Archive for March, 2018

1 Samuel 21:1-15 (Part 1 of 3)
David Runs from Saul

Have you ever thought about things that you take for granted as to the fact that they come from the Bible? Even well meaning Christians can easily think that certain sayings come from the Bible when they really don’t. Here are a few examples:

For example, “God helps those who help themselves”. This saying is often misquoted as being from the Bible. However, nowhere in the Bible will you find this quote as part of any verse. Although it was popularized in modern Western culture by Benjamin Franklin who used it in his Poor Richard’s Almanac, it can be traced back to Greek literature of ancient days in Aesop’s Fables. It is nowhere to be found in the Bible.

Another example is “God will never give you more than you can handle.” I have heard many people say God will not give you more than you can handle and they often say it with good intentions – to try and comfort someone walking through difficulty or suffering. Maybe you have even said it. Let not your heart be troubled, I have said it many times myself. The saying is a twisting of 1 Corinthians 10:13 which states, “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” What the Bible states is that God will allow us an avenue to flee from temptations. It does not say that God will never give us circumstances, events, etc. that are beyond our ability to cope with them.

Others include “this, too, shall pass”. It is kind of like Ecclesiastes 3:1 but not quite. Ecclesiastes states that there is a season for everything, including our present-day troubles. There is an inference that the season shall pass, but our suffering according to the full understanding of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 could well be the last one of our lives. It is not guaranteed to pass during our lifetime. Our suffering shall end but it may be through the end of our existence on this side of heaven. More of these include “money is the root of all evil” when the Bible actually says “the love of money is the root of all evil” – that’s a significant distinction! Another is “to thine own self be true” – this is not biblical at all. It is from Shakespeare and certainly is the opposite of the message of the Bible to love God and to love others more than we love ourselves. These are just a few of the sayings that are part of our pop culture that, because they sound so profound, many believe they come straight out of the Bible.

These are extreme examples of people mis-attributing a common saying to the Bible. Equally as bad is when we as Christians allow tradition to become as sacred as the Bible itself. Examples are the mode of baptism. Although there is such greater symbolism to the mode of total immersion of the new believer in water, there is no clear and definitive reference in the Bible that says total immersion is the way that it was done. It is clear from the early Christian writers that they did not want the lack of access to plentiful water to prevent believers from being baptized or the infirmity of the believer may have prevented the believer from going down into the water. It is certainly what Paul envisions when he speaks of the new life of the believer but nowhere does Paul or any other apostle negate or prohibit other modes of baptism. However, because of denominational preferences, we often mistake our preferred method of baptism as being the biblically mandated one. I will admit that, in my opinion, that total immersion best reflects the symbolic nature of the old life before Christ and the cleansing and the new life in Christ better than any other mode out there, but to say the Bible definitively states this is mandated I cannot find it. There is too much controversy of the exact 1st century Greek meaning of the word we translate into English as baptism for me to say definitely that immersion is the exact method prescribed. Until the controversy over the exact meaning of that Greek word used in the Bible then it will remain my preference and I must recognize it as that.

What’s worse is when we create what the Bible says or when we add to what the Bible says to support our opinion or position. When we use Bible verses out of context to support an unbiblical position. When we accept certain church traditions as being the same thing as God’s sacred Word. When we develop layers and layers of church interpretation of the Bible as the same thing as the Word of God in the Bible. When we take something said by our favorite current writer in the 21st century as gospel without comparing what they say to the actual Word of God. When we do not understand the historical context in which a book of the Bible was written and thereby impute our 21st century parameters on the text. And it can go on and on as to how we often twist God’s Word and take it for being the true Word of God.

Here in this passage, we see that David uses the bread from the altar to survive as he is being pursued by King Saul’s men. Jewish tradition developed over time from when God laid down the law about the Bread of the Presence made it so that this bread should only be eaten by priests. This seems like a small matter to us but it was to become a big deal in the Jewish faith and led to controversy between Jesus and the religious elite of his day. Let’s read the passage together now for the first of three reviews of this passage with an eye, today, toward whether David broke the law of God or not:

Chapter 21
1 [a]David went to the town of Nob to see Ahimelech the priest. Ahimelech trembled when he saw him. “Why are you alone?” he asked. “Why is no one with you?”

2 “The king has sent me on a private matter,” David said. “He told me not to tell anyone why I am here. I have told my men where to meet me later. 3 Now, what is there to eat? Give me five loaves of bread or anything else you have.”

4 “We don’t have any regular bread,” the priest replied. “But there is the holy bread, which you can have if your young men have not slept with any women recently.”

5 “Don’t worry,” David replied. “I never allow my men to be with women when we are on a campaign. And since they stay clean even on ordinary trips, how much more on this one!”

6 Since there was no other food available, the priest gave him the holy bread—the Bread of the Presence that was placed before the Lord in the Tabernacle. It had just been replaced that day with fresh bread.

7 Now Doeg the Edomite, Saul’s chief herdsman, was there that day, having been detained before the Lord.[b]

8 David asked Ahimelech, “Do you have a spear or sword? The king’s business was so urgent that I didn’t even have time to grab a weapon!”

9 “I only have the sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the valley of Elah,” the priest replied. “It is wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. Take that if you want it, for there is nothing else here.”

“There is nothing like it!” David replied. “Give it to me!”

10 So David escaped from Saul and went to King Achish of Gath. 11 But the officers of Achish were unhappy about his being there. “Isn’t this David, the king of the land?” they asked. “Isn’t he the one the people honor with dances, singing,

‘Saul has killed his thousands,
and David his ten thousands’?”

12 David heard these comments and was very afraid of what King Achish of Gath might do to him. 13 So he pretended to be insane, scratching on doors and drooling down his beard.

14 Finally, King Achish said to his men, “Must you bring me a madman? 15 We already have enough of them around here! Why should I let someone like this be my guest?”

In this passage, we see that in giving David the bread, Ahimelech broke with priestly custom, but not with God’s word. He rightly understood that human need was more important that Levitical observance. Once, when Jesus’ disciples were criticized for breaking religious custom by eating against traditions, Jesus used what Ahimelech did to explain the matter (Matthew 12:1-8). Jesus approved of what Ahimelech did, and Jesus honored him by standing on Ahimelech’s same ground!

The point with Ahimelech and Jesus is powerful: human traditions are never more important than God’s word itself. If God had said, “Only the priests can eat this bread,” it would have been different. But God never said that. To put the only in there seemed logical, but it was adding to God’s word. We must never elevate our extension or application of God’s word to the same level as God’s word itself.

This incident is a reminder to us to not become so enamored with our pet religious customs and symbols and symbolisms or our favorite interpretations of what the Bible says that we raise them up as if they were definitively God’s commands or the same as Scripture itself. We can become so enamored with our own interpretations or our denomination’s position papers on certain biblical issues that we elevate these things to the level of God’s Word and accept them as the same thing as His Holy Word. Let us be careful in such endeavors to rightly divide our preferences from what God actually inspired the authors of the Bible to say in the context of the historical, linguistic and cultural backdrops when His Word was written.

Oh Lord help us to rightly separate our preferences and our modern cultural biases from the way in which God intended us to interpret His Word. Oh Lord help us to separate preferences and traditions from what you actually say in your Word. Oh Lord help us to never twist your Word to meet our own needs or means to an end. Help us to treat your Word with the discernment and honor that it deserves.

Amen and Amen.

1 Samuel 20:1-42 (Part 3 of 3)
Jonathan Helps David

Last night at our Wednesday family night event at church where we gather for a time of worship and then have breakout sessions for discipleship classes in various forms, I met afterwards with our newest elder-to-be, Fred Parks, to congratulate him on being appointed by Pastor Tim to the elder council and just to talk. Fred is a great guy. I just have loved this guy since I met him the first time. He just has a way of conversation that draws you in. He could have easily been a preacher in a black Baptist Church in the South. He just reminds you a fired up, all-in, middle-aged black Baptist preacher from the rural South. I don’t know if he is originally from the South and I will find out more about him at dinner Friday night.

But our conversation somehow turned to relationships and how they must be characterized by three things – no matter what kind of relationship it is. Those three things are commitment, communication, and consistency.

Any relationship that is important in life is marked first by commitment. For you to have the circle of c’s you must begin with commitment. What does commitment mean? It means that a relationship is so important to you that give it high priority. You place it in a stature above other things. For example, a professional football player is committed to his sport. He trains in the off-season to be ready for training camp and for the grind of the season. He practices during the season so that on game day he simply reacts rather than having to think things through that cost time. He practices so that his execution on Sundays is just second nature to him. All the commitment of time off the field just for a few hours of real game time on Sunday requires extreme focus. In important relationships in our lives we must do the same. We must have laser focus on the relationship. We must prioritize it above other draws on our time. Often what happens to athletes that have great rookie seasons in football, they get honors and then come all the time grabs for a sudden new superstar. Guess what happens, the work suffers because the laser focus is gone and the distractions have been allowed to reign. In our relationships that are important to us, how much to we focus on them. Without commitment to a relationship, it can easily be tossed aside. Without laser focus on a relationship, we can throw it away like yesterday’s newspaper. Without a relationship being prioritized in our spectrum of relationships, then, it can be placed further and further down our list to the point that it is not important anymore and the relationship fails.

Any relationship that is important in life is also marked by communication. Once you are committed to a relationship, for you to remain committed to it, you must place importance on communication. I don’t care how committed you are to a relationship, if you do not communicate, the relationship will not remain important. When Elena and I first began dating way back in late 2007, little did we know that from May 2008 to August 2009, our relationship would become a long-distance, bi-coastal relationship. I had to transfer with my job out to the San Francisco Bay Area while she remained back in the Charlotte, NC metro area in Rock Hill, SC. In order for our relationship to survive being on opposite coasts, we had to communicate. We texted. We instant messaged. We talked on the phone. Video chatting was not a big thing or was difficult back in 08-09, but we did that too on occasion. We placed a priority on communication. It was all we had. With only seeing each other about every 4-6 weeks, communication in the interim was extremely important to the survival of our relationship. Without that daily contact, since we did not have physical presence, our relationship would have died quickly. We made communication a priority. Even if you live in the same house in the same location in the same town, if you don’t prioritize communication in a relationship it will die slowly on the vine.

