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 13

May 13

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 12

May 12

David on the Run — David eats the Holy Bread & Jesus comments to the Pharisees.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 1 Samuel 21

Reading 2: Psalm 34

Reading 3: Matthew 12:1-8

Today we read about David on the run – he leaves his closest friend Jonathan and is forced to flee for his life, going first to Ahimelech the priest. David and his men have no food and no right to demand support of the people because they are outcasts from the king’s court, but they can seek nourishment from God, and that is exactly what Ahimelech gives them. The sacred bread, just removed from the Tabernacle, was reserved for priests to eat, but Ahimelech gives them what they are not allowed. This foreshadows God’s grace in Jesus, giving us forgiveness that we do not deserve and have no right to claim.

Ahimelech also arms David with the spear of Goliath, which had been kept since David conquered the Philistine giant earlier. And so David and his men escape to the territory of the Philistine king Achish. His presence there is very worrying to Achish’s officers because they know David’s reputation in the nation, versus Saul’s jealousy and bitter anger. So to escape from these suspicious enemies, David feigns insanity so the king sends him away.

Imagine David’s internal conflicts in the midst of his challenges: he has been anointed as the next king but the current king sees him as a mortal enemy, he is surrounded by pagan enemies who want to take advantage of the animosity between Saul and David, but who also oppose God’s people and want to see them all wiped out. All these conflicting demands and focuses are operating in David’s heart, but Psalm 34 shows us how he resolves those competing thoughts: he trusts God, depends on God’s provision and intervention, and refuses to turn his back on God’s standards.

Incidentally, scholars all agree that the introduction to Psalm 34 refers to the same incident as 1 Samuel 21. The Philistine king is called Achish in 1 Samuel, and Abimelech in Psalm 34 (intro). This is not a contradiction because Abimelech means “My father is king” or “I inherited my kingship” and is thus a generic title (like Pharaoh) rather than the name of the king.

In Matthew 12, Jesus refers to the incident where David and his men are given the holy bread as a rebuke to the Pharisees who think they are right to criticize Jesus for allowing His disciples to “break” the Law. Jesus is clear that the intent of the Law, and the Lawgiver, is to promote mercy more than rigid obedience. There is a deeper principle at work than “Can you keep all the detailed requirements of the Law?” The principle is “God wants you to experience His generous mercy, even though you can’t keep yourself holy by your own efforts.” And that is why Jesus came: “the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!”

Have a great day!

Mark.

May 11

May 11

Jonathan Helps David — The friendship of Jonathan, David, & Jesus.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 1 Samuel 20

Reading 2: Proverbs 27:4-10

Reading 3: John 15:12-17

The downward spiral of Saul’s reign continues, affecting both his own family and David. But in the midst of Saul’s mistrust, jealousy, and rage, David and Jonathan deepen their friendship.

It is interesting to read small details with great significance – such as Saul’s place at the feast being against the wall (a perfect location for a king who trusts no-one). Abner, the commander of the army sits beside him to protect him and Jonathan (who Saul now mistrusts just as much as David) has to sit opposite the king, where every action can be observed.

Notice too, when Jonathan explains David’s absence, how Saul’s reaction is full of venom and totally out of proportion to the imagined offense. Here is a man who needs psychiatric help (or heartfelt repentance)!  The writer of the Proverbs diagnoses Saul accurately: “Anger is cruel, and wrath is like a flood, but jealousy is even more dangerous.”

Jonathan knows when he helps David, and tells him to escape, that he may never see him again. Jonathan is the son of the king who has been rejected by God for his sins. David is the man after God’s own heart whom God has chosen as the next king. Although Jonathan’s heart is on David’s side, the realities of the situation place him on Saul’s side, and so the friendship is effectively terminated, but not before the two men pledge loyalty to God and to each other.

This pledge, at the price of their lives, foreshadows Jesus’ loyalty to His disciples (and by extension His followers in years to come). Although we are His servants and He is our Lord, He calls us friends and willingly lays down His life for us. What loyalty, what a Savior!

