Sunday, May 21, 2017

May 21: 1 Samuel 29 – 31; Psalm 118:1-14; Proverbs 15:24-26; John 11:54-12:19



Overview

            1 Samuel: The Philistines prepare to fight Israel and they discover David is going with them. They protest to Achish because they are afraid that David will join Israel to get in good graces with Saul. So, David is sent back to Ziklag.
            When they get home, they find Ziklag has been raided by Amelekites. Everyone’s wives and children have been taken captive and the city burned. They all start to weep and want to stone David, but he strengthens himself in the Lord.
            He asks the Lord if he should pursue the Amelekites and the answer is yes. 600 men go with him but when they reach the brook Besor, 200 are too exhausted to continue. David leaves them there to protect the baggage. He then pursues and frees everyone’s families and gets all their stuff back along with the plunder they take form the Amelekites. When they get back, he makes sure the 200 get a share of the plunder. David then sends some of his plunder as gifts to different places in Judah.
            In the meantime, the Philistines defeat Israel and kill Saul’s sons. Saul is badly wounded and kills himself. The Philistines broadcast the news in their territory, cut off his head, and hung his body on the wall of Beth-shan. Men from Jabesh went by night, got his body and his sons’ bodies, burned them, and buried the bones.
            Psalm: We give thanks to the Lord because his steadfast love endures forever. In destress we can call to the Lord and be set free. We don’t need to fear others. When we trust the Lord, he is our refuge and not people. We can overcome nations surrounding us when we do it in the name of the Lord because the Lord is our strength.
            Proverbs: Wise people follow the path of life that leads away from death. The Lord humbles proud people by taking their stuff from them, but he protects the widow’s. God hates even the thoughts of the wicked but good words are pure.
            John: Because the Jews wanted to kill him, Jesus was hiding out in the wilderness. People were wondering if he would come to Jerusalem for the Passover. The chief priests and Pharisees ordered people to tell them if they saw him so they could arrest him.
            Six days before the Passover, Jesus had dinner with Lazarus while Martha served. Mary took nard and anointed Jesus’ feet and wipe them with her hair. Judas complained that the nard could have been sold and given to the poor. He really wanted to steal some of it. Jesus told him to leave her alone because they would always have poor people but he wouldn’t always be there.
            When people learned Jesus was there, they came to see him and also Lazarus. The chief priests also want to kill Lazarus because people were believing in Jesus because of him.
            The next day, a huge crowd came to welcome Jesus into Jerusalem. They welcomed him declaring he was king. Jesus rode into town on a donkey fulfilling prophecy. The disciples didn’t understand the fulfilment until Jesus was glorified. The people welcomed him because of the signs he had done. The Pharisees were concerned because it seemed the whole world was following Jesus.

What Stood Out

            1 Samuel: “And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God” (1 Sam 30:6).
            Psalm: “The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation” (Ps 118:14).
            Proverbs: “The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord, but gracious words are pure” (Prov 15:26).
            John: “Because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus” (John 12:11).

Insight

            1 Samuel: David has to face the consequences of this lies to King Achish, since Achish expects David to go and fight against King Saul and Israel. We have to realize that once we start lying, the consequences compound. What would you do if you were faced with a decision to betray your family because you had lied? Fortunately, the Lord spared David and he didn’t have to follow through with his promise to go into battle with the Philistines.
            However, upon returning home, he found that he and his men had lost everything. Their wives, children, and all their possessions were gone. All because they had been away pretending to be allied with the Philistines. David is distressed, he is in the pits and his men want to kill him. The bright side of this is that he turned to the Lord. There isn’t any indication that he repented but he strengthened himself in the Lord.
            When we are in the pits and facing seemingly hopeless challenges, we can find strength in the Lord. Maybe our predicament is the result of our sin. But we are not defined by our sins when we repent and ask the Lord for forgiveness. We can go forward and do what is right. We may be embarrassed by our sins but owning them and then moving forward with trust in the Lord is the only way to overcome.
            Psalm: This Psalm sounds like something David could have written when he returned home after finding Ziklag burned. It is something we should consider. Who can harm us if the Lord has set us free? The answer is no one. If the Lord is for us, it doesn’t matter who is against us. It probably won’t be nations or enemies, but only the problems of life. We can strengthen ourselves in the Lord by remembering his steadfast love and trusting him. We don’t need to let circumstances or the past dictate our feelings when our joy is in the Lord.
            Proverbs: God hates even the thoughts of wicked people. What a condemnation of what people think. I once heard a college English professor talking about Shakespeare. He told his students to find meaning in the words by thinking dirty. That is an abomination! We should be thinking holy and righteous. When the world thinks one way we should be looking for purity and righteousness. Even if they are thinking the other way, we don’t have to because we’ve been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb.
            John: Lazarus’ resurrection was a significant sign that led many people to believe in Jesus. While we may think that our witness can’t compare to Lazarus’ we are mistaken. His life may have touched hundreds of people, but it was almost forgotten within a week. When Jesus was crucified all the people who declared Jesus king on Palm Sunday were calling for his crucifixion on Friday.
            When we rely on signs for our faith in Jesus, we are looking to external circumstances and they change. When we witness to people about Jesus and what he has done, we are pointing beyond those circumstances to the only one that can save. When our faith is in Jesus, not his signs, we will have a faith that is rock solid. In that way, our witness can exceed Lazarus’.

