Distracted by Satan

Matthew 16:23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”

IMG_0418Read Luke 10:38-42   

At the Home of Martha and Mary

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Footnotes:

  1. Luke 10:42 Some manuscripts but only one thing is needed
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Read Luke 18:18-30 

Luke 18:18-30New International Version (NIV)

The Rich and the Kingdom of God

18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’[a]

21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.

22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

26 Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”

27 Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”

28 Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”

29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30 will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”

Footnotes:

  1. Luke 18:20 Exodus 20:12-16; Deut. 5:16-20
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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In both of these stories there is a common problem.  The persons of the rich young man, and Martha are both distracted by things of this world.  They are clinging onto the wrong things.   In the case of the rich young man, he has pride that he has kept all of God’s commandments since his youth…but he doesn’t see that his pride and his love of his wealth is a problem.   That is the beam in his own eye.  He would not choose Jesus over his wealth and status.  It isn’t that his wealth was a bad thing or that his position in life was a bad thing…it was his unyielding love of those things that made them bad.

In the case of Martha, she had Jesus in her house, and she was so busy fussing in the kitchen that she didn’t have time to appreciate and listen to him.  Have you ever done that?  Had a guest and been so busy with trying to make them comfortable physically that you had no time to spend with actually visiting with them?  I am a bit of a neat freak, so I can relate to this a bit.  After Thanksgiving dinner I want to get things cleaned up because my relatives will start cleaning up for me if I don’t get on it.  I appreciate their help, but it makes it hard to sit down and enjoy their company.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not making a complaint….the help is wonderful.  I didn’t grow up with that kind of help…it was myself and one of my brothers hand washing it all.  However, I can relate to Martha a bit.  The host/hostess of the party always wants to make sure their guests are having a good time.  The thing is that most guests come to visit us, not our food and drinks.  This was the case for Martha also, except her special guest was Jesus!  Her sister sat right down to visit, recognizing that spending actual time with Jesus was most important…hearing what he had to say…soaking up that presence.

Satan uses all kinds of methods to draw us away from God, but one of his most useful and successful methods is to make us feel that something is more important than seeking God’s presence!  We frequently treat God as a “I’ll get to him later!   I don’t have time for that right now!”

The thing is that God only adds to our lives….somewhere many people have gotten the mistaken notion that God is going to take something from our lives.  Gosh, I think maybe they might have received that notion from Satan, don’t you?!!

In C.S. Lewis The Screw tape Letters we see many examples of how the devil manipulates people from behind the scenes….whispering to them, causing havoc between them and their fellow men, causing unreasonable hatred between people, etc.  However, the method that is easiest is simple distraction.  Here is an example, paraphrased from the book:

There is a guy sitting in a library and he is starting to have a really important thought, so the demon whispers in his ear…it’s time for lunch…let’s go get some lunch….of course, the body needs fed, so that man gets up and goes out to get lunch…(once outside the library the world is noticed as it is busy and noisy)…completely forgetting the thought that he had been starting to entertain about God.

Genesis 1:26 New International Version (NIV)

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

Footnotes:

  1. Genesis 1:26 Probable reading of the original Hebrew text (see Syriac); Masoretic Text the earth

We need to be certain that we don’t let our physical and emotional needs or our joy of God’s creation and the activities we have here on earth distract us from the fact that we are God’s creation and we are created to serve and glorify God.

Once we understand that we are created to serve God then we have a purpose that causes us to seek out how God wants us to serve him.  For each of us our service to God is unique…God planned out what part we have in his plan before our birth.  It is to prosper us, not to harm us….that doesn’t seem like God is planning to take away anything at all.  In fact, I can tell you that the peace of heart and mind that God gives to the person who serves him with all their heart is so very wonderful.  It is a contentment that can be found no where else.

Isaiah 43:7New International Version (NIV)

everyone who is called by my name,
    whom I created for my glory,
    whom I formed and made.”

