1 Samuel 30-31; Psalm 18

How the Mighty Fall.

“So Saul, three of his sons, his armor bearer, and his troops all died together that same day.” ­– 1 Samuel 31:6 NLT

As we come to the end of 1 Samuel, we come to the tragic end of Saul’s life. Abandoned by God. Driven by jealousy and fear. Characterized by disobedience and a self-centered, me-focused mindset, Saul ends his life by taking it. He is not even willing to allow God to act as His judge and executioner. Instead, he begs his armor bearer to kill him. When he refuses, Saul takes matters into his own hands again and commits suicide.

What a sad ending to a life that started out so well. He had been given an opportunity by God to serve Him and live as His representative here on earth. But Saul was NOT a man after God’s own heart. He did not share God’s passions. Saul was obsessed with Saul. His will held sway. His desires ruled his life and determined his actions. His death is tragic. You can’t help but feel sorry for him as you read of the last moments of his life and the degrading treatment of his corpse by the enemy after his death.

Yet, at the same time we see David being blessed by God – even in his disobedience. David had been given the town of Ziglag by Achish, king of the Philistines. Located in Philistine territory, David had used this town as his base of operations as he ran secret raids back into the land of Israel, wiping out the enemies of Israel. But the whole time he was hiding his actions by allowing Achish to think he was actually attacking the enemies of the Philistines. God had not told David to hide out in the land of the Philistines. This was David’s decision. But even in his disobedience, David was still trying to serve God by protecting Israel. His heart was right even though some of his decisions were wrong. And those decisions would have negative ramifications. Living in the enemy’s camp was going to be costly. God had already protected him from having to fight against Israel side by side with Achish and his armies. But now, when David returned home to Ziklag, he found it burned to the ground and everyone and everything taken captive by the Amalekites. Things were so bad that David’s men are ready to stone him! They had all lost their wives, children, and possessions. All because David had decided to hide out in the land of the Philistines.

But once again, God steps in. David seeks God’s favor and counsel. He turns to the one he knew he could trust. And God answers. God had stopped talking to Saul a long time ago, but He was still talking to David. And He tells David to go after the Amalekites and that everything would be returned. And it all turns out just as God had said. They catch up to the Amalekites, wipe them out, and get back every person and every possession that had been taken. God intervened once again in the life of David.

David knew that God was with him. He recognized the hand of God in his life. Psalm 18, written at this same time reveals David’s understanding of God’s presence and protection, and His sovereign involvement in his life. All his victories in battle were the result of God’s divine enablement. And success David had experienced was attributable to God and no one else. God was David’s deliverer and his delight. David owed all he was to his God. His life was in God’s hand. His future was in God’s hand. His kingdom was in God’s hand. Which is why he could say, “Therefore I will give thanks to You among the nations, O Lord, and I will sing praises to Your name.” – Psalm 18:49 NASB).

Father, may the words of David be my words. I want to give thanks to You because of all that you have done, are doing, and will do in my life. I owe all that I am to You. I am nothing without You. You have always been my deliverer, but I want You to be my delight. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Samuel 28-29

Rejected. Protected.

“Samuel said, ‘Why then do you ask me, since the LORD has departed from you and has become your adversary?’” ­– 1 Samuel 28:16 NASB

As we come to the end of the book of 1 Samuel, we see an interesting contrast between the book’s two main characters: Saul and David. While their paths have intertwined for some time now, we have been watching their relationship slowly unravel. They are on two separate paths, both of which are fully under the sovereign plan and direction of God. Saul’s path, even though he is king, will lead to his own destruction. And in spite of the fact that David is a fugitive living in caves and running for his life, his path will end up in blessing and exaltation at the hand of God.

Saul has been rejected by God. His failure to obey God has resulted in his rejection by God. God has removed His Spirit from Saul and things have degraded to the point where Saul no longer has the ear of God. He calls out to Him, but God refuses to answer. So he is left to consult a witch in an attempt to get some kind of direction regarding the eminent attack of the Philistines. Saul is in trouble. He kingdom is on the verge of collapse and he finds God silent. Even his plan to secretly seek out the help of this woman is a direct violation of the law of God. He had publicly banned all such people, but he knew of at least one witch he could consult privately. Saul’s life was marked by disobedience and compromise – twisting the rules to fit his fancy. But now he found himself rejected by God.

