… and the government shall be upon His shoulders… Isaiah 9:6
You don’t have to spend much time following the news to realize the opinion of government today isn’t the greatest. Here’s the problem: we often desperately look to government to solve the problems of the day. People look at the government as the only thing big enough and powerful enough to help them. But we can see in one historical account after another that government run by humans is generally a mess. No human government will ever truly bring about peace and justice and righteousness.
Things weren’t much different in Isaiah’s day when he spoke this prophecy. The government at the time Isaiah was prophesying was messy and often oppressive and unjust. Things haven’t changed much since then. While no earthly government can make all things right, the Kingdom of God can.
This prophesied Messiah will be a King with a Kingdom. The government shall be upon His shoulders.
Here’s a little sneak peek into what is to come. Do you know what Jesus says when He begins His ministry?
He says, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)
With the birth of the Messiah, a new kind of kingdom will be ushered in. We are part of it on this side of Jesus coming, but even now it is only a taste of the fullness of it. In God’s great story to us, He tells us how it will all end through a Revelation given to the apostle John. The Kingdom of God is at hand, but we wait for its ultimate rule when Jesus defeats Satan and death once and for all.
Questions: When you think about Jesus, do you think of Him as a king? Is He the king over your life? What do you think when you hear the “kingdom of God?”
… to us a Son is given…Isaiah 9:6
Not only is the Messiah to come as a child who will be born, but He is also a Son. And not any ordinary Son…God’s Son.
To us, a Son is given. To us (you, me, the world), a Son (God’s Son in human flesh, born as a baby) is given.
Sin is a big deal and God is a just God…sins must be punished and paid for. The only way to have sins forgiven and be right with God was through the blood of an innocent sacrifice; a firstborn male without blemish. Unending sacrifices for unending sin.
Though God is just and requires payment for sin, He is also full of grace and mercy. He delays His wrath and then sends a substitute to take it from us for us. The person who was to be the Messiah and Savior of the world had to meet all the requirements of holiness to be a perfect and acceptable sacrifice for our sins. The one Isaiah is prophesying about will be the only one worthy to fulfill the requirement to be pure, holy, and without blemish.
Jesus’s divinity (being God Himself) made Him uniquely qualified as an unblemished and perfect sacrifice. His humanity (being born a human) allowed Him to shed blood as our sacrifice. This combination gave Him the power and ability to save us.
The Messiah needed to be fully human so that He could die, but He also needed to be fully God so that we may live.
Questions: Have you ever thought about why Jesus had to be fully God and fully human? Why do you think this combination was necessary?
For unto us a child is born… Isaiah 9:6
Isaiah is looking forward to a day when a special child – a Savior -- will be born.
Unto us and for us.
The fact that the Messiah would come as a child and be BORN is significant. He could have come as an angel, or suddenly appear as a fully developed great man, or as some sort of symbolic creature. But this isn’t how God sent in His rescue plan. The Messiah will come to earth as all of us come to earth, in human flesh as a baby. He will know fully what we go through and experience as humans from birth to death. He will experience growing and learning and temptation, pain, joy, loss, celebration, and suffering.
It is all part of God’s plan, and from where we sit now, we know this baby was Jesus. This line from Isaiah’s prophecy about the Messiah shows his humanity. He will come as a human to die as a human.
As we continue to see God’s rescue plan unfold, we will see that He could not come save mankind as God alone, it also had to be as a man. He came as one of us to take our sins and make us righteous to stand again before a holy God.
Yes, Jesus had to be God and without sin (we’ll look more at that in the next line of the verse), but the humanity part mattered too. The true King of king and Lord of lords came as a baby.
How incredible that one who came to save us from our sins and from eternal destruction came as a tiny, messy, helpless, totally dependent baby?!?
Questions: How does this change what you think about why Jesus came as one of us? What do you think is the significance of Him coming as a baby?
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
You have probably heard this passage before…likely around Christmas time. It is one of the most often cited prophesies about Jesus. In this one single verse, the prophet Isaiah provides a glimpse into so many characteristics of Jesus who would be born roughly 750 years after this was written.
Israel was in a state of destruction and turmoil. Isaiah (a prophet in the Southern Kingdom) was offering hope of what was to come. Some good news for a weary people.
