1 Samuel 31 "The Portrait Hall": Happily Ever After?

The Portrait Hall: Happily Ever After?

Did you ever watch a movie and feel robbed at the end because of the unhappy and unsatisfying end to their story? We all want ever story to end well. Why would God give us the last moments of Saul’s life in detail, rather than just telling us he died? What is the purpose to sharing the unhappy ending? Saul, like all of us, made choices during his life that grossly affected the outcome of his life. His legacy reflects what he was, not what he wished he could be. It gives us a moment to pause, and consider what we are, and what we will be remembered as being.

Most of us can sympathize with comedian Woody Allen, who once said::
I’m not afraid to die. I just don’t want to be there when it happens. But you will be there. Ready or not, expected or unexpected, death comes. Try to ignore it, some things in life remind you that today could be the day you die: a close call, like these airplane passengers; the funeral of a friend; a celebrity obituary; maybe even a scene taken from the pages of the Bible. EVERYBODY WHO LIVES WILL DIE. Many of us seem to unconsciously believe dying is what happens to other people, not me, not now, not today. But when you read these verses, they remind us that all kinds of people die every day.

Take a moment and gave at Saul’s life. Here we see three statements that all of us will have to confront in our own lives:

Gross Realization of the “Sin sore” left open (1 Samuel 31:1-10)

  1. He created defenselessness in the lives of those he was called to protect (31:1a)
  2. He caused the retreat of God’s people and their positive influence on the people they were to reach. (31:1b).
  3. His disobedience closed off avenues of testimony in his children who were not guilty, but were loyal to him (31:2).

First of all, let’s notice that bad people die. Saul is a good example. Saul was like most bad people- he didn’t start off as an evil person. In fact, he was probably a pretty good person. He was handsome, and eager, and seemed willing to serve his country and his Lord. But Saul let his crown go to his head. Instead of obeying God, he takes a wrong turn, and ends up doing all kinds of wicked things, from trying to murder David to turning to the occult instead of God for guidance. It doesn’t shock us when bad person like Saul dies.

What shocks us is when good like Jonathan die. Here is a prince of a man: loyal to God, a faithful soldier, loyal to his wicked father, but also loyal to his friend David. He is a man who trusted God, and who could be trusted by others. And yet he dies on the same day, in the same battle as his evil father Saul. It doesn’t seem fair that good people like Jonathan die because of bad people’s sin.

  1. He “bled out” the jealousy he would not deal with in life, and slowly watched all that he loved wither away. The graphic consequences of his sin were evident to him, but he would not change his ways (31:3). What do think would have been the epitaph on the tombstone of King Saul?
  2. His help evaporates and close companions fade away (31:4).
  3. Despair sets in, as others around Saul see no reason to carry on (31:5-6).
  4. His disobedience causes the loss of all his life fought for. He unraveled every accomplishment! (31:7).
  5. Shame set in on God’s people (31:8-9).
  6. The appearance of a victory for the enemy and his wicked system (31:10).

Saul was a leader! Our part in life is a passing opportunity that will never come our way again. What we do with the opportunities God gives us is up to us. We can make the most of them or we can squander them away.

Grand Recognition of Grace (1 Samuel 31:11-13)

  1. People heard of the humiliation and recalled Saul’s life (31:11).
  2. God tugged the hearts of some that remembered better days and stepped out to cut off the continued humiliation (31:12).
  3. After a time for chastening, Saul’s humiliation was ended and the people could heal (31:13). “There appears to be a kind of poetic justice here, in that Saul is buried under “the tamarisk tree” (verse 13). It seems that Saul spent much of his time under a tree, some of which should have been spent doing battle with his enemies (see 14:2; 22:6).”

Godly Recognition of the Need to Act (2 Samuel 1:8)

The big lesson: “The sinful practice you don’t kill in your life will kill you and your testimony for your Lord!” (2 Samuel 1:8 cp. 1 Samuel 15:3). HOW YOU LIVE AFFECTS HOW YOU DIE!

According to an old fable, a man made an unusual agreement with Death. He told the Grim Reaper he would willingly accompany him when it came his time to die, but only on one condition—that Death would warn him well in advance before he came for him. Death agreed, and time went on: weeks turned into months, and months into years. One bitter winter evening, as the man sat worrying about all his possessions, Death suddenly enters the room and taps him on the shoulder. Startled, the man cries out, “You’re here so soon and without warning! I thought you agreed to warn me before you came.” Death replied, “I’ve more than kept my part. I’ve sent you many reminders of my coming. Every morning you saw the sun rise, and then every night you saw the sun set. Every time you said goodbye to someone at a funeral, I reminded you this day was coming. Every time you looked into the mirror, your own face reminded you that you were getting older, and closer to this day. You sat in church many Sundays, listening to the preacher tell you over and over that you would one day have to leave this world. I’m sorry you’re not ready, but today is the day when your time is up. You must come with me right now.”

 And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

“The solution to your problem is not to die in sin; it is to die to sin. The only way you can do this is by faith in Christ as you acknowledge your sin and guilt and trust in Him who has died in your place, who has suffered the eternal pain for your sins. It is in Christ that you die to sin, and enter into eternal life. If you have never done this, I urge you to do it now. As God’s promise of salvation is sure, so is His promise of judgment and eternal death. Let us learn from Saul’s death.“ (Robert Deffinbaugh)

1 Samuel 30 "The Portrait Hall": Pictures From the Party

The Portrait Hall: “Pictures From the Party”

Most of us have pictures of a party or celebration. It is a time when the cameras come out and flashes go off. Whether a family celebration, a graduation, a wedding or a reunion – these kinds of snapshots make up the bulk of the family album. Not every shot is posed and form perfect in a studio, life isn’t like that. As will our lives, so with this story of David, we have less a portrait but more a snapshot of a time of great celebration. This joyous moment came after a very dark time, when David’s inner response was to meet and share with a God of light and good gifts.

