God makes a Promise to David / Save Yourself from this Corrupt Generation: June 5th 2021

2 Samuel 7:1-8:18

David often reflected on his life and circumstances. He was now settled in his palace and he had been given rest from his enemies but he still couldn’t relax about the ark of the Covenant (2 Sam.7:2).

God spoke to Nathan the prophet. God had taken David from shepherding a flock of sheep to be ruler over his people, Israel. God promised to make David’s name great (2 Sam.7:9). The nation of Israel would have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. The Lord said that David’s offspring would be the one to build a house for the ark of the Covenant (2 Sam.7:13). David’s house, kingdom and throne would be established for ever, eventually via Jesus (2 Sam.7:16).

David prayed to God and marvelled at how well God treated him: ‘Is this your usual way of dealing with man, O Sovereign Lord? (2 Sam.7:19). There is no God like him and, at the time, no chosen people like Israel (2 Sam.7:23-24). David knew that God was trustworthy and had promised him good things (2 Sam.7:29).

David called himself God’s servant, yet was promised wonderful things for both him and his descendants. As baptized Christians, we are no longer servants; we are God’s adopted children, co-heirs with Christ. How much more will he give his children if we are people, like David, after his own heart.

David’s prayer is a great model for us to follow. He praised God for his greatness and for the awesome wonders he had performed to rescue the Israelites from Egypt. He reminded him that he had become the God of Israel. He asked God to keep his promises so that his name would be great (hallowed) for ever and, only then, dared to ask God to bless him and his family. Then, he proclaimed faithfully that his prayer had been instantly answered.

This shows that we shouldn’t just start our prayers with saying what we want. There should be praise, a reminder of God’s wonders and a reminder of his promises in scripture first.

David enjoyed great success in battle defeating the Philistines, the Arameans, the Edomites and the Moabites. He brutally reduced the numbers of Moabites by two-thirds and the survivors became subject to him. He collected plunder from his wars: chariots, silver, bronze and gold shields. King David dedicated these articles to the Lord (2 Sam. 8:11). The Lord gave David victory wherever he went and he ruled his people justly. It was a great start to his reign. If only he had kept on like this without soon succumbing to serious sin.

Acts 2:22-47

Peter continued to dynamically preach to the crowd now that he had been fired up by the Holy Spirit. Peter explained that God had confirmed Jesus was his son through miracles, wonders and signs.

It was God’s plan that Jesus should be handed over and nailed to the cross. God raised him from the dead ‘because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him’ (Acts 2:23-24). Jesus is always with us and so we should not be shaken. Even when we mourn with those who mourn and weep with those who weep, our hearts are always glad and our tongues are always ready to rejoice because he will not abandon us to the grave (Acts 2:26-27).

King David was a prophet and knew that God would place one of his descendants, Jesus, on the throne forever. David had prophesied that Jesus would not be allowed to see decay. Jesus makes known to us the paths of life and fills us with joy in his presence (Acts 2:28).

Peter told the assembled crowd that the apostles were witnesses to the fact that God raised Jesus from the dead. They were honest people and they had nothing to gain from misleading people. They would suffer horrible deaths holding to the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection. We should never reject their eye-witness accounts due to our own pride, stubbornness or being misled by the evil spirit of unbelief, that is so prevalent in the world right now.

All Israel needs to be assured that God had made Jesus, who they had crucified, both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36).

The people were ‘cut to the heart‘ when they realised their crime and asked what they should do. Jesus died because of our past, present and future sins. Our own personal sins carried out today made it necessary for Jesus to die.

Peter told them the remedy for their guilt. They should ‘repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins’. At our baptism, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Peter was adamant that this would happen not only to the crowd who were present, but also to their children and all those who God would call in the future (Acts 2:38-39).

Adults who repent and are baptized today save themselves from this current corrupt generation through choosing to accept God’s priceless and timeless gifts.

