1st April: 1 Samuel 17:1-58
David defeats Goliath. This is not only a story about David and Goliath. It is about the Israelites and the Philistines. It is about ‘God’ and the ‘gods’ (43,46). Victory comes from the Lord. It is given by grace. It is received by faith (47). Notice the contrast between the attitude of Saul – unbelief – and the attitude of David – faith (33,37). Unbelief is all around us. Don’t be pulled into it. Don’t forget God. Remember what He has done for you and thank Him that He will not fail you now (37). Put off the armour provided by men. ‘Put on the whole armour of God’ (38-40; Ephesians 6:11). We will not win the victory if we fight in our own strength. We must draw our strength from the Lord. He helps us. We are ‘strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man’ (Psalm 121:2; 124:8; Ephesians 3:16).
2nd April 1 Samuel 18:1-30
‘Loved’ by ‘all Israel and Judah’ (16,28), David was hated by only one man, the most powerful man in the land – Saul (29). Saul was full of envy (7-8), suspicion (9) and violence (10-11). Saul had been proved wrong (17:33,50), and he didn’t like it! David had more success with the women (7), and Saul wasn’t happy about this! The women shouldn’t have been idolizing David. Saul shouldn’t have been seeking glory for himself. The glory belongs to the Lord – not to David, not to Saul, not to anyone else! ‘Saul was David’s enemy continually’ (29). His real argument was with God. ‘The Lord was with David’ (14,28). This didn’t please Saul – ‘Why am I not getting all this blessing? I’m the king!’. If anyone says, I love God’, and hates his brother, he is a liar… he who loves God should love his brother also’ (1 John 4:20-21).
3rd April: 1 Samuel 19:1-24
Saul was planning to kill David (1). Jonathan warns David and tries to talk some sense into Saul (2,4-5). Saul took Jonathan’s advice – but not for long (6,10)! Thank God that the ‘like father, like son’ rule didn’t apply here! How much more difficult life would have been for David if he had both Saul and Jonathan for enemies! Sin can be a family tradition, passed on from generation to generation. The ‘father’ chooses a self-centred life. The ‘son’ follows in his footsteps. ‘He’s just his father’s son’! You can be your Father’s son: ‘All who receive Christ become children of God’ (John 1:12). Saul was seeking his own glory. Jonathan gave the glory to God (4-5). Let us not seek glory for ourselves (John 5:41,44). Give all the glory to God (Revelation 14: 7:12; Romans 11:36).
4th April: Romans 9:1-33
We read about ‘Jews’ and ‘Gentiles’. We learn about salvation. The Jews are not saved because of their nationality. It is ‘not because of works’. The Gentiles are not excluded because of their nationality. It is ‘because of His call’. Salvation comes from God’s grace, not from our good works. It is received ‘by faith’, not ‘by works’ (24,11,30-32). There is for us here a word of warning and a word of promise. Here’s the warning – You can be religious without being saved: ‘not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel…it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God’ (6-8). Here’s the promise – You can be saved through faith in Jesus Christ: Through faith in Him, those who were ‘not God’s people’ became ‘sons of the living God’ (26). Trust in Christ, not in yourself!
5th April: Romans 10:1-21
To ‘Jew and Gentile’, God says, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’ (12-13). The Jews had praised the Lord Jesus: ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!’. Before long, they were shouting, ‘Crucify Him, crucify Him!’ (John 12:12-13; 19:6). We rejoice that the Gospel has now come to the Gentiles. We remember also that God still ‘holds out His hands to Israel'(19-21). Still, Christ says, ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…How often would I have gathered your children together…’ (Luke 13:34). ‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem’, for the advance of the Gospel among the Jews (Psalm 122:6). Pray also for the ‘voice’ of the Gospel, ‘going out into all the earth’ (18). Pray that ‘faith will come as the Word of Christ is heard’ (17).
6th April: Romans 11:1-36
‘You stand fast only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe’ (20). In 9:32, Paul contrasted ‘faith’ and ‘works’. Here, he contrasts ‘grace’ and ‘works’ (6). Grace and faith belong together. ‘Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to Thy Cross I cling’ (Church Hymnary, 83) – This is faith, looking away from itself to divine grace. We do not come to God with our religion in one hand and our morality in the other. We hear the Gospel invitation – ‘O come to the Father through Jesus the Son’. Trusting in Christ, we say, ‘To God be the glory! Great things He has done’ (Church Hymnary, 374). It is only when we bow at the foot of the Cross that we are able to say, with Paul, ‘To Him be the glory for ever!’ (36; Galatians 6:14; 1 Corinthians 1:30-31).