David, on the other hand, finds himself protected by God. Even though he has chosen to seek refuge with the enemy and is living a life of deception and lies, God is protecting him. Why? Because, in spite of his bad decision-making skills, David had a heart for God. He was a man after God’s own heart. He was still trying to do the right thing. He was fighting the enemies of Israel and attempting to honor the king of Israel at the same time. But David’s decision to live among the Philistines had finally caught up with him. Now that the Philistines were going to war with Israel, King Achish was going to expect David to “put up or shut up.” He was going to demand that David show his allegiance by fighting against his former countrymen. David had deceived Achish into believing that he was fighting against the enemies of the Philistines all along, when in reality he had been making raids on the enemies of Israel. All the while enjoying the hospitality and protection of the king of the Philistines.

But now things were going to get interesting. What was David going to do? How was he going to bluff his way out of this one? Fortunately, God intervened and protected David. He led the Philistine military leaders to reject David’s participation in their war effort. They didn’t trust him. So David was able to go home without having to compromise his position or risk his own life in what was going to be God’s punishment of Saul. This story is less about Saul and David than it is about God. He rewards the faithful and punishes the disobedient. God was working out His plan to perfection. He was in complete control. Saul seeks out the help of a witch, a person who consulted with the dead – in complete violation of God’s command. In reality, this woman had no ability to speak with the dead. Instead, her attempts to communicate with the deceased was probably a charade perpetrated by demonic forces. But in this case, God allowed her to actually speak to Samuel or at least a vision of him. That is probably why she is so shocked. God used this unlikely source to give Saul an unpopular message: his coming death.

God would also use the military leaders of Philistia to speak to David and protect him from the very trap in which he had placed himself. God was running this show all the way. David was protected. Saul was rejected. God brought both about. He is always behind the scenes accomplishing His will in His own way. We can’t always see it and don’t always recognize it. But He is intimately involved in our lives in much the same way. Do you see Him?

Father, thanks for this encouraging reminder of Your presence and activity in my life. You are there, each and every day, every step of the way. Help me see You more clearly with each passing day and trust You more with every aspect of my life. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Samuel 27

When Doubt Leads To Despair and Deception.

“But David kept thinking to himself, ‘Someday Saul is going to get me. The best thing for me to do is escape to the Philistines. Then Saul will stop hunting for me, and I will finally be safe.‘” ­– 1 Samuel 27:1 NLT

Consulting with yourself can be hazardous to your health. When we stop talking to God and start taking advice from ourselves, it usually doesn’t end well. And it usually starts with a little doubt. We begin to wonder if God is really going to take care of us. Is He really going to come through and accomplish all He has promised? Things start going a little south and we decide that God is either not there or He doesn’t care, so we take matters into our own hands. Our doubt leads us to despair. That’s what seems to have happened to David in this chapter. Listen to what he says: “Someday Saul is going to get me.” David had been running and hiding for some time now. He was tired. He was frustrated. And in spite of the fact that he had been anointed by Samuel as the next king of Israel, and had seen God preserve his life from Saul time and time again, he began to conclude that he was going to die someday at the hands of Saul. He doubted God’s word. His doubt led to despair. His despair led to a really poor decision. He and his men return to Gath – the hometown of Goliath – the man David had killed. David is so down that his decision to go find refuge with the enemy sounded plausible and preferable to running from Saul. David seemed to forget his last experience in Gath when he had to pretend he was certifiably crazy just to escape. No, David consults with himself and comes up with the great idea to flee to the Philistines for safety.

Nowhere in this chapter do you see the name of God. David doesn’t consult with God as he has done before. He doesn’t seek God’s advice or counsel. David had concluded that he was going to die if he stayed in the land of Judah, in spite of the promises of God and His prophet. David was human. He wasn’t divine. His life as a fugitive had taken its toll. He couldn’t see any other way out of his circumstance, so he made a decision. But it does not appear that his was the decision God wanted him to make. Yet in spite of his ill-conceived, self-determined plan, God remained with him. God continued to use him. David may have suffered a lapse of faith, but he was still committed to God and His cause.

