Obedience, Old Testament, Sanctification, Sovereignty of God, Sunday School, Trust

Decisions, Decisions ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 5-4-14

sunday school

These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 18 ~ Apr. 27-May 3
1 Chronicles 6-12, 2 Samuel 5:1-10, Psalm 81, 88, 92-93, 102-104, 133, 106-107
Decisions, Decisions

We all face difficult and confusing times of decision in our lives. Should I marry this guy or not? Which job should I take? What’s the best plan of action in X situation? How can we know for sure which decision God wants us to make?

1 Samuel 8:4-7, 2 Samuel 5:1-10
In these two passages, we see Israel’s decision to have a king to rule over them. In the first passage, which we studied a few weeks ago, the leaders wanted Saul (they didn’t know his name yet, but they sure had his résumé!). In the second, they wanted David. Two times when the government of Israel was at a crossroads. Two times when Israel’s leadership wanted a king. Two kings coronated. Similar circumstances, the same desire, similar outcomes. But even though the situations were so similar, were both decisions made the right and godly way?

Let’s take a look at some principles for godly decision-making and see how these principles worked themselves out in the Israelites’ situations with Saul and David.

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Principles for Godly Decision-Making:
One thing we need to be careful about with the following principles is that we are not using them to manipulate God into making us make the right decision. Any time we modify our behavior in order to try to make God do what we want, we’re guilty of idolatry, even if what we want seems to be godly. The principles listed below are all things we should be doing or believing on a daily/regular basis because they are part of the obedient Christian walk, not just because we have a big decision to make. Godly decisions are a side effect of this kind of walk, not the end goal.

1. In order to make godly decisions, you must be saved (1 Corinthians 2:14-16, 2 Corinthians 5:17).
People who are unsaved aren’t capable of making godly decisions, because the motivation behind making godly decisions is the desire, from the heart, to please and be obedient to God. God, in His grace, may lead an unsaved person via his circumstances to make a certain decision, but the motive of his heart will still not be to please God. We are not capable of that motive unless we are saved.

2. Delight yourself in the Lord (Psalm 37:3-4).
Because Christians are new creatures with the mind of Christ, we have an inborn desire to love God, His word, and the things of God (godly preaching, books, music, friends, etc.). But this desire must be cultivated (3- New American Standard Bible translation) through a daily walk with the Lord, spending time in His word and prayer, and intentionally seeking out godly influences.

It’s like one of those “miraculous” weight loss stories we often hear. An extremely obese person decides he’s going to lose weight. The desire of his heart is there—he’s fed up with his looks and poor health, and he wants to tackle the problem and get healthy. But if he doesn’t intentionally do something, the weight isn’t going to come off, despite the desire. He starts off slowly. Maybe he cuts out cokes and walks around the block three times a week. As he progresses, his desire to cut bad things from his diet, add good things, and exercise more, builds. Not only does he see results, but he begins to enjoy the healthier diet and exercise more and more, and becomes even more committed to them. Eventually, he loses the weight and maintains a healthy lifestyle.

That’s how it is with delighting in the Lord. Through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, Christ helps us to intentionally cultivate faithfulness, and we grow in our love and affection for the Lord. As a result, He gives us the desires of our heart—to be more Christlike.

With Saul, were the Israelites delighting in the Lord? Definitely not. In fact, it was their lack of delighting in the Lord that led them to demand a king against God’s wishes. With David? Israel had just been through the consequences of having Saul as king and they knew God had ordained that David be the next king, plus he was a great military leader. Which of these motivated them the most? It’s hard to tell, but it feels like they were acquiescing to the inevitable, and the practical desire for military strength rather than repenting and taking an affirmative step towards godliness.

3. God’s word is sufficient for our every need (Hebrews 1:1-3a, 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Often, when we read the Bible, it’s easy to long for God to speak to us one on one, through a burning bush, a fleece, a prophet, or some other form of direct revelation. But now that we have God’s complete written Word, we no longer need direct revelation, nor does God want us to seek that. Hebrews and Timothy tell us that God no longer speaks that MH900410128way and that His word is sufficient for our every need. Additionally, we now have access to God’s word any time we need it. We don’t have to wait for Him to miraculously show up. Finally, if we were to rely on signs or “hearing God’s voice,” how could we be sure we’re really hearing from God and not our own sinful inner voice, or worse, Satan? God’s word is absolutely trustworthy. When we read it, we can be 100% certain we’re hearing from God. And remember, Israel (and others in the Bible) did hear directly from God, and they still often disobeyed.

