Saturday, 30 April 2016

Pursuing greatness

Therefore You are great, O Lord GOD. For there is none like You, nor is there any God besides You, according to all that we have heard with our ears.  – 2 Samuel 7.22

Sometimes I can forget I serve a unique and incomparable God who, as we have seen just recently cares about me and knows all about me and communicates Himself me t His written word.

When my thinking gets skewed I forget that compared to Him nothing else has any real power. I forget than nothing compares to Him when it comes to His greatness. When it seems like we are always losing to darkness I need to be reminded that greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world.

As great as God is why is that we chase after all kinds of pursuits and goals instead of pursuing Him? We get deluded and seek for satisfaction or fulfilment or a sense of achievement by getting more stuff or more popularity or more human success and think we are doing great.

Nothing compares to God and His greatness – so let's truly go gor greatness and pursue Him.

Friday, 29 April 2016

According to His word

For Your word's sake, and according to Your own heart, You have done all these great things, to make Your servant know them. – 2 Samuel 7.21

Not only does God care about us. Not only does He know us. He also wants us to know Him and His word.

The preciousness of God’s word is seen over and over in scripture. Once again David is hinting at things he will expand in later. In fact, the longest psalm he writer, Psalm 119 with 176 verses, is almost all about the Bible. Here is just a sample.

Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path
How can a make keep his heart clean, by taking heed to the word of God
Give me life according to Your word
Remind me of Your word, where You have given me hope
Your promise gives me life
Oh how I love Your law, I meditate on it day and night

God honours His word. In his heart His wants us to know it so He does great things to show the power of His word to us so that we can know His word better, and, by knowing His word better we know Him better.

It only makes sense that if there really is a God who made us He would communicate with us. He could do it any way He wants. He could use dreams or visions or skywriting or voices in our heads. I am not saying He doesn't do the others (except skywriting) but the primary way He speaks is through His written word because that has a sense of permanence. I might forget what I heard or I might wonder if it is God’s voice speaking to me or my dream might be the result of too much pizza, but His word is always there. It doesn't change. If we take the time to learn Hebrew and Greek we can still read manuscripts that are thousands of years old and they say the same things as our Bibles today. If you go into Dublin (any day but Monday) you can see a display of Bible manuscripts as old as the second century. If God is going to communicate His written word is the surest way for us to know His words.

That God for the great things He has done to preserve His word.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

He knows

Now what more can David say to You? For You, Lord God, know Your servant. – 2 Samuel 7.20

It is interesting to see themes in David that he will develop into the psalms later on. This passage reminds of the marvellous words in Psalm 139.1-6:

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.
You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high, I cannot attain it.

This seems a natural follow on to the question ‘who am I?’ Once we establish that we are important to God it is encouraging to know that God not only cares about us – but He knows about us. Really, it is more than just knows about us, He knows that we are all about. He knows His servant.

That means that God knows when I hurt and when I am happy. He knows when I am strong and when I struggle. He knows when have faith and when I fear. He knows when I fly and when I fall. He knows it all.

I never have to think I am alone and no one gets it. God is always here and He always gets me. He always understands.

Here are two simple words of comfort for us – He knows.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Who am I?

Then King David went in and sat before the Lord; and he said: “Who am I, O Lord God? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far? – 2 Samuel 7.18

David is quite an interesting character. In his life we know he is not perfect, and perhaps that is what he is thinking about here. He knows himself just like you know you and I know me. When we think about ourselves we may be tempted to ask the same question David did – ‘who I am Lord, that you have done so much for me?’

I have to wonder if this was the question that led David to write what he did in Psalm 8:

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?

Who are we that God should even bother with us? Why would He mess with such miserable creatures? When I look at all of creation why would He bother with someone like me?

The wonderful answer is pretty simple – because He loves me. He loves me warts and all.

Who am I that God would do anything for me? I am so precious in His eyes that He sent His Son to die on a cross to pay for my sins. All of what He does for me is not because of who I am, but because of what Jesus has done for me.

As the great old children’s song put it ‘red and yellow, black and white’ we are precious in His sight!

That is who we are!

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

The line of David

When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.” ’ ” – 2 Samuel 7.12-16

There are several places in the Old Testament where prophecies have two different meanings. Often there is an immediate fulfilment and a future fulfilment. Here we read about David’s descendants. The immediate fulfilment is for David’s son Solomon. There is only a partial fulfilment there.

But the completed fulfilment is not going to happen until Messiah comes. He will be a part of David’s lineage and in Him we see all of the prophecy fulfilled.

Matthew Henry put it this way – ‘Blessings are promised to the family and posterity of David. These promises relate to Solomon, David's immediate successor, and the royal line of Judah. But they also relate to Christ, who is often called David and the Son of David. To him God gave all power in heaven and earth, with authority to execute judgment. He was to build the gospel temple, a house for God's name; the spiritual temple of true believers, to be a habitation of God through the Spirit. The establishing of his house, his throne, and his kingdom for ever, can be applied to no other than to Christ and his kingdom: David's house and kingdom long since came to an end. The committing iniquity cannot be applied to the Messiah himself, but to his spiritual seed; true believers have infirmities, for which they must expect to be corrected, though they are not cast off.’