David’s doubt led to despair. His despair led to a poor decision. And that decision led to a life of deception. In order for David to remain in the land of the Philistines, he had to deceive king Achish into believing he was on his side. Yet David also wanted to remain true to his God. King Achish seems to have agreed to let David and his 600 warriors remain in his land because he was convinced that David had turned against Saul. Achish believed that David and his men would fight against Saul and the people of Israel because they were now sworn enemies of Saul. And David was willing to give Achish’s conclusion support. He asks king Achish to give him a town in which to live with his men, and the king gives him the town of Ziklag. David uses a false humility as his rationale for moving out of the royal city. But his real motive was to use Ziklag as a base of operations to run raids into the land of Judah to fight against Israel’s enemies. For almost a year and a half, David kept up a deception that led Achish to believe he was attacking Israelite cities, while in reality, David was wiping out the enemies of Israel. In fact, David was accomplishing the will of God. He was clearing the Promised Land of the enemy just as God had commanded and the people had failed to do all these years. But David was mixing his obedience with deception. He was doing God’s will, but in his own way. Always a dangerous combination.

David would experience a measure of success with his plan. He would escape the constant threat of Saul. He would successfully wipe out the enemies of Israel. But he would also have to live a life for almost a year and a half. And as we will find out, his decision would ultimately result in destruction. God’s will done man’s way never ends well. David’s compromise with the enemy was going to have negative ramifications. He may have escaped Saul, but he was not going to escape the results of his god-less decision. Seeking God’s will is always the best way. Leaning on our own understanding is always dangerous. Allowing our doubt to led to despair will always result in a life of deception and end in destruction.

Father, I have seen time and time again in my life where my doubt in You has caused me to despair and then it has led me to make self-conceived plans that never end up turning out quite like I had planned. Help me to trust You at all times. But thank You that even when I doubt and make bad plans, You never leave me. You let me learn from my mistakes. You teach me to trust You more by exposing that I can’t be trusted. My ways are not Your ways. My plans will never measure up to Yours. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Samuel 25-26

Recognizing the Hand of God.

“The LORD gives his own reward for doing good and for being loyal, and I refused to kill you even when the LORD placed you in my power, for you are the LORD’s anointed one.” ­– 1 Samuel 26:23 NLT

Life has its ups and downs. There are days when things go well, and days when things go poorly. At times we can make decisions that are totally in line with God’s will and other times when we stubbornly and stupidly decide to do things our way. But as believers there is one thing that is always consistent about our lives – the sovereign presence of God. In these two stories found in chapters 25 and 26 of 1 Samuel we are reminded of God’s sovereign purpose and presence in the life of David. In the story of Abigail, we see a rather hot-headed David reacting to an undeserved snub by the foolish Nabal. This wealthy man had the audacity to refuse David’s request for food for his men after they had protected Nabal’s shepherds and livestock in the wilderness. David’s reaction was to wipe out Nabal and every other male who worked for him. He is hot and it appears that David has had just about enough of being treated like a second-class citizen. He has been hiding in caves, running from Saul, and eking out a living for he and his men for some time now. So Nabal’s response pushes David over the edge. The only thing that prevented David from following through with his ill-conceived plan was the quick-thinking of Nabal’s wife, Abigail. She intervenes, bringing David and his men a peace offering and pleading with David to spare Nabal’s worthless life. She appeals to David to reconsider what he is thinking and not to avenge himself against Nabal. Her intervention spared David from doing something he would have regretted. But was this just quick-thinking on the part of Abigail? Or was it the sovereign hand of God directing her decisions and giving her the words to say? I tend to think it was the latter. David seems to recognize that it was God who had sent Abigail. “Praise the LORD, the God of Israel, who has sent you to meet me today! Thank God for your good sense! Bless you for keeping me from murdering the man and carrying out vengeance with my own hands” (1 Samuel 25:32-33 NLT). God had used Abigail to prevent David from acting rashly and potentially harming his future legacy.

In chapter 26 we see the hand of God again as David is presented with yet another opportunity to eliminate the threat to his life by taking the life of Saul. In a situation similar to that found in chapter 24, David is betrayed by the Ziphites, resulting in Saul and his 3,000 mercenaries coming after David in the wilderness. In the middle of the night, David and one of his men sneak into Saul’s camp, finding him sound asleep (thanks to God), and David takes Saul’s spear. He rejects the counsel of his own man to see this as a God-given opportunity to kill Saul, even though it was probably tempting to view things that way. Instead, David appeals to Saul and claims his own innocence. He acknowledges that God had given Saul into his hand, but that he refused to take Saul’s life. David saw God’s hands all over this situation. He had used the betrayal of the Ziphites and the anger-driven response of Saul to bring him right to that exact spot. God had caused Saul and his entire camp to sleep so soundly that they never heard David come into the camp. But David also knew that God was going to deal with Saul just like He did with Nabal – according to His own terms and in His own timing. David could trust God to take care of everything. He didn’t have to take matters into his own hands.

