Sunday, October 27, 2013

Saul Meets His Gilboa

We ended the class with a ghost story from the Bible, which was right at the place we were in the story anyway, and so near Halloween. Since ghost stories need to be told around a campfire, and I didn't think it would be a good idea to have a real campfire in church, I found one on YouTube, and we moved to a darker room. To get the full effect, play the video while you're reading the blog post.

Saul Meets His Gilboa

Have you heard people say that someone met their Waterloo? It means that they lost their last battle. Maybe a president was defeated in an election and never ran again. After defeating enemies over and over, French Emperor Napoleon was defeated for the last time in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. This story is about Saul’s Waterloo.

David was young when God rejected Saul as King, but it was probably somewhere around 15 or 20 years more that Saul reigned after that. God gave him lots of chances to turn his life around, but he just couldn’t get over his pride and jealousy.

Samuel had grown old, and while Saul was busy chasing David, his time came to go. After Samuel’s death, he was buried, and the people of Israel mourned for their last judge and prophet, who had anointed their current king and their next one. Saul and Samuel had had their disagreements, but Saul still respected him.

Sometime after the incident with Saul’s spear and water, Saul and his army prepared to fight the Philistines on Mt. Gilboa, and as he watched the enemy getting closer, he could see the Philistine army was terrifying. What could he do? He tried asking God, but got no answer. He tried asking the prophets who were still alive, but still no answer. That left one option, which should not have been an option. Earlier in his reign, Saul had told all the fortunetellers to leave Israel. Now, he decided he needed one, and he found out that the nearest one was in Endor (which was not a forest moon). Even though the Law of Moses included strict commandments against consulting fortunetellers and using witchcraft, King Saul disguised himself and went to Endor.

The woman was scared. Fortunetelling was illegal in Israel, punishable by death! She was afraid this man she didn’t recognize was setting a trap for her after Saul had deported them, but the mysterious man told her she wouldn’t be punished. He just wanted her to call up a dead spirit. So, he told her to call up Samuel. The woman saw Samuel’s spirit coming up, and suddenly she realized the truth. “You’re Saul!” she said. Now she was really scared.

“Don’t worry,” said Saul. “What do you see?”

“I see an old man in a robe,” she said.

Saul was glad to find out that this had worked. Samuel’s ghost didn’t seem too happy about it, though. He wanted to know why Saul had called him up. So Saul explained his problem. “God has left me. The Philistines are threatening us, and I can’t figure out what God wants me to do, no matter where I turn or how hard I try. I’m getting desperate!”

So Samuel gave his last prophecy. “Why are you asking me? God has left you and become your enemy. You refused to obey His commands to completely destroy the Amalekites, so He has taken the Kingdom of Israel away from you and given it to David. Tomorrow, the Philistines will defeat the Israelite army, and you and your sons will be joining me!”

Saul was so shaken that he didn’t want to eat, but he did after the people who were with him convinced him that he needed food.

Meanwhile, Achish, King of Gath, was still very impressed with David. Unfortunately, the other Gittites (people from Gath) didn’t trust David. So Achish sent David back to Israel. When he and his men arrived in Israel, they discovered that the Amalekites had attacked the region where they were. So David did what Saul had refused to do so many years earlier. He led his band of fugitives against the Amalekites and defeated them. Only 400 Amalekites survived.

On Mount Gilboa, Saul led his army against the Philistines. It was a terrible battle. Three of his sons, Princes Jonathan, Abinadab and Malki-Shua, were killed. The Philistine archers shot Saul, and he was injured. When his armor bearer refused to obey his order to put him out of his misery, he drew his own sword, and King Saul fell. When the Israelite army found out their King and three Princes had died, they turned tail and ran. Saul’s son Ish-Bosheth survived. When the remaining family learned the news, the nurse Jonathan had hired to take care of his 5-year-old son Mephibosheth picked up the young prince and ran. She was so desperate that she dropped the boy, and he broke bones in his feet. They never healed right, and he had trouble walking for the rest of his life. More about him in a couple weeks.

Meanwhile, David was just getting back to Israel after his victory against the Amalekites, when a messenger ran up to him with a very sad story. According to him, Jonathan had been killed in battle on Mt. Gilboa. The messenger knew that Saul was David’s enemy, so he came up with a lie to try to make David feel better. He said that Saul had been mortally wounded, and had asked him to kill him. This man claimed to have obeyed Saul and killed him. Wrong thing to say to David, who was loyal to the King who was not loyal to him. No matter how Saul had treated David, David knew that Saul had been God’s choice of King, and nobody would get away with killing God’s choice. The messenger didn’t live to retell the tale.