Any relationship that is important in life is also marked by consistency. Consistency is always being there. Consistency is working on it all the time. Consistency is like a person who exercises to lose weight. Consistency produces results. If I exercise 5 days a week every week, I will slowly show results. If I an erractic about it. Exercise maybe once every blue moon and you will get no results. You must stick with an exercise plan consistently to find results in it. It is the same with relationships, you must be consistent in the maintenance of a relationship. You must pay attention to it. You must stick with it. You must prioritize the maintenance of a relationship to get anything out of it. If you are not consistent with your relationships, they will not be relationships very long. The relationship with die from lack of attention. The relationship will die from lack of priority.

That was what I saw of Jonathan and David today when reading this passage again for a third time. Let’s read the passage with that idea in mind (we will deal with the actions of the characters, David, Jonathan and Saul in the next two blogs on this passage/chapter):

Chapter 20
1 David now fled from Naioth in Ramah and found Jonathan. “What have I done?” he exclaimed. “What is my crime? How have I offended your father that he is so determined to kill me?”

2 “That’s not true!” Jonathan protested. “You’re not going to die. He always tells me everything he’s going to do, even the little things. I know my father wouldn’t hide something like this from me. It just isn’t so!”

3 Then David took an oath before Jonathan and said, “Your father knows perfectly well about our friendship, so he has said to himself, ‘I won’t tell Jonathan—why should I hurt him?’ But I swear to you that I am only a step away from death! I swear it by the Lord and by your own soul!”

4 “Tell me what I can do to help you,” Jonathan exclaimed.

5 David replied, “Tomorrow we celebrate the new moon festival. I’ve always eaten with the king on this occasion, but tomorrow I’ll hide in the field and stay there until the evening of the third day. 6 If your father asks where I am, tell him I asked permission to go home to Bethlehem for an annual family sacrifice. 7 If he says, ‘Fine!’ you will know all is well. But if he is angry and loses his temper, you will know he is determined to kill me. 8 Show me this loyalty as my sworn friend—for we made a solemn pact before the Lord—or kill me yourself if I have sinned against your father. But please don’t betray me to him!”

9 “Never!” Jonathan exclaimed. “You know that if I had the slightest notion my father was planning to kill you, I would tell you at once.”

10 Then David asked, “How will I know whether or not your father is angry?”

11 “Come out to the field with me,” Jonathan replied. And they went out there together. 12 Then Jonathan told David, “I promise by the Lord, the God of Israel, that by this time tomorrow, or the next day at the latest, I will talk to my father and let you know at once how he feels about you. If he speaks favorably about you, I will let you know. 13 But if he is angry and wants you killed, may the Lord strike me and even kill me if I don’t warn you so you can escape and live. May the Lord be with you as he used to be with my father. 14 And may you treat me with the faithful love of the Lord as long as I live. But if I die, 15 treat my family with this faithful love, even when the Lord destroys all your enemies from the face of the earth.”

16 So Jonathan made a solemn pact with David,[a] saying, “May the Lord destroy all your enemies!” 17 And Jonathan made David reaffirm his vow of friendship again, for Jonathan loved David as he loved himself.

18 Then Jonathan said, “Tomorrow we celebrate the new moon festival. You will be missed when your place at the table is empty. 19 The day after tomorrow, toward evening, go to the place where you hid before, and wait there by the stone pile.[b] 20 I will come out and shoot three arrows to the side of the stone pile as though I were shooting at a target. 21 Then I will send a boy to bring the arrows back. If you hear me tell him, ‘They’re on this side,’ then you will know, as surely as the Lord lives, that all is well, and there is no trouble. 22 But if I tell him, ‘Go farther—the arrows are still ahead of you,’ then it will mean that you must leave immediately, for the Lord is sending you away. 23 And may the Lord make us keep our promises to each other, for he has witnessed them.”

24 So David hid himself in the field, and when the new moon festival began, the king sat down to eat. 25 He sat at his usual place against the wall, with Jonathan sitting opposite him[c] and Abner beside him. But David’s place was empty. 26 Saul didn’t say anything about it that day, for he said to himself, “Something must have made David ceremonially unclean.” 27 But when David’s place was empty again the next day, Saul asked Jonathan, “Why hasn’t the son of Jesse been here for the meal either yesterday or today?”

28 Jonathan replied, “David earnestly asked me if he could go to Bethlehem. 29 He said, ‘Please let me go, for we are having a family sacrifice. My brother demanded that I be there. So please let me get away to see my brothers.’ That’s why he isn’t here at the king’s table.”

30 Saul boiled with rage at Jonathan. “You stupid son of a whore!”[d] he swore at him. “Do you think I don’t know that you want him to be king in your place, shaming yourself and your mother? 31 As long as that son of Jesse is alive, you’ll never be king. Now go and get him so I can kill him!”

32 “But why should he be put to death?” Jonathan asked his father. “What has he done?” 33 Then Saul hurled his spear at Jonathan, intending to kill him. So at last Jonathan realized that his father was really determined to kill David.

34 Jonathan left the table in fierce anger and refused to eat on that second day of the festival, for he was crushed by his father’s shameful behavior toward David.

35 The next morning, as agreed, Jonathan went out into the field and took a young boy with him to gather his arrows. 36 “Start running,” he told the boy, “so you can find the arrows as I shoot them.” So the boy ran, and Jonathan shot an arrow beyond him. 37 When the boy had almost reached the arrow, Jonathan shouted, “The arrow is still ahead of you. 38 Hurry, hurry, don’t wait.” So the boy quickly gathered up the arrows and ran back to his master. 39 He, of course, suspected nothing; only Jonathan and David understood the signal. 40 Then Jonathan gave his bow and arrows to the boy and told him to take them back to town.

41 As soon as the boy was gone, David came out from where he had been hiding near the stone pile.[e] Then David bowed three times to Jonathan with his face to the ground. Both of them were in tears as they embraced each other and said good-bye, especially David.

42 At last Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn loyalty to each other in the Lord’s name. The Lord is the witness of a bond between us and our children forever.” Then David left, and Jonathan returned to the town.

In this passage, we see that David and Jonathan exhibited all the key components of a relationship that was important to them. They were committed to each other. They communicated with each other. They were consistent with each other.

It reminds us that our relationship with Jesus Christ must be characterized in the same way. If we are to grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ, we must be committed to it. We must give our relationship with Jesus top billing above all other things in our life. We must communicate with Him. We must pray without ceasing. We must have an intimate dialogue with Him so that we can understand His will and His desires for our life. We must be consistent. We must be in His Word daily so that we understand Him and know Him and what He wants from us and for us. How are your three C’s with Jesus?

Amen and Amen.

1 Samuel 20:1-42 (Part 2 of 3)
Jonathan Helps David

I promise that we will get to the characters in this story in the next two of what will now be four blogs instead of three on this passage. But I am still kind of fixated on this festival thing for a second straight blog. So bear with me one more day.

The thing that struck me today was something that my former senior pastor taught me and has stuck with me going forward from there. As many of you know, Elena and I were heavily involved in our church’s community outreach events when we were at LifeSong in Lyman, SC. Over the years there, we helped prepare, stage, and lead community events for our church. The key thing Jeff Hickman told us as to why we did these over the top events for the community like the Thanksgiving Meal Giveaway. At this event where we gave away turkeys and all the fixings for a complete Thanksgiving meal to the 500 or more families that showed up at the church on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Most churches would invite people to the church for a cafeteria style meal where the less fortunate would eat a Thanksgiving Meal in an assembly line fashion. We did it differently in that we gave away 500 or more turkeys and boxes and cans of food for a thanksgiving meal that the family could take home and cook and have a meal in the privacy of their own home or home a friend or whatever. It was a whole church, all hands on deck kind of event.

The reason that we did this event and others around the community (pop-up bible schools for kids in apartment complexes during the summer, giving away free hot dogs at the community Halloween festival in the mill village, fireworks show at Byrnes High School, going into to neighborhoods and giving away free groceries, having a completely free and open to the community fall festival on our campus with rides, games, etc., giving our people cases of water to give away in their communities on a hot August Sunday afternoon, you name it) was to model the way we should be living our lives every day, according to Pastor Jeff. We did these things to get our people to understand that these events were not an end unto themselves but rather practice for us to reach people with the gospel. Sure, the events would pique people’s interest about our church and would bring us people that would not have encountered the love of Christ otherwise. That was for sure half of why we did it. We needed to encounter people with uncommon love that would draw them to our church where they would then hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and hopefully change their eternal future. The other half of the coin was that these events were for our people as well. We needed them to have a practical example of how we need to love the world in uncommon ways and always be at the ready to help people without expectation of payback, love people without expectation or requiring that it be returned, to love like Jesus did, sacrificially.

Most of our people took that to heart. And these events were so impactful in their maturity in Christ. They took the lesson and began loving people in their daily lives in the same way. It was awesome to see people take the lesson and run with it. And learn that we are all ministers each and every day wherever we go. We love the world around us not so that we can be seen doing it but rather because we love Jesus. We do not need to be tapped on the shoulder to do a project. We just see ways each and every day of how to love the world around us in such a way that they are brought toward an encounter with the gospel.

However, as with anything, there are those who saw the events that we did as a church their service to the neighbor. They simply participated in the events as a checkoff list item for having “done their good deed.” There were those who just didn’t get that it was a model for how they should live their lives every day. It was simply to them about checking off their good deed list. It was about hanging out with their buddies from church. It was about being seen. It was about us vs. them – you know that mentality where church people act churchy and see others outside the church as “’them”. As with anything that humans do in the name of the Lord, there are those who simply go through the motions and are not wholly affected by participating in a gospel outreach event.

That was what I saw of Saul in this passage today. That idea of just going through the motions of being an outwardly righteous person but who is just really going through the motions for the show of it is what I thought of this morning when I read through 1 Samuel 20 again this morning for this second time.

Let’s read the passage with that idea in mind (we will deal with the actions of the characters, David, Jonathan and Saul in the next two blogs on this passage/chapter):

Chapter 20
1 David now fled from Naioth in Ramah and found Jonathan. “What have I done?” he exclaimed. “What is my crime? How have I offended your father that he is so determined to kill me?”

2 “That’s not true!” Jonathan protested. “You’re not going to die. He always tells me everything he’s going to do, even the little things. I know my father wouldn’t hide something like this from me. It just isn’t so!”

