Day 113: The Prerequisite for Kingship

1 Samuel 30-31; Luke 18:18-43

Key Verses

1 Samuel 30:4
Then David and the people who were with him raised their voices and wept until they had no more strength to weep.

Luke 18:31-33
And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.”

The author, throughout 1 Samuel, has purposed to contrast David and Saul. Saul was self-reliant, outwardly religious, inwardly tormented and absolutely paranoid. Whereas David was constantly seeking the will of the Lord, inwardly devoted and humbled by his circumstances.

In these final two chapters, we see the epitome of contrast. David first returns to his temporary home in Philistia to find it raided. His first action is to inquire of the Lord. He then leads his men to overcome the raiders, and they discover that the bandits had also raided parts of Judah. David, in kingly fashion, defeats the raiders and leaves with great spoil. He justly divides the spoil among his men and with the cities of Judah. David is ready for the kingship. He is a seasoned warrior, humbled by difficulty. He’s learned patience and discipline. And in the journey, he’s become an exemplary leader.

Then we read of Saul in battle against the Philistines. First, his sons die, and then Saul is wounded in battle. He doesn’t even receive the honor of dying at his enemies’ hand, but must take his own life. Finally, Saul is dead and David is poised to take the throne.

David has endured in a way worthy to be in the lineage of Christ. He will be a godly king because of his suffering.

In Luke, Jesus is about to enter Jerusalem. He predicts his suffering and death to the disciples, but they do not accept his words.

They do not understand that suffering is God’s prerequisite for Kingship!

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4).

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Day 112: The Ways of the Kingdom

1 Samuel 27-29; Luke 18:1-17

Key Verses

1 Samuel 28:17
The Lord has done to you as he spoke by me, for the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David.

Luke 18:16-17
But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

David aligning with the Philistines… Saul seeking out a medium… The spirit of Samuel predicting Saul’s death… and David escaping the dilemma of fighting against his countrymen.

It’s all very exciting. And filled with irony and poor decisions from both David and Saul.

I believe David has lost hope to be king. Why else would he prepare to go to battle with the Philistines against Israel? If David had entered the battle on either side, the result would have been disastrous. But God, in his sovereignty, used the Philistine lords to prevent David from entering the battle. God has used all of David’s hardship to prepare him for the throne. He is a seasoned warrior in a humble position. He is ready.

Jesus’ teachings in the beginning of Luke are some of my favorites. The parable of the persistent widow encourages me to persevere in prayer. The parable of the Pharisee and tax collector reminds me of God’s disdain for self-righteousness and love for the sinner. And Jesus’ care for the children shows me that God values the small and insignificant of this world.

It all reminds me of a scene from The Hobbit. I think Gandalf’s words epitomize the way of God’s Kingdom!

Galadriel: Why the halfling?
Gandalf: I do not know. Saruman believes that it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I’ve found that is the smaller things – the everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps it is because I am afraid. But he gives me courage.

Day 111: How Long, O Lord?

1 Samuel 25-26; Luke 17:20-37

Key Verses

1 Samuel 26:23-24
The Lord rewards every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness, for the Lord gave you [Saul] into my hand today, and I [David] would not put out my hand against the Lord’s anointed. Behold, as your life was precious this day in my sight, so may my life be precious in the sight of the Lord, and may he deliver me out of all tribulation.”

Luke 17:20
Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed.”

I wonder how many years have passed since Samuel anointed the little shepherd, David, to be King of Israel… I’m sure it seems like a lifetime to David, and now that Samuel has died, I wonder if David doubted if God would ever make him king…

For David is still leading his ragamuffin crew from wilderness to mountain, to cave back to wilderness. I imagine he’s becoming weary of his flight. But when given the opportunity to take Saul’s life for the second time – David trusts and obeys his God – and in so doing chooses God’s difficult path to the throne instead of the easy shortcut. But I’m sure he’s wondering… How long, O Lord?

