Monday, August 22, 2016

Respect

My Life Group lesson for August 21, 2016, using Lifeway's "Explore the Bible" commentary as a guide, with an assist from John McClendon and Love Worth Finding ...

FIRST THOUGHTS

American gold medal-winning swimmer Ryan Lochte, ak.a. the Real Swim Shady, made some bad decisions this week. First, he and three of his swimming bros acted dumbly at a gas station in Rio, had "security" guards point guns at them and demand money to leave. Then Lochte came up with a tale of being robbed by fake cops and lied to his mom about having a gun cocked at his head, which led to a feeding frenzy by the media and apologies from the United State Olympic Committee to Brazil.

Ryan and the other swimmers obviously lost sight of how their actions make them look and how they represent the United States.

Similarly, when we choose a path outside of God’s will, we lose sight of how our actions represent Christianity and affect the spread of the Gospel.

Before we make a decision that could affect the rest of our lives, we need to:

--- Trust in God
--- Wait on Him
--- Pray for His will
--- Watch Him work

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT
1 Samuel 24:1-22; 26:1-25

*** We continue our study of David and Saul.

*** From the time David was anointed and throughout his adult life, he's lived in fear of King Saul.

*** Even when David had a chance to kill Saul in a cave in 1 Samuel 24, end the chase and take the throne, David remained loyal to the man chosen as king by the people and the Lord.

*** In chapter 26 David has another chance to kill Saul.

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS (1 SAM. 26:7-8)

7 That night, David and Abishai came to the troops, and Saul was lying there asleep in the inner circle of the camp with his spear stuck in the ground by his head. Abner and the troops were lying around him. 8 Then Abishai said to David, “Today God has handed your enemy over to you. Let me thrust the spear through him into the ground just once. I won’t have to strike him twice!”

*** Listen! That’s David’s music!

--- Now a fugitive on the run, David had an opportunity to kill Saul but refused to take the easy way out.

(For WWE fans, it was as if God had distracted the ref in a wrestling match so that David could surprise Saul and smack him with a chair.)

--- David and his merry men had been pursued by Saul. They were outnumbered, but they knew the terrain and had the advantage of surprise.

--- Rather than flee the area or inflict an attack, David did something very risky. He tiptoed into Saul's camp as the army slept.

--- David asked two men to go with him, and while one didn't, Abishai did volunteer to go with David.

*** Finish him!

--- On the surface, it appeared that God had handed Saul right into David’s hands.

--- When David and Abishai came across the sleeping king, Abishai did what you'd expect, he eagerly volunteered to end the conflict once and for all.

(Think of the U.S. troops who would gladly be the one to take down Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein.)

--- Abishai could make it easy for everyone. With Saul dead David would be king, David wouldn't be blamed for killing him.

--- How often do we hear, “When God closes a door He opens a window?”

--- To Abishai this was a sign from God, so obviously God intended for Saul to be killed.

--- Similarly, David could have thought, “If God wants me to be king, and He does, and God has placed Saul in my hands, and He has, then obviously God wants me to kill him.”

--- However, an opportunity does not always mean an open door to act.

*** Question - What are the dangers of equating an open door with God’s will? How does one know the difference between a true open door and a test disguised as an open door?

David knew God’s Word and God’s ways, so he was able to discern the truth in this opportunity.

Imagine if you had a chance to take out a co-worker to get that promotion you want. Does that make it OK?

GODLY RESPECT (1 SAM. 26:9-12)

9 But David said to Abishai, “Don’t destroy him, for who can lift a hand against the LORD’s anointed and be blameless?” 10 David added, “As the LORD lives, the LORD will certainly strike him down: either his day will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. 11 However, because of the LORD, I will never lift my hand against the LORD’s anointed. Instead, take the spear and the water jug by his head, and let’s go.” 12 So David took the spear and the water jug by Saul’s head, and they went their way. No one saw them, no one knew, and no one woke up; they all remained asleep because a deep sleep from the LORD came over them.

*** Out, out, darn spot!

--- Assassinating Saul would have left David with blood on his hands, like Lady Macbeth who couldn’t wash out the guilt.

--- Instead of taking advantage of a sweet situation, David continued to be loyal to Saul as God’s chosen leader of Israel.

--- He also knew that if Abishai did the killing it wouldn’t rationalize the act as a will of God.

*** Leave it to God.

--- He trusted God, leaving the future in His hands. Even if Saul was undeserving of such respect, his position as God’s anointed was deserving of respect.

--- David also knew that God would come through on His promise to make him king and in His own time.

--- David didn’t know how Saul would finally die, but not long before this in chapter 25 David saw how God dealt with Nabal.

--- David would receive the crown as a gift from God, he would not seize it by force.

--- David's survival and ultimate success were divinely directed.

