December 6 – The Beatitudes – “Blessed are those who mourn…”

Read 1 Samuel 21:1-15 and Psalm 34:1-22

Every parent longs for a perfectly healthy child. But we are brokenhearted when we’re born.

We’re driven to be independent, desire control, and exhibit ownership from the first time we’re encouraged to share. It’s evident that we are spiritually broken.

Add to that, the loss that comes with living. Blow after blow of disappointments. Failures. Abuse. Death. It’s a big pile of brokenness, isn’t it?

It’s my story. It’s anyone that is human’s story.

We’re needy.

I don’t like being needy.

I’ve also found that when I admit my need, when I agree with God that He’s my only source of sanity, that He’s my only hope of forgiveness and salvation, that He’s worthy of my dependence…

I find a healed heart. I find intimacy with a God that is close.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matt. 5:4)

If I would have started there, I wonder if you would have skipped this devotional, thinking, ‘I’m not mourning so this one isn’t for me.’

But aren’t we all mourning something? Aren’t we all suffering from some kind of loss? An inward and outer brokenness?

David wrote Psalm 34 from a place of brokenness. He was crushed. When he learned that Saul was planning to kill him, he fled. He was alone and had nothing. This young warrior, who was told he would become king, was running for his life. As he ran, God orchestrated a beautiful reminder of His presence. It was Goliath’s sword. Isn’t it just like God to remind us when we’re crushed that there have been victories in the past? That He is the same, faithful God today that He was yesterday, when we were facing other giants.

David still went on to lie and act like a fool. His faith was weak. He was crushed, remember? But He found His God to be faithful and forgiving.

He was near. Close.

And He’s offering that to you.

He’s offered that to me.

If…

I will call on Him in truth. If I will admit that I need Him. If I will lay down my independence, my need for control, my pain and disappointment, and call on Him. Put my trust in Him. He will draw me close. He will comfort me. He will be the source of everything I need. It’s not that He ever isn’t. It’s just agreeing with Him that He is.

It’s in agreement that He draws near. Or rather, we draw near to God who is already there.

He’s close to the brokenhearted.

Near to the humble.

He saves those who are crushed in spirit.

And for that reason, we are blessed.

Shelly Eberly

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?

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

January 24 – God’s Will – God’s will and celebration

Read 1 Samuel 1:1-2:11

Cynical creatures that we are, we can falsely conclude that the will of God is . . .

  • Something that God only reluctantly reveals.  We may wrongly feel that we will have to beg and bargain in order to discern His will.  We may feel that we will need hyper-sensitive hearing aids in order to hear His almost imperceptible voice.
  • Something that we will always hesitantly embrace.  We may mistakenly consider Him a cosmic killjoy.  He may seem to be One who wants to put the kibosh on our dreams, sending us down a painful path we will dread every step of the way.

Friends, let’s identify those thoughts for what they are . . . wrong!  They are just not true.  He directs the path of those who trust in Him (Prov. 3:5, 6).  He gives the desires of the heart to those who take delight in Him (Ps. 37:4).

I wonder if Hannah had drawn those wrong conclusions.  There was nothing she wanted more than a child of her own.  But her nemesis taunted her with painful reminders of her barrenness.  And her God?  He seemed to be deaf to her pleas for fruitfulness.  Until one day, she poured out her heart in a way that she had never before.  She entreated God for a son.  If God gave her a boy, she promised to surrender him to the Lord’s service.

And then came Samuel.

Do not forget that the Lord does give Samuels.  Do not forget that at times He does give us precisely what we have dreamed of and asked for.  Do not forget that, in some instances, He even goes above and beyond what we asked or imagined and blesses us with more than we ever could have hoped for (Eph. 3:20).  Don’t forget that the greatest and richest blessings are ones that we have yet to fully realize and unpack because these are spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ (Eph. 1:15-20).

And, as a result, don’t hesitate to pause now to express to Him your gratitude that He is a gracious Father who has a good plan for His kids.

Steve Kern

November 23 – A King is Coming – 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 eludes the spear.  Perhaps the king could use his son or his daughter to deliver David into a trap.  No, 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.