David went from best day ever to worst day ever in a few minutes. He wrote a song and lamented the loss of the great King and Prince. “How the mighty have fallen!” he cried. “Don’t mention this in the Philistine strongholds of Gath or Ashkelon, or they might be happy about it! Let the Mountains of Gilboa be cursed, because Israel’s greatest died there! Saul and Jonathan were admired and loved in life, and they fought bravely. Daughters of Israel, weep for Saul, who gave you so much! Jonathan, my brother and best friend, you were very dear to me. How the mighty have fallen!”

So Saul met his Waterloo, and David became King, in extreme grief for his family that he had lost.

Be very careful about your choices. If you make a bad choice, you may not be the only one who suffers for it. Saul’s choices not only cost his own life, but those of his sons, and David lost his dearest friend.

David on the Run

The Philistines were bearing down on the town of Keilah, pillaging and hurting the people. David got word of it and came to their rescue. He and his men defeated the Philistines in Keilah, but pretty soon Saul found out. His jealousy at David’s success continued, and he was determined to kill him. When David found out Saul was on his way to Keilah to kill him, he fled with his men. David had 600 warriors with him, and they went from place to place. They never stayed too long because any time Saul found out where they were, he would go there.

David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph when he found out Saul was after him again. Jonathan found him and comforted him. Jonathan said, “Don’t worry. My dad won’t hurt you. You’ll be king someday, and I’ll be second to you. Dad knows it.” They made a promise to each other, and Jonathan went home. The Ziphites betrayed David to Saul, but David got word of it and fled. David and Saul’s forces very nearly met, but Saul suddenly got word that the Philistines were attacking, and he realized that was more urgent. So Saul gave up chasing David for the moment and instead went in pursuit of the Philistines. David, meanwhile, went to the Desert of En Gedi. After Saul was done dealing with the Philistines, his murderous rage came back, and he went off in search of David again.

David and his men were in the back of a huge cave when they heard someone come in. They recognized Saul’s shape! He hadn’t noticed them, and he just needed to go to the bathroom. David’s men whispered to him, “This is it! God has given you a chance to get rid of Saul!” So David went into stealth mode. He took a sharp knife and crept up behind the King. Very, very quietly, David took out his knife… and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe! He crept back to his men. But then he realized that was really dumb. What had he done? He didn’t have a right to damage the King’s robe! He whispered to his men, “What were we thinking? Saul may not be the nicest guy ever, but he is the one God chose to be King! How dare we even do this much?” His men wanted to kill Saul, but David said, “No way! Don’t even think of harming God’s choice of King!”

Saul finished doing his thing and left. David knew he owed the King an apology, so he ran out of the cave and called, “My lord the king!” Saul turned around, shocked. David went on. “Why do you listen to the idiots who claim that I want to harm you? You can tell that I could have killed you just now. My men even wanted me to! But I refused to even harm you, because God chose you to be King! Look at this piece of robe I’m holding, Dad! I got that close to you, but didn’t kill you! You can tell that I have no intention of rebelling or even laying a hand on you, so why are you out to kill me? The Lord can do what He wants with you, but I will not hurt you!”

Saul said, “David, my son-in-law, is that your voice? You’re a better man than I. May God reward you for what you’ve done today! You could have killed me, and you would have had the right to do so! I know that you’ll be king after me, so please promise me that when you do, you won’t kill off my family.” Often in those times when someone who wasn’t the heir became King, he would kill off the family of the former king so nobody could challenge his role as King. David gladly promised to do nothing of the sort. As you may remember from last week, David had already made a similar promise to Jonathan. So Saul went home.

At this time, Samuel died. He was an old man, and it was his time. The whole nation of Israel mourned for him.

A bit later, the pesky Ziphites sent word to Saul again about where David was. Saul had forgotten how David meant him no harm. By this time, Saul was so jealous of David that he had given his daughter Michal to another man, and David had remarried. So much for being the King’s son-in-law! Saul led 3000 Israelite soldiers to attack David and his 600 men. It may have been overkill, but Saul was a bit overdramatic at times. Saul and his men camped at the hill of Hakilah, near where David was hiding, and David found out.

David and his friend Abishai went into stealth mode again, and they crept into Saul’s camp in the middle of the night. They found King Saul and Commander Abner sleeping, and Saul’s spear was stuck into the ground right near his head! Abishai whispered to David, “Let me stab Saul with his own spear! I’ll only have to do it once!”