Application

            I need to look to Jesus instead of the circumstances. I need to let past sins be in the past and know that in him I have forgiveness and can move on without fear. I can tell others about Jesus and have no fear.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

May 20: 1 Samuel 26 – 28; Psalm 117; Proverbs 15:22-23; John 11:1-53



Overview

            1 Samuel: The Ziphites told Saul where David was hiding so he took 3,000 men to hunt him. David saw where Saul camped and went down inside the camp at night. The Lord kept everyone in a deep sleep. Abishai went with him. They were able to sneak to where Saul was sleeping. Abishai wanted to kill Saul but David said he could not kill the Lord’s anointed and remain guiltless. David said the Lord would kill him or he would die in battle. They took his spear and water jug.
            Outside the camp, David called to Abner, who should have been protecting Saul. He taunted him about his lack of protection. Saul heard David and David again asked why he was coming after him. Saul admitted his sin and they both went their ways.
            However, David realized that Saul would continue to hunt him if he remained in Israel. So, he went to Gath with his men. They lived in Ziklag and would go out and raid other nationalities. When the king of Gath, Achish, asked where he went to raid, he told him different places in Israel. He gained Achish’s trust.
            The Philistines gathered to fight Israel and Achish made David his bodyguard. David agreed to go into battle with him.
            Saul was afraid of the Philistine army and hadn’t heard from God either through prophets, dreams, or Urim. So, he went to a medium and had her call up Samuel. Samuel reminded Saul that the Lord had become his enemy. He also told Saul that he and his sons would be killed tomorrow and Israel’s army defeated by the Philistines. The medium then fed Saul because he hadn’t eaten all day and was in distress.
            Psalm: All nations and people are to praise the Lord because of his love and faithfulness that endures forever.
            Proverbs: Plans work out better with advisors than without. Thoughtful and well timed words bring joy.
            John: Mary and Martha’s brother, Lazarus, became ill so they sent for Jesus to come and heal him. Jesus delayed and then told his disciples he wanted to go to Judah. They protested that the Jews wanted to stone him. He told them there was still time to walk in the light. He was going to wake up Lazarus. They thought Jesus was talking literal sleep but Jesus explained Lazarus had died.
            When he arrived, Lazarus had been in the tomb four days. Martha came to him and said that if he had been there, Lazarus would not have died. Jesus told her he would rise again and she thought it was at the resurrection. Jesus explained he is the resurrection and life. Anyone who believes in Jesus will never die. She then said she believed Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
            Marth then told Mary Jesus was there and she went out to meet him. She said the same thing to Jesus, that Lazarus would not have died had he been there. Jesus was moved by her weeping and the others also. He asked to see where Lazarus was buried. They took Jesus to the tomb and Jesus asked them to roll the rock away. Martha protested that by now he would stink.
            Jesus reminded her that if she believed she would see God’s glory. Jesus prayed for the sake of the people around him and then called Lazarus out of the tomb.
            Many people believed but some told the Pharisees. The chief priests and Pharisees were alarmed that if people kept believing in him, the Romans would come and take away all they had, they would lose their nation. The chief priest said it was better for one man to die for the people than the whole nation perishes. It was a prophecy that Jesus would die for the nation and all God’s children.

What Stood Out

            1 Samuel: “He said, ‘Bring up Samuel for me.’ When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice” (1 Sam 28:11-12).
            Psalm: “For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever” (Ps 117:2).
            Proverbs: “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed” (Prov 15:22).
            John: “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:40).

