Matter of the heart… When doing good causes suffering… the Cave experiences…
DAY ONE – 1 Samuel 13-16
Matters of the heart may at times seem trivial to us; we might even mistake them as emotionalism. But as we consider today’s reading, remember this: Proverbs 4:23 (NLT) Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. As we review King Saul’s life in these chapters, something keeps surfacing–he cannot follow orders! Though Saul was an attractive human specimen, standing head and shoulders above his countrymen, his fatal flaw destroyed him. Two years into his reign, he was at Gilgal (home of the Ark of the Covenant), with a few hundred men, threatened by the Philistines who had amassed against Israel. Desertion in his army was high, and he couldn’t seem to pull things together. In his mind, only Yahweh God could save him, so he called for an altar and burnt offerings to Yahweh. He waited for seven days for Samuel to come, but the old prophet was delayed, arriving right after Saul had offered to God. Samuel immediately confronted him: “Your instructions were to wait seven days until I arrive.” Saul reverted to rationalism: “But the people were deserting, and I couldn’t wait any longer!” Fear had gripped his heart. Sometime later Samuel related a mission Yahweh was sending Saul on, to completely and utterly destroy the Amalekites for the way they had treated Israel hundreds of years before; it was time for justice. Saul went on the mission, carried out the task, and returned with the conquered king Agag and the best of the booty to be offered as sacrifice. Of course by now God’s prophet Samuel knew everything, for the Lord had revealed it to him the night before. Saul greeted him cheerfully, reporting that he had carried out the mission. Is that so? Then what about all these sheep and cattle? Oh, those are for sacrifice. Really. What part of obeying God’s instructions do you not understand, Saul? Oh…well, I…
As it turned out, Saul once again succumbed by allowing fear of the people to grip his heart. Now everybody knew that Samuel was God’s prophet, and that the Lord let none of his words fall to the ground. Why wasn’t Saul afraid of Samuel? His heart was really messed up! Saul had no spiritual compass, so he was often off course. Since the fear of God wasn’t truly in his heart, he was left with only his thoughts and feelings and circumstances. It ruined him, and he lost his kingdom soon after that to a younger man who served God FROM THE HEART! 1 Samuel 16:7 But Yahweh said to Samuel, “Don’t look on his face, or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for I don’t see as man sees. For man looks at the outward appearance, but Yahweh looks at the heart.”
Deuteronomy 6:5 You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. 6 These words, which I command you today, shall be on your heart…
DAY TWO – 1 Samuel 17-20, Psalm 59
David killed Goliath, and it vaulted him into ‘national hero’ status. That’s a pretty large jump for someone maybe still in his teens, but the glory would be tempered by King Saul’s rabid jealousy. And it was a pretty vulnerable place for someone assigned to the king as his personal musician! Since God’s Spirit had come upon David but left Saul, the rages of the sitting king did not bode well for the young king-to-be. Saul might have succeeded in destroying David, but the Lord gave David an ally in Jonathan, Saul’s son. And he wasn’t just any ally; the souls of the two young men had become knit in a close bond of fellowship and mutual respect, so that Jonathan was willing to lay down his own life for David, and vice versa. At one point, Saul cursed his own son and splattered him with vitriol for protecting David, who had to go into exile away from his family and friends until the matter was dealt with. Most, if not all of us, have had difficult relationships that threatened to spoil our dreams of life and family. Following David’s attitudes and actions through the story unfolding before us can give valuable insights into dealing with our own rigorous relationships. Psalm 59 was attached to this reading–let’s see if we can glean from David’s spirit in how to handle someone else’s wrath, especially when it is unjustified…
Psalm 59:1-4 (A poem by David, when Saul sent, and they watched the house to kill him.) Deliver me from my enemies, my God. Set me on high from those who rise up against me. 2 Deliver me from the workers of iniquity. Save me from the bloodthirsty men. 3 For, behold, they lie in wait for my soul. The mighty gather themselves together against me, not for my disobedience, nor for my sin, Yahweh. 4 I have done no wrong, yet they are ready to attack me. Rise up, behold, and help me! Psalm 59:8 -10 But you, Yahweh, laugh at them. You scoff at all the nations. 9 Oh, my Strength, I watch for you, for God is my high tower. 10 My God will go before me with his loving kindness. God will let me look at my enemies in triumph.
David’s strategy begins and ends with God. That keeps his attitudes in check, preventing him from doing further damage. As to his actions, he does what he has to do to survive, but he DOES NOT take matters into his own hands to resolve the problem. It is left to Yahweh God. As future chapters will reveal, the Lord can be trusted with all these things. Stay close to Him, and trust Him.
DAY THREE – 1 Samuel 21-24, Psalm 91
What do you do when your innocent and unknowing act inadvertently brings disastrous calamity to someone else? David’s visit to Ahimelech the priest at Nob eventually resulted in the death of all 85 priests in the family and the destruction of Nob with all its women and children. Even though David had nothing to do with the massacre, he thought he might have prevented it by taking out one man. It weighed heavily on his conscience. With King Saul on the rampage again, trying to hunt down David to kill him, the young king-to-be was doing all he could to even survive. Evidently being in the will of God does NOT mean that we won’t suffer. Suffering in this world is because we are in this world! At times frightened out of his wits, David stepped into the responsibility thrust upon him and became an even greater leader in the process. Six hundred men and their families were now depending on him!
