CHERISHED FRIENDSHIPS

Scripture Reading: I Samuel 18:1-5

“As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” (I Samuel 18:1)

As I look back over the course of my life, I realize that I have had many acquaintances. I have developed relationships with many people, but I can count on the fingers of my hands the true and lasting friends I have had — friends who have stuck by me, encouraged me, supported me, admonished me, counseled me, and loved me deeply. Such friends are few and far between. These friendships are to be cherished for a lifetime.

David and Jonathan had this kind of friendship. The description of their friendship in this passage is so powerful — “The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” Think of the imagery that is used here — the imagery of knitting. Their souls were knit together. There was a bond, a deeply held commitment to one another that was cemented in love.

Jonathan loved David so much that he literally give the shirt off his back to David — “And he stripped himself of his robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt” (v. 4). Actually it was far more than the shirt off his back; he also gave David his armor, his sword, his bow and his belt. When a man gave up his armor and sword to another, it was either a sign of great admiration or an act of surrender. In Jonathan’s case, it was his great love and friendship for David that he did such a thing.

I think of a few Proverbs that describe genuine friendships. “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17). I recall times when my closest friends were there with me through times of painful adversity. They were willing to do whatever they could to help me through the difficulties. “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). I have had friends who stuck by me through thick and thin. They didn’t give up on me or abandon me. The ones who are still living remain closer to me than a brother.

I am so grateful for the handful of genuine friends I have had throughout the years. Some of them are with the Lord now and I miss them greatly. But I am deeply thankful for the ones who remain.

But let’s get a little deeper. We have a Friend who will never leave nor forsake us. We have a Friend who was willing to lay down His life for us — “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. you are My friends…” (John 15:13). These words of Jesus remind us that we indeed have a friend who loves us at all times and one who will be with us in times of adversity. Yes, our Savior Jesus is the most genuine friend we will ever have.

Lord Jesus, how grateful I am for the friends You have brought into my life over the years. I cherish them and their friendships. But most of all, I am grateful that You are my Friend. I never doubt Your love for me and I know that You will always stick close to me.

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THE BATTLE IS THE LORD’S

Scripture Reading: I Samuel 17

“Then David said to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defiled. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head…that all the earth may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hand.'” (I Samuel 17:45-47)

One of the most familiar stories in the Old Testament is found in I Samuel 17 — the story of David and Goliath. God providentially sent David to the battle line where he heard Goliath issue the challenge to the Israelites. David boldly took on Goliath’s challenge (vs. 31,32). He did so out of faith in the living God. He had seen how God had worked in his life in some dangerous encounters with beasts (vs. 33-36). David had absolute confidence in God’s ability to deliver him — “Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defiled the armies of the living God…The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (vs. 36,37).

While Saul and his men were filled with fear, David was armed with faith. He knew that God would give him the victory. He knew that he battle belonged to the Lord — “For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will deliver you into our hand.” Saul offered David his best armor on and weapons, but David refused to use them (vs 38-40). David totally trusted God and he used the abilities God had given him to defeat Goliath.

When we face great challenges, will we trust in our own strength and ingenuity or will we trust in the One who will give us the power and ability to overcome them? David had absolute faith in the Lord of hosts. Do you?

But let’s move forward to the greater David, Jesus Christ. He faced the greatest battle of His life — the cross. He totally trusted His Father and submitted to His will — “Not My will, but Thine be done.” He won the ultimate battle, not with angelic armies, but with willing submission to His Father. Now, King Jesus leads the armies of heaven. The battle belongs to Him and He has promised to give us the victory.

Lord Jesus, Captain of the hosts of heaven, I know that the battle belongs to You. Just as You give David victory over Goliath, I believe with all my heart that You will give me victory over the battles I face in this life on earth. You are the conquering King who defends Your people. You provide the armor we need for the battles we face and I know that ultimately the battles I face belong to You.

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THE LORD IS WITH HIM

Scripture Reading: I Samuel 16:14-23

“One of the young men answered, ‘Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence, and the Lord is with him.'” (I Samuel 16:18)

After the Spirit of the Lord departed Saul, he began to have some kind of mental torment. One of Saul’s servants suggested that he find a skillful musician who could play the lyre when he was having one of his times of anguish. The servant thought the music could calm Saul and relieve him of some of his distress. A servant suggested David, the son of David. He had seen David and was most impressed with the qualities of the young man.

The description of David was very appealing to Saul. David was a skillful musician, who was also a man of valor. We know that David was courageous in battle. In fact, he was described as a man of war. He was also prudent in speech and a man of good presence. Obviously God had greatly gifted David.

