He should have locked the door

I Samuel 24:3-7  3 He came to the sheep pens along the way; a cave was there, and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were far back in the cave. 4 The men said, “This is the day the LORD spoke of when he saidto you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’” Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.    5 Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. 6 He said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD.” 7 With these words David rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way.

When you gotta go, you gotta go.  I guess this could be a problem, huh?  Saul obviously had his guard down (and his pants) in 1 Samuel 24.  He went into a cave to relieve himself and forgot to lock the door.  David was actually hiding in the bathroom, I mean, the back of the cave where Saul was doing his business.  He had a prime opportunity to kill Saul while he was completely defenseless.  (That would have been a tragic way to go!) But David honored the fact that Saul was the king.  Even though Saul was evil and should have been charged with attempted murder on several occasions, he was still on the throne.  So David didn’t touch him.  Regardless of character, David knew he was still called by God to be a servant of Saul.

I’m sure we have all had a leader in our lives who had less than stellar character.  When we have leaders like that, it would almost be a dream come true to have an opportunity to do them in.  And sometimes we do.  No, not murder them… I hope.  But we can murder their reputation or kill their place of authority in our hearts.  We grumble, complain, bad mouth them, and defy their instructions – all because they have terrible leadership skills.

This should not be the response of a Christian.  The Bible clearly tells us that we should respect our leaders, both good ones and bad ones.  Whether they are in a place of spiritual or practical leadership, we are to respect them because they are put in our lives by God.  I know what you are thinking – why would God put that leader in my life?  Well, why did God put Saul in David’s life?  That’s just how it happens sometimes.  We might desperately need a job and God provides.  And maybe a lousy boss comes with that job.  That’s just life.  He or she is still the boss.  We should learn from David how to respond to bad leadership.  His obedience to the Lord had higher value in his heart than his desire to get rid of Saul.

My rights or God’s plans?

I Samuel 23:15-18  15 While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that 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.

Jonathan is a remarkable man.  What he did in 1 Samuel 23 is amazing.  It was brave and it was selfless.  Jonathan knew that his father was trying to kill David.  He knew that going to see David was not a safe move.  But he did it anyway because he was dedicated to his friend.  His friend was on the run and he wanted to encourage him.  I love that it says Jonathan helped David find strength in God.  I imagine he reminded him of God’s promises and prayed with him.   That is a good friend!

What is even more remarkable to me is that Jonathan had more to lose than just being seen with David.  As the son of the king, he had rights to the throne; he was next in line to be king.  But he knew that God had already anointed David, so he was willing to get out of the way.  A lesser man would have fought for his place on the throne, but not Jonathan.   Instead, he re-affirmed his covenant with David that he would serve in second command someday and David would be king.  He would personally see to it if he had to.  He was willing to give up his rights for God’s greater plan. 

So often we struggle with God over what we believe is our right.  We tell God, “I deserve this” or “this is my right.”  While that may be true, God may have something different in mind, something greater.  And there are times when God will ask us to lay down our rights.  If you recall, Jesus laid down His at the cross.  He asks us to do the same.  You might feel like you have something coming to you.  You might think you’ve got the whole thing figured out.  You might have your heart so set on a direction that you are unable to see anything else.  That’s when God comes along and says, “would you like to hear MY plan?”  It is in that place that we come to the crossroad like Jonathan did.  Will I fight for my rights or will I lay them down for God’s greater plans?  I have been to that crossroad and I am so glad I chose His plan.  Because His ways are higher than my ways and I have found that His ways are always the best.

Leading a motley crew

I Samuel 22:1-2  1 David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. 2 All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader. About four hundred men were with him.

It’s natural to want the best team possible.  If you were ever chosen as a team leader, you know what I am talking about.  You want the best.  I remember  in college the big thing was to make us do projects in a group.  Oh the joys of teamwork.  Inevitably there would be someone chosen as the project manager and if it was you… please God, help me have a good team.  Because nobody wants the motley crew.

It seems, however, that the motley crew is who God often  gives us to lead. Here in 1 Samuel 22, we see that the people David (the anointed future king of Israel) led were people in distress, in debt, or discontent.  Likely many were all three.  And this was his first leadership assignment.  They probably whined and complained and caused him all sorts of grief.  They were far from perfect and required his molding and influence.  But they craved his leadership and they actually followed him.

So it goes with us.  While we are waiting around to be great leaders of talented superhumans, God asks us to lead the ones who have issues.  He gives us imperfect people and asks us to care for them, to heal them, to help them.  He asks us to lead in less than ideal conditions with an army of less than ideal soldiers.  But it works, because God is in it.  So if you desire to be a leader today, begin leading who God calls you to.  Don’t wait for the perfect team falls in place, because the perfect team might already be right in front of your face.

Go ahead and be crazy

I Samuel 21:12-13   12 David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath. 13 So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard.