It's a beautiful picture of what Messiah King has done for us. He was indeed chastened, but for OUR sins. The Son of David, who is also the Son of God will reign forever and ever and we will reign with Him.

Monday, 25 April 2016

I have been wth you

Now therefore, thus shall you say to My servant David, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘I took you from the sheepfold, from following the sheep, to be ruler over My people, over Israel. And I have been with you wherever you have gone, and have cut off all your enemies from before you, and have made you a great name, like the name of the great men who are on the earth. – 2 Samuel 7.8-9

God was going to use David mightily. This is a transition period. David had in mind to build a temple for God to dwell in. Nathan has already told him that he could it, but then God intervened to say that He had other plans for David and that His house would be built later.

But before then God has a lot for David to do so He reminds him with encouraging words ‘I have been worth you wherever you have gone.’

The rest of the chapter goes on to tell David how God is going to use him. With those words of encouragement behind him David could move forward to serve God. David already knew that he only accomplished anything he did with God’s help – but with the task ahead he needed this reminder.

At every transition times in our lives we need to remind ourselves that God has carried us this far. He has always been with us. We could have done nothing that we have done without him.

And because of that we can be encouraged that He will be with us all the rest of the way and for whatever He has before us. He has been with us. He has given us great victories, and He will do it again.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

How the mighty are fallen

How the mighty have fallen, And the weapons of war perished!" – 2 Samuel 1.27

The mighty Saul was dead. All that hope was over. How indeed the mighty have fallen.

‘Might makes right’ we often hear. That sounds great, but the problem is that might doesn’t last forever. Every great and mighty world power in history has eventually fallen.

I am sure I am going to miss a few, but think about it

Mighty Egypt eventually fell into decay
Rome was eventually conquered
Greece just kind of dwindled
Persia was defeated
The Holy Roman Empire fell
The sun finally set on the great British Empire
The thousand year Third Reich only last about 10 years

The mighty fall – the Almighty never falls. God is the only One worthy of our trust and the only One we can really depend on. Only He cannot fail.

We can’t put our confidence in any mighty ones but God Himself.

‘Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish. Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God:’

Saturday, 23 April 2016

On the fall of an enemy

Therefore David took hold of his own clothes and tore them, and so did all the men who were with him. And they mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and for Jonathan his son, for the people of the Lord and for the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword. – 2 Samuel 1.11-12

People like to win. It is true in sports, in politics, and in battle. I think most of us have some kind of a competitive spirit where we get really excited when we win. There is nothing wrong with celebrating victory – but there is a negative spect that sometimes can be seen if we are not careful.

How do God’s people respond when our enemies fall?

I am about to make a load of enemies and will probably cut my friend’s list in half, but I think it starts in a seemingly innocent way with sports obsessions. I can say this because I have been there myself. This is the attitude that gets mean spirited and downright ugly when their team wins. You know, it's that ‘IN YOUR FACE’ attitude toward opposing fans – even if they are friends. It is the ‘I hate so and so team attitude’ that is so obvious during sports season. And the sports team are not even our enemies.

Of course that carries on to watching political enemies fall and especially military enemies.

But look how David responded to the news of Saul’s death. He wept and mourned at their deaths. Sure his life was easier and there must have been relief that he was no longer under threat, but he still mourned the fact that they were dead.

Look what the word of God says in Proverbs 24.17 - Don’t gloat when your enemy falls, don’t let your heart be glad when he stumbles.

We may be thankful that our enemy is defeated – but it comes to a matter of attitude. There is no place for celebration or boasting or gloating.

When our enemy falls our attitude ought to be one of grateful acknowledgement – not of celebratory boasting.

It reminds me of Shakespeare’s words in ‘Henry V’ after the Battle of Agincourt -

‘Come, go we in procession to the village.
And be it death proclaimed through our host
To boast of this or take the praise from God
Which is his only.'

Friday, 22 April 2016

A tragic end

Then Saul said to his armour-bearer , “Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised men come and thrust me through and abuse me.” But his armour-bearer would not, for he was greatly afraid. Therefore Saul took a sword and fell on it. And when his armour-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell on his sword, and died with him. So Saul, his three sons, his armour-bearer, and all his men died together that same day. - 1 Samuel 31.4-6

Saul started out so well. He became king to the adulation and adoration of the people. He seemed dedicated and ready for the task. What could go wrong?

It didn’t take long for Saul to begin his downward slide. He was impatient. He figured it didn’t matter if he did things God’s way as long as they got done. He was impatient and could not wait on God. He was jealous. He was angry. He attempted murder. He was obsessed with revenge. He even got involved in witchcraft.