But David whispered, “Are you crazy? Have I taught you nothing? Saul is God’s choice for King! Let God deal with Saul! We will not be murdering anyone tonight! Just grab Saul’s spear and water jug, and let’s go!” So, with Saul’s spear and water jug, they tiptoed out and climbed the nearby hill. When they were a safe distance away, David yelled, “Hey, Abner!”

Abner awoke with a start and responded, “Who’s calling?”

David replied, “What were you thinking? You should be guarding the King, and what do you do? You’re sound asleep! What if someone had tiptoed in and done something horrible to Saul? You’ve failed him, Abner! Saul is God’s choice for King, and you should be taking care of him, not sleeping like a log! Now look around! Where are the King’s spear and water jug?”

Saul recognized that voice. “Is that you, David, my son?” he said.

“Yes, Dad! It’s me!” David cried. “Why are you still chasing me? What have I done? You’ve come after someone who is no threat to you! You might as well be hunting a flea! What am I, a partridge for you to hunt in the mountains?”

Saul replied, “I have sinned. David, my son, come back! Since you value my life so much, I won’t try to chase you again. I was stupid, and I am so sorry!”

David called back, “Here’s your spear and water! Have someone come get them! God rewards everyone for being faithful. He gave me another chance to get you, and your life was too important to harm you. As I have valued your life, may God value mine and deliver me from harm!”

Saul said, “David, my son, you will go far in life. May you be blessed!”

So after Saul got his spear and water back, he went home and David moved on. He couldn’t trust Saul’s word, so he decided to leave Israel. He went to Gath and made friends with their King Achish. David and his soldiers lived in Gath for a year and four months, and Achish was very impressed with his talent in battle.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

David and Jonathan BC

Prince Jonathan was thunderstruck. While he and the brave soldiers he had been commanding were cowering in fear, a teenage shepherd with no experience in battle (aside from fighting lions and bears) had walked out confidently into the valley, faced a terrifying giant, and quickly beat him. This was someone Jonathan wanted to get to know. This was someone Jonathan could mentor and help to become an even greater warrior.

So after the stunning defeat of their enemy, two things happened. Up to then, David had been going back and forth between his pasture and the palace, but now Saul wanted him to stay at the palace. Secondly, Jonathan became best friends with him. The two of them became like brothers. In fact, they made an oath before God that they would be friends for life. Jonathan took off his princely robe and gave it to David. He also gave him his tunic, his sword, his bow and his belt. This was an amazing gift. Jonathan was the heir to the throne, but he knew that God had told Saul that their family would no longer rule. He also knew that David was God’s choice. He gave some of his greatest treasures to David and helped him as Saul sent David into battle. David did an incredible job in every battle that he fought, and Saul rewarded him by giving him a high rank in the army. All the soldiers loved him. In fact, pretty soon, the women came up with a song that they sang while dancing and playing instruments:

Saul has killed thousands of our enemies,
But David – wow! – he’s killed TENS of thousands!

Now imagine you’re Saul. Normally, you’d love to hear that you’ve solved thousands of problems. But then along comes a young whippersnapper with no experience in battle, and now they’re saying he’s solved ten times the number of problems? Saul was pretty jealous. He started thinking, “What’s next? I suppose he’ll want to be King!”

The next day, Saul was in a very bad mood, and as usual, David stood before him and played his lyre. But this time, the lyre wasn’t enough. Saul was so angry that he picked up his spear and threw it at David! He dodged it just in time, twice! When that didn’t work, he decided to send David away to lead a large army. God gave him success in battle, which didn’t help Saul’s attitude. He was hoping the Philistines would kill David!

Saul almost gave his daughter Merab to David to marry, but David turned him down. But then he noticed that his daughter Michal had fallen in love with David. It took some convincing, but David finally agreed to marry Michal. As a bride price, Saul wanted David to defeat 100 Philistines. (In that culture, the man had to pay the family of his bride before they could get married. It was also called a dowry. In this case, Saul was hoping the Philistines would kill him while he was making good on this odd dowry.) Instead of one hundred, David defeated two hundred Philistines! Not only had David outdone the mission Saul had hoped he would fail, but now he could tell that Michal was madly in love with him, and he was now his son-in-law!

So Saul tried another idea. He told Jonathan to kill him. Jonathan, of course, didn’t want to hurt his best friend, who was also now his brother-in-law. So he came up with a plan. As Jonathan suggested, David hid while Jonathan talked to his dad and reminded him how much David had helped strengthen Saul’s kingdom and defeat his enemies. So Saul listened to Jonathan promised not to kill David.

