Category Archives: Daily devotions

II Samuel 2-3; A Fool Died Today

There was a bitter history between Joab and Abner. After all, Abner had killed Joab’s little brother.  Now Abner was in Hebron, a city of refuge, and Joab couldn’t touch him.

So Joab goes to Abner and whispers in his ear, “Step into the gateway where we can talk privately. I have something to tell you.”

Now picture this: The man guilty of murder leans into his victim’s Avenger of Blood (the only person with a right to kill him in retaliation) to hear him whisper, “Step outside the safety of these walls just for a second.”

AND HE DOES!

I’m sure you know what happens. Abner dies.

David mourned Abner’s death. But he also recognized it as a needless death. Listen to what the King says at the funeral:

Should Abner have died as the lawless die? Your hands were not bound, your feet were not fettered. You fell as one falls before wicked men. (3:33)

In other words, No one made you go outside these walls, Abner. You made a ridiculous choice. A fool died today.

Friend, if you have confessed your sin and asked God to forgive you, you are safe from the evil Satan would love to pierce you with. But hear the warning:

Satan will no doubt come to you and whisper in your ear, “Come with me. Just for a second.” He’ll put temptation out there, and you’ll find yourself thinking, “What can it hurt?”

Understand that when you step away from God, Satan has the advantage. And sometimes all he needs is a second. Don’t be a fool. Don’t think Satan can’t get to you. Guard your heart and mind. Cling to the Savior. Do not step away because Satan is like a lion, prowling around, waiting to devour you.

When I finally meet Jesus face to face, I want to hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I certainly don’t want to hear the words, “A fool died today.”

2 Samuel 1; Saul’s Sin Killed Him

Remember in 1 Samuel God had instructed Saul to go to war with the Amalekites, and wipe them out. 15:2-3 says:

This is what the Lord Almighty says: I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.

But Saul only almost obeyed. He defeated the Amalekites, “But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs – everything that was good.”

Saul didn’t wipe them out exactly the way God had instructed him. And God was not happy.

The end of I Samuel and II Samuel 1 seem to contradict each other. Who really killed Saul? I’ve been of the opinion that the man we read about in II Samuel tried to cash in on Saul’s death, that he found the king already dead, took his crown and arm band, and ran to David to be rewarded for taking care of David’s enemy. But I might be wrong.

The story we read in II Samuel might not contradict I Samuel after all. Consider this: Saul, being mortally wounded, falls on his sword to commit suicide. His armor bearer sees him do that, watches his king fall, then commits suicide himself. However, Saul is only mostly dead at that point.

The young man in II Samuel comes up to Saul and hears the king whisper, “Kill me,” and he does. Saul was a dead man walking. He most likely would not have survived his wounds. The young man just accelerated the inevitable. Saul, at the end of I Samuel was dead for all intent and purposes. As you turn the page, you see him finished off.

That’s what I’ve come to believe after studying what others have said about the subject. It’s an opinion that doesn’t really matter in light of eternity, and I recognize it as an opinion. But J. Vernon McGee opened my eyes to a spiritual truth we can learn from this that does matter in light of eternity.

Remember Saul’s sin way back in chapter 15? he didn’t completely destroy the Amalekites like God told him to. Now, years later, it’s an Amalekite who ends up destroying him.

Could Saul have actually survived his wounds? We’ll never know because the young Amalekite killed him.

In Sunday School this past Sunday we were studying Psalm 32, written after David received forgiveness for some pretty awful sins. His sin with Bathsheba was bad enough, but David’s efforts at covering up that sin resulted in more sin, and more guilt until he felt crushed to the bones. You can hear David’s relief at being freed from that guilt here in this psalm.

I shared something I found written by John Dunn. And I was reminded of it as I read this chapter in I Samuel this morning. Dunn calls sin a serpent. He says when we cover up a sin, we’re just keeping it warm so that it may sting more fiercely, infect us with more venom.

When we don’t deal with sin, when we don’t eradicate it, turn from it 100%, we are only protecting it. And it will bite us in the end.

Let’s not be nursing sin. Let’s not ignore it, or cover it up. When God reveals sin in us, let’s fall to our knees and repent immediately.