*** Saul takes Supernatural Sleep Time Tea.

--- It seems impossible that David and Abishai could walk around Saul’s camp and not one of the 3,000 men was a light sleeper.

--- However, we see in verse 12 that God was working in this. God put the soldiers in a deep sleep.

--- On his way out David grabbed Saul’s beloved spear (which we’ve seen him hold and throw several times) and his water jug to prove to Saul that he could have taken him out if he so chose.

--- By taking these two items he was showing that he held Saul's life in his hands. His spear represented military power, and water was a precious commodity traveling through the wilderness.

*** Question - Respect is often seen as something that must be earned. David showed respect to someone who didn’t show respect to him. Why is it hard to respect people who disrespect us? Why should we?

REMORSE (1 SAM. 26:21-25)

21 Saul responded, “I have sinned. Come back, my son David, I will never harm you again because today you considered my life precious. I have been a fool! I’ve committed a grave error.” 22 David answered, “Here is the king’s spear; have one of the young men come over and get it. 23 May the LORD repay every man for his righteousness and his loyalty. I wasn’t willing to lift my hand against the LORD’s anointed, even though the LORD handed you over to me today. 24 Just as I considered your life valuable today, so may the LORD consider my life valuable and rescue me from all trouble.” 25 Saul said to him, “You are blessed, my son David. You will certainly do great things and will also prevail.” Then David went on his way, and Saul returned home.

*** Catch Me If You Can!

--- Out of the camp, David crossed a gorge separating his camp from Saul's.

--- David called out to alert the army to his presence, and showed the spear and water jug to prove that he'd been right in the middle of them.

--- It also proved that if not for David's mercy and sense of honor, he could have killed Saul but he had no desire to do that.

--- David even returns Saul’s spear, which was a sign of Saul’s royal power. If he kept it then he might look like he’s seeking the throne and to humiliate the king.

--- Verses 23 and 24 make it clear that David was appealing to God to be the ultimate judge in this trial. But would Saul continue to be judge, jury and executioner?

*** Sinner, sinner, chicken dinner.

--- After twice being told about his chances of death at the hands of David, Saul acts regretful and repentant.

--- But was this genuine repentance?

--- The first time David spared Saul's life - in the cave - Saul similarly expressed remorse. Of course, it didn't stick.

--- Here's what he said, in 1 Samuel 24:17-21 - “You are more righteous than I,” he said. “You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly. You have just now told me about the good you did to me; the LORD delivered me into your hands, but you did not kill me. When a man finds his enemy, does he let him get away unharmed? May the LORD reward you well for the way you treated me today. I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands. Now swear to me by the LORD that you will not kill off my descendants or wipe out my name from my father’s family.”

*** David could certainly doubt Saul’s sincerity.

--- Notice that David didn’t take the spear and jug back to Saul himself. When you’re dealing with someone who has constantly rebelled against God, we are cautious.

--- Saul sounds more like Pharaoh in Exodus 10:16-17, when he said he sinned against Yahweh and asked for relief from the plagues. After letting Israel go, he went after them again.

--- Saul was morally degenerate and like the pharaoh, unable to be trusted.

--- Showing remorse isn’t the same as being genuinely repentant.

--- Saul goes back home, but in chapter 27 it wasn't until David flees to Philistine territory that the scripture says Saul finally “no longer searched for him.”

--- Galatians 6:7 says we’ll reap what we sow, and Saul would find that out soon enough.

--- David, meanwhile, showed a more forgiving heart, closer to how we’re supposed to live, “Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive” (Col. 3:13; see also Eph. 4:32).

REVIEW AND TAKE-AWAY POINTS

Adrian Rogers once said, when you fly in a plane, does the law of gravity no longer exist?

Of course it’s there.

But the law of aerodynamics is even greater.

It’s the same in our Christian walk. When we get right with God, the law of sin and death are still there. But we have a new law, a life in Jesus Christ that frees us from sin and death.

David’s obedience may have cost him. He could have had the throne as a much younger man. But his focus wasn’t on Saul but on God.

When Peter walked on water to meet Jesus, he let his eyes wander and began to sink. If we take our eyes off Jesus and into our own hands it creates more pain in the long run.

*** (1) Humility and respect are related. If you humble yourself before others you will treat others as important as God sees them.

*** (2) What open doors are in front of you? Seek God’s counsel to make sure which ones are within God’s will.

*** (3) When we wait on God and follow His ways instead of our own, we see what God can do.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Protected From Ourselves

My Life Group lesson for August 14, 2016, using Lifeway's "Explore the Bible" commentary as a guide, with an assist from John McClendon ...

FIRST THOUGHTS

Have you ever wanted to see bad things happen to bad people?

For example, have you ever been tempted to retaliate when a driver cuts you off driving down the interstate? How about when a boss treats you badly? Or when a spouse is treated badly and you want to come to their defense?

