devos from the hill


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A Tale of Three Kings – Chapter 12

The Mars Hill staff is in a series of devotionals drawn from the book, A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards. We share highlights from the book each week, but we invite you to get a copy and read along with us. The drama is a multi-act play telling the stories of three kings. It is a portrait of submission and authority within the Kingdom of God; offering hope and healing to the spiritually wounded.

Chapter Twelve

“He (David) ran – through soggy fields and down slimy riverbeds. Sometimes the dogs came close; sometimes they even found him. But swift feet, rivers, and watery pits hid him. He took his food from the fields, dug roots from the roadside, slept in trees, hid in ditches, crawled through briars and mud.”

The author of our book once again uses poetic license to spark our imagination so that we might gain a greater understanding and appreciation for David’s experiences in running from King Saul. Often when we read the accounts of the ancient scriptures, we check off the sequence of events without giving adequate thought to the physical actions that played out or the amount of time it took.

In A Tale of Three Kings, Gene Edwards is helping us relate to David by painting a plausible picture of the kinds of details we would be subject to if we were on the lam with David. There are also a few details the author didn’t include which may give you even greater sympathy for this young anointed one.

First of all, do you know how long David had to hideout from the wrath of Saul? Try eight years! That is a long time to be hunted….a long time to be looking over your shoulder….wondering who, if anyone, you could trust.

As a result, David was constantly on the move; often to foreign places. One of those cities where he sought shelter and rest was Gath. Our book says, “Here, too, he was feared, hated, lied about, and plotted against.” Why would this be? Does it surprise you to know that Gath was a Philistine city and the hometown of Goliath, the very imposing man that David had killed in battle some years before!

King Saul’s relentless pursuit of David caused him to seek refuge even among his enemies. These were David’s darkest hours. David was surely a beaten and battered man. But, whenever he came to the end of himself and had nowhere else to turn, he turned to his God, who had proved Himself trustworthy to David, time after time.

Being beaten and battered by life is something that is common to us all. For some, these experiences yield brokenness resulting in the pursuit of God’s will and God’s way. For others, the tests and trials of life produce just the opposite; a rebellion against God, and a rejection of His way.

Consider the trials that you have gone through. Was your response to seek God’s help and follow His lead? Or, did you look for solutions and escapes routes of your own?

Consider these words written by David while in pursuit from Saul:

O taste and see that the Lord is good:
blessed is the man that trusts in Him. – Psalm 34: 8 (David)

The Lord is near the brokenhearted;
he delivers those who are discouraged. – Psalm 34:18 (David)

The Lord redeems the soul of His servants,
And none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned. – Psalm 34:22 (David)


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What If It Doesn’t Get Easier?

Faith is a gift from God (Rom 12:3 – “… God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”).  There are times when God may give us the faith to move mountains (Matt 17:20, 20:21). But there are also times when God intends us to climb the mountain and to trust Him for the faith to do so.  Whether it’s moving mountains, or climbing them, God has a purpose for both.

What if our greatest challenge in life does not get easier? Consider these verses.

We Will Rejoice all the More at His Coming

1PE 4:12-1312  “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; 13  but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation.”

  • Question – Are you ready for His coming?

We Will Know (Have an Intimate Understanding) of His Grace & Power

2CO 12:9-109 “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

  • Thought – You won’t really know His grace & power if you don’t need His grace & power.

We Will Know Him, the Power of His Resurrection and the Fellowship of His Sufferings

PHI 3:7-117 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

  • Question – How well do you know Him? Is that well enough?

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Lessons to Learn from Paul’s Thorn

Dealing with a thorn that has been embedded in your hand or foot can be a very difficult, if not an excruciating experience. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, we can learn some valuable life lessons as we read about Paul’s thorn:

7) Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me – to keep me from exalting myself! 8) Concerning this, I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9) And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10) Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

What exactly was Paul’s thorn? Some of the more popular theories include a temptation, a difficult relationship, a chronic eye problem, and a speech impediment. God does not tell us the exact nature of the thorn. If we knew, then we might not think this verse applies to our own unique and specific thorn. Turning from what we do not know about Paul’s thorn, there are several things we can know.