And finally this tragic end. After losing a battle he asked his armour-bearer to draw his sword and kill him to put him out of his misery. When that didn’t work he committed suicide.

There could not be a sadder ending.

What happened?

The problem is that Saul early on got his eyes off the Lord and his own way. He never had the faith to trust that God’s way was best. What appeared to be humility when he was chosen was quickly swallowed up in pride. God just couldn’t do it right in Saul’s mind so, as the years went on, things just got worse.

The tragedy is that when the people of God turn from God’s way to our own we always mess things up. God’s way is best because He is God and he loves and cares for us.

May I have the strength and the faith to trust that His was is best and stop trying t sort things out my way.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Let God sort it

Moreover, my father, see! Yes, see the corner of your robe in my hand! For in that I cut off the corner of your robe, and did not kill you, know and see that there is neither evil nor rebellion in my hand, and I have not sinned against you. Yet you hunt my life to take it. Let the LORD judge between you and me, and let the LORD avenge me on you. But my hand shall not be against you. As the proverb of the ancients says, 'Wickedness proceeds from the wicked.' But my hand shall not be against you. After whom has the king of Israel come out? Whom do you pursue? A dead dog? A flea? Therefore let the LORD be judge, and judge between you and me, and see and plead my case, and deliver me out of your hand." – 1 Samuel 24.11-15

Yesterday we saw David sparing Saul’s life even when he had the perfect chance to take him out. To our modern way of world infested thinking that made no sense at all. Kill him and get it sorted!

That seems to be a pretty common mindset. Even today a lot of folks seem to have the idea that I'd we are hard done by we need to do something about it and take out revenge against them. We think we know what is just and think we are the right ones to to carry out justice.

Let's see what David told Saul after the encounter – ‘Even though you are trying to kill me when I had the chance to kill you I didn’t. You can do whatever you want, but I am not going to respond. I am going to let God sort things out and rest in Him doing what is right.’

Wouldn't it be nice if we could sort out problems the same way? Why are we so tempted to ‘get our own back’ or take revenge or have the ‘you can’t treat me that way’ or ‘you can’t expect me roll over and play dead’ attitude. If someone treats us badly we feel like we just have to respond!

David’s attitude toward Saul is based on what the New Testament calls a ‘meek and gentle spirit.’ We ought to be able to trust God to sort things out for us no matter what. He is the Just One, our justice is based on our own pride and feelings.

So when we are hard done by let’s pray for the people involved, communicate with them, and leave the rest to God. He is well able to deal with it.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016


Now it happened, when Saul had returned from following the Philistines, that it was told him, saying, "Take note! David is in the Wilderness of En Gedi." Then Saul took three thousand chosen men from all Israel, and went to seek David and his men on the Rocks of the Wild Goats. So he came to the sheepfolds by the road, where there was a cave; and Saul went in to attend to his needs. (David and his men were staying in the recesses of the cave.) Then the men of David said to him, "This is the day of which the LORD said to you, 'Behold, I will deliver your enemy into your hand, that you may do to him as it seems good to you.' " And David arose and secretly cut off a corner of Saul's robe. Now it happened afterward that David's heart troubled him because he had cut Saul's robe. And he said to his men, "The LORD forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the LORD's anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the LORD." – 1 Samuel 24.1-6

What would you do if your dreaded enemy, someone who had the power to kill you and was dedicated to your demise was suddenly in a position where you could ‘take him out?’

Seems like a simple answer. Get him before he gets you. Protect you're life before he takes yours. And, if this guy was a national leader, you’d be taking care of the whole country and not just yourself. Maybe God put him there so you could solve all the problems – so the smart thing to do it to kill him.


But that’s not how David saw it. David and his men were hiding in a cave when Saul entered the cave to attend to his personal needs. David's men said ‘look, God sent Saul here so you can deal with him! Here’s your chance! Kill him!'

But David didn’t do that.

David knew God’s principle of respect for authority. He knew that Saul was God’s ordained king and he knew that he could not kill or even harm Saul. All he could do was sneak up and cut off a section of Saul's robe. Later on he even regretted doing that.

How different is David’s attitude toward authority than ours? Here was enemy, literally laid at his feet. The king was a real and viable threat to him, but he wouldn’t harm him.

I don’t think any of our leaders are coming after us and throwing javelins at us. Can’t we have a David like attitude toward them?

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

He strengthened his hand

Then Jonathan, Saul's son, arose and went to David in the woods and strengthened his hand in God. And he said to him, "Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Even my father Saul knows that." So the two of them made a covenant before the LORD. And David stayed in the woods, and Jonathan went to his own house. – 1 Samuel 23.16-18

True friendships ensure. That means that no matter what true friends are always there.

David is once again on the run. Saul has set out to kill him and David was afraid that he would be found. He was found, but it was Jonathan who found him instead of David.

And as true friends do Jonathan encouraged his friend David. I love the way the Bible says it – ‘he strengthened his hand in the Lord.’ That is the kind of friend we all need and the kind of friend that we all need to be. It is great to encourage other – but what is really needed is encouraging each other in the Lord. While our arms may be weak when we think we are alone, when someone is with us our arms are strengthened.

