Samuel 1


I Samuel 26-31 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  His Spirit will guide us into all truth

The first time I saw a commercial on late-night television for the Psychic Hotline I laughed and wondered who would ever resort to such nonsense to receive guidance.  Well, the laugh was on me.  This billion dollar industry has entrapped countless numbers of individuals into seeking advice from counterfeits who can only pretend to know the future rather than receiving direction from the Source of all truth. It’s hard to imagine why the chosen King of Israel would do the same by contacting a counterfeit. 

@ I Samuel 28
The story found in I Samuel 28 of Saul’s visit to the witch of Endor probably saddens me more than any of his other sins.  To digress from anointed King of Israel, more handsome and stately than any other man, to a panic-stricken, desperate man is tragic.  Throughout I Samuel, we read about the steps that brought Saul to this dreadful position, and now Samuel, the spiritual leader of Israel is dead. The Spirit of the Lord has departed from Saul (I Samuel 16:14) and the Philistine army is ready for battle – not a good scenario.

While this appears to be a perfect time for Saul to repent and call on God to deliver Israel, this man who had known and felt the Spirit of God on his life chose to seek out a witch for help. Just as troubling is the fact that his advisers knew precisely where he could find one!  Godly advisers would have discouraged this abomination to God and to the king’s own law, “Saul has outlawed all the mediums and all who consult the spirits of the dead.” (9)  David certainly had it right, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly…” (Psalm 1:1, KJV)

Scholars have debated over the centuries about the appearance of Samuel.  Was he a demonic substitute for Samuel?  If so, why did the witch shriek with terror when she saw him?  She was the last one who would have been troubled by his appearance.  How did the spirit know the future?  That would imply that Satan is omniscient and knew the future regarding Saul and his sons dying the next day.  Absolutely not!  Was the appearance of dead Samuel from God?  He accurately read Saul’s mail and foretold the future regarding his death.  I have come to the conclusion that…I’m not certain, but lean towards the last thought.

If Samuel’s appearance was from God, does this give us license to consult the dead?  Not on your life!  Besides the Old Testament prohibitions, the New Testament also denounces it in Galatians 5:19-21 and in Paul’s deliverance of a woman who practiced sorcery in Acts 16:16-18.  The big question to answer is why we would need to consult the dead?

When I understand that Jesus holds the keys of death and the grave (Revelations 1:18), why would I consort with an underling or substitute of any kind?  Through His Holy Spirit, He reveals truth to us, “But I will send you the Advocate [counselor] – the Spirit of Truth….He will guide you into all truth…He will tell you about the future…the Spirit will tell you what He receives from me.”  (John 15:25;16:13-15)

Jesus was speaking to His disciples in these passages, but these words are true for us as well because of the Spirit of truth living in us.  Why would I not go directly to the horse’s mouth, so to speak?  Through the Living Word, including His still small voice spoken to our hearts, He reveals all that we would ever need to know, and there’s an added bonus. His timing is perfect! 

Moving Forward: I call only upon the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit, to reveal to me all that I need to know for today through His Living Word. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 45-47

I Samuel 21-25 (NLT)

Discover His heart: His anointing on others calls for a respectful response from us.

The race for high-level positions in corporations, government and even in churches has always been a source of amusement to me, although I’m sure it’s not anyone’s intention to amuse me. Once a position is secured, the winner assumes by virtue of the position that respect can be demanded. Well, hold on there! Do the job, fulfill the promises, live a life without compromise and then my respect for them will be earned.  That being said, I’ll always act respectfully to those who hold these positions because they have been selected to serve, and I would not dishonor the position through gossip or slander. However, any disfavor would definitely be expressed through my vote when applicable.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T is more than an Aretha Franklin song from the ‘60’s. Aretha was asking for a little more respect in her life because she felt she had earned it. In our reading today, King Saul was shown the ultimate respect by David even though he hadn’t earned it, but David would honor God’s anointing at any cost.