3 Then David took an oath before Jonathan and said, “Your father knows perfectly well about our friendship, so he has said to himself, ‘I won’t tell Jonathan—why should I hurt him?’ But I swear to you that I am only a step away from death! I swear it by the Lord and by your own soul!”

4 “Tell me what I can do to help you,” Jonathan exclaimed.

5 David replied, “Tomorrow we celebrate the new moon festival. I’ve always eaten with the king on this occasion, but tomorrow I’ll hide in the field and stay there until the evening of the third day. 6 If your father asks where I am, tell him I asked permission to go home to Bethlehem for an annual family sacrifice. 7 If he says, ‘Fine!’ you will know all is well. But if he is angry and loses his temper, you will know he is determined to kill me. 8 Show me this loyalty as my sworn friend—for we made a solemn pact before the Lord—or kill me yourself if I have sinned against your father. But please don’t betray me to him!”

9 “Never!” Jonathan exclaimed. “You know that if I had the slightest notion my father was planning to kill you, I would tell you at once.”

10 Then David asked, “How will I know whether or not your father is angry?”

11 “Come out to the field with me,” Jonathan replied. And they went out there together. 12 Then Jonathan told David, “I promise by the Lord, the God of Israel, that by this time tomorrow, or the next day at the latest, I will talk to my father and let you know at once how he feels about you. If he speaks favorably about you, I will let you know. 13 But if he is angry and wants you killed, may the Lord strike me and even kill me if I don’t warn you so you can escape and live. May the Lord be with you as he used to be with my father. 14 And may you treat me with the faithful love of the Lord as long as I live. But if I die, 15 treat my family with this faithful love, even when the Lord destroys all your enemies from the face of the earth.”

16 So Jonathan made a solemn pact with David,[a] saying, “May the Lord destroy all your enemies!” 17 And Jonathan made David reaffirm his vow of friendship again, for Jonathan loved David as he loved himself.

18 Then Jonathan said, “Tomorrow we celebrate the new moon festival. You will be missed when your place at the table is empty. 19 The day after tomorrow, toward evening, go to the place where you hid before, and wait there by the stone pile.[b] 20 I will come out and shoot three arrows to the side of the stone pile as though I were shooting at a target. 21 Then I will send a boy to bring the arrows back. If you hear me tell him, ‘They’re on this side,’ then you will know, as surely as the Lord lives, that all is well, and there is no trouble. 22 But if I tell him, ‘Go farther—the arrows are still ahead of you,’ then it will mean that you must leave immediately, for the Lord is sending you away. 23 And may the Lord make us keep our promises to each other, for he has witnessed them.”

24 So David hid himself in the field, and when the new moon festival began, the king sat down to eat. 25 He sat at his usual place against the wall, with Jonathan sitting opposite him[c] and Abner beside him. But David’s place was empty. 26 Saul didn’t say anything about it that day, for he said to himself, “Something must have made David ceremonially unclean.” 27 But when David’s place was empty again the next day, Saul asked Jonathan, “Why hasn’t the son of Jesse been here for the meal either yesterday or today?”

28 Jonathan replied, “David earnestly asked me if he could go to Bethlehem. 29 He said, ‘Please let me go, for we are having a family sacrifice. My brother demanded that I be there. So please let me get away to see my brothers.’ That’s why he isn’t here at the king’s table.”

30 Saul boiled with rage at Jonathan. “You stupid son of a whore!”[d] he swore at him. “Do you think I don’t know that you want him to be king in your place, shaming yourself and your mother? 31 As long as that son of Jesse is alive, you’ll never be king. Now go and get him so I can kill him!”

32 “But why should he be put to death?” Jonathan asked his father. “What has he done?” 33 Then Saul hurled his spear at Jonathan, intending to kill him. So at last Jonathan realized that his father was really determined to kill David.

34 Jonathan left the table in fierce anger and refused to eat on that second day of the festival, for he was crushed by his father’s shameful behavior toward David.

35 The next morning, as agreed, Jonathan went out into the field and took a young boy with him to gather his arrows. 36 “Start running,” he told the boy, “so you can find the arrows as I shoot them.” So the boy ran, and Jonathan shot an arrow beyond him. 37 When the boy had almost reached the arrow, Jonathan shouted, “The arrow is still ahead of you. 38 Hurry, hurry, don’t wait.” So the boy quickly gathered up the arrows and ran back to his master. 39 He, of course, suspected nothing; only Jonathan and David understood the signal. 40 Then Jonathan gave his bow and arrows to the boy and told him to take them back to town.

41 As soon as the boy was gone, David came out from where he had been hiding near the stone pile.[e] Then David bowed three times to Jonathan with his face to the ground. Both of them were in tears as they embraced each other and said good-bye, especially David.

42 At last Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn loyalty to each other in the Lord’s name. The Lord is the witness of a bond between us and our children forever.” Then David left, and Jonathan returned to the town.

In this passage, we see that the Israelites celebrated a new moon festival. It involved making a sacrifice to God (Numbers 28:11-15). Those attending the festival had to be ceremonially clean according to God’s laws (Exodus 19:10, Leviticus 15, Numbers 19:11-22, Joshua 3:5). This cleansing would involve washing the body and clothes before approaching God to offer a sacrifice. The outward cleansing was a symbol of the inward desire for a purified heart and right relationship with God. Surely, many Israelites who loved God took the process seriously, the cleansing acts that were required before approaching God with sacrifices. However, there were just as many who went through the motions and offered the sacrifices because, well, that’s just what you do. Not much has changed. The same is true today.

Today, our hearts are purified by faith in God through the death of Jesus Christ on our behalf (Hebrews 10:10 and 10:22) and by reading, understanding, and applying God’s Word to our daily lives (John 17:17). True believers take their relationship with Jesus Christ seriously. True believers live out the faith and are truly submitted to Jesus Christ in their daily lives. The fruits of the spirit bear witness to the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

The question that we must ask ourselves is do you perform certain rituals of the church without really understanding why we do them? Do we participate in church events that help people outside our walls because we see that event as our good deed checklist item? Do we participate in church events because we just want to hang out with our church buddies? Do we do churchy things but really are not given over to Christ fully in our hearts? The purpose of the cleansing before making sacrifices to God in this the Old Testament rituals was not just to force some robotic response. It was to remind us of our sinfulness. It was to remind the Israelites that they were unworthy to even approach God without some symbolic outward display of what was needed on the inside. It was to remind us and humble us of our pride of how good we think we are but seeing that our best is still filthy in the presence of God. It was to remind us that we need cleansing. Jesus represents that to us today. In the absence of Jesus we are but filthy rags before a beautiful and pure and righteous God.

Are you and I like Saul here in this passage, are we just participating in a ritual because it’s what you do. It’s a checklist thing. Saul whose heart was rotten at this point thought that participating in a ritual would by itself make him right. But his heart was not right. His heart was not focused on the why of the festival. He was just going through the motions to make himself look upright and righteous. How often do you and I do that?

Let us remember that most if not all church rituals or activities have a spiritual purpose that if taken seriously can deepen our understanding of God and of our extreme need for Jesus Christ. Let us remember that church activities are often to teach us about how we are to be living our lives each day and not just and end unto themselves that we can take off and set aside like a coat until the next event. Church activities are to teach us that we are to be loving, and caring, and sacrificially giving to the world around us each and every day. Church events are to teach us and model for us of how we are to be living our lives by the minute in the world outside the church. We need to encounter the world around us with the gospel through our uncommon love each and every day. It is not us vs. them. It is us FOR them. It is us PURSUING them to make them one of us – sold out, all in, fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

Amen and Amen.

1 Samuel 20:1-42 (Part 1 of 3)
Jonathan Helps David

My dad was a man of many sayings, some were original, some were clichés. One of his sayings that was a common cliché but was one that he used with me quite frequently was “if all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?” I think we all have heard that one as a child at one time or another. It was certainly one though that dad used on me a lot. My dad was real big on family. Being a Methodist preacher’s family, sometimes family was all we had. We moved a lot. The Methodist Church rarely let a minister stay at one church more than 4 or 5 years back in those days, when I was growing up. So, family was the only common thing that we had that lasted. The towns didn’t last but the four of us (mom, dad, me, and my brother) did. The family was the constant. Therefore, my dad was big on us standing up for the family, for each other. He wanted us to display no dissension among us to the world and he wanted us to realize that when you had nothing else you had family.

The only problem with that family before all else mentality was that my brother was socially awkward growing up. He was much like Sheldon Cooper’s character on the show, The Big Bang Theory. My brother has always been this extremely intelligent person. He has this photographic memory. He just reads and absorbs stuff immediately. He just files away stuff in that brain of his and can spout off statistics from the 1977 Braves baseball season like it’s nothing. He can remember small details about everything. He has always been that way and still is that way. This gift that he has was one that made him an excellent student in school. School was effortless to him because of his ability to retain information, retrieve it, manipulate it, etc. It wasn’t just that he could remember facts and figures but that he could apply that knowledge in an understanding way. So, he was a geek, let’s just say that. He was socially awkward. He did not understand that displaying his intelligence to others or deriding others for not being as smart would make him a social outcast.

Although I am not as smart as my brother (as I do not have his eidetic memory), I was a good student and made really good grades. Where my brother would make straight A’s, I would make say 5 A’s and a B or 4 A’s and 2 B’s each nine weeks. Where my brother would make schoolwork seem effortless, I had to work really hard at it and spend more time at it. The difference between my brother and me was that I understood school social dynamics better than he. I knew that school was important and that I needed to make good grades. I wanted that just as bad as my brother. However, I knew that to fit in socially you just didn’t lord your smartness over other people. You just set yourself up for being a social pariah, an outcast, the geeks, the ones that everybody picks on when you do. My brother was picked on, made fun of, made an outcast all through school. He did not understand the social politics of school.

