I Samuel 23 Part 2–A Mountain Between Us

David was learning to fully rely on God.  He was seeking God in every step. He was seeing how little trust could be put into men and how very precarious life was.  In the midst of that, however, God continued to protect, prepare and provide for David and his 600 men.  On this day, David was hiding in the desert and among the forests.  Saul had no shortage of sycophants that were glad to turn David over to Saul.  Jonathan, however, was still a loyal friend to David and he made a covenant to support David as King and remain loyal. 
 
Saul was closing in, however, and on this day, He had tracked David so close that they were on opposite sides of a mountain.  Saul had done a great job of tracking David down and now as he closed in nothing could stop him…well almost nothing! Just as he had David cornered, the Philistines attacked the Land. Saul had to leave and respond to the attack. What a coincidence, God even used the enemies of Israel to save His anointed king.
 
We never know what God’s plan will include for our lives.  In great and in difficult times, God is always in control of His plan for our lives.  There are days when we simply feel trapped and see no way to continue.  In those moments, God reminds us that He loves us and will not forsake us.  He promised in Romans 8, “All things work together for Good for those that love God and are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28.  We, like David, must fully rely upon God. He will deliver us in ways we would never expect–but should always know are from Him.  Our enemies may be clever, but God is greater! 
 
God Bless You

So David and his men, about six hundred in number, left Keilah and kept moving from place to place. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he did not go there.

14 David stayed in the wilderness strongholds and in the hills of the Desert of Ziph. Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands.

15 While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that[a] Saul had come out to take his life. 16 And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. 17 “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.” 18 The two of them made a covenant before the Lord. Then Jonathan went home, but David remained at Horesh.

19 The Ziphites went up to Saul at Gibeah and said, “Is not David hiding among us in the strongholds at Horesh, on the hill of Hakilah, south of Jeshimon? 20 Now, Your Majesty, come down whenever it pleases you to do so, and we will be responsible for giving him into your hands.”

21 Saul replied, “The Lord bless you for your concern for me. 22 Go and get more information. Find out where David usually goes and who has seen him there. They tell me he is very crafty.23 Find out about all the hiding places he uses and come back to me with definite information. Then I will go with you; if he is in the area, I will track him down among all the clans of Judah.”

24 So they set out and went to Ziph ahead of Saul. Now David and his men were in the Desert of Maon, in the Arabah south of Jeshimon. 25 Saul and his men began the search, and when David was told about it, he went down to the rock and stayed in the Desert of Maon. When Saul heard this, he went into the Desert of Maon in pursuit of David.

26 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, 27 a messenger came to Saul, saying, “Come quickly! The Philistines are raiding the land.” 28 Then Saul broke off his pursuit of David and went to meet the Philistines. That is why they call this place Sela Hammahlekoth.[b] 29 And David went up from there and lived in the strongholds of En Gedi.[c]

I Samuel 17 Part 1–Facing the Giants

The people in Israel were in the midst of regaining their standing as a nation. Saul, their king had been making a name for himself by attacking the Philistine outposts. The battles had gone back and forth–but on this day, Israel had a big problem. His name was Goliath he was 9’6″ and armed to the teeth.  He stepped out to the battle lines and made a challenge. Send anyone from the Israelite army to face Goliath and winner takes all.  From Goliath’s standpoint, there was no one that was nearly close to a match of size or strength.  He neither feared God or men.
 
Across the valley, the mighty army of Israel sat in paralyzing fear.  Their King, Saul had rejected God’s leadership.  He no longer heard from God or trusted God to battle on Israel’s behalf.  So when a mighty warrior almost twice as large challenged them–rather than looking to God; they looked hopelessly at each other. What do we do now?  Israel had become a mighty nation by looking to God for direction and seeking His leadership in war and peace.  Now, since they no longer had God’s direction, they wandered aimlessly and fearfully through the battle.  Make no mistake, God still cared for His people, but the Lord was unwilling to bless a king who rejected Him and His leadership.
 
Israel’s problem was huge–but it was not the giant. Israel’s problem was chasing other gods.  Some had names like idols–Rah. Baal, Asherah. Other God’s were not named–power, riches, lust, and rage. Israel had simply lost sight of the God that freed them, protected them, provided for them and prepared them to take their place as a mighty nation. Never-the-less, God had a plan.  God would, as he always does, bring a warrior like none other.  When he was done, the warrior would make clear that it was God that would battle Israel’s enemies, and God would make Israel victorious.
 
