BEST DECISION EVER: THE ERRAND

In the course of a twenty-four hour period we make gobs of decisions. Some of these we make with a serious amount of forethought and prayer. Others we make spontaneously with little or no thought as to the consequences or impact our decisions will have—not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives are intertwined with ours.

Have you ever thought much about how a single decision can change your life forever? For better or worse?

In these blog posts I’d like to look at the one good decision that some people in the Bible made that changed the course of their life for the better. By looking at ourselves in the mirror of God’s Word I hope we’ll all take comfort, courage, and hope in the fact that, despite the mess we’re presently faced with, we can still turn things around. A lousy past or dismal present doesn’t have to give us the same future. By God’s grace, our future and life can be changed for the better…if we only make the right decision today. May God help us do that on a daily basis!

THE ERRAND

I’m a father of young adults. I’m a grandpa. And I’m a Christian. The heart and prayer of a father for his children is that they turn out alright in life, make the right choices, be healthy, keep safe, have a good life, and most of all, give their life to Jesus. Life will eventually disrupt the family. Once the kids leave home the family will never again be the same. Life will separate the family by miles. And death will eventually rob us of the loved ones we hold most dear in life. Jesus alone holds the key to an eternal family reunion in Heaven. And that’s why I pray fervently that my children will love the Lord as I do, even more, and serve Him faithfully to the end of days. Having given you a father’s perspective on his children, let me put this train of thought on hold and let’s take a whirlwind tour of David’s life.

We’re all familiar with the story of David. He bursts on the scene in the Valley of Elah where he kills Goliath and leads the once fearful, demoralized Israelite army to victory in the ensuing battle against the Philistines (1 Samuel 17). From this point on, David is pretty much stuck by the King’s side: King Saul isn’t letting go of this young warrior and hero. He promotes him to General of the Army and David’s valor and victories in war become the stuff of legend. David’s so successful that King Saul gets really jealous of him and tries to kill him on many occasions. One of the King’s murderous plans, however, backfires on him and, as promised, the King gives David one of his daughters to marry as a reward for a successful expedition against the Philistines. So now, David is a member of royalty and that, as you can imagine, really infuriated the jealously-demented King.

Well, David was a good man and there was no way he was going to lift sword or spear against his King. So he goes on the lam and for the next several years he lives in exile in, of all places, the land of his enemy the Philistines (1 Samuel 19-30).

King Saul gets killed in battle against the Philistines (1 Samuel 31). David returns to his homeland of Judah. And there he is crowned King by his tribe (2 Samuel 2). He’s King for 7½ years in Judah.

During this time, in the aftermath of Saul’s death, his son Ishbosheth becomes King of Israel (2 Samuel 2). Ishbosheth reigns as Israel’s King for 7½ years. He eventually gets assassinated and that’s when all Israel came together and asked David to become their next King (2 Samuel 4-5). So altogether, David is King for 40 years. Under his military prowess he enlarges Israel’s Kingdom to its greatest extent ever. His enemies fear him. And Israel is established as a regional superpower.

All this began in the Valley of Elah when David pretty much came out of obscurity and dumbfounded the cowardly Israelite army. He made quick work of beheading the giant, then just as deftly and decisively, he went on to rout the Philistines in battle. In the Valley he emerged as a national hero. Became General. Then son-in-law of the King. Eventually King. And master of a regional superpower. Imagine all the good things that happened to David and all Israel just because he came to the Valley of Elah! If David had not come to the Valley, the course of history would have been drastically different! We would not be amiss at all in saying that the course, future, and destiny of the nation of Israel were forever altered when David showed up in the Valley of Elah!

Friends, do you know how David found himself in the Valley of Elah? What brought him to Elah? Well, David was a young shepherd boy living in Bethlehem with his family. He was tending his father’s flocks of sheep when, one day, his dad sent him on an errand. 1 Samuel 17:17-19 tells the story of how it went.  One day, Jesse told David, “Hurry and take this sack of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread to your brothers at the army camp.  (18)  And here are ten large chunks of cheese to take to their commanding officer. Find out how your brothers are doing and bring back something that shows that they’re all right.  (19)  They’re with Saul’s army, fighting the Philistines in Elah Valley.”

