King Solomon’s Wisdom / Herod’s Death / Saul blinds Elymas the Sorcerer: June 18th 2021

1 Kings 3:16-5:18

Solomon famously demonstrated his wisdom by ruling over a baby custody case (1 Kings 3:28). A prostitute’s child had died and she allegedly stole another baby to replace it. Solomon threatened to cut the disputed baby in two and the woman who had kidnapped the child was prepared to let this happen. Solomon gave the child to the other woman, the rightful mother, who was prepared to give her child up rather than to see him harmed. Of course, this could have gone badly wrong if the kidnapper had thought she had gone too far when the child’s life was threatened and backed down from her claim. Solomon probably assessed the kidnapper’s character and realised she was evil.

Solomon ruled over all Israel and appointed chief officials and twelve district officials. Each district had to provide supplies for the king’s household for one month each year. Kings are costly. Samuel had warned the Israelites that a king had would cost them dearly and enslave them (1 Sam.8:14-17). Solomon was very well provisioned and built-up enormous numbers of horses including chariot horses (1 Kings 4:26). His father David had never been interested in chariot warfare but Solomon was determined to keep up with military technology.

‘God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight’ (1 Kings 4:29). He wrote proverbs and songs. He studied and taught about plants and animals. Men of all nations came to listen to him (1 Kings 4:34).

The people of Judah and Israel were now prosperous, numerous and happy (1 Kings 4:20). They lived in safety. Satan (the adversary) was not active in the kingdom (1 Kings 5:4). God had arranged peace and prosperity so that Solomon could complete an important project.

Solomon came to an arrangement with Hiram, king of Tyre. Hiram provided timber from the legendary cedars of Lebanon with which to build the first temple and, in exchange, Solomon supplied food for Hiram’s royal household.

Solomon conscripted labourers from all Israel and sent ten thousand men to help gather the timber. He sent an enormous number of workers to the hills to provide the stone foundation for the temple. The craftsmen of both Solomon and Hiram and the Gebalites prepared the timber and stone. It was a massive joint project between the Jews and the Gentiles.

Solomon used the finest dressed stone for the foundation of the temple – which no-one could see once it was constructed. Solomon intended the temple to stand forever and for there to be nothing false or shoddy about it – even the hidden sections. Jesus told us to build on the strongest possible foundations – the word of God. The secular world cares more for outward appearances. When we carry out work for God, we want to build it on solid, quality foundations.

Solomon was building the temple for the ‘Name of the Lord my God’ (1 Kings 5:5). Solomon knew in his wisdom that God would not come and live solely in the new temple. God’s presence would still be everywhere and in everything. When Jesus was preaching, the Chief Priests and Pharisees wanted to confine God to the temple in Jerusalem, even though the ark of the covenant was missing. They refused to acknowledge Jesus’s signs and wonders that demonstrated that God is mobile, meeting people’s desperate needs out in the community and is not confined within man-made walls.

Acts 12:19b-13:12

God will always serve justice on corrupt leaders. Herod had killed John the Baptist, failed to save Jesus, executed James the apostle and attempted to kill Peter. God was watching him closely. When he was praised as a god by the desperate people of Tyre and Sidon, he did not give praise to God and so he was struck down (Acts 12:23).  

The Holy Spirit specified that Barnabas and Saul should be set apart for a mission (Acts 13:2-3). This was while the church members in Antioch were worshipping and fasting. Fasting is a helpful spiritual discipline that can help us relate to people who lack food, curb our obsession with food and clear our mind helping us to communicate with God. God likes it when we make an effort and earnestly praying while fasting can help our conversations with Him to be more productive.

The church ‘sent them off’ (Acts 13:3). The two most able and gifted apostles in the church were dispatched as missionary ambassadors for the Holy Spirit with the full backing of a specific church congregation. One of the church members was Manaen, who had been brought up with Herod. He showed that our spiritual brothers and sisters are our true family; in their presence we can be truly loved and at home. We don’t have to be corrupted by our past, our family and former associates.

Barnabas and Saul were directed by the Holy Spirit to Cyprus. They travelled with John Mark (who would later write the second Gospel). They proclaimed the word in Jewish synagogues (sowing seeds of belief in Jesus) until they encountered the evil sorcerer Bar-Jesus / Elymas in Paphos who tried to turn the Roman governor (proconsul) from the faith. Paphos was renowned for its immorality and the influence of Elymas might have had something to do with that.

The governor had sent for Barnabas and Saul because he ‘wanted to hear the word of God’ (Acts 13:7). Thus, their preaching in the synagogues had born fruit as it had attracted this important man’s attention and aroused his curiosity.

Saul now metamorphosed into Saint ‘Paul’ as he made Elymas go blind through the power of the Holy Spirit. When Saul had earlier encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, he had gone blind for three days symbolising his spiritual blindness during the days he had persecuted Christians. As a sorcerer, Elymas was spiritually blind and belonged to the devil. The darkness before his eyes prefigured his eternal life separated from God and matched his dark heart. Jesus is the light of the world and will illuminate our soul if we repent, believe in him and are baptized. .

Paul’s analysis of Elymas’ character may well have applied to us before we were born-again. Many of us have been children of the devil, enemies of all that is right, full of deceit and trickery and constantly perverting the ways of God.   

