What’s your view of God? I’m not asking for you to draw a picture here, but what characteristics do you think of? What kind of personality do you envision?
One of the biggest questions people have regarding God is whether he is actually good or not. They see suffering in the world and natural disasters and wonder how God could possibly be good. Some even take it a step further and read part of the Old Testament and see people killed for what seem like small mistakes. And though we don’t have time to answer the ENORMOUS question of whether God is good or not, I think this week’s reading in Chronicles will help.
As King Hezekiah tries to draw the Israelites back to faithfulness and reinstates celebrating Passover, which had long since fallen by the wayside, he does it imperfectly. The people are unclean and all the specified standards aren’t met…but God is pleased none the less.
So why was his effort acceptable and others’ in Scripture were not? We can look back on a powerful verse: “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
Mary, in every story she’s mentioned in, is completely devoted to Jesus. Nothing seems to be able to separate her from spending time with her Lord. In today’s John reading she’s even criticized for being too extravagant towards Jesus. Don’t hear Jesus’ reply as saying we shouldn’t serve and care for the poor. Instead, hear his reminder that our devotion to Christ should be paramount. If that is true, good works will be a given.
1 Samuel 29:1-31:13:
- 1-6 – While David and the men were away from their villages, Negeb and Ziklag, the Amalekites, a perpetual enemy of the Israelites, took all the women and children captive. David’s men were furious with him when they returned. As a point of connection, the Amalekites were the people Saul was supposed to destroy completely but didn’t, which was why he was rejected as king.
- 7-8 – David, unlike Saul, is faithful in asking God what he wants him to do before he does anything.
- 9-25 – David’s men who were too exhausted stayed behind and didn’t fight. Interesting that Scripture refers to the men who, after their victory, didn’t want to return the exhausted men’s property to them, “wicked and worthless.” These were greedy men who wanted the credit for their hard work and to punish those who couldn’t fight that particular battle. David did not go for their proposition.
- 1-7 – As was prophesied, Saul and all his sons died in one day. The Philistines seem to be in complete power at this point.
- 8-10 – Because the Philistines couldn’t capture Saul alive, they torture and dishonor his corpse.
- 11-13 – Normally burning a body would be seen as shameful, but it may have been done so the Philistines could not find him and take him back. The bodies weren’t completely burned because, later, David takes Saul and Jonathan’s bones and buries them in their family burial plot.
- 1-8 – This story is mentioned when Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead even though it is written to have occurred after that. Mary is known for her devotion to Jesus and has great reason to be considering he raised her brother from the dead. Many people question why Judas’ comments are dismissed since they sound pretty valid, but he actually had no intention of helping the poor with the money. He wanted it himself.
- 12-15 – Though brief in this gospel, the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, which we call Palm Sunday, is one of few stories included in all four gospels. “Hosanna” means “save us”. The people of Jerusalem, who will soon have him killed, cry out for Jesus to save them. The donkey colt fulfilled a prophesy of the Messiah.
- 5-6 – Cause and effect. I cry out to the Lord. The Lord comes through. I now have increased faith in God’s protection for me. This is how our faith should work yet we so often forget the great things he does for us.
- 18 – A great perspective! Sometimes we endure consequences, but this doesn’t mean that God has forsaken or rejected us.
- 25 – Pride normally means we rely on ourselves but wisdom tells us the Lord is the only one we can rely on. Everything else crumbles.
When you think of Jesus, what do you think about? Maybe the crucifixion? Maybe his teaching? Forgiveness? Kindness? One of the things we rarely think about is his humanity and him feeling like we feel. We rarely think about when he got angry, or when he was excited about something. And in today’s reading, we get to read about his raw, human emotion. His friend died so he was sad and he cried. Though it’s hard to fathom, Jesus was human just like us.
1 Samuel 26:1-28:25:
- 1-5 – Clearly Saul’s compassion for David did not last long as he starts to pursue him once again.
