this blog, in a special way this Christmas and we will meet again next week.

The Message of David and Goliath.

Jesus calls me friend – so, what a friend I have in Jesus! What does that mean to me?

”Maybe your reflection on friendship will be clouded by your experience of human friendships. People who you have called friend in the past turning and letting you down or even worse actually acting against you and your best needs and purposes – figuratively stabbing you in the back. The one you thought you could really trust actually being the one who is bringing you down. I am a completely different type of friend. I am a friend who you can share your deepest desires, joys and yes, your fears with. The one who will never act against you or use inside knowledge to bring you down. I am the friend who gave up the right to call myself God and died on the cross to save you. My thoughts and actions are always aimed at your ultimate benefit. You can always trust me even and especially in the darkest moments when there appears to be no way through. I am there and will always make a way. Even using that moment to demonstrate my glory. So, lean back into My arms and trust me.”

We come today to ch 17 of 1 Samuel. One of the best-known passages in the bible. I am afraid often wrongly or inadequately interpreted. The real message is very powerful, however and is really worth meditating on.

Ch 17 introduces us again to David, the future king of Israel. It is clear that it describes an event which happened before the events described in the previous chapter.

The background is a war scene. This strange way of fighting is described where a champion of one army comes out and challenges the other army to produce a champion. The result of this conflict will determine the result of the battle. There are some of Jesse’s sons in the army and David, a young fellow who was actually a shepherd is sent to the warfront to deliver supplies to his brothers.

The description of what follows is beautifully laid out. The contrast is enormous between the two combatants. Just read it again and live yourself into the scene. Totally against all expectations David not only survives but comes out the victor cutting off this giant’s head.

The conclusion usually drawn. With God’s help the small overcomes the impossibly great. While this true and a principle we see throughout the bible, that interpretation is inadequate though. We need to ask the question, “What gave David the courage to take on this giant?” His explanation in vv 34-37 gives us the answer. David has for a long time trusted God in a number of impossible situations, experiencing His saving power and grace in each situation. In this way his faith was exercised and grew to the point where he could confidently say “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”vs 37

Faith is not something that arises and grows in a vacuum. It is a sense of trust which is initiated by God’s revelation of Himself to a person. From there it grows exponentially through the interaction of the person and God as he deals with life’s circumstances and the tests and trials God places before him. There are many facets to this interaction as one gets to know God through His word and teaching and one’s understanding and obedience. Ultimately David had already grown in his trust of God through a number of trials which prepared him for this moment. That is why he could write Psalm 23 for instance and many others.

The second thing to note is that David did this act because he felt personally offended that His God was being defied. As he took on the conflict his words indicated that he wanted to come against Goliath in God’s name, to glorify Him and trusting in Him. There was no thought of personal glory or fame.

Then there is the telling verse 47, “It is not by sword that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give all of you into our hands“. God’s way of victory lies in His hands and is often not the way we expect. But we can relax and feel safe because the battle is His. However, we still need to, like David be prepared to do our share.

Because of this trust David could confidently write Psalm 23 and many others.

The chapter ends with an interaction showing Saul’s interest in getting to know more about David. Could this have been motivated by the jealousy which later becomes so prominent in the story about Saul?

Friends this has been a tough year for me and for many of you too. This passage gives one the opportunity to get some perspective again on our relationship with our most loving and caring Lord. A reminder that He is always acting for our benefit and nothing is ever too hard for Him. That we can place our trust fully on Him and sleep at ease, no matter how fearful and large our personal Goliath may appear. May you enjoy the days leading up to the celebration of His birth as we eagerly anticipate the ultimate consummation of His plan for the whole world and for each of us individually. God bless you till next week.

We meet King David.

”You are God and I am not”, as I focus on Your faithfulness.

”It is good for you to meditate on the huge difference between you and I. Between all my creatures and Me. It is so easy to slip into this sort of thought that I am merely a super- human – with the same shortcomings as everyone just hidden under a mantel of holiness. That is not Me – I am transcendent, I am the creator and sustainer of, not only the world but the whole universe. I am totally dependable, faithful to all My promises, I never turn back. you can depend on Me totally and you can entrust yourself and your loved ones into My arms because all these characteristics are covered by My grace and My love. Come closer and receive my warmth.

I apologize for the misprint in last week’s blog. Please read my comment on Lily’s entry in the comments section. To access the comments just click the title of that blog and the comments will open up.

Now to chapter 16 of 1 Samuel (yes really 16). Chapter 15 ends with the statement “The Lord was grieved that He had made Saul king“. This statement sort of closes the story of Saul’s kingship. Although he continues to appear in the story from now on, he is no longer the “real king” in God’s eyes.

In his place we are now introduced to the king God wanted to rule in Israel. The king, described as “a man after God’s own heart” in Acts. Saul had been a king like the kings of the nations all around. He was very tall and good-looking, apparently very powerful but with lots of short-comings, similar to the pagan kings of those nations.

David on the other hand is only described as ruddy and without any physical qualities that are mentioned. He is the youngest son, a mere shepherd boy with no training as a warrior. This is typical of many who God has chosen over the years, stepping past the obvious choice and using a younger apparently weaker person instead. One whom He could use to demonstrate His own qualities and who would glorify Him. The words in vs7c affirm this “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Although David falls into sin several times, he is nevertheless characterized by his faith in God and his love and absolute devotion to Yahweh. Samuel anoints David as king as he is chosen by God’s word to Samuel. As Samuel anoints him “the Spirit of the Lord came upon him”, vs 13, consecrating him and making his kingship official in God’s eyes. In the very next verse we read that God’s Spirit had now departed from Saul, who was therefore now no longer officially king in God’s eyes.

We need to understand that in the OT the anointing of God’s Spirit on someone had a different meaning to that which happened in Acts ch 2, which every Christian experiences when they are born again. In the OT the anointing was for the purpose of setting a person aside for God’s work. While He obviously would be active in many ways in that person’s life, it was not necessarily permanent as it is in the case of a Christian. We read of this anointing usually in the case of kings and prophets.

Immediately after the Spirit departs from Saul we are told “an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him. v 14″. It is difficult to determine exactly what the writer meant by this statement. It clearly caused a major depression in Saul. In 1 Kings222 :19-23 there is an interesting interplay where an evil spirit talks to Yahweh and offers to do something for him.

Anyway, David is now brought into Saul’s proximity and does something very positive, playing the lute when Saul became depressed. He is not introduced to Saul as the future king, however. Saul would probably have killed him. So David, in what appears to be an innocent way finds himself serving Saul.

The chapter ends there. What are we to make of this for our personal application. I think that the whole scene again confirms God’s moving control in having His plan executed everywhere. Even to the point of allowing an evil influence or spirit. I am reminded of “The Lord’s prayer”, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.” We are living in a world where evil and Satan’s agents are active and where temptation lies around every corner. I feel we should constantly be on our guard, because he seeks to devour us. 1 Peter 5:8.

Further we should take a leaf from God’s book and learn not to judge people by their outward appearance but their heart. I am reading “Pilgrim’s progress” at the moment and have come across a chap who is characterized by the fact that he talks a lot. Especially about spiritual and biblical things, but his life and actions do not reflect his words. Mervyn always said let our words be few for God is in heaven and we are on earth. It is a quote from Ecclesiastes or Proverbs I think.

May you all have a blessed week as we approach the Christmas festival.