The blind Elymas groped around ‘seeking someone to lead him by the hand’ (Acts 13:11). This could have been his chance to repent and come to Jesus just as Paul did when he was blinded on the road to Damascus. We don’t know Elymas’ fate but this demonstration of the Holy Spirit’s power convinced the proconsul to believe. The most productive strategy is always to convert the leaders at the top of society first.

Prior to this miracle, Paul had always been a less prominent disciple than Barnabas. Barnabas was always named first (Acts 13:7). Now, after the Holy Spirit had acted so powerfully through him, Paul was the leader and would be named first going forward (Acts 13:13).  

Psalm 74:18-23

I have reached a low ebb at a few points in my life and at all those times God rose up to defend me (Psalm 74:18-23). The Holy Spirit prompted me where to go and what to do and God placed people in my path who could help my cause with guidance, help, healing prayers and prophecies.

God will save us from fools who cause clamour and uproar, people who revile His name.

When the needy stop relying on their own resources and trust in God, He will give them reason to praise him (Psalm 74:21). Persistent, earnest prayer and fasting will be noticed by God and he will give attention to our cause.

God will engineer a way out for us so we can escape dire circumstances in our private or work lives. We won’t have to retreat in disgrace. Our lives will improve victoriously (Psalm 74:21).

Image: By PMRMaeyaert – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=92424726

The Road to Damascus / Saul’s Conversion: June 14th 2021

2 Samuel 22:1-23:7

David sang a magnificent song of praise to the Lord after he had been delivered from all his enemies.

God is also our rock, fortress, deliverer, stronghold, refuge and Saviour (2 Sam.22:2-3). He is our shield. God rescues us from our worthless sinful lives and, through the power of the Holy Spirit, transforms us into his powerful, holy ambassadors on earth. We are made in God’s image, we are made as God’s image. Our rescue is made complete when he grants us our desire for eternal life with him.

Our Lord is worthy of praise. He will hear us when we call out in our distress, draw us out of deep waters and rescue us from powerful foes.

The Lord will deal with us according to our righteousness. Jesus has made us righteous through his death on the cross but, if we sin after our baptism, we need to be quick to confess it and ask forgiveness. ‘According to the cleanness’ of our hands will God reward us (2 Sam.22:21).

Even though David had committed adultery and murder, he had never forgotten God. He repented and renounced his sins. He was thus able to say that he was blameless before him and he had not turned away from God’s decrees (2 Sam.22:22-24).

God’s eyes are on the haughty to bring them low. He loves the humble. If we are faithful, blameless and pure, God will show us theses same attributes.

Jesus is the living light of the world (2 Sam.22:29).

God’s ways are perfect and his word is flawless. God arms us with strength for battle. He makes our feet sure so we can stand on the heights.

God delivered David from the attacks of his own people time and again and preserved him as the head of nations. God avenges us and sets us free from our enemies. He gives us great victories and shows us unfailing kindness. We are all anointed as his priests, prophets, kings and adopted children through our baptism.

We must praise and exalt God.

The Spirit of the Lord spoke through King David in beautiful psalms. Our Queen, Elizabeth II, has always had a strong faith and is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning (2 Sam.23:4). The Spirit of God speaks through us when we pray and sing in tongues bringing strength, healing and deliverance.

David knew that God had made an everlasting covenant with him. It was arranged and secured in every part. God will bring to fruition our salvation if we are baptized and believe in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and invite him into our lives as our personal saviour.

Acts 9:1-31

Saul, breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples, asked to go to Damascus to capture Christians and bring them back to Jerusalem.

Saul had a life-changing encounter with Jesus as he neared Damascus (Acts 9:4). Jesus asked Saul from heaven why Saul was persecuting him and by ‘him’, Jesus meant the men and women making up his living body, the newly formed church.

Saul went blind for three days and did not eat or drink anything (Acts 9:9).

The Lord called a disciple in Damascus, Ananias, to visit Saul and place his hands on him to restore his sight. Ananias was reluctant to go because he knew how much harm Saul had done to the disciples but the Lord said that he had great plans for him. Saul would carry Jesus’ name both before the Gentiles and the people of Israel (Acts 9:15).

When Ananias prayed over Saul, something like scales fell from his eyes and he could see again. Saul got up and was baptised, took some food and regained his strength (Acts 9:19). I wonder who put the scales over Saul’s eyes. Scales are significant in the Bible. The giant Goliath wore ‘scale armour’ ‘when he confronted the people of God and was defeated by David (1 Sam.17:5). Serpents have scales and so Goliath may have represented the Philistine’s deity, Dagon, or the devil himself. Saul had been inspired to persecute and murder Christians and this desire may have come from demonic oppression. Therefore, I think it may have been the devil that blinded Saul so that he would not have been able to see Jesus on the road to Damascus. The devil had given Saul both religious and physical blindness. However, Jesus’ words along were sufficient to convert this murderous zealot. Saul was healed by the faithful prayer of Ananias. The devil was foiled in the end because not only did Paul become one of the most productive apostles of all time he was also not able to see Jesus during the Damascus Christophany and so was able to write: ‘We live by faith and not by sight’ (2 Cor.5:7).

Shortly after I became a confirmed Christian, I was struck down by the devil and felt like I was dying. A local deliverance priest prayed for me and restored my health. I needed someone with strong faith and spiritual authority to banish the oppression from my body. Many new Christians need an Ananias in our lives too help strengthen and deliver us.

