T H E G R A C E O F
F R U I T F U L N E S S
The Grace of God in a Fruitful Ministry
F. Wayne Mac Leod
Light To My Path Book Distribution
Copyright © 2017 F. Wayne Mac Leod
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written
permission of the author.
“Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®),
copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission.
All rights reserved.”
Special thanks to proof reader: Diane Mac Leod
CONTENTS
Title Page
Copyright
Preface
1- The Deceiver and the Certain Promise of God
2 - A Man Without a Country and the Birth of a Nation
3 - A Vengeful Strongman and the Defeat of Israel's Enemies
4 - A Struggling Father Impacts a Nation
5 - A Shepherd Experiences God's Grace
6 – The Power of God in the Weakness of the Prophets
7 - Foreign Kings and the Purpose of God
8 - The People Jesus Chose
9 - Worldly Success Versus Faithfulness
10 - Taking the Credit
11 - Worldly Success and Spiritual Priorities
12 - Fruitfulness in Weakness
13 - Concluding Remarks
About The Author
T
PREFACE
here are numerous seminars and books in our day teaching us how
to be more effective in ministry. Bible schools and seminaries offer
instruction on how to be better preachers. There are conferences
showing us how to plant churches and make them grow. These events can
be very useful. Personally, God has used these occasions to shape my
ministry. I can trace some of my spiritual growth back to such gatherings.
While this kind of training is significant, it is even more important for us to
understand is that spiritual effectiveness and fruitfulness does not depend so
much on our education or the techniques we use; it is dependent on the
grace of God. We are useful for the kingdom not because we are skilled but
because God, in His grace, has chosen to use us.
In my reading of Scripture, I have often been struck by the kind of people
God uses. Perhaps you have spent years of your life training to be effective
in ministry only to see someone who has had no formal training be
powerfully used of God. Maybe you have done everything you can to live
in holiness and integrity and wonder why God would use someone whose
lifestyle is questionable. God is not limited to using only well trained and
good living people. He has often used men and women of questionable
background and integrity. I am coming to understand that fruitfulness is not
so much a result of who I am or my giftedness as it is of God’s wonderful
grace.
The focus of this study is to examine the kind of people God uses. I do not
want to take anything away from the importance of education and
godliness. What I do want to show, however, is that effectiveness in
ministry is a gift of God. Could it be that we dishonour the Lord God by
taking credit for our ministry success and attributing our fruitfulness to our
good education, skills or lifestyle?
As years pass, I am realizing that effectiveness in ministry depends more on
God than it does on me. In fact, I have often failed to see my dependence
and need of God because my education and experience have gotten in the
way. I trust that as you embark with me on this study you will be reminded
of your need of God and of the grace of a fruitful ministry.
F. Wayne Mac Leod
A
1- THE DECEIVER AND THE
CERTAIN PROMISE OF GOD
s we begin this study, our goal is to see the grace of God in the
unfolding of His purposes through ordinary men and women with
all their flaws and blemishes. How thankful we are that we do not
need to be perfect to be used of God.
Let’s begin with a look at a man by the name of Jacob. He was the son of
the great Jewish patriarch Isaac. Isaac’s wife Rebekah had not been able to
bear children. God heard the prayer of Isaac, however and opened her
womb (see Genesis 25:21). Rebekah conceived and gave birth to twins,
Jacob and his brother Esau.
What is significant about this conception was the prophecy about these
twins. During the pregnancy, Rebekah began to feel that something was
wrong. The twins “struggled together within her” (Genesis 25:22). This
troubled Rebekah and so she asked the Lord about it:
23 And the LORD said to her,
“Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you shall be divided;
the one shall be stronger than the other,
the older shall serve the younger.” (Genesis 25)
God had a plan for these two boys. They would be the fathers of two
separate nations. God’s purpose, however, was that the younger of the two
be stronger than his brother and his older brother would serve him.
When the time for the birth came, the firstborn was named Esau. Jacob was
the younger of the two. What is interesting to note is that when Esau was
being born, Jacob, his younger brother was holding onto his heal. His
parents took note of this incident and gave him a name that represented his
action at birth. Adam Clarke says this about the name given to Jacob:
His name was called Jacob Yaccob, from akab, to defraud,
deceive, to supplant, i.e. to overthrow a person by tripping up his
heels. Hence the name was given to Jacob, because it was found he
had laid hold of his brothers heel, which was emblematic of his
supplanting Esau, and defrauding him of his birthright.
(Commentary on the Bible by Adam Clarke (CLARKE) Electronic
edition copyright © 2015 by Laridian, Inc., Marion Iowa. All rights
reserved. “Commentary on the Bible by Adam Clarke.” Marion, IA:
Laridian, Inc., 2015)
This defrauding nature of Jacob would become evident as the boys grew
older. Genesis 25 describes an incident where Jacob was at home cooking
stew (Genesis 25:29). Esau, on the other hand, was out in the fields hunting.
When Esau returned home he was very hungry and asked his brother for
some of the stew he was cooking.
Taking advantage of his brothers hunger, Jacob told Esau that he would
only give him the stew if he sold him his birthright. Because Esau was the
firstborn of the two boys, his inheritance would be greater than Jacob’s.
Jacob appeared to resent this. Esau, feeling like he was going to die if he
didn’t get something to eat, swore to Jacob that he would give him his
birthright in exchange for the stew. Having sworn this oath, Esau legally
handed over his rights as the firstborn to his younger brother, fulfilling the
words of prophecy spoken to Rebekah, his mother regarding the older child
serving the younger. This privilege, however, was taken by deceit.
The defrauding and deceiving nature of Jacob can be seen not only in how
he treated his brother in a time of need but also in what he did to his father
in his old age. Genesis 27 recounts the story of how Jacob took advantage
of his fathers failing eyesight. Knowing that he was getting old, Isaac
wanted to bless his eldest son with a special blessing. It should be noted that
this was not a trivial matter. The blessing of the eldest son was a significant
event. This blessing was not just from the father but from God Himself
through the father. Esau’s future was deeply connected to the words of his
father in this blessing.
Isaac told his son Esau to go out and hunt some meat so that they could eat
together and seal this blessing as father and son. Hearing that Isaac was
about to bless his son Esau, Rebekah and Jacob conceived a plan to defraud
Esau of that blessing. Rebekah prepared some meat for her husband from
the flock. Jacob disguised himself by wearing Esau’s clothes and covering
his body with the skin of a young goat so that he would appear to be hairy
like his brother. Jacob then brought the meat to his father and received his
brothers blessing. Isaac, being blind, was unaware of the fact that he had
given the blessing to the younger son. By this means, Jacob stole Esau’s
blessing from him.
We are struck here by the disrespect of Jacob for his brother and his
position as the eldest son. We also see his willingness to dishonour his
father in his old age by deceiving him in this way.
Because of his actions, Jacob was forced to leave home. The fierce anger of
Esau toward him was such that Esau swore to kill Jacob the moment his
father died. Esau, at least had enough respect for his father that he refused
to grieve his heart by killing his brother while he was alive. To escape the
anger of his brother, Jacob fled to Paddan-aram where his uncle on his
mothers side lived.
