The Telltale Signs of Pride

 “’Enough!’ Samuel said to Saul. ‘Let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night. Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. And he sent you on a mission. Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?’ ‘But I did obey the Lord,’ Saul said….’You have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you as king over Israel!'” 1 Samuel 15:16-18,20,26

1 Samuel 15 is a sobering chapter. The Lord gives Saul a specific command, and Saul executes, his way. He is half-hearted, doing what he thinks best– again. Full of pride, having set up a monument for himself, Saul boasted that he had performed God’s command, then back-pedaled to blame his soldiers for his disobedience. The sad reality is that he headed down this pride-path from the beginning, and never relented, never turned around. His bent to promote himself and to serve his own whims and desires went unbridled, and grieved both Samuel and the Lord.20120906_191242

Saul manifests pride in areas that can make us squirm. His hiding from introduction, after receiving God’s anointing and power from the Holy Spirit, betrays a self-consciousness and focus on self, not God. When have I eschewed an introduction because of my own insecurity or unease, rather than accepting God’s mantle? His impatient decision to make an offering himself reveals his wrong thinking that exercising the role of priest when it was not his was no big deal, and magnifies his lack of trust in the Lord. When have I treated the profane as sacred, or acted ahead of my holy God, thinking my way is better and He will understand? Saul’s partial obedience in war that left him with plunder intended for destruction smacks of a willful choice to do what he thought best and what would benefit him most. How do I excuse half-heartedness, blame others, or make excuses for what I have intentionally decided or done? God is God, His word is His word. (1 Samuel 10:1,8,21-22; 13:8-12)

“For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.” 1 John 2:16

Holy Father, expose and uproot the seedlings of pride. In every moment, at every crossroads, may I choose to accept Your word and heed Your good instructions to me.

 

 

 

Crowned with Bounty

You visit the earth and water it; you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide their grain, for so you have prepared it. You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth. You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with abundance. The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy, the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.” Psalm 65:9-13

Psalm 65 paints a beautiful picture of God’s tender, lavish care of His earth, and His people. The image of God’s visit, His abundant provision of water that soaks into rich soil, His blessing of growth (I envision time-lapse photography of flowers and grain buds opening), and overflowing supply and joy makes my heart swell. Isn’t this how He treats us?

My God visits me. He is ever-present, and greatly enriches me with purpose, imagination, living water, hunger to know Him. He pours out His word, nurturing the soil of my mind and softening the furrows of my heart. It is He Who blesses any growth in or through me. All fruit His people bear comes from His tending, and His way is abundance. (John 15:5; 1 Corinthians 3:6-7)

O God, as we embark on every day, and all ministry for Thee, please crown the moments, the days, the years, with your bounty. May every result shout and sing together for joy, to Your glory.

Full Restoration (with Scars)

“Nathan said to David, ‘The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.’ And the Lord afflicted the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and he became sick. David therefore sought God on behalf of the child. And David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. On the seventh day the child died. But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David understood that the child was dead. And David said to his servants, ‘Is the child dead?’ They said, ‘He is dead.’ Then David arose from the earth and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. He then went to his own house. And when he asked, they set food before him, and he ate.

“Then David comforted his wife, Bathsheba, and went in to her and lay with her, and she bore a son, and he called his name Solomon. And the Lord loved him.

“Now Joab fought against Rabbah of the Ammonites and took the royal city. And Joab sent messengers to David and said, ‘Now then gather the rest of the people together and encamp against the city and take it.’ David gathered all the people together and went to Rabbah and fought against it and took it. And he brought out the spoil of the city, a very great amount…. Then David and all the people returned to Jerusalem.” 2 Samuel 12:13-14,16,18-20,24,26-31

I am struck by the results of God’s mercy in the life of David: complete forgiveness, harsh consequences, then the restoration of David’s worship and relationship with God, of his relationship with Bathsheba, and to his rightful occupation as warrior king. How gracious the Lord is to restore us–not without scars–to what matters to Him. It begins when we confess our sin and receive His mercy and cleansing. Uprightness in Spirit with Him leads to uprightness in other areas (that have surely suffered when we are living in sin), likely gradually, often in some initial dramatic way or area that proves His divine handling. Has the tongue been cleansed? The prurient interest diminished? The desire taken away? The despair lifted? The attitude transformed?

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This passage exemplifies how God changes wrestling to peaceful acceptance, marriages broken by distrust and sorrow to ones of love, sloth and neglect to fervent and purposeful work. His promise is true: “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten.” (Joel 2:25) He will, and He does!