- 8-12 – David has a second chance to kill Saul. Once again, he refuses because Saul was anointed by the Lord and David felt that it wasn’t his place to raise a hand against him, but God’s.
- 13-16 – Abner was the leader of Saul’s army. David calls Abner out and makes it clear that he had not properly protected Saul. Since David had these items kept so close to Saul, Abner would know that David could have harmed him as well.
- 21-25 – Once again, Saul is humbled by David’s mercy and stops pursuing him.
- 3-7 – When Saul can no longer hear from the Lord he turns to other, unsanctioned ways of learning his future.
- 8-19 – Samuel explains the reason God cut Saul off, which would prove it was Samuel since others didn’t know that Saul was cut off or the reason why. Samuel confirms that Saul and his sons will die the next day and will lose to the Philistines.
- 1-4 – These are the same Mary and Martha from the story when Martha does all the work and Mary sits at the feet of Jesus. As this passage states, Mary is also the one who anoints Jesus’ feet. Clearly they knew Jesus well and followed him faithfully.
- 5-16 – The disciples try to keep Jesus from returning to Judea because it is dangerous there. Jesus wants to go raise Lazarus from the dead and he knows his disciples’ faith will be strengthened by seeing it. This is why he says that he’s glad, for their sakes, that Lazarus died.
- 25-27 – Jesus offers another “I am” statement. Martha believes in the resurrection of all believers that is to come, but Jesus lets her know that he determines when resurrection occurs. Martha knows Jesus’ identity and has faith in his abilities.
- 35 – The shortest verse in Scripture. Also, one of the most obvious displays of Jesus feeling human emotion.
- 39 – Even those of us who believe deeply in Jesus’ abilities are hindered by our own understanding. Martha thought of the earthly facts – dead bodies decay and stink – she wasn’t thinking that all things are possible through Christ.
- 49-53 – Caiaphas had insight into Jesus’ future though it doesn’t indicate whether, at this time, he was for or against Jesus.
- We are designed to be in relationship at all times. We are not to trust others above God, but we are to seek wise counsel from those who are in active relationship with God.
It is often after we get ourselves into a great mess that we think to cry out to God. Today’s psalm talks about facing the snares of death and then calling out to the Lord to rescue. Our lives would be a whole lot easier if we would stay in communication with God in order to keep ourselves out of the trouble in the first place.
1 Samuel 24:1-25:44:
- 2-7 – David had such respect for the authority God had given Saul that he felt guilty for even cutting his robe. He also refused to kill Saul even though Saul was trying his best to kill him.
- 8-22 – David’s kindness and grace turn Saul’s heart. He stops chasing David and confirms that he will one day be king.
- 1-17 – Even though David and his men had been very kind to Nabal’s men, Nabal is hateful and inhospitable to David, which was unusual for their culture. Unless you were enemies, hospitality was understood.
- 18-35 – Abigail, with quick thinking and great hospitality, saves her household from the consequences of her husband’s hatefulness. She also saved David from making a hasty decision and killing Nabal’s household.
- 40-44 – David was married to Michal and now has taken both Abigail and Ahinoam as wives. Saul, though, dissolves David’s marriage to Michal, in his absence, so David now has two wives. This was culturally acceptable.
- 24-30 – The Jews wanting Jesus to explain his identity plainly is ironic since this gospel, far more than any other, has clearly revealed Jesus’ identity.
- 26-27 – Jesus’ sheep were those who believed in and followed him.
- 31-42 – Once again the religious authorities attempt to stone Jesus because they think he is blaspheming while others continue to believe in and follow him.
- 3-4 – Notice that the psalmist experienced great pain and torment and then cries out for God to deliver him. Why is it that it often takes so long for us to finally cry out to God?
- 12-14 – It’s impossible to repay the Lord for all the great things he does for us. The psalmist chooses to thank God for his salvation and to acknowledge God’s work in his life in front of others.
How do you know when God’s talking to you? How can you understand if what you think you’re supposed to do is God’s will or just your own desires? In today’s reading from John, Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd. He says sheep follow shepherds because they know his voice. We can know God’s voice based on whether or not it lines up with God’s character and if it aligns with what we know of God through Scripture and prayer.