As Jacob travelled to Paddan-aram, God spoke to him in a dream saying:
13… I am the LORD God of Abraham you father and the God of
Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your
offspring. 14 Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and
you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north
and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families
of the earth be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you
wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not
leave you until I have done what I have promised (Genesis 28)
These words are strange in the context. Jacob is fleeing from an angry
brother. He is doing so because had had deceived him and stole his blessing.
Yet, as he runs for his life, he met the Lord God who gave him a promise of
blessing. Through this deceiver all the nations of the earth would be
blessed. God would not leave Jacob until he had fulfilled in him all that He
had promised.
From the very beginning God had shown Rebekah that Jacob would be the
one to receive the blessing of God. Jacob would be the stronger of the two
children she had borne. Did this mean that Jacob was better than his
brother? The story of these two boys would lead us to believe this was not
the case. Jacob was a deceiver who failed to respect the people around him.
He would willingly use people for his own advantage. This was the man
God blessed that day in the dream. He was an imperfect man. The blessing
of God had nothing to do with Jacob being worthy. It was an act of God’s
mercy and grace.
Jacob would find two wives in Paddan-aram. Through Leah and Rachel
God would give him twelve sons. These sons would become the fathers of
the twelve tribes of Israel. The great purpose of God was fulfilled through
Jacob, the deceiver.
Lest we think that there was no cost to the sinful behaviour of Jacob, let me
remind you of a few more details related to the life of Jacob. The deception
of Jacob would have its consequences.
First, Jacob would live a good part of his life fearful of his brothers
revenge. When God called him back to the land of Canaan, Jacob would
return with great fear in his heart. Genesis 32 describe the intensity of that
fear. He would wrestle with the angel of the Lord over this matter. This
broken relationship with his brother would be a burden he would bear for a
good part of his adult life.
Second, Jacob would live with his uncle Laban. Laban promised him his
daughter Rachel in marriage if Jacob would serve him for seven years. On
the night of the marriage, however, Laban gave him Leah, his older
daughter instead. When the deed was discovered, Laban required that Jacob
work another seven years for Rachel. The deceiver was deceived. Over the
course of his relationship with his father-in-law Jacob would himself be
cheated many times. Listen to what he told his wives in Genesis 31:
6 You know that I have served you father with all my strength, 7 yet
your father has cheated me and changed my wages ten times. But
God did not permit him to harm me. (Genesis 31)
Jacob, the deceiver found himself in a family with a father-in-law who was
constantly taking advantage of him. This resulted in a very strained family
relationship.
Third, Jacob’s wives were constantly competing with each other. Rachel
and Leah both struggled for the attention of Jacob. Rachel bitterly
complained because she could not have children. Leah continually acted as
an unloved wife. Jacob was caught in the middle of this with each wife
seeking to take advantage of the other. Listen to the words Rachel when
God gave her a son through her servant Bilhah:
8 Then Rachel said, “With mighty wrestlings I have wrestled with
my sister and have prevailed… (Genesis 30)
Jacob’s family problems did not end with his wives. Genesis 34 tells the
story of how his daughter Dinah went out with some of the young girls in
the land where they were living and met a young man by the name of
Shechem. Shechem deceived and raped Dinah.
When Jacob’s sons heard what had happened to their sister they were very
angry. Shechem and his father came to see Jacob about the incident.
Shechem’s father Hamor asked Jacob to set a bride price and his son
Shechem would marry Dinah. Listen to the response of Jacob’s sons to this
request:
13 The sons of Jacob answered Shechem and his father Hamor
deceitfully, because he had defiled their sister Dinah. 14 They said
to them, “We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one who is
uncircumcised, for that would be a disgrace to us. 15 Only on this
condition will we agree with you—that you will become as we are by
every male among you being circumcised. (Genesis 34)
The matter was agreed to and Shechem and Hamor went home and had all
the males of their city circumcised. Notice, however, that Genesis 34:13
tells us that the sons of Jacob were deceitful in their request. That deceit
became evident when three days after the circumcision, Simeon and Levi
took their swords and attacked the men as they were still suffering and
killed them all.
The deception of Jacob was passed on to his children. In this case, Jacob
would have a heavy price to pay for this. Speaking to his sons that day he
said:
30 Than Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble
on me by making me stink to the inhabitants of the land, the
Canaanites and the Perizzites. My numbers are few, and if they
gather themselves against me and attack me, I shall be destroyed,
both I and my household. (Genesis 34)
In Genesis 35:22 we read of how Jacob’s firstborn son Reuben would
dishonour his father by sleeping with his concubine. The man who, himself
had disrespected his father in his old age now experienced this pain and
disgrace through his own son.
Jacob, struggled in his relationship with Laban who constantly cheated him.
He lived with two wives who wrestled with each other and were constantly
trying take advantage of each other for his attention. His sons had this
deceptive nature in them and were responsible for the murder of the men in
an entire city. This deception strained his relationship with the surrounding
nations. Reuben, his firstborn disgraced him by sleeping with his
concubine.
Would this be the man you would choose to be a father of the nation God
was going to bless? His family seems to be in a mess. His personal life was
not where it should be. His testimony in the community was at times
questionable. Yet through this deceiver, the twelve tribes of Israel would be
born.
After the incident with Shechem and Dinah, God told Jacob to leave the
region and move to Bethel (see Genesis 35:1). Notice what Genesis 35:5
tells us about that trip:
5 And as they journeyed, a terror from God fell upon the cities that
were around them, so that they did not pursue the sons of Jacob.
(Genesis 35)
The grace of God protected the children of Jacob as they travelled so that
no nation dared to attack them.
God would change Jacob’s name to Israel, which literally means “he who
struggles with God.” Yet to this one who struggled with God the certain
promise of was given:
10 And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your
name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he called
his name Israel. 11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be
fruitful and multiply. A nation shall come from you own body. 12
The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and
will give the land to your offspring after you.” (Genesis 35)
The call of God to Jacob was to be fruitful and multiply. The Almighty God
of his fathers would give him land and an offspring. Through that offspring,
the ends of the earth would be blessed.
Jacob’s testimony is far from perfect. Personally, he had many issues in his
life. His family was at times quite a mess. His testimony in the community
was strained because of his son’s actions. God called this man to be
“fruitful and multiply.” God protected him and chose to use him. As Jacob
looked back on his life, I am sure that he was aware of all his shortcomings.
He also saw the painful result of those shortcomings in his personal life,
family life and community life. Despite this, however, he was also aware of
the wonderful grace of God that chose to bless and use him despite his
many failures.
For Consideration:
What was the purpose of God for Jacob, the youngest of the twins born to
Rebekah and Isaac?
How did Jacob receive the blessing and birthright of his older brother Esau?
Jacob was forced to leave home because of his deception. How did the Lord
meet him on his way to Paddan-aram? What was the promise of God to
Jacob?
