May 27

May 27

David & his Wars — David, the warrior for God.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 2 Samuel 8

Reading 2: Psalm 60

Reading 3: Psalm 144

After the disappointment of being told he cannot build the Temple, because he is too warlike, David turns his disqualification into his inspiration again and leads Israel’s armies to conquer yet more enemies. In this nation which had grown from little to great under God’s direction, there were still enemies to subdue in order that God’s people could be free to obey God. And David played a vital part in those victories, even though his heart was for God’s love and justice to be seen. In our minds sometimes those two concepts are opposites – killing enemies and displaying love and justice. But in David’s day, the culture was firmly in the “might is right” zone, and it was necessary for this new nation of Israel to fight against those who wanted to see them destroyed.

And David’s knowledge of God’s heart gives him the insight he needs to fight these battles – that God is against the ungodly, not out of vengeance but out of love for His chosen people. Just as a mother would defend her children to the death, so God wants everyone who seeks the destruction of His people destroyed.

This seems to be such a contrast to the man who would not harm Saul, and who disciplined those who delighted in killing (or claiming to kill) those they saw as enemies of God (or David). But the key is that David was close to God and valued God’s Word and Spirit more than any other relationship. Thus he could tolerate long years where God’s plan seemed not to be fulfilled, and also boldly fight for God’s victory in settings where others lost heart. Only in his desire to build the Temple is he disappointed, and he does not allow that to affect his relationship with God or his passion for God. Solomon will pick up the mantle one day, and be a very different king than his father.

There is a place in God’s economy for every gift. Some are gifted to be warriors, and some to be peaceful, wise builders. Each has their place in God’s plan. Only by listening to God can we follow that plan closely. Let’s be those who renounce presumption and make God’s heart our highest priority today!

Have a great day!

Mark.

May 26

May 26

David & the Temple — David prepares for the temple after God forbids him to build it.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 2 Samuel 7

Reading 2: 1 Chronicles 22

Reading 3: 1 Chronicles 29:1-9

Yesterday we saw David’s wise reaction to his mistakes and their consequences. Today we read about his ambition to build the Temple for God but see how he reacts when God says “no.”

Many of us, if we were prevented from doing something we had set our heart to do, would pout if we were told we could not do it. But David is different – instead of reacting, he makes provision for his vision!

He also shares the vision widely, encouraging support from all the leaders of Israel, and he spends time in worship and thanksgiving before God too!

What a great example for us today! What is the equivalent in your life, and how will you respond?

Have a great day!

Mark.

May 25

May 25

David & the Ark — The ark, the death of Uzzah, & David’s dance.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 2 Samuel 6

Reading 2: Numbers 4:15-20

Reading 3: Psalm 30

Today we see the consequences of mistakes and learn from the way David refused to let mistakes keep him from God’s best.

After becoming king and conquering Jerusalem, now David’s heart for God motivates him to bring back the ark of the Lord from the home of Abinadab. He wants the symbol of God’s covenant presence to be at the center of the life of this newly reunited nation. Worthy motives indeed, but having worthy motives alone will not guard us against mistakes. We need a knowledge of God’s Word and the humility to obey God’s instructions.

Do you recall how the ark came to be in Abinadab’s house? About 20 years earlier (in 1 Samuel 4) the Israelites had used the ark as a kind of battle talisman in the wars with the Philistines, and the ark had been captured (an event which led to the death of Eli and his daughter-in-law). While the Philistines had the ark in the temple of their god, Dagon, it caused havoc: not only did Dagon’s statue fall over twice and break into pieces but all the Philistines were over-run with rats and afflicted by tumors.

So the Philistines put the ark on a new cart and sent it back (you can read the details in 1 Samuel 6) and it ended up in the home of Abinadab (one of Saul’s sons) in Kiriath Jearim (also called Baale Judah) (1 Samuel 7:1-2).