Father, You restored the blatant sinner who pled, Restore to me the joy of my salvation” to be “a man after God’s heart,” and You are ready to do this in me and those I love. Break my heart with what breaks Yours, restore me to Your path, and may the scars You have so mercifully left remind me to praise You, and to tell others of the way of restoration offered in Jesus. (Psalm 51:13-15,17; 1 Samuel 13:14)

I Will Make Merry

“I will make merry before the LORD.” 2 Samuel 6:21

Sing to the Lord, all the earth! For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and he is to be feared above all gods. Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength! Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him! Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.” 1 Chronicles 16:23-25,28-29

2 Samuel 6 is riveting, beginning with David’s impulsive effort at bringing God’s ark to Jerusalem that failed because he had not sought God’s rule and favor. God judged, David feared. Then he realigned his heart to follow God’s prescribed way, danced before the LORD in a celebratory procession of priests carrying the ark into the tent he had pitched for it, and then had a marital spat with his sarcastic, jealous wife Michal. His resolve in the tension? “I will make merry.”

I won’t say Michal had no reason to be angry with David, but in this instance she missed the point that he was leading his people to embrace: God is great and worthy of honor and praise, and we must rejoice in His presence (represented in the ark). David followed placing the ark with offerings to God, blessing the people, including his household, in the name of the Lord, and distributing gifts to all who were present. David’s song of 1 Chronicles 16 is the spillover of his heart, which was captivated with God, while Michel’s was full of despising and spitting resentment. We never see evidence the LORD is her first love. David had learned a hard lesson with the death of Uzzah on his first attempt at moving the ark, but had surrendered to God and His way, even if that required self-abasement. He had a wife who was not supportive, but blessed her anyway. Obedience brought great joy. Michal was stuck in the mire of flesh and feelings, and was a bitter woman.

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When we learn of increased persecution of Christians around the world, and are reminded by anniversaries of terrorism and natural disasters, we can determine how to respond. As we face ominous threats, debilitating pain, stinging opposition, or unjust accusation, will we fret, complain, blame, or by make merry before the LORD?

Lord God, great are You and greatly to be praised! May I ever ascribe to You the glory due Your name! May my voice resound with the heavens and the sea, and sing for joy with all creation, that You are good; your steadfast love endures forever. Amen. (1 Chronicles 15:25,28,31-34)

 

Abundant Mercies

Have mercy on me,O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” Psalm 51:1-4,6-7

I cannot read Psalm 51 or 2 Samuel 11-12 without bowing in overwhelming awe at the mercy and lovingkindness of my Savior. David had committed adultery and murder, and he tried to cover them up, but God knows all, and in His grace toward the leader of Israel would not let him go on in his sin and accompanying misery. David described his distress and God’s mercy in Psalm 32: “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” Ah, the amazing, abundant mercy of God! His Spirit operates so we might know, with David, Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”

God is concerned with our hearts. He is relentless in His pursuit of us when we sin. His truth exposes it, His agents identify it, His Spirit convicts of it; He breaks our hearts to bring contrition and repentance. His mercy makes the way for us to live with a clean conscience and right spirit, to enjoy our salvation, to fulfill our calling and declare His praise.  How deliberate am I to bare the deepest part of me to His searchlight? To take time on my knees before my holy God in earnest confession? (Ezekiel 18:30-32; Psalm 139:23-24)

“Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight?’… David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ And Nathan said to David, ‘The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.'” (2 Samuel 12:7,9,13) “You are forgiven!” Three words, a declaration of immeasurable, magnificent freedom won by our Savior on the cross when He declared, in victorious agony, “It is finished!” However dark our thoughts, evil our actions, harsh our attitudes, biting our words, and vicious our rebellion, in love God draws us to Himself, lavishes His mercy on our genuine confession, and washes us clean.

“Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.”                                                                                               ~Robert Robertson (1758)

Father, Your steadfast love never ceases, and Your mercies never come to an end; indeed, they are new every morning. Reign in me! May Your truth convict, call me to account, and disclose the secrets of my heart that I fall on my face and worship you. (Lamentations 3:22-23; 1 Corinthians 14:24-25)