Describe what was taking place in Jacob’s family. Consider his wives and
his children in this answer.
After Jacob’s sons slaughtered Shechem and the men of his town how did
God demonstrate His presence with them? See Genesis 35:5.
What was it that qualified Jacob for the blessing and the promise of God?
Would you choose such a man to be the instrument of God’s promise and
blessing?
What were the consequences of Jacob’s deception in his personal life?
For Prayer:
Ask the Lord to reveal anything in you that is not in line with the teaching
of the Word of God and His purpose for your life.
Thank the Lord that He has been merciful to you despite your personal
flaws and shortcomings.
Ask the Lord to give you wisdom as you seek to raise your family for Him.
Have you had to face the consequences of your sinful actions? Ask the Lord
for strength to walk through these issues in a way that will bring Him glory.
Thank the Lord that He does not abandon us when we fall short of His
standard.
Thank the Lord for the way he used Jacob, despite his faults, to be the
father of the twelve tribes of Israel.
T
2 - A MAN WITHOUT A
COUNTRY AND THE BIRTH
OF A NATION
he life of Moses began in the land of Egypt. His father was a
Levite (Exodus 2:1) and so he was born into the tribe God would
choose to become His priestly representatives. The people of Israel
did not have their own land. In fact, at the time of Moses’ birth, they were
being mistreated and abused by the Egyptians, among whom they lived as
slaves. This abuse had become so cruel that Pharaoh ordered that every
male child born to an Israelite woman was to be cast into the Nile river and
drowned (Exodus 1:22).
Moses’ mother tried her best to hide him from the Egyptian authorities, but
there came a point when she knew she could no longer hide him. Preparing
a basket from bulrushes (reeds) she placed him in the Nile river, committing
his future to God. As it happened, the daughter of Pharaoh went down to
the river to bathe and discovered the young child, Moses, in the basket
floating among the reeds. Taking pity on the child, she chose to keep him
and raise him as her own (Exodus 2:3-11). Moses was raised apart from his
people as an Egyptian. While this exile from his own people was not
unpleasant, it did trouble Moses.
Exodus 2:11,12 recounts the story of how, when he had grown up, Moses
went out to see his own people. What he saw that day angered him. He
witnesses an Egyptian beating an Israelite. Exodus 2:12 describes what he
did in response:
12 He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down
the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. (Exodus 2)
Moses killed this Egyptian because he was beating the Israelite slave. He
knew what he did was wrong. The passage tells us that “he looked this way
and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him.”
Clearly Moses did not want to get caught. Acts 7:23-25 tells us why Moses
was so willing to kill this Egyptian:
23 “When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his
brothers, the children of Israel. 24 And seeing one of them being
wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by
striking down the Egyptian. 25 He supposed that his brothers would
understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but
they did not understand.
Moses had a burden for his people and believed that he could help them. He
was a man of influence and authority in the land, having been raised by
Pharaoh’s daughter. He wanted to show his brothers and sisters in Israel that
he could help them and that he was on their side.
This act of Moses shows us that while he had been raised in the comforts of
Egypt, his heart was not there. He belonged to Israel and wanted to return to
his own people and help them in their time of need. His exile was
physically comfortable but emotionally and spiritually Moses was not
happy. He saw himself as a refugee, disconnected from his people.
Returning to his people on another occasion, Moses saw two Israelites
fighting. He challenged these men and questioned why they were fighting
among themselves. Their response must have been very shocking for
Moses:
14 He answered, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do
you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian? (Exodus 2)
These words must have cut deeply into the soul of Moses that day for two
reasons. First, the words of the Israelite revealed that he knew Moses had
killed an Egyptian and hid him in the sand. If the Israelites knew about this,
it would not be long before the Egyptian officials also knew. Moses was
guilty of murder and he feared the consequences of being caught.
The second reason the words of this man were so hurtful was because they
revealed the heart of the nation of Israel toward him. “Who made you a
prince and a judge over us?” Israel did not receive Moses as their prince
and defender. They wanted nothing to do with him. In their eyes, he was not
one of them. He lived in luxury while they were being beaten and forced to
work for Pharaoh. Moses was raised by people who were their enemies, and
they saw him as one of them. They did not accept him and certainly did not
want his help.
Moses likely realised that day that he was a man without a country. Israel
would not accept him. The moment Pharaoh found out that he was guilty of
killing an Egyptian, he would seek to kill him. Moses was forced to leave
Egypt as a refugee without a country. He would spend the next forty years
of his life tending sheep in the foreign land of Midian. In fact, when Moses
and his Midianite wife had their first son, Moses called him Gershom.
Notice the reason why he gave him this name:
22 She gave birth to a son, and he called his name Gershom, for he
said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land. (Exodus 2)
Moses was very conscious of his exile. He was a man without a country, a
refugee from a nation who did not want him and a country that wanted to
kill him. He became a shepherd in the land of Midian and for forty years
lived in exile.
It was not until Moses was eighty years of age that the Lord God appeared
to him. Exodus 3 recounts the story of how Moses was shepherding his
sheep and saw a bush in the desert that appeared to be on fire. God spoke to
Moses out of that bush.
4 “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said,
“Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on
which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 And he said, “I am the
God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the
God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at
God. (Exodus 3)
Notice how God introduced Himself to Moses. “I am the God of your
father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” We
cannot underestimate the significance of these words to a refugee without a
country and a sense of belonging. God reminded Moses that day that He
was the God of his father Abraham. This identified Moses with the nation
of Israel. For forty years, he had been raised as an Egyptian. Then he had
lived in Midian as a shepherd for another forty years. God, however, is
giving him an identity and a purpose. He reminds him that he was a child of
Abraham, an Israelite. This was his identity before God.
This must have been a very special day for Moses. He had heard from God
and had the assurance that before God he did have a people. Notice,
however, that God does not stop at this. He went on to speak to Moses
about the difficulties His people were facing in Egypt. God had heard the
cries of His people and was going to do something about it. In fact, He told
Moses that He had chosen Him to represent the nation before Pharaoh. He
would be the one to plead their case before the most powerful leader on the
earth at that time. Not only does God reaffirm Moses as a child of Israel,
but He calls him to be His representative for that nation.
I don’t know about you, but if I were Moses I am sure that I would not feel
worthy of such a task. Surely, there was someone who had lived for these
past eighty years among the people who could have represented them better
than Moses. Notice the response of Moses to this call of God on his life:
11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh
and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt? (Exodus 3)
As he stood before God that day, he wrestled with this calling. The people
of Israel had rejected him forty years prior to this. Egypt saw him as a
murderer and traitor. He questioned his ability to speak. He had been a
shepherd for the past forty years and did not feel that this qualified him to
be the leader of a nation.
There have been many times when I have looked at the call of God on my
life and felt like Moses. Who am I that I should be writing and teaching the
Word? Who am I that God would allow my material to be translated and
shipped to many different countries? There are many others seemingly more
qualified than myself who could do this ministry. The answer always comes
back to the fact that God has called me. I have come to realize that what
counts is not my qualifications; it is the call of God on my life. I am
qualified, not because of my experience or ability but because God has
called me. I step out feeling like Moses, unworthy of the task, but I step out
confident of the call and purpose of God for my life.