4. Know God’s word and study God’s word in context as it applies to your situation (Psalm 119:11, Deuteronomy 17:14-15).
We must study God’s word daily; even memorize it, so that we can apply it to every aspect of our lives. As we do, it’s very important to study it in context so we can be sure we’re applying the correct biblical principles.

Did Israel know God’s word as it applied to the situation with Saul? Yes. They certainly knew Deuteronomy 17, which predicted they would demand a king, and outlined the regulations for a king of God’s choosing. They also knew that God was, and always had been, the only king they needed, and that He did not want them to demand a king.

With David? Yes. Through Samuel’s prophecy, Israel already knew David was to be the next king and that he had already been anointed.

5. Obey God’s word (1 Samuel 15:22).
As we can see with Israel’s demand for a king (Saul), knowing God’s word isn’t enough. We also have to obey it. Sometimes it can seem like sin is the most practical way out of a situation, but it is only a temporary fix. Even when we try to put a godly spin on our disobedience, as Saul did in 1 Samuel 15, it is still disobedience. As Saul learned the hard way, God wants us to be obedient to Him regardless of our circumstances. With David, Israel, whatever her motivations were, obeyed God and made David king.

6. Know your “bent” (Psalm 139:13-14).
God has created each of us uniquely. We are all “bent” Bent_eye_cranked_bolt_profiletoward certain things and away from others. One of the ways God may show us the things He wants us to do and not do is through the talents, tastes, and abilities He has given us. If you can’t carry a tune in a bucket, that’s a pretty good indication God doesn’t want you to sing for a living. If you love numbers, that may be God’s way of leading you into a math-related field. Other times, we may be thrust into a situation in which we have to learn a new skill. We might just discover a talent we didn’t know we had!

7. Pray, and ask others to pray with you about the situation, especially for wisdom and guidance (James 1:5-6).
Some things we don’t need to pray about because they are clearly taught in God’s word. We don’t need to pray about whether we should attend church regularly, be faithful to our spouses, help those in need, etc. But, some situations aren’t as clear. James tells us that if we lack wisdom, all we have to do is ask God for it in faith, and He will give it to us. It’s a promise. We may not feel very wise, but we don’t operate on feelings. We take God at His word and trust Him as we continue to take the next step and the next.

With Saul, did Israel pray about the situation or ask God for wisdom in selecting a king? No. And even though God tried to provide them with wisdom- spelling out the consequences of their demand- they insisted on disobeying Him. They did not need to pray about making David king. God had already made it clear that he was the next to take the throne.

8. God has given you (and others) a brain for a reason (Proverbs 11:14, 24:5-6, 18:15)
Seek counsel from godly people you trust. Take what they say, make sure it matches up with Scripture, and pray about it. In other situations, such as a medical diagnosis, you may need to do some research and gather information so you can make an educated decision. Finally, trust that God, our wonderful Creator has hard wired you with the ability to process information and make the best decision you can with His help and guidance.

With Saul, God directly gave Israel godly counsel and information through Samuel. They chose to reject it and disobey, and suffered the consequences. With David, Israel also had all the information they needed to make the right decision. This time, they obeyed.

9. Trust in God’s sovereignty to direct your steps and work things out for your good (Proverbs 3:5-6; 16:9, Psalm 37:23-24, Romans 8:28).
Sometimes our desire to do what God wants us to do is so strong that we become paralyzed by the fear that we’re going MH900448357to do the wrong thing. When we do that, our trust is no longer in God’s sovereignty over the situation. We have shifted our trust from God—where it should be—to ourselves—where it should not be.

