1 Kings 12
UNDER THE WRAPPING PAPER
Watch out for the wrapping paper. Wrapping paper can be very deceiving. A present wrapped in fancy and expensive paper looks like an expensive gift – but is it? If we saw a gift wrapped in pretty pink paper, printed with booties and dummies, we would expect it to be for a baby girl – but is that what is really inside?
When Jereboam tore most of the kingdom away from Rehoboam, he realised that worshiping in Jerusalem could turn the people back to Rehoboam. To counter this, Jereboam set up another system of worship. From outside appearances it looked similar. He had wrapped his new system of worship up in wrapping paper from the worship of the LORD. Jereboam gave the people places to go to worship just like they did in Jerusalem, there were priests like there were in the temple to officiate and tell people what to do, the calf idols may have even looked something like the cheribum, and there were festivals and feasts just like the ones they had known. But under the wrapping paper was idol worship. They were no longer worshiping the loving God of Israel they had come to know.
People do the same today. Humanist values come packaged as Christian values. Watch out for the wrapping paper. It may hide a world of deceit.
May we be guided by God’s wisdom this week.
With love in our Lord,
1 Timothy 4
When I was baptised, I wanted to be perfect. One of my role models was Timothy, because, like me, he was also a godly young man who was busy teaching and encouraging others, pointing them toward Jesus.
When I discovered that I still fell into the trap of sin more than a perfect person should, I was quite discouraged. But I had missed one of the instructions that Paul gave Timothy. Paul told Timothy to teach what is right, to be an example, to publicly read the Bible and to use his gifts. Then he added this: “Practice these things and immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.” (1 Timothy 4 v 15 ESV).
Here is the point: We are not perfect – we are growing towards perfection. When we allow others to see our progress (as opposed to our perfection), we may well be the encouragement and motivation they need in their lives. Our progress can spur others on to living better lives for Christ themselves.
So let’s aim for perfection and make sure we progress toward that aim.
May we ever be growing toward God this week.
With love in our Lord,
1 Kings 11
LIKE KING, LIKE PEOPLE
It was Solomon whose heart got turned away from God by his wives. It was Solomon who went after other gods: Ashteroth, Milcom, Chemosh and Molech. He also built up high places for them.
Solomon was the king of Israel. He was the leader of God’s people. He may have intended that no one more than he and his foreign wives would worship these idols, but this is not what happens when you are a leader and other people follow. The Bible not only describes Solomon following foreign gods in 1 Kings 11 v 4 – 8, but it describes almost exactly the same things about all of Israel. God said, “They have forsaken me and worshipped Ashteroth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of Moab, and Milcom the god of the Amorites, and have not walked in my ways, doing what is right in my sight and keeping my statutes and rules, as David his [Solomon’s] father did.” (1 Kings 11 v 33 ESV).
The decay in the pure worship of God followed through from the king to the people. Let’s make sure that our leadership leads people to God and not away from him.
May God give us the wisdom we need to follow him today.
With love in our Lord,
It makes life seem better, gives you enthusiasm, it helps us overcome, puts us in a positive frame of mind, and makes pain, suffering and trials reduce in their intensity. It is also the first step to physical, emotional and spiritual healing. What is it? Who can I see to get it? What does it cost?
I got mine from the Word of God and it cost me nothing. Coming from a place of overwork, tiredness, depression and pain, I can tell you that it really works. It has been one of the changes I have made that has turned my life around.
Thankfulness. It all seems too simple really. But finding things to be thankful about in any and every situation makes a massive difference to life. Paul said this to the believers in Colossae: “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him … abounding in thankfulness.” (Colossians 2 v 6 – 7 ESV).
Let’s not just aim to be thankful, but to abound in thankfulness. Let’s let thankfulness overflow from us. May we reap God’s blessings when we abound in thankfulness.
May joy and thankfulness be the mark of our characters this week.
With love in our Lord,
1 Kings 3
“Solomon loved the LORD.” (1 Kings 3 v 3 ESV).