Gospel actually means Good News. There are four Gospel books in the New Testament that tell of Jesus’s birth, life, death, and resurrection – the Good News of our salvation by grace through faith in the work of Jesus. Isaiah is sometimes referred to as the 5th Gospel because it contains so many descriptions of Jesus as our Savior.
We are going to break this one verse apart and dig into each description and how it could only be fulfilled by Jesus. This prophecy from God through the lips of Isaiah is one of God’s many clues to His people – to us – about who Jesus is.
Speaking of prophecies, did you know that there are over 300 descriptions/prophecies in the Old Testament about the Messiah that were fulfilled by Jesus?
Challenge: Lee Strobel, a journalist and former atheist, set out to disprove Christianity, but in the process, he became a believer. He wrote a best-selling book called A Case for Christ. Take a few minutes (just under 6 minutes) to watch a video where Lee Strobel talks about some of the messianic prophecies being fulfilled through Jesus’ life & death.
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it. Jonah 3:10
Jonah was a reluctant prophet in the Southern Kingdom. He heard God’s call to deliver a message but ran the other way. He tried to hide, but it was no use. God had a plan for Him, and as we are beginning to see, God isn’t deterred. God wanted to use Jonah to speak a message to the people in Nineveh, an enemy Assyrian nation.
While Jonah was hiding out in a boat, God caused a great storm to erupt. Thrown overboard by the crew to appease God, Jonah finds himself inside a whale. For three days. Obeying God at the onset would have been a much easier path!
Jonah finally obeys God and goes to Nineveh to warn the people of God’s judgment and the city’s impending destruction. To his surprise, the people actually listen and repent. God delighted in Jonah going to this enemy nation and bringing about their salvation. It is a picture of God’s desire for ALL people to be saved.
Jesus links his life to Jonah when the religious leaders ask Him for a sign. Jesus says the only sign they will see is the sign of Jonah – pointing to this story (Matthew 12:40). As Jonah is in the belly of a fish for three days and three nights, Jesus too will be three days and three nights in the earth prior to His resurrection.
However, where Jonah is frightened and disobedient, Jesus is neither. Jesus uses Jonah as a picture for the people of His great mission…to die for us and to be raised from the dead after three days.
Questions: Have you ever felt God nudge you to do something? Maybe serve in some way, speak a kind word to someone, send a text or note of encouragement, warn a friend of the potential consequences of an unwise decision they are considering? Are you quick to obey and follow through, or do you generally try to hide from it like Jonah?
I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you. “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame. You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else. And my people shall never again be put to shame. “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Joel 2:25-28
Where Elijah was a prophet to Israel (the Northern Kingdom), Joel is a prophet in Judah (the Southern Kingdom). They are facing an outbreak of locusts destroying everything in sight, as well as famine. It is symbolic of an even more severe judgment to come for those who continue to rebel.
God speaks through Joel to show the people their need for repentance – to ask forgiveness for the ways they have strayed from God and to turn back to Him. God has many blessings in store for them if they just follow His ways.
Joel speaks often of the Day of the Lord. A day of judgment and wrath that is coming and will be devastating to the enemies of God. The time is now to repent, Joel urges those in Judah.
In the New Testament after Jesus’s resurrection, we see the apostle Peter give a similar sermon of repentance and restoration. In Joel’s prophesy we see a glimpse into the restoration God desires us to have and the Holy Spirit given to us after the resurrection of Jesus.
Challenge: Take time today to ask God to show you where you need to repent. He can’t wait to forgive you and watch you walk in freedom. As the day of judgment is sure to come, who in your life can you pray about sharing Jesus with?
And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. 1 Kings 18:21
Over three years of drought have led to severe famine. God tells Elijah it’s time to bring back the rain. But as is generally the case in the life of a prophet, it won’t happen in an ordinary way. It’s going to be a showdown between Elijah – the prophet of God – and the 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah (the false god of the king and people). The people worship God, but also the other false gods; they try to cover all the bases, hoping for the best. Elijah says they are “limping between two different opinions” and it’s not ok. It’s time to choose.
