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 ~

 

 

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 ~

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 ~

 

Let’s Be Friends

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

A little diversion this week. I’ve been thinking about friendships through the years. My family moved often with my dad’s job, so I had to learn to make new friends in many states. 

Fortunately, I’ve had the joy of long-time friends as well. You know, the kind who you haven’t seen in a while and when you meet again, you pick up right where you left off. Then there are those “go-to” friends when you just need someone to listen and/or give good advice.

A sweet friend refreshes the soul. Proverbs 27:9b (The Message)

All these thoughts came to me as I read Elizabeth Hoagland’s new book, LET’S BE FRIENDS… What My Sister-Friends Taught Me About Faith, Food, and Fun.

Elizabeth takes us on a girlfriend road trip, making stops at her various groups of friends. Friends from book clubs, Bible studies, friends of her children and their families to walking buddies and shopping friends. She attaches names to these groups—everything from the Ya-Ya’s to The Butter Babes. 

In shaded spaces on the page, we get to hear sage advice and life stories with direct quotes from many of these wonderful friends.

One friend had a “prodigal husband.” She tells how she was guided by this verse until they eventually came to reconciliation. 

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 (NTL)

Another friend talked about how instead of buying something for birthdays, they would do something, like educational trips, check all the ways they could take public transportation in their city, go to a fancy restaurant, etc.

Yet another liked to have discussion starters when friends gathered. For instance: What do you hope to pass on to the next generation? What is one of your favorite characteristics about God? What has someone said to encourage you lately?

You will find a plethora of fun happenings in this book as well. Elizabeth tells about Nancy, who she calls the Hugging Evangelist. “She is crazy comical. When I see her name flash across my cell phone, I start laughing before I answer. My howling causes her to howl, and we howl for a few minutes before uttering a word.”

One set of her friends celebrates each other’s birthdays. Main rule? You have to bring a funny, insulting card!

Notice the sub-title of the book: What My Sister-Friends Taught Me About Faith, Food, and Fun. You’ve seen the faith and fun, but the bonus is a delightful recipe or two at the end of each chapter.

Liz Curtis Higgs gives the Foreword of the book. Can’t get any better than that friend!

I’m thinking of using Elizabeth’s book, complete with questions and Bible verses at the end of the book, as a neighborhood Bible study of sorts to get to know my neighbors. 

Elizabeth has a blog that highlights a new book each week. Her easy-going style and descriptions keep you up to date on the latest Christian books and make you want to run out and get every book. You can find her at www.elizabethhoagland.com 

Happy reading!

  ~ Joyce ~

 

 

 

 

David, the Shepherd

   Searching His Word

     Seeking His Heart

As promised, we will explore the 23rd Psalm. It need not be read strictly at funerals, though that is appropriate, it can be a wonderful encouragement at any time. 

Looking back at many of the early psalms, they read like prayers from David to his heavenly Father, prayers of praise.

I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders. Psalm 9:1

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! Psalm 8:1

I love you, O Lord. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer. Psalm 18:1-2

Prayers of petition.

Hear, O Lord, my righteous plea: listen to my cry. Psalm 17:1

Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge. Psalm 16:1

Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my sighing. Psalm 5:1

Do you hear the intimacy, the pathos, the relationship in just these few words? Where did he learn that? I believe it was in those quiet, alone times on the hillside.

Remember, before David slew Goliath, before David was a mighty warrior, before he ran for months in hiding from crazy Saul, and before he came King of Israel, David was a shepherd boy.

He learned the skill of a sharp shooter with his sling; he learned the bravery of facing off with a lion, he learned the wisdom of protecting his flock in the grazing areas. He worked hard caring for his sheep. He knew how totally dependent they were on his leadership and care.

In the afternoon as the sheep rested and at night once he had cared for and secured them in the sheep pen, David could relax in solitude. I believe it was in these precious moments that his mind turned to the Lord. Perhaps he played tunes on his shepherd harp and made up words to sing with the tunes. I believe he talked out loud to the Lord, words that came from the heart.

At some point it hit him, the Lord is my shepherd. He cares for me like I care for my flock.

So, this time, the song wasn’t a prayer to God, it was song about God.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want [or in need.] He makes me lie down in green pastures. Psalm 23:1-2

I think that’s why the Lord carried me away to those ancient green pastures last week. (Strength from the Pasture) He wanted me to have a quiet time in the pasture to remember that He is perfectly capable of taking care of all my needs. “Rest in me,” He says. “You don’t have to do it alone.”

Or as David learned to pray, “You are my refuge and strength, O Lord.”

I hope you will have some “pasture time” this week so that He might restore your soul.

~ Joyce ~

Strength from the Pasture

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Do you have those days when you are bone tired? You feel exhausted. The to-do list just keeps getting longer.

In retrospect, I look back on my life and it seems that’s the way it has been for as long as I can remember. If I can just get through this unit of study, then I can breathe again. If we can just get through the terrible twos… Once this program is over… As soon as this event is past… There always seems to be that “next thing” looming ahead.

(I’ve been in the process of preparing to move my mother to her new memory care home this past Monday. It has been exhausting, physically and emotionally.)

Then there are those ongoing tasks with extras added, and you come home and collapse under the weight of it all. That’s where I was last week. Surely I’m not the only one who goes through these phases.

I sat down in my recliner, pushed back and was too tired even to cry.

I thought about all those powerful words Sarah Young pours over me every morning in her daily devotional book, “Jesus Calling.” I pondered the encouraging words I write to you week by week and think, “Where is your strength, Joyce?”