This reminds me of course of Aaron and Hur. While the battle was raging and Moses was praying as long as he kept his arms up the battle went Israel’s way, but when his arms dropped the battle turned. When Moses got weak Aaron and Hur ‘strengthened his arms’ for the fight.

We need each other. When I get weak I need friends to strengthen my arms – and when my friends get weak they need me.

Make me one who strengthens my brother’s arm when he falters

Monday, 18 April 2016

A motley crew

David therefore departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam. So when his brothers and all his father's house heard it, they went down there to him. And everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him. So he became captain over them. And there were about four hundred men with him. Then David went from there to Mizpah of Moab; and he said to the king of Moab, "Please let my father and mother come here with you, till I know what God will do for me." So he brought them before the king of Moab, and they dwelt with him all the time that David was in the stronghold. Now the prophet Gad said to David, "Do not stay in the stronghold; depart, and go to the land of Judah." So David departed and went into the forest of Hereth. – 1 Samuel 22.1-5

David was still on the run. He ran and hid in a cave in Adullam. His family came to join him.

That sounds fine, but look at who else joined him:

The discontent
The distressed
The debtors

David became the captain of 400 men of this motley crew. They sure didn’t seem like much. How could God use a crowd like this?

As we read on we see that God does use this army. They go out under David’s leadership and defeat the Philistines, Somehow he uses this miserable crowd to do His work.

But that is how God works isn’t it? Doesn’t God use the weak and deposed and rejected of the world to do His work?

The truth is that God can use anyone – even you and me. He uses us every day to love others and share His word and show kindness and compassion to those us around us. He uses us to show the world what hope it. The weakest are best at that because we can’t depend ourselves, we must depend on Him. He shows His power best when He uses the unusable.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

When fear is stronger than faith

Then David arose and fled that day from before Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath. And the servants of Achish said to him, "Is this not David the king of the land? Did they not sing of him to one another in dances, saying: 'Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands'?" Now David took these words to heart, and was very much afraid of Achish the king of Gath. So he changed his behavior before them, pretended madness in their hands, scratched on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva fall down on his beard. Then Achish said to his servants, "Look, you see the man is insane. Why have you brought him to me? Have I need of madmen, that you have brought this fellow to play the madman in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?" – 1 Samuel 21.10-15

I like the fact that the Lord shows us that even though David was a man after God’s heart he still was not perfect. He still had weaknesses and flaws and issues.

You wouldn't think that David would have a problem with this particular issue. He had killed bears and lions. He had killed the giant Goliath. He had killed his ‘tens of thousands.’ He did not seem like a guy who would have a problem with fear.

But Saul made him afraid. To be fair I guess having a javelin thrown at you could tend to do that. But David was afraid – and he ran. He ran to Gath where Achish was king but his reputation proceeded him. ‘Isn’t this David, the guy who they sing about being a great warrior?’

Now he was afraid of Achish. So he tried something to save himself. He pretended to mad and tore at the city gates and let his spit run down his beard.

So how did the great and famous David get to this point?

One thing – he let his fear overcome his faith.

Fear is a great danger for God’s people. Fear blinds us to the promises and power and even person of God. It blinds us to His love because God’s perfect love will cast out fear. When we are afraid it is because we have turned from God because God never gives us a spirit of fear.

‘Don’t be afraid,’ God says, ‘because I am with you.’ When God is on our side and we give Him his place we need never fear what others God do to us.

It's too bad that David let his fear reign. There was not need for it to reign then or now.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Saying goodbye

As soon as the lad had gone, David arose from a place toward the south, fell on his face to the ground, and bowed down three times. And they kissed one another; and they wept together, but David more so. Then Jonathan said to David, "Go in peace, since we have both sworn in the name of the LORD, saying, 'May the LORD be between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants, forever.' " So he arose and departed, and Jonathan went into the city. – 1 Samuel 20.41-42

Here is an account of a sad farewell between two dear friends. Things like this make the Bible come alive because it makes things so real. These are things that we can all understand.

Even with all the farewells I have had to say in my life I still don’t like them. When we find close friends and learn to love them and treasure their presence it is really hard to say goodbye.

David and Jonathan knew that David could not stay. Jonathan's dad, King Saul, hated David and had tried to kill him. He even tired to kill his son for trying to help David. They worked out a scenario to let David know not to come back to the palace and then they met to say goodbye.

What a sad scene. They shared a tearful embrace and David wept even more than Jonathan.

But separations happen. How many sad farewells have I said at Dublin airport? They don’t get any easier with experience.