Have a great day!

Mark.

May 10

May 10

Saul Attacks David — Saul’s anger with David & David’s escape from Saul.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 1 Samuel 19

Reading 2: Psalm 59

Reading 3: Psalm 56:3-6

After the display of insecurity and fear in our last reading, Saul goes on today to seek to eliminate David completely. But David still stands firm in his trust in God, submission to Saul’s position, and love for Saul’s children (Jonathan and Michal). That love is reciprocated by Jonathan (who intercedes for David with his father) and by Michal (who helps David escape when he is trapped).

Finally, when he has no options left, David goes to Samuel, where he is pursued by several groups of Saul’s soldiers. None of them is a match for the power of God, and nor is Saul when he finally goes to Ramah himself to find David. He ends up in the shameful place of lying naked on the ground prophesying!

The power of God is enough to stop any anti-God human, no matter how powerful. What David understood was that it is God’s prerogative to choose when and how to unleash His power in that way. If God has not taken the ungodly opposition out of your life yet, it is because there is a purpose in the struggle!

Have a great day!

Mark.

May 9

May 9

Saul’s Insecurity — King Saul is jealous of David, fears David, & manipulates David.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 1 Samuel 18

Reading 2: Proverbs 14:30

Reading 3: James 3:13-16

We can be grateful for the clarity of scripture on the relationship between Saul and David (or rather the enmity Saul felt for David in his insecurity and selfish pride).

Remember that Saul had shown presumption and pride from the start of his reign, causing God to choose David as king instead, while David has shown nothing but humility, obedience, and submission to the king.

The ways Saul treats David are ungodly and deceptive; designed to tempt him into settings where Saul hopes he will be killed. Clearly, Saul deserves none of his authority but is determined to deceive and manipulate David in order to keep it. Yet God sees to it that Saul’s schemes come to nothing and David’s success and reputation keep rising.

Even if the enemy seeks to trick you and trap you, God will watch over your life, just as James describes. Humility and trust in God will always preserve and prosper you, even if those in authority are against you.

Have a great day!

Mark.

May 8

May 8

David & Goliath — David the shepherd vs. the giant Goliath (who has four relatives).

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 1 Samuel 17

Reading 2: Psalm 23

Reading 3: 2 Samuel 21:15-22

The Lord is mighty and powerful, and today we see how His power is best displayed – through unexpected and humble circumstances. Saul, the proud king, is facing the Philistines and their ungodly champion, Goliath. They have reached the limit of their own strength and courage, which leaves them to listen daily to the taunts of the pagan giant. Saul has no idea what to do other than to bribe someone to do his work for him – with the offer of a royal bride and freedom from taxation. Ironically God had told Israel that this would be the price of a king – taxes that would drain their resources!

Then along comes David – and after a typical older brother/younger brother exchange with Eliab, he goes to the king and offers to kill the giant. How does such a young boy have such courage? His history of obscurity has trained him to trust God in difficult circumstances, and this latest challenge is not a difficulty to him! He has already been anointed King, but he does not come with an account of God’s impartation to qualifies him to take charge; instead he comes with humility and servanthood to solve the king’s problem without expectation of recognition or reward.

We know the result of the fight from our children’s Bible stories – David kills Goliath and becomes Israel’s hero. Later, as king, David and his army will kill Goliath’s brothers, and he will write the most famous Psalm describing how trusting God leads to rest, protection, provision, and victory.

That can be our experience also if we will choose to learn and grow in obscurity until God provides us our opportunity to serve, and then if we allow God to promote us in the way He chooses.

Have a great day!

Mark.

May 6

May 6

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) but the victory will not be fully enforced until God’s timing is met.

It is notable that 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 the process of 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 who is in charge of the sheep – the least important job in the family.

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!

Some time 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 which include 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 made repeatedly. 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 to the diminishing of 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 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 both judgmental and harsh, calling for Jonathan to be executed because he had unwittingly disobeyed his father’s command. But the people defy Saul, Jonathan is saved, and the Philistines escape to fight again another day.

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.