Now, twenty years later, Saul and Abinadab have died in the battle with the Philistines, but David is now victorious and wants to bring the ark back to the center of the nation. Unfortunately, his mistake is to repeat what was done before – to trust experience over obedience. He took all the elite troops in a show of military force, and put the ark on a new cart (the Philistine method for moving arks), trusting Uzzah and Ahio to guide it. Now, these men were not priests or Kohathites (the designated ark carriers) and did not have the right to move the ark. They were the sons of Abinadab so they had grown up with the ark in their home. It is dangerous to become too familiar with God’s presence! When the oxen stumbled, Uzzah reached out to steady the ark and was immediately struck dead.

So David’s presumption led to the death of the guardian of the ark! This shocked and scared David, so he left the ark at the home of Obed-Edom for three months. During this time God blessed Obed-Edom and prospered him. So then David returns to complete the task he started, but this time he is careful to follow God’s instructions. With priests to carry the ark (as God had commanded) and sacrifices to honor God, the ark is brought to Jerusalem.

Now it is the turn of Michal (David’s wife and Saul’s daughter) to make a mistake: she interprets David’s wholehearted worship dance as the cavorting of a vulgar man. Her mistake is to judge by outward appearance and previously acceptable standards of behavior. These are the mistakes of religion that falls short of obedience to God. And so Michal remains bitter and childless (a sign of the absence of God’s blessing in that culture) for the rest of her life.

So while Michal lived with the consequences of her wrong choice, and Uzzah died as a consequence of his wrong action, David learned from his mistakes, grew in his understanding of God’s will, and prospered through his obedience. May the same be true of us!

Have a great day!

Mark.

May 24

May 24

David defeats Jerusalem & the Philistines — David’s battles & commitment to pray.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 2 Samuel 5

Reading 2: 1 Chronicles 11:4-9

Reading 3: James 1:2-8

Today we see the conclusion of David’s path to the kingdom. He is finally approached by all the tribes of Israel and recognized as king. Scholars generally agree that David was about 15 years old when Samuel anointed him to be king, and today’s reading tells us he was 30 when he became king of Judah, so he waited 15 years to be recognized as the ruler God said he would be, and a further 7½ years to become the king of the whole nation.

Reflect for a moment on that journey – it took David as long to be recognized as king as it took to be anointed as king. The appointment was only the beginning of the journey. And even when he had kept a good attitude and obeyed God all that time, he still had half as much again to wait until he was recognized as the king of the united nation. Have you ever felt you were called to something and then found it took longer than you wanted?!  Maybe God is in the waiting?

Now the nation has united under his rule, David leads them to attack the stronghold of Jebus (Jerusalem). This was the strongest city of the original people of the land – whom God had commanded Israel to overthrow in their taking of the promised land.  Sometimes challenges are so great that they can only be faced in unity – and God will bring together those needed to face the enemy and emerge victoriously. Also, notice how the defeat of the Jebusites was partly due to their own pride (which had no doubt increased in all the years of resisting the incoming Israelites and all their other enemies). The Jebusites became complacent, saying “even the blind and lame could keep you out” but David saw the weakness of the city, and David’s nephew Joab led the army to victory.

So David becomes king of the united nation, and defeats the strongest city, making it his capital. Now all the enemies of Israel are drawn to fight, in fear that their freedom to oppress Israel is coming to an end. And David defeats them repeatedly, by following God’s instructions.

James confirms this for us. When we face challenges, God will often make us wait for a solution. During this time He is both strengthening our dependence on Him and preparing our opposition for defeat. Unifying His people and growing their faith and endurance are God’s strategies for bringing victory and directing them with wisdom.

May that be your experience today, and every day!

Have a great day!

Mark.

May 23

May 23

Abner & Ishbosheth Die — The murders of General Abner & King Ishbosheth.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 2 Samuel 2

Reading 2: 2 Samuel 3

Reading 3: 2 Samuel 4

David is beginning to come into his power as king: God tells him to move back into Judah and live in Hebron. At first, the people of his own tribe, Judah, make him their king. But Abner, Saul’s general, declares Ishbosheth king in Saul’s place. There is fighting between these two factions, and Abner kills Asahel, whose brother Joab is one of David’s generals. Over time, accusation gradually weakens Saul’s house. Ishbosheth accuses Abner of sleeping with one of Saul’s concubines, and Abner reacts angrily, vowing to make David king of the whole nation. After meeting with David, and being sent away in peace, Abner is pursued by Joab, who murders him in revenge for Asahel.