1 Samuel 22:1-23:29:
- 2 – David clearly had many of the same characteristics as Jesus. The low and broken were attracted to him.
- 11-19 – We are not guaranteed that doing the right thing will have positive consequences. The priests protected David, but were ultimately killed by Saul.
- 2 – David consults God to see what God’s will is before he acts.
- 3-5 – The fear of the people causes David to hesitate, but the Lord confirms his desires and David obeys.
- 6-14 – David and his men could have easily been trapped and ambushed in Keilah, but the Lord watched over him. Notice David’s extremely open and close relationship with God. He asked God for specific information and God does not hesitate to share with him.
- 24-29 – Note that God makes the impossible possible. Saul is closing in on David and something urgent arises right at the right time.
- 3-4 – Sheep know their shepherds voice so they follow his instructions. Note that we just read an example of this with David. He was close with God and knew his voice so he had open conversations with him and knew where God was sending him and what he was calling him to do.
- 7-9 – Another I am statement. Basically, Jesus is the passageway to God. He is also that which closes us off from things we do not need to participate in.
- 10 – A very clear comparison between the thief and Jesus. One steals, kills, and destroys, the other brings abundant life. Seems like an easy choice.
- 11 – Another I am statement. Jesus, as the good shepherd, will and does lay down his life for our good.
- 16 – This explains that not only Jews will be saved, but gentiles as well. They are from different flocks, but both will be saved.
- 1 – Psalms lend themselves to songs because many were used as songs in worship. This psalm inspired this early 2000s gem.
- 4-8 – A perfect explanation of why graven images and various idols are worthless. They seem to have so much to offer (we’re obviously talking about our own “idols” here too), but fall short and leave us empty.
- 18 – Yet another example of prudence and wisdom being associated with rational thought out responses.
The story in John today is incredible! The young man Jesus heals makes a powerful statement of faith as he testifies to what Jesus has done in his life. As the Pharisees, trying to indict Jesus, question the young man, he replies to them by saying, “All I know is I once was blind but now I see.” He basically says, “you do the math.” We all have a “I once was ________ but now I ________” story. What if we all shared them?
1 Samuel 20:1-21:15:
- 1-23 – Once again, Jonathan puts himself at risk to act as a go-between for David and Saul. David feared attending Saul’s dinner because Saul most likely wanted to harm him so Jonathan would feel out his father. Note that Jonathan makes a covenant with David here so that David won’t destroy all of Jonathan’s family. This becomes significant later.
- 41-42 – Jonathan and David were grieved that they would no longer get to see each other since Saul confirmed that he wanted to kill David. David had to flee, but they agreed that they would remain friends.
- 1-6 – David and his crew eat the holy bread which is supposed to be reserved only for the priests, but they were very hungry. Jesus refers to this when the religious leaders get mad at him for picking grain on the Sabbath.
- 2 – It was common belief that any physical or mental disability was caused by sin.
- 5 – Another I am statement. Jesus refers to himself as “the light of the world.” This is why he says it is day now – because he was present. He’s referring to “night” as when he is no longer on the earth.
- 21-23 – Whether the parents knew the healing was from Jesus or not, they were more afraid of the religious leaders than they were loyal to Jesus.
- 25 – A beautiful statement of faith! This is one we can all take note from. When people argue the validity of God or the saving power of Christ, all we need to say is, “I don’t know much. All I know is I once was blind but now I see.” Feel free to fill in your own story of “blindness”.
- 34 – The religious leaders find a way to discount the man’s story saying he is simply a sinner and they can’t learn anything from him.
- These psalms simply recount various ways God is great. This is a great way to write your own psalm of praise. Simply recall the various ways God has been great in your life.
- 16-17 – Beautiful verses explaining where real value lies.