How did you react? Were you tempted to “get back at them” in some way?

Where is the line between defending yourself and trusting God to step in on your behalf? How do you know when to wait patiently on God when the only thing you want to do is defend yourself or those you love?

While many Christians want their actions to be guided by prayer, grace, love, and patience, it’s too tempting to settle for homegrown justice.

We lash out in anger instead of waiting patiently on God. We buy into the cliché that it’s better to ask forgiveness than ask permission.

And yes, it may feel good in the moment, but will it be good in the long run?

Where is the line between defending yourself and trusting God to step in on your behalf? How do you know when to wait patiently on God when the only thing you want to do is defend yourself or those you love?

Today we'll study how David was treated unfairly by Nabal, and ultimately learned it was up to God to provide justice.

God is sovereign and we are to focus on our relationship with God and allow Him to judge accordingly.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT
1 Samuel 25:1-43

*** In chapter 24 David spares Saul's life in the cave. As chapter 25 begins Samuel dies.

*** David and his men are in the wilderness in southern Israel.

*** It is there that David asks a rich man named Nabal for money in return for protection in the region.

(David was sort of like a warlord in that he and his men controlled this large territory. Nabal's flocks were in David's territory, but David didn't want to take anything, so he asked.)

DISASTER FORESEEN (1 SAM. 25:14-17)

14 One of Nabal’s young men informed Abigail, Nabal’s wife: “Look, David sent messengers from the wilderness to greet our master, but he yelled at them. 15 The men treated us well. When we were in the field, we weren’t harassed and nothing of ours was missing the whole time we were living among them. 16 They were a wall around us, both day and night, the entire time we were herding the sheep. 17 Now consider carefully what you must do, because there is certain to be trouble for our master and his entire family. He is such a worthless fool nobody can talk to him!”

*** R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what that means to me.

--- When David’s men asked Nabal for help they found out that he was a hard-hearted jerk.

--- Nabal scoffed, insulted David and told them to get off his lawn, so to speak.

--- David doesn't accept this in a godly manner and tells his men to grab their swords for slashing time.

--- Nabal had violated one of David's core moral principles: he had repaid good with evil.

--- David's a soldier. He valued loyalty. He was loyal to Saul even though the king was trying to kill him. So Nabal’s refusal to help was the hardest kind of offense to forgive.

--- One of Nabal's shepherds was a courageous peacemaker and knew that this wouldn't end well, so he went to Nabal's wife Abigail for another option.

--- He was right to do so, because Abigail was wise and resourceful.

--- He explained that even though David could command as he wished, his men had protected the men and their flocks, and never harmed anyone.

--- Both Abigail and the shepherd knew that by the code of the wilderness, David’s troops were owed compensation.

*** Abby to the rescue.

--- Abigail decided to act on her own and loaded up “200 loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five butchered sheep, a bushel of roasted grain, 100 clusters of raisins, and 200 cakes of pressed figs, loaded them on donkeys” and went out to meet David before his men arrived to kill all of Nabal’s men.

--- She lied down in front of David and apologized for the “stupidity” of her husband, which was fitting since his name in Hebrew means “insolent, selfish, and stupid person.”

(Not sure why a parent would name their kid that, but nowadays we see some weird names.)

--- Abigail is an example of grace in action, interceding for her worthless husband who didn’t deserve her intervention.

*** Question - Do you feel David’s response was a “knee-jerk” response? What else could he have done?

DAVID RELENTS (1 SAM. 25:32-35)

32 Then David said to Abigail, “Praise to the LORD God of Israel, who sent you to meet me today! 33 Your discernment is blessed, and you are blessed. Today you kept me from participating in bloodshed and avenging myself by my own hand. 34 Otherwise, as surely as the LORD God of Israel lives, who prevented me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, Nabal wouldn’t have had any men left by morning light.” 35 Then David accepted what she had brought him and said, “Go home in peace. See, I have heard what you said and have granted your request.”

*** Check yourself before you wreck yourself.

--- How often do you watch a baseball game and a pitcher retaliates by hitting a batter?

--- Usually what happens is a bench-clearing brawl. But more often than not someone usually comes out to hold the players back and things calm down.

--- With Abigail's action, David realized he'd been a fool and was saved from a terrible sin.

--- Think back to last week's lesson when Saul had dozens of priests and the entire village of Nob massacred when he wrongly assumed that Ahimelech was helping David.

--- David knew that his anger was out of control and he was about to do what Saul had done, no matter how much Nabal deserved punishment.

--- David and his men were about to murder innocent people to avenge one arrogant man.

--- Think of the damage this would do to David's reputation as well. All the goodwill he'd built up to be king after Saul would vanish.

*** Let it go.

--- David repented, did not taunt Nabal and did not warn him about future indiscretions. He simply went turned around.

