Preparation Put to Use

Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

Among the preparations we thought about last week in David’s life, one was his ability with the harp. (See David’s Preparations)

Even though David was anointed to be the next king, Saul still sat on the throne. However, things weren’t going well for King Saul. The Spirit of the Lord may have come upon David in power, but

…the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him. I Samuel 16:14

Whoa… wait a minute! How can there be an evil spirit from the Lord?

God doesn’t emit evil, but evil spirits are subject to God’s control and operate only within divinely determined boundaries. Saul had been disobedient and was suffering the consequences of his actions.

Saul’s attendants notice how upset and despondent he had been, so one servant made a suggestion.

“Let our lord command his servants here to search for someone who can play the harp. He will play when the evil spirit comes upon you and you will feel better.” I Samuel 16:16

Saul agrees.

“Find someone who plays well and bring him to me.” I Samuel 16:17

Great idea! Now who is a good harp player? In God’s wondrous providence, one of the servants knows of David. Don’t miss these little coincidences that often come in Scripture. (Or “God incidences” as I like to call them.) The servant says,

“I have seen a son of Jesse who knows how to play the harp. He is a brave man and a warrior. [Maybe he’s heard the lion story.] He speaks well and is a fine looking man. And the Lord is with him.” I Samuel 16:18

 Saul agrees to the plan, sends for David, and is pleased with him.

Whenever the spirit of God would come upon Saul, David would take his harp and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him. I Samuel 16:22  

I’m thinking of ways God prepped me. I grew up, an only child. From time to time, I would teach my imaginary friend how to make a bed, set the table, or how to print her alphabet letters. I seemed to have an innate desire to teach. As a teenager, I served as president to our girls’ mission group, leading and organizing.  Years later, I could see how God used my teaching instincts and leadership qualities to teach in public school.

Both of my grandmothers played the piano and one played the accordion and clarinet. My mother and father “dated” by practicing violins together. Dad also sang solos; mother played the piano and later the organ for church. Singing together as a family became a common practice.

Is it any wonder, then, that I became an elementary music teacher?

Do you see how God prepares us for what is ahead? No doubt you’ve seen that in your life as well.

Who would have thought that harp playing would be an entry into the palace for David?

And where will sling shooting preparation take him next?

~ Joyce ~

David’s Preparation

Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

How thrilling for David to be anointed as king by the prophet Samuel. (See David, a King?) But wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall to hear the family discussion about what took place that afternoon with Samuel, especially comments from the seven rejected brothers?

Alas, the next day, back to the regular routine. David goes to the sheep fields as usual. I wonder if scratches his head saying, “Did I just imagine being anointed? And king, of all things?”

But we see no coronation, no crown, no throngs of applauding well-wishers. No, the actual “kinghood” will come later—much later. That’s why I put a question mark after last week’s blog.

While we’re waiting, let’s see what’s going on. These will be days and even years of preparation.

Prep 1 – We’ve already observed some of the songs David has written and the care of his sheep. We discover that he also carries a small harp-like instrument with him. It could have had only five strings strung tight between a Y-shaped branch. Some harps were known to have as many as ten strings.

I can imagine him using his harp many hours to calm the sheep and settle them in for the night. (Much like we use music in our cars and homes.) The harp, no doubt, provides an accompaniment of sorts to his songs.

Prep 2 – We have no milk-toast song writer here, though. David also has the job of fighting off wild dogs or other fierce animals. In fact, we learn later on that indeed, he fights with a lion. The lion attacks one of his sheep. He not only frees the sheep from the lion’s claws, but he grabs the hair of the lion and knocks it out with his rod. Another time, he encounters a bear.

        

Seems to me that he is one brave soul to attempt such things, putting his own life in danger to protect his sheep.

Prep 3 – When the sheep are occupied during a day of grazing, I imagine David getting in a little sling-shot practice. Perhaps he places stones of varying sizes on a big rock and tries to hit them with one shot at different distances. He may use the sling along with his rod and brute force on wild animals, too.

 

Besides harp preparation, fighting fierce animals, and becoming a sling shot expert, another part of David’s preparation is spiritual.

Prep 4 – We’ve already seen spiritual depth developing in the text of his songs. Now, after his anointing by Samuel, we are told that,

…from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power. I Samuel 16:13

This will become his greatest source of strength. He will use these preparations and arise to use the gifts God has given him in order to become a mighty force in the life of Israel. 

Next week – David will receive an “invite” to the palace. 

~ Joyce ~

 

David, a King?

Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

Last week, we saw how the people of Israel longed for a king, “like the other nations.” (See Saul the King) Saul was chosen but proved to be disappointing.

