The master of double-speak, and quick of wit, David put himself in needless jeopardy by fleeing Judah for Gath. He decided that Saul’s hatred would eventually make him a casualty. A strange conclusion given God’s anointing as king-apparent and his many deliverances I Samuel 27:1. David’s decision issues a warning to us. We too can separate ourselves from grace by fixating on life-problems, not God’s Presence.
Carrying Goliath’s sword with him to Gath certainly created the illusion in which David took refuge. Who but a mentally-disturbed warrior would carry back to Gath the weapon of their conquered champion?
David’s mistaken perception has lessons for Christian disciples. First, believers in Jesus never need worry that he will sooner or later fail to protect us or provide for us; sooner than later if we engage in risky service. I visited with a Christian man who exercised his faith in a street ministry. In the crisis of debate, discussion or exhortation he quoted scripture completely separate from context. He admitted it but declared, “When you’re in the street, you use any scripture the Holy Spirit gives you.”
Good point. We can sit in our study and quietly look at scripture in context. But if we’re in the streets, encountering people and problems foreign to our experience, will Jesus fail to help us, even if we’re out of context? Will he fail to defend his own name when a disciple sincerely witnesses, even in ignorance?
Second, who but a spiritually-filled, spiritually-committed man would command the evangelism of the world to 11 disciples only recently recovered from the shock of his death by crucifixion? When at the time, Matthew 28:16-20, they had no qualifications to confront their own people, let alone a fiercely pagan Gentile world.
Third, who but Jesus, having lived in self-denial all his years, would demand self-denial as the first requirement of every believer? But there it happened, on one of the shoulders of Mt. Hermon. Immediately upon accepting the confession of Simon Peter that he was the Christ, the Son of God, Jesus undertook their education in his NATURE: suffering and dying followed by RISING AGAIN.
All of which petrified the Twelve. And when Simon essayed to correct him, Jesus lashed out against his effrontery. Then...flinging the gauntlet at every generation of believers, as he DIED to SAVE, every disciple would necessarily DIE to SELF! Forget being religious, moral or “spiritual”. Self-denial remains the basis of all discipleship. And, to this day, that demands the most vigorous kind of spiritual adventure. Fini
With uneven success ancient kings and modern rulers have hired mercenaries as fighters. It’s interesting that anointed-as-king, but still king-in-training, David led as difficult a group of fighting men as existed in his world: those “in distress or in debt or discontented....” I Samuel 22:2. Those 400 later increased to 600 I Samuel 27:2.
When anointed publicly as king in Hebron, II Samuel 5:3, then as king over a united Israel, II Samuel 5:1-5, his influence, by his conquests, grew exponentially over the eastern Mediterranean. Scattered members of the condemned Canaanites converted to Mosaic faith, among them one Uriah the Hittite. Others, such as Ittai the Gittite and his Philistine soldiers, and Pelethites and Kerethites from Crete, served as soldiers and his personal bodyguard. They may have been attracted to David during his 16 months in Gath I Samuel 27:7.
The pervasive difference in David over other kings, was the positive influence he had over all who came to serve under him. Indeed, as II Samuel 23 recounts, his Mighty Men achieved great success by following his example of faith in God. He established the model in slaying Goliath. They followed his example facing formidable, sometimes equal challenges.
Consider two examples. David received permission from God to lift the Philistine siege of Keilah I Samuel 23:1-2. When his men feared such an operation, he returned to God for a second time—just to assure them, not because he had any doubt. That established the principle of compassion for those who fear assuming what appears difficult, if not impossible, challenges. Take time to carefully answer questions, address skepticism and assure the people that God has spoken and can be trusted.
Two, David and 400 of his 600 man force continued pursuit of the Amalekites who had raided Ziklag and carried away all its personnel. The 200 were exhausted by the pursuit of some 10 miles to the Besor Ravine. The rest continued into the Negev and re-gained in battle all the kidnapped people.
The exultant victors, wives and children, carried back to the Besor all the plunder taken. When the 200 men left behind to guard David’s military equipment saw the returning entourage shouting in joy, they rushed to greet them.
And...to prove that no leader can escape unworthy followers, “all the evil men and troublemakers” of the 400 wanted to deprive the 200 of their share of the plunder. They would only give their wives and children back.
The first test of David’s new-life in faith, after his return from Philistia! And he met it successfully. He immediately vetoed their suggestion by his SINGLE vote against it. All would share equally in any victory gained. Those protecting the equipment and those fighting would be equal partners. That became the law in Israel.
