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Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Tale of Three Kings

In 1 Samuel, we meet God preparing a boy to become a man of God and a God-anointed king. The years of travel and training for David lasted a long time, about twenty-five years. When David began his reign of the Israelites, he was almost middle-aged. What made God choose someone of lowly birth to lead His people? What is it that David possessed that made him fit to be king? How did David’s reign presage the coming of Christ?  

From the beginning of David’s life, he realized he would be in the shadow of his brothers. His brothers probably teased and taunted him every day. David had seven older brothers. His father, Jesse, was the grandson of Boaz, who married Ruth and made her acceptable in the community of the Israelites (Ruth 4). Ruth believed in the one true God enough to follow Naomi, her mother-in-law, from Moab back to Israel because of the drought in Moab.

Jesse was a leader of his time, according to the Midrash, an ancient commentary on the Jewish Torah. The people considered him more blessed than others because he had eight sons. Why, then, did they treat David like an outcast? The Bible gives no specifics why, but Jewish writers say that his mother, Nitzevet, conceived David through trickery with Jesse. David’s seven brothers thought she had been unfaithful. They wanted to kill her and the unborn child. Yet Jesse told them not to harm her and the baby. This provides a possible explanation why David's brothers and father belittled David and gave him the lowliest job of being a shepherd. There are, therefore, two reasons for the brothers to think so little of David – he was the youngest and possibly conceived through trickery. As the eighth son, though David was the lowest of the brothers, he was in the best position to learn. He was humble. David, being meek, sought after God in the quiet times when he was with the sheep. He had time and quiet to learn the voice of God. David penned the words, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). He was open to hearing the voice of God; he was a young boy after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14).

God told Samuel to anoint another king for the nation of Israel. Saul disobeyed God when He told him to kill every Amalekite and their animals. Saul kept king Agag and the best of the animals alive against God’s command (1 Samuel 15). He did not repent for disobeying God then and just sporadically during the next twenty-five years in which God trained David to be the king of the Israelites. God was sorry He listened to the Israelites when they wanted to choose a tall man who was a natural leader to be their king (1 Samuel 9:2, 10:23-24). The problem was this natural leader would not subjugate his will for God’s will. God cut Saul’s line from the generation of future kings because of his disobedience.

Because God removed Saul’s family from being kings of Israel, He sent Samuel to Jesse’s family. Samuel, one by one, went by each of the first seven of Jesse’s sons. God did not tell him to anoint any of them. Samuel inquired if there was another son since he understood God said he would anoint one of Jesse’s sons. With trepidation, Jesse mentioned the youngest son, David. Samuel sent for Jesse’s last son, the one whom God desired to be king of His people. He anointed David as the future king of Israel. (Notice God did not tell him his reign would begin many years later and not then.)

Why, of these large strapping young men of Jesse, did God want David to lead Israel? Maybe the question should be - what could God do with young David that would make him fit to be king of His people, Israel? Think about birth rank in families. Often fathers train the first sons to be strong men who lead families and people. Since Jesse was a leader in the community, his community would expect the son’s of Jesse to be future leaders. Jesse and the rabbi trained them in tradition, history, wisdom from their patriarchs, and in the knowledge of the Lord. They were a family to whom Israel would turn to find their future leaders. Yet, there always is a last son when a first son exists. The role of the last son often turns out to be the baby, the momma’s boy, or the scapegoat. He is the one who is least considered to be a leader and who, by his place in the family, is least expected to make decisions. Family members look upon the last son as needing specific directions about what to do. Did David live up to that role? It appears his seven older brothers and Jesse wanted to put him in that role. They wanted to get him out of the home to avoid him dishonoring the family name. (When David took bread to his brothers as they trembled at Goliath’s feet, they ridiculed him for thinking he was good enough to leave the sheep fields and face battle.) 

We find out who young David was in our reading of 1 Samuel. David was an obedient boy. He learned obedience at his mother’s knee and through the teaching harshness of his father and brothers. Doing right was easier than wrong. By doing right, David could stay out of the limelight. This obedience put him in the right place for hearing from God. David grew accustomed to subjugating his wants to those of his parents and elder brothers. As a son in an Israelite family, he would have learned the ways God spoke to and took care of His people. In the fields watching the sheep was a good place to learn to be still and quiet. It was a perfect place to hear the voice of God. For David, it became the perfect place to speak to God, too. The fields, too, became his battleground as he fought lion, bear, and wolf in defense of his sheep. Does God use people whose ears are attuned to Him? Does God use people who will fight for the sheep? As others have noted, God does not necessarily choose the equipped, but He equips those He chooses. 

