Category Archives: Romans

2 Samuel 14-16

His loyal love – a servant’s heart

One of the most quoted passages of Scripture on loyal love is from the Book of Ruth: “Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your People shall be my people, And your God, my God,” (Ruth 1:16).

This profound declaration of loyalty is a beautiful illustration of the deepest friendship, most unselfish love, and abiding trust that one can express. Ruth demonstrated this to Naomi, her mother-in-law, by traveling with her out of Ruth’s familiar surroundings to the strangeness of Naomi’s home.

In today’s passage of Scripture, King David is the grateful recipient of steadfast loyalty. Ittai the Gittite and his men, foreigners who lived under David’s protection, pledged their lives and military strength to David as he fled Jerusalem, (2 Samuel 15:21-23). In glaring contrast to the loyal love demonstrated by Naomi and Ittai, we learn the historical account of David’s own son, Absalom, who was the epitome of disloyalty.

Loyalty is defined as allegiance, faithfulness, fidelity, devotion, steadfastness, commitment. What engenders loyalty? In today’s world of business, customer satisfaction is the gold standard for ensuring customer loyalty. There are case studies on the global market that prove good customer service is paramount to continued success of a business. Out of these studies came solid strategies for increasing the odds of customer satisfaction. One principal factor in building loyalty is to provide reliable service. That is, do what you say you will do every time. That may mean going the extra mile, suffering personal loss, and responding judiciously to the needs of customers. Another important strategy is providing relational service. This is accomplished by recognizing the importance of customer/business relationships in tangible ways such as rewarding repeated visits – think perks, redeemable stars given in a point system, specials meant just for those who keep coming back. Responsive service is another strategy in developing customer satisfaction. Communicating with customers is crucial for learning about their changing needs. This means being open to their honest opinions, encouraging feedback, and analyzing their points of interest or pain. And finally, commemorating service by ‘shouting out’ customer satisfaction is a strategy that validates the success of the business. This is accomplished by publishing reviews, testimonials, endorsements, etc.

Absalom would have made a fortune in today’s business. He must have been reading Forbes magazine in learning how to turn the people toward him and away from his father, King David. “And so it was, whenever anyone came near to bow down to him, that he would put out his hand and take him and kiss him. In this manner Absalom acted toward all Israel who came to the king for judgment. So, Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel,” (2 Samuel 15:5-6).

How had David lost the hearts of so many men? First, he, an aging king, was not as visible to his people as his handsome son. David may have been relying on his past laurels to garner loyalty from his people. However, “it was said that Absalom would rise early and stand beside the way to the gate,” (2 Samuel 15:2). Also, King David did not hear the changing opinions of his people who feared losing the heir to the throne, (2 Samuel 14:13-15). And though David eventually reconciled with Absalom, he had refused to see him for two years, thereby failing to endorse him, (2 Samuel 14:28). To be sure, King David was conflicted since Absalom had murdered his brother and sought to kill all the King’s sons. Yet, doing nothing for so long to restore the relationship and shunning Absalom no doubt sowed seeds of bitterness that eventually produced conspiracy and rebellion. Absolom was more business savvy which cost David many loyal subjects.

I can relate to King David, however. I, too, have wanted to turn away from negative situations, especially when relationships were involved. I would rather live and let be than consider my own shortcomings or confront others. Unfortunately, this posture has allowed situations to escalate to the point where I am either running from the consequences of inaction or having to do damage control. Yet, I know from experience why we should never let the sun go down on our anger. Why we should forgive – I mean really forgive. When to say ‘yes’ and when to say ‘no’ to loved ones and to the stranger. Why we should pray, pray, pray to have the log removed out of our own eye and to have our buried head pulled out of the sand.

When on the run, I also neglect to nurture my spiritual relationship with God. No surprise that doing so is reflected in the loss of earthly relationships. Thankfully, we are made in the image of God, and God’s character is the very definition of loyal love. Therefore, I believe God can change my heart attitude, can give me the courage to address uncomfortable situations, can utter words I should speak in difficult conversations, and can work all things out for my good. And theirs. (Romans 8:28)

David’s journey back to the throne depended on God’s faithfulness to him. We, too, have been restored through the blessing of God’s loyal love. He heard our cries and sent His Son, Jesus Christ to us. Christ suffered, died, and was resurrected to bring us back to the Father. As if that were not enough to earn our loyalty, God is faithful to fulfil all His promises to us. And He does not hold back on celebrating our salvation. As is evidenced in Luke 15:10, “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” And “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing,” (Zephania 3:17).

