Tag Archives: 1 Samuel

A Flawed Leader

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This article was originally published in the October 2009 issue of The Lutheran Ambassador.  I believe that David’s story can give all Christians hope and point us to the most important component of Christian leadership. 

When you think about David what comes image comes into your mind first?  The young shepherd whose faith in God empowered him to face the giant Goliath with only a slingshot?  The King who was so unselfconscious he danced with joy before the Lord?  The sensitive poet and musician who composed many of the Psalms still used in our worship services today?  With God’s help, David was a leader who did great things.  He was a saint.

But David also had a dark side.  He lusted after another man’s wife and took her in adultery.  When she became pregnant, he tried to trick her husband into believing the child was his own.  When it became apparent that his deceit wasn’t going to work, David had him killed.  God punished David by taking the life of the son who resulted from his adulterous liaison.  David did some terrible things.  He was a sinner.

David seemed to do everything in a big way.  He was a fierce soldier–“Saul has killed his thousands and David his tens of thousands (1 Samuel 18:7)–and a charismatic king who united the Jewish nation, brought the ark to Jerusalem and built a palace there.  His magnetic personality attracted both men and women.  Brought to King Saul’s service as a young man, David quickly became a favorite who could calm the King’s terrible moods with his music.  Saul’s son Jonathan loved David with a friendship that was “more wonderful than that of women” (II Samuel 1:26), and Saul’s daughter Michal also loved David and became his wife.  In all David had at least eight wives and 14 children, but his family life was far from successful.  The jealousies that arose between these children of different mothers resulted in so much dysfunction that one brother raped his half-sister, was then killed by another brother who subsequently led a rebellion against his father, David, and was killed himself.

How did this man, a liar, fornicator and murderer, a man who could control armies but not his own children, come to be considered by God, “a man after my heart, who will obey my will (Acts 15:22)?  Why was his family chosen to be the human branch of Christ’s family tree?  David’s story reminds me of a nursery rhyme I learned when I was small about the little girl with the curl down the middle of her forehead:  when she was good, she was very, very good, but when she was bad she was horrid.  Some of David’s sins were truly horrid.  So why does God hold him up as an example, we should follow?

The reason is simple:  God does not keep score.  The most saintly among us are still sinners and we still need a savior.  David’s good works did not earn him special credit with God and his sins did not preclude him from being Gods’ man.  That slate was wiped clean by Christ’s sacrifice.  It wasn’t anything David did that made God call him “a man after my own heart.”  It must have been something else.  I think the something else was his steadfast and life-long relationship with God.

To be continued tomorrow …..

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Iron Sharp

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This article was originally published in The Lutheran Ambassador and also reprinted with permission in The Lutheran Digest.

The book of Proverbs tells us:

A friend loves at all times.”

It’s hard to imagine who wouldn’t want that kind of acceptance, isn’t it?  Yet recent studies reveal that 25 percent of Americans have no close friends at all;  another 19 percent have only one confidante (usually their spouse);  and that these unfortunate trends have been increasing over the past 20 years.

A good friend can be an important element in our spiritual life and development.  Now, by good friend I don’t mean the kind of friendly acquaintance with whom we share some common interests or activities.  A true soul friend knows us and accepts us as we really are.  We are honest and vulnerable with them.  We trust them to hear our confessions and keep our confidences.  They love us no matter what, and they always point us toward Jesus.

David found such a friend in Jonathan, who “helped him find strength in God.” (1 Samuel 23:16).  One author says, these are the friends who make us “run hard after God.”

I have been blessed by a number of spiritual friendships, including a long-lasting relationship with my college roommate, Nancy.  We don’t see each other very often because we are busy people who no longer share a room or go to classes together.  We stay in touch by writing letters and sending emails.  Once or twice a year, we meet at a church about midway between our homes.

We bring our lunch and eat together.  We pray.  We share our experiences.  We talk openly about our families, our problems, our joys and our struggles.  Nancy rarely tells me what she thinks I should do,  Instead she asks me to consider what God would have me do.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

Nancy sharpens my awareness of God.  Meeting with her and writing to her becomes a spiritual practice, a life-giving activity that helps me notice how God is working in my life.

Some spiritual friendships, like my friendship with Nancy, just seem to evolve and deepen over time.  When this happens, it’s a bit of God’s grace.  Give thanks if you already have this blessing!  However, we can also be intentional in our pursuit of sould friends.

If you do not have such a friend, pray about it and see who God brings across your path.  You might start by asking someone you know and trust to become a prayer partner.  Meet regularly, share concerns, pray with each other and for each other.  You will be amazed to find your friendship drawing you closer to your true self, closer to other Christians, and closer to God.

Inner Change

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Kate’s post yesterday reminded me of some verses our Bible Study group was discussing in the book of Luke yesterday. Jesus makes this statement after a Pharisee criticizes Him for failing to perform the ritual washing before a meal:

“Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.  You fools!…For you tithe mint and rue and every herb and neglect justice and the love of God.” Luke 11:39-42

The Scribes and Pharisees were concerned with outer appearances.  They wanted to look good by following all the religious rules, while inside they were selfish and unchanged.  In another place Jesus calls them whitewashed tombs:  looking good superficially, but spiritually dead.  Their faith was useless to them and to others.

Here’s how the apostle James describes a living faith:

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this:  to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”  James 1:27

It’s an easy trap to fall into.  We may go to church, tithe, attend Bible Study and serve at every church event, but have we allowed God to change us on the inside?  Do we feel compassion for the least of the least–or do we blame them for their situation?  Do we give sacrificially to the needy?  Or would we rather save our resources for our own benefit?  Do we feel true anguish for souls who are being lost?  Or do we secretly believe they are only getting what they deserve?  Like most people, I struggle with these issues every day.

I’ve been told that the actual meaning of the Greek word for repent is to “turn your guts around.”  That’s a real inner change, not an intellectual exercise or acceptance.  As Kate said, at the gates of heaven, God won’t ask you how good you looked on the outside.  He’ll want to know your heart.

“For the Lord sees not as man sees:  man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”  1 Samuel 16:7

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