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.

Saul rejected as King.

Darkness – The darkness of the world is all around, sin, hate – expressed in so many ways, even load shedding. Thank you that you came and are the true light – to pierce that darkness and vanquish it.

”Could you but see the intensity of the light of My son Jesus as He drives out the darkness of the world. Yet as you said there is still so much darkness in the world. Let me assure you that that darkness is only temporary – My light has already vanquished it, yet you cannot see it now, it will be fully revealed when I return and establish My full kingdom which will no longer be clandestine. When the full manifestation of My light comes there will be no vestige of the darkness which seems to be so prevalent now .In the meantime I am there even when it appears inky black, leading you, loving you, protecting you especially your heart – so remember My word – ‘in the world you will have tribulation ( darkness) but take heart in me you will have peace (light). So walk in that light this coming week.”

As we come to chapter 15 of 1 Samuel, we may be filled with revulsion and horror at the instructions that the Lord gave to Saul. Surely a God of mercy and love would not give such awful instructions to not only kill the men and the soldiers but also the entire families of the people of the nation of the Amalekites. Not only was Saul to kill the people but he was to kill all live stock as well. Standing back and considering this passage should remind us of the total holiness of God who rejects all sin. It should remind us of the full awfulness of sin in the sight of God.

It almost reminds us of what Israel is trying to do to Hamas at the moment. There is however a huge difference. What Israel is doing now is being done out of retribution, anger and hate, which might be understandable with the provocation they had but there is no indication that this act has been ordained by God.

The real message of this chapter is focused on the disobedience of Saul to Gods word. As one reads through the chapter there are a number of indications of Saul’s rebellion against God and His instructions. Saul attempts to justify his actions in several ways. He tries to put a religious shade on his disobedience suggesting that there was a purpose in what he did to honour God. He also tries to pass the blame onto other people and so avoid responsibility for his actions.

There is an interesting interplay around the idea and word obedience from vs 12 but especially vs 17 ff. Notice Saul’s disobedience seems to be linked to His growing arrogance and self-importance. The reply that Samuel gives to Saul in verse 22 is a classical word. It is a reminder to Saul and all who follow him down the ages that meaningless religious rites don’t honour God in any way. God seeks our loving obedience which reflects our attitude towards Him and our love for Him. The best sign that we love God and seek to follow Him is demonstrated by our obedience to His word.

Ominous words are spoken by God in vs 27 through Samuel. Saul would remain king for the time being but there would be no deep long-term purpose in his rule. Twice in the chapter God is said to regret that He made Saul king vs 11 and 35. (the Hebrew word means repent or change one’s mind). Yet when Saul begs Samuel to forgive him Samuel is adamant that it is too late and that God never repents or changes His mind. Earlier in vs 11 we see Samuel crying out the whole night to God. This is all an interesting interplay as we see this relationship between Samuel, Saul and God playing out. It speaks of a real relationship on the one hand between Samuel and God and a separation between God and Saul.

On the whole this chapter really reminds us of the seriousness of sin. Of the symptoms of a deep rebellion in the heart of the sinner which gives rise to disobedience. A lifting of the person’s own view of himself against the view he has of God demonstrating his lack of submission to God It is a frightening process which should awaken us all to guard against it.

Of course, the really good news is that the greater son of David came many years later to deal with sin. Considering the picture in this chapter, we should have a greater degree of gratitude for what He did on the cross on our behalf, saving us from the awful result of rebellion against our Creator.

May the Lord bless you all during the next week.

Jonathan’s Faith.

The word I have from God is, “Be still and know that I am God”.

”In a world in tumult, when the general tempo is rush and restlessness, where everyone seeks instant answers, it is time to take stock, to be still and ask yourself ‘who are you trusting in? Are you looking to the world to give you the answers to your questions? Are you in disarray when everything does not work out exactly as you planned it?’ When you find yourself waiting and unable to change things, waiting on answers, waiting for things to happen, then it is time to be still and with My help, clean the slate of your mind and focus on me and my total Providence over the world, Over all around you and especially on you and your loved ones. Allow My word to suffuse into your mind and heart and become the great resting place for your mind and soul. You have trusted me to here and I have never failed you, so once again place your full trust in Me.“

As we ended Ch 13 in 1 Samuel, Israel was in disarray. No-one, except Saul and Jonathan had weapons. The Philistines were on their doorstep and aggressive. ‘What was going to happen to them?’ Is the question hanging in the air. At the beginning of ch 14 a little story unfolds, a story as astounding as David’s confrontation of Goliath, but not known as well as his.

Between the Israelites and the Philistines was a pass and in this pass were two precipitous cliffs called Bozez and Seneh. (14:4) Geography will tell that they were very steep and difficult to climb. Above the cliffs on the mountain was a Philistine outpost. The story does not exactly reveal Jonathan’s plan to us, except that, as he stood beneath the cliff he indicated that he was trusting the Lord to save.

“Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or few,” (14:6c) is his thinking and revealed to us in what he says to his armour-bearer and companion. Feeling guided by the Lord they scale the cliff. Arriving at the top they must have found the Philistine outpost relaxed in the false security of their position, without their arms at hand. In no time Jonathan and his armour-bearer kill 20 men.

This action sends a panic wave over the Philistine army and they are routed. Note 14:15c “It was a panic from God”. Let us stop there and consider. This act was any time as impossible as David’s facing Goliath, which we will read about later. So although the way it is written does not tell us this exactly, it is an example of someone trusting completely on God’s ability to act and save. And acting upon that God honours that. It is also an act not focused on Jonathan himself, but on doing something in an impossible situation to save a whole nation.

What follows is a comparison between the trust of Jonathan and his bravery and the bungling of King Saul as he tries to capitalize on the panic of the Philistines. He calls for the ark then tells the priest to back off (withdraw his hand), as he probably changes his mind. The ark here was simply a superstitious desire to get God to act further.

However 14:23 makes it clear that it is “the Lord that rescued Israel that day“.

It then appears that Saul, in a further superstitious religious act decides to call the whole army to fast as the battle continues. The consequences of this foolish superstitious act are dire and Jonathan the actual hero is almost put to death. The rest of the chapter is a summary of Saul’s family and rule and could have been given elsewhere.

The main message of the chapter is that God put the Israelites into an impossible position in a battle situation, to cause them to turn and call on Him for help. Jonathan shows his trust in the Lord and the Lord rescues Israel. Saul is clearly outside the line making one mistake after the other. Surely not trusting God in a personal way.

This chapter was a stark reminder to me of the two realities of our Christian walk. In His process of building our faith God regularly allows us to be in a situation where we are actually powerless to bring a result. This causes us to turn to Him in trust and dependence. Often keeping us waiting for the answer which deepens our awareness of our helplessness and dependence on Him. Ultimately when He does respond it is often not even in the way we expect, but is a great encouragement to our trust in Him and is one of the usual ways God builds our trust in Him. In reading a passage like this we are reminded of His dependability over all the years as well as in our own lives.

May the Lord bless you and give you peace when you are facing trials, especially now as we approach Christmas.