After several days with the disciples in Damascus, Saul preached in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. Thanks to his first-class education and knowledge of the scriptures, he was able to prove to all audiences that Jesus is the Christ (Acts 9:22).

Saul was such an effective teacher that the Jews conspired to kill him. He was secretly lowered in a basket from the city walls so that he could return to Jerusalem. The disciples there were still afraid of him but he was accepted after Barnabas spoke on his behalf. It is great to have fellow Christians who know our personal journeys with the Lord and can provide references for us. Paul then spoke boldly in the name of the Lord. The Grecian Jews tired to kill him but his new Christian friends rescued him, sending him first to Caesarea and then to Tarsus. It must have been frustrating for Paul to have been sent away but he wouldn’t have lasted long if everywhere he went, people tried to kill him. He needed to spend some time refining his ministry before he would be called on to evangelise all the Gentiles.

Then the church enjoyed a time of peace and growth, strengthened and encouraged by the Holy Spirit.

Many ‘born again’ Christians can remember the exact day and location that they gave their life to Jesus. We all have our ‘Road to Damascus’ moment when we are rescued and turn to the Lord. Mine was on holiday in Rome when I cast my eyes upon Michelangelo’s painting ‘The Last Judgment’, the massive fresco that covers the entire altar wall in the Sistine Chapel. It depicts the Second Coming of Christ and the final and eternal judgment by God of all humanity. I realised that I needed to fully accept Jesus into my life in order to have hope for salvation.

Psalm 73:15-28

In Michelangelo’s magnificent painting ‘The Last Judgement‘ the damned descend to hell on the left side of Jesus (Psalm 73:18-19). Those who are far from God and unfaithful to him will perish (Psalm 73:27).

We want to be with the saved ascending to heaven on his right.

As a teenager I did what I wanted to do. I thought I wasn’t too bad relative to other people but ‘I was senseless and ignorant‘ (Psalm 73:22). I was on a gradual slippery slope to hell. However, Jesus rescued me and the Holy Spirit convicted me of my disgraceful sins and changed me for the better when I was too weak to do it myself

The Holy Spirit now permanently lives within me and will speak through me when I allow him to. He guides me with his counsel and afterwards will take me into glory. It is good to be a living tabernacle for God.

All our possessions and relationships on earth are nothing compared to our love for God. He is the strength of our hearts.

I have made God my refuge and will tell all of his deeds.

Image: By Peter Paul Rubens – Art UK, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=91917906

David Mourns for his Son / The Stoning of Stephen: June 12th 2021

2 Samuel 18:19-19:43

Ahiamaaz, son of Zadok, was keen to take the news of Absalom’s death to King David. However, Joab, the commander of David’s army, who had organised the killing of David’s son knew this would not be well received. He asked a dispensable Cushite to deliver the news instead. Joab knew that David had executed bearers of similar news on previous occasions and so it wasn’t a desirable task (2 Sam.18:22).

Ahiamaaz outran the Cushite but didn’t plainly tell David about Absalom’s death. The Cushite caught up and told David about his son’s fate. As Joab had predicted. David did not take the news well but at least he didn’t kill the messengers (2 Sam.18:33).

David wept and mourned for his son – the same son who had betrayed him and wanted him dead. Even though they had won a great victory, his army felt ashamed of their actions. Joab was furious and told David that he had humiliated his men: ‘You love those who hate you and hate those who love you’ (2 Sam.19:6-7). He told David to go and encourage his loyal men or there would be terrible consequences for his rule. To his credit, David accepted this valid criticism and realised his ingratitude. His men had loyally risked their lives for him and he sat down in front of his men (2 Sam.19:8).

It had been a very strange attempted coup. Both sides had been quite civil to each other. King David was generally liked as a monarch and there wasn’t an urgent need to replace him apart from his son having better hair and being slightly more popular. King David didn’t want his son harmed even though he had almost lost his throne to him. The whole affair had left the citizens of Israel and Judah very confused and in conflict with each other.

King David won the hearts of all the men of Judah again and they asked him and his men to return. They met him at the ford over the Jordan to welcome him home. Even Shimei, who had previously shouted curses at David, came to apologise. One of David’s retinue, Abishai, wanted to put Shimei to death for his sins but David rebuked him (2 Sam:19:22) in a similar way to Jesus rebuking James and John for wanting to call down fire from heaven on a Samaritan village (Luke 9:54-55). David graciously pardoned Shimei.

Saul’s grandson, Mephibosheth, also came to meet David. He explained that he had wanted to travel with David but had been betrayed by Ziba, his servant. David had earlier given Ziba all of Mephibosheth’s fields but on hearing this version of events ordered that they should be split equally. Mephibosheth said he didn’t want any land. He was just happy to see David home safely.

David wanted to repay his ally, Barzillai, for his support but he wouldn’t allow this. David blessed him instead and allowed him to return home. When David crossed over the Jordan, he was accompanied by all the men of Judah but just half the troops of Israel. This caused a large argument between Judah and Israel over who had more of a claim on David.

David was back in charge over a divided kingdom with the two major divisions bickering with each other. David had shown love for those who cursed and attacked him (Absalom and Shimei), he had demonstrated forgiveness of his enemies (the troops of Israel) and taken on board valid criticism (Joab). David had patiently listened to people’s apologies and excuses (Mephibosheth and Shimei) and he had blessed his friends (Barzillai and Kimham). However, he had punished those who had not followed his instructions. He had appointed the leader of the rebel army, Amasa, as commander of his army in place of Job (2 Sam.19:13). Job had stopped the civil war by killing David’s son but this was in defiance of David’s explicit instructions.