Father, God, thank You for your loyal love! Help me to be filled by Your Holy Spirit and have access to Your wisdom, counseling, and authority. Teach me, dear Lord, to develop behaviors that encourage, support, and benefit those whom You have given me at my place of work, in my marriage, in friendships, and in fellowship. I pray that as Your servant, Lord God, I will give my very best service to others in Your blessed name.

Janet (jansuwilkinson)

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Ruth 2:14-4:22; I Samuel 1

Women of the Bible: the stories of Ruth and Hannah

 When reading Scripture, I often visualize myself walking in the shoes of the principal characters of the narratives. I can imagine, for instance, being Ruth the Moabite woman living in Bethlehem with her mother-in-law. Rising early and walking to a field where she hoped to pick up the leftover grain to bring home sustenance for Naomi and herself. Listening to the wise council of the one woman she trusted with all her heart, the one who taught her to love and believe in the God of Israel. Risking her virtue and physical safety to join with strangers, she a foreigner in a small, but tightly woven community where everyone knew your story without knowing you. What could that have been like? The part of me that relates is the yearning I had as a young girl to know who to depend on for sustenance, guidance, and comfort. Grateful for those times when others showed concern and genuine caring. Yet, always longing for stability when, even as a young woman, I continued to need protection and provision. I’ve often testified that God answered the prayer of this unbeliever when He sent to me a husband who satisfied my need for security. How wonderful that even though I was not then aware of my future salvation, God knew. “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son,” Romans 8:29.

Like a Cinderella story, Ruth found her charming prince and Naomi held her precious grandson against her shoulder. And from that fortuitous pairing of Ruth and Boaz came the future King David and the messianic lineage of Jesus Christ. I, too, had my prince and then my own little darling to raise.

In Hannah’s story, my heart was torn reading that after God answered her prayer for a child, she could give up of that same child for another to raise. Hannah’s anguish over being barren, year after year, may be difficult to understand in America today. Young adults are waiting longer to marry and longer still to have children. We praise the family who limits conceiving their number of children to two or less. We value resources such as food, fuel, forests, and air as if these elements preserve our future. Yet, are we not, as C.S. Lewis once argued careening toward the “abolition of man?” Still, what is the first commitment made by most Christian parents who love the Lord God? We dedicate our children to God – to raise them in the “admonition of the Lord.” We stand publicly before our congregations to declare we will raise our children in a godly home, and we ask for their support in teaching and modeling for our children how to obey and love God. Yet, Hannah’s desire for her son to know God went so much deeper. She held the hand of little Samuel, a child of two or three years old, and took him to actually live in the sanctuary and be raised by the aging priest, Eli.

“And she said, ‘O my lord! As your soul lives, my lord [Eli], I am the woman who stood by you here, praying to the Lord…For this child I prayed and the Lord granted me my petition…Therefore I also have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives, he shall be lent to the Lord,” I Samuel 1:26-28.

In dedicating my own daughter, did I truly give her over to the Lord? I thought I did. I still feel the joy and pride of her memorizing Scripture for the Bible Bowl, attending Vacation Bible School, singing in the Children’s Choir, coloring pictures of Jesus and the Cross, creating her own Christmas and Easter cards, and writing stories and poems for her Christian school English teachers. But did I hamper her learning to trust in God by my own need for validation as a mother? Why was it so hard to believe that God loved her more than I ever could?

These are questions that I ponder being a parent. There is no end to my negative self-talk, my mother-guilt, especially since my daughter passed away. Yet I am comforted knowing that “Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from Him,” (Biblegateway.com). As her mother, I can rejoice that God ‘lent’ her to me for a while like Hannah could rejoice despite knowing how short the time she would have to nurture her son.

Scripture is for our instruction in righteousness and for strengthening our faith, for courage, healing, and peace. God’s Word also reminds me that women in the Bible were important to His plan of redemption and the birth of the Church. I am comforted by the real stories of people who walked with God, obeyed, and worshiped Him, and were rewarded with renewed joy and greater faith. Ruth’s loyal love to Naomi, Hannah’s sacrificial gratitude for Samuel, and the many other heroines of the Old and New Testaments are the precious jewels of Proverbs 31 which declares, “For her worth is far above rubies…a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.”