The Lord told Samuel the prophet,

“Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” I Samuel 16:1

Samuel meets Jesse (grandson of Boaz and Ruth) along with seven of Jesse’s sons. Of course, Samuel is eyeing these young men as potential candidates for the next king. He particularly notices Eliab, the oldest. Samuel thinks,

“Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” I Samuel 16:6

But the Lord says,

“Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” I Samuel 16:7

               

Thoughts of Saul no doubt enter Samuel’s mind. 

Eliab, the oldest son, doesn’t pass the test. (But don’t forget Eliab’s name. We will encounter him again much later.)

Jesse parades son number two, Abinadab in front of Samuel. He shakes his head.

“The Lord has not chosen this one either.” I Samuel 16:8

Samuel checks out son three, Shammah. Then son four, five, six, and seven, but it is still a no go. So Samuel asks if there are other sons.

“There is still the youngest, but he is tending sheep.” I Samuel 16:11

In other words, “Just David.” Samuel says they won’t sit down until he is brought in. Now this is one of those times when, while the story moves right on in the next verse, we have to remember that a good bit of time passes while someone runs out to the field, finds David, and sends him running back a considerable distance.

When David finally arrives, he is described as ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features. In Hebrew, this can also mean”goodly” features, that is, quality as well as moral goodness.

Now maybe he was “ruddy” all the time, but he sure would be reddish after that big run! The most important thing about this whole scene is that the Lord speaks to Samuel’s spirit and says,

“Rise and anoint him; he is the one.” So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power. I Samuel 16:12-13

What a high point this must have been in David’s life. An indelible memory to call up from time to time.

I think about my own call to profess my faith as an eight-year-old. Or the moment in my bedroom after my freshman year in college when the Lord revealed Himself in a powerful way to me, or the many times He spoke to me in sermons, Scripture, through others, or during prayer. Or the moment that became the summit of God’s call to write.

Ponder some times when you have felt the “power of the Lord.”

~ Joyce ~

 

 

 

 

 

Saul the King

Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

We have been following young David the shepherd boy for a while with songs (or psalms) that he may have first composed on the hillside. Great things are ahead for David, but before we get to that, let’s take a look at what else was going on in Israel at the time.

Samuel was the people’s adviser and spiritual leader, serving as the last judge of Israel. He had seen them through many battles with neighboring towns and particularly with the Philistines, but now, the people wanted, no, they demanded to have a king!

Samuel’s heart was broken. He felt rejection, but the Lord said to him,

… it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. I Samuel 8:7

Samuel told the people of God’s warning of the fallacies of kingship, but they cried all the more to have a king. They wanted to be “like other nations” who had kings. Here they had God Himself as their king. Their hearts were not in the right place.

At times in our lives, we may continuously reject God’s leadership even though He strives with us. At some point, He may give us over to our selfish desires until we learn lessons from our actions.

God relented and told Samuel,

“Listen to them and give them a king.” I Samuel 8:22

Who would it be? Well, there was…

…Saul, an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites—a head taller than any of the others. I Samuel 9:2

Saul got the job! For a while things went okay. In fact, Samuel told Saul that a procession of prophets were coming.

“The Spirit of the Lord will come upon you in power, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person. I Samuel 10:6

Saul led the men in battles to protect his people as well as others. He ended up reigning for forty-two years, but little by little, we discover that though Saul may have been a head taller than the others, his heart was not as big as his head. Maybe another way of saying he was big-headed!

        

In one incident after another, Saul failed to follow the leadership of Samuel the prophet, and thus failed to follow the commands of God.

Eventually, Samuel told Saul,

“You have acted foolishly. You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. Now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart. I Samuel 13:13-14

How sad when the Lord blesses someone richly, but they take matters into their own hands instead of seeking the Lord’s will in their lives. Samuel constantly warned the people that they must turn to the Lord, but they were busy pattering after Saul who sought after his own will.

The Lord was ready to lead Samuel to anoint another person. 

Next week, quite a surprise for our young shepherd boy!

~ Joyce ~

 

What Is Man?

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

We started Psalm 8 last week, (How Majestic Is your Name), but with my wandering down memory lane, we barely got started. Let’s move forward.

David sat for his quiet time at night on the hillside. His eyes turned toward the spacious night sky. When he considered the majesty of God, he felt like a nobody.

What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? Psalm 8:4

David wondered why in the great scheme of God’s creation that He would care about a measly young shepherd boy. Still, he did feel that God cared for him. So much so that God put mankind in charge of his creation.

        

You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. Psalm 8:6-8

We are told in Genesis that we are created in the image of God. We’re not talking about external image—hair, eyes, or two legs. No, I believe God created us in the image of His nature. It is His nature to create and then care for what He has created. He gave that task to us as well.

