Posts Tagged '1 Samuel'

The Imperative of Integrity

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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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Lessons From Samuel’s Ministry

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Our Lord famously declared:

I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (Matthew 16:18 NIV)

As we look at the state of the church today, and indeed if we look at history of church, it seems like Jesus was just being wishful in His thinking. And yet, in over 2,000 years, despite setbacks and times of trouble, the church of Jesus Christ is still here. Any problems the church has experienced at any time in its history have not be God’s fault, they’ve been our fault. The church may have been established by Jesus Christ, but it is full of human beings who are, at best, imperfect. The church has survived all these centuries in spite of our mistakes and, yes, our sin. The church has paid and in some cases continues to pay for past mistakes, but it carries on.

Israel had problems, too. In 1 Samuel 4 we read about the biggest problem Israel ever had, and a problem Christians may experience today.

She named the boy Ichabod, saying, “The Glory has departed from Israel”—because of the capture of the ark of God and the deaths of her father-in-law and her husband. She said, “The Glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.” (1 Samuel 4:21, 22 NIV)

The Philistines had stolen the ark of the Covenant. Because the ark was gone, so was God’s glory. That ark was a token of God’s presence; with it gone, so was He. Of course, Israel’s real problem was a spiritual one, and that was why the Philistines were able to capture the ark. What Israel needed (and what the church of Jesus Christ needs) was a spiritual awakening; a revival. God’s solution to Israel’s problem was a man: Samuel.

Twenty Years Later

So the men of Kiriath-jearim came and took the Ark to the hillside home of Abinadab and installed his son Eleazar to be in charge of it. The Ark remained there for twenty years, and during that time all Israel was in sorrow because the Lord had seemingly abandoned them. (1 Samuel 7:1, 2 TLB)

The Israelites got the ark back, but for some reason it remained in a place called Kirjath-jearim. There is stayed for two decades. We’re not told why. It may be that Shiloh was destroyed or occupied by the Philistines. At any rate, the people of Israel began to turn back to the Lord during this time. A combination of the ark not being where it should have been and a constant threat from various enemies made Israel desperate. In times of desperation, people often turn to the Lord. And it is during times of desperation that God does His best work. Here, Samuel steps into his long ministry as a national prophet:

At that time Samuel said to them, “If you are really serious about wanting to return to the Lord, get rid of your foreign gods and your Ashtaroth idols. Determine to obey only the Lord; then he will rescue you from the Philistines.” So they destroyed their idols of Baal and Ashtaroth and worshiped only the Lord. (1 Samuel 7:3, 4 TLB)

Israel at this time was chest-deep in idolatry. They may have longed for the Lord, but they hadn’t given up the sin of idolatry. Over the years, the people had strayed far from God. Yet God wasn’t finished with them – not by a long shot. He was preparing Samuel for this exact moment. The terrible disasters that had hit Israel in recent years and the Philistine occupation had prepared the nation to hear Samuel’s call to repentance. It would take a complete, wholehearted turning away from idolatry and sin to an attitude of single-minded devotedness of service to God before God could begin to deliver His people.

D.A. Carson noted:

The coming of God’s reign either demands repentance or brings judgment.

The people wanted God’s glory – His presence – back, but that couldn’t happen until their hearts were right. It’s one thing to want God’s presence in your life, but God’s needs to know you’re serious about it. Lots of people want more of God, but they aren’t willing to do what is necessary to receive Him.

A call to prayer

Then Samuel told them, “Come to Mizpah, all of you, and I will pray to the Lord for you.” So they gathered there and, in a great ceremony, drew water from the well and poured it out before the Lord. They also went without food all day as a sign of sorrow for their sins. So it was at Mizpah that Samuel became Israel’s judge. (1 Samuel 7:5, 6 TLB)

Samuel was not just their prophet, he was also Israel’s judge. Under his leadership, the nation turned from their idolatry to the Lord. The big, national prayer meeting was to take place at a place called Mizpah, about eight miles north of Jerusalem, close to Samuel’s hometown of Ramah. Here the people gathered to fast, confess their sins, and pray. This is the only way for a person to return to God, by the way. If a person wants to get closer to God; if they want more of God; they need to offer themselves to Him. They need to confess their sins and they need to see themselves as God sees them: sinners in need of saving.

