Just men reading, memorizing and studying the bible together!

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: 1 Kings 12–13
Old Testament Only: Judges 11–12
New Testament Only: Luke 12:22–34
(Current Plan is Chronological)

Are You A Saul Or A David

1 Samuel 28-31, 1 Chronicles 10

Question mark in circleWe read of the death of Saul today in 1 Samuel 31 and 1 Chronicles 10. Our reading begins, however, with the story of how Saul went to consult a medium, which God had forbidden, and our reading ends with a concise statement about this consultation. “Mediums” and “Necromancers” are people who allegedly communicate with the spirits of the dead. Turning to such people for information is something God strictly forbids in the Law of Moses. Take a look at the following verses from Leviticus.

Leviticus 19:31 ESV

“Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the LORD your God.”

Leviticus 20:6 ESV

“If a person turns to mediums and necromancers, whoring after them, I will set my face against that person and will cut him off from among his people.”

Leviticus 20:27 ESV

“A man or a woman who is a medium or a necromancer shall surely be put to death. They shall be stoned with stones; their blood shall be upon them.”

Now upon the death of Samuel we are told that Saul put the mediums and necromancers out of the land. As Leviticus 20:27 above shows, however, that is not what God said was to be done with such people. They were not to be driven out of the land; they were to be killed. At the beginning of Saul’s reign he did not obey God in every detail and it was at that point that he was told that the kingdom of Israel would be ripped from his hands; that he and his sons would die and the crown would pass to one not of his loins. Here at the end of his life we see that nothing has changed with Saul. He still attempts to please God with half-measures. Guys, delayed obedience and partial obedience is disobedience. You do not get to pick and choose obedience. You do not get to agree or disagree with God. He is God, you are not!

In today’s reading we see that Saul repeats his folly, first by not following God completely by having the mediums and necromancers stoned, and second by later consulting one. The lack of a death sentence by Saul may appear as a merciful act to the modern American Christian, but I don’t think he was really all that concerned about these people for the sake of their humanity. He was not prepared to give up the option of seeking their help at some future date. Even if he was sincere in putting them away, by not obeying God he left a temptation close enough to tempt. When Saul was once again afraid and unsure of what to do, he did not seek guidance from God but went to a medium instead.

Now Saul said to the medium that God would not answer him so you may feel that I am being unfair to him for surely this means that he sought God first, but I want you to think about this for a moment. Why would God not answer Saul? Let me answer that question with a question. What separates us from God? Sin separates us from God. Saul could not hear from God because Saul was not looking to humble himself before God, repenting of his sin, asking for forgiveness and determining to go forward in obedience. Saul wanted the blessings God could bestow without any responsibility to obey. He wanted to do life his way, did not want to give up sovereignty to God. This is self-centeredness. This is sin. God cannot hear what you are asking because your disobedience is screaming in His ears!

Not that God is in any way obligated to give you whatever you ask. Jesus tells us that God will answer those prayers that are in sync with God’s will. If you are in right relationship with God and your prayers are not answered it is because your prayers are not consistent with His will. Actually, He did answer and the answer was no. If you are not in right relationship with God, understand that there is a barrier between you that will stand until you submit to His authority. It all comes down to aligning your desires with God’s desires. If you are not willing to obey God completely, how can you hope to align your desires with His? Our actions really do speak louder than words and Saul’s actions tell us exactly why God will not hear him.

Instead of turning back to God, instead of admitting his guilt and submitting to God, Saul turns to that which is forbidden and it is just one final nail in his coffin. 1 Chronicles 10 puts it this way:

1 Chronicles 10:13-14 ESV

“[13] So Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the LORD in that he did not keep the command of the LORD, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance. [14] He did not seek guidance from the LORD. Therefore the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse.”

As always when reading Scripture we have to ask ourselves “so how does this apply to me”? Are you obedient? Do you obey God only when you agree with God’s way of doing things? Do you delay obedience or offer only partial obedience? If so how could you miss the parallel between you and Saul? The story of Saul and David is one of the strongest analogies in the Bible. Since the fall of man there have ever been only two types of people. You are either a Saul or a David. You are either in right relationship with God or doomed. Saul sought to be his own god. David sought to be a humble servant of God. So be honest with yourself. Are you a Saul or a David?