Three thousand new believers were added that day and they lived in unselfish fellowship, with glad and sincere hearts, sharing everything in common and giving to anyone who had need. Many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. There was an atmosphere of awe and praise. They devoted themselves to learning more about God, breaking bread with each other and praying. The believers had glad and sincere hearts. Their new lifestyle was a remarkable contrast to those around them and its joy and exuberance attracted new people each day.

The new believers enjoyed the favour of all people, which is very different to how the church is generally perceived these days. Jewish law and society had given people a baseline of morality and Christianity enhanced this. These days, many people aren’t brought up under a religious code and so they build their lives with no moral foundation. People pick and chose their own morality and modern Christianity with eternal values clashes with a ‘I can do whatever I like as long as it doesn’t hurt someone’ attitude. However, no sin is ever private. God sees whatever we do, wherever we do it. Society rises and falls together based on everyone’s collective actions.

The early church seems idyllic but would soon face persecution. Persecution scattered the new Christian church but God brings good out of every crisis. Scattering led to the growth of the church and the gospel being spread to all known nations.

Proverbs 14:5-14

We should always be truthful witnesses (Prov.14:5). The apostles were truthful witnesses to the death and resurrection of Jesus while their persecutors poured out lies.

Mocking people don’t recognise wisdom even when it is right in front of them. When discerning people reflect on the word of God, knowledge comes easily.

I know rebellious people who have decided in their hearts that there is no God. Yet, I sometimes read their posts on Facebook. The Bible says that I should not bother (Prov.14:7).

As prudent people, we should honestly appraise our lives and the decisions we make and quickly apologise to God for the sins we have committed, making amends to anyone we have hurt. We should have goodwill towards all people. Foolish people deceive themselves that they don’t need to say sorry to a higher power and that they are ‘good people’ relative to some others.

Rebellious people are swayed by today’s society to do things that are lawful but contrary to the intentions of God (Prov.14:12).

When we die, we will be rewarded by God for the good we have done in this life. He will reveal to us what his plans were for us (he prepared good works in advance for us to do) and how much we achieved in relation to them. This could be a very sobering conversation and most of us will rely on the blood of Christ to cover our enormous shortfalls (Prov.14:14).

If we live an upright life, we will flourish both in this life and in our life everlasting (Prov.14:11).

Image: Saint Peter at Pentecost. Public Domain.

Saul and the Witch of Endor / Jesus is Flogged and Crucified: May 30th 2021

1 Samuel 26:1-28:25

Saul started chasing David around the countryside again. Saul could not resist the temptation to try to kill David just as we can return to the same habitual sins if we don’t ask the Holy Spirit to lead us and strengthen us.

David and one of his brave soldiers, Abishai, crept into Saul’s camp at night, while everyone was sleeping and took Saul’s spear and the water jug that was near his head. David was protected on this mission ‘because the Lord had put them all into a deep sleep’ (1 Samuel 26:12). David steadfastly refused to kill a king, who had been appointed by God.

David shouted to Saul and his men from a wide distance away and asked Saul why he was pursuing him again. Saul admitted he had sinned again and blessed David.

David wisely escaped to the land of the Philistines as Saul clearly could not be trusted. David and his men would go on raiding parties from there to acquire livestock and other goods. He ruthlessly exterminated all the men and women in the areas he raided for fear they might inform on him. It was a horrendously blood-thirsty time to live. It would have been nice to read that David granted people mercy but the sheer horror of some sections of the Bible demonstrates its truth. All the unpleasant bits that might make us question the morals of some of the main characters have been left in. However, God really didn’t like the Amalekites and, in his wrath, wanted them all dead. God had completely turned away from Saul for sparing just a single Amalekite, the king. Presumably, they were impenitent child-sacrificing monsters worshipping evil demonic entities and had broken so many of God’s laws they could not be redeemed in this Covenant. God needed them to die so that Jesus could come to preach to them in hell after his crucifixion.