That established the principle of innovative leadership where no previous decision had been reached. Only the one anointed as LEADER possesses the intuitive insight to make rules just and fair for all. End Part II
Judges 9 recounts the sad and bad exploits of Abimelech, son of Gideon by a slave girl, and assassin of 69 of Gideon’s sons, with Jotham the sole survivor. He ruled Israel for three years before “God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the citizens of Shechem.” They had originally conspired with him as leader since he had been a resident in their community.
In the “good old days” of peace between them, the citizens had withdrawn 1 ¾ pounds of silver from the temple of Baal-Berith. (Not that they stole the money. In ancient times temples were often bankers entrusted with wealth.) Anyway, Abimelech used the cash to hire “reckless adventurers”—AKA known as “soldiers of fortune.”
Hiring such men to serve as militia and a standing army wasn’t unusual in that day—or this. King George III couldn’t persuade enough Englishmen to fight his American colonies, so he paid Hessians from Hesse in Germany. To this day, Americans who love to fight, and prove they can fight, will always find work killing people somewhere in the world—or even as bodyguards for drug lords, but no less savage protecting their bosses.
All of this introduces the essential point: Israelite kings often resorted to hiring mercenaries as warriors. Check Judges 11:3, I Kings 11:23-25, II Chronicles 13:6-7. David’s two ego-centric sons Absalom and Adonijah loved the display of having the appearance of an army by hiring 50 armed guards to serve as their vanguard II Samuel 15:1, I Kings 1:5. David’s constitutional inability to discipline his sons encouraged their publicity-seeking adventures. End Part I
First, an addendum to Thursday’s 9 January blog. I should have added the following to “Go to Hell.” “That isn’t a profanity, but a punishment. Hell is a place, not an oath. No one wants to be sent there. Anyone going there will have but one regret: but it will be savage and eternal.”
Now for today’s blog.
Many Christians instinctively fear the loss of faith by associating with the unsaved. That naturally keeps them in the company of the saved, their comfort zone. But it reflects an Old Testament perspective, not a New Testament reality.
God ordered the extermination of Canaan’s seven nations when Joshua led the invasion. That protected an incipient nation-in-the-making from the depravity the seven regularly practiced as essential to their religion, resulting in ever worse public behavior.
It also recognized the inability of Israel’s Law-based religion to resist and eventually convert heathen. Indeed, brilliantly-gifted ancient Israel never approached basic success in mastering the science of obedience into an art. They never ceased being attracted to the gods and goddesses of satanic religions. Throughout their history, a bare minimum of kings, covering a bare minimum of years, conscientiously sought God’s will.
Jesus himself dramatized and inspired in his believers an entirely new concept. He actively associated with, and as willingly ate with, those even Judaism proscribed: tax collectors, demon-possessed, lepers, women of various groups, Gentile officials, etc.
He always concentrated on what those people, and even the upper-classes would have, gained, had they not been so religiously arrogant. He knew how they would profit by his being with them, not what it cost him to get involved. He never feared personal contamination because... while he identified with sinners, he mentally, morally and spiritually divorced himself from their practices and perversions.
Therefore, heirs of an all-conquering faith established by the all-overcoming Christ, Christians should cultivate relationships with non-believers. Our very willingness to do so will develop opportunities to bear witness to and evangelize the unforgiven.
We need be aware only of this caveat. If the association increases faith in the unchurched, continue it. If it weakens ours, discontinue it. It is of no value to lose our soul while trying to save another person’s.
In adversity of the worst kind—loss of home life under a beloved father, cast aside as vermin by older brothers, sold into a foreign country as a slave—Joseph, son of Jacob, thrived spiritually. After adversity of the war-imposed-kind passed, many Americans cast aside their religious convictions to find themselves cast upon the turbulent sea of secularism.
In previous blogs of this series, this writer suggested that the inspiration of faith made the difference between Joseph’s growth in faith and the WWII generation’s loss of faith. His centered on GOD, theirs on a CHURCH. Do not be surprised that a distinction exists in the two inspirations. And do not be surprised that Satan finds it easier to divorce one’s loyalty to a church than to sever one’s commitment to Jesus. To this day, many who don’t attend church till profess faith in Christ! We can’t deny their profession unless it’s demonstrably false. And not attending church regularly doesn’t automatically make it false.
It does, however, prove that the person mistakenly put his faith in a church, not in Jesus. Worse, it indicates a profound ignorance of the intimacy that exists between Christ and the church. Before he established his church, Jesus recruited faith in himself. “Follow me”, he repeatedly said, “take up your cross daily and follow me”. That automatically meant that Christianity would be a relationship, not a religion. He called each disciple one by one, each loving and obeying Jesus as Savior and Lord. Many non-attenders still have that much right, though they may not use the words.
