Presumption 

~~MTS-3955
Presumption
“But he refused to drink it; instead, he poured it out to the LORD.”
         1 Ch 11:18

Remember what transpired after Paul and Silas preformed a miraculous sign in Lystra? People brought out a bull and were about to make a sacrifice in honor of the two missionaries. How did Paul react to this nonsense? He jumped into crowd and stopped them just in time to keep the masses from doing the unthinkable. Such an act was shocking even to the apostle, who was quite familiar with all the superstitions pagans practiced. Nothing could have been more appalling and horrifying than people attempting to deify him.
If he claimed to be a follower of Christ, why did the late president Chiang Kai-shek routinely accept the homage Taiwanese people paid to him, as if he were more than a mere man? Indeed I had been one among the crowd who shouted at the top of my lungs “Long live President Chiang” numerous times, and the recollection of the act never fails to make me cringe. Why on earth did I do such a thing?
I was just a student and a soldier then and we were required to bow down to the man or his portrait on special occasions and the consequence could have been severe had I refused to do it in public. I have no idea how Christians on the island handled the issue since I myself was not one at that time. It would have been very difficult to do what I did had I been a believer. What we were required to do was akin to the worship of a deity.
Some Christians made quite an issue of this when they heard a group of elementary students singing praises to a presidential candidate when he was campaigning for the presidency some years ago. It was quite an anathema to those Christians if they smelt or heard anything close to deifying a mere man, even if he was a great man. I remember feeling sick to my stomach when I heard the song played on the evening news. The man might have been quite admirable in many aspects, but the song of praise for him was a bit overboard, reminding me of the songs of propaganda and the hymns of praise to the great leader I had to sing as a little boy and a young man.
What David did with the water brought to him by the three brave warriors only reveals to us who the man truly was and I admire him for doing that. He wasn’t called a man after God’s own heart for no reason. The mere thought of receiving such a great sacrifice from his fellow men was abhorrent to him, let alone actually accepting it. “Should I drink the blood of these men who went at the risk of their lives?” David asked, and he did what he considered the only right thing to do at the time: he poured the water out before the Lord, clearly indicating who the One worthy of people’s sacrifice and worship was.      

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, April 30, 2015 6:49:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Heroic Deed 

~~MTS-3954
Heroic Deed
“So the Three broke through the Philistine lines, drew water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem and carried it back to David.”    1 Ch 11:18

The weather was scorching hot and David was probably just speaking in passing. “Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!” The problem was the City of Bread was occupied by the Philistines and it would have been quite a risky enterprise for anyone to do so. I don’t think David meant for anybody to actually risk their life to fetch him a drink of cold water. Yet three warriors in the camp seemed to take David’s wishes rather seriously, and were about to put their lives on the line to satisfy David’s thirst.
Had David known what the three were going to do, he would have kept them from proceeding. It simply wasn’t worth it to jeopardize one’s life for such a casual yearning. What exactly caused three people to take such a great risk for a mere cup of water from the well in Bethlehem, we may wonder.
Most people were drawn to David by his charisma and they couldn’t help but cater to his every wish, for they wanted so much to please the man. They even went to such an extent as to risk their own lives for him. They didn’t perform the deed by coercion at all; they did so mostly by their own compulsion. They might not have done it had they thought more about what their action might have entailed. I guess that is how heroes are created in most cases. When one is overcome by a heroic spirit or an ideal so compelling, their life become less significant compared to what they desire to achieve. The three warriors were more than willing to put their lives on the line for something as whimsical as some cold water. Of course, the water itself meant very little compared to what it truly represented.
It stands for an ideal, a kind of love and loyalty that is beyond our comprehension. Nothing seemed to be as serious and honorable as what they were about to do. Was it blind loyalty to someone who might or might not have the claim? Perhaps. Yet that wasn’t something that concerned the three warriors. They were determined, and carried out something they considered noble and honorable, which was quite enough for them.
Was David worthy of these people’s sacrifice? By no means. Even the king himself didn’t deem himself deserving of such a sacrifice. He would have been insane had he accepted such worship and adoration. Many despots in history might have routinely done that, and it hasn’t been all that uncommon for emperors to bring hundreds of people down to Sheol with them after their passing. But the man after God’s own heart couldn’t have done that. He poured the water out before the Lord as a form of sacrifice, indicating that only God was entitled to receive such lofty honor and sacrifice.  
    