But what stands out more than anything else in this description is the last phrase — “And the Lord is with him.” It must have been obvious that David was a man of faith. The way he handled himself was evidence that the Lord was with him. Read the Psalms of David. He often referred to the Lord’s presence in his life. David knew that his skills, valor, and abilities came from the Lord’s presence in his life. This is why he wrote these words — “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1).

We should be comforted when we realize that the Lord is with us. We are never alone and we have nothing to fear for Christ lives in us — “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

The truth for all believers is that Christ lives in us. He gifts us, strengthens us and empowers us. He will never leave us and therefore we have nothing to fear.

Lord Jesus, how thankful I am to know that You are with me. In fact, You live in me! I am never alone. I have nothing to fear. You are my strength, my hope, and my Savior who loves me and who gave Yourself for me. Whenever I feel alone, remind me of Your presence. Whenever I get overwhelmed with life, enable me to know of Your strength. I find great joy and peace when I am aware of Your presence in me. May others know that You are with me by the way I live.

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EXCUSES OR REPENTANCE?

Scripture Reading: I Samuel 16:14-23

“Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him.” (I Samuel 16:14)

Because of Saul’s pattern of disobedience and compromise, God’s blessings were withdrawn from him. God also withdrew His Spirit from Saul. Remember that before Pentecost (Acts 2) the Holy Spirit did not permanently indwell God’s people. The Spirit would come to empower individuals to do what God commanded them to do. Fortunately, the Spirit never departs from us now.

When God rejected Saul as king and chose David to take his place, the Spirit of God departed from Saul and he became tormented by an evil spirit. We are not sure what this spirit was. It could have easily been a mental illness. As we will see, Saul at times lost his reason and acted irrationally. He experienced temporary insanity and had outburst of violence on occasions.

Let me be quick to say that all mental illness is not a judgment of God upon sin. Having gone through a severe depression a few years ago, I know how terrible mental illness can be. Those who struggle with it need to seek help. Sometimes it is a problem with the chemistry of the brain. This condition requires qualified spiritual, medical and psychological help.

The issue with Saul was that he had willfully turned his heart away from God and disobeyed God regularly. He made excuses for his sins and even tried to substitute religious activity for trusting obedience. He failed to believe God and took matters in his own hands at times.

It is hard to know what Saul’s real spiritual condition was. He seemed to be religious but he failed to have a trusting relationship with the Lord. Because of his sinful patterns, he lost his rule over Israel. God was preparing someone else to take his place — a man after God’s own heart.

Much can be learned from Saul’s failures. He was filled with pride. He abused his power. He often compromised and acted out of expediency rather than trusting obedience. I can see some of Saul in me and it makes me pause and seek God’s loving forgiveness. Saul made excuses for his sinful behavior rather than admitting it and repenting. God wants us to be honest about our failures. He want us to repent of our sins and to turn to Jesus who will deliver us from the guilt and shame that our sins bring upon us. This is the good news of the gospel!

Lord Jesus, unfortunately I see some of Saul in me — pride, compromise, failing to trust You, taking matters into my own hands rather than waiting on You. Please forgive me and may Your Spirit who indwells me give me the desire and power to obey You this day.

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WHAT GOD SEES IN A PERSON

Scripture Reading: I Samuel 16:1-13

“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (I Samuel 16:7b)

God sent Samuel to Bethlehem to anoint a new king that He had selected for Himself (v. 1). Bethlehem was a special place. It was the home town of David and the birthplace of the greater David, Jesus Christ. Samuel was instructed to go to the family of Jesse. Jesse’s sons were brought before him (vs. 6-10). None of them was identified as God’s choice for king.

Samuel was confused and so he asked, “‘Do you have other children?'” Jesse replied, ‘There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping sheep'” (v. 11). God identified the youngest son, David, as the one God had chosen to be king.

The key verse in the passage is — “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the lord looks at the heart” (I Samuel 16:7b). Most often we evaluate others by the way they look or by their achievements — physical appearance, wealth and social position, intelligence and education, etc. But the Lord is not impressed by these things, for He looks not on the outward appearance but on the inside of a person; He looks at the heart.

The heart in Scripture means far more than the internal organ that pumps blood. The heart is the very essence of our lives. It is the source of our motives, the seat of our passions, the center of our thought processes, and the spring of our conscience.

We are told in the Bible that God searches the heart (Jeremiah 17:10), and that the heart is deceitful and desperately sick (Jeremiah 17:9). But the good news of the gospel is that God gives us a new heart (Ezekiel 36:24-28). He does this when He regenerates us. Our new heart enables us to love God and to desire His will for our lives.