Sometimes we forget that Solomon loved the LORD when we read the end of his story and find him turned away because of the influence of his many wives. But loving the LORD and giving him the absolute first place in our lives is probably one of the most difficult things in life. Yes, we love the LORD like Solomon did, but like Solomon, we also have other loves in our lives as well. Those other loves doesn’t diminish from our love for the LORD, but the other things we love – even good things like our husbands, wives or children, right down to our secret desires, we love to indulge in. Even when we dabble in sin, we would still say we love the LORD.
Eventually other loves can turn us away from the LORD eventually, like they did for Solomon. And God doesn’t want to be shared either. He wants all of our heart. It is for these reasons that we need to make sure that we love God more, that our love for Him continues to grow so that the love we have for other things is eclipsed by the brightness of the love of God in our hearts.
Let’s love him above all else.
May God’s love keep us in awe this week.
With love in our Lord,
2 Samuel 23
NEVER GIVE UP
David’s mighty men are listed as a record of those who made great achievements and advances in the art of war. Reading through the list of his mighty men, I came to the conclusion that the difference between a mighty man and an ordinary man is that a mighty man refuses to give up even when the going gets tough.
Take Dodo the son of Ahohi for example. “He was with David when they defied the Philistines who were gathered there for battle and the men of Israel withdrew. He rose and struck down the Philistines until his hand was weary and his hand clung to his sword. And the LORD brought about a great victory that day, and the men returned after him only to strip the slain.” (2 Samuel 23 v 9 – 10 ESV). Dodo refused to run away when everyone else did. He fought all by himself. He trusted in the LORD. And he was mighty because he used ALL his strength and gave ALL of himself.
That’s how we become mighty men. It might not be through war, but when we persevere in God’s will, even when everyone else falls away, and when we do it with all our strength, God will be with us.
THIRTY SECOND GOSPEL
Could you give a summary of the gospel message in thirty seconds? Some people call it the Elevator Gospel – just enough time to share the gospel between the doors closing and opening again for you and the person you are with to get out. I have found having a way to present the gospel in a brief but concise way to be very useful.
Peter’s message to Cornelius is one we could model our thirty second gospel from. Here is my summary in a few bullet points from Acts 10 verses 34 – 43:
- God is interested in you, no matter who you are – especially when you are seeking him. (v 34 – 35).
- Jesus Christ is Lord of all and he can make your life even better by giving you real and lasting peace. (v 36).
- Jesus was a great and sinless man doing powerful things for God, but he was put to death on a cross. (v 37 – 39).
- God raised Jesus from the dead. Real live people saw him. They ate and drank with him. (v 40 – 42).
- Jesus is the one who is going to judge the living and the dead. You need to know that. (v 42).
- Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins in his name. (v 43).
- So be baptized and accept Jesus Christ as your Lord to receive the blessing of God.
Sometimes prayer becomes quite routine and we need something to shake us up and rejuvenate our prayer life. Here it is. Jesus taught us how to pray, and it’s amazing how quickly we (speaking for myself) forget.
“Father, hallowed be your name.” (Luke 11 v 2 ESV). He is a Father to us – not just some distant god. Talking to God should be like talking to your Dad. But in our prayers to Him, we must still remember to give Him the reverence and praise He deserves.
“Your kingdom come.” Keep the big picture in mind. The more we pray it, the more we will look forward to it, and the more ready we will be for the return of Jesus.
“Give us each day our daily bread.” (v 3). We all have needs, and we need to ask God about them. He cares and He will meet our needs. (Remember that needs are different to wants).
“And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” (v 4). To be righteous means to be forgiven. God wants us to be righteous, so let’s ask for forgiveness, while making sure we give the same to each other.
“And lead us not into temptation.” (v 4). It is so easy to fall into sin. We need all the help we can get to keep away from it. Ask and it will be given to you. It’s important.
So let’s refresh our attitude of prayer and prioritize praying for the things that are really important.
