Archive for July, 2011

July 29, 2011

The More Beauty We See, the More Repentance We Feel

by Bethany

Relevant Text: 1 Sam. 25:39
Full Text: 1 Sam. 25-26 and Ps. 11

Mitigation | In law school, while interning at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, I worked on a case where the defendant was accused of having murdered two people – the drug dealer who stole his customers and the man who stole his girlfriend. Since he faced the death penalty, the court bifurcated the process into two parts. In the guilt phase, although he argued his innocence, the jury convicted him. Then, in the sentencing phase, as a mitigating factor, he argued that he felt remorse for the crimes he had committed – crimes that he had argued he had not done.

Regret | Like the defendant, Saul only felt sorry for what he had done when he was about to face the consequences. Once again, David passed over an opportunity to kill Saul and, once again, after David told him about it, Saul expressed remorse. Last time, he said, “You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly” [1]. This time, he said, “I have sinned … I will not try to harm you again. Surely I have acted like a fool and have been terribly wrong” [2]. Yet, he did not stop pursuing David. His actions didn’t change because his heart hadn’t.

Repentance | David, however, after expressing remorse to Abigail about his plans to harm Nabal, immediately changed his course of action: “Praise be to the LORD … who has sent you … May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed” [3]. Then, ten days later, when he heard that “the LORD struck Nabal and he died” [4], David said, “Praise be to the LORD, who has upheld my cause … and has brought Nabal’s wrongdoing down on his own head” [5].

Beauty | Although sin is ugly, repentance is beautiful. Yet, as Jonathan Edwards wrote, the only way to experience the sorrow of repentance is first to see the delight of God: “Repentance of sin is a sorrow arising from the sight of God’s excellency and mercy” [6]. In other words, the more captured we are by His beauty, the more grieved we are that we do not live more consistently with it.

Prayer | Lord, We long to repent as a response to Your beauty, not as a fearful response to the consequences after we’ve been caught. Give us hearts that are piqued and eyes that are open to Your delight and forgive us when we do not live consistently in it. Amen.

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[1] 1 Sam. 24:17, 19-20 NIV  |  [2] 1 Sam. 26:21 NIV  |  [3] 1 Sam. 25:39 NIV  |  [4] 1 Sam. 25:38 NIV  |  [5] 1 Sam. 25:39 NIV  |  [6] Jonathan Edwards, “The Pleasantness of Religion.” The Sermons of Jonathan Edwards: A Reader (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), pp. 23-24.

July 28, 2011

Consumed with the Lord

by Bethany

Relevant Text: 1 Sam. 24:6
Full Text: 1 Sam. 24

Fear | As C.S. Lewis reflected, to fear the Lord is to be filled with “a wonder” or “a certain shrinking” or “a sense of inadequacy” [1]. It is a fear that comes from love. Yet, how does God inspire both fear and love? As Lewis allegorically explained in The Chronicles of Narnia, “People who have not been in Narnia sometimes think that a thing cannot be good and terrible at the same time. If the children had ever thought so, they were cured of it now. For when they tried to look at Aslan’s face, they just caught a glimpse of the golden mane and the great, royal, solemn, overwhelming eyes; and they found they couldn’t look at him and went all trembly” [2].

Conscience | No matter how much David feared Saul, he feared God more. On his manhunt for David in Judah, Saul unknowingly went into the cave where David and his men were hiding. Although David’s men suggested that he kill Saul, David merely cut off a corner of his robe. Later, however, David was conscience-stricken: “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed” [3]. He then humbly approached Saul and told him how he had spared his life. Then he said, “I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. May the LORD judge between you and me” [4]. Although David could probably have justified killing Saul in self-defense, he let judgment remain with God – for he knew that Saul could only take his body, not his soul.

Consumed | Although it is important what we think of God, it is infinitely more important what He thinks of us [5]. Not only did David know this, Jesus did, too. They were both consumed with God – even when they were unfairly pursued. As Jesus said at Gethsemane, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” [6]

Prayer | Lord, You are the only one who has power over our bodies and souls. Therefore, we praise You that, in Christ, You have declared us righteous and saved our bodies and souls. Give us courageous hearts that are consumed with what You – not others – think of us. Amen.