God was there and David recognized it. But do I? Do I see the hand of God at work in and around my life? He is sovereign and in complete control. I don’t need to panic. He prevents me from doing things I don’t need to do and then does for me things I would never think to do. He uses others in my life to guide and direct me. He uses circumstances to teach me. He is in large and in charge, and I can trust Him.

Father, help me to see You more clearly and more consistently in and around me life. I know You are there, but I don’t always recognize or acknowledge Your hand in my life. Open my eyes. Help me see. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Samuel 23-24

Learning to Trust God, Not Man.

“This very day you can see with your own eyes it isn’t true. For the LORD placed you at my mercy back there in the cave, and some of my men told me to kill you, but I spared you. For I said, ‘I will never harm him – he is the LORD’s anointed one.” ­– 1 Samuel 24:10 NLT

David was learning. As he went through the difficult days surrounding his flight from Saul, David was getting an up-close and personal lesson from God on His faithfulness. He was learning to talk to God and seek His counsel, because he really had no one else to turn to. He no longer had Samuel to bounce ideas off of or to seek God’s input. So he was learning to take his problems, which were many, directly to God. Which is probably why his Psalms reflect such a personal relationship with God. It is in the wilderness that he learned to share with and listen to God. David sought God’s counsel when he heard that the Philistines were plundering Keilah, and God told him to go and that He would give them into David’s hand. When David heard that Saul and his men were coming to Keilah, David asked God if the people of the city would turn him over to Saul in order to preserve their city, and God told him they would. David was able to escape unharmed.

David was under a lot of stress. He was being pursued each and every day by a madman whose sole mission in life was to eliminate him at all costs. But God was taking care of David. He was proving to David that He was watching over him. God even used Saul’s son, Jonathan, as a source of encouragement to David, assuring him that he would one day be king over Israel. “‘Don’t be afraid,’ Jonathan reassured him. ‘My father will never find you! You are going to be the king of Israel, and I will be next to you, as my father is well aware'” (1 Samuel 23:17 NLT). Yet in spite of all the assurances and words of encouragement, David still had to spend his days running and hiding, moving from one cave to another, trying to stay one step ahead of Saul. He was sold out on more than one occasion by the residents of the areas in which he was hiding, forcing him to move on again. Saul even appointed 3,000 trained soldiers with the task of hunting down David and his men. They scoured the wilderness in search of David. And on one such occasion, Saul actually found him. But he didn’t know it. Saul stopped to relieve himself in a cave, not knowing that David and his men were hiding inside. David’s men strongly encouraged David to kill Saul, insinuating that this had to be God’s will because Saul had walked into the one cave in which they were hiding. But David, exhibiting the character of heart that God seemed to recognize in him, refused to life his hand against Saul. It appears that David was willing to let God take care of Saul. He was not going to step in and play god. David even grieved over having cut off a piece of the hem of Saul’s robe. “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD” (1 Samuel 24:6 NLT). As far as David was concerned, Saul was still the king, and until God removed him from his throne, David was going to let God decide what to do with him. Can you imagine how hard that was for David to do? In one second he could have eliminated all his problems. He could have taken matters into his own hands and removed the biggest obstacle and threat to his life. But he chose to trust God instead. He told Saul, “May the LORD judge which of us is right and punish the guilty one. He is my advocate, and he will rescue me from your power!” (1 Samuel 24:15 NLT). David was learning to trust God. He was learning to leave his future in God’s hands and not his own. Which is a lesson we could all stand to learn. God had plans for David, and whether he enjoyed it or not, the situation in which he found himself was part of those plans. God was teaching David through the circumstances of life, molding him into the kind of man He wanted him to be.

Father, You are always teaching me. I don’t always recognize it, but I know You are using every situation in my life to make me more like Your Son. Help me to be a willing and ready student. I want to learn to trust You more and more with my life and my future. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Samuel 21-22

What A Way To Start A Kingdom!

“Everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him; and he became captain over them. Now there were about four hundred men with him.” ­– 1 Samuel 22:2 NASB

David is on the run. Saul is out to kill him and David has no choice but to high-tail it out of town. But these two chapters reveal more than David’s travel itinerary during these early days as an outcast. They reveal some of his weaknesses. We get to see some areas of David’s life in which God is going to have to work if David is going to be the kind of king God intends for him to be. As soon as David leaves he ends up in Nob, where he seeks aid from Ahimelech the priest. David concocts a story in order to get Ahimelech to help him and walks away with the bread of the Presence, right out of the Tabernacle, and the sword of Goliath. Jesus Himself uses this story as an example to teach that compassion for the needs of men took precedence over the legalistic adherence to the Law (Matthew 12:2; 4). But Jesus was in no way justifying David’s lying. He was using the actions of Ahimelech, the priest, in feeding David, as a justification of His healing the needy on the Sabbath. David’s lie would have ramifications. It would result in the senseless slaughter of Ahimelech and 84 other priests as well as the destruction of the city of Nob and all its inhabitants. David got food and a sword, but he compromised the safety of an entire town.

Next, David did something that reveals his desperation and lack of leading by God. He straps on the sword of Goliath, the Philistine champion he had killed, and heads straight to the recently deceased Philistine’s hometown of Gath. We aren’t told what David was thinking, but it seems insane. Which is exactly what David has to pretend he is when he gets there because the residents warn the king of Gath that he should not trust David. They know who he is and what he has done. Fearing for his life, David feigns insanity, drooling into his beard and acting like a madman. King Achish allows David to leave probably because in that culture the insane were a bad omen and avoided at all costs. From there, David flees to the cave of Adullum. Here is when things get really interesting. David, the anointed king of Israel find himself hiding in a remote cave in the wilderness of Adullum. And the passage tells us that he suddenly finds himself surrounded by a rag-tag and of misfits and malcontents. The Message describes them this way: “all who were down on their luck came around–losers and vagrants and misfits of all sorts.” The New American Standard describes them as the distressed, indebted, and discontented. What a way to start a kingdom! David is surrounded by people with all kinds of problems. They have been abused by Saul’s reign. They have personally experienced what God had warned them about when they demanded a king (1 Samuel 8:11-18).

These early days of David’s exile are not pretty. They do not paint a flattering picture of Israel’s future king. But they do reflect a man who is being personally trained by God and having all his weaknesses exposed in order to transform him into the kind of king God desires. David was NOT a perfect man, but he was a man after God’s own heart. He had a love for God. He had a desire to serve God. But we see that he was as flawed as the next man. He was impulsive, fearful, struggled with faith at times, and prone to fits of melancholy. But we also see that David took personal responsibility. Unlike Saul, who was always blaming everyone else for his sins, David took ownership. When he finds out that Saul has murdered Ahimelech and all the priests in Nob, David confesses to Abiathar, the lone survivor, “I have brought about the death of every person in your father’s household” (1 Samuel 22:22 NLT). We are seeing God’s slow, steady transformation of a man into the kind of man He desires. Transformation requires transparency, or the exposure of our flaws. It requires brokenness so that we will learn to confess or sinfulness. It requires the removal of all the other props on which we lean, so that we will lean more and more on God. God was transforming David and He is transforming us. Can you see His hand at work? Sometimes we can’t, but we can rest assured that He is always at work – using every event in our lives to do His will in our lives.

Father, thank You for Your sovereign rule and reign in my life. Thank You for reminding me that I am a work in process. You are not done with me yet. You are constantly molding and making me into the kind of man You intend for me to be. You use each and every circumstance to expose my weaknesses and failings. You are always breaking me, so that I might be more like Your Son. But You are always loving me too. You are at work in my life each and every day. Help me to see Your hand in every circumstance of life. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Samuel 20; Psalm 59

Getting to Know God Through Adversity.

“But as for me, I will sing about your power. I will shout with joy each morning because of your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety in the day of distress. O my Strength, to you I sing praises, for you, O God, are my refuge, the God who shows me unfailing love.” ­– Psalm 59:16-17 NLT

David knew God. When we get introduced to David for the first time in the book of 1 Samuel, he is standing before King Saul and the army of Israel telling them about the exploits he had accomplished by God’s power. David had defeated a lion and a bear and knew that it was because of God the he had been able to do so. He trusted in God’s power. He had experienced it first hand. He knew God to be faithful. But there was a lot about God that David didn’t know. He was a young man with limited experience. He had been a shepherd, working for his father. His life experiences were limited. But God had chosen him to be the next king of Israel. He had been anointed by God for the job. But there is a big difference between being anointed and being prepared. God was going to enroll David into His School of Leadership. Not just teach him what a good king should do, but to introduce him to the one true King.