Problems pour out on us sometimes, feeling like a pummeling of wet cement being poured over us to defeat us. Yet, the key to cement is working it before it becomes hardened and unworkable. The key is not the amount of cement, nor the weight of the cement, it is our response to the pouring!

Key Principle: Our prompt and proper response to trouble is the key to an outcome that pleases God.

How problems come: (30:1-2).

  1. Starts with being in the wrong place (29:11).
  2. When not where we belong, we can easily neglect our real God-given responsibilities (30:1-2).

What the problems look like: (30:3-6)

  1. Sometimes you appear to lose your things (3a).
  2. Sometimes you appear to lose your dearest love (3b).
  3. Sometimes you appear to lose you future (3b).
  4. Sometimes you appear to lose your emotional footing (4-5).
  5. Sometimes you appear to lose your friends (6a).

Ten Proper Responses to the Troubles: (30:6b-31).

Depending on how it is handled, a crisis can either make us or break us: The Chinese do not have an alphabet as we know it. Rather than letters, words are represented by symbols. They have an interesting word-symbol for “crisis.” It is a combination of the symbols for “danger” and “opportunity.”

  1. Deal with God in your heart promptly and directly (6b). Remember, things are not as they seem, they are as God says they are!

Pastor Brian Atwood writes: “PUT WORSHIP BEFORE WARFARE. David is well known as a mighty man of warfare. His legendary entry into armed combat takes place against a giant named Goliath. With a sling, and the experience of protecting his father’s flocks against predators like lions and bears, David defeats the monster of a man in front of him. After that David joins Saul’s army and becomes so well known as a warrior that they sing songs about him. But don’t miss the point of David’s entire life. Before anything else – David was a first rate worshipper.

  1. Bring on a godly friend to help offer counsel and direction (7). Wounds cause us to see things in an unclear way, and another set of eyes on the problem can help dramatically!

  1. Seek God’s guidance for help solving all the symptoms beyond what your heart dealt with in step one. (8). Beside settling the past with him (#1), there is the issue of the future…

  1. Obey the direction that God reveals (9a). It seems funny to even mention it, but we will be tempted to go back to our “natural way” of dealing with the problems.
  2. If you led others in the wrong direction, lead them back in the right one (9b-10). Part of taking responsibility is looking at who else was hurt by your bad choices and making it right with them and for them.

  1. Keep the plan adjustable as God reveals more facts (11-16). Don’t set every new decision in stone. It is unwise to make judgments when some facts are not yet clear.

  1. Stand up and fight with all you have for what you believe in (17-20). Things that are important will need to be fought for. The good is the foe of the best!

  1. Walk with integrity even when exhausted (21-22). Don’t get too weary of the right direction. We cannot make the goal by quitting.

  1. Keep acknowledging to yourself and others the source of every victory (23-25). God gives victory. When my choices are right and things work out, it is still because of the Lord and not me!

  1. Share all the accolades of victory with those who need it! (26-31). Look around. Your good fortunes have been bestowed on you to share with others!

(Psalm 50:15) The Lord says, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.”

Remember, depending on how it is handled, a crisis can either make us or break us. Our prompt and proper response to trouble is the key to an outcome that pleases God.

1 Samuel 28:3-25 "The Portrait Hall": The Finish Line

The finish line of a race often yields an interesting and heavily scrutinized picture of the participants of the race. The final frame of choices in the life of King Saul offered the same kind of picture to us. Saul had one last opportunity to show his heart for God. What he showed was the same self will that brought the former prophecy of the kingdom being ripped from his hands. He finished the “choices race” the way he ran much of it – a self reliant, impetuous and inconsistent man. The end was near and he still couldn’t make peace with God.

Key Principle: Eventually the bill comes due for our continued hardness toward God’s truth.

The Conditions (28:3-5):

  1. Loss: The great influence of a positive spiritual leader was removed and people felt the loss (28:3a).
  2. Memory: There was still the overflow of the positive period of influence, as people benefited from godly choices of that time (28:3b).
  3. External Pressure: Powerful external and potentially devastating new problems were facing the leadership of the nation (28:4).
  4. Self-Doubt: Internally, the leader was plunged into fear and doubt about the future (28:5).

The Decisions (28:6-12):

  1. Cloaked Piety: Having experienced a walk with God some time in the past, the fear-filled leader turned to God as a bail out plan, but God delayed an answer (28:6). Why? Note that God knows our hearts, and knows if we are asking for US or for HIS WILL. Saul’s past showed his heart, and this new test would as well.
  1. Disobedience: When turning to the Lord did not work the way Saul wanted in the time Saul allotted, he turned from the Scriptures to “plan b” – solving the problem in an unbiblical way (28:7; cp. Lev. 20; Dt. 18). Note how helpful it was to have friends that were so comfortable with ungodly helps!
  1. Deception: Saul knew he was doing wrong, and decided it would somehow work out to deceive others and hide his identity, while asking for help from “spiritual sources” (28:8-9). It is impossible to argue innocence when caught with a mask on!
  1. God Talk: Even in the middle of doing the wrong thing the wrong way, Saul casually invoked his “faith talk” as though there was some reality behind his adherence to God and God’s Word! Note how easily he refers to a God he isn’t following at all! (28:10-11).
  1. Contradiction: The woman didn’t know Saul personally, but new his public testimony by the laws of the past. She was unable to understand why the same king that outlawed her craft was now secretly acting inconsistently with the command. When we act differently than we preach, we confuse and dishearten people (28:12).

