These reflections help us look into the Bible to discover what God is saying to us today. We find Bible passages to read and questions to ponder. The themes are in the process of being listed in an index with each theme ultimately divided into seven sections. We hope to be completed soon.
“… the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart;” (13: 14) RSV
David had a heart that pleased God. He may have been a rogue in several ways e.g. an adulterer, a murdered and a poor father! but he had a big heart, loved the Lord, was courageous, and attempted great things for God. It does seem that God (and Jesus) is more impressed by faith and love than by holiness. Now don’t get me wrong. God is not mocked and cannot stand sin. He hates divorce and he hates injustice. But most of all he hates unbelief and small-mindedness.
David was chosen because he was ‘childlike’. He was not tall like his predecessor, Saul. But he was “ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome” (1 Samuel 16:12). A few verses earlier it says that the Lord looks on the heart, not the outward appearance. It’s the heart that God is interested in. David’s heart shone through his eyes. Do we love, do we feel compassion, do we get angry over injustice? God wants to give us a new heart (see Explore More).
David’s kingship was, however, one of war. Fights have to be fought. There will always be wars and rumours of wars (Matthew 24:6). And Christian kings may have to initiate or take part in them. They will however never bring in the Kingdom of Heaven, but they are part of God’s plan for restricting and restraining evil (Romans 13:4).
But because David was a military king he was not the right man to build the Temple. There are different rulers for different times, different horses for different courses. David established the kingdom of Israel 3000 years ago, and did so through force of arms. But it was his son, Solomon, who was to build the centre of religion, the Temple.
What sort of leadership are you called to? Let us accept the way God has made us and accept the purpose for which he has made us; we cannot do everything, but we should do something.
Father, thank you that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. May I accept myself (except for my sinful heart) and live to the full the life you have given me. Amen.
“… he has also rejected you from being king” (v. 23) RSV
The Lord raises up and the Lord brings down. As Paul says, “… there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” (Romans 13:1). God chose and anointed Saul to be the first king of Israel. He was a promising choice; he was head and shoulders taller than other men (1 Samuel 9:2). “The spirit of the Lord (came) mightily upon (him)” (1 Samuel 10:6), and he received “another heart” (1 Samuel 10:9).
In other words, despite his bashful and insecure nature (e.g. hiding in the baggage – 1 Samuel 10:22) he was fully equipped by God to do the job. The sad thing is that most of the time he fell back into his old nature and ruled from weakness and fearfulness. This made him overbearing and erratic. Eventually his self-serving rule was summed up by his mentor, Samuel, “… you have rejected the word of the Lord,” (v.23).
God may exalt a person, but if that person forsakes God’s reign in his or her life, then in due course God will reject them from their ministry. And so it was in the case of Saul, “… he (God) has rejected you from being king” (v.23). God’s rejection may come in many and various ways, but in Saul’s case he took his own life (1 Samuel 31:4).
While Saul was alive David remained as far as possible loyal. Even when faced twice! (Samuel 24:3-4 and 26:8) with an apparently god-given opportunities to kill him, and yet he said: “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to put forth my hand against him, seeing he i the Lord’s anointed” (1 Samuel 24:6).
David, who was to be Saul’s successor, was concerned that he also might be rejected from his kingship. Sometimes he had good reason to think that! But he prayed: “Take not your Holy Spirit from your servant” (Psalm 51:11).
In other words the anointing with oil to be king might be removed together with his kingship. We must learn not to live by our old, weak human nature, but to live by the new heart God gives us, and by the power of his Holy Spirit. Then we shall fulfil our ministry and please him.
Forgive me Lord when I act out of my sinful, weak and selfish human nature. Renew a right spirit within me and strengthen me to live, and lead your way. Amen.
Who was the king of kings? Was it Pharaoh? He was the mighty force at the time. He had absolute power and was revered as a god. Slaves built him cities and pyramids. He could have anyone executed instantly at his word. He had a mighty army that could crush any other country that dared to threaten.
