Lessons from the Wilderness: David

Wilderness Wandering Lesson #3: When the desires of our heart lead us away from God, true repentance leads us back.

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At the heart of our lessons from the Israelites and Elijah is a focus on trust. We need to trust that God knows best for us and will lead us in the right direction as the Israelites learned. And, we need to trust that God will provide and protect us according to his will like Elijah learned. Elijah, in our previous lesson, was not lead into a wilderness season by any failing on his part. Instead, the wilderness for him was because of circumstances outside of his control. By looking to God and remembering those past successes with God, he was able to overcome trying circumstances.

The wilderness story that we will look at today also concerns a man that could remember past successes with God. In his story, he had stood against giants, mad kings, had been through the wilderness once and overcame it. David was a “man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14). We see in the book of 1 Samuel David’s victories. He was blessed by God, and because of this blessing, he was able to overcome his enemies. The book of 2 Samuel then describes what happened to David after he overcame these things and became King of Israel. During the first 10 chapters, David is set on the throne and receives the Davidic covenant, where he is told that Jesus will come from his lineage. If David could have just stayed in these moments where his focus was on God, he would have dwelt securely in the land and set up his children to do the same.

Instead, we see David drifting down a path that led him to devastation in 2 Sam. 11. In this chapter, we see the story where David, without questioning his actions for how they would reflect God, sleeps with Bathsheba and sends her husband to her death. After this, David is told that he would lose the baby Bathsheba just bore and that his house would be destroyed. David’s actions here lead toward the hurt that he faced with his son Absalom in 2 Sam. 14-15. The first sin that we see in these chapter 11, lusting after Bathsheba, began the sin cycle that led David into a wilderness period that was a time of intense pain that David never really got over.

So how did David get to this point? During this time, he had stayed back at his palace idle instead of going with his armies to fight in the wars he wanted them to engage in. At this moment, his desires began to be misaligned from the desires of God. And from here, his actions lead him away from God.

We see some of David’s reactions in 2 Samuel as he mourns his son and repents of his sin. But, at this time, we don’t see his feelings about this time in the wilderness. In Psalm 38, a psalm written by David, we see the danger that comes from drifting too far from God. We see the desperation in David’s voice as he says, “There is no health in my body because of Your indignation; there is no strength in my bones because of my sin. For my sins have flooded over my head; they are a burden too heavy for me to bear. My wounds are foul and festering because of my foolishness” (Ps. 38:3-5). Because of David’s sin, he had to experience terrible pain, a trying wilderness experience. We can look back at the lessons of the Israelites to realize this time in the wilderness was for purification, but still, if David had aligned the desires of his heart with the desires and character of God, he could have saved himself from this pain.

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The wilderness is not always caused by our sin, as we’ve seen. But, at times, it is. And during these times, we can look to David’s example to see how to overcome those moments in the wilderness that were caused by our sin. Psalm 38 is an example of a penitential psalm, that shows both David’s true repentance and his desire for God in his life. Psalm 51 is another example of David writing in repentance. He says, “Be gracious to me God, according to your faithful love; according to Your abundant compassion, blot away my rebellion. Wash away my guilt and cleanse me from my sin. For I am conscious of my rebellion, and my sin is always before me. Against You – You alone – I have sinned and done this evil in Your sight. So you are right when you pass sentence. You are blameless when You judge” (Ps. 51:1-4). In this psalm and the other psalms, we see how David takes responsibility for his sin and also recognized what is required from him if he sins. He needs to be purified with a new heart that reflects the desires of God to be placed within him. This is key to accomplishing what David asks God in v. 12: “Restore the Joy of Your salvation to me and give me a willing spirit.” When we are in a wilderness of cause by our sin, we may be tempted to harden our hearts in anger against God. But, that is the path that leads us away from God and further into the wilderness. When we truly repent, we can receive back the true joy that comes from the salvation of God. After we have made it through the wilderness, we can use this time to bring others back to God (v. 13). If you are in this time today, choose the right path and come back to God. It may be painful to soften your heart and feel the weight of your sin, but that we’ll lead you towards the true joy that comes from God.