In the next battle, David was so terrifying to the enemy that the Philistines turned tail and ran!

Back at the palace, Saul tried again to kill David with a spear while he was playing his lyre, and again David dodged it. Saul sent men to try to kill David at his house, but Michal found out that her dad was about to kill her husband, and she warned David to run away. So he did.

David went to Samuel and told him what had happened. Pretty soon, Saul found out where David was, and he sent soldiers to kill him. But when they got there, they started prophesying instead! So Saul went himself, and he started prophesying!

So David ran away from there and found Jonathan. He embraced his friend and said, “What have I done? Why is your dad trying to kill me?”

Jonathan was surprised. “What?” he said. “Dad never said anything about this to me! He promised me he wouldn’t kill you! He would have told me if he were gonna do that. He always tells me what he’s doing. It can’t be true!”

But David said, “Your dad knows that you love me like a brother, and he thinks it would make you sad if he told you about this. So he decided not to tell you. Thanks to him, I’m so close to death!”

So Jonathan said, “What do you want me to do? Whatever it is, I’ll do it.”

David had a plan. “Tomorrow is a big feast, and your dad will expect me to be there. I’m gonna hide in the field, and when he misses me and asks you where I am, tell him that I wanted to go home to Bethlehem for a sacrifice. If he says, ‘Oh, no problem!’ you’ll know everything is OK. But if he loses his temper, he means to hurt me. But you, please be kind to me. Remember the promise we made to be friends. If you find I’ve lied, please kill me yourself! I don’t want to face your dad!”

“Never!” Jonathan said. “If I had any idea my dad wanted to kill you, I’d warn you.” So Jonathan agreed to look into it and let David know whatever he found out. If everything was OK, he would tell David. If what David said turned out to be true, he would make sure David made a clean getaway. That day they swore another oath before God. They would be kind to each other, and they would have each other’s backs. If either was in danger, the other would help him out. If either of them died, the other would take care of his family. (David later fulfilled this promise with Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth, but that’s a lesson for another week.)

Then Jonathan had something to add to David’s plan. “Go hide in the same place you hid before, and I’ll do what you suggest to find out whether my dad is really out to get you. The day after tomorrow, I’ll come to the field and bring a boy along with me. I’ll shoot some arrows like I’m doing target practice, and I’ll tell the boy to go fetch the arrows. If you’re safe, I’ll tell the boy, ‘The arrows are on this side of you. Go get them!’ But if Dad is out to get you, I’ll tell the boy, ‘The arrows went past you! Go get them!’ Then you’ll need to get out of here. Oh, and don’t forget the promise we made today.”

The first day of the feast, Saul noticed that David wasn’t there, and he thought that was odd. But he didn’t say anything. The second day, when David still wasn’t there, he asked Jonathan about it. So Jonathan told him, “David asked me if he could go to a sacrifice with his family. It’s important to his family, and his brother ordered him to be there. So I let him go.”

Saul lost it. “You imbecile!” He cried. “How dare you side with David?! As long as he’s alive, you will never be King! Go get someone to get him and bring him to me! He has got to die!”

Jonathan was stunned. “What has he done to deserve this?” he asked. But Saul got even madder, and he threw his spear at his own son, the heir to the throne! Jonathan dodged it and furiously left the table. He didn’t eat anything more that day because he was so shaken and sad.

The next morning, Jonathan took a boy with him to the field to help him with target practice. He shot an arrow past the boy and yelled, “The arrow went past you! Go get it! Hurry up!” When the boy returned the arrow to him, he sent the boy home with his arrow and weapons.

When the boy was gone, David came out of hiding, and they kissed each other. (In that culture, kissing was like hugging is to us. It just meant they were good friends.) Both of them cried bitterly. Jonathan said, “Go in peace. We have sworn friendship to each other, and that goes for our descendants too.” So David left, and Jonathan went home.

Thus began Saul’s chase that we’ll learn about next week.

David and Jonathan 2013

For Sunday school, we did a skit this morning. "Jon", a good friend currently in high school, whose mom Lori helps me out, came to play the part of himself in a few years. My friend Aaron, who lives in Texas (which, as you'll see, is an important detail to know), also made an important contribution. "Davey" was one of the kids, who didn't know ahead of time he would be featured in the skit. Aside from the adults, names have been changed. However, we used real names in the skit. 