@ I Samuel 24
Only God could have orchestrated the event that took place in Chapter 24. King Saul, pursuing David to kill him, decided to take a restroom break in the cave where David and his men were hiding. I mean, what are the chances of that? “Now’s your opportunity!’ David’s men whispered to him. ‘Today the Lord is telling you, “I will certainly put your enemy into your power, to do with as you wish.”’ So David crept forward and cut off a piece of the hem of Saul’s robe.” (4)

“But then David’s conscience began bothering him because he had cut Saul’s robe. ‘The Lord knows I shouldn’t have done that to my lord the king,’ he said to his men. ‘The Lord forbid that I should do this to my lord the king and attack the Lord’s anointed one, for the Lord himself has chosen him.’ So David restrained his men and did not let them kill Saul.” (5-7) It’s doubtful that David respected the actions of this demon-inspired, disobedient King who was insanely jealous of him, but he showed respect to him because of his position as anointed king of Israel. Lucky Saul!

Growing up in my home, I never heard my mom speak disrespectfully about one of our pastors, whether to me or to anyone else for that matter. As I look back, I know she must not have agreed with all of their decisions, but we never spoke disrespectfully or damagingly about our leaders, whether in the church, the school or the government.

The pastor was never the subject over Sunday lunch unless our words were of a good report. I heard her say many times, “Touch not God’s anointed,” and because of it, I have respect for the anointing God has placed on the lives of others. David’s message has reached down through the ages.

We did, however, pray for our leaders every day. We prayed for presidents, mayors and our employers. We prayed for our pastor throughout the week as well as on the way to church, that his words would touch and bless the lives of everyone who heard them. When others broached my mom with something negative, her quick response that halted the discourse was always the same, “Well, we just need to pray for him or her.” Mom felt it was our job to pray, and it was God’s job to deal with His children.

“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.” (1Timothy 2:1-2) Serving in ministry for over 40 years, I’m thankful for those who prayed for me whether I was right or wrong and showed respect whether I deserved it or not. They were gracious in doing so, and the Lord has been gracious and merciful to me beyond measure.

Moving Forward: Even though showing disrespect for leadership is almost in vogue today, I’m challenged to always act respectfully, honor the position and pray for my leadership at every level. Respect. That’s what it means to me.

Tomorrow @ Psalms 42-44

I Samuel 16-20 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He looks at our hearts to determine our role in His kingdom

I was recently at a party and spent much of the night eyeing a delicious-looking cake on the food table. Artfully crafted with gooey chocolate buttercream frosting and gorgeous sugar glazed strawberries adorning it, the cake seemed to be beckoning me throughout the meal.  I was really looking forward to dessert time. Finally, the cake was cut, and we casually made our way to the dessert table. After all, this wasn’t a sale at a bargain basement, and some decorum was expected.

Disappointment is just too generic of a term to describe how I felt after taking my first bite, but of course, devastated is just too dramatic. The buttercream wasn’t butter, and I’m almost certain the cake had freezer burn…dry and tasteless. A single strawberry saved the day! Once again I was reminded that we just can’t judge a book by its cover. I would imagine this is somewhat the point the prophet Samuel was making when he chose the next king of Israel, but with a more eternal illustration.

@ I Samuel 16
When [Jesse’s sons] arrived, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, ‘Surely this is the Lord’s anointed!’ But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’” (6-7) While the baker was able to fool me by the outward appearance of a cake, God is never fooled by how we look on the outside. He is able to look past what man is able to see right through to the heart of the matter, and with David, God saw pure gold.

“Then Samuel asked, “Are these all the sons you have?’ ‘There is still the youngest,’ Jesse replied. ‘But he’s out in the fields watching the sheep and goats.’ ‘Send for him at once,’ Samuel said…So Jesse sent for him. He was dark and handsome, with beautiful eyes. And the Lord said, ‘This is the one; anoint him.’”(11-12) In light of God’s previous statement, David could easily have been ugly, but he was handsome as well. However, God’s anointing on David had nothing to do with his appearance.

Sometimes we are tempted to think that if we were more attractive, more charismatic or more irresistible, then we could be more used by God, but that is how man looks at things. David and also Moses were both trained and equipped for service to the Lord because of what God saw in their hearts.

No doubt the long hours spent in the pastures as a shepherd sharpened David’s musical skills as he played the lute and harp to where he would one day play in King Saul’s court. No doubt David’s commitment to protecting the flock against the animals of prey made him strong, agile and a sharpshooter who was trained to take down a giant. No doubt David’s faithful care for his father’s sheep at any cost prepared him to lead the great nation of Israel.

