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

November 17 – A King is Coming – An Unlikely Servant

Read 1 Samuel 9:1-10:27

As we launch into the 9th chapter of 1 Samuel, God has approved the position and the Israelites have agreed to the conditions of a king over Israel.  All that remained was finding the right man.  How do you find a king?  You can’t just select one of the sons of the existing king.  Remember, he is to be the first one.  So do you place a “help wanted” ad in the local paper?  Post the position online?  Hire a “headhunter” to find a handful of likely candidates to interview?

God’s plan was to personally direct Samuel in the selection process.  And God’s choice, though tall and handsome, was a man of insignificance.  He was a man from a seemingly unimportant family in one of the tribes of lesser consequence.  He wasn’t a man who had a dream of throwing his hat in the ring to run for national office.  No, he was just a man out looking for his dad’s missing donkeys.

The story has the makings of some kind of red neck reality show.  But it was reality all right.  God chose an unlikely person to contribute to His amazing plan.  Don’t be surprised by that.  God has repeated that throughout history.  In fact, that is His modus operandi still today.  In all likelihood, you are living proof of that.  Here is the way that Paul expresses it in 1 Corinthians 1:

“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.”  (vv. 26-29)

If you are a follower of Jesus, that’s a description of what happened with you!

But there is more.  The unlikely people that God chooses are the ones He also uses!  Let him use you today!

Steve Kern

November 16 – A King is Coming – God as King

Read 1 Samuel 8:1-22

Some people just seem to have a problem with authority.  It doesn’t matter who the authority figure is or what rule or restriction he/she may be trying to enforce, those who struggle with authority will likely object.

Indeed, this was part of the challenge that Samuel faced in the latter part of his life.  Having served as a prophet/judge over Israel for decades, he sought to leave in place the next generation of leaders.  His sons seemed like the right choice.  Unfortunately, they, unlike their father, led selfishly.  And other leaders in Israel objected.  Now, certainly, their objection was in part justified.  Those who lead should be unselfish people of integrity, and Joel and Abijah were not.

But in their objection, they also voiced a wish.  They wanted a king.  They wanted to abandon the use of judges that had been part of their last 350 year history.  They wanted to try something new.  Their rationale was based on romanticized reasoning found in verses 19 and 20.

  1. “All of the surrounding nations have kings.  It seems to work for them.  We should have one too!”
  2. “Our king will be a person skilled in battle.  We will probably never lose again!”

Did they really know what they were getting themselves into?  Good question!  God tried to warn them about a military draft, about government servants, and about taxes.  Still they insisted.  In their minds, a king would solve all of their problems.

Even though God permitted Samuel to move ahead with the selection process, He, however, made clear that there was a deeper seated problem.  This was bigger than, “We don’t like the way the sons of Samuel are leading!”  No, it was more than a rejection of human authorities.  At its core, the nation had been unwilling to submit to the very authority of God!

Do you submit to His authority?  Are there areas of your life where you cut corners and compromise?  Do you perhaps rationalize that the expectations are too high?  Or that you don’t feel any immediate repercussions for choosing a course contrary to His plans?  Don’t be like the Israelites!   Gladly submit to God and to the authority structures within the nation, church, and family that are part of His plan!

Steve Kern

November 15 – A King is Coming – Cycles

Read 1 Samuel 7:1-17

Even though the book of 1 Samuel is, in title, distinct from the book of Judges, its first chapters portray for us the final segment of the period of the Judges.   This period, spanning roughly 350 years from 1398 b.c. to 1043 b.c., was characterized by predictable, repeated cycles . . . the kind of cycles that can easily find their way into our lives if we are not diligent.  From the time of their first judge, Othniel, until their last, Samuel, the Israelite nation found itself reliving the realities depicted in this graphic:Judges_cycle_poster

The nation’s experience during the time of Samuel was no different.  From its top (Eli, Hophni, and Phineas) down, the people of God had only a superficial commitment to their God.  In their sin, they had foolishly taken the Ark of the Covenant into battle . . . and lost it to the enemy.  They had turned to pagan idols and the gods they represented, the Baals and the Ashtaroth.  But God demanded their exclusive worship and service.

In their sin, they suffered.  The Philistine army threatened again, evoking deep fear in God’s chosen people.

But it is interesting what fear and suffering will cause people to do.  As the prophet/judge Samuel called them to repentance, they returned to the Lord without hesitation.  And, as a result, God rescued them.  In fact, He even saw to it that the Philistines were driven from the land of God.

Have you ever lived this cycle?  When life is going along well, it is easy to let your commitment to Christ slip.  Slowly but surely, small compromises are often made.  Little by little, the world’s perspective takes on a more and more dominant role in the way you think.  But then, one day, you experience a wakeup call.  Things like difficulty, pain, problems, and trouble cause you to run back to God, calling out to Him for help and deliverance.

Probably all of us have experienced that cycle to a greater or lesser extent.  Meanwhile, God calls us to faithful diligence.  His clear preference is that we experience a different cycle.  He wants you today to remain faithful to Him.  And when the sun rises tomorrow, He wants you to commit once again to that same faithful obedience.

Steve Kern

November 14 – A King is Coming – God is not Mocked!

Read 1 Samuel 5:1-6:21

Years ago, a Russian leader is reported to have publicly expressed his conviction that God does not exist.  As his proof, he cited the cosmonauts who had been in space and yet had not seen God there.

This leader is not alone.  Throughout the ages, there have been those who have questioned the power, superiority, and even existence of God.  Perhaps they even felt as if they had proof of their conviction.  They may have even made a prideful boast of their conviction.

The Philistines must have drawn similar conclusions.  In their battle against the soldiers of Israel in 1 Samuel 4, they were first struck with fear as they realized that the people of God had (foolishly, I might add) brought the Ark of God to battle with them.  They had heard stories of the plagues that this God had brought on the Egyptians centuries before.  In spite of their fear, the Philistines fought valiantly and won the battle.  As part of their booty, they took this once feared but now apparently powerless Ark into their possession.  In fact, as an expression of God’s inferiority, they placed the Ark in the temple of their highly revered fish god, Dagon.  In their minds, the God of heaven was weak and second-rate.  Their god was powerful and greater.

Not so!

Over the next days, the existence, power, and superiority of God became clear.  The Philistines found their idol, Dagon, face down before the Ark, and then later with his head and hands severed from his fishy body.  Soon, they began to experience their own plague in the form of boils and tumors on their bodies.  As the Ark was moved from one Philistine city to the next, the plague followed.  Ultimately, the Philistines sent the Ark back!

Even though people may pridefully conclude that God is weak, inferior, or non-existent, He will not tolerate it.  Whether in this life or in the future, He is One who will take vengeance against those, who, in pride, try to mock Him.  That reality enables us to relax when people seem to get away with a lack of respect for Him.  But, it also calls us to boldly and lovingly invite them to reconsider their conclusion and come to the Savior.

Steve Kern