As we watch Moses over the coming years, we see a timid man returning to
Egypt. We see him following the leading of God and speaking His words
both to Pharaoh and to Israel. We watch Moses go time after time into the
presence of the Lord seeking wisdom and guidance. We see the nation of
Egypt crumble as God worked through Moses. We see the release of an
entire nation from slavery. We see the miraculous power of God
demonstrated as the water of the Sea is held back to lead Israel into safety.
We see the daily provision of God for well over two million people and
their animals. God would use Moses, this refugee without a country to
organize His people into a nation with laws governing their behaviour.
What qualified Moses for the task of building a nation? What made his
ministry so fruitful? What made him the choice of God? It was obviously
not his influence in the nation of Egypt. God stripped that from him. Nor
was it that he had experienced the hardship of Israel’s bondage, for he had
escaped the Egyptian whip. It was not in the fact that he had gained the
respect of the Israelites, for they had rejected him as one of them. It was not
in his natural ability because God waited until he was well in His eighties
when that natural ability had diminished before He called him into this
ministry. How easy it is to desperately search for human reasons for
fruitfulness in ministry. Ultimately, however, in the life of Moses, the
reason for his fruitful ministry had more to do with the grace of God than
any personal qualification. He was fruitful because God had chosen Him for
this task. Moses did not even want what God was calling him to do. Listen
to the conversation that took place between God and Moses:
GOD: “I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people
the children of Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 3:10)
MOSES: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the
children of Israel, out of Egypt. (Exodus 3:11)
GOD: “But I will be with you…” (Exodus 3:12)
MOSES “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God
of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his
name?’ What shall I say to them?” (Exodus 3:14)
GOD: “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am who I am.” (Exodus
3:15)
MOSES: “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice,
for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’” (Exodus 4:1)
GOD: “What is that in your hand?... throw it on the ground.” (and
it became a serpent) (Exodus 4:2-3)
MOSES: “Oh my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since
you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of
tongue. (Exodus 4:10)
GOD: “Who made man’s mouth? now therefore go. And I will be
with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” (Exodus
4:11-12)
MOSES “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” (Exodus 4:13)
There can be little doubt that Moses did not see himself as qualified for the
task before him. In this debate with God, the Lord continues to bring him
back to the fact that though he did not feel qualified in himself, God would
give him all he needed for the task. Moses was successful because God
called him and equipped him for the task. God did not choose Moses
because of his excellent qualifications; Moses is very clear about this in his
conversation with God.
What was it that made God choose a refugee to build a nation –it was His
grace alone. God chose to use a broken man to lead a great nation through
which He would bless the entire world. It was God’s grace that empowered
Moses. It was His grace the gave him the wisdom he needed when he did
not know which way to turn.
As much as we would like to find something in Moses that influenced God
in His decision to bless him with such a fruitful ministry, the reality of the
matter is that this is not how Moses saw things. He felt unworthy. He was a
refugee without a home that God, in His grace, chose to use as an
ambassador and leader of a nation.
For Consideration:
How was Moses taken away from his own people?
Was Moses happy being raised as an Egyptian? Where was his allegiance?
How did Israel see Moses?
What did the name of his firstborn son indicate about how Moses felt about
being in the land of Midian?
Did Moses feel qualified to receive the call of God? Explain.
Would it be fair to say that the only real qualification of Moses was the call
of God on His life? Was this enough?
Why do we feel the need to find something in ourselves that makes us
fruitful for the kingdom? To what extent was the fruitful ministry of Moses
an act of pure grace on God’s part?
For Prayer:
Take a moment to thank the Lord that He is willing to use people that we
would reject.
Thank the Lord for His patience with Moses who struggled to accept the
call of God for His life. Have you struggled with God’s call for your life?
Thank the Lord that while we may not be naturally qualified for the service
to which God calls us, we can trust Him to provide all we need to
accomplish for Him.
Ask the Lord to give you grace to step out into His call for your life.
S
3 - A VENGEFUL
STRONGMAN AND THE
DEFEAT OF ISRAEL'S
ENEMIES
ometimes we feel like those who have a powerful impact for the
kingdom must be walking close to the Lord, otherwise how could
they be so successful in ministry. This idea attributes success to
faithfulness. It comes from a sense that God uses us because He sees
something in us. It fails to see that fruitfulness in ministry is an act of God’s
grace and not something we earn because of our good efforts or faithful use
of gifts and talents. Let’s take a moment to consider the life of a judge in
Israel named Samson.
Samson was born at a time when the Philistines were creating a serious
problem for the nation of Israel. Listen to what Judges 13:1 says:
1 And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the
LORD, so the LORD gave them into the hand of the Philistines for
forty years. (Judges 13)
This verse shows us two things about the days in which Samson lived. First,
the nation of Israel was not walking with the Lord God. Second, the
judgement of God was on them for their sin. This came in the form of the
Philistines who oppressed them for a period of forty years.
Samson was born to a woman whose name is not mentioned in Scripture.
She was the wife of Manoah. Manoah’s wife was barren but one day an
angel of the Lord appeared to her and told her that she would conceive and
bear a son (Judges 13:3). The angel told Samson’s mother that this son was
to be set apart for the Lord all his life.
3 The angel of the Lord appeared to her and said, “You are barren
and childless, but you are going to become pregnant and give birth
to a son. 4 Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented
drink and that you do not eat anything unclean. 5 You will become
pregnant and have a son whose head is never to be touched by a
razor because the boy is to be a Nazirite, dedicated to God from the
womb. He will take the lead in delivering Israel from the hands of
the Philistines.”
It is quite clear from her statement to her husband that Manoah’s wife
understood that this dedication of her child was to be for life:
7 but he said to me, “Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. So
then drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for the
child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his
death.” (Judges 13)
Notice the special requirements God placed on Samson. First, he was never
to drink wine or fermented drink. Second, he was never to eat anything
unclean. Third, he was never to cut his hair. These were the signs of his
dedication to the Lord and Samson would be required to live by these
standards all his life. Notice also from the words of the angel that the Lord
had a very specific purpose for Samson. He was going to use Samson to
deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines. Samson was a special child,
born for this purpose.
As Samson grew up he went down to the city Philistine city of Timnah. We
are not told why he was in the city of Israel’s enemies but when he was
there he met a young Philistine woman who attracted him. Returning home
to Israel, he told his father and mother that the wanted to marry her. As you
can imagine, this grieved the heart of his parents. Israelite men were not to
take foreign wives. This matter concerned his parents even more because
the Philistines were the enemy of Israel and the angel of the Lord had told
them that Samson would deliver them from this enemy. Here we see
Samson wanting to marry the enemy. This would make the enemy part of
his family. His parents did not see how disobeying God in this matter could
possibly be a good thing.
