Day 161

Stay Loyal

Wisdom Proverbs 14:15–24
New Testament Acts 5:12–42
Old Testament 2 Samuel 14:1–15:12


In 2007, a group of twenty-three South Korean missionaries were captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan. They were terrified. The Taliban separated the group, isolated them and confiscated their possessions. One of the Korean women managed to hold on to her Bible. She ripped it into twenty-three pieces and secretly gave each of them a portion so that wherever they were, each person could read a part of Scripture when no one was watching.

The group knew that the Taliban had decided to kill them, one at a time. One by one the missionaries surrendered their lives again to Jesus saying, ‘Lord, if you want me to die for your sake I’ll do it.’ Then the pastor said, ‘I’ve talked to [the Taliban] because they are going to start killing us and I’ve told their leaders that if anyone dies, I die first because I am your pastor.’ Another said, ‘No, because I also am a pastor and I am your elder. I die first.’

Then the pastor came back and said, ‘You are not ordained, I have been ordained, I die first.’ And sure enough, he died first. Two were killed before the rest were eventually rescued. They had demonstrated extraordinary loyalty to God and to each other.

Loyalty is a combination of love and faithfulness. It is a quality often lacking in our society today. Disloyalty destroys families, churches, businesses, political parties and even nations.


Proverbs 14:15–24

15 The simple believe anything,
   but the prudent give thought to their steps.

16 The wise fear the LORD and shun evil,
   but a fool is hotheaded and yet feels secure.

17 A quick-tempered person does foolish things,
   and the one who devises evil schemes is hated.

18 The simple inherit folly,
   but the prudent are crowned with knowledge.

19 Evildoers will bow down in the presence of the good,
   and the wicked at the gates of the righteous.

20 The poor are shunned even by their neighbours,
   but the rich have many friends.

21 It is a sin to despise one’s neighbour,
   but blessed is the one who is kind to the needy.

22 Do not those who plot evil go astray?
   But those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness.

23 All hard work brings a profit,
   but mere talk leads only to poverty.

24 The wealth of the wise is their crown,
   but the folly of fools yields folly.


Pursue loyalty to God in your plans

Our first loyalty is to God. His favour rests on those who are ‘God-loyal’ (v.19, MSG).

The book of Proverbs is full of practical wisdom. It encourages you, for example, to be discerning about what you believe: ‘The gullible believe anything they’re told; the prudent sift and weigh every word’ (v.15, MSG). Ultimately wisdom is about how you relate to God: ‘The wise fear the Lord and shun evil’ (v.16).

‘Fear of the Lord’ is an attitude of healthy respect and loyalty. It means involving him in all your plans. Be very careful about the plans you make – that they are for good and not for evil. Eventually, even ‘the wicked will respect God-loyal people’ (v.19, MSG).

‘Those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness’ (v.22b). The word for ‘find’ is sometimes translated ‘show’. Both are true. Those who plan what is good not only find love and faithfulness, they show love and faithfulness as well. This is at the heart of loyalty – to show love and faithfulness. This is contrasted with those who selfishly plot evil and go astray.


Lord, help me to be wise and God-loyal in my plans. May we, as a community of God-loyal people, plan what is good and find love and faithfulness.

New Testament

Acts 5:12–42

The Apostles Heal Many

12 The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. 14 Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 15 As a result, people brought those who were ill into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing those who were ill and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.

The Apostles Persecuted

17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20 “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.”

21 At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people.

When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin —the full assembly of the elders of Israel—and sent to the jail for the apostles. 22 But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, 23 “We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” 24 On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were at a loss, wondering what this might lead to.

25 Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” 26 At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them.

27 The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28 “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”

29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead —whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Saviour that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

33 When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honoured by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35 Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

40 His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.


Pursue loyalty to Jesus in your words

As the apostles went out and preached the good news they performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. ‘More and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number’ (v.14). As a result, ‘Crowds gathered… bringing their sick… all of them were healed’ (vv.15–16).

Sadly, their success led to ‘jealousy’ from religious leaders (v.17). Be warned. Envy is such a temptation for those of us who are seen as ‘religious’. In their jealousy they arrested the apostles and put them in jail (v.18). But once again God performed a miracle. He sent an angel of the Lord to open the doors of the jail and bring them out.

With huge courage they obeyed the command to ‘Go, stand in the temple courts… and tell the people the full message of this new life’ (v.20).

When they were caught doing exactly what they had been arrested for doing in the first place, they were re-arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest who said to them, ‘We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name… Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood’ (v.28).

Peter and the other apostles were loyal to God and to their calling. They replied, ‘We must obey God rather than human beings!’ (v.29).

Jesus said, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s’ (Matthew 22:21). In saying this, he defined the limits of the authority of human beings and our loyalty to it. When it conflicts with loyalty to God, God takes precedence. Out of loyalty to God, they continued preaching the gospel – even when they were on trial.

