Constant threat to the Kingly Line.

Am I totally sold out on you oh lord, you know innermost desires of my heart?

”As I look into your heart as every other person I have created, I see a huge mixture of emotions. On the one hand the desire to make me the most important in your life, your thoughts, your desires. On the other hand, there are many issues which take your attention and drag you away from me. Take heart, I look at the intentions of your heart and understand the complexity of it. Your desire is to seek me completely and I will honour that desire and help you to accomplish it by My grace. yet the trials and tests of this world are there to test and grow your faith – not to destroy it. So, I hear you as you sing; ‘As the deer pants for water, You alone are my heart desire and I long to worship You.'”

Chapter 26 of 1 Samuel almost seems like a repeat of ch 24. However, although Saul is once again relentlessly pursuing David, circumstances have changed. Things are out in the open and David is no longer so vulnerable. On seeing that Saul was exposed to him David plans a daring intervention in an attempt at diverting Saul and his murderous intentions. Accompanied by Abishai they enter Saul’s camp and take some trophy’s to prove that they were there.

Although Saul is completely at his mercy David refuses to harm him on the basis that he was God’s anointed. Once again David confronts Saul with the evidence and Saul appears to be heartily sorry for his actions. But a worldly sorrow? 2 Cor 7:10

As I pondered this passage, I wondered how much of a role Satan was playing in pushing Saul to kill David. We need to remember that David was in a line of kings who would eventually end with Jesus. From the beginning of Matt gospel, we read how Satan tried to annihilate this Messiah king. Was he already active at this stage of God’s story? We should at all times be on our guard against Satan’s attempts to derail God story which is playing out in our lives,

I was struck again how David acknowledged God all the time as the story unfolds cf vv 9.16,19,23. In turn there is no doubt that God is there all the time with David cf v 12.

Maybe we feel that we are not as important a part of God’s story that He should also be intimately with us as we live our lives. However, I believe while David was an important part of God’s story each one of us is equally important to God and He is busy all the time in our lives too. Are you totally sold out on God’s providence? It is such a deeply reassuring fact that God is big enough and wise enough to be involved in each of our stories. Of course, the way He is involved is far above our understanding and therefore tends to puzzle us. We can rest assured though that His way is always the best.

God bless till next week.

Abigail brings propitiation.

I am sure you do not seek groveling servants. But servants that humble themselves under your mighty hand and yet can discover their full potential in you, this is another Christian paradox.

“Yes, I said blessed are the poor in spirit and blessed are the meek – that does not mean that your personhood has been downplayed and degraded – it means a recognition of your total need and dependence on Me – and you recognizing this both spiritually and physically – it is easy to start there and slowly move away again to and independence of thought, of self-worth and self-love. You are called to live a complete, fulfilled life in Me – but the emphasis is” in Me” – it is only in recognizing everything you have, every blessing you have is in Me and through Me and by Me that you will experience that.”

As we move into Ch 25 of 1 Samuel, the first vs brings a key moment in the story. With a simple statement, “Now Samuel died”. The role of the great prophet has decreased and slipped into the background as David and Saul have taken over prominence in the story. Yet this prophet has played a key role in identifying the future kings and his importance is emphasized by the names of the two books covering that period of history.

This whole chapter is further taken up with the story where a lady called Abigail plays a prominent role. David has been protecting that area of the country with his men. At that stage there was much lawlessness and fighting among various bands of men and David had taken it on himself to protect the local population.

When he sends word to the most prominent and rich landowner Nabal, to send him supplies, in payment for his protection, Nabal answers him most rudely and this provokes David to want to seek retribution. When Nabal’s wife hears of this she takes it upon herself to defuse the situation by going behind Nabal’s back and taking the supplies that he had requested to David and more. When Nabal is told about this he is so angry that he actually dies from a stroke or heart attack.

Now to me this is an important story because it gives us a faint prediction of what Jesus did on the cross on our behalf.

