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Acts 9: Controversial Conversion

I can only imagine the controversy that went down when Saul converted to Christianity in Acts 9. He went from being the guy who was sent to kill the Christians to the guy who was all of a sudden one of the best defenders of the faith.

Act 9:21  But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?

Act 9:22  But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.

Act 9:23  And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him:

Act 9:24  But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him.

Act 9:25  Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket.

He was seen as so much of a threat that he already had the priests planning to kill him. He was that effective. Saul was clearly a very intelligent man, and God was able to put that talent to work in confounding of the Jews who lived in Damascus. He would’ve had the background knowledge to know the Old Testament Scriptures, and now he was in a position where he understood that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies. He understood that Jesus was indeed the Christ.

I wonder what would happen if something like this happen today. What would happen if a prominent figure in another religion converted to Christianity? I think it would be just as controversial as what happened for Saul, but the main point here is that even though most people would have doubted that God would use Saul, He was able to. He turned him from an enemy to one of the best intellectuals in the early church.

Jeremiah 46: The Problem of Disobedience

In Jeremiah 46, we hear the ultimate reason that God did not want the people of Israel to go to Egypt. Babylon was going to come in and take over the land. While they were there, the people of Judah who had run there were going to be devastated as well. However, it was going to be okay for the people of Israel because God had been at work the whole time.

Jer 46:27  But fear not thou, O my servant Jacob, and be not dismayed, O Israel: for, behold, I will save thee from afar off, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and be in rest and at ease, and none shall make him afraid.

Jer 46:28  Fear thou not, O Jacob my servant, saith the LORD: for I am with thee; for I will make a full end of all the nations whither I have driven thee: but I will not make a full end of thee, but correct thee in measure; yet will I not leave thee wholly unpunished.

From the beginning, God had been telling the people that the best course of action was to submit to Babylonian rule, and they didn’t listen. First, they decided to try to fight, and that didn’t go well. Then, the ones that were left behind in Judah to work the land decided that they wanted to run away and not submit.

The people were literally doing whatever they could to disobey what God had told them. Part of that might be because they did not want to be captives, and I can’t necessarily say I blame them on one level.

However, at the same time, when God tells us something, we need to be obedient. Think about Jonah. Think about the fact that Saul was supposed to wait for Samuel before making a sacrifice prior to battle. Actions have consequences, and people are responsible for the choices they make. However, one thing to notice about this particular situation is that God had everything already set for how the people were going to come back to Jerusalem. He was going to do it through the people who did what they had to do and submitted to Babylonian captivity.

Psalms 57: Trusting God above Ourselves

Psalms 57 was written soon after one of the biggest triumphs of David’s life. He apparently wrote this chapter right after his encounter with Saul in the cave and makes the story that much more impressive in my opinion.

If you don’t remember the story, let me throw a few verses to you as background.

1Sa 24:3  And he came to the sheepcotes by the way, where was a cave; and Saul went in to cover his feet: and David and his men remained in the sides of the cave.

1Sa 24:4  And the men of David said unto him, Behold the day of which the LORD said unto thee, Behold, I will deliver thine enemy into thine hand, that thou mayest do to him as it shall seem good unto thee. Then David arose, and cut off the skirt of Saul’s robe privily.

1Sa 24:5  And it came to pass afterward, that David’s heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul’s skirt.

1Sa 24:6  And he said unto his men, The LORD forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the LORD’S anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the LORD.

1Sa 24:7  So David stayed his servants with these words, and suffered them not to rise against Saul. But Saul rose up out of the cave, and went on his way.

David had a golden opportunity to kill Saul and finish this entire pursuit. He had all of his men with him, and they could have easily disposed of Saul and given David the throne. That surely would have been better than being chased around the wilderness.

However, David said that he could not kill the one that God had anointed.

The chapter that we read today was after this event apparently, and look at what David said.

Psa 57:1  To the chief Musician, Altaschith, Michtam of David, when he fled from Saul in the cave. Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.

Psa 57:2  I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me.

Psa 57:3  He shall send from heaven, and save me from the reproach of him that would swallow me up. Selah. God shall send forth his mercy and his truth.