In our lives, we, like Israel, get easily distracted by other gods.  Some have names–Hollywood, sports, politics. Others are unnamed like stress, finances, power, or lust. Still, when we lose sight of God, we begin to be overtaken by fear and confusion.  Our problems seem to be gigantic and armed to the teeth–but, as we learn, they are not the giants we think we see. Instead, it is our lack of submission to God as our Lord. When we humble ourselves, confess our sin and resubmit to God’s leadership; then the Lord himself will battle the giants we face. He will be victorious and He will get the credit. The beauty is that, when God takes the credit–everybody wins.
 
God Bless You

Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Sokoh in Judah. They pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Sokoh and Azekah. Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines. The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them.

A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span.[a] He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels[b]on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels.[c] His shield bearer went ahead of him.

Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? 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.” 10 Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” 11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.

I Samuel 11 Part 2–Look at the King WE Picked

People are funny.  Here, Israel was so concerned about Samuel’s sons’ corruption, that they demanded to have a king.  God provided them the coolest king–tall, dark and handsome. Then, as Samuel anointed Saul, several leaders said in effect–“He ain’t my king!” Then the Ammonites started terrorizing the people and Saul, with God’s power, led Israel to a great victory! Now everybody was on board. It was time to throw a party.  The people were so proud of themselves–“Look at this great King WE picked!” In the land, there was great celebration. 

Israel had no idea what they were choosing.  As they submitted to God’s leadership, He blessed them, protected them, provided for them and made them a nation to be reckoned with. Now, they had a king. If they submitted to the king, he would lead them but, he would also make pretty difficult demands upon them, their families and their possessions. If they failed to submit–well that would be treason and they would die. Kings did not possess the grace and mercy that God possessed. God loved them like His kids. A King treated them like his subjects. 

The saddest part of living independent from the Lord is that God is the only leader that longs for us to be free. God has no personal agenda, separate from seeing us have a great life.  He needs nothing from us, and He only  wants what is best FOR us. Both then and now–God simply wants to be in relationship with His own.  That is why Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of GOD and HIS righteousness, and all these things will be added to you!” Matthew 6:33. The Lord still offers to be our King, and by following the Lord, we can truly experience freedom as it is meant to be!

God Bless You

The people then said to Samuel, “Who was it that asked, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Turn these men over to us so that we may put them to death.”

13 But Saul said, “No one will be put to death today, for this day the Lord has rescued Israel.”

14 Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingship.”15 So all the people went to Gilgal and made Saul king in the presence of the Lord. There they sacrificed fellowship offerings before the Lord, and Saul and all the Israelites held a great celebration.

1 Samuel 10 Part 1–Samuel Anoints a King

It was no small thing to be anointed as Israel’s 1st King. Still, Saul, the farmer’s son was simply out looking for his dad’s livestock, (and not having any luck…). So when God’s prophet anointed Saul as king of Israel, there was no fanfare, no parade. Fox and NBC were not on site. It was a small and very private ceremony. I am sure that as Saul stood looking at Samuel he was a bit peeved when the prophet poured oil over his head. Still, what happened that day was the beginning of a change in Israel that would lead to the redemption of the world.
 
After the anointing, Samuel sent Saul on his way home. He warned Saul though that his life was about to change. once the Spirit of the Adonai filled him, Saul would be changed for life.  It is important to note that in those times, that the Holy spirit was only active in prophet’s, priests and now kings.  They were God’s intermediaries for the people.  That is why it was critical that those people be above reproach.  Saul would be the 1st King anointed–So what he did and what he became would impact what happened with his nation.
 
In our lives, we have been given the same gift that Saul would enjoy. The Holy Spirit does indwell us–as children of God.  Acts 1:8, “ But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  We receive the spirit as a guide, comforter, teacher and lead.  As we seek the Lord, that lead carries us through life’s greatest challenges and opportunities.  We have to be sensitive to the Spirit’s leadership, and follow the Lord with humility and a grateful heart.  That is what the prophet’s, the great King’s and the devoted priests did.  Jesus said it best, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you!” Matthew 6:33  Let’s seek the Lord, and allow the Spirit to lead so we can be like a King!
 