1) The thorn does not come during or after a low point in Paul’s life (i.e. – a tragedy or defeat), but after a high point, a great experience (as described in the preceding verses – 2 Cor. 12:2-4). Likewise, the failures of Israel described in I Corinthians 10 came after having experienced some of the most incredible miracles and manifestations of God recorded in scripture (their deliverance from Egypt, God’s provision in the wilderness, etc.). We do not usually drop our guard during a time of testing. But after the trial has passed and the victory is won, it is human nature to let down our guard. That is when we are vulnerable. “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” – I Peter 5:8. Continue reading


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The Model Prayer – Pt 5/6

The Teaching of Jesus on Prayer – Part 5 of 6
Expanded and Adapted From The HOPE Study Guide

 

If you wanted to learn how to pray, who would you choose for a teacher? In Matthew 6:9-13, you can find a model prayer given to you by Jesus Himself. It was not given simply to recite, but to teach you how to pray. It has been called “the true pattern for all prayer.” Each verse in this prayer identifies an important aspect of prayer. This is part 5 of 6 in our study of the model prayer. Our focus here is verse 13.

 “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” – Matthew 6:13

The Big Thought – As verse 11 leads you to pray for your physical need, and verse 12 the need of your soul, so verse 13 teaches you to pray for your spiritual need. 1 Peter 5:8 reminds you to “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” But you need not be fearful, for 1 John 4:4 reminds you that “greater is He (The Holy Spirit) who is in you than he (Satan) who is in the world” (descriptions added).

God offers you every spiritual resource you need to defeat the enemy. And as it is with God’s provision for your body and soul, you may also appropriate His spiritual resources through prayer. Notice that in verses 10-13 the pronouns are plural. Pray not only for your needs, but also the needs of others. Praying for others is called intercession. Think about it – many of your friends are even now being stalked by our adversary; some are being held captive by evil spiritual forces. Through prayer, you have the privilege of participating in their rescue!

Digging Deeper – When considered in light of another Bible verse, the phrase “lead us not into temptation” may seem puzzling. James 1:13 reads, “Let no man say, when he is tempted, I am tempted by God: for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” If God does not tempt anyone, then why does Jesus teach us to pray to our Father, “lead us not into temptation”?

The word “temptation” in this verse is translated from the Greek peirasmós, which appears in the New Testament 21 times. Sometimes it is translated as temptation; and other times it is translated as testing, trials or trial. The word literally means, “a putting to proof or to make proof of.” It is very much like what is done in a court of law when an attorney tries to prove a case. Continue reading


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The Temptation of Jesus

The difference between a test and a temptation.
Lesson 45 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

— Matthew 4:1

And when the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.

— Luke 4:13

Jesus then departed to the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. But Jesus would resist and Satan would flee. This wilderness encounter was a test. And just as a precious metal is tested to prove its nature, this test was further proof that Jesus was indeed the Son of the God come to earth to do the will of His Father. After resisting Satan, Jesus came out of the wilderness in the power of the Spirit.

— The HOPE, Chapter 8

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

After Jesus was baptized, He was then led by the Spirit (of God) into the wilderness to be tempted. This temptation is described in Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, and Luke 4:1-2. Notice that the Matthew 4:1 passage says the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted, but it does not say that the Spirit tempted Jesus. That is an important distinction because the Bible also says in James 1:13 that, “God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” Satan (who is called the tempter in Matthew 4:3 and 1 Thessalonians 3:5) is the one who does the tempting.

Based upon the James 1:13 passage, notice also that it was futile for Satan to tempt Jesus, for “God cannot be tempted.” In the end, the temptation of Jesus served only to further the purposes of God. It was all part of His plan. This will become even more evident as we consider the word “tempt.”

“Tempt” (or tempted) comes from the Greek word “peirazo,” which is actually a legal term meaning “to make proof of.”1 In light of this root definition, we could say that Satan was tempting Jesus in order to prove that He was no different than any other man that had ever lived; that He was just like Adam and that He would fold under pressure. Ultimately, the same way that a prosecuting attorney seeks to disqualify the testimony of a defendant, Satan wanted to disqualify Jesus as the Deliverer who would free mankind from Satan, sin, and death. Continue reading


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The Greater the Obstacle, The Greater His Glory

A life that glorifies God has God–sized challenges.
Lesson 35 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord swept the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land, so the waters were divided. And the sons of Israel went through the midst of the sea on the dry land, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. Then the Egyptians took up the pursuit, and all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots and his horsemen went in after them into the midst of the sea…

– Exodus 14:21–23

…Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may come back over the Egyptians, over their chariots and their horsemen.” So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal state at daybreak, while the Egyptians were fleeing right into it; then the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea…

– Exodus 14:26–27

…And when Israel [the Hebrew people] saw the great power which the Lord had used against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in His servant Moses. Then Moses and the sons of Israel sang this song to the Lord, and said, “I will sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted; The horse and its rider He has hurled into the sea. The Lord is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation; This is my God, and I will praise Him; My father’s God, and I will extol Him. The Lord is a warrior; The Lord is His name…

– Exodus 14:31–15:3

Finally, the Pharaoh released the Hebrew nation. And the people went out of Egypt. But the Pharaoh had a change of heart. With his army, he pursued the Hebrew people to the edge of the sea. So God divided the sea for the Hebrew people to cross on dry land. And when the Egyptians pursued them, God caused the sea to return, drowning the whole army.