I’ve always found it interesting that God had Samuel anoint David to be Saul’s replacement, but then left Saul on the throne. Then God removed His Spirit from Saul and placed an evil spirit on him that caused him to react in rage and anger toward David. God caused David to prosper and every time David did, Saul because increasingly angry. So much so, that he tried to pin David to a wall with a spear – twice. God was behind all of this. He could have just removed Saul from his throne and put David in his place, but God had other plans. And those plans included David going through some extremely difficult days. He would lose his position, his wife, his best friend, and ultimately, his mentor Samuel. But David would gain so much more. He was going to learn things about His God he would have learned no other way. It was going to be through adversity that David learned reliability and sovereignty of God. As David experienced the hatred of Saul and was forced to run for his life, he would find himself with nothing to trust in, except his God.

That is why David’s Psalms resonate so well with most of us. They are journals of his life – intimate glimpses into those dark moments of the soul where David honestly and sometimes glaringly shares his heart. Psalm 59 is just such a Psalm. In it, David expresses his feelings as he runs from Saul and his men who want to take his life. David cries to God for deliverance. He admits that he feels like God is asleep at the wheel and unaware of his circumstances. He begs God to destroy them. But through it all, he learning things about his God that he didn’t know before. He already knew God was strong. But now he is learning that there is more to God than just power. He is a God of lovingkindness and tenderness. He is a refuge or place of safety when times are tough. He is a stronghold where David can hide when his enemies are out to get him. David is learning about God as he is forced to trust and lean on God. God is using adversity to educate and prepare David for what lies ahead. His reign will be a long one, and it will be filled with ups and downs, successes and failures. David is going to need God, but more than anything else, he is going to need to KNOW God. It is in the tough times that we learn the tenderness of God. It is in the difficulties of life that we learn nothing is too difficult for God. It is in our moments of despair that we discover God is a source of hope. Our adversity is God’s opportunity to reveal to us just who He is in all His glory.

Father, thank You for adversity. I don’t like it, but I realize that it is in the difficulties of life that I really get to know You – IF I will learn to turn to You. David had nowhere else to turn. But when he did look for You, he always found You, because You are faithful all time time. David got to know You as he went through the difficulties of life. Help me to see You in the dark moments of my life, not just the good times. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Samuel 18-19; Psalm 11

A Good God Even in the Bad Times.

“Certainly the Lord is just; he rewards godly deed; the upright will experience his favor.” ­– Psalm 11:7 NET

The life of David is a roller-coaster ride filled with ups and downs, twists and turns, thrills and chills that can leave you feeling exhausted just reading about it. Here was a young shepherd boy who was thrust into the limelight one day and his life would never be the same. After his miraculous defeat of Goliath, he found himself employed by the king. He was working for the very man he was to one day replace. And while David had been anointed by Samuel as Saul’s replacement, God was not going to allow him to have the throne right away. Instead, God was going to allow David to work for Saul, learning to serve someone who would grow increasingly hostile toward him. If you think you’ve ever had a bad employer, consider David. I can’t think of one boss that I have had who tried to kill me! But Saul tried to personally murder David twice by throwing spears at him in fits of rage. He also tried to have him murdered on numerous occasions. But God protected David each and every time.

David was doing everything he was asked to do by Saul. He fought for him and won. He did exactly what Saul asked to win his daughter’s hand in marriage. He served faithfully, but in return all he got in return was anger (1 Samuel 18:8), suspicion (1 Samuel 18:9), fear (1 Samuel 18:12), dread (1 Samuel 18:15), and a life-long enemy (1 Samuel 18:29). Yet David prospered because God was with him. In spite of the circumstances surrounding him and the difficult situation in which he found himself, David was blessed by God. Jonathan, the king’s son, loved him and protected him. His wife Michal, the king’s daughter, was willing to lie for him in order to protect him. The people highly esteemed him. Why? Because God’s hand was on David.

