Days of Grace-Day 20

      Grace, defined as unmerited favor by some; a gift of something we did not earn or deserve others will say. A little surfing the net, here are a few of the definitions I found:

  •       Beauty of Form
  •       Good Will
  •       Favor rendered by one who need not do so; indulgence
  •       To give beauty, excellence or charm to
  •       Divine love, protection; freely given
  •       Excellence or power granted by God
  •       Effortless movement
  •       A condition of protection or sanctification by the favor of God
  •       Reprieve, pardon
  •       Mercy

      It has been twenty days since I felt challenged in my spirit to study this word grace.  Many people of faith observe Lent each year. Lent is a forty day period leading up to Easter, the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the tomb.  According to Christianity, it is a time of “fasting, repentance,  moderation, and spiritual discipline” that is observed by some but not all Christians. I was not very familiar with Lent though I had heard numerous friends over the years talk about giving something up for Lent or fasting.  Being curious, as it approached and I was around their conversations, I studied the concept. As I said earlier, I felt a still small challenge to focus each day on Grace. As it happened, when I looked at the calendar it was Ash Wednesday, which is the traditional starting day. I counted the days and determined it would be forty-five days and then Easter. So here we are on Day 20.  So far it has been an interesting journey for me and hopefully for those who have been walking it with me via this blog.

      Today’s grace verse comes from Acts 11: 23. On day 18 and 19 we looked at Stephen. After his trial and sentence, he was killed and persecution broke out among the followers of Christ’s teachings. Despite persecution, the church grew in strength and number. There also arose some confusion about the differences between the Jewish believers and the Gentile believers that were coming into their fellowship. Peter had a vision in chapter 10. Actually, he had it three different times.  Peter was perplexed and just after the last vision, some men came looking for him. They had been sent to Peter by a man named Cornelius so that they could request that he come to Cornelius’ home. Cornelius was a God-fearing centurion and a gentile (those who were not of the Jewish nation).  Peter accepted his invitation and went to him; there Peter told Cornelius and all his household and people about Jesus.  The Holy Spirit moved in power and they all believed and received the Holy Spirit. Next they were all baptized and this was the beginning of the gospel going out to the gentile nations.  Their cultural difference is what began the confusion previously mentioned. Questions over whether or not they were free to just follow Jesus or would have to conform to the Jewish traditions as well were the topic. Peter returns to Jerusalem and hears about the questions and concerns. Peter tells them all about his visions and all that had happened while he was with Cornelius. He told them how the Holy Spirit had moved in power and how they had received the Holy Spirit and then requested to be baptized right away. Peter said to the Jewish believers, “Therefore if God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”  When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.” Acts 11:17-18  This ended the confusion and questions from within  for now but the persecution from outside continued. The believers were now scattering because of the persecution of the church. Some scattered to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone.  Others went to Cyprus and Cyrene speaking to the gentiles (Greeks) preaching the gospel of Jesus.

Acts 11:21-23  (NAS) “And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord. The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch.  Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord.”

      Because of the work of the Holy Spirit, the obedience of Jesus,  and  gracious hand of His  Father; salvation, freedom, healing and deliverance was not just for the Jewish people but for all people. Secondly, due to the persecution many went out from Jerusalem into different areas spreading the word, remaining faithful to God and bringing many people to the realization of what was available by living a life for Christ. Once again we see the Grace of God abounding in His people lives even in the middle of trials and struggles. Stephen paid a high price but he graduated into God’s presence. Persecution came and caused chaos and havoc, yet if we look closely… We have seen examples of good will, Peter going to Cornelius. Possibly, that would even be considered indulgence; favor rendered by one who need not do so…but God. We see divine love and protection as people leave their home and are scattered. We also see excellence, power granted by God in the movement of the Holy Spirit. There is good will, mercy and reprieve handed to Cornelius’ household and to all the gentile people. We see God’s grace extended, His kingdom expanded and His glory revealed to all people and it is marvelous in our sight!

Grace and peace to you!

