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I remember as a child, whenever we were sitting somewhere and waiting, I often didn’t have anything to do. Unlike my own kids who can play with a smart devise while we wait, or often will have entertainment provided in the form of a toy or gadget, I rarely had such a thing. I remember I would play with my parents’ hands, whoever it was that was near. My mom’s hands were always very soft and tender. Sometimes I would play with the ends of her fingernails or her thin fingers, but I can clearly remember how silky and soft they were. They were always very clean and pristine. My dad’s hands were quite the opposite. His hands were thick and calloused from the hard manual labor of construction. His nails were always trimmed very short, the skin thick and dry. His hands were strong. It’s not that they were dirty, but they felt rough and edgy. My mom and dad’s hands were reflected the work they did, but also of who they were. Mom was the nurturer and caregiver. Her hands were hard-working, but in the most tender ways possible. My dad was the main provider, his hands did the hard and difficult work. He was the disciplinary, but was always the first to be a rock of steadiness and encouragement as well.

Our hands reflect who we are and what we do. Perhaps one of my most favorite accounts about hands comes from the story of this famous art piece known as “The Praying Hands.”

Two Durer brothers, of eighteen children, shared the same dream to pursue their talent and love of art. Being from a poor and large family, neither of them could afford to pay for university. They decided to flip a coin, the winner would attend art school while the other worked in the mines to pay. When the winner had completed his schooling, then the other brother would support the latter to attend as well.

Albrecht Durer won the toss and went off to attend school. Albert worked in the mines in hard manual labor to support his brother, whose work at the academy was almost an immediate sensation. Albrecht showed great talent in various art forms and was beginning to make great money for various commissioned works.

When Albrecht returned home as his schooling was complete, the family celebrated with a great feast. Towards the end of the great celebration, Albrecht raised a toast to his brother Albert, who worked so hard in the mines to make it possible for him to gain his success. His closing words were, “And now, Albert, blessed brother of mine, now it is your turn. Now you can go to Nuremberg to pursue your dream, and I will take care of you.”

All eyes turned to Albert who sat weeping and shaking his head as he quietly said, “no…no…no…No brother, I cannot go on to school. It’s too late for me. Look at my hands. Four years in the mines have destroyed them. Each of my fingers have been crushed, they are thick with calluses, I can’t even lift this glass in your toast because of arthritis. It’s to late for me to learn the fine motor skills that it takes to create fine details in art.”

Albrecht went on to create many great works of art during his lifetime. His most famous work is the one seen here, known as “The Praying Hands.” This sketch he created to honor the sacrifice that Albert gave to him. This drawing of rough strong hands show not only sacrifice, but love, honor, and faithfulness.

Strong hands are not always rough hands, and likewise, soft hands are not always a sign of weakness.

Today I was reading about David in 1 Samuel 23. Most people are familiar with David of the Bible. His most famous account, both in art and literary interpretation, is the story of when he defeated the giant, Goliath. He was a young, attractive and fearless fellow. He was anointed to become the next king of Israel. People quickly adored and followed him, even King Saul’s own children, Jonathan and Michal. It didn’t take long for Saul to become jealous of David and set his face towards killing him. Everywhere David went, people helped him. He narrowly escaped death by spear many times. He learned to run to save his life.

His favorite place to hide from Saul was in the barren desert region of Judea. This was home to David. He knew the best places to hide. No doubt, he knew this place so well from his time as a shepherd. This dry and arid place was merely a place to pass through. The wilderness attracted those on the fringes—outcasts, shepherds, fugitives, hermits, and even fearful rulers. These were the people who became David’s most trusted men. (1 Samuel 22:2)

The desert served as a refiner’s fire for David. Early on, when it would be easy for him to become arrogant and puffed up, David learned to depend instead, fully on the care of God. He was pressed on every side. The enemies that lived in the land threatened him, and his own people of Israel had turned their back to him in order to serve King Saul. David met great success all around him, and yet he no doubt felt the frailness of his own life as Saul continually pursued him.

The “dry and weary land” served as a backdrop for David’s own weariness. And the lack of water around him illustrated an even deeper thirst he felt: “My soul thirsts for You” (Psalm 63:1).

At the height of his emotional and physical distress, David sought refuge in his spiritual life.

He yearned for God. source

The biggest difference in David and Saul’s characters is seen at those most pressing moments. Saul easily gives in to the moment. He allows his desperation to control the outcome. David was driven by the understanding that God is greater and able to determine his reactions based on that. David defeats Goliath because God is greater and stronger. He doesn’t take Saul’s life because God is the giver of life. He bravely faces battle because he knows the battle belongs to the Lord.

But we all know there are times that the head and the heart don’t match up. The head knows the truth, but the heart believes the lie. The head knows God will provide, but the heart worries. The head knows God can heal, but the heart grows weak with illness. No matter the reality we know, the heart makes us weary in doubt and fear. The heart becomes dehydrated before our mind even thinks about thirst. From the inside out, we begin to die a little to our faith, especially the longer we endure in the unforgiving sun.

