…not with sword and spear

Today’s readings are both well known passages. The first, 1 Samuel 17, is perhaps everyone’s favourite Sunday School story about David and Goliath. It can be easy with these well known passages to gravitate towards our favourite sections, or miss out on things because we think we know it so well. There is so much interesting detail in this account outside of the main line of action that could be explored, like the relationship between David, his father, his brothers (especially Eliab) and Saul (and how that fits chronologically with the previous chapter).

I tend to be drawn though by verses that speak to why, so today want to reflect on one small part of one verse in the mainline narrative. In verses 46-47, as David answers Goliath’s taunt, not only does he Goliath he will die, but why:

that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear

I wonder what “all this assembly” made of “the Lord saves not with sword and spear” as the giant fell. Continue reading

Our God Saves

Psalm 18

How are you feeling about life today? Are the pieces holding together ok? Or maybe teetering a little? Or does life at the moment feel like a terrible chaotic tragic disaster? This Psalm is David’s outpouring from a time of deep despair and fear. His situation could not have been worse. Death was threatening to engulf him, and his enemies had the upper hand.

God’s response to His beloved David’s cry for help, for rescue, is utterly unambiguous. Like a wild storm and earthquake, God reaches out and saves David from the darkness and the turmoil. This Psalm is David’s song of praise to the God who is utterly loyal and faithful. The God who gives strength, support and light when David was weak and failing. The God who provided a firm place for David to stand, a refuge and a shield against his enemies.

David reminds us this morning to call upon God when we are in distress. This is our living God, who hears us. Our cries reach His ears. Call without shame!

David reminds us this morning to remember to praise the God who offers us love, loyalty, rescue and protection. Let’s tell the stories of God’s goodness and faithfulness.  Let’s sing and speak of the God who rescues us from despair, holds us through terrible fear and pain, pours love into our lives when we are terribly wounded and hurt by others around us.

David sings of his much loved God, “He brought me out into a broad place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me.”

This is a day of great thanksgiving and joy for our community as our dear Ron Irving is ordained.

Let us pray for Ron and for us that we may experience the freedom into which God longs to bring us. May we know that God rescues us because He delights in us. May this be the rock on which we stand with gratitude, love and deep confidence in our God.

God bless and keep you dear Ron and Julie.

Choosing consistency, resisting compromise  … 

Today’s Readings: 1 Samuel 16 & Revelation 6

The words come out sounding positive and encouraging, and you work hard to make sure facial expressions and body language match the conversation BUT …. the mind is having it’s own conversation that’s totally different or the exact opposite to any external expression.  Have you found yourself in this situation? If I’m honest, I know I have …

Or the times when we might compromise on the task at hand or what’s been asked of us, and of course, there’s always the excuse as to why …..

Of course there will naturally be times when we have to work hard at being gracious, doing things we may not necessarily feel like doing; yes, we all have down days when we need to work really hard at keeping the peace; and yes there are times and people where ‘extra grace’  is required …. and absolutely yes, none of us are exempt from being the person who others are having to work hard at being gracious too!

In 1 Samuel 15, we have just finished reading about the downfall of Saul, who’s actions with God and decisions revealed his stubborn and self-centred heart. God had responded to the call of His people for a King, and appointed Saul. It wasn’t long before Saul’s weakness in leadership is revealed, as he fails to rely fully on God, by rejecting God’s leading.

So what was God seeking? There’s no missing the point with the words spoken to Samuel as he follows God’s new direction to find another to fill the role of King.

‘The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’ 1 Samuel 16:7b

How easy it is to judge people by outward appearance; both physical and behavioural, but in so many situations, do we ever really know the person?  … unless of course you share a household with them. There’s a book by well-known writer Bill Hybles, Who Are You When No One’s Looking: Choosing Consistency, Resisting Compromise.  If you are a reader, can I encourage you to source it out, as Bill provides great encouragement through personal experience and the importance of drawing on scripture and the promises of God in how we should live.