None of this had anything to do with David’s appearance but had everything to do with his heart. “But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.’” (Acts 13:22/I Samuel 13:14) God’s choice of David to lead His people was all about David’s heart of obedience to God, and as we read last Tuesday, obedience is more beautiful to the Lord than anything else

Yes, in consideration of others, every day I do a face-check before the mirror, enhancing as best I can, but every day I also do a heart-check before the Lord. I ask the Lord to purify my heart of anything I have allowed to taint it, those little things that over time will change the condition of my heart. I surrender my heart and life to Him to be used however He pleases. I don’t want to just look my best on the outside – I want a heart that looks like His heart.

Moving Forward: Once again, Lord, purify my heart, make me a pure reflection of who you are and then anoint me for your service.

Tomorrow @ Psalms 39-41

I Samuel 11-15 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He desires our obedience more than our sacrifice

The human will is a powerful drive. It keeps us moving forward and helps us accomplish good and sometimes great things. We see it in the very young when their will clashes with our will, perhaps as a little foot stomp of defiance. When left unchecked, a teenager often expresses this rebellion with door slamming, outbursts, and things can get ugly. From a very early age, my children more than once heard me repeat the scripture from today’s reading, “Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft,” and this was followed by an explanation of witchcraft. Their tender hearts really didn’t want to be a part of such a thing, and, thankfully, they avoided the rebellion that many teenagers allow to disrupt their young lives. Unfortunately, King Saul just didn’t get it.

@ I Samuel 15
In response to the Israelites’ demand for a king to rule over them, Samuel, under God’s direction, anointed the tall, handsome Saul to lead His people. I envision the mother’s of Israel tucking their children in at night with the assurance that all would be well because they now had a king to rule over them. Sadly, nothing was further from the truth.

“Then the Lord said to Samuel, ‘I am sorry that I ever made Saul king, for he has not been loyal to me and has refused to obey my command.’” (10) The first several months of King Saul’s reign were a disaster. In less than two years, Saul had managed to: usurp the role of priest by sacrificing a burnt offering to the Lord (13:8-14), starve his army so they did not have the strength to fight the Philistines (14:24-26), threaten killing his son because of his senseless oath (14:42-45) and disobey God’s direct orders to kill all the Amalekites (1-9). Saul certainly had been a busy king.

Saul’s disobedience led God to reject him as king and make His statement to Samuel in verse 10. When Samuel went to Saul with a heavy heart over God’s news, Saul did his best to cover his tracks and even lied to cover up his disobedience with the Amalekites – as if he could fool God. Saul argued, “I did obey…I carried out…I destroyed…” and I sacrificed. (20-21) But to this Samuel replied with a valuable lesson for all of us, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.” (22-23) And with that, Saul was rejected as king by God.

God did not include this story and others like them in the Bible to tattletale on His people. No, He included them as life lessons for us today. We may faithfully attend church, joyously sing a sacrifice of praise to Him, give to the poor and run ourselves ragged by serving on committees and doing good works.  However, if we are walking in disobedience to His voice, if we are doing all this instead of obeying Him in any area, our actions mean little to Him. In fact, He considers our rebellion and disobedience as sinful as something we would never do – witchcraft!

According to Jesus, the very beginning of our obedience is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Mark 12:30-31) If we spend more time with television, social networking or computer games than we spend meditating on Him, reading His word and praying, does He really honor and receive our sacrifice of time or money in our doing for Him? If we harbor hatred or unforgiveness towards someone, does He really honor and accept the sacrifices we make for Him? In light of I Samuel 15:22, whether or not they make us feel good, these are questions we should answer.

Moving Forward: As a New Testament believer, I’m thankful for the convicting power of the Holy Spirit that leads me to obedience. I want my sacrifice of praise today to reach God’s throne and please Him.

Tomorrow @ Psalms 36-38

I Samuel 6-10 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He longs to be the King of our lives

I find television commercials to be annoying most of the time.  Usually louder than regular programming, they are meant to get our attention and entice us to buy, buy, buy or sell, sell, sell.  My seven-year-old granddaughter watches very little television, but even at that, she wants to know from the start of a recorded program where to find the fast forward button on the  TV clicker because she doesn’t like commercials either.

The commercials that intrigue me, however, are those that advertise various medicines.  After touting all the wonderful ways they will make our lives better, they are required to tag on all the risks and complications that can occur from using the products.  A favorite line is, “Use of this product may result in death in some cases.”  Well, I certainly want to get me some of that!  It’s hard to believe, but these medicines flourish in the market today. Even knowing all the complications and risks involved in something, we still seek out what isn’t the best for us at times, and sometimes God feels compelled to give it to us. 