David understood that well as a shepherd. He felt honored to be given the task. To participate, as a subordinate in God’s rule, was a gift, not a right.

You have made man a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. Psalm 8:5

How do we think these thoughts through in our day? Most of us do not tend herds, birds or fish. We can do our part in keeping our water ways clean of debris and waste materials. 

But, consider that besides animals, God also created people. He cares for us just as he does the animals, and in His image, He expects us to care for others, too. He desires that we point people to Him. In so doing, others will proclaim along with David…

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! Psalm 8:9

What is man? Or woman? We are creations of God, made in His image and given the shared task of caring for the world and everything in it including the people He puts in our paths. Who will cross your path today? Be ready with a caring heart.

~ Joyce ~  

 

 

 

 

 

How Majestic Is Your Name

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

During our Sunday morning service, we had three separate prayer thought reminders on the screen followed by a quiet times of prayer. One thought was something like, “While you pray, praise God for who He is, not just for what he has done.”

Hmm, that takes extra thought. It is so easy to fall into thanking Him for a number of things He has done, both in our personal lives and in the world, but just praising Him for who He is requires more. Adoration, we call it. It might start like this—”I love you Lord. I praise you for being…”

I couldn’t help but think once again about David, the shepherd boy of the 23rd Psalm. I imagined him sitting on the  hillside in the evening, the sheep in the fold, the night sky beckoning him to think about the creator of the starry array. He likely said,

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Psalm 8:1 

Majestic. That was the word that came to my mind during our worship service as I began my prayer of adoration.

David goes on to consider how small he is compared to the heavens above him.

When I consider the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him. Psalm 8:3-4

 

How insignificant we can feel when we take in a starry night in a wide open location. Or a great wild field. 

My mind goes back to vacation trips as a child when we went to visit Grandpa and Grandma on the farm in Missouri each summer. I realize it wasn’t Disneyland, but I loved those trips—shucking the dried corn to feed the chickens, playing with the kittens when they they came out from under the porch, and taking rides on Grandpa’s tractor. Those were real treats for this city girl.

One day, I would go over to the fence and sing to the cows. They stopped and looked at me. I had an audience! So I sang and sang to them and they stared right back. I smiled with delight.

Sometime during the stay I would walk out to the field and just stand and look at the wheat as it blew in the wind like golden waves. Everything felt spacious and earthy. I could sense God’s presence. It was one a few times in my life when I snapped an imaginary camera in my mind to capture and hold on to a particular moment.

Well, look at me. I didn’t even get to verse 4 and I’ve used up all my self-appointed word count. We’ll get back to David’s hillside wondering next week. Just know that he begins and ends this lovely Psalm with…

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! Psalm 8:9   

~ Joyce ~

 

Walking on Water

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Several months ago, we talked about the feeding of the 5,000. Let’s look at the wild adventure of that evening and on into the night.

The day had been long and exhausting. Jesus taught and healed many. How many? Well, out of 5,000, you can only imagine. Then came the great miracle of blessing the five loaves and two fish with the disciples organizing and helping feed the crowd.

Jesus tells the disciples to push out in the boat and meet him on the other side. He opts to walk up a nearby mountain. For what?

After he dismissed them, he went up on the mountainside by himself to pray. Matthew 14:23

Many times in Scripture we see Jesus going off alone (a rare delight) to pray. I always think, if Jesus had the need for prayer, most assuredly I do too.

        

While He’s refueling himself, the boatload of disciples are a good ways from shore. The wind begins to blow across the water and soon, it is so strong the waves beat against the boat. The howl of the wind, the rocking of the boat, and the slaps of water in their faces cause great alarm for these twelve sailors.

Sometime between 3:00 and 6:00 A.M., the fourth watch, one of them suddenly points out toward the water and shouts, “Look!” They see a figure coming toward them and it’s on top of the water. 

“It’s a ghost!” one of them cried out in fear. Matthew 14:26

Jesus, who is walking toward them—yes, walking ON the water—yells out to them over the wind and waves.

“Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Matthew 14:27

Impetuous Peter jumps up and calls out.

“Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” Jesus said.

Peter does three positive things. He gets out of the boat in faith, walks on the water, and keeps his eyes on Jesus. However, things go downhill when he takes his eyes off Jesus.

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Matthew 14:30

Jesus rebukes Peter for having little faith and doubting.

In some ways, it seems that he actually demonstrated amazing faith, but Peter still has much to learn about trust. Jesus grabs his arm; they get in the boat, and the winds die down. The disciples fall before Him in worship. They say,

“Truly you are the Son of God!” Matthew 14:33b

Did they not already know that after their incredible journeys with Him? After the day they had just spent with Him? 

