Category: 1 Samuel (Page 1 of 4)

The Lord Forbid

When he had the chance in that cave at En Gedi, David did not kill Saul. You would expect 1 Samuel 24:4 to say, “David crept up unnoticed and cut Saul’s throat.” Or maybe, “David crept up unnoticed and cut Saul’s kidneys out” or “…cut Saul’s heart out through his back.” Instead, surprisingly, the text says, “David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.”

And he felt bad for doing that. He regretted it immediately.

“David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. He said to his men, ‘The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.’ With these words, David rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul.” ~1 Samuel 24:5-7

There’s all kinds of symbolism here with the cutting of the robe. What really fascinates me, though, is why David didn’t kill Saul. It’s so uncharacteristic for David not to kill Saul. It goes totally against David’s nature. As a boy, David killed lions and bears to protect his sheep. He began his military career by killing Goliath. He began his marriage by killing 200 Philistines. He killed hundreds and hundreds of Philistines, Geshurites, Girizites, Amalakites, Kenites, Moabites, Edomites, and Ammonites. David had killed his tens of thousands. They wrote a song about it and it went viral.

David was a killer. But he didn’t kill Saul. Saul is the one man out of the tens of thousands David had the most motivation and the most reason to kill. Saul’s hunting David down like a wild pig through the canyons and wadis of the desert. But David let him go. “The Lord forbid.” Why?

Because Saul is the Lord’s anointed. He’s anointed by God, he’s established by God. He represents God. David’s men see their ruthless enemy in a vulnerable position and they want to take him out. But David sees the king anointed by God. This King Saul–the man and his position–belongs to God. He represents God.

This is not about Saul, this is about God. David turns this crude scene in a dark cave in the Judean Wilderness into a beautiful act of faith and worship to God. This is true faith and total trust in the protection and provision of the Lord, no matter what.

And it’s not about David. This is all about David’s faith in God and in God’s ways and God’s timing. If David had doubted for one second that God was protecting him, he would have killed Saul. If David had been concerned about his own reputation, he would have killed Saul. If pride were motivating David, if he was moved by his own instincts of right and wrong, if David was worried about protecting his rights or securing his safety, if he were compelled by the world’s sense of fairness and revenge and power, he would have slashed Saul’s throat. But David is motivated solely by his faith and trust in God and in God’s ways and in God’s timing. The very idea of killing Saul is unthinkable to David. He regrets even the insult of cutting his robe. Not because of Saul, but because of God.

Trusting the Lord is a lot more than just going to church a couple of times a month, reading your Bible, and not cussing. Faith in the Lord to protect and provide means faith in the Lord to protect and provide in every single situation. God is in charge of “this thing,” whatever “this thing” is for you right now.

Jonathan had told David earlier that this kingdom thing is going to work out. This thing God is doing in you and through you–he’s going to make sure it happens. David professed that same faith and it controlled David’s thoughts and actions. In the cave at En Gedi, David refused violence. He refused to employ a violent solution to his problems, even when his best friends were telling him it was God’s will. Yeah, the kingdom was falling apart. Yeah, David was being falsely accused and treated unfairly. But Saul is the Lord’s anointed. Saul bears the image of God. Period. And David is going to let the Lord take care of it.

We are living in a world we’ve never lived in before. Right now, in the United States, in 2024, today, almost everything feels messed up. We are living in a post-modern, post-Christian, post-truth world and it feels wrong.

As disciples of Christ, nobody’s threatening our religious freedoms or our physical safety–that’s not the problem. Things feel messed up and wrong for Christians because Christians are no longer in control. Christians don’t have the cultural power or the societal authority we once had which, it seems to me, we were never intended by God to have in the first place. But as our culture and our society increasingly line up against the Church and the Kingdom of God, we can be tempted to take matters into our own hands with the bloody and violent methods of the world.

And I say, to borrow David’s words, the Lord forbid!

We don’t slash the throats of our lawmakers and politicians with angry emails and insulting Facebook forwards and posts. Young people who think differently, older people who act differently, migrating people who dress differently, outsiders who speak differently, people who vote differently, people who believe differently and live differently–we don’t cut out their kidneys with an accusing finger in their face. We don’t take out their knees with out harsh words and bitter complaints. We don’t rip out their hearts with bumper stickers and boycotts and T-shirts and flags. The Lord forbid.