Just as God had punished Saul for not quite following his instructions, David was prepared to remove people who did not show complete obedience. David was a master politician and had managed to negotiate a return to his kingdom but he still had much work to do to reunite the nation.

Acts 7:44-8:3

Stephen finished his history of the Jewish nation with the devastating conclusion: ‘However, the Most High does not live in houses made by men’ (Acts 7:48). God was not confined just to the Jewish temple, with just the religious elite allowed to communicate with him once a year. Ezekiel had demonstrated in earlier scripture that when the Israelites had been exiled by the Babylonians, God had travelled with them. God is everywhere and in everything (Acts 7:50) and now, through the Holy Spirit, he is powerfully active within every individual Christian.

Stephen suddenly launched a verbal assault on the Sanhedrin. He even disowned them, calling their ancestors ‘your fathers’ rather than ‘our forefathers’ as he had done earlier. Their ancestors had persecuted all the prophets and had now betrayed and murdered the Righteous One (Acts 7:52). They had not obeyed the law and so, according to their own laws, should die. They would do so if they carried on being stiff-necked, resisting the Holy Spirit and Jesus’ invitation to eternal life through baptism and belief in him.

The Sanhedrin were furious. Truth is often unpopular. Stephen wasn’t bothered. He was full of the Holy Spirit. God was actually now living in him but his persecutors did not recognise God right in front of their furious faces. Stephen was consoled by a wonderful vision of Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Stephen was soon to join Jesus in heaven as he was stoned to death and became the first Christian martyr. Stephen prayed that their sin should not be held against them (Acts 7:60) just as Jesus prayed ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’ (Luke 23:34).

A young man, Saul, approved of Stephen’s death. He wanted to persecute and murder all Christians. He would shortly undergo one of the most dramatic transformations in the history of Christianity.

Persecution broke out and all, except the apostles, were scattered (Acts 8:1). Wherever the disciples fled, they preached the gospel and converted many.

God frustrates the plans of evil people. They had hoped to eliminate the church through persecution but their efforts forced the disciples to travel and evangelise; this made the church grow much faster than if they had been left in peace. It must have been distressing for the early Christians to flee from their homes but the miracles, signs, wonders and fruitfulness that the Holy Spirit worked through them brought consolation. ‘We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

Psalm 73:1-14

If we are not careful, we can start to ask ourselves why we bother to be Christians. Why do we suffer the abuse, hassle and pain of being ignored? Is it all in vain?

Non-believers can appear to be more prosperous, more confident, carefree and proud about their healthy and strong bodies.

However, envy is a major sin. We need to count the priceless blessings that God has given us throughout our lives. Our treasure is an everlasting treasure in heaven (Matt.6:19-20).

We should not become like the wicked who scoff and speak with malice (Ps.73:8). ‘From their callous hearts comes iniquity; the evil conceits of their minds know no limits’ (Ps.73:7).

Our destinies will be completely different. The wicked are on slippery ground and will suddenly be destroyed (Ps.73:18-19). In contrast, we will enter the sanctuary of God.

No matter how poorly we seem to be faring relative to the secular values of the consumerist world, when the Holy Spirit lives within us we have eternal joy in our hearts which can never be shaken: (Galatians 5:22). We should share with the world our testimony of his glorious deeds.

God will eternally be our refuge and our strength.

Image: ChristianeB, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

David anointed King / Jesus Appears to his Disciples: June 1st 2021

2 Samuel 1:1-2:7

A man escaped from the Israelite camp and told David that Saul and his son Jonathan were dead. The man brought Saul’s crown and his arm-band with him. David and his men mourned, wept and fasted (2 Sam. 1:12). However, David was not comfortable about some aspects of the man’s story. The messenger admitted he was an Amalekite and David had just come back from slaughtering the Amalekites. He also claimed to have finished off the mortally wounded Saul, which was a lie, presumably to win favour with David. Even though Saul had frequently tried to kill him, David still respected God’s anointed king and did not approve of anyone lifting a sword against him (2 Sam. 1:14). David ordered that the hapless messenger should be killed in punishment for allegedly killing Saul.

David lamented the death of Saul and Jonathan: ‘How the mighty have fallen!’ (2 Sam. 1:19). He especially grieved for Jonathan. They had a pure loving friendship, which is exceedingly rare these days (2 Sam. 1:26). Jonathan had loved David as himself (1 Sam. 18:3). Jesus told us that we were to love our neighbour as ourselves (Matt. 22:37-39) and he demonstrated how God extended this type of love to the whole world.

Eventually, David asked the Lord whether he should visit Judah. God told him to go to Hebron. David took his wives and his men there and settled in Hebron and its towns. He was anointed king of Judah (2 Sam.2:4).

David sent an encouraging message to the town of Jabesh Gilead to thank them for burying Saul (2 Sam. 2:6-7).

The king of Israel was dead, long live David the king – just of Judah so far but it was a good start.

