INTRODUCTION

In the book of James, the Bible tells us that our tongue, for being such a little body member, can make big boasts.  James also likens the tongue to a rudder on a ship that can steer the whole body in a certain direction. Our speech directing our lives can be a good or a bad thing.  Instead of focusing on ourselves through our own boasting, we can focus our lives towards God, by boasting in Him.

You may not realize this, but you can always choose to speak the truth about God, thereby changing your mind, heart, will and direction of your life!  You alone have that power over your own life.

Today, we talk about a man who boasted in the Lord.  He used his mouth to praise God, in the good times and bad times, but especially the bad times.  Like Job, he, too, went through a crisis of circumstances that left him and his men devastated!

DAVID’S CRISIS

That morning he was their leader, hero and mentor.  But, right now, they wanted to stone him for what had taken place.

David had already had it hard enough.  He had spent years running from the murderous envy of King Saul in Israel.  To get relief from the continual cycle of breathless escapes, secret scurrying from city to city and dogged hikes deeper into the wilderness, David had escaped to the Philistine territory.  Fatigue and discouragement, at that point, took over and pushed him away from his place of destiny!  He reasoned to himself, if I go to the Philistines, Saul will stop chasing me.

David used King Saul’s hatred for him to convince one of the Philistine kings he had turned his back on Israel.  Eventually, David also persuaded King Achish of Gath to give him, his men and their families their own town in which to live, Ziklag.

It was in coming back to their town that the trouble started.

After raiding various foreign territories, David and his men returned to Ziklag only to find its charred remains.  The men surveyed a blackened camp dotted with piles of soot, stray garments and random household bowls, tools and cups.  There was hardly anything left to identify, since almost all of it was taken, including their wives and children.

From the camp, a deep guttural cry arose, and, then, another and another.  Pretty soon all the men were weeping and wailing over their loss, until they could cry no more.

Then, their minds started to turn:  This was all David’s fault!  Why did he decide to come here?  Why did he bring us here?  If we weren’t here, then we’d be with our families right now!

David could feel the edge in their sharp eyes and angry tones as he heard the rumblings of them turning on him.  He may have escaped the pressure of being chased by Saul, but now another trial was pressing down on him.  Loss, desperation, the antagonism and hopelessness of his men…intensifying, growing until they all wanted to stone him.

He had no-one left to turn to in his distress, except for God!

While running for his life in Israel, God’s name was always on his lips.  He had to pray, cry out, sing, for at any moment he could’ve been betrayed and captured.   He had missed the urgency of needing God every single day!  He had spent the last year and four months in Philistine territory and now his life there was being blasted out from under him.

He discovered he couldn’t find refuge in a foreign land, away from the demonically charged pursuit of Saul, he could only really find refuge in God.

In a few minutes, the men, at different moments of awakening out of their stupor and grief, tried to find David, but he was nowhere to be found.  He had left the camp to get alone with God.  As the circumstances pressed in on him, he had to press into God.

IF THEY CAN MAKE IT, YOU CAN MAKE IT

You can read the account of this story in 1 Samuel 30.  Last week, we shared about Job’s trials.  Everything was taken from him, one right after the other, including his ten grown children killed all at once.  Now, we read about David’s camp being raided by the Amalekites who took everything, including their wives and children.

Maybe, it’s difficult to relate to these examples.  I mean… what’s the likelihood of your family being taken in a raid?  But, I think God uses these extreme examples to show us that no matter what we’ve gone through or will go through, there’s been somebody in the Bible who has gone through worse.

Let me learn from Job’s life and responses, since his life epitomizes losing everything and hitting rock bottom, despite doing everything right and being good and righteous.

Let me learn from David’s life and responses, despite drifting from God’s calling and losing everything, due to his own compromise and poor choices.

We can go on to talk about the people in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11 or recount Paul’s many persecutions, trials and hardships as a devoted follower of Jesus.  (2 Corinthians 11:16-23)

The point is no matter what’s gone on in your life, these people who have suffered much worse, know somewhat how you feel.  At the very least, they know what it means to experience the depths of despair.  When we find ourselves in those places, their good examples help teach us how to respond.

I don’t minimize anybody’s feelings of what they’ve suffered or had to endure, because each one of us has experienced a depth of pain unique to us and our set of circumstances.

But, who of us can say, “I’ve suffered more than Job.”    If Job, who was more righteous than anyone on Earth during his time, didn’t have grounds to justify and defend himself before God, then who are we to try to do the same??  How often do we charge God with being unfair, unloving and/or unjust, because of our trials and circumstances?

HOW DAVID RESPONDED TO THE CRISIS

Many people say that David was living in compromise during these events.  He wasn’t necessarily living an immoral life, just distant from the circumstances God had placed him in to mold, shape and test him.  Ziklag may not have needed to happen.  But, God used it, nonetheless.  Since crisis had a way of bringing David to his knees worshiping God, God would allow the crisis to find him in Philistine territory.