Another problem

It didn’t take long for Israel’s enemy, the Philistines, to get wind of their national prayer meeting. It doesn’t take the devil long to notice when you get serious with your faith, either. You may be sure that the moment you start to take your faith serious; the moment you decide to ‘walk the straight and narrow,’ the devil takes notice and begins to move against you.

When the Israelites learned that the Philistines were on the move, they were terrified.

“Plead with God to save us!” they begged Samuel. (1 Samuel 7:8 TLB)

Samuel did that and more, and the Lord gave them great victory. It was the first victory Israel had experienced in a long time.

Just as Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines arrived for battle, but the Lord spoke with a mighty voice of thunder from heaven, and they were thrown into confusion, and the Israelites routed them and chased them from Mizpah to Beth-car, killing them all along the way. (1 Samuel 7:10, 11 TLB)

Before the battle even began, God “thundered” against the enemy. Was it a storm? Was it the great rumble of His voice? The text isn’t clear, but what is clear is that the Lord acted on behalf of His people. The Israelites hadn’t lifted a finger when God moved, throwing the enemy into confusion. At that point, the Israelites acted.

The Lord acted, in the nick of time, without a moment to spare. That’s how God often works. The Lord’s miraculous interventions occur at His convenience, not ours. When the people turned to God and made an earnest confession, God moved.

A memorial

Samuel then took a stone and placed it between Mizpah and Jeshanah and named it Ebenezer (meaning, “the Stone of Help”), for he said, “The Lord has certainly helped us!” (1 Samuel 7:12 TLB)

Large stones were commonly used as monuments in Old Testament times. Samuel named his monument “Ebenezer,” which means, “stone of help.” This was a monument of remembrance; whenever people looked at it, they would remember what God had done for them. It was also a stone of revelation; the revelation being that it was God who gave them the victory, not their efforts.

Remembering is a good thing to do. Paul wrote to the Philippians:

…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6 NIV)

If you are a Christian, God has led you to where you are right now. Through all the twists and turns of your life, and in spite of your best efforts to the contrary, God has been working tirelessly and often silently in the background to get you to where you are now. You should be able to say with confidence, “The Lord has certainly helped me.”

Memory is a wonderful thing. When times get tough you can remember times of blessing. If you’ve ever read the psalms, you’ve no doubt noticed how many of them sing the praises of what God had done in the past.

Restoration and peace

The towns from Ekron to Gath that the Philistines had captured from Israel were restored to Israel, and Israel delivered the neighboring territory from the hands of the Philistines. And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites.

Samuel continued as Israel’s leader all the days of his life. From year to year he went on a circuit from Bethel to Gilgal to Mizpah, judging Israel in all those places. But he always went back to Ramah, where his home was, and there he also held court for Israel. And he built an altar there to the Lord. (1 Samuel 7:14 – 17 NIV)

This is the result of what happens when God’s man is in a place of leadership. Peace follows the man of God. Confusion and tumult result when people are led by someone out of step with God. In the early days of Samuel’s ministry, we can learn some important lessons:

Conditions necessary for God’s help. If you want God’s help, you must be sincere and you must be serious. Just asking Him for help isn’t enough. We must show God that we know we really need Him; that we believe He will help us. And, if need be, we must deal with the sin that may be coming between God and us. Sometimes that sin is the cause of our problems in the first place.

Confession of your need. God will help anybody who knows he needs it. If you’re too self-confident or if you’re the kind of person who prays for help then tries to find a solution yourself, God won’t help you. A piece of advice from James is helpful on this-

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. (James 1:6, 7 NIV)

Crisis as the occasion for God’s help. Sometimes the Lord will let things reach the crisis point before He acts. He’ll do this for reasons that make sense to Him but not always to us. We may be sure, however, that God’s timing is always perfect.

Call out to God in prayer. Of course God knows what our needs are; He knows what we need before we ask. Still, He wants us to ask in faith believing.

Conquest through receiving God’s help. When we pray in faith, God will act, in His time, and we will be delivered; victory will come. God never works in half measures. God always goes all out for His people!

