The Best We Can Do

Scripture Focus: 1 Samuel 27.1
But David thought to himself, “One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul. The best thing I can do is to escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will give up searching for me anywhere in Israel, and I will slip out of his hand.”

Reflection: The Best We Can Do

By John Tillman

We have to always be careful when reading the Bible not to assume that actions described in God’s Word were prescribed by God’s command. 

This is especially difficult with characters such as David. We tend to over-glorify David as a hero archetype who can do no wrong. We misapply the description of David as a “man after God’s own heart” to mean that every decision David made was wholly righteous. This is a terrible way to understand any Bible character, but an especially damaging way to understand David.  

Harold Wilmington, in his commentary on 1 Samuel 27 states that David did not seem to trust Saul, “Nor, apparently did he trust God to protect him.”

This is despite the fact that God has just miraculously assisted David in proving to Saul that David meant him no harm. David suggests that people near Saul must be poisoning him against David, telling David to “go serve other gods.” Saul has confessed that his pursuit of David is sinful, sworn off searching for him, and predicted great things for David.

After this spiritual and political victory, David does exactly what the people poisoning Saul against him suggested. David becomes a servant to king Achish, enemy of Israel, servant of Dagon.

This is a practical political decision (“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”) but is not depicted as a spiritual decision. Scripture often tells us that David consulted the Lord or prayed, but here it tells us only his human thought process. (Scripture does not tell us that David prayed or consulted the Lord once while in Philistia, except in crisis when their town of Ziklag had been burned and captured.) David’s words are “The best thing I can do…”. 

Rather than the best thing, this decision may have been the worst thing David could have done. Through this decision, David becomes a liar, a war criminal, a slaughterer of women and children, and feigns madness to carry out his desperate plot. Achish, assuming David’s war crimes are against Israel, notes that David is now trapped and will be his servant forever. 

The best we can do—in our strength and wisdom—may not be God’s best for us.

May God deliver us from decisions that are “the best we can do.” 
May we never be enslaved to decisions of political practicality.
May we never compromise our souls to maintain convenient alliances.
May we seek God’s best rather than our human best.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence

Be pleased, O God, to deliver me; O Lord, make haste to help me. — Psalm 70.1

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

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 27 (Listen – 1:59) 
1 Corinthians 8 (Listen – 1:54)

This Weekend’s Readings
1 Samuel 28 (Listen – 4:04), 1 Corinthians 9 (Listen – 4:04)
1 Samuel 29-30 (Listen – 6:33), 1 Corinthians 10 (Listen – 4:04)
1 Samuel 31 (Listen – 2:03), 1 Corinthians 11 (Listen – 4:20)

Read more about Christ, the True Hero
We cannot live up to oaths such as Psalm 101. Neither could David. David would eventually bring corruption, rape, murder, and the ravages of civil war to the city which in this Psalm he pledges to protect.

Read more about Prayer From the Cave :: Readers’ Choice
Had David prayed as much in his palace as he did in his cave, he might never have fallen into the act which brought such misery upon his later days.

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.

Chastened Towards Freedom

Scripture Focus: 1 Corinthians 11.31-32
But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.

Reflection: Chastened Towards Freedom
By John Tillman

Does Paul teach perfectionism? Must we attain holiness by our self-will? In his book, True Spirituality, Francis Schaeffer addresses this confusion:

“If I lay hold upon the blood of Christ in faith, reality rests here: not in trying to live as though the Bible teaches perfectionism. That is no basis for reality; that is only a basis either for subterfuge or despair. But there is a reality here: the reality of sins forgiven…This is the reality of restored relationship.”

Schaeffer uses the word “chastening” in his writing, taking it from the New King James translation from which he taught:

“The chastening of a child of God does not have a penal aspect. That was finished on the cross. There is no double jeopardy when the holy God is the Judge. Our guilt is gone, once and forever. Therefore if we judge ourselves, we are not chastened.”

There are multiple words here. The way we are to “judge” ourselves is diakrinō, meaning to separate, to make a distinction, or to discern. The “judgment” (krinō) which believers may avoid is that which means to be sentenced or punished. Instead, we are “chastened” (paidĕuō), which means trained, educated, or disciplined.