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[1]  C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain.  |  [2]  C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (the moment that the children meet Aslan for the first time).  |   [3]  1 Sam. 24:6 NIV  |  [4]  1 Sam. 24:11-12 NIV  |  [5]  C.S. Lewis, Screwtape Proposes a Toast, “The Weight of Glory.”  |  [6] Matt. 26:53-54 NIV

July 27, 2011

Praying to the Commanding Officer

by Bethany

Relevant Text: 1 Sam. 23:1-12
Full Text: 1 Sam 23 and Ps 54

Pray Without Ceasing | What did Paul mean, “Pray without ceasing” ? [1]. Did he literally mean to pray every minute of every day? I don’t think so. I think he meant that our hearts should depend on God so much that, even if we are not consciously talking to Him, we are deeply resting in Him. Also, I think he meant that we should pray frequently, mentioning things over and over to Him. To me, one of the best examples of what Paul means can be found in the account of David at Keilah, a city in the lowlands of Judah.

God as Commanding Officer | At Keilah, even though David was the commander of the troops, he took the posture of a subordinate officer in relation to his commanding officer – God. David was entirely dependent on the Lord’s counsel for every decision. When he saw the Philistines fighting against Keilah, “he inquired of the LORD, saying, ‘Shall I go and attack these Philistines?’ and the LORD answered him, ‘Go, attack the Philistines and save Keilah’” [2]. Even when his men questioned his decision, he returned to God and confirmed the directive [3]. Then, when David learned that Saul was coming to besiege him and his men, he again prayed: “LORD, God of Israel, your servant has heard definitely that Saul plans to come to Keilah and destroy the town on account of me … Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me and my men to Saul?” [4]. And when God told him that they would, David fled.

Wartime Walkie-Talkie | David used prayer as a wartime walkie-talkie [5] in order to advance the mission of glorifying the name of the Lord. Like the battles that David faced, our lives are war – we are constantly fighting for the assurance of our salvation and the perseverance of our faith and the advancement of His kingdom [6]. Oh that we would use prayer – not as intercoms to call the butler for lemonade – but as wartime walkie-talkies to call the Lord for tactical advice [7].

Prayer | Lord, In Christ, You have given us one of the best gifts this side of heaven – namely, access to You through prayer. Yet, we confess that we often either forsake prayer altogether or misuse it for our own means rather than seeking first Your kingdom [8]. Therefore, give us spirits that entirely depend on You, as we pray without ceasing. Amen.

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[1] 1 Thess. 5:17 NASB | [2] 1 Sam 23:2-3 NIV | [3] See 1 Sam. 23:4 | [4] 1 Sam. 23:10-11, 12 NIV | [5] John Piper has coined this phrase and used it excellently to promote the crucial nature of prayer. | [6] See 1 Thess. 3:5. 1 Cor. 9:26-27. 2 Cor. 10:3-5. See also Rev. 6:2; 12:17; 17:14. Eph. 6:12-13. | [7] Of course, our prayers are never perfect – nor need they be – and, of course, God is loves to answer our daily prayers! Yet, I have found that, to the extent that my heart “seeks first His kingdom,” my daily prayers are changed. They become more and more tethered to the mission of my life, which is to glorify the Lord. So, for example, I can pray for lemonade because I want some to quench my thirst and because I think that it will keep me hydrated to continue fighting the battle. Thus, the Jesus said, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things [namely, the things that you want and worry about and anxiously pray for] will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33 NIV). | [8] When Jesus prayed for His disciples, He thought about how He was going to depart from them and He prayed a very wartime walkie-talkie prayer: “I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me … I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world” (Jn. 17:6-18 NIV).

July 26, 2011

A Reminder of the Evilness of Evil

by Bethany

Relevant Text: Ps. 52:8
Full Text: 1 Sam 22:3-23 and Ps. 52

Evil | As a natural-born contrarian, I only recently jumped on the Harry Potter bandwagon. I watched all of the movies in one weekend and, quite unexpectedly, fell in the love [1]. Yet, it was not Rowling’s fantastical creativity that captured me – even though her imagination is stunning – rather, it was the story of the triumph of Good over Evil. As Andrew Peterson wrote Rowling, “I love that you’re telling a story that is full of wisdom, a story that reminds me how evil Evil is” [2]. Me, too. As a 21st century American, who has never experienced severe injustice, I often think that I have no idea how evil Evil is.