God used Samuel to bring peace, revival, and restoration to a broken and contrite Israel. He stands in stark contrast to the judges that came before him: Jephthah, Samson, and the priest Eli all caused more problems for Israel than they solved. They were selfish men, driven by their passions and ruled by their weaknesses. Samuel was different thanks to four things:

The influence of a godly family. Both of Samuel’s parents were godly people, devoted to God with faith in His will.

The power of prayer. Samuel’s birth was an answer to prayer and his life and ministry were lived in prayer.

The call of God. Samuel didn’t happen to become a judge or stumble upon becoming a prophet. He was directly called by God to those positions. As Christians, we are told this:

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. (2 Peter 1:10 NIV)

Obedience. There is no record of Samuel disobeying God; no record of him “doing his own thing.” Samuel was a faithful servant of God. No wonder he could say this:

To obey is better than sacrifice. (1 Samuel 15:22 NIV)

Samuel could honestly express this because he lived it all the days of his life.

GOD’S ANOINTED: In a cave, surrounded by misfits

David and his followers at the cave at Adullam

1 Samuel 22:1, 2, 23

David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there.  All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader. About four hundred men were with him.

“Stay with me; don’t be afraid; the man who is seeking your life is seeking mine also. You will be safe with me.”

By the time we get to chapter 22, David is on the run for his life.  Like the old TV show, “The Fugitive,” David, is seen running from town to town, hiding out from King Saul and his men, who were in hot pursuit.  In order, David hid out in Gath in Philistia (1 Samuel 21:10—15); Adullam in Judah (22:1—2) and Mizpah in Moab (22:3—5).  It is interesting to read of how David describes himself during this very dark time in his life:

  • I am hunted like a partridge, 1 Samuel 26:20;
  • I am like a pelican in the wilderness, Psalm 102:6;
  • I am like an owl in the desert, Psalm 102:6;
  • My soul is among the lions, Psalm 57:4;
  • They have prepared a net for my steps, Psalm 57:6.

Can you imagine being called of God and anointed by God as king of Israel, experiencing an amazing victory over a giant, being best friends with the present-king’s son, playing a harp in the palace at the king’s request, only to find yourself hiding out from that very king in foreign lands in caves?  As you may imagine, David was weary during these years of flight from Saul.  In fact, the closing verses of chapter 21 reveal what must have been lowest point in David’s life—

That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish king of Gath.  But the servants of Achish said to him, “Isn’t this David, the king of the land? Isn’t he the one they sing about in their dances:

” ‘Saul has slain his thousands,
and David his tens of thousands’?”

David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath.  So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard. (21:10—13)

God’s anointed one, reduced to this.  When a believer loses heart, his behavior changes; there is an unbreakable connection between one’s confession and one’s conduct.   When your faith and your heart are steadfast in the Lord, you will act like a child of God.  But when, for whatever reason, your faith fails and your heart grows weak, your conduct will betray that.

Because of his fear of Achish, king of Gath, David fled to a cave in Adullam.  There is an important lesson here for any believer who has ever tried to befriend the world.  For reasons that may seem good at the time, sometimes Christians try to make peace with the world; we compromise our core beliefs and standards to make friends with the world.  That strategy never works.  David fled to the king of Gath; he tried to befriend the enemy of God’s people, and he simply degraded himself.  The peace and safety David sought could not be found in Gath, they were found in the simple solitude in a cave.  When David separated himself from Achish and Gath, he was richly rewarded by God when supporters he never knew he came to him.

1.  Who were his followers?

(a)  Those in distress.  We are not told what these people were in distress about.  Perhaps they were in distress over the state of their nation; perhaps they were in distress because they, like David, were being put upon by the king.   Whatever their problem was, they came to David out of sheer necessity; they believed he could help them; they sensed in him a kindred spirit.   How many of us seek the Lord out of sheer necessity?  If it weren’t for your problems or your unmet needs, how many of you would have prayed today?  The fact is, the dark times that beset us every once in a while are blessings in disguise when they bring us to a position of having to seek the Lord.   It sounds funny yet it is true:  misfortune enables us to share in the blessings of the Lord!   People who have everything they think they need; those who are self-satisfied, have no need of God.  That is the point of Revelation 3:20—

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

A person doesn’t eat unless they are hungry.

