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 (#31)

The story of Samuel is one of my favorites.  Here is a man who both began and finished well.  That is a rare feat among today’s leaders and even many of the leaders in the Bible (of course not all the leaders in the Bible are trying to be good).  However, Samuel is one whose life is thoroughly committed to God and even more, during a time when it seems God was no longer working with Israel.

Read 1 Samuel 1:1-3:21

It is no wonder that Samuel turned out to be such a great follower of God.  Look at the example that was given to him as a child.  Hannah’s approach to prayer and praise before God is worth noting and modeling.  Fervent in prayer and quick to praise.  Many times we are apathetic in prayer and slow to worship.  Probably, much faster to complain.  We should learn more from Hannah.

Hannah had a severe burden on her heart.  In ancient times, being childless was considered a curse, and today it is no less heartbreaking.  The Scripture does not hide this reality.  In fact, through the many inclusions of this issue, it may be one of the most noted effects of the fall of man.  But notice, the Scripture changes tune after Jesus.  The last barren woman mentioned is Elisabeth (Luke 1:7 & 36).  There was another miracle birth from a couple in their old age.  Then, through Mary we see Jesus, and that was a miraculous conception all by itself.  But, the picture is painted all through Scripture, that God is greater than any barrenness.  I know there are not many words of comfort for someone having difficulty to have children, but remember this, God is on your side.  The Lord was able to create a man without anyone else, and he created a woman using only a man.  Jesus was born of just a woman.  God gave children to couples beyond their childbearing years.  I believe God’s message to women is the same thing He told Mary, “For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37).  Keep your faith in God, and He will make something beautiful happen.

Samuel received his calling from God amazingly and audibly.  The calling is not the only thing I notice.  It’s the age of Samuel.  He was most likely around the age of twelve.  God can and will work with young people.  It is also great to see Eli recognize and respect this about Samuel (even when Samuel told Eli that he and his sons would no longer be priests).  As a pastor and professor, I am always reminded of the openness youth have in following God’s leading into new methods and areas of ministry.  We could shut them down for fear of them getting hurt or messing things up.  Or, we can bless and empower them to get things done.  I choose to bless and empower.

The last thing that jumps off of the page is that there was no open vision in the land (1 Samuel 3:1).  Meaning, there were no prophets with a fresh word from heaven.  First, it was as though God was silent.  But, we see God is moving and working in the life of Hannah and Samuel.  So, we learn that when it seems God is silent, he is still working.  Secondly, it could also mean that the teaching of God’s Word was not up to standard.  Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.”  These verses imply there was no available teaching or preaching.  We know for sure that Eli’s children were not doing the right thing as priests.  However, Eli seemed to be complacent and by his silence and inaction, permitted this dearth of God’s Word.  Oh God, do not let us be silent in our words or actions but let us declare you faithfully through our words and deeds!