Getting to the Truth (28:13-19):

  1. Recognition of the Place of Truth: When Saul perceived that Samuel was before him, he felt responsible to show honor to the prophet in order to get direction (28:13-14). Understanding of where truth is found precedes hearing it as truth. Look in the wrong place, and you will not get the needed answer!
  1. Wise Counsel: Samuel (or this one who spoke as Samuel) asked the right questions and directed Saul to the right answer. The first question was “Why call on me?” (15). The second was “Why me if NOT God?” Wise counsel directs us back to facing what God is doing, not using God talk to justify what WE want to do. (28:15-16).
  1. Context: Truth must be understood in the context it is given. Saul needed to be reminded lest he charge God with injustice, that his past choices led to his present troubles (28:17-19).

Response to Hard Truth (28:20-25):

  1. Shock: When the cost of our sin is clear to us, we are surprised, shocked and even broken. All that we had been doing breaks down, and we feel inadequate to keep going (28:20).
  1. Accepting Help: Others around us cannot take away the inner pain of our realization that we have caused our own failure. They can feel for us and offer help, but they cannot make the pain go away (28:21-25)

A Note of Real Hope

The only hope we have in the pain of paying the consequences of our own actions is finding a substitute to pay the penalty for us! The Bible calls Jesus a “satisfying substitute”:

Ro 3:25 God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;

Heb 2:17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

1Jo 2:2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

1Jo 4:10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Eventually the bill comes due for our continued hardness toward God’s truth. The good news is YOU don’t have to pay it!

1 Samuel 27:1-28:2; 30:1-8 "The Portrait Hall": Reversed Photo Image

Have you ever seen a photo that was printed as a negative? The white is black and the black white. The color spectrum is opposite of the reality. For many of us, we live times in our lives dissatisfied with our soul condition – and things that are morally wrong and emotionally harmful begin to look more appealing or more potentially fulfilling. We buy into the deception that something on the outside can solve the problem that we have on the inside, a nagging dissatisfaction with the state of our walk with God, and our soul’s health. When left in that state, we are destined to follow wrong assumptions to wrong actions.

David struggled through this negative image time several times in his life. One of the profound times of inner dissatisfaction is captured in our story today, when David made a series of wrong moves in his life. Can you identify? What did David do to get out of the problem?

Key Principle: When I seek to solve my problems apart from seeking God Himself, I end up at a dead end.

Verse 1 is one of the most tragic moments in David’s life.

Watch out for the wrong time! The text begins with the word “then” (27:1). If you listen hard, you can hear the exhaustion in the word…”then”. David was promised a throne ten chapters of the story before. Saul had chased him and been humbled by him repeatedly. David thought it would never end, and was WORN OUT. It was the wrong time to draw conclusions about life and make changes that would have devastating consequences. It is not the time to make decisions that will draw you to God, but a terrible time to decide the problems outweigh God’s ability to heal your wounds!

Don’t seek the wrong person! The tragic words, “David said to himself”, reflect that David sought the wrong person to solve his exhaustion and discontent inside. (27:1b). You aren’t designed to fix all your own problems! David was consistently strong when he turned to God in pain, but consistently wrong when he turned to his own solutions! (Compare 1 Samuel 21 and the time he ate the bread, and fled to Achish acting insane. The end of the story was death to many who David loved!)

Don’t surrender to wrong beliefs! The verse moves on to say, “I will perish one day by the hand of Saul.” The substance of the claim negated what God’s Word on the subject said, in essence David was reversing God’s promises of 16:1 and 16:12. He was making the claim that God wouldn’t deliver and he needed to solve his own situation. He disagreed with God’s revealed truth.

Don’t decide based on wrong assumptions!  David said, “there is nothing better for me than to escape” (27:1b). How tragic! Because David figured out a way to ease his discomfort, he saw no value to drawing close to God and discerning His will. He knew what to do, or at least he thought he did. Yet, if you asked him that evening how he was in his walk with God, he knew in his heart he was walking on his own…

Question: What if what God was teaching him on the run was the best way for him to learn? What if the greatest blessing to the kingdom and to his Master would come through his temporary discomfort? Is ease always the best thing?

Don’t surrender to wrong actions! David used the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” philosophy when he “arose and crossed over” (27:2). He had been there before, and he knew it would solve one problem only to cause many others (chapter 21). Yet, in a deluded and worn out state, he gave in and crossed over.

Don’t become the wrong example! David not only crossed over, he took men who were not with him in his previous foray into sinful crossing over. The passage says “six hundred men who were with him” (27:2b). Even when you won’t make the right decision, remember the tragedy only grows when you lead others into the pit with you!

Don’t become comfortable in the wrong fulfillment! David surrounded himself with the comforts of home while out in the world. “Each with his household” (27:3) speaks of the comfort of the men as they settled in to a life accommodating to the world! People do it every Sunday. They come in saying the same words they used when they were on fire for God, knowing the fire has long since been doused with the water of worldly pleasures, fulfillments and thinking.

Don’t enlist in the wrong service! David and his men began to work to make the world happy with them (27:4-7). They served the objectives of another God rather than their own. The short term was they found a greater ease of life. The long term was they became virtually unusable to the Lord for His greater purposes. They became swallowed by the world’s objectives and soon the fruit would show!

Don’t succumb to wrong values! David and his men surrendered even the most basic sense of integrity to become deceivers of the first order (27:8-28:2). They had many justifications inside of why they couldn’t be honest with God in their situation, but they placed themselves in the situation to begin with.

Many unclear and gray choices arrive in the lives of believers who have consistently put themselves in wrong service positions! Remember that when you surrender the high ground of the service you place yourself in, you create the value dilemmas you must then live with!

