Category Archives: Mercy

When Opportunity Knocks

 

Throughout my years in the workforce, I’ve had quite a few different jobs.  I really do have the utmost respect and admiration of those who hold the same position for decades with the same company/business.  That’s never been me.images

Let me expound for a moment.  I am not a slacker by any means.  In fact, in nearly every job I’ve started, the company has wanted to promote me fairly quickly into a management/lead role.  When you are promoted quicker, and over those who have been at the job longer, you have to come to the realization that you are meant for leadership.  I don’t say that to brag.  I am just confident in what God has placed within me.

For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south.  But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another. – Psalm 76:6-7 KJV

Opportunities have seemed to present themselves to me when things are going good.  If I didn’t look at it correctly, I’d get quite frustrated thinking I’d made the wrong decision.  It’s easier to leave a job when things are going down the toilet and you are fed up with what you’re doing…but when things are going really well?  That’s a whole different story there.  It makes a decision to leave really difficult when you have no reason to leave.

Maybe I’ve made the right decisions along the way, and maybe I’ve jumped ship too soon.  However I can tell you that I’ve always believed in my heart that I was doing the right thing.  Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t taken every opportunity that’s come my way, but with each transition I’ve made, I did so with the mind that I was bettering my situation and knowing it would allow me to grow in different areas that I needed growth.

I consider my self to be very blessed when it comes to the leadership positions I’ve been given.  The current position is one that I’ve been entrusted with much, by people who had no knowledge of me prior.  They sought me out and offered me a job that has given me the freedom to do with the business as I see fit, with little to no interference by the business owners.  I still answer to them if need be, but in the end, I really answer to God.

Many times as a leader, I’ve had a different type of opportunity arise.  One that didn’t cause me to consider leaving, but rather made me examine my integrity.  This type of opportunity always knocked when I did something wrong.  It offered me chance to admit my mistakes, make excuses to justify my screw ups, or cover it up out of fear of consequences.  I’d love to say I’ve always owned up and admitted what I did wrong, but sad to say, I’ve done all three.  I will say that in the years since my encounter with God, I’ve done a much better job of the former, rather than the latter of the three.

Speaking of leaders who make mistakes, the Bible is FULL of them.  One in particular that I’d like to touch on is Saul.  It either eludes minds, or for whatever reason, we skip over the fact that Saul was given a unique opportunity.  He was God’s first choice to rule as King forever.

And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever.” – 1 Samuel 13:13

Did you really catch that?  Saul, and his descendants, were meant to rule forever…God’s original plan was not David!   This is some very deep stuff to consider.  God knew what Saul would do, yet David was second choice.  David, as I talked about it in my previous writing, was the only man in scripture to be referred to as being after God’s own heart.  But David was God’s second choice?  I can speculate all I want and scholars can debate it till the end of the age, but we will truly never know why.  In fact, it’s hard to even fathom why.  Some will play the “God works in mysterious ways” card, but not me.  I hate that card, but that’s for another time.  Moving on.

Even though the LORD knew what Saul would do, there are two things God did for Saul that we need to think about.  The first thing: God still gave him the opportunity to lead.

God gave Saul the chance to lead.  He did so knowing that Saul would do wrong.  That should speak volumes for us.  There are many people who think that they’ll never get the opportunity that they seek and desire because they think they’ll screw it up so, “God would never give me the opportunity.”

Think about Moses for a moment.  God called Moses to lead His people and He did so in a miraculous way that was never seen before and has never been seen again.  How did Moses respond?  By killing an Egyptian and fleeing out of fear for his life.  Yet who ended up leading Israel out of Egypt?  Moses.

Think about Jonah.  God called Jonah to preach to the people of Nineveh.  How did Jonah respond?  He jumped on a ship in an attempt to hide.  We all know what good that did him.  However, in the end, who walked into the city of Nineveh and gave them a word of prophesy?  Jonah.

God knew what both of those men would do, yet he gave them the opportunity to lead regardless.  How encouraging is that!  Just like Saul, God did not withhold anything from them, despite knowing their future mistakes.  (I will definitely be talking about that in the future.  There’s so much more contained in that truth.)

The second thing we need to consider is: God gave him the opportunity to repent.