Good morning, class! As you know, we've had an exciting past couple weeks with our annual music festival and competition. Each of you did a great job on your musical recital, and we're proud to announce that you all made the top ten finalists! Now I need to introduce our special guests. You all know our very own Principal Lori. You may not know that she easily won this same competition several years ago when she was in this class. For many years before that, the world-renowned Amalek Symphonic Orchestra, with its colossal 1000 members, won every year, but that year, her solo act on the tuba blew the judges away. Of course, after winning the contest, she wanted to keep all that orchestra's instruments and marry their director Randy, but our former Principal Samuel had to remind her that wasn't nice.

LORI (embarrassed)
You weren't supposed to mention that part!

Oh, sorry. Anyway, we also have the distinct privilege of having Principal Lori's son Jon O'Saul with us today. As you may know, he has already made a name for himself, playing the drums, trumpet, piano, organ, oboe, bassoon, flute and accordion all over the world. That's not even mentioning his amazing talent at singing. Audiences in Tokyo, Paris, London, New York and elsewhere have been amazed at his outstanding talent. I'm also proud of him because he's one of my former students. He is currently studying for his doctorate in Musical Arts at Juilliard School in New York, and we are privileged to have him as our TA this year as part of his internship.

Thank you. When you put it that way, it sounds all impressive. Honestly, it's just what I love to do. You may have noticed me in the audience as each of you did your recitals, and I've gotta say I'm impressed with your talent. As you know, the 10,000-member orchestra Go Lithe has won the competition every year ever since my mom defeated the Amalek Orchestra. But I'm excited to announce that this year we have a new winner. The judges tell me this is the youngest champion they have ever seen, and they have asked me to give the prize and their congratulations to Davey McJesse!  (applause) Since he performed way beyond anyone's expectations, and by himself he defeated the Go Lithe Orchestra with just a harp, Juilliard has authorized me to give him a scholarship to attend our exclusive school where he will receive top-notch training in music. Not only that, but until he's old enough to attend Juilliard, I will be giving him personal lessons. (more applause)

I think I should point out that Lori has beat out 1000 musicians, but Davey has beat out 10,000 musicians. That is an amazing accomplishment, and we're proud that both of them come from our school.

Wait, what? That’s no fair! Holding the record was my greatest and proudest accomplishment! There must be some mistake. [She storms off to the side]


3 days later. Steven and Jon are having a conference.

Davey tells me that my mom is really jealous of his accomplishment. His tutoring sessions are going great, but he seems to be scared that she’ll do something to get revenge because he outdid her. It just doesn’t sound like something she’d do! We decided that he’ll miss lunch tomorrow and hide. Then we’ve arranged a signal. I really don’t think she’d do that, but I trust Davey. I know where he’s hiding, but I won’t tell anyone. He always eats at her table in the cafeteria, so she’s sure to miss him. We’ll see how she reacts. Davey and I will meet afterwards in his hiding spot. I’m so sure that Davey is mistaken about how far she’ll go that I’ve decided that if it turns out he’s right, I’ll find a video of someone in Texas wishing him good luck. That way if my mom is near, she won’t realize it’s a sign. I hope he’s wrong. Not only because I love my mom, but who do I know in Texas?!

Later that day. Cafeteria.

Hi, mom!

Isn’t this lunch great? The cooks are amazing here. I never get tired of the food. Too bad Davey… Wait a minute, where is Davey?

He said he couldn’t make it. Something about having to practice for his recital next week.

What?! He can’t do a recital! I won’t let him! I still can’t believe you dare give him private lessons! What kind of son are you? Do you hate me that much, that you help my rival but don’t help me? Get out of here and let me figure out what I’m gonna do about this problem!

Later that day. Classroom.

JON [to Davey]
Well, I found a video.

STEVEN starts video on laptop

AARON (via video)
You’re doing an amazing job! Good luck in your recital next week!

JON and Davey hug

You were right. If you ever need help, you have my phone number. We’ll have to do our private lessons in secret, and I’m afraid we’ll have to secretly reschedule your recital. My mom is too jealous of you for the recital to work as we were planning. I’m afraid she’d do something to interrupt your performance or make you look bad. In fact, it might be a good idea to lie low for a while until my mom has a chance to calm down. You’re a great friend, and I know you’ll go far. In fact, I think you’ll beat even bigger orchestras. Remember how Elvis was called the King? I think you’ll be bigger than Elvis.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

David and Goliath

With God’s help, Moses had led the Israelites out of Egypt and across the sea on dry land. They had seen bitter water become drinkable. Fire fell from heaven on Mt. Sinai, and God gave Moses the Law. Water spilled from a rock in the middle of the desert for the Israelites to drink. Bread fell from the sky every day for them, and quail showed up to be eaten. The Israelites saw God do amazing things every step of the way. He gave them victory in battle over their enemies.