Psa 57:4  My soul is among lions: and I lie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword.

He talks a lot about trusting God in this Psalm, and we just saw him live that out. He could have taken the situation into his own hands. He had the opportunity to act on his own. God had told David that he would one day be King, but David could have brought that day along much more quickly. However, he didn’t do that.

He did not want to offend God and actually decided to trust God. He wrote a lot about trusting God, but when you look at the context of when he was writing this passage, we see an example of him a living out that faith and trust. It should inspire us to live with the same kind of trust.

2 Chronicles 34: We Are on a Hill

Even though Josiah came on to the throne at the very young age of eight years old, when we meet him in 2 Chronicles 34, he seemed to make wise decisions.

2Ch 34:1  Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem one and thirty years.

2Ch 34:2  And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the ways of David his father, and declined neither to the right hand, nor to the left.

I like the word choice here because if you deviate to the right or to the left, it is a decline. Some alternate translations for this word in Hebrew according to Strong’s numbers are revolt or depart. Nevertheless, I like the imagery of this word decline.

When we are following God, it is kind of like we are on the crest of a hill. We are as high as we could possibly get. God’s plan is our best and highest plan. However, if we start to fall away from that path, we get a little bit lower. Any direction we go in is a decline unless we stay on the crest. The more we deviate from the plan that God has established, the more we slip down the hill.

This is the kind of story that happened to many of the kings of Israel and Judah. Saul started out on the right path. However, when he made the vital error of performing the sacrifice by himself rather than waiting for Samuel, he got bit off track.

He kept getting farther and farther away from where he needed to be as he moved on. He continued declining away from the ideal path at the top of the hill.

We need to make sure that we are more like Josiah and less like Saul. God does have a plan for us, and that involves taking a certain path. If we curve off of that path, we are the only ones that will lose out. By following God, we will have the peace that passes understanding and will be able to be used however God sees fit.

1 Chronicles 10: Do Our Jobs

We have heard this story from 1 Chronicles 10 before, but it is still pretty tragic. Saul started off as great king, and he was chosen by God. However, he then made a series of very bad decisions to ultimately cause God to have him replaced.

His biggest mistake is outlined at the end of this chapter.

1Ch 10:13  So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the LORD, even against the word of the LORD, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to enquire of it;

1Ch 10:14  And enquired not of the LORD: therefore he slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse.

He went to another source rather than God, and I have to admit that he really could not have made much worse of a decision. After all, God is very clear that you cannot have any other gods, and consulting with a medium would definitely be pretty low on that list of good decisions.

I think this is a great one for all of us. You can certainly be called by God to do something. Obviously, God chose Saul to put on the throne. However, Saul made some decisions that disqualified him for leadership. As a result, God had him replaced by David.

That is why it is so important to be careful about what we do. Sometimes it only takes a little errors to destroy a testimony and a limit the influence that we can have for God and sharing with others. We need to make sure that we are doing things that would first of all honor God. If we are not going to use everything that we had been given to honor God, it is certainly possible that He will find someone else to do the job.

2 Samuel 17: Be Grateful When People Help

It is interesting to draw parallels between Absalom pursuing David and 2 Samuel 17 and the way that Saul chased David around earlier in his life.

2Sa 17:1  Moreover Ahithophel said unto Absalom, Let me now choose out twelve thousand men, and I will arise and pursue after David this night:

2Sa 17:2  And I will come upon him while he is weary and weak handed, and will make him afraid: and all the people that are with him shall flee; and I will smite the king only:

This immediately made me think of all the opportunities David had to kill Saul. Saul was weary and sleeping when David had the opportunity to strike him down, but David did not do that. Something tells me that if the same situation came up with Ahithophel finding David asleep, David would not survive the encounter. That is one definite contrast.

Moving on from that, as I already somewhat mentioned, it was interesting to see David on the run again. At this point in his life, he had already been a highly successful king. He has proven himself to be a mighty warrior, and everything seemed to be going his way. Now, it seemed as if everything was against him.

However, on the positive side, he did have a few supporters in Israel, and they were willing to help him in his moment of need.