--- This is a good model for letting go of anger and bitterness.

--- When turned away from doing evil, we should thank God for those who intervened and turn away entirely. Don't hold on to it to use later.

(Even when they cut in front of you in the after-school car line.)

--- David learned what we see in the New Testament as our new covenant: Turn the other cheek, no eye-for-an-eye, love thy neighbor as thy self.

--- In the Old Testament people were allowed to stone sinners. As we saw with the woman caught cheating on her husband, Jesus, however, has us drop our rocks.

--- Paul writes in Ephesians 4:31-32 - "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."

*** Question - Can you recall episodes in your life when someone turned you from a wrong and foolish act? (How did this serve as a milestone in your Christian walk?)

GOD INTERVENES (1 SAM. 25:36-38)

36 Then Abigail went to Nabal, and there he was in his house, holding a feast fit for a king. Nabal was in a good mood and very drunk, so she didn’t say anything to him until morning light. 37 In the morning when Nabal sobered up, his wife told him about these events. Then he had a seizure and became paralyzed. 38 About 10 days later, the LORD struck Nabal dead.

*** Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.

--- When Nabal was insulting David and living the life of spring break in Florida, he was blissfully ignorant that his life was in danger.

--- When he learned about what Abigail did, he had a seizure, became paralyzed and died.

--- Was he terrified of his fate? Was it a heart attack from anger at Abigail’s intercession?

--- Whatever it was, the Bible says simply that the LORD struck him dead.

--- Nabal had a hard heart, and it cost him his life.

*** Vengeance is not ours to give.

--- Contrast three verses back-to-back-to-back in Romans. First, 12:19: “Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written: Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord” Question – Does this mean that we hope people who have wronged us will “get what they deserve?”

(Had David backed off, yet said, “God give him what he deserves” would he have truly repented?) (No)

--- Now check out what Romans 12:20-21 says right after that: But If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head. Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.

--- If we only isolate verse 19 of Romans 12, then we miss out on the complete principle. David did not hope for any kind of retribution against Nabal. He simply backed off. The rest was left up to God.

--- When we, by faith, receive God’s mercy, we are saved. However, when we reject God’s mercy, we place ourselves in the path of God’s wrath.

TAKE-AWAY POINTS

Today’s session focuses on King David’s relationship with a haughty sheep rancher named Nabal.

After David and his men protected Nabal, Nabal disrespected David. This caused David to launch an attack against Nabal.

But before David reached Nabal, his wife Abigail intervened.

But – a plot twist! - it was actually David who was protected!

David recognized that he did not have to take matters into his own hands.

Ultimately, it was God who punished Nabal and saved David’s honor.

Often, we take matters into our own hands, not waiting on God’s perfect plan.

Today’s lesson reminds us that God is so big, so completely in control that He doesn’t need our help to defend His honor or His people, no matter how awful it seems to us.

From David’s limited perspective, he needed to act for the problem to be solved.

From God’s complete perspective, the problem was already being solved without David’s help.

*** (1) Proverbs 16:9 says “A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD determines his steps.” God is never late, nor is He early; He is always right on time.

*** (2) We should be thankful when He keeps us from acting out of selfish motives. Believers can trust that God will bring about judgment against evil.

*** (3) Decide today that you will go to God in the face of conflict, instead of taking matters into your own hands. Even if the outcome isn’t pleasant, your relationship with Christ will be strengthened.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Blinded by Ambition

My Life Group lesson for August 7, 2016, using Lifeway's "Explore the Bible" commentary as a guide, with an assist from John McClendon ...

FIRST THOUGHTS

What are your favorite conspiracy theories?

--- Assassination of John F Kennedy (Oswald, mafia, Russians?)
--- Roswell UFO (Weather balloon, aliens?)
--- NASA faked the moon landings (Shot in the desert!)
--- The Illuminati (shadowy cabals control the world!)
--- Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married (It's in a popular book! There's a V in The Last Supper painting!)
--- Shakespeare wasn't Shakespeare (other writers did the work, not much historical evidence this guy did anything)

Why do we tend to believe that people are conspiring against us?

Our study today focuses on Saul and his unwillingness to recognize David as the anointed one of God.

Instead, the king was consumed by ambitious pride, triggering a chain reaction of jealousy, fear, hatred, paranoia, and desperate decisions. David’s popularity, success, and favor with God placed him in Saul’s crosshairs.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT
1 Samuel 21:1–23:29

*** Many years before the events of chapter 22, God told Samuel to let Saul know that his line would go bye-bye.

*** Saul—towering, stately, physically robust—had been the people’s choice to be Israel’s king, but he had failed miserably and sinned egregiously, so God rejected him.

*** Saul wasn't about to give up his crown so that this heroic and newly anointed pretty boy could take over, and even worse, he didn't care that he was disobeying God.

