DAVID’S SOURCE OF STRENGTH

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In the past two weeks, the blog has focused on lessons from the life of King David in his times of crises. The story of David’s life and his many crises is found from 1 Samuel Chapter 16, through all of 2 Samuel, to 1 Kings Chapter 2. Significant periods of crises in David’s life include the seven years he was hiding from King Saul, the discipline he received from God for his adultery with Bathsheba, and the failed attempt of his favorite son, Absalom, to forcefully take over the throne from David.

I encourage you to read the story of David for yourself, and take note of the many times God rescued David. Even when David killed the giant Goliath with stones (1 Samuel 17), even in that story, we see that David had divine support. Why, why, why? Why did heaven stand tall and stand strong with David? Was it because of his skin color, eye color, hair color, or parent’s bank account? Thankfully, David was a writer, and shared some of his innermost thoughts with us in the book of Psalms.

Psalm 1:1-3 (The Passion Translation Bible) states: “What delight comes to the one who follows God’s ways! He won’t walk in step with the wicked, nor share the sinner’s way, nor be found sitting in the scorner’s seat. His passion is to remain true to the Word of “I AM,” meditating day and night on the true revelation of light. He will be standing firm like a flourishing tree planted by God’s design, deeply rooted by the brooks of bliss, bearing fruit in every season of life. He is never dry, never fainting, ever blessed, ever prosperous.”

David, considered as Israel’s greatest king, says ‘what a delight comes to the one who follows God’s ways’, that person stands firm like a flourishing tree planted by God, bearing fruit in every season of life (good and bad times). Indeed, even in those periods of crises in David’s life, he produced good fruit – humility, repentance, and reflections in the Psalms that have blessed the world for 3000 years.

David’s source of strength was his sincere faith in God, strengthened by regular Bible study, which provides the teachings that we meditate on day and night. David’s life was not guided by Egyptian magic, or Philistine idols, or Greek philosophy, he was guided by teachings and principles for life that he learnt from God. This is why his life was fruitful, never dry, never fainting, ever blessed, ever prosperous!

May our lives be fruitul in every season too, like David, Amen!

DAVID – CRISES AND TRIUMPH (Part 2)

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Crises test our commitment and loyalty to a person or a mission. Crises also test the commitment and loyalty of that other person or mission controller to us. Crises are always two way tests. The results from crises could be tragic loss of life, may this not be our case; crises would often break us, or strengthen us; reveal falsehood, traitors, and enemies; and hopefully point us to truth and safety.

The many crises in King David’s life revealed from 1 Samuel Chapter 16, through all of 2 Samuel, to 1 Kings Chapter 2, teaches all these different aspects and outcomes to crises. We see this clearly in the first major crisis in David’s life, when he was running away from King Saul, who wanted to kill him out of jealousy (1 Samuel Chapter 18 to 31). David’s faith in God was severely tested at this time.

David moved from one hiding place to another; he hid in Gath (Goliath’s hometown), the cave of Adullam, Hereth forest, on to the wilderness of En Gedi, then settling in Ziklag. At En Gedi, a mountain place with plenty of caves, springs, rivers, and waterfalls in the desert, David found rest, refuge, and refreshment. I encourage you to watch ‘Visiting Ein Gedi’ by John DeLancey on YouTube, and for the advanced Bible student also watch ‘Searching for a King’ Episode 3 on YouTube.

As we read 1 Samuel Chapter 18 to 31, we see that David had many opportunities to kill Saul in revenge, but David did not do it because of his commitment and loyalty to God. At En Gedi, David found refreshment, and hope, and strength. At En Gedi David wrote Psalm 16, 35, 57, 63, and 108. Years later when David wrote Psalm 23, we can see the influence of his time at En Gedi in his words.

Psalm 23 (NIV) (shortened) reads: “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul… Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me… You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies… my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life…”

In the midst of a life threatening crisis, God led David to En Gedi, a place of refreshing and empowerment; may the Lord guide us also to our En Gedi, to a place of refreshing and empowerment, in spite of the many troubles that threaten us in today’s world, in Jesus name, Amen!