All these people are created by our God. And loved by our God. And they bear the divine image of our God.

If we’re trying to kill them, we’ll never save them.

This Kingdom thing is going to work out. His perfect time frame. His perfect ways. His perfect plan.

May we trust in him.



There’s Always a Way

The Dallas Mavericks won their first playoff game in franchise history in 1984 over the Seattle Supersonics and attempted zero three-pointers in the process. Zero three-point shots. No attempts. In the first two games against the Clippers in this current first round playoff series, the Mavs have hit 35 of 70 three-point shots to take a commanding two-games-to-none lead. Times have changed.


If our God sees things that you can’t see and if our God chooses and uses nobodies and calls them beloved, then there is always a way for you. And God has already got it figured out.

It doesn’t matter how big and imposing the obstacles in your life. It doesn’t matter how numerous the forces trying to knock you off track or destroy you. Or destroy your marriage. Or your kids. Or your peace. Or your faith. It doesn’t matter how far back you are at the end of the line or where you are at the bottom of the pile. Or how you got there. There’s always a way for you and our God has already figured it out.

Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of God tells us, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand… My Father has given them to me… no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:28-30). 2 Corinthians 1 says God has delivered us, he is delivering us, and we have set our hope on him that he will continue to deliver us.

Our God is willing to break through the barriers of time and space to do the impossible, to come to earth in your flesh and blood, to put on your skin and to take on your sin and suffering to rescue you and save you right now today and forever. With humans this is impossible; but with our God, all things are possible!

As long as there is one lost sheep wandering around in the wilderness, as long as there is one dusty coin hiding in a dark corner, as long as there is one lonely child desperate and crying in a faraway pig pen, our God will do whatever it takes – he will not stop – until he finds you and brings you home! He will bring to completion the good thing he has started in you. The Bible says he is faithful and he will do it.

And I know the voices are there. You hear the voices. So do I.

You messed that up big time. You failed her big time. You let him down. You’ll never change your behavior. You’re trapped. You’re dead.

Like Goliath, those voices, those words, are there in your head every morning. They’re ringing in your ears every night. The insults, the mistreatment, the lies – penetrating your soul and just sitting there. Heavy.

You’re not a good parent. You’re not a good Christian. God hasn’t really totally forgiven you of that.

You hear the voices. You sense the size of the enemy. But there is a way for you and God has already figured it out. And he’s already done it. Jesus Christ willingly took all your sins with you to the cross. And God’s Holy Spirit, the same Holy Spirit who came upon David in power, raised Jesus from the grave to destroy forever the forces of sin and death and Satan and anything that might separate you from God. That same Spirit of the Lord lives inside you with that same eternal power. It’s not fate or luck – God’s Spirit is in you. God’s Spirit has taken hold of you like he did David and he won’t let you go. You can betray and stumble and sin and fail, but he will never fail!

In Jesus Christ, all your enemies have already been defeated. All of them. Name them. The voices are wrong. The enemy is dead. The way for you is clear in the Way, the Truth, and the Life in Jesus. And, to quote David, you and I and the whole world know that there is a God in Israel. And he has chosen you and he loves you and you belong to him today and forever.



Somebodies Out of Nobodies

The introduction to David in 1 Samuel – his anointing at his father Jesse’s house and his battle with Goliath – tells us something very important about our God. Our Lord takes nobodies and makes them somebodies. He does incredible mind-blowing things with people he finds at the back of the line or at the bottom of the pile.

Three people are described as “big” in 1 Samuel 16-17. Eliab, the first born son who was not anointed king; Saul, the king chosen by the people but rejected by God; and Goliath, the enemy of God’s people who was killed by David. David is the “little” one in this story. But he is beloved. Just like Israel. Little and small, but chosen and loved by God. This is how our God works. Think of what you were when you were called.

