July 26

1 Chronicles 21:16-17 (NIV) 16David looked up and saw the angel of the LORD standing between heaven and earth, with a drawn sword in his hand extended over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell facedown. 17David said to God, "Was it not I who ordered the fighting men to be counted? I am the one who has sinned and done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? O LORD my God, let your hand fall upon me and my family, but do not let this plague remain on your people."

After David numbered the people of Israel, a sign of his heart turning away from God and depended on strength in numbers, the LORD sent his prophet to tell David the nation would suffer for this sin. He had three choices. He had to choose between 3 years of famine, 3 months of fleeing before their enemies, or 3 days of a plague from God. David knew God is more merciful than man. He chose the last option.

The plague swept through Israel killing 70,000 people. When the angel that brought the plague stood over Jerusalem, David could see him. David interceded for the city by pleading that the sword of the angel fall on his own home, since he was the guilty party. God's judgments are always just Surely the people's hearts had gone the same direction as David's, trusting in their numbers instead of the LORD.

In this plea from David, we see his genuine shepherd's heart. He would rather take the blow than have it fall on his people. This is the heart of an intercessor that cares enough to place his own life on the line for others. We saw it in Moses, and now in David, and ultimately in Jesus, the Great Shepherd. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13 (continued)

Consider: Let God increase your love for the people in your life until it becomes like His.

July 26

Acts 13:1-3 (NIV) 1In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 2While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." 3So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

Antioch was one of the first churches to be established after the persecution in Jerusalem. It was here that believers in Christ were first called Christians. According to Ephesians 4:11, the prophets and teachers were leaders in the church. They were probably the elders of that congregation.

This is an important passage, because it shows us how they functioned. They gathered together to worship and fast. How many times have you heard of the leaders of a local church or city gather just for that purpose? As they did so, the Holy Spirit gave them instructions. The passage doesn't say whether it was an audible voice or a still small voice in each of their hearts or a word through one of them that was confirmed in the hearts of the others. It is probably good for us that we don't know or we would insist that He always work the same way. One thing we do know, they all realized the same thing.

They were to separate out Barnabas and Saul for a special work. This was their call, to go out on a mission of spreading the Gospel. They didn't stop their fasting once they had heard, they continued in prayer and fasting and laid hands on them. They were asking the blessing and anointing of God for the work He had called them to. Once they heard the voice of the Spirit directing them, they didn't just say goodbye to these brothers. They did their part praying for them to be empowered for their mission. God invites us to participate in His work.

Not many are called in this fashion today. Perhaps if we had more of this all out worship with fasting we would see the Holy Spirit move in ways that we unanimously discern to be the hand of God.

Consider: When was the last time you worshipped God in fasting and prayer?