(b)  Those in debt.  There are many forms of debt; it’s not always about being broke.  But all debt is like a disease that eats a person up.  In David’s time, if a man got in over his head, he could lose all he owned; there was no protection for those in debt.  There should have been, and there was under the Mosaic law, but under Saul, the Mosaic law was ignored.  These people came to David out of desperation because he, like them, had lost everything as he fled Saul.  All people are debtors under the Law; sin has made us all debtors to God.  In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus prayed—

Forgive us our debts… (Matthew 6:12)

Only God can forgive, and forgiveness is always linked to the payment of a debt, and only by coming to Jesus can a person’s debt of sin be written off.  Ellis Crum expressed this wonderful aspect of Christ’s work on the Cross:

He paid a debt He did not owe;
I owed a debt I could not pay;
I needed someone to wash my sins away.
And, now, I sing a brand new song,
“Amazing Grace.”
Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay.

He paid that debt at Calvary.
He cleansed my soul and set me free.
I’m glad that Jesus did all my sins erase.
I, now, can sing a brand new song,
“Amazing Grace.”
Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay.

(c)   The discontented.  This refers to a kind of “bitterness of soul.”  Many things in life can make a person bitter.  Disappointments can make one bitter.  Unmet needs and unfulfilled dreams can lead one to discontentment.  A lot of discontented people try to find contentment in the things of the world; entertainment, alcohol, relationships, employment, even family and religion can be used improperly  in the quest for contentment.  The problem is, lasting contentment is found in only Person:  Jesus Christ.   In Jeremiah 2:13 we read this stinging indictment about people who look for peace and contentment outside of Christ—

My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water
.

There are many people—Christians even—who are digging their own wells, foolishly thinking their thirst can be quenched by the water even their own wells cannot hold.

These are the kind of people who flocked to David, looking for help.

2.  Why did they come to David?

Interestingly, even David’s brothers who once accused him of being “conceited” and of having a “wicked heart” were now numbered among his followers.  They, and hundreds of other outcasts, came to David because:

(a)  They believed in him.  They believed David was the true king of Israel and believed he had the right to rule over them.  They had, so to speak, been converted from Saul’s followers to David’s.  Remember, his family had seen and heard David’s anointing as king.  Faith comes by hearing.  Others saw and heard of David’s victory over Goliath and recognized that God’s call and anointing rested on him.

(b)  They decided to follow him.  Their belief led to action.  They not only recognized something divine in David, they pursued their beliefs.  Jesus taught that wise people not only hear the truth, but practice it—

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  (Matthew 7:24)

Untold millions claim to believe in Jesus, but few take their stand for Him or with Him.  In deciding to follow David, they, like us, had to leave their homes and their familiar ways of life to be with him; no camp and no prospects forthcoming.  In casting their lot with David, his followers also had to bear his reproach.  In following Jesus, we bear the same disgrace He bore—

Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.  (Hebrews 13:13)

(c)  They were prepared to submit to him.  They claimed David as their king and in doing so recognized his authority over them.  They would do all they could to advance David’s kingdom.   They would even fight for their sovereign.  For those of us who have acknowledged Jesus Christ as our King, have we similarly surrendered ourselves to Him?  Have we put our wants and desires in a subordinate position to His?  Romans 12:1 makes our obligation to Christ pretty clear—

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.

Singing a hymn and going to church is not necessarily a “spiritual act of worship.”  Have we offered ourselves, completely and without reservation to God’s service?

3.  David became their “captain”

As soon as they took their place as his followers, David became their leader.   Followers have a right to expect certain things from their leader:

(a)  Guidance.  These followers of David looked to him for guidance, for a plan to live by, and it was their right to do so.  We, who have chosen to follow Jesus; who have yielded our wills to His will, have every right to look to Him, our Captain, for guidance.  Why would David’s followers look to any other man for guidance?  Why would followers of Christ look elsewhere for guidance?

