“Everything is against me!”
Have you ever felt that way? If you have read 1 Samuel 22-24, David knows how you feel. He is burdened because he occasioned the death of 85 priests, after delivering Keilah he flees because they would betray him, and he was nearly surrounded by Saul’s men in Maon. Everywhere he turned, he was hard-pressed to find encouragement, yet within each scene, he was given a dose of encouragement which signaled God’s unwavering support.
Out of the Levite slaughter, he won the loyalty of Abiathar and constant contact with God. You could say his communication was strengthened through this event. After fleeing from Keilah because of the threat of betrayal, he was affirmed by his closest friend, Jonathan. Their conference and covenant were reassuring. Jonathan pledged his allegiance to David and strengthened his hand in God. You could say his courage was strengthened through a friend’s commitment. Caught between the rock and the hard place of a fight against Saul or surrender and be killed, the messenger notifies Saul of a national security issue. God’s intervention by way of man’s movements strengthened his confidence in God. All three were important assets for his next encounter when Saul was in the cave with David and his men. He needed to be closely connected to God’s will. He needed to be courageous enough to stand against the worldly wisdom. He needed to be confident God would take care of Saul in His own way.
Medical science regularly applies a practice through vaccination whereby they give you a dose of a pathogen so your body will fight it and be strengthened against that disease. In the midst of your seasons of “dis-couragement,” remember courage is in the word. Look for a little shot of encouragement. It will help you strengthen your communication, your courage, and your confidence in God.
You learn more about God in desperate times than most any other time. Sadly, you learn about yourself as well, and that can be most disappointing. From 1 Samuel 19-22, David goes through a roulette of safe-havens. First, he runs to Samuel which proves to be a very successful haven. Saul as not able to touch David. God detained even the most determined individual. Why David left Samuel, we do not know. Maybe Samuel grew weak with the added stress or David was afraid of endangering the prophets. David decided to run to his friend Jonathan. Also, a good source of consolation and a close friend in adversity. Jonathan helps David expose Saul’s intentions. The grief grips David and unsettles his powers of reason. He reacts by impulse.
So the merry-go-round of havens continues but first there was a stop at the Tabernacle in Shiloh. This would appear to be a good choice. In his time of need and direction, he seeks God’s counsel. However, the text does not bear any indication of his search for wisdom. Instead, he asks for supplies and weapons. He asked for materials to maintain his predicament instead of divine wisdom to navigate it. Throughout David’s life, you can see the “fight or flight” moments because they are the times he dives into something senseless. They are the moments in the story where you almost blurt out, “Don’t do that, David!” Like retreating to Gaza with Goliath’s sword in tow, David’s roulette of havens was a scamper for self-preservation.
In our lives, we can also be guilty of the same thing. We are as resourceful as a frightened mouse, skittering from cover to cover, instead of pausing to ask for wisdom. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5). Eventually, David stopped and reflected and you can enjoy his meditations in Psalm 34.
“This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, And saved him out of all his troubles…O taste and see that the Lord is good: Blessed is the man that trusteth in him…Depart from evil, and do good; Seek peace, and pursue it…Many are the afflictions of the righteous: But the Lord delivereth him out of them all…And none of them that trust in him shall be desolate.”
Instead of seeking material supplies to help you maintain the season of difficulty, will you not ask for divine counsel to help you navigate the season? Find your haven of rest in God.
Listen carefully and you can hear the death rattle of true friendship. It is almost obsolete today. Social media’s increased influence upon our relationships strangles the essence of friendship. Even though one may be celebrated or their post is viral, they can feel alone in the next moment.
David and Jonathan are a refreshing reminder of what friendship should be. What was the essence of their friendship? As with many friendships, theirs was formed by a common interest. This is key in a world swirling with hobbies, fads, and other assorted interests. In many ways, their world was simpler, yet the common interest between them is not what you might think. They were not friends because of a common enemy—the Philistines. They were not friends because of a common location—the palace. They were not friends because of a common mauchoism—the passion. Their common interest was not weapons or the city life or sheep. Study the words they use. Their common interest was in the Lord. Both speak affectionately and reverently of the Lord. Their bond was their allegiance to the God of Israel first. This common interest intersected their lives from obscurity to devotion.
The bond between friends is only as strong as the common interest. A sports team may last a long time, but what happens when other responsibilities compete for your attention? Other interests may fade away and become outmoded. But the work and ways and wonder and worship of God never wear. The facets of His intrigue are brilliant. This is the compound which knits souls of friends together. Its rarity is akin to the pigeon blood red ruby and its value exceeds it. A friendship like this is God-like in that the language of this relationship is the sacrifice without reservation.
