Tuesday, September 29, 2015

I Samuel 20: Keep Your Friends Close But Your Enemies Closer

Saul is starting to become seriously unhinged.  What was at first envy and jealousy of his junior associate David has blossomed into full-fledged paranoia.  He wants David dead.  David is aware that Saul is out to get him, but Jonathan doesn't see the evil in his father.  Jonathan and David make a pact - a covenant - to watch out for each other.

I Samuel 19: Getting By With A Little Help From His Friends

It's a good thing that David had so many friendships and relationships to draw upon - he relied numerous times upon the good will of others to save his life from Saul's murderous rage!

I Samuel 18: Everybody Loves David

David had high - but not quite unanimous - approval ratings.  In fact, it seems like the only who didn't love David was King Saul.

Monday, September 28, 2015

I Samuel 17: The Battle Belongs To The Lord

I Samuel 17 is a classic David-and-Goliath story.  In fact, it is THE David and Goliath story!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Psalm 88: A Cry For Help

The psalmist of Psalm 88 sounds like he has led a very difficult life.  From his youth, he has been close to death (vs. 15) and even now, he is counted among the dying (vs. 4).  His friends consider him helpless and hopeless.  Rather than seeing light, he feels darkness all around him.  He even blames God for this!  Yet that doesn't stop him from turning to the Lord and calling out in prayer to God both day  (vs. 13) and night (vs. 1).  He is asking God to deliver him and preserve his life.  Even though very little has gone right for him in life, he is looking in the right place now as he cries out to God for help.  Have you ever been like this psalmist and called out to the Lord for help from the depths of your spirit?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

I Samuel 16: The Rise Of David

God was being completely serious when said He was rejecting Saul as king.  Samuel the prophet is thus given a new assignment: Anoint the next king of Israel.

I Samuel 15: The Fall Of Saul

Which do you think God prefers?  Generous sacrificial giving or faithful obedience to His commands?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

I Samuel 14: Jonathan's Eating Gets Him In Trouble

In the midst of a fierce battle with the Philistines, Saul makes a rash oath.  He calls out, "Cursed be anyone who eats food before it is evening and I have been avenged on my enemies" (vs. 24).  Saul issued this oath probably thinking that it would inspire his men to fight hard and diligently.  Yet little did he know the problems he would cause himself with that statement!

I Samuel 13: Saul's Presumption

Ever wonder why the Bible talks so much about King David and relatively little about King Saul?  Saul made some mistakes along the way that led to his rejection by God from the kingship.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

I Samuel 12: The End Of One Age - And The Dawn Of Another

Samuel is widely regarded as a transitional figure.  He is the last in a long line of Judges that ruled over the Hebrews from the time of the Conquest, and he is the anointer of the first King(s) of Israel as the nation sets up a new governmental system of a monarchy.  I Samuel 12 is his valedictory address where he takes his leave of public life, giving the people a final speech filled with history lessons, warnings, and encouragements to follow the Lord.

I Samuel 11: ...And There Was Much Rejoicing

Saul's kingship gets off to a great start in I Samuel 11.  The Israelites had wanted a king, after all, to unite them and help organize their defenses against enemies.  Saul does precisely this in compelling fashion.

Monday, September 21, 2015

I Samuel 10: Long Live The King!

At first blush, Saul appears to be a rather reluctant king.  When talking with his uncle, he doesn't say anything about Samuel's anointing of him to be king (vs. 16), and when all Israel gathers for the choosing of the king by lot, Saul hides himself among the baggage (vs. 22).

I Samuel 9: Tall Saul And The King Thing

Now that God has decided to let Israel have a king, the issue becomes: who will that be?  Who will Samuel anoint?  I Samuel 9 provides the answer to that question.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Psalm 87: Born On Zion's Hill

Psalm 87 may be short (only 7 verses), but it packs a powerful punch for those who love Jerusalem.  We see credit given to God for Zion's founding (vs. 1), and His special affection for this city above all others (vs. 2).  Of particular note in this psalm is the value ascribed to those who trace their beginning to Jerusalem.  Whether a person's birth (vs. 5-6) or the spring of their song and dance (vs. 7), Zion's hill is a source of great blessings!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

I Samuel 8: Be Careful What You Wish For!

I Samuel 8 opens with the very real possibility of history repeating itself.  The previous generation saw Eli and his two corrupt sons lead to the downfall of Israel.  Now Samuel is old and his two sons are also not the man their father is.  They are taking bribes and perverting justice.  Will Samuel repeat the neglectful mistakes of Eli?

I Samuel 7: Who Fights Your Battles?

Leave it to the Philistines to attack Israel during worship!  (As a pastor, I personally find that to be a very low blow.)  Fortunately, their military tactic failed and they ended up routed before God rather than victorious over His people - and all of it was thanks to the help of the Lord!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

I Samuel 6: The Ark Goes Home

After seven months of reaping only disaster from their capture of the Ark, the Philistines are apparently ready to wash their hands of the whole thing.  They hatch a plan to put the Ark on a cart, along with a guilt offering of five gold mice and five gold tumors.  The cart is to be guided by two dairy cows who had never before been yoked and who are missing their calves penned up back home.  The Philistines watch in amazement as the cows promptly set out to return the Ark to Israel.  The Philistines realize that, rather than standing in opposition to God and bearing the heavy cost of a plague of tumors, they are farther ahead to let the Ark return to their enemies.  In this chapter, the Ark makes its journey home from Philistia to the Israelite towns of Beth-shemesh and Kiriath-jearim.

