The Imperative of Integrity

Blog-G650_ImagefromGulfstrema

The preferred way to fly for some preachers.

 

Since the church of Jesus Christ is supposed to be full of Christians, you’d think “integrity” would be commonplace. You’d think that, but you’d be wrong. In recent years, the church has had to deal with one scandal after another, each involving a distinct lack of integrity. Sometimes a church leader was caught in some sexual scandal. For others it was greed. And some Christian ministries do just dumb things. Take the case of Creflo Dollar, an unfortunately named Christian minister, head of World Changers Church International, who recently begged his congregation for enough money to purchase a new Gulfstream G650 airplane so he and his wife could travel in style, preaching the Gospel.

Dollar’s people wrote: “We believe it is time to replace this aircraft so that our Pastors and staff can continue to safely and swiftly share the Good News of the Gospel worldwide. Therefore, we are asking members, partners, and supporters of this ministry to assist us in acquiring a Gulfstream G650 airplane so that Pastors Creflo and Taffi and World Changers Church International can continue to blanket the globe with the Gospel of grace.” (http://www.examiner.com/article/creflo-dollar-s-plane-televangelist-creflo-dollar-wants-you-to-buy-him-a-plane)

While Rev Dollar didn’t fall completely from grace with this stunt, he has damaged his reputation, and worse, he has brought the integrity of the whole church into question. Church leaders would do well to read, memorize, and especially practice the words of Paul in 1 Timothy 4:12 –

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. (NIV)

Apparently, this is very difficult for the modern minister to do. But it wasn’t something Samuel had to think twice about. Samuel was a man of integrity his whole life. He maintained his powerful witness for God, in both word and deed, until the day he died. There was no falling from grace for Samuel.

An example of integrity

It wasn’t long after Saul was anointed Israel’s first king that his leadership skills would be tested.

At this time Nahash led the army of the Ammonites against the Israeli city of Jabesh-gilead. But the citizens of Jabesh asked for peace. “Leave us alone and we will be your servants,” they pleaded.

“All right,” Nahash said, “but only on one condition: I will gouge out the right eye of every one of you as a disgrace upon all Israel!” (1 Samuel 11:1, 2 TLB)

According to the Septuagint, this happened barely a month after Saul’s public selection at Mizpah. Talk about a “baptism by fire!” It’s telling that the defenseless citizens of Jabesh would be willing to capitulate under any reasonable terms. But Nahash refused and made them an offer that would bring disgrace upon all Israel.

Saul was plowing in the field, and when he returned to town he asked, “What’s the matter? Why is everyone crying?” (1 Samuel 11:5 TLB)

You might be wondering why King Saul was plowing a field. He wasn’t king just yet. He was almost king, but as of right now, he was just a man chosen to be king. The people of Jabesh needed help – they needed a miraculous deliverance, and when Saul learned about their situation, this happened:

Then the Spirit of God came strongly upon Saul and he became very angry. (1 Samuel 11:6 TLB)

Hold on a second! Wasn’t Saul crazy? Wasn’t he a man who went against God’s will? Those things are true of Saul later on. For now, though, he’s like a blank slate. The way God’s action is describe here (God came upon Saul) is the way He commonly worked through men of the Old Testament era. God’s Spirit would “come upon” a man and give him supernatural insight, wisdom, and even power, enabling him to act on behalf of the people of God.

The anger Saul experienced is best described as a “holy anger.” It’s really God’s reaction to injustice and evil and is a perfect counterpart to God’s love and His holiness.  Notice what Saul exclaimed; what got the people’s attention and support:

“This is what will happen to the oxen of anyone who refuses to follow Saul and Samuel to battle!” (1Samel 11:7 TLB)

Saul made sure to link his name to that of Samuel. He wasn’t just being a name dropper here. Saul may have been on the verge of becoming a crazed nut, but he was savvy enough to know that Samuel, not he, held the esteem of the people.

Ultimately, Saul prevailed over Nahash and his Ammorites, prompting Samuel to say:

“Come, let us all go to Gilgal and reconfirm Saul as our king.” (1 Samuel 11:14 TLB)

Saul certainly started off on the right foot, to be sure. He had been anointed king, but now, after this great victory, Saul would become king over Israel in fact.

So they went to Gilgal and in a solemn ceremony before the Lord they crowned him king. Then they offered peace offerings to the Lord, and Saul and all Israel were very happy. (1 Samuel 11:15 TLB)

Of course the people were happy. They finally got what they wanted for so long: a king just like everybody else had.  Chapter 12 begins with Samuel’s farewell speech before the people of Israel. In it, he led them to a recognition of his integrity.

