Monday, April 19, 2010

Project 4:4--Day Ninety-Three

Day Ninety-Three, I Samuel 22-24, Psalm 52, Psalm 63, Psalm 54, Psalm 57

David continues to be on the run, and in today’s reading we have several of his different psalms: he prays against evildoers; he remembers God’s love and protection; he asks for protection from foes; and he praises God for being his refuge.

Most significant in today’s reading is the way David treats his enemy, King Saul. David and his men are hiding in a cave, when Saul comes in the cave to “relieve” himself. Now David’s got his chance! At least, that’s what his men say to him.

But David refuses to lift his hand against the Lord’s anointed. David sneaks up behind Saul and cuts off a corner of his robe, but he refuses to harm him. After Saul leaves, David calls out to him. He points out the fact that he could have killed him but didn’t. He says, “May the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you.” Saul seems to back off of David for the moment. But it doesn’t last long.

At the very end of today’s reading, Samuel dies and is buried. However…believe me when I tell you that we haven’t seen the last of him!

Project 4:4--Day Ninety-Two

Day Ninety-Two, I Samuel 21-22, Psalm 56, Psalm 34, Psalm 142

In today’s reading, David is on the run from King Saul, who wants to take his life. We see an episode in his life where he goes to Ahimelech, the priest of Nob. David asks for some bread for him and his men, but all the Ahimelech has is the consecrated bread, which, according to the law was only to be eaten by priests. However, because David and his men are pure and “have kept themselves from women”, Ahimelech gives him the consecrated bread.

I find this story interesting, because Jesus refers back to it when He is challenged by the Pharisees for breaking the Sabbath. Jesus reminds them that David, whom they probably revered as the greatest king of Israel, did what was unlawful by taking and eating the consecrated bread. He accuses them of not understanding that the Lord desires mercy, not sacrifice, and He tells them that He is the Lord of the Sabbath.

We also have in today’s reading a few more of David’s psalms: one is a prayer in which he proclaims his trust in the Lord; another is him giving praise to the Lord for hearing the righteous; and yet another is another prayer for refuge.

Project 4:4--Day Ninety-One

Day Ninety-One, I Samuel 18-20, Psalm 59

In today’s reading we find a record of David’s friendship with King Saul’s son Jonathan. Scripture says Jonathan “became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.” We will later see Jonathan be instrumental in helping David escape from Saul when Saul wants to kill him. I’m just reminded of the importance of having at least a few very close friends in your life. As Ecclesiastes says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work. If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone. Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
Also, in today’s reading we come across what may be the first of David’s psalms that we have recorded, where he prays for God’s strength as he is being pursued by Saul and Saul’s men.
Today’s reading ends with Jonathan warning David of Saul’s plans to harm him, and they make a covenant to always show kindness to each other.

Project 4:4--Day Ninety

Day Ninety, I Samuel 16-17

Today’s story is one everyone’s heard before…David and Goliath.

So many things I could say about this, but I’ll just touch on the one thing that my minister mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I’d not thought of before.
He spoke of David volunteering to fight the giant, and so King Saul sends for David. He tries to give David his armor, but David can’t fight in it; it’s too big for him and he’s not used to it. So David decides to take off against Goliath with just a sling and some stones. He expresses his faith in God to deliver him, so Saul tells him, “Go, and the Lord be with you.”

Our minister just contrasted David’s faith with Saul’s lack of faith. He threw out the “Lord be with you” but did he really believe it? If he had believed that the Lord was with whomever would fight, why didn’t HE volunteer to fight Goliath?

Just something to think about.

Project 4:4--Day Eighty-Nine

Day Eighty-Nine, I Sam. 14-15, I Chron. 5

Today’s reading includes a second time that Saul makes a mistake. Saul is given instructions to completely destroy the Amalekites, who have been bitter enemies since the time that the Lord brought the Israelites up out of Egypt. God tells Saul spare nothing…men, women, children, babies, cattle, sheep, goats, camels, donkeys…anything that moves—kill it.

Well, Saul and his men go in and MOSTLY do what the Lord says. The kill most everything. But they take the king, Agag, alive, and he kept the best of the sheep and cattle as plunder. When Samuel confronts Saul about this, Saul again makes an excuse, saying that the soldiers kept the best of the cattle to offer as a sacrifice to the Lord.

