1 Samuel 15:18 And he sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; wage war against them until you have wiped them out.’
Migratory birds in the U.S. were tagged by the Department of the Interior with metal strips reading “Wash. Biol. Surv.”—for Washington Biological Survey. The code was changed, so the story goes, after a farmer from Arkansas wrote to the department:
“Dear Sirs, I shot one of your crows, My wife followed the cooking instructions attached—she washed it, boiled it and served it. It was the worst thing we ever ate.”
Did you laugh (or at least smile?!) at this illustration?
Laugh now, dear friend, laugh now. The average person has a very difficult time completely following directions. Call it society or genetics, I often disregard the instructions to build a product or get to a location.
I can do this, I tell myself. I know what I am doing.
Before long, I am frustrated (and many others, too!) and need help readjusting my focus.
As the king of Israel, Saul certainly understood that he was the boss. God had given him the kingdom of Israel to rule under his authority. Unfortunately, Saul had messed up many times.
Where we find Saul in 1 Samuel 15 is the last straw. Either he will follow what God tells him to do or he will not. There is no middle ground. Either Saul will completely obey the LORD or he will half-heartedly reject his LORD.
Yet, from the biblical account, we that Saul didn’t destroy the Amalekites. He spared their king and their best plunder. This was an abomination in God’s eyes. God wanted everything to be completely destroyed. Saul quipped that he had followed God’s commands by sparing the best to sacrifice to God. Samuel, speaking on the LORD’s behalf, replied, “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22). God said Saul’s sacrifice was nothing compared to an obedient heart.
Has the LORD given you a task, mission, or job to do? How are you doing with it? Do you have an obedient heart that wants to please God even in the smallest detail? Are you struggling to do things your own way? Then turn around!
God wants you to know the power of His will. His will is the best plan for your life. Disobedience in the smallest part will hold up His plan for you. Ask Him today to show your progress thus far.
Remember, God is amazing—He deserves complete, total, and undivided obedience in every detail of our lives.
Father, you are no less to be loved and trusted when you do the opposite of what I ask of you. You are God and I am not. Forgive me for forgetting that fact. Forgive me for not giving you every area of your life. Thank you that you are the only one worthy of praise. I pray today that your Spirit would embolden me to trust you with things no one else knows about and to please you in those areas. Not because you will be swayed by my obedience, but because Jesus Christ died for my sins and rose again! In His name. In Jesus' name. Amen.
1 Samuel 16:7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
I heard about a pastor one day that talked to a man on the street about Jesus. He asked the pastor if he was “for real”.
“You know,” the man explained, “Are you the kind of person who really loves Jesus, not the one that is fake.”
The pastor shared with him that he was “for real” and that he’d be glad to help the man. The man handed the pastor his phone number to call him for prayer sometime.
As the pastor talked to the man on the phone one day, the man explained that he was a believer in Jesus Christ. Yet, he had not been to church in over a year. He tried a church last year that didn’t accept him. He even went above and beyond what a visitor probably should do and no one would take him in. Broken and crying at this point, the middle-aged man said that he wanted nothing more than to find a church and worship Jesus. The weight of the world was on his shoulders and the only release was for him to find a genuine community of believers.
Sad, isn’t it, that the one place we should welcome people is the very place most people are afraid of? Yes, I am talking about church. Of all the places you should expect to see hospitality, the church should be the place. What my friend experienced is nothing new—this is an age-old problem that haunts the Body. The only solution is to remember that Jesus, the perfect God-man, accepts us all into His presence without regard for anything this world looks at.
As God told Samuel when he was looking for Saul’s replacement:
“For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7, ESV).
If we remember that in God’s sight we are all sinners, it will drastically change how we view visitors in our gathering place. When the opportunity to embrace a visitor is there, don’t pass it up. Extend your hand in Christian love and allow God to work through you to accomplish His purpose.
And, if you are reading this, then it is safe to say that your heart is beating. Yet I wonder how often we neglect the physical (exercise, proper nutrition, etc.) and spiritual (sin, hidden agendas, etc.) side of our hearts. For the physical side, it much easier to make rash promises about our health than to consider actually doing any type of healthy living.
The spiritual side isn't that much different, though. We often talk about how we must come to God with a clean heart before prayer, before confronting another brother or sister in Christ, or before we enter the presence of the LORD in worship. But like the physical side of our heart, we fail to sincerely follow what we so adamantly say in our most comfortable moments.