Days of Grace- Day 19

The Rest of the Story

     Yesterday we looked into the life of Stephen. When we paused the story, he was going before the Sanhedrin on trial for false accusations  and trumped-up charges despite the fact that Stephen was a man with a good reputation, wisdom and full of the Holy Spirit.  In Acts 6:8 we saw these words about Stephen: “And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people.”(NAS)  There were those who could not stomach the things Stephen spoke by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and plotted against him. Now he has been imprisoned and the trial has begun.

     When asked if the charges against him were true, Stephen answered in a very unusual way. He told the history of the Hebrew people beginning with Abraham and how God called him to leave his home country and go to a land God would show him, a land his descendants would one day have as an inheritance but first they would be in bondage in a foreign land. Stephen then retold a little about the patriarchs and how Jacob’s sons would sell their brother Joseph into slavery and how God would rescue him, deliver him from his afflictions and give him favor with the Pharaoh. Joseph grew to be second in command.  When famine hit his hometown, he eventually was reunited with his family as they sought food from Egypt.  He continued by telling how the Hebrews were growing in number and then were held in bondage to a foreign king.  He explained about Moses and his fleeing to the desert and God’s call for him to return to Egypt and bring the Hebrew people out of bondage. Stephen then spoke of their gaining freedom and wandering in the desert, the building of the wilderness tabernacle.  Finally, he ended with:  “David found favor in God’s sight, and asked that he might find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. But it was Solomon who built a house for Him.  However, the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands; as the prophet says:  ‘Heaven is My throne, and earth is the footstool of My feet; What kind of house will you build for Me?’ says the Lord, ‘Or what place is there for My repose?  ‘Was it not My hand which made all these things?’ ” Acts 7:45-50 (NAS)

      Imagine what the Sanhedrin are thinking! Perhaps they wondered where this was going or what this had to do with the charges against him. Our fellow has not once answered the question of the validity of the charges and I am pretty sure they never expected where Stephen would go next. Take a look:  You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.  Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.” Acts 7:51-53 (NKJV) These were Stephen’s next and last words to these leaders.  The leaders were outraged and sentenced him to be put to death.

     God’s grace is an amazing thing. It enabled Stephen to see to  the heart of the matter and instead of answering the bogus charges he was able to see the true problem. Their problem was not with him but with God. He understood God’s Word, His grace and God’s call on his own life. He stayed true to his beliefs and remained strong. I believe Stephen knew beyond a doubt his God was bigger than anything that the opposition could do and if he had any doubt I am sure it disappeared the instant he looked to the heavens and saw first hand the glory of God and Jesus seated at His right hand. Stephen journey appears to be is ending with this declaration: ” and he said,Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (verse 56) because they took him out of the city and stoned him. In reality, it was just the beginning for as Paul says to live is Christ, but to die is gain. God has a plan and purpose for every one of us and want us to live life and live it to the full. John 10:10 His desire is for us to live grace filled lives and lives that extend that grace He gives us to all those around us. It was the Grace of God flowing through this amazing man, Stephen, and the example of Jesus Himself that made it possible for Stephen’s last words to be “Lord, receive my spirit,” and “Lord do not hold this against them.” What an example of one who had great peace, wisdom and grace through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. In his greatest trial grace abounded, Lord, may it also abound in our lives whether in good times or in trials!

Days of Grace- Day 18

     As the early church grew, so did the needs among the people as they would in any growing population. This group of like-minded believers were made up of both Hebraic Jews and Hellenistic Jews, the difference being their language and their culture. The Hebraic from Hebrew and the Hellenistic from Greek language and culture.  The Hellenistic people were concerned that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution and brought it to the attention of the Twelve.  They summoned all the disciples and held a discussion as to what to do in order to more effectively serve the needs of the widows and those who had needs.  Clearly this was very important, but so was the continuance of ministering through prayer and the Word. One should not be neglected for the other, so they gathered together to choose seven men full of the Holy Spirit, with a good reputation, and full of wisdom.  They would be put in charge of food distribution, serving and making sure those in need were no longer neglected.

