Scripture Reading Challenge (#36)

There are situations that are beyond our control and happen without our permission.  However, there are many other situations that occur as a result of the choices we make.  David was a man after God’s heart.  He was a wise and efficient leader.  However, there was one choice that he made that would impact the rest of his life.  This decision was to have a man killed after choosing to commit adultery.

Read 2 Samuel 11:1-12:25

I preached a message once and called it the giants of David’s life.  We know that David only faced one giant, Goliath in the Bible.  But, metaphorically, there were more encounters with impossible odds and extreme situations.  David’s battle with Goliath was a fantastic display of faith.  However, if it teaches us that faith can take us through the daily spiritual fights that rise and go down fast, then we can allow King Saul to be a giant that David had to endure.  David didn’t cause Saul to seek his life.  He only lived after God and kept doing the right thing.  However, he had to endure for a long time the bloodthirst that possessed Saul.  Still, these giants were not caused by David.  They were just parts of living life in a broken world.

The third giant, however, was David’s only doing.  It was the most dangerous to his soul because it was his sin.  David’s withdraw from the battlefield only illustrates he had let down the defenses of his soul.  Temptation caught him off guard and became entangled to lust for Bathsheba.  David impregnated her and then tried to cover it up, only to have Bathsheba’s husband killed.  David was caught up in sin and couldn’t get out on his own.  In fact, the effects of sin would still be felt by David after he repented.  The sword of conflict would never leave his home.  Sin can be forgiven, but we will reap what we sow until Christ takes us from this broken world.

In conclusion, remember the warning my parents consistently gave me, “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).  This isn’t a warning to live your life in fear.  It is a reminder to live your life in holiness and the personal hurt and regret that accompanies sin won’t harm you.

Scripture Reading Challenge (#34)

Have you counted your blessings recently?  It’s the beginning of November, and I have already seen several people posting what they are thankful for each day.  Sometimes it is hard to see God’s blessings because the fog of doubt and despair hamper our vision to God’s movement.  So, we may ask the question, “How can I know God is working on my behalf when it seems God is distant and short?”  David asked God for direction, and God gave him two short answers chapter 23.  Sometimes, we don’t even have that much to go on.  So, where do we know God is helping us and how can we continue to place our faith in Him?

Read 1 Samuel 23:7-24:22

Most of the time, we can barely see past the end of our nose.  If something doesn’t grab our attention from being out in the open, we miss it altogether.  God works behind the scenes so much, that even when He blesses openly, there are so many other blessings we miss because they were given in secret.  One of my favorite illustrations of this is with travel.  We don’t know how many detours and the “scenic routes” may have been God’s providence to keep us out of a wreck.  David continually escaped Sauls clutches.  We may experience harm and difficulty, but we may never know all the pain that God has kept us from in our life.

David feared for his life because of Saul.  He had been running from him for quite some time, and no doubt was tired.  Thankfully, David had 600 men loyal to him.  However, God would give David another friend.  Jonathan was David’s best friend and Saul’s son.  The same Saul that was trying to kill David.  Jonathan knew this but still made a covenant with David to watch over him.  God knows exactly when we need encouragement.  Saul could not find David because God wouldn’t let him.  Jonathan found David because God wanted David to be encouraged.  God will send us support through others.  Sometimes His goodness is felt strongest that way.

David continued to place faith in God.  He trusted God to avenge him.  David had an opportunity to kill Saul and end this chase.  However, he knew Saul personally and that at one time was God’s anointed person for a particular time.  David would not avenge himself.  He knew that God would do that.  The Apostle Paul reminds us, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19).  God would go on to avenge David.  Saul and Jonathan would die in battle against another army.  David grieved for the loss of both men.  However, he knew that God judge righteously.  That is something almost impossible for us to do.  The best thing then is to trust God and let Him fight our battles.

Scripture Reading Challenge (#33)

One of the most familiar stories of the Bible is that of David and Goliath.  This is a story of a young teen facing impossible odds and through the grace of God was victorious.  The stance that David made is admirable.  The faith that he displayed is inspirational.  The commitment he had to God is challenging us to us.

