Thursday, August 28, 2014

Two Kings Two Thrones part 7

This Sunday, we were so blessed to have Pastor Tammy bring a great message. Pastor Tammy continued in the “Two Kings, Two Thrones” series regarding the kingdoms of Saul and David and how Saul represents rule by law and David rule by grace. She looked at one of the most well-known stories in the Bible – that of David and Goliath.  There are so many little things hidden in this story that are often overlooked.

At this time, David had been anointed to be the next king of Israel but was not yet the king. Saul and his army are camped out around a valley where the Philistines are sending out a giant by the name of Goliath to taunt them.  Remember that the Philistines are the enemy that God designated Saul to destroy. He has had only minor success, and he and his men are now cowering in fear at the taunting of Goliath.

Where did the giant Goliath come from? The Bible describes him as being over 9 feet tall. Is that even possible?  Is the writer exaggerating? Goliath is a descendant of Anak. These were the “giants” in the promised land when Joshua led God’s people in. In Joshua 11, when they were driven out, they dispersed in many places. One of them was Gath (Joshua 11), and that is where Goliath is from. 

So, in some ways, David is finishing the work of Joshua in destroying the giants in the land of Canaan. In fact, during David’s reign, he finally captures all of the territory that had been promised to God’s people. With David being a type of grace and of Christ, we see this battle as one of Spiritual significance to us.

 Why didn’t Saul go out and challenge Goliath? Remember that we read that Saul was described as a head and shoulders taller than all the other Israelites. Not only was he the king, but he was the one most physically suited to face Goliath, but Saul represents law. Law cannot defeat the giants in the land. Law causes us to cower in fear when faced with the giants. The law tells us we are undeserving and unqualified to do mighty work for God.

When Goliath taunts the Israelites, he calls them servants of Saul. God is never mentioned. When we are servants of the law, we are ill-equipped to face giants in life. Grace is the power of God working through us despite our imperfections. Remember that David was anointed king by Samuel without having gone through the purification of the law like his brothers (who were rejected) had done.  

Goliath came out for 40 days.  This is always a big number in the Bible (40 days Jesus in the wilderness, then defeat of the enemy; 40 years in the wilderness).  There is always a big finish at the end of the 40.  The Israelites could not defeat the enemy, but David/grace can.

David arrives on the scene because he was sent to bring food and supplies to his brothers (the purified ones who were cowering in fear at the feet of the giant). Before he leaves, he makes sure the sheep he is given charge of are cared for – since that is what a good shepherd would do. David hears Goliath’s taunting, and hears about the reward for defeating him.  He also stated that Goliath was not allowed to defy the “armies of the living God. 

David is upset about Goliath’s taunting of God’s people and insists that God can give them victory.  His eldest brother, Eliab, accuses him of being prideful and assumes he left the sheep unattended. Neither is true.  David was definitely confident in who he was in God. He was not prideful. We know that Proverbs tells us that pride comes before the fall. David did not fall. Proverbs also tells us that God resists the prideful. Obviously, God didn’t resist David. Pride is not confidence. Humility is not lack of confidence. Humility is simply being teachable. David lived a life that showed a pattern of being teachable by God – confident in God and reliant upon Him.

Saul hears what David has said and tells him he cannot do it because he is young.  David tells stories of how God has equipped him to deliver lambs from bears and lions.  Law will always try to tell you what you can’t do when you are in grace, and how big the enemy is.  David talks about what God did and will do.  Saul tries to clothe David in his armor in order to prepare him. Remember how huge Saul was? His armor is not going to fit young David. It was made for Saul,  David quickly realizes that the armor would be an encumbrance. The armor of God fits us perfectly.  This is what David chooses.  We learned earlier in the series that the law puts us at an unnecessary disadvantage.  Armor made from the law is heavy and oppressive.  David chose not to put on the law’s self-righteousness – or its armor. It would have weighed him down and been an obstacle to victory.

Instead David takes five smooth stones and his sling and approaches Goliath. There are a lot of theories about why he grabs five and not just one.  Was he accounting for the “just in case I miss?” Did he have the foresight to be prepared for being attacked by the Philistines after he took down their giant? We don’t really know.  The number 5 does represent grace in the word (the 5th Hebrew letter represents the breath of God.  I think the idea that the weapon of choice was a smoothed stone is important. What is it that smoothes stones? It is flowing water. It makes us think of being washed in the water of the Word and being planted by streams of living water. The Word makes the perfect weapon.