When all else fails, act like you are crazy.  It’s quite the interesting approach, really.  I don’t know about you, but I usually try to NOT look crazy, so this seems a bit counter-intuitive.  At the same time, it is brilliant.  Here you have a another king who is threatened by David and could potentially do him in.  So David acts like a madman, so as not to be a threat.  I bet it was that kind of creativity that kept David alive all those years when Saul was trying to kill him.  Sometimes I look like an idiot, too.  Except that I don’t do it on purpose.  I guess you could say it just comes naturally to me.

I don’t really know what I am supposed to learn from this today, except that maybe it’s okay to be a little crazy for the Lord.  Sometimes it’s okay to wave you hands in the air like you just don’t care?  I really just decided to write about this because I thought it was funny.  I guess I love that the Bible is full of quirky weird things that people did.  Here you have a man who was anointed as the next king of Israel and he is acting like a lunatic.  These kind of stories give me the freedom to be quirky, too.  They give me permission to be myself, not to try and live up to some expectation.

Because it seems like David could have called out to the Lord for protection.  He could have rallied a bunch of men to stand at his defense.  But he chose crazy.  And even though we make odd choices sometimes, it doesn’t mean that they are wrong choices.  They are just different.  So today I think we all have to be okay with being different.  We have to be okay with doing something that seems a little unconventional, a little crazy.  It might just be the perfect response to our situation.

Lessons on friendship

1 Samuel 20:16-17  16 So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, “May the LORD call David’s enemies to account.” 17 And Jonathan had David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself.

I guess Michael W. Smith was right – friends ARE friends forever if the Lord’s the Lord of them.  But what if one friend’s dad wants to murder the other friend?  How is that friendship supposed to work? Huh, Mr. Smith?  It’s not like they can just hang out every day.  And Skype is out because, well, this was the Old Testament.  Now what?

Let’s hand it to Jonathan.  He is really quite a remarkable guy to continue this friendship and loyalty.  His dad was trying to kill David and here in this chapter, Saul even tries to kill him.  You’ve got to be pretty stark raving mad to attempt killing your own son because of his friend.  You could at least ground him or take away his cell phone or something.  But Saul tried to kill Jonathan.  That’s some extreme friendship people.

I guess that is what real friendship is about.  It is about putting your neck on the line for someone you care about.  It is about trust and risk.  We can certainly learn from Jonathan today.  We enter into relationships with selfish motives and get out when it doesn’t work anymore for us.  Even in marriages, where a vow has been made, people want out at the first sight of things not going well.  We should evaluate our relationships and make some decisions in our hearts.  “Am I willing to stick with it through thick and thin?”  Or am I flaky when it comes to relationships?  It’s an area that we could stand to grow in and learn from Jonathan what friendship is really about.

New counter-terrorist strategy: prophecy

1 Samuel 19:18-24  18 When David had fled and made his escape, he went to Samuel at Ramah and told him all that Saul had done to him. Then he and Samuel went to Naioth and stayed there. 19 Word came to Saul: “David is in Naioth at Ramah”; 20 so he sent men to capture him. But when they saw a group of prophets prophesying, with Samuel standing there as their leader, the Spirit of God came upon Saul’s men and they also prophesied. 21 Saul was told about it, and he sent more men, and they prophesied too. Saul sent men a third time, and they also prophesied. 22 Finally, he himself left for Ramah and went to the great cistern at Secu. And he asked, “Where are Samuel and David?”  “Over in Naioth at Ramah,” they said.  23 So Saul went to Naioth at Ramah. But the Spirit of God came even upon him, and he walked along prophesying until he came to Naioth. 24 He stripped off his robes and also prophesied in Samuel’s presence. He lay that way all that day and night. This is why people say, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”

This is funny.  God seriously has a sense of humor.  I read a story once about a man who was hired to kill a missionary pastor.  So the man went to the church service to complete the job.  The only problem was that the spirit of the Lord began moving on him and he couldn’t do it.  So he went back to the next service and the same thing happened.  Eventually he got saved and confessed the reason why he was there.  The pastor remained safe and heaven gained a citizen!  That’s just awesome.

Essentially, that’s what we see happening in 1 Samuel 19.  Saul sent a bunch of hit men to kill David and instead they prophesied.  That has got to be the weirdest defense I have ever heard of.  Have you ever been praying for the Lord’s protection and His response is that your enemies will prophesy?  Ya, it hasn’t happened to me either.  But I applaud God for His creativity.  Only He could come up with something like that.  Who else would choose prophecy as a counter-terrorist defense strategy?

You see, God will find a way to protect you, one way or another.  Your job is to make sure that you hang out in His presence.  That’s what David did; he fled to the Lord’s presence.  For in that presence is safety and security.  In His presence there is assurance and peace.  And in His presence you never know what He is going to do.  He might protect you by wiping out your enemies, but He also might choose to save them.


One easy step to success

1 Samuel 18:14 In everything he did he had great success, because the LORD was with him.

There have got to be thousands of books, videos, websites, and 10-step programs out there to attain success.  Some promise you money, some a happier life, and others health.  101 steps to success?  Really?  There are countless recipes, ideas, and schemes alike that are available for purchase right now.  Most of these programs do generate massive success and wealth… for the person selling them at least.  Why?  Because we humans are looking for a recipe.  We are looking for someone to tell us how to be successful with minimal work on our part.  Yes, everybody wants to be successful.