There is only one place to find comfort when we have to part – ‘the Lord be between you and me.’ When we say goodbye we can find comfort in the fact that we still have communion in Christ. Though the miles may separate us physically we still have that unbreakable union in Christ. We can trust Him to care for each other. Praise God for that confidence.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Saul feared David

And Saul cast the spear, for he said, "I will pin David to the wall!" But David escaped his presence twice. Now Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with him, but had departed from Saul. Therefore Saul removed him from his presence, and made him his captain over a thousand; and he went out and came in before the people. – 1 Samuel 18.11-13

Jealousy is not the only problem Saul had. His jealousy over David’s praise and success led to another emotion.

Saul could have done well by knowing and applying Hebrews 12.15 where God warns against letting bitterness take root in your life because it will grow and destroy everything.

Saul took out his anger on God by trying to kill David. ‘I will pin David to a wall’ he said. Twice David had escaped Saul’s anger.

But I think the key here is why Saul was afraid of David. He was afraid because he knew the Lord was with David.

It is sad that Saul had known the Lord and had chosen to disobey. He had lost the power of God, but he knew what it was. Saul’s problems were his own fault, but he had to have someone else to blame.

This situation could be solved if we could just do what Jesus said when He summarised The Law with ‘love God and love others.’ When there is love there is not jealousy. When there is love there is no fear.

Thursday, 14 April 2016


So the women sang as they danced, and said: "Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands." Then Saul was very angry, and the saying displeased him; and he said, "They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed only thousands. Now what more can he have but the kingdom?" So Saul eyed David from that day forward.  – 1 Samuel 18.7-9

Saul really had issues. Once he began to run from God and rebel against His way things just got worse and worse for him.

This should have been a day of great celebration. The whole nation should have rejoiced and the king should have rejoiced with them.

David led the armies back to Jerusalem. As they approached the city the excitement built. Everyone like a great victory. Think of the videos we have seen of world-wide celebrations after the end of World War 2. This would have been a similar victory parade.

Saul sat and watched the victorious armies returning. He must have been thrilled at the great victory. There was an indistinct chant from the crowd. As the got closer Saul started to make it out.

Saul has killed his thousand, and David his tens of thousands
Saul has killed his thousand, and David his tens of thousands
Saul has killed his thousand, and David his tens of thousands
Saul has killed his thousand, and David his tens of thousands
Saul has killed his thousand, and David his tens of thousands!!!

And Saul raged. He could not believe what he was hearing. The green-eyed monster took control and ‘Saul eyed David from that day forward.’

Saul became obsessed with David. When he ‘eyed him from that day forward’ it means that he eyed him with suspicion and contempt.

Jealousy is a terrible problem. It is based on pride and discontent. When it comes right down to it it is rooted in the idea that God is not fair. We may take it out, like Saul, on the object of our jealousy, but as much as we don’t like to admit we are blaming God. It happens when we get our eyes off of Him and we get our eyes on ourselves.

So they next time we get upset at another’s success or praise or possessions or situation let’s stop and consider the true root of our feelings. Otherwise there is the real danger that a ‘root of bitterness’ will set in a many will be defiled.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Brotherly love

Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. Saul took him that day, and would not let him go home to his father's house anymore. Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan took off the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, even to his sword and his bow and his belt. – 1 Samuel 18.1-4

David and Jonathan are one of the great pictures friends not only in the Bible, but in all of history and literature. Their love for each other is an example of what true brotherly love is all about.

Sadly, our culture has cheapened the word ‘love.’ We have corrupted what it means to love. A lot of folks have seems to have the idea that ‘love’ only means ‘eros’ and think that if two men love each other it suggests that they are gay. Some even say that Jonathan and David were gay because their love for each other, ‘exceeded the love for women,’ and was just like the ‘love for their own souls.’

But I don’t sense that at all here. I know what brotherly love is like. I have men that I love deeply and would do anything for. Love does not have to mean a physical relationship. It does not mean a marriage or marriage like relationship. Sometimes love is just love.

I think about the men I love in this way. I have men I would do anything for and would do anything for me. The older I get the more I find myself freer to tell my friends that I love them.

The author of Hebrews wrote ‘let brotherly love’ continue. We ought to be able to say ‘I love you’ to our brethren without any shame or being misinterpreted.

‘Love is of God.’ Let us as believers be free to love without fear.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

David's giant faith

So it was, when the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, that David hurried and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine. Then David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone; and he slung it and struck the Philistine in his forehead, so that the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the earth. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. But there was no sword in the hand of David. Therefore David ran and stood over the Philistine, took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him, and cut off his head with it. And when the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. – 1 Samuel 17.48-51

Everyone has heard the story if David and Goliath. It is used in politics and sports and advertising and discussions and debate. When I first visited Ireland in 1992 there was a new beer company coming into the Irish market and they were running an advertising campaign based on them being David and entered the market against the giants already here. It is always the story or the little guy taking on the big guy and we also tend to pull for the Davids over the Goliaths.

This is also a favourite children’s Bible lesson and the theme of a great kiddie song called ‘Only a Boy Named David.’

All of this familiarly is great, but there is also a little danger of, maybe not ‘familiarly breeds contempt,’ but ‘familiarity breeds missing the point.’