Samuel’s reply is worth recording here:

“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.”

Saul admits that he sinned, but he begs Samuel to “honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel.” Again, we see that Saul is more concerned with his image and himself than the fact that he has displeased the Lord.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Project 4:4--Day Eighty-Eight

Day Eighty-Eight, I Samuel 13-14

Today’s reading includes the first of several times that Saul makes a mistake. The Philistines are preparing to attack Israel, and Saul and his men are afraid. They are at Gilgal, however, waiting on Samuel to arrive and present a burnt offering and a fellowship offering to the Lord. Because Saul is afraid and tired of waiting on Samuel to arrive, he goes ahead and offers the burnt offering. Just after he does this, Samuel arrives and rebukes him for it.

It is then that we see what I think makes Saul the way he is most of the time. As opposed to David, whom we will later see react to his own sin with humility and responsibility, we see Saul, who refuses to take responsibility. Rather than recognize his own sin, he makes an excuse for why he did what he did, without regard for the fact that his actions displeased the Lord.

Project 4:4--Day Eighty-Seven

Day Eighty-Seven, I Samuel 8-12

A couple of things in today’s reading….

Saul is the man that has been chosen by the Lord and anointed by Samuel to be king over Israel. However, when this is to be announced to all the Israelites assembled together…Saul is nowhere to be found! He had actually hidden himself among the baggage! A little bit reminiscent of Moses…very reminiscent of Gideon. Thus we see, yet again, someone feeling unworthy/incapable of the leadership role to which God has called them. I just find that interesting.

Also in this reading we find Samuel’s farewell address to the people of Israel. As Samuel prepares to step down as judge over Israel, these are the words that Samuel gives the people, because they have rejected God as their king in favor of an earthly king. I’m gonna include it here, because I’ve recently heard it used in a book as a type of prescription, if you will, for dealing with sin, and I thought it was very useful:

“Do not be afraid,” Samuel replied. “You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless. For the sake of His great name the Lord will not reject His people, because the Lord was pleased to make you His own. As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against he Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. But be sure to fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things He has done for you. Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will be swept away.”

Project 4:4--Day Eighty-Six

Day Eighty-Six, I Samuel 3-7

Today’s reading had several things that I appreciated. First was the calling of Samuel. I love how Samuel mistakes the voice of the Lord for the voice of Eli. How can that be??? That just seems a little humorous to me. You would think the Lord’s voice would be like no other. But I love the fact that Eli, so much older and wiser than Samuel, finally catches on and realizes that it is the Lord who is calling Samuel. And he instructs him in how to answer the Lord: “Speak, for your servant is listening.” I love the picture of someone older and wiser teaching someone younger how to listen to and obey the voice of the Lord! Perhaps because as a younger person, I enjoy learning from those older and wiser than I, how to listen to and obey the voice of the Lord. (There are a few of you out there who have taught me a thing or two about how to do that. If any of you are reading this, you know who you are. I am most grateful for you.)

Also, in today’s reading I love the sense of humor that God has. I dunno, maybe God didn’t intend for this to be funny; maybe He was strictly trying to make a point. And make a point, He certainly did. But I found it hilarious that when the Philistines captured the ark of the covenant of the Lord Almighty and placed it in the temple of their god Dagon, the next morning, the Philistines went in to find their god Dagon fallen on his face before the ark of the Lord!!! “Well maybe it was a coincidence that he fell over…” they may have thought, as they picked him up and put him back in his place. Next morning, same thing…except this time his hands and head were broken off and lying on the floor as well. Hmm…

Seems to me that God didn’t leave much room for doubt in the minds of the Philistines as to Who is THE one, true God.

Project 4:4--Day Eighty-Five

Day Eighty-Five, I Samuel 1-2

What I loved most from today’s reading was how Hannah prayed for what she wanted. I’ve heard some people say that we shouldn’t pray for specific things, but rather for God’s blessing and for His will to be done. I respectfully disagree with this, only because I believe that God cares about our desires and what is on our hearts.

The one thing Hannah wanted was a son. She wanted a son so desperately and she would be so grateful for a son that she promised that if the Lord would bless her with a son, she would dedicate that son to the Lord.

