Samuel, Day 25: Passivity Can Breed Chaos

1samuelRead 2 Samuel 1-3

These chapters describe a time of transition and chaos. Immediately after Saul’s death, Israel split into two kingdoms: the ten northern tribes followed Ish-bosheth, one of Saul’s sons. The largest tribe, Judah, followed their homeboy David.

It’s confusing to read the story of David because there was so much potential mixture in his motives. A good example is when the Amalekite came to inform David that Saul was dead. It seemed that the Amalekite was doing a noble thing: letting David know of Saul’s death, etc. But David had him killed for daring to lay his hand against the Lord’s anointed.

We’ve seen this theme before. David didn’t want to dishonor God by dishonoring the king. But you have to remember that David’s transition to king was a dicey affair. He didn’t want it to look, in any way, that this was a coup, meaning that he employed others to kill off Saul so he could be king.

So David went out of his way to distance himself from Saul’s death and made it known through the official record. He even published a song of lament that he had the nation sing to honor Saul. So…yes, he was honoring God by honoring Saul, but…he was also greasing his wheels to take over as king.

I can’t say if this was godly or human wisdom. I’m not sure if David was more concerned with honoring God or making himself look good to the Israelites. And the truth is: he probably wasn’t always so sure himself. That’s the nature of our humanity: there is almost always a mixture of intent.

But among the political jockeying and chaos, I see a new side to David: a side that we will see played out later on with his family. David was passive when it came to interpersonal relationships. Look at all the infighting that happened after Saul died. Where was David in all of that? He was trying to keep a low profile so no one accused him of any evil. But as a result, good men died.

Transition always brings a certain degree of confusion, but that can be greatly reduced if leaders take an active role in the process. David failed in this matter and it took seven years before the two kingdoms united under his rule.

My question for you today is this: does chaos exist in your life because you are failing to be actively involved in matters? Is there something God wants you to do to address what’s wrong with the relationships in your life?

Prayer: Father, help me to see how I might be passive in my current relationships. If there is something I can do, help me to see it and take the necessary action. Amen.

Samuel, Day 24: Desperate People Do Desperate Things

1samuelRead 1 Samuel chapters 27-31

Here is another large block to read, but it all tells one story. The Philistines were once again knocking on Israel’s door. Saul was desperate. Knowing that God rejected his leadership convinced him that the next battle would be his last battle.

Desperate people do desperate things: irrational things. Saul turned to a psychic to conjure up the spirit of Samuel. Psychics can often be phonies, but there is something to what they do. There is an alternative spiritual world out there. It operates outside of God’s rule. That’s why Samuel rid the country of all the psychics; not because they weren’t effective, but because they didn’t honor God.

This story gives us some insight into how kings heard from God. In addition to the priestly ephod which contained the Urim, they also heard from “prophets and dreams,” as Saul mentioned in verse six. None of these methods worked for Saul because God rejected his kingship.

Saul did what so many people do when they fail God: rather than repent and fall in line with God’s will, they keep walking away from God. I think their reasoning is that since they’ve failed God, God wants nothing to do with them.

But what if Saul turned to God and said, “I was wrong. Please forgive me. I know that I can no longer be king, but how can I best mentor David into this position? How can I prepare the country for a smooth transition? Although I’ve failed you, let me now work with you for the sake of the country?” Instead, Saul sought out a psychic only to be confronted by Samuel who rebuked him.

If you have failed God in a significant way, don’t keep running; turn to him now. You may not be able to eliminate the consequences of your sin, but you will be much better off walking with God than walking away from him.

Now, remember that David was hiding out in Philistine territory. David was all set to fight Israel with the Philistines! David had won the favor of the Philistine king. But the rest of the king’s leaders thought he was nuts to include David and rejected David’s help. We’ll never know if David would be true to his word to help the Philistine king or if he would have turned on him and fought for Israel. Interesting thought.

My guess is that this is another example of God intervening to save David from doing something he would regret. It was a no-win situation. He could thank God that the Philistine leaders sent him home.

When David returned to his town, Ziklag, they found that the Amalekites had ransacked it and taken all the people with them. David pursued them, defeated them in battle, and regained everything and everyone that was taken.

Two hundred of David’s six hundred men stayed behind due to fatigue. It’s notable that David shared the spoils with these men even though they didn’t fight. He said that it was the Lord who gave them the victory so the spoil was really a gift from God. No one could claim the goods as their own. Who were they not to share it with everyone? Besides, there was a role the 200 played in staying behind. They looked after their belongings.