Each side will select a bull for sacrifice, cut it, and place it on the wood. The prophets of Baal will call upon their god to light their fire, and Elijah will call upon God to light his fire.
The Baal prophets go first. From morning to noon, they cry out to Baal. Crickets. Elijah starts to taunt them. “Cry louder”, he says. Maybe your god is relieving himself or taking a little nap, he mocks more. Ramped up cries to Baal with raving and cutting…and more silence. A false god never saves or keeps its promises.
Elijah’s turn. Not only does he put the bull on the wood, he has the people pour water over it three times, making it even harder to burn. Nothing is impossible for his God. Elijah prays to the Lord and immediately the sacrifice is consumed by fire from God. The One true God provides.
The people believe that God is the one true God and they destroy the prophets of Baal. Not long after, the rains come. God always provides. God always keeps His promises. If only we could cling to this belief and trust Him always, but we will soon see the roller coaster continues.
Questions: Do you find yourself “limping between two opinions” as Elijah said to the people…trusting God a little, but also seeking other “idols”? Do you find yourself not necessarily anti-God, but worshiping a few other added things just for good measure?
Then the word of the Lord came to him, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” 1 Kings 17:8-9
Elijah remains in hiding as the rain remains at bay. The brook God initially directed Elijah to for water has run dry on account of the drought. But God’s provision doesn’t run dry.
God tells Elijah to go to a widow and ask for water and a small morsel of bread. With the desperate drought conditions and extreme scarcity of food, the widow responds that she only has enough left for one last meal for her and her son. She says they are prepared to die after this final meal. It’s a dramatic statement, but who can blame her…everyone around her is starving and she is on her last bit of food. She has been stretching the last of her provisions as far as she possibly could.
Elijah tells her that if she shares with him now, her jars of flour and oil will be enough for each day…that she will not run out until the rains return. Incredibly, she does as he says. In faith, she shares her small portion of food and is not without a meal from that point on.
The widow trusts these words of God. She sacrifices what she could have hoarded for her and her son, and as a result of her faithfulness, she ends up with exactly what she needs each day thereafter.
As God’s plan unfolds, He demonstrates His provision and power. But it is up to us to trust and obey. God never promises things will be easy, but He does promise that if we look to Him and put our trust in Him, He will provide for our needs.
Questions: Would you have a hard time giving up what little you had for the hope of gaining more? How does this apply to other areas of our life? Are you clinging to something God is asking you to share?
Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” And the word of the Lord came to him: “Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” So he went and did according to the word of the Lord. He went and lived by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan. 1 Kings 17:1-5
The Israelites in the Northern Kingdom find themselves under the rule of a series of very evil and corrupt kings. King Ahab was the seventh such king and he was married to an even more wicked woman, Jezebel, who insists on the worship of false gods and corrupt practices. The state of the Northern Kingdom of Israel is a mess! The primary god they worship is Baal, and in a time where agricultural success meant survival, the people believed Baal controlled the rain.
Enter Elijah. The life of a prophet isn’t an easy one. God uses prophets to not only speak His words but also often to display them through their lives and actions.
At God’s direction, Elijah goes to the evil king and declares there will be no rain until he says so…fighting and threatening words for a society that lives and dies by the rain. And so it begins…a long and disastrous drought. But God is with Elijah, providing for his needs in the desolate place he withdraws to. God is working to show Israel that He is the only one who can be trusted to provide for them, even when it comes to the rain.
How often do we look to other things to put our hope in for what we want and need…current day cultural idols like Baal to provide for us? God wants us to always put our hope in Him alone. He is above all things and He won’t share His throne.
Question: What things do you turn to or put your hope in for security or meaning besides God? Pray for God to reveal idols in your life.
So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day. 1 Kings 12:19
Israel is knee-deep in the consequences of their disobedience and that of their leaders. Solomon – only the third king of Israel – was the last of a strong and united kingdom. Earthly power nearly always corrupts…just as God warned them.
Upon Solomon’s death, there is strife and disagreement about who should rule, ultimately splitting the kingdom into two.
Steeped in idolatry and tribal discord, division prevails. Sin always causes division and separation...with God and with one another.
Israel is no longer a strong, powerful, united and unified people. Time passes, new characters come on the scene, but things don’t change much.