@ I Samuel 8
In Samuel’s later years, the elders of Israel met with him and made a request, ‘Look,’ they told him, ‘you are now old, and your sons are not like you. Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.’  Samuel was displeased with their request and went to the Lord for guidance. ‘Do everything they say to you,’ the Lord replied, ‘for it is me they are rejecting, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer.’ (5-7) The words at the end of this passage make my heart hurt, and they serve as a glimpse into the heart of the Father.  How it must sadden the Lord when we don’t allow Him to reign as King in our lives.

Wanting to make sure that the Israelites understood the complications involved in having a king, “This is how a king will reign over you,’ Samuel said. ‘The king will draft your sons…some will be forced to plow in his fields and harvest his crops…The king will take your daughters from you and force them to cook…take away the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves…take a tenth of your grain and your grape harvest…take your male and female slaves and demand the finest of your cattle…demand a tenth of your flocks…you will be his slaves.’” (11-17)  What a deal!  In my assessment, the taxes alone should have given them pause; but no, they still wanted a king like all the other nations.

For the next several generations, Israel took its medicine, so to speak, and it didn’t go down very well.  Of the dozens of kings in Judah and Israel, only a handful served the Lord and led the people in righteousness.  Throughout their history, when God gave the Israelites what they demanded rather than His best for them, the end result was this, “And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.” (Psalm 106:15)  Leanness, in this sense, was a wasting disease of the soul. Help!

In that case, I want a fat, fat soul, one that is surrendered and so full of Him that I can’t help but share it with others.  I want a fatness that comes only through my total obedience to His will, desiring His best for me rather than demanding what I think is my best.  Furthermore, I choose Him as King, regardless of the many kings this world has to offer today.  I don’t want any king of this world binding me up, taking my resources, my heritage and my freedom – who needs the complications and risks when we can serve the King of Kings. 

Moving Forward: I was reminded of this old song recently when I heard Faith Hill sing, “All to Jesus, I surrender; All to Him I freely give; I will ever love and trust Him, In His presence daily live…I surrender all, I surrender all, All to Thee, my blessed Savior, I surrender all.”   Surrendered to Him and fat in soul! 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 33-35

I Samuel 1-5 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is speaking to us all the time

One of my earliest memories is listening to my mom tell the story of Samuel.  I remember her emphasizing Samuel’s early years, about hearing the voice of the Lord and obeying Him.  The story was so real to me that I often fell asleep expecting to hear the Lord calling my name; and just for the record, that was a wonderful way to fall asleep.  In reading Samuel’s story today, I’ve thought about how the years have made me less expectant and more sophisticated in my approach to God and to how He speaks to me.  But in this reflection today, just thinking about the Lord audibly saying Phyllis sends chill bumps all over me.  I’m listening.

The story of Hannah touches every woman’s heart because of her desire to bear a child. We get it.  Sharing our husband with another wife?  This we really don’t get, but only understand that it was tolerated in Hannah’s day to fill the earth with God’s people.  Peninnah’s ridicule of Hannah made her more desperate than ever for a child, but she did not take matters into her own hands and resort to a surrogate as Sarah had done.  I mean, really, there were enough women around the house.  Hannah did the one thing that would change her dire situation.  Hannah prayed, and God answered her prayer. 

@ I Samuel 2
With gratitude for God’s answer to her prayer, Hannah dedicated her child to God for fulltime service.  Because the exploits of Eli’s ungodly sons were known throughout Israel, I’ve often wondered if Hannah truly understood that she was sending her beloved son to a home without apparent discipline and care.  However, God was with him, “Though he was only a boy, [Samuel] served the Lord. He wore a linen garment like that of a priest. Each year his mother made a small coat for him and brought it to him when she came with her husband for the sacrifice…Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord.” (18-21)

When we dedicate or set aside our children for the Lord, it’s no small thing, and God takes it seriously.  However, Hannah’s responsibility didn’t end with her act of dedication.  Samuel remained in Hannah’s heart as she made clothing for him, no doubt praying for him with every stitch as any loving mother would do and trusting God to keep what she had committed to Him. While Eli’s sons carried on in their sin and disobedience to the Lord, Samuel did just the opposite.  “Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew taller and grew in favor with the Lord and with the people.” (2:26) 

@ I Samuel 3
“The boy Samuel served the Lord by assisting Eli. Now in those days messages from the Lord were very rare, and visions were quite uncommon.”(1)  But that was about to change.  Israel’s spiritual condition had degraded to the point where God’s visitations were mostly ignored, but now God had the ear of one who would listen.