“No,” they replied, “you have never defrauded or oppressed us in any way and you have never taken even one single bribe.”

“The Lord and his anointed king are my witnesses,” Samuel declared, “that you can never accuse me of robbing you.” (1 Samuel 12:4, 5 TLB)

It was important to Samuel that his people acknowledge his sterling character. It wouldn’t be long before the people’s excitement about having a king would dissipate and turn into regret and Samuel needed the people to know that it wasn’t his fault. In spite of everything, Samuel maintained his integrity, his whole life.

What’s interesting about what Samuel said was that he did essentially the same thing Saul did. Saul bolstered his “street cred” with the people by linking himself to Saul, and here Saul is linking himself to God. Samuel’s integrity is based, not on how he was raised or on the education he received or where he lived, but on the integrity of God Himself. Samuel’s life of integrity was irrevocably linking to that of God.

From integrity to faithfulness

Because of Samuel’s integrity, he could say this to the people:

All right, here is the king you have chosen. Look him over. You have asked for him, and the Lord has answered your request. (1 Samuel 12:13 TLB)

Samuel makes it as clear as he could that Saul was the people’s choice. God allowed them to choose. There are many people who believe that the will of the majority is like the voice of God. In fact, the Bible teaches the opposite. Most of the time it is the minority that is closer to discerning the will of God. The people chose Saul, but it was God who chose David. Who made the wiser choice?

From his integrity, Saul turns to the people’s faithfulness. Even though they were out of His will, God still required faithfulness on the part of His wavering people.

Now if you will fear and worship the Lord, and listen to his commandments and not rebel against the Lord, and if both you and your king follow the Lord your God, then all will be well. (1 Samuel 12:14 TLB)

A key phrase in this verse is “if you and your king.” Without pressing the point too far, there is a lesson here for the modern believer. The majority of Israel wanted a king, and they wanted Saul. He was not elected, but God gave the people the king they wanted. We don’t have a king today, we have an elected president. We have had some presidents who thought there were kings and acted like one, but we vote for our head of state and, if you believe the Bible, we get the elected official(s) we deserve. Just as Israel got. That’s why God declares that He will bless the people if THEY and their KING follow God’s will. The king is seen by God as an extension of the people. Our political leaders are extensions of us. That’s why the national blessings or curses of God are dependent on both the faithfulness of the people and their leader(s). That doesn’t mean we should only elect “Christians” to lead us, but we should elect leaders who at the very least hold a Bible-centered view of the world. It would be nice if that view was also Christ-centered, but we’re holding out for the Millennium for that to happen!

So God expects faithfulness from His people, and He expects His people’s first loyalty to be to Him, not to their king. In many respects, today the government is trying its best to take God’s place in the hearts of its citizens. Need health care? Don’t pray to God for a miracle, the government will provide it. Have other needs, who needs God to supply them! Your benevolent, all knowing and all-seeing government has you covered. Don’t have a father for your child? What a coincidence! The government is in the child-raising business now.  This is a dangerous direction our country has taken.

John MacArthur has written:

Our need is not to prove God’s faithfulness but to demonstrate our own, by trusting Him both to determine and to supply our needs according to His will.

You have to give the people of Israel some credit. After Samuel’s preaching, the Lord gave some signs and the people got the message:

“Pray for us lest we die!” they cried out to Samuel. “For now we have added to all our other sins by asking for a king.” (1 Samuel 12:19 TLB)

It’s worth looking at how the NIV translates verse 19 because it gives us a clue to how the people viewed themselves in relation to their God:

The people all said to Samuel, “Pray to the Lord your God for your servants so that we will not die, for we have added to all our other sins the evil of asking for a king.” (NIV)

They said to Samuel, “pray to the Lord YOUR God,” not “our God.” The people seemed to know the extent of their apostasy even at this relatively early period of their history. But God offers a stunning statement to reassure them of His continued love for them in spite of their periods of faithlessness:

Don’t be frightened,” Samuel reassured them. “You have certainly done wrong, but make sure now that you worship the Lord with true enthusiasm, and that you don’t turn your back on him in any way. Other gods can’t help you. The Lord will not abandon his chosen people, for that would dishonor his great name. He made you a special nation for himself—just because he wanted to!” (1 Samuel 11:20 – 22 TLB)

Because of His integrity, God would not forsake or abandon His people. According to these verses, God loved and continues to love Israel because to stop loving them would dishonor His name. It’s a word of encouragement but also a word of perspective. It’s never “all about us,” it’s always “all about God.” How we treat others, the attitudes we adopt as we go about daily lives, speak to our integrity, which ultimately speaks to God’s.

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