Tuesday 4 August, 2020

1 Samuel 14:24-35

24 Now the Israelites were in distress that day, because Saul had bound the people under an oath, saying, “Cursed be anyone who eats food before evening comes, before I have avenged myself on my enemies!” So none of the troops tasted food. 25 The entire army entered the woods, and there was honey on the ground. 26 When they went into the woods, they saw the honey oozing out; yet no one put his hand to his mouth, because they feared the oath. 27 But Jonathan had not heard that his father had bound the people with the oath, so he reached out the end of the staff that was in his hand and dipped it into the honeycomb. He raised his hand to his mouth, and his eyes brightened. 28 Then one of the soldiers told him, “Your father bound the army under a strict oath, saying, ‘Cursed be anyone who eats food today!’ That is why the men are faint.” 29 Jonathan said, “My father has made trouble for the country. See how my eyes brightened when I tasted a little of this honey. 30 How much better it would have been if the men had eaten today some of the plunder they took from their enemies. Would not the slaughter of the Philistines have been even greater?” 31 That day, after the Israelites had struck down the Philistines from Mikmash to Aijalon, they were exhausted. 32 They pounced on the plunder and, taking sheep, cattle and calves, they butchered them on the ground and ate them, together with the blood. 33 Then someone said to Saul, “Look, the men are sinning against the Lord by eating meat that has blood in it.” “You have broken faith,” he said. “Roll a large stone over here at once.” 34 Then he said, “Go out among the men and tell them, ‘Each of you bring me your cattle and sheep, and slaughter them here and eat them. Do not sin against the Lord by eating meat with blood still in it.’” So everyone brought his ox that night and slaughtered it there. 35 Then Saul built an altar to the Lord; it was the first time he had done this.

If there is one thing I can relate to in this passage it is Saul’s ‘foot in mouth’ approach. Too many times I have opened my mouth and said something without thinking, let alone thinking thru the consequences. What is worse is then not being able to back down due to my own pride. Saul made the men take a vow which no doubt seemed like a good idea at the time but turned out to make things difficult for his army.

The whole ‘swear an oath’ thing may not be so day to day commonplace for us but this is still a valuable warning regarding what we say. Jonathan was able to weigh the wisdom of the oath and see it for what it was. I hope that when I speak I engage my brain first. But if I don’t, I hope that I have the wisdom and grace to swallow my pride and make things right. 

Heavenly Father give me the strength to weigh my words today. I pray that what comes out of my mouth will bring honour to you. In Jesus name Amen.

Written by Christine Knight


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Monday 3 August, 2020

1 Samuel 13:23-14:23

23 Now a detachment of Philistines had gone out to the pass at Mikmash. 14 1 One day Jonathan son of Saul said to his young armor-bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the Philistine outpost on the other side.” But he did not tell his father. 2 Saul was staying on the outskirts of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree in Migron. With him were about six hundred men, 3 among whom was Ahijah, who was wearing an ephod. He was a son of Ichabod’s brother Ahitub son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the Lord’s priest in Shiloh. No one was aware that Jonathan had left. 4 On each side of the pass that Jonathan intended to cross to reach the Philistine outpost was a cliff; one was called Bozez and the other Seneh. 5 One cliff stood to the north toward Mikmash, the other to the south toward Geba. 6 Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised men. Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.” 7 “Do all that you have in mind,” his armor-bearer said. “Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.” 8 Jonathan said, “Come on, then; we will cross over toward them and let them see us. 9 If they say to us, ‘Wait there until we come to you,’ we will stay where we are and not go up to them. 10 But if they say, ‘Come up to us,’ we will climb up, because that will be our sign that the Lord has given them into our hands.” 11 So both of them showed themselves to the Philistine outpost. “Look!” said the Philistines. “The Hebrews are crawling out of the holes they were hiding in.” 12 The men of the outpost shouted to Jonathan and his armor-bearer, “Come up to us and we’ll teach you a lesson.” So Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, “Climb up after me; the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel.” 13 Jonathan climbed up, using his hands and feet, with his armor-bearer right behind him. The Philistines fell before Jonathan, and his armor-bearer followed and killed behind him. 14 In that first attack Jonathan and his armor-bearer killed some twenty men in an area of about half an acre. 15 Then panic struck the whole army—those in the camp and field, and those in the outposts and raiding parties—and the ground shook. It was a panic sent by God. 16 Saul’s lookouts at Gibeah in Benjamin saw the army melting away in all directions. 17 Then Saul said to the men who were with him, “Muster the forces and see who has left us.” When they did, it was Jonathan and his armor-bearer who were not there. 18 Saul said to Ahijah, “Bring the ark of God.” (At that time it was with the Israelites.) 19 While Saul was talking to the priest, the tumult in the Philistine camp increased more and more. So Saul said to the priest, “Withdraw your hand.” 20 Then Saul and all his men assembled and went to the battle. They found the Philistines in total confusion, striking each other with their swords. 21 Those Hebrews who had previously been with the Philistines and had gone up with them to their camp went over to the Israelites who were with Saul and Jonathan. 22 When all the Israelites who had hidden in the hill country of Ephraim heard that the Philistines were on the run, they joined the battle in hot pursuit. 23 So on that day the Lord saved Israel, and the battle moved on beyond Beth Aven.