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, April 29, 2015 6:38:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Take Their Stand 

~~ MTS-3953
Take Their Stand
“But they took their stand in the middle of the field. They defended it and struck the Philistines down…”       1 Ch 11:14

The Israelites were running away from the Philistines initially, realizing that they might lose if they took their stand in the barley field. We have no idea what made them turn around and face the enemies, but that was what happened. They decided to take their stand and defend their land, and were victorious over their enemies at the end. The battle would have been lost had they kept on running away, and they would probably have been bothered by the questions of “what if” their entire life. They stayed and fought, therefore removing all the uncertainties concerning the outcome of the fight. Their death would have ended all the questions that might remain to trouble them; yet it was also possible they would survive to tell the tale, and to enjoy the fruit of their sacrifices.
“But they took their stand in the middle of the field. They defended it and struck the Philistines down…”
The Philistines were ferocious fighters and their thirst for blood was well-documented. The Israelites might have been stricken with terror merely at the mention of their enemies and running away from the peril was all too natural for them to do. Yet against every fiber of their beings, they chose to do what was entirely against their instinct. They took their stand instead.
Running away from the scene is always an easier option when we encounter with any sort of difficulty, be it related to our jobs or our family. One thing we do need to do, though, when we face any kind of dilemma in life. We should first find out what God’s will is and be determined to stay the course if it’s His will. Choosing to take the path of least resistance isn’t always a good idea.
I have heard Taiwan has one of the highest divorce rates in the entire world and only 57 percent of all marriage last to their tenth anniversary. In fact, only 6.5 percent of all married couples in the States make it to their 50th celebration. Of course, in order to make it that far, good health and a healthy marriage are both necessary, but the percentage is just way too low. I guess as long as we continue to consider divorce a viable option when our marriages hit a rough patch, the rate of failed marriages will keep on climbing. Taking the easy way out may not always yield the best outcome and the statistics seem to agree. The divorce rate of second marriages is higher than the first, according to various surveys.
For love of God and our promises to people, we should take our stand and continue to fight for the survival of our faith and our family. We may lose our lives fighting, but our integrity will surely evaporate by running away. Indeed there is still a chance that we may emerge victorious, no matter how slim the opportunity is; but there is absolutely no chance of winning if we simply run away.                                                                                               

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, April 28, 2015 6:53:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Barley Field 

~~MTS-3952
Barley Field
“At a place where there was a field full of barley, the troops fled from the Philistines.”        1 Ch 11:13

