Category: 1 Samuel (Page 2 of 4)

Lord Forbid!

I have been intrigued the past couple of weeks with David’s decision, as recorded in 1 Samuel 24, to NOT kill Saul in that dark cave at En Gedi. It’s so uncharacteristic of David. It goes totally against David’s nature to NOT kill Saul. As a boy, David was killing lions and bears to protect his father’s herds. He began his military career by killing Goliath. He killed 200 Philistines for the right to marry Michal. He routed the Philistines at Keilah. He massacred more Philistines at Baal Perazim. He slaughtered them in the valley of Rephaim. And not just Philistines. David killed more than his share of Geshurites and Girizites, Amalakites and Kenites, Moabites, Edomites, and Ammonites, Stalagtites and Gigabytes — all kinds of -ites and -tites. David has killed his tens of thousands, remember? They wrote a song about it and it went straight to the top of the charts!

David was a killer. And 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 was chasing David like a pig through the canyons and wadis of the Judean Desert. But David let him go. Why?

“The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed.” ~1 Samuel 24:6

David’s men see their ruthless enemy in a humiliating and vulnerable position, totally helpless right in front of them. But David sees the magnificent — flawed, yes; sinful, yes — wonderful king anointed by God. And David submitted to him. David turns this course and crude scene in a dark cave in the wilderness into a beautiful act of faith and worship to the Lord. He made it a sacred moment. Complete surrender to God. Total faith in the protection and provision of his Lord, no matter what.

If David doubted for a 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 were moved by his own instinct of right and wrong and timing and personal safety, if he were compelled by the world’s sense of justice and revenge and power and fairness, he would have slashed Saul’s throat right there on the spot. But David is purely motivated by his genuine trust and faith and devotion to God. The idea of taking Saul’s life is unthinkable. He regrets even cutting his robe. Not because of Saul, but because of God.

David shows us in this cave at En Gedi that trusting God is much more than just going to church and writing a check and watching your language. Faith in the Lord to protect and provide is a faith that the Lord will protect and provide in every single situation. It’s knowing that God is in charge, not us. Jonathan had told David previously that this Kingdom thing is going to work out. David professed that same faith, and he acted on it. His faith in the Lord controlled David’s thoughts and actions. David refused to take part in a bloody and violent solution to his problems, even though his very best friends were telling him it was God’s will. Yeah, the Kingdom was falling apart. Yes, David was being treated unfairly. But Saul was the Lord’s anointed. Period. And David was going to let the Lord take care of it.

You know, we’re living in a world today that none of us has ever lived in before. As disciples of Jesus here in the West, the threats to our comfort and security are as bad as they’ve ever been. And it’s getting worse. As culture and society line up to oppose our Lord and his Kingdom, we’re tempted to take matters into our own hands with the violent and bloody methods of the world. We’ll sometimes confront people of different lifestyles with a face-to-face verbal assault. In David’s words: Lord forbid. We’ll slash the throats of lawmakers and government officials with angry letters and insulting emails. Lord forbid. Young people who think differently, older people who act differently, foreign people who dress differently, people who vote differently, people who believe differently — we’ll cut out their kidneys with an accusing finger in their face, we’ll take out their knees with our harsh words and bitter complaints, we’ll rip out their hearts with our bumper stickers and boycotts and petitions. Lord forbid.

We live in a spiritual landscape that’s every bit as hostile and threatening, dangerous and deadly, as the cliffs and caves of the Judean Desert. Just like David, suffering from thirst and mortal danger, we too face death and destruction. Sometimes it feels like we’re running for our lives. But our help comes from the Lord. It’s only in God through Christ where we find true, ultimate safety and security, salvation and hope.

This Kingdom thing is going to work out. God’s perfect time frame. God’s perfect plan. God’s perfect ways.