7th April: 1 Samuel 20:1-42
‘Jonathan loved David as he loved his own soul’ (17). He was ready to die for David (30-33). This is real love and true spiritual fellowship: ‘Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’, ‘If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another…’ (John 15:13; 1 John 1:7). Where there is real love for the Lord, there will be depth of fellowship among His people. If our love for the Lord is shallow, our interest in other people will be superficial. Don’t be like Saul – ‘backstabbing’, ‘ready to put the knife in’: ‘Any one who hates his brother is a murderer…’ (1 John 3:15). ‘Let there be love shared among us…brotherly love that is real’ (Mission Praise, 411). God will answer this prayer – if we really mean it and don’t just ‘mouth’ it!
8th April: 1 Samuel 21:1-22:23
‘Religion’ is no substitute for compassion (21:3-6; Matthew 12:1-4,7). These were difficult times for David. His life was in great danger. He maintained his trust in the Lord. Looking ahead to the future, he speaks of ‘what God will do for me’ (22:3). Saul did not have the upper hand. God was in control. We wonder about the future – ‘What will it bring?’. With our faith in the Lord, we say, ‘I know not what the future holds, but I know who holds the future’. We look to the Lord and we say, ‘My times are in Thy hand: My God I wish them there…My times are in Thy hand, whatever they may be…Why should I doubt or fear?…I’ll always trust in Thee’. When life is hard, remember the One who suffered for you: ‘Jesus, the Crucified’ – He is our Guard and Guide’ (Church Hymnary, 680).
9th April: 1 Samuel 23:1-29
Saul imagined that God was with him in his pursuit of David – ‘God has given him into my hand’ (7). He was wrong – ‘Saul sought him every day, but God did not give him into his hand’ (14). We may like to think that God supports us in everything we decide to do. We must, however, be honest before Him and recognize that there can be a great difference between ‘what I want’ and ‘what God wants’. We must learn to choose God’s will rather than our own will (Luke 22:42). We ask, ‘What is God’s will?’. God says, ‘This is the will of God, your sanctification’ (1 Thessalonians 4:3). God wants us to be ‘changed into His likeness’ (2 Corinthians 3:18). He renews our minds, enabling us to live a life that is more truly and more fully in line with His perfect will (Romans 12:2). Do you want your own way – or God’s will?
10th April: Psalm 22:1-18
Read of the Psalmist’s sufferings. Think of the Saviour, suffering for you (7-8,18; Matthew 27:39,43,35). We highlight two statements: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’, ‘They have pierced my hands and my feet’ (1,16). Jesus Christ was ‘crucified and killed by the hands of the lawless men’ (Acts 2:23). There is, however, more to His story than this: ‘The Lord has laid all our sins on Him’ (Isaiah 53:6). When we read of Jesus Christ, ‘pierced for our transgressions’, we see Him ‘pierced’ by men and forsaken by God (Isaiah 53:5; Zechariah 12:10; John 19:34; Matthew 27:46). Looking on to Jesus Christ, risen, exalted and returning, we see Him still bearing the marks of His suffering – ‘the mark of the nails’, ‘a Lamb standing as though it had been slain’, ‘pierced’ (John 20:25; Revelation 5:6; 1:7).
11th April: Psalms 22:19-23:4
Jesus Christ has ‘tasted death for everyone’ (Hebrews 2:9). Now, through Him, salvation is proclaimed to ‘the congregation’, to ‘the ends of the earth’ to ‘future generations’ (22,27,30). Jesus Christ, ‘the same yesterday, today and for ever’, proclaims salvation to the great ‘congregation’, drawn from ‘every tribe and language and people and nation’ (Hebrews 13:8; 2:12; Revelation 5:9). Jesus Christ has passed ‘through the valley of the shadow of death’ for us (4). Now, we rejoice in Him, our Shepherd of love – (a) the Good Shepherd who died for us (John 10:11); (b) the Great Shepherd who was raised for us (Hebrews 13:20-21); (c) The Chief Shepherd who is coming again for us (1 Peter 5:4). He restores us. He keeps us from ‘straying like sheep’. He leads us ‘in paths of righteousness’ (3; 1 Peter 2:25).
12th April: Psalms 23:5-24:10
For God’s people, there is a glorious eternal destiny: ‘I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever’ (23:6). We ‘receive this blessing from the Lord,…the God of our salvation’ (24:5). There is only one answer to the question, ‘Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?: Jesus Christ ‘shall stand in His holy place’. No one else has ‘clean hands and a pure heart’ – no one else but Jesus. He is the One who receives ‘blessing’ from the Lord – and He gives it to us (3-5)! How do we receive His blessing? – We must open our hearts ‘that the King of glory may come in’ (7,9). How can ‘the Lord, strong and mighty’ live in me? How can I receive His resurrection power? Jesus says, ‘I stand at the door and knock, if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in’ (8; Ephesians 1:19-20; Revelation 3:20).