What can I do when all these things are true of me? (30:1-8)

  1. Understand that when trouble comes, it will overtake you and those you have led into it (30:1-2).
  2. Recognize the sore trouble that is coming is a direct result of your choices, and the pain is God’s way of bringing you to your senses (30:3-5).
  3. Face the fact that you can only be changed by a heart change that you must desire. When we find other things as the center of our fulfillment, sometimes God must remove them to help us understand the deception. He alone is our peace. He is our Master. Every other service that is not for Him is essentially idolatry. It is slowly killing the truth in us! (30:6).
  4. Seek God’s answers as to how to step back to Him. He WILL answer. He wants you. That is what this whole exercise has been about! (30:7-8)

How do I know what to do? The answer is not in the magazine rack or the brochures, it must be found by first settling the important things on your knees. Remember, when I seek to solve my problems apart from seeking God Himself, I end up at a dead end.

1 Samuel 26 "The Portrait Hall": The Grinding Stone

Part way through the more than a dozen years from the promise of his throne to the delivery of it, David could have become impatient and “made things happen”. He was encouraged to do so, but God did not want that from him, and he knew it. David was learning the skills he would later need, even if he was gaining them through a monotonous daily grind. How many times does it take doing right to win the fight? Did you ever feel like it just never ends? David did! Yet the key to pleasing the Master was the consistent and steady walk in truth! Today we will see the pain of David’s exile met by a steady hand that pleased God.

Key Principle: The Key to a walk with God is the ability to remain consistent and steady in daily choices, especially when under fire!

Two Cautions for the Warrior (26:1-3a)

  1. When you walk with God, there will always be an ample supply of provokers to cause you trouble! (26:1).
  2. The enemy will look for a vulnerability in your patterns that will give him opportunity. (I.e. after a couple of beers I get a bit brash, I work well except when I am paired with this one co-worker, I never experience temptation sexually except when we study together, I don’t usually gossip, but whenever we get together…)

Ten Truths to Bring Victory (26:3b-25)

  1. Avoid the traps – David did the hard thing but kept himself from the easy accessibility of the enemy (26:3b).
  2. Keep a watchful eye – the enemy must be detected and his movements noted (26:4).
  3. Look for the enemy’s weaknesses – he will leave people with felt and unfelt needs that you can care for (26:5)!
  4. Grab a friend – do not war alone unless forced to do so! (26:6-7).
  5. Know God’s heart – don’t take advice that contradicts God’s stated purposes for the fight! (26:8; cp. 24:22).
  6. Watch God at work- keep your eyes on what God is doing in the situation, and hear what He says! (26:9-11).
  7. Don’t do it all – do what you can do to stem the attack, but let God do what you cannot do! (26:12).
  8. Take a stand – publicly stand for what God has told you to be and do! (26:13-17).
  9. See the truth – challenge ungodly thinking and ways where they are – i.e. “The men around you are provoking this!” Show it is against God’s Word when it is (26:18-20).
  10. Respond gently – if repentance comes, allow it with dignity and gentleness! (26:21-25).

The Key to a walk with God is the ability to remain consistent and steady in daily choices, especially when under fire!

1 Samuel 25 "The Portrait Hall": Abigail – Mom to the Rescue!

Today our series will show the incredible portrait of a heroic mother named Abigail. Remember, David has learned a lesson in safety and a lesson on allowing God to reward or avenge. This text is a lesson on being God’s compensation when being cheated. David had an agreement with a wealthy man named Nabal. Nabal felt he could accept the benefits of the agreement and not pay his bill when the time came due. This slap to David could not go unanswered, because David’s band survived on their governmental agreements of protection, it was there livelihood. Enter at stage right Abigail, the mother that protected the whole clan!

A Quick Outline of the Story:

  1. David’s Contract of Protection Explained (25:1-9)
  2. Nabal’s Breach of the Contract Explained (25:10-12)
  3. David’s Response to the Insult Explained (25:13)
  4. Abigail Informed of the Insult (25:14-17)
  5. Abigail Responded to the Peril (25:18-35)
  6. Abigail Loses Nabal (25:36-38)
  7. Abigail Marries David (25:39-44)

The Lesson to David was this: God compensated David when he was cheated, and guarded David from making terrible mistakes by revealing truth to Him! David is saying, “Praise the LORD! Nabal insulted me, but the LORD has supported me! He has kept me from doing wrong.” What an interesting statement! Recall the story line of our text. Do you remember any mention of God speaking to David? Did God in a dream, or a vision warn David against an attack on the household of Nabal? Did God send heavenly beings to David advising him against his current course of action? Did David pray to God, seeking council regarding how to deal with Nabal No, God used Abigail!

This text tells us that God revealed truth by offering us a portrait of a woman that pleased God in a miserable situation!

Key Principle: A “woman of rescue” is a godly woman that recognizes her situation and deliberately seeks ways to creatively care for those in her charge.

14 Characteristics of the “Woman of Rescue”

  1. 25:3 Intelligent (sekhel- discerning). She was a woman of substance in her character and mind. This allowed her to see clearly what was happening in her home. Are you taking advantage of ways to build your character and discernment?
  1. 25:3 beautiful in appearance (yafe b’toar – beautiful in shape and form) She looked like she had everything going for her, but the situation was not as it appeared. She was gorgeous and rich! Yet, she was trapped in a bad marriage to a man who was harsh (25:3 lit. kawsheh) and “evil in his dealings” (25:3 lit. mahal-awl underhanded practices) that was in all likeliness arranged by her parents. Are you able to see who and where you really are in life?

Note: Differences Between a Husband and Wife Don’t Mean That a Marriage Can’t Continue. (from Pastor Ricky Shrive, Tomkinsville Church of Christ, Kentucky)

”If any women ever had a good reason not to support her husband, one could make an argument for Abigail. After all, he certainly wasn’t meeting her halfway in their marriage. He wasn’t meeting her at all. There was no give and take here, only take. There was no compromise in this marriage, it was all one way, his way!

How many couples today rush blindly into a marriage only to dissolve it a few months or years later due to irreconcilable differences? Our world today is full of them! Sadly, many marriages today are dissolved due to situations far less disquieting than Abigail’s. A study of divorced couples shows that after a year of divorce, 60% of men and 73% of women feel they made a mistake and should have tried harder to make their marriage work.