Dad Jesse was getting worried about his sons. They were in the army. And, being the soldiers that they were, dad was all the time worried about them. He had every right to be. The Philistines were the most feared army in the world at this time and, realistically speaking, the Israelites weren’t much of a match against them. Pictures of death and defeat are probably racing through Jesse’s mind. Are my sons alive? Did they get killed in battle? Are they coming back home safe and sound? So, being the worried father that he was, Jesse sent his son David to Elah to see how his sons were doing. You’d be totally right to say that Jesse was checking up on his sons. Unbeknownst to him, Jesse sending David to Elah would change David’s life forever and alter the course of Israelite history. A worried father’s decision to send David on a domestic errand turned out to be his best decision ever!

As a mother or father, we make all kinds of decisions that impact and affect our kids for life. It’s not always the big decisions that affect them the most. Sometimes, it’s the smallest decision we make—like sending them on an errand—that starts a chain reaction that will change their lives forever. So, parents, pray for your kids. Pray about the decisions you make. With God’s guidance and help, like Jesse, you can make the best decision ever! God bless you with Jesse’s care and success!

FIGHTING OUR GOLIATHS PART 4

INTRODUCTION

We’re looking at the story of David and Goliath. God, through the story, wants to encourage our heart with the fact that we can fight our Goliaths and win! Now most of us would rather not face or fight a Goliath. But there are just some things that we have no say in; there are some things that we have no control over. God’s in charge. And even though He knows we don’t want to ever meet up with a Goliath, He nevertheless brings a Goliath our way and He expects us to fight him and beat him.

In our last post, we looked at the fearful Israelite army. God showed us how we can conquer our fears, get out of the foxhole, and fight.

Today, we want to look at David. Unlike the fearful Israelites, David was prepared, ready, and willing to fight Goliath. God wants to encourage our hearts with the fact that we can beat our Goliaths. But before we even meet up with him, we need to cultivate a habit of courage and faith.

DAVID VOLUNTEERED TO FIGHT

1 Samuel 17:12-13,  Now David was the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehemjudah, whose name was Jesse; and he had eight sons: and the man went among men for an old man in the days of Saul.  (13)  And the three eldest sons of Jesse went and followed Saul to the battle: and the names of his three sons that went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, and next unto him Abinadab, and the third Shammah.

1 Samuel 17:17-22,  And Jesse said unto David his son, Take now for thy brethren an ephah of this parched corn, [that’s about ¾ bushel of grain—most likely either wheat or barley that was dried, or roasted, in an oven; the Israelites did not grow corn] and these ten loaves, and run to the camp to thy brethren;  (18)  And carry these ten cheeses unto the captain of their thousand, and look how thy brethren fare, and take their pledge. [A pledge was a token or proof that Jesse’s sons were alive & well. Usually, the pledge would be a lock of hair or a piece of their clothing.]

(19)  Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines.  (20)  And David rose up early in the morning, and left the sheep with a keeper, and took, and went, as Jesse had commanded him; and he came to the trench, as the host was going forth to the fight, and shouted for the battle.  (21)  For Israel and the Philistines had put the battle in array, army against army.  (22)  And David left his carriage in the hand of the keeper of the carriage, and ran into the army, and came and saluted his brethren.

As David was talking with his brothers, Goliath came out and gave the same speech that he’d been giving for the last forty days: he wanted the Israelites to send out a man to fight him. To make a long story short, David volunteered to fight him!

1 Samuel 17:31,  And when the words were heard which David spake, they rehearsed them before Saul: and he sent for him. Now I’d like for you to notice David’s first words to the King. Verse 32,  And David said to Saul, Let no man’s heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this  Philistine. For forty days, neither the King nor any of his generals, colonels, sergeants, or soldiers, volunteered for the fight. They were all plumb scared to fight Goliath. Along comes David and the very first thing he does is, he volunteers to fight! He’s not scared! He wants to fight Goliath!

Well, you would think that the King would be relieved that he’d finally find someone who was willing to fight the giant. But the King wasn’t convinced that that was a good idea because David was just a scrawny teenager. Besides that, he wasn’t a soldier, he didn’t know how to fight, he’d only get himself killed if the King sent him out there into the Valley. 

1  Samuel 17:33,   And  Saul  said  to  David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth. [Youth in the Hebrew refers to a teenager; someone who wasn’t an adult. Most scholars agree that David, at this time, wasn’t 20 years old. Many believe he was around 17 years old.]

If David was just bluffing and full of hot air, here was his chance to get out of fighting the giant. But David isn’t bluffing. He wants to fight. So he gives the King some background history about himself that might persuade the King to change his mind and let him fight.

