A pair of Kings, from different houses and judgement

Today’s (Wed 31/05/2017) FDRs are 1 Samuel 26 & 27 and Revelation 17 & 18

As we continue our reading in the books of Samuel about two earthly kings from different families we continue to see a stark contrast between Saul and David.  Saul is now under God’s judgement and has been given over to an evil spirit or demon.  Do you remember after which sin God turned His back on Saul?

David is still making day to day decisions with God’s supremacy and will in his mind.  So he chooses not to take revenge opportunities that he comes into but to leave judgement to God.  Given our first impulses many of us will want to react to offences given. Just like David’s men in both the cave and Saul’s tent.  It is hard to restrain the ‘urge’ to strike out at the person who has hurt us.  Perhaps we’ve been passed over for a promotion or the desired cream task has been handed to somebody else! Perhaps our friends have been told a false story about us or our family that they’ve believed!

In the moment we discover that this has happened to us we often want to teach the perpetrator a lesson!

Jesus teaches us that there, in the flash of a thought to take revenge, we have sinned!  How do we remedy this response in us?

Why do you think we see David acting differently?   Look into Jesus’s teaching and the apostles writings about how to keep ourselves from sinning?

As we read our Revelation chapters today, are you struck, as I am, by the immense forces unleashed on  the earth and its people.

We read, hear or see news of apparent threats from North Korea and this country’s testing of missiles that could carry nuclear war heads onto our country.  War heads that can unleash tremendous destruction and desolation.  What will these end-times forces that God is sending in judgement do?  Why judgement?

Whatever you believe the form of these visions in Revelation are, it is pretty clear they depict the end of the world and its peoples.  The way in which these descriptions occur and are written are similar to any other passages in the Bible where God brings judgement on an individual, on a people, on nations and on countries.  As a direct example look at the earlier Samuel passage where Saul is judged as God withdraws Himself and allows an evil spirit to control Saul.

While David’s prime role in the Bible is to continue the line from which the gracious gift of God is made, that of Jesus Christ in the form of forgiveness for our sins.  This is so that forgiveness comes to life personally in our world.  So too we are reminded by Revelation that judgement can and will come to us all.

David’s life, although faulted, becomes an exemplar for our own life.  To live in faith and hope under the glorious grace and mercy of our Triune God.  Our Father God!

I trust this hymn and its words build you up and encourage you as you seek to live as God asks.  I encourage to go into today with these words and your commitment to our Almighty God on your heart and mind.

I, the Lord of sea and sky

May we be blessed by God and bless each other as we seek to walk together as children of God.

Glenn

Thanks to youtube.com for the clip above.

 

God only knows

1 Samuel 23-24

In Ch 23 verse 6 we are told that Abiathar, who was the son of the high priest Ahimelech, had an ephod or priestly garment with him. The ephod contained something Called Thummim and Urim which was like a 2 parameter dice. This was used to enquire from God. Its exact function is unknown but it seems that the priest asked a question of God and the T and U responded with either yes or no. We see here that David is totally faithful to God. He won’t make a move without the direction of God.

Saul is after David with a force about 5 times the size of David’s army so David runs off to various places in the desert. David is tempted to save his own life when Saul comes into the cave where David is hiding. Instead, David secretly cuts off a corner of Saul’s robe to prove that he had been that close to Saul and he could have easily killed him. Now when David confronts Saul with this evidence, that he could have killed him, Saul is ashamed and gives up the pursuit, convinced that God is on David’s side.

How often are we tempted to take matters into our own hands rather than trust God? Even when it seemed like his own life was at stake, David adhered to his principles and refused to raise his hand against The Lord’s anointed. Bring back the Thummim and Urim I say!

Rev 13:-14

The trick to reading Revelation is to remember that all of it is a vision that John saw. Not just some of it, all of it. Obviously when we read the description of the beasts of the sea and the land we do not imagine that such an animal exists, but rather that they stand for someone. A person.

Also remember that the descriptions are often representative of a spiritual kingdom of which we have no direct knowledge. I remember when bankcard was first issued, it contained some graphics of the lowercase letter “b” outlined in red, orange and yellow which some Christians claimed represented 666. They cited this passage in Revelation claiming that we would all be forced to use this system to buy and sell. Of course bankcard was just an Australian phenomenon and has since become defunct. This is the big problem with claiming to interpret this kind of literature. There is nowhere to manoeuvre when something historical happens (like the collapse of bankcard).

Of course few people would take the number of 144 000 people literally, but what about the fact that they are all apparently male virgins and they were all blameless? I don’t care how many it symbolically represents, I am going to say that if you start wondering which group of people this might refer to then you are going to do a lot of wondering. Are the first fruits purchased from mankind and offered to God all male? Are they all “undefiled by women”? Are they all “completely blameless as no lie is found in their mouths”? The Bible says they are. Well there we go again trying to imagine that such people exist! The dragon and the beast with seven heads do not exist. They are symbols of people yet to be born we think. Therefore the 144 000 male, honest virgins likewise do not exist. They are symbols for something else. Sorry I cant help you there other than to reiterate that we should not fall into the trap of thinking that some of Revelation is symbolic, like the dragons and the beasts, but some of it might be literal. No, it is all symbolic of something else.

Hey Saul…….just let it go!