This isn’t just a fanciful exciting story. It doesn’t just tell of the victory of the underdog. It tells of the mighty power of God to deliver His people from impossible situations.

Goliath came out with his usual challenge and after a brief exchange David came running out to meet the challenge. Oh how different from me. I tend to cower in the face of a challenge. I tend to put it off, but David ran out, popped a stone in his sling, twirled it about (interesting in itself, go to YouTube and search for ‘ancient sling methods’) and threw the rock at Goliath. God guided the stone and it struck Goliath and knocked him dead.

I really desire the courage it takes to fight my battles that way. There is a battle I struggle with every day. If I had David-like faith it wouldn’t even be a battle because I could just say ‘the Lord has delivered me over and over again for decades and He can take care of this too!’

Lord, give me faith like David to move forward and not be cowed into inaction by fear.

Monday, 11 April 2016

The battle is the Lord's

Then David said to the Philistine, "You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. Then all this assembly shall know that the LORD does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD's, and He will give you into our hands." – 1 Samuel 17.45-47

I would love to be able to slip back in time and just observe this scene. I once when a Sci-fi story about an invention that would not let you go back in time, but to look back in time. I wish I had that invention to be able to see the giant Goliath up on the hill fully kitted out in armour and weapons. When David came forward he must have been stunned. “Who is this champion that Israel in sending out?’

What he saw was a young shepherd unarmoured and unarmed except for a sling and stones in a pouch. No wonder he said ‘am I a dog that you send this lad out with sticks and stones?’

David was unshaken.

‘You can come to me with all you armour and weapons and everything else, but I come to you in the name of the Lord and He is going to give me the victory.’ David knew that the Lord does not save by power or by might but by His spirit. He knew that the battle was the Lord’s not his, and he rested in that truth.

I know what battles I face. I know what I face. I know my own life giants and I know I am powerless to deal with them so I thank my God that it depends on Him and not me.

A lot of giants are too big for me – but none are too big for Him. 

Sunday, 10 April 2016

The right tools

So Saul clothed David with his armor, and he put a bronze helmet on his head; he also clothed him with a coat of mail. David fastened his sword to his armor and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. And David said to Saul, "I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them." So David took them off. Then he took his staff in his hand; and he chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in a shepherd's bag, in a pouch which he had, and his sling was in his hand. And he drew near to the Philistine. – 1 Samuel 17.38-40

The whole setting of this scene is pretty amazing. King Saul would not serve as champion and go out to face Goliath. Young David is willing to do what the king was not willing to do. One would think that the king would have be shamed into action, but no, after a moment or protestation he agrees to let David go.

The Saul suggested that at least David go out kitted out with his armour and weapons.

What was he thinking? When we met Saul is was literally head and shoulders above everyone else. David was a youth When he was all dressed up he couldn't even walk in that equipment. It was Saul’s, not his. So he got what he knew. He grabbed his staff. His trusty sling, and he put five stones in his shepherd’s bag.

David knew that he had to fight his battles the way he knew best. He knew how to use a staff and a sling. It would have been foolish to try to fight with Saul’s armaments.

We need to be sure that we use what God gives us. I have seen a lot of great and famous and world renown preachers. I have know great men of God whole lives challenge me. I have seen preaching techniques that I wish I could emulate because they seem to work so well.

But, while I need to do all I can do to be the best preacher and teacher I can I still have to be me. I have to preach and teach like Roger because that is who I am. I have to use my skills (or lack of them) and my methods (no matter how weak they may seem) and my talents (no matter how they compare to someone else) and my style because that is all I can do. That is what God gave me that is what He wants me to use.

So I need to go out with my staff and sling and stones and leave all the other tools to those who can wield them. I can serve God best when I am me and use what He gave me.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

The Lord delivered me

And Saul said to David, "You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are a youth, and he a man of war from his youth." But David said to Saul, "Your servant used to keep his father's sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it. Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God." Moreover David said, "The LORD, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." And Saul said to David, "Go, and the LORD be with you!" – 1 Samuel 17.33-37

“Are you crazy David?’ Saul said, ‘Who are you to fight the giant? You are just a kid and he has been a warrior since he was a kid. He was fighting when you were sill in nappies!’

But David had an answer.

‘I kept my father’s sheep. Whenever a lion or a bear came after the sheep I would go after it, give it a whack, deliver the sheep, grab the beast, and kill it. I’ve killed both lion and bear and I’ll take care of this Philistine as well.’

“But it really wasn’t me. The Lord delivered me from the animals and He is going to deliver me from this giant as well.’

James addresses this in his letter when we talks about how we ought to rejoice during trials because those trials will prepare us for later trials which lead us to maturity. Just like David had the experience of the lion and the bear to prepare him for the giant God has allowed us to experience His victories of yesterday to prepare us for the giants to come.

When we have seen God work we can take courage that He will be with us whatever we face. So thank God for yesterday's battles so we need not be afraid when we meet our Goliath! He will be with us then like He was in the past.

