Category: Faith (Page 1 of 23)

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.



Behind the Scenes

How did Naomi find out in Moab that the famine was over in Judah? The text says “she heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them (Ruth 1:6). Who told her? The point in the story is not how she heard; the point is that she heard. The Lord made sure she knew.

The Bible tells us Naomi and Ruth arrive back in Bethlehem just as the harvest was beginning (Ruth 1:22). What a coincidence!

Ruth went to glean in a field and, wouldn’t you know it! “As it turned out,” the text says, “she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz” (Ruth 2:3). What a stroke of good luck!

“Just then,” it says in verse 4, “Boaz arrived!” Right at that very moment! Just then! What do you know? Boaz showed up! What are the odds?

It would take a couple of pages to explain the original Hebrew language here and the funny piling on of adjectives and adverbs at this part of the story. But the author is going out of his or her way to say, “This ain’t luck!” Somebody’s moving behind the scenes.

Four years ago, a young man named David proposed marriage to our middle daughter, Valerie. Several of Valerie and David’s friends were in on it for a couple of weeks before it happened. Family members were in on it. Valerie didn’t know. But that evening, somehow, Valerie just happened to be wearing a nice dress and David just coincidentally had the day off from work and incredibly they both wound up in the same friend’s backyard at the exact time and, wouldn’t you know, somebody was in the bushes taking pictures!

That didn’t just happen.

God is always moving the pieces into place and working out the timing and the details of his magnificent plans for your life. It’s a lot easier to see these things looking back than it is in the present. But the good things that happen to you are not by chance. They’re not the random events of a complex universe that sometimes produces an interesting coincidence. When you belong to God in Christ, what happens to you is by appointment, not accident.

It if were just up to us, we wouldn’t make it. None of us would. When Ruth walked into that field that day, she had no idea that she would marry the landowner and their great-great-grandson would be David, the King of Israel, and through him God would send his promised Savior of the World. She never could have asked or imagined any of that. She didn’t know. But the Lord did. He was working. Mostly behind the scenes. But he was, and is, always working.



Assurance for the New Year

“In this world you will have trouble. But take courage! I have overcome the world!” ~Jesus

These ancient words of our Lord are not about what happens after we die. This is not supposed to increase our faith in Christ for everlasting life after death. These words are intended to move us to new levels of confidence for living right now. Jesus is pushing us to new heights of assurance in God’s faithfulness to us right now. We don’t have to sin! We never have to compromise! In the middle of the mess, we can live fully for our Lord and his coming Kingdom because his victory is ours!

Scripture doesn’t ignore the bad stuff. The Bible guarantees there will be bad stuff. Living in this world as a follower of Jesus means you’re going to experience some trial and tribulation. You’re going to encounter opposition. There is suffering in this world. There are people who hate Christians in this world. There are so-called Christians making things worse. There are the normal problems that come with living in a fallen world. And there is the devil himself. But Jesus reminds us that none of that opposition has a chance.

No one can successfully condemn you. No one can ultimately defeat you. Christ died for you. God raised him to life for you. And he is your divine intercessor. Nothing can ever separate you from his love and his victory. So you can be a full-speed, brakes-off, no-looking-back follower of Jesus. You can take risks for the Kingdom of God. You can be extravagant in your forgiveness and acceptance of others. You can be lavish in your love for everybody, including your enemies. You can be all in, all the time and never be swayed by the world.

Jesus overcomes the world for you. His victory is your victory when you are in him. It’s your victory when you embrace him in faith–his triumph becomes your triumph. His eternal life, his righteousness, his holiness, his redemption belongs to you! That’s why it’s called Gospel. It’s really good news!

Jesus says, “Take heart. Take courage! I have faced your enemy and I’ve conquered it. I have fought your battle and I’ve won. In fact, it’s a blowout, it’s a rout. It’s not even close. You can’t do it. Never. You don’t have a chance. But that’s okay. I’ve already done it for you. And I’m doing it right now for you and in you and through you.”

As you start 2024, listen to our Lord Jesus. It’s a promise. But it’s also a call. It’s a call to live for Christ and his Kingdom right now today.

“In this world you will have trouble. But take courage! I have overcome the world!”

Hook ‘Em.

The Triumph of Hope

“We all must experience some darkness, otherwise how can we appreciate the light? We all must experience the nearness of despair, otherwise how can we know when to celebrate the triumph of hope? We all must at some time or another face forthrightly the tragedy of love and death, so that one day the pain of separation might be replaced by the joy of reunion with the beloved one.”

~ Vigen Guroian, from Tending the Heart of Virtue

The Triumph of Faith

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,

though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,

though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the Lord,

I will be joyful in God my Savior!”

~ Habakkuk 3:17-18

Habakkuk’s Complaint

We’re studying Habakkuk together on Sunday mornings here at GCR and we’ve started at the very beginning — a very good place to start. Except that the first chapter of Habakkuk is tough reading. It’s the prophet’s prayer to the Lord and it’s not very nice. It questions God. It complains to God. The prayer argues with God and even accuses God of wrongdoing. Habakkuk details the violence and injustice in the land. How can you just stand there, God, and not do anything? The prophet explains to God that because of all the wickedness and strife, the law is paralyzed and justice is perverted. Get off your throne, Lord, and do something!

The Lord answers Habakkuk by telling him things are about to go from bad to worse. The Lord is about to raise up the worst, most evil people on the planet to ride in and punish the Israelites. He paints an awful picture.

Habakkuk’s complaint continues. But listen to the faith in his lament in 1:12.

“O, Lord. are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One…” You are the eternal God, Habakkuk says. You are my God and I have no other.

“We will not die.” Despite all the evidence to the contrary, despite even what God himself is telling the prophet, Habakkuk is hanging on with a white-knuckle-death-grip to God’s promises that his people will never die.

“O, Rock.” I don’t understand any of this, Habakkuk prays. I don’t agree with what you’re doing. It seems unfair, it seems wrong. I can’t see it. I don’t get it. But, Lord, Rock, my trust is in you. My faith is in you.

God tells Habakkuk things are about to get really bad. But the prophet makes it clear he will go nowhere else for his answers. He will seek no one else to protect him or save him. This is a total and complete dependence on God and God alone to do what’s best. Total dependence. Complete faith. A faith that goes well beyond any evidence or proof for it. Facing exile, starvation, and slavery, Habakkuk continues to trust our God.

God’s reply to Habakkuk’s complaints affirms that the Lord is still very much in control. All of it, no matter how evil and wrong and unfair and chaotic it seems, all of it is being controlled by our God.

1:5 – “I am going to do something.” God says, there’s a plan.

1:6 – “I am raising up the Babylonians.” This is going somewhere. And I’m the one doing it.

1:5 – “…in your days.” There is a time frame. God says, it’s all on my schedule.

2:3 – “The revelation awaits an appointed time.” It’s happening exactly when I want it to happen.

Everything that is happening in our world, everything that is happening in your world right now, is subject to and bound up with the Kingdom of God. Things happen for a reason — God’s reason. And we don’t always have to understand what God is doing. We don’t always see it. And we don’t need to.

Ask the questions. Wrestle with the Lord. Accuse him. Argue with him. Bring to him all your fears and uncertainties and pains. But never doubt his supreme love for you and his divine justice. He is trustworthy. And he is faithful.



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