Devotion on Envy Part 5/5 – World

Here is part 5 of the devotion on Envy.


HANDLING OTHER’S ENVY

David’s favor and blessings from God, even before the public announcement of God’s appointment of him as king was known to Saul, was the cause of Saul’s envy. The Bible recorded that David was careful in how he conduct himself. 1 Sam 18:5 in some translations like NKJV & AMP translated the verse as David “behaved wisely”. He never intentionally raised himself to be above Saul, but served Saul whole-heartedly with respect. When Saul was distressed by an evil spirit, David played music to soothe him. When Saul needed a soldier to fight, David fought. When Saul tried to kill him, David dodged but never attacked. When Saul pursued his life, David became a fugitive but never once instigated a rebellion for the wrong he suffered. Through the mouth of Saul, he confessed to David that he knew that David was blameless, saying “You are more righteous than I” (1 Sam 24:17) and “I have sinned” in 1 Sam 26:21.

More often than not, the favor, anointing and blessings of God set us up as envy targets. Solomon in his wisdom wrote in Ecclesiastes 4:4 “And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” The motivation for hard work is envy and the drive to success is the desire to be in a position that others envy. Our salvation, calling, anointing and blessings of God are God’s grace and not by our striving. The hard question is: how do we respond to other’s envy because of God’s grace in our lives? We can repent of our own envy of others, but when it is others’ envy toward us, it is beyond our control. Yet before pushing all responsibility of others’ envy away, it is crucial that we do a self-check.

Have we given honor, full respect and support to the very person who is attacking us out of envy, just like how David treated Saul? There might be hidden bias and sometimes even self-righteousness in us that might have unconsciously surfaced in our tone, choice of words, body language and even actions that added fuel to the already flaming envy. Perhaps we can be of help for the person with envy, helping him to overcome envy by our conduct with gentleness and much sensitivity, and of course undergirded with lots of prayer. In the case of David with Saul, there was no success in stopping Saul from pursuing David, but the process honed David’s character and also his dependence on God.

Why would God want to put His children in the limelight and not prevent envy? Paul writes in Romans 11:11 that “salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious” and in v14 “I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them”. We can see in Romans 11 that God’s strategic purpose is to bring Israel back to God by blessing the Gentiles with salvation. Although this verse is in the context of salvation of Israel, we can apply this same principle to the pre-believers in the world, which also includes Israel. God allows envy to remain so that this envy becomes a motivation for people to seek God, going beyond the material and worldly successes to the source. So how are we as believers to respond to the other’s envy of God’s blessings?

Devotion on Envy Part 4/5 – Family/ Workplace/ School

Here is part 4 of the devotion on Envy.


RETHINKING ENVY

Psalm 55:12-14

“12 If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it;

if a foe were rising against me, I could hide.

13 But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend,

14 with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God,

as we walked about among the worshipers.

Envy happens among people in close proximity. Saul was to be like a father and leader to David. Saul’s son Jonathan was David’s covenantal brother, and his daughter Michal married David. The kingship’s anointing upon David had made him a competitor to Saul’s throne. It is interesting that Saul recognizes this anointing upon David (1 Sam 24:20) even though Samuel’s anointing of David was done in private. Saul saw the potential, calling and destiny of David and was fearful. Saul also knew that God was with David. Saul acted even before David rose to his full destiny. In fact, he was trying to stop David.

Compare Saul to our Abba Father who also declares himself as jealous in Exodus 20:5 when God gave the second of the Ten Commandments to Moses saying, “You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me”. This same jealousy of God is also recorded in Psalm 78:58 and 79:5. The jealousy of God is not something we should even try to provoke. We will not split hairs with the definition and differences of envy and jealousy as they are different sides of the same coin. How is the envy of Saul different from the jealousy of God? What makes God’s jealousy right while our envy wrong? God is jealous for us and we are jealous of another. God’s jealousy is protective and our jealousy is destructive. God’s jealousy is based on pure sacrificial love while our fleshy envy is self-centered. This is the Father’s love that each believer has. This is the security that David rested in.