Friday, 8 April 2016

I'll do it!

Then David said to Saul, "Let no man's heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine." – 1 Samuel 17.32

With the whole army, including King Saul, terrified of Goliath something had to be done. Every morning that giant was on the opposite hill shouting out his threats and every day the Israelites were shaking in their battle sandals. What were they going to do?

David was there and when he saw their plight he said ‘Don’t be afraid! I’ll do it. I’ll fight this Philistine giant!’

This kind of volunteer willing spirit is too often lacking. This reminds me of Isaiah when God said ‘who will I send, who will go for us?’ In responds Isaiah says ‘Here I am, send me.’

This a contrast with other men of the Bible like Moses and Jeremiah who did everything they could to get out of doing what God asked. All we eventually use by God, but how wonderful it is when we can have a David like spirit when it comes time to do the work.

The work that needs to be done is not always as exciting as fighting a giant. Sometimes chairs needs to be moved or dishes need to be washed or toilets need to be cleaned. Sometimes early morning airport runs need to be made or someone needs to be driven to the doctor. Sometimes there is grass to be cut or gardens to be tidied.

You don’t always have to fight giants. God honours the ‘I’ll do it’ attitude when it comes to any kind of service for Him.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Is there not a cause

Now Eliab his oldest brother heard when he spoke to the men; and Eliab's anger was aroused against David, and he said, "Why did you come down here? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your pride and the insolence of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle." And David said, "What have I done now? Is there not a cause?" – 1 Samuel 17.28-29

David was the typical little brother. It looks like he was picked on by the big brothers. When Dad sent him to take provisions Eliab accused him of only coming to see the fight.

If this family was like most families David was probably used to this kind of thing. I think I can safely parrowphrase the story this way.  We raised five boys so we do have a little insight into brothers.

‘What are you doing here you little brat? Does Dad know you’re here? You only came down here to see the fight. You need to go back home before you get yourself in trouble!’

But David wasn’t ruffled.

‘Now what have I done wrong? I came for a reason.’

The obvious reason was to bring the provisions to his brothers, but there was more to it than that. God had sent him there for an express purpose. He came ‘for such a time as this.’

God’s people were in a jam. They needed a man of God to step to the front and confront the Philistine champion. There was indeed a cause and David was the man to step up to the task.

Like David we too have a cause. It may be ‘small’ like bringing the brothers their lunch or it may be huge like facing up to a giant. We never know where doing the right thing might lead us.

Yes, there is a cause. What will we do about it?

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Taking care of the little things

Then Jesse said to his son David, "Take now for your brothers an ephah of this dried grain and these ten loaves, and run to your brothers at the camp. And carry these ten cheeses to the captain of their thousand, and see how your brothers fare, and bring back news of them." Now Saul and they and all the men of Israel were in the Valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. So David rose early in the morning, left the sheep with a keeper, and took the things and went as Jesse had commanded him. And he came to the camp as the army was going out to the fight and shouting for the battle. For Israel and the Philistines had drawn up in battle array, army against army. And David left his supplies in the hand of the supply keeper, ran to the army, and came and greeted his brothers. – 1 Samuel 17.17-22

When God looked at the next king He says He would look on the heart. When Samuel went through all of Jesse’s sons he came to the youngest, David, who the Bible calls ‘a man after God’s own heart.’

As we go through David’s life we find out that being a man after God’s heart did not make him perfect, but there are things we can learn about his character.

The first thing I notice is his attention to detail and his responsibility. The older brothers are out fighting the Philistines. Jesse calls David to take provisions to the front.

How exciting that must have been. The little brother gets to go out and see the action!

But David had a job. He was taking care of the sheep. The easy thing to do was to say ‘forget those dumb sheep, taking provisions to the front is the important thing!’

David doesn’t just head off. Before he does he makes sure that his sheep are cared for. He didn’t do the big things until he made sure the little things were sorted out.

Attention to the little things is a mark of character. It is an example we can take for ourselves in serving our Lord. It is not always exciting and glamorous, but no matter what we need to make sure that we are responsible to make sure the little things are sorted as well as the big things.  

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Facing a giant

And the Philistine said, “I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.” When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid. – 1 Samuel 17.10-11

The Israelites and the Philistines were old enemies. They had battled back and forth forever and no one could seem to really get the upper hand. We have a lot of stories about their battles.

Here we have something that caught Israel off guard. There was a custom in the day that armies could settle their issues by each one sending forth a champion to fight the other. These two men would fight and whoever won the fight their side would win the battle.

That sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it? Instead of hundreds or thousands dying a bloody violent battle only two men would fight. I just listened to a podcast about how battles were fought in these days and it was horrible. I am tempted to go into details, but will leave it here. It was simply grotesque.

So this was a nice solution.

Until the enemy sends out a champion like Goliath of Gath. He was over nice feet tall. His armour and his weapons were massive. The Philistines knew that no one would want to battle this guy and the battle would be over. Israel was 'dismayed and greatly afraid.'