13th April: Romans 12:1-13:10
Here, we have practical Christian living, living the life of love. What can our ‘sacrifice’ be in the light of Christ’s greater Sacrifice of Himself for us? It can only be ‘our reasonable service’, our ‘spiritual worship’. His love calls for our response, the response of love: ‘Love so amazing, so divine, demands (and shall have) my soul, my life, my all’ (12:1; Church Hymnary, 254). Our love for Him can never begin to compare with His love for us. ‘Love is a many splendoured thing’ (12:9-21). Let love direct our thinking, speaking and living – His love, love for God, love for people (13:8-10). Let your prayer be, ‘More love, more power, more of You in my life. And I will worship You with all my heart,…mind,…strength’ (Songs of Fellowship, 392). Worship the Lord – and be changed by His love!
14th April: Romans 13:1-14:23
‘Walk in love’ – We must not fall out over matters in which difference of opinion is allowed (14:5,15). There can be a lot of bitterness over ‘the Sabbath’. There can be so much pride. For some, this is the ‘be-all and end-all’ of Christian faith. They say, ‘We are the Sabbath keepers. They are not!’. Others react, ‘We rejoice in our Christian liberty. They are legalists’. ‘Pharisees’ are preoccupied with ‘the Sabbath’. We must remember that Jesus is ‘the Lord of the Sabbath’. We must let His love flow (Matthew 12:2,10,8,11-12). Let faith be real – not just keeping on the right side of narrow-minded people (23; Colossians 2:16; 1 Corinthians 2:15). Let there be ‘peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’. Don’t think too highly of yourself. ‘Count others better than yourself’ (17; 12:3; Philippians 2:3).
15th April: Romans 15:1-33
With Christ’s example, ‘the encouragement of the Scriptures’ and the enabling power of God, let us love one another,’with one heart and one voice’ (1-6). This is the way of glorifying God. Trusting in Christ, ‘the root of Jesse’, we are blessed by ‘the God of hope’, filled with ‘the power of the Holy Spirit’ – so that we may ‘abound in hope‘. This hope comes to us through ‘the Scriptures’ (12-13,4). God’s saving purpose was not only for the ‘dyed in the wool’ Jew. He saved both Jews and Gentiles (9-12). Thank God that Paul was not as narrow-minded as many people are today! God’s blessing is not only for our type of people! Let us learn from Paul. ‘A minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles’, he was always reaching out to more and more people ‘in the fulness of the blessing of Christ’ (16,29).
16th April: Romans 16:1-27
Paul was writing to a Church with big problems (17-18). Deeply influenced by the wrong kind of people, the Church gets bogged down in ‘dissensions and difficulties’. Critical, fault-finding people exert an extremely divisive influence. They look after their own interests. They only think about themselves. Nothing else matters to them. They manipulate other people – to get their own way. They go out of their way to get their own way! The problem may be great – but the power of God is greater (19-20)! Strengthened by ‘the God of peace’ and ‘the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ’, let us press on in ‘obedience’ to God, claiming His victory over ‘Satan’. Let ‘the preaching of Jesus Christ’ make you strong for God (25-27).
17th April: 1 Samuel 24:1-22
Saul recognized that David was a ‘righteous’ man to whom ‘the kingdom’ would be given (17,20). There is a vital connection between godly character and fruitfulness in God’s service. We dare not imagine that we will be fruitful for God if we refuse to give ourselves fully to Him. There is no short cut to God’s blessing which by-passes the dedication of our hearts and lives to Him. We learn this lesson from David. A man, ‘raised up to be king’, he was – first of all – ‘a man after God’s heart’, a man who would ‘do all God’s will’ (Acts 13:22). It was great that Saul recognized David’s righteous character and spiritual potential. It was sad that this made no real difference to the way in which Saul lived His own life. He continued to ‘play the fool’, going his own way rather than God’s way (26:21).
