Rejoice, Repent, Relinquish

1 Samuel 2 & Psalms 3

In today’s readings we follow three attitudes and approaches to God from three different people (Hannah, the Sons of Eli, David). 1 Samuel outlines Hannah’s song of praise and then in contrast, the choices of the worthless sons of Eli.  Turning to Psalms we find David’s prayer of trust in God.

After years of praying and waiting, Hannah is blessed with a son, Samuel, and her response is one of genuine joy and gratitude. She declares in this prayer-song who the Lord is, what He has done, and what He will do.  His knowledge and judgement are perfect: He makes the feeble strong, feeds the hungry, brings babies to the barren, poor become rich, exalts the lowly, and protects His faithful. Her worship to the Lord with her words is a foreshadowing of Mary’s song in Luke 1, praising God for who He is and what He has done.

Meanwhile, Eli’s sons continue to disobey God and are called worthless men who do not know the Lord. One of the transgressions detailed is their taking advantage and dishonoring the sacrifices to God from the people. Eli rebukes his sons, and instead of responding with sorrow and repentance for their sin, they continue in a sinful lifestyle – even sleeping with servant women at the temple entrance. They demonstrate complete disregard for Eli’s admonishment, and most of all for God. They are arrogant in their positions as Eli’s sons and ‘servants of the priest’, and it is known among Israel.

Fast-forward to Psalm 3, David’s prayer-song to God of the events unfolding (that come later in 2 Samuel 15-16).  David’s son Absalom has created a conspiracy against David and has turned the people against him. As David flees from Jerusalem to the Jordan river, he cries out to the Lord. Verses 1 & 2 outline the reality of David’s situation and what he is up against – many, MANY enemies that are against him and almost taunting his faith and salvation. I love verse 3, the turning point in this song, beginning with “But YOU, Oh Lord…”, David’s hope and fear is in the Lord, not in man. He declares God’s protection, answering, and sustaining, even when he is surrounded. He turns it over to God and His trust is in Him alone.

These three scenarios leave us with examples of how we can respond to God.  Both Hannah and David declare WHO God is, what He has done, and what He will do.  One after experiencing a miracle and the other in a plea for protection and prayer of trust.  And finally, we have an example that leads to destruction: responding to God with continued sin and rebellion. I can’t read these accounts without examining my own response to God.

In times of blessings and miracles right in front of me, do I stop and praise God for His perfect provision and timing? What a beautiful example of rejoicing Hannah gives us! Whether it be something small that the world may brush off as coincidence, or something much bigger that is clearly divine, do I give God all the glory? Do I continually believe in WHO God is and WHAT He will do?

In times of Godly correction, can I soften my heart to repent or will I rebel even more? Maybe it’s a prompting from the Holy Spirit showing me my sin, a sister in Christ sharing a truth I need to hear, or a scripture speaking right to me.  I can look back at times when my response was much more like Eli’s worthless sons, rationalizing and justifying my actions, instead of turning to God with sorrow for my sin.

In times of desperation, like David, can I turn my fear into faith? Do I say ‘But YOU, Oh Lord…’ when faced with trials that seem unfair? Am I willing to believe that His judgement and justice is best?  David could have fought to stay in Jerusalem and clear his name, instead he chose to protect his followers and flee to keep them out of harm’s way. Can I praise Him in the midst of fear and heartache? Am I willing to let God fight my battles and relinquish the control I think I have?

Lord, you ARE the Almighty, King of all Kings. Your ways are far beyond my understanding. Thank you for showing me grace and patience as I repent for my sin and rebellion. Please give me the rejoicing heart of Hannah and the relinquishing trust of David. Amen.

Repent, Repent, Repent

Todays Reading: Luke 18

This is Lynden; it is a privilege to be writing again this week.  The Spirit has led me to reexamine the concept of repentance. In Luke 18, we are given a beautiful, yet hard illustration of true repentance.

Luke 18: 9-14

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed[a] thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

How many times have we found ourselves as the Pharisee? I know that I have probably several times this past week. It is not malevolent in the intention, but we do look at others and make criticisms about their situation or condition. Sometimes we try to help them out or voice our concerns on them but fail to see how God will work in their life. I have been convicted to constantly look inside myself and reanalyze what purpose does God have for me in this situation. I pray constantly to be an instrument in God’s purpose.

Growing up in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, I had the belief of repentance as something that is done once and you are not ever suppose to change or revert. When you have this idea you start to question your own progress and outlook. You feel that if you fall or “back slide” you cannot get back to the “right” place. You feel that God is going to judge you different and the marks against you will keep adding up. I have new hope and a new growth as I have matured in my Christian journey.

A few reference verses that have ministered to me are:

Matthew 18: 21-22

21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Luke 17: 3-4

Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

Repentance is a constant and dynamic change that allows you to grow in Christ. Repentance is the knowledge that you are not where you are supposes to be, but making the changes and to get to your destination. I realize, I have grown into the Tax Collector, I am forever asking God to have mercy on me and I am not worthy for His blessings.

In writing this post I had an epiphany, the main people that were part of the “Twelve” are fishermen. The main tool that a fisherman uses is the boat. If you have ever had any experience using a sailboat or canoe, you know that you cannot go from point A to point B in a single “straight” line. You plot a course then you sail for awhile, then you realign yourself and course correct and then sail a little bit more, and then you course correct again then you repeat. Finally you arrive at your destination. If you were able to map out your traveled course you would find that you had a zigzag pattern over the water, but you are at the planned final destination. It is awesome how God uses the fisherman as an example for repentance; they knew that to get across the water you have to make constant corrections (repentance) to make it to the final destination. As it is state in the text, you cannot change once, or seven times, but as many as it takes to make it to the final destination.

Heavenly Father, continue to guide us on our journey. We will fall and drift off course, please me merciful to us as we are all sinners and need guidance daily. Amen