The Philistine king, Achish, trusted David because he thought that the Israelites hated him so much that he would be his servant for ever. He even made David his bodyguard when the Philistines were preparing to fight against Israel.

Saul had previously followed God’s law (Exodus 22:18) and ‘expelled all the mediums and spiritists from the land’ (1 Samuel 28:3). However, he was now terrified of the Philistine invasion and none of the approved methods of communicating with God were working (1 Sam. 28:6). God had withdrawn the Holy Spirit from Saul and was allowing him to be plagued by an evil spirit. The primary occupation of an evil spirit is to tempt people and Saul was now tempted to consult a medium. It is a fundamental breach of God’s law to consult practitioners of the occult. If we do this, demons gain a legal right to oppress and even possess us and it may take a person with a very high level of spiritual authority and / or faith to deliver us from them. Dabbling in the occult attracts the big-hitting Biblical demons with personal names and they don’t usually travel alone.

The medium that Saul consulted brought up the recently deceased spirit of the prophet Samuel. Samuel was not happy at being disturbed. He reminded Saul that God had turned away from him and become his enemy. The Lord had torn the kingdom from his hands and given it to David. Samuel prophesied the loss of Israel to the Philistines and Saul’s own death (1 Samuel 28:19).

The witch made Saul eat something before he left. He had fallen full length on the ground in fear and his strength had gone. She was probably worried he might never leave and change his mind about not killing her. She slaughtered her fattened calf and baked bread for him and his men. He was an honoured guest in her house and part of her occult club now that she had conducted a séance for him. She only had to worry about him until the next day according to Samuel’s proclamation of his impending demise.

John 19:1-27

Pilate had Jesus flogged. I only realised the full horror of this experience when I watched ‘The Passion of the Christ’. This event is of particularly significance in Pentecostal belief because it is preached that all of our illnesses became embedded into the bloody grooves that were scourged into our Saviour’s back: Isaiah 53:5. See also, 1 Peter 2:24 which the NIV Bible translates as ‘by his wounds you have been healed‘, which sounds like the wounds of crucifixion, but other Bibles proclaim: ‘by whose stripes you were healed’ (NKJV). We can boldly pray for healing by virtue of Jesus’ taking all our our infirmities and diseases into the stripes / bloody thumps / grooves on his back. Jesus not only conquered death, but by being scourged he also conquered sickness and infirmity.

Pilate desperately tried to set Jesus free but the hostile crowd gave him no room for manoeuvre. He finally gave into their demands. He should have stood up for justice and released Jesus no matter what the consequences. He was a weak judge. These days, many biased people bay for blood to forward their own political agendas. We are so fortunate if we live in a land with a relatively impartial and just legal system, with a right to appeal our sentences. We must pray for our lawyers and judges that they are not tempted to deny justice to the innocent.

Jesus was crucified at the place of the skull, Golgotha. Jesus’ cross, according to legend, was right on top of where Adam’s skeleton (and skull) was buried. The blood and water from Jesus’ side would fall down onto the ground and soak Adam’s dry bones. When Jesus died, he descended down into hell on the most audacious rescue mission ever to rescue his old friends and ancestors, Adam and Eve, and lead them to heaven. Jesus had walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the evening in the Garden of Eden. They were his friends and he had promised them, when they were expelled from Eden, that he would make things right. Jesus rescued them as both their creator and their descendant.

The sign on Jesus’ cross proclaiming him as ‘King of the Jews’ was written in the three different Biblical languages. Up to September 2020, the full Bible has been translated into 704 languages and the New Testament translated into another 1,551 languages. New ones are being added all the time. My wife’s Godfather has recently finished translating the original Hebrew Bible into Cornish. When we are given the supernatural gift of speaking in tongues, we might start speaking in an earthly or a heavenly language. People can be given the supernatural gift of understanding what we are saying or they might recognise their native language. Some people have English as their supernatural language – despite never having been taught any it.