In the words of the Publisher’s Summary, ‘We are all at our best when it counts. But what are we like when no one’s looking? That’s where character comes in – being consistent even when it doesn’t seem to matter. Courage. Discipline. Vision. Endurance. Love. These character qualities are quickly becoming endangered. All too often we hear of marriages falling apart, governments lying, businesses cheating and scandals rocking the church. But with God’s guidance and strength, we can maintain character that lasts despite temptations and troubles.

We also know we worship a God that when we do fail – and we will – we can seek His forgiveness, as we forgive others and seek their forgiveness. My prayer … that I will continue to grow in my faith, and as I do,it will be evident to others. But more than this, when God looks as me; looks deep into my heart, my prayer is that He will see a women with a heart’s desire and commitment to be what He intended for me!  

I know I have often quoted the following passage, but it’s one of the significant verses I often turn to when I reflect on my life and what God desires of me.

‘And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy and walk humbly with your God.’ Micah 6:8


The leader is rejected

In our western democracies, we are able to reject our political leaders who fail to live up to our expectations, some are rejected by their parties. In 1 Samuel 15 we see God rejecting King Saul for failing to carry out His expectations.

In a dramatic chapter that would not look out of place in a tele-series such as Game of Thrones, we see the tragic consequences when we think we know better than God –  “He doesn’t really mean all that – does he?”

When Saul is ordered to annihilate the Amalekites as punishment for the grief that they gave to the wandering Isrealites (see Exodus 17:8-16; Numbers 14:43-45; Deuteronomy 25:17-19), he spares the life of their king and the best of the livestock.

God reveals Sauls failings to the Prophet Samuel – who is deeply troubled by this (v11). He goes to confront Saul who is acting as if nothing is wrong – the scene is somewhat comical.

Saul – “I have carried out all the Lord’s instructions”

Samuel – “Really ! What is that I can hear ?? Sheep?

Saul – “What sheep?” “Oh those sheep! Well, um –  the soldiers (shifting the finger of blame) – brought them from the Amalekites – we only saved the best – for sacrifices (so its ok) – but we totally destroyed the rest!”

At this point Samuel looses his cool – despite Saul’s best protestations – he has heard enough and delivers the Lord’s judgement:

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
    as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
    and to listen than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
    and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
    he has also rejected you from being king.” (v22-23)
Saul caught out and faced with the reality of loosing his crown is full of remorse and repentance and begs for forgiveness but it is too late. As the NIV Study Bible note on verse 25 points out – Saul’s greatest concern was not to worship God but to avoid a break with prophet Samuel which would undermine his authority as king.
He compounds his troubles when in desperation he grabs the departing Samuel’s robe and rips it – so declares Samuel –  “the kingdom of Israel will be torn from you and given to one of your neighbours”.
As we will soon see in the coming days readings – the neighbour destined to receive Saul’s kingdom is David. Just as obedience is better than sacrifice – so David is regarded better than Saul, who had originally considered without equal (1 Sam 9:2).
Samuel shows Saul some mercy, by returning with him to his subjects so he can save some face. But there is no mercy shown to Agag, the king of the Amalekites who is slain by the prophet.
In an echo of Genesis 6:6, God is grieved that he ever made Saul king over Israel.
None of us takes rejection well – especially deposed political leaders and we will see in future chapters Saul’s jealousy for his future replacement.




Certainty in a Glorious God

Today’s reading is taken from 1 Samuel 14 & Revelation 4.

As you read 1 Samuel 14 the theme that jumps out at you is one of deep certainty. Jonathan, perhaps a highly disciplined warrior makes a rash move – one which in usual circumstances would require the validation of the resident prophet or priest. On the surface one might think Jonathan’s actions to be reckless and destructive. A possible outcome of his little escapade could have become a case of national humiliation where the king’s son ends up -in a best case scenario- a P.O.W., or -worst case- probably with his head on a pole. But this move is not made by some knuckle-head soldier hungry for blood. Jonathan proves to be a man of great faith with a deep certainty in the God of Israel.