Consequently, there was no self-righteous justification coming from David’s lips.

But, we also don’t hear self-pity, self-condemnation, guilt or a host of other things David could’ve declared in the presence of God or even his men.   Not that there isn’t a place for self-reflection, repentance and making amends to people for our poor life choices, but David didn’t sink in the mire of the things he may have down wrong, and neither should we.  God doesn’t need us to do time in the “dog house,” before we can come back to Him.   He wants us back in His good graces right away!

We only read one statement of how David initially responded to his crisis moment:

David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him;  each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters.  BUT DAVID FOUND STRENGTH IN THE LORD HIS GOD.  –1 Samuel 30:6  (Caps mine.)

BIBLE STUDY TOOLS

*Note:  All keyword definitions come from the Blue Letter Bible App.

God used David’s Circumstances to Press in on Him

Of course, I like to break down key verses and to define key words to get as much from them as possible.  Let your own questions, curiosity, and need to know attitude lead you on a journey to explore deeper and find some answers.

To get to David’s emotional state, I wanted to define “distressed.”

The Strong’s Hebrew word H6887, tsarar, has various meanings:  to bind, be narrow, be in distress, to press hard upon, to show hostility toward, to cramp, literally or figuratively, to oppress, to shut up, to vex, to be in a strait, etc.

Interestingly enough, it also means to compress.

Definition of compress:  flatten by pressure; squeeze or press, or to be squeezed or pressed together or into a smaller space.  (bing. com)

According to Hitchcock’s Bible Names Dictionary Ziklag means “Measure pressed down.”   God used this place to allow his compromise to come crashing down on him.    I often look up the meaning of Biblical names, because I know many of them are significant to the meaning of what’s happening in the story.

We may have all had those situations, where we felt intimidation and evil pressing in upon us, breathing down our necks, to try to trap us in a tight place of hopelessness, darkness and despair.  That’s what David was feeling.

David took the Long Way Around

Another possible meaning for “Ziklag” is winding.  Even though I already know what winding means, I still like to look at dictionary definitions.  I don’t want to miss anything.   As a noun, it means a twisting movement or course.  As an adjective, it means following a twisting or spiral course.

Since God likes to make a straight path for us, this word “winding” here for “Ziklag” has a negative connotation.  David didn’t have to take this twisted course in order to spare himself from Saul’s sword.   I feel like God’s saying here that David made this period of his life longer and harder for himself.

DAVID FINDS STRENGTH IN GOD

Then, I wanted to understand in more detail what it meant for David to “find strength” in God.

The Strong’s Hebrew word H2388, chazaq , has various meanings:  to prevail, to prevail upon, harden, be strong, become strong, be courageous, be firm, grow firm, be resolute, to restore to strength, to have or take or keep hold of, etc.

David prevailed over the fear, intimidation and darkness to get the mind of Christ and return back to his roots as a person utterly dependent on God.

God, sometimes, allows trials and hardships into our lives to bring us back to Him!  When we experience our escape from tragedy and death, we end up boasting in God rather than ourselves.   Later, we find that David and his men retrieve everything back from the Amalekites.  Until the time of restoration, David had to take everything by faith.

David had learned his lesson at Ziklag.   As a result, he specifically asked God whether or not he should go after them.  Will he find success?  Most people would’ve thought it’d be a no brainer for these experienced, well-trained warriors to take on the Amalekites to get everything back.  But, in the wake of his mistakes and compromise, David utterly submitted his reasoning and choices up to God.   He would do what only God told him to do.

HOW GOD REDEEMED MY LIFE FROM A LITTLE PIT

I had a recent experience where I felt God delivered me from a trial.  Those who have kept up with this blog know I recently got a pricey ticket for parking in a no parking zone.   Of course, I wouldn’t knowingly break the ordinance.  Other cars were parked there at the same time, mistakingly.  In the off chance something may happen, I went to parking court to try to bring down the cost of the ticket.  I showed them pictures of the “No Parking” sign obscured by tree branches and leaves and explained that may have been part of the problem.  They’ve since cut down that part of the tree.

She dismissed my ticket and sent me off with a warning.  “Yes!”   I strode out of that building, elated, continually thanking God for giving me a small measure of my life back, the money I would’ve had to pay if nothing changed.  It was my mistake, but God graced me out!  The other great part about it is that I had learned my lesson.  I no longer rush to work, because I don’t want to find myself in a set of similar circumstances.

HOW DID DAVID STRENGTHEN HIMSELF IN GOD

We’re not given any specific details of what David did or how he prayed.  What was his secret?  To access the kind of relationship he had with God, it may help to do what David did.  I could then also get closer to David’s heart of worship, burning passion for God and his many victories, even after times of compromise.