John 20:10-31

Mary Magdalene stayed at the tomb crying after Peter and John had gone back to their homes. Earlier in his ministry, Jesus had delivered Mary from a terrible demonic oppression and, as a result, she loved Jesus tremendously and was one of his most devoted followers. She was the sister of Lazarus and Martha and had previously wet Jesus’ feet with her tears (Luke 7:38), drying them with her hair. She had recently anointed his feet again in preparation for his burial in her own house in Bethany (John 12:3). We should all have a tender love for Jesus like Mary Magdalene had, being forever grateful that he has wiped away our sins and longing to spend time with him.

Mary looked inside the tomb and saw two angels sitting where Jesus’ body had been. They did not understand why she was crying. The knew about Jesus’ resurrection and so expected the world to be rejoicing. Turning around, she thought the gardener was standing there but it was Jesus. Jesus’ first word after being resurrected was ‘Mary’ (John 20:16). Jesus knows us all as individuals and calls out our names so we can come to him and be saved.

Jesus reiterated that we can now call God our Father. We are brothers and sisters of Jesus, co-heirs with Christ (John 20:17). Mary joyfully took this good news back to the disciples. She had seen the resurrected living Lord.

The disciples had locked themselves in. They were quaking ‘for fear of the Jews’ (John 20:19). They weren’t going to get far in spreading the gospel with this attitude and so Jesus appeared to them and breathed on them to give them the Holy Spirit (John 20:22). The Holy Spirit at Pentecost would later empower them to become supercharged, powerful apostles. At our baptism, which might have happened to us as infants, we receive both the Holy Spirit and a supernatural seal on our hearts flagging that we belong to God. However, this small deposit of the Holy Spirit may not burst into flames and energise us until we experience our own personal Pentecost – the ‘baptism of the Holy Spirit’. We need to pray directly to the Holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus, on a daily basis and ask him to fire up all his gifts within us so we can be the best witness we can be to the Lord Jesus Christ for the glory of God.

The disciples were overjoyed to see Jesus again. Jesus took away their terror and gave them peace (John 20:19). He was sending them out into the world, once he had empowered them with the Holy Spirit. just as the Father had sent him (John 20:21).

Jesus told them that if they forgave anyone their sins, they would be forgiven (John 20:23). From this comes the tradition of the Mother Church of believers confessing to a priest their sins so that he will grant them absolution on account of his spiritual authority handed down in an unbroken chain from the first apostles through the laying on of hands. It is wonderful to hear these holy words: ‘God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.‘ It is like receiving a loving embrace from our Father:

Other denominations teach that you can ask God the Father directly for absolution but that would be missing out the human mediation that Jesus stipulated in John 20:23, Matthew 16:19 and Matthew 18:18. The Mother Church teaches that we can ask God directly for absolution in exceptional circumstances – immediate danger of death or a global pandemic – but we have to ask him with ‘perfect contrition’, rather than just a fear of hell, and promise to visit a priest as soon as circumstances allow. Perfect contrition is ‘sorrow for sin arising from perfect love. In perfect contrition the sinner detests sin more than any other evil, because it offends God, who is supremely good and deserving of all human lovehttps://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/dictionary/index.cfm?id=35519

‘Doubting’ Thomas missed Jesus’ appearance and refused to believe it happened. A week later, though the doors were locked Jesus came again and stood among the disciples. He told Thomas to stop doubting and believe. As full recognition and faith dawned, Thomas uttered the beautiful phrase: ‘My Lord and my God!’ (John 20:27-28). We should be able to say this with heartfelt thanks when we consider how many times God has rescued us during our lives. Jesus will forgive us too for having doubts. He will demonstrate time and again in our lives that it is not fate, karma or good luck that steers our lives. Jesus is walking with us demonstrating his constant love for us.

We are particularly blessed when we believe based on hearing the gospel alone rather than having to see Jesus with our own eyes (John 20:29).

Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples. John listed a sufficient number of major miracles in his gospel for us to believe that Jesus was the Son of God.

Belief is a simple choice. I can turn on the TV, watch the news and choose to believe the newscaster. Similarly, we can choose to believe the Bible and the two thousands years of Christian witness. martyrdom and teaching since it was written or think we know better through foolish pride. Belief leads to eternal life. Choosing not to believe leads to eternal separation from God. It really shouldn’t be a difficult decision but the spirit of unbelief is rampant in the world at the moment – just consider how fairly sensible people have refused to believe scientists about the Covid pandemic and made a fuss about social distancing and wearing masks. God solves problems these days through people. He inspired scientists to produce a miracle vaccine. We just have to choose to believe in his provenance.

By believing, we will have life in his name (John 20:31).

Proverbs 13:20-14:4

We should pick our company carefully (Prov.13:20).

Many of the great heroes in the Bible: Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, David, Daniel were wealthy men. The righteous will receive a reward (Prov. 13:21). We are all righteous in the sight of God due to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and so we can claim our reward of prosperity.

Poverty isn’t a blessing. We want to be able to help future generations of our family (Prov. 13:22).

Injustice in the world keeps people poor. We should fight for social justice to lift people out of poverty.

God loves us and so will discipline us and allow us to go through trials to refine us like silver, give us endurance, makes us stronger and build our character. No test, no worthwhile testimony.

Devious people despise the Lord (Prov. 14:2). Christians respect his awesome power and love.