John 19:25 mentions Jesus’ ‘mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas’ standing near the cross. Saint Jerome (347-420), argued that the so-called brothers of Jesus (James, Simon, Jude and Joses or Joseph) were children of Mary of Clopas making them first cousins of Jesus. I prefer the Eastern church’s tradition that the ‘brothers of Jesus’ were older sons of the widower Joseph from his deceased first wife. Either way, Mary, mother of Jesus, never had any other children as her vocation since birth was to be a temple virgin. Joseph, her elderly husband, was her strong, silent protector.

Even though Jesus was being crucified, he still cared for others. He ensured that his mother, Mary, would always be looked after by John – the disciple whom he loved (John 19:26-27). Mary, as the mother of God, is mother to all of us in the church. She is still our number one intercessor with privileged access to her son and our saviour. Praying to Mary is the same as asking your Pastor / Priest to pray for you but usually far more effective. Jesus remains the one mediator between human and God bridging the gulf between heaven and earth and opening up heaven for the righteous but both the living and the dead can pray for us. No-one is ever dead in God’s eyes, we are all living to him (Luke 20:38). The saints are twiddling their heavenly thumbs waiting for us to call for help. Demons are terrified of Mary as her prayers are so effective. She often intervenes in exorcisms to wrestle people from Satan’s grasp. It is the tragedy of the fractured and splintered church that so many people do not know they can request her powerful prayers.

Psalm 68:21-27

We should loudly praise God in all of our congregations (Psalm 68:26).

Sin and the devil are the enemies of us all. Jesus wiped out punishment for our sins by his death on the cross. He became incarnate to destroy the works of the devil. By her prayers, his mother Mary crushes the heads of the devil and the demons under her heel.

God will always be triumphant.

Image: Salvator Rosa, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

David Escapes from Saul / Jesus Prays for all Believers: May 27th 2021

1 Samuel 19:1-20:42

‘(King) Saul told his son Jonathan and all his attendants to kill David’ (1 Samuel 19:1). However, Jonathan was very fond of David and advised him to go into hiding while he pleaded his case. David had risked his life fighting Goliath to save Israel. He was a national hero and did not deserve to be persecuted. Saul listened to the intercession of his son and promised not to put David to death (1 Sam19:6).

David was reconciled to Saul. David successfully fought the Philistines again but before long Saul tried to kill him again, when an evil spirit ‘came upon Saul as he was sitting in his house with his spear in his hand’ (1 Sam 19:9). It isn’t wise to have weapons in the house. If people are being oppressed by evil spirits and they can easily get their hands on a lethal weapon, terrible events can occur.

David fled to the prophet Samuel and told him the king was trying to kill him. Whenever Saul’s men approached their location, the Spirit of God came upon them and they prophesied. This happened to Saul himself when he travelled there. Even though Saul’s thoughts were on murder, the Spirit temporarily gave him a supernatural gift of prophesy.

David went to his friend Jonathan and asked why Saul was trying to assassinate him again. Jonathan endeavoured to find out at the New Moon Festival. However, Saul guessed that Jonathan was working with David and tried to spear him too. Jonathan sent a pre-arranged signal to David by firing arrows to confirm that his life was definitely in danger. Jonathan and David met up, said goodbye and wept together. They had sworn friendship between them and their descendants forever.

David left. He was a wanted man. He had friends in high places, Jonathan and Saul’s daughter, but the king wanted him dead. However, God was on his side and so these stressful trials would refine him and make him stronger. We can sometimes face persecution even though we are loyal and innocent. God has great plans for us. He will develop our character so that we can achieve great glory for God in the future.

John 17:6-26

As Christians, we are a different species from other humans. We have been pulled out from the world by Jesus. Everyone, believers and non-believers belong to God. He can do with us what he wants. However, believing Christians have been taken out of the world and given to Jesus. He now owns us and wants us to be with him for eternity (John 17:24).

The words that Jesus spoke came from God the Father. We believe for certain that God sent Jesus.

