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Tag: compassion

David & Nabal

For the last couple of months as we’ve been going through the book of 1 Samuel, our Sunday morning messages have revolved primarily around the conflict between King Saul and his son-in-law David. This conflict started off as merely a little bit of jealousy, but it grew to become fear and paranoia, as Saul become convinced that David was conspiring against him to take his throne and to overthrow his kingdom. Eventually, David had to flee from Saul, running for his life as Saul relentlessly tried to capture and kill him. Now of course, David had no desire to undermine or overthrow Saul – even though God had promised David that he would one day be king. In fact, in just the last chapter, we saw that David had the perfect opportunity to kill Saul if he had wanted to, but he refused to do it.

1 Samuel chapter 24 tells us that as Saul was hunting for David, he went into a certain cave for a bathroom break, and would’t you know it – David and his men were hiding in the back of that very cave! Now if David truly were trying to kill Saul, he could very easily have done so in that moment – but he refused to harm Saul – and instead, he merely crept up and secretly cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.

Well, when Saul left the cave, David hollered after him from a safe distance and showed him the the fabric that he had cut off – proving to Saul that David could have killed him, but didn’t. This deeply convicted Saul who finally admitted that David was a better man than he and that David would indeed be a great king over Israel.

Now at that point, Saul humbly returned home, but David remained out in the wilderness with his men – which leads us to today’s story. It seems that Saul isn’t the only source of trouble for David. Even with Saul temporarily out of the picture, we’re going to see today, that David still has to deal with difficult people. And for anyone who’s had to deal with difficult people, (which I’m pretty sure is all of us) I think there might just be some valuable lessons for us all in today’s story.

Our study of 1 Samuel now brings us to chapter 25 and it begins like this:

Now Samuel died, and all Israel gathered for his funeral. They buried him at his house in Ramah. Then David moved down to the wilderness of Maon. 2 There was a wealthy man from Maon who owned property near the town of Carmel. He had 3,000 sheep and 1,000 goats, and it was sheep-shearing time. 3 This man’s name was Nabal, and his wife, Abigail, was a sensible and beautiful woman. But Nabal, a descendant of Caleb, was crude and mean in all his dealings.

1 Samuel 25:1b-3

The chapter begins with a brief mention of Samuel’s death and burial. We haven’t heard much about the prophet Samuel recently, but it was Samuel who had anointed both Saul and then later David as kings of Israel. We also know that Samuel had been a key supporter of David… In fact, according to chapter 19, David even went to live with Samuel for a while when he first fled from Saul. So no doubt, Samuel’s death would have a been a difficult loss for David. And while the Bible doesn’t specifically say so, this sense of loss and grief could end up being a factor in some of David’s decisions later on in the story. So maybe just log that bit of information away in your mind for the time being and we’ll touch on that again in a little while.

But after Samuel’s death, David and his men returned to the wilderness of Maon – they had been there previously – back when Saul almost caught David at the place now called the Rock of escape (you’ll remember we talked about that a few weeks ago.)

But now in Maon, we are introduced to two other characters in this story. We have Nabal – who was a wealthy sheep farmer and was known for being crude and mean in all his dealings. And then we have his wife, Abigail, who was known for being sensible and beautiful! 

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Elisha and the Floating Axehead

This morning I want to continue on our theme of incredible stories! One of my favourite characters from the Old Testament is Elisha – and He certainly has his fair share of incredible stories! God did more miracles through Elisha than any other character in the Bible other than Jesus himself – so there are a lot of fantastic stories to choose from.

Over the years I’ve preached on several of Elisha’s miracles – in fact, I did a series back in 2016 called “The Exploits of Elisha” – some of you might remember. But there are still a few unique stories from Elisha’s life that I’ve never preached on and I’d like to share two of those with you over the next couple weeks.

Now before we get into the story itself, we should probably take some time to figure out where exactly we are in the larger story of the Bible and see how this particular story fits in everything else.

So first of all, who exactly is Elisha? Well, Elisha was a farmer turned prophet…. Not a farmer who turned a profit (there’s not many of those) – but a farmer who became a prophet.

Now for those who might not be familiar with the term ‘prophet’ – a prophet by most simple definitions is someone who proclaims the Word of the Lord.

In the Old Testament times, most of the Bible had not yet be written, and so when God wanted to communicate with people, He would use prophets. These prophets would receive a revelation  of some sort from the Lord through the Holy Spirit – and then they would proclaim these things to their intended audience. 1 Peter 1:20 tells us…

20 Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, 21 or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.

2 Peter 1:20-21

So Elisha was a farmer that God choose to be his prophet to speak for him to the kings and the people of Israel.

When we first read about Elisha, he is out in his field, plowing with a team of oxen. He’s apparently getting his fields ready for seeding when Elijah (not to be confused with Elisha) meets Elisha out in his field. Now Elijah was the current prophet of God at that time – he had just finished his big confrontation with King Ahab on Mount Carmel – if you remember that story. 

You see, King Ahab had led the Israelites to worship the false god, Baal, and so on Mount Carmel, they had contest to see which God was the true God. The prophets of Baal would pray to Baal and Elijah would pray to God – and they would see which god answered. And of course, Baal did nothing and God answered by sending fire from heaven! It wasn’t much of a contest! You can read about that in 1 Kings chapter 18.

So Elijah had been a very significant and influential prophet during his lifetime as He proclaimed the Word of the Lord to the kings and the people of Israel.

