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.


Thanks to youtube.com for the clip above.


…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

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.





Todays readings come from 1 Samuel 10 & 11 and Revelation 3:1-6.

Rejection hurts. Even when it’s not a big deal, rejection hurts.

Reading 1 Samuel 10, I am struck by the rejection theme.  The Lord God says:

I brought Israel up out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the power of Egypt and all the kingdoms that oppressed you.’ But you have now rejected your God, who saves you out of all your disasters and calamities. And you have said, ‘No, appoint a king over us.’ (1 Sam 10:18-19)

What a tragedy that unfolds before us. The beginning of the Kingship of Israel is born out of the rejection of God!

He was their King, the one who had rescued them out of Egypt.

He was their King, who did not forsake them in the desert, but wandered with them for 40 years!

He was their King who had led them into the promised land, winning battle after battle for the Israelites.

He was their King who had shown himself faithful to the promise to Abraham.

He was their King who desired to bless them.

What more could they want?  How could they do such a thing as reject their King? When you have a more powerful, just and loving King then any of your neighbouring countries… why would you want a King like your neighbours?

It’s easy to look back and shake my head at the actions of the Israelites. Such disbelief. Such unfaithfulness. Yet it doesn’t take much reflection to find myself empathising rather than criticising the Israelites. As I reflect on thoughts, words, actions and attitudes I can quickly find ways in which I am rejecting God as King and asking for a King like my neighbours – i.e.. myself. It makes no sense, but there’s something in me that wants to reject God’s rightful Kingship and substitute my own.

The words of the angel to the church in Sardis, though stern and solemn, are nonetheless encouraging for moments like these:

 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. (Rev 3:2-3)

When I find myself slipping onto the throne as I reject my good and rightful King, I am reminded that in his goodness and mercy, he does not abandon me, but just ask me to remember and repent.

May we remember who is King, and repent when he is not our King!


Lavish Love and our responses

Today’s FDR (Mo 12/01/2015) are Proverbs 6:20-35 and Galatians 5:1-15
[Click on these highlighted references to open a new window containing these passages from BibleGateway.com ]

My starting point is not with today’s two readings but with some of yesterday’s readings.  I hope you had a chance to read Psalm 100. A short five verses.  I trust you had a chance to worship with us yesterday too.  All services continued their sermon series on God’s Love and at Celebrate at 8 and 10am these were titled Lavish Love .  In one of these services the first reading was Hannah’s Prayer from 1 Samuel 2:1-10 and in both services the core sermon  passage was from 1 John 2:28 – 3:10, which is titled God’s children and sin.

Some times we are confronted by today’s two FDR readings in a way which may not be helpful.  The Proverbs reading is simply titled A Warning against Adultery and the Galatians reading has two titles Freedom in Christ and Life by the Spirit.

Yet seen in the more complete light of the three readings from yesterday and the sermon it is clear there is no other choice for us.  That is to live in the light of Christ. Always.

Psalm 100, titled A Psalm. For giving grateful praise. and Hannah’s Prayer are about worshipping the God who provides enough for us.  The God who not only meets out His lavish love and horrible judgement.  But in the New Testament sense, provides His Own as our advocate and as the One who stands in our judgement place for all we have done, do and will do in disobedience to God’s will for us.

So in this context the Proverbs passage (A Warning against Adultery) is a series of serious directions about our behaviour.  Although the wording is strongly against men making a decision, in some form, to be attracted to and have an adulterous relationship with a woman, it is not reasonable to claim that this passage does not apply to women.  Not when read in the broader context of the whole Bible’s treatment of us all as children of God.  Yet we can often read this passage and others like it without taking time to see it as something we may need to do to modify our behaviour.

When we read the Galatians passage (Freedom in Christ and Life by the Spirit) verse 6b “. . .The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”.  and verse 14 “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’.  make two core points.  While the contained discussion is about not following only one branch of teaching and living life in the Spirit this passage seeks to draw us back to the broader picture.

A picture in which three extra passages from yesterday help us to see that these words of wisdom, in Proverbs and Galatians, are for our protection.  For us to heed and modify our behaviour so as not to draw apart from our God who lavishes His love on us.

But there is more, as there often is for the Christian seeking to go further with Christ and our brothers and sisters.

We have a responsibility to not only look after ourselves in these and other matters but we also have a responsibility to walk with our fellow Christians, brother with brother and sister with sister, to assist each other to avoid the traps of temptation and to guide us back onto the path God has for us.  So that at the last day we may stand before God, who will be our judge, not embarrassed nor ashamed, because we sinned repeatedly without turning back to Him. Nor for our failure to seek to help our brother or sister who had fallen.

But when we took a path into sin, or even contemplated it, we pulled up short.  Returning to God’s way.  Or noticing our Christian brother or sister, we men put an arm on our brother’s shoulder, or we women put an arm around our sister’s waist, and actively sought to assist them back to God’s way and supported them in doing so.

A Prayer – May we, in God’s lavish love, keep walking in His ways, seeking His forgiveness when we give in to temptation and then go on resisting sin.  May we, in God’s lavish love, walk with and support others who are struggling, and where we are allowed support them to keep resisting sin.  We ask these things in the name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.


What drives love and hate ???

Today’s Readings: Samuel 19 & 1 Thessalonians 2:13-20

‘I’ve got your back; you’re my friend and I’ll do whatever I can to support you; I love you! or …
I hate you enough to want you dead!’