I love to read these stories of David. they are full of excitement and encouragement. Normally, when I have read over 1 Samuel in the past, I quickly read through 1 Samuel 23 trying to get to the part where David chooses to not kill Saul. The anticipation of David hiding in the very cave that Saul is in. I giggle a little to myself picturing Saul towards the mouth of the cave. The Bible gives the detail that he was “relieving himself,” which we will just leave at that. Little known to him, he has David trapped in this cave. He’s so preoccupied with reading the Readers Digest I guess, that he doesn’t even feel David sneak up and cut a part of his cloak off. Here is David’s chance to kill Saul, but instead he protects him from his own men.

David didn’t always know what to do. He wasn’t always the mighty warrior that he is most often memorialized as. He was indeed human. Like us all, in a dry land, he needed to be filled with living water.

Jonathan was one of Saul’s sons. He was in line to be the next king, however because Saul did not obey God (see 1 Samuel 15), he was rejected as king and God choose David to be the next king. Jonathan was not like his father, however. He trusted God to mightily fight for him in battle. Jonathan and David become extremely close. Jonathan is drawn to David’s faith in God, his courage in battle, and they form a unique friendship. Jonathan is not intimated by David’s greatness. They even promise to each other that they will protect and serve each other. Jonathan personally saves David many times, and  his own father even tries to kill him because of his friendship to David. Jonathan knew that David would be the next king, and he didn’t allow his pride to destroy their friendship.

It’s during this time in the desert, as David is fleeing from Saul, that Jonathan, for one final time, will risk going to David. Jonathan plays in important role in the character of David, a self-love of a true friend. Although David is the star in the story that is unfolding, in the background we catch a glimpse of Jonathan’s friendship to David.

One day near Horesh, David received the news that Saul was on the way to Ziph to search for him and kill him. Jonathan went to find David and encouraged him to stay strong in his faith in God. 1 Samuel 23:15-16

Saul was in hot pursuit of David. He had nearly caught him just prior to this, change David up a mountain. David escaped only because Saul was called out to protect his own country from the Philistines. Jonathan, perhaps stirred by the Spirit, feels to urgency to go to David to encourage him in his faith. The imagery in verse 16 is just simply awesome. (sorry I don’t have a better adjective for that.) “Encourage him to stay strong in his faith” is literally “strengthened his hand in God.” Before, when I had read this passage, I would have skimmed over that and thought nothing more, but this time it was as if Jonathan was speaking that encouragement to me. It was almost as if the Spirit took me by my hands, holding them out and said, “strengthen your hands.”

About a year ago, we were studying the book of Hebrews in a ladies Bible study. Hebrews is a book full of super encouraging verses, that I affectionately call “Life Verses”. Words to live by; words to encourage one’s faith. We were sharing favorite verses as a group, and my friend that leads the study pointed out this verse:

Hebrews 1212

 

This was a verse that never jumped out at me, but I immediately tucked it away in my heart to meditate and remember.

Some time had passed, I had been studying the book of Judges to teach the kids at church. I was reading about Gideon. He was an unlikely hero. Those are always my favorites. He was a man, who in his time, was part of a people who were forced to live in a harsh environment. He was preparing food, hiding in a wine-press, when he receives the call of God. He was addressed as “Mighty Warrior.” Someone who has to hide from fear is not usually looked upon as mighty. Gideon prepares an army for battle and is told he has too many men. After some narrowing down, he then is about to lead his tiny army of 300 men against thousands. The sun sets as his men make final preparations, and Gideon is told to sneak down into the enemy’s camp. If he is afraid or discouraged to go down to hear what the enemy is saying and so that “your hands will be strengthened.

There is was a again. There is no doubt that this is a call to arms. It’s a call to prepare the battle line with a strong-arm, but I think for Christians it’s more than just to feel “mighty”. For Jonathan he came to David to encourage him to believe in God. He wasn’t saying, “you are strong and mighty and are able to kill my dad.” It was a message to trust in God’s protection.

Earlier this year I was reading through the book of Isaiah, and once again I came across this theme of weak hands. In Isaiah 35, their hands were weak. They had been in that desert time.  A time when the people have been drained of life and hope. There hearts were a wasteland with no strength. In that moment of weakness, like a fresh rain, joy and life returns. Isaiah tells them to BE STRONG. FEAR NOT. God is coming to save them. Isaiah 35

Isaiah 35

Jonathan speaks truth to David. He has come for the purpose of encouraging David. It’s easy to think that people in great positions don’t need encouragement. We see them out there in the spotlight. They seem to have success in all they do, and it’s easy to think they are doing great. But that’s not the case. We need encouragement from others to press on. We need to know that what we are doing is important. We need to hear that even though life is extremely hard, God is there helping us. Working on us. We aren’t dying of thirst in the desert, but instead we are being refined. I’ve learned in my own refining moments this truth. Either the moment will refine me, or I will be refined in the moment. Whatever I am struggling with, I am not left alone to fight my way through. I can be strong; I can have strong hands, not because I am strong, but I serve a God who is stronger and HE is able to do it through me. and despite me.

