1 Samuel 8
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there are a lot of things in this world that take our sights off of Jesus. And I mean a lot. Everywhere we turn it seems there’s something that sounds better than what God has to offer. I say “sounds better” because I know--and hope you do, too--that there truly is nothing greater than living a life surrendered to the King. But that’s just the thing...sometimes I think I need a new king. Sometimes I think I need a king I can see.
I know I’m not alone in this. It goes way back...all the way to the ancient Israelites. Long story short, God has already brought the Israelites into the Promised Land. He gave specific instructions for how they were to conduct themselves and how their nation should function. He set up Priests and Judges to lead and govern the people. Fast forward a little and we find ourselves roughly around 1050 BC. Samuel is the Priest over Israel and the spiritual leader of the nation. God is their King.
Then, in 1 Samuel 8:5, the nation of Israel tells Samuel, “appoint a king to judge us the same as all the other nations have.” And although Samuel thinks this is a horrible idea (by the way...it will be a pretty large disaster for quite some time), God says, “Listen to the people and everything they say to you. They have not rejected you; they have rejected me as their king (1 Samuel 8:7).”
And my first thought is “Wow, you guys are dumb. God is your King. Why do you want someone else?” And then I’m reminded that I do this, too. I want a king, too. I have a King, but the riches of this world are so tempting. The things of this world are distracting. And we have an enemy who continually works to make them ever more so. And the shiny things catch my eyes and I lose sight of my King. The One who gave it all to save me. The One who loved me before I knew His name.
Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you have kings. These kings promise everything and deliver nothing. These kings are tangible and yet unfulfilling. These kings become our treasures on earth, “where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal (Matthew 6:19).” And these kings always leave us empty.
The Israelites learned this the hard way. The king they chose, Saul, turned out to be selfish and self-serving. He was jealous and disobedient and God removed the kingship from him for these reasons.
Here comes the good news. God placed the kingship on another man--”a man after His own heart (1 Samuel 13:14)”. God appointed David to be Israel’s new king and he led Israel well. He still made plenty of mistakes, but overall He followed God’s commands and statutes. And, thousands of years later, God would send through King David’s line another King--One who never made mistakes. One who never sinned.
Jesus Christ came to earth and lived a sinless life. He died a sinner’s death and defeated sin and death by rising from the dead on the third day. He fulfilled every single Old Testament prophecy about the Messiah because He is the One sent by God the Father to save the world.
So my soul longs for a king. And I so frequently get caught up by all of the kings this world has to offer. And every time I’m disappointed. But when I set my sights on THE King, I am filled. And I pray that you are, too. Only when we focus on King Jesus are we able to see Truth and Life.
Keep your eyes focus on the the King.
In His Grip,
1 Samuel 24, 26
For the last several weeks I’ve been studying 1 Samuel and it has quickly become one of my favorite Old Testament books. In this book we are introduced to Israel’s first king, Saul, whose actions do not line up with God’s Will. We are also introduced to Israel’s coming king, David, who is described as a “man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14).
Just to give you a little background, basically Saul is appointed King of Israel, ending the nation’s former theocracy (governing by God alone) and beginning its monarchy. Saul, although anointed by God, does not follow God. When God decides enough is enough, He informs Saul through His prophet Samuel that his kingdom will indeed end, for He “has found a man after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). That man is David. Although David has been appointed and anointed as king, he will not become king until Saul’s death. Saul, in jealousy and anger, continuously attempts to murder David, which brings us to where we are now.
In 1 Samuel 24, David is hiding in a cave, on the run from King Saul. Saul, unaware of David’s presence, enters the cave and, although he is close enough to kill Saul, David spares him! Here he is, literally close enough to end the threat Saul poses on his life and he chooses to let him go. All of the men with David encourage him to kill Saul, saying, “Look, this is the day the LORD told you about: ‘I will hand your enemy over to you…’” (1 Samuel 24:4). Yet, David chooses to let him live.