Doing Things We’ve Never Done

We’re in a battle. God’s Church is locked in a war right now with the prevailing culture and the shifting world view. Today in the West, right now in this country where God has placed us, the prevailing culture and the world view is aligned against our Lord and his Kingdom. And it can be intimidating. We don’t live in the same world we lived in twenty or thirty years ago:

Post Modernism – We can no longer ignore or deny that the dominant world view in the United States today is post modern. The culture argues that there is no absolute truth. Nothing is inherently right or wrong, nothing is fixed as eternally correct or false. Men and women my age and younger  see almost everything today as a personal choice, a matter of individual freedom. You find peace and happiness your way and I’ll find peace and happiness my way and nobody has to get upset. Nobody has to preach to anybody. I’m doing what’s right for me; you do what’s right for you. “Yeah, but the Bible says…” Don’t quote the Bible to me! “Well, history would show…” Don’t talk about the past! Anti-institutional. Anti-authority. Anti-oppressive-religion. Don’t judge me. Don’t tell me. Don’t make me. In today’s society, the religion is individualism, the prized virtue is tolerance, and the controlling creed is “Whatever!”

And you feel it. You sense it. If you’re paying attention at all, you experience it every day.

Post Christendom – The culture in the U. S. no longer supports the Church. Today’s society doesn’t prop us up anymore. Remember prohibition? Blue laws? Prime time family hour on TV? No homework on Wednesday nights? No youth sports events on Sundays? Those helps for the church are a thing of the past. The media has an agenda, and it’s not neutral. The culture is on an around-the-clock mission to shape us, not into the image of Christ. You can’t turn on your computer, you can’t buy a loaf of bread at Walmart, you can’t go to a high school basketball game, without it being shoved in your face. Realize the only network television show on the air today that portrays drinking and gambling and materialism as bad, illicit and extra-marital sex as evil, and going to church and being honest and living right as good is The Simpsons!

Guess what? We’re on our own nowadays.

Post Denominationalism – Brand loyalty to a particular kind of church is gone today. Just because your grandparents and your parents and your spouse were all born and raised in the Churches of Christ doesn’t mean that your son won’t go to a Baptist university and meet a Presbyterian girl at a Christian concert at a community church, get married in a Lutheran chapel and raise their kids as Methodists. That kind of thing is happening all the time. You know it. Something like it has already happened in your own family.

We live in a world today we’ve never lived in before. None of us. It’s different. It looks like and it can feel like the odds are stacked against us. It’s threatening. Disorienting. We’re not sure how to tackle it. It’s all so new and it’s changing so stinking fast.

“Make the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” ~Ephesians 5:16

We have to do things we’ve never done for the sake of a world in which we’ve never lived. We can view the things in our society and culture that stand against God’s Kingdom today as frightening enemies or as exciting opportunities. We can shrink in the threatening presence of so much rapid change or we can rise to meet the exciting challenges head on. If we’re living in a brand new world, we must adapt and be flexible with doing brand new things.

Post Modern? Yeah, nobody’s interested in absolute truth anymore. Here at Central, we said “phooey!” to that last October and the Lord rained down over $353,000 in foreign missions money! Post Christendom? Yeah, nobody wants to go to church anymore. Last summer, we said “fine!” and we canceled church. For eight Wednesday nights in a row we canceled all our worship and classes and took church to the people, blessing our neighbors and our community with the love and grace of God. Post Denominationalism? Yeah, the lines are blurry. So, this past year we’ve partnered with the other churches in downtown Amarillo. We’re working and worshiping with them, serving and helping with them, combining our prayers and resources, consolidating our Kingdom energies, for the sake of our city.

We’re doing things we’ve never done for the sake of a world in which we’ve never lived.

We can’t compete anymore with the giant influence of the culture. We can’t win against the enormous scope of entertainment options. We can’t defeat the monster of technology and the almost militant individualism it nurtures. But that’s OK. That’s actually good news if we’ll just admit it. The truth is that not one single thing for the Kingdom of God is going to be won in your city with bigger programs, bigger buildings, bigger budgets, more manpower, or better technology. Instead, we should be laser-focused on raising up and encouraging the leaders in our congregations who see the tremendous potential in this new world and are excited about the Kingdom possibilities. When they propose doing something different in an effort to reach the community for Christ, don’t say, “Well, we’ve never done that before!” Remember, we’ve never lived here before.