We need NOT another flawed human king, but a righteous Holy Savior.
Kings come and go…most of them evil and hostile to God, in favor of the many false gods and harmful practices of their surroundings. God raises up prophets to communicate His words to warn the people and encourage them to return to God. But like their stubborn ancestors, the people rarely listened or changed their behavior.
Hebrews 1:1-2a begins, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” Soon God’s Son – God in the flesh – will come speak to the people, but for now, among these divided tribes, God speaks through His chosen prophets.
Questions: Why do you think the people couldn’t rally and stay together? In what ways have you seen idolatry and tribal discord lead to division?
Reference: Divided Kingdom
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
God is a God of seasons. God’s story is one of seasons…slowly, orderly, methodically revealing His plan for salvation. A season of the first humans walking with God, a season of rebellion, a season of establishing a covenant, a season of receiving God’s law for right living, a season of slavery, a season of wandering, a season of war, a season of victory, a season of judges, a season of prophets, a season of waiting, a season of God in the flesh on earth, a season of declaring the good news, a season of anticipating Jesus’s return and the final victory over death. Through all of the seasons, the story is the same…we cannot save ourselves from ourselves, but in God’s justice, mercy, and grace, His plan all along is in His Son who redeems and restores us. Every season reveals layers of this truth.
Years cycle through seasons, and in our individual lives, we also go through seasons…some filled with laughter and some with tears. We have seasons of growing, maturing, listening, hurting, learning, leading, sowing, reaping, teaching, nurturing, healing, waiting...
This short time on earth is fluid. It isn’t about finally “getting there;” finally getting through the hard stuff and coasting in the easy. It is about growing more and more like Jesus. And the various seasons in our lives are part of the process. If you are in a difficult season, know that it isn’t the end. A new and better season is coming.
Questions: How would you describe your current season? How might it be part of God’s bigger plan for you? Spend time in prayer embracing your season and all God has for it. Google Seasons by Hillsong to listen to in your quiet time.
Vanity of vanities! All is vanity. Ecclesiastes 1:2
Ecclesiastes in our Bible is also thought to be written largely by Solomon. It is a backward-looking reflection on a long life. Its world-weary tone recaps little benefit from pleasure, riches, intellect, accumulation of people/things, or diligent work in themselves. It is a view of life from a purely human perspective, where everything seems futile and meaningless.
Purpose and the meaning of life are things that have been searched for from the early human experience. We all get to a point where we wonder, “Is this all there is?” We strive and work and pursue knowledge, pleasure, careers, possessions, people…but while there are moments of temporary enjoyment, they never fully satisfy. We are left empty and searching for the next thing to fill that void.
Ecclesiastes starts off with words like, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2) and “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Statements on the monotony and dissatisfaction found in the world’s rat race that falls short of any lasting fulfillment.
Through experimenting with all the world has to offer and coming up empty, Solomon comes full circle, acknowledging everything is from God and for God.
Ecclesiastes closes with this, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).
God gives good gifts to His people for our enjoyment. He has prepared good works for us to pursue in this lifetime, but ultimate fulfillment is in Him. Life apart from God will never fully satisfy.
Questions: Where do you go to find purpose and meaning? Are they satisfying or futile and meaningless?
Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. 1 Kings 11:1-3
Like his father, King David, Solomon starts off strong. He loves the Lord and people come from all over to take in his God-given extraordinary wisdom. Using David’s plans as given by God, Solomon is the one who oversees the construction of the magnificent temple, a beautiful and permanent structure where the Israelites could offer sacrifices and worship God. He is a strong, wise, and powerful king.
Over time, Solomon grows increasingly wealthy and builds an extravagant palace for himself. He collects many things, including wives. His downfall. As God warned, along with the non-Israelite wives came the false idols and gods they worshiped. Solomon looks the other way at his wives’ idol worship, and slowly they creep into his worship as well. Solomon turns his back on God in his old age, losing his fear of the Lord. What started off so well, doesn’t end so well.
Isn’t that how it sometimes is with us? We start off strong but slowly slip into the ways of the world and people around us, allowing them to influence us even if they go against the way God wants us to live. Often it happens slowly over a period of time, so we don’t really notice it happening. Stories like these remind us to always be aware of our actions and influencers, and most of all, to stay near to God. To finish strong.
