When David Speaks…

If you have been reading the Bible for a while now, you’ve noticed how often King David is talked about. In fact, his name is mentioned more times than any other person!

You’ve read about David, the second king of Israel, God’s choice for His nation, who reigned for forty years (1 Kings 2:11 NASB). Or about David’s relationship with his adversary’s son, Jonathan, which is clear model for biblical friendship (1 Samuel 18:1-4 NASB). You’ve also probably read about David the psalmist, who wrote around half of the book of Psalms.

Who was David? He was many things. He was a shepherd boy, a warrior, a king, a poet, and a musician. He was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22 NASB). He was a man quick to place his trust in the Lord (Psalm 27:1 NASB) and quick to repent (2 Samuel 12:1-13 NASB). In many ways, David is a model for all Christians to follow.

We are first introduced to David when he was but a shepherd boy, the youngest son of Jesse. In 1 Samuel 16 NASB the prophet Samuel appeared during the annual sacrificial feast in order to anoint God’s chosen. When David is first mentioned, he is described as having a ruddy complexion, a handsome appearance and beautiful eyes, highlighting the fact that he is still quite young.

After his anointing, David continued to live life normally until the servants of King Saul seek him out in order to calm the evil spirit terrorizing the king. That’s where David is when the famous David and Goliath narrative occurs. And that’s where we first hear David speak.

Of course, David isn’t mute or anything like that. But the first time Scripture actually has record of him speaking is in 1 Samuel 17 NASB. Perhaps you are familiar with the story, but in case you aren’t, let’s go through it.

In the beginning of the chapter, we find that an army of Philistines was encamped in Socoh which belongs to Judah. The Philistines were enemies of Israel and had a champion named Goliath who was over nine feet tall. In 1 Samuel 17:8-11 NASB, we read how Goliath issued his challenge to Israel, calling for them to choose a champion to fight him one on one. In the last verse of that passage, we read how Saul and all Israel were dismayed and greatly afraid.

What’s ironic is that’s exactly what Israel did in 1 Samuel 9 NASB! In that chapter, Israel chose a champion, a king who was to lead them into battle. Eight chapters later, we read how instead of fulfilling his role, he cowers in the back. This was supposed to be God’s champion but doesn’t even give God any thought. Fast forward to 1 Samuel 17:20 NASB, David has now entered the scene. We learn that David was given the task of bringing some food for his brothers and their commander, but verse 23 is where things get really interesting.

“As he was talking with them, behold, the champion, the Philistine from Gath named Goliath, was coming up from the army of the Philistines, and he spoke these same words; and David heard them. When all the men of Israel saw the man, they fled from him and were greatly afraid.” 1 Samuel 17:23-24 NASB

This already happened once before when Goliath first issued his challenge. But there was one who was not present at that earlier time and that was David. The response from the men of Israel was an expected one. Similarly in Deuteronomy 1:26-27 NASB Israel was unwilling to enter the land that was promised because they saw that the people and their cities were so large.

David’s response however is new and unexpected. He questions, “For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?” What’s amazing is that this is the first time in the narrative that God is even mentioned! The so called “armies of the living God” did not once ask this question. It took a shepherd boy to remind them that God was with them. And we know what happened next. He faced Goliath and defeats him.

“You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted… and all this assembly may know that the Lord does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands.” 1 Samuel 17:45, 47 NASB

What can we learn from this? We need to be like David who considered what God thought first, instead of like Saul who gave no consideration for what God thought. As Christians who are chosen by the same living God, we need to go to the ends of the earth with boldness and faith. Don’t be like Saul and all Israel who were fearful of man, fearful of what lay before them. Be like David, a man after God’s own heart and a man that was only concerned honoring God.

There’s Always Tomorrow…

Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.

Proverbs 27:1 NASB

One of the great errors in our thinking is the word “tomorrow”. Whether that’s with our work when we say, “I can worry about studying tomorrow. Today I’ll just be lazy and unproductive.” Or with broken relationships with friends or family. “We just had an argument but I’ll apologize tomorrow.” But the most dangerous usage of all is in regards to sin and repentance.

Satan’s arsenal of weapons is quite large but one of his most effective is the deception of tomorrow. Do you ever find yourself making an excuse to sin today because tomorrow is a fresh start? Have you ever encountered an unbeliever who gives you the excuse of later?

But, the great word of the Bible is always “today”.

Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, “Today if you hear His voice,”

Hebrews 3:7 NASB

It is never sometimes, but always now; never tomorrow, but always today. We must say with the Psalmist, “I hastened and did not delay…” Psalm 119:60 NASB

Don’t be like the Roman governor Felix who when he heard Paul preach in Acts 24:25 NASB, waited until tomorrow. In the verse, Paul preached just as we ought to preach, as a dying man to dying men and Felix was greatly afraid. This pagan man who was very much in love with his sin had his conscience stirred. He must have been in a mood when he might have repented and turned back to God. But instead of acting upon his conviction, Felix dismissed Paul saying, “Go away for the present, and when I have time I will summon you.”