Despite their concerns about this marriage, Samson’s parents went with him
to speak to the family of the young Philistine woman. On their way, a lion
attacked and Samson killed it and ripped it apart with his bare hands (see
Judges 14:5-6). Returning sometime later, Samson was curious about the
body of the lion he had killed. He went searching for it and found it.
Noticing a swarm of bees in the body of this dead lion, Samson scraped out
the honey with his hands and continued his way. He gave some of the honey
to his parents, but did not tell them that he had scraped it out of the carcass
of a dead lion (see Judges 14:9).
What is significant about this is that Samson touched the body of a dead
animal. Part of his obligation before God as a Nazirite was that he was not
to touch anything unclean. This dead animal was unclean. The fact that he
did not tell his parents where he found the honey may indicate that he knew
that he was breaking his vow before God. This did not seem to concern
him.
Not only did Samson not take his vow seriously, but he seems to delight in
the breaking of this vow. When the family was in Timnah celebrating the
engagement, Samson and thirty of his companions were eating together.
Samson made a bet with them. He told them that if they could solve his
riddle then he would give them each a set of clothes. If they couldn’t, they
would each give him a set of clothes.
The riddle was quite simple:
14 … Out of the eater came something to eat.
Out of the strong came something sweet. (Judges 14)
Samson seems to boast in how he broke his vow to God. Here in this verse
he makes a joke out of what he did. Obviously, anyone who took their vows
seriously would not see this as a matter of joking. There is no sense of
Samson being ashamed here.
To get the answer to the riddle, Samson’s friends threaten to kill his fiancée
and her family. When she pressed Samson for the answer, he gave it to her.
She told his friends and when the day came for them to give their answer to
his riddle they answered correctly. To pay his bet, Samson went out and
killed thirty Philistines and gave their clothes to his friends. Angry about
how he had been deceived by his fiancée and friends, he left Philistia and
returned home.
After a period of cooling down, Samson returned to Philistia to his fiancée.
Ready to go through with the marriage, he approached her father about
seeing her. Her father, however, had given her as wife to one of Samson’s
friends. Samson was so angry with his father-in-law that he went out into
the fields and caught 300 foxes. He tied them in pairs and fastened a torch
to each pair. Then he set fire to the torches and released the foxes into the
grain fields. This resulted in significant damage to the crops and great loss
to the farmers of the region.
Samson’s motivation was revenge. What he did caused so much anger in
the hearts of the Philistines that they sent an army of three thousand men
after him. Taking the jawbone of a donkey, Samson fought them. That day
he killed one thousand Philistine men. The people of Israel, recognising
Samson’s great strength and desire to defeat the Philistines, anointed him as
judge over them a position Samson would hold for twenty years (see
Judges 15:20).
As a leader of Israel, Samson’s moral life left much to be desired. In Judges
16:1 we see how Samson when to Philistia where he saw a prostitute and
slept with her. We are left wondering what Samson was doing in the
territory of his enemy sleeping with a Philistine prostitute. Not only would
this have created an outrage in Israel but it also stirred up the anger of the
Philistines. When the people of Gaza heard that Samson had come to their
town and was sleeping with one of their prostitutes, they surrounded the
house with the intention of killing him. Samson, however, escaped the city
undetected.
Not long after this Samson fell in love with another Philistine woman who
lived in the Valley of Sorek. Her name was Delilah. He moved in with her.
Again, we are left wondering why a judge of Israel is not in Israel but had
chosen instead to live with a Philistine woman. We can only imagine how
this would have caused confusion in Israel. Samson’s presence in enemy
territory was a thorn in the side of the Philistines. They were constantly
trying to kill him. This does not seem to disturb Samson, who seems to be
oblivious to their attacks.
Through the deception of Delilah, however, Samson is eventually taken
prisoner. Having told her the secret of his great strength, she cut his hair and
invited his enemies to capture him. They would pull out his eyes. As
Samson was held in prison, his hair, the secret of his strength, grew back.
When the Philistines brought him out to entertain them during a celebration
to their god Dagon, Samson asked a young man to direct him to the pillars
of the great temple where everyone had gathered.
In Judges 16:28 we read that Samson cried out to the Lord God:
28 O Lord GOD, please remember me and please strengthen me
only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for
my two eyes.” (Judges 16)
This seems to be the only time we have a record of Samson crying out to
God. Notice, that he does recognise God as the source of his strength.
However, the motivation behind this desire to destroy his enemies is that he
was seeking revenge on them for taking out his eyes. There is no mention
here in these final words of Samson of the glory of God. Nor does he seem
to be concerned here bout the deliverance of his people. There is no prayer
of repentance. Samson comes to God and cries out to God, not for the
people he served, but for himself.
God answered that prayer and, pushing against two pillars in the temple of
Dagon, Samson brought down the building on himself and all those who
were there that day. Samson killed more Philistines that day than he did
during his entire lifetime (Judges 16:30). The prophecy given to Samson’s
mother came true. God would use her son to deliver his people from the
Philistines.
Consider the man God used that day. Samson was a man who disregarded
his vow to the Lord. Not only did he break this vow, but he joked about
breaking it. He also disregarded the law of God in seeking to marry a
foreign wife. He slept with prostitutes, and lived with a woman who was
not his wife. He appears to do so with no sense of conviction or repentance.
When angered, Samson could be very cruel and vengeful. He was a self-
centred individual who seemed to be careless about God’s ways. This led
him into situations where he appears to be tempting the Lord. The decisions
he made in life showed no respect for his people or the call of God on his
life.
In the end, all this evil caught up with him. The women he slept with would
turn against him. The Philistines he tempted would pull out his eyes. His
disregard for God’s law would eventually see him end his life as a blind
prisoner. Despite these things, however, he would be the instrument of God
to deliver His people from the oppression of the Philistines.
Would you hire a pastor like Samson? Would you accept Him as the leader
of your mission work? What was the secret of his success in the work God
had called him to do? It certainly wasn’t his godly lifestyle. Nor was it his
humble attitude. The only explanation for the success of Samson’s ministry
is the decision of God to use him despite his many flaws. God used a
vengeful, self-centred and disobedient strongman to bring deliverance to
His people. Samson was not faithful to God, but he was certainly used of
God to accomplish His purpose.
For Consideration:
What do we learn about God’s purpose for Samson at his birth? What did
God promise to accomplish through him?
How did Samson disrespect his vows to the Lord?
Give some examples of how Samson disregarded the law of God.
Was Samson faithful to the purpose of God for his life? Was he successful?
What is the difference between faithfulness to God and fruitfulness in
ministry? Are the two always related?
For Prayer:
Thank the Lord that He is not limited in His purpose because of our
disobedience and unfaithfulness.
Ask the Lord to help you to be more faithful to Him. Ask Him to reveal any
sinful ways in your life. Confess them to Him.
Ask the Lord to forgive you for times when you truly believed that the
reason for your success in ministry was because of your ability and
strength. Thank the Lord that He works in us and through us despite our
shortcomings.