Their brief defence (it takes only three verses – Acts 5:30–32) is a model sermon. It is all about Jesus. It is astonishing that they were able to cover so much in such a short presentation. They preach about the cross, resurrection and the exaltation of Jesus. They proclaimed Jesus as Prince and Saviour. The talk includes a description of the way of salvation: repentance and forgiveness of sins.

In addition, they managed to include the whole Trinity: God the Father (‘The God of our ancestors’, v.30), God the Son (‘Jesus’, v.30) and God ‘the Holy Spirit’ (v.32). This sermon produces such fury that, like the South Korean missionaries, they faced the threat of death.

However, in the providence of God, there was a wise man on the Sanhedrin, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, who pointed out to his fellow members (by giving examples from recent history) that ‘if [the apostles’] purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God’ (vv.38–39).

Although his speech persuaded them, nevertheless the apostles were flogged and ‘ordered… not to speak in the name of Jesus’ (v.40).

Once again, with extraordinary courage and loyalty to God and their calling, ‘The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ’ (vv.41–42).


Lord, may we be inspired by the example of the apostles and those like the South Korean missionaries who followed in their footsteps. May we never stop teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.

Old Testament

2 Samuel 14:1–15:12

Absalom Returns to Jerusalem

14 Joab son of Zeruiah knew that the king’s heart longed for Absalom. 2 So Joab sent someone to Tekoa and had a wise woman brought from there. He said to her, “Pretend you are in mourning. Dress in mourning clothes, and don’t use any cosmetic lotions. Act like a woman who has spent many days grieving for the dead. 3 Then go to the king and speak these words to him.” And Joab put the words in her mouth.

4 When the woman from Tekoa went to the king, she fell with her face to the ground to pay him honour, and she said, “Help me, Your Majesty!”

5 The king asked her, “What is troubling you?”

She said, “I am a widow; my husband is dead. 6 I your servant had two sons. They got into a fight with each other in the field, and no one was there to separate them. One struck the other and killed him. 7 Now the whole clan has risen up against your servant; they say, ‘Hand over the one who struck his brother down, so that we may put him to death for the life of his brother whom he killed; then we will get rid of the heir as well.’ They would put out the only burning coal I have left, leaving my husband neither name nor descendant on the face of the earth.”

8 The king said to the woman, “Go home, and I will issue an order in your behalf.”

9 But the woman from Tekoa said to him, “Let my lord the king pardon me and my family, and let the king and his throne be without guilt. ”

10 The king replied, “If anyone says anything to you, bring them to me, and they will not bother you again.”

11 She said, “Then let the king invoke the LORD his God to prevent the avenger of blood from adding to the destruction, so that my son will not be destroyed.”

“As surely as the LORD lives,” he said, “not one hair of your son’s head will fall to the ground.”

12 Then the woman said, “Let your servant speak a word to my lord the king.”

“Speak,” he replied.

13 The woman said, “Why then have you devised a thing like this against the people of God? When the king says this, does he not convict himself, for the king has not brought back his banished son? 14 Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But that is not what God desires; rather, he devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from him.

15 “And now I have come to say this to my lord the king because the people have made me afraid. Your servant thought, ‘I will speak to the king; perhaps he will grant his servant’s request. 16 Perhaps the king will agree to deliver his servant from the hand of the man who is trying to cut off both me and my son from God’s inheritance.’

17 “And now your servant says, ‘May the word of my lord the king secure my inheritance, for my lord the king is like an angel of God in discerning good and evil. May the LORD your God be with you.’”

18 Then the king said to the woman, “Don’t keep from me the answer to what I am going to ask you.”

“Let my lord the king speak,” the woman said.

19 The king asked, “Isn’t the hand of Joab with you in all this?”

The woman answered, “As surely as you live, my lord the king, no one can turn to the right or to the left from anything my lord the king says. Yes, it was your servant Joab who instructed me to do this and who put all these words into the mouth of your servant. 20 Your servant Joab did this to change the present situation. My lord has wisdom like that of an angel of God—he knows everything that happens in the land. ”

21 The king said to Joab, “Very well, I will do it. Go, bring back the young man Absalom.”

22 Joab fell with his face to the ground to pay him honour, and he blessed the king. Joab said, “Today your servant knows that he has found favour in your eyes, my lord the king, because the king has granted his servant’s request.”

23 Then Joab went to Geshur and brought Absalom back to Jerusalem. 24 But the king said, “He must go to his own house; he must not see my face.” So Absalom went to his own house and did not see the face of the king.

25 In all Israel there was not a man so highly praised for his handsome appearance as Absalom. From the top of his head to the sole of his foot there was no blemish in him. 26 Whenever he cut the hair of his head —he used to cut his hair once a year because it became too heavy for him—he would weigh it, and its weight was two hundred shekels by the royal standard.

27 Three sons and a daughter were born to Absalom. His daughter’s name was Tamar, and she became a beautiful woman.

28 Absalom lived two years in Jerusalem without seeing the king’s face. 29 Then Absalom sent for Joab in order to send him to the king, but Joab refused to come to him. So he sent a second time, but he refused to come. 30 Then he said to his servants, “Look, Joab’s field is next to mine, and he has barley there. Go and set it on fire.” So Absalom’s servants set the field on fire.