Once Saul is a reasonable distance away, David calls out to him, begging him to end the chase, promising that his hand “will never be against [Saul]” (1 Samuel 24:12). Saul agrees to stop chasing David and they each go on their way. Saul, however, in his envy cannot keep his promise and his hunt continues just as before.
In chapter 26, David is walking among Saul’s camp while they are all asleep. He and the man with him, Abishai, approach Saul, “lying there asleep in the inner circle of the camp with his spear stuck in the ground by his head” (1 Samuel 26:7). Abishai then says to David, “Today God has delivered your enemy to you. Let me thrust the spear through him into the ground just once. I won’t have to strike him twice!” (1 Samuel 26:8). David’s response here is similar to that in chapter 24: “Don’t destroy him, for who can lift a hand against the LORD’s anointed and be innocent?” (1 Samuel 26:9). Again we see David putting God’s Will above his own, though his will would make his life a lot easier--and would make him king over all of Israel.
I’m sure that in all of this, David continually prayed that God would end Saul’s pursuit of him. I'm sure that he begged God to take him out of his difficult, life-threatening circumstances. And every time he did, God surely promised to keep him safe, though He never chose to do it the way David probably wanted Him to. Everyone around him repeatedly told him to kill Saul, but David chose not to. It even seemed that God was delivering Saul into David’s hands, but David knew better. He could have followed the advice of his men, taking Saul’s life. But instead, David sought God’s Will alone.
I don’t know about you, but there have been countless times in my life where I have been faced with a choice between my will and God’s Will. Sometimes the people around me encourage me to do my own will. Sometimes it may even seem like my will is God’s Will. But if I seek His guidance, I often find a different answer than I’m expecting.
David desired God’s Will and His glory over his own comfort and convenience. Do I?
When I face the most difficult of trials, will I choose what is best--God’s Will--or what is easiest--an end to my suffering for my convenience? His purposes and His glory rarely come easily. David knew it. I know it. But my actions aren’t always in line with what I know and believe.
My challenge for you--and for me--is to seek God’s glory and Will over our own. The message of Scripture is consistent and we are challenged by God’s Word to face hard places, rather than look for an easy way out. Let’s do that together.
In His Grip,
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
Jesus spoke in many parables during His time on earth, but this is my favorite. When I read it, I can picture the rain falling, the flood rising and nearly hear the wind howling as it beats upon each of the two houses described. And then I picture the devastation of a house--built on sand--that has been entirely annihilated by the storms. And I see myself. I see the times when I’ve built my life on things, or people, or plans. I see how none of that ever holds up. Then, I picture the first house. The house that--when the rains fell and the floods came and the winds blew--stood tall and firm. That house is founded on the rock.
We all know that a house simply cannot be founded on sand. It isn’t strong. It moves and takes in water. But rock, on the other hand, is solid and steady. It is stationary. It is nonporous. It is reliable. And I think I speak for all of us when I say that we want to build our houses--both literal and metaphorical--on something reliable!
Most of us understand this principle, but do we apply it? Unfortunately, it is so easy for us to read or hear this passage and move on or forget. But my challenge for us this week is to truly grasp what Jesus is telling us. When we build our lives on the things this world has to offer like money, power, relationships, materials, popularity, grades, careers or anything else, we will ultimately experience the devastation of watching our lives fall apart like the house built on the sand.
But, when we build our lives on Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2)--when we truly and honestly build our lives on the Rock, we will endure the storms. I think it’s important here to note that Jesus does not say that if we build our houses on the Rock we won’t experience storms. On the contrary, he says the rains will fall and the floods will come and the winds will blow and beat against our houses. But the houses will not fall! When we fix our eyes on Jesus and truly believe that He is all we need, we will be able to stand through the storm. When our hope is in Him alone, we will survive when all else seems destroyed. And those storms will allow us to draw closer to Him--closer to the Rock.