– The HOPE, Chapter 6

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

As if peering through the lens of a camera, let’s look at today’s lesson from two perspectives. First we’ll look at the close–up view, and then we’ll zoom out for a wide angle view.

From the close–up view you can almost feel the salt mist as the sea lies in front of you while the Egyptian army is closing in behind. You lived your whole life as a slave in Egypt. Then in an incredibly dramatic turn of events, the ruler of Egypt not only decides to let you go, but he sends you out with many valuable possessions. You’ve hardly left Egypt and thousands of people are crowding in on you and your family. Fear is on every face. Then, just when you think that all hope for freedom is gone, Moses lifts his staff and the sea in front of you parts! God has made a way where there was no way …not only a way of escape for your people, but also a way to destroy the threat of the mighty Egyptian army.

Now let’s zoom out and re–examine this same event in a wider context. Recall that in the first lesson of this chapter, we considered a dream in which God gave Abraham an amazing preview of what was to come:

  • Abraham’s descendants would be strangers in a land that is not their own.
  • They would be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years.
  • Ultimately God would judge the nation in which they are enslaved.
  • After God’s judgment, Abraham’s descendants would leave that nation with wealth.
  • Abraham’s own life would end in peace at an old age.

With today’s story, everything God told Abraham had come to pass. Those who had listened to (and believed) the story of Abraham that had been handed down from generation to generation must have been looking forward to this day. They were no less surprised when God parted the sea, but they may have been a little less anxious, knowing that God had promised to deliver them and that everything else God had promised up to that point had come to pass. Continue reading


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God Will Provide

God provides all we need for what He calls us to do.
Lesson 30 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” And He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah; and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”

– Genesis 22:1–2

And Abraham stretched out his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” And he said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place The Lord Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.”

– Genesis 22:10–14

And together they went to the appointed place. There they prepared the altar and arranged the wood. God had not yet provided another offering. So Abraham bound his son on the altar. Still there was no other sacrifice. So Abraham lifted his knife to slay his son. Then there came from Heaven a voice saying, “Do not lay a hand on the lad.” And there in the thicket was a ram, caught by its horns. And so it was that God provided an offering in place of Abraham’s son. This was a picture of the offering that God would one day provide for the sin of humankind.

– The HOPE, Chapter 5

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

This lesson deals with one of the most dramatic and profound stories in the Bible. Abraham was a man who loved God and followed Him with faithful abandon for decades. And yet God, who loves life and loves people, asked this man to do the unthinkable: to offer his beloved son as a sacrifice. And if that was not enough drama, recall that Isaac was the one through whom God promised to bless all people! It was not only Abraham’s hope, but the hope of the entire world that was bound to that altar. What do we do with this story? How can we understand it?

On the surface, this story seems to contradict much of what the Bible has shown us about God. But as we have also seen in previous lessons, the Bible may stretch us and challenge our understanding, but it is important not to jump to conclusions based upon what “seems’” or appears to be a contradiction as we read the Bible. From our study of God’s story thus far, we know that God is perfect in His goodness and wisdom.

So with that understanding as our foundation, let’s consider the story of Abraham and Isaac.

Genesis 22:1 says that God “tested” Abraham. There are two ways to look at a test. Most of us are familiar with tests taken in school. Such tests are meant to determine the degree to which one has mastered a course of study. Most of us know what it’s like to wonder whether or not we will do well on such a test. There is, however, another type of test, one that measures identity rather than performance. For instance, metals are often tested to determine their purity. There is nothing the metal can do to affect whether or not it will pass the test. Either the metal is pure, or it’s not. This kind of test simply measures the identity of what is being tested.

Consider that in the case of Abraham, the One who tested him was also the One who prepared him for the test, namely God. And like a precious metal that is refined by fire to remove impurities and make it pure, Abraham had been refined by God through the years by the fires of his faith walk. There was no question with God as to whether or not Abraham would do well on this test. This was not a risky experiment. God knew exactly what Abraham had become: a man who put God first, before everything, even his own son. God knew Abraham’s identity, and this test would simply reveal it! Abraham’s life is a testimony to what God can accomplish in a person who is willing to follow wherever He leads. This story dramatically shows forth Abraham’s faith for the world to see …and God is glorified as a result. Continue reading