Attitudes – Praise

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

We think of negative attitudes and positive attitudes. We understand the attitude of bitterness or envy, the attitude of kindness or encouragement. But praise? Is that an attitude?

I believe it certainly is, particularly when we feel praise and speak our praise to God. It’s an attitude that pleases God and resonates a one-of-a-kind joy with in us as well.

I was preparing to teach this past week on that glorious day when King David completed the plans for building the first Temple. David stood before the crowd of leaders, his son by his side. He spoke words of encouragement and direction to Solomon and handed over the plans. 

He said to his son,

“Acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, [Heart and mind—that means serve with all that is within you.] for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. [Yikes, even the motive in the heart!] If you seek him, he will be found by you.” I Chron. 28:9

Israel had accumulated much gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood and valuable stones during David’s reign. David declared he would provide from his great store houses of resources for the new Temple. Not only that, he declared he would give tons (literally) of gold and silver from his personal treasures.

“Now who is willing to consecrate himself today to the Lord?” I Chron. 29:5 

The leaders, commanders, and officials were so inspired that they also promised huge amounts too—willingly. David was so overwhelmed with joy that he burst forth with praise and thanksgiving to God, much like the many psalms he had written through the years.

Then David told the leaders to praise God as well. They lifted up their voices with enthusiasm and by the end, they fell down on their knees and finally lay prostrate, flat out, face down.

You may have experienced such demonstrative praise at a time in your past or at least felt emotionally moved. But what about your regular old Tuesdays or Wednesdays or the string of monotonous days we have had for a year? Has your enthusiasm for praise waned to point zero?

I challenge you to find a moment this week when you can be totally alone. Talk out loud to the Lord. Praise Him for His wonderful creation, the heavens, the stars and planets beyond our knowing, the sun to warm us, the beautiful blooming trees, the Forsythia spreading their yellow arms out to welcoming in the spring. Sing your favorite hymn or praise song. Sing it loud! Pour forth all the thanksgiving you can muster.

Fall to your knees, thank Him for the price He paid for you on Calvary, the pain and agony of taking on your sin. Then praise God for raising His Son from the dead, reminding us that we too will overcome the grave to join Him in paradise. Amen and amen. The Lord is risen indeed!

~ Joyce ~

Matthew – Boring Lineages

    Eyes to See

   Searching His Word, Seeking His Heart

Okay, my friends, I’m going to share some behind-the-scenes secrets of “Eyes to See”, soon-to-be published book about Matthew.

I wanted us to see Matthew as the real person he was, to get to know him up close. The problem was, we have very little written in the Scriptures specifically about him, or for that matter, most of the other disciples as well.

I wanted to give background in the first part of the book leading up to the big scene where Jesus approaches Matthew’s tax booth and says,

“Follow me.” Matthew 9:9

Unfortunately for me, we have nothing in Scripture about Matthew’s life before that moment.

But fortunately, in the case of Matthew, we have the Gospel written by him—the Book of Matthew.

So, I searched his writing to see if I could understand more of the man. He began his gospel with a typical Jewish tradition by giving the lineage of Jesus. Lineage was important to the Jews. Over and over throughout the Old Testament, we read of this one who was the son of that one who was the son of the next one. etc. If you saw “Schindler’s List” with Liam Neeson, you may remember how they were careful to keep names of their fellow Jews. 

Matthew’s lineage begins with Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, then down fourteen generations to David. (Remember how Jesus was often called the son of David?) From David to the exile is a another fourteen generations. After the exile, yet another fourteen generations to—

. . . Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. Matthew 1:16

Matthew wants to be sure we know that Jesus is the son of David, as prophesied, and is born with a legal Jewish father, even though Joseph is not the birth father.

All these numbers! And in very strict form. Hmm, fourteens are double sevens, the complete or perfect number. Numbers seemed to be important to Matthew.

I know all those “begats” we used to read in the King James version seemed endless. But if you were a student of the Law, these things were important.

Exactly! That’s why I believe Matthew had much study, perhaps in a yeshiva, a school for boys and young men. He seemed Jewish through and through.

In keeping with our previous study of Jesus where he incorporated women into his teachings, parables, and healings, Matthew seems to have captured this concept of including women even in the lineage. Only Matthew records: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and of course Mary. Some of these women were even outside the Jewish camp. Matthew, like his master, Jesus, lifted up these women from a place of shame or lowliness to a place of honor.