But I am truly honest with you and with myself, sometimes that is really, really hard. I have plans for my life. I have things I want to see happen and goals and dreams and sometimes, those things cloud my vision of my Savior. Sometimes I get caught up in what I’ve planned for myself that I begin to build my life upon those sandy plans. I put my hope in those things instead of in Jesus. And, when the storm comes I find myself disappointed and broken. But He is so faithful to meet me where I am. He is so able to pick me up and set my feet upon the Rock once more.
I pray that you find hope in this truth today. The things of this world will fade but “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8)”. He is good. He is the Rock. All other ground is sinking sand.
“My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus' name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.”
In His Grip,
It almost never fails. Time and time again I find myself empty, cracked and broken. You’d think that by now I would have learned how to face my trials and walk toward wholeness. You’d think that by now I would know what to do and what not to do, whether in crisis or simply in daily life. But, more often than not, I don’t. More often than not, I find myself seeking fullness and fulfillment from things that were never meant to satisfy. And although I hate coming to that realization again and again, I know I’m not alone in this.
Jeremiah 2:13 says, “for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (English Standard Version). God’s people had (once again) changed the gods they worshiped. Rather than worship the one true God, they had turned to pagan practices and false idols (Jeremiah 2:10-13). God’s response here is not pleasant: “my people have committed two evils”.
Number 1) They have forsaken me.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word forsaken like this: “to renounce or turn away from entirely”. Oh how guilty I am of forsaking the Lord.
Number 2) They have hewed out...broken cisterns that can hold no water.
A cistern is an underground tank for storing rainwater. However, God says the Israelites have hewn broken cisterns. So the water goes in, and leaks right now. It is never full. Oh how empty my cisterns are.
Only one cistern will hold water. And only one source will fill a cistern. First and foremost, I have to be certain that the cistern I’m trying to fill is directly from the Lord. This means that whatever it is I’m seeking satisfaction for is in line with His Will. This means seeking intimacy with Him above all else, because intimacy with Him is greater than any other thing this world has to offer.
Secondly, I have to be sure that the source I’m expecting to fill my cistern is God Himself, rather than all the things in this world that scream empty promises at me to fulfill me and satisfy me. They never will. I will always come away empty. I will always come away broken.
Friends, I know I’m not alone in this. And I want you to know that you are not alone in this. You are not the only one who keeps coming up empty. Let’s join together and pray confidently that God will preserve the cisterns He’s given us. Let’s challenge one another to run after His fullness above everything else that shouts our names.
In His Grip,
Maybe it's just me, but sometimes it seems like I am walking through the fire in my life. Like, I could not be up against a more difficult situation, or nothing else could hurt this badly.
I cry out to God and ask Him, “Why, Father? Why are you allowing this? Why is this happening to me?” I know He can control it and I even remind Him (you know...just in case He forgot what He's capable of…). “Lord you alone can take this away. So please just take it!”
And sometimes, He does.
And sometimes, He doesn't. And you know what? Even if He doesn't, He is still good.
He is still good when you don't know how you're going to pay your bills. He is still good when your relationships crumble. He is still good when the people who are supposed to support you let you down. He is still good when nothing else is.
And when we walk through these fires, as painful and exhausting as they are, we have a hope! The Bible says in Psalm 66:10, “For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.”
So I read this verse and thought “well...how is silver tried?” And here's what I learned (without getting very scientific...bear with me): basically it starts with some lead sulfide ore, which is rich in silver. But, in order to purify silver and make it shiny and beautiful, it has to go through a series of firings to literally burn off everything that isn't actually silver. After it has all been melted down, the silversmith blows air through it to blow off anything else that isn't pure silver.
And then I realized that I am just like the ore used to make silver. I'm covered in things that mask the original design God had for me because of my sin. And sometimes, even though it hurts like nothing else in the world, I have to walk through fire to be purified and to shine His light. Sometimes that's the only way.