We are not taught perfectionism in Paul, but rather confession and submission to the Holy Spirit:

“This is what Paul was urging upon us. It is overwhelmingly better not to sin. But is it not wonderful that when we do sin, we can hurry to the place of restoration?”

Sin does more than separate us from God. We are isolated, marooned and abandoned by our selfishness.

“Man is first of all separated from God, then from himself, and finally from his fellow men and from nature. The blood of the Lord Jesus Christ will give an absolute and perfect restoration of all these things when Jesus comes. But in the present life, there is to be a substantial healing, including the results of the separation between a man and himself. This is the first step towards freedom in the present life from the results of the bonds of sin.”

May we “judge” ourselves with sober judgment, knowing our Judge is Christ, and yearning to yield to any chastening of his Spirit that may come.
May the Spirit chasten us towards freedom.

*Quotations from, True Spirituality by Francis A. Schaeffer.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick…And indeed I did not come to call the virtuous but sinners. — Matthew 9.12-13

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

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 31 (Listen – 2:03) 
1 Corinthians 11 (Listen – 4:20)

This Weekend’s Readings
2 Samuel 1 (Listen – 3:54), 1 Corinthians 12 (Listen – 4:25)
2 Samuel 2 (Listen – 5:07), 1 Corinthians 13 (Listen – 2:23)

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

Read more about Prayer for Older Brothers
One son was humiliated by his own scandalous behavior.
One son was humiliated by his father’s scandalous grace.

Read more about We Confess
The gospel is better served by time spent confessing our own sins than time spent accusing the world of theirs.

Slavery to Maturity

Scripture Focus: 1 Corinthians 10.3-5
They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

Reflection: Slavery to Maturity
By John Tillman

In his 2015 book, Onward, Russell Moore penned a prescient paragraph or two about the political future:

“The church of Jesus Christ ought to be the last people to fall for hucksters and demagogues. After all, the church bears the Spirit of God, who gifts the Body with discernment and wisdom. But too often we do. We receive celebrities simply because they are ‘conservative,’ without asking what they are conserving. If you are angry with the same people we are, you must be one of us. But it would be a tragedy to get the right president, the right Congress, and the wrong Christ. That’s a very bad trade-off….”

It’s a stunningly accurate picture of today’s political reality that relates to our reading.

Events recorded in scripture are not always for our emulation. Sometimes, like the accounts of the Israelites in the desert, they are cautionary. Paul describes a liberated nation of Israel who gained political freedom, yet were morally and spiritually fragile and prone to deceptions by Balaams and Ba’als and idols of the desert.

Israel’s desert journey can be analogized as our journey of personal or cultural spiritual growth. The spiritual maturity of American Christianity and all Western Christianity has long been called into question. Long years of cultural ease have left us as ignorant of God as the Israelites long years of slavery in Egypt. In Egypt, the Israelites’ were well fed physically but not spiritually. The same could be said of Western and American Christianity. Perhaps the best thing God can do for our spiritual maturity is to lead us through a desert of trials, mistakes, and dangers.

In the desert, there will be false prophets and deceptions. We pressure our leaders to make Golden Idols and they, like Aaron, do so. We suffer. We thirst. We hunger.

To survive we need to become so familiar with the daily “bread from Heaven” that we grow tired of it and long for meat, which God will also provide.

May our feeding on the spiritual food of God’s Word lead to the kind of maturity and discernment we need to stand on the gospel of Christ and not on the shifting sands of human leaders, political promises, or political parties. Like Israel in the desert, we are outcasts from every kingdom of earth. They offer us little other than idolatry and eventual betrayal.

We are sojourning to the kingdom of Christ.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, what can make it salty again? It is good for nothing, and can only be thrown out to be trampled underfoot by men.” — Matthew 5.13

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

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 29-30 (Listen – 6:33) 
1 Corinthians 10 (Listen – 4:04)

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

Read more about Spiritual Markers
We, like the Israelites, excel at forgetting God and we are especially good at forgetting him when we are comfortable, wealthy, and prosperous.

Read more about A Cautionary Tale of Unbelief :: Readers’ Choice
Let the warning of the Holy Spirit be heard by those who are followers of Christ, do not harden your hearts towards God.