Trust in God Rather than Revenge

Scripture Focus: 1 Samuel 26:23-24
23 The Lord rewards everyone for their righteousness and faithfulness. The Lord delivered you into my hands today, but I would not lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed. 24 As surely as I valued your life today, so may the Lord value my life and deliver me from all trouble.” 

Reflection: Trust in God Rather than Revenge
By Erin Newton

Christians on social media have been increasingly vocal about leaders and the inconsistency between words and actions. Offenses are brought to light, perhaps going viral, and arguments ensue. Some leaders take to the internet to utter quick, empty apologies or lengthy rebuttals defending their cause. In the wake of the ebb and flow of quips and retorts, trust is forfeited.

David was acutely aware of the damage and ever-lingering effects from broken trust. From friend to foe, David’s relationship with Saul was damaged. Although the king said he was sorrowful and feigned a sense of remorse, his temperamental character revealed his true self. Saul would stop at nothing to bring David down.

Thankfully, David’s trust in God overpowered his desire for revenge and he resolved to let God determine the conclusion to Saul’s life. It is imperative to see that while mercy is shown, the offense is not concealed. He reiterated to Saul that he was being pursued unjustly. David did not avoid exposing the sins of Saul. Avoiding accountability is not love.

We often read stories with ourselves in the place of the virtuous character. We want to be like David, always heralded for our mercy to those who seek our harm. And we should. There are times when abusive leaders must hear the truth of the pain and suffering caused by their own agendas. We seek truth but not vengeance. There is a time and place for our hand to cease and the will of God to be done.

Moreover, let us ensure that we’re not, in fact, Saul. Do we betray the trust of others? Are we posting empty words while waiting for the next chance to strike back? Do we say what is desirable now and mean nothing in the long run? Do our actions support our words? In places of authority, we cannot become tyrannical and narcissistic. What we say and what we do must work in tandem, not in tension.

Trust is broken when words and actions conflict. The great news is that God has been faithful to fulfill the promises of his words. This is why David can trust God with Saul’s life and his own. God promised deliverance from Egypt and it was done. (Psalm 78). God promised salvation and he came to us. (John 1). We can trust God because his words and actions are always aligned.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
I have sworn and am determined to keep your righteous judgments. — Psalm 119.106

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

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 26 (Listen – 4:30) 
1 Corinthians 7 (Listen – 6:09)

Read more about Revenge to Redemption
When there is no justice, revenge is what we settle for. If we don’t trust in God, revenge may be all we think there is to justice.

Read more about Abandon Human Vengeance
Those who continue to stoop to hatred, fear, and exaggeration are worshipers of results, not the Redeemer.

Blocking the Way of Wickedness

Scripture Focus: 1 Samuel 25.17, 24-31
17 Now think it over and see what you can do, because disaster is hanging over our master and his whole household. He is such a wicked man that no one can talk to him.” 

24 …”Pardon your servant, my lord, and let me speak to you; hear what your servant has to say. 25 Please pay no attention, my lord, to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name means Fool, and folly goes with him. And as for me, your servant, I did not see the men my lord sent. 26 And now, my lord, as surely as the Lord your God lives and as you live, since the Lord has kept you from bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hands, may your enemies and all who are intent on harming my lord be like Nabal. 27 And let this gift, which your servant has brought to my lord, be given to the men who follow you. 
28 “Please forgive your servant’s presumption. The Lord your God will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my lord, because you fight the Lord’s battles, and no wrongdoing will be found in you as long as you live. 29 Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my lord will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the Lord your God, but the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling. 30 When the Lord has fulfilled for my lord every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him ruler over Israel, 31 my lord will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself. And when the Lord your God has brought my lord success, remember your servant.”

Reflection: Blocking the Way of Wickedness
By John Tillman

We don’t always have a choice about working with or living among wicked people, but we can choose how we respond.

Even in our modern world, it can be difficult to confront or leave a wicked spouse or partner. For Abigail, and other women of her time, it was unthinkable. Abigail and her servants lived under the authority of her husband, Nabal, whose name meant “foolish.” (verse 25) He was also called “wicked” by the servant. (A bold statement from a servant about his master!) This word implies “worthlessness” and “destruction” as opposed to value and blessing. The servant’s usage implies that Nabal cannot be reasoned with.