God Bless You

Then Samuel took a flask of olive oil and poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him, saying, “Has not the Lord anointed you ruler over his inheritance?[a] When you leave me today, you will meet two men near Rachel’s tomb, at Zelzah on the border of Benjamin. They will say to you, ‘The donkeys you set out to look for have been found. And now your father has stopped thinking about them and is worried about you. He is asking, “What shall I do about my son?”’

“Then you will go on from there until you reach the great tree of Tabor. Three men going up to worship God at Bethel will meet you there. One will be carrying three young goats, another three loaves of bread, and another a skin of wine. They will greet you and offer you two loaves of bread, which you will accept from them.

“After that you will go to Gibeah of God, where there is a Philistine outpost. As you approach the town, you will meet a procession of prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, timbrels, pipes and harps being played before them, and they will be prophesying. The Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person. Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you.

“Go down ahead of me to Gilgal. I will surely come down to you to sacrifice burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, but you must wait seven days until I come to you and tell you what you are to do.”

I Samuel 8 Part 2–We Want a Cool King Part 2

The truth hurts! Per God’s command, Samuel went to the people and told them what to expect if they were to live under the rule of a king.  If I were the people of Israel, and heard what it would cost to have a king, I would have gone home and been grateful for the freedom that I currently enjoyed.  Not Israel.  When describing the prospects of having a king, one word literally jumped out–TAKE.  Israel had been under the leadership of a loving God. He gave them provision, He gave them protection, He gave them direction and He gave them prominence among the nations. What Israel missed was the point that God gave Israel all that they enjoyed.
 
As Samuel described the rule of a king, he told the people the king would TAKE–their children, their husbands, their lands, their crops, their stuff and mostly their freedom.  It was what God led them from Egypt to regain. It was what He trained an entire generation to live under. Their freedom was regained by God clearing out the nation of enemies and presenting them with homes, lands, livestock and security.  Now, they wanted to be like everyone else–in bondage to a leader. They thought it would be fun to worship their leader, rather than their God.
 
Not a great deal has changed. We are given a promise of liberty from sin and death–if we will simply follow God. If we will submit to His leadership, He will give us back our freedom.  But, it seems so much cooler to chase the things of this world–money, love, power, stuff, prominence and success.  As we chase these cool kings, they take. They take our focus, our resources, our love, our families and mostly–our freedom. As it has always been the case, the worst of our generation becomes the start of the generation to follow.  Before we realize we have been enslaved, our children are celebrating the lack of responsibility freedom takes.  They think it is cool not to have to conform to a standard–not knowing it simply draws them deeper into sin and into slavery.  Israel simply did not realize it was selling its freedom for the hope of gaining something they had all along a great leader.  We need to understand that we are doing the same thing!
 
God Bless You

So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking for a king from him. 11 He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots.12 And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. 15 He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. 16 He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men[a] and your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18 And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

The Lord Grants Israel’s Request

19 But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” 21 And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the Lord. 22 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey their voice and make them a king.” Samuel then said to the men of Israel, “Go every man to his city.”

I Samuel 7–Israel Returns to God

What a Great way to start a story. Israel returns to God.  When they were given the promised land, God told them to continue to follow him and look to him. Their failure to do so would cost them all that they had been given. Still, as time marched on, the Israelites became more comfortable and less dependent upon God. As that occurred, they started to replace God with idols and sin.  It became so bad, that they lived as if God did not exist.  So, God began to leave them to their own devices.  Soon, they were being attacked by enemies and invaded by those that would try to reclaim the gift God provided.
 
They now were facing enemies without success. They were dying in battle and falling into the hands of the enemy.  So God brought Samuel. Samuel would become the last judge of Israel. He drew the people’s hearts back to God.  When they returned to God and His leadership, God began to protect and provide as before.  After a series of defeats, When the people destroyed their idols and focused again upon God, he began to restore them and reinstate them in the promised land.  Samuel literally made a sacrifice to God before battle and prayed for them and God destroyed their enemy.  I am sure that was a great day for Israel and a great day for God.
 
