May 24: Loyalties

Read 1 Samuel 29:1-30:31

Where did David’s loyalties lie? Remember that David, out of fear for Saul, had gone with 600 men, their families, their livestock, and their possessions into Philistine territory. These were the same people group from whom Goliath had come. These were relatives of the people that David and others had conquered years earlier in the Valley of Elah because they taunted the Israelites and mocked their God. Yet, now David and his soldiers lived among them. In fact, he had a very cordial relationship with them and their king, Achish. Theologians have questioned this move wondering if David had failed to seek God in this decision and had compromised.

But theologians were not the only ones questioning his loyalties and his intentions. Other Philistines were concerned that he would turn on them in battle. As a result, David and his men were instructed to return to their residences and families.

Imagine their thoughts as they saw smoke rising on the horizon as they neared their hometown. Imagine entering to find their wives and children gone. Imagine the sense of anger that burned within them as they discovered that their livestock and possessions had been taken as well. Amalekites had invaded and raided Ziklag taking the spoils with them.

Where did David’s loyalties lie? Clearly with their families. While homes could be rebuilt, families could not be replaced. This time he sought the Lord and then pursued the enemy and all they had taken. With the help of an abandoned Amalekite, they found the enemy and, more importantly, their families and possessions. Thankfully, they recovered everything! Nothing was missing.

Where do your loyalties lie? When it came right down to it, David’s had become clear. He was loyal to the Lord and to his family. I am not suggesting that is an exhaustive list of all of David’s priorities. But clearly, those two were at the top of the list.

What is at the top of your list of loyalties? For what, for whom would you “go to battle?” I trust that God and family top your list!


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May 23: Desperate Situations, Desperate Measures

Read 1 Samuel 27:1-28:25

What would you do out of desperation? Where would you run? To whom would you turn? What compromise would you make?

I suppose those are questions we cannot fully, or at least accurately, answer until we are in a desperate situation. Before we are there, we can only give an answer that we would hope would be true.

David was faced with such a situation. For months, he had been fleeing from an angry Saul. King Saul Saul was bent on killing this younger man destined for the throne. To this point, Saul had been prevented. Still, David was convinced that Saul would one day succeed . . . unless he took desperate steps. Those desperate steps took him into Philistine territory.

After hearing of David’s flight to Philistine-dominated Gath, he initially gave up the search. But, as his frustration grew, Saul selfishly sought the Lord about next steps. But, his attempts were met with silence.

Now, clearly Saul should have sought the Lord . . . but not selfishly as he was doing. Instead, he should have sought the Lord’s forgiveness. He should have come to the Lord in repentance for his jealousy towards David. Saul should have sought the Lord’s pardon for his anger that had boiled into bitterness and overflowed into sin. But, because he didn’t seek the Lord in humble repentance, the God of heaven did not respond.

In desperation, then, Saul sought out a spiritual medium. If he couldn’t get his information, why not compromise. He sought out the very type of person he had earlier eliminated from the kingdom. He went to the very type of person that the Old Testament law said should be executed. Many, in fact, refer to this woman as the “witch of Endor.”

“Desperate situations call for desperate measures.” That’s what the old adage tells us. Indeed, that is correct. But the desperate measures always include humbly seeking the Lord. Desperate measures never merit things like compromise and disobedience . . . just so we can achieve a desired outcome.


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May 22: Nabal or Abigail?

Read 1 Samuel 25:1-44

Even though Nabal claimed ignorance of David’s identity (v. 10), knowledge of him was widespread. His reputation had circulated after his victory over Goliath. In his early days of battle after Goliath, the word on the street about him was, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands” (1 Sam. 18:7). In addition, it seemed to be known throughout the nation that David had been anointed as the next king and future replacement for Saul. Meanwhile, Nabal had personally been on the receiving end of blessing from David and his men. They had protected his shearers and shepherds from harm. In spite of all of those factors, Nabal pretended to not know anything about David. This wealthy man refused to extend a gracious hand to this man who had served Him and been selected by God.

Ouch! Thankfully, Abigail recognized the sin of her husband and chose to serve David and his men.

Are you a “Nabal” or an “Abigail?”

In my estimation, the number of Nabals is on the rise. Nabals fail to show respect for people. They are blind to the benefits they experience from the service and sacrifice of others. They choose not to honor people for the office or the position they hold. Instead, disrespect, criticism, and even mocking seems to characterize them.

Abigail, on the other hand, bends over backwards to recognize the position held by David and to demonstrate gratitude for his service to her. Keep in mind, God wants us to “be subject to the governing authorities” (Rom. 13:1) and to “show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor” (1 Pet. 2:17).

Abigail is not the first person in 1 Samuel to demonstrate respect and honor to one in a position of authority. Remember, that was one of the underlying reasons we saw yesterday why David refused to kill his enemy, Saul. He would not allow himself to lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed.

Certainly, as Jesus followers, we will, at times, walk a tight rope as we relate to those in positions of authority. God somehow invites us to honor them even when and if we find their decisions to be contrary to God’s plan. That is a real tension that requires wisdom and sensitivity.


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May 21: Let God Settle Accounts

Read 1 Samuel 23:1-24:22; 26:1-25

If you are like me, you have lost track of all of the times that Saul has attempted to take the life of David. Although Saul had been initially blessed by David’s defeat over Goliath in battle and and his soothing music, that sense of blessing had turned to jealousy. The jealousy had grown to animosity resulting in murderous attempts. From spear throwing to vulnerable placement in battle to personal cross country pursuit, Saul seemed almost unable to rest until David was dead.