That’s where the whole jumping off the bridge thing came in. My dad would get onto me frequently for joining in with the crowd to make fun of my brother. Although my brother could be a total jerk to me and to any friends I would be with because he was Sheldon Cooper made over, I was to swallow all that and take up for my brother outside our home. I understand family is everything. I believe that myself when it came to my kids, but your siblings have got to meet you half way sometimes. My brother never made it easy for me to take up for me in public. He was his own worst enemy socially and he would even be a jerk to his own brother sometimes in public. However, to dad, it did not matter what society was doing, it was more important for me to stay true to the family.
Trying to fit in with the culture around me as a child instead of standing apart with my brother was what I thought of this morning when I read through 1 Samuel 20 for the first time of three reads of it that we will do over the next few days. The reason that I thought about my childhood relationship with my brother and the social politics of school was the thought that came to mind about the moon festival that was described in this chapter. There was a new moon festival that was described there and it made me think about all the pagan cultures of that day that actually worshiped the moon as an idol. Why were the Israelites having a moon-related festival was the question that came to mind? Why were they being like the cultures around them? That lead me to thinking about the choices that I had to make in the social politics of school when it came to my brother – jumping off the bridge with my friends or standing up for my brother. Were the Israelites jumping off the bridge here to be like the cultures they were hanging out with? Let’s read the passage with that idea in mind (we will deal with the actions of the characters, David, Jonathan and Saul in the next two blogs on this passage/chapter):

Chapter 20
1 David now fled from Naioth in Ramah and found Jonathan. “What have I done?” he exclaimed. “What is my crime? How have I offended your father that he is so determined to kill me?”

2 “That’s not true!” Jonathan protested. “You’re not going to die. He always tells me everything he’s going to do, even the little things. I know my father wouldn’t hide something like this from me. It just isn’t so!”

3 Then David took an oath before Jonathan and said, “Your father knows perfectly well about our friendship, so he has said to himself, ‘I won’t tell Jonathan—why should I hurt him?’ But I swear to you that I am only a step away from death! I swear it by the Lord and by your own soul!”

4 “Tell me what I can do to help you,” Jonathan exclaimed.

5 David replied, “Tomorrow we celebrate the new moon festival. I’ve always eaten with the king on this occasion, but tomorrow I’ll hide in the field and stay there until the evening of the third day. 6 If your father asks where I am, tell him I asked permission to go home to Bethlehem for an annual family sacrifice. 7 If he says, ‘Fine!’ you will know all is well. But if he is angry and loses his temper, you will know he is determined to kill me. 8 Show me this loyalty as my sworn friend—for we made a solemn pact before the Lord—or kill me yourself if I have sinned against your father. But please don’t betray me to him!”

9 “Never!” Jonathan exclaimed. “You know that if I had the slightest notion my father was planning to kill you, I would tell you at once.”

10 Then David asked, “How will I know whether or not your father is angry?”

11 “Come out to the field with me,” Jonathan replied. And they went out there together. 12 Then Jonathan told David, “I promise by the Lord, the God of Israel, that by this time tomorrow, or the next day at the latest, I will talk to my father and let you know at once how he feels about you. If he speaks favorably about you, I will let you know. 13 But if he is angry and wants you killed, may the Lord strike me and even kill me if I don’t warn you so you can escape and live. May the Lord be with you as he used to be with my father. 14 And may you treat me with the faithful love of the Lord as long as I live. But if I die, 15 treat my family with this faithful love, even when the Lord destroys all your enemies from the face of the earth.”

16 So Jonathan made a solemn pact with David,[a] saying, “May the Lord destroy all your enemies!” 17 And Jonathan made David reaffirm his vow of friendship again, for Jonathan loved David as he loved himself.

18 Then Jonathan said, “Tomorrow we celebrate the new moon festival. You will be missed when your place at the table is empty. 19 The day after tomorrow, toward evening, go to the place where you hid before, and wait there by the stone pile.[b] 20 I will come out and shoot three arrows to the side of the stone pile as though I were shooting at a target. 21 Then I will send a boy to bring the arrows back. If you hear me tell him, ‘They’re on this side,’ then you will know, as surely as the Lord lives, that all is well, and there is no trouble. 22 But if I tell him, ‘Go farther—the arrows are still ahead of you,’ then it will mean that you must leave immediately, for the Lord is sending you away. 23 And may the Lord make us keep our promises to each other, for he has witnessed them.”

24 So David hid himself in the field, and when the new moon festival began, the king sat down to eat. 25 He sat at his usual place against the wall, with Jonathan sitting opposite him[c] and Abner beside him. But David’s place was empty. 26 Saul didn’t say anything about it that day, for he said to himself, “Something must have made David ceremonially unclean.” 27 But when David’s place was empty again the next day, Saul asked Jonathan, “Why hasn’t the son of Jesse been here for the meal either yesterday or today?”

28 Jonathan replied, “David earnestly asked me if he could go to Bethlehem. 29 He said, ‘Please let me go, for we are having a family sacrifice. My brother demanded that I be there. So please let me get away to see my brothers.’ That’s why he isn’t here at the king’s table.”

30 Saul boiled with rage at Jonathan. “You stupid son of a whore!”[d] he swore at him. “Do you think I don’t know that you want him to be king in your place, shaming yourself and your mother? 31 As long as that son of Jesse is alive, you’ll never be king. Now go and get him so I can kill him!”

32 “But why should he be put to death?” Jonathan asked his father. “What has he done?” 33 Then Saul hurled his spear at Jonathan, intending to kill him. So at last Jonathan realized that his father was really determined to kill David.

34 Jonathan left the table in fierce anger and refused to eat on that second day of the festival, for he was crushed by his father’s shameful behavior toward David.

35 The next morning, as agreed, Jonathan went out into the field and took a young boy with him to gather his arrows. 36 “Start running,” he told the boy, “so you can find the arrows as I shoot them.” So the boy ran, and Jonathan shot an arrow beyond him. 37 When the boy had almost reached the arrow, Jonathan shouted, “The arrow is still ahead of you. 38 Hurry, hurry, don’t wait.” So the boy quickly gathered up the arrows and ran back to his master. 39 He, of course, suspected nothing; only Jonathan and David understood the signal. 40 Then Jonathan gave his bow and arrows to the boy and told him to take them back to town.

41 As soon as the boy was gone, David came out from where he had been hiding near the stone pile.[e] Then David bowed three times to Jonathan with his face to the ground. Both of them were in tears as they embraced each other and said good-bye, especially David.

42 At last Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn loyalty to each other in the Lord’s name. The Lord is the witness of a bond between us and our children forever.” Then David left, and Jonathan returned to the town.

In this passage, we see this new moon festival being described. If you look back into the book of Numbers, you will note that there is a new moon festival described there and it involved making a sacrifice to the Lord (see Numbers 28:11-15). At the beginning of each month, the Israelites gathered to celebrate this festival. While this was a festival to be enjoyed each month, it was also a way to dedicate the coming new month to the Lord. Other nations had celebrations during the full moon and worshiped the moon itself. The Israelites however celebrated their fest at the time in the moon’s cycle when the moon was not visible in the sky (new moon). This was a reminder that they were not to worship the moon itself but rather the God who made the cycles of the universe that are observable and can be counted on. It was a reminder that God orders the universe and we can count on that and, as a result, we should dedicate our lives to giving him glory each month. It was a completely different take on the moon worship culture of the cultures around them.

That reminded me of what my dad said. I needed to stand with my brother not with the culture that was making fun of him. I needed to stay on the bridge instead of jumping off it with the culture. Then, that got me to thinking about us as Christians. Do we modify our beliefs just to try to fit in with the current flow of culture? Do we water down the gospel to appease the sensibilities of today’s culture? Do we try to fit God’s Word into the current cultural desires and what it accepts as normal and OK? Or do we remain true to God’s Word and stand with what we know to be his eternal truths – even if it is not the popular thing to do?

Is it better to fit in with temporary culture on this side of heaven or stand with God’s eternal Word that we know to be right and true and the measure by which we will be judged when we pass into eternity? Do we jump off the bridge with the culture just because it will make life easier or do we stand firm with God?

Amen and Amen.

1 Samuel 19:18-24
David Flees to Ramah

Recently, I read the story of miraculous survival from World War II. These story is about surviving the sinking of battleship. On May 24th, 1941 several British warships were tracking the German battleship Bismarck in the North Atlantic. They were trying to catch up to it and sink it. Among the British ships was the pride of the British fleet, the battlecruiser HMS Hood. When they caught up with the Bismarck and her escorts a tremendous battle took place. Just 10 minutes into the battle a shell from the Bismarck hit the Hood and exploded in her magazine, where the Hood’s munitions were. This resulted in a cataclysmic explosion in the rear part of the ship, which sank almost immediately. The bow quickly became vertical and sank a little more slowly, but within three minutes all traces of the Hood were gone. Of the one thousand four hundred and eighteen men on the Hood, only three survived. Only three of almost 1500 men. One of the men who survived, Ted Briggs, told of his harrowing escape. He managed to get outside and started going down a ladder when the water reached him. He attempted to swim away from the ship but the force of the sinking ship pulled him under. He said he remembered struggling for a while, but then realized that it was hopeless as he was being carried further and further down into the ocean’s depths. So he gave up all hope. Then suddenly, he found himself being miraculously propelled back to the surface by a huge air bubble. Some air had escaped from the sinking ship and he was caught up in it. It could be that the windows on the bridge collapsed and released the air that had been trapped there. Wherever it came from it happened right under the spot where Briggs was and he shot to the surface and soon found himself among the burning oil. He was able to hang on until help arrived.

That’s an incredible story. All hope was gone and then suddenly he was saved in the most unexpected of ways. We do not always have stories of miraculous survival at sea, but still there are stories from our lives in our pasts where God has sustained us when no other explanation could be offered. I have stories like that from my past. Stories that scream God’s miraculous provision. One story from my previous job that occurred about 5 years ago is where on the surface it appeared that I had made a major mistake that could have cost me dearly but in the last minute the truth came out about the real cause of the situation and I was exonerated. Only God allowed reason to prevail long enough for the truth to come out in that situation. There are many other situations in my life where God has protected me from the sin of others, my own sins, stupid mistakes that I have made, and, sometimes, even from things that could have physically caused my death. In all these situations, we have bumps and bruises and cuts (either figurative or literal), but God does often snatch us from figurative and literal traps and pitfalls of life because he is not done with us yet. I firmly believe that.