Steve Kern

November 22 – A King is Coming – Low Tolerance and High Confidence

Read 1 Samuel 17:1-58

It shouldn’t have been David.  That’s right.  Humanly speaking, David should not have been the one to conquer Goliath.  David didn’t even come close to Goliath in height.  With Goliath towering over 9 feet in the air, it probably should have been someone like Saul who, from the shoulders up, was taller than anyone else in the nation.  David certainly didn’t compare to Goliath when it came to military experience.  Perhaps it should have been one of David’s brothers or one of the others from the thousands gathered on the mountain where the Israelites stood.  David’s battle gear was laughable in contrast to Goliath’s.  Goliath probably wore armor or carried weapons with a total weight more than David himself.  Meanwhile, David toted a sling and five stones.  Should it have been someone who could actually fit in some armor?  Someone with experience with a spear or javelin?

But David had two things that the others standing on the Israelite side of the valley apparently lacked.

  1. He had a low tolerance for the disgrace Goliath brought upon God and His people.
  2. He had high confidence in the power God would unleash against Goliath.

As a result, that, which shouldn’t have happened, happened.  David not only marched into battle bravely, He also emerged from battle victorious.  Goliath had been conquered and the Philistine armies had fled.

I think it is safe to say that you will also face a Goliath in your life.  Not necessarily the nine foot variety with battle garb and weapons.  But the kind that will seek to disgrace God and His church.  These are the kind of people that revile what they don’t understand (Jude 1:10) including your good behavior in Christ (1 Pet. 3:16) and angelic majesties (2 Pet. 2:10, Jude 1:8).  You will experience that at some point.

When that kind of opposition comes, will you just powerlessly step aside and allow them to seem to be correct?  Or will you confidently stand knowing that the power of God will one day be unleashed against those who oppose the living God?

Steve Kern

November 21 – A King is Coming – Sovereign God and Eternal Plans

Read 1 Samuel 16:1-23

If you were to trace through one of the primary threads of the Bible, you would discover that it has been part of the eternal plan of God to reconcile all things to Himself in Jesus Christ.  Remember that both creation and humanity were impacted and impaired by the fall of man in Genesis 3.  God, however, had anticipated this even before the foundations of the world.  And at the time of mankind’s initial decision to disobey Him, He began to reveal that plan.  Here are just a few of the prophecies leading up to 1 Samuel 16:

  1. The Savior would come as the offspring of woman, not as a superhero invading the world (Gen. 3:15).
  2. The Messiah would come as a descendant of Shem (Gen. 9:26, 27).
  3. He was to come as a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Gen. 12:1-3).
  4. Though an Israelite, He would be the conduit of blessing to all nations (Gen. 12:1-3).
  5. He was to be a descendant of Judah (Gen. 49:8-12).

I suppose we could have predicted from the outset that things would not work out with Saul.  After all, he was from the tribe of Benjamin.  But as God directs Samuel once again to take up his anointing oil, he directs him to the insignificant town of Bethlehem, to the family of Jesse from the tribe of Jerusalem.  True to form, God’s choice of the next king and of the next milestone person in the lineage of the Savior was not necessarily the logical one.  In fact, it may have been almost frustrating to Samuel.  God had warned him about looking at outward appearance because He was looking at the heart (v. 7).  Indeed the sons of Jesse all passed by Samuel without any green light from God.  Finally, there was but one left . . . and he was the youngest, the least likely, the one out in the field tending sheep.

But David was God’s anointed!  Though he was not the Messiah, he was the next chosen king of Israel.  And from his house and upon his throne the One Messiah would one day reign (2 Samuel 7:12-16).

God is leading all things towards the completion of His eternal plan.  You can trust Him.

Steve Kern

November 20 – A King is Coming – Consequences of Disobedience

Read 1 Samuel 13:1-1514:24-4815:1-35

“If you fear the Lord and serve and obey him and do not rebel against his commands, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the Lord your God—good!  But if you do not obey the Lord, and if you rebel against his commands, his hand will be against you, as it was against your ancestors.”  (1 Samuel 12:14, 15)

Faithful obedience to God was a condition for God’s continued blessing on His people.  This obedience applied not only to God’s people, but also to the king.  Remember, the people had asked for a king.  Samuel had (reluctantly) anointed Saul.  Saul had initially demonstrated some great leadership that caused the nation to rally around him.  But, over the course of several chapters, Saul’s foolishness and disobedience caused God to remove His blessing from Him.  Here are three specific situations where that was true:

  1. Saul foolishly offered a sacrifice that Samuel should have offered (13:1-15).  Feeling pressed for time, he impatiently took into his own hands a responsibility that belonged to the prophet.  I suppose Saul wanted to be sure to appease God and seek His favor as the Israelite armies headed into battle.  But pleasing God is more than just making sure that a task gets done.  He is also interested in the heart that drives the task and the means by which the task is accomplished.  He doesn’t want us to just go through the motions.
  2. Saul foolishly ordered that the armies fast until the victory was won (14:24-48).  While fasting can be a good spiritual discipline, there were a couple of problems associated with his order.  He was challenging them to perform physically without nourishment.  But, in addition, his own son, Jonathan, was not present when the order was given.  He ended up violating the very order his father had given.
  3. Saul foolishly disobeyed the Lord’s instruction to destroy the enemy and the enemy’s livestock (15:1-35).  While the instruction itself may seem violent, God wanted His people to neither be plagued by the Amalekites nor lured into their pagan worship.  God always has reason for his commands even when we are unable to recognize it.

Because of his disobedience, it is no surprise that Saul was to be replaced as king.  What kind of consequences might you experience if you choose to ignore the Lord’s commands?

Steve Kern

November 19 – A King is Coming – Blessing and Obedience

Read 1 Samuel 12:1-25

Although Samuel will live on for several more chapters, seemingly in anticipation of his death, he takes hold of an opportunity to address the people of God.  In chapter 12, he attempts to communicate three things.

  1. He wanted to clear the air if anyone has anything against him.  Thankfully, Samuel had lived an upright life of integrity.  Though not perfect, he had sought to live his life in a way that honored God and valued people.  Can that be said of you?
  2. He wanted Israel to understand that their desire for a king was yet another in a string of acts of national sin.  Having rejected God as their king, they wanted a person who would lead them.  Thankfully, the people recognized this sin and repented.
  3. Samuel wanted the people to understand the conditions for their future well being.  If both they and the king would fear, serve, and obey God, they would experience His blessing.  If they failed to do so, God would not act on their behalf.

In this last of the three primary emphases of Samuel, he points out a conditional aspect of God’s relationship with His people.  Let’s face it, most of us prefer an unconditional response from God.  We like it when He, in spite of our sin, offers us undeserved forgiveness through the death of Jesus (Rom. 5:8).  We love the fact that God “made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).  We are so blessed to know that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:39).  All of that is unconditional!  Thank you, God!

Nevertheless, there is a very real conditional aspect to our faith.  Oh, it’s true that we do not always witness or experience the repercussions of our obedience/disobedience immediately.  Nevertheless, sooner or later, now or in eternity, there will be blessing for obedience and consequences for unconfessed sin.

Does anything need to change in light of that?

Steve Kern

November 18 – A King is Coming – Weighing the Cost of Compromise

Read 1 Samuel 11:1-15

Even though Saul had been anointed and publicly acknowledged as king of Israel . . . even though God had chosen and the people had cheered . . . the nation had not yet had opportunity to rally around this tall, handsome man’s leadership.  Here was the opportunity!

The people of Jabesh were contemplating compromise.  Having been threatened by the seemingly more powerful Ammonites, they suggested to the enemy a covenant.  If the enemy would spare their lives, they would offer themselves as slaves ready to serve their nemesis.  I suppose the compromise seemed logical.  I mean, what wouldn’t you give in exchange for your life?

But be careful!  There are some opponents you need to stand up against.  Not every difficult situation merits compromise.  The Israelites were the people of God.  They were servants of Yahweh.  God did not want them to become servants of pagan people.   A little give and take in order to avoid difficulty was not always the right path.  This compromise would cost them their exclusive devotion to God, the sight in their right eye, and the ridicule of their fellow countrymen.

Before you strike a compromise with a person or simply in your daily activities, make sure you do some careful calculations of the price tag attached.  Is the potential compromise a non-negotiable with regard to a moral issue or a biblical conviction?

As the people of Jabesh weighed the cost of compromise against the value of their lives, there was another factor they had failed to consider.  They had forgotten the power of a united community.  While they may not have been able to defeat the Ammonites on their own, this enemy was no match for the 300,000 men rallied by King Saul!

While it is true that you and God are a majority, don’t forget the power that comes from surrounding yourself with people of faith!  With their prayerful support and encouraging help, the enemies lose their power.

Back to our story one last time . . . it was this event that catapulted Saul from a person who was respected because of his stature and his position to a place where he was honored for his tested leadership and commitment to the people.

Steve Kern