Fortunately, there’s much to study about in the life of David.  Next to Jesus, God wrote more about David than any other person in the Bible.  We can get an open look into his heart by reading the many psalms he wrote in worship to God.  In other words, clues abound.

THE “I WILLS…” OF DAVID

As mentioned before, David chose to worship, bless and praise God with his mouth, whether he felt like it or not, in both bad and good circumstances.   We, too, can use the words of our mouths to our advantage by boasting in God, no matter what life brings us.

He took the rudder of his tongue and pointed it towards God to steer his whole life in the direction of worship and boasting in the Lord!   He’d tell his soul to wake up and worship God, hope in God, trust in God, praise God, etc.!   David strengthened his spirit to command his soul to do what it needed to do!

GOD MEANT FOR US TO FOLLOW DAVID’S EXAMPLE

Let me show you what I mean by sharing several examples.

Psalm 34:1-2:  I WILL EXTOL THE LORD AT ALL TIMES, his praise will always be on my lips.  I WILL GLORY IN THE LORD, let the afflicted hear and rejoice. 

Psalm 42:11:  Why, my soul, are you downcast?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in god, for I WILL YET PRAISE HIM, MY SAVIOR AND MY GOD. 

Psalm 52:9:  For what you have done I WILL ALWAYS PRAISE YOU in the presence of your faithful people.  And I WILL HOPE IN YOUR NAME for your name is good.

Psalm 86:12:  I WILL PRAISE YOU, LORD, MY GOD; with all my heart;  I WILL GLORIFY YOUR NAME FOREVER.

I hope you get the idea of the pattern of David’s life and declarations with his mouth.   In other words, it was a lifestyle of choosing to BOAST IN GOD.

There are many more “I WILLS of David”  hidden within the nooks and crannies of a long numbered list of his psalms.

PSALM 57 AS A PRIME EXAMPLE

I wanted to highlight Psalm 57 as an example.   [Read Psalm 57]

My Blue Letter Bible shares as the context of the psalm “When he had fled from Saul into the cave.”   The psalm describes the desperate feeling of being hunted down like an animal.  In the midst of harrowing circumstances and disturbed feelings, we hear a cry arise from David:  “I WILL…!”

As David praises God (speaks the truth about Who God is), God opens up the narrow circumstances that threaten to destroy him.   David ends the song with the expanse of God’s goodness and deliverance!

My heart, O God, my heart is steadfast, my heart is steadfast;  I WILL SING AND MAKE MUSIC.

Awake, my soul!  Awake, harp and lyre!  I WILL AWAKEN THE DAWN.

I WILL PRAISE YOU, LORD, among the nations; I WILL SING OF YOU among the peoples.

For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;  your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.  –Psalm 57:8-11  (Caps mine.)

David responded to his troubles and trials by praising and thanking God!  He used his “I will…” statements to command his soul and spirit to line up with the worthiness and truth of God!  This “worship at all costs” attitude may have been why God described David as “a man after his own heart” and chose him to be the king of Israel.  His line would bring forth the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who’ll sit on the throne of David forever!

SACRIFICE OF PRAISE AND THANKSGIVING

Throughout the psalms, David didn’t minimize or sugarcoat his trials and tribulations.  He was forthright, transparent and honest about his negative circumstances and the feelings he had about them!

I guarantee you he didn’t often FEEL like praising God!  How can you praise God when your family has been taken and the men you took under your wing as brothers now want to kill you?  No, human being in their natural mind would feel like praising God under those circumstances.

But, that’s why it’s called a SACRIFICE of praise and thanksgiving!

It’s important to remember:  sacrifice, back in that day, meant something much more severe than what it means to us!

For us, a sacrifice may mean we have to give up our Saturday to help a friend move.  To them, sacrifice meant a living animal had to die, in their place no less.

In other words, when the Bible calls us to be “a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1) or offer the “sacrifice of praise,” it means something has to die.  We may have to die to a number of things in order to be willing to give what our flesh doesn’t want to give.

  • We may have to die to ourselves.
  • We may have to die to our feelings.
  • We may have to die to our sense of “fairness” and “justice” informed by the world.
  • We may have to die to our desires and expectations.
  • We may have to die to our sense of timing of when God’s promise will come.
  • We may have to die to our God-given promises.

We can only offer the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, when we’re willing to approach the altar of God and give the proper offering in surrender.   These sacrifices please God, because they’re really about Him and not about us!  We honor and glorify God when we praise Him, despite how our circumstances may seem to contradict God’s truth, faithfulness and goodness.

Below, David writes about his motivations for giving God “sacrifices of thanksgiving.”  In Psalm 56, David admits he’s afraid, because of his enemies, but puts his trust in God.  God’s past faithfulness inspires David to believe that God will continue to deliver him.  He thanks God for delivering him in the past.

