Not the Human Nature Way

2nd Samuel 1-4

2 Samuel 2 1 NIV

Today our Bible reading begins the book of 2nd Samuel.  It is somewhat an odd name for the book, since Samuel died in 1st Samuel 25 and he will not appear as a character at all in this second book named after him.  Rather, this book is all about David, as king: his rise to power, the growth of his kingdom, his personal weaknesses and sins, as well as the sins and trials of his sons.  But we can remember David’s beginnings – the young shepherd boy God chose to be the one anointed by Samuel to one day replace Saul as king and rule over Israel.  So, while Samuel will not play a part in this book personally, he was the one who acted on God’s behalf to set the stage for David’s performance.

In the same way, your story today was shaped by many who went before you.  Perhaps they spoke God’s words over you, as Samuel did over David, to shape you into who you are and what you do today.  Their names are written all over your book, even if they aren’t with you today.

Don’t miss the opportunity you have to be a Samuel for a young David.  Pour God’s spirit on the young minds and hearts of those who will be the Christian fathers and mothers and pastors and Sunday School teachers and youth leaders of the next generation.  Encourage them.  Mentor them.  Let them know that even when they feel they will always be the least in their family and community that God can raise them up for works for Him.  And in this way your story will last into the future.

Your sphere of influence is much wider – and longer – than you realize.

As David was poised here on the edge of a new chapter in his life, I am certain he remembered where it all started.  He remembered Samuel and the day that changed the trajectory of his life.  He remembered playing his harp for King Saul.  He remembered the day he slew the giant with a stone.  He remembered how his popularity grew as God gave great success in his exploits against the enemy Philistines.  He remembered Saul’s jealousy and rage.  He remembered the ten long years of fleeing from the king who wanted to kill him, even though David remained loyal to him.

And, now King Saul is dead.  What will David do?  He has a golden opportunity to seize the day and the power and make himself king by force.  No longer needing to fear Saul he can safely trash talk the dead king and let bitterness over ten lost years control his emotions and decisions.  He could.  But he doesn’t.

Instead, he truly mourns the loss of the king and his 3 sons.  He writes a beautiful song of lament, speaking of Saul and Jonathan’s might and splendor and the great loss faced now with their death.  Others expect him to celebrate Saul’s death (and reward the messenger who claimed to have a part in it).  It would be natural to, since Saul had treated David so poorly time and time again.  It would be normal to, since Saul’s death now paved the way for him to set up his own rule as king.  But, David rose above what was natural and normal.  Rather than letting human nature rule, he acted in a way deserving of the title “Man after God’s Own Heart”.  He rose above revenge, and in so doing became a man that others wanted to follow.

Rather than making rash, though natural and normal, human decisions, “David inquired of the Lord.” (2 Samuel 2:1).  Should he return to his homeland, Judah?  If so, where?  God answered, “Yes, Hebron.”  So, David went.  In his last ten years he seems to have learned a thing or two about relying on God’s timing and answers rather than striking out on his own human reasoning and inclinations.

How are you doing at inquiring of the Lord?  Not reverting to natural, normal human behavior and bitterness? Rising above revenge?  Honoring those God put in authority, even when we don’t agree with them?  Having a heart of mourning for what God mourns?  Being a person of God that others want to follow?  Being a Samuel for a young generation of Davids?   Today is a great day to strive to be a man or woman after God’s Own Heart?

 

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Samuel+1-4&version=NIV

Tomorrow we will be reading more of the Psalms – 6, 8-10,14, 16,19 & 21 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

A Perfect Opportunity for Revenge

1st Samuel 21-24

1 Samuel 24 12 NIV

In today’s reading, we see more examples of Saul’s rebellion against God and his hatred of David.  Ahimelech the priest had inquired of the Lord for David. In his rage, Saul ordered that not only Ahimelech, but all the priests must be killed – so Doeg the Edomite, one of Saul’s goons, killed 85 priests, then went to their town and killed every man, woman, and child (and its cattle, donkeys, and sheep).  In chapter 23, Saul chased David and tried to kill him multiple times.

