“When Saul heard that David was discovered, and the men that were with him, (now Saul abode in Gibeah under a tree in Ramah, having his spear in his hand, and all his servants were standing about him).”
I Samuel 22:6
Saul was the king of Israel, and no one can fault a national leader for having security around him. We see in our text that the king had “his spear in his hand, and all his servants were standing about him.” The thing that makes this so interesting is when we consider who Saul was defending himself against. Saul was in pursuit of David. He was jealous of David and sought to kill him on a number of occasions, but David never lifted a hand against Saul. David had the opportunity to kill Saul if he desired, but he refused to stretch forth his hand against God’s anointed. Saul’s insecurity and fearfulness was not because he was in any real danger from David. David loved Saul and purposed to honor him. Rather, the emotional and spiritual turmoil and insecurity that Saul was in was caused by unresolved conflicts.
A conscience that is not clear will produce insecurity and fears. Saul was in bondage, confusion, and fear because his heart was not right with God and not right with David. Saul never got the victory over his jealousy of knowing David killed Goliath, and how the Israelites praised David for it. David could have been the best friend Saul ever had. When an evil spirit troubled Saul, David played his harp; the evil spirit left Saul. He was comforted. David was a loyal servant of Saul, yet Saul was tormented by his presence. Bitterness, unforgiveness, and envy can destroy a person. Saul thought his fears were justified. In his mind, he needed protection from David. His imagination had him convinced that David was dangerous.
That is the way the devil works. When we do not forgive people and love them, our minds can be blinded by bitterness. False imaginations paint an inaccurate picture in our minds. When we are not willing to accept the truth, the only thing left to believe is a lie. Jonathan tried to convince Saul that David was not his enemy, but Saul did not believe his appeal and only grew angry toward Jonathan. Is there help for a person in such a state? Absolutely! If people will humble themselves and clear their consciences, they can be free from the insecurity of sin.
“Have not I written to thee excellent things in counsels and knowledge, That I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth; that thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee?”
Proverbs 22:20, 21
God deals in the world of absolutes, both in doctrine and in morality. The culture war that is raging in our society despises and attacks the theology of absolutes. Many religions and religious teachers promote pluralism and pragmatism rather than absolutes. Situational ethics has set certainty aside in matters of morality. The objective of the writer is that others might “know the certainty of the words of truth.” This should be our interest as well. We want to know, and we want others to know, the certain and absolute words of truth.
The Bible claims to contain the revealed truth of God. Words that disagree with those truthful words must therefore be considered words of error. Two different positions that disagree cannot both be accurate. Two different paths cannot be considered the same path. Jesus did not say, “I am a truth,” or “I am one of many truths.” Rather, He emphatically stated that He was the Truth. We want to know the truth about life, death, salvation, eternity, judgment, responsibility, morality, etc. The certainty of truth is recorded and preserved, for He has “written to thee excellent things in counsels and knowledge, That I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth.” Truth is found in words, and God has given us His inspired Word that we might be able to know the certainty of truth. If it is taught in the Bible, we can be certain it is true. When God speaks in the Scriptures, even about subjects such as history or science, it is true.
In a time of great uncertainty, we are thankful that we have a certain source of truth. As children of God and disciples of Jesus Christ, we are to be learners and teachers of truth. If we are not armed with the truth, we will be susceptible to error and false teaching. If we do not know the truth, how can we share it with others? Our Scripture encourages us to know the truth, “that thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee.” Our message is not one of uncertainty, but one of clarity and promise. People need to know the truth. We can be convinced ourselves and equally convincing as we declare it to others.
“For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ.”
Though Paul was not present with the church at Colosse, he was concerned about their spiritual well-being and was encouraged by their progress. Their growth in grace caused the man of God to rejoice. There are few things that could encourage a preacher’s heart more than seeing God at work in His children and His churches. Paul commended them for the steadfastness of their faith. They were steady and stable Christians.
The apostle also noted that he was “beholding your order.” The word order speaks of arrangement and discipline. Paul commended these believers for the structure of their lives, and we can be certain that God is interested in the order and discipline of our individual lives as well as that of His churches. From the beginning, we learn that God is concerned about order. We see this in His creation, in the order of the solar system, in the seasons, in the invention of time and schedule, in the chain of authority, and in other ways.