Image: National Gallery of Art, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

David Destroys the Amalekites / Jesus’ Empty Tomb: May 31st 2021

The Philistine commanders questioned the loyalty of David. He had killed many Philistines in his time from their champion, Goliath, to the two hundred he had slaughtered just to harvest their foreskins. Achish, the Philistine king, was pleased with David (1 Samuel 29: 9) but instructed him not to go into battle with them and turn back to the land of the Philistines. This was fortuitous. David was destined to be the ruler of Israel and so it was sensible for him not to have the blood of Israelites on his hands.

David returned to the Philistine town where he lived, Ziklag, only to find that the evil Amalekites had raided it in his absence, set it on fire and carried off all their families including David’s two wives. David’s men talked about stoning him because he had left their families unprotected.

David asked the Lord, utilising the ephod (priestly apron), whether he should pursue the Amalekites and God told him he would be successful in this rescue mission. David and his six hundred men set off in pursuit but he had to leave two hundred men at a ravine because they were exhausted. David found an escaped slave, gave him food and drink and he then led them to the Amalekite raiders.

David fought the Amalekites, rescued all his people and took their flocks and herds. Some of his men did not want to share the spoils of their battle with the two hundred exhausted men who had not fought but David over-ruled them and gave everyone an equal share (1 Samuel 30:24-25). David also shared some of the plunder with the elders of Judah and all the other places who had been kind to David while he roamed in the desert.

In summary, God stopped David from attacking the Israelites which would have looked very bad on his CV. David then started acting in a much more regal and responsible fashion. He asked God what he should do. He bravely went off to rescue his subjects. He fed and sheltered a refugee. He nearly wiped out one of God’s least favourite nations. He was kind to all his people – even the exhausted ones who could not fight. He was generous with his resources in order to forge closer alliances with friendly neighbours. This was a very promising chapter in David’s gradual development just as Saul is about to meet his demise.

The Philistines fought against Israel and all Saul’s sons were killed, including David’s best friend Jonathan. Saul was critically injured and fell on his own sword. The Israelites abandoned their towns and fled. It was a total slaughter, which God had sensibly kept David from participating in. The Philistines put the armour of Saul in the temple of their demonic fertility deity. They fastened his headless body, and the bodies of his sons, to the wall of a town called Beth Shan. Despite the danger, the Israelites from Jabesh Gilead were not prepared to accept this final insult to their king and they valiantly journeyed through the night to retrieve the bodies, cremate them and bury them. They then fasted seven days out of respect.

The first king of Israel, Saul, had died. He had started well but fell out with God due to his disobedience and eventually plunged to a new low in spiritual relations by consulting a witch. However, even people he unjustly persecuted, like David, had still respected him. The Israelites were grieved to see him go despite his faults. Both Saul and his son Jonathan were tremendous warriors and they were loved and gracious (2 Sam. 1:23). Israel would now enter a period of civil war to determine the next unifying king of Israel.

John 19:28-20:9

Jesus, while suffering on the cross, was given a drink of vinegar, which fulfilled the prophecy in Psalms 69.21.

When Jesus died, he made us righteous in the sight of God by taking all our past, present and future sins on him. He became sin for our salvation and broke its power: ‘It is finished’. Jesus breathed out his spirit as he died (John 19:30). Jesus’ spirit now lives within all baptised and believing Christians.

To check he was dead, the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side and there was ‘a sudden flow of blood and water’ (John 19:34). Crucifixion is a horrible death and during the process: ‘the decreased oxygen (due to the difficulty in exhaling) causes damage to the tissues and the capillaries begin leaking watery fluid from the blood into the tissues. This results in a build-up of fluid around the heart (pericardial effusion) and lungs (pleural effusion)’. Jesus probably literally died from a broken heart as the lack of oxygen in the body of a victim of crucifixion can cause the heart to burst. Jesus had been betrayed by the people he had come to save. Even though he revealed God to us as the God of love and he never sinned, he died due to our sin / envy / jealousy and hatred.

https://www.apu.edu/articles/the-science-of-the-crucifixion/#:~:text=When%20they%20came%20to%20Jesus,surrounding%20the%20heart%20and%20lungs.

The blood and water from Jesus’ side fell onto the ground of Golgotha and soaked Adam’s buried bones. Jesus’ life was in the blood. Jesus told us the Holy Spirit, now living within us, would give us streams of living water. ‘The water flowing from the heart of Jesus will heal, cleanse and energise us all’ (NG, p.317) Jesus would then descend into hell and rescue his old friends, Adam and Eve, from their chains.

Jesus’ body was taken by his uncle, Joseph of Arimathea. He and Nicodemus wrapped Jesus’ body with spices (myrrh and aloes) in strips of linen and laid his body in a new tomb.

On the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene found that the stone had been removed from the entrance to the tomb. She told Simon Peter and John and they both ran to the tomb.

Simon Peter saw the strips of linen that had covered Jesus’ body lying there as well as ‘the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head’ (John 20:7). This cloth has been preserved through the millennia as a holy relic and is known as the ‘Sudarium of Oviedo’. Both the Shroud of Turin – the cloth that wrapped up Jesus’ body and the Sudarium – the cloth that covered his head prior to the shroud – have been proved to have been in contact with each other and both have traces of myrrh and aloes on them.

Simon Peter ‘saw and believed’ (John 20:8). We are especially blessed these days when we believe without seeing (John 20:29).

Psalm 68:28-35

When we pray with faith and pray in the Spirit, God will show us his healing and delivering strength.

