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).

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 109: The righteous will prosper…eventually!

1 Samuel 22:6-23; Psalm 52; Luke 16

Key Verses

Luke 16:15
And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”

Psalm 52:9
“I will thank you forever,
because you have done it.
I will wait for your name, for it is good,
in the presence of the godly.”

As David is scrounging to survive in caves, Saul and the wretched Doeg are prospering in the king’s palace. The unfairness to David is infuriating.

But God is good. He is sovereign and has a plan for David’s life on earth so that David might prosper for eternity in heaven. Hardship, suffering, and pain are tools the Father uses to shape us. We should count it a privilege to suffer for his sake – especially if God works through the pain to mold us more into his righteousness.

Lazarus’ story in Luke 16 should be an encouragement to the suffering on earth. Lazarus was a poor beggar who longed for even a scrap from the rich man’s table – but in death, their roles were reversed. The rich man was in eternal torment, and Lazarus was feasting at the side of Abraham.

David understands that God will make all things right in the end. Even as he mourns the death of Ahimelech and his priests, he knows that Doeg and Saul will ultimately have to answer to God for their actions…

But God will break you down forever;
he will snatch and tear you from your tent;
he will uproot you from the land of the living.

The righteous shall see and fear,
and shall laugh at him, saying,
“See the man who would not make
God his refuge,
but trusted in the abundance of his riches
and sought refuge in his own destruction!”

But I am like a green olive tree
in the house of God.
I trust in the steadfast love of God
forever and ever. (Psalm 52:5-8).

How can David write that he is “like a green olive tree” when he is starving and homeless? His faith in his God gives him an eternal perspective – and this truth sustains him through the suffering. We must cling to God’s word during suffering. His truth will see us through!

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 104: Saul’s Heart

1 Samuel 13-14; Luke 14:1-24

Many years have passed since Saul was anointed the king over Israel. Saul is now old enough to have a son, Jonathan, and Jonathan is old enough to command troops. We find Saul engaged in battle with the Philistines – and it is here in Chapter 13, that we first read of God rejecting Saul as king.

Key Verses

1 Samuel 13:13-14
And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you. For then the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.”

Luke 14:11
For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

What did Saul do that was so bad that God would remove his kingship? On the surface, it seems as if the punishment doesn’t match the crime. Saul was pressed from all sides…  Samuel was late in arriving, and Saul wanted to inquire of the Lord, so he took on the priestly role and offered the sacrifices in Samuel’s place… What’s the big deal?

Saul’s heart. That’s the big deal. Saul did not obey God in the face of difficult circumstances. And when questioned by Samuel, Saul had the opportunity to repent, but instead, he made excuses. He justified his sin.

Jesus’ teaching in Luke 14 only reinforces the truth that God is concerned with the heart – not religious duty or outward appearances.

God looked into Saul’s heart and saw a presumptuous man who trusted more in himself than in God. He saw independence and vanity – foolishness and pride. Saul was not a man after God’s own heart.

I shudder at what God sees when He looks inside my heart. Apart from Christ, I am ruined! But thankfully, my Rescuer lives… and works on my behalf to mold me to be more like Himself. This is my hope, and I am grateful.

Day 103: Mysteries of the Kingdom

1 Samuel 10-12; Luke 13:22-35

Key Verses

1 Samuel 12:14-15
If you will fear the Lord and serve him and obey his voice and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God, it will be well. But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you and your king.

Luke 13:23-25
And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’”

These verses in Luke 13 are difficult for me. I’ve always been uncomfortable that there will be people left out of the Kingdom. Did God not choose them or did they not choose God? It’s one of the great mysteries of the faith…

There is a great tension between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. How can God be 100% sovereign AND man be 100% responsible for his choices? This is a great mystery.

1 Samuel 10 makes it very clear that God was sovereign over Saul and chose him to be king of Israel. Saul had nothing in himself to qualify him for king except God’s grace and anointing. But Saul failed to live a life worthy of his calling. Later, God removed the kingship from Saul because of his disobedience and failure to repent. Ultimately, Saul was held accountable for his decisions.

Did God make a mistake by choosing Saul? Absolutely not!  Then why did God choose Saul when He knew that Saul would disobey? When I can’t untangle the mysteries of God, I look to God’s character for insight… Who is God? He is Sovereign over all, All-Powerful and the final Judge of all mankind. But what else is God? He is compassionate and kind. He is Good.

Listen to the compassion in Jesus’ words…

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! (Luke 13:34)

He is sovereign AND we are given the freedom to choose. Somehow, God uses our sinful choices to bring about the good of his big plan. God uses Saul’s disobedience and pride to mold David into a godly leader. And God uses Israel’s rejection to open the door for Gentiles to enter His Kingdom.

When all is revealed at the end of the age – I believe we will see that all things were weaved together for GOOD!

Day 102: Repentance

1 Samuel 7:3-9:27; Luke 13:1-21

Key Verses

1 Samuel 9:15-16
Now the day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed to Samuel: “Tomorrow about this time I will send to you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be prince over my people Israel. He shall save my people from the hand of the Philistines. For I have seen my people, because their cry has come to me.”

Luke 13:5
“…unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

God’s grace extends beyond our understanding. Despite the great sin that separates us from God, He is continually withholding judgment – waiting for one thing… repentance.

In Luke, we read of Jesus exhorting the people to repent… “Repent” is one of those words that loses its meaning due to overuse. First, true repentance can not be self-manufactured. Rather, it is a work of the Spirit. “Repentance” means: To take responsibility for sin, forsake the sin and turn humbly toward God. According to Jesus, we must repent in order to be saved!

The parable of the barren fig tree (Luke 13:6-9) illustrates God’s great patience for our repentance… Even after the tree is barren, he refuses to allow it to be cut down – rather, he asks to give the tree just one more year to bear fruit. In other words, He is patient, not wanting anyone to perish.

Switching over to 1 Samuel, today’s reading ends in a cliff-hanger of sorts. It is fascinating to read of God’s sovereign ways as God leads Israel’s future king to his prophet, Samuel, via a search for missing donkeys! The author’s introduction to Saul is flattering. He is both handsome and seemingly humble.

Saul answered, “Am I not a Benjaminite, from the least of the tribes of Israel? And is not my clan the humblest of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why then have you spoken to me in this way?” (1 Samuel 9:21).

But over the next few days – as we read Saul’s story – we will see his independent spirit lead him to rebel against God – and when given the opportunity to repent… Saul refuses. Saul’s presumption and pride will be his downfall.

We must not be like Saul! We must pray for the grace to repent!