Do you think Abigail had to try hard to make her marriage work? Do you think there were many days in her marriage that she had to think hard for reasons why she should stay? Let me share some statistics with you. I realize they are a bit dated; nonetheless, they will suffice in proving the enormity of this problem within our society.

I believe several myths have become prevalent mindsets in many couples who are struggling in a marriage:

Myth #1: The grass is greener outside my marriage. The conflict you are in may give that impression. That is seldom the case after the divorce. The truth: what appears so green is usually the weeds.

Myth #2: The kids will be better off. The truth: Divorce, even under the best of circumstances, has a devastating effect on children. Most kids truly want their mother and father to stay together.

Myth #3: Divorce is justified in my case because I’m not in love anymore. The truth: The same God who commanded people to love their enemies will gladly help couples who want to learn to love each other again.

Myth #4: Divorce will make me happy. The truth: Happiness is determined by a person’s attitude and security in relationship to God, not by circumstances. While some people subsequently come to experience happiness, most experience guilt, loneliness, and anxiety.

Myth #5: Divorce will set me free. The truth: There are all kinds of prisons. Divorce doesn’t really free you; it shackles you in a different way.

If anyone was ever in a situation, outside of unfaithfulness, that certainly warranted a divorce, it would have to be Abigail. I would admonish any couple who are contemplating separation to take time and study Abigail.”

  1. 25:14 She had a listening ear to the troubles of her household. When presented with the situation, she did not seek to block what was unflattering and become defensive. Are you slow to react and careful to seek facts before jumping to conclusions?
  1. 25:17 She was circumspect (yadah: know) and carefully observed the whole before planning a response. Are you constantly watching those in your charge and keeping things in order to help them sort out truth from error?
  2. 25:17 She saw the situation and was looking for a creative (lit. rawaw or “envision” what you shall do) way to honor the parties involved. Do you take the time to find creative ways to keep your family walking in truth?
  1. 25:17 She was trusted by those she watched over. In the extreme circumstance of the family’s impending peril, the servant could tell her even the unflattering truth. She did not seek ways to denigrate her husband, but when he broke an agreement, she could be trusted to hear it. Can people trust you with sensitive information concerning those who you love (or should love)?
  1. 25:18 She was proactive in problem solving, recognizing that it would take time to explain her moves later. Remember, she fully intended to tell her husband (cp. 25:19 to 25:37) when the time was right, and she was doing what was both morally correct and physically necessary. An example would be the wife that destroyed files on a computer that were harming her husband and arranging accountability for him before consulting him. Do you proactively seek a way to help the people in your care stay on their moral path? One Pastor wrote:

A wife’s primary role is to support her husband. Ladies, when you said, “I do” to the man to whom you are married, you at that moment accepted a role that called for you to help him, to lift him up, and to support him. Now don’t misunderstand, he has all sorts of responsibilities to you too and those are outside of the time limitations of our lesson today. But, God made woman to be, “A helper fitted for her husband” (cf. Gen. 2:18). The word “helper” comes from a Hebrew that has the connotation of a jigsaw puzzle. It’s like every man is made with pieces missing, but when the, right woman comes along, she puts in those pieces and she makes him whole. Thus, she supports that man, she makes the two of them the one flesh.” Review a few key verses in Proverbs: An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life (Prov. 31:10-12). Abigail stands as a extremely strong example for wives today. She did her husband good, although he didn’t deserve it, all the days of his life.

  1. 25:19,24,28 She took personal responsibility for her household and stepped personally in the gap when things were going wrong. Do you take responsibility (in a healthy way) for things that weren’t even your fault in the family?

“It would have been easy and even understandable for Abigail to have met David on the road and simply said, “David, I don’t agree with anything that terrible husband of mine does, please, don’t hold any of this against me. Look, I’ve brought food and supplies. Spare my life and do as you wish with him. Be my guest to put me out of my misery!”

  1. 25:23 She know how to prioritize her life, and knew her personal pride was less important than saving the family. She did the hard thing and dropped to the ground to save her family. Are you willing to take time, energy and surrender pride to deal with the struggles of your family?

To say that Abigail was in a bad situation (regarding her marriage to Nabal) is an understatement! It would have been easy for her to have become withdrawn, depressed, timid… she could have easily slipped into a “place blame somewhere” mode. I could see her perhaps blaming herself, or blaming her parents, or even blaming God. She could have allowed the circumstances of this marriage to “drag” her down such that her faith in God is diminished. She did not!

  1. 25:25 She was truthful and did not try to hide the responsibility for her home. Telling a lie would have ended in disaster. Opening honestly offered David the chance to see her heart and have compassion. Are you covering for your family and making excuses that aren’t true? Are you an enabler?
  1. 25:28 She is encouraging to David in ways that are not “apple polishing” but that acknowledge God’s work in him, and his right to be treated differently! Do you see what God is doing in the lives of others and openly share that?

I believe Abigail used her relationship with God as a means of support in helping her survive day-to-day in this awful marriage. Like Abigail, we too should lean on God, using Him to help us survive our daily struggles. Paul said, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also my be manifested in our body” (2 Cor. 4:7-10). What is Paul really saying here? Simply that, we have this treasure from God, but we are like clay jars that hold the treasure. This shows that the great power is from God, not from us. We have troubles all around us, but we are not defeated. At times, we may not know what to do, but we do not give up the hope of living. We are persecuted, but God does not leave us. We are hurt sometimes, but we are not destroyed. We carry the death of Jesus in our own bodies so that the life of Jesus can also be seen in our bodies.