31 Then Joab did go to Absalom’s house, and he said to him, “Why have your servants set my field on fire? ”

32 Absalom said to Joab, “Look, I sent word to you and said, ‘Come here so I can send you to the king to ask, “Why have I come from Geshur? It would be better for me if I were still there!”’ Now then, I want to see the king’s face, and if I am guilty of anything, let him put me to death.”

33 So Joab went to the king and told him this. Then the king summoned Absalom, and he came in and bowed down with his face to the ground before the king. And the king kissed Absalom.

Absalom’s Conspiracy

15 In the course of time, Absalom provided himself with a chariot and horses and with fifty men to run ahead of him. 2 He would get up early and stand by the side of the road leading to the city gate. Whenever anyone came with a complaint to be placed before the king for a decision, Absalom would call out to him, “What town are you from?” He would answer, “Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel.” 3 Then Absalom would say to him, “Look, your claims are valid and proper, but there is no representative of the king to hear you.” 4 And Absalom would add, “If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that they receive justice.”

5 Also, whenever anyone approached him to bow down before him, Absalom would reach out his hand, take hold of him and kiss him. 6 Absalom behaved in this way toward all the Israelites who came to the king asking for justice, and so he stole the hearts of the people of Israel.

7 At the end of four years, Absalom said to the king, “Let me go to Hebron and fulfill a vow I made to the LORD. 8 While your servant was living at Geshur in Aram, I made this vow: ‘If the LORD takes me back to Jerusalem, I will worship the LORD in Hebron.’”

9 The king said to him, “Go in peace.” So he went to Hebron.

10 Then Absalom sent secret messengers throughout the tribes of Israel to say, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpets, then say, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron.’” 11 Two hundred men from Jerusalem had accompanied Absalom. They had been invited as guests and went quite innocently, knowing nothing about the matter. 12 While Absalom was offering sacrifices, he also sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counsellor, to come from Giloh, his hometown. And so the conspiracy gained strength, and Absalom’s following kept on increasing.


Pursue loyalty to each other in your heart

Loyalty is such an attractive characteristic in a person. Disloyalty is subversive and betrays trust. Disloyalty can undermine the leadership in a church, business or even a nation.

In David’s case, disloyalty came from his own son. This must have been so painful for him. David loved Absalom: ‘the king’s heart longed for Absalom’ (14:1). God speaks to David through the wise woman from Tekoa. As a result David says, ‘Go, bring back the young man Absalom’ (v.21). When he returned ‘the king kissed Absalom’ (v.33). David gave him another opportunity to be a loyal son.

Tragically, David’s love and loyalty to Absalom were not returned. We see here a powerful description of how disloyalty works.

There are always opportunities for disloyalty. In any situation – whether for example in the government, workplace or the church – there are bound to be those who complain (15:2). If you are a loyal person, you will help to deal with these complaints and attempt to diffuse them.

Of course, loyalty does not mean never speaking up. Quite the reverse. It has been said, ‘Loyalty means I am with you whether you are wrong or right. But I will tell you when you are wrong and help you get it right.’

Absalom failed the loyalty test. He would say to the complainers, ‘“Look, you’ve got a strong case; but the king isn’t going to listen to you.” Then he’d say, “Why doesn’t someone make me a judge for this country? Anybody with a case could bring it to me and I’d settle things fair and square.”’ (vv.3–4, MSG).

Of course, this is absolute nonsense. But it is easy to make promises of this kind. The disloyal person says, ‘If only I were in charge everything would be so much better.’ In this way, Absalom ‘stole the hearts of the people of Israel’ (v.6). Disloyalty begins in our hearts and in our thinking. So does loyalty. Guard your heart and your thinking and do not allow your heart to be stolen.

However, here they found a rallying point around Absalom and ‘the conspiracy gained strength, and Absalom’s following kept on increasing’ (v.12). Those who are feeling discontented in any situation always look for a rallying point. They look for someone among the leadership team around whom they can rally. If the entire leadership team remains faithful, the discontents will be unsuccessful.


Lord, help us to stay loyal to our leaders – to our national leaders and governments, parents, church leaders and bosses. Lord, guard our hearts, keep us loyal, loving and faithful to you and to one another.

Pippa adds

2 Samuel 14:1–15:12

In 2 Samuel 14, we see that being beautiful on the outside doesn’t make you beautiful on the inside. Absalom had a perfect appearance, but what was going on on the inside was quite different. People spend hours going to gyms, hairdressers, doing make-up, clothes shopping and working on the outward appearance. But what really matters is what’s going on on the inside. And we all need to work harder on the inner beauty. I know I do.



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The Bible with Nicky and Pippa Gumbel (commentary formerly known as Bible in One Year) ©Alpha International 2009. All Rights Reserved.

Compilation of daily Bible readings © Hodder & Stoughton Limited 1988. Published by Hodder & Stoughton Limited as the Bible in One Year.

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (

Scripture quotations marked MSG are taken from The Message, copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers.

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