DAVID – CRISES AND TRIUMPH (Part 1)

I recently saw a list of people mentioned most in the Bible. Jesus was first place, David was second, Moses was third, then Jacob, Saul, Aaron, Abraham, and so on. If Jesus is set aside because of his divine birth, then among all human persons in the Bible, David is the most popular. Aside from Jesus, the world probably knows more about David than any other character in the Bible.

David lived a dramatic life full with crises and triumph. The story of David is told from 1 Samuel Chapter 16, through all of 2 Samuel, to 1 Kings Chapter 2. We first meet David in 1 Samuel 16:13 as a youth anointed by Prophet Samuel to be the next and second King of Israel after Saul the first King. Israel and the neighboring countries hears of David soon after when he killed Goliath (1 Samuel 17).

David is a hero and looks destined for greatness at this point in his life. He suddenly went from an unknown youth to working in the King Saul’s palace in a short space of time, wow! Then without warning, trouble erupted and for the next 7 years, David was running and hiding from Saul who was determined to kill him. This was the first of many bitter and tragic crises David faced in his lifetime.

We read in 1 Samuel 24:1-2 (NIV): “After Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, he was told, “David is in the Desert of En Gedi.” So Saul took three thousand able young men from all Israel and set out to look for David and his men near the Crags of the Wild Goats.”

David escaped and from a safe distance rebuked Saul in 1 Samuel 24:8-15 (NIV) (shortened): “Then David went out of the cave and called out to Saul… See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you… may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you… “Against whom has the king of Israel come out? Who are you pursuing? A dead dog? A flea? May the Lord be our judge and decide between us…”

David the hero, the conqueror of Goliath, was now living in a cave with all his family including his parents. I don’t know about you, but this type of misfortune would knock my faith so hard, I don’t know if I would recover. Seven years running, running, life completely ruined; yet, David held on to God. No wonder in Acts 13:22, we read about how God testified that ‘David was a man after God’s heart’.

Father, the world has been in bad shape for a while; our lives are unsettled and in some cases fallen apart; may the story of David give us hope and strength, in Jesus name, Amen!

EXODUS – THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (Part 2)

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In the last 6 weeks we have been in the book of Exodus. We have not attempted to study Exodus line by line from Chapter 1 to 40. Instead our study has focused seeing what God is doing in Exodus. We asked why did God invest heavily in delivering Israel from Egypt? We asked what is the main point or meat of the matter in the book of Exodus? This second look at the ten commandments ends our Exodus series.

As we saw in the message of last week, the main point in Exodus, is that God delivered Israel, came down to live among them, so they can worship him (see Exodus 5:1). What is this worship we are talking about? Is it singing songs of praise with clapping, instruments, and dancing? Yes, but that is not all. To worship is to have a deeply respectful and submissive relationship to a person or thing.

If I pay attention to my car and the needs of my car, more than any other person or thing, I am worshipping my car. Many people have a deeply respectful and submissive relationship to musicians, actors, sport heroes, their boss at work, political and religious leaders. God delivered Israel and came down to live with them so that they can have a deeply respectful and submissive relationship with him.

Thus when God spoke the ten commandments in Exodus 20, the first four were focused on the relationship between Israel and himself. The first two commandments in Exodus 20:1-5 (NIV) (shortened) states: ‘And God spoke all these words: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out… of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below… not bow down to them or worship them…’.

The first four commandments are about a worshipful relationship with God, while the other six are about human relationships, the way God wants it to be. The fifth says respect parents; the sixth is against murder; then against adultery, stealing, false testimony, and envy. The commandments and other laws to Israel, guided their relationship with God – a relationship that had its good times and bad times.

Exodus shows us how God delivered Israel; lived with them and among them in the Tabernacle; and how God taught Israel the principles to guide and grow their relationship with him and with one another. Exodus reveals the high value God places in having a relationship with you and me.