Above all, God wants us to have a heart that seeks after His own heart — “The Lord has sought out a man after His own heart…” (13:14). That is what God saw in David and that is what He wants to see in us.

What does God see in your heart? Are you a person who seeks after the heart of God? God searches our hearts. He knows the condition of our hearts. What does He see in your heart?

O God, give me a heart for You. Forgive me when my heart goes after other loves. I desire to give my heart to You and to love You with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.

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THE CARDINAL SIN

Scripture Reading: I Samuel 15:1-31

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is an act of divination and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.” (I Samuel 15:23,24a)

God gave Saul a clear command but Saul failed to obey God. Saul was to destroy the Amalekites and all their livestock because of the evil they had committed against God’s people. Instead of obeying God, Saul spared Agag the king and the best of the sheep and oxen (vs. 7-9).

God sent Samuel to confront Saul (vs. 10-12). When confronted Saul began to make excuses for his disobedience (v. 15). He blamed the people and even stated that he kept the best animals to offer as sacrifices to the Lord. Samuel did not accept Saul’s excuses (vs. 16-19). Saul’s disobedience caused him to lose his kingship. Sin has serious consequences.

At the heart of the matter is the issue of disobedience. Sacrifice (religious activity) is not to be substituted for obedience. Disobedience is a serious offense against God. Disobedience is the cardinal sin because every sin is the result of the sin of disobedience. It is the assertion of our power and will over the power and will of God. Substituting religious activity for obedience is not acceptable to God — “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice and to listen than the fat of rams.”

Let’s be clear — we cannot be saved by our feeble attempts to earn God’s favor. No one is justified by works, for we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. This is where the gospel comes into play. We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. But once we have been saved, we should desire to obey God. Obedience is proof of our love for God. Jesus said, “If you love Me you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15).

God’s desire is for us to obey Him. When we fail to do so, we must acknowledge our sins and not make excuses for them. Then we must claim the forgiveness we have through our Savior Jesus.

Lord God, I know that I have failed to obey You many times over. I confess my sin and come before You in humble gratitude for Your grace shown to me, an undeserving sinner. Thank You for forgiving me of my many acts of disobedience. Give me grace to obey You, for to obey is better than sacrifice.

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PRIDE AND FOOLISHNESS

Scripture Reading: I Samuel 14:24-46

“Then Jonathan said, ‘My father has troubled the land. See how my eyes have become bright because I tasted a little honey? How much better if the people had eaten freely today of the spoil of their enemies that they found. For now the defeat among the Philistines has not been great.'” (I Samuel 14:29,30)

This is an account of how prideful and foolish Saul could be at times. He placed the people under a rash oath — “And the men of Israel had been hard pressed that day, so Saul had laid an oath on the people, saying, ‘Cursed be the man who eats food until it is evening and I am avenging my enemies'” (v. 24). The oath was about Saul who wanted to be avenged on account of his enemies. He was filled with pride and abused his power. He jeopardized the well being of his people, including his son Jonathan.

Jonathan had not heard about the oath and he violated it by eating some honey he found — “But Jonathan had not heard his father charge the people with the oath, so he put out the tip of the staff that was in his hand and put his hand to his mouth, and his eyes became bright” (v. 27).

The people needed nourishment after the battle with the Philistines. Jonathan recognized how foolish his father had acted. Because of his foolish pride, Saul failed to get a total victory over the Philistines. He put his people at risk and his actions almost cost him the death of his son. The people defended Jonathan and ransomed him from the penalty of death (vs. 45,46).

All of us struggle with pride. All of us act foolishly at times. We must heed God’s warning to us — “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise, making the best use of your time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:15-17). Remember that “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

Lord God, forgive me for my pride. I think more highly of myself than I should and I fail to live humbly before You and others. I acknowledge the foolish things I do at times. I know that You have called me to a life of humility and service following the example of Your Son Jesus. Give me grace to humble myself under Your mighty hand and to seek Your will above all else.

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NOTHING CAN HINDER THE LORD

Scripture Reading: I Samuel 14:1-23

“Jonathan said to the young man who carried his armor, ‘Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised. It may be that the Lord will work for us, for nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few.'” (I Samuel 14:6)

Jonathan, Saul’s son, was a man of faith. In one of the encounters with the Philistines, Jonathan believed God would deliver His people from their hands. So Jonathan and his armor bearer plotted to defeat the Philistines (v. 1). Jonathan believed that the Lord could save by many or by few (v. 6). His trust was in the Lord and not in his cleverness or power. He stepped out in faith even though the odds were greatly against him. God used Jonathan’s attack along with a divinely appointed earthquake to bring about confusion among the Philistines (vs. 13-15).