First of all, Hannah recognized where her blessing was coming from, that it was from the Lord. She would not be stingy in dedicating to the Lord what He had given her in the first place! I’m getting a little bit ahead here in the reading, but one of my favorite passages regarding giving is at the end of I Chronicles, where King David is nearing the end of his reign, and he is gathering all the provisions for his son Solomon to build the Temple. So all of the Israelites have brought all of these articles for the Temple, all of this wealth has been given to the Lord, and David gives thanks for it. He prays, “Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name. But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.”

Secondly, I just love the way that Hannah pours out her heart, expressing herself to her Lord. Scripture says that Eli, the priest, thought she was drunk! But she says, “Not so, my lord…I was pouring out my soul to the Lord…I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”

When’s the last time you truly poured out your soul to the Lord in that way?

Project 4:4--Day Eighty-Four

Day Eighty-Four, Judges 19-21

Today’s reading, which includes the last few chapters of Judges, seems to really highlight the height from which Israel has fallen, or rather, the low to which Israel has sunk.

This story of the Benjamites taking advantage of a person’s hospitality, wanting to defile themselves with a visitor to their town, and instead raping and killing a concubine is reminiscent of the behavior of the people of the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah. You remember…those towns that the Lord destroyed with fire and brimstone.

God’s chosen people, His holy nation, with whom He has entered into a covenant relationship to be their God, have forgotten Him. Instead of His laws being impressed upon their hearts, each person did as he saw fit. And the result was behavior that the Lord despises.

How this must have broken His heart.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Project 4:4--Day Eighty-Three

Day Eighty-Three, Judges 17-18

Today’s reading was a little shorter, and much less eventful than yesterday’s reading of Samson. It contains the story of a man named Micah who decides to go his own way, in worshiping other gods, and he hires a Levite to be a priest in his household.

Well, about this time, the Danites are still looking for some portion of the promised land to settle in for themselves, and they are spying out the area where Micah lives. They see his idols, ephod, priest, etc. and they take them from him.

They continue on, overtaking the city of Laish and renaming it for their father Dan. There they set up the graven image that they had taken from Micah. It’s in today’s reading that we again find that chilling phrase:

“In those days Israel had not king; everyone did as he saw fit.”

Project 4:4--Day Eighty-Two

Day Eighty-Two, Judges 13-16

This reading involves one of the most interesting, yet also one of the saddest, people to read about in the Bible.

Today we read about Samson, who was promised to his parents by an angel of the Lord. The angel told them that Samson was to take the vow of the Nazirite and be set apart to the Lord all the days of his life; never is he to have any wine or fermented drink; never is he to come into contact with anything unclean; never is a razor to be used on his head.

Because Samson is set apart to the Lord, the Spirit of the Lord comes upon Samson in power, and he has great strength:
· He kills a lion with his bare hands
· He kills 30 Philistine men
· He catches 300 foxes, ties them together in pairs by their tails, fastens a torch to each pair, and then lets them loose in the fields, burning up the grain of the Philistines
· He is able to break the ropes that tie him together when he is captured
· He kills 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey
· He lifts the city gates, posts, bar, and all, to escape from Gaza in the middle of the night

Samson is definitely an amazing man who had incredible potential. However, rather than serving the Lord, he seemed more interested in serving self. He has anger issues. He’s obviously not the smartest man in the world, very na├»ve. He continues to trust the Philistine woman Delilah, who repeatedly tries to learn, and then destroy, the source of Samson’s strength.

He finally caves and tells her…it’s because his hair is long…and she proceeded to rush for the scissors. When Samson loses his strength, he is captured by the Philistines, and they gouge out his eyes.

The only redeeming factor of Samson’s story is that he is able to kill many Philistine leaders as he dies, more so than all that he killed when he was alive. He is brought into the temple of the Philistine god Dagon, and he asks the men to put him where he can lean between two columns of the temple. He then prays that the Lord remember him and restore his strength to him once more, so that he may get revenge on the Philistines. He then pushes on the columns with his might and is able to bring down the temple on the Philistine rulers, as well as himself.

For me, this story highlights the fact that although Samson seemed to waste most of his life and his God-given ability on himself, when he did turn to the Lord for strength, the Lord was still gracious enough to give it and use Samson to His glory.

