Who Is the True King?

Scripture Focus: 1 Kings 1.50-53
50 But Adonijah, in fear of Solomon, went and took hold of the horns of the altar. 51 Then Solomon was told, “Adonijah is afraid of King Solomon and is clinging to the horns of the altar. He says, ‘Let King Solomon swear to me today that he will not put his servant to death with the sword.’ ” 
52 Solomon replied, “If he shows himself to be worthy, not a hair of his head will fall to the ground; but if evil is found in him, he will die.” 53 Then King Solomon sent men, and they brought him down from the altar. And Adonijah came and bowed down to King Solomon, and Solomon said, “Go to your home.” 

Reflection: Who Is the True King?
By John Tillman

David is rightly remembered as the greatest of Israel’s kings. For generations, every good king will be described as following in David’s footsteps, and every bad king will be described as forsaking them. But David’s reign and personal life are far from perfect. The writers of the scrolls of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles go out of their way to show us that even the “man after God’s own heart” fell short.

The cracks caused by David’s flaws showed early. David’s taking of multiple wives and concubines and his inability or unwillingness to deal justly with crimes and corruption within his family explode into bloodshed over and over.

At the end of David’s reign, Israel found itself with two would-be kings. Which one is lawful? Which one is the usurper? Did Adonijah know David planned to place Solomon on the throne? Did David forget? Did Bathsheba or Nathan deceive David, making him think he forgot a promise he never made? Palace intrigue and conspiracy theories are always interesting to us.

Adonijah’s three older brothers were dead. According to tradition, he was the rightful heir. The writer carefully points out David’s failure to correct Adonijah or warn him about his presumptions. Adonijah and his supporters may have taken this as David’s tacit approval.

Some have proposed that Nathan and Bathsheba plotted against Adonijah by manipulating poor, old, senile David. However, David doesn’t seem weak or senile in his response. In addition, Chronicles has a fuller account of David’s public declaration that Solomon would be the next king. This public knowledge makes it hard to see Adonijah as innocent.

The sins of a normal person harm the individual, friends, and family. But even the tiniest flaws in rulers are multiplied by their wealth, influence, and power—and they slay multitudes. The warning tremors of instability we see during David’s lifetime grew after his death. Solomon’s reign would end with a nation-splitting earthquake of a civil war that cost tens of thousands of lives.

More powerful rulers are more likely to do greater harm, even with good intentions.

There are no perfect rulers on Earth, but that doesn’t mean character is a poor political strategy or that victory outweighs virtue. As we select rulers, remember: The more powerful rulers are, the more important character becomes. And in a democracy, the true king is the voter. And God will hold us to account.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Hosanna, Lord, hosanna!… Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; we bless you from the house of the Lord — Psalm 118.25-26

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 1 (Listen 7:52)
Psalms 18 (Listen 5:47)

This Weekend’s Readings
1 Kings 2 (Listen 7:45), Psalms 19 (Listen 1:52)
1 Kings 3 (Listen 4:29), Psalms 20-21 (Listen 2:37)

Read more about Limits of Human Grace
On his deathbed, David sounded hurt, petty, vindictive…David, left Solomon a mix of things, including a hit list.

Read more about Supporting Our Work
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Open Heart Examination

Scripture Focus: Psalm 17.3-5
3 Though you probe my heart,
     though you examine me at night and test me,
 you will find that I have planned no evil;
     my mouth has not transgressed.
 4 Though people tried to bribe me,
     I have kept myself from the ways of the violent
     through what your lips have commanded.
 5 My steps have held to your paths;
     my feet have not stumbled.

Reflection: Open Heart Examination
By Erin Newton

I’ve been rewatching a sitcom about a genius who pretends to be a lawyer in New York. The main character spends every day on the precipice of disaster as he struggles to keep his lie hidden. One episode opens with the song lyrics, “You’re a fraud and you know it…It’s always been a smoke and mirrors game.” Season after season, he bears the weight of his guilty conscience.

A different story plays out in Psalm 17. There is no fraud. The psalmist opens his heart, shining a light onto any hidden corner. No smoke and mirrors. He is steadfast, firmly confident that God will find no guilt in him. This psalm is a stark contrast to the sitcom.

Each psalm reveals a scene from life and makes proclamations about psalmist, enemies, and God that reflect a moment in time. The psalmist here is not universally guiltless. This is not a mirror of perfection left for us to imitate. In this moment, whatever causes this critical crisis of the psalmist’s life, he is innocent. He is confident because he has actively rejected opportunities for sin.

Hearts are not always willingly exposed.

The heart can be a labyrinth, twisting and turning with various desires. The heart can be a catacomb hiding the proverbial skeletons in our closet. 

And yet, the heart can be the home of wisdom. The heart that trusts in God can be an open book.  