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: 1 Kings 9–11
Old Testament Only: Judges 9–10
New Testament Only: Luke 12:1–21
(Current Plan is Chronological)

Drink Up

Psalms 35; 54; 63; 18

Water with Ice green backgroundWell guys I’m going to give you more information than you need, but I was up most of last night with a sick dog. I had to take her out at first every two hours and eventually every hour or there would have been a lot of smelly liquid brown spots on the carpet to clean up today. (That would result in an unhappy dog, and an unhappy wife and there for an unhappy husband.) I then put in a 12 hour day at work and now as I sit to write a post about today’s reading I find my mind is mush. I hope you’ll excuse me if I’m brief and less than coherent.

Today’s passages are all from the book of Psalms and again are Psalms David wrote during his long period of persecution. I truly believe these stories of David, and his Psalms, are here in the Bible so we can learn what our relationship with God is supposed to be like even during times of severe persecution. There are more incidents of Christians being persecuted today than any other religious group and while America is relatively kinder to Christians than anywhere else in the world. That is changing rapidly.

We often wonder why God allows us to suffer trials and tribulation but if He would allow Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, the Apostles, and even His Son to suffer, why would you expect better? The fact of the matter is that when things are hard we cling closer to God. It is in these struggles that we spiritually mature. Look at what David had to say about his relationship with God during these difficult days.

Psalm 63:1-4 ESV

“[1] O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. [2] So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. [3] Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. [4] So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.”

Difficulty makes us thirsty for God. It is in difficulty that we realize our need and desire for God. Brothers, in good times and bad it is a good idea to read some of these Psalms of David in order to remind ourselves of how our relationship with God is supposed to be. In our dark days, however, I think they become particularly refreshing. So when things get bad, drink up!

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: 1 Kings 8
Old Testament Only: Judges 7–8
New Testament Only: Luke 11:24–54
(Current Plan is Chronological)

Turn The Other Cheek

1 Samuel 25-27, Psalms 17, 73

No - this is not the author!

No – this is not the author!

We begin today’s reading with an interesting little story that appears in the midst of David’s ongoing struggle with Saul.  We read that while hiding from Saul, David and his men protected the flocks and shepherds of a certain Nabal, and when David asked Nabal for a little sustenance in return, this wealthy man basically said “Hit the road jack”.  David got pretty made about this brush off.  He had looked out for this man and then was treated with great disrespect.

You know, that is a big issue for us men.  We crave respect.  Many times our marriages fall apart because we don’t feel respected by our wives.  I wonder if we ever stop to think that maybe we lost our wife’s respect and it’s up to us to earn it back.  Sorry that was off the point.  Anyway, the point is that David had reason to be upset with Nabal and he was determined to address this wrong by force of arms.  Nabal was about to meet his maker.

Now Nabal had a wise wife and she went to David with food and an apology and urged him to turn away from his pursuit of vengeance.  She basically argued that David should not let the worthless Nabal bring “bloodguilt” upon him.  You see, Nabal was in the wrong but David would end up being in the wrong if he killed Nabal for it.  David turned away from vengeance thanking Abigail, Nabal’s wife, for saving him from himself.  Interestingly enough, the Lord struck Nabal dead about 10 days later.

So what is the point of this story?  Why is it here in the Bible?  I’m sure a lot of other things happened in the life of David which are not recorded in the Bible, so why did this make the cut?  I think one reason it made the cut is because it teaches at least one lesson.

I have noticed that when people feel wronged by others they get angry and when they get angry they seek retribution.  Things can then get quickly out of control as one person who feels wronged attempts to give as good as he got.  The original offender then feels wronged and seeks some payback as well.  This becomes a vicious cycle that can end up with people dead.

“Vengeance is mine” is a line from Deuteronomy.  It is found in the song Moses spoke just prior to his death.  As songs go it is pretty long, but the passage in which we find this phrase is at the heart of this story here in 1 Samuel.  We live in a perverted, fallen world where good is bad and bad is good.  It is a world where evil men do well and followers of Christ are persecuted.  We can often feel angry over the injustice of this world, and that anger can lead to taking matters into our own hands.  The problem is doing so makes us no better than those who do not belong to God.

