David, on the Run!

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

When someone throws a spear at you while you’re quietly playing the harp for him, you know it’s time to run. (See, Watch Out, David!)

Saul decides to send men to David’s house to watch and then kill him the next morning. Saul’s daughter, Michal, who is also David’s wife, finds out about the plan. She warns David,

“If you don’t run for your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed.” I Samuel 19:11

Micah lets David down through the window and off he goes to begin a lengthy time of escape.

David runs to Samuel, the prophet, who first anointed him to be the next king, but David is far away from being king. When Saul discovers David’s whereabouts, he sends men to pursue him.

David finds Jonathan, Saul’s son. They have become friends, but Jonathan can’t believe his father would be so cruel as to pursue David. Later, when Saul throws a spear at Jonathan, he realizes his father has gone mad. He continues to pledge friendship to David.

David escapes to a priest at Nod and receives bread and the spear that belonged to Goliath. He flees to Gath, but becomes suspect of the the king there, so off to the cave of Adullam. David’s prayer is found in Psalm 142 where he pleads with God for help.

“I cry to you Lord; you are my refuge.” Psalm 142:5

He is able to gather a motley crew of men around him.

All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader, about four hundred men. I Samuel 22:2

The prophet Gad tells David to go back to Judah, so David flees to the forest of Hereth.

Meanwhile, Saul discovers that David has been to the priest at Nod and sends for the priest. All eighty-five priests come and are chastised for rebelling against Saul. They defend David which sends Saul into a tailspin.  He demands that his men kill all the priests. When they refuse, Saul commands Doeg the Edomite to do the dirty work plus kill the whole town of Nod.

One son of a priest escapes and tells David what has happened. David promises protection. Meanwhile, he discovers that the Philistines are about to overtake the town of Keilah. He inquires of the Lord if he should go into battle for them and receives word to go.

As you can see, David is on the run, but he continues to show signs of leadership. He is resourceful and discerning; he attracts an army of men, continues to defend his people, and seeks God’s strength and purpose in his life.

There’s more running to do, but let’s think about our own running. Maybe not from an enemy, but we often do a lot of running here and there, accomplishing tasks, pleasing people, keeping schedules, tending to messes and on and on.

What lessons can we learn as we go? Lessons of resourcefulness and discernment? Opportunities to seek God’s guidance and further purposes in our lives?

Grow us, Lord—even when we’re on the run.

~ Joyce ~

Watch Out, David!

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

After David’s great feat with Goliath, King Saul kept David with him at the palace. He continued to play the harp for Saul. Also—

Whatever Saul sent him to do, David did it so successfully that Saul gave him a high rank in the army. This pleased all the people and Saul’s officers as well. I Samuel 18:5

All is well, BUT, when the soldiers return from battle, women come from all the towns of Israel with their tambourines and flutes.

As they danced, they sang: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” I Samuel 18:7

This little song smacks Saul right between the eyes. Jealousy whirls up in his red face.

“What more can he get but the kingdom?” he thought. And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David.

Jealousy gone unchecked spirals down. It leads to anger and anger to rage. The next day, David is playing his harp for Saul.

Saul had a spear in his hand and he hurled it, saying to himself, “I’ll pin David to the wall.” But David eluded him twice. I Samuel 18:10-11

        

Then we read of another negative emotion.

Saul was afraid of David because the Lord was with David but had left Saul. I Samuel 18:12

So Saul figures, okay, I’ll just send him to fight more Philistines. Maybe they’ll finally get him.

When that doesn’t work he tells his attendants and his son Jonathan to kill him. Bad idea for Saul. He doesn’t seem to realize that Jonathan and David have become good friends. In fact, Jonathan has pledged his loyalty to David and made a covenant with him, realizing that David should be the next king rather than himself, the son.

David finds out about the command to have him killed and thus begins the big chase which we will look at next week.

This gives a perfect lesson in how damaging negative emotions can be. For Saul, it started with jealousy. The double whammy? It’s coupled with fear. Fear of losing his kingship. So fear and jealousy easily lead to anger, to rage, and to attempted murder.

In Galatians, before Paul gets to the characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit, he gives a whole litany of negative emotions and acts.