This desert experience has part of the refining and preparations that David needed to become the greatest King of Israel. It was a time that taught him the importance to thirst. Not for things that only leave us lacking, but to thirst for that which really satisfies- the Living Water.

Psalm 63

A psalm of David, regarding a time when David was in the wilderness of Judah.

O God, you are my God;
I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in your sanctuary
and gazed upon your power and glory.
3 Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
how I praise you!
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
5 You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
I will praise you with songs of joy.
6 I lie awake thinking of you,
meditating on you through the night.
7 Because you are my helper,
I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
8 I cling to you;
your strong right hand holds me securely.
9 But those plotting to destroy me will come to ruin.
They will go down into the depths of the earth.
10 They will die by the sword
and become the food of jackals.
11 But the king will rejoice in God.
All who swear to tell the truth will praise him,
while liars will be silenced.

click here for other verses about strengthening hands

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Jesse Tree day 14

“See, I will create
new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever
in what I will create,
for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight
and its people a joy.
I will rejoice over Jerusalem
and take delight in my people;
the sound of weeping and of crying
will be heard in it no more.
“Never again will there be in it
an infant who lives but a few days,
or an old man who does not live out his years;
the one who dies at a hundred
will be thought a mere child;
the one who fails to reach a hundred
will be considered accursed.
They will build houses and dwell in them;
they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
No longer will they build houses and others live in them,
or plant and others eat.
For as the days of a tree,
so will be the days of my people;
my chosen ones will long enjoy
the work of their hands.
They will not labor in vain,
nor will they bear children doomed to misfortune;
for they will be a people blessed by the Lord,
they and their descendants with them.

Before they call I will answer;
while they are still speaking I will hear.
The wolf and the lamb will feed together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox,
and dust will be the serpent’s food.
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,”
says the Lord. -Isaiah 65:7-25

This passage is very similar to the passage we looked at yesterday in Isaiah about the stump of Jesse. Isaiah here is clearly describing a scene that even we are currently waiting for. A day to come, one of life without sickness, no more injustice, or fear.

I think that zoos have ruined us. They have made it so that we don’t understand truly how animals in the wild behave. In particular I am thinking of the lion. Most of the time when we visit the lions, we can barely see them, and usually they are sleeping. The seems like gentle giant cats, wasting the day away hidden. It’s hard to imagine these beasts as the king of the animals. They have a majestic look about them, but other than the giant claws and sharp teeth, it’s easy to think of them as giants kitties.

I remember many years ago visiting a small zoo (long before we had kids). It was a small “we bought a zoo” type, owned by a family who locally operated it. We were there that day at the same time as a school group of kids. The nice draw to these kind of zoos is that most of the enclosures are small and close. I remember the kids were all gathered near the lions and were screaming and taunting the lions. For the most part, the lions seemed to barely notice. After the crowd moved on, we can closer to see them. After a short while they began to roar and “bark”. It was power and loud. There was no doubt they were angry and fierce.

Of course thanks to Animal Planet and National Geographic we know how strong these animals really are. They prey on the weak. Although lions have great strength, they use the weaknesses of their prey. Lions have been used as mascots for nearly every mighty nation. Ferocious and terrible.

These verses in Isaiah describe the wolf and the lamb eating together, but it also describes the lion as one that will eat straw like an ox. No longer will animals kill and devour other animals. Could this possibly be how creation was intended before the fall?

IMG_6771For the reader it is a promise of peace to come. One day all will be restored. This past year has been one of those years that you want to ask God why? Why is there cancer that rips loved ones from us? Why do people who live holy lives have to pass in the middle of the night? Why are children taken from us before they ever have a chance to fully live? Why does it seems that unrighteous people get all they want, but other struggle everyday to scrape by? Why are children abused and shaken? Why, God, why?

and then we sit in silence to our unanswered questions.

I think this passage speaks a message of hope to some of those questions. It doesn’t tell us the answer of why (although I don’t think that would make any difference to know why), but it tells us that there is a bigger plan.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. -Romans 8:18-22

The lion will lay down with the lamb. It’s a symbol of the new creation. When Christ returns and all have passed through the final judgement, God will create a new place and finally all will be restored. There will be no more suffering

Family Devotion:

gather pictures of places you will want to visit one day, pictures of space, unique vacations spots. Bible and ornament

Read the passage in Isaiah. Explain that context that this is describing. One day everything in creation will be made new. Talk about what heaven may be like, as described in Revelation 21. We don’t know exactly what we will be doing or how things will look, but we do know what it won’t be like. Pray thanking God for Jesus and pray for others, family and friends, that don’t know him as Savior.