     The disciples selected Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicholas. Now they were set apart for this purpose by going before the Apostles for prayer and the laying on of hands. With this concern now addressed, the Word of God continued to be taught and the number of followers continued to grow in Jerusalem.

    Today’s grace verse focuses on one of these men, Stephen. We know that Stephen was one of the men chosen to oversee serving by the disciples which indicated that he was of good reputation, wise and full of the Holy Spirit. The first we hear of Stephen is in Acts 6:5 and we are told Acts 6:8: “And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people.” One would look at this and believe that Stephen was a good man, living his life, serving God and the people around him, and he was. There was just one problem, some men from the Synagogue of Freedom could not bear the wisdom and Spirit of what he was speaking. They not only stirred up an argument against Stephen, they incited some people against him, drug him before the Sanhedrin and encouraged false witnesses to testify against him. Press pause on Stephen’s story…

     “Where is the grace in what happened?” I am tempted to ask. Maybe you have been tempted to ask that same question. We all have times in life when we are living the best life we know how; juggling maybe, but keeping it balanced and steady, then out of the blue a “suddenly” moment happens. One minute all seemed perfect…ok maybe that should be all seems normal and then suddenly it’s not. If we live long enough, we all have these “suddenly” moments. Some are small; others much bigger. The question is what do we do with those moments? How do we survive false accusations? How do we get past a betrayal? What do we do with a big loss; when we feel as if the world is against us; when hopelessness threatens us?  The questions are endless when a “suddenly” moment happens and the answers in that moment are few. Often we either go on blind instinct or shut down for a while until we begin to be able to process what has happened.

     Personally, I have experienced a number of “suddenly” moments, some were unexpected losses. I would love to be able to say I have handled them well  but it wouldn’t be true. What is true, however, is there was always grace because whether or not I realized it at the time God was always there with me! His Word says He will never leave us or forsake us, and His Word is truth. I might not “feel” Him there or that His grace is with me but that doesn’t change the reality. Looking back on those times, the ones best navigated were the ones that I neither shut down, nor acted on instinct, but those that I hit my knees and immediately turned to God in prayer.  There grace met me. It was the times that I immediately turned to Him being totally helpless in the situation that I found the strength to take the next breath; the next step.  Being told that my Mom had died suddenly when she was in good health and still young; seven years later to the month, my Dad gone suddenly-no major known illness-just gone in a moment; still I will say… He has never left or forsaken me.  Where He is there is grace and His grace is always sufficient!

     Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me.  Since I know it is all for Christ’s good, I am quite content with my weaknesses and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:8-10

Days of Grace-Day 14

      Let’s take a look today at the days leading up to Jesus’ ministry, Luke chapter four will be our primary source. Here we will find the period just before His ministry began. Jesus was recently baptized in the Jordan by His cousin John the Baptist, to which God had responded, “this is My beloved Son, in You I am well pleased!” In chapter four we learn that Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit and lead around in the wilderness for forty days. During this time Jesus was fasting and He was being tempted by the devil. When the days were completed He became very hungry! At this time, Luke records three very distinct temptations the devil laid out before Jesus and each and every time Jesus responded with the Word of God rather than answering based on His own thoughts, feelings and desires. Jesus was fully submitted to His Father and the Word.  Because of this, Jesus was victorious over the temptations and returned to Galilee and began teaching in their synagogues and found favor and praises among the people.

     Jesus was in Nazareth and as usual, he entered the synagogue where they handed Him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Jesus opened it to the section that we recognize as Isaiah 61 and He began reading:  The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them,“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”  Luke 4:18-21 (NIV)

     My very first thought is how much I love this prophecy written by the prophet Isaiah about the coming Messiah; my second is how did those listening respond to Jesus’ reading and the claim “today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”?  The very next verse tells us: “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.” Luke 4:22. The word used for gracious is the Greek word Charis which we are tracing through the New Testament. Surprisingly, as Jesus continued teaching, the crowd grew enraged and drove Him out of the city; planning to throw Him off a cliff and giving credibility to His words, “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown.” Verse 24   Entering Capernaum, Jesus continued on His journey teaching, healing, delivering people all along His way.