This shows a generosity of David’s spirit vs. a vindictive one like Saul’s. David also used the spoil to make friends with the leaders in Judah, his homeland. He knew he would be returning soon to become king and wanted show his concern for them, and politically, win their support.

Sadly, Saul and his sons met their defeat in battle. It was just a matter of time. Thus ends the book of 1 Samuel. Onto 2 Samuel tomorrow.

Prayer: Father, help me to learn from Saul’s foolishness and turn to you no matter how far off track I’ve gotten. And might I also learn from David’s generosity. Rather than keeping everything to myself, help me to see that all that I have is from you and it’s my job to share it with others. Amen.

Samuel, Day 23: Don’t Be the Fool

1samuelRead 1 Samuel chapters 25-27

I’m giving you three chapters to read today but focusing on the story of David, Abigail, and Nabal. It’s another interesting character study. It starts like this:

This man’s name was Nabal, and his wife’s name was Abigail. She was sensible and beautiful, … 1 Samuel 25:3

The word “Nabal” means “fool,” but his wife was sensible. The writer gives us a clue where this story is headed in the opening words.

A little historical context: sheep shearing was party time. It was when all the men gathered to sheer hundreds of sheep …and party hard. There was plenty of food and drink. Maybe a bit like hunting season is for some men. David knew there would be excess food so he sent some of his men to request food from Nabal since David had looked after his shepherds in the wilderness.

This story shows us that David was not always a picture of virtue. When Nabal rebuffed his request, David was indignant and vindictive, willing to kill hundreds of men simply to defend his honor.

Isn’t it interesting how easily our pride can get in the way? When people invalidate us, our true character is revealed. People get under our skin and the worst in us rises to the surface. A little kindness and generosity would have made this a much better story. That’s true in your life as well!abigail

Thankfully David listened to the wisdom of Abigail. We are not all so wise; we dig in our heels and won’t listen to reason: becoming twice the fool.

Abigail’s argument was that God fights for David, so why would he want to take out Nabal on his own accord? It would only hurt him in the long run. Sure enough, when David relented, God did take Nabal out, and David’s reputation was spared.

This is a great lesson to not retaliate when you are offended. Stay above the fray and let God fight your battles for you. You don’t have to always be the “winner.” If you truly get your value from God and not people, then what does it matter what others think of you? Walk away.

It also shows me the importance of having someone in my life to speak wisdom to me when I’m bent out of shape. Thankfully I have a few of these people. Do you? Whom do you talk to when your emotions are getting the best of you?

Chapter 26 relates another story, similar to chapter 24, where David spares Saul’s life.

Chapter 27 tells of how David returns to Gath (a Philistine city) and asks the king to hide from Saul in one of his cities. The writer calmly relates the genocide that took place in the towns that David raided.

It’s amazing how a spiritual man can be so blind to something so awful, but that’s the power of culture and the nature of sin. We tend to only see and hear from God what we want to see and hear. It’s worth taking a look in the mirror: do you worship God while plugging your ears to what he has to say to you?

Prayer; Father, David’s story shows me my dark side. I can easily be led astray. I can easily follow my passions and not your Spirit, committing great sin and thinking I am only showing “righteous anger.” Please send “Abigails” into my life to speak truth and wisdom to me, and might I have the good sense to listen to them. Amen.

1samuelRead 1 Samuel 24

Chapter 24 contains another fundamental attitude to possess in following God: if you want to honor God then do what he’s told you to do no matter what others say. We saw the reverse behavior earlier in the book when Saul chose to not obey God concerning the Amalekites.

In our story today Saul entered a cave to “relieve himself” where David and his men were hiding. It seemed to be an opportunity sent from heaven. David’s men insisted that he take advantage of the moment to kill the king and solve everyone’s problems. But David’s response was:

“It would be unthinkable for me to raise my hand against His Majesty, the LORD’s anointed king, since he is the LORD’s anointed.”  So David stopped his men by saying this to them and didn’t let them attack Saul. 1 Samuel 24:6,7

Doing the Unthinkable

David said that killing Saul was “unthinkable.” There are certain deeds that are unthinkable. Deeds that should never be considered so that when the “perfect” circumstances develop, the ones that all point to the “obvious” conclusion… so much that you don’t have to think or pray about it… that you will never commit the deed because it is unthinkable. It is unallowable and off limits to you. End of discussion.