Jesus prayed for us that we will be protected from the evil one. Jesus knew that the devil could even attack the people closest to him. Judas was the one doomed to destruction ‘so that scripture would be fulfilled’ (John 17:12).

We are made holy (sanctified) by the word of God, which is truth. Through our baptism, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth sets up home within us.

We need to have close friends from all different denominations and work together on projects / evangelisation. All churches need to be warm and welcoming and ready to learn from and love each other. I love to attend churches of all different denominations and go weekly to both a Catholic and a Pentecostal church. If you are a Protestant, make sure you regularly go to a Catholic church and vice versa. Jesus wants all Christians to be together as one, in complete unity (John 17:23).

God loved Jesus, his son, before the creation of the world. Jesus spreads the love that the Father has for him into us. Jesus himself lives within us by the Holy Spirit (John 17:26).

Let us unite to spread his full measure of joy to the whole world.

Psalm 68:7-14

When God marches out before his people the earth shook and the heavens poured with rain (Psalm 68:7-8).

God is so generous that his bounteous world can provide for the poor. We just need to rein in our greed and selfishness in order to share our resources.

We are in a great company of billions of other Christians when we proclaim the world. Pagan kings and armies have fled in haste before the truth of God’s word.

The Holy Spirit shines within us, even while we are sleeping. He watches over us, protects us and prays for us.

Image: Public Domain https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_(1_Samuel)

David and Goliath / The Work of the Holy Spirit: May 26th 2021

1 Samuel 17:38-18:30

David tried on Saul’s tunic and armour but they were too cumbersome. He couldn’t move around freely because he wasn’t used to them. When we start a ministry we can’t let other people lay their burdens and expectations on us to weigh us down. We can’t impersonate others – we need to do what authentically suits our individual minds and bodies. People respond to truth and integrity.

David went to attack Goliath in his normal light-weight tunic, with his shepherd’s bag and his sling. Goliath despised him on sight and was insulted that such a young man had been sent to challenge him. Goliath cursed David by his Pagan gods but David came against him: ‘in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied’ (v.45). David had total faith that ‘the Lord will hand you over to me’ (v.46) and that the whole Philistine army would be defeated so that everyone would know there is God in Israel.

David killed Goliath with a perfect shot from his sling and then chopped off Goliath’s head with his own sword. The Bible doesn’t say whether Goliath even got a chance to throw his enormous javelin at David. If David had tried to fight Goliath with just a sword, he would have been easily defeated. However, servants of God have superior weapons and we can defeat evil at a distance. Exorcists had successfully deliver people via a telephone conversation. David had a slingshot – basically a forerunner of a rifle – and had honed his skill with it over many years under the guidance of God. When we are fighting evil these days, we can put on the full spiritual armour of God to be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Our sword is ‘the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God’ (Ephesians 6:10-17).

After Goliath was dead, the Israelites were able to chase and slaughter the Philistines and plunder their camp. David brought the head of Goliath to Saul.

Saul’s son, Jonathan, ‘became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself’ (18:1). There was mutual love between Jonathan and David. When Jonathan eventually died in battle (1 Samuel 1:26), David grieved for his dear friend: ‘Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women’. One reason it was more wonderful than that of women was that David and Jonathan’s relationship was pure celibate, friendship love (know as ‘philia’) rather than romantic love (known as ‘eros’). Pure friendship is extremely rare in the modern world. Men, in particular, can sometimes just have acquaintances based on shared experiences such as school or college or from mutual interests such as sport, drinking or hobbies. Many men have never had a lasting spirit bond with another male. Jesus will always love us whatever we do but, if we obey his commands, we will not be his servants, we will be his friends (15:14).

In contrast to friendship, a romantic / sexual love complicates relationships and David got into terrible trouble with God over his adulterous (eros) affair with Bathsheba. When we have sex with someone our soul gets supernaturally tied to theirs (a ‘soul-tie’) and anything that affects one of the pair spiritually can get transferred over to the other party. This is why you should never have sex with someone tied up with the occult. Their soul is likely to get ensnared by demonic forces which can transfer over to you. Soul ties are broken by prayer and people should always pray to break all soul-ties with others before they get married.