Challenge: Ask God to show you where you might be getting off track and not even noticing it. Dedicate quiet time to really listen to what God may be telling you and then pray that He help you get back on track, walking in His ways.
The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel… Proverbs 1:1
As promised and provided by God, Solomon becomes the wisest person in the world. People come from near and far to hear his words.
Solomon is one of the principal authors of the book of Proverbs in our Bible. It is largely a compilation of short instructions for godly living here on earth. Where knowledge is a collection of facts, wisdom is a glimpse into God’s view of people, events, and situations to rightly use knowledge. We can amass much knowledge but still lack wisdom.
Early in Proverbs, Solomon provides a truth that is foundational to knowledge and wisdom, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7).
While this word fear means what initially comes to mind in a terror sense because God is sovereign, all-powerful, and holy, it also means respect, reverence, awe. This right view of God, in all His majesty and power to create and destroy, is the beginning of wisdom…and fools despise it. It rubs against our human ego and pride. But a wise person, with humility, acknowledges God knows everything, sees everything, controls everything…and we do not. He is worthy of our love and submission.
Solomon also teaches us to, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
In having the fear of the Lord – the right view of Him – we can fully trust His ways and His plans. The world tells us to go with our gut, do what feels right, lean on our own understanding. But Solomon tells us to do the opposite…to NOT lean on our own understanding, but instead to trust God and acknowledge Him. The Creator of everything, who holds everything in His hands and rules over everything, should be the guide and director of our lives. Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart. HE WILL make straight your paths.
Challenge: There are 31 chapters in Proverbs full of wisdom. Consider deciding to read one chapter a day for a month.
It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.” 1 Kings 3:10-14
While David earnestly repents and enjoys a restored relationship with the Lord, his sin is not without consequences. The son from his affair with Bathsheba dies.
But that isn’t the end of the story. Bathsheba and David have another son, Solomon. God is about restoration and new life for His people.
As David’s life comes to an end, he tells his beloved son to always walk in the ways of the Lord; to always keep His statutes, commands, and rules as given to Moses. David knows this is the definition of success and wants his son to as well.
Upon David’s death, Solomon becomes the next king. In a dream, God tells Solomon He will grant him anything he asks. Solomon asks for wisdom to discern good from evil and govern the people well. God was pleased with his request. As a result, God not only made Solomon the wisest person on earth, He also made him the richest and most honored.
Solomon was surrounded by people who could give him knowledge, but true wisdom comes from God and will always produce good fruit.
Questions: If God came to you in a dream and asked what you wanted from Him, what would you ask for? Where in your life can you pray for wisdom and discernment to lead well?
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. Psalm 51:1-3
The difference between David and the other leaders who sinned against God is that David is genuinely heartbroken before the Lord over his sin and truly repentant.
Where other leaders tried to justify their actions or blame others, David takes ownership of his sin and begs for God’s forgiveness. He craves a restored relationship with God. David and God have been through a lot and he doesn’t want to lose that. God is always the one David looked to for provision and hope.
Psalm 51 is David’s beautiful and heartfelt prayer of confession to God. There is Godly sorrow associated with sin. It is a big deal and separates us from our Creator and Author of life. It shifts us off the path God has for us. It should break our hearts. But we all know, and have likely experienced, many various reactions to our sin. We try to deny it, excuse it, hide it, cover it, fix it. We try to move on, or just as destructive, we let it rot us from the inside out, stuck in depression and despair over our inability to make things right. But God is loving, gracious, and merciful. He doesn’t want us stuck in the sin pit. There is a way out. He wants us to come to him, confess, and decide to move away from it with His help. There is freedom for the soul in sorrowfully acknowledging our sin before God. Later Jesus will come and say, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4). Mourning for our sins results in the comfort found in forgiveness and reconciliation. We don’t get there without the mourning.
We will mourn over many things in this life that is riddled with pain and suffering. Will we mourn equally for our sins?
Challenge: Think about how do you generally react when you are faced with your sin. Read Psalm 51 and David’s response to his sin. Make this your prayer to God.
Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master's house and your master's wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 2 Samuel 12:7-9
David, newly married to Bathsheba who is carrying their child, is steeped in unrepentant sin. He has his bride, but with her, the blood of Bathsheba’s husband leaving its stain. This man after God’s heart has allowed temptation and circumstances to tarnish his relationship with God. He can’t – or won’t – face his sin.
God sends the prophet Nathan (also a trusted friend) to visit David with a little story. There was a rich man with many flocks and herds in a city. Also in the city was a poor man with nothing but a little lamb he bought and raised. The lamb drank from his cup and slept in his arms; it was like a child to him. A visitor came to see the rich man, but he was unwilling to take one of his own vast flock to prepare for the guest. Instead, he takes the beloved lamb from the poor man and prepared it for his visitor. David, outraged by this story, demands the rich man die and restore the poor man’s lamb fourfold for what he had done with no remorse.
Nathan turns to David and declares, “You are that man.” Ouch. God had protected and provided for David. He had all he needed. But he took the wife of another and had him killed with no remorse. Sometimes we can’t see the destruction of sin in our lives. We refuse to listen to the nudges of the Spirit. But hearing the words of Nathan sent by God softened David’s heart and resulted in genuine sorrow and repentance.
Nathan was a trusted friend of David and also a faithful man of God. He spoke truth to David, though difficult to hear. Because of Nathan’s loyalty to God and his friend, David is brought to a place of restoration.
Questions: Do you have a Nathan in your life who will speak truth that is hard but necessary? Are you a Nathan to anyone?
In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king's house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house. And the woman conceived, and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.” 2 Samuel 11:1-5
David ultimately became a mighty king. The most famous and beloved among the many kings of the Israelites. He wins great battles and establishes Jerusalem as the capital. But he isn’t perfect. Only Jesus – the king to come – is perfect. Like all of us, David is flawed.
The devil is always prowling around, desiring to get God’s people – especially those dedicated to His cause – off track. Sadly, even the man after God’s own heart slips and loses the battle against temptation.
Notice the setting at the beginning of the passage. It was the time of year when the kings – that’s David – go out to battle. But David stays home. He is complacent. And this idle time becomes a huge stain on his legacy. He tries to cover it up and eventually has Bathsheba’s husband killed in battle. It is such a low point amid such a beautiful life. We look to the Bible for heroes, but no matter how brave and valiant those who have gone before us are, only Jesus is the true and perfect hero of the Bible. But stick with it, God is still working in David’s life. Unlike other religions, our God’s plans and our salvation is not dependent on our perfection...only our submission and surrender to the perfect One sent to save us.
Questions: What do you typically do with your free time? Has idle time -- when you should have been doing something else -- ever gotten you into trouble?
The Lord Is My Shepherd: A Psalm of David.
23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever. Psalm 23
This is one of David’s psalms preserved by God for us. A psalm is a sacred song, hymn or poem. The shepherd boy refers to God as HIS shepherd. David knew all too well the job of a shepherd. To gather, steer, and protect the helpless sheep in his care.
And from the family line of David, many generations later will come one who is the ultimate Good Shepherd, Jesus.
Challenge: This may be way out of your comfort zone, but grab a journal (or just a piece of paper) and dedicate some time to sitting quietly and writing your own Psalm to God based on whatever is on your mind. It can be a psalm of praise, or confession, or fear, or request. Whatever your heart wants to speak to God.
And Saul spoke to Jonathan his son and to all his servants, that they should kill David. 1 Samuel 19:1
Over time, David has much success in battle and the people love him. This makes Saul (still the king) very jealous, so he plots to kill David. Instead of working together and strengthening the kingdom, Saul wants to get rid of his “competition.” He lets his ego and pride cause strife among them.
How many times do we do the same? Instead of seeing someone as an ally, we see them as competition. Instead of supporting someone and cheering for their gifts, we are jealous and secretly root for their failure. And in this scenario, no one wins. Everyone is weaker; the Kingdom is weaker.
As a result of Saul’s jealous rage, David spends much of his waiting time in hiding. He is a gifted musician and writer. He pens many of the poems recorded in Psalms in our Bible.
The Psalms are beautiful words of faithfulness, worship, and also pain. David is brutally honest in his words to God. He pours his heart out.