18th April: 1 Samuel 25:1-44
Forewarned is forearmed. Know where the trouble’s coming from before it hits you and knocks you off your feet. This is the message of verse 25. Nabal was well named – Fool!. He is described as ‘that wicked man’, ‘this ill-natured fellow’, ‘this worthless person’, ‘this man of Belial’. We need to be on our guard with people like this around! In 2 Corinthians 6:15, Paul uses the word, ‘Belial’. It is another name for Satan. It’s hardly any wonder that Nabal was a trouble maker. He was a man of Satan! Be on your guard against Satan. He doesn’t always come ‘as a roaring lion’. Sometimes, he ‘masquerades himself as an angel of light’ (1 Peter 5:8; 2 Corinthians 11:14). It’s better to be forewarned and forearmed than to have to say, with the benefit of hindsight, ‘I wish I had known then what I know now’!
19th April: 1 Corinthians 1:1-2:5
Paul preached the Gospel, ‘not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power’ (17; 2:4). He preached ‘Christ crucified’ with a determination ‘to know nothing except Jesus Christ crucified'(23; 2:2). This is the message of our salvation – ‘Christ crucified…Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God’ (23-24). All the glory belongs to God. We have no right to steal away any of the glory for ourselves: ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord’ (26-31). Our faith is ‘not based on human wisdom but on God’s power’ (2:5). ‘Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace’ (Mission Praise, 712). Christ is our full salvation. ‘Let us rejoice and be glad‘ in Him (30; Psalm 118:24).
20th April: 1 Corinthians 2:6-3:23
We come to know God when ‘the Spirit’ leads us to ‘Jesus Christ’ (2:10-13; 3:11; John 16:14). We must not attach too much importance to the preachers – ‘What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants …’. When we make too much of the servant, we draw attention away from the Saviour. There is a very important lesson here – ‘Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth’ (3:5-7). We are not members of a ‘mutual appreciation society’ – ‘You pat my back, and I’ll pat yours’! We must learn to point to Jesus, saying, ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’ (John 3:30). Let ‘Jesus take the highest honour’. Let His Name be ‘the Name high over all’. ”Tis all my business…to cry Behold the Lamb!’ (Mission Praise, 378,385) – Let’s say it and mean it!
21st April: 1 Corinthians 4:1-21
As ‘servants of Christ’, we must concern ourselves with one thing – being ‘found faithful’. This is not a matter of pleasing people – ‘it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you…’. Pleasing God – this is the most important thing (1-4). Serving Christ is not easy. There are always those who are quick to pass judgment on the Lord’s servants. What does God say about this? – ‘Do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes’ (9-13,5). Being ‘found faithful’ is not just a matter of ‘saying the right words’. We must be the right people. This is what Paul means when he says, ‘The kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power’ (20). ‘You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses’ (Acts 1:8; Romans 12:11).
22nd April: 1 Corinthians 5:1-6:11
‘Your boasting is not good’ – May we never become so taken up with ourselves that we forget Jesus Christ and all that He has done for us: ‘Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us’, ‘you were washed…sanctified…justified in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God’ (5:6-7; 6:11). There were problems among God’s people – ‘sexual immorality’, ‘lawsuits’ (5:1; 6:7). In all of this, Christ was being forgotten. There are no depths to which we cannot sink when we take our eyes off Christ. There are no heights to which we will not be raised as we look away from ourselves to Him. Christ is able to lift from the guttermost and ‘save to the uttermost all those who come to God through Him’ (Hebrews 7:25). Let it be more of Christ and less of self!
23rd April: 1 Samuel 26:1-25
Saul and David were very different. David was wise. He had respect for ‘the Lord’s anointed’ (11). This was grounded in ‘the fear of the Lord’ which ‘is the beginning of wisdom’ (Psalm 111:10). Saul ‘played the fool’. He ‘erred exceedingly’, choosing the way of self rather than the way of the Lord (21). This is not only the story of David and Saul. It’s like looking into a mirror. In David and Saul, we see ourselves. We are at the cross-roads. We must choose. God promises blessing – ‘The Lord rewards every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness’ (23). This promise is full of challenge. Choose ‘righteousness and faithfulness’. Choose Christ. Keep on choosing Him. ‘O happy day, that fixed my choice on Thee, my Saviour and my God…That vow renewed shall daily hear‘ (Mission Praise, 499).
24th April: 1 Samuel 27:1-28:2
What a difference there is between fear – ‘I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul’ – and faith – ‘The Lord will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine (27:1; 17:37)! These words were spoken by the same man – David. There is a battle going on within each one of us – a battle for faith, a battle against fear. How do we overcome fear? How do we grow strong in faith? – ‘Perfect love casts out fear’. It is God’s love which gives us the victory – ‘We love, because He first loved us‘. Strengthened by His love, our faith grows strong, and we say, ‘This is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith…Jesus is the Son of God’ (1 John 4:18-19; 5:4-5). ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine’ (Isaiah 43:1). Let faith grow strong and fear be banished!