Take time to examine your heart before the LORD. Do you need to ask Him to come into your life and fill it with His love toward Him or others? Do you need to refocus on what is important to Him? Make time now to change your focus from the outward trappings to a life lived sincerely for God.
Heavenly Father, we praise you for fully delighting in us today even in the moments we were fully unmindful of you. Even when people praise us today, not knowing the storms of sin inside, may we repent and trust your grace once again. Lord, help us to live double lives. Forgive us when we do, but point us back to what Jesus did. That is all we can ask. Thank you that your wrath has been satisfied and your grace prevails. Pray this in Jesus' name today. Amen."
1 Samuel 16:18 One of the servants answered, “I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the lyre. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the Lord is with him.”
You may have heard it said before (or maybe you said it yourself), “Things just happen for a reason.”
That expression doesn’t necessarily indicate a trust and hope as in the one and only God of the Bible. It sounds like something from an Eastern religion’s ideas of fate or karma.
The Bible makes clear things don’t merely happen for a reason in general. Rather, the events of our lives happen for God’s wise, holy, and infinitely good purposes. According to the apostle Paul, everything happens “according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11, ESV).
We can’t always see God’s perfect, ruling hand guiding our lives, but we do see this when it comes to the lives of great figures in the Bible like young David. David was tending his father’s flocks in the fields outside Bethlehem when a message came to appear before the prophet Samuel. As you learned from the previous story, God chose David to be king to replace Saul.
But now a new message comes to David. This time he was to serve King Saul as a musician. As David entered into Saul’s service as court musician, he may not have understood how or why this was happening. But David could be sure that this message had arrived for a purpose, just as all Christians may be confident that God’s gracious reasons are guiding the events of our lives.
David served Saul so well that the king “loved him greatly, and he became his armor-bearer” (1 Sam. 16:21). David shows what a difference it makes for God to be with us. “The LORD is with him” is the key statement for understanding young David (1 Sam. 16:18). In fact, it was because of his God-given faith that David served as such a good role-model for Christians when we serve bosses, teachers, or even parents that may not always be Christ-like.
David’s sweet music was able to soothe Saul’s troubled mind for a little bit. But the sweetest music ever heard in this troubled world was the angel song announcing the coming of the Savior Jesus Christ during the Christmas story: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14).
Jesus came not merely to soothe us in our sinful misery, but to deliver us from our sin (Matthew 1:21). Saul was blessed to listen to David’s playing, but he failed to follow up on those moments of clarity in order to seek a deeper and true healing for his ills.
Are you troubled? Are you gripped by cravings and godless passions? Not only does Jesus, like David, possess God’s Holy Spirit, but he gives God’s Spirit in abundance to those who receive him in faith. Jesus said, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63, NKJV).
The sweet music of his Gospel speaks true peace to our troubled souls.
Father, for today's selfishness, forgive us; from today's irritations, free us; for tomorrow's opportunities, prepare us. Just as David was not expecting anything that came before him, we remember that you are the one that sees the future. You don't have to learn as you go, but you know all things in one eternal now moment. Wow! Lord, you are bigger than I can ever imagine, yet, in your Son, Jesus Christ, you came down to save us. We praise you for this. In Jesus' name. Amen.
1 Samuel 17:37 "The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine."
As a youth, David had faced the challenge of fighting the mighty Goliath. The Philistines had set the terms: find someone who can defeat Goliath and we will become your servants. David knew that with God's help he could defeat Goliath. He believed what could not be proven at that moment. He may have sounded dumb to the people around him, but he knew that the God he served would show Himself to be the true and living God. In response to the skeptics, we can accept our confidence in the Bible's truth. And we can repeat David's words: ""O my God, I trust in you; let me not be ashamed; let not my enemies triumph over me"" (Psalm 25:2).
In some ways, life for us is similar to what the books of First and Second Samuel tell us about. We overcome challenges, yet our problems keep coming back over and over again. David's persisting problem, the Philistines, never disappeared. It is go to know that when we read that, in the face of all David's struggles, God did not desert him. With God's help, David was always able to meet the challenge.
However, the story doesn't end there with David living happily ever after. Years later we find that the Philistines, far from becoming servants, continue to attack Israel. David's problems with the Philistines continued. First and Second Samuel are full of stories about battles between David and the Philistines and stories of God helping David defeat them.
