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 (#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 (#35)

Shortly after Saul died, David was anointed as the new king of Israel.  Under his rule, Israel would be truly united as a nation.  God would bless David and David would turn those blessings back to God in praise.  David would have trials and make mistakes like any other person, but his faith in the One True God of Israel never seem to be diminished during his 40 years as the king.

Read 2 Samuel 5:1-7:29

During the leadership of Eli, the Ark of the Covenant, also known as the Ark of God, was lost.  Eli’s children thought it would be a good luck charm to take in battle and were killed and the ark was lost to the Philistines.  Saul never thought to recover it.  However, David did.  He made two attempts.  During the first attempt, he tried to bring it home to Israel in the wrong manner, on a cart.  This method caused them problems and an untimely death.  Three months later, they attempted again, doing it God’s way and they were successful.  David was so happy that he worshipped like the common people, to the disdain of his wife.  However, David knew that God was worthy of joyful worship, not grudging rituals.

David wanted to build a temple for God.  Up to this point, worship was in a place called the tabernacle.  It was a mobile tent that God gave the design for and could be quickly set up and taken down during Israel’s travels in the wilderness.  David was ashamed that he lived in a palace and God had a tent.  However, God’s message to David resembled Stephens sermon in Acts chapter seven.  God is not confined to one place.  Instead, He is mobile and to infinite to be put into something designed and made by man.  God would allow David’s son, Solomon, build a temple later on, but for this point, God was still showing the people that He was on the move.

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 (#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 (#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).