Otherwise, that sin could be the very thing that ends up destroying us.

 

I Samuel 28-31; Dividing the Spoils

David and 600 of his men went and attacked the Amalekites who had raided their homes, and taken their families and property. 200 weary soldiers stayed back and guarded the supplies, even though their own families had been captured as well.

David successfully defeated the enemy and rescued the women, children, livestock, and even took plunder from the Amalekites. The 200 men who didn’t fight in the battle were reunited with their families, along with the 600 who did fight.

Now, the 600 men who had gone to war thought they should be able to divide the spoils among themselves. After all, they’d put their lives on the line, they did the dirty work. It seemed right that they should be rewarded more than the men who’d stayed behind.

David didn’t agree. In essence he said, “God gave us all the victory. He’s the one who protected us and handed over our enemies to us. Everyone will share the blessings equally.”

You might be a pastor who puts himself out there every week after hours of study and prayer. Or you might be a song leader, a musician, an elder whose face everyone recognizes.

Or not.

Maybe you’ve never taught Sunday School, or sung in the choir. Maybe you’ve never actually prayed the sinners prayer with anyone, or gone on a missions trip.

Should God give a bit more blessing to one group than another?

If your ministry is public and demanding, do you think you deserve a bit more blessing than those who sit in the pews every Sunday and seemingly ride your coattails? Beware of that attitude.

God would have us know that it isn’t about the ministry. It’s about obedience. Some are called to be obedient to preach and teach, while others are called to encourage others and show hospitality. Some people’s gifts are more easily seen, but they certainly are not more important than the ones whose gifts are used behind the scenes.

I don’t know what spiritual gifts you have. I don’t know what talents you possess. But I know God is calling you to do something to further His kingdom, to fight or support the fight against the enemy.

Let’s remember we are all a part of the same army. As Christians, we are equally blessed because we have all received Jesus the exact same way. Jesus didn’t die more painfully for some than He did for others. He died once and for all.

And He wants to lavish all of His children with blessings beyond what we ask or think.

Be faithful to use what you have been given, and don’t compare yourself with anyone else. If you have confessed your sins, you deserve what Jesus died to give you.

Himself.

 

 

I Samuel 24-27; The Answer

I’ve been dealing with (or maybe ignoring would be a better word for it) a bit of depression lately. There are several things going on at the moment, but one is the fact that I’ve gained some weight the past couple of years. I hate the way I feel, and how my clothes fit. I hate it when people take pictures of me because I’m sure the camera adds ten pounds.

And to make matters worse, I’m an emotional eater. Feeling good? Have a pizza. Angry? There’s that bag of chips. Sad? Get out the ice cream.

So the more depressed I get, the more I eat, the more weight I gain, and the more depressed I get. It’s discouraging.

Reading these chapters today makes me wonder if David wasn’t a bit discouraged, too. He’d done nothing to deserve Saul’s unfair treatment. David was forced to leave his home and live in caves so Saul wouldn’t find him. More than once, David proved his faithfulness to Saul, and each time David heard Saul promise, “I’ll never hunt you down to kill you ever again.” But Saul never keep his word, and David kept running.

If you read the psalms David wrote during this time I think you’ll agree the man was dealing with a bit of depression.  At least he was discouraged and frustrated.

Here’s what spoke to me today: We don’t always make the best decisions when we are living in that state of mind.

In chapter 27 we find that David, still on the run from Saul, finds shelter in the middle of enemy territory. He went to hide out with the Philistines (yes, Goliath’s gang). What follows is a series of really bad choices made by the future king of Israel.

I wish David would have remembered what he’d said in 26:24:

…may the Lord value my life, and deliver me from all trouble.

Here’s the thing. Depression is a result of “I”. For instance, look at the sentence I wrote earlier:

So the more depressed I get, the more I eat, the more weight I gain, and the more depressed I get.

Mine is not a chemical imbalance. It’s an I imbalance.