Then we see again David’s heart for justice and honor. He declares a curse on Joab’s family because Joab would not honor authority, rather taking matters into his own hands. David declares that Joab and his other brother Abishai are too strong for David to control, so he puts them in God’s hands.

Finally, we also see the same principles when two of king Ishbosheth’s soldiers kill their king, who is afraid of David. These men think they are doing David a favor (as did the Amalekite we read about yesterday) but they find again that David is completely opposed to those who kill God’s appointed rulers, and he has them executed for their sin.

So we learn from all these twists and turns to trust God when we face strong opposition and to resist the temptation to take matters into our own hands when we think we know what is right. Whether that is in politics, or the workplace, or in our studies, only God has the authority to overthrow rulers (and others who have authority over us); we do well to remember that in our actions and attitudes today, just as David did all those years ago.

Have a great day!

Mark.

May 22

May 22

Saul & Jonathan Die — David mourns & God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 1 Chronicles 10

Reading 2: 2 Samuel 1

Reading 3: Ezekiel 33:11

Today we reach the sad end of the account of Saul.  The once renowned king, who turned his back on God, finally meets his end in battle; not fighting, but committing suicide rather than fall into the hands of his enemies. What a tragedy that the one who stood head and shoulders above everyone, and had all the anointing of God in his life, chose to go his own way until he ends his life a defeated, fallen man.

Such was the sorrow of David and his men for the death of Saul and his sons (including his beloved friend Jonathan), that he writes a song of mourning and remembrance to be taught to his whole tribe. He also kills an enemy informant who is clearly lying to boost his own standing. The Amalekite thinks he is boosting his influence with David by saying that he killed Saul, since Saul and David were foes, but David’s love for God forbids him to count the Lord’s anointed as his enemy, instead bringing justice on the young messenger for his own confession that he killed Saul (even though David does not know at this point that the man is making up that part of the story).

David’s mourning over Saul and Jonathan reflects God’s heart revealed in Ezekiel: “I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people. I only want them to turn from their wicked ways so they can live. Turn! Turn from your wickedness, O people of Israel! Why should you die?”

Let’s embrace that attitude ourselves as we face those in our own society who sin against God, even conspicuously. And let’s remember that we ALL sin and deserve death; repentance is the only path to life.

Have a great day!

Mark.

May 20

May 20

David Chases the Amalekites — Finding strength in God during hard times.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 1 Samuel 29

Reading 2: 1 Samuel 30

Reading 3: Habakkuk 3:17-19

Let’s reflect on David’s life for a moment. He is the youngest son in his family and overlooked when the prophet comes to select a new king. Then he is anointed as king but refuses to enforce his authority over the existing king, Saul. Gradually he comes to be the prime enemy of Saul, even though Israel and Judah are surrounded by other enemies as a result of their failure to fulfill God’s commands to them on entering the Promised Land. David is forced to flee and live among those enemies to be safe from Saul’s murderous self-focus. David’s life has been a string of setbacks and opposition.

Now today’s reading tells us of two more immense obstacles for David: first, his Philistine master, Achish, rejects him from battle because the other Philistine kings are suspicious of David’s loyalty. And then, on returning to his home, David and his men find all their wives and children have been kidnapped by another enemy group – the Amalekites.

Lesser men (including most of David’s soldiers) would have reacted in anger to this double setback. His men were talking of killing him. But David’s response is different. In signature style, David demonstrates his godliness. First, he strengthens himself in the Lord, and then he seeks God’s wisdom before acting. We do not know exactly how David “found strength in the Lord his God” (v6) but our reading in Habakkuk gives us some clues. Rejoicing despite afflictions, trusting in God’s provision of strength, declaring God’s promises; all these are ways we can strengthen ourselves in the Lord.

Then, after seeking God’s wisdom, David and his men set out to administer justice on the marauding enemies. It is noticeable that both the ungodly Philistine king and the pagan Egyptian slave are influenced by the godliness of David and his men so that both invoke God’s name as their reason for their actions – Achish sending David away without dishonor, and the slave helping David and his men find their families.

