Scripture Reading Challenge (#37)

King David’s dying request to Solomon was that he would be a wise king, fear God, and cleanse his house from those who shed innocent blood.  We read about how Solomon tried to do this wisely to ensure that no mischief befell his kingdom.  As you read this passage, it is vital to understand the cleansing we need from deeply seated sin in our hearts will not come through our attempts.  Instead, we need the intervention of the Holy Spirit to bring about this cleansing of our soul.

Read 1 Kings 2:1-3:28

Solomon’s life is typically summarized as a life pursuit after wisdom.  We see that Solomon asked for wisdom and God blessed him with this and promised a blessed life if he used this wisdom to follow after the Lord.  What is wisdom and why is it far more precious than any material substance (Proverbs 2:4-5; 3:13; 4:5, 7; 8:11)?

As the preacher king (Ecclesiastes 1:1-2), Solomon taught, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Pro. 1:7) and “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding” (Pro. 9:10).  We are told that “The Lord by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens” (Pro. 3:19).  We are also told by James to seek the “wisdom that is from above” (James 3:13-18).

Wisdom by translation means “skill” or “prudence.”  In short, wisdom is the ability to use knowledge.  How many people do you know that have much in the categories technical skill (knowledge and finely tuned capabilities) but continue to make poor decisions?  This happens because they lack true wisdom or only have worldly wisdom.  A deficiency of Wisdom from above impacts moral and ethical decision making and behaviors.   In the book of James, wisdom from above is described as, “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.  And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace” (James 3:17-18).  With God as our standard, acts of wisdom reflect all that is called good.

May we seek wisdom from above and not of the earth.

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!

Scripture Reading Challenge (#30)

This short book in the Old Testament is the first of two books named after women in the entire Bible.  One may wonder why she is included in the Scripture.  After all, she is not of Hebrew descent but was brought in through marriage.  However, through her story, we see the faithfulness to God and God’s grace.  We also learn that everyone is welcome to be part of God’s story.  Finally, we know how God works through families and salvation history.  Ruth would become the great-grandmother of Israel’s greatest king, David.

Read Ruth 1:1-4:22

Isn’t it amazing that such a sad beginning to this tale ends up with a beautiful love story?  And, all the way through it, we see God’s hand orchestrating events.  The Lord is present in the painful situations and the pleasant ones.  I am reminded of Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”  You may have heard the cliche phrase, “Everything happens for a reason.”  People may even reference this verse.  I think that is a  wrong interpretation of Romans 8:28.  Instead, it seems to say that things can happen without reason, at least for those not seeking to live in the Lord.  Instead, we should say, “everything can have a holy purpose or else it happens in vain.”  Ruth demonstrated that even the death of her husband, brother-in-law, and father-in-law, could lead to God’s glory through faithfulness.  May we be found faithful and find handfuls of purpose along the way (Ruth 2:16).

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.