Insight

            1 Samuel: The Lord has prohibited his people from using mediums to learn the future as well as other kinds of sorcery, witchcraft, and other occult devices. What is amazing in Saul’s attempt to contact Samuel is that the Lord actually allowed it to happen. It reveals that these powers are very real. There is a vast spiritual realm and we know virtually nothing about it. The woman screamed when she saw Samuel. Why was that? It was probably because she didn’t expect to actually see Samuel. It was likely she was expecting to see her demon contact and they would deceive Saul into thinking she saw Samuel. But the Lord made sure she was really talking to Samuel.
            This reveals that demons do have powers to bring the spirits of dead people or they deceive their clients into thinking they are speaking to the dead person. The latter is the most likely. This also reveals that there is life beyond the grave. Samuel was recognizable and was able to remember the past and communicate. It also reveals that he was with God because he was able to tell Saul what was going to happen. This does not condone or encourage believers to attempt to gain future knowledge by any method other than the Lord.
            Psalm: When we stop and meditate on the Lord’s love and his faithfulness, we should always praise him. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are in our lives or the ones we love. God’s unchanging attributes are always there and that is reason to praise him.
            Proverbs: God has given us wise people to help us make good decisions. They provide thoughtful advice at the right time. We shouldn’t overlook what they say and we should learn to seek their advice before making major decisions.        
            John: Jesus’ interaction with Marth and Mary is significant. Martha’s statement that Lazarus would not have died if Jesus had been there seems almost like a complaint. Jesus had to explain to her that he was the resurrection and life. She didn’t comprehend that he had the ability to raise Lazarus. Even in her confession of Jesus as the Messiah, she still didn’t get the picture. She protested that Lazarus stunk and they shouldn’t open the tomb.
            On the other hand, Jesus didn’t say anything to Mary. The only reason I can think of is that Mary’s faith and belief in Jesus was solid and didn’t need any explanations. After all, she was the one who had sat at his feet as he taught while Martha was busy with preparations for dinner. Her comment that Lazarus would not have died if Jesus had been there must have been more a statement of faith in him than a complaint because Jesus didn’t have to make a response to her. He knew what she needed and he knew what Marth needed, so he responded differently to each.
           

Application

            When life happens, how do we respond? Do we have the faith to know that God is in control, or do we complain? Has our walk with the Lord been close enough that we don’t need more explanations or do we watch to see how God will work it out? I want to be more like Mary.

Friday, May 19, 2017

May 19: 1 Samuel 24 – 25; Psalm 116; Proverbs 15:20-21; John 10:22-42



Overview

            1 Samuel: Saul continues to pursue David. Saul goes into a cave to relieve himself where David and his men are hiding. David’s men encourage him to kill Saul saying the Lord has delivered him. But David says he will not kill the Lord’s anointed. However, he does cut of a corner of his robe. When Saul leaves, David follows and calls to him and points out that he could have killed him. Since he didn’t, it proves the allegations against him are lies. He also asks God to judge between them.
            Saul then admits David is more righteous and will become king over Israel. He asks David not to cut off his offspring when he does. David swears he will not.
            Samuel died and all Israel mourned for him. David continued living in the wilderness.
            A rich man, Nabal, had sheep in the same area. When he was shearing his sheep, David sent men to ask for provisions for protecting his sheep and shepherds. Nabal was a nasty man and refused. David and his men prepared to wipe out Nabal and all that belonged to him.
            Abigail, Nabal’s wife heard about Nabal’s rebuff and loaded up a lot of provisions and took them to David. When they met, Abigail blamed herself for not seen the men David sent. She presented her gifts and asked David to spare Nabal. She said David will surely become king and defeat all his enemies, but by sparing Nabal, he will not have a guilty conscious for killing without cause.
            David blesses Abigail for keeping him from avenging himself. He thanks God for sending Abigail. David goes back sparing Nabal. Abigail goes home and God kills Nabal.
            When David hears that Nabal is dead, he asks Abigail to marry him. He also takes Ahinoam as a wife. Saul gives his wife, Michal, to another man.
            Psalm: The Psalmist says he loves the Lord and then explains why. He was about to die when he called on the Lord and he was saved from his suffering. The Lord is righteous and merciful, he takes care of simpletons and those brought low. The Lord delivered him from death, tears, and stumbling. He walks in the land of the living. He recognizes that everyone is a liar and there is no way he can repay the Lord. However, he will proclaim salvation and pay his vows. Even if he were to die, he is still in the Lord’s hand and he cares. His bonds ae loosed and he will publicly thank the lord with sacrifice and vows.
            Proverbs: A wise person, one who has understanding is a joy to his father. A fool takes joy in his ways and even despises his mother.
            John: Months later, Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Feast of Dedication (Hanukah). The Jews asked him to tell them plainly if he was the Christ or not. He said he did tell them and the miracles tell them but they don’t believe because they aren’t his sheep. He knows his sheep, they listen and follow. He gives them eternal life and no one can take it away because they are in his hand and the Father’s hand. He and the Father are one.
            They start to stone him but he asks for which miracle they are stoning him. They say it is because he claims to be God. Jesus said the Scripture calls gods the ones who received the word of God. If that is true then the one the Father sent doesn’t blaspheme by saying he is God’s Son. Jesus tells them if they don’t believe him then believe the miracles so they can understand that the Father is in him and he is in the Father.
            They tried to seize him but he escaped. He then went across the Jordan where John had baptized. Many came and believed because of the miracles.

