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1 Samuel 25; 1 Chronicles 7; Acts 17

Nabal enjoyed the protection and integrity of David’s troops, but when the opportunity arose to reciprocate, he refused. He enjoyed the bounty in a celebratory time to the exclusion of an army. Nabal was a consumer–driven by greed and selfishness.

36 When Abigail arrived home, she found that Nabal was throwing a big party and was celebrating like a king. He was very drunk, so she didn’t tell him anything about her meeting with David until dawn the next day. (1 Samuel 25:36, NLT)

First Chronicles lists the lineages, and many were considered to be warriors, but two were killed by their own thievery:

The descendants of Ephraim were Shuthelah, Bered, Tahath, Eleadah, Tahath, 21 Zabad, Shuthelah, Ezer, and Elead. These two were killed trying to steal livestock from the local farmers near Gath. 22 Their father, Ephraim, mourned for them a long time, and his relatives came to comfort him. (1 Chronicles 7:20-22, NLT)

Paul and Silas travel to different areas to spread the word, and time after time they are met with troublemakers. Descriptive words and phrases I noted, “jealous; attacking; stirring up trouble; laughed in contempt.”

Nabal is singly named. Ezer and Elead act in unison. And the troublemakers are referred to as a mob or group–a general force at work.

Abigail is also singly named–Nabal’s wife who rushes to undo the damage her husband caused by his attitude. And in a lineage, many are grouped as warriors. Even in Acts, there are those who are considered open minded, seeking, and eager to listen. Some are singled out:

32 When they heard Paul speak about the resurrection of the dead, some laughed in contempt, but others said, “We want to hear more about this later.” 33 That ended Paul’s discussion with them, 34 but some joined him and became believers. Among them were Dionysius, a member of the council, a woman named Damaris, and others with them. (Acts 17:32-34, NLT)

Attitudes and actions.

My own attitudes and actions tell the story of my life. Lord, whether alone or in a group, help me to choose what is right. Only you know the whole of my deepest thoughts.

Courtney (66books365)

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1 Samuel 17; 1 Chronicles 2; Acts 12

Israel faces off against the Philistines in war. The stakes: freedom.

 Goliath stood and shouted a taunt across to the Israelites. “Why are you all coming out to fight?” he called. “I am the Philistine champion, but you are only the servants of Saul. Choose one man to come down here and fight me! If he kills me, then we will be your slaves. But if I kill him, you will be our slaves! 10 I defy the armies of Israel today! Send me a man who will fight me!” 11 When Saul and the Israelites heard this, they were terrified and deeply shaken. (1 Samuel 17:8-11, NLT)

On the scene, David notices the offense and speaks out.

David asked the soldiers standing nearby, “What will a man get for killing this Philistine and ending his defiance of Israel? Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26, NLT)

He’s speaking to other soldiers, and they answer him–marriage into the king’s family, exemption from taxes … but this comment steals in and takes aim at the heart.

28 But when David’s oldest brother, Eliab, heard David talking to the men, he was angry. “What are you doing around here anyway?” he demanded. “What about those few sheep you’re supposed to be taking care of? I know about your pride and deceit. You just want to see the battle!” (1 Samuel 17:28, NLT, emphasis added.)

I’m staring into the face of everyone who has ever shut me down, criticized me, mocked my life, skills, ambitions. A brother belittles, condemns, accuses. When I think of all the things David was up against in his lifetime, the first cut comes from his family. And it wasn’t an isolated case.

29 “What have I done now?” David replied. “I was only asking a question!” (1 Samuel 17:29, NLT)

Everyone remembers David’s fight against Goliath, but David had been fighting his whole life.

32 “Don’t worry about this Philistine,” David told Saul. “I’ll go fight him!”

33 “Don’t be ridiculous!” Saul replied. “There’s no way you can fight this Philistine and possibly win! You’re only a boy, and he’s been a man of war since his youth.”

34 But David persisted. “I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats,” he said. “When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, 35 I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death. 36 I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God! 37 The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!”

Saul finally consented. “All right, go ahead,” he said. “And may the Lord be with you!” (1 Samuel 17:32-37, NLT)

A brother undercuts. Saul reluctantly relents. Soon, even Goliath will laugh like David is a joke. But I sit with this: God knew David. God saw David’s heart. David knew himself–reminded himself of what he was able to do. And David knew God and what God was able to do.