We can see from reading Genesis 1:26, and Isaiah 43:7 that God gave us a job to do, and that we are here to glorify him.

Jeremiah 29:11-14  11For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.

This promise in Jeremiah was given to Israel when they went into captivity in Babylon, but it applies to us who are held captive by the things of this world also.  Seek God and Find Him…or the way I like to think about it is that if you are seeking God, seriously, with all of your heart, then God will find you…(though he always knew where you were…it is just that he will actively lead you to know him.)  Every person’s journey is individual when it comes to getting to know God…we all have a different story to tell about our faith experience.  IMG_4581

Worthless Prayer

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Look at this picture of Jesus on the Cross and the people at the foot of his cross…they are being depicted with the dedication that the Bible shows us they had..suffering the sight of the death of their savior…unknowing that he would rise again. By Carl Heinrich Bloch

Proverbs 28:9  He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.

Read Jeremiah 7, and Jeremiah 11 These chapters illustrate how God feels about people who turn away from Him, then God doesn’t like that person’s prayers. However, God still loves us, even when we are in sin…He will  love us straight to the gates of Hell and if you go through those gates, then God will still love you; but the separation is eternal. I think that permanent separation from God is what hell is actually all about.  (That’s just my personal opinion to be sure.)  

Just as a parent will allow their adult children to do the wrong things, and not approve, and also won’t stop them but still will love them. Even as you read these two chapters everything in them seems very harsh, doesn’t it?  This tells us how much God wants us to show our love to him through obedience to his word.  How much God hates the actions of those who say that they are his people, yet, don’t follow what he says to do.

Now, this is not about being legalistic in how you view God.  There is absolutely nothing that you can do to gain God’s approval besides accepting his son.  However, to accept his son, you also have to accept his son’s “yoke” or his son’s teachings. (Matthew 11:28-30) You cannot accept the blood sacrifice of Jesus and then go on about your merry way as you always have.  If a person has really and truly accepted Jesus as their savior then there will be changes in them.  Now, that does not mean that they are suddenly going to spring forth into perfection…no, but it does mean that they have a change of heart where they realize that they have been doing things that are (as my Pastor is fond of saying) “off the mark” of where they should be.  Another way of saying that they are not on target for what God wishes in their lives.  God is the one who changes the person by the Holy Spirit’s presence within them.

So, how does a person know what God wants of them?  Well, Jesus stated it clearly: (Matthew 22:36-40)

1.) Love God with all your heart, mind and soul.

2.) Love your neighbor as you love yourself.

If you follow those two commandments, then you don’t have to worry about all of the rest of God’s law because you cannot follow those two commandments and still break any of God’s law at all.  That is what Jesus’ taught.

Why is that?  Well, because if you love God, then you won’t disrespect him or any of his creation in any way. That includes yourself and others.

If you love yourself (most people love themselves the most if they are honest…we see it all of the time…), then you want the best for yourself.

The best marriage, best home, best children, best friends, best of everything, right?!!

So it follows that if you love your neighbor as you love yourself, then you will want the best for them also:  The best marriage, the best home, best children, best friends, best of everything, right?!!!

Now, in loving that person you also want them to have the most important thing…the best relationship with God that they could possibly have.  You wouldn’t want that person to have anything bad in their lives, right?!!

This means that in loving them you celebrate with them, and mourn with them as they go through life, and you help them whenever they need it to the best of your ability.

It also means that you recognize that your neighbor may have different needs than you do when it comes to home and family life.  After all, we are not clones of each other.  We have individual desires in many respects, but there is one thing we all have in common on this earth.  It is the desire to have the love and companionship of family and friends.  We all want to be loved, and to be able to tell that we are loved.

Sometimes when we are “loving” others in the Christian way, we end up not so much loving them as “judging” them. We end up telling them what they should and should not do.  Most people have enough people telling them how to live their lives…that is not what they need.  People need the chance to make their own decisions and to realize that they will still be loved.  That is the example that God gives us of loving.