David and Jonathan were one in spirit and in love, yet they were purely friends. The most pure kind of love is to ‘love another as we love ourselves’. Sex does not have to go with love, which is a very difficult concept for modern society to live with. We can love people of either sex and never dream of having sex with them – we just have to live in the Spirit and pray to maintain a natural state of chaste friendship. Jesus never had sex with anyone, yet he loved us all so much he laid down his life for both men and women while we were still sinners. He loves us with unconditional selfless love (know as ‘agape’). If we live in union with the Holy Spirit and allow the Spirit to pray through us, he will show us the truth and lead us into a natural and pure way of life.

David was so successful in all his military missions that Saul gave him a high rank in the army (18:5). However, the Israelites started to revere David more than Saul. This made Saul jealous and he hurled a spear at David twice (v.11). Saul sent him on dangerous missions expecting the Philistines to kill David but, in everything he did, David had great success. He was seemingly invincible. Saul tried to give his older daughter to David in marriage but David was too humble to accept. Saul tried again with his daughter, Michal, and David was then happy to comply with Saul’s risky challenge to provide a hundred Philistine foreskins as a price for the bride. David and his men daringly killed two hundred Philistines so that he might become the king’s son-in-law (v.27). David had a great work ethic, even when it came to gruesome tasks. He was a formidable foe.

Saul became even more jealous when both the Lord and his own daughter loved David. He feared David’s popularity and became David’s enemy. However, this loathing was totally one-sided. David had no intention of seizing Saul’s crown and was a loyal subject. He was an asset, not a threat. Similarly, the Chief Priests and Pharisees envied Jesus, even though he was no threat to them. The Lord was with Jesus and people he helped loved him. The Pharisees should have embraced Jesus and celebrated his miracles rather than plot his death to assuage their own fear, jealousy and envy.

John 16:4-17:5

It was for our own good that Jesus died and returned to the Father. He was then able to send the Holy Spirit, the Counsellor and Comforter, to reside in each one of us. Jesus, as an incarnate man, could only be in one place at one time. The Holy Spirit is omnipresent and can fill the hearts of each of the seven billion inhabitants of the earth – if they believe. The Holy Spirit points out to us that unbelief is sin. When we believe, he activates his gifts in our heart. None of us can earn our righteousness through good deeds. We could never get to heaven by our own efforts. We are only made right with the Father through the sacrifice of Jesus’ precious blood. The devil and all his demons are condemned forever. God cannot stop loving any of his creatures but the demons knew God existed, they had full knowledge and yet still chose to rebel and so they can never be reconciled to their creator. They freely chose separation for eternity.

The Holy Spirit guides us into all truth. He will guide us into making the right decisions. We will feel unsettled internally when we are considering making an unwise decision. Jesus had much more to say to us, more than the disciples could bear (v.12). This is why we should not just rely on the Bible but also pay attention to the truths that the Holy Spirit has revealed to the saints over the last two thousand years.

No-one can take away our joy at the resurrection of our Lord. The Secular world might try to lessen Easter by making it about chocolate, chicks and rabbits but true Christians know the wonder of the risen Lord. Our Good Friday grief was turned into everlasting Easter Sunday joy.

God will give us anything we ask in Jesus’ name. There is immense power in the name of Jesus. Jesus overcame the world so that we might have inner peace no matter what issues we may be facing. Praying in Tongues to God through the Holy Spirit when we feel stressed is a gift from God that restores our inner calm and builds up our strength and defences. The Holy Spirit facilitates our intimate relationship with God our loving Father.

God, the Father, was always with Jesus until Jesus was dying on the cross. Jesus took on all our sins and became sin: ‘My God, my God, what have you forsaken me?’ (Mark 15: 34). God cannot look upon sin and so he had to turn his back on his son as he died, bearing all our past, present and future sins.

