May 7

May 7

David Anointed as King — God’s chooses David & says not to judge by appearance.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 1 Samuel 16

Reading 2: Psalm 78:70-72

Reading 3: John 7:24

In the midst of the self-important corruption of Saul’s reign, even Samuel is afraid of what the king might do to him, but God is still at work. Samuel is sent to Jesse’s house to select and anoint the next king. Yes, the first king is still very much alive, but this episode will foreshadow what will happen later when the True King (Jesus) will defeat the usurper king (satan). Still, he will not fully enforce the victory until God’s timing is met.

Notably, Jesse doesn’t even count David among his sons at first: verse 5 of 1 Samuel 16 tells us, “Then Samuel performed the purification rite for Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice, too.” But when they go through learning to look at the heart, not the external appearance, they find that none of Jesse’s handsome sons is to be king. Then Jesse sends for David – the youngest and the one in charge of the sheep – the least important job.

Do not despise insignificance – it prepares you for greatness in God’s timing. Being left out does not mean you are not in God’s plan – you may well be surprised!

Sometime after David’s anointing, Saul’s condition deteriorates (more about that in a moment), and David is called to become his music therapist. His heart for worship was a channel for God’s Spirit to be released into the situation.

The reason for Saul’s distress was a demonic spirit, which God had allowed to trouble Saul after Saul persistently turned away from God to go his own way and depend on his own wisdom, power, and authority. The passage calls the demon “A tormenting spirit from God,” but this should not be taken to mean God sends evil spirits to trouble us. That would be totally inconsistent with God’s holiness, His heart of love, and His purity. However, there are plenty of places in scripture where God allows people to experience the consequences of their sin and rebellion, including torment by evil spirits. That is what is happening here. It is rather like a loving parent who refuses to bail their child out of jail after a series of crimes. The imprisonment is caused by the parent (from the child’s point of view), but it is a consequence of the wrong choices repeated. You can read more about this challenging passage at these two websites.

Psalm 78 says of David, “He cared for them with a true heart and led them with skillful hands.” What a contrast with Saul, who used them with a selfish heart and threatened them with harsh, authoritative, and judgmental hands. Too many ‘Christians’ today resemble Saul more than David, which is a tragic open door for diminishing godly influence in our culture. 

But David’s discovery, promotion, and anointing give us hope that God will also use us for His glory if we prove faithful in obscurity and focus more on keeping a true heart than exerting our rights, opinions, and distorted representations of God.

Have a great day!

Mark.

May 6

May 6

Pause and Reflect:

Each week (approximately), we take a day to pause and reflect. You can also review your journaling or catch up with readings you may have missed.

You do journal as you read, don’t you? It’s so valuable to record your own observations along with God’s whispers of revelation. It helps you focus on the rhema for today as you read the logos of The Word.

And focus is an appropriate reflection topic after our recent readings. David’s focus was different from those around him. God’s focus is different from ours. Where is your focus being challenged or redirected this week?

Have a great day!

Mark.

May 5

May 5

Jonathan’s Victory — Jonathan’s faith in God’s ability to help those without power.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 1 Samuel 13:16-23

Reading 2: 1 Samuel 14

Reading 3: 2 Chronicles 14:11

Today we read of the courage and valor of Jonathan and his armor-bearer. They step out in faith to see if God will help them defeat the Philistines. Implied in their conversations and actions is a focus on obeying God’s instructions and trusting God to help them even though they have only one sword!

By contrast, Saul is seen to be acting independently and presumptively in his leadership of the nation. He issues decrees and orders establishing his authority which fail to either effectively defeat the enemy or make room for God’s intervention.

Despite Saul’s folly, the Philistines ARE defeated by God’s intervention and the faith of Jonathan and his armor-bearer. The Israelites do their best to maximize the victory but are rewarded by an inquisition when they later rush to eat without following God’s instructions about food. Saul’s response is judgmental and harsh, calling for Jonathan to be executed because he unwittingly disobeyed his father’s command. But the people defy Saul, Jonathan is saved, and the Philistines escape to fight another day again.

Those of us who lead others will find this story cautionary – it seems that power corrupts, and authority is easily misused, while those who have little of either, but great faith in God, can achieve God’s goals.