God chose David. David’s was more than just in the sheep fields and with his family. He would have royal training, too. David became the psalmist for tormented king Saul. It was the words and music God put into David’s heart that soothed Saul. Later David’s presence enraged Saul. His presence always reminded Saul God removed His blessing from him and placed it on David. David’s close friendship with Jonathan, Saul’s son, made Saul jealous. Eventually Saul became jealous for the position of king Jonathan and his descendants could have had as his heirs. Saul became so tormented he even tried to kill his own son with a spear at a public banquet (1 Samuel 20:33). From that point in time through another twenty to twenty-three years, Saul spent most of his waking hours plotting to capture and kill David. He wanted to remove God’s hand from David and place it back on himself. Saul became so obsessed with this that he compromised the security of the Promised Land. 

During David’s time of running from Saul, he hid and grew. David grew in leadership, military acuity, diplomacy, judgment, and faith in Yahweh. With each attempt on his life by Saul, he grew to be the man God would have be the king of His people. Saul grew more self-absorbed as shown by his actions. As David grew in the knowledge of the Lord, Saul decreased in power and control. This does not mean each of David’s teaching moments were brilliant shining examples of growth for later generations to follow. David was human, too. He slid into the depths because of making human choices instead of following God’s choices, such as asking Achish, the king of the Philistines, to give him protection from Saul (1 Samuel 26-27). Yet David learned he must ask and listen to God’s decisions about each step upon the way (1 Samuel 30). 

What was the difference between Saul and David? They both started their reigns listening to God. Still they both disobeyed or followed their own desires. Yet David learned and repented while Saul never repented for allowing king Agag to remain alive or for most of his other sins. As a human, David possessed none of the “things” that made him more of a king God wanted on his throne. He was not the tallest of Israelites as the Israelites wanted when they chose Saul. David was not the one who commanded the following of many people when God chose him. He was, though, a young man from God’s chosen people who listened to God’s voice. David’s job as shepherd and musician for the king was not so exalted that he thought himself bigger than Yahweh God. His financial security was not so large he felt he could depend upon himself. David’s birth did not commend to him supernatural power and authority, as would his descendent, Jesus. He did not dress better than anyone dresses, smell better than anyone smells, or command vast numbers of people. David was the last son of a son of Israel who received no promise of an inheritance. He stank like the animals he tended. David’s family mocked and forgot him. David possessed nothing except his belief in God Almighty.

Why was David’s reign so important then? Why do we look to it as the foretelling of the future reign of Christ? To answer these questions, let us look at it backwards in time. Jesus was the son of the human woman, Mary, and the heavenly Father, Yahweh. For humanity, Jesus needed to be seen as a human, one of them, having gone through things each person normally goes through and faced what they would face. Yet humanity needed a Messiah who would come in power and might, like a warrior king, to defeat the forces of Satan and reign in power and majesty. For God the Father, the sin of humanity separates each person from Him because His holiness cannot be in the presence of sin. Humanity needed an adequate means to remove the stain of sin so they could have a renewed and clean/pure relationship with God. Jesus is the answer to both these needs -  the needs of the Father and the needs of humanity. Jesus was the little boy born into a poor carpenter’s home. He lived life as an Israelite boy growing up under the tutelage of his father, Joseph, and the rabbis at the synagogue. Jesus, too, was the perfect sacrifice the Father required to purify humanity of their sins. He lived His life without sin, even in the face of blatant temptation by Satan during his forty days in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11).

David, in comparison to Jesus – boy and man, was a young boy, the lowest of his brothers. His family cast him out (as a shepherd), almost to the point of not acknowledging him as family. David learned to recognize God's voice as a youth. Jesus knew the Father’s voice as a youth, too. At age twelve, Jesus stayed in the temple and taught the other temple-goers. He came to earth to lead the people to know and follow the Father. God chose David to lead His people to perceive, understand, and follow Him, Yahweh, I AM. Both David and Jesus began their work for the Father at a tender age. The people despised them. David and Jesus chose not to do his own will but that of the Father. 