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Jesse Tree day 13

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling[a] together;
and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious. In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the Mediterranean. -Isaiah 11:1-11

Isaiah was one of the prophets during the times of the kings. I’ve mentioned before that I teach kids at our church. When going through the times of the kings, I point out the prophets and how their job was to tell the people (or king) “The Lord says….” Sometimes the message is positive, like “I will be with you, I am pleased with what you are doing, don’t give up”, etc. Most of the time the message is “you sicken me, I warned you not to act like this, why don’t you listen?! destruction is coming.” It’s the latter messages that God gets a bad rap for being judgmental in the Old Testament.

This was Isaiah’s job, to be the mouth piece for God to the kings and the people. He served the kings of the Southern (Judah) kingdom from the time of King Uzziah through Hezekiah. Some of these were good kings, others not so much. A king was considered good with one standard, did he only worship and follow the commands of God, I AM.

Something to keep in mind when reading the prophecy writings is that they are not written chronologically. This passage (chapter 11) was most likely written after the fall of the Northern kingdom from the Assyrians. The towns and land had been destroyed by warfare. Everything lie in waste, great cities fallen, bodies scattered, forests cleared for battle. It was a time of desperation.

Although Judah seemed safe from harm, it could easily (and eventually would be) their own fate. In my mind I can imagine smoked still rising from the cities being burned and destroyed. There is little movement on the grounds, only broken people trying to gather what little remains. A once mighty nation toppled to the ground. It seems that God’s people have been wiped off the face of the once promised land.

Stump of Jesse

And then the prophecy of the stump…..

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

…a glimmer of hope.

I can picture Isaiah walking across the empty battlefield, heart-broken, wondering what will happen to the Chosen People.  The once bountiful lands cleared to nothing but stumps and dirt. But then, he comes to a stump. Although it seems dead, there is a branch coming out. A sign of hope.

This Root of Jesse is a king to come from the line of David. He will be unlike any king before him. He will have knowledge and insight, counsel and might, and above all fear of the Lord. He will be known for his righteousness and faithfulness. He will one day bring peace to earth. We know that Jesus fulfills this prophecy. I must point out, that at his return will complete it. At the final judgement will begin the time when all that was made wrong will be right again. The creation of the new heaven and new Earth, all will be fulfilled and satisfied.

Jesse Tree day 13

Family Devotion:

Gather a small glass container (could even be a recycled jar), soil, wheat seed or other fast growing seed, Bible and ornament.

Read together the passage above. Talk about what a tree stump is like. When Isaiah saw the branch growing from the stump, he realized this was a reminder. It was a promise that God would one day send another king from Israel. This king would be very different that the other kings. The king was Jesus. He never acted like a king, but he came for a different reason. Pray together, thanking God for hope. Work together to plant the grass seed. Place dirt in the container first, place the seed on top, and sprinkle. Keep the seeds damp, adding sprinkles everyday until they sprout, then keep dirt moist.

Wheat seed sprouting

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Jesse Tree Day 11

The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.” Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.”

Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”

So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features.

Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.” -1 Samuel 16: 1, 7-12

Since the time of Ruth, much has happened in Israel’s history. The judges were not working out so well. The people, as a whole, refused to follow God’s laws. They didn’t want God to be their King, but choose to have a man instead. Samuel, who was the last judge, warned them that a king would mean taxes, military, political arguments, but they didn’t care. Samuel anointed Saul, who was a tall and handsome fella. He was very unsure of himself as king. Unsure is better than proud, I suppose. When he finally got some confidence, he broke God’s law about sacrifice and was then rejected by God as king. It’s not so much that he sinned, as it was that he didn’t regard God’s law and truly felt sorry for breaking it. He was sorry he was in trouble, but that was it.

Samuel is then sent out by God to anoint the new king. When Samuel arrives to Jesse’s house, they have a huge feast. Jesse brings out his oldest son. When Samuel see him he thinks, “surely he will make an awesome king.” However, God was not interested in what a king looked like. Saul had already been a tall strong king. God wanted the new king to be one that would honor him and his name by how he lived. After being shown all the sons, Samuel asked if there was any more. Yes, there was the youngest, still out taking care of chores.

Jesse Tree Day 11

When the young man came he had a youthful glow to him. He was handsome and healthy. As soon as Samuel saw him, he heard the voice of the Lord. “This is the one.”

David was still a young lad. He wasn’t even old enough to serve in the army yet. One day he goes to check on his brothers who have joined the military. They are camped on one side, opposite the Philistine opponents. As he is talking to his brothers, the largest, strongest Philistine came out to once again challenge the Israelites to a one-on-one battle, winner take all.

Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified. 1 Samuel 17:8-11

Now Saul should have been the man who would go out against the Philistine. Instead he said that the winner would be given a daughter of his to marry, great wealth, and would no longer be taxed.

