God has always desired for His people to be set apart, holy, different from the world around us – so we can manifest His holiness. Instead, we like blending in and hiding out.
1 Samuel 8 & 9
Blending In & Hiding Out
1 Samuel 8 & 9:
Is There Any Difference?
God has always desired for His people to be set apart, holy, different from the world around us – to manifest His holiness.
Matthew 5.16 says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
That light in us is supposed to shine and in so doing bring God glory. Peter reminded us to:
“Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1.16).
As we live in “grace obedience” (understanding that we cannot live holy lives without the help of the Holy Spirit, relying on Him, repenting and calling on His mercy when we fail), we bring Him glory. And that difference, that light, will draw others to Christ.
Jesus said, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself” (Jn. 12.32).
But, like the people of Israel in asking for a king (1 Sam. 8.4), we often prefer to blend in, to be closet Christians, to act much like the world around us. Our children, too, complain that it’s unfair they can’t dress and act like the rest of the world. I wonder if we have failed to instill the importance of their calling in them because we don’t always believe and live it ourselves.
Let’s pray that we would truly let our light so shine before men that they would see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. Let’s pray that when their lives are falling apart, they would see something different in us and be drawn to it. And when they ask, we would “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks [us] a reason for the hope that is in [us]” (1 Pet. 3.15).
David had been betrayed. It wasn’t an enemy who had betrayed him, but someone he considered a close friend. Who among us hasn’t felt that disappointment, hurt, even anger over some betrayal? Yet …
Ephesians 4.26 says, “Be angry, and do not sin,” and verses 31 & 32 say, “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”
Have you been betrayed by a close friend? Most of us have. It hurts when a friend gossips or fails to be there when we need them. What can we learn from David about how to respond? And why does what comes naturally only deepen our pain?
Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, Who ate my bread, Has lifted up his heel against me (v. 9).
Like David, we have, probably, all had a “familiar friend” who has betrayed us. Betrayal hurts. It hurts when someone we trusted gossips about us. It hurts when a friend we counted on turns away when we need her most.
But like David, we can choose how we respond. We should start by turning to God.
David prayed, “But You, O Lord, be merciful to me, and raise me up” (v. 10).
Jesus raised the bar even further. He commanded us:
“… love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven ….” (Matt. 5.44-45).
How we respond when we are wounded whether by a friend or a perceived enemy says a lot about our spiritual maturity.
How do I respond? How do you respond? Are we able to bless those who spitefully use us? Or do we respond in anger and unforgiveness? The latter is easy. It comes naturally. And our sinful hearts will allow us to feel downright justified with anger and bitterness. But look at our Proverbs reading to see why these questions are so important.
Verse 15 says, “Good understanding gains favor, but the way of the unfaithful is hard.”
Yesterday I referred to this verse when I said, “Life gets hard when we decide we can make our own rules.” Responding with sinful anger, bitterness, criticism or gossip seems like the easy way to go. It comes naturally to our sin nature.
On the other hand, responding in a godly way seems hard at first. But as we travel down each of those roads, what seemed easy becomes the hard road as we suffer the consequences of our sin. And what seemed like the difficult choice becomes easier, because God is at work (Matt. 11.28-30, Gal. 6.7-10). See the Y-chart above and my post “Responding to Difficult People” for a more complete explanation of this passage.
Today’s Other Readings:
Joshua 1 & 2:
Be Strong and of Good Courage!
Moses has died and Joshua has just assumed the leadership of God’s people. Some of God’s first instructions to the new leader were “Be strong and of good courage!”—not just once, but repeatedly (vv. 6, 7, 9).
That advice is for us today, as well. Whatever God has called us to do, He’ll give us the wisdom, the strength, and the courage to do as long as we rely on Him.
“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (1.8).
We love the promises of God like “you will have good success,” but so many of God’s promises are conditional. In this passage God lists three conditions:
1) “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth,” 2) “you shall meditate in it day and night,” and 3) “observe to do according to all that is written in it.” “For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”
How much time to you spend reading, studying, and memorizing God’s Word? Do you meditate, think deeply about, its great truths and instructions? Is it in your mouth? Or is your mouth filled with complaining, criticizing and condemning? Are you a doer of the Word or just a hearer?
God is faithful to His promises and there are many kindnesses that God extends His children just because of His mercy and grace. He never treats us as we deserve, but like any good parent He expects us to be growing and becoming more like Christ. That requires faithful, grace-empowered obedience on our part.
Changed or Not?
What a great story about the Gadarene demoniac! The man ran around naked, lived in the tombs and was so violent chains couldn’t hold him. But once he had a genuine encounter with Jesus, he was changed (v. 35)!
Even though we are not saved by our works, genuine salvation will produce good works. Jesus said, “You will know a tree by its fruit” (Lk. 6.43-45). How has your life changed since becoming a believer? Or has it?
You may be religious. You may have attended church all your life. You may believe in God. You may even be a “good” person by the world’s standards.
But religion can’t save you.
And looking “good” on the outside while your heart is far from God will only make you prideful and self-righteous.
The only path to salvation is a relationship with the living God through His Son Jesus Christ. We must believe the Gospel: recognize that we are sinners without any ability to save ourselves, that Jesus is who He said He was, that He lived a sinless life, died on a cross as payment for our sins, rose again and is seated at the right hand of the Father. We must put our trust in what He did on our behalf instead of ourselves and surrender our lives to His lordship.
What about you?
If you’re not sure about your relationship with Him, cry out to Him. Confess your sins, tell Him you believe, and surrender your life to Him. You can do it right now: in your living room, in your office, or anywhere you are.
If you do, seek out a Christian friend or a pastor. Tell them of your decision. Then find a good Bible teaching church and start your new life in Him. Contact me in the comments section below and I’ll be glad to help you or answer any questions.