David knew his destiny. He was secure in God. Pursued by Saul like a fugitive, he endured and did what was right in the eyes of God. He was deeply hurt and felt the pain of betrayal as expressed in Psalm 55. Yet he did not allow Saul’s envy to contaminate his heart with evil. Most importantly, David did not allow Saul’s actions to rob him of his destiny in God.

Apostle Paul reflects a similar attitude to other’s envy in Philippians where his focus is fixated on God and His kingdom, away from these momentary incidences.

Phi 1:15-18 “15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.”The bottomline is: “What does it matter?”

Devotion on Envy Part 3/5 – CHURCH

Here is part 3 of the devotion on Envy.


THE DESTRUCTIVENESS OF ENVY

Read 1 Sam 21-22.

The envy of Saul turned him into a bloodthirsty man. Ahimelech the priest in Nod fed David the holy bread without knowledge that David was fleeing from Saul. In fact, David lied to him that he was on official business. According to the Law, only the priest was allowed to eat of the holy bread. When David and his men ate, God did not punish them according to the Law. Yet when Saul found out, he killed eighty-five priests on that same day without any investigation of the truth but presumed that Ahimelech and the priests were on David’s side. Saul once again overstepped his boundaries into God’s business. God could have stopped Ahimelech or killed him when he gave the bread to David. Or David and his men could have died immediately after eating the bread. Yet God extended His grace to all. Saul commanded an Edomite, Doeg to kill the priests of God when none of his servants dared. Saul literally delivered his own people who served his God into the hands of the enemy in this senseless rage. He exterminated Nob, the city of priests, including women, children and animals with only one priest who escaped to David. Compare Saul’s actions with David’s response to Abishai, “Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless?” (1 Sam 26:9) to the extermination of a city of priests.

Saul lost all fear and respect for God when he was overcame by envy. This is a heart wrenching episode, especially when Israel as a nation were at that point still stabilizing its sovereignty against her enemies. From here on, there was no record of Saul’s glorious victories in battles but an obsession to hunt down David. Saul lost sight of his kingship over Israel, the very thing he was trying to protect in his envy towards David. Instead of fighting external enemies, he became the enemy of Israel from within.

David was not the only victim of Saul’s envy. The collateral damage did not exclude the community of God’s servants. Nod is a representation of the church, a community of priests whom all believers are called to be. A physical murder of a church is unlikely to happen but a spiritual extermination of a community of believers by a person enraged by envy is not impossible. Envy is not simply an issue between two persons or a few. If it exists in the church, it affects everyone, not only at the personal level but also at the corporate level.

… when we envy one another in the kingdom of God, we release dynamics that actually bind the progress of the Kingdom in our sphere or region. Envy has the power to obstruct the release of Kingdom blessing, even in places where massive amounts of intercession for revival and visitation are ascending to God’s throne. In fact, I will argue in this book that envy has been responsible, perhaps more than any other evil or vice, for quenching the fires of revival both in the past and in the present.” – Bob Sorge

Devotion on Envy Part 2/5 – Interpersonal Level

Here is part 2 of the devotion on Envy.


WHEN ENVY DOES NOT EXIST

Jonathon was a peer of David and the rightful heir to Saul’s throne. If Saul was fearful that David will take over his kingdom, Jonathon should have more to fear since this concerned his future. Saul killed a thousand, at least according to the women’s singing, but Jonathon only had a battle to boast about which was recorded in 1 Sam 14, killing 20 and leading Israel to victory. Jonathon was not known as a mighty warrior although he was in battle with Saul. None sang about Jonathan. He was in the shadow of the kingdom; even with his “courageous hero” moment in 1 Sam 14, he received no warrior accolade. Instead, he was nearly put to death because he ate honey, ignorant of the oath Saul made for the Israelites to fast. The Israelites acknowledged his deliverance of the nation and saved him.

