The Shepherd – King Part 2 June 28, 2016

We start today at the first mention of David in the Scriptures.

And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are these all your sons?’ And he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, and behold, he is tending the sheep.’  Then Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send and bring him for we will not sit down until he comes here.  So he sent and brought him in.  Now he was ruddy with beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance.  And the Lord said, ‘Arise, anoint him, for this is he.’

Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.  And Samuel arose and went to Ramah.  I Samuel 16:11-13

Samuelanoints

Three people are named in this passage: Samuel, Jesse and David.

Samuel, the prophet, learned to hear the voice of the Lord as a young child. (I Samuel, chapters 1 through 3)  By chapter 8 of I Samuel, the elders of Israel approach him and ask him to appoint a king over Israel.  As we follow the narrative, it is as if we are eavesdropping on the prophet’s conversations with the Lord.  It’s an amazing interaction.

Hearing the voice of the Lord with such clarity is, in fact, something available to all of us. While the true prophet will hear messages pertaining to the people of God, those of us who are not prophets are nevertheless urged in the scriptures to ‘hear the voice of the Lord’ for our own lives.  As David himself would write years later:

For He is our God and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.  Today if you hear His voice do not harden your hearts as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the wilderness when your fathers tested Me.  Psalm 95:7-8

And in Psalm 85:8:  I will hear what the Lord says to His people, to His godly ones.

Why did David write these exhortations in his psalms? Because he knew the word of the Lord in Deuteronomy:

You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him.  Deut. 13:4

I have been asked many times over the years, ‘How does one hear the voice of the Lord?’  There is ONE way and ONE way only.  Learning to hear the Lord’s voice is the fruit of spending enough time in His presence – consistently.  How do you recognize the voice of your best friend in a crowded room? Or the cry of your child on a playground full of children?  Because you KNOW them well from having spent ample time with them.  The same is true here.  There is NO substitute, my friends, NO shortcut. If we are serious about hearing the voice of the Lord we MUST spend time alone with Him in our quiet place.  If that is not a priority, we fool ourselves if we think we are serious about intimacy with God.

We don’t know much about Jesse, the father of David, but this scene does tell us something important.  When Samuel requested that Jesse bring in his sons, he started with the oldest, the firstborn, the one he expected would be preeminent. He was handsome, intelligent, impressive.  Even the prophet was swayed and thought, ‘Surely this is the Lord’s anointed.’

Even as the Lord quickly rebuked Samuel, he was also rebuking Jesse.  ‘But the Lord said to Samuel, Don’t judge by his appearance or height for I have rejected him.  The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them.  People judge by outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart.’  I Sam. 16:7  A fitting rebuke for us as well!  If outward appearance had won the day, we might never have learned about a shepherd boy who communed with his God in the fields and became the Lord’s friend.

How easy it is to ‘judge’ people by outward appearance or by something we think we know about them.  It is God who sees and knows the heart.  Thank God He does for in truth there are times we don’t even know our own heart, let alone anyone else’s!  We need to ask ourselves: do I make snap judgments about people along the way according to how they look?  Even a holy prophet made that mistake!  It behooves us to take the rebuke to heart.

Meanwhile, as Samuel is successively introduced to Jesse’s seven sons and none of them prove to be the Lord’s chosen one, the teenage David is out in the fields having no idea what’s going on back at his father’s home. It’s just another day as far as David knows; another day like so many days before this one and what he anticipates will be like many more in the future.  When he woke up that morning, he had no idea the direction of his life would be radically changed before the sun went down that night.

Most unexpectedly, he is suddenly called back to the house.  Upon entering he is most likely stunned to see the prophet of Israel in the home of his father.  His brothers are standing around, his father has a curious frown, his eyes fixed on Samuel.  The silence is uncomfortable but only lasts a moment.

So as David stood there among his brothers, Samuel took the flask of olive oil he had brought and anointed David with the oil.  And the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David from that day on. Then Samuel returned to Ramah.  I Sam. 16:13

Put yourself in that room; Did David wonder to himself, ‘What in the world just happened’?  What did Jesse think? What about his brothers?  After all, this was pretty shocking; it came – seemingly – out of nowhere!

The scripture doesn’t elaborate so we don’t know.  It is important however for we who read the account so many hundreds of years later to at least try to understand how monumental that moment was, not just for David, but for everyone in that gathering.

In obedience to God’s voice, Samuel had just identified the future King of Israel.