I resemble that statement! Sometimes I doubt whether God really does have a hope and a purpose for my family as I trudge through the daily-ness of caring for a disabled child. I read today’s passage in Luke that describes Jesus’ return to establish His Kingdom on earth and I cry out… How long, O Lord? How. Long.

But like David, we are given a choice. There are always easier paths before us. Following God is a hard road – full of sacrifice and ‘character building.’ How do we find the strength to persevere?

David looked forward to God’s promise of kingship. We look forward to God’s promise of His Kingdom – where there will be no more pain. and no more tears. Until that day comes, I will look to God for the strength to press onward – and as I do, He surprises me with joy along the way.

Behold, God is my helper;
the Lord is the upholder of my life (Psalm 54:4).

Day 110: A Purpose for Pain

1 Samuel 23-24; Psalm 54; Luke 17:1-19

Key Verses

1 Samuel 24:17-20
[Saul] said to David, “You are more righteous than I, for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil. And you have declared this day how you have dealt well with me, in that you did not kill me when the Lord put me into your hands. For if a man finds his enemy, will he let him go away safe? So may the Lord reward you with good for what you have done to me this day. And now, behold, I know that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand.

Humility and Gratitude. They are the key to persevering through hardship. If we humbly consider ourselves unworthy servants, as Jesus teaches in Luke 17:7-10, we will be doubly grateful for any blessing that God gives. A perfect example of this principle is the story of the 10 lepers recorded in Luke 17:11-19. Jesus healed 10 lepers, but only one returned to thank him… and he was a Samaritan. Samaritans were traditionally despised by the Jews. Because of his humble position, the Samaritan was more grateful for Jesus’ gracious healing. Humility multiplies Gratitude.

These characteristics are evident in David from today’s reading from 1 Samuel. David had a chance to kill Saul, but his reverence for God would not allow him to strike the Lord’s anointed king. Instead of reveling in the opportunity to kill his oppressor, David humbled himself before Saul and submitted to the will of God.

Both David and the leprous Samaritan lived in treacherous circumstances. But God used their suffering to humble each man and bring about godly character. God’s ways are mysterious, but they are always good. When our lives take a hard turn, it is tempting to shake our fists in anger at God for allowing hardship into our lives. But we should trust that God has a purpose for our pain…to break down our self-reliance so that we might walk more closely with the Savior and mold us more into the likeness of Jesus. As we allow God to humble us through our circumstances, David’s words in Psalm 54 become our anthem…

Behold, God is my helper;
the Lord is the upholder of my life (Psalm 54:4).

Day 107: David on the Run

1 Samuel 21; Psalm 56; Psalm 34

Key Verses

Psalm 56:3-4
When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me?

Psalm 34:4; 18
I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.

David’s life has taken such a drastic turn. He is now fleeing for his life! Where does he run first? He runs to the house of the Lord. He flees to the priestly city of Nob. There he seeks provision from the priest, Ahimelech. Jesus speaks of this scene in Matthew 11 when the Pharisees accuse him and his disciples of working to glean wheat on the Sabbath…

He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” (Matthew 11: 3-4; 7)

Do Jesus’ words sound familiar? They are similar to Samuel’s judgment of Saul in Chapter 15…

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to listen than the fat of rams. (1 Samuel 15:22)

David understands that compassion and mercy are more important than the ceremonial law. He ‘gets’ that his life is more important than the symbolic meaning of the bread of presence. Ahimelech, the priest, gets it too. God cares about the heart – not outward conformity.

We can see into the heart of David by reading Psalms 56 & 34. Both of these Psalms were written in response to David’s foolish decision to go to the Philistine city, Gath. Gath was the home of Goliath! Did David really think he could find refuge there???!!! Despite David’s rash judgment, his heart remained focused on his God…

Where do you run when your life seems out of control? What do you look to for comfort? David ran straight to the house of God! God is the refuge for the humble. The broken will find rest in His presence. Seek Him in His sanctuary. He longs to cover you with His peace!