Underlying all the various issues in David’s life was his relationship with Yahweh God. Two things stand out: 1) David consorted with and consulted God in almost everything. Seemingly he was giving honor and respect to Yahweh every day. 2) David TRUSTED God to act in his behalf and to ‘run the world’ so that David didn’t have to! He really believed God was in charge. When Saul discredited himself again and again, David did not see it as an ‘aha’ moment. When he could have taken Saul out, he refused to raise his hand against ‘Yahweh’s anointed.’ God’s will is not always to be discovered in the opportunities we have, nor in the circumstances that appear to come together. By carefully and repeatedly seeking out the Lord, we grow in our ability to discern right and wrong things to do.
The 91st Psalm demonstrates the safest place to live in this world–in God’s secret place. And what is that secret? Watch this: Psalm 91:14-16 (ESV) “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. 15 When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. 16 With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” Ponder that.
DAY FOUR – Psalms 7, 27, 31, 34, 52
Does God really intervene in human affairs? Does He take a personal interest in you and me? Deism says NO. It’s a religious belief holding that God created the universe and established rationally comprehensible moral and natural laws but does not intervene in human affairs through miracles or supernatural revelation (Dictionary Pro). Evidently some of our more prominent American founders were deists. They believed in God, but the question is, which God did they believe in? Was it the God of their imagination, or was it the God of revelation–the God Jesus reveals to us to be “Our Father in heaven”? Ask David…wait, we can’t ask him; but we can read his testimony of the God he believed in. THAT God is the God in these Psalms we are reading today. He is Personal, thoughtful, loving, and supernatural. Doesn’t that sound a lot like the description of Himself that He gave to Moses? Exodus 34:5-6 Yahweh descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed Yahweh’s name. 6 Yahweh passed by before him, and proclaimed, “Yahweh! Yahweh, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness and truth… Is this the god of the deists, or is this the Father whom Jesus revealed to us? At some point in our life, we MUST decide if we really BELIEVE the God of the Bible–the God of David, and Samuel, and Moses, and Jesus, and Paul. David frequently in his prayers and writings says, ‘My God.’
If the God Jesus revealed is my Father, He is also my God–MY God. And if He is as He revealed Himself to Moses to be, which part of His interest in me and my affairs do I not believe? Is God the God of my circumstances only, or is He my God? If He is my God, then circumstances are somewhat irrelevant! He is my God all of the time. Does my Dad ever stop being my father? No. Was I close to my dad? Was he a great dad? Maybe, maybe not, you say. But he was still my Dad. If Jesus says that God is our Father in heaven, and THAT God describes Himself as He did to Moses, then that is the God I believe! I don’t just believe in Him; I believe HIM! To understand David’s heart and relationships, we must also understand David’s God. Then we can confidently move forward.
DAY FIVE – Psalms 56, 120, 140, 141, 142
Caves are not where I want to spend my time. Maybe go in for a look-around, a brief adventure, but I certainly don’t want to have to live in one. For David, the cave became a sanctuary, a hiding place, when King Saul sought his life. The entire ordeal lasted seven years; that’s a lot of ‘caving’! I mention sanctuary, because evidently some of his time in hiding was spent in contemplation, praise, thanksgiving and a lot of attention to Yahweh God. As Paul and Silas in prison at Philippi sang songs and hymns in the deep of night, so David composed many psalms from his place as a fugitive. These are not nice, religious ditties! They are heart-rending, gut-twisting exposes of the soul–deep complaints tempered with hope and thankfulness. David’s faith, trust and confidence were born in the crucible of suffering–away from home and family, cut off from the house of worship, without religious trappings. Psalm 142:1-4 (A contemplation by David, when he was in the cave. A Prayer.) I cry with my voice to Yahweh. With my voice, I ask Yahweh for mercy. 2 I pour out my complaint before him. I tell him my troubles. 3 When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, you knew my route. On the path in which I walk, they have hidden a snare for me. 4 Look on my right, and see; for there is no one who is concerned for me. Refuge has fled from me. No one cares for my soul. This is the cry of a man who feels totally alone.
David PROVED God faithful in his own experiences, time and time again. His is not the light prose of someone who believes in a good idea. For him Yahweh is the difference between life vs. death, hope vs. despair, trust vs. faint-heartedness. I have always loved what David said to the king before he went out to face Goliath with his trusted sling and a stone: 1 Samuel 17:37 “Yahweh who delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.” And God did just that. Will He do the same for me? That’s what I have to find out; that’s what I HAVE found out. And you–will God deliver you? You must find that out for yourself; no one else can offer you that assurance. We have read no fewer than ten of David’s psalms that came out of deep suffering. Hang out with David; wander with him, cry with him, sing his songs with him, and DISCOVER HIS GOD with Him!