God is able to navigate the complexity of the human heart. Other verses in the book of Psalms invite God to examine the heart (Ps. 17.3, 26.2, 139.23) and others proclaim God’s ability to do so (Ps. 7.9, 33.15, 44.21). Like a skilled surgeon, God can open our hearts and assess their health. There are no dark corners obscured from divine examination.

The psalmist is confident in his innocence in this matter. People have tried to bribe him and he refused. People have tempted him toward violence and he has rejected their offer. He follows the road less traveled, God’s paths of righteousness.

It is a tender and humble request to ask God to examine your heart. We know what lies within the crevices of our souls, things we wish to keep hidden. But like the fraud in that sitcom, disaster crouches at the door and reality becomes smoke and mirrors.

God is able and has already examined your heart. He has loved you regardless. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they will be filled. — Mathew 5.6

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 24 (Listen 4:48)
Psalms 17 (Listen 1:58)

Read more about Judging Our Hearts
If the tree is sickened at its heart, the fruit will be sickened as well.

Read more about Choices and Hard Hearts
Hardened hearts happen in stages. Our choices matter. Our hearts are hardened or softened day after day.

Our Delightful Inheritance

Scripture Focus: Psalm 16.5-6
5 Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
     you make my lot secure.
 6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
     surely I have a delightful inheritance.

Reflection: Our Delightful Inheritance
By Erin Newton

The rising cost of housing is not news to us anymore. Headlines recently have read, “Gen Z Can’t Afford the Rent,” and “Realtor Explains Why Millennials Struggle to Buy Homes.” Where former generations bought homes and land with relative ease, younger generations are seeing it as an impossibility.

Land has served as a means for gaining security and wealth throughout millennia. In the Old Testament, key figures are marked by their possessions and their land. Abraham is promised land as an inheritance for his descendants. The vast number of livestock owned by Job hints at a large land ownership necessary to care for the herds. Land meant security and prosperity. Land was desirable.

Stories about the twelve tribes settling into the Promised Land contain details about the divisions and make little impact on us today. But the absence of land given to the Levites is noticeable. How did the Levites feel about their lack of inheritance?

Psalm 16 is a confession of faith by someone who is devoted to the Lord. The psalmist relies on priestly language speaking of the “holy people” of the land and the dangers of idolatry. The psalmist rejects the idea of pouring out “libations of blood” to a false god. It could be that the perspective is that of a priest, a Levite.

[It’s important to understand that inscriptions reading, “of David,” can mean more than authorship. Some of these psalms are attributed to David, written in the style of David, or about David.]

If the psalmist is truly a Levite, he is landless. This expression of joy uses the language of physical blessings but the content of each blessing is God.

God is his portion. His lot is secure. His boundary lines fall in pleasant places. He has a delightful inheritance. Rolf Jacobsen rightly identifies the source of hope, “The relationship that the psalmist has with God is the psalmist’s all—the portion, cup, lot, boundary, and inheritance.”

With headlines that remind us of all that we lack, do we see God as our all? With a savings account that doesn’t seem to go anywhere but down, do we see the pleasant lines of our inheritance?

A health and wealth gospel will try to convince us that we need something more than God to be content. Do not pour out offerings to the gods of this world. Eternal pleasures are at his right hand alone.  

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
The Lord is near to those who call upon him, to all who call upon him faithfully. — Psalm 145.19

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 23 (Listen 5:38)
Psalms 15-16 (Listen 2:03)

Read more about Inheritance of Rachel’s Daughters
Inheritances are promised and given, not earned or attained. They can’t be purchased or procured.

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Our Deliverer — Guided Prayer

Scripture Focus: 2 Samuel 22.18-19
18 He rescued me from my powerful enemy, 
from my foes, who were too strong for me. 
19 They confronted me in the day of my disaster, 
but the Lord was my support. 

Reflection: Our Deliverer — Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

Delivered from death at the hands of a giant, David credited not Abishai, the warrior who came to his rescue, but God himself. 

We can, in the day of our disaster, rely on God. Our success depends on God, not our own strength or the intervention of an ally.

David’s song of deliverance is also included in scripture as Psalm 18. Let us join in a prayer inspired by this song. Let us thank God for the Abishais whom he sends into our lives and for his strength that saves us.

Our Deliverer:
We live among the violent.
And you bid us live in peace.
We live among our enemies
And you bid us love them.

Deliver us, Lord.
Be our rock and our refuge.
Be our stronghold and savior.

We live in distress
Like a bird in a snare
Like a leaf in a whirlpool
Like a seed in a sandstorm

Our hearts beat like desperate wings
Our courage sinks, soaks, and spirals down
Carried by chaos, our hopes are rootless

Part the heavens and stride the Earth, Lord.
Come to our rescue in steps that shake the ground.
Stretch out your hand and snap the snare in two
Draw your drowning, doubting disciples from the seas of foam
Hush the haboob’s swirling sand with a word and settle us in good soil, sipping streams of living water.