In God we trust! Not in power or authority!

Have a great day!

Mark.

May 4

May 4

Saul Disobeys — Saul’s unlawful sacrifice, sparing Agag & David’s heart for God.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 1 Samuel 13:1-15

Reading 2: 1 Samuel 15

Reading 3: Acts 13:16-23

Poor self-image will get you in trouble: Saul thought little of himself, Samuel tells us. In other words, Saul did not trust God’s gifts, His calling, the anointing he had received, or God’s prophet.

All these insecurities led Saul into multiple sins: disobeying God’s instructions, coveting the spoils, sparing the life of King Agag, blame-shifting and making excuses for his sins, lying to Samuel, justifying his actions, and so on!

Fear of the people, rooted in his insecurities, caused Saul to lose his kingdom and, ultimately, his life. He knows he has failed at the earliest point of his rule, yet he continues to try to hold on to power (and thus reveals how much it has corrupted him).

Today, too many of us hold on to sinful perspectives that lead us away from God. Insecurity is disguised as humility but causes us to hide our sins. Pride is repainted as wisdom or strength but still causes downfall if unaddressed.

The alternative is to be known by others, open to input, loved by God, and frequently forgiven. This is the path to life!

Have a great day!

Mark.

May 3

May 3

Saul Obeys God — Saul’s coronation, Samuel’s prayer, & praying for the government.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 1 Samuel 11

Reading 2: 1 Samuel 12

Reading 3: 1 Timothy 2:1-2

After some dissent at his anointing, Saul mobilizes the whole nation through the fear of consequences if they don’t follow him and defeat the enemy. After the victory, some want to kill those who opposed Saul, but he denies them permission. Then the nation crowns Saul as their King.

This enables Samuel to step back and let Saul lead the nation, but not before Samuel warns Israel again about the consequences of their choice; to reject God and demand a king.

Looking forward, there is a constant choice before them: serve God faithfully or sin and be destroyed.

The choice for us is easier – following Jesus does not depend on our own righteousness but His sacrifice for us. Our God is also our King! So today, we can be sure that His blessing is ours if we trust Him.

Have a great day!

Mark.

May 2

May 2

Saul Anointed as King — King Saul & God’s Laws for a King.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 1 Samuel 9

Reading 2: 1 Samuel 10

Reading 3: Deuteronomy 17:14-20

Today we see God’s power clearly, in the choosing and anointing of Saul as king. Multiple supernatural insights are given to Samuel first to show Saul that God is in charge of his appointment and correctly show him confirmations of his calling.

Then Saul himself experiences God’s enabling presence, prophesying with the prophets. After that, you would expect him to follow God wholeheartedly!

God had already given instructions that the king was to copy out the Law of God for himself and read it constantly. This instruction would keep the king focused on God’s plans and God’s will. But this does not happen, and we shall see that the consequences are every bit as painful as when Eli and his sons turned away from God.

We don’t need to make the same mistake – we have God’s Word in the Bible, and we can each grow closer to God as we read each day. Who can you encourage today with an account of what God has done in your life since you started reading the Bible with us regularly? Speak up today and tell them the benefits of reading God’s Word! Invite them to read with us. If you have received this by email from a friend or on Facebook, you can sign up to receive the email yourself.

Have a great day!

Mark.

May 1

May 1

Israel Wants a King — Israel rejects God as their king.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 1 Samuel 7

Reading 2: 1 Samuel 8

Reading 3: Hosea 13:9-11

With the Ark back in Israel, Samuel becomes Israel’s judge.

He commands them to get rid of their idols and Asherah poles. The worship of this fertility goddess was widespread at many points of Israel’s history, just as pornography, prostitution, and sexual sin are common today. All these things are sins because they distract from God and defile people made in God’s image. Even if promoted as the exercise of free-will, they lead instead to bondage because true freedom is only found in God and in living as God created us to live.

Samuel had a similar problem to Eli before him – his sons were ungodly, and this time the people of Israel demand a king to replace their judge. Despite Samuel’s warnings, they insist on having a king to take advantage of them. God explains to Samuel that this is really a rejection of God Himself.