God showed his glory through Jesus’ life, miracles, death and resurrection. All we have is his and we should use all our talents and resources for the glory of his name.

Psalm 68:1-6

The wicked will melt like wax and be blown away like smoke by the wind. The rebellious will be ‘sun-scorched’ (v.6). and won’t be refreshed by streams of living water.

We are made righteous through the perfect sacrifice of Christ and so we should be happy and glad to rejoice joyfully before God. We sing praise to his name and pray to him: ‘Hallowed be your name’. I agree with the Jews that God’s formal name should never be vocalised. It is too holy. We should use ‘The Lord’, ‘God’ or ‘Father’ instead.

God is ‘a father to the fatherless’ and ‘a defender of widows’ (v.5). He gives the lonely a family. The church should provide a loving and welcoming family to us all. We can never have enough friends. We have all been prisoners locked in sin. God will release us from spiritual chains and lead us out singing through the supernatural grace afforded by our baptism.

Image: Nicolas Régnier, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Jesus Washes his Disciples’ Feet: May 22nd 2021

1 Samuel 10:9-12:25

‘As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart’ (v.9). It’s a common theme in the Bible that when someone starts to obey God’s instructions, a miracle suddenly happens. God works with us – he doesn’t just change us as we sit still passively. He loves obedience and faith. We must step out in faith and start to do something, believing that prophecies and the answers to prayers will come to pass.

The Spirit of God came upon Saul in power and he started prophesying. The Holy Spirit came down upon characters in the Old Testament for limited periods so that they could perform a supernatural task. Nowadays, in the New Covenant through our baptism in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit – the Holy Spirit resides inside us permanently. He will allow us to work supernaturally according to our level of faith.

Samuel was going to reveal Saul as the new King in front of all the Israelites but Saul seemed to become shy at the prospect and disappeared. They asked God where he was and we can imagine God laughing as he said: ‘He has hidden himself among the baggage’ (v.22). This was not the most auspicious start to Saul’s kingship. It was difficult for Saul to hide for long because he was a head taller than everybody else. We don’t want to emulate him and ‘hide amongst the baggage’ when we need to rise to the occasion.

Samuel wrote down the ‘regulations of the kingship’ (v.25) and deposited it before the Lord, after the people had shouted ‘Long live the king!’

Everyone was dismissed to their own home but already there were troublemakers slandering Saul. First, the Israelites wanted a king. Immediately after they had one, some started working against him. It is very rare for a group of people to be in total harmony.

Saul went back to working on his fields, even though he had been proclaimed ‘king’, but was offered a chance to rescue the besieged city of Jabesh Gilead. He cut a pair of oxen into pieces and sent them throughout the kingdom. This was to show them what would happen to all the Israelite’s oxen if they didn’t follow him and Samuel. This would have reminded the Israelites of the horrible incident of the the Levite and his concubine in Judges (19:1-29). Saul assembled three hundred and thirty thousand fighting men and they slaughtered their Ammonite enemies.

The Israelites wanted to put to death the people who had doubted Saul’s leadership but Saul would not allow this. He correctly attributed the military victory to God. The people confirmed Saul as king in the presence of the Lord at Gilgal. Saul had started his reign well.

Samuel gave a farewell speech and asked the Israelites to confirm that he had acted fairly all his life. It would be great if everyone we had ever dealt with throughout our lives was able to give us such a glowing reference as the Israelites provided for Samuel.

Samuel warned them and Saul, the king they had requested, to follow the Lord your God. If they did not, his hand would be against them again. Samuel called on God to send thunder and rain to demonstrate what a foolish and evil thing they had done, choosing a human king rather then God. Even though it was not the season for these weather conditions, God responded to Samuel’s faith and ‘the people stood in awe’ (v.18).

Samuel instructed them not to turn away after useless idols (v.21). For the sake of God’s great name, God would not reject the Israelites as long they served him faithfully and remembered the great things he had done for them. If they failed to do this, both they and their new king would ‘be swept away’ (v.25).