“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth (he’s talking about us). But God chose the foolish things of this world… God chose the weak things of this world. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are…. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus who has become for us… our righteousness, holiness, and redemption.” ~1 Corinthians 1:26-30

David was not even a player. He’s got no potential in the opening scene. He was the youngest son and his dad completely forgot about him. But God chose him and made him king. God worked in and through David to bring salvation to his people. This is how God does things.

Through Jesus he takes a poor fisherman and makes him the foundation of his eternal Church. He takes a young man with anger issues and, through him, gives us the most beautiful words about love in the whole Bible. He takes a persecutor of the Church and a killer of Christians and makes him the greatest missionary and church planter in history. That’s exactly how our God works. Because when things happen that just don’t make sense, God gets all the glory and praise.

His power is made perfect in our weakness. And his matchless grace is received as a gift.



Seeing What Others Can’t

We took in our first Sod Poodles game of the new season yesterday, enjoying a 6-3 Amarillo win over Midland to secure a series split with the RockHounds. We sat in Dale Cooper’s seats, it was Buddy Reed bobblehead day, and I came up one ice cream helmet short of eating for the cycle. A wonderful day at the downtown ballpark.


We’ve started a new sermon series here at Central on the life of David. And it’s complicated. David is chosen by God to be Israel’s king, but he’s a mess. He commits public adultery and proxy murder. He joins the enemy army and he’s obsessed with revenge. He doesn’t get along with his wives, his children, or his troops. He is responsible for some of the most atrocious acts of cruelty and selfishness in the Bible. Yet, somehow, he is a described as “a man after God’s own heart.”

It’s complicated.

One of the questions we’re asking each week during this series is How does David reflect God’s heart? Yesterday we looked at the familiar story of David’s battle with Goliath. And we determined that one thing David and our God have in common is that they see what others can’t.

Romans 4 tells us that God gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were. That’s how David is, too.

David sees the giant enemy of God as small and weak and insignificant. The very sight of Goliath paralyzed the Israelites. His size, his strength, his words – the Bible says Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified. But David looks at Goliath and he sees him as nothing. He sees him as already dead. He thinks about the lions and bears he’s killed in the past and he tells Saul, “This uncircumcised Philistine will be just like one of them.” He says, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”

Yeah, Goliath is powerful; but God is much more powerful. Yes, Goliath is strong and mighty;  but compared to Almighty God, David sees Goliath as puny. He sees Goliath as already defeated. And that’s the way God looks at things.

2 Corinthians 10 says “You’re only looking at the surface of things.” Look deeper. Look bigger. When you see things the way God sees things, it empowers you to act with zeal, the kind of zeal and boldness and assurance that changes everything.

David makes things bigger. He sees more clearly. When everybody knows you can’t beat Goliath with a sword, David comes up with another way. When David can’t live in Israel because Saul is trying to kill him, he becomes a Philistine. When Jerusalem is just a hick-town with one red light, David sees a glorious and holy capital city. When the wandering Israelites are worshiping God in a tent, David draws up plans for a beautiful temple. David stays outside the box, seeing and creating new possibilities from the darkness and the void. Just like our God.

Samuel did not see David as a king, but God did. God sees possibilities we don’t always see. And he makes them happen.



Trading Places

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as children, the redemption of our bodies.” ~Romans 8:22-23

HealingCrowdsScripture gives us many metaphors for what God is up to in this world. One of the most prominent word pictures or set of images is the motif of changing places. Switching roles. The rich and powerful being brought down and the poor and weak being lifted up. God is turning things upside down. It’s Freaky Friday to the max. Actually, it’s more like Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd in Trading Places, only without the one dollar bet and gorilla costume.

The way the world is right now, all the power structures, the way things are: all the people in charge and all the people in the streets; the people who are oppressed and the people without a care in the world; people who are trapped in hopeless cycles of despair and people who are living high on the hog — God is working to totally flip it all around. God’s day of glory is going to be opposite day!

We look around at all the brokenness — there’s a lot of it — and we groan. We see the devastation in Syria, and we groan. We see the body bags in Iraq and Afghanistan and Oregon, and we groan. Deadly flooding. Racism and violence. Senseless crime. Extreme drought. We see the rich get richer and the poor get poorer; we see the innocent oppressed and watch the guilty go free. Creation is not in harmony with its maker, the nations do not bow down to God, and we don’t even like our neighbors! And we groan.