You know when a little kids tells you he’s Batman? It’s cute, but you know he’s actually not and you just play along with it. Well…this is pretty much exactly the opposite thing that happens with Jesus in today’s John reading. He calls himself “I am” and says he came before Abraham, the original, and highly lauded patriarch. The religious leaders did NOT think it was cute and did not go along with it…but it was true. He truly was “I am”.
1 Samuel 18:5-19:24:
- 7-9 – David’s success pleased Saul until it threatened his own.
- 10-11 – The first, but not last, time Saul tries to injure or kill David.
- 16 – David “went out and came in before them” meaning he led them in battle. He did not hide behind, but led them with courage. This built trust and affection for him.
- 20-29 – Saul thought that he could set David up for failure and possibly death by sending him to battle Philistines in order to win his daughter as a wife. Instead, David succeeded in the mission and received Saul’s daughter as a wife.
- 1-7 – Jonathan took a large risk in speaking favorably about David to Saul, his father. Saul had tried to injure and kill David previously.
- 8-10 – David’s favor with Saul was short-lived and he was forced to flee again when Saul tried to injure him again.
- 34-36 – Being a slave to sin means that it has power over you and controls you. Sin is that powerful. When we allow it into our lives and takes power over us. Jesus is the only one who can free us from this slavery.
- 42-43 – Jesus is much more open in the gospel of John about his relationship to God – specifically, father/son.
- 52-53 – The Jews held Abraham in such high esteem that it was impossible for them to view this man from Nazareth as greater than Abraham.
- 58 – Jesus refers to himself here as “I am” which is what God referred to himself as when Moses asked who, should I tell the Pharaoh, sent me. This makes the Jews mad and further solidifies that he is the Son of God.
- This psalm describes someone who is living a righteous, upright life. The key component to all the greatness is fearing God and following his commands. This is reiterated throughout Scripture.
- When we are already steeped in sin, we often avoid those who are wise or righteous because we don’t want to be called out and have to abandon our sin. This behavior becomes a deeper and deeper hole we dig for ourselves.
You’ve heard this story 1,000 times, but don’t skim over it. David and Goliath is told as a children’s story most often because we can be brave and that’s good stuff. But listen to the dialogue. What is David’s reasoning for facing a giant against all odds? Who was this David kid anyway? Take the time to read this story like it was the first time.
1 Samuel 17:1-18:4:
- 4 – Some say Goliath may have been up to 9 feet tall.
- 26-27 – David was most concerned that the Philistines were opposing God’s army, the Israelites. He couldn’t believe or stand this type of offense.
- 38-40 – It seems that Saul is trying to do all he can for David. Certainly he felt like it might look bad on him to send a young boy out to be killed by a veteran warrior who was also a giant.
- 45-47 – David went to battle in the name of the Lord with every confidence that the Lord would sustain and proper him against Goliath.
- 1-4 – Jonathan was Saul’s son but became David’s best friend. Theirs is one of the greatest stories of friendship in all of Scripture.
- 23-24 – Just like us, the people who lived when Jesus did also needed to believe that he was the Son of God and Savior of the world.
- This Psalm lists off a number of reasons why God is great and worthy to be followed and praised. It gives hope to believers and reminds us of the lengths God will go to in order to care for his people.
- 10 – Proverbs 1:7 also says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. This makes sense considering God leads us into protection and good things. To fear and obey him would obviously help us make wise decisions.
- Sheol was the name of the place people thought the dead went. Abaddon was a angel said to be in charge of an army of locusts. He is also mentioned in Revelation.
One of the major misconceptions in Christianity and modern culture is what love is. Today’s reading in John regarding the adulteress woman make it clear. We often think love is total, no-questions-asked acceptance and support. When that is not love at all. In the story Jesus offers the woman mercy, knowing she has sinned, but he doesn’t say, “and it’s cool that you sinned.” He says, “Go and sin no more.” He loves her where she is and then instructs her to pursue holiness, which is God’s best for her. That is love.
1 Samuel 15:1-16:23:
- 1-3 – Through Samuel, God makes his instructions to Saul very clear. He is to completely destroy the city of Amalek including livestock, etc.