God has left us, His children saved by the shed blood of Jesus Christ, here on Earth for as purpose.  We are here to glorify God.  We are not to fight God’s battles with Satan’s weapons.  We are to be holy.  Holy means set apart.  We are not supposed to act as the godless act.  We are to do as Jesus said; to “turn the other cheek”.

 Matthew 5:38-41 ESV

“[38] You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ [39] But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. [40] And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. [41] And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”

Do you doubt that to act as Jesus commands above would make you stand apart from the Lost?  That is not the way of the world is it?  So one reason to reject vengeance is to be more useful to God in reaching the Lost, but there is another reason as well.  Would you say that the feelings engendered by a desire for revenge would be a positive influence in your life or a negative influence?  Brothers, we have been freed from sin.  For our own sake we need to push everything that could lead us to sin from our lives.  The power of the Holy Spirit living within us makes that possible, but we still have to do the work.

This world is unjust but it isn’t up to us to balance the scale.  We certainly will have our times of being down, of feeling wronged, of wanting justice, but we must wait upon the day of the Lord when justice will come.

Deuteronomy 32:34-36 ESV

“[34] ‘Is not this laid up in store with me, sealed up in my treasuries?  [35] Vengeance is mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly.’  [36] For the LORD will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants, when he sees that their power is gone and there is none remaining, bond or free.”

Justice comes.  Be patient knowing that vengeance is the Lords.  In the meantime show the world you’re different.  Turn the other cheek.

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: 1 Kings 6–7
Old Testament Only: Judges 5–6
New Testament Only: Luke 11:1–23
(Current Plan is Chronological)

In God I Trust

Psalms 56; 120; 140-142

Quarter - US Front Closeup on TrustHappy Tax Day!!!  Not only is this the day of reckoning for our tax liabilities to the Government, but I think it is roughly the point in the year where we finally stop working for the government and get to work for ourselves.  God is Almighty and everything we have comes from Him, yet He only asks 10 percent of us.  God is definitely more merciful than Uncle Sam!

Today we continue in our reading of Psalms written by David.  The first Psalm in today’s reading opens with a description of when it was written.  “To the choirmaster: according to the Dove on Far-off Terebinths.  A Miktam of David, when the Philistines seized him in Gath.”  What jumped out at me as I read this first Psalm was the phrase “In God I trust”.  Seeing as how this reading coincides with tax day, and that America has that phrase (or should I say paraphrase) on its currency, I find that an apt focal point for my commentary today.

I’m afraid the words “In God We Trust” no longer apply to America.  Some may cynically claim that those words never did apply, but I don’t want to play that game with you.  At some point that was not a contentious issue; today it is.  Everywhere I look atheists, agnostics, people of different faiths, and even so-called co-religionist Christians, are aggressively attacking Christianity, attempting to push Christian expression out of the public square.  Common wisdom today would have us believe that one’s faith is a private matter and that it is wrong to make it a public matter.

Having rejected God as that in which we trust, we have turned to government intervention. In so doing we have traded in blessing for misery.  David, however, knew better.  In today’s reading he says as much.

Psalm 56:1-4 ESV

“[1] Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me;    all day long an attacker oppresses me; [2] my enemies trample on me all day long, for many attack me proudly.  [3] When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.  [4] In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.  What can flesh do to me?”

Life is full of trouble and travail but I don’t trust in Uncle Sam.  It is in God I trust.  What about you?

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: 1 Kings 3–5
Old Testament Only: Judges 2:16–4:24
New Testament Only: Luke 10:21–42
(Current Plan is Chronological)

Your Spirit Is In His Hands

Psalms 7; 27; 31; 34; 52

Cross with happy manWe discovered in our reading yesterday that David was persecuted and hunted by Saul.  As you may know, David was the writer of a good number of the Psalms, and all of them in today reading were written by him.  In fact, Psalm 52 contains the following note referencing part of yesterday’s reading.

“To the choirmaster. A Maskil of David, when Doeg, the Edomite, came and told Saul, ‘David has come to the house of Ahimelech.’”