T
4 - A STRUGGLING FATHER
IMPACTS A NATION
he prophet Samuel was a very important figure in the history and
development of the nation of Israel. His birth was miraculous and
his calling was clear from the time of his birth. He was born to
Elkanah and his wife Hannah. What was particularly striking about his birth
was that his mother did not appear to be able to have children (see 1 Samuel
1:2).
This inability to conceive grieved Hannah very much. In fact, Elkanah’s
second wife Peninnah, who had borne children to him, often provoked
Hannah.
6 And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her
because the LORD had closed her womb. 7 So it went on year by
year. As often as she went up to the house of the LORD, she used to
provoke her. Therefore, Hannah wept and would not eat. (1 Samuel
1)
On one occasion, as the family was at the tabernacle in Shiloh, Hannah
prayed to the Lord in deep distress over this matter of being childless. That
day she prayed:
10 O LORD of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of
your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will
give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the
days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head. (1 Samuel 1)
That day, in her desperate cry, Hannah committed this son to the Lord and
made a vow of separation for him. As much as she wanted a child for
herself, this child would be devoted completely to the Lord.
God heard her prayer and she conceived a male child. Faithful to her vow,
Hannah cared for him until he was weaned and then at this early age
brought him to the tabernacle where he would live in the care of the priest.
Samuel would be trained and raised by Eli the priest. He would spend his
youth ministering in the service of his God.
It was there in Shiloh that the Lord began to speak to Samuel. His first
prophetic words were spoken to the man who had been raising him – Eli the
priest. It appears that Eli’s sons were unfaithful to the Lord. God told
Samuel that the guilt of Eli and his sons would be on them forever and
would never be forgiven:
13 And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever,
for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming
God, and he did not restrain them. 14 Therefore I swear to the house
of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by
sacrifice or offering forever. (1 Samuel 3)
We can only imagine how hard it would have been for Samuel to speak
these words to Eli, the one who had invested so much into his life. 1 Samuel
3:19-21 tells us, however, that from that time, Samuel grew in his
relationship with the Lord and his prophetic calling “the Lord was with
him and let none of his words fall to the ground” (1 Samuel 3:19). In fact,
Samuel’s reputation as a prophet became firmly established in Israel (1
Samuel 3:20).
Samuel’s influence is seen in 1 Samuel 7 where he challenged his people to
get rid of their false gods to serve the Lord only (1 Samuel 7:3-4). In
response, the people gathered at Mizpah, fasted and cried out in repentance
to the Lord. See what happened as the presence of the Lord appeared to His
repentant people:
10 As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines
drew near to attack Israel. But the LORD thundered with a mighty
sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into
confusion, and they were defeated before Israel. (1 Samuel 7:10)
This was a powerful demonstration of God. The Philistines did not trouble
Israel again during the time of Samuel, and Israel’s territory, taken by the
Philistines, was restored to them (see 1 Samuel 7:13-14).
Samuel would travel in a yearly circuit to Bethel, Gilgal, Mizpah and back
to Ramah where he lived. He judged cases and spoke the word of God in all
these regions, pointing people to the will and purpose of God for their lives.
Samuel’s ministry was a fruitful and powerful one. What is striking about
the man Samuel, however, is his family life. We catch a glimpse of this in 1
Samuel 8. As Samuel grew older, he made his sons judges over Israel.
Notice how 1 Samuel 8:3 describes these sons of Samuel:
3 Yet his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain.
They took bribes and perverted justice. (1 Samuel 8)
It was this very fact that caused the people to come one day to Samuel and
ask for a king like the other nations.
4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to
Samuel at Ramah 5 and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your
sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge
us like all the nations.” (1 Samuel 8)
While the people had great respect for Samuel, they did not have that same
respect for his sons who were evil and blasphemed the Lord in how they
ministered.
Let’s consider this for a moment. Remember that the very first word Samuel
had from the Lord was to Eli the priest, his mentor. God rebuked Eli for not
dealing with his sons who showed no respect for God as they carried out
their priestly duties. He rebuked Eli’s sons for their greed and immorality.
Samuel, now found himself in the same situation. Like Eli’s sons, Samuel’s
sons took bribes and perverted justice. Samuel appointed them judges and
left them in their position just as Eli did. He was guilty of the same sin that
he had spoken to Eli of when he was young.
Samuel’s sons were responsible for turning Israel away from God, their
king. Instead of turning people toward God, Samuel’s sons turned toward
the nations around them. Samuel was not able to pass on his faith to his
children. He struggled as a father to raise children who would honour the
Lord.
Samuel was a powerful prophet. He was one of the great prophet/judges of
Israel. We see how he travelled far and wide proclaiming the truth of God
and pointing people in the ways of the Lord but his own sons rejected his
message and did not walk in God’s ways. It was this struggling father who
impacted the nation of Israel so powerfully. King Saul respected Samuel
and often came to him seeking advice and counsel. Samuel would also have
an impact on the life of the greatest King Israel ever knew, King David.
Samuel was the one who would anoint David to be king.
Many lives in Israel were touched by Samuel as he travelled from town to
town each year. He advised the king and challenged his people to walk in
the ways of the Lord. His choice of David as the successor to King Saul
would bring Israel to her height of power and glory. His impact on the
nation for God was significant even though his own sons did not follow in
his ways.
What was the secret of Samuel’s success as a prophet? Was it because he
made wise decisions? His decision to make his sons judges led to many
turning away from God. Was it because of his consistent walk with God?
The fact that he fell into the same trap as Eli, shows that he failed in this
regard as well.
This struggling father, however, impacted kings and nations. His counsel
and advice changed the course of the nation of Israel. The success of
Samuel’s ministry was not found in him; it was found in the grace of God
who chose to use him. Maybe he could have spent more time with his
family instead of travelling all over Israel preaching the Word of God. I am
sure that he felt the pain of his sons’ rejection of his message. I am sure he
felt somewhat responsible for the nation of Israel turning from God as their
king to seek a king like the nations around them. Despite his failures,
however, his impact would be felt for years to come. He wasn’t always
wise. Perhaps his priorities were not always what they should have been,
but his life was powerful because God, in his grace, chose to use him.
God’s grace is poured out even on struggling fathers and mothers. The fact
that God pours out His grace on us and gives us a fruitful and powerful
ministry does not mean that we are doing everything right. God uses us
despite our failures. Samuel’s ministry is an example of grace being
showered on a struggling parent despite his failures. We should not take
from this that we can ignore our obligations, but be assured that despite our
failures, God can still bless us.
For Consideration:
God called Samuel even before he was born. Was the success of his
ministry a result of himself and his qualities as a prophet or because of
God’s call?
Samuel appears to be raised in the home of Eli the priest. What were Eli’s
sons like? What was Samuel’s first recorded prophetic word?
How did Samuel fall into the same trap as Eli? What were Samuel’s sons
like? Who gave them their position in ministry?
Despite his sons’ rejection of his message, how significant and successful
was the ministry of Samuel?
What is the connection between success in ministry and being right with
God in all areas of our life? It is possible to be successful in ministry and
fail in other areas?
