|Volume 21 Number 10 October 2019||
The Bible overflows with examples of people and the numerous situations they had to face who were ordinary people just like us. What set them apart from the masses was their absolute and unwavering faith and reliant trust in God to see them through! As one good preacher stated, “These examples are not in our Bibles just to make them thick.”
Hebrews 11 is the “go to” chapter for the unprecedented examples of faith and trust. For the purpose of this article, the focus will be on relatively familiar accounts. The details will help us to develop that same capacity of reliance on God Almighty.
The account in 1 Samuel 17 of David’s encounter with Goliath is perhaps one of the best known in Scripture. David was the youngest of the eight sons of Jesse, and he was a shepherd of his father’s sheep. There was a fierce war going on between the children of Israel and the Philistines. Jesse’s three oldest sons had gone to follow King Saul to the battle, but David went back and forth from Saul to feed his father’s sheep.
Jesse told David to take his brothers food and to bring back news of the battle. Upon his arrival at the camp, Goliath was once again challenging the army of Israel to send a man out to fight him. This had been going on for forty days! The stakes could not have been any higher. Goliath cried out if a man of Israel prevailed against him, the Philistines would become Israel’s servants, but if he prevailed against Israel’s man and killed him, Israel would become their servants.
All the men of Israel, when they saw him, ran and were dreadfully afraid because Goliath stood over nine feet tall! David heard what Goliath had said, so he asked in Verse 26, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”
Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard what he said, and he became angry. He asked David why had he come there and with whom did he leave those few sheep in the wilderness? He went on to say in Verse 28, “I know your presumption and the evil of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.” David replied in Verse 29, “What have I done now? Was it not but a word?” (ESV). David continued to ask his questions, and the men reported all of this to King Saul.
Saul sent for David, and David told him to let no man’s heart fail because of Goliath; he would go and fight him. Saul attempted to talk David out of his faith and trust in God. He told David he was not able to fight this man because he was a youth and this man was a man of war from his youth. David proceeded to tell Saul how he had killed a bear and a lion who had tried to kill the sheep in his care, and the uncircumcised Philistine would be like one of them.
In verse 37, David said, “The LORD, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you!” Saul offered David his armor, but he could not walk with it because he had not tested it. Then, he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the brook, put them in a shepherd’s bag—in a pouch—and his sling, and then he drew near Goliath. The moment of truth was imminent. Verses 44 through 46 record the showdown.
And the Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!” Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me 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. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.”
It happened exactly as David had said. God stepped in when David stood up.
Nehemiah was a sterling example of how outside influences cannot stop God’s work. Nehemiah was the cupbearer in the court of the Persian king. He had asked one of his Jewish brothers about the survivors of the Babylonian captivity and the state of Jerusalem. Nehemiah was told the people were in great distress and reproach, and the wall of Jerusalem had been broken down, and its gates were burned with fire. Upon hearing this, Nehemiah wept and mourned, fasted and prayed for many days. He was so distressed because Jerusalem was not safe, and would not be, until the wall was rebuilt, and the people returned who would defend the city against all enemies determined to destroy it (Nehemiah 1).
When Nehemiah was performing his duties as cupbearer, for the first time, he was sad in the king’s presence. The king knew since Nehemiah was not sick, he said, “This is nothing but sorrow of heart” (Nehemiah 2:2). Nehemiah became dreadfully afraid and asked, why shouldn’t his face be sad when the city, the place of his fathers’ tombs laid in waste and its gates burned with fire? Then the king asked Nehemiah what he was requesting. He replied, asking the king to grant him permission to return to Jerusalem to rebuild it. The king wrote letters to the governors of the region that they give Nehemiah permission to pass through until he came to Judah. A letter was also written to the keeper of the king’s forest that he must give timber to Nehemiah to make beams for the gates of the palace, for the city wall and for the house he was to occupy. Nehemiah 2:8b reads, “And the king granted them to me according to the good hand of my God upon me.”