And yet was he ultimately in control? Each time that Moses performed one of the signs (e.g. turning the waters of the Nile to blood, the frogs, the gnats, the flies, etc), it is recorded that Pharaoh “hardened his heart” (Exodus 8:15, 8:19, 9:7). But in due course you may note it was the Lord God who “hardened the heart of Pharaoh” (Exodus 9:12, 9:34-35, 10:1, 10:20, 10:27, 11:10, 14:4, 14:8).
Despots, dictators and autocratic kings may believe that they and their power, even their ‘divine right of kings’, gives them total control. They forget that there is a God in heaven who is king over all. Pharaoh could not resist the power of Moses with his words and his mighty signs. Pharaoh may have thought that his heart and his will were his own, but he was wrong.
That is why it records that God said of Pharaoh: “… for this purpose have I let you live, to show you my power, so that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.” (Exodus 9:16).
We need to be encouraged that though unjust and oppressive regimes may exist for a while, in due course God will bring them down. Until he does, there seems little else the crushed people can do except to cry out to the Lord for vengeance and salvation.
Lord God, sovereign over all things and all rulers, bring down all oppressors and strengthen the oppressed. Thank you where you have given good government. Amen.
Through the following weeks we will be considering different kings and rulers who have adopted very different styles of leadership. From them we can learn good and bad leadership. We can also learn how to behave when we are under good or bad leaders.
Today we see the leader of leaders, Jesus Christ. He is the archetypal leader: “the King of kings and Lord of lords” (v.15). As Graham Kendrick’s song goes: “He is the servant king.” He does not lord it over others. He does not dominate by force, but leads by example. Though he is sovereign he does not use force, but wins by love.
When he stood on trial before Pilate he said, “My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world my servants would fight …” (John 18:36). Jesus was not saying that his kingship had nothing to do with this world! He was saying that his source of power and authority was not provided by this world e.g. swords and spears. His weapons were (as Paul would say) spiritual, not carnal (see 2 Cor. 10:4). Jesus ruled and rulers by Prayer, by the Word and by the Spirit. By these means he wins people’s hearts and minds. They are captivated by love, not by fear and coercion.
He instructed his disciples that their leadership should be like his, not like worldly rulers. He said, “… whoever would be great among you must be your servant … for the son of man came to serve, and to give his life …” (Mark 10:44-45).
Whatever position of leadership we are in, whether in our family or at work or in our church, we need to follow in the steps of our Lord and Master. We are always in it for the good of those ‘under’ us, and not for our own benefit. Of course there are privileges that go with leadership, but our motivation is costly service for the good of others.
Thank you Lord, for your humble service and sacrifice. I pray for my attitude to others, and I pray for those in leadership in our church and government. Amen.
So often the demands of our God might at first seem a bit of a bind. We would rather do something else. However, as ever, to follow the rules of life is not only a blessing to others, but it is also a blessing to ourselves. God is no man’s debtor; we cannot out-give God.
Abraham had been waiting for 24 years to have a son and heir. He was now desperately old and so was his wife, Sarah. When he was sitting under an oak tree three unknown visitors arrived. Abraham’s immediate reaction was to press them to stay and to offer hospitality. The results of this were that he and his wife received a prophetic word assuring them that within a year they would be parents!
Similarly, when the two who were returning to Emmaus after the crucifixion were met by a stranger, they entered into deep and fascinating conversation. When they arrived at their home the stranger made as if to go on, but they pressed him to stay (Luke 24:28-29). As a result of this they saw him break bread and their eyes were opened to behold the risen Christ. What a blessing!
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews also gives one of the benefits of loving our neighbour (especially strangers and needy people). He writes: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2). He may well have been referring to the visitation of the three emissaries sent by God to Abraham (vv.1,2).
If we do not love our neighbour as Jesus loved us, then our heart shrinks and we start to live only for ourselves and our family. But as we learn to love our neighbour as ourselves, who knows what benefits will follow or what doors may open? So let us widen our boundaries and expand our loving.
Thank you Lord for my neighbour. May I love each one, just as you love me, for your name’s sake. Amen.
1 What benefit did Rahab the harlot receive for hiding the spies?