Do you think that Samuel could have spent more time with his family?
For Prayer:
Thank the Lord that He uses you despite your imperfections and faults.
Ask the Lord to give you a balance between family and church. Ask God to
allow your life to impact your family. Take a moment to pray for your loved
ones, asking that they would come to Christ as their Saviour.
Ask the Lord to help you never to judge your spiritual condition based on
the success or failure of your ministry.
T
5 - A SHEPHERD
EXPERIENCES GOD'S GRACE
he first we hear about the young man David is in 1 Samuel 16.
After God’s rejection of Saul as king, He sent Samuel the prophet
to anoint another man as king over His people. Samuel was sent to
Bethlehem, the home of a man by the name of Jesse (1 Samuel 16:4). As
Samuel offered a sacrifice to the Lord, he looked over the sons of Jesse
gathered around him. The Lord revealed to him that none of these men were
His choice to be king. Confused by this, Samuel asked if Jesse had any
other sons. Jesse told him that he had one more—the youngest, who was
tending sheep while his brothers attended the sacrifice. Young David was
brought before Samuel, the Lord told him to anoint him as king (1 Samuel
16:12-13). This was just the beginning of David’s experience of God’s
grace.
When Samuel anointed David, the Spirit of the Lord left King Saul and he
was troubled with an evil spirit (see Judges 16:15). The only thing that
seemed to calm him was music. Realizing this, King Saul sent his servants
to search for a young musician who could be at his side so that when he was
attacked, this young man could calm him with music. One of the servants
knew of David and his musical skills. He told Saul about him, and David
was summoned. By the grace of God David was brought to the court of the
king to play music.
The relationship between David and Saul grew and David found favour in
Saul’s sight (see Judges 14:21-22). In fact, Saul made David his armour
bearer. In all this we see the blessing of God on David’s life, preparing him
for the task ahead.
The Philistines were a problem for the Israelites in those days. In fact, there
was war between the two countries. Among the Philistines was a man by
the name of Goliath—a giant. The Philistines proposed that the Israelites
send a man to fight Goliath. If the man they chose to fight Goliath defeated
him, then they would subject themselves to Israel. If, on the other hand,
Goliath defeated the Israelite, then all of Israel would be subject to the
Philistines. No one in Israel dared to take on this challenge. David,
however, felt moved of God to stand for Israel.
This young shepherd was not skilled in the use of sword or spear. The tool
of his trade was a simple sling shot. What was a sling shot against a giant in
full armour? What was a shepherd against an experienced and mighty
soldier?
Goliath mocked David when he saw him coming. Humanly speaking,
David had no chance against this great soldier. David was aware of his
disadvantage. He had no pretention of being able to overcome such a
massive man in his own strength. Speaking to Goliath that day he said:
45 “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a
javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God
of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord
will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off
your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the
Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of
the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel,
47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with
sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you
into our hand.”
David reminded those present that it was not spear and sword that would
win this battle but the Lord “for the battle is the Lord’s.” David took no
credit for this battle. He knew his strength did not match that of Goliath. He
knew that if it were up to him, he would not have a chance. It was the grace
of God that would win the battle. Nothing but grace would give him victory
that day. In the name of the Lord, David shot a single stone from his sling
and struck the giant in the head, knocking him down.
In the grace of God this act of faith led to David’s growing influence and
authority in the nation. David served Saul well in his army. God gave David
many victories. The victories of David exceeded the victories of Saul. In
fact, a song was sung in those days with these words:
7 … Saul has struck down his thousands,
and David his ten thousands. (1 Samuel 18)
Saul would become quite jealous of David. In fact, this jealousy was such
that he often sought to kill him. David was forced to go into hiding to save
his life. Imagine what it would have been like for David in those days of
hiding from Saul. The great soldier and military commander is forced to
flee. Not only would this have been humbling, but it also would have
reminded him that God could take away everything in an instant. David had
to realise that were it not for the grace of God he would perish at the hands
of his own king. Though he had defeated Goliath, God would not allow him
to defeat Saul.
The grace of God in David’s life is evident despite his failures and sins. As
David and his men hid from Saul, they were forced to depend on others for
food. On one occasion, David sent messengers to a rich man by the name of
Nabal asking for provisions. Nabal refused to help him. This refusal
insulted David. He immediately prepared his men to fight Nabal and take
provisions by force. David’s anger was so great that day that he declared:
22 God do so to the enemies of David and more also, if by morning I
leave so much as one male of all who belong to him. (1 Samuel 25)
The intention of David is quite clear. He was going to kill every male he
found on the property of Nabal for refusing to provide supplies for his men.
This was not the purpose of God for David. Only after Nabal’s wife met
David and brought supplies to him did David understand the seriousness of
his sin and the guilt that would have been on his hands had he carried out
his plan (see 1 Samuel 25:32-34). David the gentle shepherd was also a man
who could at times take matters into his hands and get himself in trouble.
After the death of Saul, David would become king of Israel and Judah. One
of his great desires was to bring the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem
where it would be near him. The priests transported the ark on a new ox
cart. In doing so they broke the law of God that stated that the ark was only
to be carried by priests. As they travelled, the oxen stumbled and the ark
risked falling off the cart. A man by the name of Uzzah, put out his hand to
stabilise it so that it would not fall on the ground. The moment he touched
the ark, however, the anger of the Lord was aroused and God struck him so
that he died.
2 Samuel 6:9-10 tells us that David was so afraid of the Lord that he was
unwilling to take the ark the rest of the way to Jerusalem. In fact, 2 Samuel
6:8 tells us that David was angry at the Lord for killing Uzzah:
8 And David was angry because the LORD had broken out against
Uzzah. And that place is called Perez-Uzzah to this day. (2 Samuel
6)
Because of his anger, for three months David refused to take the ark to
Jerusalem. When his anger subsided and David saw how the region where
the ark rested was blessed, he decided to follow through with his plan to
bring the ark into the city. As the ark arrived in the city, David danced
before it with great joy.
David’s wife Mical, the daughter of Saul, saw David dancing before the ark
and despised him for it. When she brought this matter up to David, he
responded in 2 Samuel 6:22:
22 I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be
abased in your eyes. But by the female servants of whom you have
spoken, by them I shall be held in honor. (2 Samuel 6)
Commenting on this verse Adam Clarke says:
Then it is said, Michal had no child till the day of her death:
probably David never more took her to his bed; or God, in his
providence, might have subjected her to barrenness which in
Palestine was considered both a misfortune and a reproach.
(“Commentary on the Bible by Adam Clarke” Marion, IA: Laridian,
2013 Electronic edition copyright © 2015 by Laridian, Inc., Marion,
Iowa. All rights reserved.)
Is it possible that because of this accusation of Michal that David no longer
slept with his wife? Did this argument between them end this aspect of their
marriage? If so, we can see again that David did struggle with anger and an
unwillingness to forgive. This in any relationship is a serious matter.
Despite this issue with his wife, God continued to bless David. Again, we
see that God used David despite his unfaithfulness in these areas of his life.