Zeal in Action

One day Jonathan the son of Saul said to the young man who carried his armor, ‘Come, let us go over to the Philistine garrison on the other side.’ Within the passes, by which Jonathan sought to go over to the Philistine garrison, there was a rocky crag on the one side and a rocky crag on the other side.  Jonathan said to the young man who carried his armor, ‘Come, let us go. It may be that the Lord will work for us, for nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few.’  And his armor-bearer said to him, ‘Do all that is in your heart. Do as you wish. Behold, I am with you heart and soul.’ Then Jonathan said, ‘Behold, we will cross over to the men, and we will show ourselves to them.’  If they say, “Come up to us,” then we will go up, for the Lord has given them into our hand. And this shall be the sign to us.’ And the men of the garrison hailed Jonathan and his armor-bearer and said, ‘Come up to us, and we will show you a thing.’ And Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, ‘Come up after me, for the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel.’ Then Jonathan climbed up on his hands and feet, and his armor-bearer after him. And they fell before Jonathan, and his armor-bearer killed them after him. So the Lord saved Israel that day.” 1 Samuel 14:1,4,6-8,12-13,23

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: …the one who leads, with zeal… Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Do not be haughty.” Romans 12:1-3,6,8,11,16

I am struck this day by Jonathan’s zeal for Israel and for his Lord. In 1 Samuel 14 he and his armor-bearer take on a group of cocky Philistines and defeat them, leading Israel to bold conquest in the name of the LORD. He is brave, focused, sure of God’s promise, guidance, and help. His father had been a weak example to him, yet with his allegiance directly to his God, he succeeds, causing Israel to see God’s victory. (I wonder what influence David had on his faith?)

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Though it was penned centuries later, Jonathan has implemented the teaching of Romans 12. He has willingly offered his body a living sacrifice to God, understands God’s will and his unique gift of leading, and uses it to lead with zeal, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. He is not haughty, but appropriately confident. It is a great and biblical quality to understand our God-given gifts and utilize them for His purposes, as He calls, and for His glory.

Lord, may I be zealous for You and Your causes as Jonathan was, following You as my good Leader. Thank You for his example. And may this zeal be contagious to others, that they may watch and say, “he has worked with God this day; I will also,” and pick up their swords. (1 Samuel 14:45)

His House, or Mine?

Now when the king lived in his house and the Lord had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, [he] said to Nathan the prophet, ‘See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.’ And Nathan said to the king, ‘Go, do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you.’  But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, Go and tell my servant David, “Thus says the Lord: Would you build me a house to dwell in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. The Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.  And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.”‘”  2 Samuel 7:1-6,11-13,16

David was a gifted man whose heart beat for his God. He led Israel with great skill, bravery, and determination, was zealous for the Lord Who had been His constant Help, and wanted to build Him a house. Why should he, a mere man, dwell in a house of cedar while God dwelt in a movable tent? Though he was commended for having this desire in his heart, God’s response through Nathan the prophet was “no.” Then He put His hand under David’s chin and lifted it up above the things of earth. He had house plans of a different kind. Once David grasped the enormity of God’s promise to his family, that his seed and kingdom, his “house,” would endure forever, and that God had a distinct and different plan for him (other than building the house), he was overwhelmed at the astounding love and favor of his God. He could not help but be consumed with Him. (1 Kings 8:18-19; 1 Chronicles 22:7-10)

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“Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord God. You have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come, and this is instruction for mankind, O Lord God! And what more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Lord God! Because of your promise, and according to your own heart, you have brought about all this greatness, to make your servant know it. Therefore you are great, O Lord God. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears. And now, O Lord God, confirm forever the word that you have spoken concerning your servant and concerning his house, and do as you have spoken. And your name will be magnified forever, saying, ‘The Lord of hosts is God over Israel,’ and the house of your servant David will be established before you. For you, O Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, have made this revelation to your servant, saying, ‘I will build you a house.’ Therefore your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you. And now, O Lord God, you are God, and your words are true, and you have promised this good thing to your servant. Now therefore may it please you to bless the house of your servant, so that it may continue forever before you. For you, O Lord God, have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your servant be blessed forever.” 2 Samuel 7:18-22,25-29

 

When I have great thoughts for God, and yearn to honor Him with some deed, a project or relationship or ministry or structure, do I take time to check in with Him? And if I pray, is my prayer full of me, or Him? Do I seek only His blessing on my ideas, my wants, my efforts, or His will and rule above all? What are His plans, how and where does He intend to use my gifts? Are there more important assignments I have neglected because I have poured myself into my own agenda, and thus missed His higher plans? How might He be working through me to prepare another to take this on, to perpetuate my ‘dream,’ to do the work instead, and how does He want me occupied in the mean time?  David’s example of captivation with his Lord, humility before Him (you know your servant, O Lord God!), and utter submission to Him according to His trustworthy promises, is remarkable and inspiring. 

Lord, transform my desires to make them Yours. When You entrust me with ideas, resources, a home, talents, even peculiar heartaches and trials, make them all about You, not me. Deepen my trust that You own all, You know best, that Your plans are superior to mine. (Isaiah 55:9)