Our foes are stronger than we are.
Our sins are stronger than we are.
They confront us, but you support us.
They drag us down, but you lift us up.

Who is like the Lord who strengthens the weak?
Who is like the Lord who humbles the strong?
Who is like our God who enobles the shamed?
Who is like our God who shames the proud?

Let us bloom faithfully for the one who is faithful to us.
Make us blameless and pure through the work of your blameless one.
Set us free to run in the path of your commands
We run upon the heights like deer
We soar on your wings 

Through our praise, our deliverer calls to all the Earth, “Come to me and be delivered. Come to me and be free.”

Music:My Deliverer” — Rich Mullins

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; let those who love your salvation say forever, “Great is the Lord!” — Psalm 70.4

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 22 (Listen 5:22)
Psalms 13-14 (Listen 1:43)

Read more about David’s First and Last Giants
Regardless of our age or experience, giants don’t go down easily…Who do you call when giants threaten? Who might God use to save you when you are weakened?


Read more about What David Longed For
In so many ways, what David longed for after death, we have access to now. We have many advantages over David.

David’s First and Last Giants

Scripture Focus: 2 Samuel 21.15-22
15 Once again there was a battle between the Philistines and Israel. David went down with his men to fight against the Philistines, and he became exhausted. 16 And Ishbi-Benob, one of the descendants of Rapha, whose bronze spearhead weighed three hundred shekels and who was armed with a new sword, said he would kill David. 17 But Abishai son of Zeruiah came to David’s rescue; he struck the Philistine down and killed him. Then David’s men swore to him, saying, “Never again will you go out with us to battle, so that the lamp of Israel will not be extinguished.” 

18 In the course of time, there was another battle with the Philistines, at Gob. At that time Sibbekai the Hushathite killed Saph, one of the descendants of Rapha. 

19 In another battle with the Philistines at Gob, Elhanan son of Jair the Bethlehemite killed the brother of Goliath the Gittite, who had a spear with a shaft like a weaver’s rod. 

20 In still another battle, which took place at Gath, there was a huge man with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot—twenty-four in all. He also was descended from Rapha. 21 When he taunted Israel, Jonathan son of Shimeah, David’s brother, killed him. 

22 These four were descendants of Rapha in Gath, and they fell at the hands of David and his men.

“It’s more the size of who you put your faith in, than the size of your foe…” — Rich Mullins, “What Trouble are Giants

Reflection: David’s First and Last Giants
By John Tillman

In David’s first battle, he felled a giant. In his last, he fell before one. Both times, he praised God. 

David grew weary in the battle. Don’t we all?

The word translated “exhausted” in the NIV has a range of meanings from simple tiredness to a complete loss of consciousness. Whether David’s sword arm was simply tired, or whether he was struck unconscious by a blow, or whether age or ill health caused him to faint, a battle is a bad place to be vulnerable. 

David was famous for killing Goliath but Goliath was not the only giant in the land. Ishbi-Benob had a spear tip about half the weight of Goliath’s and threatened to kill the giant-killer, David.

David was saved, and the giant killed, by Abishai, one of Israel’s mightiest warriors. David’s men were shocked at the close call and forbade him from going out to battle again. In future battles, even more giants fell, including Goliath’s brother. (2 Samuel 21.19)

In the battles we face, it may seem we are surrounded by giants. How should we deal with the challenges that face us?

Don’t fight giants tired. Don’t fight giants in your own strength. Don’t fight giants alone. 

Like David, weariness may come at dangerous times. We can’t choose the timing of every battle but we should be realistic about our strengths and our weaknesses and be as prepared as possible. How are you resting for the next battle? How are you renewing your strength in Christ? What precautions are you taking for your weaknesses?

Don’t fight giants alone or in your own strength. Regardless of our age or experience, giants don’t go down easily. Even in “single combat” against Goliath, David wasn’t alone. Without God, Goliath would have certainly won and without Abishai, Ishbi-Benob would have. David gave God credit for both victories. (2 Samuel 22.1-3)

Whether through a well-thrown stone or a well-placed ally, it is God who saves us from giants. Who do you call when giants threaten? Who near you might God use to save you when you are weakened?

Many aspire to be like David in his youth, facing a giant alone, winning against unwinnable odds. But there is also honor and wisdom in age, experience, and leadership. A hero may kill a giant but a leader trains giant killers.

Are you raising up those with faith to stand against foes of any size?

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your Name give glory; because of your love and because of your faithfulness. — Psalm 115.1

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 21 (Listen 4:34
Psalms 11-12 (Listen 1:59

Read more about The King We Want
I’ve sent a king, God says
Unlike any you’ve seen
Son of the Giant Killer
Yet rejected as your ruler

Read more about Supporting Our Work
Please consider becoming a donor. Our work is not free to produce but generous donors, like you, make it free to read for believers across the world.