God gave Saul the chance to repent.  Let’s read what his response was in 1 Samuel 13:11-12:

“…Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash; Therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the Lord: I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering.”–   1 Samuel 13:11-12

Here’s how I can hear Saul saying it in modern terms, “The people were freaking out!  You were no where to be found!  Something had to be done.  You left me with no other choice!”  My, oh my.  Blame shifting, panic, fear…this from a man that was God’s first choice.

If you continue reading in 1 Samuel 15, it appears as if God is willing to give Saul a second chance.  Yet Saul does his own thing once again.  He blatantly lies to Samuel in verse 13:”I have performed the commandment of the LORD.”  

Liar, liar, pants on fire!  He was to “smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.”  That sounds pretty harsh, but because Saul did his own thing, Haman (a descendant of Agag the Amelek king) nearly got the opportunity to perform genocide on the entire nation of the Jews.  (Read the book of Esther.)

When given the second opportunity to repent, Saul’s response was, “ I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.  Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the Lord.”  Nothing but more excuses.  No sincerity and no real sorrow.  How do I know?  David would never have been king.

There is no doubt in my mind that if Saul had answered differently from a sincere heart of repentance on either occasion, God would’ve left him on the throne.  His mercies and faithfulness didn’t just start in Lamentations, they were there from the beginning.  Jeremiah knew it and David experienced it.  Saul was extended the same mercy, but rejected it.

One of the most profound things I said to a youth group once (and I had them repeat after me) was, “I suck at being righteous on my own.”  Because I do.  Because you do.  Because Saul did.  Isiah referred to self-righteous acts as “filthy rags”.  Look it up if you want to know what it means.  I can tell you it’s not pretty, but that’s exactly what pride is.  It’s exactly what kept Saul from fulfilling his destiny.  Don’t let it do the same to you.

So how do you know when you’ve gone too far?  I’d say you’re probably safe if you’re even asking that question, but if you really are concerned about it, honestly and truthfully examine what you’re answer would be if you were in Saul’s shoes.  Would your answer be one of real sorrow and from a desire to do the right thing?  Or would you apologize just to get out of trouble, thinking that you were never wrong from the beginning?

Saul allowed something to dictate his actions.  He allowed something to rule his life.  Saul let one thing take precedence over a lifelong opportunity.  That one thing was pride.

Pride has the ability to do irreparable damage.  Pride is associated with the devil.  Pride is probably the only thing that will keep you from fulfilling God’s call for your life.  Pride will deafen you to the sound of opportunity knocking.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23 – ESV

I’ll say it again: If you have a sincere desire to please God, regardless of where you are in life and despite the mistakes you’ve made or are currently making, you are not too far gone.  The humble will never cease to hear opportunity when it knocks.


After God’s Own Heart

ritmo-sinusal-imgI was reading through a few Psalms one day and after going over one of my favorites, Psalm 37,  I got to thinking about David (no surprise). The only time in the Bible that we have recorded as mentioning that someone was after God’s own heart, was referencing David. In 1 Samuel 13, Saul had disobeyed God’s instructions and as a result, the position of King was going to be taken from him. In verse 13-14, the prophet Samuel said to Saul, “Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever. But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee.” (Emphasis mine.)

Think about that for a minute.  The LORD considered David to be a man after his own heart.  What did he mean by that?  How are you one after someone else’s heart?  To me, I consider that to mean David would seek the things that are important to God; that David would find importance in the things that carried eternal value, not just what brought immediate gratification.  Even in terms speaking of one man to another, you would simply place value on the same things that another person does.  Paul said something similar to Timothy in Philippians 2:19-20 – “But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state.  For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state.”  You could say that Timothy was a man after Paul’s heart.  There was no one else that Paul would consider sending on something important.  He knew that Timothy would care for the church at Philippi just as he would as if Paul were there himself.  I think that the LORD saw David in the same light: that David would represent the Kingdom of Heaven well….but did he?

Granted David did many things that pleased God, however, there were a few things that did not go over so well with the LORD (in no particular order).