How did David’s reign presage Jesus’ reign? Old Testament prophets foretold Jesus would come and be a king from the line of David. Jesus came to be the sacrifice for His people. (David sacrificed his will most of his life to God’s.) How is Jesus’ reign more important? David was the king of the chosen people. Jesus came to be the King of God’s children, Israelite and Gentile. David’s sacrifice of himself and his will to God was for the people of that time. Jesus’ sacrifice of His life was for the people of all time. David's sacrifice could not erase sin. Jesus' sacrifice erases the penalty and guilt of sin for those who repent and believe in Him.

Knowing this, the reign of David as “a man after God’s own heart” and the reign of Christ as God’s Salvation, both of which required sacrifice, it might be scary to consider allowing yourself to subjugate yourself to the Father (1 Samuel 13:14). Consider this: if you do not allow God to lead you on a daily, personal basis to live the best life, you are choosing the opposite that of allowing Satan to win by demanding your own way. Your way is not the best way because your view of life is limited, but God’s is endless. He knows best how to go through the path of your life. If you refuse to live God’s way, you are choosing to live Satan’s way. There are just two ways. God loves you and wants the best for you. Satan, as the master of chaos, does not know love and seeks his own best. He sees life as a game. The game, to him, is to keep the Father from getting as many people as He can from entering heaven’s gates. Satan cannot go to heaven and he does not want you to go to heaven either. He is jealous. He is tricky. He is confusing.
Which path would you rather choose –
wait and earn God’s voice and listen to and follow Him as the young boy David did
stand on your own two feet, be the master of your own life, and be wrong and unable to make it right because of your human limitations, like Saul?

Forever after, God and His followers recognized David as a “man after God’s own heart.”
You can choose. 

Do you want to be a person after God’s own heart?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Light Bearing

God’s Word brought to my attention again we who profess Jesus Christ as Lord are supposed to have the countenance of Him showing upon our faces. Considering that has made me think back to the last time someone commented upon the “shine of Jesus” in me. Has it been a while for you, too? Do not get me wrong; I do work for Jesus in the ministry to which He has put me. I do study His Word and pray regularly. Yet the question makes me think. 

In 2 Corinthians 4:6-7, Paul spoke about the light shining in the darkness and making the glory of God known. He, however, did not leave it at the “oh that” stage. He took it closer to home and stated, “We possess this precious treasure, the divine light of the Gospel…” (AMP) Wow, did that surprise you? How long has it been since you thought about being the bearer of “light?” What is this light? Have we ever really grabbed hold of it? Have we ever really considered we are supposed to bear light in our world every day? 

In looking back through the Bible, God’s first command was “Let there be light.” You may be wondering, what the creation of light has to do with being a bearer of the light. Well, let us continue on our journey. Consider this, before there was light, there was total darkness; nothing was visible. This prefaces God’s providing of light again later during the history of humanity. God’s countenance is so blindingly light; therefore, people cannot look upon His face.

Remember Moses, the man who saw a burning bush that was not consumed ? Yes, that is he. Moses was the one whom God called to Himself. He called him to the burning bush. God called Moses to climb Mount Sinai. Remember, when Moses came down from the mountain after being there 40 days, his face shone with the radiance of God. Exodus 34:29 says, “When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hand, he did not realize the skin of his face shone and sent forth beams by reason of his speaking with the Lord.” [AMP] The Author of light became THE Light for His people. It makes sense since the creation of light pushed back the darkness of the earth, the word "Light" is more than a metaphor meaning to push back the darkness of humanity’s mind and circumstances. (Remember, the prince of darkness roams in our fallen world now and the Light of God must illuminate for humanity the error and depravity to which Satan introduced us.) 