Agreeing with the servant, she does not speak to Nabal. Talking to someone who has given themselves over to wickedness is fruitless. Abigail doesn’t talk—she takes action. She does not waste the pearls of her wisdom on her swine of a husband. Rather than face him, she sets out to greet 400 angry men with swords.

In conflicts between the powerful, the powerless get crushed. Had Abigail done nothing, it is possible she would have survived, and even ended up married to David as a result. But the servants, and perhaps many others, would have died. Not only would David have had blood on his hands, she would as well.

She went out into the night, to meet angry, armed men, taking with her restitution, humility, an apology, and wisdom about what kind of leader David should strive to be. Her speech to David shows she is well connected and knows much of David. She even subtly references his victory over Goliath with a metaphor about a sling. (verse 29)

Nabal is wicked and cannot listen to reason. David, even when set on a destructive course, still listens to those standing in his way. 

There are two godly examples for us to follow in this passage. 

May we remember to be like Abigail, willing to risk our lives to block the way of wickedness, paying the cost of the wrongs done by others and standing in the way of those intent on harm and violence.
May we also be like David, willing to listen to those who stand in our way, warning us that we are on the wrong path. May we be willing to let go of our own anger and vengefulness.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord; let all flesh bless his holy Name forever and ever. — Psalm 145.22

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

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 25 (Listen – 7:12) 
1 Corinthians 6 (Listen – 3:03)

Read more about What David Longed For
David makes a contrast between the evildoers whose satisfaction is found in this life, and himself.

Read more about Limits of Human Grace
David, when dealing with these offenders, had seemed magnanimous…But on his deathbed, David sounded vindictive.

Bold Obedience — Readers’ Choice

Readers’ Choice Month:
In August, The Park Forum looks back on our readers’ selections of our most meaningful and helpful devotionals from the past 12 months. Thank you for your readership and your submissions for this month.

Today’s post was originally published, July 13, 2021, based on readings from Joshua 18.
It was selected by reader, John from Singapore

Scripture Focus: Joshua 18.1-3, 8-10
1 The whole assembly of the Israelites gathered at Shiloh and set up the tent of meeting there. The country was brought under their control, 2 but there were still seven Israelite tribes who had not yet received their inheritance. 
3 So Joshua said to the Israelites: “How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you?
8 As the men started on their way to map out the land, Joshua instructed them, “Go and make a survey of the land and write a description of it. Then return to me, and I will cast lots for you here at Shiloh in the presence of the Lord.” 9 So the men left and went through the land. They wrote its description on a scroll, town by town, in seven parts, and returned to Joshua in the camp at Shiloh. 10 Joshua then cast lots for them in Shiloh in the presence of the Lord, and there he distributed the land to the Israelites according to their tribal divisions.

Reflection: Bold Obedience — Readers’ Choice
By Elizabeth Franklin 

“Free bookshelf: must pick up!” As a student, the words “free [anything]” immediately catch my eye. Unfortunately, the words that often follow—“must pick up”—immediately send me back to searching, because my mid-sized vehicle cannot accommodate most furniture. I’m willing to receive it, but I’m hesitant to go and get it!

Seven of the tribes of Israel encountered a similar dilemma as their people were in the process of entering the land that God had promised them. Their problem was not so much the ability to receive the land, but their willingness to go get it. God had accompanied the Israelites through generations of trouble and travel to arrive at this promised land, and now he had enabled them to take possession of it. However, these seven tribes needed some extra prompting to move forward in obedience.

Throughout the Israelites’ history, God had made one thing abundantly clear: “Obey what I have told you, and you will be blessed.” God was guiding them in their identity as his people, but he expected them to be obedient to his direction.

In this case, obedience meant bold action. God had secured the land for them, but they had to physically go and take possession of it. The biblical text does not tell us why these seven tribes hadn’t done so already—perhaps they were afraid, apathetic, or just not paying attention. Whatever the case, their leader had to prompt them to do what God had already instructed. Once they obeyed, though, the land was theirs. God was faithful to what he had promised.