Hillsong United released a song a couple of years ago called “Even When it Hurts”. In the second verse, the lyrics read, “even when it hurts like hell, I'll praise you”. Now, before you get upset about a worship song using the word “hell”, hear me out. Sometimes it really does hurt like hell—or as close as we can imagine to it. The prophet Habakkuk knew this and said in Habakkuk 3:17-18:
“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”
Yet I will rejoice. Even when everything that could go wrong is going wrong, I will rejoice. When there is no food, and no income and no way to get out of the fire, I will take joy. I'll praise Him. Because when all is lost, He is there. Even when it hurts like hell, I'll praise You.
He is refining us. Praise the Lord we are not finished yet.
In His Grip,
How many times per day do we wish? Maybe we wish we were better at a certain activity, or had a closer relationship with someone. Maybe we wish time moved faster, or that the week was over. We wish it wasn’t snowing in March. We wish we made more money. We wish we had more time. We wish our children listened better. We wish we were better parents. We wish, wish, wish. We wish for silly things and we wish for serious things. Where does all of this wishing get us?
I’ve noticed this year that I’m really good at wishing. But, I’m realizing I need to be worse about it. I need to be better about praying. The Bible, in fact, commands it! Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 “pray without ceasing”! Without ceasing. What would my life look like if I prayed without ceasing? First of all, I would definitely have less time for wishing! And I would have less time for worrying and for wallowing. I would have less time for everything that pulls be further from my Creator, and more time for everything that draws me to Him.
That passage, in its entirety actually says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians, 5:16-18, emphasis mine).
The next logical thought may be, “Did God really mean always?” And, my answer to you, my friend, would be a resounding YES! The Bible literally says the word “always”. So, then, believing the Bible is inerrant and is fully God’s Word without corruption, I believe that He did mean ALWAYS! This is not the only time we’re told to rejoice always. In Philippians 4:4 Paul writes “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (emphasis mine). So God not only tells us to “rejoice always”, but he says it multiple times! Twice in once sentence. (It seems like He’s trying to really make a point…)
We face trials. We wish our struggles were fewer or lighter. We want God to strengthen us--or simply remove our struggles from us. But what we miss, friends, is prayer and rejoicing. We are called--commanded--to rejoice always; to pray ceaselessly. Our minds and hearts are to be ever connected to Him.
We wish we were closer to God. Here’s the best way to get there. Be worse about wishing. Be better about rejoicing and praying.
In His Grip,
Well, 2017 is upon us. The holidays are officially over. Decorations are finding their way back into their storage locations and life begins to settle back into the “norm”. But at least one thing is different.
This is a year of change. This year is all about _______________.
A new year certainly means turning a new page and writing a new story. But many times, we focus so much on improving ourselves and setting new resolutions that we lose sight of the possibilities ahead.
What if this year, instead of making resolutions to be a better “me”, I call upon the Lord and ask HIM to make me a better disciple, follower, worshipper, witness, etc.? What if I turn my resolutions into visions?
Instead of writing a list of changes we want to make in our own lives, let’s come together and go before God, asking Him where He wants to lead us this year. And then let’s ask Him boldly for the things that we have on our hearts.
That can be a daunting task so let’s do this together. Here are a few steps to get us started.
Pray. Ask God to give you guidance and vision for the coming year. Ask Him to lead you and to open your eyes to see His leading. And then, boldly ask Him to open doors. James 4:2-3 says, “You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” We need to ask God humbly for the things we desire and we need to trust Him when He gives us answers.
Recognize that sometimes, you will fail. And that’s okay. We are broken people (isn’t that why we make resolutions anyway?) and we are going to make mistakes. But, be encouraged. Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." Even when we fail, we can confidently come before the Lord in repentance and start again. What a beautiful blessing.
Watch God move. 2 Thessalonians 3:3 says, “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” You are not in this alone. You are supported by the Creator of the Universe. Let Him prove and reprove His faithfulness to you this year.
Believe this year that God will move in your heart and in your life. Surround yourself with a support system that will encourage you and share your journey with you. I am walking through these steps too. It’s you, me and Jesus.
In His Grip,