2Sa 17:27  And it came to pass, when David was come to Mahanaim, that Shobi the son of Nahash of Rabbah of the children of Ammon, and Machir the son of Ammiel of Lodebar, and Barzillai the Gileadite of Rogelim,

2Sa 17:28  Brought beds, and basons, and earthen vessels, and wheat, and barley, and flour, and parched corn, and beans, and lentiles, and parched pulse,

2Sa 17:29  And honey, and butter, and sheep, and cheese of kine, for David, and for the people that were with him, to eat: for they said, The people is hungry, and weary, and thirsty, in the wilderness.

God uses people at different points in our lives to help us out when we need it. We don’t always know when that will happen, and we do not always know how those people will help us, but we need to be grateful for the help. Even in our worst situations, we can still take time to be grateful.

2 Samuel 16: God Has a Plan

I have to wonder what David felt like in 2 Samuel 16. He was obviously not in a great position as his own son just led a revolution against him. However, to add insult to injury, when David runs into a relative of Saul, he is attacked on that front as well.

2Sa 16:5  And when king David came to Bahurim, behold, thence came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera: he came forth, and cursed still as he came.

2Sa 16:6  And he cast stones at David, and at all the servants of king David: and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left.

2Sa 16:7  And thus said Shimei when he cursed, Come out, come out, thou bloody man, and thou man of Belial:

2Sa 16:8  The LORD hath returned upon thee all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose stead thou hast reigned; and the LORD hath delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom thy son: and, behold, thou art taken in thy mischief, because thou art a bloody man.

As you will remember from our previous study, David did not really do anything to bring down Saul. He had plenty of opportunities to kill him, but ultimately he died in battle and fell on his own sword. Sure, David had been anointed as the next king, but he always had the utmost respect for the life of Saul. These accusations were virtually baseless.

Even though one of his advisers urged him to just kill Shimei, here is how David responded.

2Sa 16:10  And the king said, What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah? so let him curse, because the LORD hath said unto him, Curse David. Who shall then say, Wherefore hast thou done so?

2Sa 16:11  And David said to Abishai, and to all his servants, Behold, my son, which came forth of my bowels, seeketh my life: how much more now may this Benjamite do it? let him alone, and let him curse; for the LORD hath bidden him.

2Sa 16:12  It may be that the LORD will look on mine affliction, and that the LORD will requite me good for his cursing this day.

David understood that God has plans for all of us. We may not understand what is going on, but in the face of adversity, we have to keep everything in perspective. It is not like we are alone, and like David pointed out, it might also lead to something better (it is worth pointing out that this is not a guarantee in terms of wealth. I don’t do any type of prosperity gospel). God does use adversity to strengthen us at times though, and that could also be seen as something better for the future.

2 Samuel 4: Respect Our Enemies

It seems that there was a lot of meaningless killing in Israel at this time in history. In 2 Samuel 4, two of David’s men decided it would be a good idea to go and kill Saul’s final son.

2Sa 4:8  And they brought the head of Ishbosheth unto David to Hebron, and said to the king, Behold the head of Ishbosheth the son of Saul thine enemy, which sought thy life; and the LORD hath avenged my lord the king this day of Saul, and of his seed.

The strange part is that these two men were extraordinarily proud of what they did. They thought they were actually doing David a favor. I guess they thought that David would be excited to see vengeance taken on Saul’s family.

That is not what David wanted.

2Sa 4:9  And David answered Rechab and Baanah his brother, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, and said unto them, As the LORD liveth, who hath redeemed my soul out of all adversity,

2Sa 4:10  When one told me, saying, Behold, Saul is dead, thinking to have brought good tidings, I took hold of him, and slew him in Ziklag, who thought that I would have given him a reward for his tidings:

2Sa 4:11  How much more, when wicked men have slain a righteous person in his own house upon his bed? shall I not therefore now require his blood of your hand, and take you away from the earth?

2Sa 4:12  And David commanded his young men, and they slew them, and cut off their hands and their feet, and hanged them up over the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ishbosheth, and buried it in the sepulchre of Abner in Hebron.