The past should provide us with evidence of God’s provision and protection. However, we often forget it. Every time a new situation arises that seems overwhelming and seems to large and seems like it will defeat us, we forget the past. We are like the Israelites who complained and bellyached in the desert about God not providing for them and completely forgetting all the miracles that had gone down before them in the past. We are often the same. A new problem or a new danger arises and we forget. I am no different from anybody else. Even though God has provided for me and looked after me constantly over the years and saved me from my own mistakes, the bad intentions of others, just plain difficult circumstances, and even physical danger, I forget. Currently, my new job as director of business/staff pastor at Calvary Church just seems so overwhelmingly different and strange. I don’t understand the mechanics of so much that is under my area of responsibility. Although I conceptually understand stuff, the mechanics and procedures are all different and even foreign to me at times. Add to that, one of the people that reports to me just resigned for personal reasons on Thursday. So, my weekend has been a whirlwind of self-doubt and self-effacing emotions. Wondering why I even came here. Wondering. Wondering. Wondering. All self-confidence I had about myself just a short month ago in a decade long tenure in one position in the secular world. All the confidence I had about my church finance capabilities gained in a much simpler accounting system at LifeSong is gone now that I am dealing with the seemingly more complex systems here. How this one event of losing an employee rocked my world to the point of serious self-doubt is no doubt the work of Satan.

How quickly we forget God’s provision. I was not always the confident dude at Fujikura America or at LifeSong. The confidence gained and displayed in the second half of the years those dual roles back in South Carolina came after years of just figuring stuff out and God directing my steps toward understanding. God directing my steps after understanding to taking things and making them simpler and more efficient. God directing my steps to better seeing how all the pieces fit together. God protected me in those early years as learned. I must remember that every new job is like starting over as a new baby and re-learning to walk again.

When I read this morning’s passage, 1 Samuel 19:18-24, it reminded me that God is my protector and provider and that he has proven it over and over again over the years. David’s protection by God in this passage from Saul once again is a reminder that I should never doubt whether God will provide. Let’s read the passage now:

18 So David escaped and went to Ramah to see Samuel, and he told him all that Saul had done to him. Then Samuel took David with him to live at Naioth. 19 When the report reached Saul that David was at Naioth in Ramah, 20 he sent troops to capture him. But when they arrived and saw Samuel leading a group of prophets who were prophesying, the Spirit of God came upon Saul’s men, and they also began to prophesy. 21 When Saul heard what had happened, he sent other troops, but they, too, prophesied! The same thing happened a third time. 22 Finally, Saul himself went to Ramah and arrived at the great well in Secu. “Where are Samuel and David?” he demanded.

“They are at Naioth in Ramah,” someone told him.

23 But on the way to Naioth in Ramah the Spirit of God came even upon Saul, and he, too, began to prophesy all the way to Naioth! 24 He tore off his clothes and lay naked on the ground all day and all night, prophesying in the presence of Samuel. The people who were watching exclaimed, “What? Is even Saul a prophet?”

In this passage, we see again for like maybe the fourth time, the Lord saved David from certain death. Tow times he was saved by Saul’s kids (Jonathan and Michal each saved David’s life by the actions they took) and once there was a spear thrown at David that just missed him and stuck in the wall instead of David. Now, God preserves David by causing the Holy Spirit to descend on Saul and his warriors so that David could escape.

It is a reminder to us all that God provides for those who love Him. It may not always be in the way that we want. It may not always be without bumps and bruises. It may not be without the testing of our faith. It may not be without moments where we doubt whether the Lord is watching over us. I may not be without moments where we wonder why God led us to where we are. It may not be without moments where we wonder if we have done the right thing. It may not be without moments where we wonder if what we are doing is actually in God’s will or just us mistaking it for God’s will.

Those doubts that come from Satan must be offset by the memory that God is with those who love him. Those doubts must be offset by our memory of what God has done for us in the past. Those doubts must be offset by remembrance of how God provides for His people in His Word, the Bible. Satan loves it when we buy into his lies about our self-worth and whether we are following God’s will. When he takes our confidence in God away, he makes us ineffective. When he makes us ineffective, he wins. Just ask Adam and Eve.

We must remember what God has done. There is a prayer from Deuteronomy that I must always keep in mind as I progress down this new and unknown path at Calvary Church. It says, “Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands (Deuteronomy 7:9).

Amen and Amen.

1 Samuel 19:11-17
Michal Saves David’s Life

I remember an episode of The Big Bang Theory entitled “The Egg Salad Equivalency” in which Sheldon presents a scenario to the girls on the show about a real life situation over which he wants advice on how to react.

In this so called hypothetical scenario, the characters had the silliest of names. There’s Ricardo Shillyshally. There was Tondelaya della Ventimiglia and Sheldon renamed himself as Doctor Einstein von Brainstorm. The names were changed, in Sheldon’s mind, so no one could figure out who he was really talking about. Or so he thought. Just the outrageousness of the names made the scenario presented in the scene so hilarious. For the purposes of our blog today, I will borrow two of the names from that episode of my favorite show. I will use Ricardo Shillyshally and Tondelaya. However, in my scenario, Tondelaya will become Ricardo’s daughter instead of co-worker. Let’s present the scenario now…

There is a man, let’s call him Ricardo Shillyshally and Ricardo had a daughter named Tondelaya Shillyshally. Ricardo loves Tondelaya without reservation. He just wants what’s best for Tondelaya. He sees Tondelaya wasting her potential. He has helped her out of several jams in life. He has given her cars. Tondelaya disappears from Ricardo’s life for months on end over the past four or five years. She surfaces in his life when there is a financial crisis in her life. She swears every time that Ricardo helps her that she will be more active part of his life. But again and again, she disappears from his life and will stay underground and away from him until the next crisis occurs. Ricardo doesn’t understand why she disappears, but the contact always stops. Phone calls are not returned. Text messages are not responded to. Maybe it’s because she thinks Ricardo will demand changes in her lifestyle. Who knows? The contact always stops after a week or two after she has gotten what she wants.

Ricardo just wants her to quit living her hand to mouth existence and grow up. Tondelaya says she has a job with a baby sitting service now so according to Tondelaya she is working and has a career. Ricardo just wants her to use her brilliance to become something greater than a babysitter. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with being a babysitter working for a babysitting service but most girls who do it don’t do it forever. Some do. But most don’t. Ricardo knows that this is just the latest in a line of jobs for Tondelaya who is avoiding having to grow up.

Ricardo just wants her to be able to take care of herself when he’s gone. He doesn’t want to go to his grave worried about her. He doesn’t care if she is corporate CEO or salesperson at a shoe store or whatever. Just whatever that maybe, just be able to have a house or an apartment, a place to live and be able to put food on the table and pay for your own transportation. These are the simple hopes that Ricardo has for Tondelaya. He is not requiring that she do what he thinks her potential is (which he thinks is great since she is so smart just naturally). He thinks that anyone who can justify her hand-to-mouth existence as being temporary and the greatness being just over the next hill for a decade has great ability if applied to her true talents and giftedness in life. His prayer for her is that she finds her passion for what she wants to contribute to the world and is able to feed and clothe herself and put a roof over her own head without anybody helping her. That’s all Ricardo wants for Tondelaya as any parent wants for their child.

However, right now, Ricardo knows that the next phone from Tondelaya will be when she is in a financial jam and needs her daddy, Ricardo, to help her out of it. He prays that one day the cycle will be broken and she flies like Ricardo knows she can. But for now, he will love her. But for now, he is weary that she will reappear when she needs something next time and then disappear again and continue to live in her hand-to-mouth world where success remains just over the next hill.

That story of Ricardo Shillyshally and his youngest daughter, Tondelaya, reminds us all of how sometimes a family member will use us to get what they want. That’s what I thought of this afternoon as I read through the passage, 1 Samuel 19:11-17. Let’s read it and then deal with how we respond to such things:

11 Then Saul sent troops to watch David’s house. They were told to kill David when he came out the next morning. But Michal, David’s wife, warned him, “If you don’t escape tonight, you will be dead by morning.” 12 So she helped him climb out through a window, and he fled and escaped. 13 Then she took an idol[a] and put it in his bed, covered it with blankets, and put a cushion of goat’s hair at its head.

14 When the troops came to arrest David, she told them he was sick and couldn’t get out of bed.

15 But Saul sent the troops back to get David. He ordered, “Bring him to me in his bed so I can kill him!” 16 But when they came to carry David out, they discovered that it was only an idol in the bed with a cushion of goat’s hair at its head.

17 “Why have you betrayed me like this and let my enemy escape?” Saul demanded of Michal.

“I had to,” Michal replied. “He threatened to kill me if I didn’t help him.”

In this passage, we again see Saul put a family member in a compromising spot. He put his daughter in the position of either enabling her father to get what he wanted or doing what is best and right in this situation. How many of us reading this blog have a family member who takes advantage of the fact that we are kin to them to further their own agenda? How many of us reading this blog have a family member who uses us to get what they want and then disappear until the next time they need something. How many of us have broken hearts over these situations? I am sure that Michal did not flippantly disobey her father. She probably agonized over it. She probably wanted to give her father what he wanted but she had to weigh that against what was best and right.

In today’s story, it is Ricardo Shillyshally and Tondelaya, his child. But the story is quite familiar. You can insert your own names of how this situation (whether it be family members, friends, distant relatives, coworkers, and so on) applies to you. We’ve all experienced being used by someone to get what they want.

In today’s passage, Saul simply uses his own daughter to get what he wanted. He did not care that Michal may have loved David. That was of no matter to Saul. He wanted David’s head and nothing else would do. It didn’t matter if he had to use his own relationship with his own daughter to get to David. Only Michal realized that Saul was not being a godly man in his request. He was asking his daughter to betray her husband. He was asking her to be a party to murder. What he asked of his daughter was so wrong on so many levels. But did that matter to Saul? No. He was trying to get what he wanted in his jealous rage. Nothing else matter. Relationships did not matter. Loyalty did not matter. Family did not matter. It was just Saul uses whatever way he could to get what he wanted. It was Saul manipulating his relationship with a family member once again (remember in the last passage he ask is other child, Jonathan, to participate in something that was morally wrong).

So in the 21st century such things still happen. People use us. People manipulate us to get what they want and then sometimes disappear from our lives when we are no longer useful to them in their self-centered world. How do we respond?

Patience, prayer, and discernment is how we respond. Biblical patience is tolerant of the imperfections, faults, and differences in others. It gives the other person time to change and room to make some mistakes in the process. Paul lists patience as the first quality that describes love (1 Cor. 13:4). If you’re not patient, you’re not loving! It’s a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22). Like all fruit, it takes time and effort to cultivate. Patience with others does not come naturally. It is counter-intuitive to our nature. When others use us to get what they want and disappear, we typically want to hold back and get angry. That’s our natural inclination. To be patient with someone who uses us to get what they want is a tall order. Is it not?

