Saturday, October 28, 2017


When Abiathar the son of Ahimelech had fled to David to Keilah, he had come down with an ephod in his hand. (1 Samuel 23:6)

Abiathar is the only surviving member of Ahimelech's family, who were all wiped out by Saul for assisting the renegade David in his flight. Abiathar flees to David and David promises to protect him, and it seems here in this isolated verse that Abiathar has brought an ephod with him. An ephod is the garment of a priest, and it is highly symbolic in this context, because David, the rightful king of Israel, is on the run, and he has now been given this symbol. Jesus, too, is rightful king and priest of a world that rejects him and persecutes him. Tuesday marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, of Martin Luther posting his grievances on the door in Whittenburg. One of the aspects of the Reformation was connecting the common man directly with Jesus through the scriptures translated in the vernacular language. Jesus is the great high priest, and until we had the scriptures in our own language, we had to trust in the priests to connect us to Christ through a confusing Latin Mass. Martin Luther and the printing press started the process of getting the ephod to the son of David, where it rightly belonged.

As we see in Leviticus 10, the priesthood is a flawed institution when in the hands of men. Nadab and Abihu offer strange fire to the Lord and are destroyed. Aaron, their father, is so grieved by this tragedy, and full of resentment and sin, that he is unable to eat the sin offering for the atonement of the congregation. Likewise, a man cannot atone for the sins of others, because his own sin is in the way and must be atoned for first.

In Leviticus 16, God gives Moses a complicated choreography of offerings and motions for a sinful priest to be able to atone for the sins of the congregation, but these complex instructions only show how inadequate humans are and how important it is to have a perfect sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. All of this prefigures Christ.

Once again the book of Hebrews is our enlightening star. Jesus had to become a man in every respect so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people (2:17). Because he was faithful to the commandments and did not sin, he does not have to atone for his own. Because he is God, his blood is sufficient for all. Jesus is a priest, not because he is descended through the levitical order, but because he has the power of an indestructible life (7:15).

And Christ is not just a priest, he is the great high priest. Aaron was a priest in weakness, but Christ is perfect and therefore the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him (5:9). Because Christ is in heaven, at the right hand of the Father, no complex instructions for tabernacle patterns is necessary. Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises (8:6).

Without Luther and the Reformation bringing this knowledge to the common people by way of the scriptures in the vulgar tongue, we would still be lost in a dead language, an imperfect earthly system that confuses the once-for-all sacrifice on the cross with a continual re-sacrifice at the hands of a sinful priest, and a lack of assurance of salvation due to a lack of Christ as liaison between heaven and earth.

Saturday, October 21, 2017


Now they told David, “Behold, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are robbing the threshing floors.” Therefore David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?” And the Lord said to David, “Go and attack the Philistines and save Keilah.” But David's men said to him, “Behold, we are afraid here in Judah; how much more then if we go to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?” Then David inquired of the Lord again. And the Lord answered him, “Arise, go down to Keilah, for I will give the Philistines into your hand.” And David and his men went to Keilah and fought with the Philistines and brought away their livestock and struck them with a great blow. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah. (1 Samuel 23:1-5)

1. There may be something to the Philistines robbing Keilah of "Cain's offering" and David capturing "Abel's offering" in return, but since nothing is written about it, it will remain something to mediate on.

2. The main significance of this passage is the prayer.  David asks the Lord if he should attack.  Of course, in David's situation, his army is not a formidable force.  It is only composed of fellow desperate people.  Even though the Lord responds (probably through the prophet Gad) that he should attack, the men are sorely afraid, so David asks again.  The Lord responds that he will, indeed, give the Philistines over into David's hand, and so David proceeds with the attack.  David saves Keilah.

3. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus brings his disciples and has them wait near him, so he can pray.  He takes with him Peter, James, and John, and he begins to be afraid.  His divinity is minimized at this point, and his humanity is coming to the forefront.  He possesses a great heaviness, which he tells the three apostles about.  He describes his heaviness as the approach of death.  He then tells them to wait where they are and watch.

4. Going forward a little, Jesus falls to the ground and pleads from his humanity that the Lord might take his impeding sacrifice away.  But he submits himself fully to the father's will in perfect obedience.

5. The watchers fail three times.  Peter, James, and John are unable to stay awake each time.  The third time Jesus returns he tells them, "Sleep hence forth and take your rest.  The hour has come."  Christ means that, even though their watchfulness was weak, it was enough.  Their task is over, and Christ has passed the final test of human doubt.  Christ saves the world.