As the gospel has spread to the ends of the earth, the global faithful have sung praise to God.

We need to continue to proclaim God’s awesome power (Psalm 68:34).

The awesome Holy Spirit resides inside of us on account of our baptism. He gives power and strength to us, his people. To release his power through us, we must pray he blesses us with a full measure of gifts and pray in faith for others (Ps. 68:35).

Image: https://pixabay.com/photos/empty-tomb-nazareth-israel-3326100/

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 meets Abigail / Jesus is Truth: May 29th 2021

1 Samuel 24:1-25:44

Saul needed a quick break from chasing David around the desert and went into a cave ‘to relieve himself’. David and his men were hiding far back in the same cave! David could easily have killed Saul, his persecutor, but instead crept up and cut off the corner of his robe (1 Sam. 24:4). David felt guilty even for doing that and prevented his men from attacking Saul.

After Saul left the cave, David shouted after him: ‘My Lord the king!‘ and explained to Saul that he had spared his life and was innocent of plotting against him.

Saul wept aloud and admitted he had treated David badly. He prophesied that David would be king and establish the kingdom of Israel forever but made him swear that he would look after Saul’s descendants (1 Sam. 24:21). Saul returned home and David and his small army went to his stronghold.

Samuel the prophet died and was buried at Ramah.

While David and his men had been hiding in the Desert of Moan, he had protected shepherds working for a wealthy man called Nabal. Now, David sent men to Nabal to ask for provisions. Even though he was prosperous, Nabal was miserly and refused. David was furious at this lack of respect and vowed to kill Nabal and all the males in his household.

Fortunately, Nabal’s wife Abigail had more sense. She was horrified that her foolish husband had refused David’s request and she knew this would mean disaster, She loaded an enormous amount of food onto donkeys and rushed off to placate David, who was descending a mountain ravine to kill her household. She called David her master and said she was relieving David of having needless bloodshed and revenge on his conscience. David accepted her generosity and apology. It probably helped that she was intelligent and beautiful just as the beautiful Esther would later save all the Jews. We all need an Abigail in our lives to soothe us and talk us out of taking actions that we might later regret.

Abigail told her husband the next morning how close he had come to death ‘and his heart failed him and he became like a stone’ (1 Sam. 25:37). Ten days later he was dead. David was pleased that the Lord had avenged him. David invited Abigail to be his second wife (he had already married Ahinoam of Jezreel). Saul had given David’s original wife. Michal, to another man. There were complicated marriage set-ups back in the Old Testament – most of which didn’t end well due to envy / jealousy/ duplicity. Christians in the New Testament are strictly monogamous. God hates adultery.

John 18:25-40

Peter denied Jesus for the third time as Jesus had prophesied. Peter is a great example to us as despite all his failures and ill-judged comments he remained faithful to Jesus and full of zeal. He was personally forgiven by Jesus and became the leader of the church, a dynamic Spirit-filled apostle.

Jesus admitted to Pilate that he was a king, but his kingdom was not of this world. He came into the world to testify to the truth. ‘Everyone on the side of truth listens to me’ (John 18:37). Jesus is ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life’ (John 14:6).

When we have the Holy Spirit living inside us, He confirms the truth to us. It can be frustrating to mix with the secular world who often refuse to listen to the truth. I once had to stand up in front of a major trade union conference, being held in a large arena, as the seemingly solo voice against abortion. I wasn’t allowed to use the word: ‘unborn child’ in my speech. The woman chairing the meeting kept shutting off my microphone saying that the term was ‘offensive’. Abortion is the state-approved disposal of unwanted children – that’s the offensive truth. There are many tragic aspects to each and every case and our hearts go out to everyone involved but the basic truth remains. Secular people, living in a morally compromised culture of death, can’t handle the truth.

Pilate offered to release Jesus or the rebel, Barabbas. Barabbas’ full name was ‘Jesus Barabbas’ with Barabbas meaning Son of the Father. So the question to the crowd was: ‘Should I release Jesus, the king the Jews and the true Son of the Father or Jesus Barabbas (the false Son of the Father)’. The crowd chose the false option. Barabbas deserved his sentence due to his crimes but the innocent Jesus died instead of him. We hope that Barabbas believed in Jesus after his crucifixion and was saved. We were all like Barabbas before our baptism and belief in Jesus. We were destined to die because of our sins. Jesus died as our substitute and washed away our sins with his perfect, precious blood.

Psalm 68:15-20

Why gaze in envy, O rugged mountains’ (Psalm 68:16). Mountains can’t have feelings we declare. This must be ‘figurative language’. However, God is in all of his creation. Everything that is alive comes from dust / rock fragments including Adam the first man. Jesus said that if the people on Palm Sunday had kept quiet, then the stones would have cried out (Luke 19:40). The natural world – with each element beautifully created by Jesus – may well be a lot more alive than we give it credit for.

God daily bears our burdens. If we have the same depressing, anxious thoughts going through our brain – the cure is praise, worship and prayer. The last time I was mentally laid low was because I had let myself get into a spiritual rut. God let the devil attack me mentally. I became seriously ill. God allowed this trial so I could find myself in a new church – a dynamic Pentecostal church – where the Spirit delivered me into peace.

We might go through trials and tribulations but only so good can come out of it in the end. God refines us like silver and disciplines us because he loves us. He prunes us so that we can bear more fruit.

He is a God who saves. Praise the Lord!