God did not put us in charge of making the rest of the world behave.  He told us to follow him…follow his example of loving others.  God wants us to love people beyond their faults.  Jesus shows us that example time and time again.  He shows people that he recognizes that they have faults, but that he loves them anyway and that he cares about their needs.  God is the one who will work on that person’s faults and bad decisions with them.  We can help them with this, but we cannot condemn them..that is not our job or our responsibility.  We have different responsibilities when dealing with another Christian who we see going astray as we are to correct each other..but for those who do not know Christ we are responsible to simply show them the love of Christ by our love for them and how we live that love out in our lives. (Matthew 18:15-17)

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There is one time that we see Jesus demonstrating some anger to us…the context of that anger is simple…there are people in God’s very house, his temple, who are taking advantage of other people who are coming to worship God.  They are giving them unfair exchanges for their money when they are coming from out of town, and they are charging them unreasonably high prices for the animals that they are buying for sacrifice in the temple.  Jesus actually quotes Jeremiah 7:11 while he is overturning the money changers tables.  Jesus is referring to the time when God proclaimed that empty worship is worthless worship, and telling those who are taking unfair advantage of others that God is watching them and sees what they do.  The people whom Jesus was talking to most likely fully understood the reference…it probably scared them spitless!  They knew that they were guilty in the eyes of God! (Matthew 21:12-13) (Now John 2 calls it a market place and focuses on the disrespect shown to God’s house by buying and selling in it.)

To put this in more blunt and modern terms…if you are just going to church and warming a pew so that you can tell the world how great you are that you go to church…that is worthless in God’s eyes.  If you do not include God in your every day life then your actions of worship are worthless.  God wants relationship with you, that is the way in which God will bless your life the most.  Relationship with God on a day to day basis can get you through anything that happens in your life.  It gives you an inexpressible strength.

Jeremiah Chapter 7 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Stand at the gate of the Lord’s house and there proclaim this message:

“‘Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the Lord. This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!” If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever. But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless.

“‘Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury,[a] burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, 10 and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe”—safe to do all these detestable things? 11 Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord.

12 “‘Go now to the place in Shiloh where I first made a dwelling for my Name, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of my people Israel. 13 While you were doing all these things, declares the Lord, I spoke to you again and again, but you did not listen; I called you, but you did not answer. 14 Therefore, what I did to Shiloh I will now do to the house that bears my Name, the temple you trust in, the place I gave to you and your ancestors. 15 I will thrust you from my presence, just as I did all your fellow Israelites, the people of Ephraim.’

16 “So do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them; do not plead with me, for I will not listen to you. 17 Do you not see what they are doing in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? 18 The children gather wood, the fathers light the fire, and the women knead the dough and make cakes to offer to the Queen of Heaven. They pour out drink offerings to other gods to arouse my anger. 19 But am I the one they are provoking?declares the Lord. Are they not rather harming themselves, to their own shame?

20 “‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: My anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place—on man and beast, on the trees of the field and on the crops of your land—and it will burn and not be quenched.

21 “‘This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go ahead, add your burnt offerings to your other sacrifices and eat the meat yourselves! 22 For when I brought your ancestors out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, 23 but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you. 24 But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward. 25 From the time your ancestors left Egypt until now, day after day, again and again I sent you my servants the prophets. 26 But they did not listen to me or pay attention. They were stiff-necked and did more evil than their ancestors.’

27 “When you tell them all this, they will not listen to you; when you call to them, they will not answer. 28 Therefore say to them, ‘This is the nation that has not obeyed the Lord its God or responded to correction. Truth has perished; it has vanished from their lips.

29 “‘Cut off your hair and throw it away; take up a lament on the barren heights, for the Lordhas rejected and abandoned this generation that is under his wrath.