2 Samuel 21
SEASONS OF LIFE
As we get older, we might still feel like we are in our teens, twenties or thirties, but in actual fact, we are getting older. At certain times of our life we discover that there are things we find more difficult or that are not as easy as they were before. It seems David was hitting that sort of age. “There was war again` between the Philistines and Israel, and David went down together with his servants, and they fought against the Philistines. And David grew weary. And Ishbi-benob … thought to kill David. But Abishai the son of Zeruiah came to his aid and attacked the Philistine and killed him. Then David’s me said to him. ‘You shall no longer go out with us to battle, lest you quench the lamp of Israel.'” (2 Samuel 21 v 15 – 17 ESV).
Our lives have different seasons. In our youth we can be more physical. As we grow older, hopefully we grow more wise. Even David seemed to realise this and retired from active service.
When life changes for us, let’s not resist it but embrace the change and begin to grow again in the new direction that God has for us.
2 Samuel 18
A HEAD FULL OF PRIDE
Sometimes it is the things that we are most proud of that prevent us from going any further. That was certainly the case for Absolom.
Once a year Absolom would have a haircut. But where most people would throw the offcuts of hair outside for the birds to make nests with, or use them to light a fire, Absolom would weigh his hair, and it seems he would record how heavy it was.
Absolom had a fine crop of hair. He was proud of it. But it was Absolom’s hair that let him down in the end (if you could call it letting him down). Fighting to take over the kingship of Israel, Absolom’s hair got caught in the thick branches of a great oak, and as his mule moved away from underneath him, he was stuck hanging by his hair from the tree, unable to do anything about his situation. His hair, the source of his pride, was his downfall.
There is nothing wrong with having great hair, and if you’ve got it, be thankful for it! But let’s not let even good things become a source of pride for us. Instead let’s be humble and thankful, honouring God for any blessings that we might have been given.
May we humble ourselves before God and let Him lift us up.
With love in our Lord,
2 Samuel 17
PLAY YOUR PART
You don’t have to believe that your Christian service begins and ends with filling a seat on a Sunday morning. Not everyone has the same talents, but all of us have a talent we can use.
As David fled from Absolom, the fact that all David’s supporters were able to help in some way shows us that we can have a role to play – an important role – in our service to Christ. From the time that Absolom made his intentions known to overthrow David, each person played their part.
- A messenger told David the news. (2 Samuel 15 v 13).
- David’s servants gave David support. (v 14 – 18).
- Some gave special pledges of support. (v 19 – 21).
- People wept for him. (v 23).
- Priests were prepared to minister to David. (v 24).
- Some were spies. (v 27 – 28).
- Hushai was a diversion. (v 33 – 37).
- Ziba brought donkeys and food. (16 v 1 – 4).
- The army protected David. (v 5 – 14).
- Jonathan and Ahimaz were messengers. (17 v 17).
- A female servant delivered the message. (v 17).
- A woman hid the messengers. (v 18 – 20).
- Shobi and Barzillai provided food and all sorts of utensils. (v 27 – 29).
- And there are no doubt others I missed in this short survey.
The message for is to find a task and do it with all the strength God gives you. Encourage, teach, smile, share a Bible verse, share a meal, have someone to stay, donate, serve, wash dishes, make music, clean, and the list could go on. Let’s play our part for Jesus.
May we have an attitude that strives to fulfill the plans that God has for us each day.
With love in our Lord,
2 Samuel 16
LEAVE HIM ALONE
It is hard to tolerate a person when they falsely accuse, curse or slander you – especially when they are intent on yelling and screaming and throwing stones.
As David fled from Absolom, Shimei came out and cursed him, throwing stones and dust at David. David’s men wanted to cut off Shimei’s head for his curses, but David would not let his men do Shimei any damage. He said, “Leave him alone and let him curse, for the LORD has told him to. It may be that the LORD will look on all the wrong done to me, and that the LORD will repay me with good for his cursing today.” (2 Samuel 16 v 11 – 12 ESV).
David knew a deeper principle, one that was summed up in a proverb that Solomon would write a few years later: “Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying, a curse that is causeless does not alight.” (Proverbs 26 v 2 ESV).