(b)  Protection.  Because they became David’s followers, these social misfits had exposed themselves to the wrath of Saul.  Similarly, those who stubbornly obey the god of this world will always be in opposition to God and God’s people.  However, we have nothing to fear from those who may be against us.  We are on God’s side, and behind us stands the mighty army of heaven.  A child of God cannot possibly lose in life.  David told his new friends—

“You will be safe with me.”  (verse 23b)

We will be safe with God.

(c) Reward.  The cause of David was not a lost cause, even though at the moment all seemed lost.  He was God’s chosen king, and no man could thwart God’s plan.  It is true that for a while it seemed as though Saul was going to prevent David from assuming the throne, but God’s will prevailed in God’s own time.  A righteous cause in God’s name can never fail.  Romans 8:17—

Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Too many of us want to skip the sufferings and get right to the glory, but God has established an order that cannot be changed.

You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’  (Matthew 25:21)

Too many of us despise the “little things” as we presume them to be beneath us; and because of that sinful attitude, we miss out on so many wonderful blessings.

Conclusion

As David was fleeing for his life, God gave him hundreds of followers;  social outcasts and misfits all.  But in that crowd, God had his man, a priest by name of Abiathar.  He was the sole survivor of an entire town priests.  He had seen not only his hometown, but also his father, a priest, and his whole family killed mercilessly by Saul because they chose to follow the Lord.   This brave man joined David’s fugitive band and he would be David’s priest for rest of David’s life.   To this man, David promised protection—

You will be safe with me.

In the Hebrew, the “you” in emphatic; Abiathar from this day forward may count on David’s faithful protection.    But for now, Saul will seek out the lives of both of them.  King and priest-elect had joined forces to become fugitives, hunted men.

You never know where serving the Lord will take you!  However, of this you can be certain:  a life of faith is a life of adventure!

(c)  2009 WitzEnd

GOD’S ANOINTED: The Boy Who Would Be King

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1 Samuel 16

The people of Israel wanted a King and they chose, in concert with God, a man by the name of Saul.  Even though Saul was technically Israel’s first monarch, it is accurate to say that because of his continued disobedience to the Word of the Lord, his rule was aborted and with the rapid rise of David, a true and lasting monarchy was finally established.  While Saul’s ascension to the throne was a complex combination of both Divine sovereignty and human desire, the choice of David was God’s alone.

Saul’s decline was long.  However, the fact that he would have no dynasty became apparent early in his reign.  Yet God continued to allow Saul to rule over Israel.  Of course, it is folly to attempt to discern God’s reasons for doing things when His Word is silent, but we may speculate, and our speculations involve all the parties involved in Saul’s kingship.  Clearly God knew that Saul would be a complete failure, but Saul needed to know the price of his disobedience.  Samuel also needed to know the truth about Saul, for Samuel genuinely loved him.  The people who chose Saul needed to see the results of his rebellion and the results of their choice.  So for those reasons, it seems to me, God allowed Saul to linger on and on as a king.

With chapter 16, the subject of the book changes and we now see David in stark contrast to Saul; we continue to see Saul’s decline and David’s rise, and there are many lessons to be learned, not the least of which would be taught by our Lord many centuries later, for Saul’s biggest problem is man’s biggest problem—

But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  (Matthew 7:26)

Saul was building his house on the sands of his own imagination and ambition.  If he had only been obedient to the Word of the Lord and tried to do God’s will instead of his own, how different things would have worked out for King Saul.  Man’s wisdom, no matter how clever he considers himself, will always be foolishness to God.

1.  God’s choice, verse 1

The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”

It is not known how soon the events of this first verse began after those of the concluding verse of the previous chapter, but the Lord’s words to His prophet Samuel, “How long” seem to be a kind of rebuke to him.  One can only imagine how deep and intense Samuel’s grief over Saul must have been.  But God’s will and His work is ever pressing forward, and now was the time for Samuel pick himself up and look forward, leaving the past behind.  “What might have been” would never be, so the prophet was encouraged to look to the future, in which God’s plans would come to pass.