What else can we discover about Matthew in his writings? Tune in next week.

~ Joyce ~ 

 

 

David Honors a Second Time

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Do you remember how David waved a piece of Saul’s robe in the air showing how close he had come without killing Saul? Saul became milk toast. 

That didn’t stop him from continue pursuing David. David found out about it and decided to try again.

This time, David and a friend went sneaking into Saul’s camp by night, 

and there was Saul, lying asleep inside the camp with his spear stuck in the ground near his head. I Samuel 26:7

David’s friend offered to plunge the spear into Saul, but David would have none of it. He talked, as before, of not laying a hand on God’s anointed one. Instead, he ordered his friend to bring Saul’s spear and his water jug.

The next morning, David called out to Saul’s guard, Abner, and chastised him.

“… you and your men deserve to die, because you did not guard your master, the Lord’s anointed. Look around you. Where are the king’s spear and water jug that were near his head? I Samuel 26:16

Saul recognized David’s voice and called in a voice dripping with sugar,

“Is that your voice David my son?” I Samuel 26:17

David questioned Saul again as to why he is pursuing him when he has done nothing to deserve this treatment. Saul promised not to do it again, but David didn’t buy it.

As I Samuel closes, Saul is in a fierce battle with the Philistines. They have killed his sons and are about to capture Saul as well. He commands his armor bearer to take his sword and kill him rather than be done in by the enemy. The armor bearer refuses, so Saul takes his own life.

We can choose many ways to find application to our lives from these tragic events. Let’s focus on our callings from God.

It was very clear and memorable to David that the Lord had anointed him to be the next king. He knew that anointing had come to Saul as well. Even though Saul did not carry it out well, the anointing was to be honored in David’s mind.

How has the Lord anointed you? Likely you are not called to be a king or queen or even a president or ambassador, but God does place callings on all our lives and expects obedience.

I felt strongly His call to write 20 years ago. It has taken me a long time to get books to the printing stage. Others seem so adept at marketing and spitting out books every year.

At times, I feel so inadequate. Weeks go by or, in this year, months go by and I don’t get anything written on the next book.  Then, I come back to the call, even the anointing I felt. Like David, I must honor that calling.

What is your calling? Something you have sensed that He has called you to do. May we honor that calling in this new year.

~ Joyce ~

Son of David

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Speaking of David… Speaking of the Son ( capital “S”) of David…  and speaking of lineage… let’s veer off a bit and make some connections as we move into these last two Thursdays before Christmas.

Matthew starts his gospel with these words:

A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham: Matthew 1:1

The Old Testament is full of prophecy of the coming Son of David.

Matthew writes primarily to the Jews when he relates the Gospel story. Being from the line of David is important and very Jewish. So, he gives the lineage of Jesus first pop out of the bag at the beginning of chapter 1, from Abraham to David to the Babylonian exile, right down to Joseph, who he makes clear is only the “husband of Mary.” The angel reminds Joseph that he is not the father; Mary conceives from the Holy Spirit.

Matthew is the only one to tell us about Joseph’s part in that first Christmas. In Joseph’s dream, the angel tells him,

            

“Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 1:20

When Jesus becomes a man, He teaches and heals. People have come to believe that He is the Anointed One, the Messiah. They often use another popular title for Him. The “s” becomes a capital—”Son of David.”

Two blind men called out to him, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” Jesus said, “Do you believe that I’m able to do this?” “Yes, Lord,” they replied. He touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith it will be done to you,” and their sight was restored. Matthew 9:27-30

Another example, a Canaanite woman comes, begging him to heal her daughter of demon possession.

“Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me!” she said. Matthew 15:21

During Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday), the people shout,

“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Matthew 21:9 

Even the Pharisees get in on the title.

Jesus asked them, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” The son of David,” they replied. Matthew 22:41-42

Jesus can’t see the lower case “s”, but he can hear it in their voices. Ho-hum, son of David, (and with their noses in the air) of the Jewish line of course.

The common people have a greater understanding than these austere teachers of the law.

Jesus confronts the Pharisaic thinking because they see Him only as a son of David and not the promised Messiah, not the Lord, not the Son of God.