The rice seeds had to be germinated first in a small plot of a flooded rice paddy. They would be ready to be transplanted when they were about a few inches tall and the time of transplantation usually took place during the early spring time after we celebrated the Chinese New Year when the water on the rice field was still pretty cold. Of course the field had to be flooded, plowed and tilled, which was mainly the job of our water buffalo who worked tirelessly for days in the howling wind blowing over from the Taiwan Strait just a few miles away. Our school was yet to start and my grandmother was such a taskmaster that it bothered her to see us children having nothing to do. There were always chores for us to do, be they grazing the water buffalo or doing some weeding in the sweet potato field, and it was always such a relief when school finally started. All the adults in my family, however, continued to labor in the rice paddy, doing the weeding, fertilizing, and other chores, oftentimes on their hands and knees, crawling between rows of tender rice plants while doing the weeding. We children only got to visit the rice farm during the weekends when grandmother drove us to the fields to help out, doing whatever we were able to do. The rice crops seemed to grow without us knowing it and their light greenness became darker as they grew. If all things went well and the usually unpredictable weather cooperated, the entire field would turn golden just before the rice was ready to be harvested, which was always a joyful occasion. Everybody would be smiling and in jolly mood, and even my grandmother would become a little mellow. We were allowed to roam and play hide and seek in the field, as long as we didn’t do any damage to the ripe rice crop. The labor of growing rice was long and laborious, but the harvest brought us a lot of joy. Indeed, “those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.”
The times were hard and the labor of being a farmer working on a small plot of land was laborious, but at least there was peace in the land and we got to eat the rice we had planted and drink the water from the well we had dug near the fishpond. The Japanese had been driven home by the nationalist army and Taiwan had been restored as a part of China. People in my village were mostly poor at the time, but thankfully the war was a thing of the past.
 There was no such luxury for the Israelites as they continued to engage in a deadly battle with the Philistines during the time of Saul and David, and they turned their barley field into a battle ground. “At a place where there was a field full of barley, the troops fled from the Philistines.” How can we not shed a few tears when we read this verse depicting the quiet pastoral scene with the scent of blood and the shadow of death permeating the autumn air? Surely this wasn’t meant to be, wasn’t meant to be at all. The barley had been planted, watered, and cultivated, yet it was trampled down underfoot by the ones who butchered one another for one cause or another, and none of the reasons was quite justifiable.   

   

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, April 27, 2015 6:33:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Power 

~~MTS-3951
Power
And David became more and more powerful, because the LORD Almighty was with him.        1 Ch 11:9

Human power and authority are all ordained by God, be they righteous or unrighteous. This idea is only plausible when we look from the perspective of God’s sovereignty. God raises sovereigns and kings up for different purposes, some to reward people and others to judge nations, and we really don’t have any say in this. Concerning the erection and destruction of rulers and kings all we can do is react to what’s been done, rather than detect what will be done to us.
We would like to think that we are more empowered in a democratic government since we can vote people in or out of office, but the truth may just be the opposite. The masses are blind and they are often controlled and manipulated by human and divine forces, and the leaders that have been chosen may not be the ones who will be the most beneficial to them.
Depending on whom you ask, people may come up with opposite opinions concerning the presidents we have elected during the last few decades. Some may deem President Obama the best of all ages, but other may perceive him to be the worst. Where was God when people were making their choices at the polls? He was where he has always been - sitting on his throne. Indeed, “The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever.” Nothing, absolutely nothing occurs on earth outside of his sovereign will. Therefore we read: “David became more and more powerful, because the LORD Almighty was with him.”
Of course there is no issue for us here, since David was the man after God’s own heart, and out of God’s will the man was raised up to be a righteous ruler over his people Israel; yet there have been thousands of evil kings who have sprouted up over the earth over the years to torture the innocent. Were they raised up by the same God, we often wonder.
There is simply no absolute guarantee that kings and rulers will not abuse their power after they are enthroned. In fact, we can be sure all of them will in some ways, and some are far worse than others. David was supposed to be a good king, yet the way he abused his power in a few incidents was quite abhorrent, and the son who succeeded the father was a lot worse in many aspects.
The One who bestows power on humans seems to give them free will over how they govern. I suppose when a theocracy failed because of people’s disobedience to the divine King, the governing systems that were installed afterward were far worse and much more corrupt.
Come to think of it, we realize that we have no king but God in essence, and the system we are placed under for the time being is by no means perfect. Yet there is simply no better alternative, for anarchy should be avoided at all costs. I guess that’s why the apostle Paul exhorted us: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.”     
       

