Category: Devotional

Providence, Self-Restraint, & Contradictions

There was too much in today’s passage to choose a single item, so here are some quick-hit thoughts on a couple different parts of what we read.

Providence: David and his troops set out with the Philistines on their campaign into Israel, but several of the Philistine leaders do not trust David and send him home. During that campaign Saul and his son (David’s beloved friend, Jonathan) are killed. Note how God used the Philistines to help David maintain his position of innocence in the death of the king to whose throne he stands next in line? God’s providence is incredible. This is why we should praise God for closed doors… and He isn’t done!

Self-Restraint: Because David could not go on the Philistine campaign, he was forced to return home… where he found Ziklag had been raided by the Amalekites (he wouldn’t have known this until it was far too late if he HAD successfully accompanied the Philistines)! Then, with all his 600 men ready to revolt David pauses to consult the Lord. “God, should we go after these raiders?” WHAT? Gut-check time: would you do this? If your family had been abducted would you ask God how to proceed, or would you go full Liam Neeson? I’m forced to admit that I likely would not take the time to consult God here. This is an area of growth for me, at least. Possibly for you as well?

Contradictions: In 1 Samuel and 1 Chronicles we are told that Saul fell on his sword and died after being wounded by a Philistine arrow. But an Amalekite found David and told quite a different story about killing the wounded king would clearly would not survive. What are we to make of this? The Bible is clearly in historical error… better burn it and turn from our faith… right? This is one of those “contradictions” that never made any sense to me. There are two primary theories for how to reconcile these accounts. The one that was proposed by my Bible College Prof was that this Amalekite stumbled upon Saul and his armour bearer on their swords, but not quite dead and finished them off. This is plausible and you can believe this if you find it compelling. I think it needlessly complicates things. This Amalekite lived in Israel as a foreigner and knew that David was heir to the throne of Saul. So, seeing his dead body, took the crowd and armband to David and took credit for the final blow I an attempt to curry favour with David. It… uh… didn’t work.

Have a fantastic day trusting in God’s faithful guidance!

1 Samuel 30-31; 1 Chronicles 9:40-44, 10:1-14, 12:20-22; 2 Samuel 1, 4:4 | 109/365

God On My Terms

Saul decides to forego God’s path and forges his own way. Yet, somehow, he seems surprised that when he seeks God’s guidance He is silent… so he consults a medium… effectively! (But that’s a whole thing for some other time)

I think this is a temptation common to many of us. We want God, but only if He will do what WE want and how WE want. We treat God less like the almighty author of life and more like a faithful manservant. Let’s make sure we check ourselves and make sure that we understand who God is and who we are; what His place is and what our place is. Otherwise we might become like Saul.

1 Samuel 26-29; 1 Chronicles 12:2-7,19; Psalm 56 | 108/365

God’s Timing

David has an opportunity to kill his relentless pursuer; Saul. Egged on by his own troops, David creeps toward Saul with his sword drawn, but at the last moment, rethinks it. And after rethinking it, David decides the life — or the throne — of what he terms “God’s anointed one”. Saul is an objectively terrible leader. He leave Israel vulnerable to attack in his unwavering Ahab-like goal of killing David — his white whale. But the fact remains that God put him in place and as David so aptly puts it: ‘Perhaps the LORD will punish you, but I never will.’ David knows he was anointed to be king by Samuel. David knows Saul is not serving the Lord. David knows the power is in his hands to end this tyrannical reign and yet he chooses to defer to God.

Do we do this? Are we willing to wait for what God has for us? Are we willing to be patient? Are we willing to trust God’s plan? And are we willing to trust God’s timing? If you weren’t sure about these answers, then here is an opportunity for growth. Pray that God would give you these gifts, and that you would be able to see things as He does. This is something God showed me through 4 long, tough years. But once I finally learned to really trust his plan and timing… it was amazing! So freeing. So relaxing. So worth it.