The Valley of Slaughter

30 “‘The people of Judah have done evil in my eyes, declares the Lord. They have set up their detestable idols in the house that bears my Name and have defiled it. 31 They have built the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to burn their sons and daughters in the fire—something I did not command, nor did it enter my mind. 32 So beware, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when people will no longer call it Topheth or the Valley of Ben Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter, for they will bury the dead in Topheth until there is no more room. 33 Then the carcasses of this people will become food for the birds and the wild animals, and there will be no one to frighten them away. 34 I will bring an end to the soundsof joy and gladness and to the voices of bride and bridegroom in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem, for the land will become desolate.

Footnotes:

  1. Jeremiah 7:9 Or and swear by false gods

The Covenant Is Broken

Jeremiah chapter 11 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Listen to the terms of this covenant and tell them to the people of Judah and to those who live in Jerusalem. Tell them that this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Cursed is the one who does not obey the terms of this covenant— the terms I commanded your ancestors when I brought them out of Egypt, out of the iron-smelting furnace.’ I said, ‘Obey me and do everything I command you, and you will be my people, and I will be your God. Then I will fulfill the oath I swore to your ancestors, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey’—the land you possess today.”

I answered, “Amen, Lord.”

The Lord said to me, “Proclaim all these words in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem: ‘Listen to the terms of this covenant and follow them. From the time I brought your ancestors up from Egypt until today, I warned them again and again, saying, “Obey me.” But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubbornness of their evil hearts. So I brought on them all the curses of the covenant I had commanded them to follow but that they did not keep.’”

Then the Lord said to me, “There is a conspiracy among the people of Judah and those who live in Jerusalem. 10 They have returned to the sins of their ancestors, who refused to listen to my words. They have followed other gods to serve them. Both Israel and Judah have broken the covenant I made with their ancestors. 11 Therefore this is what the Lordsays: ‘I will bring on them a disaster they cannot escape. Although they cry out to me, I will not listen to them. 12 The towns of Judah and the people of Jerusalem will go and cry out to the gods to whom they burn incense, but they will not help them at all when disaster strikes.13 You, Judah, have as many gods as you have towns; and the altars you have set up to burn incense to that shameful god Baal are as many as the streets of Jerusalem.’

14 “Do not pray for this people or offer any plea or petition for them, because I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their distress.

15 “What is my beloved doing in my temple
    as she, with many others, works out her evil schemes?
    Can consecrated meat avert your punishment?
When you engage in your wickedness,
    then you rejoice.[a]

16 The Lord called you a thriving olive tree
    with fruit beautiful in form.
But with the roar of a mighty storm
    he will set it on fire,
    and its branches will be broken.

17 The Lord Almighty, who planted you, has decreed disaster for you, because the people of both Israel and Judah have done evil and aroused my anger by burning incense to Baal.

Plot Against Jeremiah

18 Because the Lord revealed their plot to me, I knew it, for at that time he showed me what they were doing. 19 I had been like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter; I did not realize that they had plotted against me, saying,

“Let us destroy the tree and its fruit;
    let us cut him off from the land of the living,
    that his name be remembered no more.”
20 But you, Lord Almighty, who judge righteously
    and test the heart and mind,
let me see your vengeance on them,
    for to you I have committed my cause.

21 Therefore this is what the Lord says about the people of Anathoth who are threatening to kill you, saying, “Do not prophesy in the name of the Lord or you will die by our hands”—22 therefore this is what the Lord Almighty says: “I will punish them. Their young men will die by the sword, their sons and daughters by famine. 23 Not even a remnant will be left to them, because I will bring disaster on the people of Anathoth in the year of their punishment.” (NIV via Bible gateway.com)

Footnotes:

  1. Jeremiah 11:15 Or Could consecrated meat avert your punishment? / Then you would rejoice

Follow God through Prayer

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This is a picture of a burnt log and some flowers growing next to it in Yellowstone National Park.  All through the park there was evidence of recovery.  Even in the events of our lives that cause some dreams and aspirations to die, God is with us and can bring beauty from ashes.  If only we talk to Him and follow His leading.