I remember Ps Phil Buechler preached a great sermon on this passage. He talked about being a “green light” Christian instead of a “red light” Christian. A green light Christian says “let’s go! Perhaps the Lord will act on our behalf” while a “red light” Christian says, “yeah, nah I’m not doing anything without some sort of sign from God.”

Jonathan and his armor-bearer placed a lot of confidence on “perhaps”.  Perhaps the Lord is more trustworthy than what I give Him credit for. Perhaps the Lord acts when we act. Perhaps the Lord gets excited and does the supernatural and extraordinary when we have faith in him. Perhaps the Lord is well pleased when I turn on the green light and get on with His purposes, and trusting the outcomes to Him. 

Lord, please help me to change my daily stance and attitude. To move from a “I won’t do anything for God until I can be sure of the outcome” stance (red light) – to a “let’s go! Perhaps the Lord” (Green light) stance. I know I can trust You. Amen 

Written by Boudy van Noppen

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Sunday 2 August, 2020

1 Samuel 13:1-22

13 Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned over Israel forty-two years. 2 Saul chose three thousand men from Israel; two thousand were with him at Mikmash and in the hill country of Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan at Gibeah in Benjamin. The rest of the men he sent back to their homes. 3 Jonathan attacked the Philistine outpost at Geba, and the Philistines heard about it. Then Saul had the trumpet blown throughout the land and said, “Let the Hebrews hear!” 4 So all Israel heard the news: “Saul has attacked the Philistine outpost, and now Israel has become obnoxious to the Philistines.” And the people were summoned to join Saul at Gilgal. 5 The Philistines assembled to fight Israel, with three thousand chariots, six thousand charioteers, and soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore. They went up and camped at Mikmash, east of Beth Aven. 6 When the Israelites saw that their situation was critical and that their army was hard pressed, they hid in caves and thickets, among the rocks, and in pits and cisterns. 7 Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear. 8 He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter. 9 So he said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” And Saul offered up the burnt offering. 10 Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him. 11 “What have you done?” asked Samuel. Saul replied, “When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Mikmash, 12 I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the Lord’s favor.’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.” 13 “You have done a foolish thing,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. 14 But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.” 15 Then Samuel left Gilgal and went up to Gibeah in Benjamin, and Saul counted the men who were with him. They numbered about six hundred. 16 Saul and his son Jonathan and the men with them were staying in Gibeah in Benjamin, while the Philistines camped at Mikmash. 17 Raiding parties went out from the Philistine camp in three detachments. One turned toward Ophrah in the vicinity of Shual, 18 another toward Beth Horon, and the third toward the borderland overlooking the Valley of Zeboyim facing the wilderness. 19 Not a blacksmith could be found in the whole land of Israel, because the Philistines had said, “Otherwise the Hebrews will make swords or spears!” 20 So all Israel went down to the Philistines to have their plow points, mattocks, axes and sickles sharpened. 21 The price was two-thirds of a shekel for sharpening plow points and mattocks, and a third of a shekel for sharpening forks and axes and for repointing goads. 22 So on the day of the battle not a soldier with Saul and Jonathan had a sword or spear in his hand; only Saul and his son Jonathan had them.

When I was younger I used to get a bit confused by stories like this in the Old Testament. Wasn’t the bible supposed to be full of stories that show us how to live in God’s ways? And yet so many of these bible “heroes” seem to get it wrong time and again.

Later I came to realise that stories such as this one are not recorded as examples for us to follow, but rather as a warning of pitfalls for us to avoid.