David obviously had respect for other people. The death of innocent life appalled him just like it did when he had the opportunity to kill Saul in a previous chapter.

Having this type of respect for even our enemies is important. We are commanded to love everyone, and I believe that respect comes with that.

2 Samuel 3: Self-Control Is a Virtue

2 Samuel 3 shows us the tragic death of Abner. He had been rising through the house of Saul, and it seems that as the war was finally winding down between the house of David and the house of Saul, he had quite a bit of power.

2Sa 3:6  And it came to pass, while there was war between the house of Saul and the house of David, that Abner made himself strong for the house of Saul.

Because the war was pretty much over, Abner decided that he was going to help get Israel under David’s control.

2Sa 3:12  And Abner sent messengers to David on his behalf, saying, Whose is the land? saying also, Make thy league with me, and, behold, my hand shall be with thee, to bring about all Israel unto thee.

However, not everyone was too thrilled about this process. In particular, Joab thought that this offering of peace was nothing more than a trap.

2Sa 3:24  Then Joab came to the king, and said, What hast thou done? behold, Abner came unto thee; why is it that thou hast sent him away, and he is quite gone?

2Sa 3:25  Thou knowest Abner the son of Ner, that he came to deceive thee, and to know thy going out and thy coming in, and to know all that thou doest.

David was still not worried, but Joab decided to take everything into his own hands and murder Abner.

Obviously, something went wrong here.

It seems that the main problem was that Joab did not like the fact that Abner was going to be joining an alliance with David. We don’t necessarily know why he was upset outside the fact that he didn’t trust Abner, but I think that it is important to note that the problem with this situation was his reaction.

He did not have to trust Abner. Nobody told him that he had to automatically run out and support the idea of the treaty. However, the physical reaction to these emotions was the major problem here.

We have been given human emotions, and sometimes we will be upset. That does not mean that we can act on those emotions all of the time. Even though it might seem “natural,” God tells us that we need control ourselves.

Pro 25:28  He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.

2 Samuel 2: Keep Following God’s Plan

I think that if I was David I would be a little bit impatient. In 2 Samuel 2, we know that Saul and Jonathan have both died. We also know that David had been anointed by Samuel a long time ago to become the next king of Israel. All signs seem to indicate that when God told David to return to Israel, everything would go as he probably imagined it would.

2Sa 2:1  And it came to pass after this, that David enquired of the LORD, saying, Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah? And the LORD said unto him, Go up. And David said, Whither shall I go up? And he said, Unto Hebron.

This is significant because in the previous few chapters, I had pointed out how David had acted, and we were not necessarily sure if he had consulted with God first. This time, he definitely knew that he was doing what God wanted him to do. Before we make any plans, that consultation is always a good first step.

However, the plans kind of fell apart. David became the king of Judah, but he did not have all of Israel right away.

2Sa 2:7  Therefore now let your hands be strengthened, and be ye valiant: for your master Saul is dead, and also the house of Judah have anointed me king over them.

2Sa 2:8  But Abner the son of Ner, captain of Saul’s host, took Ishbosheth the son of Saul, and brought him over to Mahanaim;

2Sa 2:9  And made him king over Gilead, and over the Ashurites, and over Jezreel, and over Ephraim, and over Benjamin, and over all Israel.

Now, let us review the relevant facts. David was doing exactly what God told him to. That is important. Based on circumstances outside of David’s control, the rest of the nation of Israel split off to follow Saul’s other son. What is a conclusion that we can draw from this?

Perhaps it was the will of God that David would not be the king of all of Israel right away. God had a plan for what He wanted David to do. It might not make a lot of sense. We might wonder why David just did not get to be king right away. After all, he had procedurally been anointed, and it was his position.

God tells us that things will not always happen exactly how we want them, but that should not lessen our trust in Him.

Isa 55:8  For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.

Isa 55:9  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

As finite beings, it impossible to comprehend an infinite God and to comprehend a mind that can coordinate such a complex universe with such precision that He understands every thought and word that we might have.

David continued to trust God as we will read about more in the future, and as people reading this historical text, we have the luxury of seeing God’s plan roll out.