How interesting that those that had known Jesus longest and should have known Him the best were so quick to turn on Him, run Him out of town and threaten His life. Something’s never change in life unless we make an intentional decision to address them. You’ve no doubt heard the old saying “you always hurt the one you love”, this should not be!  All of our words should be gracious, seasoned to be palatable and kind especially to our loved ones but to all others as well. Can you just imagine the difference that it would make in our world if everyone intentionally chose to speak graciously (that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness: grace of speech, good will, loving-kindness, favor) to our loved ones, friends, acquaintances and even strangers? Like many in generations past, my Mom used to say, “If you can not say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Sadly, too many things are said hastily or harshly, out of fear, anger, panic, or some other untamed emotion. Once spoken, they can’t be retracted. Even if they are forgiven, seldom are they forgotten! Words are powerful, may God teach us to use them well; to bring life and healing rather than death and destruction!

May grace season our words and be found upon our lips!

Days of Grace-Day 10

     In yesterdays, post I briefly mentioned the rebuilding of the second temple in Jerusalem. The rebuilding of the temple was authorized by Cyrus the Great, who was a Gentile king.  He was at that time in charge of the land where the Babylonians had once ruled. An interesting thing to know about Cyrus is that the prophet Isaiah foretold his kingdom 150 years before Cyrus was born! Let’s look:

     This is what the Lord, your Redeemer who formed you from the womb, says:  I am Yahweh, who made everything; who stretched out the heavens by Myself; who alone spread out the earth; who destroys the omens of the false prophets and makes fools of diviners; who confounds the wise and makes their knowledge foolishness; who confirms the message of His servant and fulfills the counsel of His messengers; who says to Jerusalem, “She will be inhabited,” and to the cities of Judah, “They will be rebuilt,”and I will restore her ruins; who says to the depths of the sea, “Be dry,” and I will dry up your rivers; who says to Cyrus, “My shepherd, he will fulfill all My pleasure” and says to Jerusalem, “She will be rebuilt,” and of the temple, “Its foundation will be laid.” Isaiah 44:24-28 (HSCB)

     Just as the Lord had spoken, Cyrus was born, grew up and became king. Cyrus wrote the following decree:  ” In the first year of King Cyrus, he issued a decree concerning the house of God in Jerusalem:  Let the house be rebuilt as a place for offering sacrifices, and let its original foundations be retained. Its height is to be 90 feet and its width 90 feet, with three layers of cut stones and one of timber. The cost is to be paid from the royal treasury.  The gold and silver articles of God’s house that Nebuchadnezzar took from the temple in Jerusalem and carried  to Babylon must also be returned. They are to be brought to the temple in Jerusalem where they belong and put into the house of God.” Ezra 6:3-5 9 (HSCB)

     So the building began.  Can you just imagine how elated the Israelites were to be allowed to return to their land and start this rebuilding process? Not to mention they had the blessing and support of Cyrus. They had mourned for a long time over the destruction of their temple. Construction for the foundation was said to take about two years and then the delays began.  Because of opposition and delays, it took many years for the Israelites to rebuild the temple.  In fact, it was not finished until after Darius had become the king. He also had a decree written about the temple. He echoed Cyrus’ decree and added to it a directive about what should happen to anyone who interfered. You can find this in verses 6-11 in Ezra 6.

     This leads us to today’s verse on grace. As Zechariah 4 begins, an angel is speaking to him about things pertaining to the temple. The angel asks him what is it that he sees. Zachariah describes the golden lamp stands and two olive trees and asks “what are these, my lord?” The angel responds don’t you know?” and he responds, “no.” Next, we find today’s verses in the angels reply:  “Then he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts.  ‘What are you, O great mountain ? Before Zerubbabel you will become a plain ; and he will bring forth the top stone with shouts of “Grace, grace to it!””Also the word of the LORD came to me, saying,  “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house, and his hands will finish it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. “For who has despised the day of small things ? But these seven will be glad when they see the plumb-line in the hand of Zerubbabel – these are the eyes of the LORD which range to and fro throughout the earth.” Zechariah 4:6-10 (NAS)