Songs that Soothe

“Whenever the [tormenting] spirit from God came upon Saul, David would take his harp and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.” ~1 Samuel 16:23

I’m particularly curious about what kinds of songs David played and sang for King Saul that brought him so much comfort and peace. As the writer of so many corporate psalms and congregational hymns, I’m convinced that David sang familiar temple songs for the king, songs both he and Saul would have recognized and known. Those old familiar hymns seem to be the ones that bring us the most comfort. Personally, a song like Be With Me, Lord has powers to calm me down, to re-orient my hectic life, to re-order my confused priorities:

Be with me, Lord — I cannot live without Thee, I dare not try to take one step alone,
I cannot bear the loads of life unaided, I need thy strength to lean myself upon.
Be with me, Lord, and then if dangers threaten, if storms of trial burst above my head,
If lashing seas leap everywhere about me, they cannot harm, or make my heart afraid.

Every phrase of this old song is intended to comfort, to soothe, to calm the troubled soul. Every stanza is meant by the writer and sung by the singer to restore belief, to strengthen faith, to increase confidence in the face of distress. It reminds me that I’m not alone, that even when God is not visible or not easily recognized as present, he has never abandoned me. He will never leave me. “A constant sense of thy abiding presence.” What a song.

In our Bible class this past Sunday we browsed through the song books together and remembered the songs that speak so powerfully to us in times of stress and despair. We shared our favorites with one another and told the personal stories that go along with each song and each specific set of circumstances. “Sweet Hour of Prayer.” “As the Deer.” “A Wonderful Savior.” “It is Well.” “Because He Lives.” “As the Mountains Surround Jerusalem.”

I wonder generally about the power of music and its deep connection with our God’s Holy Spirit. By playing and singing these soothing songs, David brought great peace and comfort to Saul. Most English translations of the above verse from 1 Samuel say the king was “refreshed” or “relieved” by the music. But the meaning of the original Hebrew wording is that God’s Spirit actually returned to Saul while David was singing. The tormenting spirit would leave and the Spirit of God would return. Through his music, David becomes a mediator of God’s Spirit; David brings life to Saul — Holy Spirit life — in his songs. In our Scriptures, spiritual music and the Holy Spirit are deeply connected:

“Be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.” ~Ephesians 5:18-19

It was good to flip through the song books together on Sunday and to be reminded of all those hymns that have brought us so much comfort through the years. These songs mediate the presence of God, they have the power to give life.

What’s the one song that has brought you the most comfort, the song that has soothed you during times of trial? I think my two are “Be With Me, Lord” and “It Is Well.” How about you?



Perspective Changes Everything

“The LORD does not look at the things man looks at.” ~1 Samuel 16:7

God chose David to be his king because he saw what was on the inside. God didn’t look at David’s age or his inexperience or his height or his looks. He looked at David’s heart and saw a man of faith and courage.

Once the Holy Spirit of God came upon David with power, the future king also began to view things differently.

When Goliath from Gath challenged God’s people in the Valley of Elah, Scripture paints a very stark contrast between David’s viewpoint and the viewpoint of the nation (1 Samuel 16:13). The Israelite troops are afraid of “this man,” while David sees the giant as nothing more than an “uncircumcised Philistine.” Saul’s soldiers say Goliath is coming out to “defy Israel.” But David sees it as much bigger. He says the enemy is “defying the armies of the living God!”

David sees the opposition to God for what it is. And he clearly sees the victory of God over that opposition. What scares and paralyzes the Israelite soldiers actually steels David’s resolve and motivates him to act in faith.

David never doubted God’s deliverance. Because God always delivers. We should all feel so deeply and act so boldly. And when the odds are stacked against us, it shouldn’t cause us to fear. We know that’s exactly when God does his best work.



Upside Down

Holy Scripture gives us a pretty clear image of what our God is doing in this world. From Genesis to Revelation we see the motif of changing places. Switching roles. The rich and powerful are being brought down and the poor and weak are being raised up. God is turning things upside down. It’s Freaky Friday to the max. It’s Eddie Murphy and Dan Akroyd in Trading Places without the gorilla costume and the one dollar bet.

The way the world is right now — all the power structures, all the people in charge; all the people in the streets, all the oppressed; people without a care in the world, people who are trapped in hopeless cycles of despair — our God is working to totally flip it around. He’s working even now toward a great big ultimate opposite day.