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, April 24, 2015 6:29:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Warrior 

~~MTS-3950
Warrior
“Joab son of Zeruiah went up first, and so he received the command.”
          1 Ch 11:6

It was probably the moment young Joab had been waiting for a long time and he just had to seize it. Surely there was grave danger involved in the action, and the deed he was going to do might become his last as a warrior, yet the possible consequence of his venture didn’t seem to cross his mind.  The goal was set, and he just had to go for it. Had he delayed the action for a moment longer, others might have jumped in and taken the opportunity from him and his chance to shine would have been gone forever. Being a man of great ambition and aspiration, he simply couldn’t let the rare chance slip from his finger-tips. Dangerous or not, he had to go forth, lest he would regret it forever.
Therefore, “Joab son of Zeruiah went up first, and so he received the command.” For his bravery, the man was handsomely rewarded and was named the commander-in-chief of David’s troops afterward. Of course before that happened, he had to survive the fierce battle against the Jebusites. He could easily have been killed in battle and the whole thing would have become moot.
Are we determined to “seize the day” like the son of Zeruiah, who rose to the occasion and made a name for himself?
Is there going to be such an occasion occurring in our life time? We may wonder. I guess it all depends on how we define greatness. The ones who have achieved worldly greatness don’t seem to wait for opportunity to fall into their laps; they instead constantly try to create their own opportunities by being proactive. Besides being active in making things happen, they also work tirelessly to prepare themselves to become more ready for the task when things do happen. When the opportunity presented itself, Joab was ready to seize it since he was well-prepared physically and mentally for the difficult assignment. He would have failed miserably had he not been equipped for the job.
All our preparations happen behind closed doors on our knees. Unless we do so, we won’t be any good when the moment arrives and things that are supposed to happen will never occur, for we simply are not ready for the moment.
How do we react when we are called to offer a public prayer? Very simple thing to do, isn’t it? Yet we have witnessed many people stumble through their short prayer when they are asked to do so. Why? The answer to this is quite obvious. People who pray little privately will have great difficulty doing it in public. As simple as that.
People may perform great deeds on impulse and such might have been the case with Joab. He was young and full of blood, and perhaps was doing something that came naturally to him to do. Things such as this don’t usually take place in spiritual warfare. We are doomed to fail if we are not properly prepared for the battle, which is through our daily prayer life and our habit of obeying the Lord in thousands of small things.
     

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, April 23, 2015 6:33:00 AM Categories: Devotional

As Promised 

~~MTS-3949
As Promised
“…and they anointed David king over Israel, as the LORD had promised through Samuel.”        1 Ch 11:3

It had been many years since the shepherd lad was called home from the fields when Samuel was visiting, intending to anoint a king to replace Saul who had lost God’s favor because of his disobedience. After the fanfare of anointing and the celebration held afterward, David went back to his sheep as if nothing significant had occurred. He remained a shepherd for a long while after the anointing.
Then came the opportunity for him to shine when he was visiting his brothers on the frontline. With his youthful exuberance and uncontaminated faith in God he was able to take down the giant who had invoked great dread among the Israelites. The shepherd boy might have thought the time for him to become a king was drawing near. It turned out not to be the case and he was again sent home, shepherding his father’s sheep. By slaying the giant Goliath he made quite a stir among the Israelites and became an instant hero of the nation, especially among the young girls. He was indeed the heartthrob of the nation for a season, but the cheers soon died down and the only echo of fame that he heard was the wind blowing among the reeds in the valley. The shepherd boy remained a shepherd.
And then the summons from the king came and he became a court musician and an exorcist of sorts whose music seemed to have a calming effect when Saul was being attacked by an evil spirit. He gradually climbed the ladder and seemingly was on his way to becoming a general, yet the king appeared to become envious of him and made several attempts to get rid of him, and he ended up becoming a fugitive. A few hundred people did decide to follow him, but the outlook for him becoming a king was rather grim at the time; he even had to fake insanity in a foreign kingdom to save himself.
By this time the anointing and all the promises that came with it might have become a distant memory in his mind. He was merely trying to elude the hot pursuit of Saul and figure out a way to survive among the pagans. I wonder what his dreams and aspirations were when he was being hunted down and had to hide in caves to avoid being caught? He was indeed God’s anointed, yet another one who was also God’s anointed was attempting to track him down and to put him away.
When all things seemed to be pointing to an opposite end, indicating that the Lord’s promise wasn’t at all valid, the Lord was still at work to make his promises come true. Surely he was there and he was not silent at all; the Lord continued to do his thing and, when the time came, his promise would finally come true.
God’s seeming inaction does not mean he isn’t taking any action; he may be just testing our patience to see whether we will continue to trust and to wait. Things will take place at an appropriate time, no sooner, and no later. His timing for doing things is always exactly right.   

