King David is one of my very favourite Bible characters (I can't wait to meet him in Heaven!) So it was a real personal delight studying the story of his life/his walk with God in the books of Samuel and Kings with Search the Scriptures.
1 Sam 26 was one of the incidences in which David spared Saul's life, even when seemingly against human logic. (I could almost see Abishai facepalming after 26:8.)
Search the Scriptures asked:
What basic convictions motivated David's actions?
How did his faith in God's purposes for him stand out?
In particular, what principle emerges from 25:39 and 26:10, 23?
And my answers, eventually, were somewhere around this:
David's actions were motivated by his convictions about God's purpose for him.
He had faith that God's purpose for him would not require him to sin, or to behave in anyway that wasn't blameless (enough people would have justified David's killing of Saul to allow him to get away with it; yet, that wasn't the issue. Blamelessness before GOD--not man--was.)
To anyone else, this seemed like a God-given chance to fulfill God's purpose for David (replacing Saul as king.) But David had faith. God would bring it to pass in His own time, in His own way. Meanwhile, David would be guided by God's statues: not to shed innocent blood; to respect authority; and to leave revenge of this sort to God.
(Of course, David wasn't always such a good example. Sadly. Think the chapter before, when Abigail barely rescued him from doing the exact opposite of all these. It was probably that very experience, however, which sobered him and showed him he needed to think again on how he ought to live out God's purpose for his life.)
Looking at David's life story from the big-picture lens of the future, we can see God's hand working out His purpose, leading David towards and through the mission of kingship. David, right in the middle of it, certainly couldn't have seen that--it was very much so a walk of faith. Imagine the seven years he reigned in Hebron, wondering if he would ever be the officially acknowledged king of Israel; let alone all the years of hardship, danger, and wandering before that as a wanted man.
David couldn't possibly have seen God's purpose working out clearly in his life all the time. But while he waited, he learnt instead to focus on living out righteousness and faithfulness--to live blamelessly, and to live with faith.
At crossroad phases in life, I have to struggle with this same issue. It is a good reminder that actually, our lives aren't so much 'living out God's plan for us'. God's plans will come to pass. He is a sovereign God; and at any rate as limited beings we could never 'know' what God plans for us to do here on earth (handy as that might be.) Don't be paralyzed by the thought that you somehow need to discover what God's plan for your life is before you can live it out. It's already happening; He is already guiding you along it; you are already living it out, so to speak.
How then should we live? What are we guided by?
The revealed will of God--His will for us to be blameless and faithful.
Our focus is as simple as this: to live out righteousness and faithfulness.
How relevant is the first Commandment today?
In Sunday School, I memorized the Ten Commandments when I was young. The first one was probably the one I paid the least attention to. Shucks. "Other gods" (i.e idols?) Passe.
It was pretty hard to imagine being tempted to buy an idol and worship it. Of course, I knew that idolatry applied to anything which we replaced God with--but even then the examples were almost as irrelevant; money; fame; friends etc; and I could safely examine them from a distance.
Idolatry was the Israelites' greatest sin. Again and again over the course of Old Testament history we see them returning to the Canaanite gods, voluntarily enslaving themselves to the rites and mystic fear...
In all honesty I used to feel they were pretty dense not to have learnt their lesson after so many times. What's with the wooden images anyway?
"You shall have no other gods besides Me."
We have our own idols today. Very likely not wooden images, but they grip us with the same powerful intensity that the Canaanite gods gripped the Israelites with.We devote ourselves to them blindly, unthinkingly.Think it's rightful to do so. Never think of questioning their importance.
We worship them for the same reason the Israelites worshiped their Baals and Ashtoreths. Because we want a sense of security. Because it seems logical and makes sense. Because it ties in with pursuing our pleasures. Because it makes it easy for us to do what we want to do--or promises a straightforward way to get what we wanted.