David didn’t wear the king’s armor into his battle because it wasn’t made for him and didn’t fit. He went in with the skills he had and the weapons he knew, weapons that would have failed any soldier in the army who had been trained to fight with swords. He stepped up with unshakeable confidence in God. No. He didn’t just step up. He ran to meet the challenge.

45 David replied to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head. And then I will give the dead bodies of your men to the birds and wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel! 47 And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us!”

48 As Goliath moved closer to attack, David quickly ran out to meet him. 49 Reaching into his shepherd’s bag and taking out a stone, he hurled it with his sling and hit the Philistine in the forehead. The stone sank in, and Goliath stumbled and fell face down on the ground.

50 So David triumphed over the Philistine with only a sling and a stone, for he had no sword. 51 Then David ran over and pulled Goliath’s sword from its sheath. David used it to kill him and cut off his head. (1 Samuel 17:45-51, NLT, emphasis added.)

Father God, thank you for loving me. Thank you for reminding me who I am in you. Thank you for the reminder to do what I can with what I have, and that yours is the only opinion that matters. The glory is yours.

Courtney (66books365)

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1 Samuel 6-8; Acts 7

A great responsibility comes with choice. And I wonder how many people consider the cumulative or immediate consequences of a choice–from decisions over meals, activity, deadlines, to the influence of entertainment, relationships, culture.

Today, I read of Samuel plainly speaking, warning of the results of a choice:

10 So Samuel passed on the Lord’s warning to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 “This is how a king will reign over you,” Samuel said. “The king will draft your sons and assign them to his chariots and his charioteers, making them run before his chariots. 12 Some will be generals and captains in his army, some will be forced to plow in his fields and harvest his crops, and some will make his weapons and chariot equipment. 13 The king will take your daughters from you and force them to cook and bake and make perfumes for him. 14 He will take away the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his own officials. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and your grape harvest and distribute it among his officers and attendants. 16 He will take your male and female slaves and demand the finest of your cattle and donkeys for his own use. 17 He will demand a tenth of your flocks, and you will be his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will beg for relief from this king you are demanding, but then the Lord will not help you.”

19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel’s warning. “Even so, we still want a king,” they said. 20 “We want to be like the nations around us. Our king will judge us and lead us into battle.”

21 So Samuel repeated to the Lord what the people had said, 22 and the Lord replied, “Do as they say, and give them a king.” Then Samuel agreed and sent the people home. (1 Samuel 8:10-22, NLT, emphasis added)

Even though Samuel warned what it meant to have a king rule over them, the people wanted to be like everyone else; and they wanted one man to judge them and lead them. Those were the defining arguing points they made, over everything else they’d perhaps forfeit. And God said to let them have it.

I think long on freedom and choice, grateful and reverent of it.

As I read through Stephen’s recounting of history, two things stand out: man’s choice and God’s presence. Stephen reminds of God’s leading and man’s response, sometimes obedient and sometimes not.

51 “You stubborn people! You are heathen at heart and deaf to the truth. Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? That’s what your ancestors did, and so do you! 52 Name one prophet your ancestors didn’t persecute! They even killed the ones who predicted the coming of the Righteous One—the Messiah whom you betrayed and murdered. 53 You deliberately disobeyed God’s law, even though you received it from the hands of angels.”

54 The Jewish leaders were infuriated by Stephen’s accusation, and they shook their fists at him in rage

57 Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. They rushed at him 58 and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. His accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul. (Acts 7:51-54, 57-58, NLT, emphasis added)

I wonder, Lord, does choice always come down to choosing or rejecting you? From what I eat for lunch, what I listen to, how I handle conflict, what I say between friends–where do I put you in all of this, even these seeming inconsequential things? And what of mercy, compassion, forgiveness?

Father God, thank you for choice and freedom. These are perhaps the most powerful permissions you have given mankind. Help me to be aware of my heart in the choices I make. I want to choose you. I want to follow you. Stephen’s last words were for mercy for his attackers. Lord, help me to keep your kingdom as my focus.

Courtney (66books365)

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Judges 19-21; Acts 2

Recently a friend and I sat in somber reflection at the power of influence. Influence can be an unintentional bump, a gentle nudge, or a fierce force sending one in a direction or on a path, for better or worse. And when influence gathers a following, it is its own entity.