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, April 22, 2015 5:51:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Waiting 

~~MTS-3948
Waiting
“In the past, even while Saul was king, you were the one who led Israel on their military campaigns.”         1 Ch 11:2

David didn’t become the king over Israel instantly after Samuel anointed him to be one; the road that led to his kingship had been long and was littered with blood and tears. He was misunderstood, mistrusted, and mistreated by his master along the way, and was in danger of being speared many times, yet he remained steadfast and stayed the course through it all, fully persuaded the Lord had a perfect plan for his life, even though all things that happened since his anointing seemed to be pointing to the opposite.
Never did he lose sight of the moment when the anointing oil of Samuel ran down from his hair to his ruddy cheek, soaking the robe he wore, creating a strange sensation that he would never forget. Indeed, he was the Lord’s anointed, just like the master he was serving at the time. What the Lord had planned no man could have thwarted, David firmly believed.
A lesser person might have lost his patience waiting for the Lord’s plan to materialize; and some might even have made an attempt or two to take over the throne before the time ordained by God. They might even have taken drastic action to make things happen, as if the Lord merely did the planning and it was entirely up to them to implement and to execute the plan. Indeed, David could easily have speared Saul a couple of times had he desired to do so.
Timing was everything, and David must have known it wasn’t yet the right time for action; therefore he remained silent and did what he was called to do, serving the mentally unstable king who constantly questioned his loyalty and attempted to take his life several times.
Are we waiting passively for the big moment in life to take place? The promotion we have been expecting or the leadership position we have been craving to get? Why keep on wringing our hands and doing nothing, as if the pie in the sky will fall into our laps on its own. Isn’t this the season when all the presidential hopefuls make their announcement to run for the most powerful position in the world, albeit most of them have very little chance to be nominated by their party or get elected in the general election? Surely we are no melancholic Hamlet who continued to brood on his “pale cast of thought” and “lose the name of action?” The peach is rosy, juicy, and ripe and it’s there to be taken. “Do I dare to eat a peach?” asked Prufrock portrayed by Eliot, afflicted with an inferiority complex and laden with self-doubt.
Surely David was no dramatized Hamlet or fictional Prufrock, he was a Godly man with strong faith and gusto, and only such a man had the faith to trust and the courage to wait. He was determined not take action unless the Lord acted first. In the meantime, he kept on heeding his calling by leading the Israelites on their military campaigns, even though by doing such he would strengthen the position of Saul, who was in fact his arch enemy, and thus minimize his chances of taking over the throne.
“My time is not yet come,” the Lord Jesus stated repeatedly. Even the Son of God waited and waited; why can’t we? “Your time is always ready,” He remarked, revealing our greatest spiritual weakness, which is our inability to wait on the Lord at all times. Milton was right on target when he wrote this in a sonnet on his blindness: “They also serve who only stand and wait.”   
  

   

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, April 21, 2015 6:39:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Saul and Daavid 

~~MTS-3947
Saul and David
“So the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.”        1 Ch 10:14