Precious Lord God, You alone fashioned me and every other child inside of mothers whom You loved. You know the first and last day we will walk this earth. Thank You, Lord, that You rejoice and sing over us from that first reunion with You and into eternity. May the Lord bless us and favor us, our family, our children, and their children while we wait for that day we are together again with Jesus, our Lord.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zp6aygmvzM4

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Proverbs 11-13; Psalm 8; Romans 13

I am not too sure that I have met anyone who yielded pomp and power and was liked. I would like to say that favour is not obtained by wealth and I think that is true. I am almost absolute in believing that love is not commanded by authority or even dignity. I think there is an element of goodness found in each arena but violence has no room when it comes to being righteous. That is not to say that righteous people are all loved, but rather there is a love for the well-being of those who are righteous.

When the righteous thrive, a city rejoices,
and when the wicked die, there is joyful shouting.

A city is built up by the blessing of the upright,
but it is torn down by the mouth of the wicked.
– Proverbs 11:10-11 HCSB

So when I reflect on who I am and my purpose I find myself reflecting on my identity and calling to lead, however, not on my own, but rather with God. I know that I am weak – how can I not? One look at the stars on a clear evening sky ensures that, yet not one second later, God seems to be whispering in my ear that He is pleased to walk with me and share His glory with me.

What is man that You remember him,
the son of man that You look after him?
You made him little less than God[c][d]
and crowned him with glory and honor. – Psalm 8:4-5 HCSB

That is why Paul is so keen to straighten us up. His world was all about earthly power. The Christians were wise to stay away from persecution by paying their taxes, doing what was good, and be subordinate to authorities established by God. But this is what warms my heart and strengthens my soul – Paul wanted those like me to acknowledge the debt of love I owed to other followers of Jesus – Paul turned the laws of the Roman State on their head.

Do not owe anyone anything,[b] except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments:

Do not commit adultery;
do not murder;
do not steal;[c]
do not covet;[d]

and whatever other commandment—all are summed up by this: Love your neighbor as yourself.[e]

Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law. – Romans 13:8-10 HCSB

How easy it is for me, when chaos strikes the world, to forget about the debt of love I owe to my brothers and sisters in Christ.

The Gospel calls me to love my neighbour and this comes from the debt of love prescribed by Paul.

I am challenged once again, as I have been so many times in the Old and New Testament, on the one most important commandment. I believe we call it The Great Commandment – Love God, Love People.

Father, my head knows how powerful love is, my heart knows how hard that is to do. I do believe that love can change not only my life, but my family’s, my workplace, my church and my neighbourhood. How does that look in my life? How can I be seen standing with You and still be relevant? I know what others think is normal is not normal to You – You ask more from me and You ask me to give my all, just like Jesus did. Teach me every day on how to love You, healthily and then from a place of health, teach me to love others. Thank you.

Erwin (evanlaar1922)

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2 Samuel 21-23; Psalm 18; Romans 3

I keep asking myself what love looks like, the more excellent way Paul alluded to. I remember this story well and even though it had to be done that did not stop love from being on display.

Rizpah, Aiah’s daughter, took sackcloth and spread it out for herself on the rock from the beginning of the harvest[g] until the rain poured down from heaven on the bodies. She kept the birds of the sky from them by day and the wild animals by night. – 2 Samuel 21:10 HCSB

There is something about a mother’s love that cannot be described, but here it is on full display. I know that a mother’s love is tried and tested and on occasion there is much sorrow. It seems that love also brings with it grief. The more deep and tender the love, so much the more poignant the grief. And, as a mother loves most, she is most susceptible of sorrow.

I look at my wife, the mother of my children, and I see someone who is utterly unselfish. She loves because it is her nature. She does not love in hope that one day they will love her back, but rather because even with those who might likely die, they will never bereave her of her love.

When David uses that same intensity of love, I take notice and compare my own love for God next to his and next to my wife.

I love You, Lord, my strength. – Psalm 18:1 HCSB

He used an unusual word here, an uncommon one, used more with being impulsive and emotional. I am cut off guard because it expresses a compassionate love that is used more from the stronger one to the weaker.