Your vows are binding upon me, O God; I will render thank offerings to you.  For you have delivered my soul from death, indeed my feet from stumbling, so that I may walk before God in the light of the living.   –Psalm 56:12-13

Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love, and his wonderful deeds for mankind.  Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of his works with songs of joy.  –Psalm 107:21-22

In Hebrews 13, the writer reminds us of how the high priest had to carry the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering.  Later on, Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice by shedding His blood for us on the cross outside the camp (verses 11-12)

For the writer of Hebrews, the idea of sacrifice as shedding blood and dying, woven throughout God’s redemptive plan, included what we speak with our mouths:

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise — the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. –Hebrews 13:15

WHEN WE HONOR GOD WITH OUR TONGUE, GOD HONORS US WITH HIS INTERVENTION

“Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”  –Psalm 50:14-15

The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!  –Psalm 50:23

CONCLUSION

You know, I’ve learned so much studying this subject of love in the context of these passages and meditating on the messages God forms in my Spirit.  For any who are reading these blog posts, I hope these things speak to you as well!  I truly believe God wants us to go deeper into His word!  He wants to prepare us for what we face today and what we’ll face tomorrow.   I’m convinced that every answer to life can be found in God’s word!

MY WEAPON IS A MELODY

Throughout this week, the one song that’s been coming to mind is Jonathan and Melissa Helser’s “Raise a Hallelujah!”

I love how they express intimacy with God passionately through their worship!  They really seem to have a good grasp of the Father’s heart towards us and the power of praise and worship to defeat the enemy!

Here’s another painting I felt inspired to share.  My Job painting was intense and somewhat dark and depressing.  Granted, he was at a major crisis point in his life.  But, then again, here David is at one of his major crisis points.  He responds differently than Job.  He uses praise not only to wake up his spirit, but as a weapon against the darkness!  I wanted to share something more hopeful, showcasing what I consider the translucent beauty of watercolor.  Of course, it’s not perfect and I’m still learning, but I know enough to know that watercolor can make some great sunrises and sunsets.  In this case, it’s a sunrise.  And, I used gouache, which acts like a watercolor, given enough water dilution, but can also be opaque like an acrylic.  More than anything else, I just like the message.

I call it Sacrifice of Praise.

 

 

–Joyce Lee

REFLECTION AND APPLICATION QUESTIONS

  1. Do you have a situation that bothers you or that you are stewing over, because it isn’t what you would like it to be?  Maybe, you’ve grumbled and complained about it.  (I’ve been known to do that a time or two.)  Better yet, maybe, you’ve put your hand over your mouth and just kept silent.

Now, I want to challenge both you and myself.  Let’s give God a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.  Do that for as long as what you perceive to be the problem exists?  Let that attitude spread into other problems and not-so-pleasant situations!  Remember, it’ll cost you something to do this.  In other words, experiencing a feeling of dying is what’s supposed to happen.

  1. Do an extensive study on the “I WILLS of David?”  It can be a longterm study that you do at your own pace.

Break out the concordance and look up the instances of “I will”… in the book of Psalms.   Do a little research.  If not already stated, try to find the context for each psalm you find each “I will” statement.  Much of the general context will be seen in the passage itself.  Many of these were written by David, but some may be written by others, who had the same heart and quite possibly learned from David’s example.

  1. Have you ever considered steering your life by the direction of your words?

Step 1–What are the words coming from your mouth?  What messages do you communicate to God and others?  Do your words more often praise or accuse God?  Take a measure of time and pay attention to your words.  Write some of them down, if necessary.

Step 2–Examine the underlying messages of your words.  Are they Biblical or worldly?  Do you they communicate accurate or distorted pictures of God, the truth of your circumstance(s) and/or yourself?

Step 3–Systematically replace lies with the truth.

  1. Reflect upon, write down and commit to use “I WILL…” statements for your own life in the spirit of David.   It could be one, five, ten or more.  But, commit that no matter what your circumstances look like, you’ll make these declarations from the heart.  When you boast in God, He’ll show you His salvation.
  2. Commit to a lifestyle of worship like David.   When attacked and oppressed, David would often resort to singing worship songs!  Of course, you don’t have to have music to praise God.  You can pray them or declare them out loud!  But, since David was musical, he’d often put those truth declarations into his songs.

When you’re feeling down and circumstances aren’t going well for you, consider turning towards worshiping God!

IMPORTANT NOTE:  In no way do I minimize grieving over legitimate losses and sharing your burdens with others so they can sit, weep and pray with you.  God highlights in His word that those things are important, even necessary, and have their place.

But, I think through the example of David, God’s trying to teach us the power of worship and praising Him!

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