Patience only comes through prayer. Prayer is not where we demand of God to do things our way but we ask Him to work in a situation that we cannot solve. We in that process give up control of the problem to the Lord. We pray for the person who just seems to want to use us for what they can get. We pray that God brings about situations in their lives that will reveal their need for Jesus Christ. We pray that God brings about situations that will bring them to see God’s love for them. That will change everything in their lives just as it did for us. When we pray for them to come to Jesus, it will change their mindset on everything including how they treat other people.

God certainly wants us to be patient with others. It is definitely a fruit of the spirit. God wants us to have a forgiving spirit and that is only achieved through patience. Patience is only achieved through prayer. In the meantime, though, until the person that uses us displays the fruits of the spirit that we have prayed for, God gives us discernment. Discernment is when we love people just as God requires but discernment is God-given wisdom in knowing how to respond. Discernment is loving people but responding in ways that are healthy for both parties. Discernment is sometimes loving people with a “no”. Discernment is sometimes saying no because it is best even though saying yes would be easier.

Saul was someone who used people to get what he wanted. He tried to use his kids to get what he wanted (to kill David). However, even though Jonathan and Michal loved their dad, they had the discernment not to follow through with Saul’s immoral requests on them.

Who is it that has used you to get what they want? Remember patience. Remember prayer. Remember discernment.

Amen and Amen.

1 Samuel 19:1-10 (Part 6 of 6)
Saul Tries to Kill David

In this series of six blogs, we have talking about false teachings that have crept their way into the Christian faith today. Today, we will look at the prevalent teaching in the modern day culture of today that all roads lead to heaven (commonly referred to as universalism by academic theologians). This teaching has made its way into the church as it tries to remain relevant in today’s culture.

Universalism teaches that all religions are worshipping the same God in different ways. This is what is known as syncretism. Some are teaching there are Messianic Muslims, that they can accept certain aspects of Jesus and still go back to practice Islam. Others say that God was in various cultures before Christianity and these cultures had a valid concept of God. That Christ reaffirms what they have known in their cultures practice. What is proposed is that no matter which religion is practiced, there are some common denominators we can unite and agree on, that they all have different roads that lead to the same destination. There are many who call themselves Christians that are moving toward a universalist view of mankind, where we can accept anyone’s God as the same God of the Scripture claiming we do not worship different Gods but the same one by different names. Accepting other religions as valid under the auspices of “all of us are worshipping the same God,” with different names is self-contradicting. The differences of religion are like different species. You can’t say a bird is a dog even though it may eat similar food. A whale may be a mammal but not like a human is a mammal. A car is not the same as a plane though they both may both run on fuel. What I’m trying to say is that there are differences in religion that cannot be overlooked, in both their mechanism of practice as well as defining God’s nature.

As we discussed yesterday, with the elimination of hell from our doctrinal teachings, then, the natural extension of that thought process is that everyone goes to heaven. Without hell, all of us, religious and non-religious alike are heaven bound. There are those Christians who genuinely believe that no matter how far from God a person is that a loving God reveals Christ to that person in their death. The same would be true in this line of thinking for a person who believes in something other than Christianity or believes nothing at all. God would reveal Jesus to them in their dying moments as a simple matter of course. In each case, an evil person or a person who has had no exposure to Jesus Christ would have him revealed to them in their dying moments such that they are reconciled to God. Such a sentiment is a wonderful one and a relaxing one.

The day we step into eternity may come sooner than we think. In preparation for that moment, we need to know this truth—not everyone is going to heaven. How can we know for sure that we are going to heaven? Some 2,000 years ago, the apostles Peter and John were preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to a large crowd in Jerusalem. Peter made a profound statement that resonates even in our postmodern world: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Act 4:12).

Thus, the universal truth is contrary to the popular sentiment of our day. We must be able to shed lies for the truth, even if the truth is something distasteful in this age of tolerance of all belief systems.

With that idea of discerning truth from error, let us read about the Jonathan had to make. He had to choose between doing his earthly father’s will (which sounds biblical and loving) and not violating His Heavenly Father’s will. The two, our earthly father’s will and our heavenly Father’s will, should be one and the same. However, as humans, we often twist God’s truth to our advantage or to support the sins we choose to overlook in ourselves:

Chapter 19
1 Saul now urged his servants and his son Jonathan to assassinate David. But Jonathan, because of his strong affection for David, 2 told him what his father was planning. “Tomorrow morning,” he warned him, “you must find a hiding place out in the fields. 3 I’ll ask my father to go out there with me, and I’ll talk to him about you. Then I’ll tell you everything I can find out.”

4 The next morning Jonathan spoke with his father about David, saying many good things about him. “The king must not sin against his servant David,” Jonathan said. “He’s never done anything to harm you. He has always helped you in any way he could. 5 Have you forgotten about the time he risked his life to kill the Philistine giant and how the Lord brought a great victory to all Israel as a result? You were certainly happy about it then. Why should you murder an innocent man like David? There is no reason for it at all!”

6 So Saul listened to Jonathan and vowed, “As surely as the Lord lives, David will not be killed.”

7 Afterward Jonathan called David and told him what had happened. Then he brought David to Saul, and David served in the court as before.

8 War broke out again after that, and David led his troops against the Philistines. He attacked them with such fury that they all ran away.

9 But one day when Saul was sitting at home, with spear in hand, the tormenting spirit[a] from the Lord suddenly came upon him again. As David played his harp, 10 Saul hurled his spear at David. But David dodged out of the way, and leaving the spear stuck in the wall, he fled and escaped into the night.

In this passage, we are challenged by the fact that Saul commands his son, Jonathan, to commit an act that is clearly unbiblical and is clearly against the nature of God. Jonathan had a choice to make. He had to decide whether what his father commanded him to do was consistent with Scripture and with the nature of God. Jonathan was wise enough to understand the difference between obeying a parent’s command and violating God’s law. Our parents should be teaching us and commanding us to do only that which is consistent with Scripture. In general, not just as children of our parents, we must be discerning about what we hear from others as biblical truth compared to the actual Word of God.

As https://www.gotquestions.org/going-to-heaven.html states,

“Now as then, Acts 4:12 is not politically correct. Today it’s popular to say, “Everyone’s going to heaven” or “All paths lead to heaven.” There are many who think they can have heaven without having Jesus. They want the glory, but they don’t want to be bothered by the cross, much less the One who died there. Many don’t want to accept Jesus as the only way of going to heaven and are determined to find another path. But Jesus warns us that no other path exists and that the consequence for rejecting this truth is an eternity in hell. He told us that “whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:36). Faith in Christ is the key to going to heaven.

Some will argue that it’s extremely narrow-minded of God to provide only one way to heaven. But, frankly, in light of mankind’s rebellion against God, it’s extremely broad-minded for Him to provide us with any way to heaven. We deserve judgment, but God gives us the way of escape by sending His one-and-only Son to die for our sins. Whether someone sees this as narrow or broad, it’s the truth. The good news is that Jesus died and rose again; those who are going to heaven have received this gospel by faith.

Many people today hold to a watered-down gospel that does away with the need for repentance. They want to believe in a “loving” (nonjudgmental) God who never mentions sin and who requires no change in their lifestyle. They may say things like, “My God would never send a person to hell.” But Jesus spoke more about hell than He did about heaven, and He presented Himself as the Savior who offers the only means of going to heaven: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

In the universalist approach, there is really no need for Jesus. And there is certainly no need for evangelism. Billy Graham wasted his time. Paul wasted his time. All of the apostles wasted their time. They sacrificed their lives for nothing. Churches are useless, bottom line, when it comes to the universalist view. If there is no judgment, there is no need to spread the gospel. If all roads lead to heaven, then why bother sacrificing your life for Christ. The truth is that hell and judgment are real for those who do not come to Christ. The all roads lead to heaven theology has no basis in Scripture. Jesus commanded us to take the gospel to the world and baptize and teach them all that he did and said. That is because there is an urgency to the gospel. If we do not repent of our sins and proclaim that Jesus died for our sins in our place and that He bodily arose to give us new life with God, then there is very real judgement.

Then evangelism to the four corners of the earth is not a luxury. It is a necessity. It is urgent. We must go into all the world and proclaim the gospel. That’s not wasted time. That’s not wasted effort. It’s a must!

 

Amen and Amen.

1 Samuel 19:1-10 (Part 5 of 6)
Saul Tries to Kill David

In this series of blogs, we are talking about the false teachings of the Christian faith that are prevalent today. Today, we will look at a doctrine that we have virtually gotten rid of in Christianity in the post-modern era (the world as we know it since the end of World War II).

I will introduce this foreign concept to us with a bold statement. Let’s bring hell back! Such a statement seems a shocking one to the 21st century ear, even those who considered themselves Christians.

The existence of and doctrine surrounding hell is no longer a universally accepted concept among Christians and Jews much less those of other religions or of those who hold no religious beliefs at all. It is not surprising that in an increasingly secular American landscape that only 27% of people who consider themselves non-religious believe in the existence of a place of eternal punishment in the afterlife, according the 2015 Religious Landscape Study performed by Pew Research Center. Overall, only 58% of all survey respondents (including religious and non-religious alike) believe in the existence of hell.

Even among Christians, the statistic vary. Belief in hell is not universally accepted by Christians in the 21st century. Although belief in hell is highest among historically black Protestant churches (82%) and evangelical Protestant churches (likewise 82%), the belief level drops to 63% among Catholics, 60% among mainline Protestants, and 59% of Orthodox Christians. It was also noted in the survey that only 22% of the Jewish respondents believe in hell. Among other religions, 76% of Muslims surveyed believe in hell while not surprisingly Buddhists and Hindus surveyed affirmed the existence of hell at a rate of 32% and 28% respectively. It is worthy of noting that more non-religious respondents believe in hell (27%) than the Jews surveyed (22%). The alarming point here is that, depending on your denomination of Christianity, a pastor can look out over his congregation on Sunday and find that anywhere from one-fifth to half of his parishioners do not believe in the existence of hell. As noted earlier, outside the doors of the church, it can be extrapolated that three-fourths of the people one meets on the street do not believe in hell. One can discount the non-believer being dismissive of hell as it would be opposed his firm belief in the lack of existence of God, would dismiss his belief in moral relativism, would dismiss his belief that man controls his own destiny, and would dismiss an everyman’s ticket, where we are judged on the weight of good deeds plus good intentions to outweigh our negative nature. When deeds and intentions are weighed against our bad deeds, then, most if not all of us will ascend to some sort of nirvanic afterlife (which we will talk about tomorrow). This sentiment, we can dismiss as the product of human pride that blinds us to our own ignorance in the face of God.