We tend to leave our options open. We want everything to be negotiable…just in case. But we would be much better off if we took the time, in advance, to develop a list of “unthinkables:” things we will never do no matter how “perfect” or “obvious” the circumstances are in the moment.

Treating Others Well

As the chapter closes out, Saul comments to David:

“You are more righteous than I. You treated me well while I treated you badly.”  1 Samuel 24:17

You treated me well while I treated you badly. Such a simple principle. That’s what God did with us, right? The apostle Paul said, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.”

Thomas Merton said:

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy.

But sinful people like to fight evil with evil. We think that when someone mistreats us, we have the right to wave all decency and stoop to their level; we are no longer obligated to the ethical limits that God has given us. We get a free pass. David knew better.

This story reminds us that choice is the essence of character. Who you are when your circumstances are favorable doesn’t tell us who you really are; it’s when the pressure is on and temptation confronts you full throttle that reveals your true self.

I hope you’ll remember David’s response to Saul as you face your temptations today.

Prayer: Father, help me to stand in the face of temptation like David did. Help me to not waver; justifying what I want, only to regret it later. Help me to prepare in advance for temptation so my choice, and character, are predetermined. Amen.

Samuel, Day 21: God is Looking Out For You

 1samuelRead 1 Samuel 22-24

We are reading three chapters today. A little more than usual. If you have a map handy (see below), it might be interesting to follow David as he travels like a pinball in and around Israel trying to get away from Saul.

Rather than make one big point, today I’ll offer a few comments along the way. There are many teachable moments in these verses. See what you can find.

The Support You Need

David wasn’t looking to create a rebellion, he was just trying to survive. david-flees-1sam-21-23-1841x1257x300Yet people were attracted to him because Saul was becoming unhinged. David had something the people were looking for and they were willing to take a risk to follow him.

Then everyone who was in trouble, in debt, or bitter about life joined him, and he became their commander. There were about four hundred men with him. 1 Samuel 22:2

Now, David had more than Jonathan for support, he had 400 men. Plus, the nation of Moab was willing to keep his parents safe. David’s coalition was building.

Saul’s paranoia peaked and his morals bottomed when he commanded the genocide of the city of Nob for helping David. But while Saul was looking to destroy David, David found ways to rescue others:

David and his men went to Keilah, fought the Philistines, drove off their livestock, and decisively defeated them. So David rescued the people who lived in Keilah. 1 Samuel 23:5

In some ways, David’s band of men represented the church. In chapter 22 we learned that they were in trouble, in debt, or discontent…the offcasts of the culture. Yet God used these men, not just to protect each other from Saul, but to free other people from the enemy. It wasn’t formal or official. It was “organic” and it worked.

The Direction You Need

We often see David consulting God with “yes” or “no” questions through an ephod.

When Ahimelech’s son Abiathar fled to David at Keilah, Abiathar brought a priestly ephod with him. 1 Samuel 23:6

It’s not clear what an ephod was but we know it was something the priests wore (see Exodus 28:1-30). When the priest asked God a question, God signified a positive or negative response through the ephod.

The Protection You Need

In 23:19 the men of Ziph conspired to turn David in. But messengers tipped David off and then Saul was pulled away to fight the Philistines at the last minute. In all of these maneuverings God protected David.

Did you notice all the “strongholds” that were mentioned in this section? These were small fortresses scattered throughout the desert and mountains that David used as a temporary refuge. Like shade in the desert, God helped David find these strongholds at vulnerable times in his life.

What I see in all of this is that you can count on God to go before you, giving you the support, protection, and direction you need. You won’t always know what to do. You won’t always do the right thing. But if your heart’s desire is to please God, he will work all things together for your good.

Many times we don’t even know that God saved us. But some day God will show you all that he did for you and you’ll be amazed.

Prayer: Father, thank you for your protective hand in my life. This story shows me how you provide me with both people to support me, methods to direct me, and strongholds to protect me. You even foil the enemy’s plans against me. As the song says, You’re a good, good Father. That’s who you are. And I am loved by you. Thank you for that. May I trust you more knowing these things. Amen.