David would go on to become very successful in battle, conquering many
enemies of Israel. In fact, his success was so great that at times he didn’t
even feel the need to go into battle himself, he would simply send his
military commanders. On one such occasion, while his men were fighting,
David was home. Late in the afternoon David got up from his couch and
was walking on his roof top when he saw a woman bathing below. He was
attracted to this woman and inquired as to her identity. The result was that
David invited her to his home and slept with her. She was the wife of one of
David’s soldiers who was fighting for him. Bathsheba became pregnant
because of this encounter. When news of her pregnancy came to David he
had his military commander put her husband in the front line where he
would be killed in battle. He then took Bathsheba to be his own wife. In
doing this, David was guilty not only of adultery but also of murder.
Perhaps, had his relationship with Michal been as it should have been, this
incident may not have happened.
The gentle shepherd/musician not only could become very angry to the
point of being ready to slaughter an entire family for refusing to give him
food, but he could also murder a man to take his wife. David would pay the
price for this sin. The child of this illegitimate union would die. David
repented of this sin, however, and his relationship with God was restored as
he received the wonderful forgiving grace of God. God did not give up on
David, even after this sin. He would continue to use him to bring Israel to
the height of its power and glory.
David also struggled in his family life. His son Amnon would rape his sister
Tamar (see 2 Samuel 13). David’s son Absalom would murder his brother
Amnon because of what he did to Tamar (see 2 Samuel 13:23-29). Because
of his crime against his brother, Absalom was force to flee the city of
Jerusalem. For three years, David did not see his son Absalom (2 Samuel
13:38-39). Only after these three years, through the pleading of Joab, did
David allow Absalom to return to Jerusalem. When he returned to
Jerusalem, however, David would not allow him to stay in the palace nor
even to come into his presence.
23 So Joab arose and went to Geshur and brought Absalom to
Jerusalem. 24 And the king said, “Let him dwell apart in his own
house; he is not to come into my presence.” So Absalom lived apart
in his own house and did not come into the king’s presence. (2
Samuel 14)
As a father, David refused to see his son or allow him even to come into his
presence. Absalom would live in the same city as David but he would never
enjoy a relationship with him. He would never be able to sit down with him
to talk. He would never share a meal with his father. In fact, his father
refused to speak with him or even be in the same room as him. We can only
imagine the pain this would have caused Absalom. As a father, David,
struggled to forgive his son. He would not reach out to him in this time of
need. For the rest of their lives, they would be separated. The bitterness of
this separation would be hard on Absalom who would eventually come to
hate his father for rejecting him.
Absalom’s hatred of his father David was such that he began to compete
with him for the hearts of the people in his kingdom. This would eventually
lead to Absalom declaring himself to be king in opposition to his father.
Rather than fight Absalom, David fled Jerusalem, taking his household with
him. He left his concubines, at the palace to care for it in his absence. In an
act of defiance, Absalom pitched a tent on the roof of the palace and there,
in public view, he slept with his fathers concubines. This was a tremendous
act of disrespect for his father and showed the people how much Absalom
hated his father. We are left to wonder if Absalom’s hatred for David was a
result of David’s unwillingness to see him or be in his presence.
There was a price to pay for David’s sins. The man who committed adultery
saw his own daughter raped by his son. Another son publicly slept with his
concubines. The one who killed a man for his wife, watched one of his sons
kill the other. The child born through his adulterous relationship with
Bathsheba died. The man who conquered the city of Jerusalem, fled from it
when his own son threatened to take if from him. These were deep pains for
David. The cost of his sin was a heavy one to bear.
David was not perfect. He would have outbursts of anger that threatened to
destroy a whole family. He was guilty of sexual sins and murder. He was
not the father he should have been and his son Absalom hated him for this.
He was not the husband he should be –casting aside Michal when she
disagreed with him. Sometimes he didn’t seem to be able to forgive those
who had offended him. Even a quick reading of the Psalms of David give us
a sense that David sometimes struggled with the unfolding of God’s
purpose for his life. David had his share of problems. These sins alone
would ban him from being a pastor in many of our modern churches.
But God did not forsake David. He would experience the grace of God in a
wonderful way. The God whose grace gave him victory over Goliath would
remain with him throughout his reign. Even when he fell, David knew the
mercy of God. What was the secret of the success of David’s reign? Was it
his moral integrity? Was it in how he raised his family? Was it in the fact
that he always followed God? We know for a fact that David failed in every
one of these areas of his life. God, however, had a purpose for this man. The
grace of God was on this shepherd/king with all his faults. God did not give
up on him. I imagine, that as David looked over his life and reign, he was
struck by two details. First, how often he had doubted God and failed him.
Second, how God used him nonetheless.
For Consideration:
Where was David when Samuel came to anoint a new king of Israel? What
does the fact that he was not present at the sacrifices of Samuel tell us about
how his family saw him?
Does David take any credit for the slaying of Goliath? Why do we feel
compelled to take credit for what God does in our lives? To what extent do
we feel we deserve credit?
What do we learn about David’s anger? How did his anger nearly mean the
destruction of an entire family?
What do we learn about David’s family life? Describe his relationship with
his wife Michal and his son Absalom.
How would you account for the success of David’s reign? To what extend
did this success depend on David? To what extend did it depend on God?
For Prayer:
Ask the Lord to help you to see the potential for His grace to work in even
the most unsuspecting of people.
Ask the Lord to help you to be willing to give Him credit for the work He
does in you. Thank Him that even when we do not deserve it, He still
blesses us and our ministries.
Ask the Lord to guide you in your family relationships. Ask God to help
you to see the relationship with your wife or husband and children as an
important priority.
O
6 – THE POWER OF GOD IN
THE WEAKNESS OF THE
PROPHETS
f all the religious leaders in Israel, the prophets were the most
respected as well as the most hated. They were a vital part of
God’s plan, however, and communicated His heart and purpose
to His people. I would like to examine briefly the lives of four men who
were called by God to serve as prophets.
Amos
Scripture says very little about Amos. We know that he lived in the region
of Tekoa, which was a town about 19 Kilometres (12 miles) from
Bethlehem. The message God called him to preach was not well received,
especially by the people of Israel. The priest at the time was a man by the
name of Amaziah. He heard the message of Amos and rebuked him,
banning him from ever speaking again in the town:
12 And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of
Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, but never again
prophesy at Bethel for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of
the kingdom. (Amos 7)
Notice how Amos describes himself to Amaziah in response to the priest’s
rebuke:
14 Than Amos answered and said to Amaziah, “I was no prophet,
nor a prophet’s son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of
sycamore figs. 15 But the LORD took me from following the flock,
and the LORD said to me ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel’”
(Amos 7).
Amos was never trained as a prophet. He did not grow up in the home of a
prophet. He did not have the human qualifications to be a spokesman for
God, but he did have the call of God on his life. It was on this basis alone
that he spoke.
What was the key to success of Amos, in his ministry? It was not his
training or his experience; it was the call of God. W