Saul was crazy, and as foul tempers would come upon him he would seek David’s death.  In yesterday’s reading we discovered that Saul had an entire village of priests murdered because one of them assisted David.  This was an extremely difficult time for David.  He had done no wrong and yet Saul sought his death at every turn.  For a time David would have to hide in caves living like an animal just to stay alive.  In some of the Psalms he wrote, however, we see that he ultimately took refuge in his relationship and faith in God.

You know, today when Christians face difficulty, some of them become angry with God for their plight.  While it is the evil in the hearts of men that bring trials and tribulations to us, some seek to blame God.  This difficult time in David’s life is instructive.  While he was unjustly persecuted, he did not blame God.  In fact, he trusted in God and clung to his knowledge of, and faith in, God as he weathered the stormy season in his life.

What David knew, that so many who blame God evidently don’t, is that God was with him through the storm; that God carried him through the difficult time.  It is true that God could have taken away the difficult time and chose not to, but stop and think about why that is.  Going through that difficult time seasoned David and prepared him to be a king.  It also taught him that even as a king he needed to continue in dependence upon God.  David’s troubles made him stronger and that was God’s purpose in allowing the troubles to come and remain for a season.

The last words Jesus spoke upon the cross before his last breath were these:

Luke 23:46 ESV

“Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.”

I was reminded of this as I read Psalm 31, part of today’s reading.

Psalm 31:3-5 ESV

“[3] For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me; [4] you take me out of the net they have hidden for me, for you are my refuge.  [5] Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.”

Now this may seem like a coincidence to you, and it may well be, but the book of Mark records something else that Jesus said from the cross.

Mark 15:34 ESV

“And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’”

This sentence “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” is the first line from the 22nd Psalm – yet another Psalm of David.  If you read the entire Psalm you will see that it is a prophecy of what happened at the crucifixion.  The Psalm laments the suffering of the Psalmist; that he is mocked, and shamed; that his heart is like wax, his bones are out of joint and that he is poured out like water.  It states that “they have pierced my hands and feet” and that they cast lots for his clothing.  All of this and more was what Jesus experienced on the cross.

Back in Jesus’ day they did not have all of the electronic distractions that we have today.  This meant that most faithful Jews did as God commanded and spent their free time studying His Word.  Because God’s Word was so well studied, and much of it memorized, that all one had to do to bring an entire passage of Scripture to the mind of an audience was to state the first line, or a prominent line, from the passage.  As Jesus hung on the cross with the weight of mankind’s sin upon His shoulders there is no question in my mind that he felt deeply the great separation from God that sin brings.  Jesus must have felt forsaken upon that cross, but stating the first line of that Psalm, while expressing exactly how he felt, also pointed others to the truth of who He is.

I believe the statement from today’s Psalm, also spoken from the Cross, was similar in its meaning.  Jesus knew that as the sinless offering for the sin of all mankind, He would be raised from the dead.  He also knew that through His sacrifice, others could be redeemed from the wages of sin.  David may not have known that parts of his Psalms would one day be spoken from the cross out of the mouth of the Savior of the World, but he did know what it meant to take shelter in the Lord; to trust in the Lord.  He knew that God was his rock, his fortress, and his redeemer.  He knew that while he would face the struggles that come from living in a fallen world, he could commit his spirit into the hand of God knowing that in God there is always victory.

The Psalms we read today should give you that same sense of assurance.  Can you picture David sitting in a cave, exhausted and hungry, strumming a lyre while singing these songs to lift his spirit?  Can you see him there reminding himself of, and thus encouraging himself in, the faithfulness of God?  Brothers, when you feel down, when you feel like everything and everyone is against you, take to the Psalms and be reminded and encouraged.  You serve an awesome God!  Your spirit is in His hands!

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: 1 Kings 1–2
Old Testament Only: Judges 1:1–2:15
New Testament Only: Luke 10:1–20
(Current Plan is Chronological)

 No Reading Today

Sleeping ManOur current chronological reading plan has no reading for Sundays.  Take this day to reflect on what God has said to you through His Holy Word this past week.

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!