Jesus&JairusWe know it’s going to change. We know it’s coming. We can sense it. We can feel it. It’s going to happen. We don’t groan because we don’t know what’s going to happen; we groan because we know exactly what’s going to happen. Everything is going to be turned upside down.

The psalmist groans. He can feel it. Sense it. Anticipate it. It’s going to happen.

“He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes, with the princes of their people. He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the Lord!” ~Psalm 113:7-9

He’s actually borrowing from Hannah’s prayer. Listen to the reversal language here. Trading places.

“The bows of the warriors are broken, but those who stumbled are armed with strength.
Those who were full hire themselves out for food, but those who were hungry hunger no more.
She who was barren has borne seven children, but she who has had many sons pines away.
The Lord brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up.
The Lord sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts.
He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes.” ~1 Samuel 2:4-8

Hannah can feel it. She knows it. She’s waiting for it. She groans.

Mary the mother of Jesus knows what the coming of the Christ means and she expresses it in praise to our God.

“He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.” ~Luke 1:52-53

Then Jesus comes! Yes, finally, the Holy One of Israel comes! And what does he preach?

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh…” ~Luke 6:20-22

JesusHealsManThis is Act Four of the Story of God. The Creator comes to us in the Messiah Lord. Emmanuel. God with us. Jesus comes to us to reverse the curse. Jesus is all about turning things upside down.

He heals the Centurion’s servant. He brings the widow’s dead son back to life. He drives out demons and heals the sick. And he doesn’t just heal the physical things. When Jesus heals, he fixes everything: physical, spiritual, emotional, relational. God works through Christ to totally restore. Peace. Shalom. Wholeness. Completeness.

The woman caught in adultery. Jesus gets involved and she moves from her day of public execution to a brand new life without sin. Lazarus is dead, he’s been dead for four days. His sisters are groaning, all of Bethany is groaning and grieving. And Jesus says this is not how things are supposed to be. And he reverses the curse.

Jesus is dying on the cross. He’s suffering and suffocating. He’s moments away from dying. And I imagine he lifts his head up and prays to his Father:  “Dear Father, please let me do it one more time. Let me fix one more thing. Let me turn one more person’s life upside down.”

And the criminal being hung on Jesus’ right turns to him. And he groans. “Jesus, remember me.” And Jesus says, “Done. You’re with me.”

Everyone Jesus met, he saw as beautiful. Beautiful because of what they were meant to be. Beautiful because of what they were created to be. Beautiful because he saw in them what they were actually going to be. They were groaning and he turned their lives upside down.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” ~Romans 8:18

God is giving glory to his people and to his entire creation. God is working right now to transform his people into the perfect image of the Christ. That’s the climax. That’s where we’re headed. Us and all of creation.

The groanings in the world, the groanings in your own life, I’d say, are actually proof that the God who began a good work in you, in us, is indeed bringing it to completion.



Returning to the Lord

The first Sunday in January is a good time for a congregation of God’s people to renew our dedication to the Lord. It’s the perfect day to start over, to renew vows, to make fresh commitments. And in Scripture, a lot of the time, when God’s people seek renewed relationship with the Lord, they begin with corporate confession and repentance.

Using biblical texts from 1 Samuel 7, Ezra 9, and Daniel 9, we spent this past Sunday together at Central confessing our corporate sins as a 107-year-old body of believers. We talked about the sins of pride and racism, legalism and sexism, self-reliance and apathy, consumerism, materialism, sectarianism. We haven’t committed all these sins ourselves. Our leadership and our church today are not guilty of all those sins. But in the history of our congregation and in the history of Churches of Christ, we have all been guilty of all of it. Some of these sins we still commit. All of them still impact us to some degree. So, in the manner of God’s people as described in Scripture, we confessed.