And if you are a believer, look back at our reading in Joshua and consider the questions I posed there. How much time do you spend reading, studying, and memorizing God’s Word? Do you meditate—think deeply about—its great truths and instructions? Is it in your mouth? Or is your mouth filled with complaining, criticizing and condemning? Are you a doer of the Word or just a hearer?
And what about your response to our reading in Psalm 41? How do you respond when wounded by someone? Do you respond with blessings or do you respond in anger, unforgiveness, and vengeance?
Do a heart check. How has your life changed since becoming a believer? I hope you’ll share your testimony and your struggles.
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“Bible in a Year” posts have been edited and updated from previous posts.
How do you respond to betrayal? Do you play that video tape over and over in your mind, allowing it to burn into your brain, turning to anger, then bitterness? Or do you surrender it to God? Do you view it through the sovereignty of God or simply through your feelings?
And what about wrong roads, have you ever asked yourself, how did I get here? This isn’t where I wanted my life to end up. Or have you ever gotten so focused on straining out gnats in your life (or someone else’s) that you swallowed a camel?
A great famine has brought Joseph’s brothers to Egypt to buy grain. He recognized them immediately, but they have no idea who he is. Remember he was only a youth when they sold him to slave traders. Now he looks like any other Egyptian official.
Joseph has been testing them, perhaps to see if they’ve changed, but he can stand it no longer:
¹Then Joseph could not restrain himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Make everyone go out from me!” So no one stood with him while Joseph made himself known to his brothers. 2 And he wept aloud, and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard it.
3 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph; does my father still live?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in his presence (45.1-3).
What a reunion for Joseph and Benjamin! But I can’t imagine the shock the other ten brothers must have experienced.
14 Then he fell on his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on his neck. 15 Moreover he kissed all his brothers and wept over them, and after that his brothers talked with him (45.14-15).
The most amazing part of this story is what John MacArthur calls “a masterpiece of recognition of and submission to the sovereignty of God” (MacArthur Daily Bible).
4 And Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near to me.” So they came near. Then he said: “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will beneither plowing nor harvesting. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.8 So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt (45.4-8).
Think about it. Fifteen years had passed since that day when his brothers betrayed him. There were ten of them—older and stronger. They had thrown him into a pit. Imagine the terror of overhearing them arguing about whether or not to kill him and what they would tell their father. Later we learned that he pleaded with them, but they wouldn’t hear it (Gen. 45.21). The text says:
“And they sat down to eat a meal. Then they lifted their eyes and looked, and there was a company of Ishmaelites, coming” (Gen. 37.25).
They sat down to have lunch while they debated his fate!
Then there was the long journey to Egypt. Did he hope they might change their minds and come after him? But no rescue. When he arrived in Egypt, was he put on an auction block?
At some point, Joseph must have made a decision to make the most of his circumstances and the Scripture says, “The Lord was with him” (Gen. 39.2). He served his master Potiphar well, rising to the job of chief steward, and was loyal even in the face of temptation. Then he was falsely accused and thrown into prison. Even there he was faithful and ended up being given a position of responsibility.
Even so, imagine the nights spent lying awake and wondering why? Why would his brothers do such a thing? Why would God allow it? When did he surrender it to God? We don’t know, but without a surrender he could not have responded as he did.
What do you do when someone has sinned against you? Do you play that video tape over and over in your mind, allowing it to burn into your brain, turning to anger, then bitterness? Or do you surrender it to God? Continue reading →
Chapter 27 ends with the list of David’s closest advisers. It says in verse 33, “Ahithophel was the king’s counselor, and Hushai the Archite was the king’s companion.” These two men were probably David’s two closest friends, people he trusted and confided in. But sadly, one of them would later betray him. David wrote about it in Psalm 55. Verses 12-14 recall the anguish he felt:
12 For it is not an enemy who reproaches me; Then I could bear it. Nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me; Then I could hide from him. 13 But it was you, a man my equal, My companion and my acquaintance. 14 We took sweet counsel together, And walked to the house of God in the throng.
The psalmists experienced the same struggles and disappointments we do. Perhaps you have experienced some betrayal by a friend or even a spouse. Maybe you’re undergoing some other kind of hurt or rejection. If so, go to the psalms and find comfort from God’s Word, knowing that others have gone through similar things and come out the other side.
While God through His Word can bring us great comfort, His work in us doesn’t stop there. He wants to grow and change us through our trials, even when we are deeply hurt. In the process, He may use us to bring either restoration to the relationship or conviction to the offender. Continue reading →
In this life we’ll be hurt and mistreated, at times, sometimes even by those closest to us. The temptation is to give in and become bitter or vengeful. But our example is Christ who prayed even for His betrayers.
15 He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly,
He who despises the gain of oppressions,
Who gestures with his hands, refusing bribes,
Who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed,
And shuts his eyes from seeing evil.
16 He will dwell on high;
His place of defense will be the fortress of rocks;
Bread will be given him,
His water will be sure.
Even in the midst of God’s judgment, He makes provision for those who remain faithful.
But I couldn’t help noticing the two phrases in verse 15, “who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed” and “and shuts his eyes from seeing evil.” I don’t believe that means we shut our eyes and ears to the reality of evil and the need to know what is going on in our country and our world. But it seems to me it would apply to seeing and hearing those things for entertainment or enjoyment. I think each of us must think about what that means in respect to our movie, TV, and video game industries and even our own habits. Continue reading →
What a reunion for Joseph and Benjamin! But I can’t imagine the shock the other ten brothers must have experienced.
The most amazing part of this story is what John MacArthur calls “a masterpiece of recognition of and submission to the sovereignty of God” (MacArthur Daily Bible). Think about it. Fifteen years had passed since that day when his brothers betrayed him.