Nehemiah and his workers faced opposition from outside and abuse from inside, but nothing and no one was able to stop the work. The wall was rebuilt in just 52 days—a feat that even the enemies of Israel had to acknowledge took place through God’s enabling of the men involved in the work. Nehemiah’s godly life and leadership was dynamic. Nehemiah 6:15-16 reads, “So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days. And it happened when all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations around us saw these things, that they were very disheartened in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was done by their God.” God stepped in when Nehemiah stood up.
Daniel’s lifespan bridges the entire 70-year period of Babylonian captivity. Daniel shows us that under the most dreadful of circumstances, unwavering faith and reliant trust in the God of Heaven must be paramount. God’s guidance, intervention, providence and power are clearly seen working in the affairs of the world throughout the ages. Daniel was one of three governors King Darius had set over the kingdom. Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps [protectors of the land], and the king had given thought to setting him over the whole realm. Learning of this, these men began looking for some charge they could bring against Daniel concerning the kingdom. When none was found, they thought of another scheme. “Then these men said, ‘We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God’” (Daniel 6:5). Isn’t that rich; how is that for standing up? At this point everything was great in Daniel’s life.
The scheme involved getting the king to sign a decree but making sure their ulterior motive was sufficiently covered up. All the governors, administrators, satraps, counselors and advisors said to the king in Daniel 6:7-8, we “have consulted together to establish a royal statute and to make a firm decree, that whoever petitions any god or man for thirty days, except you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the decree and sign the writing, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which does not alter.”
Verse 9 reads, “Therefore King Darius signed the written decree.” Verse 10 is another sterling example of standing up for God. “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.”
When these men assembled and found Daniel praying, they went before the king. They informed him that Daniel, one of the captives from Judah, did not show due regard for the king, or the decree he had signed, but made his petition to his God three times a day. Upon hearing this, King Darius was greatly displeased with himself and began trying to think of a way to deliver Daniel but with no success. The men quickly pointed out again it was the law of the Medes and Persians that no decree or statute that the king established could be changed.
“So the king gave the command, and they brought Daniel and cast him into the den of lions. But the king spoke, saying to Daniel, ‘Your God, whom you serve continually, He will deliver you’” (Daniel 6:16). How did this pagan king know that? According to Daniel 6:3, an excellent spirit was in him. This had also been noted to the predecessor of King Darius, Belshazzar. In Daniel was found an excellent spirit, knowledge, understanding, interpreting dreams, solving riddles and explaining enigmas (Daniel 5:12).
The king went to his palace and spent a sleepless night fasting. Early the next morning, he went in haste to the den of lions. He cried out to Daniel in a grieved voice saying, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions” (Daniel 6:20)?
Daniel’s response in verses 21-22 will bring tears to your eyes as his answer is filled with respect for the king and total reverence to God. “Then Daniel said to the king, ‘O king, live forever! My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, so that they have not hurt me, because I was found innocent before Him; and also, O king, I have done no wrong before you.” God stepped in when Daniel stood up.
This statement was made at a teachers’ workshop that I attended recently. “We must invest ourselves in Bible study because God is equipping us for every situation we will ever face in our lives.”
My Life If I
Diligently Serve the Lord
Martha Lynn Rushmore
There are two things that we must know to serve our God diligently. One is to believe that God exists. Two is to know that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. We must be workers for the Lord and His church. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6 NKJV).
The benefits of seeking God are evident in Psalm 23, which is quoted at many funerals because it is comforting. There is so much we can learn from these six short verses about our Loving Chief Shepherd.
God Is a Rewarder
Verse 1: David wrote, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” The sheep have blessings as we also have blessings in the Lord. This is a day in the life of a shepherd. He was talking about taking care of sheep. They knew he would always be there for them. These sheep would follow always. We should be willing to follow our Great Shepherd.
Verses 2-6 teach how the shepherd cared and tended for his sheep. In comparison, these are blessings we have in Christ Jesus our Chief Shepherd. He provides for His sheep peace, safety, restoration, guidance, comfort, preparation, caring, a good life and eternal life.