 

In chapter 24, David finally has his opportunity for revenge.  Saul was again chasing David. David and his men were hiding in the Desert of En Gedi.  Saul and 3000 chosen troops were in hot pursuit. Along the way, Saul needed to go to the bathroom.  He wanted a little privacy, so he stepped into a cave to relieve himself. Little did he know that David and his men were hiding further back in that very cave.

 

If you were David, what would you have done?  Would you have eliminated the threat to your life, and ushered in your reign as king?  To be perfectly honest, I think that’s exactly what I would have done. David’s men encouraged David to kill Saul, but instead, David crept up to Saul, and cut off the corner of Saul’s robe.

 

Afterward, David was conscience stricken and said, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.”

 

Wow!  Clearly Saul was a scoundrel, but David spared his life because God had made him king.  I think we can learn a lesson or two from David’s respect for the office of authority, even when the man in the office wasn’t worthy of respect.

 

This is exactly what we’re told to do in 1 Peter 2:13-14 – “For the Lord’s sake, submit to all human authority—whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right.”

 

David’s actions also remind me of Romans 12:17-18 – “Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.”

 

So too, we need to submit to authority, even when we don’t like the person in authority, or what they are doing.  Also, we need to be intentional about never repaying evil for evil.

 

To finish today’s story, because David had spared Saul’s life, Saul promised to leave David alone, and returned home (for now).  David and his men went up to their stronghold. God had protected David yet again.

Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Samuel+21-24&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Psalm 7,27,31, 34 and 52 on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Mercy & Grace – OR – a Cosmic Butt-Kicking

FREE THEME WEEK – Psalms!

Psalm 69 24

This week we are looking at seven different types of psalms.  So far we’ve seen wisdom, royal and lament.  Today we are looking at, perhaps, the most difficult of all, imprecatory.  Imprecatory means, quite simply, to call down a curse upon another.

Now, this is kind of tricky for Christians.  After all, Jesus taught us that we are supposed to forgive as we want to be forgiven.  We are supposed to love our enemies, right?  So how exactly can we justify praying imprecatory psalms as Christians?

Let’s look at an example of an imprecatory Psalm 69.

Save me, O God,
for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in the miry depths,
where there is no foothold.
I have come into the deep waters;
the floods engulf me.
I am worn out calling for help;
my throat is parched.
My eyes fail,
looking for my God.
Those who hate me without reason
outnumber the hairs of my head;
many are my enemies without cause,
those who seek to destroy me.
I am forced to restore
what I did not steal.

 

It starts out quite similar to a psalm of lament, as we discussed on Tuesday.  “Help God! Things are going badly.  I’m sinking.  Everyone is out to get me!  I’m all alone!”

He goes on to appeal to God for help.

19 You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed;
all my enemies are before you.
20 Scorn has broken my heart
and has left me helpless;
I looked for sympathy, but there was none,
for comforters, but I found none.
21 They put gall in my food
and gave me vinegar for my thirst.

Again, this has a familiar ring to it.  The gospel writers used this scripture to point to Jesus on the cross- remember when he said he was thirsty and they gave him vinegar to drink?

So far, we are still lamenting.  It’s dark, but it’s about to turn darker:

22 May the table set before them become a snare;
may it become retribution and a trap.
23 May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see,
and their backs be bent forever.
24 Pour out your wrath on them;
let your fierce anger overtake them.
25 May their place be deserted;
let there be no one to dwell in their tents.
26 For they persecute those you wound
and talk about the pain of those you hurt.
27 Charge them with crime upon crime;
do not let them share in your salvation.
28 May they be blotted out of the book of life
and not be listed with the righteous.

 

Yikes! It just got real!  The person doesn’t just want God to save him, he wants God to crush his enemies.

“Pour out your wrath on them!”  “May they be blotted out of the book of life.”  Wow!  That’s pretty intense.