Image: National Library of Wales, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Saul Pursues David / Jesus Arrested: May 28th 2021

1 Samuel 21:1-23:29

David visited Ahimelech the priest, at Nob, and asked for food. David lied to Ahimelech and told him he was on a secret mission for the king. Ahimelech did not have any ordinary bread. He had ‘consecrated bread; that had been removed from before the Lord’s presence and replaced by hot bread. This was only meant to be eaten by priests. Also, David had fled from Saul with no weapons and so he also took Goliath’s sword that had been stored there. One of Saul’s servants, Doeg the Edomite, witnessed these things.

David went to Achish, king of Gath, but found he was already too well-known there. The servants referred to him as ‘the king of Israel’ (1 Sam 21:11). David feigned insanity to escape to the cave of Adullam where he gathered four hundred followers. He had a rag-tag army of ‘those who were in distress or in debt or discontented’ (1 Sam 22:2). As Christians, we should welcome all wounded people into our ranks to form the army of Christ.

David sent his parents to safety with the king of Moab and was advised by a prophet to go into the land of Judah.

Saul was told by Doeg that the priest, Ahimelech, had given David provisions and a sword and so he confronted him. Ahimelech was innocent of conspiring against Saul because he had been falsely told by David that he was still working for the king. The king ordered his guards to kill all the priests but they refused. Instead, Doeg killed eighty-five priests and put the whole priestly town of Nob to the sword. Saul had now clearly set himself against God.

Abiathar, son of Ahimelech, escaped to David who realised that Doeg had reported him. However, David knew this would happen and so David felt responsible for the death of all the priests.

The Philistines were attaching the town of Keilah and David asks the Lord, for the first time as a leader, what he should do. God told him to attack the Philistines and save Keilah. The priest that had fled to David, Abiathar, had brought the official priestly ephod (priestly vestment) with him. David’s men were already frightened of Saul and weren’t keen to pick a fight with another nation. David asked God again, who confirmed that He ‘would give the Philistines into your hand’ (1 Sam 23:4). David and his men rescued Keilah, fighting the Philistines and carrying off their livestock.

David, with the priest and the ephod, again asked God the future. God confirmed that if he stayed in Keilah, Saul would come to attack him and the citizens of the town would hand him over. David escaped – now with six hundred men – and kept moving from place to place. Day after day, Saul searched for him but David was able to hide in the desert as he was protected by God.

Saul’s son, Jonathan, went to find David at Horesh. Jonathan loved David so much that he was happy for David to take his birth-right in the future, to become king. Jonathan wanted to be second to him. They made a covenant together before the Lord (1 Sam 23:18). We need to loyally help all our friends when they are being persecuted, particularly those who have no-one else to rely on.

The Ziphites informed Saul that David was hiding in their territory. Saul asked them to come back with definite information as to his location. Saul went off to the desert of Mon and was closing in on David and his men when a messenger arrived and announced that the Philistines were raiding the land (1 Sam 23:27). Saul was diverted to fight the invading forces. It is amazing how God used a pagan nation, the Philistines, to intervene at precisely the right moment to save one of his faithful servants.

John 18:1-24

Judas guided a detachment of soldiers and religious officials to arrest Jesus. When Jesus confirmed his name, ‘they drew back and fell to the ground’ (John 18:6). We should aim to be so filled with the Holy Spirit that evil people cannot stand to be with us and will fall to the floor as we approach. It would be fantastic to be able to deliver people from evil spirits just by walking into a room due to the overwhelming presence of the Holy Spirit within us.

Jesus did not try to hide or pretend to be someone else. He was proud to be Jesus Christ with the name above all other names (Phil. 2:9). Jesus did not care for his own safety, he handed himself over and wanted all his disciples to be be set free.

Simon Peter cut off the priest’s servant’s ear with a sword. According to Luke, Jesus then healed him (Luke 22:51). The injured man, Malchus, was healed by a saviour he didn’t believe in and wanted to imprison. Jesus wants to heal and forgive all of us, even when we are still working for the devil. By healing Malchis, Jesus also stopped Simon Peter being convicted of violence.

Jesus was struck in the face for speaking the truth. Speaking the truth can bring both physical and mental attacks. However, we have no choice as disciples of Jesus but to bear witness to the truth. We have the Spirit of Truth living within us and he helps us to discern right from wrong.

As baptized, believing Christians we should not worry about what to say when we are prosecuted for our faith. The Holy Spirit will give us the right words to say (Luke 12:11-12).

Proverbs 13:10-19

We should never be too proud to take advice. We can be turned away from death by the teaching of the wise (Prov. 13:14). Ignoring good advice can bring poverty and shame (Prov.13:18). Love and humility can prevent a lot of pointless quarrels.

Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves (Prov. 13:11).

We should always live in hope: hope of having all our prayers granted; hope of enjoying everlasting life in heaven. When God answers our prayers, it is sweet to our souls. We need to persevere in prayer. Endurance will bring character. To combat temporary disappointments we need to live in permanent gratitude. Give God praise and glory for the wonderful gifts he has delivered in our lives.

Many people are hostile to the gospel and do not want to radically change their lifestyles (Prov. 13:19). Praying for our family, friends, colleagues will result in miracles as God works on their hardened hearts and removes the scales from their eyes.

Image: Unterlinden Museum, CC BY 2.0

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

Up ↑