Despite these circumstances, Jonathon was David’s covenantal brother. David described the relationship as “more wonderful than that of women” (2 Sam 1:26). This was mutual as it was recorded many times that Jonathan “loved him (David) as himself” (1 Sam 18:1, 3; 20:17). In 1 Sam 18:4, it records that “Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.” This act demonstrated that he was ready to give up his position as the crown prince to David. The sword that Jonathan carried is precious as it was recorded in 1 Sam 13:22 that Saul and Jonathan were the only ones who had swords in Israel. Although the Israelites would have obtained more swords from the Philistines from battle victories, but this sword represented Jonathan’s power and authority as crown prince. Jonathan acknowledged God’s calling and anointing upon David and submitted to God and David. This was a complete contrast to Saul’s response to David. Jonathan remained loyal to David, but remained filial as the son of Saul, battling alongside his father. It must be heart breaking for Jonathan to see his father bounty hunting for David and he never failed to defend David before Saul. When Jonathan knew that he could not stop Saul from killing David, a touching parting of ways was recorded.

After the boy had gone, David got up from the south side of the stone and bowed down before Jonathan three times, with his face to the ground. Then they kissed each other and wept together—but David wept the most. Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.’” Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town.” 1 Sam 20:41-42

The relationship between David and Jonathan is an example where there is an absence of envy. In the absence of envy, we see a deep relationship despite circumstances being perfect breeding ground for envy and suspicion. It started and was held by a genuine agape love they had for each other.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” 1 Cor 13:4

Faith Stretching Part-ing of the Red Sea

The story of Moses parting the Red Sea is a familiar story to many of us. As I read the Bible narrative again, the parting of the Red Sea may not be as dramatic and fast motion as I have always thought it to be. Below are the few verses that describe this magnificent miracle of God.

19 The angel of God, who had been going before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them. 20 So it came between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel; and there was the cloud along with the darkness, yet it gave light at night. Thus the one did not come near the other all night. 21 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. 22 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.” – Exodus 14:19-22 (NASB)

First observation was that the pillar of cloud moved from leading the Israelites to the back as a seperation between the Israelites and Egytians. Without the buffer provided by God, it is hard to imagine the Israelites, young & old with all their belongings and animals, not overtaken by the well-trained and equipped Egytian army. The Israelites were sandwiched by the Red Sea and Egytian army the WHOLE NIGHT! This is enough reason to be in high panic mode. TRAPPED.

Second observation is on Moses. In this high-stressed situation, Moses obeyed God and stretched out his hand over the sea with his staff. Not for a second, not for a minute, not even for an hour. He held out his hand with his staff for the WHOLE NIGHT! My hands would give up within 10min, maybe 20min if I use one hand at a time. The Red Sea did not part immediately when Moses stuck out his hand! He WAITED a WHOLE NIGHT! I doubt I have the physical strength to hold out my hand throughout the night.

I did speculate that Moses was able to hold out his hand throughout the night because he saw the Red Sea parting in stages and thus the sight becomes an encouragement for him to hold up his hands.

The third observation is God provided a strong east wind. A strong wind is needed to push the waters to the sides to part the Red Sea. Is there any significance in such a specific description of the “east wind”? The east wind blows from the east. The Red Sea or the Gulf of Aqaba runs north-south. You can refer to the map below to help you visualize the location of events that were unfolding. The strong east wind came and first met the Red Sea at the eastern side. The Red Sea started parting from the east side. Moses & the Israelites were at the west side of the river. This means that when the Red Sea started parting in the east side, Moses had no clue that it started from where he was. All he could see was the sea, and no sign of dry land as the night gets darker. It was only in the last stage that he realized that the Red Sea has parted. Quite a number of books and videos depicted this scene with the Red Sea parting immediately in front of Moses when he lifted up his hand. From the information given, the Red Sea parted from east to west rather than from west to east, right before Moses.

The parting of the Red Sea requires a super-duper-supernatural amount of faith from Moses!

Here is a video excerpt of the old movie, Moses. I got really impatient watching the parting of the Red Sea for this version as it took so much longer than the usual movies. Yet this is possibly a more accurate depiction of the stretching of Moses’ faith before the great miracle happened. Perhaps you will have greater appreciation of Moses’ faith in this after watching it.