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Tuesday

March 31st - Shepherd Boy to Superstar

Shepherd Boy to Superstar

(1 Samuel 16 – 17)


David’s Song of Praise

From Standard Bible Study Readers

By Lillie A. Faris

Illustrated by O. A. Stemler and Bess Bruce Cleaveland

1925


God, in His omniscience, surely possesses vision for His children. Isn’t it amazing how the Lord can see so much more in us than we may ever dream possible?


David, son of Jesse, was a little brother to some serious soldiers. As his older siblings headed for war, their kid brother was left behind to watch the sheep. They probably even teased him as he sat on a rock, playing his harp for the flock.


But God knew better.


Samuel Anoints David King

By Raphael

1518


The Lord sent Samuel to the home of Jesse in Judah’s Bethlehem to anoint the next king of Israel. One by one, Jesse’s sons were paraded in front of the prophet. And one by one, six sons were rejected.


“Then Samuel asked,

‘Are these all the sons you have?’

“’There is still the youngest,’

Jesse replied.

‘But he’s out in the fields watching the sheep and goats.’

“‘Send for him at once,’

Samuel said.

‘We will not sit down to eat until he arrives.’”

(1 Samuel 16:11, NLT)


Finally, the family fetched David, and Samuel anointed him. Immediately, the Spirit of God settled upon the boy in power, confirming the Lord’s choice. Clearly, He had a plan for this young man’s life.


“The Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’"

(1 Samuel 16:7, NIV)


David Slays the Giant Goliath

Artist unknown


Having fallen from favor through disobedience, deceit and departure from the Lord’s guidance, King Saul experienced significant spiritual stress. One of the king’s servants suggested that the shepherd boy David might soothe him with lovely harp music. Soon, David joined Saul’s staff, gaining the king’s favor.


As the battle with the Philistines raged, the Israelites faced a terrible threat. The giant Goliath blasphemed against the Lord and His people. No man dared to fight the monstrous man, until David accepted the challenge.


Saul offered the boy his own armor, although it was much too big for the boy. Armed with the power of the Lord, David took only his slingshot and a handful of smooth stones. With one shot, he felled the giant.


Can anyone or anything stand against the power of God? Does the Lord not delight in confounding and confusing the wicked by employing the weak to topple the strong?


Will you pray with me?


Mighty One,

How blessed we are

To belong to You.

Grant us courage

To stand in Your power,

Covered in Your grace

And called as Your own.

Guard us from judging

On appearances,

For You see far deeper

And truer.

How grateful we are

That You have seen fit

To restore us

Even before we desired

To be restored.

May we glorify

Your Name forever.

Amen.


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Monday

Obedience Trumps Offerings

Obedience Trumps Offerings

(1 Samuel 14:46 – 15:3)

(1 Chronicles 5:10, 18-22)


Saul Tearing Samuel’s Robe

Artist Unknown


King Saul, though appointed by the Lord, suffered a never-ending spiral of sin throughout his kingship. His entire reign was marked by conflict and war. Each victory was followed by additional battles with no peace in sight.


Saul’s soul seemed to face a similar plight.


This valiant warrior attacked obvious assailants head-on, but he allowed smaller threats to creep in and destroy his own life and even the kingdom he was anointed to rule.

How might we permit similar destructive elements to enter our own lives? What seemingly small sins do we attempt to justify, even if we guard against more obvious ills?


Crying Out to God


Israel’s eastern tribes (Gad, Reuben and half of Manasseh), led by Saul, went out against the Hagrites, or Ishmaelites (see 1 Chronicles 5:18-22). The Bible tells us that the Lord granted His people the victory, fighting for them, because they cried out to Him in the middle of the battle.


“They were given help against them,

and the Hagrites or Ishmaelites

were delivered into their hands,

and all who were allied with them,

for they cried to God in the battle;

and He granted their entreaty,

because they relied on,

clung to,

and trusted in Him.”

(1 Chronicles 5:20, Amplified)


May God grant us the presence of mind to call upon Him when we face conflicts, dangers and threats as well. Surely, if the Lord leads us in, then the battle belongs to Him. Will we not cry out to Him and trust Him for the outcome?


Ill-Gotten Gains


The Lord again spoke to Saul through the prophet Samuel, instructing the king to wage war against the Amalekites and utterly destroy them, along with all of their livestock and assets. Saul mustered the troops and led the attack. The Lord granted His people the victory.


However, Saul and his army spared the best of the Amalekites’ flocks and herds, as well as their King Agag.

Confronted by Samuel, Saul made excuses for his disobedience. He claimed the animals had been saved for holy purposes, so that they might be used as sacrificial offerings to the Lord. Perhaps Saul had intended this purpose for the battle booty. Possibly not.