Jesse had to wrap his head around the astounding revelation that his youngest would one day rule the Land.

The seven brothers, who were all passed over by the prophet, had some serious humbling to deal with.  The ‘boy’ among them (reminiscent of Joseph) was to be elevated above them.

God’s choices are fascinating.  Though he was a lowly shepherd, the least respected occupation in ancient Israel, God had been working in David’s life all along.  Keeping sheep, even as Moses would later tend the sheep of his father-in-law, was amazing preparation for leading people.

He chose David his servant, took him from the sheep pens. From tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of His people, Jacob, of Israel His inheritance.  And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.  Psalm 78:70-72

Keeping a bunch of smelly sheep doesn’t sound very spiritual, yet it was the very skills David developed in that thankless role that God used for His eternal purposes.

What about you?  Have you felt as though what you do is not important? That surely God uses the clever, the educated, the prominent; but me? I’m just a…………………..  Whatever you put into that blank is precisely how God has equipped you to fulfill the purpose for which He created you and placed you on this earth.  You and I may not ever have a true prophet of God call us out to a grand destiny.  In fact, we probably won’t.  However, your ‘mission’ as you walk out your days on this planet is yours alone.  If you don’t accomplish it, no one else will.

Don’t know what it is?  David didn’t either all those months he was caring for his father’s sheep.  But here’s what’s important:

He was faithful in what he was then doing and that faithfulness rose up before God as a sweet smelling aroma.  Your present faithfulness to do the very best at what you are doing RIGHT NOW is the only path to ultimately fulfilling your life’s purpose.  If God has something else for you in the days or years ahead, your faithfulness today will have a direct effect on what comes next in His plan for your life.

Comments? Observations? Questions?  Please respond below.

Til next Tuesday, be blessed and be a blessing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Shepherd-King Part 1 June 21, 2016

Welcome to our new study.

Of all the biblical characters, one of my very favorites is David, the sweet psalmist of Israel, the shepherd who became a King.  His life provides us with enough meditation material for months, even years. The message of that life will accompany us for the rest of our days.

David2

So…let’s begin.

Perhaps the foremost reason to study the life of David is because of his incredibly personal and vibrant relationship with the God of Israel.  To read the book of Psalms is to join in with David’s praise and worship of the Most High.  His declarations of commitment, his abounding gratitude, his exuberant celebration of the One he loves with all his heart move us to follow his example.

But at the same time he was so very human.  We experience his greatness along with his weaknesses and failures as we follow him through the pages of Scripture.  He challenges us to know ourselves as we learn to know him.

Most of all, studying David’s life reminds us why we are on this earth: to develop that selfsame intimate relationship with the Holy One of Israel, to get to know Him, to love Him and to walk in His ways. David shows us what it means to be faithful to God, to find our strength in God when we’re lonely and discouraged.  He teaches us how to repent – as we all must – and how to restore our relationship with the Lord after our failures.

During this bible study we will spend considerable time in I and II Samuel where most of David’s life is recorded.  We’ll also refer to his psalms from time to time as they provide great insight into the inner workings of his soul.  I encourage you to read I Samuel for yourself before next week’s lesson is posted.

But by way of introduction today, I want us to focus on what is perhaps David’s most famous psalm.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.

He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death

I will fear no evil for You are with me. 

Your rod and your staff comfort me.

You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.     Psalm 23

It is read at weddings and at funerals.  It is inscribed on synagogue and church walls.  But what does this psalm say to you?  Is it so familiar that its lost its impact?

Picture a young boy out in the fields beyond Bethlehem, strumming his simple harp and composing this song.  His father’s flocks graze contentedly nearby, the late summer breezes cause the leaves of the trees to dance above his head.  A winding stream flows effortlessly over stones and silt.

The shepherd observes this tranquil setting, then raises his eyes to heaven and begins to sing with only the sheep for an audience.  Or maybe not – are the angels leaning forward to listen as well?

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want… he begins. Entire books have been written on this psalm alone.  For now, let’s focus on the very first verse.

Did you notice that David calls the Lord “my shepherd”?  Not ‘our’, not ‘a’ but ‘my’.  The Lord is MY shepherd and He is YOURS, too.  Perhaps where you live there are not flocks of sheep with shepherds tending them for you to observe.  Here in Israel, they abound. On any day of the week, you can drive past a field with flocks of various sizes being tended by a suntanned shepherd.

And what is that shepherd’s job description?  To guide his flock to good pasture, to defend them from predators, to handle them when they get feisty, to tend to their injuries, to seek them out if they get lost – to take care of them in every aspect of their existence.