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft: hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21  

“Worry” isn’t in this list, but I think it is one of my greatest failings. I like the quote I read this week by Corrie Ten Boom—

“Worry doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”

Jealousy and fear could fit in place of “worry” in this quote. Let us be diligent not to deplete our strength!

~ Joyce ~

Slaying Our Giants

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 Seeking His Heart

At last we see that…

David  triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him. I Samuel 17:50

We’re kind of okay with that, knowing the constant threat on the people of Israel, but it’s the next verse that we might find disturbing.

David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the scabbard. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword. I Samuel 17:51

Now what do we do with that? This has always been a bit troubling to me. I found a new book by Louie Giglio to be helpful. In “Goliath Must Fall,” Giglio relates a story from his youth when he helped with a Christian camp in the summers. A constant problem plagued the camp leaders—poisonous snakes.

       

Every afternoon, several of the helpers went searching for the snakes. They used baseball bats to beat them to death! But that wasn’t the end of the job because, though the snake was dead, its head still had the poisonous venom in it. If people accidentally stepped on the head, they could still be affected by the venom.

How did they protect the campers from stepping on the heads? They had to bury them.

Giglio likens this to David’s dilemma. It wasn’t enough to kill the giant with the sling. At that great distance, the Philistine army might think their hero had just been wounded and come storming to take over David and the Israelite army. When the shepherd boy pulled out the sword, slashed it down on Goliath’s neck, and pulled up the head, he demonstrated dramatically that this giant was indeed dead.

Giglio suggests that we all have giants that plague us. It may not be a trash-talking foe. It may not be the temptation to get drunk or experiment with drugs or have an affair. Oh no, Satan can be far more cunning and deceptive than that. We may wrestle with the “lesser” giants; slight gossiping, demanding to have our way about things or always giving in, arrogance or feeling inadequate.

Satan delights with infiltrating our hearts and messing with our minds. He delights when we spend hours on our cell phones but have no time for prayer and devotions. He smiles when we’re so busy with life that we haven’t thought about witnessing to anyone in months or years. He triumphs when jealousy or bitterness leads to anger and anger leads to rage.

What is the giant in your life? Are you willing to face it? What will it take to bring it down? What will it take to completely overcome? 

I think of one of my life verses—

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

~ Joyce ~

 

 

The Power of the Sling

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

At last, David is down on the plain with his staff in hand along with five smooth stones in his pouch and a sling shot in his other hand, facing the giant man, Goliath. (See Is David Up for the Task?)

Meanwhile, the Philistine with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David. He looked David over and saw that he was only a boy, ruddy and handsome, and he despised him.

Goliath sees that this challenger only has a staff. No armor, no sword.

He said to David, “Am I a dog that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!”

Does David back down? Is he intimidated by the course talk of the giant? Absolutely not! Remember, David has been prepared for this day in so many ways. His faith is beyond strong. Listen to him bravely declaring that faith.

“You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.”

Then David lays out for Goliath what is about to happen. 

“This day the Lord will hand you over to me and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head.”

Oops, we kind of leave out that part in the children’s version. This isn’t just “trash talk.” David firmly believes that God will have the victory.

“Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by spear or sword that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

         

Goliath moves forward while David runs forward, grabbing one of his stones and flinging it with the sling. With all Goliath’s battle gear, there’s only one small spot for David to aim—Goliath’s forehead.

The stone sank into his forehead and he fell face down on the ground. I Samuel 17:41-49

Mission accomplished and with only one stone!

I found an interesting piece of history in the book of Judges. At one time, the Benjamites were about to be engaged in a battle. They mobilized 26,000 swordsmen from one area and 700 from another. From this huge group,

700 were left-handed, each of whom could sling a stone at a hair and not miss. Judges 20:16

I bet that’s a new one for you! Why bring that up? Remember, David was from the tribe of Benjamin. It looks as though sling shooting was a distinguishing skill in the lineage of the Benjamites. (I don’t know if he was left handed though.)

It just reminds me that God is in all the details of preparation. Look for Him in the details of your life.

~ Joyce ~

Is David Up for the Task?

Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

David catches up to his brothers and hears the threats of the giant, Goliath. (See What’s Next for David?)

David says,

“What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” I Samuel 17:26

One of the soldiers hears David’s comments about Goliath. Apparently the soldier thinks that David is ready to challenge Goliath because he reports the discussion to Saul. Saul tells him to bring the challenger in.

