Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
When reading the story of David and Goliath recently, I noticed something I had read over. I Samuel 17:3 says, “So the Philistines and Israelites faced each other on opposite hills, with the valley between them” (NLT). I had never picked up that there was a valley between the two sides. Then verse 40 says, “He (David) picked up five smooth stones from a stream and put them into his shepherd’s bag. Then, armed only with his shepherd’s staff and sling, he started across the valley to fight the Philistine.” David had to go into the valley to win the victory.
You won’t win victory standing where you are. You are going to have to make the first move. For 40 days, the Israelites were paralyzed by fear. Each day Goliath invited them to fight him, but they stayed put. When David heard Goliath’s taunts, he didn’t get fearful, he got a righteous anger. He knew that this was a spiritual battle that had to be handled in the physical as well. To win the spiritual battle, he’d have to enter the valley and trust God.
Fast forward 14 generations, Jesus was fighting a spiritual battle that required Him to enter a valley as well. John 18:1 says, “After saying these things, Jesus crossed the Kidron Valley with his disciples and entered a grove of olive trees.” The battle He was fighting was to have the courage to do what God wanted while facing the fear of dying a torturous death on a cross. He could have stayed where He was, but He entered the valley to pray that God’s will be done.
Both David and Jesus recognized that the battle was the Lord’s. They both knew who was fighting on their behalf. That gave them the courage to walk into what seemed like certain death in order to obtain the victory. You and I have to have the same tenacity in prayer and desire to go into the valley if we are going to win our spiritual battles. We are going to have to let go of fear and embrace what God wants to do, enter the valley in front of us, and fight on our knees for victory.
Have you ever felt like God was a million miles away, especially when you needed Him most? I have, and so have others. Even King David felt that way. In Psalm 10:1 he wrote, “Why are you so far away, O Lord? Why do you hide yourself when we are in trouble?” (GNT) I don’t know if it’s because we are so focused on our problem or we expect God to transport us out of the situation that causes us to feel like He’s so far away in those times.
Hagar, the mother of Abraham’s first child, felt that way too. She had been run off by Abraham’s wife because she had gotten pregnant. While she was running from her problems, an angel met her and asked where she was going. She explained how hard things were and that she felt abandoned. The angel told her to name her son Ishmael which means “God hears”. He also told her to go back to the situation she was in. She named the place Beer-Lahai-Roi which means “Well of the God who sees me”.
From that, we know that God hears us and sees us. He’s not a million miles away. There’s often times when He puts us back into situations or doesn’t take us out because He is teaching us and molding us. If we run from hard times, we will miss out on becoming who He was forming us to be. A piece of clay isn’t able to be used until it goes through the fire. Until then, it will easily crumble and the potter has to start over.
Not only did God hear Hagar’s cry for help, He heard David’s. Going back to Psalm 10, David answers his own question in verse 14. It says, “But you do see; you take notice of trouble and suffering and are always ready to help. The helpless commit themselves to you; you have always helped the needy.” If God saw Hagar and David, He sees and hears you. He’s not a million miles from you. He’s right there with you, walking through this right beside you. He is the God who sees you, and He’s working things out for your good even if you can’t see it.
Photo by Tegan Mierle on Unsplash
To abandon someone is to quit supporting them or to give up on them. If you’ve ever been through some of life’s toughest circumstances, you know what it’s like to be abandoned by some of your family or friends. You find out that there are people in your life that you can count on, and there are people that you can’t. When you’re looking for advice, a place to regroup, or just a shelter from the storm, some people that you seek out will abandon you. Some of the ones who you thought would support you through thick and thin give up on you.
David was a person who knew a thing or two about being abandoned. He was forgotten by his father, disrespected by his brothers, shamed by his wife, chased by the king, and dishonored by his son. The people in his life that he should have been able to count on, turned their backs on him at some point in his life. He knew a thing or two about rock bottom. He looked for those he could count on in times of trouble.
In all of his searching, there was one who never abandoned him. God. David wasn’t a perfect man either. He cheated on his wife, had a man murdered, and did some unthinkable things. Yet when he sought after God, he knew that no matter what he had done, God would not abandon him. He knew that there was nothing he had done that God couldn’t or wouldn’t forgive. When others gave up on him, God never did. In fact, God said he was a man after His own heart.