Todays readings are 1Samuel19; Revelation10:1 – 11:14

I’ll just say it – I just don’t get a lot of Revelation….especially today’s reading. The letters to the 7 churches not too much of a problem there…and the culmination of all things: a new heaven and earth, the final judgement and the awesome worship of the glorified Jesus…..I just love that imagery. In fact I see worship as one thing we do now that is eternal in that when we are in the presence of the father and son we still continue to do just that. Even the written word of God and theology wont matter. We will be in His presence – the living word.

But when it comes to our reading today I’ve got nothing. I checked out some study notes and they sounded a bit like: “this verse could mean this but others take it to mean that”

Yesterday in Chap 18 of 1 Samuel we saw how Saul is becoming jealous of David. He was loyal to Saul and did everything and more that the King asked. David was successful and so honoured by the people and loved by Saul’s son Jonathan. By now Saul is planning to have David killed in battle by the Philistines (interesting that David some years later would try the same trick on Uriah! – Bathsheba’s husband who he committed adultery with). Saul was also becoming afraid of David – the hand of the Lord definitely resting upon him. Not only that but his daughter Michal was very much in love with David and Saul schemed to use her in David’s downfall when they married.

By Chapter 19 Saul is trying to talk his son Jonathan into killing David – this is getting bad! Jonathan was very fond of and committed to David. He talks his father into giving a pledge not to do such a thing. God had withdrawn His spirit from Saul and permitted an evil spirit to torment Saul – this would continue for the rest of his life. The Lords spirit now rested upon David. Saul could just not give up the idea of having David killed.

David runs away from Saul’s insanity. Saul repeatedly sends out groups of men to capture David. The Spirit of the Lord came upon all these man and they all prophesied. Saul then personally pursues David and he also has the Lords spirit descend upon him and prophesies! The power of the Lord has prevented Saul and his men from taking David’s life. He will be God’s man and a King after the Lords own heart. With David will come blessing for the great nation Israel……….well for a time anyway

This story reminds me of Paul’s (Saul’s) conversion. The last guy on earth we would pick to be the apostle to the gentiles is God’s choice. The power of God is a scary thing when humans decide to rail against it. God will have his way! – and that sometimes will not make sense and even seem bizarre to us.

So you think Saul would give up? Think again…….

If you want an insight into Davids thoughts while he is fleeing the relentless Saul  read some of the Psalms.(e.g Ps18)

 

A True Friend

Today’s reading: 1 Samuel 18, Revelation 8-9

It cannot be by accident or random coincidence that in 1 Samuel 18 the writer of Samuel contrasts the relationship of two men – a father and a son – to the same person David, in the same chapter, in the course of telling David’s story.

So, some reflections this morning on the nature of true friendship from the contrasting stories of Jonathan and his Dad.

True friendship is other-person centred.

David and Jonathan’s friendship is built on other-centred love. In verses 3-4 we read that Jonathan “loved David as himself”. The act of giving away his robe, sword etc is evidence of this (noting that at this time David was a shepherd from the “sticks” while Jonathan was a sophisticated rich prince from the big city, perhaps explaining why David would need these items if he was to enter the service of the King).

In contrast Saul’s relationship with David is entirely self-seeking. He perceives young David to be a threat and uses his power to manipulate circumstances to keep David out of the limelight. Rather than lead, mentor and guide the promising young warrior Saul surrenders to self-centred jealousy and manoeuvres and plots to ensure that his own position is secured in the minds of the people of Jerusalem, even plotting David’s death (vs 11,17 ).

Philippians 2 provides a great guide to Christian friendship

“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others”. (Phil 2:2).

True friendship, like David and Jonathan’s, is not based on getting your needs for companionship, approval, and validation met by someone else – it is based on other-centred acts of devotion.

True friends keep their word.

In verse 3 Jonathan makes a covenant of faithfulness to David and he remains faithful to it as we will read as events unfold in the rest of 1 Samuel.

Saul however breaks his word promising his daughter Merab to David, only to change his mind only verses later (vs 19)

God is faithful. He keeps his promises.

“The one who calls you is faithful. And he will do it!” (1 Thess 5:24)

Christian friends reflect their father’s character when they keep their word to each other.

True friends are prepared to go out of their way for each other.

Throughout his lifetime Jonathan played a dangerous game maintaining his loyalty to David while also honouring and respecting his father the King. This often placed him in a difficult situation. As the story unfolds in the chapters that follow we will read how Jonathan puts himself “in harm’s way” many times to protect his friend.

Jesus said “Greater love has no one than this, that he lays down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do as I command” (John 15:13-14)

Jesus willingly laid down his life for us. In doing so he modelled true friendship to us.

Jonathan was prepared to put himself at risk for his friend David.

Are we prepared to give up our time, our money, perhaps even our personal safety for our friends?

How are you going?

In the busy world we live in it can be tough keeping our friendships invigorated and fresh amongst all the other competing pressures of life. As I have read this chapter over the past few days I have been challenged to reassess how much effort I am putting into my friendships and whether I am more interested in receiving than delivering a blessing to my mates.

Pray

Lord, you have demonstrated to us what true friendship is all about by dying on the cross for us while we were your enemies. Teach me how to be a true friend to my Christian mates, just as you have been to me.

 

…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

KD