~ Cayce Fletcher

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In His Word – with the Poets

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This week we are looking into the importance of God’s Word as well as some of the goodies we are rewarded with when we open the book.  First, we had an overview of the 5 books of Law.  Yesterday we considered the 12 books of History, so today we are up to the 5 books of Poetry.

When I was a school kid eating up my history classes, I was yawning during my poetry course.  And, I still haven’t matured enough to really enjoy a ‘good book of poetry’ whatever that means.  However, I truly love opening up my Bible to these inspired books of poetry.  So many times when I reach for my Bible – it is to the books of Poetry that I go, and I am not disappointed.

Often when reading the books of law and history you get the facts of the events.  And from there you can piece together the likely thoughts or emotions of the characters and what their relationship with God was like at the time.  But, in many of the books of poetry you get the poet’s raw emotion: disappointment, anger, depression, elation, thankfulness, etc… And, through it all – God is there.  Along with the poet’s emotion, you get to read of his personal testimony of God’s faithfulness.  Psalm 13 is one short example – it starts out with quite a bit of pain and anguish and questions for God – but it ends with a beautiful statement of God’s unfailing love and goodness.

I really appreciated Andrew Cheatwood’s devotions two weeks ago when he wrote candidly about his struggle with spiritual depression and the help he found in the Psalms.  I applaud his wisdom in looking to God’s Word.

Here’s a brief overview of the 5 books of Poetry

JOB – Suffering, But Still Trusting

Satan attacks Job.  He loses everything except his trust in God – and that is enough.  He prospers again, even more than before.

PSALMS – Jewish Songbook

Songs, prayers and praises to God in poetry.  The longest book of the Bible, mostly written by David.  Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible – all about the greatness of the Word of God

PROVERBS – Wisdom!

Wise King Solomon shares his wisdom on many matters: work, money, temptation, discipline, etc…These 31 chapters can be read one chapter a day every month and you will find yourself a wiser person.

ECCLESIASTES – Search for the Meaning of Life

Solomon found pleasures, riches, and fame don’t satisfy.  Instead, revere God, follow Him and let God be God

SONG OF SOLOMON – Love Songs

Poems by Solomon celebrating the beauty of married love, also called Song of Songs

 

Which is your favorite book of Poetry?  Go ahead – read some God-inspired poetry today!

Marcia Railton

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David

man after my own heart

Acts 13:22, 2 Sam 11:1-17, 2 Samuel 12:7-14

If you grew up in church your Sunday school classes were probably full of the stories of David’s triumphs. He was the shepherd boy who killed lions, bears, Goliath and eventually became King. His triumphs were nothing short of amazing. David was even called a “Man after God’s own heart” in Acts 13:22. Yet just like the other characters we have discussed, David was flawed.

In arguably the most famous story of his flaws David ultimately caused catastrophe to befall his entire Kingdom. First off, in 2 Samuel 11:1 it says that David stayed home in his cozy palace instead of going off to war as he was supposed to. Next, since he wasn’t where he was supposed to be he saw a beautiful woman named Bathsheba bathing on her roof. Even though she was married to a man who was serving in David’s army David decided to send messengers to bring her to him. We find out in verse 5 that she became pregnant.

In an attempt to cover up what he had done David asks for Bathsheba’s husband Uriah to come home from battle but Uriah is honorable and refuses to sleep in the comfort of his home knowing the other men in his army are not able to do the same. Frustrated David sends a note with Uriah as he goes back to the battle front. The note carries Uriah’s death sentence as it commands the commander of the army to send Uriah to the front line of the fiercest battle. With Uriah out of the way David takes Bathsheba to be his wife and she gave birth to a son who later died because of David’s sin. Not only that but David was later driven out of his own Kingdom because of the sin he committed. Everyone suffered because of the flaw that David allowed himself to be entitled to do as he pleased.

David suffered for his actions and repented for it. Despite his flaws through grace God used David to establish the throne of Israel even making Jesus a decedent of David. No matter what you have done God sees your potential and can use you in amazing ways.