Even when things got really bad and Saul sent men to murder David in his own home, David escaped and ran away to hide with Samuel, the prophet who had anointed him to be the future king. Saul sent me to kill David, but God intervened, turning the would-be murderers into prophets of God. This happened three different times. They came with one intention, but God changed their minds and their motives. Even when Saul came personally to take David’s life, he too ended up prophesying instead of murdering. God had stepped in. He was going to protect His own. No one could do to David anything God would not allow. And these early days of David’s life were going to be a schoolroom where David would learn the faithfulness of God. Psalm 11 was most likely written at this time. In his time of difficulty and loss, David was learning just how trustworthy his God was. David was under siege, but he had a shelter in God. David had a mortal enemy, but he had a protector in God. David had a king who wanted him dead and would not stop at anything to see it happen, but he had a heavenly king seated on His throne who would guarantee that it not happen. It was the very circumstances in which David found himself that allowed him to learn the truth about his God. Our difficulties are God’s opportunities. It is in the dark moments that we get to see the light of God shine brightest. David’s greatest days were ahead of him. But he would have to navigate the dark days of the present with the light of God’s prevailing presence. We best learn to trust God when we find ourselves in situations that demand we have to.

Father, You are always there. Even when I can’t see You at work, You are. You are always behind the scenes doing what only You can do. Help me to continue to learn to trust You regardless of the circumstances. Nothing is too difficult for You.  Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Samuel 16-17

Looks Can Be Deceiving.

“But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t make decisions the way you do! People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at a person’s thoughts and intentions.‘” ­– 1 Samuel 16:7 NLT

The story of Saul is the story of a man who looked like a king, but who failed to live like one. He had all the outward characteristics of a leader. He was tall, handsome, a warrior, and yet, he ended up being rejected by God because he was disobedient to God. He was a lousy leader because he was a lousy follower. This entire story of Saul and David seems to be filled with references to appearance, and I don’t think it’s just coincidence. When Samuel is sent by God to the house of Jesse to look for the one He has chosen to be Saul’s replacement, looks play a significant part. God assured Samuel, “I have selected a king for Myself among his sons” (1 Samuel 16:1), but He didn’t tell him how he would recognize the one chosen. So all Samuel had to go on was appearance. He was looking for someone who looked like a king. And as Jesse paraded his sons by the prophet one at a time, Samuel began choosing based on appearance. As soon as Eliab, the firstborn came into view, Samuel said, “This has got to be the one!” He had all the outward qualities of a king. We aren’t given a detailed description of Eliab, but he was most likely tall, handsome, strong, and a warrior. Much like Saul had been. But Samuel hasn’t seemed to learn from the lesson with Saul. God rejects Eliab and informs Samuel that He is looking for something more. He is looking beneath the surface. His interest is in the heart. He doesn’t need a man with strength and the right kind of leadership skills. He needs a man with the right kind of heart. So he rejects the sons of Jesse one at after the other. Until He gets to David, the youngest. The likelihood of David being selected was so low that he had not even been brought by Jesse to appear before the prophet. He was out tending sheep. And the passage tells us that David was not only young, but “he had red hair and beautiful eyes and pleasing looks” (1 Samuel 16:12 BBE). David was a red-headed, pretty boy Jewish kid. He didn’t look like a king or a warrior. But God told Samuel, “This is the one; anoint him!” (1 Samuel 16:12 NLT).

In chapter 17 we have the well-known story of David and Goliath, and once again appearance plays a major part. We get a detailed description of the Philistine champion, Goliath. He is huge, a giant of a man with superhuman strength and a personality to match. He is intimidating in all his armor as he shouts insult at the Israelites day after day. Everything about this guy is bigger than life, including his armor and weapons. And no one is willing to stand  against him. Not even Saul, who stood head and shoulders above anyone else in Israel. Then in comes David, the harp-playing shepherd boy from Bethlehem. By all appearances, he is no match for this warrior from Gath. But he has something going for him that no one else can see. He has a heart for God and the faith of a man who trusts in God. He is also anointed with the Spirit of God. But when Saul looks at David, all he sees is a boy. Yet David is brimming with confidence, not in himself, but in his God. David boldly informs Goliath, “you come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD Almighty – the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied” (1 Samuel 17:45 NLT). We all know how the story ends. David defeated Goliath with nothing more than a sling and a stone. But the truth is, David had so much more than a rock and piece of leather. He had God. More than that, he had confidence in God. He had a heart that understood the power and presence of God. He had might and right on His side. So he had nothing to fear.

Looks can be deceiving. Appearance can be misleading. But God looks at the heart. Because that’s where reality is. It’s what’s inside that really counts.