     The angel is speaking to the prophet Zechariah with a message to Zerubbabel, who was the civil head of Jerusalem. The message is that the work will be completed and the top stone will be placed but it will not come by the might or power of the people, it will come by God’s Spirit! The mountain which stands before them delaying the building will become as a plain, the obstacles removed and the top stone placed. Then there will be shouts of “Grace, Grace”. Then you will know God has sent me. What an incredible message of hope and encouragement for Zerubbabel and the people. Not only would the obstacles be done away with but the temple would be completed, and in Zerubbabel’s lifetime. Those who began the work would see it to completion even though right now that looked impossible to them. Now that is grace, it is the promise of God’s favor to accomplish that which He had begun! Grace that He announced through the prophet Isaiah 150 years ahead of schedule that though they are taken captive and away from their homeland, the temple destroyed, He will send Cyrus and they will find favor and return to rebuild their beloved Jerusalem. That my friend, is God’s grace and His favor! No matter what we are going through, He sees our struggles and our pain. Even when we are not rescued from them or spared, He has a plan. We may not understand but He is working to redeem our hurts and pain and in His timing restore us and bring us to an even greater place.


Days of Grace-Day 9

     Speaking of grace, I hope your day is as beautiful as it is here today! The sky is gorgeous and sunny! It is absolutely wonderful even though the cold has returned and it is a bit breezy. Alas, I do miss those seventy degree days; thankfully, Spring is near!

     Today, our scripture portion on grace is found in Jeremiah 31:2 but we will look at a few other verses for context, and it is a bit longer than those we have looked at before. We will begin in verse one:  “At that time,” declares the LORD, “I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be My people.”  Thus says the LORD, “The people who survived the sword found grace (chen) in the wilderness – Israel, when it went to find its rest.”  The LORD appeared to him from afar, saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness (checed).  “Again I will build you and you will be rebuilt, O virgin of Israel! Again you will take up your tambourines, and go forth to the dances of the merrymakers.  “Again you will plant vineyards on the hills of Samaria; the planters will plant and will enjoy them.  “For there will be a day when watchmen on the hills of Ephraim call out, ‘Arise, and let us go up to Zion, to the LORD our God.’  “For thus says the LORD, “Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations ; Proclaim, give praise and say, ‘O LORD, save Your people, the remnant of Israel.’ “Behold, I am bringing them from the north country, and I will gather them from the remote parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and she who is in labor with child, together; a great company, they will return here.  “With weeping they will come, and by supplication I will lead them; I will make them walk by streams of waters, on a straight path in which they will not stumble; For I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is My firstborn.”  Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, And declare in the coastlands afar off, and say, “He who scattered Israel will gather him and keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.”  For the LORD has ransomed Jacob and redeemed him from the hand of him who was stronger than he. “They will come and shout for joy on the height of Zion, and they will be radiant over the bounty of the LORD – Over the grain and the new wine and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; and their life will be like a watered garden, and they will never languish again. “Then the virgin will rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old, together, for I will turn their mourning into joy And will comfort them and give them joy for their sorrow. “I will fill the soul of the priests with abundance, and My people will be satisfied with My goodness,” declares the LORD.  Thus says the LORD, “A voice is heard in Ramah, Lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.”  Thus says the LORD, “Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears; for your work will be rewarded,” declares the LORD, “And they will return from the land of the enemy. “There is hope for your future,” declares the LORD, “and your children will return to their own territory.”  Jeremiah 31:1-17 NAS

     Notice the highlighted words. The first, chen, is the Hebrew word that we have seen most so far and is translated most often grace or favor. The second, checed, is the Hebrew word for loving kindness, goodness, and faithfulness and it is also translated mercy in one hundred forty-nine scriptures. In this text Jeremiah is speaking to the people of Israel, the Hebrew people. They have had a long history with God already. They have shared times of great prosperity and times of captivity by other nations. In our text, we are at a time in history where they have been scattered and separated. They are dispersed among the nations. Jeremiah is a prophet to the Hebrew people and has spent much time warning them about their ways and urging them to turn back to God.  Many commentators believe that this was a two-fold prophecy, one for the short-term when the Israelites would return from captivity to Judah and that the second fulfillment would come much later in the end times.