“Hebrew – I will love thee dearly and entirely…from the very heart-root.” – Trapp

It is the only occasion in Scripture where the word “love” is used with such special depth and tenderness. I am challenged to say “I love You” to my God who had delivered me, rescued me, and who walks with me, with such an intensity of love that has been put on display by Rizpah and David.

Father, teach me to know what it means to love in a more excellent way. How many times I get into Your Word, start studying, start praying and yet all I need to do for a moment is give some time to express our love for each other. I pray for more quiet moments like these to be able to express my love for You. While I am out and about, if my love for You needs to be passionate, may I not be embarrassed. May I give my all so that everyone watching can see the intensity of my love for You. May I find the strength to give it away with no regrets.

Erwin (evanlaar1922)

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2 Samuel 15-17; Psalms 3, 63; Romans 1

Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and take off his head.” 10 But the king said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the Lord has said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’” 11 And David said to Abishai and to all his servants, “Behold, my own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjaminite! Leave him alone, and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. 12 It may be that the Lord will look on the wrong done to me, and that the Lord will repay me with good for his cursing today.” 13 So David and his men went on the road, while Shimei went along on the hillside opposite him and cursed as he went and threw stones at him and flung dust. 14 And the king, and all the people who were with him, arrived weary at the Jordan. And there he refreshed himself.

2 Samuel 16:9-14 ESV

David’s life seems to fall into three phases as I read through Scripture. The first phase, through young adulthood, shows his heart for God, his time of growing and learning to rest in His strength, and his patience as he waits for his reign to begin. These are not easy years, but they are years of growing in wisdom and faith and he relies heavily on God through every challenge. Then he enjoys years of great success. David becomes king and has many children, especially many sons, he seems victorious on every battlefield, and the people love him as Israel is united under his crown. Finally, he begins to reap the consequences of bad choices and falls prey to an occasional tendency to be a people-pleaser.

This final phase is where we find him today. Conflict in his home and around it, and curses from a member of the house of Saul, his long time adversaries.

Do you remember who Abishai is? He is David’s nephew. Joab, Asahel, and Abishai were David’s nephews and were some of his strongest supporters for many years. This might or might not be accurate historically, but I always picture them having a sweet relationship from David at a young age. It wouldn’t surprise me if David was the fun uncle growing up, the one they always clamored to sit by at family holidays and climbed all over every chance they got. Might be a stretch, but it helps me make sense of their passionate allegiance to him as he becomes king.

So, it was only natural for Abishai to want to go chop off Shimei’s head when he was threatening his beloved uncle, King David. David stops him, distancing himself from these harsh remarks. Abishai has much more to learn from his uncle’s wisdom. David considers that these curses might actually be given out of obedience to God!

I don’t think that has ever been my thinking when I was the object of an attack or criticism — maybe God told them to be mean to me!

Despite the challenges to his reign, David shows his heart is still chasing hard after God and he is still trusting God to fight his battles.

O Lord, how many are my foes!
    Many are rising against me;
many are saying of my soul,
    “There is no salvation for him in God.” Selah

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
    my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the Lord,
    and he answered me from his holy hill.

Psalm 3:1-4 ESV

These were not easy days for David, but he continually cried out to God for strength and protection. Spiritual growth and learning never end. After years of seeing God come to his aid, he again lays it all out to Him in prayer. He chooses to follow. Faithfulness, determination, perseverance. David’s life was not easy, but it was continually surrendered and re-surrendered to His God and King.

Because your steadfast love is better than life,
    my lips will praise you.


for you have been my help,
    and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
    your right hand upholds me.

Psalm 63:3,7-8 ESV

And God was right there. Not even a breath away. Lifting David’s head, satisfying, helping, protecting.

For in it [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Romans 1:7 ESV

David lived by faith, and in doing so he lived out what that should look like for me.

What living by faith is not — seeking man’s praise, experiencing a smooth journey, having no enemies, a one time decision.

What living by faith is — chasing hard after God daily, being genuine in prayer, trusting God when His plan is not evident, letting challenges and accusers push me closer to God, and coming to God for every need, including refreshment when the road is hard.

Lord, help me to keep my heart solely for You. Show me where I might be holding something back from You today. Help me to make each step by faith and trust Your plan when the waters are choppy, when adversaries speak out, when the way seems less clear. Help me to live by faith. In Jesus name, amen.

Erin (6intow)

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