Bible Reading Blog

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Congregational Bible Reading

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Samuel Faded Quietly

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

BIBLE READING: 1 Samuel 25

“Now Samuel died. And all Israel assembled and mourned for him, and they buried him in his house at Ramah.” (1 Samuel 25.1)

Samuel led as a prophet and judge for many years. As Israel transitioned into a period of kings, Samuel anointed both Saul and David. He served as a messenger, counselor, and defender to them during these times. As these men rose to power, Samuel’s role slowly diminished. However, even as his role changed, he continued to uphold God’s will with zeal and conviction until the day he died. 

For a man of such import, Samuel faded quietly into the bible story. But this brief epitaph reminds us his life was meaningful as it impacted the people of God. Here are 3 lessons we learn from Samuel’s life. 

  1. One person can make a difference. In a time when “everyone did what was right in their own eyes”(Judges 17.621.15) Samuel upheld God’s ways. Sometimes the people listened and other times they completely rejected him. But his presence in Israel changed the course of their history. This theme is constant is scripture and reminds us that our choices matter in this world. With the help of God, our small choices of faithfulness will impact those around us.
  2. You have purpose in your generation. This language is borrowed from Acts 13.36 referring to David, but it has application to all people of faith. Because Samuel lived during a transitional time in Israel, it must have felt at times like he was dragging the people along. I’m sure there were times he didn’t enjoy his role, but it was necessary. In the same way God designed each of us to play a role in our generation. Sometimes that purpose is not glamourous. Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it only affects a small amount of people. Sometimes it is transitional to position future generation for better things. Whatever the case, you exist on purpose and your role is important in the world.
  3. A lesser role doesn't lessen your impact. Although still respected, Samuel’s role looked very different towards the end of his life. He wasn’t as sought out or listened to. As we age our abilities and opportunities change. That doesn’t make you less useful or irrelevant. It doesn’t discount the things you have done in your life. It just means you have entered a different season. At the same time, it doesn’t mean your work is done. Samuel continued to counsel and support God’s people in significant ways until the day he died, and we all should do the same.

Samuel faded quietly into the bible story, but his legacy is far from irrelevant. He impacted those around him for the good as he pointed them to God. Most importantly God saw him as a man of faith and he received his reward (Hebrews 11.3239-40). May we live in such a way that the same could be said of us.

David Inquired of the LORD Again

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

BIBLE READING: 1 Samuel 23

“Then David inquired of the LORD again. And the LORD answered him, “Arise, go down to Keilah, for I will give the Philistines into your hand.”” (1 Samuel 23.4)

It was David’s habit to inquire of the LORD. Nine times throughout 1 & 2 Samuel, the scriptures depict David stopping to ask God what to do rather than just forging ahead with his own plans. We know David was a man of prayer and meditation, but more importantly he was interested in knowing God’s will. In the same way, the real purpose of our prayers is to make our desires align with God’s will.

But notice David’s persistence towards this in the present context, When the Philistines regrouped and gathered a second time in the valley of Rephaim, David could have easily assumed that he should attack again. But he took nothing for granted and inquired of the Lord again (1 Samuel 23.10-13).  The result was God gave him new instructions. He was to attack from a different direction, and God would work with him in new ways. 

Consider the contrast of Saul’s behavior. He ran full speed ahead in his pursuit of innocent David. He was so blinded by hatred he didn’t appreciate David was doing the job entrusted to him. Saul did not thank God for using David to defend one of his cities from the enemy. Instead, Saul thought God was handing David over to him! (1 Samuel 23.7). Saul was pursuing his own selfish and evil desires and presumed God was helping him. At no point did Saul stop to ask direction from the LORD. Sadly, some people make the same mistake. They have something they really want to do out of their selfish motive. They would say, “It seems God’s will for me to do this.” They are so obsessed to do what they want they fall into an illusion that God is backing them up.