1 Samuel 17:34-37,  And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock:  (35)  And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him.  (36)  Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: [Notice David’s faith and courage here: he is so absolutely sure and convinced that] this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God. (37b)  David said moreover, The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.

DAVID BROUGHT GOD INTO THE VALLEY AND, WITH GOD BY HIS SIDE, DAVID KNEW HOW THE FIGHT WOULD END! That, dear friends, is confidence! Not self-confidence, but confidence in God. THAT’S WHAT FAITH IS. FAITH IS PLACING YOUR CONFIDENCE IN GOD.

DAVID WAS READY AND PREPARED TO FIGHT

Now the thing that I want you to notice is, when David went into the Valley of Elah he went there with faith already in his heart. He didn’t have to stop and muster it up. He didn’t have to tarry and pray. He didn’t have to wrestle with fear or doubt. He didn’t have to stop and ask God to help him get rid of his fears or doubts.  When David went into the Valley faith was already in his heart and, because of it, he was ready to fight.

Brethren, do you know why faith was already in his heart?  Because  DAVID MADE IT A POINT TO KEEP FAITH IN HIS HEART AT ALL TIMES. HE MADE IT A HABIT TO FIGHT LIFE’S BATTLES. AND WIN THEM! HE DIDN’T CULTIVATE A HABIT OF FEAR AND ESCAPE, BUT RATHER, A HABIT OF COURAGE AND FAITH.

David acquired the habit of fighting and faith—not as a soldier, but as a shepherd. The life of a shepherd was no gravy job. The job had its own fair share of trials. Unbeknownst  to David at  the  time, his day to day trials as a sheep herder prepared him for this battle with Goliath.

Now back in those days, grass for the sheep was not grown, cut, dried, and stored in barns, much the way farmers of today would grow hay in the fields, then cut, dry, and store them so that the livestock would have a steady, continual supply of hay throughout the year. Shepherds brought their flocks to wherever the pasture and water were. A lot of times, it would take days to get to a field of grass or days to get to a river or well. So David was accustomed to spending large amounts of time on the road, in the fields, taking care of the sheep. Day  and  night, he  kept watch over the flock—making sure that brigands didn’t steal the sheep. He had to fend off wild beasts from devouring and decimating the flock.

On two particular occasions, David had a tussle with a lion and bear. We read about it in verses 34-35. And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: {35} And I went out after him, and smote him,  and  delivered  it  out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him

It  would  be  erroneous  for us to think that these tussles with the lion and bear were the only fights David had out in the field. There were other wild beasts to contend with. Smaller perhaps. And not as threatening as a lion or bear. But the point is, DAVID HAD HIS FIGHTS. AND HE FOUGHT THEM.

Coming Up On My Next Blog, Part 5. Cultivating a habit of courage and faith.

FIGHTING OUR GOLIATHS PART 1

INTRODUCTION

I’d like to talk to you about FIGHTING OUR GOLIATHS. Some of us have fought our Goliaths and won. Some of you are fighting your Goliaths right now. You’re in the fight of your life. And the Lord has His strong arms uplifted for you. He’ll keep them up until the battle’s won.

Some of you may not have ever fought against a Goliath. You will. One day. You’ll walk into the Valley of Elah, and unbeknownst to you, you’ll find a Goliath waiting for you. Waiting to tempt, ensnare, and enslave you. Waiting to kill you. Waiting to damn you. And your job will be to face him, fight him, and beat him. It can be done with God’s grace. And God’s here today to show us how—how to fight what looks like an unbeatable foe and beat him with God’s help. That’s the theme for today’s lesson. Our text will be the familiar story of David and Goliath.

WE’RE AT WAR!

1 Samuel 17:1a,  Now the Philistines gathered together their armies to battle. The first thing that I’d like for you to see from the verse of Scripture is the fact that we’re at war. We have an enemy, named Satan. He has a host of demons under his command. And he’s gathered his forces against us to wage a life-and-death struggle for our very soul.

There’s a war going on all around us. You may not like the fact that we’re at war. You may not believe there’s a war going on. You may choose not to fight or participate in the war.  But  the  fact of the matter is, whether you participate in the war or not, we’re at war. The Devil’s on the move. He’s on the prowl. And he’s brought the war to our home, to our doorsteps. He’s got Christian casserole on the menu today and he’s hoping we’re in it.