Read 1 Samuel 16:1-18:16

The Spirit can leave a person. Saul is a testimony to this. Scripture reminds us,“And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Ephesians‬ ‭4:30‬). The Holy Spirit is the testimony to our soul that we are a child of God (Rom. 8:16). Saul grieved God so deeply and for so long that the Holy Spirit moved away from Saul.  This is the sad condition of many people, and like Saul, they do not repent of their secret or open sins and errant thinking.  Instead, the chasm between them and God widens.

God will raise up leaders after his heart.  The Scriptures substantiates our hopes at this point.  These leaders may not always replace toxic leaders, as in the example of David and Saul.  They may challenge leaders in the wrong, they may only offer a new direction to follow, or they may inspire and bring hope to those while enduring a difficult situation.  God would remove Saul from leadership and David would step up into the position of king.  However, David was leading the people long before he was king.  You lead from proximity and manage from a position.  David spent time with the people while Saul became separated.  Leaders today must guard their relationships if they hope to remain a good leader.

Scripture Reading Challenge (#32)

Did you know that Israel was tempted in keeping up with the Joneses. They were still on the roller coaster of morality and obedience that we found in the book of Judges. Even Samuel, who was a great person, could not keep his children in the fear of the Lord. The people who had not given themselves over to other forms of worship asked Samuel for king. God was not pleased with this but gave them a king. He would eventually use the kingship of Israel in his plan of salvation beginning with the second king. However, God gave them the king they wanted. This is the beginning of Saul.

Read 1 Samuel 8:1-10:27

There is more to be said about wanting to be like someone else. As a nation, Israel wanted to be like the other nations that had kings. There is nothing wrong with being unique and not copying what others are doing. At this time Israel was a theocracy, meaning that God was understood as their sole ruler. They wanted a monarchy, a visible representative of God’s authority in human flesh. Samuel represented God’s holiness, and now Saul would represent God’s divine rule. We can look forward from this point to where the fullness of God was wholly invested in Jesus. In fact, the Greek title, “Christ,” or Hebrew title, “Messiah,” means the “anointed one.” Jesus was the anointed Prophet, Priest, and King.

Saul looked the part of a king. At least in everyone’s eyes. He was bigger than anyone else and God even gave Saul a heart to lead. Apparently, Saul could even preach, to the surprise of everyone. However, when it came time to announce him, we are given a hint about his true character and why God had to work in giving him a new heart. First Samuel 10:21-22, noted that after Samuel proclaimed Saul as king, they couldn’t find him. God answered their prayer and told them, “he heath hid himself among the stuff.” Deep inside this man who would be king, was major personality issues that would continue to surface. He did not have courage in several occasions when leading his army. He was jealous, angry, and conniving. He would even compromise his integrity and the Word of God by seeking help from a practitioner of the dark arts. God worked on his heart in the beginning and gave him a fresh start. It was hopeful, but, Saul would not always seek the Lord and it ended up costing him the kingdom.

Scripture Reading Challenge (#29)

The story of Samson is one of the incredible feats he performed by God’s Spirit.  However, at times, it is difficult to understand what we can gain from these passages in Scripture that apply to us today.  After reading about Samson’s life, we will be able to take away a better understanding of God’s work in time, and the frailty of even the best leaders.

Read Judges 13:1-16:31

The Lord is a mighty Deliverer.  However, He does it in His way and according to His schedule.  Throughout Scripture, we are reminded of that truth.  He also has much more patience than we do.  God took 400 years before delivering Israel out of Egypt.  God waited 40 years in our current passage before bringing Samson in the picture and then worked through Samson’s entire life from birth to death, to deliver Israel from the Philistine rule.  Furthermore, God worked through eternity past to the fall of man, through several millennia to the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ to bring us salvation.  Now, we have gone through almost 2,000 years of waiting for the second coming of Christ.  God works at His own pace, but we can be sure he is not slack concerning His promises (2 Peter 3:9).  God may take a decade or a millennia or two, but He will keep His word.  He makes things happen according to His divine plan.  We must remain faithful during the in-between times.