Psalm 37:5-7 Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him, and He will do this, He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn.

Read 1Samuel 23:1-14 David asked the Lord if he was to go to Keilah and stand against the Philistines, God told him to go and that he would deliver the Philistines into his hands.  David did so, and God did as he said he would. God protected David and used him (even though Saul was trying to take his life) to save the people of Keilah.

Read Psalm 37:5-7 Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him, and He will do this, He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn. The justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for Him, do not fret, when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.

This is an excellent verse to take to heart when you are praying for something, you must trust in God for the answer, even if you don’t see immediate results, be committed to knowing that God is committed to you and that He hears your prayers, and will take action on your behalf.  

God’s justice is always much more accurate and precise than anything that you and I can come up with.  Sometimes the person whom we want justice from has suffered an even greater injustice than we have, but we don’t know it.  That doesn’t excuse the injustice we suffered by them, but it may help us to understand where they were coming from and find a way to love that person despite what they have done.  

David, makes it clear through out his relationship with King Saul that he does not despise Saul and has no wish to take his throne from him before the appointed time that God will give it to him.  David continues to attempt to serve Saul to the best of his ability despite Saul’s hatred of him, and his constant attempts to take David’s life.

I mean, Saul throws spears at David while David is entertaining Saul with his music.  Saul chases him down and tries to kill him.  When you look at some of the Psalms that David wrote, the headings on some of them tell us that they were written in caves while he was hiding for fear of his life.  That fear is because King Saul is after him.

King Saul actually admired David and promoted him to the position he was in, but after God turned from Saul and David was anointed by Samuel as the next King of Israel (the United Kingdom of Israel) Saul then started to fear David when he saw how mighty he was.  After Saul heard chanting in the street that “Saul had slain his thousands and David his ten thousands…”  (1Samuel 18:6-8) then King Saul could see that David could take his throne as he was held in higher esteem by the people of Israel than was King Saul.

As far as I can find in the Bible there isn’t any direct statement to Saul that David is the one anointed to take his place.  King Saul is just told that another will take his place as King.  King Saul went off of the deep end without a life jacket once he figured out that David was considered “mightier than he!”

However, David despite being given an opportunity of temptation to kill King Saul as he was urinating in a cave where David and his men were hiding….refuses to succumb to the temptation to go ahead and get his kingdom through assassination!  Even with his men egging him on!

1Samuel 24:1-22 After Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, he was told, “David is in the Desert of En Gedi.” So Saul took three thousand able young men from all Israel and set out to look for David and his men near the Crags of the Wild Goats.He came to the sheep pens along the way; a cave was there, and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were far back in the cave. The men said, “This is the day theLord spoke of when he said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’” Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.

Afterward, 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 lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.” With these words David sharply rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way.

Then David went out of the cave and called out to Saul, “My lord the king!” When Saul looked behind him, David bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground.He said to Saul, “Why do you listen when men say, ‘David is bent on harming you’? 10 This day you have seen with your own eyes how the Lord delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lay my hand on my lord, because he is the Lord’s anointed.’ 11 See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you. See that there is nothing in my hand to indicate that I am guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. 12 May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. 13 As the old saying goes, ‘From evildoers come evil deeds,’ so my hand will not touch you.

14 “Against whom has the king of Israel come out? Who are you pursuing? A dead dog? A flea? 15 May the Lord be our judge and decide between us. May he consider my cause and uphold it; may he vindicate me by delivering me from your hand.”

16 When David finished saying this, Saul asked, “Is that your voice, David my son?” And he wept aloud. 17 “You are more righteous than I,” he said. “You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly. 18 You have just now told me about the good you did to me; the Lorddelivered me into your hands, but you did not kill me. 19 When a man finds his enemy, does he let him get away unharmed? May the Lord reward you well for the way you treated me today. 20 I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands. 21 Now swear to me by the Lord that you will not kill off my descendants or wipe out my name from my father’s family.”