One characteristic of our lives before we were surrendered to Christ was a lack of order. There was little personal discipline or commitment to following God’s prescribed order. Dependability, protocol, and steadfastness were not a priority. There is an apparent lack of order today in many lives and homes. There seems to be no real commitment to living orderly lives. Structure is not modeled by the parents nor expected of the children. The absence of order leaves a great vacuum in a home or ministry.
To the church at Corinth, God said, “Let all things be done decently and in order” (I Corinthians 14:40). The alternative to order is confusion or chaos. Again to the Corinthians, God said, “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints” (I Corinthians 14:33). Where there is no order, there will be no peace. These Corinthians were plagued with a lack of order. There was confusion in their worship, in their doctrine, in their families, in the way they resolved conflicts, in their view of spiritual leadership, etc. By contrast, the order of the Colossians was noticed and appreciated by Paul. May this serve as a personal reminder to work hard at getting our lives in order.
“Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the LORD, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the LORD, to the help of the LORD against the mighty.”
This song of Deborah and Barak commended those who valiantly assisted them and condemned those who did not. In spite of the dereliction of duty on the part of some, God gave a great victory. Included in their song was this curse pronounced on the inhabitants of Meroz because they gave no help in the day of battle. This is the only time this place is mentioned in the Bible. We may be uncertain where Meroz was located, but it is clear that they failed to respond to God’s call for help. Of those who did not contribute to the victory, Meroz received the most severe reprimand. The citizens of this village (or city) would be bitterly cursed “because they came not to the help of the LORD, to the help of the LORD against the mighty.”
What might we learn from such a stern warning as this? Are there consequences, perhaps even severe ones, for those who refuse to assist in God’s work, especially in times of great need? Obviously, many do not think so. The inhabitants of Meroz discovered differently. Their town and its citizens would never be the same. This history lesson should teach us that God is serious about our service to Him and our response to His call. It is wearisome to see the vast numbers of professing Christians who look at Christian service as an option, not a requirement. According to the New Testament, every member of the church body has a responsibility to contribute to the life and ministry of the congregation. The Great Commission was given to the Lord’s churches, and every member of those churches is expected to assist in the fulfillment of that command.
Sometimes people view their duties with reasoning such as “The pastor wants my help” or “The church is asking for workers.” This is incorrect, as our work in the ministry is unto God, not man. Our text says, “they came not to the help of the LORD, to the help of the LORD against the mighty.” When someone refuses to be involved in Christian ministry, he is saying “no” to God, not just to men. God chooses to use willing servants in His great work. There is a great battle raging today for the souls of men and for the propagation of the truth. God is calling and enlisting workers. What should our response be?
“Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”
Jude wrote this short but powerful epistle to warn about the increasing apostasy that was evident in his day. He exposed false teachers and stirred the saints to continue to grow in the grace of God. In this inspired challenge, he charged believers to “Keep yourselves in the love of God.” He was not making them responsible to keep God loving them, for we have no control over this. The grace of His love cannot be lost. But, we are to keep ourselves fervently loving God. It is very true that we can take His love for granted and allow our love for Him to be abated. In a similar way, Jesus charged the church at Ephesus, “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” (Revelation 2:4).
From time to time, we all need to be revived in our love for God. When Jesus was asked to state the greatest of all commandments, He said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment” (Matthew 22:37, 38). This is our foremost duty as Christians. Before we can revive our love for God, we should honestly recognize our sin of not loving Him the way that we should.
Our supreme love for God will have a powerful effect in every other area of our lives. It will be easier to obey Him when we are fervently in love with Him. It will be natural to thank Him and praise Him when we love Him the way that we ought to. Giving our lives and devotion to God is not a problem when our hearts are aflame with love for Him. Serving Him with our time, talents, and treasure is a pleasure when we love Him the way He intends. May we truly find it in our hearts to genuinely repent of the horrible evil of failing to love our Lord.
How might we keep these fickle hearts of ours consistently loving the Lord? We should keep ourselves appreciating His love. “We love him, because he first loved us” (I John 4:19). When we meditate on the marvelous gift of God’s love, the natural response is to love Him in return. Remember the great gift of salvation and eternal life, and the price that was paid for our redemption. Dwelling on the wonderful work that grace has begun, and is performing in our lives, keeps us in love with Him.