Project 4:4--Day Eighty-One

Day Eighty-One, Ruth

Today’s reading is an excellent one, a story of fierce loyalty, wise advice, and redeeming kindness.

At the beginning of the story, we see the extremely rare loyalty of Ruth to her mother-in-law, Naomi. Ruth absolutely refused to listen to her mother-in-law’s suggestion to return to her father’s household. She refused to leave her mother-in-law. Instead, she vowed that “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.”

Ruth leaves her homeland to return to Bethlehem with Ruth, and there, she met a man by the name of Boaz, a man whose field she was allowed to glean in behind the harvesters. Naomi knew that Boaz was a relative of hers, so she suggested to Ruth to go to him, knowing that he might be a kinsman-redeemer for Ruth.

Boaz, who has allowed Ruth the ability to glean in his fields, welcomes the duty of taking Ruth as a wife, and she is able to bear him a son.

This son is named Obed. Obed then has a son named Jesse. Jesse had multiple sons, the youngest of which you might’ve heard of before. His name is David. As in King David…but we’ll get to him soon enough.

In the meantime, take some time to appreciate this wonderful story which in some ways foreshadows another Story of redeeming kindness shown to us by a Son of David.

Project 4:4--Day Eighty

Day Eighty, Judges 10-12

Today’s reading has one of the stories in the Bible that I just can’t seem to wrap my brain around. It’s the story of Jephthah, a judge of Israel, who leads them in battle against the Ammonites.

Before Jephthah goes to fight, the Scripture says “the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah” and he made a vow to the Lord, saying, “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”

Well, as the story goes, “Jephthah went over to fight the Ammonites, and the Lord gave them into his hands…” and “when Jephthah returned to his home in Mispah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of tambourines! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter. When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, ‘Oh! My daughter! You have made me miserable and wretched, because I have made a vow to the Lord that I cannot break.’”

Amazing is the daughter’s response, as she says, “My father, you have given your word to the Lord. Do to me just as you promised, now that the Lord has avenged you of your enemies.”

So she and her friends went into the hills and spent two months weeping over her because she would never have the opportunity to marry. But then, as the Scripture says, “she returned to her father and he did to her as he had vowed.”


Project 4:4--Day Seventy-Nine

Day Seventy-Nine, Judges 8-9

Today’s reading just contained an interesting contrast, as we see Gideon’s son, as opposed to Gideon.

Gideon had refused to rule over the people, even though they tried to make him their king. He said, “The Lord will rule over you.”

However, his son, Abimelech, purposely tried to take over the leadership of Israel, going as far as killing his brothers in order to do so. Only one of Gideon’s sons, Jotham, escaped from Abimelech. He predicted that disaster would come upon those who follow Abimelech, and it was true, as those who originally followed him ended up rebelling against him. So he destroyed them, but as he went to attack one of the cities, a woman dropped a millstone on him. So both Abimelech and those who followed him in doing wrong were punished.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Project 4:4--Day Seventy-Eight

Day Seventy-Eight, Judges 6-8

Okay, here’s what I love about the story of Gideon…he “tests” God and gets away with it! I mean, God is okay with Gideon’s doubts!!!

The fact is, God knows that we are human. He knows that we are going to struggle with belief and having the faith to do what He asks of us.

I also believe that He knows our hearts. He knows the difference between someone who truly desires to do His will but is afraid, as opposed to someone who throws out excuses because they just flat-out don’t want to do what He’s asking.

I see this with Gideon, who I believe wanted to obey God. He just wanted some assurance. God provided Gideon that assurance.

I see this with Thomas, who I believe wanted to believe in His risen Savior, but said that he would not until he saw the scars in His hands and put his hand in the Savior’s side. God showed up and provided Thomas that opportunity.

I guess I see this principle most clearly with Moses, when God spoke to him through the burning bush.

Moses said, “Who do I say sent me?” God provided him an answer.

Moses said, “What if they don’t believe me?” God provided him with signs to show the people.

Moses said, “But I’m not a good speaker.” God reminded him that He is the one that provided him with ability to speak, and He also sent his brother Aaron to help him speak.

Only when Moses ran out of excuses and just flat-out said, “Lord, please send someone else!” did the Lord’s anger burn against Moses.