“May their place be deserted.”  Luke quoted that verse in the book of Acts when he talked about the need to replace Judas as one of the 12 Apostles.

How does this kind of call for God to damn your enemies fit within the overall message of the gospel of Jesus’ love and forgiveness?

Time and space doesn’t permit the kind of deep digging we might need to do to really get this, but I’ll take a stab at it.  When people hurt us, I mean really hurt us, our normal reaction is to want to hurt them back.  The desire to get revenge and retaliate when wronged is pretty normal, if we’re being honest.  So what do we do with that hurt, that anger, that pain?

Well, we know that some people take a gun and go shoot people at school or at work.  Some people take to social media and try to destroy another person’s life and reputation.  If you’re Carrie Underwood: “I dug my key into the side
Of his pretty little low Mercedes Benz
Carved my name into his leather seat
I took a Louisville slugger to both head lights
Slashed a hole in all 4 tires
And maybe next time he’ll think before he cheats.”

Sure, who among us hasn’t wanted to do that, and worse?

But as Christians we’re supposed to love our enemies.

Paul says in Romans 12

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Yes, there’s a lot in there about how we are supposed to not pay people back, we’re supposed to love.  Sandwiched in the middle of it all is “leave room for God’s wrath.”  Yes, God is a God of tremendous love, grace, mercy and forgiveness and he offers even the worst of sinners the chance for mercy and forgiveness- but he also knows how to do wrath.  He knows how to punish the unrepentant- and the Bible makes it clear that he will do so.

I don’t know who deserves mercy and grace and who deserves a cosmic butt-kicking, and neither did the Apostle Paul, and neither do you.  So we leave it to God.  Imprecatory prayers are simply ways that we say to God,  “I’m hurting and I want to hurt back, but I’m not going to.  I’m going to trust you to deal with this person the way you choose. (but here’s my pain and rage-fueled suggestion for how I’d like you to do it)”

-Jeff Fletcher

 

Joseph: More Pain

Genesis 44 34

Joseph, from the Old Testament, was a very godly man.  He endured many hardships, but held onto his faith. But along the way, he picked up some bitterness and resentment toward his brothers.  When he had the chance, he tormented them, exacting some measure of revenge.  At that time there was such severe famine that Joseph’s brothers were forced to go back to Joseph a second time and buy grain.  This time, Joseph started by being kind to his brothers, and then he veered off, continuing to emotionally torment them.

In Genesis 44, everything finally came to a head.  Joseph deceived his brothers further, and made it appear that he was going to force the youngest brother, Benjamin, to stay there with Joseph in Egypt.  This plan may have seemed like another fine way to punish his brothers, but there was a huge problem.  His brother Judah approached Joseph, and said, “If you keep the boy Benjamin here, our elderly father will die from sorrow.”  Perhaps Joseph hadn’t considered the pain he was about to cause his own father–or the pain he had already caused him.  At this point, Joseph just about had an emotional breakdown (read it for yourself in Genesis 45).  All along Joseph had been trying to hurt his brothers, but he was the one who was hurt the most.  The pain he wished for them turned out to be the pain he felt.

At some point in your life, you may have someone really hurt you.  Maybe you already have.  And maybe at some point you will have a chance to hurt them back.  Maybe even hurt them back really bad.  Consider this: it will come with a huge cost to you.  You may want to hurt them back, but it will cost you something very real and something very big.  It would be better for everyone involved if you can somehow forgive them, and not pay them back in the way they deserve.

-Jason Turner

Joseph: A Time for Revenge?

Genesis 42 8 9

There’s an old saying that goes something like this: many people pass the test of poverty only to fail the test of plenty.  The idea being that many people do okay while living in poverty, but if they become wealthy, they don’t do as well.  Joseph remained faithful to God and very honest during his time of slavery and imprisonment.  But in Genesis 42, Joseph had become incredibly powerful and wealthy.  His ten brothers who had sold him into slavery, came before him practically begging for food.  Joseph deceived them, he played mind games on them, he messed with them, he exacted his revenge.  Joseph had suffered for years in slavery and prison, and now it was payback time.  Read through the chapter, and ask yourself if these were the actions of a godly person.  How would you have responded in the same situation?  What will you do when you are given a chance to repay someone evil for evil?  How will you repay someone who has genuinely hurt you?