Dear Lord, thank you for revealing yourself to us in Exodus; we worship you with all our heart; in Jesus name, Amen!

EXODUS – THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (Part 1)

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I teach academic writing, and I would often emphasize to students the need to identify the ‘meat of the matter’ in anything they read and write. It is helpful to be able to identify the main point, or the meat of the matter, in whatever we are reading or writing, so we don’t go off point.

In the book of Exodus, the meat of the matter is laid out in Exodus 5:1 (The Living Bible): “After this presentation to the elders, Moses and Aaron went to see Pharaoh. They told him, “We bring you a message from Jehovah [Yahweh], the God of Israel. He says, ‘Let my people go, for they must make a holy pilgrimage out into the wilderness, for a religious feast, to worship me there.’”

Yahweh delivered Israel from Egypt with great power, and came down to live with them in that beautiful Tabernacle; God invested heavily in them, so that in turn they would worship him. Let this point sink in; God saved Israel, invested in Israel, so that they would worship him alone. Worship here goes beyond singing and dance, it means respect, trust, and submission to the authority of God

This brings us to the events of Exodus Chapters 19 and 20, when God first meets with the people. These events are placed in the middle of the book to symbolize their central importance. Israel have been saved from Egypt; they have made a long trek to Mount Sinai; they have rested; and now they have to wash their clothes, bathe, freshen up, stay clean, and come meet Yahweh for the first time.

Exodus 19: 16-19 (The Living Bible) (shortened) says: “On the morning of the third day there was a terrific thunder and lightning storm… and there was a long, loud blast as from a ram’s horn… Moses led them out from the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. All Mount Sinai was covered with smoke because Jehovah descended upon it in the form of fire… the whole mountain shook with a violent earthquake… Moses spoke and God thundered his reply.”

Reading on to Exodus 20, we see that it was at this awesome meeting that God spoke the ten commandments to Israel, with a voice like thunder. Yes, the commandments were first spoken so all the people could hear for themselves, before they were written down in stone.

All societies need laws to establish order and fairness, maintain peace, and ensure health and prosperity for the people. The ten commandments and other laws God gave them, established Israel as a Yahwistic community – Yahweh worshipping community. God gave the laws as a platform to organize a disorganized people, and as vision to unify a disunited people – the laws were for good, not for evil. Next week, we will see how the ten commandments and worship go together.

Lord, help us see the good purpose in your laws, Amen!

EXODUS – HEAVEN OCCUPIES EARTH

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It was Jim Reeves who sang ‘This world is not my home’, with a stanza that says “Oh Lord, you know, I have no friend like you, If Heaven’s not my home, Then Lord what will I do”. Lovely, emotionally powerful gospel song, but Jim Reeves was wrong, heaven is not our home, the earth is home.

Exodus makes it clear that God came down to earth, built a home (the Tabernacle) and dwelled among us. Exodus Chapters 25 to 31 informs us that it was not a casual wood and nail, built in one day, type of home. We see that it was a masterful, expertly crafted home, with the finest materials, including gold, purple cloth, fine linen, acacia wood, and durable leather – God’s home in the desert was a wonder to behold!

Exodus 40:33-38 (NIV) (shortened) states: “Then Moses set up the courtyard around the tabernacle… Moses finished the work. Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because… the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle… So the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night…”.

We were not created for heaven, we were created for earth; we were created so God could enlarge his family, leave heaven and dwell with us on earth. This is why the Bible states in Revelation 21:1-3 (NIV) (shortened): ‘Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”… I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God… I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them… and be their God.’

If the book of Revelation shows the universal implementation of heaven occupying earth, the book of Exodus shows us its first physical manifestation in human time and space. It is fascinating that from that single exquisite Tabernacle in the wilderness, Yahweh now has a home all across the earth.

Lord, your will be done on earth as in heaven, Amen!

EXODUS – GOD WITH US

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A popular musician many years ago sang “Exodus, movement of Jah people”. We had this album at home, and I grew up listening to it so many times, that line has stayed with me. Exodus definitely involved movement of God’s people, but, and this is very important, they moved in response to God’s actions and movement. The decision maker, the cause of all the movement, was not the people, it was God!