Never again did Felix tremble, though he must summoned Paul to preach for him many more times. Never again was his conscience stirred as that first time. All because he said “tomorrow” when God’s word is today. For to the one who says “tomorrow”, James says, “You do not know what your life will be tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” James 4:14 NASB

No one should put off anything that can be done today for tomorrow. No one should leave for tomorrow the breaking of a bad habit but most of all, no one should leave until tomorrow repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. You can say tomorrow to anyone or anything. But not to Christ, and not to eternal life.

“Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow! Alas, tomorrow never comes! It is in no calendar, except the almanac of fools.

C. H. Spurgeon

 

 

What Grace Is This!

Romans 4:5 NASB is a beautiful verse that I fear at times we glance at just briefly. We read it with such a flippancy that it becomes cold, mechanical even as we come to this portion of Scripture. And perhaps we pray to God often; we read the Word often; we evangelize often. But how often do we go back and marvel at the Cross? Marvel at Christ? We should do this often. So that when we pray to God it is because the very posture of our hearts is surrender and that we may thank God often for the Cross. And we read the Word because we want to know more about this amazing truth. And we evangelize because we believe that the gospel is the power of God to save.

I find this verse to be a wonderful verse. It might be no surprise to us that have been in the church for a while now that such an expression as “justifies the ungodly” is in the Bible. But let’s examine this phrase together. One of the more common things I hear among friends, family, and even the random person off the street is that it is the very fact that God saves wicked men is what they have against Christianity. And the complaint is that many who are good people, doctors that save lives everyday. social workers that look to the interests of children and families in need, will not be saved. All because God did not choose to justify them.

But Scripture accepts this charge and even plainly states it! From the very mouth of the apostle Paul, God “justifies the ungodly”. Those who are unjust, He makes just. Those who deserve no favor, He forgives. Did we think that salvation was for the good and that God’s grace was for the pure and holy who are sinless? So we might be tempted to think that if we have good behavior, and are good to others, that God would reward us. In our heart of hearts we are good and worthy and we somehow believe that there must be something in us that God saw. Something in us that won the favor of God. But Romans 3:10 NASB is quite clear. God sees through all deceptions and knows that there is no good in us. He knows that “all our righteous deeds are like filthy garments” (Isaiah 64:6 NASB).

Jesus Christ did not come to look for those who are good and righteous. No, He “justifies the ungodly”. Mark 2:17 NASB is another verse we may point to. Jesus tells us that He came not for the healthy, but those who are sick. The fact that Jesus Christ came into this this world to save sinners should a thing to be marveled at! It should be, to us, the greatest wonder we ever did hear. Apart from His great love, we are a hunk of sin, a thing of unworthiness. But, to the one who submits himself to Christ. The one who proclaims Christ as risen from the dead. This one is loved with as much love as if they were godly. Who can help being astonished at this? We should never be.

The salvation of God is for those who do not deserve it and have no preparation for it. If in reading this, you grow tired and bored. If this marvelous truth does not cause you to weep over your sins that have been paid for and cry for joy at the One who paid for them, then you are as surely lost as you are alive. Those who are righteous, who see their righteousness as all of their own doing, are either deceivers or deceived. See your own righteousness and flee from it! There is no substance to it. Matthew 7:24-27 NASB.

The only people in need of justification are those who are not just themselves. Something needed to be done for them to make them just before God’s judgement. And that was the Cross. So cling to it. Depend upon it. Lose yourself in it.

There is a man who is owed some money. One person owes him a thousand dollars, and another owes him fifty. In the end, each one of their debts is wiped out. That is what happens to us. Whether we have lived a life of rampant sin, or whether we live generally “good” lives, if we come to have faith in the work of Christ, the debt is paid. The most generous person cannot forgive the debts of those who do no owe him anything. Pardon, therefore, cannot be for those who have no sin. Pardon is for the guilty. Forgiveness must be for the sinful. Do you think yourself lost because you are a sinner? Then call upon the name of Christ Jesus our Lord. Such grace is ordained for one such as you.

Do Your Work!

“Work to please God. Not people.”

This is one of those sayings that I hear all the time in the church. And it’s one of those sayings that is pretty clearly from Scripture. Colossians 3:23 NASB

As a church filled with both collegians and post collegians, I think we’re all familiar with the concept. The principle is that there is no job too small, too insignificant that you cannot do as worship to God. If you’re a student, study for the glory of God. Where you are is exactly where God intended for you to be. That’s your ministry. So do it excellently and enthusiastically for the Lord.

And this is true no matter your vocation! If you have a desk job, or if you’re a stay at home mom. If you love what you do, or if you really aren’t that passionate about it. You are working for God, not man.

“Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example. For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.

If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!

I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter; this is the way I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”

2 Thessalonians 3:6-18 NASB

Last weekend, I was really challenged by this passage. I was challenged because of the principles about work that we can see here. The things I mentioned at the very beginning about working excellently and working enthusiastically for God are no doubt true.