About that time, the Lord brought to my mind a beautiful pastoral setting. I was on a grassy hill, sitting beside David, looking out at grazing sheep. David reminded me that, The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. I have no need to be stressed and filled with anxiety. I have no need to want for anything. 

In my imagining, I looked over to see a stream of water running steadily over a rocky ravine, gurgling gently as it flowed. The sheep settled in, one by one, for their afternoon naps, completely given over to the care of their shepherd. David whispered to me, “The Lord is my shepherd.” 

I closed my eyes in my recliner and smiled. Yes, He’s my good shepherd, too.

I guess you know that next week, we’ll have a look at Psalm 23.

Sweet grazing my friends.

~ Joyce ~

A Hefty Task

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Last week we thought about the huge task Jesus gave his disciples to Go out Two by Two. They were to carry the message from Jesus, about Jesus—”The kingdom of heaven is near.”

Jesus empowered them to heal just as he had. They were to take virtually nothing with them. In other words, depend on the Lord to guide.

If we could look into their minds, I wonder what they were thinking. Maybe (selfishly or practically) they wondered, but where do we stay? What do we eat? Perhaps that’s why he said,

Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave… If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. Matthew 10:11, 14

He’s telling them, the Lord will provide. But if there is no receptivity, move on to the next town.

They are warned,

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Matthew 10:16

This will not be a picnic. It could be dangerous. Evidently they are going to places where the word had not been planted. (It brings to mind trying to preach at liberal college campuses.) Shrewd, but innocent, a hefty task.

Once again, we see how these followers are going to have to learn dependence on the Lord to have wisdom and discernment. It means leaning rather than worrying. It means putting concerns at the feet of the Master instead of trying to bundle them up in your arms dragging them around with that heavy load.

We all have our heavy loads at times. Huffing and puffing under the weight of it. Worrying about it when we go to bed. Thinking about it again when we wake up. Lugging it around through the day.

On a personal note, we have decided to move my 95 year-old mother to different memory facility. I have to confess that I’m still carrying that load of worry. Will she adjust? Will the helpers treat her with love and respect? Did we make the right decision?

I must follow Paul’s advice to—

…be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is… Romans 12:2

It is a struggle to pray for wisdom and discernment, follow through, then test and approve his will. Hefty tasks indeed.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

 

 

Go Out Two by Two

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Have you ever thought about how the twelve disciples might have reacted when Jesus said he was sending them out two by two? Evidently Jesus decided the time had come for his men to put into practice what they had learned from him.

They had watched Him heal, teach, preach, and interact with the people. They heard his illustrations (parables) to fit with many situations—sheep examples when shepherds were in the crowd; potter illustrations, rich men/poor men stories, or parables about lost things.

Now Jesus wanted his disciples to put their observations into action. Not only that, He said,

Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. Matthew 10:5-6

In other words, start where you are, begin with your own people, the ones you can best understand. In good time, the disciples will be told to go to the ends of the earth, but for now, going to their fellow Jews would be a good starting point.

What’s the message?

               

As you go, preach this message: “The kingdom of heaven is near.” Matthew 10:7

The disciples had been with Jesus for sometime now. They realized that being with Him was like being near God’s own heaven because He was the Son of the Father. They must mimic the Son and tell people in the towns about Him.

He empowered them to do things only He had been able to do.

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Matthew 10:8

Whoa, that’s a tall order! Up to this time we have no mention of the disciples doing any kind of healing. Not only that…

Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no extra bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep. Matthew 10:9-10

In other words, “Learn dependence!”

This hits close to home for me. I’m feeling the need to move my mother to a different memory care facility. She’s been very unhappy were she is, but to make a move at 95 is traumatic and takes a lot out of a person with dementia. On the other hand, I want her to be content. Do I move her or not?

I have had to be very diligent in prayer this week, seeking  the Lord’s leadership. To put it bluntly—trusting. Learning yet again to be dependent on Him. I have had to call up 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 direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

Learning dependence on the Lord became an essential life lesson  for the disciples. We’ll follow them again next week and see how it goes.

~ Joyce ~

 

1 – We’re Going Where?

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Let’s visit just one more unnamed woman in the Bible. Her location will probably spark your memory of her and her story.

Jesus and the disciples had been to the Temple in Jerusalem. They were heading back to Galilee, but the disciples noticed that Jesus wasn’t veering the right direction. 

I love the way comedian, Grady Nutt, once told this story. He said, “They were walking along trying to steer Jesus to the east toward the Jordan River, but Jesus, wiping the smile off his face, said, ‘No, we’re going through Samaria,’ ‘We’re going where?’ they protested. And Jesus kept heading due north.”

They may not have said it, but I’m sure the disciples were thinking, “We never go through Samaria!” Judean and Galilean Jews always went around Samaria, never through. For one thing it was always cooler down by the banks of the river and not as rough and rocky, but truth be known, they detested the Samaritans and the feeling was mutual. Regardless, off they went and by noon, they were hot and hungry.

So they came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. [noon]

         

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into town to buy food.) John 4:5-8

Oh my, there are all kinds of faux pas to this scene. Samaritan versus Galilean, a man talking to a woman in public, and asking for a drink from the jar which she will touch! Besides that, she’s out here alone, not with the other women. Sounds suspicious. 

She doesn’t back down and asks why a Jewish man would ask a Samaritan woman for a drink. Jesus answers,

“If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” John 4:10

She tries to have one up on him as her pride takes over. She declares her Hebrew roots to be greater than his.

“Sir, you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?” John 4:11-12

Ah, but one can’t rely on Jewish heritage.

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of living water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14

Eternal life. Now the subject is getting heavier. How will this “woman at the well” react? Next week, we’ll give her a name.

~ Joyce ~