Last week, we saw God (Yahweh), give Pharaoh a lesson on what supreme power looks like, through the ten plagues, that knocked out trust and faith in Egypt’s many gods. Pharaoh eventually agreed to let Israel go, but why did God invest so much of heaven’s power to secure their freedom? Was it because the Israelites had a special skin color, or spoke in a special way, or had the most handsome men? No, no, no, God was moving on with his plans to build a home on earth with us humans.

At creation in the book of Genesis, God built a garden, a place of leisure where he met with Adam and Eve, and enjoyed their company, as parents enjoy the company of their children. Adam and Eve left that relationship by choice, and God decided to re-establish it with the descendants of Adam, who would willingly choose God. Finally, in Abraham (Genesis 11 to 25), God found a man who welcomed God into his home, and started working with God to build a home for God on earth.

As part of that plan to build a home with us, God explained Abraham in Genesis 15 the events of the Exodus before they happened. Heaven invested so mightily in the Exodus because after so many years of having a presence on earth like a visitor, God finally had a people with sufficient number and physical resources, to build a physical home on earth where he could dwell among us.

Exodus 25:1-9 (Living Bible) (shortened) says: ‘Jehovah said to Moses, “Tell the people of Israel that everyone who wants to may bring me an offering from this list: gold, silver, bronze, blue cloth… goatskins, acacia wood, olive oil for the lamps… onyx stones, stones to be set in the ephod and in the breastplate… I want the people of Israel to make me a sacred Temple where I can live among them. “This home of mine shall be a tent pavilion – a Tabernacle. I will give you a drawing of the construction plan…’.

God came down, brushed Pharaoh aside and finally built a home on earth. God is with us, first in Eden, then in the Tabernacle built in the wilderness, then in Solomon’s Temple, then in Jesus, and now in us the Church through the Holy Spirit. What a journey, thousands of years in the making – from Eden to us. There is so much to say and celebrate about this; the book of Revelation ends on this matter.

Great God, welcome into our lives and homes; make your presence, your grace and power, mightily felt in and through us, Amen!

EXODUS – PULLING DOWN STRONGHOLDS

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In the first message last week of the Exodus series, we saw that God declared he had come down to deliver Israel. Moses, who grew up in Pharaoh’s palace and knew the extent of Pharaoh’s power, agreed to lead the mission. Why? Moses, was confident that “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds” (2Cor. 10:4 NIV).

Thus in Exodus 5:1-2 (Holman Christian Standard Bible) we read: “Later, Moses and Aaron… said to Pharaoh, “This is what Yahweh, the God of Israel, says: Let My people go, so that they may hold a festival for Me in the wilderness.” But Pharaoh responded, “Who is Yahweh that I should obey Him by letting Israel go? I do not know anything about Yahweh… I will not let Israel go.”

“Who is Yahweh that I should obey…” – said Pharaoh. Egypt had about 2000 gods and goddesses with different ranks and powers, but Yahweh was not one of them. This why Pharaoh could say ‘who is Yahweh’; he felt he had the most powerful gods; if he has not heard of Yahweh, then Yahweh must be unimportant.

Yahweh answered Pharaoh by knocking out Egypt’s most powerful gods. This is what the ten plagues from Exodus Chapters 7 to 12 were about; khnum and hapi were gods of the nile; heket was a goddess with frog head; geb was a god of dust; khepri was a god with fly head; on and on to the tenth plague the death of the firstborn in Egypt – an attack on gods serket, meshkenet, sobek, renenutet, and osiris. The Egyptian gods could neither protect Egypt nor Pharaoh, so he was forced to let Israel go.

As a result of the tenth plague, Exodus 12:30-32 (Holman Bible) says: “During the night Pharaoh got up, he along with all his officials and all the Egyptians… He summoned Moses and Aaron during the night and said, “Get up, leave my people, both you and the Israelites, and go, worship Yahweh as you have asked. Take even your flocks and your herds as you asked and leave, and also bless me.”