Bloodbath | As David headed back to Judah [3], Saul was on a rampage. In his obsessive efforts to kill David, Saul accused his servants of working against him. Touting his own loyalty, Doeg the Edomite spoke up – telling Saul that, when he was at the sanctuary in Nob [4], he saw Ahimelek the Priest give counsel, food and Goliath’s sword to David [5]. Immediately, Saul summoned Ahimelek and charged him with conspiracy – sentencing him and his entire family to death. Then, he commanded the guards, “Turn and kill the priests of the LORD, because they too have sided with David. They knew he was fleeing, yet they did not tell me” [6]. Perhaps recognizing that Saul was going insane, however, the guards refused. Again, Doeg stepped up – he killed the 85 priests and then went to Nob to murder all the men, women, children, infants and livestock in the town. It was a bloodbath.

Justice | When David heard what happened, he mournfully told the only surviving son of Ahimelek, “I am responsible for the death of your whole family” [7]. Then, he wrote a song against Doeg: “Why do you boast of evil, you mighty hero? … Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin … But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love forever” [8].

Prayer | Lord, Even though our battle is not against flesh and blood, as David’s was, the Evil we fight against is no less real [9]. Yet, we know that, when we trust in You, everything we do prospers [10] because You love justice and righteousness [11]. Therefore, we ask You to open our hearts to hate injustice and evil – even as we obey Jesus’ command to love our enemies [12]. Amen.

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[1] Yes, I am comfortable admitting that, since I have not read the books, I am not a real fan … yet! | [2] Andrew Peterson, Harry Potter, Jesus and Me. RabbitRoom. 11 July 2011. (An excellent review of the Christian tones in the series. Thank you @ pettups – a true Potter fan – for sending it to me!) | [3] After he left the Cave of Adullum, David went to Moab, which was the land where his great-grandmother, Ruth, lived. While he was there, he sought the counsel of the Lord and met with the prophet Gad, who told him that he had to return to Judah to face Saul because confrontation with the king was an inevitable step on his way to the throne. See 1 Sam. 22:5. | [4] Nob, where the tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant were kept, replaced Shiloh when the Philistines defeated the Israelites and destroyed Shiloh. | [5] See 1 Sam. 21:1-9; 22:6-10. | [6] 1 Sam. 22:17 NIV | [7] 1 Sam. 22:22 NIV | [8] Ps. 52:1, 5, 8 NIV | [9] See Eph. 6. | [10] See Psalm 1. | [11] See, e.g., Is. 61:8; Ps. 37:28; 99:4; Lev. 20:23; Ps. 5:5-6; 78:59; 106:40; Prov. 6:16-19. | [12] For more information on the imprecatory psalms and how they relate to Jesus’ command that we love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, see, e.g., John Piper, “Pour Out Your Indignation Upon Them,” the fifth sermon from the series, “Psalms: Thinking and Feeling with God.” 22 June 2008.

July 25, 2011

Trusting God in the Cave

by Bethany

Relevant Text: Ps. 57:10-11
Full Text: 1 Sam 22:1-2 and Ps 142 and Ps. 57 and 1 Chron 12:8-18

Fugitive | David’s life was a rollercoaster. One moment, he was the forgotten-about youngest son of Jesse, tending sheep in Bethlehem. The next, he was being anointed as the future king and celebrated as a national hero. Then, however, he became a fugitive – running from his own father-in-law, Saul, who wanted to kill him out of jealousy.

Surrounded | As David sat in a cave, having lost everything and everyone he loved, David felt alone: “In the path where I walk people have hidden a snare for me. Look and see, there is no one at my right hand; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life” [1]. Yet, he cried out to God, who sent him company: “When his brothers and father’s household heard about [David’s having escaped to the cave of Adullam], they went down to there. All those who were in distress or in debt of discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him” [2]. Again, in an instant, David’s life changed – one moment, he was alone; the next, he was surrounded!

Praise | Although this group would one day become his army, David did not know that yet; all he knew was that they were still outnumbered 5-to-1 by Saul’s 3,000 men. David had to trust God in the middle of his troubles and, out of that difficult calling, David wrote deep and authentic psalms: “Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed. I cry out to God Most High … He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me – God sends forth his love and his faithfulness … For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies” [3].

Prayer | Lord, Just as You took the Israelites through the wilderness and David through the cave, You take us through challenging seasons so that we will learn to depend on You. Open our eyes, therefore, to see that You are loving us when You are weaning us from all the unstable and fickle things on which we rely. And when those troubling times pass, we pray that our hearts sing of Your great love that reaches to the heavens. Amen.

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[1] Ps. 142:3-4 NIV  |  |  [2] 1 Sam. 22:2 NIV  |  [3] Ps. 57:1-3, 10-11 NIV

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