But their eyes had never been blind. Their limbs not withered. While they absorbed the teachings, they weren’t in fearful places. But this time they experienced fear themselves. It was personal. Greater fearful times were ahead. This was training ground for learning to trust more and more.

Lord, help us keep our eyes fixed on you. Build our trust in the storms-of-life training ground.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

The Trinity

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

How is Jesus both human and divine? How can God be three in one?

These and other mysteries can leave us befuddled. Let’s just work on the three-in-one today. The trinity, we call it.

We can think of a triangle. Imagine the top point being labeled God the Father; a bottom point being God the Son, and the other bottom point the Holy Spirit—three points of one triangle.

I like this image with the unending circle tying them all together.

Or I’ve heard some explain that I am a person. I am the wife of my husband. At the same time, I’m the daughter of my mother and the mother of my daughter. So I’m a wife, a daughter, and a mother—three roles, but one person.

Or a favorite example I use with children is holding up an egg. I say, “An egg is one object. Yet, it is made up of three parts. You have the shell that protects and holds it all together.” Then I crack it open into a glass.

“Inside you see the bright yellow yoke and the clear, rather transparent white.” I compare Jesus the Son to the the very visible yoke and the Holy Spirit to the white—hard to see, but thick to feel—part of the egg. Three, and yet, one egg.

Our earthly examples can approach the idea of different roles or manifestations of the whole, but let’s face it, the earthly can’t begin to fully declare the glory and holiness of our Almighty God.

So let’s turn to Scripture to see an amazing scene of all three, in one setting.

John the Baptist is down by the Jordan River where he has been preaching repentance and “preparing the way” for the coming Messiah. Jesus, himself, comes into the water for baptism. John protests and declares,

“I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Matthew 3:14

Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. Matthew 3:15

What happens next is a glorious moment of the Three-in-One all in one scene.

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:16-17

What a powerful way for Jesus to begin his ministry with the assurance of the Spirit and the encouragement of the Father. Three in one.

What a blessing when we have a sense of the Father’s love and approval, encouraging us on, with the movement of the Holy Spirit because of our faith and trust in Jesus our Savior. May you trust Him with your day.

~ Joyce ~

When Did Jesus Know?

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

I’ve got Vacation Bible School (VBS) on my mind all this week. As I’ve prepared to teach about twenty 6th graders, I’ve come to answer this question for the first time—when did Jesus know He was the Son of God?

Every Christmas we celebrate His birth. We remember Mary’s story, Joseph’s story, the angel’s announcement, and the joy of the shepherds when they arrive at the stable to find things just as the angels said. Luke tells us that…

Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19

Sure enough, God’s Son was born. But when did Jesus know He was the Son of God? A baby cannot reason that out. At age one or two, He might have been fascinated with the wise men, but knowing He was the Promised One? Even a four or five-year-old would have trouble with that concept.

When Jesus was in his yeshiva school, He would have studied the Torah. He likely studied some of the prophecies as well, but could he figure out that He was the fulfillment of these prophecies?  

Fast forward to the next time we see Jesus. He is on His way to Jerusalem with Mary and Joseph plus most of the neighbors from their Nazareth village. They’re headed to the Feast of the Passover. 

Now, we are not told this, but if Mary has yet to tell Jesus about all the miracles of His birth, I think it’s highly probable that she might have decided it was high time she told Him. After all, He is now twelve years old. (Just the age of my 6th graders!)

After their week of festivities and celebration, the families gather their belongings and head back home. You know the story—one day out, Mary and Joseph have the parental dialogue. “I thought he was with you.” “Well, I thought he was with you.” And it’s back to Jerusalem they go for day two!

Meanwhile, where do we find Jesus? At the Temple, speaking with the religious leaders. We’re talking teachers of the law, scribes, rabbis, Pharisees. You know, the most learned of the learned. What would it take for them to even bother with a twelve-year-old? Smart questions. Deep answers. That’s what.

Everyone who heard him was amazed at his answers. Luke 2:47

Rightly so. 

Once his parents finally find him on the third day, they get past their fear that he’s bleeding in a ditch. Then the other emotion takes hold.

“Son, why have you treated us like this?” Luke 2:48

Here it comes. Jesus said,

“Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house? Luke 2:49

He knows.

It’s only the beginning. He has much to learn, but He obediently goes home with his parents. And once again,

…his mother treasured all these things in her heart. Luke 2:51

That was day one of VBS.

If you read this by 9:00 AM on Thursday, it will be day four. I will be giving the plan of salvation. Please pray for the right words and the Spirit to move in these 6th graders’ hearts.

        

~ Joyce ~