“…because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.”-Saul, 1 Samuel 15:24
Samuel 15 is a window into Saul’s soul; we see his truest motivations. In this account we discover what motivates Saul, the praise of men. (1 Samuel 15:17,24) Saul loves the praise of men more than he loves the praise of God, so he skirted obeying God fully because it would have put him out of favor with the people. The irony is, the people clamored for a king to lead them, and now the king was being led by the people.
Here is a good question for us to ponder:
How do you know when you prefer the praise of men more than the praise of God? What are the signs?
Saul had convinced himself (and tried to convince Samuel) that he had obeyed God, and even planned to use the spoils for a “good” thing, a sacrifice to God. Do we ever do the same thing? I’m not sure if God delights in all the “good” things we do, if we fail to obey him in what he has commanded.
Re: Verse reading–Luke 22:31-34, 54-62 (day six)
He was the only disciple who stuck around, following Jesus after all the others left to save their own skin. I have to imagine that Peter had the best intentions; he never walked into that courtyard intending to betray his loyalty to Jesus, in fact that was the reason he was there to begin with. That has to count for something, right? And yet even with the best intentions he was left with bitter tears, keenly aware of his betrayal. Sometimes we can be so set on doing the right thing that we can lose sight of who we are in the process. Jesus did not call Peter to be a crusader; he called him to follow him and become a fisher of men.
In the heat of the battle, when things get tough, don’t forget who you are; you belong to Jesus, which means you are called to love the people around you, even at great cost to yourself. Of course, Peter would learn this valuable lesson; he would give his life to it.
Re:Verse reading–Matthew 26:36-46 (day six)
Often, the last thing we want to hear when we face any kind of suffering is “it must be God’s will.” Although it is meant to console, it often never does. Remember Job’s friends, they were far better off just listening or grieving with him, but they just had to try to make sense of his suffering by offering all the reasons God would allow it. Just listen is certainly good advice for us too when consoling a friend, but notice Jesus’ words leading up to his darkest hour, “not my will, but yours be done.” In his great distress (more than we can possibly imagine) it was confidence in His Father’s will that gave him hope; it sustained him. The writer of Hebrews would even declare, “For the joy set before him, he endured the cross.” That kind of joy, in the face of great suffering, could only come to Jesus if he could see through it to behold the purpose’s of his Father on the other side of it. His suffering wasn’t the result of faithlessness, nor was it arbitrary (for no reason at all); no, it was heavy with purpose.
We live in a world broken by the corruption of sin, and we feel it, some of us more than others, but we can be certain of this, that just as Jesus’ suffering (and resurrection) brought new life to the world, so our suffering can yield the same in lives around us. Purpose.
Re:Verse reading–Luke 12:22-34 (day six)
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)
My girls have never had to worry about their basic needs being met. Whether food, shelter, or clothing, they have always had what they needed. When they are hungry or need something, they simply come to me (often) and let me know; they expect me to meet those needs. Sometimes, I tell them to wait, or I offer something different then what they asked for, but they know to come to me.
Here’s the truth, I want to meet their every need; I want them to have the best life possible, and so I gladly give to them! This is true of dads, because it is first true of our Father in heaven; he has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom. Jesus reminds his listeners to not worry because God knows your needs and will meet them, but He desires far more for you than food and clothing, for He longs for you to have the kingdom.
I want to desire His kingdom, don’t you? Let’s stop worrying about food and clothing, and run to the Father and ask Him for the Kingdom, for His Word promises that he is glad to give it.
Re:Verse reading–Jonah 1:1-3, 3:1-5, 4:1-11 (day six)
Fear is not all bad. After all the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. We know why Jonah fled, he fled because he wanted nothing to do with God’s mercy towards the Ninevites. His lack of fear of the Lord produced a hardened compassion-less heart; he was much more concerned with his own comfort than the desperate need of an entire people.
So fear is not all bad. Fear the Lord, for it is not only the beginning of wisdom but the also the beginning of faith. It is there that we taste the goodness of God, his mercy and compassion through Jesus, each day moving us further away from self-centeredness to selflessness. We can’t help but love the Ninevites.
Re:Verse reading–Daniel 3:1-2, 8-18, 25-29 (day six)
“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” -Jesus, John 12:32
This wasn’t a new principle. Jesus, in his death and resurrection would literally draw all people to himself, reconciling them back to God. It was on old principle fully realized in Jesus, but we see it in Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego too. In great faith they were willing to lay down their lives exalting God over Nebuchadnezzar. The result? People, including Nebuchadnezzar, were drawn to the one true God.
What if the same principle applies to us too? What if when we exalt Jesus in our life, when we lay it down for His namesake, people around and near us are drawn to Him? I not only believe it’s possible, I believe it true.
Re: Verse reading–1 Kings 19:1-18 (day six)
The human heart is so fickle. One minute it can swell with confidence, and the next be overrun by fear. That was certainly true of Elijah. Elijah was afraid for his life, not to mention he was depressed over the lack of repentance, so he ran as far away as he could. Interestingly enough God does show up, but he doesn’t console him; he tells him to prepare himself for his next task.
What if the spiritual antidote to fear is movement? What if fear is overcome not through consolation but by obeying God, doing the things you know he wants you to do? Perhaps fear will never be overcome by hiding in caves, but by seeing God at work in our own obedience.
Re: Verse reading–Exodus 3:7-15, 4:1-17 (day six)
What if they don’t believe me? Or think I am weird? What if they ask questions I can’t answer? Moses had these insecurities when God called him to lead his people out of slavery. God assured him that He would provide signs, signs that would lead people to believe that what he said was true.
Jesus promised the church signs as well. He said, “If you love one another, then they will know you are my disciples.” In His high priestly prayer he also said, “Lord may they be one as we are one,…so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you have loved me.” Two signs, love and unity. The promise is that when we love the way Jesus loved, when we see and savor God in unity then the world will believe God’s message of reconciliation.
What sign does your family, co-workers, and neighbors need to see?
Re:Verse reading–Judges 7:2-8, 15-22 (day six)
There is great value in being brought low. In those moments you might think God unfair, unkind or even sadistic, but nothing could be further from the truth. God is none of those things, especially in those seasons of life when we are brought low. Perhaps those moments are the greatest displays of God’s grace. Jesus’ brother James argued that we should “consider it all joy,” when we are brought low because God intends great good to come of it. That certainly was the case for Gideon and his men. Facing 150,000 Midianites, God took a sizable army of 32,000 and whittled it down to 300. How much lower could Gideon go? It was in those moments though that he could see beyond his own pride so he might more fully see and trust in the God of his salvation.
The same is true of us. Our hurt and hardship is grace to us, for it is there, in that low place that we often see God most clearly. It is often then that we can finally lean on the God that gives us the greatest assurances in the Gospel, assurances of victory and restoration!
Re: Verse reading–Exodus 19:1-12, 16-22 (day seven)
“Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. . . the whole mountain trembled violently.”–v. 18. The true God is both tender and terrifying. Believers know both sides of our Great God. His first words to us are grace. See v. 4. He offers a life of peculiar blessing/opportunity. See v. 5. None of this, however, must be interpreted as weakness. He is fearful, holy, and dangerous! Just as a child first experiences his mother’s tenderness (first stages of life) only later to experience her firm discipline, learns to love her and then fear her, so, God is tender with us in salvation and tough on us as we begin to grow into maturity. “Therefore, knowing the FEAR of the Lord, we persuade men”, said Paul in 2 Corinthians 5. The God we serve is both tender and terrifying, grace and government, merciful and mighty. May the Lord restore this balance in every Christian heart.