“For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.”
I Samuel 3:13
The Lord was speaking to young Samuel. He had been reared in the house of God under the guardianship of Eli, the high priest. God informed Samuel that He would be judging the house of Eli for the way his sons had profaned the priesthood, “because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.” Eli did not exercise his parental or priestly authority to rebuke or censure his rebellious sons. As a result, his sons were both killed in battle. Eli died when he received the grim news that his sons were dead and the ark of God was captured. In announcing this news to Samuel, God referred to the cause of this chastisement of Eli as, “the iniquity which he knoweth.”
The thing that made this so serious was the fact that Eli knew all about it. It is one thing to be unaware of something that is sinful or needs to be corrected, but quite another thing altogether to know a thing is wrong and do nothing about it. Eli was fully aware of the wickedness practiced by his sons, yet he refused to do anything to correct it. Eli’s negligence should be a warning to us all. The Scripture says, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). God did not judge the house of Eli for something he did or allowed in ignorance, but for the sins that he was aware of.
With this in mind, it would be wise for us to ask ourselves a couple of probing questions: “What is it that I know I should be doing and am not doing? What am I doing that I know is sin? What am I allowing my children to do that I know is against the Word of God?” God expects us to walk in the light that we have and obey the truth that we have been given. In fact, if we do not walk in the light we have received, we cannot expect to be given more light. When we deliberately disobey God’s Word, it should not surprise us when chastisement comes.
There may be points of God’s will which we are not certain about, but we should be more troubled about our failure to obey the truth with which we are acquainted. Eli’s failure to manage his family and his reluctance to deal with their iniquity resulted in personal and national tragedy. It is the sin that we know about and disregard that will bring the sorest judgment.
“But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.”
Matthew 13:16, 17
Jesus was teaching the disciples how truly blessed they were to see and hear the things they personally experienced. They were so very blessed to hear the voice of the Savior and the lessons that He taught. Imagine the opportunity to see Jesus heal the sick and even raise the dead, to hear Him confront the Pharisees, or to see Him walk on water. They were privileged to hear the Lord pray in earnest to His Father, to see the spiritually oppressed set free, and to hear Him order the raging sea to be still. They were especially blessed to hear and understand the great news of the Gospel, and to see the fulfillment of the many prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah, our Savior. Many who preceded them desired “to see those things” and “hear those things,” but were not able to. It is understandable that Jesus would say, “blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.”
No group of people would ever hear and see the things they were witnesses to, but we can sincerely say that we are a blessed people. It has been our privilege to hear the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ and know the blessed truth that our Lord bled and died for our sins and raised on the third day. In our world, the majority of the population will die without ever knowing the story of God’s love and Jesus’ sacrificial death. We have in our possession, the complete written revelation of God in the Holy Scriptures. At any moment, we can turn to the Word of God, read and study God’s Truth, and hear the voice of Christ through the Words of Scripture.
Hundreds of language groups in the world do not have a single copy of the Bible in their language. Millions of people have lived their entire lives without ever reading a sentence of God’s Word. We are privileged to be members of a sound New Testament church where the Bible is the sole authority for faith and practice; Jesus is the only Head; and to whom the work of evangelism, missions, and Bible training is committed. Because we have been so mightily blessed, let us be grateful to God for the things we have seen and heard.
“And all the earth sought to Solomon, to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart.”
I Kings 10:24
Solomon, the heir to the throne after his father David, was known for his unprecedented wisdom. Soon after Solomon became king, the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Ask what I shall give thee” (I Kings 3:5). Solomon could have asked for riches, for long life, for the defeat of his enemies, or any number of other things. Instead, he asked for an understanding heart and discernment, or wisdom. God was so pleased with his request that He gave him the wisdom he desired and also promised Solomon great riches and honor. Solomon was renowned for his wisdom, writing “three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and five” (I Kings 4:32). People traveled great distances to see the throne of Solomon and “to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart.”