Either way, God surely disapproved of his disobedience. The Lord would not accept a sacrifice that arose from sin.


How might we, as well, attempt to justify our own sin by offering the Lord ill-gotten gain?


If we cheat another, will we try to ease our own guilt by tossing the proceeds into the collection plate? If we pad an expense report or fudge on our tax returns, will we seek to placate our own convictions by donating the difference to charity or ministry? If we lie, gossip, curse or otherwise offend the Lord and others, will we also offer our words to Him in worship?


Do we truly believe God will accept this?


Samuel rebuked King Saul sharply. In his grief and guilt, Saul grabbed Samuel's robe, tearing it. Samuel prophesied that Saul's kingdom would be torn from his hands in similar manner.


“But Samuel replied,

‘What is more pleasing to the Lord:

your burnt offerings and sacrifices

or your obedience to His voice?

Listen!

Obedience is better than sacrifice,

and submission is better

than offering the fat of rams.

Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft,

and stubbornness as bad

as worshiping idols.

So because you have rejected

the command of the Lord,

He has rejected you as king.’”

(1 Samuel 15:22-23, NLT)


Saul’s disobedience disqualified him from his God-given position of leadership and his life calling. Samuel mourned the downfall of Saul, as the Lord promised to replace the king with another. The Lord Himself grieved over Saul.


What a cost.


Surely the Lord never changes. His standards waver not.


“He who is the Glory of Israel

does not lie or change His mind;

for He is not a man,

that He should change His mind."

(1 Samuel 15:19, NIV)

Praise the Lord, who offers His unchanging love and mercy to us every day. His law never changes, and we all fall far short of His sinlessness. If we were measured by His standard, none would stand. If He stopped upholding His standard, His justice would not hold, for God held Saul and others to it.


Thanks be to God that we live under His grace, rather than simply His law. Without His mercy, we would be without hope.


May we seek to honor our great God and offer Him genuine sacrifices that cost us dearly, for He is dear. May He grow within us a greater desire to follow Him and obey His Word, for He is good.


Here’s “To Obey Is Better Than Sacrifice,” by Keith Green:


.

.


Will you pray with me?

Holy God,

Jehovah,

Lord over all,

How we praise You

For Your great wisdom

And Your Word.

Build Your truth

Within our hearts,

That we may seek You first

And obey Your call.

Reveal to us

Any false offerings

We may attempt to present to You.

Give us wisdom

That we may never wink at sin,

And hold us back

From making excuses

For disobeying You.

Surely, loving You

And keeping Your Word

Is the highest praise

We can offer.

Hallelujah.

Amen.


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Sunday

March 29th - Reigning with Rashness

Reigning with Rashness

(1 Samuel 13:1 – 14:45)


King Saul

Artist Unknown


If King Saul was the Lord’s choice and the anointed king of Israel, why did he display such rashness during his reign? Did someone make a mistake here? Does the Lord appoint fallible individuals to leadership? Would anyone be eligible, if He did not?


Perhaps it is pride. Possibly it is simple presumption. Either way, Saul displays a series of hasty actions that lead him down a destructive path, rather than the road of faithfulness to the Lord.


A Hasty Sacrifice


As the men of Israel prepared to do battle with the Philistine armies, Saul waited for the prophet Samuel to arrive at the camp in Bethel’s hill country to offer a sacrifice to the Lord. Surely, God’s people would need His favor for the fight. Still, Samuel was late in coming, so Saul took matters into his own hands and made the burnt offering himself.


Just then, the prophet showed up and rebuked King Saul for overstepping his God-appointed boundaries. The king’s presumptuous act brought judgment upon him and the people. In addition, Samuel declared that the Lord would end the rule of Saul and give the leadership of His people to a faithful one, whose royal lineage would endure. (In fact, the legacy of King David’s line would lead even to the Savior, Jesus Christ.)


How often does pride cause leaders or others to overstep the authority we may have been granted, even as Saul did, in our own haste or haughtiness? Will we deign to usurp ungranted power, simply to accomplish a longer list of tasks in a shorter time period, rather than waiting on the Lord’s leading?


Jonathan Eats Honey

From the Ground

Artist Unknown


A Hasty Vow


After God miraculously delivered the Philistines into the hands of the Israelites, beginning with a heroic series of events involving Saul’s valiant son Jonathan, the battle ensued. In the heat of the conflict, King Saul declared an oath, promising that any man who stopped to eat before nightfall would be killed. Surely, Saul’s exuberance for the fight overtook his common sense.


Not knowing about his father’s rash vow, Jonathan nibbled on some honey, which he found on the floor of the forest. In the end, after the battle’s end, Saul and the people of Israel discovered what Jonathan had done.


Would Saul put his own son to death?