*** Saul was so jealous of David and determined to hang on to his crown that his son Jonathan told David to flee far and fast, lest he be killed.

*** This week we'll read about David on the run from Saul's increasing paranoia.

PURSUED BY SAUL (1 SAM. 22:6-10)

6 Saul heard that David and his men had been discovered. At that time Saul was in Gibeah, sitting under the tamarisk tree at the high place. His spear was in his hand, and all his servants were standing around him. 7 Saul said to his servants, “Listen, men of Benjamin: Is Jesse’s son going to give all of you fields and vineyards? Do you think he’ll make all of you commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds? 8 That’s why all of you have conspired against me! Nobody tells me when my own son makes a covenant with Jesse’s son. None of you cares about me or tells me that my son has stirred up my own servant to wait in ambush for me, as is the case today.” 9 Then Doeg the Edomite, who was in charge of Saul’s servants, answered: “I saw Jesse’s son come to Ahimelech son of Ahitub at Nob. 10 Ahimelech inquired of the LORD for him and gave him provisions. He also gave him the sword of Goliath the Philistine.”

*** It’s not paranoia if everyone is in fact out to get you.

--- Saul's throwing a royal pity party.

--- Note how Saul is behaving: Feeling rejected, acting closed-minded, defiant, argumentative, and disagreeable. He's decided that he's on his own, and everyone's out to get him.

(In short, non one loves him, guess he'll go eat worms.)

--- Saul is known for having a violent temper, and he's holding a spear in his hand, ready to strike anyone who acts against him. (Just as he threw it at David twice, and Jonathan once, in earlier Scriptures: 18:10-11; 19:10; 20:33)

--- Saul was equally paranoid that his son Jonathan had conspired against him and helped David set up an ambush, which was a blatant lie.

--- Saul’s jealous clinging to power had made him irrational, and he may well have believed the lies he was telling.

--- Of course, Jonathan had been helping David, but not because they were trying to kill Saul, but to protect his friend. David was always steadfast in his loyalty to Saul as his king.

*** A royal pain.

--- Think back to 1 Samuel 8:11-18, when Samuel warned the people against asking for a king. Samuel said that kings would favor their friends and oppress everyone else.

--- It's clear in verse 7 that Saul has been using his kingdom to give his fellow tribe of Benjamites power and property.

--- David was a member of the tribe of Judah, so Saul was trying to make his followers as paranoid as he was about losing power.

--- Paranoia is what happens when you focus on yourself and believe everyone is out to get you. It causes you to assume things that aren’t true and to jump to conclusions that destroy relationships.

*** Question - One might say that hate leads to fear, and fear leads to suffering. How do unchecked ambition and pride lead to paranoia and fear? (How can people convince themselves that what they want to believe is true?)

GUILT BY ASSOCIATION (1 SAM. 22:11-15)

11 The king sent messengers to summon Ahimelech the priest, son of Ahitub, and his father’s whole family, who were priests in Nob. All of them came to the king. 12 Then Saul said, “Listen, son of Ahitub!” “I’m at your service, my lord,” he said. 13 Saul asked him, “Why did you and Jesse’s son conspire against me? You gave him bread and a sword and inquired of God for him, so he could rise up against me and wait in ambush, as is the case today.” 14 Ahimelech replied to the king: “Who among all your servants is as faithful as David? He is the king’s son-in-law, captain of your bodyguard, and honored in your house. 15 Was today the first time I inquired of God for him? Of course not! Please don’t let the king make an accusation against your servant or any of my father’s household, for your servant didn’t have any idea about all this.”

*** Saul's reign of terror. (Like the French Revolution, anyone, including other revolutionaries, were guillotined.)

--- Saul's paranoia ended up costing Ahimelech the priest his life, and his entire house.

--- Unfortunately, David played a part in this story, as told in chapter 21.

--- David had moved from town to town, he was hungry and desperate, and told Ahimelech that he was still working for Saul on a super-secret mission.

--- Ahimelech didn't know what he was getting into. He gave David bread and the sword of Goliath.

*** Law & Order.

--- Saul's henchman, Doeg the Edomite, had been in Nob when David was there, and leaked the information about Ahimelech.

--- Saul summons the priest, who came with his whole family, not knowing he was about to be charged with treason and tried in a kangaroo court.

--- Ahimelech, as we know, was misled by David. But Saul assumes that the priest plotted with David, and that's enough for him. No evidence required.

--- Saul’s personal ambition now ran amok. He was blinded to Ahimelech’s loyalty to God and the king and blinded to Ahimelech’s obedience to come when summoned.

--- Ahimelech displayed insight and courage in dealing with King Saul. He was “honest, sincere, and well-crafted” as he “defended David’s character.”