Day 106: David’s Flight

1 Samuel 18-20; Psalm 59

Key Verses

1 Samuel 18:14-15
And David had success in all his undertakings, for the Lord was with him. And when Saul saw that he had great success, he stood in fearful awe of him.

Psalm 59:1-3
Deliver me from my enemies, O my God;
protect me from those who rise up against me;
deliver me from those who work evil,
and save me from bloodthirsty men.
For behold, they lie in wait for my life;
fierce men stir up strife against me.

For the next few days, we will read David’s poetry in the Psalms which directly relate to his circumstances recorded in 1 Samuel. Today’s reading in 1 Samuel continues with tales of David’s success in battle. But David’s success arouses jealousy in Saul leading to Saul trying to kill David – multiple times – thankfully, with no success.

Many players come to David’s aid, including Saul’s own children: Jonathan and Michal (David’s closest friend and wife, respectively).  Saul pursues David and at the end of Chapter 19 is a bizarre tale of God intervening directly on David’s behalf…

And [Saul] asked, “Where are Samuel and David?” And [Saul] went there…And the Spirit of God came upon him also, and as he went he prophesied until he came to Naioth in Ramah. And he too stripped off his clothes, and he too prophesied before Samuel and lay naked all that day and all that night (1 Samuel 19:22-24).

The imagery is thick. Here lies Saul, the rejected king, naked before Samuel and David, God’s anointed prophet and king, respectively. Seeing Saul humbled before him, I’m sure David understood this to be a direct answer to his prayer for help recorded in Psalm 59.

Psalm 59 was written in response to an earlier scene in Chapter 19, “Saul sent messengers to David’s house to watch him, that he might kill him in the morning” (1 Samuel 19:11). David opens the psalm with a prayer for help, and then he recounts God’s character and his faith is renewed.

But I will sing of your strength;
I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning.
For you have been to me a fortress
and a refuge in the day of my distress.
O my Strength, I will sing praises to you,
for you, O God, are my fortress,
the God who shows me steadfast love (Psalm 59:16-17).

Over the next few days, we will see David’s circumstances go from bad to worse. We will also see his faith expressed in the Psalms become stronger. I pray we learn from David’s example!

Day 92: Diluted faith

Judges 6-8; Luke 8:1-21

Key Verses

Judges 8:27
And Gideon made an ephod of it and put it in his city, in Ophrah. And all Israel whored after it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family.

Luke 8:21
But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”

In the time of Gideon, the people had fallen so far away from the Lord that Gideon was threatened by his neighbors for destroying the altar of Baal and cutting down the Asherah pole. No longer did the people fear the God of Israel.

God showed amazing grace to Gideon – stooping to fulfill Gideon’s requests for signs and compensating for Gideon’s fear. Gideon was so tainted by his culture that his faith was diluted and weak at best.

In spite of himself, Gideon was used by God to defeat the Midianites and the people enjoyed rest from oppression for 40 years. Truly, Gideon showed great heroism…but in the end, Gideon gave in to pride and led the people away from true worship of their God.

With each subsequent judge, the people fell further and further away from the standards of the Mosaic law – and became even more addicted to “whoring” after other gods.

Judges should serve as a warning to us… How diluted is our faith because of the culture in which we live? Do we compromise our beliefs to avoid conflict or hardship? We will be held accountable for our actions and choices.

Listen to the parable of the sower in Luke 8 and ask yourself… What kind of soil am I? Only by God’s grace can we be the good soil that upon “hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.”

God, I ask for the privilege to hear your word and the grace to obey it. Please, open my eyes to see how the culture dilutes my faith. And grant me the patience to persevere and the discipline to worship you alone.

Day 38: Waiting Well

Leviticus 1-3; Matthew 24:15-25:30

Key Verses

Leviticus 1:3-4
“If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish. He shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the Lord. He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.”