Samuel, Day 20: Confronting Abuse in Your Family

1samuel

Read 1 Samuel, chapter 20 and 21

I saw something in chapter 20 that I’ve never seen here before. David confronted Jonathan with the truth about his father Saul. Saul was out to kill David, but Jonathan didn’t want to believe it.

It dawned on me that this happens in many homes of abusers. Abuse of all kinds (physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, etc.) is often hidden from the family. The abuser knows his or her behavior is wrong so they keep it secret and threaten the abused if they ever reveal it.

In this story, Saul is the abuser, David is the abused, and Jonathan is the ignorant family member. When David confronts Jonathan with the truth, Jonathan can’t believe it. Listen to how Jonathan is quick to defend his father:

“That’s unthinkable! You’re not going to die! My father does nothing without telling me, whether it’s important or not. Why should my father hide this from me? It’s just not that way.” 1 Samuel 20:2

But it WAS that way. More than he could imagine. It was just so hard to believe that Jonathan’s first reaction was to deny it.

I often wonder how the abused person feels when they finally have the courage to open up about what’s been happening and someone tells them that it’s not possible. How shaming it must feel. What they are being told is that they are overreacting at best, and a liar at worst. Not the response you need in that moment.

Thankfully, David didn’t back down. He persisted:

I solemnly swear, as the LORD and you live, I’m only one step away from death.”1 Samuel 20:3

And thankfully, Jonathan was willing to at least consider that David wasn’t lying.

“As the LORD God of Israel ⌊is my witness⌋,” Jonathan continued, “I’ll find out in the next two or three days how my father feels about you. If he does feel kindly toward you, then I will send someone to tell you. 1 Samuel 20:12

Jonathan was willing to consider David’s accusation because Jonathan trusted David that much. But many abused people aren’t so lucky. Family members often “circle the wagons” and turn the accusation back on the accuser, refusing to look at the reality of the abuse that may have existed for years.

It makes sense, if you think about it. To admit that abuse has existed in your home does two things: one, it implicates someone you love. It shatters the image you have of them and you aren’t so sure you will know how to treat them or think of them if the accusation is true. Two, it implicates you for being blind to something that took place under your same roof. That’s hard to swallow. How could you have been so blind? It’s much easier to just ignore or deny the accusation.

David and Jonathan set up a way to determine if David was right or not. And sure enough, David was right about Saul. Saul’s anger at David’s absence proved it. And Jonathan experienced first hand the wrath of his dad:

Saul raised his spear to strike him. Then Jonathan knew his father was determined to kill David.  Jonathan got up from the table very angry and ate nothing that second day of the month. He was worried sick about David because Jonathan had been humiliated by his own father. 1 Samuel 20:33, 34

I realize that you probably didn’t expect abuse to come up as a devotional topic. Maybe it makes you uncomfortable. But it’s more common than we like to admit and God wants to bring it out of hiding.

Maybe abuse is the secret you and your family have been keeping. This story shows that, like David, we should expose abuse. And like Jonathan, we need to break the silence and listen to those who have the courage to bring it up.

This issue may not affect you, but it affects someone you know. Maybe it would be good to send them this post today.

Prayer: Father, it’s sad to admit that abuse happens in so many homes today, even the homes of Christians. Help us to find the courage to confront it and admit to it when it’s exposed. And then bring the healing to everyone involved that only you can bring. Amen.

Samuel, Day 19: The Leadership Ladder

1samuelDAY NINETEEN

In an effort to be done with these devotionals in 40 days, I need to pick up the pace. I don’t have time to draw out everything in each chapter. I’ll share what stands out to me. Feel free to write me with your questions. – Remy

Read 1 Samuel: chapters 18 and 19

 

Chapter 18 relates the great success that David had in his early days. This is where you see his gifts, calling, and natural talent all come together.

David was successful wherever Saul sent him. Saul put him in charge of the fighting men. This pleased all the people, including Saul’s officials. As they arrived, David was returning from a campaign against the Philistines. Women from all of Israel’s cities came to meet King Saul. They sang and danced, accompanied by tambourines, joyful music, and triangles. The women who were celebrating sang, “Saul has defeated thousands but David tens of thousands!”1 Samuel 18:5-7

There is often a pattern to God’s calling of a leader. First you see their success. Then comes the test. Initially they make an impact…almost effortlessly. This does two things: one, it encourages them to pursue leadership. Two, it establishes them as a leader in the eyes of others. These are both important.