That idea of the elimination of hell from our theological lexicon is what came to mind this morning when read through this passage about the choice that Jonathan had to make – to be obedient to his father or to honor his friendship with David, to follow his father’s command which was not biblical or to follow that which was right and true according to God. Jonathan was being asked by his father to ignore a biblical truth because it was inconvenient to his father, Saul. Expediency was most important to Saul not what was biblically and universally true according to God’s Word. That kind of thinking is what has become of the concept of hell in Christian theology today. With that idea in mind let us read about the choice that Jonathan had to make:

Chapter 19
1 Saul now urged his servants and his son Jonathan to assassinate David. But Jonathan, because of his strong affection for David, 2 told him what his father was planning. “Tomorrow morning,” he warned him, “you must find a hiding place out in the fields. 3 I’ll ask my father to go out there with me, and I’ll talk to him about you. Then I’ll tell you everything I can find out.”

4 The next morning Jonathan spoke with his father about David, saying many good things about him. “The king must not sin against his servant David,” Jonathan said. “He’s never done anything to harm you. He has always helped you in any way he could. 5 Have you forgotten about the time he risked his life to kill the Philistine giant and how the Lord brought a great victory to all Israel as a result? You were certainly happy about it then. Why should you murder an innocent man like David? There is no reason for it at all!”

6 So Saul listened to Jonathan and vowed, “As surely as the Lord lives, David will not be killed.”

7 Afterward Jonathan called David and told him what had happened. Then he brought David to Saul, and David served in the court as before.

8 War broke out again after that, and David led his troops against the Philistines. He attacked them with such fury that they all ran away.

9 But one day when Saul was sitting at home, with spear in hand, the tormenting spirit[a] from the Lord suddenly came upon him again. As David played his harp, 10 Saul hurled his spear at David. But David dodged out of the way, and leaving the spear stuck in the wall, he fled and escaped into the night.

In this passage, we are challenged by the fact that Saul commands his son, Jonathan, to commit an act that is clearly unbiblical and is clearly against the nature of God. Jonathan had a choice to make. He had to decide whether what his father commanded him to do was consistent with Scripture and with the nature of God. Jonathan was wise enough to understand the difference between obeying a parent’s command and violating God’s law. Our parents should be teaching us and commanding us to do only that which is consistent with Scripture. In general, not just as children of our parents, we must be discerning about what we hear from others as biblical truth compared to the actual Word of God. If someone omits a portion of the full counsel of God’s Word just to make a biblical truth more palatable or more expedient, we must be discerning about those things too.

Saul thought like many of us today that there was no real punishment for evil deeds as long as we do more than we do bad. He seemed to think that doing evil could be offset by good deeds. All we have to do is do more good. Then, we become the judge of our goodness or badness, and, of course, we are always going to come down on the side of us being good enough or having done good enough or having done less bad than good. We are the judge of our own judgment – the fox in charge of the hen house, so to speak. Saul had situational ethics here in this passage. He thinks like many of us think. He, by his actions, appears to believe that there is no real judgment for his evil deeds and all he has to do is make up for it with a prayer here, a good deed there, a promise to God there, a ceremonial sacrifice here. He, in a sense, made himself the judge of his own fate. Jonathan had to decide whether he was going to follow his father’s belief system or follow the moral absolutes and the eternal truths of God.

In the absence of hell, we are certainly the arbiters of our own eternal fate. In the absence of hell, there is no one who judges us. In the absence of hell, God is only love but not justice. Most of us in the 21st century world have a problem with final judgment and hell. The loss of the doctrine of hell and judgment and the holiness of God does irreparable damage to our deepest comforts—our understanding of God’s grace and love and of our human dignity and value to him. The gutting of the harsh doctrine of hell always minimizes the wonderful good news of the gospel. To preach the good news, we must preach why it is good news. We must understand why the gospel is the essential good news and that nothing else but Jesus will do.

The gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ because of the true nature of man and what that true nature garners us in eternity. In a post-modern non-traditional world, we see ourselves as basically good people. However, the truth of the matter is that none of us are good at all. Have you ever really took notice of all the evil thoughts, the little lies, the outright lies, the meanness that comes out in us each and every day in one form or another. We believe that it requires goodness to get to heaven and that if we just do more good than bad that we will get into heaven. We don’t realize that like an ink drop into a glass of water permanently changes and stains the water irreversibly, so is committing any sin. Sin is imperfection when compared to the holiness of God. One drop of ink in a glass of pure water does it all. The same with sin. We commit one sin and we are done. It is the ultimate one and done scenario.

However, we are not just one-time sinners. We are habitual sin criminals that have been through the sin court system far too often. We sin every day like a common thief who steals something every day. We have a rap sheet a mile long of a lifetime of sins. We deserve the punishment of a career criminal in the court system having committed heinous crime after heinous crime. Our record belies anything that we can say in our defense before the righteous Judge that is God. We deserve hell. We really do. Once we commit one sin we are done, finished, not to mention a lifetime of habitual sinning. We kid ourselves that we are more good than bad because we don’t want to think of the fact that we tell lies, we hurt people, we lie to ourselves, we offend God each and every day with our prideful sinning. We are career sin criminals standing before a righteous Judge who looks at our record and has every right to throw the eternal judgment of hell at us. We deserve it. We have no excuse. No quippy comebacks. No way to talk ourselves out of what we deserve. We deserve the fiery pits of hell where Jesus said there was pain, sorrow, weeping, and the gnashing of teeth. It is the place of eternal suffering.

The very realness of hell is what make Jesus Christ so incredibly important to us. He is more than just some great philosopher that is one of the many ways of self-actualization and self-improvement. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the only way to the Father. Without the doctrine of hell, Jesus is just a way to self-improvement along with Muhammed, Buddha, Confucius, and others. With the doctrine of hell, Jesus is our Savior. Jesus as part of the Holy Trinity of God came down from heaven to live a perfect life and become the sinless sacrifice for our sins. He went to the cross to take on God’s eternal punishment for man’s sins, past, present and future. And to prove that He was of one and the same essence as God, He arose from the dead. By dying on the cross and by arising from the dead (all of which are historical facts that have yet to be realistically disputed), Jesus demonstrated that He was the Son of God and that He did indeed die for our sins.

Jesus doing these things would be unnecessary, truly, in the absence of what he did it for – to save us from our eternal judgment. In the absence of hell, Jesus did not need to come down from heaven and suffer as he did for us. All we need do is do is more good than bad. Jesus’ sacrifice would be the grandest excess of all in the absence of eternal judgment, in the absence of hell.

That is what makes or should make Christians the most joyous people in the universe. We have been saved from what we know as hell. The fiery pits of eternal punishment we know that we deserve. We have had our blinders taken off and see ourselves as the dirty rotten sinners that we are. The grace of Jesus Christ then becomes amazingly wonderful and just the greatest gift that could ever be given – the pardon from the fiery eternal death that we deserve. How can you have this joy when there is no judgment, there is no hell. We have been saved from what we know we deserve!

That makes Jesus even more awesome that just some great philosopher. It makes Him the Savior to whom we owe everything and to whom we owe all thanksgiving and daily praise and great joy.

That is the eternal truth of the gospel. That is the Jonathan choice. That is to walk away from the situational truths of Saul and embrace the eternal truths of God.

Amen and Amen.

1 Samuel 19:1-10 (Part 4 of 6)
Saul Tries to Kill David

In this series of blogs, we are talking about the false teachings of the Christian faith that are prevalent today. Today, we will look the challenging of the authority of God’s Word. The challenging of God’s authority goes back to the Garden of Eden, starting with the serpent’s challenge to Eve: “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” (Gen. 3:1). That challenge continues to assault us today. Best-selling authors tell us the biblical text isn’t reliable, that the biblical manuscripts we have in our possession are hopelessly contradictory, and that we can know little or nothing about the real, historical Jesus. Other authors tell us that the Bible is no more than a collection of religious traditions and that God Himself is nothing more than a religious myth.

For the most part, though, the challenge to the authority of the Scriptures is subtler, and some of it flows out of the deification of man, which says, “The Bible must live up to my standards. I will judge the God of the Bible based on my ethical standards.” In short, when the Scriptures contradict our feelings and preferences rather than crucify our feelings and preferences and bow down before God and His Word, we question God’s Word. In order to make ourselves the gods that we talked about yesterday, we must first challenge the authenticity and authority of the Bible. Once you accept the fallacy that God’s Word is unreliable then it follows that it can no longer be considered the moral compass for our lives. Then, it follows that we can decide for ourselves that which is morally right and wrong. After that follows moral relativism. In a morally relativistic state, there are no moral absolutes in the universe. What is right for me is right for me but it may not be right for you. You can judge for yourself what is right and what is wrong. Morality is a social construct. Further, in moral relativism, that which was immoral once is not always immoral since morality is a social construct. Society like a herd deciding where to run decides what is morally right and wrong over time. Just as in economics, the marketplace determines the price and value of goods relative to one another, morality is a marketplace determination in today’s world. The price and value of moral standards rise and fall with the demand for those “goods”.

In all of this moral malaise, it is man that is at the center of the moral decision making process. Our moral standards have progressively been lowered through the ages and particularly within the last century as to what is morally acceptable and what is not. Once the Bible was the commonly acceptable moral standard bearer in our society but no longer. We have challenged the authority of the Bible because we have decided that our personal rights to what we want to do in life is more important than any universal standards of morality. We have assailed the universality of the moral standards of God in the Bible by discrediting it as a valid source of truth. In that manner, we can now say that behaviors that are forbidden within its pages that God proclaimed to be harmful to us are no longer harmful or immoral.