Matthew 24:44
Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

We begin Leviticus today! Leviticus is actually a continuation of Exodus. The setting of the entire book takes place at the base of Mt. Sinai after the Israelites have erected the Tabernacle and its court. Leviticus is difficult, simply because the unfamiliar rituals and laws sound foreign to our modern ears. But there are several valuable reasons to study Leviticus…

  1. Leviticus teaches “that Israel is sinful and impure. On the other hand, it describes how to deal with sin and impurity so that the holy Lord can dwell in the people’s midst” (ESV Study Bible, pg 211, Theme).
  2. The sacrificial system of Leviticus points forward to – and has been fulfilled by – Christ.
  3. Many of the moral requirements listed in Leviticus reflect the kind of moral conduct that is pleasing to God today.
  4. Leviticus can help the Christian develop a godly framework for justice.

With these purposes in mind, let’s begin our 11 day trek through Leviticus :-)

Leviticus 1-3 begins to detail the types of offerings the priests and people make to the Lord. Leviticus 1 describes the burnt offering. The burnt offering was the most costly of the offerings because the whole animal was burned on the altar. In addition to the priests’ daily duty of giving the burnt offering to the Lord both in the morning and evening, the people could also bring a burnt offering for the purpose of petition or praise.

Leviticus 2 describes a grain offering. A grain offering was simply an offering of flour with oil, spices and salt. The offering could be cooked or uncooked. Typically a grain offering wasn’t brought alone – but was offered alongside another offering, such as a burnt or peace offering.

And finally, Leviticus 3 describes a peace offering. This offering resulted in peace between the offerer and God. The ritual symbolized a communion meal between the offerer, officiating priest and the Lord. Only a portion of the offering was burned and the rest of the animal was consumed by the offerer and priest.

It is tempting to discount Leviticus’ relevance because we know the entire sacrificial system has ceased. We no longer have to bring burnt offerings to the Lord. Christ’s “once and for all” sacrifice is sufficient for eternity! But we learn more of God’s character as we walk in the steps of our forefathers who lived before Christ. These rituals graciously gave the people a way to deal with sin until the promised Savior came.

In Matthew, we read more of Christ’s words describing the end of the age. There are varying interpretations of Jesus’ words depending on your end-time theology. I think there are two important applications we can learn from today’s passage.

  1. We do not know when Christ will return.
  2. In the interim, we are to wait well.

Jesus gives four parables on how to wait for his return. What do we learn from each of these parables?

  1. Matthew 24:43-44. The thief comes at an hour you do not expect. Therefore, we must be ready for Jesus to return at any time.
  2. Matthew 24:45-51. The faithful servant obeys his master even when he is not present and is greatly rewarded! The foolish servant ignores the master and does as he pleases. His fate is dreadful.
  3. Matthew 25:1-12. Half of the virgins were prepared and ready when the bridegroom came. The other half were not and missed him. We are each responsible to be ready for his return.
  4. Matthew 25:14-30. We are all given talents, and we are all called to be faithful with those talents.

The Israelites were waiting for Christ to come. We are waiting for Christ to return. The Lord’s expectations were the same for the Israelites as they are for us today. Wait well. How do we wait well? By obeying the Lord’s commands and being faithful with all He has given us!

Day 28: Life in the Desert

Exodus 16-18; Matthew 19:16-30

Key Verses

Exodus 16:9
Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, ‘Come near before the
Lord, for he has heard your grumbling.'”

Matthew 19:25-26
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Exodus 16 & 17 give us great insight into the way the Lord deals with us, his grumbling children :-)

The Israelites are in the desert. The desert is a hard place to be. It is an empty place – dry and lifeless. If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you are familiar with the desert. God seems distant. It is a place of testing.

As we read these chapters in Exodus, we see a pattern develop… The people travel in the desert. The people grumble. God graciously provides either food or water. The people are satisfied and worship. And then the pattern repeats… They travel; they grumble; God provides; they worship.

God is increasing their faith as He tests them with difficult circumstances. We see this in the instructions regarding the manna…

“Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not” (Exodus 16:4).

It’s as if God is a patient parent training his young child to trust Him.