No matter how and when Saul died, he eventually was going to die anyway. It was a violent death for sure, but it was to be expected. That was how most kings from both kingdoms of Israel died, wasn’t it? Besides, he lived to a ripe old age and died in battle heroically. All things considered, that might have been the manner of death Saul would have chosen. He died fighting for his people and, at the least, he managed to keep his duty as a king until the last moment of his life. Humanly speaking, he wasn’t doing so poorly. Yes, humanly speaking, indeed.
How humans perceive Saul doesn’t count at all. We can either laud or loathe the man; it makes absolutely no difference to the supreme Judge whose judgment isn’t swayed by our opinions in any way. The final verdict is clear: Because of his unfaithfulness, “the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.”
Was David going to be a better king than his predecessor? In some ways perhaps, but not in all ways. What separated David from Saul wasn’t the way he dealt with men; it was the manner he interacted with God. In the areas where Saul had failed, David succeeded. Saul might have been a man after people’s hearts, for he feared people’s opinion more than he did God; but David was just the opposite. He wasn’t called “the man after God’s own heart” for no reason. In dealing with men, David might have often stumbled, but in dealing with the Holy One David was all heart and often went all out in celebrating God goodness and greatness. We know how his wife reacted when he was dancing with all his might before the ark of the Lord; and how he honored the Lord’s anointed by not taking Saul life twice when he had a perfect chance to do so. On the other hand, Saul seemed to have taken sacred things rather lightly when he officiated at the sacrifice, which was something he was not entitled to do, merely because people were starting to grumble and lose their patience when Samuel was a little late arriving at the scene to perform his priestly duty.
Ultimately we will be defined and judged by the way we interact with the Lord, not the manner we deal with people. The ones who are lauded and glorified by us may not be found acceptable before the Lord. “What people value highly is detestable in God's sight.” How frightening is this pronouncement made by the Lord Jesus to you? Surely the way we deal with people should always be the direct result of how we relate to God, and the two are not mutually exclusive. It’s natural that we love our neighbors as ourselves if we love the Lord with all our soul and strength. The key is that we should always put God before men, not vice versa, when the two are in conflict and become irreconcilable. Saul might have done otherwise, which ultimately caused his downfall.            

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, April 17, 2015 6:43:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Unfaithful 

~~MTS-3946
Unfaithful
Saul died because he was unfaithful to the LORD; he did not keep the word of the LORD and even consulted a medium for guidance…”    1 Ch 10:13

Being unfaithful to the Lord doesn’t happen instantly; it’s a slow process, an accumulation of many little things. Obviously no one intends to become unfaithful to God at the beginning stage of their Christian walk; most of us have high hopes for ourselves when we start to follow the Lord. It’s the daily grind of attempting to lead a life of holiness and faithfulness that causes wear and tear to our faith, and before we know it, we become increasing unfaithful to God.
Take attending Sunday worship for an example. We can always find excuses for not attending the services, and many of them seem to be quite legitimate. After a year or two, it becomes natural for us to miss Sunday worship, and we don’t even feel ill at ease if we miss it week after week and year after year. We don’t intend to become unfaithful in participating in church worship and fellowship; we just turn into unfaithful Christians unintentionally and unaware.
Turn to the more sensitive topic of tithing and offering, which may be akin to opening up a can of worms for many of us. Our salary may increase annually yet our giving to God remains the same, or even decreases, and suddenly we come to realize that what we give to Uncle Sam far surpasses our offering to the Lord, which forces us to face the unpleasant truth: we fear Uncle Sam more than we fear the Lord.
I am not trying to be overly dogmatic or legalistic; I am just attempting to point out to you a few obvious things. There is no point trying to continually fool ourselves and we need to know it if we are being unfaithful to God in certain areas of our life. We become unfaithful persons because we keep on doing unfaithful things, and being blind to the truth does not do us any good. Unless we make a change while we still have the chance, we will die unfaithful people - just like Saul.
 “Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord.”
“It isn’t such a big of deal to save some of the spoils from the battle for making a sacrifice,” Saul might have thought. “Why is it such a great offense for a king to occasionally act as a priest?” he might have questioned. The answer to these questions is quite simple and straightforward: because the Lord said so.
We can cunningly come up with all kinds of justifications for not doing what we are required to do, which includes observing the Lord’s Day and giving our tithe and offering; but it’s the Lord who gives the final verdict concerning these issues. The majority of people who are imprisoned for a variety of crimes may consider themselves innocent, yet the jurors have found them guilty and, in most cases, they are right and their verdicts are irreversible.  
Saul started out by disobeying the Lord and disregarding his mandates, and he ended up communicating with the devil and relying on mediums for cryptic information. The cumulative effect of being unfaithful to God is indeed quite frightening.
    

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, April 16, 2015 6:06:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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