When David approaches Goliath he informs him that he’ll be going down, but David does not identify himself as a servant of Saul (or law in our illustration) but that of the Most High God. When we live by grace, we serve God and not the law. He also calls Goliath an uncircumcised Philistine. Circumcision had to do with partnership with God or covenant with Him, so David is calling Goliath an enemy of God.

Of course we know David takes down Goliath with one stone. He then cuts off Goliath’s head with Goliath’s sword. Imagine young David wielding the sword of a 9-foot giant. He used his own weapon against him. When we operate by grace, we destroy sin with its own weapons! When you know who you are in Christ and you partner with the Spirit of God, you can face your giants without being afraid and without being dismayed.

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

two kings two thrones part 6

This Sunday, we continued the “Two Kings, Two Thrones” series. In it we have been examining the contrasts between the kingdoms of Saul and David. Saul was a type and picture of rule by law and David a type and picture of rule by grace.  In this part we looked at the anointing of David to be the king following Saul. Previously, Saul had been told that God’s anointing on him had lifted and that God was bringing up another king “better than him.” In the same way, the new covenant is better than the old covenant. The old covenant was powerless to bring righteousness. Saul, for all his efforts, never truly accomplished what God told him his purpose was – to destroy the Philistines. He battled against them and had moments of success, but he never found true victory. Law will never defeat sin, only grace can defeat sin at its heart.

In 1 Samuel 16:4, it says that the elders of Bethlehem trembled in fear at the sight of Samuel the priest. They asked if he was coming in peace. The people had been under oppressive law under Saul. Saul had actually gotten to the point that the rules he was handing down did not come from God, but he was using God’s wrath as the threat of not keeping them. This was much like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, as well as legalist believers today: religious rules take precedence over the true principles of God, and those who do not keep them all are made to feel condemned.  Such a feeling causes you to tremble at the sight of “the priest” (Jesus)—1 John 4:17. According to what Jesus has done for us, we are supposed to boldly approach, full of confidence, not cowering in fear of punishment. The way these Bethlehem elders reacted to seeing Saul is a perfect picture of what law does to our relationship with Jesus. He does come in peace. He is the Prince of Peace.

When Samuel arrives in Bethlehem, he has Jesse and his sons consecrate themselves – or purify themselves – to be prepared for one of the sons to be selected as the next king. God had told Samuel that one of Jesse’s sons was to be anointed king, and that He would show Samuel which one.  One by one, all of the sons come before Samuel, and God rejects all of them. The first is Eliab, who is tall and handsome. God says that Eliab is not the one because man looks at the outside, but God looks at the heart. This does not mean the outside is of NO importance. In fact, when David is first described, he is said to be handsome, and later it says that he was a good speaker.

So many people have misunderstood this passage and use it to claim God only looks for people who the world would reject, or that are just plain oddballs. Sometimes it becomes an excuse to BE an oddball. It has been used to place law on people about being concerned with how they look.  There are two parts to the statement. Yes, the heart is what is most important to God. It is of upmost importance. We are also called to influence man, so that pure heart is also going to need to be at least somewhat appealing to “man” if we are going to influence and reach people.

I believe that the statement might well mean something completely different. All of the first seven brothers who were rejected had gone through the ceremonial cleansing required by law in order to be qualified to be in the presence of the priest and to be chosen to be king. None of those seven (which is the Biblical number of completion or perfection) were perfect. The law could not make them perfect.  Finally, after all seven are rejected by God, Samuel is perplexed. He knew God said it was to be one of Jesse’s sons, and he believed God had rejected all of them. He then asks Jesse if there are any other sons. He responds that David, the youngest, is not there. He is out tending the sheep.

 Hold on, he was what? He was tending sheep! How appropriate. Jesus is our good shepherd. Remember, when Saul was chosen by God he was trying to herd donkeys. I think that is quite telling. Herding donkeys is going to require fences and lots of restriction because they are stubborn and will do whatever they please. God does not want His people to be donkeys. He wants sheep, and a strict, legalist donkey herder is not the right one to lead His sheep.  John 21 illustrates this as Jesus restores Peter asking Him to tend and feed and care for His sheep.

David is a sheep herder. He knows that sheep roam free but know the sound of their shepherd’s voice and respond to it. That is what living under grace is supposed to be. The law is written on our hearts and not on stone tablets. We are allowed to “freely eat” in this world, but we know the voice of our shepherd (which for us comes in the form of the voice of the Holy Spirit), and we follow His direction. What a great picture.