Do you have a friendship like David and Jonathan? Count yourself blessed. If not, ask God to help you be the friend you need to be and he will supply the companion. Those who delight in the Lord will not be desolate.
“Working for” and “working with” are two very different conditions. To work for your spouse could be a recipe for trouble, but to work with your spouse spells teamwork. Throughout our churches, pastors and parishioners, tumble into one of the two categories. Working for God often leads to cutting corners, preserving “me-time,” keeping back what’s mine, etc. As is often the tendency with employee/employer relationships, unfamiliarity or lack of trust exploits the other party and forces the response of self-defense. The employer must protect the bottom line at the expense of the employee. The employee must protect his dignity at the expense of the employer. It’s not a healthy relationship.
Sadly, these emotions simmer in the hearts of “work for God” Christians. God will never take advantage of his saints, but his requests can seem strenuous. “Working for” Christians allocate a service a week to God, attempt to invite someone to church when convenient, part with a little of their resources as long as it does not impinge their lifestyle. After all, they need to look out for themselves. Think logically for a moment. Do you want the responsibility of looking out for yourself, or do you want the omniscient, omnipresent God who never slumbers or sleeps to look out for you?
One statement about Jonathan in 1 Samuel 14 has always stood out to me. The people declare, “He wrought with God.” Jonathan worked with God to accomplish His perfect and powerful plan. He didn’t count his position as more important than God’s plan. He didn’t value his pride as more valuable than God’s plan. They weren’t collateral in the “let’s make a deal with God” game. He didn’t even value his own life as more important than working with God. He kept given to the work of God, and he let God take care of him.
What makes the difference? It’s all about your delight.
“Delight thyself also in the Lord; And he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; Trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass” (Psalm 37:4-5).
The word delight technically means “pliable” or “moldable.” What a powerful mental picture when you reflect on the Scripture which portrays your life as a vessel crafted by the Master Artisan. Your delight allows God to mold you into a masterpiece. Decide today to be like Jonathan and work with God instead of working for God. Find your delight in God and He will make your life fulfilling.
Their names have been ensconced in literary tradition, however, their origin tells a different story. The arch nemesis of the Israelites, the Philistines, were still causing trouble for Israel. The people gathered for war, but they could not gain the upper-hand. Israel was slaughtered. More than likely the people had seen the reverential procession of the Philistine god, Dagon, and their comparative nature presumed they needed the same procession. They brought in the ark of God. Not for worship, not for consolation, but as a charm of good fortune. They celebrated the arrival of the ark but never invoked the divine power of which the ark represented. They were not interested in the God of the ark. They only wanted His power at their point of inconvenience.
One heroic believer made the observation that when believers come into trials, many times, they treat God like the spare tire instead of the steering wheel. When we have a need or when the time is convenient for us, then we can call upon God. This trivialization of the Lord led to a fatal defeat for Israel and the loss of their trinket, the ark. Eli falls backward and breaks his neck at the news of losing the ark of God. Phineas’ wife gives birth to a son and names him Ichabod, the glory has departed. The country was war ravaged. Women had lost their husbands and sons. The economic system was off-kilter. It was an infamous day in Israel.
The Israelites worship became disjointed, even after the ark’s return seven months later. Finally, Samuel recognized the beginnings of a revival when the people “lamented after the Lord.” He knew this at a tender time in the nation’s heart. He gathers the people for a ceremonial dedication, but the horrid Philistines put together a strike force and attacked Israel. The Lord displayed His strength for Israel and fought for them. “Then Samuel took a stone…and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us” (1 Samuel 7:12). With this name, Samuel points to the history of Israel and highlights all the help the Lord has given. The people of the world bear an arm of flesh. Some trust in chariots and horses, but they were going to remember the name of the Lord who will fight their battles for them. Hitherto and evermore the Lord would help them.
What’s the difference between the Ichabod scene and the Ebenezer scene? Both involved the attack of the Philistines. The ark of God is present in both scenes. The difference was the people’s sincere devotion to God. Divine help only comes when we are complete devoted to God. Someone has said, “You know something is an idol when you are afraid of losing it.” The people used to be more afraid of losing the ark than drifting from the God of the ark. Once they lamented after the Lord, God intervened.
Lord, I praise you, Because of who you are,
Not for all the mighty things that you have done.
Lord, I worship you, because of who you are.
You’re all the reason that I need to voice my praise
Because of who you are