I read some of the psalms David may have written during this time in his life. I noticed they all had something in common. Along with heart-felt expressions of sadness, frustration, discouragement, they also included verses like these:

I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High. (Psalm 7:17)

The Lord is my light and my salvation… (Psalm 27:1)

I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. (Psalm 27:13)

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. (Psalm 31:24)

I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever. (Psalm 52:8b)

I’m tired of all the well-meaning self-help books and advice, people who tell me I should “take care” of my self, or look within my self for answers. I’m the one who is hurting. Obviously what I’m doing isn’t working. When I feel like this, I should be the last person I go to for answers.

The answer to my depression is not a look within myself, but a dying to self. It’s not about focusing on me, but on focusing on my Lord. It’s not about doing what I think is best for me, but doing what God is asking me to do. It’s not about getting in touch with my feelings, but getting in touch with my Savior, not about spending time with “me,” but spending time with my Lord.

So, paraphrasing David’s words in I Samuel 26:24, let me say I know God values my life. He died to give that life to me. I am the apple of His eye, His precious lamb. And I am confident He will deliver me from all my troubles, even those I bring on my self by focusing on my self.

I have every reason to rejoice today when I look at Jesus. Everything else seems to dim in comparison.

Loving Father, thank you for Your Word to me today. Forgive me when I take my focus off of You, and place it on myself. Help me to bring it all to You and leave it at Your feet. Help me to trust You, to serve You, to love You, to praise You today. My life is Yours. If I have joy today, may it be Your joy. If I have worth today, may it be because I am clothed in Your righteousness, loved by You, and trusting in You alone.

I Samuel 21-23; Why Wait?

Are you like me and, no matter which line you get in at the grocery, it seems the person in front of you will most likely need a price-check? All the other cashiers are moving their customers along while you stand there and wait. Again.

Don’t you always look forward to catching up with year-old People magazines while you wait an hour past your appointment time in the doctor’s office? Come on. You know you love it.

Most of us, if not all of us, don’t wait well, do we? Sometimes standing in front of the microwave for 90 seconds seems too long to wait. But there certainly seems to be a lot of waiting in the Bible. What is God trying to tell us?

David was anointed King of Israel way back in chapter 16. Yet here in the chapters we read today, Saul is still Israel’s acting king. And to make matters worse, Saul is following David all over the countryside, trying to kill him. I’d rather have the People magazines.

If God wanted David to be king, why was all of this happening? Why is David still on the run instead of sitting on the throne that was his?

I think about the years David spent hiding out from Saul, living in caves, running for his life. And I thank God that, during that difficult time, David penned some of the most heart-felt psalms that speak to hearts yet today. I can read these chapters in God’s Word and see the shepherd boy grow in wisdom and faith to become a very great king.

David wasn’t anointed king, then sat back and waited in the comforts of home until the kingdom was his. There was pain and suffering and loss in the waiting. But David was the king he was – not in spite of – but because of those waiting years.

Are you getting impatient waiting for God’s timing in some matter? I would encourage you to not resent the waiting. God is most likely trying to teach you some things, trying to grow you into the person He wants you to be as you serve Him in this lifetime.

Don’t just put your feet up while you wait. Feast on your daily bread, and pick up your sword. There are things to do, places to go, people to see.

Remember God’s timing is perfect. And He does all things well.

I Samuel 20; Goodbyes

We knew our mom was dying. She’d been diagnosed with cancer 18 months earlier, and that awful disease had done its worse. I’d spent the weekend at Mom and Dad’s, and hadn’t wanted to leave Mom’s side. We’d finally gotten a hospital bed, and set it up in the living room so she could be close to us all.

I sat next to her and held her tiny hand. She told me she wanted to die, she was so tired of being sick. She wanted to go home. I wanted her to stay.

I lived and worked about 60 miles from my parents’ home. So that Sunday evening I packed up and got ready to leave. I stopped at Mom’s bed, and put my cheek next to her’s, and whispered,”Gotta go. See you next weekend.”

She hesitated as though there was something she wanted to say. Then, “Ok. Be careful.”

I stood up fighting tears and said, “Love you” as cheerfully as I could manage. Then I walked away, not knowing if I’d ever see her again in this lifetime.

I drove down the road a short way, pulled into an empty parking lot, and cried and cried. I loved her so much.

She died two days later.

You hear people say, “I hate goodbyes” all the time. I’ve never heard anyone say they love them! Especially if the one you are leaving is someone you love deeply, and someone you know you may never see again.