1 Samuel 23:13-25:44; Psalm 54 | 107/365

Step Into Your Destiny

Samuel anointed David as the new king over God’s people. Now David is hiding in a cave with his merry band of 400 rejects while the current monarch and his bloodthirsty hangers-on plot to assassinate him. And from that circumstance David pens this:

I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
    I will sing of you among the peoples.
10 For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
    your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

Psalm 57:9-10

Things are looking about as bleak as they can and yet David declares God’s faithfulness. I pray that I can have the faith to trust in God’s promises when they are looking unlikely, I would advise you to do the same. Don’t be afraid if you don’t understand how the road you’re on will lead to the place God has called you. Indeed, sometimes it is a long and winding road.

He is faithful. Let’s act like we believe that.

1 Samuel 22:1-23:12; Psalm 52, 57, 142; 1 Chronicles 12:8-18 | 106/365

Is Faith Blind?

Psalm 34:8 commends the reader to “Taste and see that the Lord is good”. The cultural trope that faith is blind is maddening. God has provided evidence many, many times. He showed proofs to Moses, Pharaoh, and Gideon among others. Jesus offered evidence to Thomas when he doubted. And indeed history is littered with evidence for God generally and Jesus specifically. We needn’t have a “blind” faith. My faith is based not on unquestioning trust of some invisible promise! My faith is built on the incredible evidence for the Gospel of grace that Jesus died to offer to me, and to you. So I, like David, will commend any among you who is holding something back from God (whether that’s your life, your finances, your career, your time, or anything else) to give it over to Him. Trust Him. Watch Him. Taste and see that the Lord is good.

1 Samuel 20-21; Psalm 34 | 105/365

Be True To Who God Made You To Be

Just a quick thought tonight. Farm boy David offers to fight the giant Goliath, who no one else in the Israelite army is willing to face. King Saul says the very idea is preposterous, but David insists that if God is with him, he will be successful. Saul relents and allows the boy to go fight the giant and offers David his armour for the battle.

David tries it on, but quickly realizes that he is simply not accustomed to Saul’s armour and so it becomes more of a hindrance than a help. Because that’s not who God made him to be. Saul’s armour wasn’t the right tool for David to use, because it was for Saul.

You can’t step into someone else’s blessing. You can’t copy someone else’s approach. You can’t be someone other than who God made you to be. I know it took me a great many years of trying to be Greg Laurie or Voddie Baucham or whoever the cool itinerate speaker du jour was before realizing that God had gifted me in different ways from those guys. And once I learned that I became a significantly better speaker and teacher.

What are you struggling to do under someone else’s power and plan? Turn that over to God and allow Him to show you how He has equipped you to do that thing is the way He has planned for YOU, not for whoever you might be looking at.

1 Samuel 17:32-19:24; Psalm 59 | 104/365

Is People-Pleasing Bad?

Saul answered Samuel, “I have sinned. I have transgressed the Lord’s command and your words. Because I was afraid of the people, I obeyed them.

1 Samuel 15:24, CSB

Here we have Saul’s confession to Samuel that he had been unfaithful to God because he wanted to please people. He wanted to make those around him happy. And he did. But what did it cost him? The anointing of God, his peace of mind & mental health, his legacy, and his throne.

It can feel good to get attaboys and pats on the back, but God warns us that those who seek the approval of others have received their reward in full already. God can see your heart. God does not reward deeds, He rewards motivations.

Lord, Lord, did I not do mighty works in your name?

Go away, I never knew you.

The works are evidence of a life submitted to God. Works without submission is just philanthropy. It still accomplishes good here on earth, but it is of no eternal credit to you. Submission is hard, but it’s worth it.

1 Samuel 15:1-17:31 | 103/365

The Beginning of the End

Saul’s son Jonathan decides to “go rogue” and take on the Philistines by himself with his armour-bearer and is extremely successful. This is often credited as a great act of faith and trust in the Lord. But is it?

Earlier in the story we read that Saul becomes impatient waiting for the man who is designated by the Lord to provide sacrifices and decides to offer the sacrifices himself. When that man — Samuel — arrives he tells Saul that he has done a bad thing and shown his contempt for the Lord, and so his reign as king is over. A new man after God’s heart will become king.

Of course this doesn’t happen right away, at this point it’s more prophecy than proclamation.