You see, since the time of Adam, God’s wrath has been focused on each person for demanding their independence from Him. His wrath is finally expressed in the death and eternal separation from Him and all that is good by each person. There was only one way to deal with this and that was for someone who was totally sinless and did not deserve His wrath to take that wrath on Himself. In so doing He turned God’s wrath away from us onto Himself. This act is called “propitiation”.

In a sort of similar way Abigail through her act of supplying what David had requested and more, she turned his wrath away from her husband and all the people who worked for him. In the process she ran the risk of her husband taking his anger out on her, but was protected by an act of providence which took the husband out.

The chapter ends with the note that David takes this woman as his second or third wife.

Several times as the story unfolds, we are given a glimpse of David’s various wives. It seems that amongst other reasons he used them as a means of making political progress as he moved towards kingship.

As I finished this chapter, I reflected again on the amazing act of Jesus in turning God’s wrath away from us. A wrath which makes Nabal’s uncalled for anger appear as almost mild by comparison.

May God bless you in this coming week as you consider these things.

No Revenge.

I am overcome with thoughts of the vastness of God in size, power, love – awesome thoughts overwhelm me.

It is hard for My creatures to really take in the size and spread of My presence and My power which is focused on you through My grace. But there was a specific moment when that entire power met and impinged on My creation here on this planet where you live. It was a moment when My love in My Son was taken from him and poured out on you so that you could escape judgement and be free – free from slavery to sin and to the law. Free to be the people you were created to be. Consider how difficult it is for my vast presence to be real and close to you, therefore I have made a Way by becoming one of you I can now relate in a new way – a way which you can understand and appreciate. Yet behind all this I remain huge and awesome and unfathomable.

As we continue to read in 1 Samuel 24, the relentless pursuit of David by Saul continues and reaches a climax. However, the climax is not at all what the reader would perhaps have expected. Instead of Saul achieving his goal to catch David and put him to death, God delivers Saul into David’s hands.

Consider for a moment the feelings David must have had, after fleeing for several years, living often under great hardship, even pretending to be mad to escape another enemy. And then God apparently, according to his men, vs 4, delivers Saul into David’s hands. What a moment of triumph, of relief, maybe. He can kill Saul and come out into the open and be crowned king.

Yet at that very moment David is more prepared to obey God’s voice than his own feelings. He perceives Saul as God’s anointed one and he therefore should not touch him. Can you imagine how strong the temptation must have been to take Saul’s life and be done with it.

As I read this passage my thoughts went to the general feeling most people have when they feel they have been wronged. Most people’s first reaction is to find a way to exact revenge. To get back at the cause of their tribulation. If you watch stories on TV you will soon see that many of them are focused and often climax in a most “satisfying” act of revenge.

As I considered this, I thought of Paul’s words in Romans 12:17 – 21. Especially vs 19 :”Do not take revenge my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath...” This, folks is so counter-intuitive. It is our nature to want to extract revenge. Just look at Gaza. But the gospel is counter-intuitive. The gospel calls us out to be different. The main point is that we do not naturally have that attitude, it is only after we have been transformed and have the help of the Holy Spirit that we are able to follow this instruction.

That, my friends, is an ideal example of being a witness for Christ. When one takes on that attitude then people will look and say, “But why is he different?”

David made many mistakes. But one thing stands out, he adored Yahweh and really wanted to honour Him and this was one of the early signs of that. There is perhaps much about David and some of his behaviour which could call us to wonder why he is called by God as a man after God’s own heart. Without plumbing the full depths of that statement, it seems that our estimate of what God sees in our hearts may sometimes be questioned. Certainly, God seeks people who will love Him with all their hearts, souls, bodies and strength. This can only be accomplished through the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit in what we call the gospel and will be demonstrated in their lives and actions.

Plenty to chew over again this week, if you so wish. God bless till next week.