This is what God wants from us too. God knows everything – our thoughts, fears, passions, pains, sins, hopes, dreams, questions…all of it. But He wants us to bring it to Him. He isn’t afraid of our questions and He doesn’t condemn our confessions. He already knows them all. He loves us and what He wants more than anything is a relationship with us. And He is a God of abundance, not scarcity. There is more than enough to go around.
David’s life and words in Psalms are a beautiful example of a relationship between man and God. I heard someone say once “intimacy = into me, see.” This was David. He poured his heart out to the Lord.
Questions: Do you find your natural reaction to other people’s success to be one of envy or excitement for them? How has jealousy ruined situations and relationships in your life? Ask God to give you a heart to cheer for those you might be tempted to be jealous of. Ask Him to show you His abundance…that He has good plans for all of us…we never have to look at someone else and feel that we are missing out. If you are feeling discouraged, open the Psalms and read David’s words.
And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!” 1 Samuel 17:37
On one occasion the military men, including King Saul and all of David’s brothers, were in a battle with the Philistines…one of Israel’s enemies. Still young and still a shepherd for his family, David stayed behind to tend to the sheep. His father tells him to go to the battle place to deliver food to his brothers.
When David arrives, he sees the panic all around. The Israelites are terrified of the mighty Philistines and their giant soldier, Goliath. The soldiers all around him are shaking and hiding, but David steps up and offers to fight Goliath. He has full confidence that God is on his side. His days of fighting mighty predators going after his sheep have prepared him to face this giant. He is not afraid. We may not see it at the time, but the roles God puts us in often prepare us for the plans He has for us!
They try to put armor on David, but it is too heavy for his small frame. Decked out in only his shepherd gear, he grabs five small smooth stones and steps up to face the giant.
Fastening the stone to the sling, David lets it go and Goliath goes down. The Philistines retreat in defeat.
David was the underdog by all accounts. The youngest and smallest of his family. A shepherd, poet, and musician. Not the warrior Israel had in mind for their king. Overlooked by even his father. But God sees everything differently than we do. When we are walking in God’s plans and trusting in Him, the impossible can happen. In fact, God loves it when a situation looks impossible on the outside because then we will know that it could only be Him who made a way.
Challenge: Think about a situation that feels impossible in your life. Give it to God today. Step into the ways God has prepared you in the trials and the waiting. Ask God to show up and show off in a mighty way.
When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord's anointed is before him.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:6-7
Onward to find a new king! While Saul was still king, God tells Samuel to go to the little town of Bethlehem, to the house of Jesse to find Saul’s replacement.
One by one Samuel looks at each of Jesse’s sons, starting with the one that looked most “kingly” …the oldest, tallest, strongest. But God says, nope! Not that one. Keep looking. God doesn’t look at outward appearances like we tend to. The Lord is seeking a man after His own heart.
One by one, seven of Jesse’s sons come before Samuel, but none is to be the new king. Samuel asks if there are any more. Jesse reluctantly mentions there is one more…the youngest one who attends the sheep…David.
Yes! This is the one, the Lord declares. David is anointed king. The Spirit of the Lord rushes over him. Though he is anointed, his reign doesn’t start immediately. Actually, it will be a while. Saul is still king for now.
God often puts us in a period of waiting before we step into our calling. It is a time to learn, prepare, grow, and trust God. Soon David will be king, but not yet. For now, it’s back to tending the sheep.
Many years later, God will send shepherds and wise men to Bethlehem again. This time to see the Good Shepherd; the One True King…Jesus.
Questions: Do you have a passion for something and a calling from God, but it doesn’t seem to be happening yet? Do you sometimes worry you don’t look the way the world says you should to do the things you are called to do? Remember that God looks at the heart. He will equip you for everything He has called you to do. Ask God to show you what to do and learn during this important waiting period.
Saul answered, “Am I not a Benjaminite, from the least of the tribes of Israel? And is not my clan the humblest of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why then have you spoken to me in this way?” 1 Samuel 9:21
Israel has asked for a king, and God lets them have their way. But this king will be selected by God, not by man.