God’s sovereignty over situations does not rest on our actions. We can clearly see this in Israel’s situation with Saul. Even though they didn’t desire to please God, He had complete control of the situation and worked it out for His will to be done in the long run. How much more can we trust God to take care of our situations, if it is our desire to please Him, since He promises to do so?

10. Trust that God understands and has compassion on the frailty of His children (Psalm 103:14).
You aren’t God. You aren’t omniscient, knowing all the ins and outs of your situation. In most cases there is at least some aspect of the situation in which you are powerless. Every time you make a decision, you do it with only partial knowledge and partial control (at best). God knows all of this better than we do. That’s why He tells us to love Him, seek to honor Him, ask Him for wisdom, and trust Him.

 

One of the natural outgrowths of walking with the Lord is making more godly decisions. We must use the resources He has given us: His word, godly counsel, information, prayer, and wisdom, and trust Him to work everything out for our good.

 

Additional Resources:
The Problem with Seeking God’s Will by Matt Papa

Easter, Forgiveness, Gospel, Old Testament, Salvation, Sunday School, Types and Shadows, Women

Easter with the King: The Story of Nabal, Abigail and David ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 4-20-14

sunday school

These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 15 ~ Apr. 13-19
1 Samuel 18-31, Psalm 11, 59,7,27,31,34,52,56,120,140-142,17,35,54,63,18
Easter with the King: The Story of Nabal, Abigail and David

 

Since the whole Bible points to Jesus, the whole Bible tells the story of the gospel. Even the Old Testament. Even the story of David, Abigail, and Nabal.

1 Samuel 25:2-42

flock of sheep in israelFilthy Rich (2)
3000 sheep/1000 goats was definitely rich (even today it wouldn’t be too shabby). While cattle are more valued in our culture for their meat, milk, and leather, sheep and goats were more valued in Israel for these, and also for sacrifices. Sheep and goats were Israel’s “pantry on the hoof.”

I Pity the Fool (3)
The name “Nabal” means “fool.” As we have seen throughout the OT, names weren’t just random labels. They told something about the person’s character or life, where he was from, who he was related to, etc. Sometimes names were changed to reflect life circumstances: Ben-oni (son of my sorrow) to Benjamin (son of the right hand- Genesis 35:18), Naomi (pleasant) to Mara (bitter- Ruth 1:20), Simon (God has heard) to Peter (rock- Matthew 16:18).

It seems odd, even by Israel’s standards, to name an infant “fool,” but we have no way of knowing whether this was the case or whether he acquired this name later in life after earning it by his behavior.

“Abigail” means “My father is joy.”

An Offer You Can’t Refuse? (4-13, Deuteronomy 22:1-4, 18:7, 21:11, 15:7-8, Leviticus 19:10, 23:22)
This incident hits our Western ears as odd or inappropriate, even presumptuous or akin to extortion, but Middle Eastern hospitality etiquette and neighborliness, not to mention God’s Law was, and still is, much different from ours in many cases.

Nabal did not ask David to guard his shepherds and flocks. Indeed, he probably didn’t even know David was doing so unless the shepherds told him when they brought the sheep in for shearing. (And since “one cannot speak to him” {17} maybe they didn’t.) David, however, when he met up with the shepherds, took it upon himself, out of his own good will, to look out for them. Maybe he had sympathy for them because he had also been a shepherd.

michael-corleoneDavid and his men likely put their lives on the line numerous times protecting Nabal’s livelihood. And he didn’t do it with an “I scratch your back; you scratch mine” attitude, thinking he would later demand pay from Nabal. He also didn’t take advantage of the shepherds (such as extorting sheep/goats in exchange for protection) while they were with him. David was obeying the spirit of all those “good neighbor laws” we read about (ex: Deuteronomy 22:1-4). The law is not just “don’t harm your neighbor,” but also, “do good to your neighbor.”

Remember, these shepherds were alone out in the wilderness with the flocks. There was no police force or army to protect them from raiding bands of Philistines. If the Philistines saw a thousand goats and 3000 sheep and wanted them, they just took them and captured or killed the shepherds. No legal redress, no sheep insurance. Nabal’s entire portfolio was at stake. You would think once he found out what David had done –for free and out of the goodness of his heart—Nabal would be extremely grateful. But was he? Nope.