But when Moses sent twelve spies into the Promised Land, ten of them came back with a terrifying report! “There are GIANTS in Canaan! We saw them! We must look like bugs to them, skittering around at their feet! We don’t stand a chance in the Promised Land! Turn around! RUN!!” But Joshua and Caleb had a different report. “There are really tall people in the Promised Land, but compared to God, they’re smaller than bugs skittering around at His feet! God is with us! We can take them! Let’s go!”

But the Israelites listened to the first report and chickened out. So they had to do laps around the desert for 40 years.

The giants in question were known as Anakites. They were descended from a guy named Rapha, and they lived in many parts of the Promised Land. As Moses led Israel almost all the way to the Promised Land, and Joshua led them as they entered it, God let them defeat many of the Anakites. The most famous one was King Og. The Bible doesn’t say how tall he was, but his bed was 9 cubits long! That’s about 13 feet, 6 inches! As they conquered Canaan, they did indeed defeat many of the Anakites. By the end of their conquest, there were only a few left. Joshua and his army had defeated all except a few in Gaza, Gath and Ashdod.

Years passed. After Joshua died, Israel had a period of judges, and then Saul became Israel’s first King. When God rejected Saul as King, Samuel anointed a young shepherd boy named David.

After the anointing, Jesse’s three oldest sons, Eliab, Abinadab and Shammah, went off to war. Meanwhile, David went back and forth from the pasture, where he watched the sheep, to the palace, where he played his lyre for King Saul.

Jesse loved all eight of his sons, and he wanted to check up on his oldest sons. So he sent David with some treats and asked him to take them to his brothers and see how they were doing. As David arrived, the Israelite army was preparing for battle against their enemies the Philistines. He found his brothers, and as they were talking, he heard a loud shout.

A very tall man was standing in the nearby valley shouting a challenge. He was six cubits and a span tall – about nine feet, nine inches! His armor and weapons were huge and heavy. His spear alone was like a weaver's rod. Weaver's rods were typically 10-12 feet long - taller than him!  He looked terrifying! He shouted, “Why are you guys lining up for battle? I don’t need a bunch of people! Have one man come down and fight me! If he can defeat me, we’ll be your servants. If I defeat him, you get to be our slaves! Come on, army of Israel! What are you waiting for? I want single combat!”

The Israelite army was terrified. He was so terrifying that brave Israelite soldiers would run away as fast as they could run when they saw him! This guy was a Philistine Anakite, from Gath, and he was unbelievably tall. He had already killed many people, and now he wanted single combat? The best warriors of Israel didn’t stand a chance! David found out that he had been shouting this every day for forty days.

The Israelites were talking amongst themselves about this dangerous enemy named Goliath. King Saul had promised a huge reward for anyone who could defeat him. Anyone who could defeat Goliath would receive lots of money, his family wouldn’t have to pay taxes, and he’d get to marry the princess. But this guy was so scary that nobody thought any amount of money or marriage to Saul’s daughter was worth that.

David started looking into it more. He asked around about what was up with this loony bat who dared defy the almighty God’s people. The soldiers all told him about how dangerous this man was, and the reward. He wasn’t old enough to fight in battle, so they didn’t see any harm in telling him. After all, what teenager would be crazy enough to go up against a trained, deadly warrior, one of the Philistines’ best? Word got around that David was asking about Goliath, and eventually Saul found out and sent for him.

As David stood before the King, he said, “Don’t worry about this Philistine. I’ll fight him.”

“Are you crazy?” Saul said. "You’re just a teenager! He’s been a deadly warrior since he was young!”

David replied, “Your Majesty, I’m a shepherd. It’s my job to take care of sheep, and my flock has been threatened by scary animals like lions and bears. They have carried my sheep off, and I chased them and saved the sheep. I have killed lions and bears to protect my sheep. This Philistine is no different. If God protected me from lions and bears, surely He can protect me from this dude.”

When he put it that way, Saul said, “OK, go ahead. God be with you.” Then he gave David some armor and started preparing him for the battle. But when David had all the armor on, he realized it wouldn’t work. It was heavy, and it was awkward to fight in armor he wasn’t comfortable wearing. So he took the armor off. He picked up his shepherd’s staff and found five stones from a nearby stream. With his slingshot, he walked into the valley toward the waiting enemy.