-Lacey Dunn

A Rule that’s NOT of this World

Monday

Matthew 4 17

Proverbs. You probably wouldn’t think that Proverbs would have anything to do with the topic for our devotion this week, the gospel. However, there’s a small nugget of wisdom in the 13th chapter of Proverbs in verse 12a:

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick”

A heart void of hope makes the heart sick and sad. So many people go through life with no hope or if they do have a hope it’s wrongly placed and are disappointed when it doesn’t satisfy their deepest longings. Hope is crucial to a life of joy and contentedness and with our look at the second component of the gospel, God has provided a hope to all who want to follow him. This hope is the kingdom of God.

The kingdom of God is the foundation of Jesus’ ministry. If you don’t understand the kingdom, you won’t understand Jesus. Now there are two aspects to the kingdom of God, a present reality and the future hope (or the eschatological kingdom for the technical term). Today, we look at the future hope. But in order to understand the future, we have to first understand the past. Let’s start in Genesis.

God created the cosmos and everything in it, including a tiny blue marble we call earth. God intended humans to be his vice-regents on the earth, humans were to reign and rule over all that he had created on earth:

“Then God said, ‘let us make man in our image, according to our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky and over the cattle over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth’…God blessed them and said to them ‘be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it and rule over the fish of the sea and the over the birds of the air and the every living thing that moves on the earth” – Gen. 1.26,28

However, the perfect union that God and man had together was short-lived. Sin came into the picture and with it, death, evil, oppression, and injustice have reigned to this day. But God decided he wanted to save his creation, humans and the world, thus began God plan’s on reconciling everything back to himself. We’re going to look at two passages from the Old Testament that provide the pillars to the New Testament and Jesus.

In Genesis 12, God makes a covenant or a faithful promise with Abram:

“Now Yahweh said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country…to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation…and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” – Gen. 12.1-3

God promises three things to Abram:

  1. Land that Abram will possess
  2. He will be made a great nation
  3. The entire earth will be blessed through him

 

Jumping ahead to I Chronicles 17, God makes a covenant with David:

“When your days are fulfilled that you must go to be with your fathers, that I will set up one of your descendants after you, who will be of your sons; and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build for me a house, and I will establish his throne forever…I will settle him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever” – I Chronicles 17.11-14

God promises that there will be one who comes after him, from his line, and his throne will be established forever. Remember God promised Abraham land and during David’s time God’s people had the land, then God promises the king of that land that there will be one after him whose throne will rule forever and ever over that land and kingdom.

Let’s take a look at what Luke 1 says about Jesus:

“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David; and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will have no end” – Lk. 1.31-33

Jesus is the king over the promised kingdom of God. Thus when Jesus proclaims his inaugural statement in Matt. 4.17 and Mark 1.15, it’s the king announcing the arrival of the kingdom. This kingdom and it’s king reverses the effect that sin has ravaged on the earth, because Jesus himself has overcome the grave.

One day Jesus is coming back to establish the full reality of the kingdom and its influence here on the earth. We have a taste of it now (which we’ll get into tomorrow) but we hope and long for the return of Jesus. Because of his return this ravaged broken down system will be set right, and the true king with a just and righteous rule will govern the earth and we will reign and rule just as it was in the beginning. This was gospel for Jesus and this is gospel and hope to us.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope, without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” – Hebrews 10.23

-Jacob Rohrer

 

 

 

No “Works Cited” In Prayer!