But! later we see this episode with Jonathan and his armour-bearer. Jonathan declares that if the Philistines do X then God IS NOT in the plan, but if the Philistines do Y then God IS in the plan! What struck me about this was the lack of any kind of prayer. There is no record that Jonathan ever consulted God on this in any way. Yet the results make it clear that God showed up.

Is that how this works? We don’t need to submit our plans to God? We just need to have faith and dare Him to show up? I don’t think so… but then how do we square this circle?

My theory: God is showing Saul that His blessing is on Israel as a nation rather than Saul as its king. We often see God do amazing things in spite of ourselves. I think this is no different. I don’t know that God was thrilled to have Jonathan dictate to Him what He was going to do, but I think God used this as an opportunity to show Saul, who had been sitting, waiting, doing nothing that His anointing was on the people. This was God signalling the beginning of the end.

I guess what I’m saying is this: don’t start thinking of yourself as a giant of the faith because God seemed to bless what you did. Remember that every good gift comes from Him and that sometimes we succeed in spite of ourselves. Let’s do everything we can to stay humble. God can use anyone he wants to achieve his purposes. Even a donkey! And I don’t know about you, but I would way rather be Moses than Pharaoh.

1 Chronicles 9:35-39; 1 Samuel 13:1-14:52 | 102/365

Was I Wrong?

I have made much the last little while about the lack of repentance on the part of the Israelites during the period of the Judges. And here Samuel says something that seems to have made a liar out of me…

Then they cried out to the LORD and admitted, ‘We have sinned, for we have forsaken the LORD and have served the Baals and the images of Ashtoreth. Now deliver us from the hand of our enemies so that we may serve you.’

1 Samuel 12:10, NET

So… time to eat crow? Maybe. I’m willing to admit my understanding of this is flawed, but I think there is a significant difference between the account in Samuel 12 and the one in Samuel 7. Let’s take another look at 1 Samuel 7.

Samuel told them, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, get rid of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths that are among you, set your hearts on the Lord, and worship only him. Then he will rescue you from the Philistines.” So the Israelites removed the Baals and the Ashtoreths and only worshiped the Lord. Samuel said, “Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord on your behalf.” When they gathered at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out in the Lord’s presence. They fasted that day, and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the Lord.” And Samuel judged the Israelites at Mizpah

1 Samuel 7:3–6, CSB

In the first example they ask God to deliver them SO THAT they can worship him. In the second instance they tear down the false gods and idols, worshipped the true God, fasted, and confessed THEN God rescued them.

If we require that God prove Himself in the timing and manner of our choosing a precondition to obedience, that isn’t obedience, it’s just getting our way.

1 Samuel 9:1-12:25 | 101/365

The Power of the Invitation

To this point Israel has had 14 judges (including Eli —but not his children— and Samuel). And they all judged Israel for years, and they had some crazy exploits and military victories over the enemies of Israel. But you know what we never see? Repentance. I’ve talked about that before. Israel continually asks God to save them, but they don’t actually repent of what they’ve done wrong.

But what’s interesting is that none of the judges even ASK them to repent… until Samuel…

7:3 Samuel said to all the people of Israel, “If you are really turning to the LORD with all your hearts, remove from among you the foreign gods and the images of Ashtoreth. Give your hearts to the LORD and serve only him. Then he will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.” 7:4 So the Israelites removed the Baals and images of Ashtoreth. They served only the LORD. 7:5 Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel to Mizpah, and I will pray to the LORD on your behalf.” 7:6 After they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the LORD. They fasted on that day, and they confessed there, “We have sinned against the LORD.” So Samuel led the people of Israel at Mizpah.

1 Samuel 7:3–6, NET

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the power of the invitation! Even a people as terrible as the ones described in Judges 19-21 can be brought to repentance with the power of the invitation. Don’t be afraid to ask. Don’t be afraid to say something. You simply don’t know when God will use the simple invitation you have extended to accomplish His greater goal(s). Your simple step of obedience can become a real difference-maker.

Never underestimate the power of the invitation.

1 Samuel 4:12-8:22 | 100/365