They go out and call David in, and the Lord shows Samuel that this is the one He has chosen. Now, where was David when all the purification required by the law was taking place? Not there. He was not doing the law’s works, but was out working. By the law, David was not supposed to be able to come into the priest without cleansing himself.. David was anointed in the presence of his brothers (those who were rejected).  God was not ceremonially prepared, but he was the one that had been prepared in his heart for his calling.  The heart that will respond to the call is far more important to God.    When God calls us, He is not requiring us to get clean before we answer.  Don’t ignore His calling in your life because you don’t think you are qualified to answer. God Himself qualifies those whom He calls – not the law.

We also noted that Saul had God’s anointing lifted and became troubled.  The only thing that will soothe him as music.  He hears that David is a great musician (Saul does not know David has been anointed to be the next king).  David comes and gives him great comfort.  There is this transition time, a picture of Jesus’ time on earth living while law was still ruling. 

I ended with 3 keys to David’s success (and to ours):

1.      Skill

2.      Preparation

3.      Competent Action when the opportunity arises

Success is when preparation and opportunity meet.



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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

two kings two thrones part 5 b

Last week, we continued the “Two Kings, Two Thrones” series examining the differences between Kings Saul and David and how they are types or pictures of rule by law and rule by grace respectively.  In 1 Samuel 15, Saul finally acts in a way that results in God deciding that it will be time for a new king. As a picture of law, it shows how the rulership of law had run its course, and that God was preparing the way for rulership by grace as King David will illustrate.

At the beginning of the chapter, Samuel, the priest, instructs Saul as to what God wanted him to do. His instructions are very clear: attack the Amlakites, and completely destroy them. Saul was told not to spare anything or anyone.

The Amalekites are the people of Amalek, who was the grandson of Esau. God was exacting justice on them for how they attacked the Israelites when they had been set free from Egypt and were on their way to the Promised Land. They were trying to keep them out. God, back then, had sworn that He’d not let their actions go unanswered. This was the answer.

Saul does attack as God commanded, and he utterly defeats them. Afterward, however, he spares the life of their king, Agag, and the best of their livestock. The best were spared and the weak and despised were destroyed. Nothing is despised in and of itself. Someone must choose to despise something. Law chooses who and what will be acceptable and what will not.  An important thing to know about what Saul did is that it was what the law would have demanded – that the best of the spoils of battle belonged to God. They would be sarcrificed to worship God for victory. He was doing what the law would have demanded.

The only problem is that God had given Him specific instructions NOT to bring those offerings. They belonged to Him, so He could choose to do something else with them. Law has a hard time hearing the voice of God. It becomes so dependent on the stone tablets that it cannot hear God’s voice. I think that Saul may not have even heard what Samuel told him because it didn’t fit the law.

 Living by law is actually a lazy version of Christianity. Sure, it is work to try and do what you are supposed to do and avoid doing what you’re not supposed to do, but it never requires you to hear from God on a daily, hourly, or minute-by-minute basis. That is a shame because He is always speaking to us. We miss out on His best when we make a habit of just relying on the rules instead of His voice.

God reveals to Samuel what has happened, and Samuel goes to confront Saul. When he arrives where Saul should be, he is told that Saul made a monument to himself and went on to Gilgal.   Law living is focused on self-righteousness. It essentially builds an altar to self. Self-righteousness is all about what you did and did not do (and what others are doing and not doing). It fails to appreciate the blood of Jesus. It puts works above His blood.  Gilgal is also important. It is where Saul was anointed, where he was told that his kingdom would not be a dynasty, and where he is about to be told that God is going to replace him with a better king (David / grace).

Gilgal is important because of what it represents. In Joshua 5, God has all the people of Israel who had been born since Egyptian captivity circumcised at Gilgal before they enter Canaan. Circumcision is a picture of partnership with God. It is a reminder that God and man would “produce” together. Saul was supposed to partner with God to rule the people, but he becomes more and more about himself and ruling the people himself without obedience to God.   When you read carefully you find that, throughout this chapter, Saul refers to God as “your God” and not “my God.” Again, law makes “self” god and rules apart from God’s direct input.