David reminds us we should not presume we know what God wants. David went to inquire of the Lord to be sure he was aligned with God’s will... and then he followed God’s direction. David did this in times of distress and peace. He did not calculate this and that, based on his own logic or people’s opinions. Nor did he depend on people. He depended on God; and how did God help David? “Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands” (1 Samuel 23.14).

May the Lord give us grace to emulate David’s example and to cultivate the habit of always inquiring of the Lord and waiting for His answer. The more we seek direction from God in prayer and the more we desire to know His will, the more He is honored and the more we are blessed.

“In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3.6)

Establishing A Priority

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

BIBLE READING: 1 Samuel 21

To escape Saul’s murderous plot, David sought assistance from a priest named Ahimelech (1 Samuel 21.1-9). While David’s request seems straightforward – give me some food (21.3) – the situation was complicated. David’s story was sketchy given his well-known conflict with Saul. Furthermore, the only food available was holy bread set aside for the priests to eat (1 Samuel 21.4; cf. Exodus 25.4 & Leviticus 24.5-9). After some questioning, David is given the bread and he goes on his way.

The assessment of David’s conduct in this incident has long puzzled scholars. The challenge to understand it is further complicated as Jesus seems to give approval to David’s actions (Matthew 12.1-8; Mark 2.23-28; Luke 6.1-5). The challenge scholars face seems to be did God approve of David breaking his law? It’s certainly an episode with which we must wrestle.

As Jesus cited this episode, he makes this point: Just as the Sabbath regulations were given for the good of man (Mark 2.27), so also, the holy bread was for the good of the priests. Although under normal circumstances the Law required this food only be consumed by “Aaron and his sons… in a holy place” (Leviticus 24.9), there is precedence for some laws to be set aside if higher level considerations warranted, especially the preservation of life (consider Jesus’ comments in John 7.22; Luke 14.5). As Ahimelech considered the circumstances and his role as priest of God, he mercifully allowed David to eat the bread to preserve his life.

So, what does it mean? The scriptures teach a contrast between mercy and law. Not that they are in conflict, but rather they complement each other. The law is by nature intended to bring condemnation by creating awareness of sin and its logical consequences (Romans 7.7). But we know that all have sinned and are doomed without mercy (Romans 3.23). Indeed “God has consigned all to disobedience that he might have mercy on all” (Romans 10.32). Therefore, mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2.13), as it is God’s prevailing nature to seek the good of humanity.

Jesus’ approval of David’s actions does not imply that obedience to God’s commands is irrelevant. Instead, he is establishing a priority. We must be diligent in our obedience to God without “neglecting the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These we should do without neglecting the other” (Matthew 23.23).

Paul would say it like this in his chapter about love: “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13.3). Although these actions are in alignment with scripture, they are worthless without a proper attitude. If our practice of faith doesn’t produce mercy towards others as we honor God, we’re not doing it right. All that we do must be framed in the context of mercy if we are to properly imitate the nature of God.

“…The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation” (Exodus 34.6-7)

Saul's Fickle Feelings

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

BIBLE READING: 1 Samuel 18-19

David was a loyal servant to Saul. For this reason, Saul loved David (1 Samuel 16.21), trusted him (1 Samuel 17.37b), and respected him (1 Samuel 17.55 - 18.2, 5) from the moment he came into his service. But following David’s defeat of Goliath, Saul’s attitude changed. The people praised David as a hero, positioning him as a threat (1 Samuel 18.8). “Saul eyed David from that day on” (1 Samuel 18.9).

The text emphasizes Saul’s fear of David. His behavior becomes difficult to understand as he vacillates between rational thought and erratic rage (for example, 1 Samuel 19.6-10). Saul’s anxiety is baseless and purely self-imposed. In fact, we will learn in later chapters that David remained utterly loyal to Saul out of honor for him as God’s anointed (1 Samuel 26.9-11). And yet Saul allowed himself to be tormented by fear and distrust of David. This results from a key detail given in 1 Samuel 16.14: “the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and a harmful spirit from the LORD tormented him.”