David’s men arrived, explained themselves, and asked politely for whatever food Nabal could spare (kind of hard to make groceries when you’re on the run living in caves). They did not demand his best, and they did not demand he provide enough for their entire company of 600 men. They had even come on a feast day when Nabal was celebrating his wealth, should have been in a good mood, and should have had plenty of extra food on hand. And notice this telling little phrase, “they said all this to Nabal in the name of David, and then they waited.” (9) Now here’s one way Middle Eastern culture is similar to Southern culture. If someone was standing there telling you about all those nice things he had done for you, how long would it take before you gleefully interrupted him and offered him everything under the sun in thanks? Well, Middle Easterners aren’t as shy about interrupting as we are, and furthermore, they would take it as the highest insult if you didn’t take everything they offered.

Not Nabal, though. First, he pretended not to know who David was. Pretty ridiculous, since David’s conquests were well known throughout Israel (18:7, 21:11- even outside Israel), not to mention the fact that he was next in line for the throne. Next, he insulted David’s men by accusing them of lying about working for David. Of course, if he had been interested in finding out whether or not that was true, he could have brought his shepherds in and asked them if these were the guys who had protected them.

David’s men went back and reported what had happened. David’s immediate response was for everyone to “strap on his sword.” It seems like kind of an extreme response to us, but we have to keep a few things in mind. First, the Law. Nabal was breaking both the letter and the spirit of it. While there was no specific law covering a band of mighty men coming to you and asking for food on a feast day, there were laws about taking care of people who were hungry and poor, such as the gleaning laws (Leviticus 19:10, 23:22).

Deuteronomy 15:7-8 says: “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be.”

When we read through Ruth, we saw Boaz doing a great job of fulfilling this law for Ruth and Naomi. Here, Nabal is showing the exact opposite of Boaz’s kindness and generosity.

Second, Nabal’s actions showed disregard and ingratitude for God’s provision and blessing. God blessed Nabal with wealth and protected that wealth (through David) without Nabal even knowing about it. Do we see any evidence that Nabal was humbled that God should do such a thing for him, or thankfulness to God for what He had provided? No. We see only selfishness, stinginess, and a blatant disregard for God as sovereign provider.

Finally, David’s response was likely an answer to Nabal’s accusations. “He wants to know who David is? He wants to know whether or not my men are lying? Well, let’s go show him the answer to his questions and see if he changes his tune.”

The Go-Between (14-31, John 12:14-15)
Abigail was quite a remarkable woman. This was not the first time Nabal had acted this way. He had a long standing history of being harsh and worthless (“son of Belial” is also applied to Satan in 2 Corinthians). And here, Abigail was going behind his back and defying him. This was no small thing for any wife in Israel. But for Abigail, it could have meant a beating or worse when Nabal found out. It’s possible she was even risking her life. And for what? To save him. Without his knowledge that she was saving him. Without his knowledge that he even needed saving.

Why in the world would Abigail want to save someone who was probably making her life a living hell? She could have just let David and his men handle Nabal. Certainly he would have www-St-Takla-org--abigail-entreats-mercygotten what he deserved. But she stepped in because it was the right thing to do. It was right to obey God by providing for David and his men. It was even right to protect her husband from his own foolishness and bringing David’s wrath down upon himself. But even more, she did it because she loved God, and maybe even her husband, too.

She sent the gift on ahead (19) to appease David’s wrath, then presented herself to him on Nabal’s behalf. Notice that she got down off her donkey (23). Kings rode donkeys. Rich people and people of high standing rode donkeys. She left her wealth and position behind and got as low as she could get, bowing down, humbling herself, and submitting herself to David. For Nabal.

Then Abigail did something even more remarkable. She said (24-25), “On me alone, my lord, be the guilt. Please let your servant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your servant. Let not my lord regard this worthless fellow, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he.” She—a completely innocent party to Nabal’s sin (25)—voluntarily takes on the guilt and consequences of his sin. (Is this starting to sound familiar?) In v. 28, she asked David to “Please forgive the trespass of your servant.” It wasn’t her trespass, but Nabal’s. She was asking forgiveness for him.