25th April: 1 Samuel 28:3-25
Saul sinned against the Lord. He brought God’s judgment upon himself: ‘Because you did not obey the voice of the Lord…the Lord has done this thing to you this day’ (18). ‘Saul disguised himself” – he thought he could get away with his sin. He was wrong: ‘Be sure your sin will find you out’ (8; Numbers 32:23). There is no hiding from God – ‘Before Him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do’. God’s Word warns us: ‘It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God’. Do not ‘trample the Son of God under foot, treating His blood as an unholy thing and outraging the Spirit of grace’. Don’t fight against God. You will be the loser! Don’t ‘shrink back’ and be ‘destroyed’. ‘Believe’ and be ‘saved’ (Hebrews 4:13; 10:29-31, 39; Acts 16:30-31).
26th April: Proverbs 10:1-22
What a difference there is between the ‘wise’ and the ‘foolish’. It is the difference between ‘righteousness’ and ‘wickedness’ (1-2). Throughout life, there are choices to be made. We may choose wisely, being led by the Lord ‘in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake’. We may choose foolishly, going ‘astray’, refusing to ‘call upon the Lord’ (Psalms 23:3-4; 14:2-4). We must be very careful about the choices we make. There is a ‘way that leads to life’ and a ‘way that leads to destruction’ (16-17; Matthew 7:13-14). ‘Flee from the wrath to come’. Choose Christ. Choose life. ‘He who believes in the Son has eternal life; he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him’ (Matthew 3:7; John 3:36).Choose Him now. ‘Now is the day of salvation’ (2 Corinthians 6:2).
27th April: 1 Corinthians 6:12-7:24
The Lord has placed the highest value on us: ‘you were bought with a price’ (6:20; 7:23). Our love for Him must be stronger than any other love. Some are under pressure, at home, from an unbelieving husband or wife. You wonder whether your Christian witness is doing any good (7:16). You feel you are getting nowhere. You feel like giving up. You feel yourself being dragged away from the Lord. What does the Word of God say? – ‘Lead the life which the Lord has assigned’; ‘Remain with God‘ (7:17,24). A difficult situation at home is just one example of ‘the world’ trying to ‘squeeze us into its own mould’ (Romans 12:2). The world will keep chipping away at our faith – until there’s nothing left. ‘Do not love the world or the things in the world…He who does the will of God abides for ever’ (1 John 2:17).
28th April: 1 Corinthians 7:25-8:13
We are to ‘use the things of the world’ without becoming ‘engrossed in them’ (31). Becoming more worldly in our way of living is not a purely personal thing. We harm other people ‘for whom Christ died’. They look to us for a godly example and we let them down. We ‘sin against them’. We ‘sin against Christ’. Our choices affect other people. We choose a self-centred life. We cause them to ‘fall into sin’. We live a life of ‘love’, and they are ‘built up’ in their faith (11-13,1; Matthew 18:5-7, 10). How are we to live? Are we to become preoccupied with how our actions affect those who watch our every move? That could become very confusing and distracting. We must keep our eyes on Jesus. We must live ‘not …as men-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart…’ (Ephesians 6:6-7).
Wed. 29th April: 1 Samuel 29:1-30:15
‘David was greatly distressed…But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God (30:6). Things are going badly. What do you do? Do you start feeling sorry for yourself? That won’t do any good. God’s Word says, ‘Be strong, and let your heart take courage’ (Psalm 27:14). In times of difficulty, where does your strength come from? – ‘The Lord is my strength and my shield… The Lord is the strength of His people…’ (Psalm 28:7-8). How are we to strengthen ourselves in the Lord our God? We must remind ourselves that God is in control: ‘The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as King for ever’. This is the way in which ‘the Lord gives strength to His people!’.This is the way ‘the Lord blesses His people with peace!’ (Psalm 29:10-11). Let us be strong in the Lord
30th April: 1 Samuel 30:16-31:13
Here, we have tragedy and triumph – the tragedy of Saul (4), the triumph of the Lord (23). What we are, in ourselves, is tragic – ‘all have sinned…the wages of sin is death’ (Romans 3:23; 6:23). This is not the full story of our life. There’s something else: ‘what the Lord has given us’ – ‘they are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus’, ‘the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (23; Romans 3:24; 6:23). This is the triumph of the Lord. It is not something that we achieve for ourselves. ‘This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes’ (Psalm 118:23). We give all the praise and glory to the Lord: ‘Thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumph. Let us ‘spread the knowledge of Him everywhere’ (2 Corinthians 2: 14).