 

That idea of the false doctrine of the Bible being a good book but not the ultimate repository of universal truth that came to mind this morning when I read this passage about the choice that Jonathan had to make – to be obedient to his father or to honor his friendship with David, to follow his father’s command which was not biblical or to follow that which was right and true according to God. With that idea in mind let us read about the choice that Jonathan had to make:

Chapter 19
1 Saul now urged his servants and his son Jonathan to assassinate David. But Jonathan, because of his strong affection for David, 2 told him what his father was planning. “Tomorrow morning,” he warned him, “you must find a hiding place out in the fields. 3 I’ll ask my father to go out there with me, and I’ll talk to him about you. Then I’ll tell you everything I can find out.”

4 The next morning Jonathan spoke with his father about David, saying many good things about him. “The king must not sin against his servant David,” Jonathan said. “He’s never done anything to harm you. He has always helped you in any way he could. 5 Have you forgotten about the time he risked his life to kill the Philistine giant and how the Lord brought a great victory to all Israel as a result? You were certainly happy about it then. Why should you murder an innocent man like David? There is no reason for it at all!”

6 So Saul listened to Jonathan and vowed, “As surely as the Lord lives, David will not be killed.”

7 Afterward Jonathan called David and told him what had happened. Then he brought David to Saul, and David served in the court as before.

8 War broke out again after that, and David led his troops against the Philistines. He attacked them with such fury that they all ran away.

9 But one day when Saul was sitting at home, with spear in hand, the tormenting spirit[a] from the Lord suddenly came upon him again. As David played his harp, 10 Saul hurled his spear at David. But David dodged out of the way, and leaving the spear stuck in the wall, he fled and escaped into the night.

In this passage, we are challenged by the fact that Saul commands his son, Jonathan, to commit an act that is clearly unbiblical and is clearly against the nature of God. Jonathan had a choice to make. He had to decide whether what his father commanded him to do was consistent with Scripture and with the nature of God. Jonathan was wise enough to understand the difference between obeying a parent’s command and violating God’s law. Our parents should be teaching us and commanding us to do only that which is consistent with Scripture. We must be discerning about what we hear from others as biblical truth compared to the actual Word of God. If something seems like it doesn’t smell right in view of Scripture, that is the Holy Spirit convicting us that what we are hearing as gospel truth is in actuality in error. Listen to the Holy Spirit.

In today’s world, there are denominations of the Christian religion that have basically gutted the Bible upon which their denomination was founded. In order to remain acceptable and relevant in a society that no longer sees God’s Word as the moral compass by which we measure ourselves, some in the Christian faith have gutted the difficult parts of the Bible by saying that the Bible is not wholly reliable. Once you go down that path, the Bible then is no longer the measure of man. Man is the measure of the Bible. Once the Bible is no longer the measure of man, we take the place of God and make our own choices about what we want to believe from the Bible. It becomes a good resource book for wisdom but not for how we are to live our lives, particularly if it speaks clearly and plainly against a behavior we enjoy participating in.
The bottom line is that I can argue with you all day long about the authority of a very real God over our lives. A very real God who predates time and space created the universe. A very real God developed the laws of physics by which the universe runs and rules itself. A very real God then gave us very real universal truths by which we are to measure ourselves. Just as there are absolute laws that govern how the universe operates that were set in motion by God so too are there absolute truths that He has established for morality and such truths were set for in God’s Word. These are immutable truths that cannot be changed. We so easily believe that there are universal laws by which the universe is ruled but find it an inconvenient truth for their to be universally true moral standards in life established by our Creator. That’s just too inconvenient to us. However, if you want to go on believing that morality is a social construct of man and that you can do whatever you please, it is like arguing with a child about the toy that they are playing with that belongs to someone else. You can demonstrate to them the truth of the ownership of the toy but they will continue to refuse to give it up. Why? Because they want to play with it and that trumps the ownership of the toy belonging to someone else.

What if you are wrong about God? What if you are wrong about the universal truths that God sets forth in His Word? Are you willing to bet your eternity on the reliability of your own set of truths? Are you willing to bet that there is no higher moral authority than ourselves? Are you willing to bet your eternity on that? Eternity is an awfully big bet when it comes to devaluing God and His Word? In our passage today, Jonathan has to decide whether it’s OK to listen to the vacillating morality of his earthly father or rely on the absolute moral standards of God. What’s it going to be for you?

Amen and Amen.

1 Samuel 19:1-10 (Part 3 of 6)
Saul Tries to Kill David

In this series of blogs, we are talking about the false teachings of the Christian faith that are prevalent today. Today, we will look at the deification of man. What do I mean by the deification of man? There those who teach that we are all divine and fully connected to God without need of any mythical redemptive works of Christ. These teachings have reverberated up and down the corridors of time for centuries, always with the same bottom line …You are God. In fact, everyone is a part of God and each one only has to discover their own divinity. When humanity collectively accepts and experiences itself as being a part of Christ and a part of God, we not only save ourselves, we save our world. The teaching, that we are “God,” is at the essence of the emerging global spirituality. Prominent figures like Oprah Winfrey have embarked upon aggressive campaigns to educate the world about their belief that man’s inherent divinity, bestows upon him a vast reservoir of unlimited potential which, however, goes untapped, because he lacks knowledge of the powers he possesses.

That is the message of the New Age “religion”. We are gods ourselves. We are divine. We are inherently good and can achieve a nirvana like state of goodness if we only try hard enough. It is a combination of Hinduism, Buddhism and modern Western thought. When we elevate man to a point where we believe that all we must do is discover and harness our own innate goodness, we no longer need Jesus Christ at all. If we have divinity within us, then, Jesus is unnecessary. This philosophy is often accepted by Christians as part of our faith today. It deemphasizes the depravity of man. It makes us believe that if we concentrate hard enough that we can become good. If we do enough of the right things that we will go to heaven. If we are good enough, God’s scales of justice will tip in our favor. We are in control. We are gods. We control how well we achieve a Christ-like state. Jesus becomes our guru rather than our Savior and Lord. Jesus becomes our example rather than our necessity. Salvation becomes a pardon for past mistakes rather the redemption of career sin criminals by a perfect and holy Jesus Christ and the beginning of our sanctification that is never complete until with join Jesus Christ in heaven.

There are those who call themselves Christians who may not say that they believe they are gods but the actions of their belief system prove that they believe such things. There are those who believe, as professing Christian, that if we try hard enough we will become good. If we do more good deeds than bad we will go to heaven. It is a lifelong obliviousness to our inherent sin nature. Have you ever tried to go through a day without thinking even a sinful thought much less not do a bad deed. It is impossible for us to be good enough. We cancel out our good deeds each and every day by sins that we commit that we don’t even realize or don’t even think are sins or at the very least rationalize away as not being sins. New Age thought mistakes that we have goodness in us. Communes and communism have always failed and devolved into despotism or oligarchies because man is simply inherently evil. You are I are depraved and can help ourselves but sin. We learn to lie at such an early age. Just think of your child when they were little, they learned to lie to save their rear end from spankings early on. It’s just our nature and to claim anything else is just pie in the sky ignorance.

 

That idea of the false doctrine of the deification of man that came to mind this morning when I read this passage about the choice that Jonathan had to make – to be obedient to his father or to honor his friendship with David, to follow his father’s command which was not biblical or to follow that which was right and true according to God. With that idea in mind let us read about the choice that Jonathan had to make:

Chapter 19
1 Saul now urged his servants and his son Jonathan to assassinate David. But Jonathan, because of his strong affection for David, 2 told him what his father was planning. “Tomorrow morning,” he warned him, “you must find a hiding place out in the fields. 3 I’ll ask my father to go out there with me, and I’ll talk to him about you. Then I’ll tell you everything I can find out.”

4 The next morning Jonathan spoke with his father about David, saying many good things about him. “The king must not sin against his servant David,” Jonathan said. “He’s never done anything to harm you. He has always helped you in any way he could. 5 Have you forgotten about the time he risked his life to kill the Philistine giant and how the Lord brought a great victory to all Israel as a result? You were certainly happy about it then. Why should you murder an innocent man like David? There is no reason for it at all!”

6 So Saul listened to Jonathan and vowed, “As surely as the Lord lives, David will not be killed.”

7 Afterward Jonathan called David and told him what had happened. Then he brought David to Saul, and David served in the court as before.

8 War broke out again after that, and David led his troops against the Philistines. He attacked them with such fury that they all ran away.

9 But one day when Saul was sitting at home, with spear in hand, the tormenting spirit[a] from the Lord suddenly came upon him again. As David played his harp, 10 Saul hurled his spear at David. But David dodged out of the way, and leaving the spear stuck in the wall, he fled and escaped into the night.

In this passage, we are challenged by the fact that Saul commands his son, Jonathan, to commit an act that is clearly unbiblical and is clearly against the nature of God. Jonathan had a choice to make. He had to decide whether what his father commanded him to do was consistent with Scripture and with the nature of God. Jonathan was wise enough to understand the difference between obeying a parent’s command and violating God’s law. Our parents should be teaching us and commanding us to do only that which is consistent with Scripture. We must be discerning about what we hear from others as biblical truth compared to the actual Word of God. If something seems like it doesn’t smell right in view of Scripture, that is the Holy Spirit convicting us that what we are hearing as gospel truth is in actuality in error. Listen to the Holy Spirit.

The false doctrine of the divinity of man and our ability to achieve some great goodness where we are gods ourselves equal to the God is just plain false teaching. It is like Saul rationalizing away the command to his son to violate God’s law as OK. We, as pastors, should never teach our people things that are inconsistent with Scripture. Teaching the false doctrine of self awareness and self improvement is heresy. We are sinners. God tells us that in His Word. We are in need of a Savior. We are in need of a Lord. We cannot achieve God-likeness on our own. We are sinners who continue to sin even after salvation. We are not made into perfect beings by our salvation. We are covered in Christ’s perfection. The Holy Spirit does begin the sanctification process in our lives and we sin less and less as we mature in Christ but we still sin because we are flesh. Our sins revolt us now that we are saved but it does not eliminate sin from our lives. We are covered by the grace of Jesus Christ who died on the cross for the punishment of our sins. His perfection covers us until we escape our flesh on the day that we die and go to heaven. It is only then that we are made completely perfect. We are not gods on this side of heaven and anyone who teaches that you can become a god before heaven is a false teacher. To say that we can make ourselves more perfect takes away the miracle of salvation and the wondrous gift that God gave us through Jesus Christ, who redeems us even though we are career sin criminals who have no hope of rehabilitation. That’s the miracle. That’s the necessity of Jesus Christ.

Amen and Amen.