When Saul sees that it is David, he protests that he is just a boy and this giant has been a fighting man from his youth. Here is the place where we find out about the details of the lion and bear story. David tells of striking the beasts to rescue a sheep, then grabbing them by the hair, striking them again and killing them. He concludes his account by telling Saul,

“…this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” I Samuel 17:36-37

Do you see the value of the preparation God gave David? Do you hear who he believes in and trusts explicitly? Saul doesn’t have that kind of mindset. Since no one else has offered, and these are desperate times, Saul agrees to let him try.

You know the story—how Saul dresses David in his coat of armor, helmet, sword, the whole nine yards. Never mind that David is maybe five foot seven, while Saul is a head taller than anyone else.

     

David tries to walk around with all this soldier stuff on his back and proclaims that this is not for him. He must stick with what he knows best—sling shooting!

David takes off all of the soldier garb.

Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag, and with his sling in his hand approached the Philistine. I Samuel 17:40

As I picture this scene, just the mere differences in size compounds the drama. I think of our pastor who stands 6 foot 5 inches while our minister of music is about 5′ 5″. They generally avoid standing next to each other at the pulpit. Being pitted against someone 9 feet tall is hard to imagine.

Differences come in many packages. Differences in size, yes, but also differences in opinions, differences in ideals, or ways of doing things; differences in temperaments. We all have our differences to overcome. Will David meet the challenge of size, experience, and equipment? Perhaps the greater question—on whom is each depending? Self or God?

As we face the giants in our lives, may we find strength in God to carry us through.

~ Joyce ~

What’s Next for David?

Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

David pleased King Saul with the soothing sounds of his harp. (See Preparation Put to Use) David made frequent trips to the palace to ease Saul’s tormented mind.

Later, Saul and his soldiers have moved about fifteen miles west near the Philistine border. Israel has had constant contentions with the Philistines and they certainly have big time trouble brewing now. The Philistines are on one hill and the Israelites on another hill with a wide valley between them.

Each morning, both sides come out ready to do battle, when a nine foot man named Goliath struts out with his bronze helmet and coat of bronze scale armor weighing 5,000 shekels (about 125 pounds.) Picture this massive man with bronze greaves on his legs, a bronze javelin slung on his back, and a spear. The iron point of his spear alone weighs 15 pounds.

He shouts to the ranks of Israel,

“Why do you come out and line up for battle? Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” I Samuel 17:8-9

Saul and his men are “dismayed and terrified.” Everyday they listen to the pompous rhetoric from this giant of a man, but no one is brave enough to challenge him.

Now among the soldiers are David’s three oldest brothers. Remember them? Eliab, Abinadab, and Shammah. Meanwhile, David still attends his father’s sheep. From time to time, Jesse sends David to the battle lines to take food for his brothers and bring back word on how things are going.

During one of these visits, David leaves the food with the keeper of supplies and runs over to where the men have lined up for battle. Just then, Goliath steps forward as he has done for forty days and shouts his usual defiance. The soldiers suddenly retreat because they are all afraid of Goliath.

David is appalled. He asks,

“Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” I Samuel 17:26

Do you remember that I told you to watch later for oldest brother, Eliab, to appear again? Well, here he is. He’s been watching David talking to the soldiers and nosing around. Eliab “burns with anger” at David.

“Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the desert? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.” I Samuel 17:28

Can’t you hear the jealousy, bitterness, even hatred in Eliab’s words? Likewise, can’t you see the roll of David’s eyes and an accented huff as he responds?

“Now what have I done? Can’t I even speak?” I Samuel 17:29

Next week, we’ll see that David is not to be deterred by a jealous brother’s comments nor the haughty words of a Philistine giant.

~ Joyce ~

 

God at Work

Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

I had planned to move on with David, but God has done so many things in this past couple of weeks, I feel I must share His amazing movements in our lives.

About a month ago, the only remaining activity I could do with my mother was to push her in her wheelchair out in the garden area. We looked at the trees, the fountain, the flowers, and occasional birds that would flit by. About half way around I would stop, sit down and talk a bit or sing a hymn or two.

         

One day, when she hardly said more than two words, I sang “In the Garden.” When I started into the chorus, she mouthed the words, “walks with me, talks with me.” How precious to me. It was one of the hymns she had been playing in May on the piano. Thank you, Lord.