The second thing we learn from Samson’s story, and many others in the Bible, is that even good leaders fail.  There are undoubtedly toxic leaders who never seem to do good, but there those like Samson, Moses, David, and Peter, who are God’s people but still make mistakes or even fall into grave sin.  Moses worked with anger issues.  David was a man after God’s heart but yet was caught up in the act of adultery.   Peter liked to stick his foot in his mouth or could be hypocritical depending on who he was around.  When we do things on our own, we can be tempted and will fall.  Judges 16:20, noted that Samson did not even know the Lord had departed from him.  He had allowed the temptation to overtake him.  We need to pray for our leaders and ourselves to be vigilant in God’s Spirit.  Even the mighty can fall, and it only through the Lord’s grace we can keep standing tall against the tactics of Satan (Eph. 6:10-12).

Scripture Reading Challenge (#28)

First John 4:1 reads, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”  John continues with a litmus test for professing believers.  Discernment is an essential part of the Christian life.  Not everything that seems like it is from God is actually from Him.  We must be hyper-vigilant to be on guard for our faith and the faith of our families.  Gideon was such a man that wanted to be sure it was God helping Him.  God wanted to raise Gideon up as a judge.  Gideon, however, wanted to be sure it was the Lord calling Him and not something else.  

 

Read Judges 6:1-7:25

What are you doing for the Lord by His grace?  Are you sure it is for the Lord and not something for yourself or another?  It is important to examine ourselves to make sure we “beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called” (Eph. 4:1).  We can become drawn away from our initial calling and trapped in sin.  However, the Lord can help us keep our focus and commitment to the calling on our life.  By His grace, we can be sure of our identity and work.

An essential piece of Gideon’s story is that God does look on our ability and think, “They don’t have the right stuff.”  The cliche motto is “God does not call the equipped, but equips the called.”  God wants faithfulness.  He will take care of the rest.  It doesn’t matter if you are weak or outnumbered.  If we are faithful to the Lord, He will perform miracles.  In fact, that is his counter to human wisdom.  When reasoning says that something is impossible, God makes it possible.  Whatever the Lord has called you to do, He will accomplish it through you if you are faithful to Him.

Scripture Reading Challenge (#26)

Have you ever been on a roller coaster?  If not, you are about to experience an emotional one.  The book of Judges is a series of ups and downs for Israel.  We go down when Israel would rebel, and God would allow an oppressor to rise up against them.  Then, we go up when God would raise up a “judge” to deliver them and lead them.  When the judge died, the process would start over again.   We are thankful this was not how God intended to keep humanity on the straight and narrow.  However, it is an essential part of the history of redemption as it will show the way of humanity when left to its own devices.

Read Judges 2:6-3:6

The first thing that jumps out is that there seems to be a breakdown in the family.   Deuteronomy 6:7-9, reminds us to diligently teach ourselves and our children about God with every opportunity we are given.  In our reading, we find out there came a generation that did not know the Lord (Judges 2:10).  There are only two plausible reasons for this breakdown.  First, they were not taught about the Lord.  Still, the previous generations we are told did follow the Lord, so maybe that is not the strongest of the reasons.  More likely, it means they had not personally experienced anything with God.  The Biblical use of the word “knew” typically carries the nuance of experiential knowledge.  Adam and Eve knew they were naked, not just mentally but by experience.  When Scripture talks about that a man knew his wife, it is not talking about a sudden revelation that he was actually married.  Instead, it notes the fact the couple had intimate knowledge of each by experience.   The lesson we learn in this book is that it is not only essential to disciple our children in God’s Word but to help them experience God’s presence.

Another critical point of the passage is the need for godly leaders.  There is indeed a dearth of leadership in both secular and religious groups.  Moral failures abound among those that lead others.  However, God is still able to raise up great leaders.  Yes, they are not perfect and are still men and women living in a broken world.  God is bigger than our imperfections and is able to lead us by His Spirit as we lead others.  Also, each one of us has available that same Spirit.  Before the birth of the Church at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit did not make himself readily open to anyone.  Now, He fills each believer to help them fulfill God’s will in their life.