There’s a sense of foreboding when a couple rests at the town square.

18 “We have been in Bethlehem in Judah,” the man replied. “We are on our way to a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim, which is my home. I traveled to Bethlehem, and now I’m returning home. But no one has taken us in for the night, 19 even though we have everything we need. We have straw and feed for our donkeys and plenty of bread and wine for ourselves.”

20 “You are welcome to stay with me,” the old man said. “I will give you anything you might need. But whatever you do, don’t spend the night in the square.” (Judges 19:18-20, NLT)

While they were dining as guests in the old man’s house …

22 While they were enjoying themselves, a crowd of troublemakers from the town surrounded the house. They began beating at the door and shouting to the old man, “Bring out the man who is staying with you so we can have sex with him.” (Judges 19:22, NLT)

I pause at this crowd. Would one man have acted this way on his own? To be so bold as to make demands and intimidate? Would two men have done this? But one’s idea catches fire to a crowd, and they arrive at this place and collectively terrorize a victim–the concubine.

27 When her husband opened the door to leave, there lay his concubine with her hands on the threshold. 28 He said, “Get up! Let’s go!” But there was no answer. So he put her body on his donkey and took her home.

29 When he got home, he took a knife and cut his concubine’s body into twelve pieces. Then he sent one piece to each tribe throughout all the territory of Israel.

30 Everyone who saw it said, “Such a horrible crime has not been committed in all the time since Israel left Egypt. Think about it! What are we going to do? Who’s going to speak up?” (Judges 19:27-30, NLT)

Not succumbing to poor influences is a starting point, and it may keep one out of the mix. But this seizes me: everyone who saw it (admitted it was a horrible crime, recognized it for the abuse it was, was aware of the oppressive force) … who’s going to speak up?

I can take those words and apply them today to any number of things: from bullying, domestic issues, and social ostracizing to violence, injustice, or oppression.

I contrast this with the fire of the Holy Spirit that comes upon the group in Acts 2. A group is witness to the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit, and still, they write it off to something they can understand instead of seeing it for divine truth in action.

13 But others in the crowd ridiculed them, saying, “They’re just drunk, that’s all!” (Acts 2:13, NLT)

Another crowd. Ridicule. But there are some who see the truth, and their hearts are pierced.

37 Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”

38 Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” 40 Then Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all his listeners, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!” (Acts 2:37-40, NLT)

Father God, the Holy Spirit is a gift, a promise. Help me to heed your counsel. Whether one-to-one or in a group, please give me wisdom and courage to do what is right and honor you.

Courtney (66books365)

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Joshua 9-13; Luke 16

I imagine the energy, the confidence, the awe of Old Testament days–from walking with God in the garden, to experiencing God’s might through the plagues, to walking through parted waters. I imagine the rush of knowing that if God said he’d deliver, he would do it–a soaring hope, a battle cry. How could one doubt God’s majesty in the midst of all that?

I think of the disciples and wonder how it must have felt to walk with Jesus. The miracles they saw. The lessons they learned. The healing they witnessed. Wouldn’t that have been so convincing–and for many it was.

Jesus speaks:

27 “Then the rich man said, ‘Please, Father Abraham, at least send him to my father’s home. 28 For I have five brothers, and I want him to warn them so they don’t end up in this place of torment.’

29 “But Abraham said, ‘Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.’

30 “The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will repent of their sins and turn to God.’

31 “But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’” (Luke 16:27-31, NLT)

I’m reading through a roundabout recommendation Disappointment With God by Philip Yancey that has completely flipped my perspective, just halfway through.

Today, I mentally stand on a battlefield watching Joshua and the Israelites in Joshua 9-13, and great emotion wells within me. God was with them.

I read through Luke 16 and Jesus’s story of the rich man and Lazarus–Jesus, God with them.

It’s easy to think that faith would be firm and resolute if one had witnessed Old Testament presence or New Testament flesh. But I have at my disposal the very word of God. I read those words of a long-ago time. I am comforted by the Lord. I am surprised by the Lord. I am reminded of his very real presence. I hold tightly to truth.

14 So the Israelites examined their food, but they did not consult the Lord. (Joshua 9:14, NLT)

Lord, when the world displays its evidence before me, may I consult you first and always.

Courtney (66books365)

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