So what does a nation do when it faces a giant? What do you and I do when we face our own giants of fear or anxiety or financial woes or physical needs or emotional struggles or whatever that giant might be?

If you are not looking at a giant at the moment you will – and probably sooner than you think. And chances are the response will be fear and dismay.

So what do we do? Let’s see what happened when this giant appeared and see what we can learn.

Monday, 4 April 2016

God looks on the heart

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16.7

Saul’s disobedience and refusal to serve God meant that he was the first and last king of his line. His son Jonathan would have been line to be the next king, but Saul’s refusal to do right meant Jonathan would never have that chance. Ishbosheth, another of Saul’s sons, would attempt to take the kingdom, but would fail.

So God sent Samuel to anoint a new king. God told him to go the the house of Jesse and Samuel would find the king there. Now Jesse had a slew of sons. They were fine strapping lads and there seemed to be no doubt that any of the older brothers would be suitable leaders.

But to Jesse’s amazement brother after brother was rejected. Finally Samuel said ‘are there any more sons?’ Jesse admitted that the youngest was there, but he was out tending the sheep.

‘Go get him,’ Samuel said.

So they brought little David to the room and Samuel confirmed that this was the future king.

The question is pretty clear – why did God choose little David instead of the older brothers?

As Samuel puts it ‘man looks on the outward appearance but God looks in the heart.’ God often does not use the ‘obviously qualified’ to do His work. Paul expands on this when we wrote that God doesn’t often use the wise or the strong or the mighty or the noble to do His work.

God is looking for servants who have the right heart. God isn't looking for the best and the brightest and the strongest – he is looking to the man with the right heart of service for Him.

The truth is that most of us are never going to look like superstars – but God doesn’t need superstars. All He needs are willing hearts.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Fearing people

Then Saul said to Samuel, "I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. Now therefore, please pardon my sin, and return with me, that I may worship the LORD." – 1 Samuel 15.24-25

Saul’s lack of leadership ability only gets worse and worse. His disobedience and stubbornness and rebellion and self will are well know by now.

But here we see another problem as we was confessing his sin and trying to explain why he did what he did.

‘I feared the people and obeyed their words.’

Be more afraid of what people think than what God thinks is a serious problem. Letting men influence us more than God influences us is sin.

And still I suspect most of deal with that fear at times.

I think the problem is that we have to deal with man right here and now. We have to deal with their disappointed looks or angry faces or mean words or their rejection right now.

God is ‘invisible’ for now. It is easy to feel like we can deal with Him and those repercussions later.

In other words we are in the same old trap of looking at what we can see instead of looking at the invisible. It doesn’t make much sense because we know that the things we see are only temporary and the things we can’t see are eternal.

We need to keep our eternal focus in mind if we are not going to fear men. The Bible tells us that with Jesus on our side we do not need to fear what man can do to us.

We need not fear man if our focus is on the eternal.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Rebellion and stubbornness

For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,
And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
He also has rejected you from being king.” – 1 Samuel 15.23

We have a tendency, I think, to classify sins according to our standards. Some sins are really bad and some sins are, bad, but, well, you know…

Usually it is the sins we don’t struggle with which are the really bad ones. We would all agree that things like murder and adultery and violence against the innocent are really bad sins.

I would think that next on the list would be things like witchcraft and idolatry and worshiping false Gods.

But what about things like rebellion and being stubborn? Could they really be that bad in the light of eternity?

Rebellion is like witchcraft and stubbornness is like idolatry.

Can they be that bad?

Let’s think about it for a minute. What do rebellion and stubbornness really mean? Rebellion means I don’t accept God ordained authority. Stubbornness means U don’t accept God’s way. Both mean that I have to have my way.

Some people take pride in being a rebel. Some are proud of being so stubborn. God doesn’t take such a high view of those things. He delights in a meek and humble spirit.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Obedience is the very best way

So Samuel said:
“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
As in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams. – 1 Samuel 15.22

"Obedience is the very best way
To show that you believe:
Doing exactly what the Lord commands,
Doing it happily.
Action is the key--do it immediately,
The joy you will receive!
Obedience is the very best way
To show that you believe.
O-B-E-D-I-E-N-C-E (Yes, sir!)
Obedience is the very best way
To show that you believe."

This little children’s chorus is one that a lot of children know. It can be just a nice little children’s songs I suppose, but it really does have a powerful message for all of us because obedience really is the very best way to show what we believe.

To obey is better than sacrifices as Samuel said here. That means that it is better than any of our religiousity or sacraments or traditions. To obey God is the real test of our faith.

Anybody can play the religious game. Folks do it all the time. It doesn’t take anything to go through a religious service or a sacrament or whatever. Folks can get baptised and still not be obedient.

Obedience is where the rubber meets the road. We obey what we believe in.

Is our faith strong enough that we can trust God enough to obey Him?