David was seriously offended by Goliath. Even more so, he was offended that none of the Israelites would do anything. Goliath was insulting their Almighty God. David volunteers. Saul at first tried to reject the notion from this lad, but David assures him that he can handle it.

“Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” 1 Samuel 17:34-37

At first Saul tries to dress David in his own armor, which doesn’t fit. David then makes preparations. He gathers 5 smooth stones from a creek and put them in his shepherd’s bag. Then he armed himself with his staff and slingshot. As David rushed out to meet his foe, Goliath is greatly offended. He comes this small lad with a stick to fight. Goliath curses the one true God and screams his bloody threats to David. David yells back, unshaken by what the giant has to say.

You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. 1 Samuel 17:45

They both rush out to the battle line, ready to strike each other down, both with strength and confidence. As David is rushing out, he reaches into his pouch, pulls out one stone, and before Goliath knows what hit him, he falls down dead, with a stone buried deep into his skull. David pulls Goliath’s sword from his own hand and cuts his head off as the final blow to sweet victory. The one true God wins.

Saul  takes notice of this young man and quickly adds him to his closest group. David is assigned a special job to the king. Saul’s son, Jonathan becomes best friends with David. Each day that David serves the king faithfully Saul becomes more and more jealous. People begin to chant about the greatness of David, better than their own king. His son adores him. His own daughter is married and loves him. Jealousy overcomes him and David goes from most trusted man to the most wanted man.

Despite being anointed the next king, despite not doing anything wrong to Saul, David refuses to give in to the temptation of fighting Saul. He spends a good chunk of his life playing cat and mouse with King Saul. He always seems one step ahead of the King. A couple times he could have taken Saul’s life, but he didn’t. He believed that life was something only God had the right to take. In the fulness of time, he would one day he would take his place as King. He patiently waited.

After a terrible battle, it finally happens. David grieves the loss of Saul, but also his best friend Jonathan. David eventually becomes king over all of Israel. He has many wives and children. David is most remembered as the man after God’s own heart. Reading the Psalms it’s very clear that David LOVED the Lord.

…and then there’s Bathsheba. Without going over then entire story, I would like to point out the difference in David and Saul. David was completely in the wrong. He wasn’t in battle (where he was supposed to be), envied and coveted, basically forced Bathsheba to be with him, lied, and murdered her husband. So there is no doubt that David sinned. (There are also other times that David disobeyed God, as well). So how could he be considered a man after God’s own heart when all Saul did was kill the sacrificially animal?

I think the most important difference is in their reactions. When Samuel questioned Saul about what he did, he quickly gave a bunch of excuses. He wasn’t sorry that he disobeyed; he was sorry that he was busted. His heart had been filled with pride and position. He felt he was above the law of God.

When David is confronted we have the opposite reaction.

I have sinned against the Lord -2 Samuel 12:13

Jesse Tree Day 11David knew he was in the wrong. He broke God’s law and was going to be punished. Another life would be taken, his own son. The rest of his time as king would be a time of great loss and fighting. Everyone in the nation will know and see the notorious acts that his own son would do.

The main difference between David and Saul was that David repented. He knew what he did was wrong. He heart had changed. No longer was he puffed up with pride, but saw his actions and sins for what they were. There is no excuse for breaking God’s law, except that we want the control. Being a man after God’s heart doesn’t mean you’re perfect. It means that you seek out to know God more so that you can get rid of the things that displease him and live in a way that honors his name.

David loved the Lord with all his heart, all his soul and all his strength. It pleased the Lord to bless him. David was given as special promise. From his line a King would come. This King would always honor the Lord. This king would unlike every other king. He would be the Messiah, the Promised one of God, come to save us from our sins.

Family Devotion:

gather things around your house that could be use as weapons to protect, it’s better if they are toys than real weapons. shield, light sabers, water guns, etc. Bible and ornament

Ask the kids to choose what would be the best weapon to have to protect themselves (or super power). Read the passage above about David and Goliath. What weapons did David have to fight the big strong Goliath? What did David say was the one thing he would use to win? (The name of the Lord). Pray together, thanking God that he protects us and is a mighty God.

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Jesse Tree day 8

Then God gave the people all these instructions:

“I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery.

“You must not have any other god but me.

“You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.

“You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.

“Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.

“Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

“You must not murder.

“You must not commit adultery.

“You must not steal.

“You must not testify falsely against your neighbor.

“You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.”

When the people heard the thunder and the loud blast of the ram’s horn, and when they saw the flashes of lightning and the smoke billowing from the mountain, they stood at a distance, trembling with fear.

And they said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen. But don’t let God speak directly to us, or we will die!”

“Don’t be afraid,” Moses answered them, “for God has come in this way to test you, and so that your fear of him will keep you from sinning!”