But now, God had just informed him that Elisha was to become his replacement. And so Elijah goes to meet Elisha as he’s out working on his farm. And to make a long story short, Elisha slaughters his oxen, sacrifices them on a fire build with the wood from his plow, leaves his family, and goes to become Elijah’s apprentice.

After some time of working with and learning from Elijah, there came a day when Elisha watched as God took Elijah to heaven in a whirlwind – leaving Elisha to take on the role of God’s prophet to Israel. This happens in 2 Kings chapter 2.

Over the next several chapters, we read several stories from the life of Elisha that clearly illustrate that God had truly chosen him as Elijah’s replacement. Just how God answered with fire when Elijah prayed, we see God answering the prayers of Elisha in some equally dramatic ways! We even see one story where Elisha prays and God raises a young boy who had died back to life!

And so the story that we are going to look at today is in this collection of stories – intended to illustrate how the Spirit of God that once worked through Elijah is now working through Elisha.

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Gideon – Mighty Hero

For the past couple of weeks we’ve been looking at some of the unlikely heroes in the book of Judges.

And of all the characters that we’ve looked so far, none of them have been the real famous Bible story characters that maybe some of you grew up with. If you went to Sunday school as a kid, you probably acted out the story of Joshua and the walls of Jericho – maybe you saw a puppet show about Noah and the ark – there was probably a flannelgraph illustration of Daniel in the lions den.

However, you likely didn’t see any puppets acting out the story of Ehud as he lost his dagger in the fat of King Eglon’s belly. You’re not likely to have seen a kids feature skit about how Jael hammered a tent peg through the skull of Sisera. These aren’t the kinds of stories that usually make it into the children’s Bible story books. But they are in the Bible – and they are important for us to study and learn from… Just maybe not when you’re 5 years old!

But today we’re going to look at another judge – and this one is a little more well-known then some of these others. His story isn’t quite so graphic, so you very well may have learned about him in Sunday School. Today we’re going to look at the life of Gideon.

And Gideon’s story begins just like all the other judges we’ve looked at so far. They all begin the same way…

You’ll remember the cycle of sin that we’ve been talking about in the book of Judges. Israel would sin and so God would allow their enemies to oppress them. And after several years of enduring this oppression, the Israelites would repent and cry out for God to save them. Which of course, God did by sending them a rescuer – that is, a judge – like Ehud or Deborah. But then, as soon as the enemy was defeated and that particular judge died, the Israelites would go right back into sinning again and the cycle would begin all over.

And so, it’s quite predictable, that after Deborah rescued Israel from King Jabin and his commander Sisera, that Israel would again sin, and God would allow another enemy to oppress them. And this time, the enemy was a doozy. If you have your Bibles you can turn to Judges chapter 6 – verse 1. It begins like this:

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The Parable of the Good Samaritan

Well, believe it or not, the story we just watched comes right out of the Bible – although this video gives it a more modern and slightly more humorous twist. But the general idea is the same. As you might have guessed, this story is a parable.

So we’re going to look at this parable this morning – it’s found in Luke chapter 10 – verses 25-37.

Now it’s important that we start at the beginning. The video we watched told us the parable, but not why Jesus was telling it. So let’s just back it up a little bit to see what’s going on here.

One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”
Luke 10:25

Now let’s stop here for a minute. It all begins when this expert in religious law decides to test Jesus. By this time in His ministry, Jesus had built up quite a following. Just in the chapter before this, we can read the story of how Jesus fed the crowd of 5,000 men plus women plus children with the two fish and five loaves. So Jesus is getting to be pretty well known. So this expert in religious law comes to test Jesus. We don’t know what his motives are – whether he wants to prove Jesus is a fraud or whether he really is just curious to know who this Jesus is.

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Weeping for the Lost

Today we begin a new series of messages from the Book of Nehemiah. I’m guessing that most of you wouldn’t list Nehemiah in your top five favorite books of the Bible, and in fact, there could be some of you who couldn’t even tell me who Nehemiah was. So before we take a look at the Scriptures for today, I want to give you just a brief history and background of Nehemiah.

After the time of Solomon, the nation of Israel was divided into two kingdoms. The northern part with 10 of the 12 tribes kept the name Israel. The southern part with 2 of the 12 tribes was known as Judah. Jerusalem, the capital and the location of the Solomon’s temple, was part of the kingdom of Judah.

All of the kings of Israel were evil. Because of their continued sinfulness, God allowed the Assyrians to invade and defeated Israel. The people were deported and scattered over the face of the earth – never to return.

Judah had some good kings, but the majority were evil. Because of their continued sinfulness, God allowed the Babylonians to attack and defeat Judah. They destroyed Jerusalem, including the temple, and deported many of the people to Babylon. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were among those who were deported.

Seventy years later, the king of Persia (who had since conquered the Babylonians), allowed several groups of Jews to return to Judah to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.

The story of Nehemiah picks up about 95 years after the Jews are allowed to return to Jerusalem. The temple has been rebuilt, but the rest of Jerusalem is not in good shape.

Nehemiah 1:1-4

So things are not well for those who have returned to Jerusalem. The walls have been destroyed and the gates have been burned. And Nehemiah weeps.

When I first read through this passage, I had a hard time understanding why Nehemiah was so worked up about the broken walls of a city nearly 1,000 miles away. I don’t think Nehemiah had ever been to Jerusalem before – so why does he spend days mourning over it’s broken walls?

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