Saul argues before Samuel that he was obedient – to the law perhaps, but not God’s voice. Samuel makes the well-known statement that obedience is better than sacrifice. In its context, this verse seems to mean exactly the opposite of what it is generally used to beat people over the head with. The obedience Samuel is talking about is the direct voice of God, and the sacrifice is what the law had required.  This is how I would paraphrase that verse – Listen to my constant voice instead of lazily relying on a list of rules to try to please me.

Samuel then tells Saul that one “better than him” will be chosen king. God is not a respecter of persons. No person is truly better than another. However, there are things about one person that might be better. David is going to be better because he lives a life of grace before God. He makes mistakes and sins (badly), but always runs to God when he sins and he listens to the daily instruction of God. David will be better than Saul in the same way that the new covenant is a new and better covenant than the old.

 The chapter finishes with Samuel completing the work Saul failed in. He slays Agag. The King James version actually says he chopped him into pieces before the Lord. Wow?!?

The last thing it says is that Samuel never visited Saul again. He grieved for him, but never returned to see him. Remember that Saul is a type of the law and Samuel is the priest. Jesus is our high priest and the mediator of this new, better covenant. He does not visit the law any more. He remembers our sins no more. Praise God!

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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Two Kings Two Thrones Part 5

This week, we continued on our series by starting in 1 Samuel 14:29.  This is the section where Jonathan had eaten honey and unknowingly violated a fast declared by Saul.  When Jonathan speaks, the words see and tasted in Hebrew have only one other verse that uses them in the Bible, Psalm34:8 “Taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.”  This verse speaks of using our 5 senses to see God’s goodness and to rely on God instead of ourselves, exactly what Saul was not doing.  The phrase “freely eaten” was the same used in Genesis 2:16 regarding Adam and Eve and the garden.  Law had told the Israelites they could not eat the milk and honey God had promised as part of the Promised Land, so they were unable to obtain God’s full blessing.  In verse 39, “must die” or “must surely die” is the same word used in Genesis about eating of the tree of good and evil. 

 We continued to 1 Samuel 16:1 and following.  Saul is told to destroy the Amalekites and destroy everything.  The army spared Agog, and all the best flocks and other good things that were there.  They destroyed only the weak things.  When we don’t do what God says, we don’t get His results.  It is what the sinful act produces that is offensive to God.  Saul also set up a monument to himself.  Samuel comes to him, and Saul declares that he has done everything he was supposed to and declares he was saving them as a sacrifice to the Lord.  When Saul describes what he did, it was for “your God.”  So it wasn’t his God any more in his mind.  Samuel goes on to tell Saul his kingship is no longer approved by God.  He goes on and kills Agog.  Samuel never saw Saul again.  Jesus doesn’t revisit law.  He grieves for those who live under law, but He doesn’t go there.



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Two Kings Two Thrones Part 4

This week, we continued the “Two Kings, Two Thrones” series. We have been looking at the contrast in Kings Saul and David and how King Saul was a picture of the law and King David a picture of grace.  In this part, we examined a story from 1 Samuel 14. Beginning in verse 24, Saul declares a fast for his fighting men as they are about to battle the Philistines. What is striking about this demand is that he says it is to be until “I avenge MYSELF against MY enemies.” Saul has made this all about himself. Secondly, we must notice that God is not the one who demanded the fast or the Priest, Samuel, who recommended it. This was all Saul.

Legalism will continue to keep adding more rules and more restrictions to try to get the desired result. If law sees sin, it thinks the solution is more law. Saul wanted victory, so he demanded something unreasonable from his men. His men are about to go into battle, and he demands that they do not eat. He didn’t say it was because he wanted them to be more in tune with the spirit or to prepare them spiritually. It was just a power play. Law enjoys ruling over people.

What this demand did was create an unnecessary disadvantage for his men – who did go on to win anyway, by the grace and mercy of God. Legalism does that in our lives. It creates and unnecessary disadvantage in accomplishing the plans and purposes of God. Now, I am not talking about living by Godly principles or living a moral life. I am NOT saying God’s instructions are creating an unnecessary disadvantage. It is legalism that does so. Remember, Saul’s command did not come from God.
I remember when I was in a band and we were doing our first overseas trip, the organizers declared that we should fast before our trip.  We were to go to California, attend a church service, and then break the fast.  Because we had not heard from God to do it, though we obeyed, we did not have the best attitude about it.  When we got there, to top it off, we got to the church service, after which we were to break the fast, and the organizers were eating chicken wings.  We did not have time to get food at that point, so we had to wait through a long church service to break our fast.  This was a similar situation.
There are many examples that I could give that fit this description that have been thrust upon believers in the name of holiness. First of all being holy, like righteousness, is not something you achieve, but something you are. The definition of holiness is “set apart for the plans and purposes of God.” What does that have to do with our works? Nothing.