Advance through history another 3500+ years and you find another Light coming in the world. John was the forerunner for this light, proclaiming His certainty before he had himself seen it. (See, it is not so farfetched an idea to think of Light in more terms than natural light of day.) John proclaimed in chapter 1 this Light was present in the beginning, at the time of creation, yet God did not create Him. He created the light. John said, now [at his time] the Light was coming into the realm of humanity to bring light/enlightenment for the world to see truth and return to the Father/Creator God. In John 1:9, John stated, “There it was – the true Light was coming into the world, the genuine, perfect steadfast Light that illumines every person.” [Amplified Bible] At that time in history, the Jews knew of the prophecies of a Messiah. They heard from Isaiah when God spoke with him and said, “He [God] says, ‘It is too light a thing that you should be My servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of the judgments of Israel; I will also give you for a light to the nations, that My salvation may extend to the end of the earth.’” (Isaiah 49:6 [AMP]) The Jews knew of this and other prophecies, so they clamored to John for baptism as repentance for sin; yet, they did not know Jesus. They did not accept Jesus to be the Light of whom John spoke. The Jews were eager for the Messiah but did not claim Him as their own. 

From that point in time onward, the apostles spoke of the Light often. Paul spoke of it most, but in a different context from what people heard previously. Paul and Barnabas spoke to the Jews in Acts 13:47 saying, “For so the Lord has charged us, saying, I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles (the heathen), that you may bring eternal salvation to the uttermost parts of the earth.” [AMP] Further, in his ministry to the Gentiles, Paul spoke to the Corinthians and said,
For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:5-7 [AMP])
The Light that separated darkness from day and the Light from the Creator/Author, became Light to show us, all humankind, the way in a dark world. 

Can the light that shone from Moses' face, Paul’s sermons and face, and the faces of Christians throughout the ages still be seen today? The challenge stands: when was the last time someone said your face was radiant after your time with the Father? Maybe it was just today. If it has been a while, then you need to do something.
Go back into the presence of the Lord.
Worship and adore Him.
Confess and seek forgiveness.
Thank Him for His hand is your world.
Commit yourself anew to His service.
The biggest thing, though, is to remain in Him.
Are you as near to the Father as Moses, Paul, and Abraham were or other people today, such as well-known evangelist Billy Graham? We are weak earthen vessels and we must strive to remain in Him. Yet God chooses us to bear His light. He does not choose us because of what we have done or can do, but because of Who He is, His power, and for whom He still wants to be God.

What is stopping you from bearing the Light?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

(ad)Ventures in a "New Thing"

Isaiah 43:6b-9a, 18-21 [AMP]:
“Bring My sons from afar and My daughters from the ends of the earth – 7 Even everyone who is called by My name, whom I have created for My glory, whom I have formed, whom I have made. 8 Bring forth the blind people who have eyes and the deaf who have ears. 9Let all the nations be gathered together and let the peoples be assembled…18 Do not remember the former things; neither consider the things of old. 19 Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. 20 The beasts of the field honor Me, the jackals and the ostriches, because I give waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to My people, My chosen,  21 the people I formed for Myself, that they may set forth My praise and they shall do it.” 

“7 And to the angel (messenger) of the assembly (church) in Philadelphia write: These are the words of the Holy One, the True One, He Who has the key of David, Who opens and no one shall shut, Who shuts and no one shall open:  I know your record of works and what you are doing. See! I have set before you a door wide open, which no one is able to shut; I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept My Word and guarded My message and have not renounced or denied My name. Take note! I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet and learn and acknowledge that I have loved you. 10 Because you have guarded and kept My word of patient endurance [have held fast the lesson of My patience with the expectant endurance that I give you], I also will keep you safe from the hour of trial (testing) which is coming on the whole world to try those who dwell upon the earth. 11 I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one may rob you and deprive you of your crown. 12 He who overcomes is victorious. I will make him a pillar in the sanctuary of My God; he shall never be put out of it or go out of it, and I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which descends from My God out of heaven, and My own new name. 13He who can hear, let him listen to and heed what the Spirit says to the assemblies (churches).” 

Through the prophet Isaiah, God often reminded people He called them to Himself. In this passage of Isaiah, He did that again but He add a few things. God told them He made them for His glory. The Father told them He would do a "new thing," too.   

As relayed by mouth, the people of God told each generation - from father to child - God created humankind. Maybe at one time that meant much to them; yet, we as readers of Israelite history see they often forgot that one point. We note they started on a journey with Abraham. They stacked stones, we read, as a remembrance of where God met them and what He did. We notice they became impatient waiting for God to “show” Himself to their blind eyes. They danced and lived with people who bowed to other gods. In addition, we witness their repenting and returning to God. They repeated this cycle through the generations. As God’s people, their lives were a journey of faithfulness and unfaithfulness, of peaks and valleys of faith. God gave them food and drink and protected them from their enemies and themselves. As a protective Father, He slew their enemies from other nations. The Father provided a sacrifice for the enemy - death, which came through sin. This sacrifice is Jesus. 