You may have walked David’s shoes. Maybe you’ve been abandoned by those who love you or you’ve abandoned the things you know are right. Either way, if you will seek God, He won’t abandon you. Psalm 9:10 says, “Those who know you, Lord, will trust you; you do not abandon anyone who comes to you” (GNT). It doesn’t matter what’s been done to you or what you’ve done to others, you can find shelter, hope, and forgiveness in God when you seek Him out.
There are two things I find I need most often: strength and peace. There have been so many times I cry out to God, “I can’t do this on my own anymore. I don’t have the strength to go any further.” I always wonder if God gets impatient with me in those times. I wonder if he says, “Again? When will you learn?” I know that the joy of the Lord is my strength, but I somehow allow my situation to steal that joy which leaves me weak and vulnerable.
David must have felt this way pretty often as well. When I read the Psalms, they don’t always line up with this bad to the bone warrior I’ve built up in my mind. They often show an insecure person who struggles with his situations. It’s in conflict with the mental image I have of him, but the truth is, they show someone just as human as the rest of us. They show an accomplished person who loves God, but still relies on Him for everything.
I like being a self sufficient person. I like not needing to have to have help, but those are not qualities God admires. David was known as a man after God’s own heart. He was a man who wasn’t afraid to cry out to God for help all the time. The things that I think make him appear weak are the things God finds as strengths. We were not made to fight our battles on our own. We were not made to fight alone. We were not made to be self sufficient. We are to find our strength and sufficiency in Him.
In Psalm 29, David talks about how powerful the voice of the Lord is. He writes great acclamations of God, and then he finishes with a truth that is very relevant to us. In verse 11 he says, “The LORD gives his people strength. The LORD blesses them with peace” (NLT). Strength and peace are gifts from God. To act like we don’t need them is to deny God from giving them to us as blessings. David had it right. We need God’s strength and peace more than we care to admit. If we are willing to get over our pride and to ask Him for them, He is willing to give them to us.
6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Jesse’s son Eliab and said to himself, “This man standing here in the Lord’s presence is surely the one he has chosen.” 7 But the Lord said to him, “Pay no attention to how tall and handsome he is. I have rejected him, because I do not judge as people judge. They look at the outward appearance, but I look at the heart.”
I Samuel 16:6-7
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As a kid, King David was my favorite person in the Bible. I heard the story of how he faced a giant when everyone else was afraid. I heard how courageous he was when he fought in battles. I learned that he had one of the greatest friendships in the Bible. He was presented to me as a model person. After all, he was a man after God’s own heart. With all these stories and Bible lessons, I had built up quite the person in my head. He was pretty much the closest thing to a superhero in the Bible.
As I grew older, I learned more about David. I read about his indiscretion with Bathsheba. I found out that he was a murderer. And when I read the Psalms, I see a man who has great faith one minute and great doubt the next. I read about the warrior who isn’t afraid of anything and then hear the same man whine as he hides in a cave. The superhero image took a hit. I found out that he wasn’t perfect. He wasn’t the person I had made him out yo be in my mind. Yet I can’t escape that he was still called a an after God’s own heart.
Many times, we build up people in our mind and place them on superhero status. We think they’re perfect because that’s all we see of them. Sometimes it’s people in the Bible that we see this way. Other times it can be a pastor, evangelist, a church leader or a friend. The truth is that no one is perfect. Each person has shortcomings and fail. We are all a lot like David. We possess the ability to slay giants, but we also struggle with our fears and doubts. We climb mountain tops one day and wallow in the valley the next.
What I’ve learned to see in David, in others and in myself is that God doesn’t expect me to be perfect in order to be a person after His heart. He doesn’t need us to slay giants or conquer enemies to be considered great. What I find over and over again in David’s writings is that after every time he failed, doubted or was scared, he went back to God, apologized and reaffirmed his faith. Psalm 51 is one of the greatest Psalms to me. It’s a prayer for forgiveness and restoration. David shows just how human he was as he wrote it. He also revealed why he was a man after God’s heart.
We can’t get caught up in thinking there are perfect people in the world or that living as close to perfect as possible equals spiritual greatness. We all look at the outward showing of people, but only God sees the heart. David was no where near perfect as I’ve come to read, but he was one of the most spiritual people who ever lived. It’s not in our outward showing that makes us spiritual, it’s in our ability to run to God when we have failed, when we have sinned or have great doubts. Don’t compare your spirituality with someone else’s. You can’t see what God sees. Instead, focus on keeping your heart right with Him no matter what life throws at you.