One of our shepherds, Tim McMenamy, worded a heart-felt, gut-wrenching prayer of confession from his knees on behalf of the church, recalling the sins of our past and the sins of our present. Another of our elders, Steve Rogers, led a prayer of corporate repentance from his knees, making vows to God on behalf of the congregation that we would renounce the sins of our past and present and seek only the Lord and his ways. And then we offered the church some time to confess their own sins, sins in their families, sins from their distant past, or sins that have them ensnared in the present. Our elders and ministers and our spouses were positioned all around the worship center to graciously receive and pray for our people. We lifted them up to God and begged him to provide his promised forgiveness and righteousness and peace.

It was different. It was very quiet in there. And powerful. Only a few, it appeared, actually took advantage of the opportunity. But those who did experienced those blessings of forgiveness and righteousness and peace.

Immediately after the service concluded, several people came to me to thank me for the special focus of the morning and for the way the assembly had been planned. And I think I must have expressed — non-verbally — some disappointment in the visible response from our congregation during the time of confession and repentance. One of my many, many faults — one I should probably confess regularly before the church — is my sin of impatience. I’m terrible with that. I don’t very much of the time practice what I preach there. And I do a lousy job of hiding it. But, good grief, of all people the preacher should know that God is at work in powerful ways that we don’t always get to see.

And Clay Harper reminded me of that Monday.

Clay called me on the carpet for my disappointment. That’s what good and faithful Christian brothers do; that’s what happens in genuine Christian community. And then he reminded me of the truth I had preached the day before, that God answered the prayers and provided the promised blessings regardless of how engaged the people were in what was happening.

In Samuel, the people approached the prophet looking for ways to fix their relationship with God. They begged him to intercede for them and participated fully as a congregation in the prayers of confession and repentance. In Ezra, the leaders of the people came to the prophet and the people (a lot of them, but maybe not all of them) eventually followed and participated in the confession and repentance, some of them under the threat of loss of their property. In Daniel, it doesn’t look like anybody else is there. The prophet prays confession and repentance to God on behalf of the people, but there’s no indication anybody has any idea he’s doing it.

More than likely, we have people in our church family located at every point on that continuum. From begging to make things right with God and willingly putting away their idols and sins, to almost being forced to confess and repent and reluctantly participating, to not taking part in the exercises at all, we’ve got folks all over the map there. All those different reactions and responses were present in our assembly Sunday.

The good news is that in all three scenarios in Scripture, God answered the prayers immediately, while the prayers were still being prayed, and provided the forgiveness and peace.

In Samuel, while the people are in the middle of confessing and repenting, God answered. God showered his people with victory. He destroyed their enemies right there on the spot and blessed them with peace. Same thing in Daniel. While he was in the middle of his prayer of corporate confession and repentance, God spoke to Daniel about forgiveness of sin, about everlasting righteousness, and peace. In Ezra, God provided his grace immediately and withdrew his anger.

I don’t know where you are with confession and repentance before God. I think if you’ve made some New Year’s resolutions to our Lord, they have to begin with confession and repentance. I don’t know where your church is with that. I don’t know how your elders might feel about corporate confession in a church assembly. I don’t know how many in your family or your congregation would enter in to that kind of exercise willingly, how many would have to be dragged into it kicking and screaming, and how many just wouldn’t participate. I don’t know.

But I do know this: the common thread in all three stories of corporate confession and repentance in Scripture is that God answered. He responded immediately, as soon as the prayers began. He did it consistently then and he’s doing it faithfully right now. Why don’t you and/or your church give it a try?


Congratulations to Central’s own Joe Bain who will be inducted tomorrow into the Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame here in Amarillo. Coach Bain was the boys track coach at Amarillo High School for 30 years, winning 15 district championships, including one in his last season in 2006. He also served as a long time assistant coach for the Golden Sandstorm football team under Larry Dippel, coaching the defensive backs in 1992 when the Sandies advanced to the state semi-finals.

Coach Bain poured his heart into hundreds of young men in this region, constantly encouraging them, consistently challenging them to be better, always leading to greatness by the example of his own deep character and integrity. Lots and lots of young men are thanking Coach Bain this week for the tremendous influence of godliness he had on their lives. And at least one older guy who only just met Coach Bain three years ago is thanking him for that same leadership and influence he has on my life right now.



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