As the people stood in the distance, Moses approached the dark cloud where God was. -Exodus 20:1-21

With the death of Joseph, the book of beginnings comes to a close. The next 4 books record the account of Moses and the freedom of the Israelites to the promised land. Some of the accounts are heroic, others heart breaking, and some quite long and not so interesting (unless you like to know all the detailed laws that were given). Moses’ life can basically be broken down into three groups of 40 years.

The first 40 years he was raised as a prince of Egypt. The Hebrew people had grown into such a large mass in the land of Egypt. 400 years had passed from the time that they first arrived under Joseph’s provision. A new Dynasty of Pharaohs had come to pass. They didn’t care what Joseph had done; they now feared that the Hebrew people had grown to such great numbers that they may revolt and take over. To protect the land, all Hebrew boys are ordered to be killed. Moses mother refuses to comply. They hide the infant in their home as long as they can. Then they create a basket to float in the river. His older sister is charged with watching over the basket. I believe they purposely placed the basket into the river near the bathing place. The Pharaohs daughter finds the baby and raises him as her own. It is clear that she knows he is a Hebrew, and most likely is raised with that knowledge, despite what modern movies suggest.

After 40 years, the Hebrew people are continually mistreated. They are slaves, forced into harsh labor, oppressed. Their cries for prayer to be rescued don’t go unnoticed. One day, Moses sees an Egyptian guard beating a fellow Hebrew. He takes matters into his own hands, kills the Egyptian, and hopes no one noticed. The next day he sees two of his own Hebrew people in a physical fight. When he tries to break it up, they suggest that maybe he will kill one of them as well, indicating that word had gotten out. Moses, afraid for his life runs far far away, forgetting all that he had in Egypt.

The next 40 years of his life are spent in the desert as a humble shepherd. He finds a wife, is adopted into a family. Everything is good and well. No doubt he felt secure. I’m sure the thoughts of his family have never left his mind. Despite how far we run, we can never completely escape what we are running from. One day, while out in the desert in happens to come upon a peculiar sight. There in front of him is a bush on fire. As he gets closer he realizes that the bush is on fire, yet nothing on it is burning. Suddenly there is a voice.

“Moses, Moses. Stop where you are. You are now in the presence of God.”

God introduces himself and the plan to free the Hebrew people. Moses tries to refuse. He comes up with every excuse in the book. I am nobody. I can’t speak clearly. I don’t know you.

No matter the reason that Moses gives, God is able to assure him that it’s not Moses that will do it. God will perform the miracles. God will close Pharaoh’s heart. God will set the people free. No longer will he be known as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He will begin a relationship with a people. He will be known as the I Am. (You can read previous posts I’ve made about the I AM here and here.)

Armed with a staff, a word from the Lord, and Aaron at his side, Moses returns to Egypt with a simple message. “Let my people go.” Nine plagues later, Pharaoh has refused. At the suffering of his own people and nation, Pharaoh  has not budged one iota. The final plague would seal the deal. Not only would this be the one that changes the heart of the very stubborn Pharaoh, it would also mark the beginning of a new tradition for this chosen people of God’s. They would celebrate their deliverance every year by remembering the cost of the Egyptians. Every first-born male would pay the ultimate price. I wish I had time to share with you all the pictures of the coming Messiah found in the Passover. From the killing of the lamb, to the blood on the door post, the meal that they shared, and the tradition that it would bring, a feast of important significance was made.

I will mention this one thing that recently I discovered. When the Hebrew first-born males were spared because of the blood on the door, their lives were bought with a price. They now belonged to God, set apart for him. Later, in Numbers 3, all the firstborn males are counted, 22,273. Then God exchanges them for the Levites to belong to him, who are committed to a life of service in the religious ceremonies. So what does this mean for you and I? You also were bought with the blood of the Lamb. You are not your own. Paul says it this way, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20Finally they are allowed to go free.

IMG_6663After a narrow escape at the Red Sea, Moses takes this people to Mount Sinai. There they are given the full law. All the regulations and rules. God is establishing with them a new covenant. He will be their God. He will be responsible to care for them, to provide the rain they need, to protect them from enemies, and to guide them as they go. They in return are to only worship Him. They are to put away other things that they believe and in exchange will gain Him as their reward. This begins the final 40 years of Moses life and perhaps the most difficult.

Their stubborn ways are familiar. From idolatry, to complaining, to stubborn way, not trusting, taking matters into their own hands they are a people of great difficulty. Still despite it all, God stays true. He is unbending to them, but also very loving and patient. There are times that Moses is pleading on their behalf for mercy and other times that he is ready to give it all up.

In the end, Moses never enters the promised land. He is shown a vision, a look from far away. Seems unfair to us. After all, the reason he was banned was an over reaction on his part for the people grumbling. AGAIN You can find the account in Numbers 20. Instead of telling water to come out, he raises his staff and strikes it instead. What we don’t see is the symbolism of Christ. Once before, Moses was told to strike a rock and water came out, but the second time was told to only speak to it. This was an imagery of the Messiah to come. He would be struck for our sin, but that would be enough.

Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one. -Galatians 3:19-20

Family Devotion:

Gather winter gear, like gloves, hat, scarves, coat, etc., ornament and Bible

Read the Passage above about the 10 Commandments. These are not all the laws that God gave the people, but 10 of the most important ones. When Jesus was alive, he was asked what the most important law was. Read Matthew 22:37-40. These verses are the summary of all of God’s laws. Love Him first; love everyone around you. God didn’t give us laws and rules because he is mean and wants to make us not have fun. He gave us rules to protect us. Much like all this winter stuff we put on, we don’t wear it to feel awkward or because we want to be mean. We wear it to protect our bodies from the cold. Gave gave us his laws to protect us from sin. Knowing that we will have sent, he sent his Son Jesus to pay the price for our sin by dying on the cross. Pray together thanking God for his protection and for Jesus.

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So Jacob settled again in the land of Canaan, where his father had lived as a foreigner.

This is the account of Jacob and his family. When Joseph was seventeen years old, he often tended his father’s flocks. He worked for his half brothers, the sons of his father’s wives Bilhah and Zilpah. But Joseph reported to his father some of the bad things his brothers were doing.

Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other children because Joseph had been born to him in his old age. So one day Jacob had a special gift made for Joseph—a beautiful robe. But his brothers hated Joseph because their father loved him more than the rest of them. They couldn’t say a kind word to him.

One night Joseph had a dream, and when he told his brothers about it, they hated him more than ever. “Listen to this dream,” he said. “We were out in the field, tying up bundles of grain. Suddenly my bundle stood up, and your bundles all gathered around and bowed low before mine!”

His brothers responded, “So you think you will be our king, do you? Do you actually think you will reign over us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dreams and the way he talked about them.

When Joseph’s brothers saw him coming, they recognized him in the distance. As he approached, they made plans to kill him. “Here comes the dreamer!” they said. “Come on, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns. We can tell our father, ‘A wild animal has eaten him.’ Then we’ll see what becomes of his dreams!”

So when Joseph arrived, his brothers ripped off the beautiful robe he was wearing. Then they grabbed him and threw him into the cistern. Now the cistern was empty; there was no water in it. Then, just as they were sitting down to eat, they looked up and saw a caravan of camels in the distance coming toward them. It was a group of Ishmaelite traders taking a load of gum, balm, and aromatic resin from Gilead down to Egypt.

Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain by killing our brother? We’d have to cover up the crime. Instead of hurting him, let’s sell him to those Ishmaelite traders. After all, he is our brother—our own flesh and blood!” And his brothers agreed. So when the Ishmaelites, who were Midianite traders, came by, Joseph’s brothers pulled him out of the cistern and sold him to them for twenty pieces of silver. And the traders took him to Egypt. -Genesis 37:1-8, 18-20, 23-28

Joseph was clearly the favorite child. Not only was he from the favorite wife, he was conceived at a later age. The colorful robe that Joseph received would have been extremely valuable. as if that wasn’t bad enough, Joseph had been given several dreams about the future. All his brothers and even his father would one day bow down to him. To make matters worse, Joseph had become a bit of a tattle tell. Being from a large family and being on the younger end, I can remember my own siblings being mad at me and my sister for getting them in trouble.

Some of Joseph brothers were ready to take his life but not all of them. Both Reuben and Judah expressed a concern for his life. To save the young guy, Judah suggests selling him to the passing caravan. To cover up their plan, they take the coat, cover it in animal blood, and lie to their father. Acting as if they happened upon the cloak that was torn up from an animal, Jacob is left to grieve the loss of his son.

Mean while, Joseph continues on to Egypt. He is sold as a slave to Potiphar, an Egyptian official. Despite the wrong done to him, Joseph didn’t allow his circumstance to become his voice. He turned the wrong into opportunity. He worked hard, served faithfully, and lived honestly. Before long, Potiphar took notice. He promoted Joseph to personal assistant. Joseph was now in charge of everything in Potiphar’s house. He was second in command. A job of honor and tremendous responsibility. Potiphar wasn’t the only one to notice Joseph. His wife had also taken a liking to him. He was handsome and muscular. Being around the home all the time, unlike Potiphar, I’m sure. She began to put the pressure on. She desired him in a way that she should have desired her own husband. Joseph was a man of integrity. He continually turned her down. Finally one day, when no one was around she cornered him in. He ran away, with his shirt in her hands. Embarrassed and shamed, she turned to revenge. If she couldn’t have him, she would bring an end to him. She flat-out lied about an attempt by him to rape her.

Potiphar was furious. He had the right to have Joseph executed. Instead he had him thrown in jail. It makes me wonder if he didn’t actually believe his wife. Perhaps he just couldn’t believe Joseph would do such a thing. Again Joseph is wrongfully treated. Placed in jail to rot, perhaps the rest of his life.