That’s where Christianity begins—each sinner one by one accepting Christ’s sacrifice for his sins and Christ’s Lordship of his daily life. Christianity begins, not ends, there. It isn’t “Jesus and me”, from now on, “Jesus and me a plurality”, whatever the opposition. A Christian automatically becomes part of Christ’s body. For on the day the apostles baptized 3000 converts, Luke says they “were added to their number” Acts 2:41. Whose number? The Twelve Spirit-baptized apostles as the nucleus around which God built a larger membership of Christians.
So it continued throughout the New Testament. Wherever converts were baptized, “the Lord added to their number” Acts 2:47. Paul summarized it all in Ephesians 5:25-33. Jesus is the head of the church, which is his body. That body existing in real time, in real places, all over the world, in every age.
Some people say they can accept God, but not Jesus. How can that be? The “our” in Genesis 1:26 is God, Jesus and the Spirit, three in one and One in three, the indivisible Godhead. Jesus is God’s WORD, the One through whom God speaks John 1:1-2. He is the One in whom the fullness of the Godhead lives Colossians 1:19. If we believe in God, we must believe in Jesus as His Only Begotten Son John 3:18, 14:7, 9, etc.
Others say they believe in Christ, but not the church. How can that be? He is the “head of the body, the church” Colossians 1:18, Ephesians1:22-23. Whatever way we remove a head from its body, only a corpse remains. And since no severance ever comes between Jesus and his church, only the person who thinks to separate them becomes the religious corpse, severed from the HEAD. Fini
(This is not the Finale promised. That comes later.)
Since Jesus is our example and model, what we feel about the opposition we Christians face needs to follow his response. Whenever we see the apostles living and preaching, they fearlessly followed Christ’s example. He remained unimpressed by the opposition. And unafraid of the opposition. For “Having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross....” Colossians 2:15.
Making a spectacle of the spiritual powers confronting him means he: mocked them; ridiculed them; snapped his fingers in scorn at them; and figuratively spit in their face as the leaders literally spit in his at his trial.
Let us learn a great truth. God will never expect from us what he hasn’t given us power to achieve. No height exists that we can’t climb; no depth we can’t descend; no situation we can’t master.
Therefore, Jesus will not have his people thinking they’re defeated when he KNOWS HE’s VICTORIOUS! And, since he lives in us through the Holy Spirit, we share HIS victory. He wins through us NOW because he WON for HIMSELF while on earth!
Never give up as a Christian, because it’s hard. Never give in as a Christian because it seems impossible. Never stop trying to be a Christian, even if it seems you’ll never make it. God designed the Christian faith to succeed when it should and must. It will never fail us if we persevere in faithful obedience to our Living Lord! End Part VII
In an earlier part of this blog I suggested that the 1940’s and 1950’s religious faith hadn’t prepared Americans for the rigors of the 1960’s and later. That didn’t mean faith didn’t motivate significant moral and kingdom development. Lincoln Bible College, in Lincoln, Illinois, began in 1944. Ozark Bible College, in Joplin, Missouri, in 1942. Many new church buildings re-located from small to larger facilities. Churches sent missionaries abroad in increasing numbers.
However, that faith flourished largely in church-focused loyalty, not Christ-centered commitment. It was easier to be a church member since so many were. And easier to have a church-focused life since so many had.
Since the 1960’s, and increasingly in the 21st century, it’s easier to be an environmentalist than a Christian; or an animal activist than a Christian; or a climate-change advocate than a Christian; or a business major or Wall Street analyst than a Christian. To be a devotee of yoga, Buddha or Mohammed than a Christian. Anything now is easier than being a Christian!
Indeed, its UN-POPULAR to be a Christian, defending Jesus today. Try praying in his name in public; or condemning anti-Bible behavior; or insisting publicly that Jesus remains the only way to enter God’s Presence. Such “Christian” declarations earn disciples the label of “intolerant hate group.”
What, then, should Christians do in such a resistant society? Consider ourselves cab drivers in inner-cities at night. To make a living, they chance bodily harm or death. To make a witness for Jesus, we chance rejection, ridicule or worse. We risk whatever cost we pay to continue being his witnesses, whether wanted or not, welcomed or not. End Part VI.
How can we rise to the occasion and best serve Jesus? The answer in the Finale.
What catalyst turned Joseph, son of Jacob, into what he became at 30 after being what he was at 17? How did he, in the intervening 13 years, turn his odyssey from a dead-end beginning into an open-ended future?
The answer is best understood from Jacob’s in-depth teaching about God’s Presence and Word that all his boys heard, to which Joseph listened more carefully and applied more personally. Only Judah, of the remainder, began to mature into the leading role he assumed on the men’s second trip to Egypt.