22 So David gave his oath to Saul. Then Saul returned home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold. (NIV via Biblegateway.com)

This kind of thinking and acting is why the Lord stated that David was a man after his own heart.  David loved Saul and loved Saul’s son, Jonathon who was his best friend, like a brother.  I am sure that it pained David to know that he was going to be taking the throne which would have gone to Jonathon, if Saul had remained King.  Yet, it doesn’t seem to have affected the close bond between the two men.  They looked out for each other. Jonathon tried his best to protect David from his father, King Saul.

If we try to understand King Saul’s actions they were largely out of fear…he drove himself crazy from his fear of losing his kingdom.  This tells us how deep Saul’s belief in the words of Samuel the prophet…even though he continually acted against what Samuel had told him to do.  Saul feared people more than he feared the Lord, and fear was his chief motivator.  So in essence, Saul was a person who looked good on the surface, but his actions did not bear scrutiny once you got to know him.  He wasn’t a bad person, but he was a leader and he was in charge of leading his people in the way that the Lord wished them to go.  He was catastrophically unable to do this because of his fears. He was not a Psalm 37:5-7 king.  (Though that Psalm written by David when he was King was written well after  Saul’s demise…perhaps David may have thought of and remembered Saul when he wrote it.)

David suffered a lot of injustice at the hands of Saul, we are never told why Saul acted with so much fear.  Hazarding a guess and going into Saul’s background he was simply not built for the demands of Kingship…it was a great big stress to him, but once he was there, he wanted to keep the job.  He didn’t want to be a failure.  However, he was a failure.  He was self centered instead of God centered.

Simply put, Saul failed to follow God, so God replaced him.  David, despite his faults, never forgot or let his own thoughts replace his love and respect for God.

If you are a leader that God has put in place, you are held very responsible by God for how you lead…more so than the average person who has no one they are leading.  Be a good leader if you are called to lead, pray and follow God’s leading…Wait upon the Lord in all circumstances.  Prayer is the way to “wait upon the Lord.”  If you don’t talk to him, then you won’t know what God wants from you.

 

Note: As an exercise I find it helpful to look up the different places spoken about in the Bible and see where they are on a map.  It kind of gives me a scope of how far things are from each other, and what the terrain is like.   Keilah is 8.5 miles NW of Hebron, the Desert of Ziph is 4 miles SE of Hebron.  Keilah is now satisfactorily by archaeologists as identified with Khirbet Kila.

http://www.bible-history.com/geography/ancient-israel/israel-old-testament.html

Upholding Man’s Freewill

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John 8:34-36 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (NIV)

Read John 8:34-36 and 1 Samuel Chapter 8, Jesus talks about being a slave to sin and how to escape that slavery. The people of Israel wanted a king, so Samuel took it to God in prayer, and God told him to give them a king, and sent him to anoint Saul.  God upholds mankind’s freedom of choice, even when we are wrong. 

Why do you think that the Israelites asked for a King? I mean they already had God personally available to them through his prophets and through prayer. If you think about it, the only thing they didn’t have was the Holy Spirit living within them and salvation through Christ.  However, when Jesus came he died for all who accept him, whether they died before he was born and was sacrificed or not.  

I know, you are say, “How does that work?”  “How could they have accepted Jesus as their savior if Jesus had not been born yet?!!”

I know it seems a difficult concept, but if you realize that God is timeless, and that time is not an issue for Him, then it becomes more easily acceptable.  The main thing is that the Jews were living with the prophets and the prophecies that were being made about the Messiah and they accepted that there would be a Messiah who would come to save them.  Although for the most part they didn’t understand what to expect from that Messiah, and believed that he would form an earthly kingdom in the there and then when he came.  The most important thing is that they had faith that what God said would happen would happen, so they accepted the Messiah, Immanuel – God with Us, would come and save them.  God gave them “credit” for following him and believing in him and his promises.