So, what can we learn from King Saul’s actions in this story? Saul disobeyed what God had commanded to him to do as leader of the people. Pride and fear caused him to presume that he could improve on God’s plans by taking matters into his own hands. I can see many times in my own life when this too has been my response, which never ends well.

And then when the prophet Samuel confronts Saul over his blatant disobedience, Saul gives lots of excuses. But Samuel is not buying it, telling Saul he has “done foolishly” in not obeying the commandment of the Lord.

It’s so easy to excuse ourselves from poor choices and our disobedience to God’s ways when we are in a difficult situation like what Saul was in.  But tough situations are where God tests us to see how we will react.

Will I continue to trust in God’s ways when I can’t see a way out? And if I do mess up and try to go my own way, do I quickly own up to it and seek God’s forgiveness or do I try and cover it up with excuses?

I am grateful for the forgiveness and the grace of God as He has patiently guided me through many years. I have certainly not always got it right, but I am learning more and more to trust Him in the tight spots where it looks like there is no way out. His ways are always best, and when I own up to my faults and failings, He is always there to lift me up again.

Written by Shelley Witt


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Saturday 1 August, 2020

1 Samuel 12:1-24

12 Samuel said to all Israel, “I have listened to everything you said to me and have set a king over you. 2 Now you have a king as your leader. As for me, I am old and gray, and my sons are here with you. I have been your leader from my youth until this day. 3 Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the Lord and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these things, I will make it right.” 4 “You have not cheated or oppressed us,” they replied. “You have not taken anything from anyone’s hand.” 5 Samuel said to them, “The Lord is witness against you, and also his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.” “He is witness,” they said. 6 Then Samuel said to the people, “It is the Lord who appointed Moses and Aaron and brought your ancestors up out of Egypt. 7 Now then, stand here, because I am going to confront you with evidence before the Lord as to all the righteous acts performed by the Lord for you and your ancestors. 8 “After Jacob entered Egypt, they cried to the Lord for help, and the Lord sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your ancestors out of Egypt and settled them in this place. 9 “But they forgot the Lord their God; so he sold them into the hand of Sisera, the commander of the army of Hazor, and into the hands of the Philistines and the king of Moab, who fought against them. 10 They cried out to the Lord and said, ‘We have sinned; we have forsaken the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtoreths. But now deliver us from the hands of our enemies, and we will serve you.’ 11 Then the Lord sent Jerub-Baal,[a] Barak,[b] Jephthah and Samuel,[c] and he delivered you from the hands of your enemies all around you, so that you lived in safety. 12 “But when you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites was moving against you, you said to me, ‘No, we want a king to rule over us’—even though the Lord your God was your king. 13 Now here is the king you have chosen, the one you asked for; see, the Lord has set a king over you. 14 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! 15 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. 16 “Now then, stand still and see this great thing the Lord is about to do before your eyes! 17 Is it not wheat harvest now? I will call on the Lord to send thunder and rain. And you will realize what an evil thing you did in the eyes of the Lord when you asked for a king.” 18 Then Samuel called on the Lord, and that same day the Lord sent thunder and rain. So all the people stood in awe of the Lord and of Samuel. 19 The people all said to Samuel, “Pray to the Lord your God for your servants so that we will not die, for we have added to all our other sins the evil of asking for a king.” 20 “Do not be afraid,” Samuel replied. “You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. 21 Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless. 22 For the sake of his great name the Lord will not reject his people, because the Lord was pleased to make you his own. 23 As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. 24 But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.

“Then you will realise how wicked you have been in asking the Lord for a King”

In this passage of scripture, Samuel wants to make it plain to the people that asking for a king was a bad idea.

There is certainly nothing wrong with Godly leadership: Moses had led the people of Israel and so had Joshua. Deuteronomy 17 (written before 1 Samuel) even gives instructions on what type of King to choose! So why was Samuel (and God) so cranky about them asking for a King here?

The bible doesn’t exactly say, but earlier in 1 Samuel 8:7 it seems that God recognises that in choosing a worldly ruler, the Israelites were in-part rejecting Him and His sovereignty over them.

This makes me wonder: How have I behaved in the same kind of way?

Another way of asking would be “what have I got in my life that rules over me?”

My drive to eat, my drive to be productive, my desire not to feel out of control of a situation, all rule over me at times. There are probably even other things that I’m not even aware of.

Dear Lord, shine Your light on areas in my life that rule over me and take your place. Help me Lord to conquer these things and gain freedom to be fully consecrated to your purposes.

Written by Ps Justin Ware


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