The departure of God Spirit was not an unjustified manipulation on God’s part. It was the result of Saul’s willful decision to disobey God, not just once but on multiple occasions (1 Samuel 13.13; 15.10, 26). Because of this they were very definite consequences that plagued Saul’s life, namely fear, anxiety, and irrational behavior.

Many people experience these things today and I suspect they have a common culprit. They have chosen to go their own way instead of letting God lead completely. For some it is ignorance, for others, selfish pride. Either way it illustrates the true proverb, “there is a way that seems right to a man, but it’s end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14.12; 16.25).

What happens when we don’t obey God? Simply put, his Spirit doesn’t lead us. Instead, we open the door for the enemy to manipulate our thoughts, feelings, and emotions. We are “like waves of the sea driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1.6) and like chaff that the wind blows (Psalm 1.4). When we experience fickle emotions much of it has to do with the spirit we are allowing to lead us. We must be diligent to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4.1) by listening and submitting to God’s direction through his word.

The contrast between Saul & David highlights the choices we have in our faith. This story offers tangible outcomes for both paths.  Saul’s choice to partially obey God resulted in a life of fear and frustration, ultimately leading him away from God. On the other hand, David enjoyed success because “the LORD was with him” (1 Samuel 18.14) as David trusted and constantly sought God’s counsel (see 1 Samuel 22.3; 23.2, 4; 30.8). If we will overcome the enemy in our walk of faith, we must choose to keep in step with the Spirit through deliberate decisions of obedience. (Galatians 5.16-25). Are you letting God’s Spirit lead or are you choosing you own way?

“… the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do… if we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5.17, 25)

God Sees the Heart

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

BIBLE READING: 1 Samuel 16

“But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”” (1 Samuel 16.7)

What’s the first thing you notice when you meet someone? The clothes they have on? The way they fix their hair? The demeanor on their face? Naturally we form opinions based on what we see and what we think that means. But those things can be wrong and even deceiving.

When Israel asked for a king God gave them someone who looked the part. Saul was tall and handsome (1 Samuel 9.2). He courageously rallied the people and drove back the enemy (1 Samuel 11.1-11). But the honeymoon ended, and he was not the leader they thought he would be. To make things worse, God had rejected Saul because of his disobedience (1 Samuel 13.14; 15.26).

Our first introduction to David is a contrast to Saul. David was young and untested with the people. He was the youngest in his house (1 Samuel 17.14). When Samuel was sent to anoint a new king, Jesse didn’t even call him in from the field (1 Samuel 16.11). David was an afterthought because he didn’t look the part. But God saw much more in David than met the eye.

A couple of key takeaways:

  1. Be careful how you judge others. It is not those who look the part that will always work in your best interest. “Judge with righteous judgment” (John 7.24), meaning learn to see circumstances and others how God sees them and not simply by what feels or appears correct. On the other side of that coin, don’t write someone off because they aren’t what you expect. Consider Luke 7.44-47. God cares about the heart, and it takes time for you to see that in a person.

  2. Consider what God sees in you. He is not concerned with your social status. He doesn’t care what others say about you or how you are perceived by others. Before him, we are “naked, exposed” (Hebrews 4.13). God is concerned with who you truly are. But not only that he cares what you are becoming. David was not a proven warrior, but God had prepared him for the moment (1 Samuel 17.34-37). In the same way, we will face no situation we can’t manage and overcome by the grace of God (1 Corinthians 10.13; 2 Corinthians 1.9; 12.9-10).

At first glance Saul should have been the success story; but it is David’s intangible qualities that put him in the spotlight and propelled him to success. Although imperfect throughout his life, David’s heart was aligned with the LORD (1 Samuel 13.14). No one could see that except God; but God would elevate David and his kingdom eternally because of these things.

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