The truth of the Bible is that we can’t do anything apart from Jesus Christ. We need His help to do anything. Our Savior said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Everything we do is given to us by the grace of God.
In life, some of the battles we are going to face will be bigger than we are able to handle on our own. God welcomes big battles. We are fearful and discouraged when they come our way. What a contrast between the way God and man responds to the big battles of life.
“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible’” (Matthew 19:26).
Problems are persistent, but God's grace is persistent too. The LORD wants us to turn everything over to Him—every problem, prayer request, praise, and concern. He does not want us to carry these burdens. To live effectively for Him, we must learn this lesson.
We must practice it every moment of every day. It is that important. Until we come to the place in our walk with the LORD that this is a complete trust in His power, we will never see His full glory revealed in our lives.
Father, make it impossible for me to avoid Jesus. This story is not about some Hollywood movie where the little guy beats the big guy. Father, this story is about your Son. It is not about my personal victories. It is about the Gospel. Father, this story is not about me. It is about your glory. May all these factors--your Son, your Gospel, and your glory--be on the forefront of my mind as you take me through situations only you can pull me out of. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
1 Samuel 18:8 Saul was very angry; this refrain displeased him greatly. “They have credited David with tens of thousands,” he thought, “but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?”
Jealousy is well-documented in the Scripture.
Cain killed Abel for one reason—jealousy. John wrote, “We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother's righteous” (1 John 3:12),
Satan, the great enemy of our souls, first created his rebellion in heaven because he was jealous. Jealousy comes from the evil one, and if it is found in your life, then stop and consider the source. It is not of God!
Saul’s son, Jonathan, was next in line to be king after his father’s death. Along comes a Hebrew singer by the name of David, and not only was he a singer, he was also a warrior, a giant-killer, handsome, articulate, poetic, a leader, and a supreme musician. He had all kinds of abilities. Saul hated him because of his abilities and because of the threat that the throne could someday go to him.
One day, in a fit of fury that sprung out of jealousy, Saul grabbed his spear and threw it at David, trying to kill him. That was the beginning of an epic journey!
David's continued successes on the battlefield made Saul feel more like a failure. He grew tired of hearing people sing praises about David when he returned from battle. For instance, the women danced and sang, ""Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands"" (1 Samuel 18:7). This made Saul very upset and he immediately became jealous of God’s blessing on David’s life.
When we let our feelings of insecurity grow into jealousy and anger, we are sinning. Satan uses those anxieties to trip us up (1 Peter 5:8). We begin to wonder whether God loves us and we become unsure what His intentions are for us.
As followers of Christ, we should always keep our focus on God, not on others or ourselves. If you have failed in this area recently, confess your sin and ask God to “supply all your needs from his glorious riches"" (Philippians 4:19).
Do not worry. He will do it!
Are you jealous of what the LORD is doing in someone else’s life? Are you bitter that you don’t have the same circumstances as another brother or sister in the LORD? There is no place for jealousy in the Christian life. It is subtle and it can gnaw at your heart on every level.
Ask the LORD today to give you contentment in whatever place you find yourself today.
James 3:14 “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.”
Father, Son & Spirit, yet again, humble us with your holiness; stagger us with your beauty; astonish us with your grace. Lord, keep me from be envious of how you are working in the lives of others. Help our church to be content with what you are doing. Not that we settle, Lord, please, but that we know that you bless in due time, not on our own timetable. Let us be ever mindful of your grace today. In Jesus' name. Amen.
1 Samuel 20:4 Jonathan said to David, “Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do for you.”
There is a story of two friends in World War I who were inseparable. They had enlisted together, trained together, were shipped overseas together, and fought side-by-side in the battle together.
During an attack, one man was critically wounded in a field filled with barbed wire obstacles. He was unable to crawl back to his foxhole. The entire area was under heavy enemy crossfire, and it was indeed suicidal to try to reach him.
Yet, his friend decided to do just that. The sergeant told him, ""It's too late. You can't do him any good, and you'll only get yourself killed."" But the man went anyway. He returned a few minutes later, carrying his friend. But he had been mortally wounded.
The sergeant was both angry and deeply moved. He blurted out, ""What a waste! He's dead and you're dying. It just wasn't worth it."" With almost his last breath, the dying man replied, ""Oh, yes it was, Sarge. When I got to him, the only thing he said was, 'I knew you'd come, Jim.'""