I Samuel 5: God vs. Dagon

I love the veiled message of I Samuel 5!  Even when His people are defeated militarily, God is greater than any of the false gods of the surrounding nations.  Here the Philistines are rejoicing at their great victory of the previous chapter in defeating the Israelites and capturing their "god" (i.e. the Ark of the Covenant).  But what happens next shows that the Lord is well able to defend Himself and guard His name.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

I Samuel 4: Ichabod

When you hear the name "Ichabod," chances are you think of a tale about a headless horseman and Sleepy Hollow.  The name originally appears in the Bible, however, and is rooted in a story about one of the greatest disasters to ever befall Israel.

I Samuel 3: Eli's Sin Of Omission

I Samuel 3 is usually remembered for its charming account of the midnight calling of the young prophet Samuel - but it also conveys a stark warning of the dangers of tolerated sin.

Monday, September 14, 2015

I Samuel 2: Shades Of Jesus Christ!

The unifying link between the Testaments and, indeed, within the entire Bible is the Person of Jesus Christ.  What the Old Testament longingly looks forward to is realized in the advent of our Savior.  I Samuel 2 is a prime example of an ordinary chapter buried in the historical books of the Bible that contains several prescient reference to the coming King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

I Samuel 1: A Special Child

There are several characteristics that made Samuel a special child, one who was to have a strong influence and leadership role over the nation of Israel.

Psalm 86: Finding Theology In The Psalms

How do we know what we know about God?  Christians believe in the Bible as our source and authority regarding matters of faith.  But it is important to keep in mind that the Bible is composed of many different types of literature, called genres, which all have their own strengths and limitations when it comes to teaching us about God.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Ruth 4: Ruth Finds A Husband

The Book of Ruth takes us from a posture of gloom, grief, and bitterness in the first chapter to a celebration of new life and hope for the future in the last.  It is most certainly a beautiful story of redemption!

Ruth 3: Something More Than Friendship

Ruth 3 escalates the relationship between Boaz and Ruth.  Whereas formerly the older gentleman was charitably looking out for a young widow who was a foreigner to his country, he is now surreptitiously approached by her at night on the threshing floor with deeper intentions.

Ruth 2: Ruth Finds A Friend

Sometimes coincidences are exactly that: mere coincidences.  At other times, however, coincidences reveal the hand of God working behind the scenes.

Ruth 1: When The Going Gets Tough

The first chapter of Ruth is bleak.  It tells the story of a woman who is forced to migrate to another nation due to a famine in her home country.  Over the next decade, she loses her husband to death, followed by her two sons.  All she has left is her foreign daughters-in-law.  It's no wonder that she changes her name from Naomi (meaning, "my joy" and "pleasant") to Mara (meaning "bitter").

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Judges 21: Problem Solved!

You really have to give the Israelites credit.  They had unwittingly placed themselves in a real bind but were able to find a creative way out of their dilemma.

Judges 20: Tribe Vs. Tribes

When the rest of Israel hears about the atrocity that happened at Gibeah in Benjamin, they are enraged.  They gather in mass at Mizpah to plan their response.

Judges 19: An Israelite Horror Story

Shades of Sodom!  The story recounted in Judges 19 is enough to shock even the most jaded cynic.  Certainly, the depths to which Israel has sunk means that something has gone very, very wrong in the Promised Land.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Judges 18: From Personal Religion To Tribal Faith

Micah's little household god operation didn't stay little for long.  As it turns out, the tribe of Dan caught wind of his personal religion and, when they felt it was worth something to them, took it for their own and made it the center of their tribal faith!

Judges 17: Personal Religion

Judges 17 demonstrates the growing religious corruption taking place as the nation continues its slide away from the Law of Moses.  As time passes from the Exodus and the Conquest, the Israelites forget the lessons and laws against idolatry.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Psalm 85: What God's Love Looks Like

Psalm 85 is a very descriptive psalm.  The psalmist is yearning for the restoration of Israel: for God's forgiveness and mercy to be poured out upon the nation.  What will that look like when it happens?  We receive a beautiful picture of God's love in the last four verses:  "Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.  Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky. The Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.  Righteousness will go before him, and will make a path for his steps."  If you, too, are yearning for God's love, may Psalm 85 encourage you with its radiant description of that reality!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Judges 16: Samson's End

After seeing Samson's poor track record with women, it is no surprise that his undoing came through the treachery of a woman.

Judges 15: Samson > 1000 Men

Samson has a reputation for being "the strongest man who ever lived."  While that claim is not expressly stated in the Bible, stories like the ones we find in Judges 15 can help us believe it!

Judges 14: Happily Never After

I've officiated some rough weddings in my time, but none of them compares to the disaster of Samson's nuptials with the Philistine woman from Timnah!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Judges 13: Birth Announcements

How often in scripture do we see a holy figure announcing the glad tidings of an imminent birth?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Judges 12: Ephraim vs. Gilead

As foreseen in the time of Joshua, the Israelite tribes divided by the Jordan River are susceptible to grave misunderstandings between them and sometimes fall into a civil war.  Such is the case in Judges 12 when Ephraim goes to war against Gilead.  This episode also became the source for a term that is used to describe the sorting out of whether one truly belongs in a group of people.

Judges 11: But I Thought The Lord Didn't Require Human Sacrifice!

What are we to make of the strange, tragic tale of Jephthah and his daughter, who he apparently offered up as a burnt offering to the Lord?

Judges 10: More Judges - And Judgment!

And the cycle goes on.  Israel continues to receive deliverance through judges, yet then turn their back on the Lord after they are rescued.  In this chapter, God reveals that He is beginning to get a little tired of their continual faithlessness.

Judges 9: The First King Of Israel?

You may know that Saul is traditionally viewed as the first monarch of Israel.  However, Judges 9 tells the story of Gideon's son Abimelech who held a brief tenure as "king" during the time of the Judges.