1 Samuel 17

"The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine" (v37).  In the eyes of his brothers and the king, David was an inexperienced youth. However, he had seen the hand of God in his own life, and he had learned to depend on God’s mighty power. This challenge – the giant warrior defying Israel – was new, yet the power of the “Living God” to deliver was exactly the same (v36).

“For the battle is the Lord’s” (v47). Every new battle in our lives is a fresh opportunity to see God’s hand at work; His love and His power never fail.   

1 Samuel 16

"How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and go” (v1).  The Lord urged the prophet Samuel to let go of Saul’s kingship and to obey by anointing the next king.  Samuel may have been reluctant because Saul was still acting as king (making it dangerous to speak of the next one!), or because he still thought Saul could be successful – God had originally chosen him. Yet God called the prophet to go.

“For the Lord sees not as man sees … the Lord looks on the heart” (v7).  Like Samuel, we often struggle to understand God’s plan. But we can trust Him with our future.  

Psalm 59

“O my Strength, I will watch for you, for you, O God, are my fortress” (v9).  We think of David as a mighty warrior king, but the psalms often portray a man hiding from his enemies, surrounded and desperate (v1-3).  He’s distressed by wicked people who “come back, howling like dogs and prowling about the city” (v6,14), speaking lies and curses, defying God and causing harm. Yet, he says, in the middle of his fear, “my God in his steadfast love will meet me” (v10).

“For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress” (v16). In the day of our distress, we can lean on our Strength, our Savior. 

Acts 7:37-60

“Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says …” (v48).  Stephen’s review of Israel’s history showed the greatness of God – far beyond the limited, physical Temple in Jerusalem, which never could “contain” Him.  The religious leaders were comfortable with their familiar faith and their proud history of God’s covenant. When Jesus came, preaching the kingdom in ways they didn’t understand, turning everything upside down, showing power through self-sacrifice, they rejected him.

“Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (v60).  Stephen understood that Jesus demonstrated God’s shocking, sacrificial love for sinners, and the whole world is different.  The love that changed us we also extend to others.  

Acts 7:1-36

“He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand” (v25).  As Stephen was about to be stoned to death by the religious leaders (6:12), he re-told them the familiar story of God’s covenant relationship with Israel. Stephen described Moses as God’s chosen prophet-rescuer, yet Moses’ fellow Israelites didn’t understand.  Stephen made the comparison with Jesus more explicit: Moses, “ruler and redeemer,” was rejected (v35).

“Who made you a ruler and a judge over us?” (v27).  God sent Jesus to deliver us from the bondage of sin – just as the Israelites were delivered from Egypt.  To be our Redeemer, we must also accept Him as judge and king. 

1 Samuel 15

“Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice …” (v22).  After the battle with the Amalekites, King Saul again demonstrated his lack of faith and trust in God’s command.  God had told him not to take anything from the Amalekites as plunder, yet Saul and the people seized “all that was good,” supposedly to offer it to God as sacrifice (v9,15), trying to “serve God” on their own terms.  The prophet Samuel declared that God didn’t need Saul’s sacrifice; God desired an obedient heart.

“For …presumption is as iniquity and idolatry” (v23).  Thinking we know better than God is the core of sinful behavior.  Rather than sacrifices or comprises, He wants the simple obedience of our hearts.    

1 Samuel 14

“It may be that the LORD will work for us, for nothing can hinder the LORD from saving by many or by few" (v6).  Jonathan approached the enemy camp with a heart full of faith in what the Lord could do, though he did not presume to know God’s will (v10).  He waited for God’s sign, and then he and his armor-bearer attacked, trusting in God’s power.  King Saul later entered the battle with his troops but, rather than acting in faith, his focus was on vengeance and unnecessary curses (v17,24).

“The Lord has given them into our hand” (v10).  Faith in God, rather than fear of enemies or disaster or the future, points us in the right direction.      

1 Samuel 13

“What have you done?” (13:11).  King Saul demonstrated a lack of faith in God that proved very costly.  God had commanded him to wait for the prophet Samuel to offer sacrifice before an important battle; however, when Saul had to wait longer than expected and his terrified troops started deserting him, and he decided that making the sacrifice himself would save the day (v11-13).  Consequently, the prophet Samuel told him that his descendants would not inherit the throne.

“You have not kept the command of the Lord…” (v13).  King Saul learned that winning on his terms, rather than God’s, meant losing everything.  God is concerned with how we do things, not just the outcome of the battle.  

1 Samuel 12

“And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty” (v21).  The prophet Samuel saw the Israelite’s tendency to “turn aside” and chase idols (v10), and he warned them that “empty things” would not give them the protection, comfort, or prosperity they desired.  God Himself was the source of all good things, and every time Israel looked elsewhere for help, they suffered.  Even asking for a king was “wickedness” (v17), because God was their King.

“For consider what great things He has done for you” (v24).  When we meditate on the great things God has done for us, His kindness, forgiveness, and saving power, empty things lose their grip on our hearts.    

Psalm 58

“Let them vanish like water that flows away; when they draw the bow, let their arrows fall short” (v7).  Using imagery that is shocking to our modern ears, the psalmist begs God to punish those who “devise injustice” and “mete out violence” (v2).  Our enemies might be visible, or, as Ephesians 6 says, “spiritual forces of wickedness”; in either case, we can ask God to protect us and let the dangerous arrows heading our way “fall short.”  Those who pursue wickedness will eventually fall into the hands of a just God.

“Surely there is a God who judges the earth” (v11).  God is both our protector from evil and the judge who will make all things right in the end. 