In a very similar story in 1 Samuel 20, David and Johnathan prove their loyalty to each other. Jonathan agrees to inform David if his father, Saul, is truly going to harm him. There is no hesitation on the part of Jonathan to make and keep promises. His desire is to see God's best work in David's life, and his life protected.
Besides Jonathan and David, perhaps one of the greatest biblical examples of encouragement between believers in God comes from the early church leader Barnabas. A glimpse of this can be seen when Barnabas arrived at Antioch after a stint of persecution separated the disciples and early believers. Instead of casting doubt on the situation or scorning the people for the fearful attitude, Barnabas “encouraged them all to remain true to the LORD with all their hearts” (Acts 11:23). It was this attitude that made Barnabas a vital asset to the early formation of the church in its darkest hours.
Are you and your best friends like David and Johnathan? Have you been loyal to your friends? Do you need to seek forgiveness for something you did to them?
As you grow in fellowship with other believers (Hebrews 10:24-25), remember to encourage your brothers and sisters in Christ to actively worship, fast, and pray together. Create a desire to be loyal to your friends every day of the week.
Such actions are the first step to removing our motivations and preparing to understand the plan and will of God for our lives.
Father, for a day filled with rejoicing, not resenting; worshiping, not whining; forgiving, not festering, we trust you. Father, may we be far more committed to bringing encouragement today than criticism: Faith expressing itself in love. Lord, like Jonathan and David, we know that a friendship centered on your in the Body of Christ is our greatest encouragement outside yourself. We need you for this task, Lord. Thank you for your grace to accomplishment. And thank you that your Son died for me to satisfy your wrath! In Jesus' name. Amen.
1 Samuel 24:10 This day you have seen with your own eyes how the Lord delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lay my hand on my lord, because he is the Lord’s anointed.’
Nowadays, it seems that our society is not bent on exercising patience. Fifteen second stoplights are too much for the average driver to handle. Cries of frustration even increase when the cashier at the checkout counter has to call his or her superiors to verify a price. And lest we forget that a slow internet connection is the end of the world (or no WI-FI for your smartphone).
The lack of patience we demonstrate as individuals in our daily lives also finds its way into our relationship with God. Instead of staying in God’s will for our lives, we are quick to look for less stressful and frustrating situations. We say, “Surely the grass is greener on the other side of the pasture. If I can only get past this hurdle everything will be okay.”
This lack of patience manifests itself into a lack of blessing by God because we have dodged the place He has called to serve Him. What seemed like a good escape plan instead turns into a reality check when God convicts us for that decision.
The LORD taught a similar lesson to David. After being falsely accused of trying to kill King Saul, God delivered Saul into David's hand. It was a chance given to David to exercise faith and patience. He had a promise of the kingdom, but no command to slay the king. He reasons strongly, both with himself and with his men, against doing Saul any harm.
David knows that his situation is sticky and that he can end it all with one swing of his sword. Yet he realizes that doing so would step outside of God’s call for his life. So he humbly bows before the authority in his life (Romans 13:1-6), and waits patiently for God’s blessing to take him to the next level.
Sometimes it is hard to rely on prayer alone when we want something right now. The process can take time, and often requires a great deal of patience. However, the LORD is like the farmer who knows the cycle of a crop. God Almighty can see the beginning and the end. His vision is not limited by sin or circumstances. As we wait patiently for the LORD’s answer, we can trust He is in control and knows what He is doing. In the meantime, He is growing us into the people He wants us to become. He is using the circumstances to mature our faith.
Before you pack up your bags and move on from a difficult situation at home, work, in a relationship, in the church, or wherever, be reminded that God will make it clear when the time to go forward truly is in your life (if ever). Take the times of difficulties with a good attitude and, no matter how hard it is, humbly obey those authorities in your life. Trust God with the outcome.
This is when your faith will shine forth the brightest—when you have nothing going your way or working in your favor.
Father, free my foolish heart from believing I need the approval of people when you, the thrice holy God of eternity, greatly delights in me. David's men would have had him take Saul's life if they could have. Yet, we are reminded that foolishness often comes in numbers. Protect me from being anything other than what you need me to be in your plan for me. Thank you that my identity is in your Son, not my performance or people-pleasing. Thank you for saving my soul from your wrath! In Jesus' name. Amen.