So like Moses, and Thomas, I love the story of Gideon because it’s a fantastic reminder that God, in His loving mercy, is patient with my doubts.

So long as I’m willing to do what He asks.

Project 4:4--Day Seventy-Seven

In today’s reading we have the story of Deborah and Barak. It’s a great story, in my opinion, because we get to see not one, but two, count ‘em, TWO women who are strong and courageous and each plays a very important role in the Israelites’ defeat of their enemies.

The Israelites had been oppressed by the Canaanites and their king, whose name was Jabin. The commander of the Canaanite army was a man by the name of Sisera. After being oppressed by these people for about twenty years, the Israelites cry out to the Lord for help.

At the time Deborah, a prophetess is leading Israel, judging and deciding disputes among the people. She calls for Barak, tells him that the Lord has commanded him to take 10,000 troops and attack Jabin’s army.

Well, Barak is afraid to do this by himself. He says that if Deborah will go with him, he will go, but if Deborah will not accompany him, he won’t go.

Deborah, being the good leader that she is, agrees to go with Barak to attack Jabin’s army, but she tells him that because of this, the honor will not be his, “for the Lord will hand Sisera over to a woman.”

Sure enough, Sisera ends up going to the tent of a man named Heber. Heber’s wife, Jael, had invited him in, saying, “Come, my lord, come right in. Don’t be afraid.” He asked for a drink, so she gave him some milk, and she gave him a covering, and he went to sleep.

So while Sisera was asleep, Jael went to him and…

Well, if you’ve not read the story I won’t ruin it for you! It’s a good ending! Look it up, Judges 4-5!

Project 4:4--Day Seventy-Six

Day Seventy-Six, Judges 2-3

As we begin the book of Judges with today’s reading, we see, yet again, that the Israelites are a people with a very short memory span. They are a forgetful people that seemingly only a generation later, have turned away from the Lord to serve other gods. Because of this the Lord punishes them, as they are oppressed by the nations around them.

Thus begins an ugly cycle for the Israelites, a period that lasts a few hundred years, where they go back-and-forth between obeying the Lord and serving other gods. When they serve other gods, the Lord allows them to be oppressed by the people around them. They cry out to the Lord in their oppression, and in His loving mercy, He hears them. He raises up a leader for them, who is able to deliver them from their enemies. That leader serves the nation of Israel for a time, and after that leader’s death, the Israelites seem to forget that the Lord had delivered them. So they slip back into worshiping other gods. And when they serve other gods, the Lord allows them to be oppressed…

It’s a vicious cycle, and, though it makes for some really interesting, narrative-style reading, it is really kind of a depressing time in Israel’s history, if you ask me. A couple of times through the book of Judges, you’ll find this verse, “In those days Israel had to king; everyone did as he saw fit.”

Can you imagine what the world would be like today if, rather than serving the Lord and obeying Him, EVERYONE did as they saw fit???

Project 4:4--Day Seventy-Five

Day Seventy-Five, Joshua 15, Joshua 24, Judges 1-2

Today’s reading includes some additional information about the conquests in the promised land and how some of the land was divided.

However, it is noted that each of the tribes failed to completely conquer the people living in the land. The Lord instructed the people to go in and destroy everything and completely take over. For whatever reason, they didn’t completely obey the Lord’s command. Rather than completely destroy the peoples before them, they intermingled with them and with their lifestyle…and that would ultimately lead to Israel’s downfall.

The Lord saw this disobedience as breach of their covenant with Him, as He said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land that I swore to give to your forefathers. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.’ Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? Now therefore I tell you that I will not drive them out before you; they will be thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you.”

Project 4:4--Day Seventy-Four

Day Seventy-Four, Joshua 22-24

Today’s reading includes Joshua’s farewell address to the people of Israel. Interesting that he offers the people the same warnings that Moses did about turning away from the Lord to worship idols. He reminds the people, again, that “not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.” (Let me just say that God keeps His promises. Always. Can I get an amen?)

Joshua also offers the people the same choice that Moses did. Moses encouraged the people to choose life over death…but ultimately, the choice was theirs. In the same way, in today’s reading, we find what strike me as some of the strongest words of conviction in the Bible. Powerful stuff:

“Now fear the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.