Misleading Statements

In 2 Sam. 1 tells an absorbing story. It is also a confusing account because of how David reacts to the news of King Saul’s death. In this passage, an Amalekite brings David the crown Saul wore and told him that Saul had been mortally wounded in battle. He then gives more details about Saul’s death.  He tells David that Saul asked him to end his life so his enemies would not take him alive. The man tells David that he did as Saul requested.

In some ways, you could see that this man was in an awkward position and decided to help Saul end his life. In another way of looking at it, he killed Saul by his recollection of the story. Notice how David responds as he interacts with the Amalekite,

“‘So I stood beside him and killed him because I was sure that he could not live after he had fallen. And I took the crown that was on his head and the armlet that was on his arm, and I have brought them here to my lord’… And David said to the young man who told him, ‘Where do you come from?’ And he answered, ‘I am the son of a sojourner, an Amalekite.’ David said to him, ‘How is it you were not afraid to put out your hand to destroy the LORD’s anointed?’ Then David called one of the young men and said, ‘Go, execute him.’ And he struck him down so that he died. And David said to him, ’Your blood be on your head, for your own mouth has testified against you, saying, ‘I have killed the LORD’s anointed.’ ” (2 Sam. 1:10-16)

What did David mean that the Amalekite’s blood was on his head? And why did David have him executed? Notice how the death of Saul was recorded one chapter earlier,

“The battle pressed hard against Saul, and the archers found him, and he was badly wounded by the archers. Then Saul said to his armor-bearer, ‘Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and mistreat me.’ But his armor-bearer would not, for he feared greatly. Therefore Saul took his own sword and fell upon it. And when his armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell upon his sword and died with him. (1 Sam. 31:3-6)

This summary of the death of Saul is different than the one told by the Amalekite.

The ESV Study Bible makes an excellent observation about this story. It says,

“The narrator (whom readers should believe) in 1 Samuel 31 says that Saul killed himself. Having already read that, readers know that this man is lying to gain favor with the person who was most likely to replace Saul as king.”

It appears that the plan of the Amalekite was to lie in a way that he thought he would gain favor in the sight of David who would be the new king of Israel.  He found out that his lies backfired! Instead of putting him in good standing with David, David saw through his testimony and his lies sealed his fate. Because of his deception, David had him executed.

Father, this story is a great reminder that lies will be found out. There can be grave consequences for such behavior. Help me to be truthful and not seek personal advantage through misleading statements.

Following Jesus with you,

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When The Pressure Is On

If you are like me, there are times in life when it seems relatively easy to follow Jesus. That often can be when things are going well, and I am not experiencing significant problems. The real test though is how I respond when the pressure is on.

This thought hit me when I was reading about Saul and David in 1 Samuel 28 and 30. They responded to pressure differently.  In the first section, Saul is fearful because of the massive Philistine army that is ready to attack Israel. He is feeling the pressure, and he responds as follows,

“When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. And when Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD did not answer him, either by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets. Then Saul said to his servants, ‘Seek out for me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.’” (1 Sam. 28:5-7)

When God did not respond to Saul, he turned to a medium without any hesitancy! He wanted someone to answer him and did not seem to care from where the information came. He pursued what he thought was right regardless of what God wanted.

Contrast Saul’s response to how David responded to pressure. While David and his men were out raiding the enemies of Israel, the Amalekites attacked his hometown and took everything including wives, sons and daughters.

If that happened to your family, how would you respond? For me, I probably would have reacted and took off after the raiding party without thinking. Instead, notice what David did.

“Then David and the people who were with him raised their voices and wept until they had no more strength to weep… And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God… And David inquired of the LORD, ‘Shall I pursue after this band? Shall I overtake them?’ He answered him, ‘Pursue, for you shall surely overtake and shall surely rescue.’” (1 Sam. 30:4-8)

David’s first response to unthinkable pressure was to strengthen himself in his relationship with God and seek his direction before he acted! Wow! I think I would have pursued the Amalekites assuming that is what God wanted. Instead, David yields to God’s leadership and makes no assumptions even regarding the desperate circumstances of his family.

How often do I naturally do what I think is best without seeking God’s leadership? Father, thank you for this amazing contrast between Saul and David and how they handled situations that were severe. Help me to be like David. Help me to seek you first before I do what I think is best. May I learn the lesson to strengthen myself automatically in you and seek your guidance as my normal course of life when times are good and when the pressure is on.

Following Jesus with you,

In Hindsight

Going through challenges and difficulties is not fun. Have you noticed though that when you have made it through those trying times, we often can look back on them and see how we are better people because of them?

The Psalmist makes this observation in Ps. 119:71 which says,

“It is good for me that I was afflicted,
that I might learn your statutes.”

There is a form of affliction that the writer now sees as beneficial for him to have experienced. How could suffering be helpful for him? He says that it allowed him to learn God’s ways.

What may have caused this affliction to come upon him? The answer seems to be a couple of verses earlier when he said in verse 67,

“Before I was afflicted I went astray,
but now I keep your word.”

Experiencing the discipline of the Lord, as an earthly loving father would correct his children, is something that God can use to get us back on his path. It is not always the reason for trials, but it can be a reason. In this case, as the Psalmist reflected on his life, he saw that he was disobedient, and it was affliction that helped him see the error of his ways and get him back on God’s path. He now can say that he loves to keep God’s Word.

We all stray and God is not out there waiting to zap us, but when we persist in sin, he may discipline his children. That is why it is important to keep short accounts with God. Walk in moment-by-moment fellowship with him and confess sin when you become aware of it to get back on God’s path. Ask God for a pliable, teachable heart that is willing to follow him and his ways.

Father, thank you for loving us enough that you want us to live lives of faithfulness and obedience. Give us your grace to be teachable and keenly aware when we have strayed so that we can confess that sin and get back on your path for us. Help us also to become progressively more like Jesus and love your Word as he does.

Following Jesus with you,

How Am I Doing With…

One of the most amazing chapters in all of the Bible is Ps. 119. It is a masterpiece in its description of the value of God’s Word. Because of the Word’s great value, the psalmist says the following in verses 13-15,

“With my lips I declare
all the rules of your mouth.
In the way of your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.”

Three statements stand out to me in these verses. The Psalmist is actively responding to the truths of God’s Word. His first response is that he says that he will “declare” the Word. This means he wants to make the surprising truths contained in it known to others. He is so excited about the Word that he talks about it to others. How am I doing is declaring the value of God’s Word to others because they mean so much to me and have such value?

The second response to God’s truth is the writer says he will “delight” in it. This means that he will take great pleasure and find mental satisfaction in it. The more he thinks about it, the more he relishes the Word in his mind. His mind is thoroughly satisfied with the reality of God’s promises. I am so thankful that we have a Faith that can satisfy our minds and intellects. How am I doing in “delighting” in God’s Word?

The third response in these verses is that the Psalmist says he will “meditate” on the truths of God’s Word. The word for “meditate” means “to ponder…converse (with oneself)” (Strong’s Dictionary). The writer contemplates the great truths of the Word and has a conversation with himself about them! He thinks deeply about them and how they apply to his life. How am I doing in “pondering” God’s Word?

It takes discipline to respond to the Word as described here. I must tell others about it; I must satisfy my mind with it and I must ponder it deeply and discern how it applies to my life so that I can be careful to live it out.

Father, thank you for the surpasses greatness and value of your Word. May you help me to think deeply about it so that I can live it and tell others about it.

Following Jesus with you,