But God doesn’t use people simply because they have talent. He requires character as well. No one develops character from success. They develop it through trial.

The Leadership Ladder

The balance between talent and character was explained to me once with two ladders. A leader climbs two side-by-side ladders at the same time: one leg on each ladder. One ladder is the Skill ladder. The other ladder is the Character ladder. One leg can’t get ahead of the other. As your skills develop, your character needs to also develop, and vice versa. Having all skill, or all character, won’t get the job done. You can only climb the ladders when both skills and character are developed simultaneously.

David showed us his skills. But God needed to develop his character.

God tested David’s character as Saul chased after him. How do you respond to the nasty person that is always out to get you? The person that never has a kind word? The person that wants to undermine you? How you respond reflects your character.

When you find yourself irritated with people or your circumstances, ask God to use them to develop your character. The quicker you can ask that question, the quicker you pass the test.

Who is Your Encourager?

When tests come, it seems like God always sends at least one person to be your encourager. Jonathan was that person to David. If you are going through a hard time, look for that person. If you can’t find one, call your pastor! I never want anyone going through a tough time alone.

Who has encouraged you through a tough time in the past? Have you ever thanked them? If you are going through a hard time now, do you need to invite someone into your life as your encourager? They may not know you need the encouragement unless you ask them.

Prayer: Father, help me to develop the character and skills you want me to have to become the person you want me to be. Help me submit to the irritations in my life and embrace them as your work in my life. And show me who my encouragers are so I don’t have to face problems alone. Give me the courage to invite people into my mess. Amen.

Samuel, Day 18: The Name of the Lord

1samuelRead 1 Samuel 16 & 17

I spoke about the anointing of David in my message on Sunday. You can read about it in chapter 16. Today I’ll look at the classic story of David and Goliath.

This story is very much like the story of Jonathan and his armor bearer (Chapter 14). Both of these stories are inspiring because these two young men were unblinkingly convinced that they, plus God, were a majority. Most people would run from even the idea of taking on a challenge like this. But their personality, plus the call of God, gave them everything they needed to face the impossible.

The heart of this story comes in what David spoke to Goliath:

David said to the Philistine, “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. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hands, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” Vss. 46,47

Reading through 1 Samuel you have to brace yourself for the gruesomeness of the realities of war. So, I’m sorry for the imagery here if you are eating breakfast as you read this! But count the number of times David uses the word “will” here. It’s telling of his confident attitude.

Not only was David convinced that God would do this, but it would happen TODAY and it would not be an isolated victory but total. Part of the reason for David’s faith was that God had shown up for him at other times when he faced animals as he defended his sheep.

One note to keep in mind, before God sends you to face a giant, he usually sends you to face smaller foes first. These tests help build your confidence to face even bigger ones.

David’s faith is the same faith that the Spirit of God within you wants to give you. He wants everyone to see God with this same confidence. How can I be so sure? Because God is the one who gets the credit when we think like this. There is no explanation other than that God showed up.

The Name of the Lord

A key to David’s confidence was the name of the Lord. To come “in the name of” someone at the time was to come in the full power and authority of the person you represent. So David didn’t just see himself as a follower of God in this moment; he saw himself as God’s designated representative. He wasn’t functioning in his power but with the power of God’s authority. That changed everything.

It’s worth a word study on the phrase. Here are two times David used this phrase in the Psalms:

Our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 124:8

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. Psalm 20:7

When you leave your house today to face the challenges of your life, will you go in your power or “in the name of the Lord?” It makes a difference.

Prayer: Father, I want to be like David. I want to not just face the challenges that come my way with more confidence. I want to take on challenges that advance your kingdom here on earth. I want to be used by you to help change lives for good. Fill me with your Spirit and change my way of thinking. Might I not be overcome by the challenges of life but be one who overcomes them in the name of the Lord. Amen.

 

 

Samuel, Day 17: To Obey is Better Than Sacrifice

1samuel

Read: 1 Samuel 15

This is one of the most important stories in 1 Samuel, if not in the entire Bible.

This isn’t the place to wrestle with what God asked of Saul. I will only say that in my limited knowledge of the mind of God, that it has to do with his holiness. The destruction of the Amalekites is a picture of the final judgment when God comes against everything that is opposed to him. I trust God knew what he was doing.

