April 9 – Jesse Tree – A Shepherd King?

Read 1 Samuel 16:1-1317:1-512 Samuel 5:1-57:8-11

“For the Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” I Samuel 16:7

David was a small shepherd boy who played a harp and composed music. He was the youngest and smallest in his family. By all appearances he would be the least likely to lead his people into battle and to defeat the enemies of Israel. But he had one thing that most people of his day didn’t have… God’s own heart.

He might have been a little shepherd boy, but while he was watching his flock, he spent many hours getting to know God, marveling at His handiwork he saw all around him, talking to God, and singing his praises. He was quick to recognize God’s hand on his life. Scripture tells us that when he was anointed by Samuel, “The Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power.”

All these gave him the courage to volunteer against all odds to face Goliath alone and to lead his nation at a relatively young age.

It wasn’t how old or how strong or good-looking he was. It wasn’t even how smart he was that made David a great leader. No, it was how close he was to God. How dependent he was on His leading him down the right paths of life that made the difference.

Do you take time each day to get to know God? Do you wait on His guidance in your life? Are you willing to face the “giants” in your life knowing God is there beside you?

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April 8 – Jesse Tree – A King

Read 1 Samuel 7:15-8:22

“So all the elders of Israel…said to [Samuel], ‘You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.’” 1 Samuel 8:6, 7

God had been leading the nation of Israel. He wasn’t using a complicated system of government with representatives, governors, and presidents or kings. Instead, He gave clear instruction using people like Moses and Joshua and then later the judges. But Israel didn’t always do what the judges said, and sometimes the judges weren’t always good. Ultimately, they didn’t always follow God.

Samuel’s sons weren’t doing a good job of leading. That’s when people from the nation came to Samuel with a request. They had seen all the other countries around them. Each of those countries had a king, while Israel didn’t. Wanting to be like the other countries, they asked Samuel to give them a king.

Is imitating others always a good thing? Samuel warned the people that they would have less money because the king would make them pay taxes. He would take some of the people and place them into the army. The king would take some of the freedom that they had. But, worst of all, in wanting a human king, they were rejecting God as their real King. They were showing that they didn’t really want to follow Him. That was not good.

Are there things that others around you have that you want? Are there ways that they act that you are tempted to imitate? Before you insist on having or doing whatever it is, check out what God wants for you. He wants to be your King! Listen to those in authority in your life…parents, teachers, boss, government officials. Just because you see it in others doesn’t mean you should have it or do it too.

Steve Kern

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April 7 – Jesse Tree – Gideon

Read Judges 6:1-167:1-24

“The Lord answered, ‘I will be with you.’” Judges 6:16

Things had gotten pretty bad for the nation of Israel.   They were getting further and further from God.  God had not moved in His love for them.  They had moved away from Him.  As a result they had been delivered into the hands of the Midianites.  Mean and vicious people were once again ruling them.   They cried out for help from God.  God answered but not with a mighty army and a mighty warrior. No!  He called Gideon…. an unlikely hero who says of himself, ”How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”  Then as the army is assembled for the fight, God eliminates over 99% of the fighting force!

Why?   God answered that in verses 6:16 “I will be with you.“  That really is all Gideon really needed.  If God had left 32,000 men fight, they would have thought it was by their own might that they won.  But, with a force of only 300, they were going to have to rely on Him to win.

Throughout history we see this played out over and over again.  Tiny Israel has had to defend herself against much larger countries.  In our own history, rag tag colonists faced the strongest and best-organized army of the time.  And the common thread is that they were led by God.  With God as a member of their army their might was multiplied exponentially.

You might not ever be called to lead an army, but you might be “at war” with people around you everyday at school or work.   Do you try to fight your day-by-day battles alone?   Do you remember to honor God in your achievements?  Or do you take all the credit for yourself?

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April 6 – Jesse Tree – Joshua

Read Joshua 1:1-116:1-16,20-21a

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous…do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:9

God works in mysterious ways and this is one of those times.   Can you imagine what was going through the minds of the Hebrews when they first heard what the plan was for them to take down the walls of Jericho.  “We are supposed to do ….What?”

How about the conversations from inside the walls of the city?

Day 1….”Here they come…Get ready… What are they doing?… There they go! …What was that all about?”

Day 2 … “Here they come again….  Hey, George, you have gotta’ see this… There they go again…What is up with these crazy people?”

What about the conversations around the dinner table at night….”You wouldn’t believe what happened today!”

Day 3,4,5,6 the crowds would be getting bigger and bigger on the walls as their curiosity must have been getting the better of them.  Then, on that final day, there might have been everyone from the whole city standing on that wall.  Maybe they were even shouting down jeers and insults.