If you are in “the desert” in your spiritual life, it might be that God wants to stretch your faith. We know from His Word that He never leaves or forsakes you… but He loves you so much that He is willing to seem distant – so that as you persevere – your faith is strengthened.

Paul Miller expresses this concept much better than I can in his book, A Praying Life…

When God seems silent and our prayers go unanswered, the overwhelming temptation is to leave the story – to walk out of the desert and attempt to create a normal life. But when we persist in a spiritual vacuum, when we hang in there during the ambiguity, we get to know God. In fact, that is how intimacy grows in all close relationships (Miller, A Praying Life, pg. 192).

In Matthew 19, we see Jesus inviting the rich young man into a relationship with Him, but the man is unwilling to follow Jesus into the desert of ambiguity. You see… the desert is a scary place. Self-sufficiency is scarce in the desert. And as we face impossibilities, our eyes are forced heavenward, and the gospel becomes like manna and water to our souls… The gospel. The good news that even though we are unable to save ourselves, God is not just able to save us; He’s also willing.

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:24-26).

That’s the gospel. That’s good news :-)

Day 364: The Goal of Prophecy

Zechariah 12-14Revelation 21

As I have read (and read and read) in daily preparation for this blog, one statement about the purpose of prophecy resonated with me. It resonated so deeply that I copied and pasted it (in bold) in a place on my computer that I see everyday. So, each day I am reminded of this goal of prophecy… Unfortunately, I have no idea from where I copied it, and for fear of plagiarizing, I have never shared it. But I think I will today:

The goal of prophecy, more than simply telling the future, is the moral formation of God’s people (Source unknown).

Zechariah’s prophecies are astounding.

  • He predicts with precision Jesus’ regal entrance to Jerusalem on a donkey (9:9).
  • He predicts the piercing of the Messiah and the depth of the mourning after His death (12:10-14).
  • He predicts that from the blood of the cross, there would come forgiveness for sins (13:1).
  • He predicts the scattering of the disciples upon Jesus’ arrest and trial (13:7).
  • He predicts the refining of the church through the means of persecution (13:9).
  • He predicts the great number of Gentiles who would turn to Christ in repentance and faith (14:16).
  • And finally, he looks forward to the day when the restoration of Israel should be so complete that even common goods are deemed holy and nothing can be defiled (14:20-21).

Wow. Could the people of Zechariah’s day have predicted the future based on Zechariah’s prophecies? I don’t think so. It’s much easier for us to interpret his words with the luxury of hindsight! So what was the purpose of Zechariah’s prophecies for his contemporaries? Zechariah spoke for the “moral formation of God’s people.” The exiles would have been comforted that God was sovereign and would judge the nations, and they would be challenged to live their lives in a manner worthy of their coming King.

Similarly, the book of Revelation is written for our “moral formation.” John is instructed to record the vision in order to encourage the suffering church to “overcome.” We learn through visions that God is in complete control. He has “sealed” his people so we are protected from His judgment! We see the final defeat of evil and we are encouraged by the future that awaits!

Are we supposed to be able to predict the future with precise detail using the book of Revelation? Absolutely not! But we can read it with the anticipation of our future home and let it motivate us to overcome the trials and temptations of this world. Why? Because we can be sure of our GLORIOUS inheritance recorded in Revelation 21!

Savor the images of this chapter! Notice that the sea of separation has been removed! The Lord Jesus, himself, is the temple and the source of light! See the beauty of Jerusalem – which is symbolic of God’s people – perfectly measured and protected for that day. This is our inheritance! Don’t let the purpose of John’s visions fall on deaf ears.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches! 

May John’s visions transform us and propel us toward Christ. May they motivate us to persevere, endure and overcome!!!

Disclaimer: I humbly and cautiously offer an interpretation of the book of Revelation based on my Reformed understanding of Scripture, an Amillennialist eschatology, and a heavy reliance on the book, Revelation, The Compassion and Protection of Christ by Dr. Paul Gardner.