The bigger lesson here is to see Saul’s error. He felt comfortable modifying God’s command. For him, 90% obedience was good enough:

But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed. Vs 9

Saul set himself up to judge God’s desire. He would be the judge of what was good to keep and what was okay to kill. The key word in the sentence above might be “unwilling.” That’s not the heart that God was looking for in his leader. He was looking for someone willing to carry out all of his command.

Saul didn’t help his status by leaving the area and going to set up a monument in his honor in Carmel. He must have been quite pleased with himself. Isn’t it interesting to see the contrasting views of Saul. Saul was pleased and God was grieved. That shows how out of touch we can become in our self-assessment.

When confronted by Samuel, Saul sounded like Adam in the Garden of Eden: I didn’t do it. It was the woman! In Saul’s case, he pointed to his men. But the command went to Saul. He was responsible for the decision.

Surprisingly, he felt that he DID fulfill God’s command completely. He didn’t see the problem. He was just being practical in saving the animals and the king.

Samuel’s response is something every follower of Jesus needs to grasp:

“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”

Before Jesus left the earth, he told his disciples to teach people to OBEY everything he taught, not to simply read about it and do their best.

Disobedience can be forgiven but there are often serious consequences that follow our disobedience. In Saul’s case, he lost his position as king. He never got it back. The best way to live with no regrets is to obey God in the first place.

The church today has a similar casual attitude to obedience. We often sit in judgment of God’s word, deciding what we will and won’t obey. God still loves us, but that kind of attitude doesn’t honor God. That’s not the attitude that will receive the blessing of God.

I hope you will reflect on your life. My guess is you already know the areas that you have chosen to disobey God. Is it really worth whatever benefit you think you are getting? God honors those who honor him. I hope you will choose to honor God by obeying him in everything he’s shown you.

Prayer: Father, help me to see the areas where I am like Saul. What have I so easily justified where I don’t even see my wrong any more? Search me and show me where I’m wrong. Help me to love pleasing you more than pleasing myself. Amen.

 

Samuel, Day 16: Making Hasty Vows

1samuelDAY SIXTEEN

Read 1 Samuel 14:24-52

In this story we begin to see that Saul’s judgment was impaired. If you remember, Jonathan had just taken out a garrison with his armor bearer and God showed up in a big way. There was an earthquake that caused confusion and the Philistines started to fight each other.

The Israelites seized the moment to route their enemy. But this victory wasn’t enough for Saul. He wanted more. He made a foolish vow saying:

“Cursed be anyone who eats food before evening comes, before I have avenged myself on my enemies!”

This was an extreme overreaction and put his troops at great risk. It was totally self-serving and vindictive. It had nothing to do with the battle and everything to do with Saul being humiliated earlier in the day when Samuel told him that he was unfit to be king.

To Saul’s horror, the one person that did eat that day was his son, Jonathan. Saul placed himself in a terrible position, requiring the death of his son over a foolish vow. Thankfully the people overruled him and Jonathan was spared.

The lesson here is to never make a foolish vow in reacting to your own hurt. We often do that. When the pain is so great, we overreact to MAKE SURE we are never hurt or humiliated again. But it only hurts yourself and the ones you love.

For example, if you are hurt you might make these vows:

  • I will never open up to another person again.
  • I will never risk being made a fool again.
  • I will always pay people back who hurt me.
  • I will never trust anyone for anything again.

These vows might protect you in one way, but they have their own nasty consequences. These not only make you a smaller person but they punish others who, like Jonathan, have nothing to do with your issue.

For example, imagine that you were married and got a divorce because your first spouse betrayed you. You might vow to never trust anyone again. But that hurts your second marriage and leaves your current spouse emotionally frozen out. That’s not fair to him or her.

We often make vows that we aren’t even aware of making. It’s just an inner decision to protect ourselves. Take a minute to think about the times you’ve been hurt and whether or not you made a vow. Then consider how that vow is not only hurting you but, the ones you love. Finally, tell God that you want to break that vow. Release it and welcome back the good things you’ve been missing since you made the vow.

Prayer: Father, it’s easy to sit in judgment of Saul, but he merely reflects who I am in my darkest moments. I am susceptible to doing the same things he does. So please help me to see where I have made similar self-preserving and vindictive vows out of my hurt and fear. Help me to bring my deep hurt to you for healing. And might I trust in you in the future and not my vows. I turn my vows back to you now. Thank you. Amen.