Acts 6:8-15

“And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people” (v8).  Stephen was one of the seven men appointed to be managers (or deacons) of the growing church, and he was “full of faith and Holy Spirit” (v5).  His preaching and miracles astounded people and angered others, and false witnesses arose to accuse him.  Rather than serving the church for years with his gifts, Stephen was immediately captured (v12).

“But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking” (v10).  Stephen didn’t build his own ministry or even break free from prison, yet the power of his life and witness shook up the world.       

Acts 6:1-7

“…a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution” (v1).  Even when the early Church consisted mainly of Jewish believers, cultural differences divided people.  The “Hellenists” (Greek-speaking Jews) felt that their needy widows were not being given as much support as the “Hebrews” (traditional Jews).  Recognizing this, the apostles wisely appointed Greek-speaking leaders to take care of distribution so that nothing would hinder the unity and growth of the Church (v2-6).

“And the number of disciples multiplied greatly …” (v7).  When we allow the Spirit to help us overcome our human prejudices and divisions, Jesus is glorified and believers are multiplied.      

1 Samuel 11

“If there is no one to save us, we will give ourselves up to you" (v3).  The twelve tribes of Israel were a coalition more than a nation at this time, and their lack of unity made them weak. As their first king, Saul was able to unite the Israelites in defense of the people of Jabesh-Gilead (v7), who were being threatened by the Ammonites (v1).  Though God’s desire was to be Israel’s only king and deliverer, He used Saul to protect the nation (v9).

“Today the Lord has worked salvation in Israel” (v13).  Saul’s leadership was only effective because he cooperated with what God was doing.  We thrive in our gifts and callings when we whole-heartedly serve our King. 

1 Samuel 10

“When he turned his back to leave Samuel, God gave him another heart” (v9).  God called Saul to be Israel’s king, and the prophet Samuel anointed him (v1) as a sign of that call.  Further, even though Saul had very little experience or reputation, God prepared him by giving him a new heart – a deep commitment – and pouring out His Spirit on him.  Saul surprised everyone by prophesying (v10-11) just as the local prophets did.  These signs confirmed God’s choice and helped people accept him.

“What has come over the son of Kish?” (v11).  No matter our background, if God calls us to a task, he will also equip us and prepare us.

1 Samuel 9

"Tomorrow about this time I will send to you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be prince over my people Israel” (v16).  God explained to the prophet Samuel that he was choosing Saul to be Israel’s king.  Tall and handsome, Saul was a young man from a wealthy Benjamite family (v1) who was untested. While out looking for his father’s lost donkeys, Saul encountered the prophet and was given a spectacular opportunity.

“Am I not a Benjamite, from the least of the tribes of Israel?” (v21). Saul didn’t choose to be king or control the circumstances.  However, like us, whether he followed the Lord within his circumstances was up to him.   

1 Samuel 8

“But they have rejected me from being king over them” (v7).  Until this point, the Israelite tribes had functioned without a king; they had prophets, priests, and sometimes judges, but God was supposed to be their King.  Now, disappointed with their corrupt priests and judges and wanting to be like other nations, they asked for a human king.  Samuel warned them that in rejecting God’s leadership, they were accepting a power that would also exploit them, but they insisted.

“I brought them out of Egypt” (v8).  Other people or ideas might claim to be “the answer” to our problems, but God is our true Deliverer, Savior, and King, and His rule is always for our good.    

Psalm 57

“In the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by” (v1).  David the psalmist, running from King Saul, knew what it was like to need a secure refuge.  The “storms of destruction” battered him more than once in his life, and at times he was innocent, while at other times he was the problem.  “My soul is in the midst of lions” (v4), he said, in constant uncertainty and danger.  Yet he cried out to God, trusting that the Creator could redeem every situation to fulfill “his purposes for me” (v2).     

“My heart is steadfast” (v7).  Peace comes not from perfect circumstances, but from knowing our Redeemer loves us.

Acts 5:1-12

“We must obey God rather than men” (v29).  Peter and the apostles declared that they “must” obey God – not just because it was right, but because they had first-hand evidence that God was more powerful than men.  They had seen Jesus’ miracles and witnessed his death and resurrection, and now they themselves had experienced the Spirit’s power and been rescued from prison by an angel (v19).  Their decision to keep preaching about Jesus came from their belief that God was real and active.

“And we are witnesses to these things …” (v32).  The active presence of Jesus in our lives makes us eager to be His witnesses – speaking about and living for Him. 

Acts 5:1-11

“You have not lied to men but to God" (v4).  Right away, the first church experienced two challenges that face all churches: opposition from outside forces and sin within the church.  Ananias and Sapphira were church members who wanted to look radically generous, like those whose lives were truly being transformed by the Spirit.  They sold their property and pretended to give “all” the proceeds to the apostles; however, they could not lie to the Holy Spirit (v1-5).

“And great fear came upon the whole church …” (v11).  A healthy “fear” or respect for God causes us to live with integrity, knowing that He sees our hearts as well as our actions.  

1 Samuel 7

"If you are returning to the LORD with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the LORD and serve him only …” (v3).  After experiencing defeat, the deaths of wicked priests, and God’s power to bring judgment, the Israelites were “lamenting” (v2).  Rather than just grieve over sin, Samuel urged them to get rid of their idols, change their ways, and “direct their hearts” to follow God.  Then they would experience the blessing of being His people.

“We have sinned against the Lord” (v6).  Repentance means that we turn away from sin and turn in God’s direction.  Then His Spirit helps us to live in a new way.