- 7-9 – God’s specific instruction was to destroy everything of the Amalekites. Saul spares the king and the best of the livestock because they were valuable to him. It is clear that he did not do what God asked.
- 10-11 – This is only the second time we hear God “regret” something. The first is just before he has Noah build the ark when he says that he regrets creating humans because they’re so wicked.
- 22-23 – The idea of God wanting obedience more than offerings becomes a theme throughout Scripture. It is talked about in Hosea as well as by Jesus to the religious leaders. We cannot purposely choose disobedience and then get out of it with burnt offerings.
- 24 – Humans trusting anything and everything other than God is also a theme throughout Scripture. It’s the basis of the first sins of Adam and Eve and continues throughout Scripture.
- 1 – Note that Jesse is from Bethlehem, which becomes the birthplace of Jesus. This is not a coincidence.
- 6-7 – Samuel and even most of us today, expect our leaders to be tall, strong, and attractive. Saul fit the part as did Eliab and Eliab was the oldest son, which would make most sense as a leader. But God judges us differently. He doesn’t care about our appearance, but about the contents of our heart.
- 10-13 – This is a fairly quick story considering its significance. David must have felt rejected that the priest comes to your family and your father doesn’t even bother to have you meet him. Also, imagine the jealousy of the 7 older brothers who were not chosen as king. Note that David received the same Holy Spirit who guides believers today.
- 14-23 – Some may ask why God would torture Saul with an evil spirit, but God also provided the means by which he could be soothed from it and it also provided a way for David to get near the king.
- 53-11 – There is a portion in Mark and this portion in John that both say they were not included in the earliest manuscripts. This means that they were not included in the first written accounts of these gospels. They were either found later or possibly written later. It is important to note that those who formed and finalized the canon felt that this portion of Scripture was beneficial for salvation and knowledge of Christ.
- 2-11 – Yet again, the religious leaders try to catch Jesus disobeying Mosaic Law. Instead of condemning the woman based on Mosaic Law, he finds a faithful way to show grace. It is key that he does not condone her sin. He forgives her and then instructs her to leave that sin behind.
- 12 – One of Jesus’ “I am” statements that reveals something about who he is. Light shines in the darkness and reveals sins. Life is found when we are freed from sin.
- 13-20 – John puts a large emphasis on where Jesus was from and where he was going. He and the Father seem to be the only ones fully in the loop and the religious leaders are totally out of it.
- This Psalm was most likely written for David’s appointment as king of Israel and the priest’s installation. It was most likely used for subsequent kings’ initiations too.
Transitions of power are often difficult. No one wants to lose power. Saul was no exception. He was God’s first chosen king to lead His people. He was anointed and appointed and blessed to do the job. He was also given specific instructions…and then disobeyed them. As we know, when God gives specific instructions, he expects people to follow them, specifically. For the rest of the week in 1 Samuel, we will read about the slow, painful, violent transition of power from Saul to David. Don’t worry though, the transition will take much longer than a week’s worth of reading – it’s that good and that intricate.
As you read, make notes of the contrasts between Saul and David. Saul looked much more royal on paper, but, as we’ll read, God doesn’t look at outward appearances. He looks at the heart.
This week, in John, we’ll read a few more of Jesus’ “I am” statements that we wanted to watch out for in John. A couple of them come in a description of Jesus and people compared to sheep and a shepherd. He makes so many comparisons and pulls out so many details, that you might get lost, but I encourage you to focus in on at least one. I suggest thinking a lot about how sheep follow the shepherd because they know his voice. Do you know God’s voice? If not, how can you get to know it? If so, are you listening?
The Psalms and Proverbs continue to run us through a range of emotions and opportunities to gain wisdom. You won’t want to miss them. Don’t worry, the ever-popular theme of Proverbs to take your time on actions and decisions pops up again. I think God means it.
So, happy reading! Take time to learn God’s voice through Scripture. You’re doing great! Keep it up!!