God has secured abundant spiritual blessings for us in Christ. If we are willing to take bold steps forward in obedience, we will receive what he has promised. Just as I am hesitant to pick up furniture that my vehicle can’t accommodate, we can sometimes be hesitant to take hold of the blessings of obedience that God has promised us. If fear, apathy, or a distracted heart is keeping you from acting, perhaps finding encouragement in a trusted friend or leader like Joshua will help prompt you to action. 

How is God asking you to be obedient today? Does a relationship need to be mended in love and humility? Does a sin need to be confessed? When we seek God’s direction, he will show us the way forward.  

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; wash me, and I shall be clean indeed. — Psalm 51.8

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

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 24 (Listen – 3:36) 
1 Corinthians 5 (Listen – 1:58)

Read more about God of the Weak and Doubtful
If God placed examples of faith in the scripture, he also placed doubt in the scriptures. Stories of faith come from doubt.

Read more about Abundance from Obedience
Because collective consequences are a reality, our focus should be on collective obedience. Following God is a group effort.

Praying Priestly Blessings — Readers’ Choice

Readers’ Choice Month:
In August, The Park Forum looks back on our readers’ selections of our most meaningful and helpful devotionals from the past 12 months. Thank you for your readership. This month is all about hearing from you. Submit a Readers’ Choice post today.

Today’s post was originally published, April 29,2021, based on readings from Numbers 6.
It was selected by reader, Jon Polk from Hong Kong
“Oh how our world needs to see Christians as agents of blessing! So many of our loudest voices are selfish, hurtful, and negative towards others. To be fair, I don’t believe all Christians act that way, in fact, I don’t believe that most Christians act that way, but many who get the most air time in public do act in less-than-kind ways. Our world desperately needs to hear a voice of compassion and blessing from us as followers of Christ. This passage relates to the Aaronic blessing, but when we look back at the covenant with Abraham, he is called to be a blessing to all people. So too, we must use our voices and actions to be a blessing not only to other Christians, but even to those who are not.”

Scripture Focus: Numbers 6.22-27
22 The Lord said to Moses, 23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: 
24 “ ‘ “The Lord bless you 
and keep you; 
25 the Lord make his face shine on you 
and be gracious to you; 
26 the Lord turn his face toward you 
and give you peace.” ’ 
27 “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”

Reflection: Praying Priestly Blessings — Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

Through the Aaronic blessing, God puts his name—his identity—on the Israelites. As followers of God today, a part of our identity is as carriers of the blessings of God that are intended for the world.

One of the primary purposes of humanity, upheld throughout the entirety of scripture, is being a blessing to others.

Adam and Eve’s charge was to cultivate and spread God’s blessings.
Abraham was called to bless all people through his offspring.
Through Moses, God began building a nation intended to share with the world the blessings of God’s wisdom and justice.
Sounding over and over within the societal laws of Israel is a drumbeat of blessing and caring for others, even foreigners, as members of one’s family.
The prophets, time and time again, spoke of spreading God’s blessings and the light of truth to the gentile nations.
Gabriel’s annunciation of Christ’s birth and Mary’s song about it later both put at center stage blessings for all of humanity.

Blessing others is a baked-in quality of the Imago Dei in all people. When we refuse to bless others, we are shoveling dirt over the image of God in us, burying our treasure in the ground and refusing to invest it out of selfishness and fear.

Only in Christ, however, can that Imago Dei be brought fully to life and empowered by the presence of the Holy Spirit. Then, blessing others may go beyond simple kindness as we take on our role as a royal priesthood.

Just as the family of Aaron were priests under Aaron, we are priests under Jesus, our high priest. We are charged, as the Aaronic priests were charged, to pronounce God’s blessing.

If we were to rewrite the Aaronic blessing for Christ’s order of priests, using images and teachings from Jesus, to put his identity on us, it might look something like this:

Like a mother tending to her children,
A shepherd tending sheep,
Or a gardener cultivating a garden,
May our Father bless and protect you.
May our Father’s eyes shine on you
Delighting in you as his child, showing you grace and love.
May our Father’s face be raised to you,
Welcoming you in his presence, bringing you peace.

Through this blessing, God puts his name, his identity, on those who will accept it. May we pronounce this priestly blessing not with words alone, but in how we live and walk through our world.