Each week she grew less responsive. A week ago Monday, I could hardly get her awake in her wheelchair. Her head just hung down. We walked in the garden and she gave only minimum response. The workers noticed her energy was diminishing.

On Tuesday, we learned of the death of my husband’s oldest brother and made hasty plans to travel to Atlanta. 

 Our son and daughter were able to go as well. It had been a long time since we were back to just the four of us. We were able to begin planning Mother’s memorial service if she should pass soon. God’s perfect timing.

Do you see how He was providing and weaving His way among us? On the way back home, the nurse called to report Mother couldn’t sit up.

You know about our last moments from last week’s blog. I truly believe she was waiting for me. Within fifteen minutes of being with her, she passed. Thank you, Lord for intervening and giving me those last moments to wipe one tear from her eye.

As we made plans for the funeral, everything fell into place. When I looked through her Bible to find favorite Scripture verses, I discovered a note from a former class member who talked about how helpful her teaching had been.

Remembering all the fruitful, happy years of her life helped diminish the months of fretting, the weeks of heartbreak. Thank you, Lord. 

The day of the funeral, the minister mentioned that he would use a few verses at the burial site. I hadn’t specified but was thinking about Psalm 23 since I had been blogging verse by verse several weeks ago and had read some of those to Mother. But I hated to say it at the last minute to upset what he had prepared. Wouldn’t you know? He read the 23rd Psalm!

All the way to the end, I saw the hand of God moving and ministering to us.

Though I’m prone to being emotional, I actually did pretty good through all of this. Then this morning (Sunday) in our church service, the pianist and flute player played the most beautiful arrangement of “In the Garden.” Can you believe they chose this old hymn on this particular day? But, as I listened to the beautiful music, the Lord gave me one last remembrance of our time in the garden and a reminder of how “He walks with me and He talks with me” weaving His spirit through my life.

May you watch for Him at work in your life as well.

~Joyce ~

 

Norma Watkins, My Mother

Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

We will pause on our journey with David and playing on his harp to remember Norma Watkins, my mother, playing on her piano.

You have walked with me over these past months as I agonized over decisions and effects of the aging process. Mother began rapidly declining the past couple of weeks. Last Saturday I went to see her for the last time. Her breathing was labored. The nurse encouraged me to keep talking to her. “Hearing is the last thing to go,” she said. I talked, read Scripture to her, and sang the old hymns she had played for years. Somewhere in those moments she quietly slipped out into eternity.

She had a wonderful life and packed a lot into those 96 years. Yesterday, I wrote my memories to be read at her funeral this Saturday. I always thought of her as an active, fun-loving person, serving her family, her friends and her Lord. She played the piano at many of the churches she joined and they were many, for we moved often through the years due to Dad’s work. She taught piano lessons as well. When she wasn’t playing piano, she sang alto in the choir along with Dad who sang bass.

She led children’s choirs and taught children’s Sunday school classes. I fondly remember her flannel graph stories. They launched me into a love for God’s Word and the many characters of Scripture. Who would have imagined that one day I would write books about them? She taught youth and later, adult classes.

Mother was the quintessential homemaker of that era, cooking delicious meals every night, keeping a spotless house, sewing, washing her clothes and hanging them out to dry. She loved and served her husband and only child. She loved having parties with friends and usually had a round of funny action games to entertain them and send them home laughing.

When two grandchildren came along, she became Mimi and loved playing with them. Her true love died twenty years ago. Those years were filled with seven great grandchildren. She sang in my senior adult choir, wrote skit and drama scripts, and taught her class of senior women up into her 80’s. From basketball in high school to tennis in her 70’s, she remained active and full of life.

In retrospect, I realized what an influence she was on my life, passing along music, teaching, writing, and caring for family. What a legacy of serving God and her family. She was instrumental in leading me to the Lord. What more could I ask?

Mother circled a verse in her Bible where Jesus said, 

“I give them eternal life and they shall never perish. No one shall snatch them away from me.” John 10:28 (TLB)

Next to it, she wrote, “What a promise!”

And so, I offer up this blog today in honor of this wonderful woman, my mother, Norma Deane Watkins. She’s basking in the glory of heaven.

~ Joyce ~ a grateful daughter

Preparation Put to Use

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  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 ~