The contrast of these two statements are what jump out to me, as we continue reading through the book of Samuel; the unfolding story of God’s plan of salvation for his people; the unfolding story of God’s plan which not just sets aside, but knocks aside personal challenges that might distract us from listening to His voice and the call He has on our life (yes, like me I suspect this comment is another story for another time).

A significant part of the books of Samuel for me are about the importance of friendship and how friends support us; sharing good times and (if they are not just really good friends, but spiritually mature friends) they just seem to know when it’s important to defy what others might think as safe, and simply be there.

Do you know this type of friend? The one who would set aside the ‘blood is thicker than water’ mentality or what can only be described as ‘family loyalty’, simply because it’s just the right thing to do?

The depth of Jonathan’s relationship with David was like this.

‘My Father Saul seeks to kill you. Therefore please be on your guard until morning, and stay in a secret place and hide vs2  …… Thus Jonathon spoke well of David to Saul his father, and said to him, “Let not the king sin against his servant, against David, because he has not sinned against you, and because his works have been very good toward you.”    Samuel 19:2&4

Yes, life was very different for David and Jonathon than for us thousands of years later. But this is not about compromising or even sacrificing God’s framework for life; the Holy Spirit we can know as a certainty and reality because of Christ, supersedes the need to feel we personally are responsible for sustaining worldly relationships.

Don’t get me wrong. Yes, encouragement of each other is important. Yes, be there for you friends. But the situation David and Jonathon found themselves in is more than just standing up for your buddy. Encouragement is very much a biblical principle.

‘Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing ….’  1 Thess 5:11

Yes, I’ve jumped ahead with reading Thessalonians, but not really ….

‘And we also thank God continually because when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which  is at work in you who believe.’  1 Thessalonians 2:13

As we approach the advent season this year, Christmas;  as we approach the period of time when we stop and think about what is means that Jesus is more than the baby born at the end of the year, December, maybe it’s about for the first time, receiving him.

BUT receive him in the real sense. Stop and reflect on the simple truth that yes, the word of God has the same saving grace for us today, as it did for David (and Jonathon). Yes, believe.

Speak well of others not just at this time, but at any time, and delight in the friendships God has blessed you with. But more than this, as we’ve already read in the earlier chapters of 1 Samuel ….

‘The Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’  1 Samuel 16:7

How’s your heart, not just, how’s your friendships?

I’ve got your back; you’re my friend and I’ll do whatever I can to support you; I love you … and there is no other option!

As much as it might appear to be just a clique, Jesus … he’s got your back if only you’ll trust him. Trust me … like David (and Jonathon and everyone else over the past 2,000 plus years who has put their trust in him), know …


The Definition of a Leader

Today’s readings come from 1 Samuel 11 and Colossians 4:1

Leaders come in all shapes and sizes. Leaders are not necessarily defined by their cunning intellect, their powerful oratory or their ability to lead their nation into battle. Some leaders have fame and wealth, others have characteristics we admire and others instil in us a fear that demands our respect.

Three-thousand years ago in the middle-east, however, kings were predominantly seen as military leaders who were proven warriors in battle. As such, leaders in those times would be tall, strong and athletic. With this in mind it seems only fitting that God appointed Saul as Israel’s first King, a man who ‘was a head taller than any of the others’ (10:23). Despite his physical prowess, Saul had yet to prove his skills as military leader and some people were reluctant to have Saul as their King. This included Saul himself, who was found cowering amongst the supplies when his name was called out by lot (10:22).

Shortly after his initial appointment as King, today’s reading from 1 Samuel 11 describes Saul’s first opportunity to ‘prove his worth’. Upon arriving home to Gilead, Saul found the people weeping and in much distress because Nahash the Ammonite King had taken siege of Jabesh Gilead and was threatening to ‘gouge the right eye of every one of [them] and so bring disgrace on all Israel’ (11:2). Such a mutilation in the ancient Near East would have been used as a punishment for the violation of a treaty. ‘When Saul heard these words, the Spirit of God came on him in power, and he burned with anger.’ (11:6). At this point Saul rallies the Israelites. He takes 330,000 men and rescues the Jabeshites in a good old-fashioned biblical style assault (11:11).

Upon their victory, and Saul’s vindication as a military leader, the people approach Samuel and demand that the men who doubted Saul’s appointment be put to death. But in an act of humility and grace Saul declares ‘No one will be put to death today, for this day the Lord has rescued Israel’ (11:13). Saul’s demonstration of the leadership qualities necessary to be Israel’s king lead Samuel to undertake an important meeting at Gilgal reaffirming Saul as King. Unfortunately, these qualities were short-lived and eventually lead to his denouncement as King at the same place several years later (15:10-26).

Stepping forward approximately one thousand years and the Apostle Paul is writing to the church at Colossi on the importance humility and grace as necessary attributes of a good Christian leader. Specifically, Paul instructs masters to counter-culturally respect their slaves and give them what they are due (4:1).

The gracious words of Saul, and the radical call to respect the slave, reflects the life we are called to live. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). There can be no greater act of grace; no greater counter-cultural action. We all have the opportunity to interact with and influence others. We are all leaders to someone. The challenge is to live, not as the world expects, as exerting influence due to our status or position. Instead, as we interact with those around us may we reflect Saul’s decision to show mercy and Paul’s call to show respect. Most importantly, let us reflect the servant leadership that we see so clearly reflected in Jesus.