If Shimei’s curses were from the LORD, then David figured he deserved them. If the curses were undeserved, then they would be baseless and would not come to rest, leaving God to repay David for the hardship he faced.
Let’s develop the perspective of David and leave the sorting out of other people to God.
Let us trust in the Lord with all our hearts this week.
With love in our Lord,
2 Samuel 13
Things had turned bad among David’s family. Amnon had raped his sister Tamar, and Absolom had killed Amonon. Now Absolom had fled from the rest of his family and was living in exile. Reading between the lines, we could easily believe that Absolom was David’s favorite son. So the whole time Absolom was in self imposed exile, we read this about David: “And the spirit of the king longed to go out to Absolom, because he was comforted about Amnon, since he was dead.” (1 Samuel 13 v 39 ESV).
Like David, many families even today suffer when one person makes a bad decision causing the family to fracture and splinter. Relationships are broken and family members refuse to see or speak with each other. Sometimes these broken relationships and hearts can go on for years.
If we feel like a relationship is broken, then maybe it’s time to fix it. The opportunity will not always be there, and the longer we leave it, the harder it will get. When our hearts long to go out to our spouse, children, parents or siblings, let’s not do nothing, but do all we can to restore the relationship.
2 Samuel 10
Even with the very best of intentions, there will always be someone who takes our actions and words the wrong way. They will look past the message that we are trying to get across, and focus on the word we got wrong; or they will observe our actions and impute motives to us that are not true at all.
That was exactly what happened to David and his delegation of men sent to console the king of the Ammonites when the king’s father had died. Hunan met the delegation bringing David’s sympathy, but his princes convinced him that “David had sent his servants to you to search the city and to spy it out and to overthrow it.” (2 Samuel 10 v 3 ESV). As a result, David’s men were humiliated and war broke out between Ammon and Israel.
There are two lessons I see from this today.
Firstly, there will always be someone who will take our words or actions the wrong way – even if we are acting completely honestly. We need to expect that.
And secondly, we need to make sure that it is not us who look for the worst in other people. Let’s think the best of them no matter what their actions may look like.
Leviticus 7 , 14
The priests in Israel did an important work. They were the ones who were to teach the people of God, who instructed them in the law. They were the doctors, and they were the one ones who were the example of lives devoted to God that the rest of Israel were to follow. Part of their job was to offer the sacrifices and offerings that the children of Israel offered.
Being involved in the work of God in this way meant that the priests were not going to have the time that the common people would have to provide for their needs, to raise their livestock or to grow their crops. For this reason God provided for them in the law. While the offerings and sacrifices were offered by the people to God, a good proportion of them became the property of the priest. One example is that of the fellowship offering. God said, “From the fellowship offering of the Israelites, I have taken the breast that is waved and the thigh that is presented and have given them to Aaron the priest and his sons as their regular share from the Israelites.” (Leviticus 7 v 34)
Within our churches and missions fields there are many people who contribute vast quantities of time and resources in the service of the Lord. Let us value their work and in some way give them the same sort of support God provided for those who did his work under the law of Moses.
SOMETIMES BAD THINGS HAPPEN
God’s people are not exempt from bad things happening to them. In Psalm 79 and 80 we read of Israel and Jerusalem brought to their knees by foreign invaders. The children of Israel, the people of Jerusalem and Judah were all God’s special chosen people. They took a special place in the heart of God. He gave them a land flowing with milk and honey but they sinned against God and failed to uphold their side of the covenant. They had promised to obey God, to have him as their only God, but instead had rejected him and worshiped and served idols instead of the living God. So God did what he said he would do if his people were unfaithful and he brought other armies against them to bring them to their knees and to turn them back to the living God. Israel and Judah suffered greatly under the attacks of these other nations and eventually they were taken from that land altogether.
Even though Israel and Judah were God’s special people, they still suffered and bad things happened to them. Even though we are Christians bad things may happen to us too. When they do, let us humble ourselves and accept God’s way knowing that in the end we will be with those who will praise him for ever.