     A remnant of the Jewish people did return and the walls of Jerusalem, the city and the temple was rebuilt. This began during the reign of Cyrus and rebuilding the temple took many years to complete because of those who continually tried to stop the progress. It was the early fulfillment of the prophecy of Jeremiah.  Eventually their land and the city of Jerusalem came under Roman control. The temple stood until AD 70, when it was once again destroyed and the surviving Jewish people were once again dispersed and displaced no longer having a country of their own. This continued to be true until Israel became a nation in May 14 of 1948.  Also, in 1967 Israel fought the Six Day war and recaptured Jerusalem as their capital.  I will post a couple of links below in case you would like some modern history pertaining to Israel’s rebirth.

Days of Grace- Day 7

Moving ahead in tracing God’s grace and favor throughout the pages of the Bible, our next stop along the way is found in 1 Samuel.  Samuel is an adult now and serves as a prophet. In our text today, Samuel has already anointed Saul as King of Israel. At the people’s insistence, God had relented and agreed to allow them a king and Saul was chosen to be the first.  That, however, has not worked out exactly for the best. In chapter sixteen, God has a talk with Samuel and assigns him to go to the house of Jessie, take a sacrifice with him and anoint the ‘one’ God tells him  as the next king of Israel. The Lord was very specific that Samuel not look at Jessie’s sons based on their appearance nor at their physical stature, God was looking at their heart.

One by one, Samuel met Jessie’s sons, seven in all had passed by Samuel. Samuel spoke to Jessie and said, “The Lord has not chosen these; are there any more children?” Jessie sent for his son David who was in the field tending sheep. The Lord said “this is the one” and Samuel anointed David. The Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul and his gradual fall as king began. Initially, Saul seeks David out and is friendly but as time goes by, Saul starts slipping and David begins to grow in power and influence. Our grace text is found in 1 Samuel 27:5. David is fleeing Saul’s attacks and goes into Gath in the land of Philistines. He has sought favor with Achish, son of Maoch, king of Gath so that he could have refuge from Saul. David asks in verse 5, ” If I have now found grace in thine eyes, let them give me a place in some town in the country, that I may dwell there: for why should thy servant dwell in the royal city with thee?”(KJV)  Achish granted him Ziklag, where David resided for the next sixteen months. During this time David gained the favor and the respect of Achish.

This story amazes me!  David, who conquered the Philistine Goliath, later seeks refuge among these same Philistine people. This is just another example of scripture proving scripture and God’s marvelous grace to those who have a heart for Him. Proverbs 16:7    “When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” David surely experienced this in his life, at times with Saul and certainly  during his stay with the Philistine people.

Days of Grace-Day 6

Have you met Hannah? If not, I am pleased to introduce you to her. Today, we will look at another woman spoken of in the Word of God, her name is Hannah. Hannah lives with her husband Elkanah from the hill country of Ephraim. They are mentioned beginning in First Samuel chapter one. One of the first things we learn is Hannah is not Elkanah’s only wife. To make life even more difficult for her, she shared her husband with another wife, Peninnah. Peninnah had been blessed with children; Hannah had none.