  1. 25:29-31 She reasoned fairly for the good of all parties, not just her own! Are you so busy getting the advantage for your family that you don’t see what is good for the other guy?
  1. 25:33 She was fruitful in her labors and produced both a testimony for the Lord (33), and peace for her family (35).
  1. 25:36-37 She had a sense of timing. She knew when to tell her husband, and when not to share something!

Conclusion: Abigail stands as a strong example for the world today. Her situation in marriage, her struggles, her disappointments along with her wisdom, her faith and commitment are valuable lessons for us all – especially anyone who might be struggling today in a marriage. A “woman of rescue” is a godly woman that recognizes her situation and deliberately seeks ways to creatively care for those in her charge.

1 Samuel 24 "The Portrait Hall: “Camping in the Cave”

In the last lesson, we were reminded that for the believer security is not a matter of what you withdraw from – but Who you withdraw to! David learned to measure his safety not in terms of distance from danger; but in terms of the nearness of God. David learned another lesson that we will investigate:

Key Principle: Revenge is NOT your job! God alone has that right! No matter how angry we get, the revenge instinct is a fallen one, and has no place in God’s people.

Six Observations About Revenge:

  1. Opportunities are Inevitable (1 Samuel 24:1-2). When you are taken advantage of, there may well be an opportune time to strike back, because the attacker leaves themselves open.
  1. Most expect you to take revenge (1 Samuel 24:3-4). David’s men counseled him to take revenge. One of them may have been Abiathar, who watched the execution of his family. The pressure will be there from even friends.
  1. It will feel wrong (1 Samuel 24:4b-5). Even as David reached out to hurt Saul, he felt a twinge of guilt!
  1. If you choose to soften, you will need to explain your decision (1 Samuel 24:6). Note that David needed to help the men see the position, not the man. Wisely, David showed respect for the office he one day would hold!
  1. You cannot allow others to fight for you (1 Samuel 24:7). Grace is given to the wounded, but not those next to the wounded.
  1. Your soft answer may create an opportunity for a testimony (1 Samuel 24:8-10). Saul was probably startled and perhaps embarrassed, but David’s point was made.

Six Steps to Reconciliation:

  1. Openly share your desire to be at peace with the other party (1 Samuel 24:11).
  1. Commend the person and the situation to God’s all knowing nature, and do not feel that it all must be made right in your eyes (1 Samuel 24:12-13).
  1. Set aside pride and show the other person THEY are more important (1 Samuel 24:14-15).
  1. Trust that God may move the heart of the adversary (1 Samuel 24:16).
  1. If they are softended by God, you will begin to hear truth from their mouth as the deception lifts! (1 Samuel 24:17-20).
  1. See if you can get to the heart of their fear or dispute! (1 Samuel 24:21-22).

We are people of reconciliation, not revenge. God has called us to peace!

1 Samuel 23 "The Portrait Hall": The Cat and The Mouse

What is real safety? Some people think hiding from trouble is what keeps you safe. Yet, for the believer safety and security are not a matter of what you withdraw from – but Who you withdraw to!

Key Principle: Safety for the Christian is not gained by isolation but by casting ourselves upon God for His guidance and care, as we seek to carry out His work and His will.

In this lesson, David learns he does not have to calculate his safety in terms of distance from danger; He calculates his safety in terms of the nearness to God.

Read 1 Samuel 23: Look at the lessons God taught David concerning SAFETY and TRUST:

  1. David learned to make wise choices: He found it was not safe in Gath with the Philistines. Hiding from one enemy in the clutches of another was a bad plan (21:10-13).
  1. David learned his safety was in God’s hand (22:3). Remember, David was God’s choice for king. Llike all of us, he was indestructible until God’s work for him was done. Though he needed to be wise, but he could not always play it safe – if it hindered carrying out his mission. David knew a believer cannot calculate his safety in terms of distance from danger; but rather in terms of the nearness to God. Remoteness is NOT safety!
  1. David learned not to rely on feelings: where he felt safe was less important than where God told him to be – when the prophet Gad instructed him to return to Judah’s villages (22:5). Note: God directed David to a place where he could be used to hold back the Philistines, and where God could teach David to “king” his future subjects.
  1. David learned he could not presume the outcome! Trusting God and doing right was no guarantee for physical safety (22:18-19). Ahimelech the priest was a noble, godly man, who stood up against Saul and was murdered (along with his family and his fellow-priests). Why? Because in the ultimate sense, Ahimelech and his fellow-martyrs could never have been safer than in the arms of God. They were as “safe” as David, but their mission was done, and David’s was not. Living a godly life is no guarantee of safety from suffering, troubles, and even death. Yet God will not allow these things to keep us from that for which He has called us. Until our work for Him is done, no one can be safer than the Christian who trusts and obeys, even in the most dangerous of circumstances.
  1. David learned that few knew how to trust God for security! He had to lead with God, not follow the consensus! David’s men felt safer in the forest of Hereth (22:5) but God directed them to go to Keilah through their leader (23:1-3). David had to learn to pass the truths God gave him to those around him, that they may share his confidence! David’s men initially thought the further they were from Saul – the safer they were. They felt that fear justified ignoring God’s Word (23:3).
  1. David learned to hear the cry of his people, and sought God for further assurance (23:4). When he was sure in God’s direction, he emerged with confidence. His people learned that he was not impulsive, but directed. David saw God deliver him yet again, and this time his men saw it too! (23:5).
  1. David learned the value of using others gifts and walk with God to make decisions that affected the group. This gave added confidence to the direction the leader would give, as well as gave more full understanding of the direction (23:6-12). When the decision was made to make a move, more joined and greater confidence resulted! (23:13-14).
  1. David learned that God can add more than we can see from places we don’t factor into the security “mix”. Note: God sent an encourager that helped David make it through this tough time! Jonathan came to STRENGTHEN HIS HANDS IN GOD (23:15-18).