But in this passage Paul looks at work from a slightly different angle.

First, he talks about working for others. This isn’t a contradiction to what he says in Colossians 3:23 NASB. Even as you work for others in the manner that he is talking about, you are to work to please God. But here he points to his and Silvanus’ and Timothy’s example of work. In order that they be a model to follow.

Paul would often take a second job to fund his own way. Yet, there were definitely times in his ministry in which he was funded by others. From 2 Corinthians 11:9-11 NASB it is clear. But the verses leading up to this in 2 Corinthians 11:7-8 NASB are also clear that he refused to do so with the Corinthians.

Why? Because of all of the problems the church in Corinth had. Because of their immaturity. This is contrasted with the maturity of churches like the one in Macedonia from whom he did ask money. They were a church that gave not just generously, but beyond their means. 2 Corinthians 8:1-5 NASB

So the first thing we see is that we are to work sacrificially. Work unselfishly.

Second, work responsibly. 2 Thessalonians 3:8 NASB shows that we work to provide for basic needs. Not what society tells you is a necessity. Or what the culture tells you you need. But since the very beginning we were created to work. And work we shall.

Mankind was not meant to be idle. But to be productive. Not only is it an active worship to the Lord, but Paul is very clear here that we are not to be a nuisance to society. When we don’t work, aren’t being productive, we open ourselves up to a host of other sins. So work that you may not sin.

Third, work accountably. Having grown up in the church, many of us have probably encountered the passage that mentions church discipline: Matthew 18:15-20 NASB. After confronting your brother in private, and then bringing along some others, what is the final step? It is to separate yourself from him.

Churches are given the rod of separation. And though it is hard, it’s necessary. The purpose of church discipline is redemptive not vindictive. After that very first step, if things go well and your brother listens than you have gained him back. That’s the purpose. But going back to Paul’s point, having a good work ethic is so crucial, so important, that he says to keep away from those who aren’t practicing it! That sounds suspiciously like the final step of church discipline to me.

I hope all of this challenges you as much as it challenged me. Having a good theology of work is important; it’s important because to the world we represent Christ. The world is watching, so do your work!

A God of Wrath versus A God of Love

You have probably heard the statement “God in the Old Testament is a God of wrath while God in the New Testament is a God of love.” People who say this somehow think that God has multiple personalities. At the very core is a fundamental misunderstanding of what both the Old Testament and the New Testament reveal about the nature of God.

The canon of Scripture is a progressive revelation of God to us that reveals His relationship with mankind throughout history. And if you don’t take whole books and passages and verses in context, if you don’t read the whole counsel of God, you might come to the conclusion that God changes; and that the Old Testament God is harsh and brutal while the New Testament God is like a loving and kind Father. World-renowned atheist Richard Dawkins said that “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction.” But if you read the Old Testament and the New Testament, it becomes clear that God does not change from Old to New Testament. God’s wrath and God’s love are revealed in both testaments. 

First, there is the Old Testament. While it is true that there is a much bloodshed in those first thirty nine books; that God deals very harshly with sin and the consequences are very serious; that God floods the earth and only a handful of people live; that God commands the genocide of the Amalekites; one thing is declared over and over. And it is that God is “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth”. You see this in Joel 2:13. In Nehemiah 9:17. In Deuteronomy 4:31. David, who was disciplined very severely for his actions of murder and adultery, cries this three times in Psalm 86:15, Psalm 103:8 and Psalm 145:8.

In the New Testament, God’s lovingkindness is manifested fully in His Son. We know this from John 3:16. And 1 John 4:10 tells us that He loved us and sent His Son to atone for our sins. But the New Testament is also where you get the book of Revelation and the four gospels. In the book of Revelation, we see more of God’s wrath poured out on unbelievers than anywhere else in the Old Testament. And how do we know about the reality of hell? Because Jesus preached about it.

I think it’s quite interesting how some will say that the God of the New Testament is not wrathful. A brother recently pointed out to me that God’s wrath is even more evident in the New Testament. There is no mention of hell in the Old Testament. And you might hear a variety of different thoughts on what happens to the wicked when they die from orthodox Jews. According to the Talmud, which is their book of traditions, “The judgement of the wicked in purgatory is twelve months.” And according to one website I was looking at, Jews believe that the soul of a dead man who has unpaid debts or stolen something may be placed into the body of a child soon to be born. 

But in the New Testament Jesus preached about hell. He preached about it a lot. And when He preached about it, He laid out for us all the horrific details about a never ending, conscious torment. That’s probably one of the reasons the Pharisees hated Him so much. Because He preached about the reality of unbelievers burning for eternity. And what could be more wrathful than that?

So our conclusion must be this: God’s holiness demands that sin be punished. But He is also gracious and merciful to those who repent and believe. James 1:17 tells us that with God “there is no variation or shifting shadow.” And while the violence in the Old Testament may be difficult to read at times, our Father in heaven is omniscient and infinitely wise. Romans 11:22 reminds us that God is both kind and severe. And also, read your bible. All of it, both Old and New Testament.

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