    Elkanah was a man of God, we know this because he made a yearly journey to worship and sacrifice to the Lord. When the time for sacrifice came he gave portions to Peninnah and her children, but to Hannah he would give a double portion because he loved Hannah. Hannah suffered greatly because of her inability to have children. If it were not enough, Peninnah made it a rivalry and did not miss a chance to remind Hannah of her lack of fruitfulness. In verse 8 we see Elkanah as he tries to comfort Hannah saying, ” “Hannah, why do you weep and why do you not eat and why is your heart sad ? Am I not better to you than ten sons?” I am sure she appreciated her husband’s attempt at comfort, but Hannah wanted more than anything to give her husband children. She went up to the temple. Hannah bowed in prayer, weeping greatly in her cries to the Lord.  Eli, the priest saw her there and rebuked her thinking that she was drunk.  One would think that might have been the tipping point for Hannah. Here she is childless, broken-hearted, suffering taunting and provocation from her rival and now she was also misunderstood completely by the priest who thought she was crying uncontrollably because she was drunk. But no, Hannah answered Eli calmly, ”  “No, my lord, I am a woman oppressed in spirit ; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have poured out my soul before the LORD.  “Do not consider your maidservant as a worthless woman, for I have spoken until now out of my great concern and provocation.” 1 Samuel 1:15-16 Eli’s, response was, “Go in peace, may the Lord grant you your request.” Hannah, in verse 18 responded, “And she said , Let thine handmaid find grace in thy sight. So the woman went her way, and did eat , and her countenance was no more sad.”

The following day Elkanah and Hannah went early to bow and worship the Lord and began their journey home to Ramah. After a while, The Lord remembered Hannah, she conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel because she “requested him from the Lord.” verse 20.  Not only did our friend Hannah find grace in Eli’s sight, she also found grace and compassion in God’s sight and He answered her prayer. In gratitude, she raised young Samuel, dedicated him to the Lord, and when he was weaned this young boy served the Lord in the temple alongside Eli the priest.  1 Samuel 2:21 goes on to tell us that God remembered Hannah, at least one translation says ‘was gracious to Hannah’ and she had another three sons and two daughters. As for Samuel, he was raised in the temple and called by God to be a prophet in Israel and later a judge over Israel. God heard Hannah’s cries and He had a plan greater than she could have ever imagined. We may not always understand when we go through difficult trying times or times of suffering.  This I do know looking back in hindsight on my life’s circumstances and at the stories we are seeing in this journey. There is always a greater plan and God among all His other attributes is a God of mercy and grace.

Grace and blessings to you!

Continue reading “Days of Grace-Day 6”

Days of Grace- Day 4

     In our journey so far we have looked at three examples of grace. First, Noah found grace with God because he and his family stood out above the wickedness that surrounded them. Secondly, Abraham and his family was the benefactor of the grace of God and lastly Moses and God’s chosen people found favor with God as the cord of grace and favor are weaved further through scripture. Our first day we looked at the Strong’s definition of the Hebrew word for grace (Chem). Today, let’s finally look at a working definition of this word grace.  According to Noah Wester 1828 online dictionary, the noun grace is defined “Favor; good will; kindness; disposition to oblige another; as a grant made as an act of grace;  appropriately, the free unmerited love and favor of God, the spring and source of all the benefits men receive from him.” Amazingly, this just covers the first two of twenty definition listings just for grace the noun. It is a very dynamic word!  For more see:

     Now that we have a working definition in our language, let’s look at the next connection in our grace pilgrimage, we will be in Judges six looking at the story of Gideon. The story begins with an explanation of how God’s chosen people find themselves living in caves and mountain strongholds because they have done evil in God’s sight and have been targeted for seven years now by the Midianites. Israel was hurting. After all that God had delivered them from in the past, they still had memory failure and fell into disobedience once again. Now they find themselves in a struggle to get by and crying out to God once again and God answered their cries. His response is located in verse  8-10: “the LORD sent a prophet unto the children of Israel, which said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you forth out of the house of bondage; and I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all that oppressed you, and drove them out from before you, and gave you their land; and I said unto you, I am the LORD your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell : but ye have not obeyed my voice.” KJV

     Gideon was hiding out and threshing wheat by the winepress. This is indeed an unusual place to be threshing wheat, normally they would thresh on the hillside where the chafe could blow away and the wheat would fall back to the ground but Gideon was here trying to preserve the little wheat they had from the enemy. An angel of the Lord appeared saying, “The LORD is with you, O valiant warrior.” (Judges 6:12b)  Gideon responded,  “O my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about,saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.” (Judges 6:13)

     Then the Lord responded that Gideon should go in his own strength and deliver Israel from Midian and Gideon, much like Abraham had several excuses why he could not do as he was asked.  Patiently, the Lord responded again with these words from Judges 6: 16-17. “But the LORD said to him, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat Midian as one man.”