The most well known incident in David’s life is his affair with Bathsheba.  You can read about it in detail in 2 Samuel chapters 11-12.  To sum it up, a man named Uriah was a soldier in David’s army and while Uriah was out fighting a battle to which David should have been at, David had an affair with Uriah’s wife Bathsheba and she got pregnant.  When David found out, he commanded that Uriah be brought to him.  When Uriah came to David, he basically told Uriah to take a break and go home to his wife.  David did so hoping that Uriah would go have relations with Bathsheba and it would hopefully cover up his incident.  Well that didn’t work out because Uriah spent the night on the steps of the palace because he couldn’t dream of relaxing while his fellow soldiers were out fighting.  What a stand up guy!  When that didn’t work, David got him drunk and tried again.  No go on that angle either.  So David got a “bright idea” and told the captain to place Uriah at the most dangerous place in the battle and have the rest of the men fall back so that Uriah would be killed.  He told the captain by means of a letter that he handed to Uriah to give to the captain!  Uriah was carrying his own death warrant and never even knew it!  David believed Uriah to be such a stand up guy that he knew Uriah wouldn’t open the letter!  Well, needless to say Uriah was killed and David ended up marrying Bathsheba, but the baby died as a result of what David had done.  This from a guy who was after God’s own heart.

Another incident in David’s life was recorded in 1 Chronicles 21.  David ordered Joab to perform a census in Isreal.  Even Joab knew that was not right, but David insisted and God was not pleased.  As a result, 70,000 people were killed.

So here we have adultery, murder, lying, to top it off, genocide.  Yet David was a man after God’s own heart?  Didn’t God know that David would screw up like he did?  I believe so, but I still think God saw David as a man after His own heart.  Certainly adultery, murder, lying, and genocide are not things that God places value on.  Those are not things that pleases God.  However, reading past those mistakes David made, reveal why I believe David was a man after God’s heart.

In both instances, when David came to his senses, he owned up to what he had done and relied on the mercy of God.  So what’s the big deal about that?  David understood the value of judgement, mercy, and forgiveness.

David knew what he had done was wrong and knew that his actions would bring judgement upon him and upon Israel.  When the judgement came, David never accused God of being unjust in the punishment.  In other words, he took it like a man.  He didn’t whine about it or even attempt to negotiate with God.  In fact, when David saw Israelites being killed as a result of his census, David offered himself up to be slain in their stead.  He fully admitted that he was the one that deserved the punishment for what was done.

On the flip side of things, consider Saul.  It either eludes minds or for whatever reason, we skip over the fact that Saul was God’s first choice to rule as King forever.  I quoted it in the first paragraph, but here it is again: “And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever.” – 1 Samuel 13:13

Reading through the remainder of Saul’s life and his relationship with David, reminds me of Hebrews 12:15 (NLT) – “Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.

Saul was most definitely poisoned by bitterness.  He relentlessly and passionately pursued David at all costs.  How many lives were lost, how many resources were wasted, etc., all because Saul refused to own up to his mistake when confronted?

And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. – 2 Samuel 12:13 KJV

I love this.  David’s response was so simple.  Obviously, he didn’t just own up to his grave error to get out of trouble.  I believe in that moment, his eyes were finally opened to the life he had been living.  He didn’t like what he had become.  He truly felt remorse for what he had done.  Was he forgiven?  Yes.  Did God show him mercy?  Yes.  Was there still punishment to be dealt?  Yes.  Unfortunately, that was how it worked under the first covenant.  Thanks be to God that we won’t suffer judgement due to our actions.  Will there still be consequences?  Possibly, but it won’t be God that’s punishing us.

In the end of it all, no matter what you do wrong or why you did it, it’s highly unlikely you’re too far gone to be forgiven.  In fact, the sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf is so powerful, He has already forgiven you for it.  At the same time, the LORD always gives us a choice.  Just as Saul and David chose the end of their story, albeit two separate ways, you get to choose the end of yours.  Will bitterness and pride direct your path?  Or will you allow the Godly type sorrow to lead you to repentance?

There is much truth to the saying, “Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.”  David played a stupid game.  One that cost him a child.  The games we play, may very well end up costing us dearly.  Will every consequence be negated if we simply admit our wrong doing?  Probably not, but nevertheless, it’s the right thing to do before the sight of our merciful, gracious Heavenly Father.  Whether or not you do it, all depends on the condition of your heart, which God is well aware of…even better than you are.

I think one of the most important lesson of both incidents that were mentioned above, is the David was more than willing to accept punishment for his actions, no matter the cost.      Reminds me of someone else in scripture, except that He was more than willing to accept the punishment of not just someone else’s actions, everyone else’s.


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