--- Look at the five truths that Ahimelech used to defend David: He’s faithful, Saul’s son-in-law, captain in the military, honored among the king’s house, and sought God.

--- David was the kind of guy who followed the Lord’s way: The golden rule, treat others as you want to be treated.

--- Saul, on the other hand, believed that those who ruled could treat others as they wanted.

*** No listening to reason.

--- David had been loyal to Saul. Ahimelech, too. There was no rebellion.

(No one was going “Rogue One” on Saul’s home looking for plans to destroy his Death Star.)

--- When selfish ambition takes hold, it is like looking at a distorted mirror at a funhouse: reality becomes misshapen.

--- We become suspicious, hostile, and quick to judge, and we do it in a particularly irrational manner.

--- Jesus showed us a different and better way. He humbled Himself and took the form of a servant. Paul tells us to make our own attitude that of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5)

--- Jesus hung out with the edges of society. David did, too, and they flocked to him. Saul not so much. He verbally abused his people and gave favors to his tribe.

*** Question – How do you respond when you watch someone allowing personal ambitions to destroy them?

In our law courts we have “due process” for dealing with an accused person. What kind of internal “due process” should take place in our heads when dealing with people that we think have done something wrong to us?

How could a person use the approach taken by Ahimelech when responding to a critic or when accused?

Are there other steps Ahimelech could have taken that would not have compromised his integrity?

DESPERATE MEASURES (1 SAM. 22:16-17)

16 But the king said, “You will die, Ahimelech—you and your father’s whole family!” 17 Then the king ordered the guards standing by him, “Turn and kill the priests of the LORD because they sided with David. For they knew he was fleeing, but they didn’t tell me.” But the king’s servants would not lift a hand to execute the priests of the LORD.

*** I’m Spartacus! No, I’m Spartacus!

--- The king's temper had so overcome him that even his servants were refusing to do his evil bidding to kill a priest and his family.

--- This is the ultimate in “killing the messenger” rather than dealing with the truth.

--- Ahimelech’s fate wasn’t due to his own sin, but to the sin of Saul.

--- Just as Jesus’ fate wasn’t due to any faults of His own, but religious leaders of His day who refused to see reality and demanded He be crucified.

*** A tragic ending.

--- To the guards’ credit, they weren’t going to do the king’s bidding, knowing it was immoral and part of Saul’s personal crusade against David.

--- Think about it. These guys are under orders to do whatever the king says. Many are fellow Benjamites.

--- When everyone you used to trust is telling you that you’re a fool, you should pay attention.

--- Unfortunately it didn't end there. Saul's henchman, Doeg the Edomite and his men were just fine with killing Ahimelech and 84 other priests.

--- They then went to Nob and kill all the people there, which would have been all the families of the priests, their servants, and even ordinary people who had nothing to do with the priests.

--- As news of the massacre spread, more and more Israelites sympathized with David against Saul.

--- Before this there was no rebellion, no real dissent. But Saul brought it all on himself.

--- The longer one refuses to believe in the truth, the harder his or her heart becomes.

REVIEW AND TAKE-AWAY POINTS

Saul was breaking bad, like a high school teacher-turned-meth dealer.

Saul could have had greatness, but instead he chose murder and madness.

We may ask what Saul should have done.

The answer is surprisingly simple: he should have acknowledged David as the anointed one of God.

Had he done so, Israel could have had peace instead of civil war, and David could have served as Saul’s military commander until he became king.

There was no danger that David would seek to eliminate Saul or his family. He was never hostile, and he willingly entered a covenant with Jonathan. But Saul could not stand the thought of losing his crown.

The prophet Jeremiah declared, “The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable—who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9).

We can easily be led astray by our own ambitions.

All of our goals and desires need to be filtered through the will of God.

When Jesus called for His followers to deny themselves, He included personal ambitions (Luke 9:23).

God is not out to strip us of the joys of life. Instead, He wants us to experience the greater joys of life, not settling for what the world has to offer. We must trust that His ways are better than our ways.

We must allow Him to shape our ambitions so that we can find true and lasting satisfaction.

*** Personal ambition when left unchecked can lead to sin and destruction.

*** When you are confronted with a leader or someone close to you who has let personal ambition cloud his judgment, be willing to say “no, I can’t do what you have asked me to do."

*** Take some time to evaluate your ambitions and motives for what you do. Ask God to reveal to you any selfish ambitions you need to give to Him.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Faithful Friends

My Life Group lesson for July 31, 2016, using Lifeway's "Explore the Bible" commentary as a guide, with an assist from John McClendon ...

FIRST THOUGHTS

How many “friends” do you have on Facebook?

Except for family, how many would you actually keep in touch with if not for the internet?

Why is having good friends important?

One of God’s blessings is our ability to have close friendships. Much of our joy in life is found through connections with other people.