      Gideon then said to Him, “If now I have found favor in Your sight, then show me a sign that it is You who speak with me. “Please do not depart from here, until I come back to You, and bring out my offering and lay it before You.” Gideon found favor with this messenger and He awaited as Gideon prepared a meal and returned. The angel of the Lord then sacrificed the meal as an offering unto the Lord.  Judges 6:22-24 tells us, “When Gideon saw that he was the angel of the LORD, he said, “Alas, O Lord GOD! For now I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face.”  The LORD said to him, “Peace to you, do not fear; you shall not die.” Then Gideon built an altar there to the LORD and named it The LORD is Peace.”

      Once again we see the great grace that God shows one of His chosen. This is  a man clearly hiding and trying to protect his grain and yet God sees his potential and calls him mighty warrior despite him being of the least and the smallest among his people. As the story goes Gideon takes the first step in fulfilling God’s request. We not only observe that God is a God of peace, we also get a glimpse into the great patience God has with Gideon. God goes on to patiently answer Gideon as he asks for signs not once but twice before he continues to fulfill what the Lord has called him to do. How great is the patience and grace of God throughout all the ages and even in our day, Grace to you!

Days of Grace-Day 3

Imagine, if you can for a moment that you are Moses. Yes, the same Moses that God called in Exodus 3, and was commissioned to return to the land of Egypt from which he fled to the desert having killed a man. The same Moses who tried to get out of the assignment by claiming to be slow of speech and slow of tongue in chapter 4. In the following chapter, Moses goes to God and asks in 5:22,” “Lord, why have you caused trouble for this people? Why did you ever send me? 23 From the time I went to speak to Pharaoh in your name, he has caused trouble for this people, and you have certainly not rescued them!” Following this interchange, Moses and Aaron went before Pharaoh and following each visit one of the ten plaques of Egypt occurred. (Exodus 7-11)  Finally, in chapter 13 of Exodus the Hebrew captives were released and Moses led them out of Egypt.  One of the ways God showed the now freed captives His favor or grace was that He chose to deliver them from captivity to the promised land by taking them the long route through the desert to the Red Sea. This would spare them from running into the Philistines, and avoid possible war and their running back to their former captors in fear. He also showed  them His favor by leading them as they went. During the day He went before them in a pillar of cloud, and then by a pillar of fire by night. (Exodus 13)  God led them to and through the Red Sea. They walked through the Sea on dry ground and got safely across the Sea just before God allowed the enemy troops in  pursuit of them to be swallowed up into the Sea. God showed His provision, forgiveness and favor to His people many times during their forty-year journey in the desert in search of the promised land.

Our real grace verse for today is found in Exodus 33:12. Before we take a look at it, let’s set the stage or glimpse the context of this verse. We have just passed the verses that tell about Moses   going up the mountain, God giving the ten commandments and the people growing impatient and talking Aaron into making a golden calf to worship. God has told Moses to take the obstinate people and go to the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob but they will go without Him lest He destroy them along the way.  It is here that Moses intercedes for the people. We read in Genesis 33: 12-16 “ Then Moses said to the Lord, “See, You say to me, ‘Bring up this people!’ But You Yourself have not let me know whom You will send with me. Moreover, You have said, ‘I have known you by name, and you have also found favor (chem) in My sight.’ Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people.”  And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.”  Then he said to Him, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?”  Moses was wise enough to know that it was God’s presence and favor among them was what had preserved them and distinguished them among all the other people of the world.

God responds to Moses pleas with this: “ The Lord said to Moses, “I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you by name.”Exodus 33:17 NAS

Again as with Abraham yesterday, we see God granting favor or grace on his servant, hearing his bold prayers on behalf of the people and answering them. God’s grace threaded throughout His story. May His grace, favor and peace be with you and keep you!