The Psalmist can sense it: “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes.” ~Psalm 113:7-8

Hannah feels it: “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.” ~1 Samuel 2:4-8

Mary, the mother of Jesus, knows what the coming of the Christ means: “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

And when the Messiah does finally arrive, we find him preaching and teachig the same thing. Trading places. Switching spots: The poor in spirit get the kingdom of heaven, those who mourn will be comforted, the meek get the whole earth, those who hunger and thirst will be filled.

He traded places with you, you know. He pulled you down off the cross and climbed up there in your place. The ultimate Freaky Friday. It was your cross, not his. It was your sins, not his. And he switched with you. You were dead, but now you’re alive. You were lost, but now you’re saved. You were bound for an eternity without God, but now you’ve been re-routed to an eternity in his holy presence. You were God’s enemy, but now you’re his friend. By God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, you have been lifted from the ash heap and raised to reign at the right hand of the Father forever. A never-ending opposite day!



The Chuck Greenberg news out of Rangers spring training was a bombshell to me. Totally out of left field. I had no idea. How surprising. And how disappointing.

I really thought the Rangers had the best of both worlds: Nolan Ryan as the most respected baseball man in the state of Texas, probably the entire southewest region, and perhaps even in the country, giving the Rangers concrete credibility in all matters baseball; and Greenberg as super fan-friendly, media-savvy, wonderfully likeable, perfect sound bite, get things done money man.

It’s all ego, right? It’s definitely not on the Jimmy-Jerry scale. But this is still all about ego, isn’t it?

Either way, it’s still better than what we had.


Erasmus ridiculed the group in society he labled “praisers of all things old.” I admit I’m generally in danger of falling head first into that category. Especially when it comes to sports. I despised the play-in game on Wednesday night that a few years ago tainted the sanctity of the 64-team NCAA basketball tournament. We completely ignored it at Stanglin Manor, refusing to even acknowledge it in our brackets. But what am I supposed to do now with this First Four stuff?!? We can easily put an “X” under Ohio State and Pitt as the top seeds will destroy either of those 16s in the mix. But we have to do something now with those elevens and twelves. USC probably has a chance against Georgetown. Clemson can probably give West Virginia a good game. We can no longer just pretend it’s still a 64-team field. It’s not! Have you counted the number of 14-loss teams in the tournament? It’s ridiculous. It’s as bad as taking four teams to the high school football playoffs out of six team districts. It’s like having 35-bowl games. When does it stop?

I’ve got Carolina, Duke, Purdue, and Florida in my Final Four. The Tarheels beat the streaking Gators to capture their one shining moment.

Just don’t bet on it.



The Anointed

Caves At En GediIn 1 Samuel 24, in the cave at En Gedi, David’s men see King Saul, their ruthless enemy, in a humiliating and vulnerable position. Most translations say Saul went in to relieve himself. The New King James Version says Saul went into the cave to “attend to his needs.” Whatever the terminology, Saul is completely helpless. He’s right in front of them. And he thinks he’s all alone. David’s men see their enemy. And they’re ready to kill him.

By contrast, David sees the magnificent — flawed, yes — and wonderful king anointed by God. He sees the Lord’s chosen ruler. And he didn’t kill him. He submitted to him. David turns this crude scene in this dark cave in the wilderness into an act of homage to his Lord. He made it a sacred moment.

David’s motivation has nothing to do with his own pride or safety or reputation. David is motivated purely by a genuine devotion to his God, his Rock. The idea of taking Saul’s life is unthinkable. Not because of Saul. But because of God.

I see the flawed, anointed one of God in his Church. I see it in church leaders. Flawed, but anointed by God, standing for God, representing God. And our treatment of the Church and church leaders ought to reflect that understanding.

All of us brothers and sisters in Christ are anointed by God in the waters of baptism. We’re together standing for God, representing God, working with God. And our honorable treatment of one another ought to reflect that understanding.


KurtPetersen65 days until the Cowboys begin their 2009 football season. And the second-best player to ever wear #65 in Cowboys history is offensive lineman Kurt Petersen. As a 4th round draft pick out of Missouri, Petersen was a six-year starter at right guard, blocking for Danny White and Tony Dorsett from 1980-85. He helped lead Dallas to three straight NFC Championship Games, all losses.

You’ve probably never heard of him. That’s OK. He’s never heard of you.



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