David was successful and he worked hard too.  He didn’t order a get-rich-quick kit off his TV.  He didn’t buy the best-selling book of the day.  Rather he actually discovered that there was really only one easy step to success.  Just one: have the Lord with you.  That’s it.  Because the Lord was with him, he had great success.  It says so in 1 Samuel 18:14.  He wasn’t successful because he was a good musician, good-looking, or even a brave warrior.  He wasn’t successful because the people thought he was the cat’s meow.  No, he was successful because the Lord was with him.

So if you want to work really hard at being successful, I suggest that you first work really hard at having the Lord be with you.  Invite Him into your life – your whole life.  Don’t leave any parts out.  And hang out with Him.  Spend time with the Lord in worship and prayer.  Take a time-out from your busy life and go on a walk with Jesus.  People might think you are talking to yourself; you might look a little crazy.  But I’ve come to discover that the world has no problem with successful crazy people.  Be a little crazy and work the hardest and cultivating your relationship with God, and I believe you will find success in all that you do.

From delivery boy to deliverer

1 Samuel 17:17-20  17 Now Jesse said to his son David, “Take this ephah of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread for your brothers and hurry to their camp. 18 Take along these ten cheeses to the commander of their unit. See how your brothers are and bring back some assurance from them. 19 They are with Saul and all the men of Israel in the Valley of Elah, fighting against the Philistines.” 20 Early in the morning David left the flock with a shepherd, loaded up and set out, as Jesse had directed. He reached the camp as the army was going out to its battle positions, shouting the war cry.

Anyone who has a pulse has heard the story of David and Goliath.  (Well, maybe not babies; just go with it will ya?)  We have listened to sermons and Sunday school lessons about facing our giants.  There are plenty of sermons in this chapter, that’s for sure.  So I don’t want to talk about facing our giants or being equipped or anything like that today.  What got me in today’s reading wasn’t the battle itself, but how David got there.  You see, we often talk about facing our giants or going out to battle.  But we don’t talk much about delivering cheese.

Yes, delivering cheese. This was not a conquest for David; it was not a journey to an epic battle that would define his life.  It was a delivery.  David was told by his father to deliver grain, bread, and cheese to his brothers and their commanders.  So he left his sheep with a shepherd for hire and set out to find them.  I wonder if David knew he would find a giant that day?  I wonder if he knew he would become Israel’s hero?  I doubt it.  His greatest hope was probably that he would find his brothers.  That is what would make this journey successful.  All he had to do was find them and give them the food and dad would be happy. This whole David vs. Goliath grudge match was made possible by David following his dad’s directions.  It says in verse 20 that he set out,  as Jesse had directed.  What if he hadn’t listened to his dad?  What if he got indignant about having to be a delivery boy and blew his dad off?  I’ll tell you: the battle would never have happened.

We want to be heroes like David was.  I want to slay giants!  But sometimes God doesn’t just call us up to the battle for a good fight.  He sends us out on a delivery.  He gives us the role of the servant.  And it is in the midst of serving that heroism emerges.  How unpredictable is that!?  Think about it:  David woke up that morning on a delivery expedition and went to bed that night having delivered more than just grain, bread, and cheese.  He delivered a nation!  This is the way of our God.  So today, let us be willing to put our hand to the mundane and the mediocre.  Let’s be willing to do less than we think we are capable of and simply serve.  You never know where along the path Goliath will show up, but when he does, you will be equipped to take him out.



Does God only choose ugly people?

1 Samuel 16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.

I have heard this verse quoted hundreds of times and have probably quoted it myself dozens of times.  It comes immediately after Samuel sees Jesse’s son Eliab and thinks, “this guy looks like a king.”  I don’t know what made him look like a king, but apparently Samuel thought so.  God interrupts Samuel’s thought process and tells him that it is the heart that counts, not the outward appearance.  “What are you saying, Lord?  Do you only choose ugly people?”  Put your self in Samuel’s shoes; now you are looking for an ugly dude with a good heart.  At least that is the conclusion I would come to.

However, this isn’t at all what happened.  What follows are two references to David’s good looks.  This guy was a handsome stud… and he had a good heart, too.  In fact in verse 18, he is described as being a musician, brave, a warrior, well-spoken, and good-looking. He wasn’t remotely ugly and yet God chose him.  The thing is: the looks were just an accessory, a bonus.  They didn’t really matter to God; the heart mattered.  And David’s heart was good.  He loved and served the Lord.  He was chosen for his heart!  That is what mattered to God.

Friends, that IS what matters to God.  He is after our hearts and yet some of us spend more time combing or styling our hair than we do examining our hearts before the Lord.  We spend more time shopping for clothes than obeying his commands.  Don’t get me wrong, clothes are good and combed hair looks nice.  You can be good-looking; it’s okay.  It’s just that those things are way less important to God.  So I suggest we carve some time out in our lives to work on our hearts.  I suggest we dedicate our whole lives to striving for His heart.  In the end, that’s all that really matters.