6. As Romans 8:26-27 reads, God's Spirit helps us in our infirmities, because we do not know how to pray or what to pray for.  But God's spirit prays through us, giving expression to what we are unable to express.  God searches through all hearts and knows what is in them.  He not only stirs up hearts to pray but shows the heart to whom to pray and how. Our prayers are to be for saints and potential saints, and the prayers themselves are to be according to the will of God.

7. So, even though the three apostles "failed" and fell asleep, through their infirmities God succeeded in the keeping watch.  What was the watch for? Not, it seems, for the people that were coming to capture Jesus but for his humanity's faith in the task at hand to be restored.

8. We must stay awake now, though, for we do not know at what hour the end will come, and we must be prepared. The incarnation of Christ is a warning to all the world to turn from our sin and live.  When Christ comes again, anyone who did not heed his message will have to pay for his own sins for eternity.  All who did heed Christ will have placed their full trust and faith in him for the forgiveness of their sins and have everlasting life.  When we keep watch, we are to be on watch for the best interests of the saints and potential saints. Sharing the gospel of forgiveness of sins would be in the best interests of our people.  Being a watchman is sharing the gospel.

9. David trusted God and fought the Philistines, but God was the one who won the battle.  All David needed was to trust in the Lord.  God works through even our doubt and weakness.  We cry out, "I believe! Help my unbelief!" when we hear that God has forgiven our sins through the shedding of Christ's blood.  The Spirit of God does just that.  We are saved through faith alone, and the rest of our earthly life is the Spirit helping our unbelief.  Your sins have been forgiven!  Believe!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Testing Ground

And David rose and fled that day from Saul and went to Achish the king of Gath. And the servants of Achish said to him, “Is not this David the king of the land? Did they not sing to one another of him in dances,

‘Saul has struck down his thousands,
    and David his ten thousands’?”

And David took these words to heart and was much afraid of Achish the king of Gath. So he changed his behavior before them and pretended to be insane in their hands and made marks on the doors of the gate and let his spittle run down his beard. Then Achish said to his servants, “Behold, you see the man is mad. Why then have you brought him to me? Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this fellow to behave as a madman in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?”

David departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam. And when his brothers and all his father's house heard it, they went down there to him. And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to him. And he became commander over them. And there were with him about four hundred men.

And David went from there to Mizpeh of Moab. And he said to the king of Moab, “Please let my father and my mother stay with you, till I know what God will do for me.” And he left them with the king of Moab, and they stayed with him all the time that David was in the stronghold. Then the prophet Gad said to David, “Do not remain in the stronghold; depart, and go into the land of Judah.” So David departed and went into the forest of Hereth. (1 Samuel 21:10-22:5)

With the sword of Goliath in hand, David flees his own kingdom to Goliath's home city, Gath.  So, David is essentially going back to the beginning of his ministry, seeking refuge in the very place he conquered for Saul.  Here we learn that after one has been delivered from the darkness, he cannot go back.  God uses the world as his sanctifying ground for us, to test us and put us through trials, so we can be transformed more into the likeness of his son.

1. Even the outside world can identify a believer.

Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest's house, and Peter was following at a distance. And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:54-62)

2. The Christian bond is that of bitterness (discontent) of soul.  We are together not in our power but in our wretchedness. This is important to note, because the modern church is teaching that we are bonded in prosperity.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12)

3. The Christian is obedient to God's commandments, even in adversity.  Remember, David's great-grandmother Ruth was a Moabite.  Perhaps he was looking for that same honor in Moab's king.  He did find it, for his parents were safe during his time in the stronghold.

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. (John 19:26-27)

This series of scenes show the believer's interaction with the outside world.  We learn that true believers cannot hide among them but are drawn to each other by their wretchedness in Christ.  However, we can utilize the world's assets for our benefit.  Luke 16:8-9 reads: For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.  God made the world for his children, and although its people are hostile to us, we can take care of our own in it, just as Christ did.