Psalms 85-89

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Monday, January 9

Have you ever stopped to think about copyrighting? In our world, even words can be trademarked and copyrighted. For example, if I was going to start making a comic called “Superheroes of Scripture” (which would be awesome), I would be infringing on the trademarked word “superhero”, a trademark of Marvel and DC Comics. That’s pretty impressive that the word “superhero” can’t be used in a product that you desire to sell unless approved by Marvel/DC! Also, if I use someone else’s words or even information in a paper for school, it is considered stealing unless I cite my source. (I know my seniors doing research papers understand the pain of a “Works Cited” page.)
However, the authors of Scripture felt no such compunction to cite their sources or honor “copyrights” of previous authors. You’ll see tons of quotations of the Old Testament in the New Testament, when you get there. But there will be parts without quotes that you may recognize were pulled out of the OT without a reference to the original author. The authors of Scripture quoted, summarized, paraphrased and referenced previous books of Scripture with abandon, because the books and words were part of how they thought.
A prime OT example of this is Psalm 86:15. The author (David, here) writes “But You, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth.” If you have been following along since August, you may catch what is being referenced. Know what it is? It is Exodus 34:6 – “Then the Lord passed in front of him and proclaimed: Yahweh—Yahweh is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth…”  In this Psalm, David turns the narrative of Yahweh passing in front of Moses, hidden in the cleft, into a prayer. YOU, Yahweh, are compassionate and gracious, etc. David knew that this was written before, but he is not writing something new, he is not breaking ground, he is using what God has already said about Godself to speak to God.
We can do the same. Sometimes, we have no words to say about God or our words to God sound so small. I’ve been there; thinking that what can I say to God? If you don’t know where to begin to pray, one of the best places is to look to Scripture and use the words you find there to pray. We have permission to pray using the words of Scripture in the Psalms and the Psalms themselves are great passages to use. If your prayer life is struggling, or if you are wanting to grow closer to God, may using God’s own words bless you!
-Jake Ballard
Pastor Jake attended Atlanta Bible College, and has been a professor there in the past. He would like to encourage those who want to know more about the Bible, about leadership and about Christian Spirituality, to get in contact with the college. It is a wonderful opportunity, and if you are one of those juniors or seniors working on research papers, as you are applying to and investigating different college options, don’t forget ABC!
(Photo credit: http://www.heartlight.org/gallery/psalm86_11.html)

Fortress

Psalms 61-67

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January 4, 2017

Living in Minnesota can be challenging, yesterday it was 35 degrees and it started raining. Shortly after that, the temperature started to drop. This caused a thin layer of ice making walking dangerous and driving difficult. Today, the temperature has continued to fall and the wind has picked up. I am counting on my house to keep me warm and safe. I do this because my house has kept me warm and safe for many years.

David claimed God as his shelter and source of protection against all that threatened him. Experience had shown how God cared for him and loved him. There were many times David called upon God to watch over him and God was always faithful to David’s pleas.

Psalm 62:1-2, “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”

David questioned God when he felt his enemies threatening him, and God always reminded him he was with him. God is our fortress, a place to rest and reset to face our troubles.

-Susan Johnson

(Photo credit: http://www.alittleperspective.com/psalm-61-chiastic-structure/)

Our Refuge

Psalms 31-34: God our stronghold, our refuge.

“The LORD is the stronghold of my life –

of whom should I be afraid?” – Ps. 27:1b

Imagine you are in a battle, with your enemies pressing you on every side. You need a place to regroup, get rest, and then continue fighting. Where would you seek your refuge?

This scenario might be hard to imagine for most of us, who have never fought a battle, but David, who wrote several of these psalms, knew exactly what it was like to be pursued by an army. In many of these psalms, he refers to God as his refuge, fortress, and stronghold. God is the place where he goes to receive rest, to be rescued.

One of the main attractions to visit while in the city of London is the Tower of London. This structure, that was built over the past millennia, was designed in such a way that it would prevent attacks from arrows, canons, and more. The base of the White Tower even has walls that are 15 feet thick!

Though the strongholds that David was referring to may have not been built like medieval buildings, the purpose of them would be the same. They were designed to be impenetrable. To be a safe place amidst the arrows, swords, and fighting. A refuge that David could come to for peace in the turmoil of a fighting life.

We, like David, can come into the refuge of God’s fortress. God can be our stronghold! When we follow God’s direction and trust in him, we have walls shielding us that are much thicker than those of the Tower of London. Praise God who protects even in the turmoil of this life.

-Cayce Ballard