But the Hebrews, with the ark in front of them, did as they were commanded .  They marched around the city again and again in silence until they were told to shout!  Once again, God showed His people that He was with them and, with Him, all things, even ones that seem totally impossible, are possible.

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April 5 – Jesse Tree – The 10 Commandments

Read Exodus 19:1-20:21

“And God spoke all these words: ‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.’” Genesis 20:1, 2

God wanted to make an impression on the people when He gave the 10 Commandments. He used visual effects…lightning, a thick cloud, fire, and smoke. He made loud sounds like thunder claps and trumpet blasts. This would be a day that they would long remember.

And then, He gave the commandments. There are some that describe how people should relate to Him. Give Him first place in your life. Don’t worship objects made by man. Use His name in an honoring way. Be sure to take time for rest and refreshment. Commandments like these were to define how we honor God.

Meanwhile, there were other commandments that tell people how to treat one another. Treat your parents with honor. Don’t kill others. Be faithful if you are married. Don’t take things that belong to other people. Don’t lie about others. Be careful not to be jealous. These directions from God help us to know how He wants us to treat others.

These commandments are like a target for us to aim at. But the Bible also tells us that none of us hits the target of perfection that God has drawn. Instead, all of us have sinned (Rom. 3:23). Maybe you value your favorite possession more than you value Him. Or perhaps, you jealously wish you had something that someone else has. Regardless of what it is, all of us miss the target.

The 10 Commandments remind us that we aren’t perfect…and they remind us that we need help. The help we need is offered to us through Jesus. When He died on the cross, He took the punishment for our imperfection. If you believe that He died for your sin, you receive God’s forgiveness.

Questions and Activities:

  1. What are the two different kinds of commandments God gave?
  2. Is there a commandment that you seem to break more often than the others? Are you willing to share what it is?

Steve Kern

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April 4 – Jesse Tree – Passover

Read Exodus 12:1-51

“The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.” Exodus 12:13

God had big plans for the Israelites. Through them…ultimately through the coming of Jesus…God wanted to bring blessing to others. But first, the Lord wanted to release them from their slavery in a foreign land. He wanted them to live in their own country. God chose Moses to be the one who would lead the people to their new home.

Leaving Egypt wasn’t easy. Pharaoh, the leader of Egypt, refused to let them go. God used Moses to bring plagues on the Egyptians. Each plague was an attack on the gods that the Egyptians worshiped that weren’t real. Just imagine water turned to blood or frogs everywhere. Think how annoying it would be to have gnats, flies, and locusts all over everything. They experienced painful skin problems and their livestock had diseases. There was hail like you have never seen and even darkness like you have never experienced. In spite of these plagues, Pharaoh, in the end, refused to allow God’s people to go.

Then came the turning point. The final plague. The one that finally convinced Pharaoh. The Israelites were to kill a lamb that was perfect. God instructed them to place blood from that lamb on the sides and top of their doorframes. In the night, he passed over the homes. Wherever the blood had been applied people lived. In those homes where no lamb had been sacrificed and no blood had been applied, the first-born died. At that, Pharaoh allowed God’s people to go.

This Old Testament “Passover” was a picture pointing to Jesus and His future sacrifice. Like the lamb, He was perfect. His blood was shed on the cross. All who accept His sacrifice for themselves experience eternal life. Those who don’t experience punishment.

Steve Kern

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April 3 – Jesse Tree – Burning Bush

Read Exodus 2:23-3:22

“There the angel of the LORD appeared to [Moses] in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up.” Exodus 3:2

Do you remember what God promised to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob?

  • He promised that they would become a great nation.
  • They would have so many descendants that a person wouldn’t be able to count them.
  • The Lord would give them their own land on the east side of the Mediterranean Sea.
  • They would be a source of blessing to other people.

As Moses watched sheep in the wilderness, he and the other descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were not experiencing what God had promised. It is true that there were more of them than before, but they were far from their homeland. Rather than living in the Land of Promise they were in the land of pyramids, Egypt. Instead of being a nation known for greatness, the Egyptians laughed at them and took advantage of them by making them their slaves. Rather than being able to bless others, it seemed like they were being cursed.

Thankfully, God never forgets His promises! He always follows through. He constantly does what He says He will do. God’s plan to get His people back to their land included Moses. God’s plan to restore their greatness and to make them a source of blessing was still one He was going to bring about. And His plan would require Moses’ leadership. God likes to use normal people to bring about His will. But first, God had to get Moses’ attention. The angel of the Lord appeared to him in the midst of a fire…a bush fire that kept burning and never dwindled.

At that fire, God had a conversation with Moses telling this normal man how God would use Him in fulfilling His promise.

Steve Kern

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