And when the victory is achieved, David decrees that there is just as much reward in supporting acts of righteousness and justice as there is in being on the front-lines. We all have a part to play in God’s Kingdom advance, and we all share in the rewards when victory belongs to the Lord.

Have a great day!

Mark.

May 19

May 19

Saul Consults a Medium — God is silent to Saul & Saul tries to consult the dead.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 1 Samuel 28

Reading 2: 1 Chronicles 10:13-14

Reading 3: Proverbs 1:22-33

The pinnacle of Saul’s departure from godly ways comes in today’s readings. He turns to methods God had expressly forbidden in order to find answers that should only come from God.

Let’s be clear that this passage is NOT an endorsement of consulting mediums (or turning to any form of occult power such as palm readings, tarot cards or horoscopes). All these practices are forbidden by God and off limits for the Christian, just as playing with matches at the gas station is not permitted.

God is silent to Saul because God has already rejected his ungodliness. Very shortly the problem will be resolved and Saul will be taken out of the picture by his own hand. God will control our actions to fulfill our destiny, although He will also permit ungodliness to continue long enough to be seen clearly so that His judgment is understood to be just.

Those who ignore God’s instruction reap the harvest of evil in the end. The sad thing is the trouble they cause to those who are following God in the meantime. If we encounter enemies in this way, God’s instruction is to avoid them and to trust Him alone for our guidance, provision and ultimately, success.

Have a great day!

Mark.

May 18

May 18

David Spares Saul Again — David sneaks into Saul’s camp but does not take revenge.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 1 Samuel 26

Reading 2: Matthew 5:38-48

Reading 3: Romans 12:14-21

Repeatedly, God shows He is with David, and against Saul. Today’s reading is no exception. The deep sleep of the soldiers, the ability to take Saul’s belongings, David’s submission to Saul and to God, all these are miraculous signs of God’s presence and blessing.

Only in God’s strength can we love our enemies, bless those who persecute us, and trust God for justice not ourselves.

Are there any relationships in your life where you need to trust God? Maybe not for these extreme reasons, but nonetheless God’s power is available to us, enabling us to continue to do His will even in the most difficult circumstances or under the most extreme provocation.

May He guide you and bless you today, as He did David!

Have a great day!

Mark.

May 17

May 17

Abigail & Nabal — Nabal (whose name means “fool”) & foolishness.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 1 Samuel 25

Reading 2: Psalm 14:1-3

Reading 3: Proverbs 10:6-25

Today’s readings illustrate a principle that paying back evil for good will result in harm. In some ways Abigail represents humanity, and Nabal (whose name means “fool”) represents the devil.

Abigail is married to Nabal, who is only concerned for his own gain, greedy and coarse. Even though David and his men have treated Nabal’s servants and property with respect all the time they have been nearby, Nabal refuses to offer hospitality even when it is requested. In that culture hospitality was a requirement – it was expected that everyone who came along (which would have been a good number of people in that agricultural society) would be firmly encouraged to accept hospitality. Nabal stands in stark contrast to the norms of the day.

Paying back evil in return for David’s good provokes a strong reaction in David – he is a man of justice and will not hesitate to administer justice to this boorish fool. This serves to highlight the power of David’s trust in God that he does not act similarly with Saul!

When Abigail finds out what an idiot her husband has been, she makes haste to atone for his offense. Taking food and supplies, she hurries to apologize and make amends. Her gentleness and spirit of repentance touch David deeply, and he thanks her for keeping him from murder!

But there is still death on the agenda for Nabal: when he learns what Abigail has done, the shock gives him a stroke which leads to his death. Evil never prospers in the end!

Then David, who was so impressed with this wise and godly woman, asks her to marry him. What a proposal: his prospects were great when he was given Michal, daughter of Saul, as his wife, but she has now been taken away and given to another man. Now David’s only guaranteed prospect is insecurity and living as a marked man. Yet that does not stop him from asking Abigail to marry him, nor does it deter her from accepting the proposal!

Whatever your circumstances, Jesus is asking for your hand today. Will you say “yes” to Him?

Have a great day!

Mark.