Today we’re going to study how best buds Jonathan and David helped each other, served each other, sacrificed for each other, and respected each other.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

1 Samuel 18:1–20:42

*** In chapter 16 David was anointed king, but it would take years to become the ruler of Israel.

*** In chapter 17 David knocked out Goliath with a rock then cut his head off.

*** We cover chapters 18-20 today, the period during which David served in Saul’s military.

*** To put it mildly, David is military rock star, even killing a couple of hundred Philistines to win the hand of Saul’s daughter.

*** David’s so successful, in fact, that Saul wants him dead and no longer a contender to the throne. Lucky for David, Saul’s son Jonathan is David’s best pal.

TRUE FRIENDS (1 SAM. 18:1-5)

1 When David had finished speaking with Saul, Jonathan committed himself to David, and loved him as much as he loved himself. 2 Saul kept David with him from that day on and did not let him return to his father’s house. 3 Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as much as himself. 4 Then Jonathan removed the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his military tunic, his sword, his bow, and his belt. 5 David marched out with the army and was successful in everything Saul sent him to do. Saul put him in command of the soldiers, which pleased all the people and Saul’s servants as well.

*** You’ve got a friend in me.

--- We start out with events that took place after David defeated Goliath.

--- Saul drafts David and keeps him from going home. Saul is jealous and fearful of this new hero.

--- Jonathan was himself a courageous hero after climbing a cliff (like the Army Rangers going up Point du Hoc on D-Day) and routing a Philistine garrison in chapter 14.

--- Traditionally in cultures, as the son of the king Jonathan would be next in line. And as a leader he had the backing of his soldiers.

--- Jonathan no doubt watched the battle with Goliath closely and could see that David was brave, cunning, and devoted to God.

--- Like a quarterback who just saw a younger, stronger, and faster rookie score a touchdown, Jonathan could have reacted with pettiness, and he could have set about trying to undermine him or, in this violent era, plotted to murder him.

--- Nonetheless, he committed himself to the new champion, and continued to give himself over to David.

--- Jonathan, unlike his father, believed that David was the true chosen king. He literally gave him the robe off his back to prove it.

*** David and Jonathan's bromance.

--- Twice here it says that Jonathan loved David “as much as himself.”

--- Loving others more than one’s self is the hallmark of any great friendship.

--- When we love ourselves more than others, we begin to use others to benefit ourselves rather than helping them flourish and succeed.

--- “A friend is the first person who comes in when the whole world goes out.” (Henry Durbanville)

--- Saul loved himself and was bent on protecting his name and his title and his power.

--- Jonathan, however, bound himself to David even against his own father.

--- This was not the only covenant between the two men; they made another covenant on the day David fled from Saul (20:8,16), and yet another while David was a fugitive (23:16-18).

*** Question - Instead of being jealous, Jonathan rejoiced at David's success. What are some ways you've seen how rivalry and competition can destroy relationships? How should we react as Christians to the success of others?

TESTED FRIENDS (1 SAM. 20:35-40)

35 In the morning Jonathan went out to the field for the appointed meeting with David. A small young man was with him. 36 He said to the young man, “Run and find the arrows I’m shooting.” As the young man ran, Jonathan shot an arrow beyond him. 37 He came to the location of the arrow that Jonathan had shot, but Jonathan called to him and said, “The arrow is beyond you, isn’t it?” 38 Then Jonathan called to him, “Hurry up and don’t stop!” Jonathan’s young man picked up the arrow and returned to his master. 39 He did not know anything; only Jonathan and David knew the arrangement. 40 Then Jonathan gave his equipment to the young man who was with him and said, “Go, take it back to the city.”

*** Shooting straight.

--- Through chapters 18, 19 and 20, Saul's jealousy caused David to go into hiding and Jonathan to risk his own life to protect David.

--- Jonathan wasn't sure at first, though, that his dad truly meant harm to David (who believes the worst in their father?), so they cooked up a plan to prove it.

--- David would be absent from the king's table at the New Moon banquet, and Jonathan told Saul that he allowed David to go to Bethlehem with his family.

--- David was actually going to hide in a field and wait.

--- If Saul got angry that David wasn't there, it would prove that Saul wanted David there to arrest and kill him.

--- Jonathan would go out to the field with a servant boy for target practice with his bow and arrows.

--- If Jonathan shot the arrows next to the stone, then David would know he was safe. But that's not how it went down.

--- By overshooting his target, Jonathan signaled that Saul lost his temper and David should flee.

--- Considering that Saul yelled that Jonathan was the "son of a perverse and rebellious woman" and threw a spear at Jonathan, this also showed Jonathan that his dad was serious about killing David.

--- In verse 38 Jonathan added, “Hurry up and don’t stop!” These words were spoken to the servant, but meant for David, telling his pal to flee as far away as fast as possible.

