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 21

May 21

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 20

May 20

Pause and Reflect:

We often reflect on comparisons in our journey through the Bible (which we call One Story, or His Story).

Today let’s reflect on mercy (as characterized by David, and Jesus) and desperation (seen in Saul, and in human religious effort). Let Saul’s excesses sensitize you to any religious effort creeping into your life, and rejoice that Jesus is even better than David at displaying grace!

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.

May 16

May 16

David Hides & Spares Saul — The Ziphites tell Saul where David is & David writes a psalm.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 1 Samuel 23

Reading 2: 1 Samuel 24

Reading 3: Psalm 54

We continue to contrast David’s righteousness with Saul’s sinful and evil heart. David continues to obey God’s instructions, resisting the pagan enemies while trusting God to protect him from the evil king.

David is betrayed several times and is in constant danger, but his Psalm shows where his trust is rooted – in God’s faithfulness.

Then David has an opportunity to kill Saul, but his conscience is too righteous to do such a thing. David reasons that God anointed Saul to be king, and only God can take Saul out of that position. David’s men don’t see things that way, but to their credit, they are loyal and obedient to their master!

And so Saul gets to hear how David has proved he will not kill his former master. Saul is touched by this and declares the truth (for once) that David will be king. Of course, we know that such glimpses of truth and reason are now rare for Saul, and there is no hope for David in these empty promises. Yet David does promise not to kill Saul or his family.

What a testimony to the power of worship, and intimacy with God, that David continues to act righteously even in these extreme conditions!

What challenges are you facing right now? The same power of God is available to you. God will lead you, guide you, and act justly for you, if you will reach out for intimacy with Him!

Have a great day!

Mark.

May 15

May 15

David flees to the wilderness, Doeg kills priests, & David writes psalms.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 1 Samuel 22

Reading 2: Psalm 63

Reading 3: Psalm 52

Evil begets evil, and today’s readings are no exception. Saul has chosen his own wisdom, his own strength, and his own plans. There is no part of his being that has any place for God; he is consumed with maintaining his position and exterminating those he sees as enemies. He is entirely evil, and his evil influences others to evil, even as those who fear God refuse to submit to this now false king.

By contrast, David is in fear of his very life, but he still takes care of his father and mother (finding them a safe refuge in Moab), and he continues to obey God’s instructions, through the prophet Gad.

Saul responds by wallowing in self-pity and a distorted victim mentality, leading to him ordering the death of innocent people because he perceives their actions to be disloyal. Doeg, the Edomite, is the one who commits the murders of the priests because even the evil king’s own soldiers refuse to commit such a crime.

Only one priest escapes, and he finds refuge with the true king!

David continues to turn his sufferings into worship, writing heartfelt songs that show how broken he is over the multiplication of evil and the terrible season his nation is enduring. But at the same time, David is full of faith, trust in God, and hope for God’s redemption and justice. He refuses to take justice into his own hands, instead declaring the truth and trusting God to overturn the injustices.

God is looking for the same spirit in us. Not responding to wrong in a harsh, judgmental spirit, but reaching out for God’s mercy and grace while patiently waiting for God to bring about righteousness.

With that spirit, you will always have a song in your heart.

Have a great day!

Mark.

May 14

May 14

David in the Cave — David runs to a cave, prays to God, & writes psalms.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 1 Samuel 22:1

Reading 2: Psalm 142

Reading 3: Psalm 57

Has anything ever not gone your way? Perhaps you had a plan or a vision and it was cut short? Maybe life suddenly fell apart unexpectedly and even your best efforts could not restore it.

Those life disasters are the tests of our faith; the marriage that fails, the loved one who dies, the job that ends, the friendship that goes bad, the financial disaster, the medical diagnosis.

David has reached the lowest point – he is not even safe among the king’s enemies and is forced to hide to save his own life. Yet his example is inspiring to us. None of us has faced the opposition he faced, but in the midst of it all he is praising God and crying out honestly to Him. No religious pretense here. No high-sounding words hiding a broken heart. Instead, David is brutally honest with God and himself. And perhaps as a result of such honesty, he also declares the truth of God’s love and the hope His promises bring into every situation, no matter how dire.

We can learn from David, and turn to God in honesty whenever we face trouble. God’s truth does not change, His presence is assured, and His answers will always overcome our trials in the end.

Have a great day!

Mark.

May 13

May 13

Pause and Reflect:

As we read the account of David and Saul, we are also reading many Psalms written during these difficult times. The Psalms are rooted in real life, and often have powerful truths to speak to our daily walk, and our crisis moments.

Again and again you see “Selah” in the Psalms (or English words representing that Hebrew word). It means “pause and reflect” which is why we do this each week (or so).

May God speak to your heart as well as your mind, as you pause and reflect today. Selah!

Have a great day!

Mark.