“Samuel did not yet know the Lord because he had never had a message from the Lord before.  So the Lord called a third time… Then Eli realized it was the Lord who was calling the boy. So he said to Samuel, “Go and lie down again, and if someone calls again, say, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’”(7-8)  Samuel knew about God, but now he would know God in a personal way and would listen to His voice, “And the Lord came and called as before, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’  And Samuel replied, ‘Speak, your servant is listening.’”(10)  God protected Samuel in Eli’s house of cards because he listened to the voice of the Lord and obeyed Him.

In the dedication of our children to the Lord, what greater training can we give than to teach them to listen for God’s voice because He is speaking all the time.  As my mother encouraged so many years ago, I’m listening for His voice.  Whether He speaks audibly to me, through His still small voice to my heart or through His anointed Word, I know He speaks! 

Moving Forward: My heart is saying to the Lord as I move through this day, “Speak, your servant is listening.”

Tomorrow @ Psalms 30-32

I Samuel 26-31 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  His Spirit will guide us into all truth

The first time I saw a commercial on late-night television for the Psychic Hotline I laughed and wondered who would ever resort to such nonsense to receive guidance.  Well, the laugh was on me.  This billion dollar industry has entrapped countless numbers of individuals into seeking guidance from counterfeits who can only pretend to know the future rather than receiving direction from the Source of all truth. It’s hard to imagine why the chosen King of Israel would do the same by contacting a counterfeit. 

@ I Samuel 28
The story found in I Samuel 28 of Saul’s visit to the witch of Endor probably saddens me more than any of his other sins.  To digress from anointed King of Israel, more handsome and stately than any other man, to a panic-stricken, desperate man is tragic.  Throughout I Samuel, we read about the steps that brought him to this dreadful position, and now Samuel, the spiritual leader of Israel is dead. The Spirit of the Lord has departed from Saul (I Samuel 16:14) and the Philistine army is ready for battle – not a good scenario.

While this appears to be a perfect time for Saul to repent and call on God to deliver Israel, this man who had known and felt the Spirit of God on his life chose to seek out a witch for help. Just as troubling is the fact that his advisers knew just where he could find one!  Godly advisers would have discouraged this abomination to God and to the king’s own law, “Saul has outlawed all the mediums and all who consult the spirits of the dead.” (9)  David certainly had it right, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly…” (Psalm 1:1, KJV)

Scholars have debated over the centuries about the appearance of Samuel.  Was he a demonic substitute for Samuel?  If so, why did the witch shriek with terror when she saw him?  She was the last one who would have been surprised by his appearance.  How did the spirit know the future?  That would imply that Satan is omniscient and knew the future regarding Saul and his sons dying the next day.  Absolutely not!  Was the appearance of dead Samuel from God?  He accurately read Saul’s mail and foretold the future regarding his death.  I have come to the conclusion that…I’m not certain, but lean towards the last thought.

If Samuel’s appearance was from God, does this give us license to consult the dead?  Not on your life!  Besides the Old Testament prohibitions, the New Testament also denounces it in Galatians 5:19-21 and in Paul’s deliverance of a woman who practiced sorcery in Acts 16:16-18.  The big question to answer is why would we need to consult the dead?

When I understand that Jesus holds the keys of death and the grave (Revelations 1:18), why would I consort with an underling or substitute of any kind?  Through His Holy Spirit He reveals truth to us, “But I will send you the Advocate [counselor] – the Spirit of Truth….He will guide you into all truth…He will tell you about the future…the Spirit will tell you what He receives from me.”  (John 15:25;16:13-15)

Jesus was speaking to His disciples in these passages, but these words are true for us as well because of the Spirit of truth living in us.  Why would I not go directly to the horse’s mouth, so to speak?  Through the Living Word, including His still small voice spoken to our hearts, He reveals all that we would ever need to know, and an added bonus? His timing is perfect! 

Moving Forward: I call only upon the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit, to reveal to me all that I need to know for today through His Living Word. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 45-47

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