What Stood Out

            1 Samuel: “My lord shall have no cause of grief or pangs of conscience for having shed blood without cause or for my lord taking vengeance himself” (1 Sam 25:31).
            Psalm: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Ps 116:15).
            Proverbs: “A wise son makes a glad father” (Proverbs 15:20).
            John: “No one will snatch them out of my hand … no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand” (John 10:28-29).

Insight

            1 Samuel: David shows remarkable restraint by not killing Saul in the cave. However, he doesn’t show the same restraint when it comes to Nabal. He is ready to kill him and all the males in his household just because of one nasty rebuff. Saul had tried to kill David multiple time and all Nabal did was refuse to pay him back for protection. Nabal didn’t even know David had been protecting his people in the wilderness. David had respect for Saul because he was the Lord’s anointed, he had no respect for Nabal. However, the Lord protected David from his rash promise to kill Nabal by sending Abigail with provisions and some very good advice. She pointed out that killing without cause will cause grief later.
            David asked the Lord to judge between him and Saul, but he didn’t consult the Lord about Nabal. He didn’t consider that every person is put here by the Lord and the Lord is the only one that can take vengeance without guilt. It is a good thing for us to consider when we are angry with someone or circumstances aren’t going our way. The Lord is in control. He is the one who can judge impartially. When we take things into our own hands, we will only regret it later in life.
            Psalm: I’m sure the Psalmist was speaking primarily about salvation from physical death. However, this Psalm also has the metaphorical application to eternal salvation and life. The Lord preserves from stumbling (sin) and the simple. That all men are liars speaks to our need to admit our sin and come to Jesus in faith rather than in our own righteousness. When he asks, what can he give back to the Lord for his salvation, we can see that our salvation is not based on our merit. It is only on God’s mercy and nothing from ourselves. Our lives are precious to the Lord, but eventually we must all die. Our death is the door way to eternity. While it doesn’t seem to be a good thing, we can only follow Jesus through that door and it makes our death precious to the Lord.
            Proverbs: It is always good to see your kids walking with the Lord. They are a heartache when they don’t. We are commanded to teach our children and not exasperate them (Eph 6:4 NIV). However well we try to train them, we are sometimes given a fool for a child. All we can do when they are grown is to pray for them and not enable them in their folly. We need to let the Lord work in their lives even if that means bringing them to an end of themselves. I now you didn’t want to hear that, especially if you are a mother.
            John: This incident with the Jews is dramatic proof that Jesus is God and when we are saved, our salvation is secure. Not everyone is saved and that was the first thing that Jesus teaches. The Jews thought they were saved but Jesus made it clear that they were not because they were not his sheep. They didn’t believe Jesus and they wanted to kill him. That isn’t what a saved person does.
            It is easy to tell who belongs to Jesus by watching them. They do what Jesus did. They follow Jesus and live for him because they know Jesus and Jesus knows them. He holds them in his hand. The Father holds them in his hand and he is greater than all. No one can snatch us from God’s hand no matter how powerful. Some people say that we can snatch ourselves out of God’s hand, but that would mean we are greater than the Father. We can’t have it two ways. Either God is sovereign or he is not. Either he is all powerful or he is not. If he is, then we are secure in our salvation.
            People claim that Jesus never called himself God. But this is again a passage where he makes a clear claim to be God. The Jews understood exactly what he meant. He wasn’t using a figure of speech and he wasn’t simply claiming to have the same purpose as God. If that were the case then he would have explained that they misunderstood what he said. Instead he let them think that and had to escape or be stoned. That is a dramatic proof that Jesus is God.

Application

            We all like to be in control. David did and it almost cost him his reputation and integrity. I like to be in control, but I have to admit that God is really in control. Things go much smoother when I respond to difficult people or situations knowing that God is in charge.