God put everything in subjection under his son, and so there is nothing that is not his.  We do not yet see everything in subjection under him, but we see Jesus in the scriptures suffer death so that through God's grace he might taste death for everyone.  Since all things exist not only through him but for him, Jesus brings his children to glory through suffering.  He sanctifies them through the world that exists and is subjected to Christ.  So, when we interact with the world, things may not go our way, like with David at Gath, yet we can be sure that God is sanctifying us.  He brings fellow suffering Christians together, and he gives us opportunities to obey his commandments in the playing field of the world.  We don't have to isolate ourselves.  As Christians, we are obedient to him, even as the world tries to tempt us and turn us away. These trials and tribulations test our faith, so that we may become perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Goliath's Sword

Then David said to Ahimelech, “Then have you not here a spear or a sword at hand? For I have brought neither my sword nor my weapons with me, because the king's business required haste.” And the priest said, “The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you struck down in the Valley of Elah, behold, it is here wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you will take that, take it, for there is none but that here.” And David said, “There is none like that; give it to me.” (1 Samuel 21:8-9)

David has been through a lot. After defeating Goliath, he was a hero, but just as you and I become persecuted when we take the Lord's side, so, too, did David experience trials and tribulations as soon as the Lord was in control of his life. He stood before Goliath and proclaimed the name of the Lord of hosts. He had already been anointed king of Israel. He defeated Goliath and then took the giant's own sword to behead him. Saul was impressed and kept David close. Then the women of Israel came out of their homes to sing about how great David was--how much better he was than Saul. Think of the angels singing when a lost soul comes into Christ's kingdom.  What happens next? The unbelieving world rises up against that new Christian and tries to bring him down. Saul gets very angry with David. He hurls a spear at David, not once, but twice, and Saul even throws his spear against his own son, because of his son's defense of David!

Saul tries to have David killed in battle, Saul tries to have servants kill David, and he tries to send messengers to kill David. David is now on the run, desperate, and he goes to priests in Nob and acquires bread. He has resorted to bearing false witness in order to get what he needs, because he is so desperate. Finally he asks for a weapon, and Ahimelech the priest tells him that all he has is the very sword of Goliath, the very one David used to secure victory against the Philistines.  He tells David, "there is none but that," and David responds, "there is none LIKE that!"

When we are at the lowest place in life, God reminds us that he is still there, that he is still in control. He reminds us of our justification. He tells us to be strong and courageous, not to fear or be in dread, because he is walking along side us the whole way. He will not leave us nor forsake us. 

After we are justified, we are commanded to follow God's law out of gratitude. However, David had just gotten through a whopper of a lie, before Ahimelech presents him with Goliath's sword. Likewise, we will fail to keep God's law. But if we repent of our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

In our desperate time, we will be tempted to turn to the right hand or the left hand, to incorporate false teaching about Jesus into our faith. But if we keep the word of God before us at all times, and we meditate on it day and night, then we will be successful in building up our faith and becoming sanctified in the Lord. Armed with the word of God--sharper than any two edged sword--and a good defense of the truth that is in us, no worldly person will be able to stand philosophically before us. God will not leave us nor forsake us.

Not only does the sword of Goliath remind us that God is with us, it reminds us to love our neighbor. After beheading Goliath, David did not keep the sword but turned it over to all Israel for commemoration. Now, that symbolic sword has come back to David. Likewise, when we give of ourselves the good work that God has done in us to our neighbors, the good work comes back to us. God's presence reminds us to show hospitality to strangers, to visit those in prison--those whose souls are held captive by the devil, who has tempted them to unbelief. We visit them in their cages and share the word of God with them, giving them another piece of the key to life, with which they may be sprung free. We keep the gospel elevated in our marriage and with our children. The Lord has told us that he will never leave us nor forsake us.

But one has been forsaken. On the cross, Jesus cried out, "my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Why? Because there he bore our griefs and carried our sorrows. God transferred all our sins upon him and then smote him. He was wounded, crushed, in order to bring us peace with our maker. All of our straying like lost sheep, God has put upon his son. God cut him off, forsake him, so that he could conquer sin and death alone, making his grave with the wicked. Even though he was sinless, God treated him like the most vile of sinners in order to save all of us. The sword of Goliath represents this satisfaction of wrong against God. Jesus participates in a duel and dies, but in that death he is victorious. He is forsaken so that the Lord will not forsake us.

When you are persecuted, desperate, and at your lowest ebb, think of Goliath's sword and know that the Lord will never leave you nor forsake you. We will never be separated from the love of Christ. Neither in tribulation, nor distress, nor persecution. No, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Nothing in creation can separate us from the love of God that can only be found in Jesus Christ.