Goliath couldn’t believe it. “Oh come on, Israel! Is THIS the best you can do?! You send me a little squirt with sticks like I’m a dog? Puh-leez! All right, come on, shrimp! This’ll be an easy battle, and pretty soon the birds will be eating your dead body!”

David replied, “You have a sword, a spear and a javelin, but I am here in the name of the Almighty God, and you have dared defy Him! He will give me the victory, and you and your army will be the bird food! Then everyone will know that there is a God in Israel. Everyone will know that God saves, and the battle is His!”

Goliath moved closer for the kill, and David ran toward him. David reached into his pouch and pulled out a stone. Before Goliath had a chance to throw a spear or javelin or swing a sword, David put the stone in his slingshot, twirled it around, and let it fly! The stone landed in Goliath’s forehead, and the giant fell. David then ran up to the dead champion’s body and pulled his sword out of its sheath and swung it down.

With a shout, the Israelite army found their courage and chased the stunned Philistines back home to Gath. Just as David had promised, many Philistines became bird food that day.

Saul was very impressed. He asked Army Commander Abner, “Whose son is this?”

Abner didn’t know, so he found David, who was still holding Goliath’s head, and brought him to Saul. David told him, “I’m the son of Jesse of Bethlehem.”

Another general was also watching David that day. Prince Jonathan was very impressed with this young guy’s courage, and he and David became best friends. Princess Michal was also very impressed. She had a new hero, and pretty soon she would have a new husband.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Following God into Epic Adventure

Challenge to a group of missionary kids who recently graduated from high school...


Life is an adventure, and we get to live it to the fullest!

Growing up in the Philippines, I loved following the comic adventures of the intrepid journalist Tintin and his faithful dog Snowy (Milou) as they followed stories and solved mysteries through Scotland, Peru, Belgium, Tibet, America, Bagghar, and elsewhere around the world. This is a guy with an unquenchable thirst for adventure, an inquisitive spirit, and a deep respect for the people he encounters. I recently discovered the musical Tintin: Le Temple du Soleil, based on Hergé’s comic book of the same title and its predecessor Les Sept Boules de Cristal (The Seven Crystal Balls and Prisoners of the Sun, respectively), in which Tintin investigates a mysterious curse that causes a group of seven archaeologists to fall asleep and not wake up for anything.

The trail leads him from Belgium to Peru. There, with the help of a young Peruvian orphan named Zorrino, he and his friends find an Inca tribe that has been deprived of an ancient mummy. Not only does the curse end up being lifted, but Tintin uses his creativity to save his own life and those of his friends by means of an eclipse, and Zorrino finds a new adoptive home and family in the Inca tribe.

The musical adds a character named Fleur, daughter of one of the sleeping scientists, who begs Tintin to figure out how to wake her papa. As I listened to their duet (“La Victoire du Coeur”), it struck me how much faith this girl has in Tintin. Her mother has told her Tintin can do anything, and she has no doubt he can find the answer that has doctors baffled. Once Tintin assures her he’s on the case, that’s enough for her. She then spends the rest of the song assuring her mother that Tintin will take care of everything.

How often do we have that much faith in God? Tintin is a fictional character, but so often we forget that God is here to help us with any problem we may have, and He just wants us to ask Him for help. He loves giving us good things, but we often have to ask for them.

When asked who was the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus had a child come over, and he told his disciples, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me” (Matthew 18:3-5). This involves a faith many people lose when they “grow up” and become cynical. It’s a faith that drives people to trust God completely without any doubt that He will be there for them and take care of their needs. This faith leads people on some of the most amazing adventures, which often prove to be more epic than they could ever imagine.

God has an epic adventure in store for each of us. As MKs, we have already been experiencing them, and a new one is beginning. Whether our parents are in the next room or on the other side of the world, we can always depend on God to guide us through our adventure, and, like Fleur did with Tintin, we can come to God with the faith of a child, knowing without a doubt that He cares and will take it from there.