David’s flight and God’s Souvereignty

Thank you Lord for everything you are, for everything you have done for me and for the whole world. The song “I will never know how much it cost to see my sin upon the cross” is ringing in my ears.

“Look up into the endless space – yes, it is apparently endless – yet in every part of it I am present. Not in a passive way but actively continuing to control this beautiful universe – for My benefit – for My glory. Everything is ultimately focused on Me and My glory. Yet in the centre of this picture is a jarring cruel smudge. A cruel cross on a hill I created. A symbol of My commitment to you and all mankind and all of my creation. Yes, ‘you will never know how much it cost to see your sin upon the cross’ – yet it was done gladly because of My great love for you and for every person I have created. Continue to appreciate and continue to walk the path towards My glory first and then yours because of Me.”

Last time we discussed the question of our ability or not, to choose freely. It was intended to remind us of our responsibility to make right choices and point out the need to choose correctly to others especially non-believers in the question of salvation. It was in no way intended to cast any doubt or shadow on God’s total souvereignty. That is the given basis of our reformed theology, so that we can truly trust the statement in Ephesians 1:4 “For, he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he has predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ in accordance with His pleasure and will”

As we come to Ch 24 of 1 Samuel the story of David’s flight from the demented and occultic mania of Saul to kill him continues. The question of God’s souvereignty hangs like a glorious backdrop to the unfolding story. We see a number of instances where God intervened in various ways to save a fleeing David. For instance, the last paragraph vv 26 – 29 with David almost in Saul’s clutches God arranges an incursion by the Philistines into the country. which distracts Saul. Jonathan also appears as a support for David as he encouraged David and “helped him find strength in God“. v 16

At the same time David is not passive. Several times David inquires of God what He should do next: vv2 ,4,9, 12. Which shows how he was depending on God and His guidance in this headlong pursuit.

David on previous occasions had withheld himself from the opportunity to strike back at Saul, regarding him still as God’s anointed. He was also giving succour to this band of refugees who now were part of his band of men which followed David and had grown to about 600 (v 13).

All this time, while God was actively manipulating the final outcome of the events, David had to continue to make wise and active choices. He did this while depending on God to guide him through the various ways available to him – a prophetic word, the ephod and Jonathan. This is hugely comforting to us yet a challenge that we should at all times be aware of the importance of the choices we make and the need to walk closely with God.

We can all lookback and see God’s hand on our lives if we are perceptive. Let me give you a small testimony of one of the instances when God intervened in my life. From the moment when I was in Std 9, when I decided to become a vet, this decision slowly grew to be a passion. At the end of our first year which we could complete at any uni, we could apply for selection to go to Onderstepoort. My first year at Pretoria University went well and I had a quiet confidence that I stood a good chance to be selected for one of 25 places at Onderstepoort for my second year.

At home on our farm in the Karoo near Colesberg I waited to hear if my application had succeeded. The letter came and with shaking hands I opened it and my hopes were dashed as I read the opening line: “We regret to advise you….” I was devastated. I had no plan B. I staggered out of the room and for the next week I wandered through the veld and kopjes on the farm with only one sentence on my lips: “Oh God please change that decision. Open a way for me to go to Onderstepoort. I so badly want to do this.” The dassies must have got tired of me sitting with my head in my hands mumbling this prayer over and over again.

I had always believed in God and prayed to Him but had no born-again relationship with Him. I had never even heard of that. A week later a telegram arrived. “There has been a cancellation, so you have now been selected to attend the second year at O/P”

It was always God’s plan for me to follow this profession. However, He chose to take me along this path which had a huge effect on me. It opened a new dimension in my belief in God being real and ready to answer our pleas.

Is God’s souvereignty real and complete? Absolutely! Does He expect us to make responsible and wise choices all along the way? Absolutely! May He continue to bless you in this coming week as you consider these things.

Are we free to choose?

Two things which are in separable – God’s love and the cross. Those are inseparable from His love for you as you are sealed into a potent inseparable relationship with God Himself.