In the same way, if we insist on our own way, demanding the “right” to choose for ourselves what is right and wrong, we will be rejecting God too, just as clearly as Adam and Eve rejected God’s rule when they chose to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Whenever you and I stray from willing obedience to God and choose instead to make our own determination of rightness and direction, we will end up far from God.

Instead, today, let’s welcome Jesus as our King!

Have a great day!

Mark.

April 30

April 30

The Ark is Returned — God judges the Philistines, their idol Dagon, & all false idols.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 1 Samuel 5

Reading 2: 1 Samuel 6

Reading 3: Psalm 115:3-8

Before we paused to reflect, we saw the Israelites’ presumption in treating the Ark of God like a good luck charm and the downfall of Eli’s family that resulted from their lack of respect for God’s calling, holiness, and glory.

Today we see that God is completely capable of defending Himself against evil (after all, He cast satan out of heaven when he sinned)! When the Ark is taken by the Philistines and placed in the temple of their god Dagon, the idol falls in adoration in front of the Ark. Thinking this is an accident, they set him upright again, only to find him shattered in the morning after falling again!

Not only that, but the Philistines are all afflicted with tumors while the Ark is in their cities. Some translators suggest the word means hemorrhoids! Clearly, the Philistines are anxious to find a solution to their problems. Their diviners come up with a resourceful solution – make golden models of the problem, send them back with the Ark on a new cart pulled by two cows that have never pulled a cart before and whose newborn calves are penned back in the city.

That is what you would call a test! No cow will leave her calf, and no cow will pull a cart without training. But these two cows head straight for Beth-Shemesh (the border town with Israel) and demonstrate to the Philistines that indeed it was God who afflicted them. So God gets the glory and the power, in contrast to Dagon, who is aptly described by the words in Psalm 115: “They have mouths but cannot speak, and eyes but cannot see. They have ears but cannot hear and noses but cannot smell. They have hands but cannot feel, and feet but cannot walk, and throats but cannot make a sound. And those who make idols are just like them, as are all who trust in them.

Today, let’s trust God – for His power and glory to be seen again in our nation and around the world.

Have a great day!

Mark.

April 29

April 29

Pause and Reflect:

The last time we paused to reflect we thought about women in general. This week, let’s reflect on the two women we have read about: Ruth and Hannah. Their stories were very different, but their results were very similar: significant sons whose lives made a difference.

In your reflection, today, either think of ways God has caused your life to converge with others or consider your legacy (what might it look like?). For “bonus points” you could do both!

Have a great day!

Mark.

April 28

April 28

God’s Judgment — Israel is defeated, Eli & his sons die, & the ark is lost.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 1 Samuel 2:22-36

Reading 2: 1 Samuel 4

Reading 3: 1 Kings 2:26-27

Today we read of the terrible consequences of turning away from God, and even of allowing defeat and resignation into our hearts. In one day, the Ark of the Covenant is captured by God’s enemies, both Eli’s sons are killed in battle as prophesied, Eli himself dies when news of the terrible defeat reaches Shiloh, and his daughter-in-law dies in childbirth, after naming her son Ichabod (meaning “the glory has departed”). Truly this was a dark day in Israel’s history.

Our first reading shows us that Eli’s sons were even more ungodly than has been previously stated. Seducing the young women who came to assist at the Tabernacle shows that they regarded their positions as priests as a right, not a gift. And they were corrupted by their position, as so many other powerful men have been. The second reading shows human presumption at its worst: the Israelites treat the Ark of the Covenant (the physical symbol of God’s presence) as a kind of lucky charm. They think they can use God for their own ends. Notice that none of their actions came from God’s instructions, indeed their actions were in direct contravention of God’s laws. And the ungodly Philistines recognize the significance of the Ark perhaps more than the Israelites!

So the downfall occurs, and the consequences were severe, yet we still see signs of hope, such as in chapter 4 verse 1: “Samuel’s words went out to all the people of Israel.” When God cleans the house, He has always prepared the next light to shine in the darkness. We are not in control of the timing, but we can be confident that God will bring restoration and revival again – that is His plan, His heart, and His business!

Together: have you ever had a time when everything went wrong, yet you can now see a seed of God’s future plans in the midst of the disaster?

Have a great day!

Mark.