We all need God’s wisdom, probably more than we realize sometimes. The Scripture tells us that Solomon’s wisdom exceeded that of all the kings of the earth, and thankfully much of his wisdom is preserved for us in the Book of Proverbs. As people sought to hear the wisdom of Solomon, we should be seekers of God’s wisdom. No one had more wisdom in his day than Solomon did, but “a greater than Solomon is here” (Matthew 12:42). Jesus is unsurpassed in wisdom and riches. I Corinthians 1:24 tells us Christ is “the wisdom of God.”
God wants to give us wisdom, but He expects us to be seekers of wisdom. The Lord has wisdom for our relationships, our finances, our hurtful pasts, and for every area of our lives. God’s wisdom is different from the wisdom of this world. Just as the world sought to hear Solomon’s wisdom, we are to seek God for wisdom. James tells us, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally” (James 1:5). God is generous with His wisdom. Many of the family problems, financial problems, and relationship problems that plague God’s people could be resolved if they would seek and apply God’s wisdom. We should ask the Lord regularly for wisdom. As we read the Scripture each day and listen to Bible lessons and sermons at church, we ought to be seekers of truth, learning the ways and principles of God, that help us walk in His wisdom.
“And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.”
What eventful days these were for the church at Jerusalem! Thousands were being saved; miracles were being performed; and the opposition from the religious establishment was intensifying. The church was enjoying great unity as well, expressing tremendous love and generosity to each other. Some were selling their property and giving the proceeds to the apostles to distribute to those in need. A man in the church named Ananias, along with his wife Sapphira, sold a possession and gave a part to the church, while deceitfully holding back part of the profit. Peter’s words to Ananias were, “why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?” (Acts 5:3) and “thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God” (Acts 5:4). Because of their hypocrisy, God killed both Ananias and Sapphira. One immediate result of this instant and serious judgment of God upon their sin was that “great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.”
This is something that is woefully lacking in most of the churches of our day. The fear of God has fallen by the wayside. Reverence and respect for God in the congregation of the saints have been replaced by frivolity and familiarity. God is holy and He is to be feared. The attitude of most modern worshippers is casualness rather than conviction. This is in stark contrast to what is expected in the Word of God. Notice what the Psalmist said in Psalm 89:7, “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him.”
There will be serious consequences for such neglect in worship. One does not have to wonder about the effect of such compromise on our children. Will they fear our God if we do not? What might contribute to this abandonment of the fear of God? Perhaps one answer can be found in our text. The church feared God after they saw the judgment of God on the sins of their peers. When sin is not judged as it should be, the result will be the loss of godly fear. If we would consistently judge our own sin, and the church body would discipline its rebellious members, we might see the fear of God restored to the Lord’s churches.
“And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?”
God’s people had waited for centuries for this moment. God miraculously divided the waters, and Joshua led the people across the Jordan River and into Canaan. They would soon face their first military challenge – the city of Jericho. The Scripture describes an encounter Joshua had just outside of Jericho. A man with a drawn sword appeared to Joshua. Joshua inquired of His identity and purpose, saying, “Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?” Was this armed stranger a friend or foe? The visitor replied, “Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come” (Joshua 5:14).
Though initially troubling, this turned out to be such an encouraging moment for Joshua. God sent divine assistance to His people and their leader. The visitor, the Commander in Chief of the Lord’s army, was not an angelic being. If He had been so, He would not have received Joshua’s worship. This was a pre-incarnate appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Son of God – the eternal Word – manifested Himself to Joshua as the Captain of the host of the Lord. The Lord was available and ready to defend His people and demonstrate His power. Joshua “fell on his face” (Joshua 5:14) and asked his Captain what he was to do. Joshua was commanded to “Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy” (Joshua 5:15). Joshua did as he was instructed, and worshiped his Lord. He could go into battle knowing that as he led God’s people, the Captain was near.
What a great thing it is to know that our Captain is near! We are never alone when we are engaged in spiritual service for our Lord. Although we do not see Him or audibly hear Him, our Savior is by our side. His promise is still true, “lo, I am with you alway” (Matthew 28:20). He is the source of our triumph, and we are more than conquerors as He leads in battle and brings forth victory. By faith, we can go forth with confidence, knowing that there is an unseen hand that is present, armed, and completely committed to our defense and help.