After Falling

1 Samuel 18:6-9 (NLT)

When the victorious Israelite army was returning home after David had killed the Philistine, women from all the towns of Israel came out to meet King Saul. They sang and danced for joy with tambourines and cymbals. This was their song:

“Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands!”

This made Saul very angry. “What’s this?” he said. “They credit David with ten thousands and me with only thousands. Next they’ll be making him their king!” So from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David.


By Chuck Griffin

Sunday during sermon time, I preached the story of David and Goliath, the classic Bible tale that I suspect even most unchurched people know. Today’s verses are the beginning of the story of what happened afterward.

It’s painful to watch this story play out in the Bible, and then repeatedly throughout history, into the present day. Some people just cannot let go, particularly if they have become accustomed to honor and power.

Saul knew he had fallen out of God’s favor, and that another was to take his place. The cry of the women likely confirmed for him what he had begun to suspect: David was the one. Read on in 1 Samuel, and you’ll see the lengths Saul was willing to go to cling to what was never really his, anyway, descending into madness in the process. The Lord had given, and because of Saul’s lack of faith, the Lord had taken away.

It’s unlikely any of us will ever achieve the lofty status of King Saul, and I hope none of us ever loses our place in God’s kingdom because of faithlessness. Even so, it may be that we find ourselves moving through our lives from roles that seem honorable to roles that seem like demotion or outright rejection.

Maybe the change needed to happen—it’s possible the Peter Principle kicked in—or maybe life has once again proven to be unfair. Regardless, we have to be very careful how we react.

A soft, obediently spoken “What now, Lord?” is always a good prayer at such a time. Christians keep serving God regardless of their perceived station in life. I have seen pastors do great work on behalf of the kingdom after receiving church appointments they considered slaps in the face.

And never forget, from a worldly perspective, the kingdom is an upside-down place. It never hurts to return to the Beatitudes for a refresher course.

Lord, today is a good day to remember John Wesley’s Covenant Prayer:

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
Exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O Glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
Let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

In the Thicket

Micah 7:14 (NLT)

O Lord, protect your people with your shepherd’s staff;

    lead your flock, your special possession.

Though they live alone in a thicket

    on the heights of Mount Carmel,

let them graze in the fertile pastures of Bashan and Gilead

    as they did long ago.


By Chuck Griffin

This particular verse in Micah arises as part of a lament over sin and a longing for better days.

We can process this desire to be led back to the good life on so many levels. As a people, we can always look to aspects of a national past we believe to be better, the good old days, although we do have to be careful. People have a tendency to remember the good and forget the bad.

My wife and I like movies from the 1950s and early 1960s, the ones that fill the screen with images just a little too early for us to have seen with our own eyes. Think of the New York City street scenes in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” or Doris Day at the Automat, or Cary Grant in a finely tailored suit. How nice it would be to go back in time and experience all that—without polio, the Korean and Vietnam wars, racism, sexism bordering on misogyny, and those ever-present clouds of cigarette smoke, of course.

We can have similar longings on an individual level, too, desiring that “better time,” whenever that might have been—maybe when we were in high school, or first married, or when the kids were little. If we get stuck in that longing, the here-and-now can seem very much like a briar-filled thicket.

We cannot go back in time, and we probably would not want to do so, were we to think it through. What we can do is take the best of our past experiences, as a people or as a person, and find a way to carry what we learn from them forward. That’s where this verse from Micah becomes useful.

Followers of God know that the best of times always happen in conjunction with a deep relationship with God. When we are with God, we are tapping into promises of eternal joy, timeless truths that color any present moment for the better.

Whatever thicket we find ourselves in, God can lead us out, usually through fellowship with others who follow God. The Great Shepherd has even gone to the cross so we can forever escape the deadly consequences of sin.

Lord, as we walk with you, give us great optimism for the future, knowing you are leading us toward fertile pastures. Amen.

The Danger of Anger

Numbers 20:1-13

The potential for anger to destroy our plans and dreams comes through very clearly in the above story. God gave Moses straightforward instructions about how to call water from a rock for the thirsty Israelites. Instead, in his frustration, Moses whacked the rock twice with his staff, making a self-righteous declaration in the process.

God provided the life-giving water anyway, but Moses’ harsh action cost him the opportunity to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land.

Moses had reasons to be angry. The people were stubborn and ungrateful, and no doubt he grew tired, listening to their complaints day after day. Today, we might say he needed to vent.