God still wants men’s hearts.  He still calls us to seek Him and follow Him–so then God can bless us.  Like Israel, We must throw away the idols that stand between us and God. When we do, we have to turn our hearts back to the Lord.  He will gladly embrace us, He wants nothing more than to bless us.  We simply have to trust God and follow Him.  Pray, study His word, and live for Him and for others–not simply for ourselves.  If we will, God will certainly return to our lives and help us to defeat our enemies–no matter how big they seem to be.
 
God Bless You

So the men of Kiriath Jearim came and took up the ark of the Lord. They brought it to Abinadab’s house on the hill and consecrated Eleazar his son to guard the ark of the Lord.The ark remained at Kiriath Jearim a long time—twenty years in all.

Samuel Subdues the Philistines at Mizpah

Then all the people of Israel turned back to the Lord. So Samuel said to all the Israelites, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the Lord only.

Then Samuel said, “Assemble all Israel at Mizpah, and I will intercede with the Lord for you.”When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the Lord. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the Lord.” Now Samuel was serving as leader[a] of Israel at Mizpah.

When the Philistines heard that Israel had assembled at Mizpah, the rulers of the Philistines came up to attack them. When the Israelites heard of it, they were afraid because of the Philistines. They said to Samuel, “Do not stop crying out to the Lord our God for us, that he may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines.” Then Samuel took a suckling lamb and sacrificed it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. He cried out to the Lord on Israel’s behalf, and the Lord answered him.

10 While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. 11 The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Kar.

1 Samuel 5–Who Captured Who?

The Philistines had captured the Ark of the Covenant from Israel.  They were very proud. They put it on display along side their god Dagon to let everyone know how amazing of warriors they were and hey how their god won the day… Well, that was until Dagon was found the next day face down before the Ark.  Then the next day face down and broken into pieces before the Ark. Also, everyone in town was getting sick–very sick.  Panic rose throughout the land, and before the army could set the Ark down the people would scream and run in panic–“What are you trying to do…kill us?  
 
God was not pleased with Israel, that was obvious, but, He was not about to sit at the feet of an idol; nor, was he going to rest in the land and hands of the enemy–He is always large and in charge!!! The Philistines saw God and his power–and wanted nothing to do with it.  Meanwhile, Israel had forgotten who God was and what He wanted for and from them.  They wanted a God to ask for things from–not to surrender to His leadership.  As with the Philistines, God was not going to bow to anyone; least of all His chosen people.
 
In present day, God still serves no one.  He is still all-powerful, all-knowing and in all places and times at once.  HE is still the GREAT I AM. We need to follow and trust Him with our lives and seek His leadership as we pass through our days.  We cannot treat Him like a panic button, nor, is He an equivalent to Amazon.  He is Lord. He loves us and wants to give us a full and meaningful life on Earth and then a blessed and eternal life with Him in Heaven.  All He requires is the recognition that He is Lord. Our true submission is a small price compared to the reward He provides.  God will not be subject to our will–WE need to be subject to His will.
 
God Bless You

After the Philistines had captured the ark of God, they took it from Ebenezer to Ashdod.Then they carried the ark into Dagon’s temple and set it beside Dagon. When the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord! They took Dagon and put him back in his place. But the following morning when they rose, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord! His head and hands had been broken off and were lying on the threshold; only his body remained. That is why to this day neither the priests of Dagon nor any others who enter Dagon’s temple at Ashdod step on the threshold.

The Lord’s hand was heavy on the people of Ashdod and its vicinity; he brought devastationon them and afflicted them with tumors.[a] When the people of Ashdod saw what was happening, they said, “The ark of the god of Israel must not stay here with us, because his hand is heavy on us and on Dagon our god.” So they called together all the rulers of the Philistines and asked them, “What shall we do with the ark of the god of Israel?”

They answered, “Have the ark of the god of Israel moved to Gath.” So they moved the ark of the God of Israel.

But after they had moved it, the Lord’s hand was against that city, throwing it into a great panic. He afflicted the people of the city, both young and old, with an outbreak of tumors.[b]10 So they sent the ark of God to Ekron.

As the ark of God was entering Ekron, the people of Ekron cried out, “They have brought the ark of the god of Israel around to us to kill us and our people.” 11 So they called together all the rulers of the Philistines and said, “Send the ark of the god of Israel away; let it go back to its own place, or it[c] will kill us and our people.” For death had filled the city with panic; God’s hand was very heavy on it.