Verse 2: “He makes me to lie down in green pastures.” This speaks of peace. The sheep enjoy the peacefulness of the green pastures. We should enjoy the peacefulness of the blessings of being in Christ. We have a peace that passes all understanding. Our Lord’s sheep have security of being in Christ and having a heavenly home with our Father, our Lord and Savior, and the Holy Spirit.
“He leads me beside the still waters.” This gives the sheep a feeling of safety. Sheep are afraid of moving water. They have a fear of the current, so the shepherd takes them to still waters. We should be afraid of sin. Sin is so deceitful because the devil makes sin look fun. Have you ever heard people say it is so much fun to drink, to dance, to have a sexual relationship outside marriage? These are all sins that will cost us our souls. There are so many more.
What about our attitude toward others? Do we think we are better than non-Christians or those who are weak in the Lord? Are we really any stronger Christians when we have bad attitudes toward others? I do not think so!
This is one of my biggest fears as a Christian. I know if I go out and act riotously and dress immodestly, I will lose my soul. Yet, how many of us have this attitude as holier than thou? I am afraid more of us will lose our souls because we are like the ones on the left hand who did not think they had done anything wrong (Matthew 25:41-46). Do we want to be like those on the left hand of Jesus?
Verse 3: “He restores my soul.” A shepherd will pet, give love to his sheep and even play with them. They go away happy. How does our Shepherd restore our souls? He is beside us and holding us close all the time. We can talk to Him or let Him talk to us anytime, and we can go away restored and happy. In Isaiah 40:28, 31, we find, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither, faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. …But those who wait on the Lord, shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.” We need to run to our Shepherd.
“He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” The shepherd guides his sheep. We are guided by the Lord as our Shepherd. Our guidebook is the Bible, the Word of God. We all must follow the Word as sheep follow a shepherd.
How do you and I follow the Shepherd? Do we read and study His Word as we should? I don’t know about you, but I do not study as I should. We should study daily as the Bereans did. They were praised for being more noble than those of Thessalonica (Acts 17:11). Do we want the praise of God for studying more? I do!
Do we talk with our Shepherd so He can take our message to our Father? I do not know about you, but I do know about me. I know I do not study and pray enough! I am sure we all fit into this category. We must learn to study and pray more.
We are told in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to “pray without ceasing.” Can we go around praying all day long? No, we cannot, but we can and should have a prayerful attitude. There are times I think and pray when I am in my kitchen cooking or cleaning up. I am thankful that I can do this for my husband, family and friends. We have so many blessings for which to be thankful.
Verse 4: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.” This is comfort to sheep, and we are comforted by our Shepherd, too. If a sheep were missing, the shepherd would go hunting for him. He would hope his lost sheep would not be hurt or have been killed by a wild animal. God is the same with us. He wants to comfort us when we are hurting. Sometimes, prayer is all we have. There are times in our lives that knowing God is our best comfort. Of course, our family and friends will listen, but they are not our Comforter. In Romans 8:35, 38-39 we read, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword. …For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” So, you see, we need God as our Comforter.
Verse 5: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.” The shepherd made preparation for his sheep. He made sure they had a place to sleep. When he had them all safely inside a sheepfold, he laid down in front of the door to sleep to protect them from their enemies. Christ made preparation for us by going back to Heaven to prepare a place for us. In John 14:1-6, Jesus said to the apostles:
Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know. Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Jesus was not just talking to the apostles, but to all who obey Him.
Verse 6: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.” Christ prepared a place in Heaven for us to have eternal life. The only way we can receive this reward is to follow our Savior. We must obey His commandments to the fullest of our abilities. We cannot say we believe and not obey the teachings of God’s Word.
My life if I diligently serve the Lord will be one of blessings, as though I were a sheep, for which the Chief Shepherd cares. These blessings will be temporal on earth and endless in Heaven.