Four Observations:

If you will allow me, I would like to take the remaining time to look more carefully at these few verses and draw a significant lesson for the people of God today! This text is a simple and profound illustration of what needs to happen in the ongoing fight of faith. I pick out four powerful thought from this encounter between Jonathan and David that I think are worthy of your attention:

1. The deepest saints and the strongest leaders need Christian comrades to strengthen their hands in God. David was deep, David was strong, and yet David needed Jonathan. David was a man after God’s own heart. He was a great warrior. He was no doubt superior to Jonathan in strength and intelligence and depth of theological understanding. But verse 16 says that Jonathan went and strengthened his hand in God. Don’t ever think that a man is so strong that he does not need to be strengthened in God. And don’t ever think that someone is so far above you that you can’t be God’s instrument to give strength. Christian camaraderie is not just for the new recruits. It is for every believer.

2. The second lesson is that strengthening a person’s hand in God involves conscious effort. It is intentional. You don’t just do it on the fly; you rise and go down to Horesh. What a difference it would make in our church if when all of us woke in the morning we would PLAN to strengthen someone’s hand in God! Jonathan PLANNED to go and strengthen him. The mark of Christian maturity is that you build into your life the intention and the occasions to strengthen someone’s hand in God.

3. The strength we are to give each other is strength in God, not in ourselves. Verse 16 does not say that Jonathan came all that way to Horesh to strengthen David’s self-confidence. He didn’t. This is the difference between Christian camaraderie and all other support groups and therapy groups and self-help groups. The whole point of Christian camaraderie is to point each other to Christ, not man for help and strength.

4. The strengthening process is accomplished by reminding a believer of God’s promises for his life! The way Jonathan strengthened David’s hand in God was to remind him of a promise that God had made (1 Samuel 16:12). Saul could not succeed against David because God was for him. So Jonathan strengthened David’s hand in God by reminding him of his destiny in the purposes of God. We strengthen each other’s hands in God by reminding each other about the promises of God that are especially suited for each other’s needs.

What would you need to hear from your friends if you were William Carey 15,000 miles from home fighting the fight of faith with one comrade surrounded by millions of unbelievers? How about the words of Samuel Pearce, a precious friend who knew how to strengthen Carey’s hand in God. Listen to how the promises of God saturate this letter from October 4, 1794.

Brother, I long to stand by your side, and participate in all the vicissitudes of the attack — an attack which nothing but cowardice can make unsuccessful. Yes, the Captain of our salvation marches at our head. Sometimes he may withdraw his presence (but not his power) to try our prowess with our spiritual arms and celestial armor. O, what cannot a lively faith do for the Christian soldier! It will bring the Deliverer from the skies; it will array him as with a vesture dipped in blood; it will place him in the front of the battle, and put a new song into our mouths –“These made war with the Lamb; but the Lamb shall overcome them.” Yes, he shall — the victory is sure before we enter the field; the crown is already prepared to adorn our brows, even that crown of glory which fadeth not away, and already we have resolved what to do with it — we will lay it at the conqueror’s feet, and say, “Not to us, O Lord, not unto us, but to thy name give glory,” while all heaven unites in the chorus, “Worthy the Lamb.” (Memoir, p. 66)

Remember, safety for the Christian is not gained by isolation but by casting ourselves upon God for His guidance and care, as we seek to carry out His work and His will.

1 Samuel 22 "The Portrait Hall": The Broken and the ‘Breaker’

(1 Samuel 22) The Portrait Hall: The Broken and the ‘Breaker’

In this split portrait a contrast of two men could not be clearer. On the one hand, David was being restored to the Lord and returning to his senses after a long time of fear and torment that led to poor choices and lies. This portrait marks a time of repentance and change for him. On the other hand, King Saul became more threatened and irrational, refusing to repent and soften before the Lord that placed him in power. The contrast is great and the choice could not be clearer, harden and fight God or soften and follow Him!

Key Principle: Our life is about choices. When the choices are wrong, confession and change is the key to restoration!

King Saul fed his pain with more bad choices. He did not stop and repent and come close to the Lord. Instead he found himself:

  • Believing false assumptions: Saul heard about David and the men gathered to him (22:6) as he sat at Gibeah clutching his spear. He began to openly question the loyalty of the subjects by his side, openly assuming those who were following David were bribed by promises (22:7).

  • Making false accusations: Saul moved from speculation about how David got a following to open accusations of disloyalty for not disclosing Jonathon’s alliance with David (that every indication in the text was they did not know – 22:8a). Saul even indicated that Jonathan was the one that set Saul up (8b)!

  • Dwelling in self pity: Saul wanted the pity of his compatriots, though his life was surely much better than any of the listeners (22:8b)!

  • Listening to wrong counselors: Doeg offered true words but they were clearly in the context of an out of control and paranoid king. Doeg makes special mention of the sword that David was given, and the “salt” was poured into the wound when he mentioned “Goliath” – a source of jealousy in the past! (22:9-10)

  • Acting Rashly with Injustice: Saul brought in the priests of Nob to answer for their aid to David. They had no way to know that David was not telling them the truth! Yet, the men paid with their lives (22:11-16).

  • Failing to heed moral barriers: The men around King Saul knew that killing the priests was wrong, yet their reticence was not heeded by Saul. Instead, he sought someone that was willing to deaden any pricking of the conscience, and Doeg killed 85 priests, and then turned to Nob to kill their families indiscriminately. (22:17-19).

On the other hand, David had made his share of mistakes, and had turned back to the Lord. Surrounded by men that could have pulled him further from God (22:2), he decided to cease striving and turn his face back to the Lord. He found himself:

  • Protecting those around him: This was not easy! Included in this group were no doubt bitter brothers whose life and career was severely interrupted by their younger brother’s fallout with the king (22:1 and 3a)!