*** BFFs: Best Friends Forever!

--- This was a decisive moment in Jonathan’s life. He knew that his father’s hostility to David was wrong, but he had to make a choice. He could continue to show friendship to David, or he could join his father in trying to kill him.

--- True friendship never requires us to do what is evil, but it may require us to break other bonds in order to do what is right. Because of his loyalty to David, Jonathan could clearly see how immoral Saul’s behavior was. Had Jonathan been more neutral toward David, he might have supported Saul out of filial loyalty even though he knew that killing David was not right.

*** Question - How do you think Jonathan felt about being caught between his father and his friend?

TIMELESS FRIENDS (1 SAM. 20:41-42)

41 When the young man had gone, David got up from the south side of the stone Ezel, fell with his face to the ground, and bowed three times. Then he and Jonathan kissed each other and wept with each other, though David wept more. 42 Jonathan then said to David, “Go in the assurance the two of us pledged in the name of the LORD when we said: The LORD will be a witness between you and me and between my offspring and your offspring forever.” Then David left, and Jonathan went into the city.

*** There and back again.

--- After Jonathan sent the boy away, David emerged from his hiding place, and the two embraced in tears.

--- It seems weird that David and Jonathan would bother with the elaborate plan since they ended up talking face-to-face anyway. But they may not have been able to do so, and if others had seen David and Jonathan together it could have meant a death sentence for both of them.

--- Even though David was now a fugitive, Jonathan reminded him of the covenant promise between them, in the name of the Lord.

(Jonathan would always answer David's texts. David would happily help Jonathan move. They would spot each other on leg day at the gym. They would be each others' wingman checking out the ladies.)

--- No matter what happened, their friendship would endure to the end.

--- That is why a man and woman take marriage vows. While one might think that love would keep the couple from straying, it is important that they reinforce their mutual commitment with solemn vows.

--- In much the same way, God’s covenant relationship with us through Jesus will always endure all things, thus providing us with security and hope.

*** Loyal to the end.

--- David went back into hiding, Jonathan back into the city. Saul spent the rest of his life hunting David, the rest of his life. David spent that same amount of time fleeing, hiding, surviving until Saul finally died.

--- The Lord always protected David, and all of this activity made him an even greater general, a greater military man in the future when he took his throne.

--- This would not be the last time that David and Jonathan saw one another. They met at least one more time, when David was on the run from Saul and hiding out in the Wilderness of Ziph (1 Sam. 23:16-18). Jonathan went to see David, and the fact that he could find him implies that the two had stayed in communication. On that occasion, Jonathan encouraged David to have faith in God. Jonathan’s words on this occasion were particularly poignant and ultimately sad. Jonathan was sure that David would win the crown in the end and that Jonathan would serve as his second-in-command. No doubt this would have happened had Jonathan survived, but he died in battle against the Philistines alongside his father at Mount Gilboa.

REVIEW AND TAKE-AWAY POINTS

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says that “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up.” Did you know that some studies indicate that someone's number of "true friends" has declined from 3 to 2 in the past 25 years?

Did you know that other studies indicate there is a link between socially isolated people and heart disease? We need to understand that strong friendships don’t just happen. They require work, sacrifice, and intentionality.

Pastor Ron Edmondson lays out four characteristics of true friendship:

Unconditional love - A true friend loves at all times. Regardless of what you do, what happens, or where life takes you, a true friend loves at all times. On your worst day—when you aren’t even fun to be around—a true friend still takes you to lunch. (And likely pays.)

Unwavering support – True friends are in it for the long haul. Even when you’ve fallen—or agree with you completely—a true friend is in your corner. When you call—even when you’re in trouble—they come. True friendships may only be for a season. I have many of those. But if we run into each other again we pick up where we left off. Trust is already established. The relationship is just as strong. True friendships are consistent.

Willingness to challenge – Love and support is not ignoring the words you need to here. A true friendship makes you better. The Bible says “iron sharpens iron.” True friends will correct you if needed. Proverbs 27:5 says, “Better an open rebuke than hidden love.” Friends won’t let you injure yourself or others if they can intervene. They won’t remain silent with what you need to hear—and it will be shared in the deepest of love.

Full of grace – True friendship weather the sometime difficulties of relationships, forgiving when needed, and loving each other even when it hurts. A true friendship isn’t one-sided. Both friends are willing to lay down their life for the other. Grace is freely and generously given.

David and Jonathan’s friendship stood the test of distance, time, and trials.

In 2 Samuel he even brought in Jonathan’s disabled son and took care of him.

*** (1) Think of people who consider you their true friend. What characteristics do you demonstrate toward them that communicate to them that you are a true friend?

*** (2) Godly friendship is built on commitment to God and provides lifelong encouragement.

*** (3) Think about your Christian friendships. Approach them as a covenant commitment, intending to bless the other person.