The Lord is YOUR Shepherd…and He takes His responsibilities far more seriously than any earthly shepherd ever could.  For while the Bible compares us to sheep, you are not a sheep but a human being created in the image of God.  The big difference between us and sheep is that we are infinitely more prone to depend on ourselves unlike the sheep who follow the Shepherd wherever He leads them. We need to be a little more ‘sheep-ish’!

Perhaps the best thing we can do to prepare our hearts for this bible study on the life of David is to meditate on Psalm 23 during this coming week.  Don’t let familiarity rob you of the profound significance of each verse.  Read it as if for the first time, pausing at the end of every verse to think about it and to take it to heart.

Let Him ‘restore your soul’, remove every fear, comfort you in the midst of whatever is going on in your life at present. Thank Him that surely goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life.

Let Psalm 23 become as much YOUR psalm as it was David’s.

Til next Tuesday, be blessed and be a blessing.

 

 

 

The Longest Chapter – Part 22 June 7, 2016

Wow – we’ve been at this for 22 weeks and now we’ve arrived at the last section of Psalm 119.  Back in December when we started, it seemed like a long project.  Now looking back, it’s hard to believe that six months have passed.  It is my fervent prayer that these weekly meditations have encouraged, inspired and strengthened your faith and your relationship with the Holy One of Israel.

O Lord, listen to my cry; give me the discerning mind You promised.

Listen to my prayer; rescue me as You promised.

Let praise flow from my lips, for You have taught me Your decrees.

Let my tongue sing about Your Word, for all Your commands are right.

Give me a helping hand for I have chosen to follow Your commandments.

O Lord, I have longed for Your rescue, and Your instructions are my delight.

Let me live so I can praise You and may Your regulations help me.

I have wandered away like a lost sheep; come and find me for I have not forgotten Your commandments.

Psalm 119: 169 – 176

David’s love for God’s Word has been the central theme running throughout this entire psalm.  In this closing section, he repeats that love and calls upon the Lord to save him – in reality, to save him from himself.  With humility, he acknowledges freely, ‘I have wandered away like a lost sheep; come and find me…’  Couldn’t we all echo that sentiment?

All of us, the scriptures say in another psalm, have wandered away; all of us from time to time fall off the path of righteousness and need to be restored.  The great King David knew that well and did not pride himself on his kingship, his palace, his achievements.  His joy was in studying and knowing the Word of God.  His desire was to praise God at all times; to sing for joy about God’s Word and His promises.  He danced energetically before the Lord, you may remember, and spent hours in God’s presence, even as king with all the responsibilities that entailed.

We may look around our world today and justifiably be alarmed at the immoral and amoral condition of much of society and think, perhaps, that in such a time as this, who can rejoice?  David knew better.  A careful study of his life shows us that it was no picnic.  He had mortal enemies; he fought vicious battles; he struggled with temptation and even fell into sin.  His was no easy life but through it all, David had this one abiding trait: he praised God with a fervent heart.  As I’ve said before, it is no wonder that God Himself called David ‘a man after my own heart.’

David knew something we all must know.  God’s love is unconditional, unchanging and eternal.  It does not depend on our behavior but on His covenant faithfulness.  Yes, as a faithful Father, He will discipline us when we go astray so that we will learn and come back to intimate fellowship with Him.  David experienced this several times throughout his life and so do we.

In the end, what mattered to King David more than anything else was His personal and intimate relationship with his God.

In the end that is what should matter to us as well.

Power, wealth, status, prestige, achievements – none of those go with us into the next world.  Only – ONLY – our personal relationship with our God and the life we live because of that relationship will follow us into eternity.  Someone has said that the only true way to live a successful life is to understand the brevity of our time on earth and the vastness of the eternal life awaiting us in the world to come.

David

As we come to an end of this particular set of meditations, my prayer for all of us is that our love for God’s Word, our passion to obey Him and live in intimate relationship with Him will rival that of King David so that the Lord can look at you and me and whisper to Himself, ‘There is another man/woman after my own heart.’

Blessings abundant to you and yours.

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NOTE:  There will be no posting next week but I will begin a new series on Tuesday, June 21st.  There is still time for you to let me know if there is a particular book of the Bible or biblical topic that you’d like to know more about.  I am presently considering two or three possibilities and am most open to hearing back from you, my readers.

Thanks so much for being part of our bible study.