How many people in our country serve God faithfully and ruminate on what great things he has done for them? In the UK, we are only just clinging on to being a Christian country. Just a small praying minority is keeping us all from being swept away by God’s wrath. Samuel continually prayed for the Israelites – it was his vocation to do so. We should be thankful for the holy men and women of God in our country who continue to pray for us despite the idol-worship of the majority.

John 12:37-13:17

Despite Jesus’ miracles, many people still wouldn’t believe in him. God had ‘blinded their eyes’ and ‘deadened their hearts’ (v.40). There are still people in our society today with spiritually blind eyes and dead hearts like stone. We must sow the seed of the gospel in them and pray that God will remove the scales from their eyes and give them a new heart of flesh.

Many others believed in Jesus but were ashamed to announce this ‘for fear they would be put out of the synagogue’ (v.42). We must never care more for the opinion of people than we do about the opinion of God. If we are embarrassed to stand up for Jesus, he will not stand up for us.

When we look at Jesus, we see God the Father who sent him. Jesus came into the world as a light, so that we will be taken out of darkness when we believe in him (v.46). Jesus came to save the world! (v.47).

Jesus showed his disciples how much he loved them by washing their feet. He even washed the feet of Judas despite knowing the devil had already prompted Judas to betray him (13:2). Jesus knew his beloved friend and disciple had been lost. Judas would have been provided with the strength to resist all temptations and he could have turned to Jesus for help but he had hardened his heart to betray God.

Jesus would soon die on the cross and wash us all clean of sin through the sacrifice of his perfect blood. When we are baptized we are washed free of all sins. However, soon afterwards we start to sin again – our feet start to get dirty as we are soiled by the secular world. By repenting and renouncing our sins through the sacrament of reconciliation – we become totally clean again. Jesus will always wash our feet in forgiveness.

Peter gave us another lovely example of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. He was offended by the idea of Jesus washing his feet but relented obediently when Jesus told him it was necessary. Peter is a wonderful example for us all. He walked on the water for a little bit but then nearly drowned. He said the wrong thing at the Transfiguration. He denied Jesus three times but Jesus personally forgave him. Peter was transformed into a mighty apostle by the Pentecostal power of the Holy Spirit. Peter holds the keys of the church and became the first Pope. He showed us we can recover from any wrong action, word or thought if we renounce / repent and turn back to God.

We should be kind, chatty, helpful and respectful to everyone we meet. Society has often ranked some jobs as less prestigious than others but the Covid pandemic turned this around. The heroes have been some of our lowest paid workers: the nurses / the supermarket workers / the delivery drivers. Anyone working in even the lowliest job might be in closer harmony with Jesus than us and will be able to teach us eternal truths of God’s kingdom.

Jesus came to serve and not to be served. We should show our love for others by never being proud or arrogant. We should be happy to carry out the most basic loving tasks for our brothers and sisters. He will give us the strength to serve even when we are exhausted. We must follow his awesome example of humility. Jesus is within us and urges us to cheerfully emulate all his humble behaviour.

Psalm 66:1-12

God loves it when we proclaim how awesome his deeds are and we praise his glorious name. He particularly likes it when we recall the awesome miracles he performed while rescuing the Israelites from Egypt. We should always marvel at how he turned the sea into dry land.

All the earth bows down to God because of his great power. We rejoice that he will rule for ever.

Each day, we should be glad that he has preserved our lives. He might give us testing trials – putting us into prison, laying burdens on our backs and sending us through fire and water but this is because he loves us. Through our trials, we become purified and refined like silver (v.10). We will gain faith and endurance. Then we can support, encourage and pray effectively for our brothers and sisters.

Once we are conformed to the likeness of his son, God will bring us to a place of abundance. How awesome are his works on our behalf!

Image: Prof. emeritus Hans Schneider (Geyersberg), CC BY 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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