Just like truly knowing that the blood of Jesus has made you righteous will change you at the heart level into one who appears more righteous, the same is true for holiness (remember grace teaches us to say no to ungodliness – Titus 2:11-12). When you truly understand that YOU are set apart for the plans and purposes of God – meaning you are holy – you will begin to act in accordance with that belief. If you only believe you are holy when you have acted as such, you will be hard pressed to truly change the outward actions to ones that many would identify as less than holy.

Legalism has made holiness something you attain by adhering to a list of rules and guidelines for holy living. Many of those rules may seem good but have little to no grounding in scripture. Many others appear to be based on scripture until we learn more about the true context and meaning of the verses used to establish them.

 A great example is 1 Peter 3:1-5 that appears to be saying that women are not allowed to wear makeup, jewelry or nice clothing. The first thing to know when you read this passage is that Peter was not giving a definition of holiness. He says not to rely on outward beauty – like clothing, jewelry and makeup -- to keep your man, but inner beauty. That is very true, but what most translations leave out of that statement is one word that is very important to the message Peter was trying to communicate. I only find this word when I look at the original Greek or in an Amplified Bible. That word is “merely.” He said to let not your beauty be based MERELY on those outward things. He was not banning them!

Additionally, Peter was giving marriage advice. If you want to have a long marriage, you better be more to him than a pretty face (my paraphrase J). If that is all the attraction he has to you, there will always be a younger, newer, prettier face that will come along. Legalism looked in the Bible and found something it thought it could use to make a law out of – one that is an unnecessary disadvantage in life.

A second example that also relates to women is in 1 Corinthians 11. It appears on the surface that Paul (who we thought was all about grace) is saying that a woman cannot cut her hair if she wants to pray or prophesy. To understand Paul’s words more clearly we must zoom out a little and get some context. Just a few verses earlier at the end of chapter 10, Paul talks about how all things are permissible, but not necessarily beneficial and that no one should be condemned for eating anything, but, in exercising our freedom, don’t cause someone else to stumble. I may be free to have a beer in God’s eyes (though I never would because I think it tastes horrible), but if someone in my congregation saw me drinking a beer, it could be a stumbling block for them. They may not be able to receive the Word from me, or maybe they would see my action as a form of approving such behavior for them. If they have alcoholic tendencies, that could be catastrophic.

So why this stark about-face now when we’re talking about a woman’s hair length? It seems a little strange, doesn’t it? More context is needed. The next few verses after this so-called rule bring some light to Paul’s heart. He goes on to point out that men and women are not different before God. He does not have separate rules for righteousness for men and women. But this all still seems a little contradictory. The key is in that “don’t cause someone else to stumble” statement. What Paul is saying is that to the people in these churches, the length of hair means something and it is important to them. It doesn’t matter that it may not really be important. Don’t let your opinion be an offense to them. You don’t have to call them out. It really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme. He says in verse 16 to not be contentious about it.
There was another statement he made just previous to this in chapter 10. He says that we should not be ruled by someone else’s conscience. Remember that we have been cleansed of a guilty conscience. Don’t allow what someone else’s conscience says is right and wrong rule over you (or vice-versa). If they want length of hair to be important – so be it. Don’t argue with them about it, but also, don’t allow them to force that on you.

Finally, we headed back to 1 Samuel 14. After Saul’s demand for a fast, his son Jonathan, unaware of his father’s decree, sees a honeycomb oozing honey and takes some. The other men see him do this and inform him of his father’s command and that any who ate would be killed. Jonathan remarks that his father was foolish sending men to battle without food. He says that they could have had a resounding victory against the Philistines with food, not just a slight win.  Saul is notified that someone ate. At this point he does not know it was his son. He demands the “sinner” be brought forward and killed, even if it is his son. When it is discovered that it was indeed his son, he sticks to his guns and demands Jonathan’s life. The other men say, “no way.” Jonathan had just been a war hero, and he is the king’s son, and Saul would have him killed for breaking HIS rule (remember it was not God’s).  This is what legalism does. It will entirely disqualify a minister who is doing great things to expand the kingdom because he doesn’t line up with one of their legalist rules. We want to be ruled by God, not rules and legalism.

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