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Showing posts from July, 2014

When You Think You've Gotten Away With Something...

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Second Samuel 11 and 12 records a sad episode in the life of David. I remember that whenever I mentioned David as an example of someone with whom God was pleased one of the ladies in my study group in Caracas would immediately remind me of these sordid events. Yes, David wasn’t perfect—far from it—as these chapters prove.

David should have been out leading his troops (2 Samuel 11:1). He did not look away when he should have (11:2). He yielded to the temptation to exercise his power wrongly and took what wasn’t his to take (11:3, 4). Knowing his actions would soon be discovered, he orchestrated the death of an innocent man, one of his faithful servants and soldiers (11:6-15). And the Scriptures say “…the thing David had done displeased the Lord” (11:27).

In chapter 12 we read about how God’s servant, Nathan, confronted David about his sin and the king repented (12:13), recognizing that ultimately that what he had done was an offense against God. But the damage was done and there were co…

A Better Path

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Isaiah 30 is just one of many exposés on the heart. The record we have of Israel’s constant struggle with God reminds us so much of our struggles. God shows us one path and we follow another. The results are inevitably disastrous.

The chapter is titled Woe to the Obstinate Nation and contains a litany of complaints on the part of God directed to a people who insisted on finding their courage, strength, help, salvation, in all the wrong places.

When we come to verses 15 to 18 we find the summary.

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it. You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’ Therefore you will flee! You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’ Therefore your pursuers will be swift! A thousand will flee at the threat of one; at the threat of five you will all flee away, till you are left like a flagstaff on a mountaintop, like a banner on a hill.” Ye…

The Steps of the Righteous

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David’s efforts to avoid Saul took him to some unlikely places. By the time we come to the end of 1 Samuel, David is living among the Philistines. Hardly a comfortable spot to be in considering that he had been responsible for their defeat against Israel when he killed Goliath. The relations between the Israelites and the Philistines had never been cordial and many among the Philistine leaders would have been happy to put David’s head on the end of a pole and display it from the walls of Gath.

However, this was where the Lord sent David and it was here that God protected David from Saul’s plots to kill him. When we get to 1 Samuel 29 we find David faced with a case of conflicted loyalties. Achish and the Philistines are preparing to go into battle against the Israelites. David, as a subject of Achish, would be expected to support the Philistine king in this effort. But some of Achish’s key men were not happy about the prospects, feeling that David might turn against them in battle sin…

Streams of Mercy

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The Scriptures are full of grace stories. But then again, God’s grace is the point of the book!

Tucked away in the middle of the adventures of David hides yet another example, another picture of the cross.

1 Samuel 25 tells us the familiar story of David’s encounter with Nabal. Let’s set the scene. David is still on the run from Saul. As the “Robin Hood” of his era, David and his men had occasion to act on behalf of the people in the neighbourhoods through which they traveled. Nabal appears to have been a wealthy landowner and sheep farmer. As the story goes, David’s men had provided a service for Nabal by protecting his shepherds and his sheep (25:7, 8, 15, 16). But when David asked for a few provisions for himself and his men, Nabal treated him with disdain and insult (25:10, 11), with the result that David set out to punish Nabal for his inhospitable attitude: “It’s been useless—all my watching over this fellow’s property in the desert so that nothing of his is missing. He has paid …

Donkey Business

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That pesky “why me?” question lurks at the back of our minds. The car keys go missing. An unexpected tax bill arrives. A job is lost. The house needs to be sold but no one seems to want to buy it even though the market is hot.

I suspect a certain Saul, son of Kish, was asking the same question: “Why can’t we find those stupid donkeys!” (1 Samuel 9:3, 4). How hard could it be, right?

The Israelites wanted a king. They were frustrated with Samuel’s sons who, as spiritual leaders, were the pits. Why they thought a king wouldn’t turn out as badly is as hard to explain as why we think a change in government will make any difference to our problems. Samuel, offended by the request, explained to them in 1 Samuel 8 what a king would cost them. But they insisted and God told Samuel to let them have what they wanted (1 Samuel 8:22).

But God didn’t tell Samuel were to find this king. Apparently Samuel was going about his business when God brought the future king to him.

Enter the donkeys. They we…

The Order of Things

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Having captured the ark of the covenant and defeated Israel’s army, the Philistines assumed that their god was greater than Israel’s God. 1 Samuel 5 to 7 describes how wrong they were.

They first put the ark in their temple to share space with their god, Dagon (1 Samuel 5:2). On two separate occasions Dagon’s image ended up lying on the floor in front of the ark. The second time, the incident is reported this way: “…there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord! His head and hands had been broken off and were lying on the threshold; only his body remained” (1 Samuel 5:4).

To make matters worse, the people of Ashdod, where the ark was taken, were inflicted with disease  and it didn’t take a genius to determine that all these things had something to do with the God associated with Israel’s ark (5:7, 8). They moved the ark to Gath and then to Ekron and sent the population of those cities into panic mode. “God’s hand was very heavy…” say the Scriptures (5:11…

Shift and Drift

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The judgment has been pronounced. Eli, Shiloh’s priest, had not reined in his sons. As spiritual leaders they had failed miserably and God had announced, through the boy Samuel, that their dynasty would come to an ignoble end (1 Samuel 2:34-36).

In 1 Samuel 4 we discover what that end was to be. The Philistines were pressing and Israel’s army was unable to get the upper hand against them. Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phinehas, thought that by taking the ark of the covenant out of the Tabernacle and taking it into battle with them, that this would guarantee success against the Philistines.

Wrong.

The end result was that the Philistines won the battle, the two sons were killed, the ark captured and Eli died of the shock. Even Eli’s daughter-in-law died in childbirth that same day, declaring as she passed, “The glory has departed from Israel” (4:21).

In the midst of all this tragedy and all the lessons to be learned from it, I thought about the ark. It was a symbol of God’s presence…

At the End of the Cycle

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The last three chapters of Judges present us with a bizarre, but interesting picture of the cycle that the nation of Israel was living. For us it is also a fascinating example of the redemptive process.

In Judges 19 we are introduced to a Levite who ended up in Gibeah among the Benjamites. He had stopped there for the night with his wife and one of his servants, only to discover that the townsfolk were less than friendly. In fact, the story reads like a page out of experience of the angels who had visited Lot in Sodom before that city’s destruction by God (Genesis 19). Except in this case, the woman died and the Levite, upon his return to his home, committed the bizarre act of dismembering his wife’s body and sending parts to the each of the tribes of Israel. All this serves to remind us just how terrible the situation was in Israel during these dark days when the evil of men was at its lowest point.

The dismembering of the body, as horrific as it was, served to galvanize the tribes in…

God is Good—All the Time

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A man who becomes a law unto himself is a dangerous creature. Take Micah, for example. We know that the period of the Judges was a dark one for Israel. Even some of the people God chose to rescue His people from their enemies had clay feet—and ankles and legs! So we aren’t surprised when we read the often repeated phrase, “…everyone did as he saw fit” (Judges 17:6).

Micah decided that Shiloh was too far away to go when he wanted to worship (18:31) so he ignored God’s prohibition and made himself an idol as well as a shrine, and found himself a Levite to serve as his own personal priest (17:3-13). He had the audacity to believe this: “Now I know the Lord will be good to me, since this Levite has become my priest” (17:13).

In Judges 18 we discover that when the Levite got a better deal he abandoned Micah and took the idol and all the other religious symbols with him. In an odd way, God did what Micah anticipated but not in the way Micah anticipated it. God removed all the things that we…