Such emotions cannot get the better of us, however. It is an easy thing for anger to cause us to focus on our baser desires (“I’ll show them”) rather than God’s plan, and in such moments we make ourselves into idols.

If I’m preaching right now, I’m preaching to myself more than anyone else. I know how my own self-righteous anger can distract and confuse me, particularly if I’m tired or feeling betrayed in some way. (You might be surprised how often pastors feel tired and even betrayed.)

My solutions are almost kindergarten simple. First, recognize what’s rising up inside. Breathe; take a time-out. When the emotion subsides, pray for guidance about how to inject some grace into the situation.

No doubt, at least 50 people who know me and are reading this can cite examples of when I failed. And they would be right. Managing anger is part of the human experience, and I am quite human.

The trick is to not let anger destroy our plans and dreams. We should never let anger position us in such a way that we never fully recover.

If you find yourself going down that path, get help. Talk to a pastor or a counselor, someone rooted in Christian concepts of grace and forgiveness, before it’s too late.

Lord, when we are red-hot with anger, hose us down with that peace that passes all understanding. Amen.

Not Much Has Changed

Daniel 9:1-14

In the first year of Darius son of Ahasuerus, by birth a Mede, who became king over the realm of the Chaldeans— in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to the prophet Jeremiah, must be fulfilled for the devastation of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.

Then I turned to the Lord God, to seek an answer by prayer and supplication with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying,

“Ah, Lord, great and awesome God, keeping covenant and steadfast love with those who love you and keep your commandments, we have sinned and done wrong, acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and ordinances. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.

“Righteousness is on your side, O Lord, but open shame, as at this day, falls on us, the people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. Open shame, O Lord, falls on us, our kings, our officials, and our ancestors, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him, and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by following his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.

“All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. So the curse and the oath written in the law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against you. He has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our rulers, by bringing upon us a calamity so great that what has been done against Jerusalem has never before been done under the whole heaven. Just as it is written in the law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us. We did not entreat the favor of the Lord our God, turning from our iniquities and reflecting on his fidelity. So the Lord kept watch over this calamity until he brought it upon us. Indeed, the Lord our God is right in all that he has done; for we have disobeyed his voice.”


It was a different time and a different nation.  Yet, the prayer that Daniel prayed is one that can be prayed by each generation and each nation. 

Daniel’s prayer is called a prayer of confession.  We can have shame upon our nation for we have sinned against God.  From our rulers to even the ones reading this devotion, we all have sinned.  Paul will even remind us in Romans that we are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God.

As Methodist Christians, we realize the importance of repentance.  For when we repent, we are responding to God’s prevenient grace. 

Our confession of our sins, iniquities, and wickedness allows God to give us new birth through faith in Jesus Christ.  It is hard to realize that we have brought calamity upon ourselves.  Yet, thankfully, turning to God in faith we find the forgiveness that he has already prepared for us.

God, we are sinners here in America.  We have not listened to you.  Now, we are listening to you.  We admit we have done wrong by you and our neighbors.  Let us know your forgiveness through Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Seeing the Plan Play Out

Jeremiah 29:10-14

For thus says the Lord: Only when Babylon’s seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.


Just before these verses, the political leaders, craftsmen and other fine minds of Jerusalem, living in captivity in their conqueror’s homeland, received bad news from the prophet Jeremiah. They were not going home from Babylon any time soon—they might as well build houses and gardens and settle down.

God’s chastisement of his chosen people, caught up in sin, would ultimately lead to restoration and the continuation of his plan to bring salvation to the world through them. We are reminded, however, that God’s plan plays out over generations, centuries, and even millennia. God plays a long game, one so long that even the devil cannot keep track of it all.

I am struck by how blessed most of us reading this are, living as we have lived. Alignment with God does not automatically mean having a comfortable life. Throughout history, it’s been common for people to have the opposite, forced to live according to the whims of powerful, ungodly people.

We particularly are blessed to live in the time after Christ, making a fully restored relationship with God individually possible through simple faith. On top of that, most of us are blessed to live in places where we have the freedom to worship as we want and live as we want.

Yes, this is another one of those “count your blessings” devotionals. As you make your way through the day, appreciate what you have, and remember how we are called to seek God with all our hearts, using our freedoms to play a part in God’s great plan to redeem all of creation.

Lord, help us through faithfulness and devotion to you to preserve the great gifts we have in this life. May exile never be our state, and may those who find themselves in it also find rescue by your hand. Amen.