In another episode of Israelite life, God said He created them for a purpose. Imagine the experience of a child when he learns he lives because his parents wanted and loved him before his birth. Now, imagine the Father when He was speaking to the Israelites. He called them His sons and daughters and said He had a purpose for them. The Israelites were not just an after-thought. God’s purpose was for them to be in a familial relationship with Him and to bring Him glory. Would this not make a child more apt to want to make the parents proud, knowing the parents wanted him or her before his or her birth? I imagine this loving relationship brought a response of love. It might have brought a response of regret when the child did not bring glory to the family name, just as a person feels in his or her relationship with the Father when he or she brings dishonor to God. God did not stop loving and providing because of the Israelites’ sin and regret. He could have left the Israelites sensing shame and remorse always, but that was not His plan. God’s plan is for His children to be in a relationship with Him. Yahweh states, “Behold, I am doing a new thing!” (Is 43:19a [AMP]) The Father desired their familial love, and they turned away. He would do a new thing. God provided a better way. It was a promise, a new covenant. 

Those of us who are in a relationship with God understand this “new thing,” the better way. We who have walked away from a close relationship to the Father know of His better way, too. For those who do not know and have not heard, the better way is through admitting Jesus is the Messiah, believing He died for each of our sins, and confessing wrong doings/sins. This is the simplest way to become a part of the family of God. Confession is not the easiest thing to do and we will not always be obedient to give ourselves to God’s ways. We are willful, strong-minded, and want our own ways and desires. This stubbornness on our part creates a wall between the Father and us; yet, He does not hold that against us and break off further relationship with us. The Father loves each of us and calls us His children.

Consider the first six verses of Revelation 3, the Spirit, through John, spoke to the church in Sardis who strayed from the lessons they learned. The Holy Spirit stated they must return to what they learned. Not everyone in Sardis, though, had strayed. To those whose names God wrote in His book, He calls them His children. Further in the chapter, we see the church at Laodicea vacillating between being workers for God and being lazy. The Father wants them to choose which they want to be – followers or not - because being both does not glorify Him nor give them a good reputation. God through the Holy Spirit reminded them they could do nothing for themselves; they would be poor and blind without Him. The church at Philadelphia working for the Lord, contrasts with the churches at Sardis and Laodicea. They did not shut the door the Father opened. The Philadelphians guarded His message, proclaimed it, and not denounced Him. In Revelations 3, John said God would make those who served themselves and Satan bow before the church at Philadelphia. That was the reward for the Philadelphian church’s faithfulness and obedience. He further promised to keep the congregation at Philadelphia safe from the trials and tribulations that will come and test the whole world. God makes His point at the end of Revelation 3. He rebukes, corrects, convicts, and convinces people of their wrong, not to castigate them, but because He loves them. He is the God of love. 

God loves us so much He did a new thing; He sent His Son, Jesus, to die because of the sin of humanity. The judgment for sin is death. The Father showed His power over death by resurrecting Jesus from the dead three days after His mortal death. God showed He has power over everything. That is the “new thing” alluded to in Isaiah and which the churches at Sardis, Laodicea, and Philadelphia learned.  

The Father asks you to be “enthusiastic and earnest and burning with zeal.” (Rev. 3:19b [Amplified Bible]) He does not want us to be sleepers or fence-straddlers as the people of Sardis and Laodicea were. God calls us to be as the church of Philadelphia, to be guards of His message, holding fast with patience and endurance (Rev. 3:8-10). He wants us to venture everything we have in total abandon with Him, with endurance. Remember, He who faced sin and died was powerful enough to defeat sin and death and live again. Jesus gives this power to you and me. His power makes our perseverance happen. This perseverance, because of our relationship with Him, because of our faithfulness in telling the Gospel, is what brings Him glory. Our being in a relationship with God is our purpose and brings the Father glory. “He who is able to hear let him listen to and heed what the Holy Spirit says to the churches” (Rev. 3:22 [AMP]).