But the Lord was with Joseph in the prison and showed him his faithful love. And the Lord made Joseph a favorite with the prison warden. Before long, the warden put Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners and over everything that happened in the prison. The warden had no more worries, because Joseph took care of everything. The Lord was with him and caused everything he did to succeed. Genesis 39:21-23

Joseph still refused to let his circumstance to be his identity. He became in charge of the other prisoners. He was blessed by God in everything he did. People trusted him, and he was also great at organization and problem solving. One day two other prisoners were talking with each other. They both were quite upset. Joseph asked them about what was the matter. they both had strange dreams that they didn’t understand. Joseph, with God’s help, tells them what the dreams mean. In return, he asks that they remember his help. But he was forgotten, again.

Two years later when the Pharaoh has his own terrible dream that no one understands, the former jail mate finally remembers Joseph. Again with the help of God, Joseph is able to warn the Pharaoh. For 7 years they will have the best years of harvest followed by the 7 worst years of famine. With the right person in charge, the nation of Egypt can be saved.

Pharaoh places Joseph in charge, second in command to Pharaoh himself. He’s given a wife, blessed with two kids, and finally all that has been wronged is made right again.

This isn’t where the story ends. The 7 years of famine are so terrible, that even Joseph’s family in Canaan is effected. Israel (Jacob) hears that there is food in Egypt. He sends the 10 oldest boys to fetch food and other supplies. He keeps Benjamin, Joseph’s youngest brother, at home. There is no way he is trusting the older brothers with Benjamin.

The brothers arrive in Egypt. They are nomads, hairy and unkept. The opposite of the well-groomed Egyptians. They come into the courtyard and bow down to the Egyptian in charge. Immediately Joseph recognizes them, but they don’t recognize him at all. He spoke harshly to them in Egyptian, questioning their reasons for arriving. Spies! Joseph has them thrown in jail. Reuben tells the brothers that this is because of the way they treated Joseph years before. After 3 days, Joseph releases them to return home all but Simeon, with a trap to bring them back. If they are to return they must bring Benjamin with them.

Once the brothers arrive home, they tell Israel all that happened. He refuses them to bring Benjamin back to Egypt. Losing him would be too much for his heart to bear. The grain that they bought would only last for so long, because the famine was so severe. As the grain began to run out, their options to return were becoming more pressing. Judah personally was to be in charge of Benjamin. They also returned with gifts and double the money for the grain.

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When Joseph saw the brothers returning, and that Benjamin was with them, he arranged for them to have a nice lunch in his home. They thought they were in deep trouble. Simeon was released to them, and great care was offered to them. When Joseph joined them for lunch, he asked about the health of their father. When he looked at Benjamin, he was suddenly unable to keep in his emotions. He ran from the room and wept. Loudly.

He returned to them, now composed and ate. He gave Benjamin 5 times the food of the other brothers. When it was time to leave he set another trap. They hid a cup in Benjamin’s bag, and accused them of stealing. The thief would be punished. When the brothers saw the cup in Benjamin’s bag, panic set in.

Judah, who had promised his safety, insisted that he be punished instead. He recounts the grief that his father went through in loosing Joseph, how he refused to let Benjamin return with them, and the promise he made to protect him. Seeing how they cared for Benjamin, Joseph can no longer hide his secret. He clears the rooms of everyone else. He reveals the truth to them.

“I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. This famine that has ravaged the land for two years will last five more years, and there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. So it was God who sent me here, not you! And he is the one who made me an adviser to Pharaoh—the manager of his entire palace and the governor of all Egypt. -Genesis 45:4-8

Immediately arrangements are made for the whole family to come to Egypt. At last Joseph is reunited with his father and brothers. Israel lives the rest of his life at peace in Egypt. Upon his death, the brothers fear that Joseph will now take revenge on them. Instead he replies:

But Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. No, don’t be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children.” So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them. Genesis 50:18-21

They meant to harm and destroy Joseph, but God had a greater plan in store. There is no doubt that there were many dark and discouraging days that Joseph faced. There had to have been times that he questioned the dreams he had when he was young. No doubt he wondered why God had put him on a shelf and forgot about him. Despite his circumstance, Joseph decided in his heart not to live as a martyr. He lived everyday on purpose. He didn’t live that way so that one day he would be in charge. He lived as a man of integrity because he knew it was the right way to live.

Family Devotion:

gather a balloon and blow it up, skewers, vegetable oil, Bible and ornament

Sometimes things happen to us that aren’t good or fun. Name somethings together as a family: sickness, losing a job, accidents, etc. Hold up the skewer and say, what will happen if I was to take this bad thing and poke the balloon? It would pop. Joseph had many bad things to him, but never once did he allow the bad things that happened to be bigger than his God. God helped Joseph. Cover the skewer with the vegetable oil. Now carefully poke the balloon with the oil covered skewer. Read Romans 8:28. Pray together, thanking God for always helping us, even in very difficult times.

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