  • Seeking God’s direction: (22:3b): We observed in our last study that David wrote a song to the Lord at this point (Psalm 34) and restarted a heart of praise. He was not sure of his future, but he was sure that God was going to reveal it to him.

  • Obeying God’s Word: He listened to the words of God’s prophet (22:4-5) and moved ahead in obedience!

  • Taking Personal Responsibility: David didn’t skirt his personal responsibility for the lies that cost the priests and their families their lives. He owned up and then took steps to protect others that needed protection! (22:21-23).

Remember, our life is about choices. When the choices are wrong, confession and change is the key to restoration!

1 Samuel 20:1-22:2; Psalm 34 "The Portrait Hall": The Slobbering Soldier

 The Portrait Hall: The Slobbering Soldier

Have you ever had a really embarrassing moment? God showed the story of his greatest men, with all their faults, embarrassments, “warts and all”! David learned to move from pride and panic to power and praise by experiences that readied him to be used of God later. Did you ever feel like you were alone and needed to protect yourself? How can you get back to the place where you trust the Lord for your life? Let’s follow David into one of his most embarrassing moments, so that we can learn the “secret” of the lesson. (Read 1 Samuel 20:1-8; 20:42-21:1-6, 10-22:2)

Key Principle: When our focus is on us and our abilities or problems, we fail. When our focus on pleasing our Master, we succeed!

David was on a downward course for some time before he ended up on the porch of his enemy acting like a lunatic! How did a man of character and conviction end up in such a state? The process was retained in the record for our learning:

  • Problem Focus: It began, as it often does, with focusing on the circumstances and trying to make sense of what he was incapable of explaining. This led to confusion and assumptions of coming evil that were the engine behind panic (1 Sam. 20:1-2).
  • Panic: The mind runs to the things that might happen, but not to the Lord that alone can aid us. Note: David mentions the Lord, but doesn’t ADDRESS the Lord in the troubles 1 Sam. 20:3a).
  • Depression: Though a real problem existed, the feeling about the problem took over, making it hard to concentrate on real solutions (1 Sam. 20:3b). Dear friends stand ready to help and will do almost anything to help (1 Sam. 20:4).
  • Enlistment to sin among friends: Misery thrives on company! Instead of stopping to consult God for real solutions, he moved to enlisting others into sin. Gossip often begins here in the hurt and confusion zone. In this case, a lie was produced. Note: Mentioning God is not the same as acting in accord with God’s principles! (1 Sam. 20:5-8). Note how David passed on extreme desperation and blocked any other options but his death from view (20:8b).
  • Overt sin among God’s people: When you start down the path of “looking out for number one” and believe that God is not going to care for you if you don’t, the ends of protection justifies in your mind the means (telling more lies to cover yourself!) David stands before a priest of the Most High God, lies about his mission while claiming he is caring for other men that are walking in purity! (1 Sam. 20:42- 21:5). Then sin was further increased by abusing the gifts of God, using them in ways God has specifically said NOT to! (21:6)
  • Projecting Motives: When we are walking away from God, we may find it easy to project corrupt motives on those around us. We see in them what is in us and often misread them! (1 Sam. 21:7-8).
  • Hypocrisy: David walked into the Philistine camp ironically carrying the sword of the dead Philistine champion that God gave him is a great victory, yet he appears as a beggar, acting out a lie! When we slide into sin, the outcome is another opportunity to defame our King a Savior! (1 Sam. 21:9-22:1)
  • Accumulating others: When we aren’t walking with God, we will gather the others who have issues to surround us! (1 Sam. 22:2-3). The key to change is the end of verse 3!

Remember, when our focus is on us and our abilities or problems, we fail. When our focus on pleasing our Master, we succeed!

Psalm 34: A Psalm of David when he acted like an idiot in front of Achish and was sent away

34:1) God Focus: It is your choice to focus on the problems and not on the goodness of God in so many areas of your life! David said he began to do three things: I will bless the Lord all the time; My lips will continually praise Him; 2) My life will be a loud testimony that the crushed and poor will observe and be encouraged by!

3) Effort: Do not praise as a chore, but take some time and be creative in your desire to express God’s greatness! David said: Show His greatness (gadlu: make large) by lifting him (room: cause to grow as a child adorned as adult) up with me!

4) Tenacity: Fight the fight with fear and don’t let it overtake you, rather let God’s goodness rescue you. It may not happen at first, but it will happen! David said: I sought repeatedly (darashti) the Lord, and He listened to me and answered me (awnaw: answer or testify as witness). He delivered me (nawtsar: plucked me, snatched; hatsilu is a form!) from the “storehouse of fear” (megaroti: used3x, 2 as fear and one as a barn in Hag. 2:19) that was driving my actions.

5) Understanding: God didn’t make it easy for a purpose. He wants to use your victories as a testimony to reveal His goodness to others who have been defeated! David said: The poor and crushed gazed hard (nawbat: carefully considered) at this restored fool and their experiences flowed into simplicity (nawhar: used 6x in OT, usually as “flow” as in Isaiah 60:5, here translated ‘lightened’) and their faces became peaceful (khawfare: unconfounded). 6) They saw that I was a wretch and the Lord delivered me, saving (yesha) from all my disgrace (tsawraw).

7) Priority: When you concern for how the King feels about every aspect of your life is the consuming factor of direction, every other consideration with fade. With that stedfast priority, God will send unseen help! David said: The angel of the Lord sets up an encampment around those who reverence (yawray: find the deepest regard for above any fear, love or other compulsion) the Lord, and they are armed and equipped to be victorious (khawlats: “remove danger by cavalry providing the needed weaponry”). 8) Happiness comes from seeking shelter (khawtsar) in the camp of concern for God’s happiness with your choices! 9) He will keep you from lacking any essential thing (makh: sore lack).

When our focus is on us and our abilities or problems, we fail. When our focus on pleasing our Master, we succeed!