-Jason Turner

The OG Avenger

Romans 12 18

My husband and I are making our way through the netflix vigilante, superhero movies and shows. Some of our favorites are the Avenger movies, Daredevil, Iron Fist, Arrow, Flash and so on. Every superhero show needs a villain. Usually these villains have a vendetta on the world because they were wronged at some point by someone.

 

The Villain in that last show we watched brought his wrath down on Harlem because someone murdered his mom. He decided to repay evil with more evil in an attempt to right the wrong done to him. He let anger, rage and bitterness control his actions.

 

This reminds me of the passage in Romans 12:

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

 

When we are wronged we tend to feel the need to right that wrong, to get even, to get revenge. The Bible makes it clear that it is God’s job to repay those wrongs. He even goes further to say:

 

20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;

   if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e]

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

So unless you want to be the next Thanos, Wilson Fisk or netflix villain I suggest you allow God to be the only avenger and practice overcoming those who wrong you by showing them goodness.

 

-Elleigh

 

How Much Does Your Heart Weigh?

Proverbs 20-22

proverbs-21-2

Friday, January 27
 
Still watching that tongue of yours?  This week have you ever stopped and changed what you were going to say – or decided it shouldn’t be said at all?  Are you feeling wiser and wiser every day you are more aware of what comes out of your mouth?  Keep it up!  Today’s reading continues to sprinkle in verses about our mouth.  It is a theme repeated over and over again throughout the Proverbs.  It seems how we use our mouth really is important to Solomon, the God who inspired his writings, and the path to wisdom.  Proverbs 21:23 says, “He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.”  Wisdom brings great reward . . . but foolishness does not.  “A man who strays from the path of understanding comes to rest in the company of the dead.”  (21:16)
 
 “All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs the heart.” (21:2)   “ALL a man’s ways SEEM RIGHT to HIM.”  That explains a lot, doesn’t it?  No wonder relationships get a little sticky sometimes – all of my ways seem right to me, while all of your ways seem right to you.  Thankfully, the Lord does know what is right and knows our motives and heart.   We can pray that God will help us see ourselves clearly, truthfully – as He sees us.  I can pray that He will show me where and when I am wrong and off-track so I can make the adjustments necessary in myself.  Together we can pray that when our hearts are weighed they will not be found lacking.  And then we do the work we can to keep our hearts pure, devoted to Him,  and full of love for others.
 
 
And, for some quick lessons  . . .
 
On Drinking – “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.”  (20:1)   – Don’t you think watching your words and actions and working to be Godly is challenging enough when you are sober?  Have you ever seen a good drunk Christian following God?  Watch what you are allowing to influence you.   Proverbs has several verses warning of the dangers of drinking.
 
On Revenge – “Do not say, ‘I’ll pay you back for this wrong!’ Wait for the Lord and he will deliver you.” (20:22)   — How wonderful to have something we can take off our busy ‘to do list’.  Life is too full to waste our time plotting and planning revenge.  Move on and leave it to God. 
 
On Drippy Faucets –  “A quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping.”  (19:13)  Ok, that verse actually came from yesterday’s reading, but too good to pass up, and closely related to two of today’s proverbs: “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife” (21:9) and “Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife.” (21:19).  Not sure I can add anything to those eloquent words.  I guess it is just a reminder to me, and wives everywhere, as well as those aspiring to wifedom to ‘can the quarreling’ so our husbands don’t pitch a tent on the corner of the roof or hightail it to the desert.

Still so many great proverbs we aren’t going to have time to touch on.  Feel free to leave a comment on any of your favorite proverbs on our wordpress site!!  We would love to hear from you and learn from you.

God Bless You as You Seek to be Wise,

Marcia Railton 

 

 

 

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