Diamonds In the Rough

Scripture Focus: 1 Samuel 30.22-25
22 But all the evil men and troublemakers among David’s followers said, “Because they did not go out with us, we will not share with them the plunder we recovered. However, each man may take his wife and children and go.” 

23 David replied, “No, my brothers, you must not do that with what the LORD has given us. He has protected us and delivered into our hands the raiding party that came against us. 24 Who will listen to what you say? The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.” 25 David made this a statute and ordinance for Israel from that day to this. 

Reflection: Diamonds In the Rough
By John Tillman

During this period of David’s life, he was God’s anointed, the rightful king of Israel, yet Saul was determined to maintain power. David not only had no throne, he was forced into exile.

An outcast, David attracted outcasts. (1 Samuel 22.2) He took in the distressed and the discontented, the poor and the rebellious. It’s easy to lead those of exemplary character and high moral standards. David was leading those so violent they were a danger to even him.

Many events in this section of scripture depict tests of David’s character. Will he murder Nabal? (1 Samuel 25.34) Or Saul? (1 Samuel 24.3-10) Will he take the throne by force? Will he be just? Will he be a ruffian in the wilderness or a diamond in the rough?

David doesn’t pass every test. To survive Saul, he serves the enemy of his enemy, marching under the banner of King Achish and his false god. David is no king yet. At best, during this time we might call David a warlord—a mercenary. At worst, a war criminal. Scripture doesn’t hide these failings but it does highlight moments when David’s roughness is cut away and facets of kingly destiny shine.

In a moment of victory, David’s rough gang of fighters wants to shame the weak, claiming dominance and a greedy share of wealth. The narrator calls them “evil men and troublemakers.” David calls them, “my brothers.”

David does not shy away from pointing out that their arguments are foolish. His rhetorical question, “Who will listen to what you say?” shames them but calling them “brothers” lifts them up. David not only stops the madness of the moment, he establishes a just rule from that moment on. David grows into his calling and at least some of his men follow along.

Like David, we may find ourselves in exile stuck between wicked kings. We feel the tension of being in this world but not of it and being surrounded by the desperate who default to violence and selfishness.

Like David, we’ll stumble, fail, and perhaps compromise when we should stand boldly. But amidst our rough and tumble world, we must remember that in God’s reality, we are children of God and regents of his Kingdom.

We, and those around us, need to be cut, shaped, ground, and polished by the Holy Spirit from diamonds in the rough to shining facets reflecting Christ’s light.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Open my lips, O Lord, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise. — Psalm 51.16

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

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 29-30 (Listen 6:33)
Revelation 9 (Listen 3:30)

Read more about Blocking the Way of Wickedness
We don’t always have a choice about working with or living among wicked people, but we can choose how we respond.

Read more about Supporting Our Work
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The King We Want

Scripture Focus: Zechariah 9.9-10
9 Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! 
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! 
See, your king comes to you, 
righteous and victorious, 
lowly and riding on a donkey, 
on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 
10 I will take away the chariots from Ephraim 
and the warhorses from Jerusalem, 
and the battle bow will be broken. 
He will proclaim peace to the nations. 
His rule will extend from sea to sea 
and from the River to the ends of the earth. 

1 Samuel 8.6-7
6 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.

John 19.15
15 But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.

From John: This post and poem were written several days before the shootings at Robb Elementary in Uvalde. We mourn and cry in anger and grief this week. We long ever and ever more for Jesus, the breaker of battle bows, to come. May our bows be broken and our stiff necks be bent. May our hearts of destruction become hearts of cultivation, our swords be melted to plowshares. May his peace come soon. Even now, Lord Jesus. Even now.

Reflection: The King We Want
By John Tillman

Zechariah’s vision of a coming king riding on a donkey is very familiar to New Testament readers. All the gospel writers include this detail. John and Matthew specifically quote Zechariah 9.9 and point out that Jesus fulfills this prophecy. However, this humble king wasn’t what many wanted. Many rejected Jesus then. And many still reject him now.

The King We Want
We want a king, we say
A king like other nations
With Solomon’s glitz and glamor
With Goliath’s sword and armor

I’ve sent a king, God says
Unlike any you’ve seen
Son of the Giant Killer
Yet rejected as your ruler

We want a king, we say
Exalted and victorious
We’ll hear his saber rattle
We’ll follow him to battle

I’ve sent a king, God says
A king not of this realm
Your lust for worldly power
Shows you mistake the hour

We want a king, we say
To make our city great
To make for ourselves a name
To not be scattered from this plain

I’ve sent a king, God says
You had no eyes to see him
He wept over your city
That the outcasts gained no pity

We want a king, we say
We’ll even take a bad one
Let him speak like a serpent coiled
Long as we can share the spoils

I’ve sent a king, God says
You had no ears to hear him
Of sin’s sting you must repent
Then my King will crush the serpent

We want a king, we say
A conqueror, triumphant
Crush our enemies who slight us
Crush the governments above us

I’ve sent a king, God says
He rode in on a donkey
My servants prophesied him
You rebels crucified him

We want a king, we say
To cast out the unworthy
Keep away those we despise and fear
Isolate us with those we hold dear

I’ve sent a king, God says.
Accepting any and all subjects
No repentant sinner he’ll exclude
And that, my child, includes you

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
You are the Lord, most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods. — Psalm 64.9

Today’s Readings
Zechariah 9 (Listen – 3:01)
Matthew 6 (Listen – 4:35)

This Weekend’s Readings
Zechariah 10 (Listen – 2:11Matthew 7 (Listen – 3:31)
Zechariah 11 (Listen – 2:40Matthew 8 (Listen – 4:09)

Read more about The Ram and the Cornerstone
Jesus entered Jerusalem like Isaac’s ram on the mountain top. He rammed his head into the thorns…Jesus knew he would be rejected. His final actions ensured it.

Read more about Truth Unwanted
Jesus, you are the king, the gift, and the truth that the world does not want.

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.