“It is good that you recognize the cross as the great symbol of My love. It stands out far above anything else in history – it is the marking point of the world’s destiny and any words about love or any other emotion which don’t have the cross somewhere in mind are not permanent or absolute. So, revel in that awful symbol of cruelty because it is there where your freedom was won because of My deep, deep love for you. This is the great enigma of the Christian faith like so many others which are often difficult to grasp – however let these thoughts just lift you up and carry you forward as you revel in that reality which you can see of a love which you cannot always see and grasp”.

Today I will pause and address Lilly’s concern about whether we have freedom to choose. This is a vast subject and one which has caused great contention in the past, so it is impossible in the space I have today to deal with it exhaustively. What I will do is put forward a number of thoughts concerning the subject for you all to ruminate over.

To start with there are some concepts which are clearly defined in God’s word and others which are not so clearly defined but revealed in many different ways as the bible story unfolds. As one reads this story, ideas which seem to contradict each other or seem to express opposing views sometimes come to the fore. There are a number of such apparent enigma’s in the word. I like to think that the truth lies, held in tension between them. They are often difficult to grasp completely and lead us back to realize the God is so much greater and wiser than we are and His ways “unsearchable” in Paul’s words in Romans 11:33. That is when we have to step back and be careful of making definite judgements when He has not given us a clear one Himself. It is tempting to try and put God in a box where everything is clear and cut and dried and you can understand Him completely. He will not allow that however, He is always mystical in a way and far above that.

Going back to the beginning of the creation story we are presented with God’s interaction with the first people He has created. He, in somewhat pictorial language gives them a choice. They could follow Him or follow their own way. He clearly did this because of His intention in creating man as expressed for instance in Acts 17:27 “God did this (created man) so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him” God wanted a being who would seek to have a relationship with him.

When man decided to follow their own way in rebellion to God’s invitation in Genesis, God was angry and placed a curse on the whole of the creation and especially on this very creature whom He had wanted to love and have a relationship with. The result was that every person since then is born with a bias away from seeking God which is clearly described for instance in Romans 3 cf vs 10 “There is no one who righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God.”

God’s rescue mission through Jesus provides a way out of this impossible situation. Through Jesus we can have a softened heart and a relationship with God through His Son. The question is, “does He grab some people by the scruff of the neck and force them to love Him and follow Him?” Clearly not, he makes the offer and each person is invited to respond by faith to receive this gift.

Is this response a free choice? Well, given our bias it cannot be entirely. Yet there is a degree in which we have to exercise our choice to follow Him and receive the New Birth, otherwise we would simply be puppets. So God is operating in His sphere of grace as He draws us into making this decision. cf Ephesians 2: For it is by grace you have been saved through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is a gift from God”.

To help me understand this I imagine God wooing each person like a lover (Maybe that is why the book called “Song of Solomon” is included in the word). Of course, He is an all-powerful lover and can create circumstances to suite His purposes, but within this there is still, there must be a degree to which we are responding of our own “free” will.

Then once we have been saved this dance with Him as our lover continues. He places before us diverse challenges and tribulations in which He is inviting us to trust Him. We are continually faced with the need to make choices. These choices can lead to various outcomes, but in the end He is so controlling the final outcome so that His will will be achieved.

Ultimately the verse that Lilly quoted (Ephesians 1:4) gives us the assurance that when we look back we can see that He chose us before we were even born and predestined our lives, so we are completely secure in His love. It is nevertheless pertinent that we present the choice to everyone that they should choose Jesus and leave it up to Him to complete the dance. That is what Jesus Himself did repeatedly.

I hope I have not confused you all, but this is a hugely difficult subject to describe and pin down. We need to continually remind ourselves that God is souvreign and far above our understanding.

Please comment if you wish. Do this by clicking the title of this blog and the comments section will open up. Questions are also welcome. God bless till next week.