The King’s Response (32-35)
David blessed Abigail, not just for her prudence and godliness, but also because she had satisfied his wrath and kept him from exercising it on Nabal. Her gift was sufficient, and David granted her petition to extend forgiveness to Nabal.

Happily Ever After (36-42)
Well, except for Nabal. Abigail had to tell Nabal what she had done. She’d been gone for a while and had taken quite a bit of food out of the house. No sense trying to cover it up. Hopefully Nabal would be grateful she saved him from certain death. When she told him, did he repent? Humble himself? The text doesn’t say that he did. It says “his heart died within him.” It’s generally believed this means that Nabal had a stroke (especially since it further says that he “became as stone” and lived for ten more days). Did he become enraged at what Abigail had done, and this physical exertion contributed to a stroke? We can’t know for certain. What seems unlikely is that he genuinely repented, because God “struck Nabal and he died.” As we’ll see later with David, while we usually do suffer the consequences of our sin, God shows mercy and forgiveness to the repentant.

David was thankful he had not taken matters into his own hands and that God had handled the situation. Justice had been served. And for her faithfulness, Abigail—who considered herself the lowliest of servants, only fit to wash the feet of other servants—ascended to the position of Queen. Back on her donkey where she belonged, exalted out of humility to sit at the right hand of the king.

The Backstage Gospel (Psalm 14:1, Philippians 2:6-8, 9-11)
Often, in stories like this, the characters aren’t just playing themselves, they’re playing out the parts of the gospel.

As with Nabal, God blessed His people richly with life, family, provisions, and all kinds of other blessings she wasn’t even aware of. The people didn’t ask God to do these things. God, the Good Shepherd, did these things for them out of the goodness of His own heart, the same way David had done for Nabal. But, as with Nabal the fool, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good.” (Ps. 14) The same way David presented himself to Nabal and told him what he had done for him, God, over and over, reminded Israel of the way He had protected and provided for them. But just as Nabal rejected David, so, Israel rejected God, and rebelled against Him in favor of their own sin and selfishness. And, like David, God’s wrath was inflamed.

Enter Jesus. Just as Abigail intervened on behalf of Nabal, Jesus intervened on behalf of Israel and all mankind. Just like Abigail, He laid down His life to save us. Before we ever knew Him. Before we ever knew we needed saving. Why? Why would He even want to save us Nabals? He could have let God exercise His wrath on us. We certainly deserve it. But in the same way that Abigail acted in love and in doing what was right, Jesus loved His Father and us enough to fulfill righteousness and to bring God glory by staying His hand of wrath.

In the same way that Abigail got down off her donkey, leaving behind all prestige and humbling herself to the lowest position possible—a servant only worthy of washing other hp-crossshadowservants’ feet— Jesus “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant [one who washed other servants’ feet], being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil. 2:6-8) And for whom? Us Nabals. “On me alone, my Lord, be the guilt,” Jesus said, even though, like Abigail, He was completely innocent. He voluntarily took on the guilt and consequences of our sin when He died in our place on the cross, and He did it to win forgiveness for us.

Jesus sent this offering of His life for the atonement of our sin on ahead of Himself to the Father, and God’s wrath was satisfied. Jesus’ offering was sufficient, and God granted His petition to extend forgiveness to the likes of us. And just as David picked Abigail up from her humility and she ascended to the position of queen, Jesus ascended to sit at the right hand of the King, and “God has highly exalted him [Jesus] and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:9-11)

This story didn’t have a happy ending for Nabal, because Nabal didn’t repent and submit himself to God. Nabal ended up taking the guilt and consequences for his sin himself (death) instead of gratefully humbling himself and being thankful for the gift of Abigail’s intervention and David’s forgiveness. But the rest of us Nabals can have a happy ending. Jesus has paid the price for our sin with His death, burial, and the resurrection we celebrate today. He completely satisfied the wrath of God on our behalf. It is finished. Forgiveness has been purchased with His blood. If we will humble ourselves, repent of our sin, and accept the beautiful gift of forgiveness God is extending to us at the request of His Son, we can be reconciled to God now and live happily in the ever after.