For one Jonathan knows his history. The promise made to Abram in Gen. 12:1 goes like this: ‘Leave your country… and go to the land I will show you.’ Egypt was definitely not that land. God redeemed Israel and brought them out of there so that He could lead them to the land where a life of blessing might be enjoyed. Jonathan is well aware that the land of Canaan (occupied by the Philistines) ‘flowing with milk and honey’ is where the Lord is leading His people. So this war against pagan Philistine is essentially God’s war – one that He is fighting on behalf of His people. It is then with this certainty that Jonathan says in v.6b that ‘nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few’.

1 Samuel 13:5 gives an intimidating inventory of the Philistine army – which by the looks of things is force to be reckoned with. Only someone daft enough would walk into that camp with a young armour-bearer by his side hoping for a victory. But such is the case with most things of God. God makes a promise to a childless Abraham in Gen. 17:5ff to make him ‘a father of many nations’ and ‘very fruitful’ at the ripe old age of 100. This too might have seemed daft at the time to Abraham. Genesis 17:17 says that in fact ‘he laughed’ at the thought of this. In 1 Samuel 16, Samuel seems keen to anoint Eliab to be king of Israel, probably based on his stout appearance. But instead the skinny shepherd-boy -the after-thought- is chosen by God to lead His people. God often chooses the weak, the meek, the lowly and the resource-poor to carry out his purposes and to display his power and glory.

Jonathan trusts in the power and might of his God and not in his own resources. His faith and deep certainty in the Most High reveals to him that the strength of an army is redundant when God is involved. Revelation 4 reinforces this vision of God by painting a vivid picture of His throne where the all-powerful God of the universe who spoke the heavens into existence sits (Ps. 33). Let these words written by John the Apostle be our prayer today: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

Sam, KIC

Don’t Turn Aside from the Lord

Don’t Turn Aside from the Lord

1 Samuel 12

The appointment of a king was in some sense an expression of a lack of appreciation that God himself was their King. However, God endorsed the appointment but warned, through Samuel, that they should not turn aside from the Lord but serve him with their whole heart.

Whatever the situations may be in which we find ourselves, even though they may not be ideal, our first duty is to be faithful to God. An older author wrote: “in the ancient world a king kept a register of his citizens. If a man committed a crime against the state, or when he died, his name was erased from the book of citizens. To have one’s name written in the book of life is to be numbered amongst the faithful citizens of the Kingdom of God; it is to be included with those who belong to God. Jesus will confess their names before His Father and the angels.”

The Church in Philadelphia – Little Strength but Faithfully Obedient

Revelation 3:7-13

In a city with a significant Jewish population but a relatively small church where was God and his purposes for the world to be found? One has written, “the unbelieving synagogue will realize that Jesus, their own Messiah, has loved this little group that believes in him”. These are the ones who will bear the new name. They are to hold fast to what they have so that no one can take away their crown.

Note the personal interaction the Lord Jesus has with this church. “I know your works”, “I have set before you and open door”, “I will give you those who belong to the synagogue of Satan”, “I will make them come and kneel before your feet”, “I have loved you”, “I will keep you safe”, “I am coming quickly”, “I will make him who overcomes a pillar in the temple of my God”, “I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God … and my new name”.

Truly, let him who has ears, hear.

The First of the Kings

The First of the Kings

1 Samuel 10-11

This is the beginning of kingship in the life of Israel. Not that they were without a king before: God himself was their king and ruled through Judges. But the people wanted to be like those nations around them and Saul was the man appointed by God for the task.

As you continue to read you will see he made a good beginning,yet in time he would prove to be a failure. Let us pray that He who began a good work in us will, in His great mercy, bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Phil., 1:6)

To the Church in Sardis – Repent

Revelation 3:1-6

This church had a reputation that was not being matched in reality. One modern commentator has written: “what was the precise problem in Sardis? Although their malady can be understood as some kind of general unfaithfulness, a number of features in vv1-5 indicate that a particular expression of their spiritual lethargy was in not witnessing to their faith before the unbelieving culture. When opposition threatens there will always be pressure to ‘lie low’ and be silent. In our changing culture what will we do? “When a church has lost its vital force, it is no longer worth attacking; it is so ineffective that it has ceased to matter in the life of the community”.

It is important however to note that God had not forgotten the few in Sardis who were faithful.