The Bible has many examples of people who God sent on adventures, which always ended up changing their lives.
Joseph embarked on his adventure at the age of 17 when his brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt, setting off a chain of events that eventually led to him having more power than he could have ever dreamed and saving his family. 
Moses encountered a burning bush and his life was never the same. He led the Israelites out of Egypt, and they walked across a sea on dry land. They literally saw God provide for them daily.  
Paul’s life and adventure changed in a blinding flash of light on the road to Damascus, and he ended up travelling around the Mediterranean area, encountering all kinds of new cultures, proclaiming the gospel.
Sometimes, our adventure will be dangerous, and we will really need to depend on God for help. The picture on this page is all that remains of the Cagsawa Church in Legazpi, Philippines that was built near Mayon Volcano. On that fateful February day in 1814, the volcano erupted. The terrified villagers ran to the church for shelter, as the raging lava leveled everything in its path. The church was not spared. Lava covered all but the bell tower and parts of the convent, killing everyone inside. Why did God allow that to happen? I don’t know. Did they pray for protection? I don’t doubt it. But in some ways, He did protect them. Their adventures in life came to an abrupt and sad end, but for those who believed in Christ, a new adventure of eternity in heaven began.

Whatever our future holds, each of us has a great adventure ahead, and God is there to lead us as we follow Him.

Best wishes, fellow adventurers, as you follow Christ through this life and the next, and may your adventure be epic!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Samuel Anoints a New King

God had given Saul a huge responsibility. He was to lead Israel as King, and he was to follow God’s orders. But Saul decided not to obey, and now God had decided to reject him as King.

Samuel couldn’t believe it. He had worked so hard to help make Saul a great King, and Saul had failed miserably. This made Samuel very sad, and he grieved for Saul’s behavior and God’s rejection of Saul. God was also very sad about Saul’s disobedience, but it wouldn’t do for Samuel to lose himself in grief. So God gave Samuel a task.

Samuel got word from God, “OK, that’s it. I’ve rejected Saul, and Israel needs to move on. Here’s what I want you to do. Fill your horn with oil and go to Bethlehem. There’s a guy there named Jesse. He has several sons, and I’ve chosen one of them to be King.”

“But Lord,” Samuel said, “if Saul hears about this, he’ll kill me! How do I do it?”

God replied, “Take a cow with you as an offering. Invite Jesse and his sons to the sacrifice, and I’ll show you what to do. I’ll tell you which son to anoint.”

So Samuel obeyed God. When he got to Bethlehem, he invited Jesse and his sons to the sacrifice. Pretty soon, they were standing before an altar. Jesse brought his sons with him, and immediately Samuel saw Eliab, the oldest, and knew this was the man. He was tall and fit. His confidence showed, and Samuel could tell just by looking at him that this guy would make a great King. He was just about to get out his horn to anoint Eliab when God said, “Um, no. This isn’t the one. Don’t look at the way he looks. That’s what man sees, but God looks at the heart. The heart is much more important than how a guy looks.”

So Jesse presented his second son to Samuel. Abinadab also looked like he’d make a great King, but again God said no. So they tried Shammah, the third son. Nope, not him either. Perhaps Nethanel? Nope. How about Raddai? Nope. Ozem? Nope. The other one whose name the Bible doesn’t tell? Nope.

Now Samuel was confused. God had clearly said the new King would be a son of Jesse, but God had just said “no” to all seven of Jesse’s sons!

So he asked Jesse, “Hmm… Is this all your sons?”

“Well,” Jesse replied, “there is still the youngest, but he’s off taking care of the sheep.”

“What are you waiting for?” Samuel said. “Go get him and bring him here!”

So Jesse sent a messenger to go fetch his eighth son. Pretty soon, the messenger came back with a young, healthy shepherd in tow. Depending on how you translate the Hebrew, he either had rosy cheeks or red hair.

So it was that Samuel took out his horn and anointed a shepherd boy named David to be the next King of Israel. It would be several years before David would actually become King, but God started preparing him for the huge task ahead.

Meanwhile, God sent an evil spirit to torment Saul. His servants discovered that harp music helped calm him down, and they suggested that he find someone who played the harp. So Saul ordered that they find a talented harpist to play for him whenever he got in one of his really bad moods. One of his servants said, “I saw a son of Jesse out in the sheep pasture in Bethlehem playing a harp. He’s really good! He’s also a brave warrior, he speaks well, and he looks great! God is with him.”

So Saul sent word to Jesse that he needed help from his son David. Jesse sent David to Saul, and whenever Saul got really grumpy, David would get out his harp, and the King calmed down. So Saul sent word to Jesse that he would like David to stay in the palace and play the harp for him because he really liked how helpful the music was. While David wasn’t playing the harp for the King, Saul assigned David to take care of the armor. Thus, David lived in the palace and started to learn from the King himself. He also met the Prince, and they became best friends. But we’ll learn about that later.