Like David and Jonathan’s goodbye here in I Samuel. I imagine Jonathan’s heart was heavy as he picked up his bow and arrow and headed to the field that morning. I imagine he fought tears so as not to show the boy with him his sorrow. I can almost feel the burning lump in his throat as he shot that arrow, the signal to David that Saul wanted him dead. And I bet he knew he had to get that boy out of there before the dam broke.

At that moment, Jonathan disregarded any fear of danger at being seen with David. He had to have one last moment with his best friend, no matter the cost. And I imagine that as the two men hugged each other tightly, their tears flowed from their deepest pain.

As I write this, thinking about my last moments with my mom, and Jonathan and David’s goodbye, I am weeping. Twenty-one years have passed since Mom went to live with Jesus. But remembering that goodbye still touches the sorrow as though it was yesterday. I can hardly wait to see her again!

So I’m sitting here thinking about goodbyes and wondering what God would say to me about that today. Then I remembered something David said in verse 3:

…Yet as surely as the Lord lives and as you live, there is only a step between me and death.

The same can be said of all of us.

I didn’t get to say goodbye to my sweet nephew that Sunday afternoon he lost control of his truck and slammed into a tree. He was gone in an instant, without saying goodbye even to his parents and sister. Without giving them the opportunity to say goodbye to him, either.

One step.

Now I’m certainly not advocating tearful goodbyes every time someone runs to the corner store for milk. But maybe God is prompting us to consider if there is someone in our lives with whom we have things yet unsaid. Anger or jealousy we need to confess, forgiveness we need to seek, Jesus we need to share.

Maybe God is bringing to mind someone you’ve stopped talking to for reasons you don’t even remember, or reasons so trivial in the light of eternity.

The truth is we are all one step away from death. Is there someone on your heart? Ask God what He wants you to do about that. Then do it.

You never get a second chance at a last goodbye.

I Samuel 19; It Takes Two To Tango

Saul had one goal in life, and it totally consumed him. He wanted David dead more than anything. David, on the other hand, had nothing against Saul. If David had his way, the two would be friends.

Throughout their story we will see Saul do many means things to David. But we won’t see David return evil for evil.

I would say that during the 23 years I was a middle school counselor, the majority of my time was spent dealing with adolescent friendships. More than anything academic, relationships were far and away the number one thing on the minds of those children. Most of the time a child’s instinct was to strike back at someone who they felt wronged them.

“She started it.”

“He hit me first.”

“She said something about my mom.”

“He was talking about me.

And somehow, in their minds those things seemed to justify their own bad behavior. I would often quote Romans 12:21 to them:

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Most of the time they’d look at me like I had grown antlers or something.

Jesus tells us to love our enemies, to pray for those who are mean to us. (Matt 5:44) Easier said than done, because I don’t think revenge is a concept exclusive to adolescents.

Have you heard the phrase, “It takes two to tango”? It takes two of you to have a battle. If one of you refuse to fight back, it isn’t a fight.

Saul heard that David was in Naioth. So the king sent some of his men to go get David. But when Saul’s men got there, they walked into a church service instead of a battle. They joined the church service.

So Saul sent another band of thugs to capture David. And when these men observed David and the people praising God, they praised God, too

This must have been quite the church service because Saul sent a third group of men to do the deed. The third group of men? They dropped their weapons and raised their hands in worship, too.

“Ok. Enough of this,” Saul must have thought. “If you want something done right, you do it yourself.” So with every intention of taking care of David himself, he marched into Naioth, probably spitting nails.

Something happened to Saul, though, when he saw the Spirit of God moving among the people. At least for the time being, he forgot his mission of evil, and began prophesying too, by the Holy Spirit.

Saul had expected to go to battle with David. David refused to go to battle with Saul. And at least for the moment, good did overcome evil, and David’s life was spared.

Matthew Henry said David was delivered, not as he’d delivered his lambs by killing lions, but by turning lions into lambs.

I like that idea.

Do you want to get rid of an enemy? Start by being nice to him or her. You might even turn them into a friend.  It’s not impossible.

It’s Scriptural.