Fortunately, the men of Israel intervened to rescue Jonathan. Even so, Saul’s own integrity and his kingly discernment had come into question.


How seriously do we consider the promises we make? Will we swear oaths upon impulse, only to regret them later? How difficult can it be for us to be people of our word?


Would we rather be people of our word, or people of God’s Word?


Will you pray with me?


Lord of Lords,

You are King of Kings,

And Ruler of the universe.

Guide us daily,

That we may follow Your leading,

Rather than our own.

Call us into Your purpose,

And direct our steps.

Hold us back

From making promises

We are unable to keep.

Make us people of the Word,

Your Word.

May we honor You

And give You all the glory.

Amen.


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Saturday

March 28th - Saul Is Selected

Saul Is Selected

(1 Samuel 8 - 12)


Saul Is Anointed by Samuel

Artist Unknown


How the pendulum of prudence swings back and forth, throughout the Bible and in our own lives.


Today’s Bible reading announces the Israelites' desire for a king, so that they might be like other nations surrounding them. What is so great about emulating the behavior of others?


The Lord Himself had promised to lead and direct His people. However, as the threat of conflict with neighboring nations loomed, the people desired a more tangible solution. After all, the prophet and judge Samuel was growing older. His own sons, though serving as judges of Israel, had rebelled against the Lord’s ways.


“When Samuel grew old,

he appointed his sons as judges for Israel.

The name of his firstborn was Joel,

and the name of his second was Abijah,

and they served at Beersheba.

But his sons did not walk in his ways.

They turned aside after dishonest gain

and accepted bribes and perverted justice.

So all the elders of Israel gathered together

and came to Samuel at Ramah.

They said to him,

‘You are old,

and your sons do not walk in your ways;

now appoint a king to lead us,

such as all the other nations have.’"

(1 Samuel 8:1-5, NIV)


Counting the Cost of a King


Samuel warned the people of Israel of the certain consequences of crowning a king. Conscription, taxation and other costs would apply, as such a ruler set up his government (see 1 Samuel 8:10-18). Still, the Israelites demanded a ruler.


God, in His omniscience and omnipotence, confirmed this plan and instructed Samuel about the selection of the first king of Israel. The Lord appointed Saul, working out a plan whereby Samuel would identify him. Saul’s family’s donkeys were lost, and God revealed to Samuel how the animals would be found and Saul anointed as king (see 1 Samuel 9).


The Prophet Anoints the King


Samuel shared the Lord’s Word with Saul, anointing him with oil to mark him as the chosen monarch of Israel and speaking prophetic words over him.


As Samuel had prophesied, Saul became filled with the Holy Spirit of God, and his heart was changed. The people who knew him marveled. (see 1 Samuel 10:9-13), although others questioned his kingship.


When we petition the Lord for a real or perceived need, how often do we question the answer He may provide? Are we ready and willing to recognize His answer when it arrives?


Opposition Proves Saul’s Position


The Lord allowed the Ammonites to go up against the Israelites in battle at Jabesh-Gilead. After God empowered Saul to lead His people to victory, the people confirmed his reign with a celebration (see 1 Samuel 11:12-15).


How might the Lord be leading us to triumph in our own daily struggles? Can we find occasion for celebration of His mercy and might?


A Prophet’s Farewell


After the Lord had sealed His people’s triumph over the Ammonites, Samuel delivered his final testimony before them. He defended his own integrity and faithfulness before the Lord, testifying to the Lord’s protection and providence throughout the ages. Samuel rebuked the people for their discontentment with the Lord’s own kingship. At the same time, he affirmed the people’s, exhorting them to trust the Lord for their deliverance and daily provision.


"[Samuel said] ’Now then, stand still,

and see this great thing

the Lord is about to do before your eyes!

Is it not wheat harvest now?

I will call upon the Lord to send thunder and rain.

And you will realize what an evil thing

you did in the eyes of the Lord

when you asked for a king.’

“Then Samuel called upon the Lord,

and that same day the Lord sent thunder and rain.

So all the people stood in awe of the Lord and of Samuel.”

(1 Samuel 12:16-18, NIV)


The Lord honored the prayer of Samuel, His faithful servant, demonstrating His glory before His people again. For His own sake, He remained steadfast in His love and mercy for those He loved.


How blessed we are that our great God never stops loving us, even when we question His judgment, complain of His provisions, rebel against His instructions or even ignore His gentle leadings in our lives. His loving-kindness is everlasting.


May we seek to honor Him with our whole hearts.


Will you pray with me?


God of glory

And Lord of love,

How we praise You.

You know what we need

Far more than we may ever understand.

Teach us to trust You

And to rest in Your love

For You are great.

You alone

Are all sufficient.

Your mercy

Is beyond measure.

Hallelujah.

Amen.


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