We are told that God justified those in the Old Testament who followed and believed in Him by their faith.  Habakkuk 2:4 Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him;
But the just shall live by his faith. (NKJV) and Galatians 3:11 quotes Habakkuk in this to reiterate what is said in the Old Testament  But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. In Romans 4:3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” we are further told that it is faith that justifies not anything that we can physically do for God.  However, to show that we love God we are told that the way to do that is to be obedient to him…John 14:23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.

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So now, back to the idea of a King…why would anyone want one?  If you look at all the things that God had Samuel tell the Israelites would happen to them when they got a King it is a daunting list of undesirables.  Samuel was heartbroken about them wanting a King, but God told him that it wasn’t his fault..that the one who was being rejected was God himself, not Samuel who was only God’s prophet.  The person who conveyed God’s words to the people.  

So looking at the Bible we were told that the primary reason the Israelites wanted a King was “so that we can be just like everyone else around us….just like our neighbors”  1Samuel 8:4-5 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, “Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.” (NKJV)

So if we look at what they are saying, 1) they wanted to be just like the people around them in the neighboring nations, and 2)  they didn’t trust God to provide another good prophet for them.

After all, just because Samuel’s sons were the sons of a prophet and Samuel appointed them to be judges over the people, does not necessarily mean that God would make them his prophets…or let them remain the corrupt judges that they were.  Samuel should have understood that from what happened with Eli’s sons.  They didn’t get to take over for him either…God took care of that situation.  Apparently, Samuel wasn’t any better at parenting and teaching his sons to be honest and Godly than Eli was…they were bribe takers.

Now God, chose Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the people of Israel to be his people so that they could be different from the nations around them.  He wanted them to be in close contact with Him so that they could be living examples of God’s grace and love to the other nations.  So that they could show the other nations the character of God and bring the other nations closer to God.  God wanted them to trust Him and let Him lead them.

By asking for a King they were failing to trust God in all circumstances.  They were not trusting God for the future…they were trying to plan around Samuel’s sons.   They should have done that by praying and then asking Samuel to tell them what God was going to do about the future when he, Samuel, wasn’t there to lead them anymore.  That would have been the correct response of trust in God.  However, they didn’t and so we have the Israelites distancing themselves from God instead of drawing closer to Him.

God is kind enough to warn them of the consequences of their actions…but they don’t listen.  This is kind of like when a parent tells the kid not to eat too much candy, that it will make them sick to their stomach.  Then allowing the kid to eat too much candy anyway because they keep insisting on more candy.  This is a case of the parent allowing the kid to learn their lesson the hard way.

God was doing the same thing, allowing the Israelites their “freewill choice” of accepting or rejecting God.  He was allowing them to have a King and see that it was just as bad as He said it would be.

How many of us in our various nations are still looking for that next “leader” who will “fix” everything?  I know that my own nation is doing that.  Every time there is an election everyone talks about the candidates and what they are and are not going to do.  Although they are elected instead of appointed, they are still our leader….in a smaller vein we find in work places and churches and groups when things are not going so well that people are more likely to look to finding a new work place, church, or group, or finding a new “leader” for that work place, church, or group, than they are to sit down as a group and pray and look to God to see how the group can be made to be functional and unified and Godly again.  So it appears that it is rather hard to sit in “judgment” on the Israelites in this case, as man has not changed…people are still looking in the wrong place for leadership.  God keeps allowing that, because He wants us to voluntarily without reservation choose to follow him. He doesn’t want servants who are reluctant, God wants his people to love him and obey him because they want to do so!  God does not want people who are obeying him because someone else made them do it, but by their own free will.  The choice is always up to us.

Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (NIV)

Hebrews 12:2 Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (NASB)

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