David, meanwhile, was like a refugee running to save his life. Although there had been many close calls, still he had successfully eluded Saul. And then, quite unexpectedly, the opportunity of a lifetime was afforded him. While David and his men hid in a cave, Saul, the very man who was bent on killing him, stepped into the cave to . . . (Well, you read it, didn’t you?) With David’s men whispering to him words of encouragement to take Saul’s life, David responded:

“The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord” (24:6).

Faced with a golden opportunity for revenge, David did not follow through.

When tensions rise between you and someone else . . . when injustices are committed against you . . . when false accusations are made and hurtful action is taken . . . revenge is the natural response. It seems like the other person is deserving of painful words or spiteful actions of at least equal intensity. And, frankly, it may also seem as if your own spirit will only find rest when such words are spoken or such action is taken.

But David’s decision was the right one – both for him and for you! God is the One who will ultimately judge. He is the One who will ultimately bring about justice. He is the One who will ultimately take vengeance (Rom. 12:17-21). Instead of seeking revenge, we can relax and surrender the situation to Him.


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May 20: The Problem With People Pleasing

Read 1 Samuel 21:1-22:23

Sometimes life’s circumstances force us to make choices that put us at odds with other people.

Although we read it earlier, Jonathan made one such decision in chapter 20. Jonathan had received inside information about Saul’s intentions to execute David. He found himself in a real pickle. This information must have been coupled with strong emotion. After all, Saul was the king of Israel. And, perhaps more difficult, Saul was his own father. That sense of blood loyalty must have run deep. Meanwhile, David was Jonathan’s best friend. This relationship also represented a strong loyalty.

Although Jonathan must have felt torn between two now competing relationships, he chose not to ride the fence. One of these men was God’s choice. The other had been rejected. The one man represented righteousness. The other represented self-serving sin. One man was committed to the ways of God. The other pursued his own desires. So Jonathan made a choice that ultimately put him at odds with Saul, the very man who had been responsible for giving him life.

If you are one who tends to want to please people, realize it is not always possible or desirable.

Although one of the characters is different in chapters 21 and 22, the storyline is similar. A man, this time the priest Ahimelek, is faced with the difficult decision of offering aid to David, knowing full well that Saul had intentions of putting David to death. But, once again, Ahimelek knew that the hand of God was on David and that it had been withdrawn from Saul. Knowing that, Ahimelek offered David assistance. Though he likely did not realize it at the time, that act of compassion would cost him his life and the life of 84 other priests in Nob.

Again, if you are one who tends to be a people pleaser, realize keeping everyone happy is not always possible or desirable. In making a stand for righteousness, you may experience negative repercussions. But even the bad outcomes do not mean you have made the wrong choice!


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May 19: Right Decision at a High Price

Read 1 Samuel 20:1-42

The parting of these two friends, Jonathan and David, had to be a moving experience. They embraced, wept, and David headed out. Though each of them had vowed . . . even covenanted . . . to have the other’s back, each must have gone in his respective directions with this nagging question reverberating in the recesses of his mind, “Will I see him again alive?”

I am especially moved by Jonathan’s commitment to his dear friend. For him, there was quite a price tag attached to his love and loyalty. Just think about what it cost him.

  1. Jonathan’s commitment to David cost him a valued family relationship. It created tension between him and his father. Clearly, Saul wanted David dead. In fact, he had even asked Jonathan and others to carry out the execution. By seeking David’s welfare instead, Jonathan made himself a target of the very man responsible for his existence. Jonathan’s dedication to what he knew to be right was stronger than any pressure applied by others. Somehow, pleasing God was more important to him than pleasing the man that invited him to act to the contrary.
  2. Jonathan’s commitment to David cost him the highest position in all of Israel. As the son of Saul, Jonathan was next in line and heir to the throne. There were likely people who would have given their right kidney to become king! Not Jonathan. He understood that David was the anointed and the man for the job. He was willing to do anything necessary to ensure that David would one day assume the throne. Jonathan was one who considered the interests of others as more important than his own.

You and I are regularly confronted with similar decisions that will cost us something. We too will be faced with opportunities in which we will choose pleasing God rather than a man or woman. We too will need to look at the conflicting sides of the scales where either personal benefit or the interest and needs of others hang in the balance.

Often, the right decision is one that will cost something.


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May 18: The Power of Jealousy

Read 1 Samuel 18:1-19:24

It seemed that everyone loved David . . . well, almost everyone. King Saul certainly did not!  Jealousy and fear seemed to dominate his thoughts and fuel his actions.

But Saul seemed to be in the minority. Jonathan, Saul’s son, considered David to be a best friend. Michal, Saul’s daughter, fell in love with David and even married him. As David experienced military success, the people of Israel seemed to give him the status of national hero.

When we allow the pendulum to swing back to Saul’s jealous fear, however, we discover a man looking for an opportunity to eliminate David. Repeatedly, Saul tried to pin David to a wall with a spear. Each time, David eluded the spear. Perhaps the king could use his son or his daughter to deliver David into a trap. But they were too wise. They saw right through his plans. Perhaps Saul could place David in the danger of battle and the Philistines would put the upstart to death. But, once again, even that did not work.

Jealousy certainly is a powerful force in life. If we allow it to run rampant and unchecked in our lives, it will move us towards poisonous thoughts and actions. It may be as invisible as a critical spirit that seeks to find fault in others without ever voicing it. Or it may be as blatant as words or actions that attack the other person.

Rather than allowing jealousy to dominate our thoughts, words, and actions, we must learn to “rejoice with those who rejoice” (Rom. 12:15). At any point in time, there will be those who enjoy greater success, receive more accolades, or have superior abilities. Rather than allowing those realities to push us towards envy, we need to be able to thank God for the unique contribution that the person can make while also being grateful for the unique people we are.

Someone has wisely said that “the most difficult instrument to play is second fiddle.” That’s true! But even second fiddle is important! Rosin up your bow and play it joyfully.


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