Consider six examples of how Jacob’s experiences empowered Joseph. First, when he taught that God would always be true to his word, his life-experience proved it. Promised a return to Canaan as a 77 year old man going to Paddan-Aram, God fulfilled his promise when Jacob had turned 97 in Paddan-Aram.
Second, when Jacob taught God’s care for his people, he had the example of 12 sons and a daughter as proof—at a time when large families meant God’s benefaction. Third, knowing his father had been mistreated for 20 years empowered Joseph to persevere through 13 of adversity.
Fourth, if a scorned woman caused Joseph’s prison sentence, Jacob’s father-in-law would have stolen his own daughters from Jacob had God not intervened. Fifth, if Joseph received a pitiful wage as prison warden, Laban had changed Jacob’s wages 10 times in 20 years. Sixth, if the young Joseph feared the dangers slavery imposed, his older father learned to face, not flee, danger; he prepared by prayer to trust God when confronting Esau.
Joseph learned from Jacob’s experiences that God had always been a refuge for his people and a very present help in trouble. Joseph garrisoned his life with those truths.
Do we get the drift of this point? Jacob’s in-depth personal experiences with God became the fulcrum on which Joseph built his own life in those 13 years. If Jacob endured to success through it all, Joseph could also, and did.
Nevertheless, and equally important, Joseph had to learn by personal experience in those years that Jacob was RIGHT about God. For faith in God must be personalized as each generation lives it as a fresh experience. That way, whatever our age, we can stay fresh and green Psalm 92:14.
That knowledge, learned as a boy, reinforced Joseph’s faith: when he went to jail for making the RIGHT decision. For resisting temptation. For bearing witness to God’s purity by maintaining his own.
Answering the question, “Is that any way for God to increase a person’s faith: letting him suffer for doing good? Making belief difficult and obedience hard?
YES. In God’s Providence, YES! End Part V
eople his age often take with them to college their untested but accepted faith in Jesus. They begin to doubt and, not a few, to lose their faith, when hearing nothing more than the baseless mongerings of humanistic skeptics. But Joseph, son of Jacob, flexed his faith in God when, at age 17, he found himself in a foreign country, deprived of all that he had known and accepted as the basis of belief in God.
WWII dragged into secularism and materialism, with accompanying loss of faith in God and Christ, many of its generation. (How can they be the “greatest generation” when they lost much of their faith in the Living God and his Son Jesus Christ? Indeed, while overcoming the perils of Germany’s dictatorship and Japan’s ancestor worship, they returned to America shorn of the “horns” of powerful faith.)
While Joseph, deprived at 17 of the parental encouragement so crucial to sound decisions, spent 13 years more enduring undeserved, unavoidable and inescapable captivity. With no answers coming from God, no spiritual tutors forging strong religious convictions in his mind, and no fellowship with other believers bolstering his faith.
And while Joseph, with far less inspiration—not even Mosaic instruction—not only remained faithful to God; and not only resisted the “whatever makes your life more comfortable” morality, but increased in his spiritual witness to become second in power only to Pharaoh.
End Part IV
We senior citizens know that California isn’t the same state we came to and the church today isn’t the same we knew in the 1940’s—and early to middle 1950’s—when it was the most influential, trusted institution in America.
We didn’t realize at the time that much of religious faith had a strip-mine quality, not deep-hole penetration by God’s word. Slightly below the surface cutting, nothing far underground. Cosmetic, not surgically implanted. And church-focused, not Christ-centered.
And something else we didn’t realize. Slight tremors of change occurred undetected throughout the 1950’s. Only in the early 1960’s did it become obvious that America had regressed spiritually. Music changed, from lyric-based melodies of love to sound-based attacks on accepted morality. The Free Speech Movement, popularized first at Berkeley, and spreading nation-wide, spouted hatred of all authority, human or God.
While this writer had little idea how bad it would become, even he, then a graduate student in Seminary, with Judy and three little boys at home, KNEW America had entered a new and dangerous phase.
Now Parts I-III may sound like a sociological treatise, not a Biblical message. But while I’ve added more historical information than originally planned, and more personal stories, it should all be helpful in understanding that the change in America that began quietly in the 1940’s; that continued more vocally in the 1950’s; that erupted through society in the 1960’s and continues now in depraved societal morals, wouldn’t have occurred to the extent it has if religious faith had then been the mind-saturating, heart-converting, life-dominating power Gospel preaching can, should and DOES produce when preached faithfully, to some depth, on all occasions.
The very kind of faith young Joseph, son of Jacob, possessed when he found himself away from home and in Egypt. End Part III