There is a singular lesson here:  the will of God and our relationship with Him is far more valuable and important than anything else or anyone else in our lives.  As dear as the wants or supposed needs of our family and friends may be, if we deem ourselves followers of Christ, then what He wants must always take precedence.   Those special relationships in our lives are important, but putting them ahead of Christ reveals what you think of Christ and the cost of such an action may be expensive.

What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?  (Matthew 16:25—27)

The fact is, while Samuel was busy looking back, God had already been looking ahead and had prepared someone to take Saul’s place.  God’s statement to Samuel is interesting.  He tells the prophet:  “I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”  Literally the phrase means “I saw…for myself a king.”  It is true that “saw” here is related to “choose,” yet the phrase gives us a glimpse into the mind of the Lord:  He sees what we cannot.  Before David became king, God saw him as king.  Also of note is the first contrast between the choice of Saul and the choice of David.  Read carefully these two verses—

Of Saul, the Lord said:  And the LORD said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king. (8:22, KJV)

Of David, the Lord said:  “I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”  (16:1, NIV)

Clearly, Saul was really the people’s choice, but David was the Lord’s.

David was being prepared, or groomed, to be God’s king over Israel by doing a most remarkable, if unimpressive thing:  he was faithfully tending and defending his father’s sheep—

But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock,  I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.  Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. (17:34—36)

God frequently chooses the foolish things of this world, but He never chooses lazy things!  Nobody looking at David could see him as a king, but the Lord could.  David had two things going for him:  He was chosen by God and God saw the potential that lay deep within David because David was already a faithful son and worker.  Do you think for one moment it was David’s desire to be a shepherd for his whole life?  Of course not!  We have the benefit of knowing how David thought and lived and we can read a tremendous body of work that revealed a passionate, ambitious man.

It is fine to be ambitious, but what God wants are servants who will seek to do His will, not seek a promotion.  That is what He found in David.  When God looks at us, He sees the real person.  God knows our strengths and weaknesses.  God knows what we are capable of doing.  We should never be afraid that our “gifts” or “talents” or “wisdom” will go unused.   God knew that Paul would become the greatest missionary and preacher that ever lived, but it 12 years of living in obscurity before Paul would begin the work to which he was called.

2.  Samuel’s commission, verses 2, 3

The LORD said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’  Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.”

The Lord’s choice of Saul’s successor would be found among the eight sons of a man named Jesse, who lived in Bethlehem.  Jesse was the grandson of Boaz and Ruth.  You will recall that Ruth was not a Jew, but a Moabitess.  It is interesting that the mother of Boaz was also not Jew; her name was Rahab of Jericho.  David, like our Lord, has an interesting lineage!

Naturally, Samuel was concerned that Saul would seek vengeance, so the Lord arranges a clever cover for him.  When Samuel arrives in town, the townsfolk were afraid.  It seems that Samuel, as a reward for keeping the Word the Lord, became fearful and invoked fear in others!  In reality, circumstances were grim in those days, thanks to Saul’s state of mind.  It’s amazing how a country’s leader can change the whole mood of the citizenry.  Equally amazing is the authority a person has when they are a mission from God.

At any rate, what should be noted is the preciseness of the Lord’s directions to Samuel.  David, the son of Jesse, was God’s chosen one, and so God Himself will dictate how David will achieve what God has called Him to.  David may have had an earthly father, but his relationship with God took precedence over that, or any other earthly relationship; Samuel may have had his own good ideas about how to approach Jesse and how to choose the right candidate, but God’s idea about how to get the job done took precedence over any good ideas Samuel might have had.

God told Samuel to fill his horn with oil so as to anoint David as king.  It would take a while before Saul’s monarchy would whimper to a close, but the moment David’s head was covered with the anointing oil, he was, in God’s estimation, Israel’s king; he didn’t look like, and he may not have felt like it, but David was the king.  It took a long time for David to physically claim the throne, but that did not negate God’s will for David.

We tend to be very impatient even with God, but remember these words and remember them well—

[H]e who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 1:6b)

Samuel went to Bethlehem in God’s name, with God’s message, doing it God’s way.  That is real authority; for the man of God, true authority descends from heaven and is received through the Word of God.