Let’s give Him due praise in our preparations and festivities this week as we begin to honor this holy Son of David and His coming into our world.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

 

Honor in the Struggle

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Before Thanksgiving, we saw that David had cut off a piece of Saul’s robe when Saul came into the cave where David and his men were hiding. Saul had come to “relieve” himself. (See God’s Provisions for David)

David’s men are puzzled as to why David didn’t just kill Saul while he had the opportunity and more puzzled that his reason is because Saul is “the Lord’s anointed.”

David knows the sacredness of being anointed by the Lord. He remembers well when Samuel came to anoint him. Even though Saul is unfairly mistreating him, he still honors the position of the king.

David has an idea.

Saul is still within shouting distance, so David calls out to him and bows down. He says,

“My Lord the king! Why do you listen when men say, ‘David is bent on harming you’? This day you have seen with your own eyes how the Lord delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the Lord’s anointed.’ ” I Samuel 24:9-10

David displays the piece of Saul’s robe in the air so Saul can see how close he was to David and yet David did not kill him. David continues to plead his innocence.

“Now understand and recognize that I am not guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. I Samuel 24:11-12

         

Saul becomes milk toast. He realizes that David has proven to be the better man. While weeping, Saul declares,

“You are more righteous than I. You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly.” I Samuel 24:17

Saul goes so far as to admit—

“I know that you will surely be king and the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands.”  I Samuel 24:20

Saul acknowledges David’s act of grace. That, my friends, is honor on David’s part. David was yet to become king, but he knew God’s hand in anointing him. He believed he must honor the position even though the king behaved badly.

A hard lesson for David and for us. I remember some of those days when mother’s dementia took hold and she angrily said hurtful things to me. Still, she was my mother and I knew I must honor her, so I continued to visit and talk to her, bring her interesting things to do, and encourage her. “Honor your father and mother.”

Toward the end, I was talking to her about different family members. She could not even call my name, but she touched my hand and said, “But this one is the special one.” Thank you, Lord for that precious tender moment.

Perhaps you have a trying relationship right now. You know that you need to honor that parent, that husband or wife, that child or friend in your life, but you’re so angry at them. Perhaps you need to try a different angle. Wave a cloth of truce. Find a way to honor “in spite of.” May the Lord bless your effort.

~ Joyce ~

God’s Provisions for David

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

David is still moving from one hiding place to another. (See David, on the Run) Such a task to keep 400 men together, yet hidden.

All the while, both Israelite tribes and non-Israelites wished to gain favor with King Saul and were ready to tell of David’s whereabouts.

At one point, both Saul and David were circling the same mountain in the Desert of Maon.

Saul was going along one side of the mountain, and David and his men were on the other side, hurrying to get away from Saul. As Saul and his forces were closing in on David and his men to capture them, a messenger came to Saul, saying, “Come quickly! The Philistines are raiding the land.” I Samuel 23:26-27

So Saul stopped his pursuit of David  and went off to to face the Philistines. What an example of God’s provision. Just in time—a monumental distraction!

After the Philistine interruption had passed, Saul heard that David had moved to the desert of En Gedi, so Saul gathered 3ooo chosen men to tract down David. Maybe Saul didn’t know that David only had about 400 men or maybe he did know and was determined to totally wipe him out. 

Along the way, Saul passed several caves. Evidently, he pulled away from his men to do what we all have to do through the day.

            

Saul went in to relieve himself. I Samuel 23:3

(Even kings have to do this.) In God’s divine providence, Saul chose the very cave in which David and his men were hiding. David saw that Saul had entered the cave alone.

David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. I Samuel 24:5

I am astonished that he was able to do this—unheard and unnoticed. Again, the Lord protected him.

When David showed the piece of robe to his men, they couldn’t believe it. They protested, “What? You had him in the palm of your hand and you just cut off a piece of his robe?” They were ready to go after Saul, but David said no.

“Why?” we might ask. When he had this madman right there, he could have put a spear through him and ended the rat race of being chased and constantly running. After all, Saul was bent on killing him. Why wouldn’t David beat him to it?

“The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed.” I Samuel 24:6

I can just picture the men looking at one another like, “What does he mean? Why did he let him get away!”

What would you have done?

Next week we’ll pull apart the meaning of “the Lord’s anointed” and see what amazing thing David did next.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

 

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 ~

Slaying Our Giants

Searching His Word
 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 ~

 

 

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 ~

 

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 ~