The first king of Israel is Saul and he is not at all what people expected. He wasn’t from a powerful tribe or bold clan, but he was God’s choice. Saul started off humble and strong; a good king. He won battles, and he won the hearts of the people.
However, as often comes with power and success, Saul became impatient and prideful. Though ordained by God, he started to believe the victories and success were all from him.
Commentator George Whitfield summarizes that Saul “followed God just so far as suited his convenience; when it interfered in any way with his own interests, he cast him off.” As a result of Saul’s unrepentant disobedience, Samuel (the last judge, also a priest and the first prophet after Moses) informed Saul his kingdom would be no more.
Sometimes when we are weak and vulnerable, we easily cling to God, but when things start to go our way, we begin to think we can handle things on our own and don’t seek God as quickly, or at all if it is inconvenient. This is a recipe for disaster. God wants us to seek Him in all things. He is for us and wants us to succeed, but He wants us to do it with full knowledge that all things are FROM Him and FOR Him.
Saul learned his lesson the hard way. This first king, who started off strong, goes down in disgrace.
Questions: When do you seek God most passionately (good times, hard times, scary times, etc.)? Do you tend to forget to go to God when things are going well? What can you do to always remember to put your hope and trust in God?
But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” 1 Samuel 8:19-20
Back to the Old Testament period of Judges. Samuel, another judge and prophet, was dedicated to God as an infant and taken to Eli, the priest, to be raised. He heard from God as a child and grew in stature and favor with both God and man. As judge, he ushered in a time of repentance and peace for Israel.
Near the end of his life, Samuel sought to appoint his sons as judges. But they were no Samuel. They sinned against God and looked out more for their interests than that of Israel. The elders push back. They don’t want Samuel’s sons as judges; they want a king. They want to be like all the other nations. The problem is God doesn’t want them to be like the other nations. God wants to be their king. They are in essence rejecting God.
So God warns them what life under a king will be like: their sons will be taken to man the king’s chariots, work his fields, make equipment for war. Their daughters will be taken to be perfumers, cooks, bakers. Their best fields and vineyards will be taken and given to his servants. Their servants and livestock will be taken. They themselves would be slaves.
Guess what? They still insist on having a king.
How often do we look around and think what others have is better than what we have? We think it will satisfy us. From our view, it looks like things would be so much better if we just had what they had. But we miss out on what God has for us when we try to copy what others have.
God has unique plans for all of us. We have to put Him as king over our lives. We have to trust in His plans for us, not try to replicate His plans for someone else. We never see the full picture. Things on the other side are not always what they seem. Israel asked for a king. A king they will get.
Question: On average are you more grateful for what you have, or do you spend more time wishing you had what someone else has?
Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife... Matthew 1:5-6
Still in the New Testament, we continue with the family tree that brought in our perfect Savior, Jesus. We see that the mother of Boaz, our hero in the story of Ruth, was RAHAB. Remember Rahab? She lived in a foreign land…Jericho, the first city God calls Joshua and the Israelites to conquer and fully destroy as they begin their entry into the Promised Land. She was the prostitute the spies encountered who hid the men to keep them safe. As a result, the Israelites spared her and her family when they ultimately destroyed Jericho. Like Ruth, Rahab made a decision to turn from the gods of her city and follow the God of the Israelites – our God, the one true God – and live among them.
Let that sink in…Rahab was the mother of Boaz! Think of the lessons she taught him as a child, recounting her redemption story and all that God had done for her, even as a foreigner.
The entire Bible, from the beginning to the end, points to Jesus. The life and story of Ruth is no different. Redemption comes at the hand of the One True God.
Like Rahab and Ruth, we have chosen to follow God, the Creator and orchestrator of all things. Like Naomi, without God and the gift of His Son Jesus, whom He sent, we will live a lonely, bitter, helpless life. We need a redeemer to bring new life.
We don’t need to be born into the “right” family, fully understand all of the laws and customs, or even be “good enough.” We only need to step into the arms, under the wings, of the Redeemer. We are never too far away to be saved if we are willing. All things, even those not condoned by God, can ultimately be used by Him. Even if you don’t have it all figured out or have it all together, choose God…and then watch Him work.
Challenge: Spend time reflecting on God’s power, mercy, and grace.