Saul and his men rallied and came to the battle (vs. 16-20). The other Israelites who had hidden from the Philistines gained courage and joined in as well (v. 22). The Lord delivered His people that day — “So the Lord saved Israel that day. And the battle passed beyond Beth-haven” (v. 23).

I wonder sometimes if I trust the Lord enough? I wonder if I really believe that nothing can hinder Him? I know that He is all powerful in my head, but there are times when it seems the odds are against me, and I doubt His power to deliver me. I certainly should know better, for I have seen His powerful hand at work in my life time and time again.

This passage has really helped me as I am facing a tremendous challenge in my ministry. The odds are against our success, but will we believe that God is able to provide, that nothing can hinder Him? I have to redirect my faith from my own efforts and turn them to the Lord alone. I know that He can give me the victory, for nothing can hinder the Lord!

All Powerful Lord, I know that nothing can hinder You. You are able to do exceedingly more than I can ask or think. Enable me to trust You. Give me the grace to look in faith to You to accomplish things that seem impossible to me.

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A MAN AFTER GOD’S OWN HEART

Scripture Reading: I Samuel 13:8-12

“But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.” (I Samuel 13:14)

Saul failed to be a man after God’s own heart. But David is later described as this kind of man — “I have found David the Son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do my will” (Acts 13:22). What does such a person look like? We can learn from Saul, David, and the greater David, Jesus Christ.

First, a man (woman) after God’s own heart acknowledges the will of God as supreme in his (her) life. Our Lord Jesus demonstrated this. Remember His prayer in Gethsemane — “Not My will, but Thine be done.” Our desire should always be what God’s wants for us. We should seek His will in everything we do.

Second, a man (woman) after God’s own heart seeks to be obedient to the Word of God. Saul failed to obey God (13:14) and he suffered consequences — “But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after His own heart.” David is described as a man who will do God’s will –“I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do My will” (Acts 13:22). With the help of the Holy Spirit, we should seek to be obedient to all that God has revealed in His Word. Obedience flows from our love for Christ — “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15).

Third, a man (woman) after God’s own heart is devoted to honor and to love God from the heart. We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength and with all our mind (Luke 10:27). We are to be deeply in love with Jesus.

Fourth, a man (woman) after God’s own heart realizes that he (she) is dependent on God for success. Saul depended upon himself, his abilities and power. David was different. He trusted the Lord for he knew that the Lord was his rock and fortress.

Heavenly Father, I want to be a man after Your own heart. I know I fail miserably at times, but my desire is to put You first in my life. Give me the desire and the power to obey Your Word and to honor and love You with all my heart. I know how dependent I am upon You. Let me seek after Your heart above all else.

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THE DANGER OF EXPEDIENCY

Scripture Reading: I Samuel 13:1-15

“So Saul said, ‘Bring the burnt offering here to me, and the peace offerings.’ And he offered the burnt offering. As soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came. And Saul went out to meet him and greet him. Samuel said, ‘What have you done?'” (I Samuel 13:9-11a)

The Philistines had rallied their forces and threatened the Hebrews (v. 5). The Hebrews acted like cowards (vs. 6,7) and began to scatter. Those who were with Saul trembled in fear. And thus Saul took matters into his own hands. He acted out of expediency when he disobeyed God and offered the burnt offering.

Samuel had given Saul clear instructions — “Then go down before me to Gilgal. And behold, I am coming to you to offer burnt offerings and to sacrifice peace offerings. Seven days you shall wait until I come to you and show you what you shall do” (10:8).

Saul set aside the clear command of God and acted expeditiously. When Samuel was delayed, Saul took it upon himself to offer sacrifices. This was strictly forbidden by God’s law. Saul did it anyway.

When Samuel arrived, he rebuked Saul and told him the consequences of his actions — “But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over His people, because you have not kept what he Lord commanded you” (v. 14).

Saul made excuses for his actions — “When I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines had mustered at Michmash, I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against us at Gilgal, and I have not sought the favor of the Lord.’ So I forced myself and offered the burnt offering” (vs. 11,12).

Saul willfully disobeyed a plain command of God. He acted out of human expediency rather than trusting God and obeying Him. It is so easy for us to compromise and do the same thing. Obeying God and waiting on Him may be difficult at times, but these are always the right things to do.

Lord God, forgive me when I take matters into my own hands and act out of expediency rather than waiting on You. I am a fixer and want to take charge and get things done. Teach me the virtue of patience and give me a heart that desires to obey You.

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