But I got news for you. We’re not going to be in his casserole because we’re going to do what the Bible tells us to do, and that is, be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour, (1 Peter 5:8).  The Devil’s brought his war to us. And that’s the second thing that I want you to see.

WE’RE UNDER ATTACK!

1 Samuel 17:1,  Now the Philistines gathered together their armies to battle, and were gathered together at Shochoh, which belongeth to Judah, and pitched between Shochoh and Azekah, in Ephesdammim. Notice where the Philistines were at. They were at Shochoh, which belongeth to Judah. In other words, the Philistine army has invaded Israel, starting here at the town of Shochoh. So what we have here is an invading, attacking force. 

Like I said, THE DEVIL HAS BROUGHT THE WAR TO US AND WE’RE UNDER ATTACK! Do you wonder why, all of a sudden, out of the blue, you’re going through this trial? Do you marvel or despair at the intensity and duration of the trial? Have you found yourself, as of late, dealing with one problem after another? Do you find yourself faced with situations you thought you would never face? Problems in the family. Problems with your friends. Problems in the church. Problems with the job.

Wonder no more, my friends.  The Devil’s attacking you! The Devil’s got your number and he’s doing his level best to kill you and damn you. If not that, he’s going to steal what you’ve got: your health, your money, your family, your job, your peace, your joy, your close walk with the Lord. In Jesus’ words,  the thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy (John10:10).

This Philistine invasion of Judah tells us that our enemy isn’t a passive, peaceable foe. He’s bold and daring. He attacks. We’re a people of peace. We don’t want war. We’re busy minding our business in Judah. But, to our alarm and dismay, the Philistines have invaded us without cause. Brethren, we have been thrust into a spiritual war and it is our duty as Christians to fight back and repulse this Philistine invasion. WE ARE AT WAR!  And we must fight!

Why fight? Brethren, look at everything we’ve got to lose. The Philistines of old came looking for new lands to conquer and possess. New vineyards and flocks to possess. New riches. New homes. New slaves.

The Philistines of the spiritual realm have come to take us on a detour away from Heaven and get us rocking, drinking, doping, drugging, fornicating, gambling, cheating, stealing, lying, and more, on the road to Hell. The Philistines have come to steal what is rightfully ours by way of inheritance. To sicken and infirm us. To plague and disease us.  To divide marriages and destroy homes. To alienate a husband from his wife. To alienate the children from their parents. To divide churches. To keep brethren apart. To make brethren adversaries of one another. To malign and spread slander and lies about us. To give the world a wrong and evil impression of Christ, the Church, and Christians. To outlaw Christianity and forbid the free exercise of our religion. To tempt. To persecute. To kill and to destroy. To damn our souls.

In view of everything that’s at stake—our bodies, our lives, our marriages, our homes, our children, our churches, our liberties, our souls, our future, and our eternal rewards—we cannot remain passive and complacent about the war that has been thrust upon us. There’s a lot at stake and we simply can’t go on with life as usual. We’re at war! And we’ve got to start fighting the Devil back. Not ignore him. Or befriend him. Not go into league with him. Or pacify him and serve him. Not live in peace with him. But fight him and win the war! And this brings me to the third thing that I’d like for us to see.

WE’VE GOT TO TAKE A STAND AND FIGHT!

1 Samuel 17:2-3,  And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and pitched by the valley of Elah, and set the battle in array against the Philistines.[They were dressed and armed for battle; they formed their front line and got ready to fight.] (3)  And the Philistines stood on a mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side: and there was a valley between them.

The Israelites started off doing the right thing. They rushed their army to the Valley of Elah to take a stand and stop this Philistine invasion. Unfortunately, that’s where the fight stopped. It never even got started. Instead of attacking, they stood still and were aghast! Without firing a single shot, the Philistines stole the Israelite army’s courage and faith and filled them with fear instead.

Reminds me a lot of ourselves. We start feeling sick. Or we get a prayer request. And we immediately rush to the Valley of Elah and go to prayer. That’s a good thing. But as soon as we find out what we’re dealing with, what we’re up against; as soon as we put a name on the sickness or hear the diagnosis and prognosis; we come to a screeching halt and, like the Israelites, stand aghast as the enemy steals our courage and faith and renders us unable to fight because of cowardice and fear.

Coming Up On My Next Blog, Part 2. A look at the Goliaths that frighten us. Join me, won’t you? I’d love to have you!