Yahweh, you are the most high God, and we walk humbly before you; we know you are mighty, bless us too, Amen!

EXODUS – HEAVEN CAME DOWN

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Its about 2 months now since we studied the book of Genesis together. The last study in that series was on 14 February and was titled ‘Reading Genesis with God in Focus’. The series ended by calling on us to study Genesis not just to know the people and stories in there, but to also focus on God who is the main character in the book. In our study of Exodus, let’s also focus on God.

The book of Exodus is divided into two parts; Chapters 1 to 18 is about how God delivered Israel from Egypt and brought them to Mount Sinai in the Arabian desert. Chapters 19 to 40 is about how God revealed himself to all of the people of Israel and entered into a binding relationship with them.

Genesis ends with Jacob and his large family of 70 people, settling in the land of Goshen in Egypt. Exodus Chapter 1 opens with how the family of Jacob prospered in Goshen and grew in number, to the point where the Egyptians became afraid. Consequently the Egyptians enslaved Israel and made their lives miserable and bitter. God then put his plan of deliverance into action through Moses.

Exodus 3:7-10 (NIV) (shortened) states: The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt… So I have come down to rescue them… and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey… the cry of the Israelites has reached me… So now, go. I am sending you [Moses] to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

“I have come down to rescue them” – this is a declaration of war; God has come down to free Israel from Pharaoh, the hard pitiless slave driver and killer king of Egypt. God has appointed Moses as the human captain to lead God’s invisible angel army to make this happen; it is God’s war. Next week we will see God’s mighty weapons of war that secured Israel’s release from death in Egypt.

Lord, as we study Exodus, open our eyes to see you, Amen!

EMUNAH – FAITH THAT STANDS THE TEST OF TIME

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How can you tell if someone truly loves you? How do you tell if your team mate is committed to a plan? How can you be sure that your boss trust in you? One sure way is to observe how your partner, your team mate, or your boss acts towards you and speaks about you, over a period of time. As time passes, their true intentions towards you will be challenged and tested; blessed are you if they stay true to you.

The test of time, is the truest test of commitments we make. As time passes, our commitments will be challenged by people and events around us, sometimes intentionally, and sometimes accidentally. One of such commitments we make that is severely tested is our faith in God.

Many of us have come across Habakkuk 2:4b (KJV) that says: “…but the just shall live by his faith.” It is requoted in Romans 1:17, and in Galatians 3:11, and again in Hebrews 10:38. What is the origin story in the book of Habakkuk behind this famous passage and what has it got to do with ‘EMUNAH’.

Habakkuk the Prophet lived about 2600 years ago, at a time when corruption and violence were common in Judah. He prayed that God should intervene; God responded that he will use the vicious Babylonians to judge Judah. This scared Habakkuk so much, but God assured him that the “the just [God fearing people] shall live by EMUNAH” – this Hebrew word is what our Bibles translate as faith.

While our Bibles keep the translation of ‘EMUNAH” short, the full meaning of the word refers to ‘tried and tested faith’ of the Christian, and in addition ‘tried and tested faith of God’. The long translation of Habakkuk 2:4b would be: “…but the just shall live by their tried and tested faith in a tried and faithful God.” Stated another way – ‘the just shall live by absolute trust in an absolutely trustworthy God’.

More could be said about ‘EMUNAH’, but that is for another time. One takeaway message today, is that in these COVID-19 pandemic times, when we are all exhausted by fear, lockdowns, and social distancing, our faith in God is being tried and tested like never before; Habakkuk encourages us to keep going because ‘the just shall live by their tried and tested faith in a tried and faithful God’.

Lord, give us new strength to overcome the COVID-19 assault on our minds and spirits, on our familes and loved ones, in Jesus name, Amen!

Read More: The Just Shall Live by Faith, by John J. Parsons, writing in the Hebrew for Christians website.