Father, You aren’t impressed with appearances. You don’t need me to be strong to accomplish great things in me or through me. If fact, You seem to prefer that I am weak, so that You can prove Your strength through me. Help me to learn to stop looking at the outside and to start looking at the inside. Give me an internal perspective. Give me a greater concern about my heart than the way I appear.  Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Samuel 14-15

We Tend To Make Lousy Kings.

“I am sorry that I ever made Saul king, for he has not been loyal to me and has again refused to obey me.” Samuel was so deeply moved when he heard this that he cried out to the LORD all night.” ­– 1 Samuel 15:11 NLT

Saul had been appointed and anointed king by God. But he somehow forgot the source of his authority and began to believe that he had made himself king. He began to read his own press clippings and bask in the glory of his own reputation. Saul, although reluctant to be king at the start, had begun to get used to his new role. He had begun to like being king. But he forgot that God was His ultimate ruler and authority. God is the one who had put him on the throne and God could remove him at any time. But somewhere along the way Saul began to confuse his authority with God’s. He began to believe that he could act apart from God’s will and do things his own way. And his victories seemed to assure him that he was right. In chapter 14 Saul had put the people  under an oath not to eat anything until they had completely defeated the Philistines. This man-made rule would lead to some significant problems. First of all, it left his own army undernourished and exhausted so that they could not fully carry out their rout of the enemy. And it ultimately led the people to violate the command of God when they, famished and exhausted, slaughtered some of the livestock taken as spoil and ate the meat with the blood – in direct violation of God’s law (Leviticus 3:17). And worse yet, Saul’s own son Jonathan, who had been away fighting the enemy, unknowingly broke his father’s rule by eating honey.

Whenever we try to be the king of our own lives, we can end up making some really bad decisions. Motivated by greed, ruled by our own passions, and focused on our own selfish desires, we can tend to lose sight of reality. When things go wrong, we tend to blame others. We pass the buck. We rationalize and justify our own actions, because we begin to believe that we really are king. We can’t be wrong. This is exactly what happened to Saul. When the people sinned by eating the meat with the blood, he sought to find a scapegoat, someone to blame for the calamity. And he vowed to kill whoever was responsible. When he sought a word from God and didn’t hear anything, he didn’t blame his own sin and impulsive behavior, he looked for someone else to hang the problem on. And when it turned out to be his own son who had violated his precious oath, he treated his own word with the same weight as God’s command and was ready to put his own son to death. What arrogance. What pride. It was only the words of his own men that kept Saul from carrying out his plan.

Saul had become highly selective in his obedience to God. He obeyed when it was convenient. But most of the time he did what HE wanted to do. And in chapter 15 we see the culmination of his arrogant behavior. God clearly instructs Saul to completely wipe out the Amalekites for their opposition to the Israelites when they first entered the Promised Land. But instead of obeying God completely, Saul decides to do things his way. He captures the king of Amalekites alive and then allows the people to keep the best of the spoil for themselves. “Then Saul slaughtered the Amalekites from Havilah all the way to Shur, east of Egypt. He captured Agag, the Amalekite king, but completely destroyed everyone else. Saul and his men spared Agag’s life and kept the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs––everything, in fact, that appealed to them. They destroyed only what was worthless or of poor quality” (1 Samuel 15:7-9 NLT). In other words, Saul partially obeyed. He conveniently obeyed. And his actions caused God to reject him as king. Saul defended his actions. He justified his decisions. And when God refused to accept his excuses, Saul blamed others for his own sin. He even tried to appease God by offering sacrifices to Him from the very spoil he had taken against God’s commands. And God’s response? “What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Obedience is far better than sacrifice. Listening to him is much better than offering the fat of rams. Rebellion is as bad as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as bad as worshiping idols. So because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you from being king” (1 Samuel 15:22-23 NLT).

Saul had played king and lost his throne. He had attempted to rule his own life and put a higher priority on his own word and will than God’s. And as a result, he lost his kingship. Are you on your own throne today? Are you attempting to rule your own life? Or is God on the throne of your life? Saul made a lousy king, but so do we.

Father, You are king and no one else. But I so often try to be my own king and rule my own life. I justify my actions and demand that others obey my commands. I want to dictate how my life should go. I want to do what I want to do – so much so that I end up disobeying what You tell me to do. So I am a lot like Saul in many ways. Help me to see my sin and turn from ruling my own life back to You. I want You to rule and reign over every area of my life Lord. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men