The greatest form of idol worship today, an idol everyone without exception has bowed to--is bowing to--is ourselves. The worship of self. Something so natural we hardly stop to question it.
This is the greatest idol in my life, and it has been manifesting itself in all sorts of small and subtle ways that I am slowly realizing--such as what I've been struggling with for a long time: idolizing my failures and successes.
It took me a long time to see this as a form of idolatry; after all, shouldn't we be sad over our failures, and isn't it right and natural to be happy over our successes?
But we are not evaluated based on our performance (thank God.) Getting depressed when I fail, arrogant when I succeed--as if either makes a difference to who I am. Christ already knew the full extent of my imperfection when He died for me.There is no need to be enslaved to evaluating my life and myself by how well--or not--I do. (Why self, anyway? Why all the attention on yourself in the first place?)
Success doesn't make God love me more, or make me a better person; it's way more likely to give me an artificial (but very pleasant to believe and look at) idea of myself, which boosts my ego and reassures me that I'm not such a bad person after all.
I have to humbly accept that I will fail sometimes, because I am imperfect--and that even then, it is God's good plan for me.
Why am I so upset when I fail anyway? Because it hurts my pride? Because it hurts to admit that I'm imperfect?
Actually the same reasons--pride/self-love--apply to both failures and successes.
We love ourselves so much that we--
a.) can't wait to pat ourselves on the back and say "See! I told you I was an awesome person!" when we do well;
b.) can't bear to see the truth about ourselves whenever we fail, whenever we make mistakes.
Instead, what would better define me would be how I respond to both.
However differently it manifests itself, self-worship is in our lives. In our attitudes towards our lives, and towards others. So many of my struggles come from this misguided sense of myself being De Most Important Thing.
To have a heart which desires to please You more than anyone else--including myself.
To have no other gods--including myself--besides You.
In all honesty, I never had any particular fondness for Jonathan Edwards.
First of all I'd never actually read any of his writings, though I did know he was a famous preacher etc.
Secondly he looked incredibly grumpy in all the portraits I saw of him. It didn't help that my mom had a book on Sarah Edwards and it was titled 'Marriage to a Difficult Man'--with an extra-intimidating portrait of Jonathan Edwards (and his wife) in front.
(Sadly, I later found out the title was misleading; it wasn't supposed to mean that Jonathan Edwards was a difficult man to live with. Authors, please consider your title carefully; even if people don't actually read your book they can still be misled by it!)
Yes, I know--I need to go read what Edwards wrote, myself, to form an accurate opinion of him--but I already have, just by reading what someone else wrote about him.
As I probably have mentioned, Steve DeWitt's Eyes Wide Open was, and is, a hugely significant book to me. Sometimes you meet one of those books that change and shape you for good--they are rare indeed, but they pack a wallop that leaves their imprint on you for life.
The whole concept of God's beauty (something I'd never heard anyone dwell on, let alone draw so much application from) was new to me. That the earthly beauty around us--which because of sin distracts us from, instead of leading us to--reflects His Ultimate Beauty.
I soaked it all in eagerly with a growing sense of wonder and joy and thankfulness. Wow. More aspects of a wonderful God. I thought I had plunged the depth of His goodness but obviously I was far from touching bottom!
And then Steve DeWitt mentioned a short anecdote about Jonathan Edwards:
' To go beyond beauty to God's beauty we must perceive the reflections of God's beauty in the world around us...This is clearly seen in the life of Jonathan Edwards. He kept a journal that he called "Shadows of Divine Things" in which he would record observations of beauty...He and his wife, Sarah, enjoyed discussing these "shadows" because they saw them as "the language of God".' (emphasis mine)
In that, I glimpsed the spirit which made this man such a notable Christian. Someone who actively loved and enjoyed his God.
A Shadows of Divine Things notebook! And *pop*; there was New Year Resolution ii.
Beauty as the language of God.
One way God speaks to us--to all of us; whether we realize it's Him or not--is the beauty He created.
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are