Music:The UK Blessing” — Churches from all across the UK sing “The Blessing” over their country.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes. — Psalm 118.23

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

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 23 (Listen – 4:18) 
1 Corinthians 4 (Listen – 3:15)

Read more about Becoming a Blessing
From Abram, you made a great nation
Through Abram, you promised to bless the nations
Make us, O Lord, a blessing in our nations

Read more about Identity Lost, Identity Gained
God, our father, is greater and more loving than Isaac…No one who comes to him will need cry, “Do you have only one blessing, my father?”

No Asterisks — Readers’ Choice

Readers’ Choice Month:
In August, The Park Forum looks back on our readers’ selections of our most meaningful and helpful devotionals from the past 12 months. Thank you for your readership. This month is all about hearing from you. Submit a Readers’ Choice post today.

Today’s post was originally published, July 21, 2021, based on readings from Judges 4.
It was selected by readers, Deborah from TX and Jason from TX.
Deborah: “This commentary is both beautifully written and filled with TRUTH! You blessed me this morning! Deborah, who appreciates her name even more now”

Jason: “We all need to hear this again. Good word.”

Scripture Focus: Judges 4.4-6
4 Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. 5 She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided. 6 She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor.

*I love the NIV in general, however, one of its disagreements with other translations is to render the same Hebrew word translated as “judge” everywhere else, as “lead” in Deborah’s case from Judges 4.4.

Reflection: No Asterisks — Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

Deborah’s judgeship doesn’t deserve an asterisk. 

Some claim Deborah’s judgeship is a punishment for Israel, not a blessing. They claim God only used Deborah because Barak (and every other male Israelite) was too “weak” to stand up. This interpretation insults Deborah, Barak, and all Israel, based on assumptions that are extrabiblical and unsupported by the text.

Deborah summons Barak and he comes. She commands him into battle and he goes. She goes with him to battle and they conquer. Then, they jointly lead the nation in a prophetic song of worship. “Princes” of Israel volunteer to serve under her leadership and are praised. She initiates a generation of peace and prosperity.

The biblical writers make no apologies or explanations for Deborah. There is no scriptural asterisk indicating Deborah’s judgeship is the last resort of a desperate God who couldn’t find a man to do the job.

God did not “settle” for Deborah. He chose her. 

Deborah’s story is also not one of feminist triumphalism or superiority. We might like to imagine Deborah riding into battle as Éowyn did in the conclusion of The Lord of the Rings, slaying the Witch King, shouting “I am no man!” However, God did not defeat Sisera on a technicality and Deborah’s prophecy is not fulfilled by her killing the villain. That honor goes to another woman, of lower status, Jael. Jael’s hand drove the spike but it was Deborah’s raised fist that began the battle. 

God planned to use women to crush evil from the beginning. God promised Eve her seed would crush the head of the serpent. So it is not a fluke that women would be involved in crushing the heads of evil men. These women are simply reflecting the birth pangs of the reality of God’s promise.

Deborah’s leadership is not a fluke or a technicality. God no more “settled” for her than he “settled” for the sinfulness of Samson, or the rashness of Jepthah, or the doubts and low standing of Gideon. 

So what does this mean?

We may doubt our place in God’s work. We also may have our place in God’s work doubted by others. However, our gender, our race, our background, or our nationality do not disqualify us from fulfilling God’s purposes. God didn’t settle for you. He called and chose you.

For the humble whom God raises up to lead, all asterisks are removed. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, Lord God of hosts; let not those who seek you be disgraced because of me, O God of Israel. — Psalm 69.7

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

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 19 (Listen – 3:43)
1 Corinthians 1 (Listen – 4:03)

This Weekend’s Readings
1 Samuel 20 (Listen – 6:42) 1 Corinthians 2 (Listen – 2:26)
1 Samuel 21-22 (Listen – 6:35) 1 Corinthians 3 (Listen – 3:05)

Read More about Readers’ Choice 2021
Have we heard from you yet? Tell us about posts from the past year (September 2020 – July 2021) that have helped you in your faith.

Read more about Ladies First—Resurrection Appearances
“Firsts” are important in the scriptures. So we cannot imagine that it is a coincidence or a mistake that Jesus appears first to the women.

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