3.  Looking for the king, verse 11

So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered, “but he is tending the sheep.”   Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”

This verse always makes me chuckle.  Jesse had paraded all his sons past Samuel, but the Lord was not taken in with good looks.  How one looks and the charm they may possess means nothing to God.  It is with the heart man believes, so the Lord looks a man’s heart—

[T]he LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”  (verse 7)

There are so me tremendous principles for Christians to latch on to throughout 1 Samuel.  Remember back in chapter 15, we read this—

“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD ?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”  (15:22)

Christians demonstrate their love for God, not by the may feel or by what theysay in their testimonies, but by whether or not they are obeying Him.  The Christian life is not a collection of Utopian ideologies, it is  seen in how we live.  When God looks at those who claim to love Him, he looks at the heart.  We are terrible at that; most of us are taken by a smooth talker, a clever turn of words or pleasing appearance.  But none of that has any effect on God because God is the original inside Man:  He sees us from the inside out.

2 Corinthians 10:18 says—

For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

It is not what we think of ourselves, or what others think of us,  it is what God thinks of us that matters.  David, the young shepherd boy, the least of Jesse’s sons, was the very last one they thought of but he was God’s choice.  In man’s estimation, intelligence and appearance are of great weight, but when it comes to God’s scales, a humble, hard working heart is what tips them.

4.  The anointing, verse 13

So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power. Samuel then went to Ramah.

In choosing David it is interesting that while “God looks at the heart,” the Scripture has this to say about David’s appearance—

He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features.  (verse 12)

Is this a contradiction?  Of course not; David was not only the “youngest,” the Hebrew word also means “smallest,” meaning that in terms of stature, David was a short man.  David was not a particularly impressive man, but he was no gargoyle, either.  In fact, David was probably just an average man.

Some scholars have pointed out a clever, but obscure bit of symbolism.  Consider this:  when we are first introduced to Saul, we see him looking for his father’s donkeys, but when we first meet David, he is tending his father’s sheep.  In the ancient world, it was common to refer to Kings as shepherds and their citizens as sheep.   Saul was no shepherd and he did not treat his people like sheep!  On the other hand, David would forever be known as “the shepherd king.”

When Samuel anointed David with the oil, symbolic of the Holy Spirit, we are told—

From that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power.

This is the very first time David is mentioned by name in the books of Samuel, and his brothers bore witness that he was anointed both by man and by God.  From time to time throughout the Old Testament, we are told that the Spirit of God came upon Godly men at times, temporarily, for specific purposes; however, David is the only man who, before Pentecost, experienced the permanent presence of the Holy Spirit in his life.   This one event changed David’s life and represented the triumph of Samuel’s long career.  The last sentence of verse 13 indicated that Samuel’s work in the nation was all but over, and although we read about him once in a while later on, he no longer plays an active role in his books.

The power of the Holy Spirit in David’s life, and in the life all believers for that matter, cannot be overstated.  Every life that is dedicated and consecrated to Christ is a life lived in the anointing of the Holy Spirit.  It is true that we have the gifts of the Spirit today and that at special times we may experience a special “unction” of the Spirit, but every believer may experience what David experienced.  God does not expect us to live our lives bereft of His presence, and He has given us His Holy Spirit to make living a life that is pleasing to Him possible.

What is particularly interesting about David’s relationship with God is this profound verse found chapter 13; fully three chapters before the events of this present chapter—

But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the LORD’s command.” (13:14)

David was a “man after God’s own heart” long before he was publicly chosen and anointed.  Long before God revealed His heart to Samuel and Jesse and to the people of Israel, His mind was made up about David because David was a “man after His own heart.”   How did God know this about David?  God knew because He and He alone is able to see into man’s heart, and even though for the present David was mere shepherd, God knew that inside David beat the heart of a king.  And even though years later when David sinned and experienced terrible setbacks, and the future looked bleak indeed,  God never forsook His king because David’s heart never changed.  God sees what we cannot.

(c)  2009 WitzEnd

SAUL: His sad end

Saul falls on his sword1 Samuel 28

Without a doubt, King Saul is a tragic character.  Over the past few weeks, we have studied his life and tried to understand what happened to him and why he stubbornly refused to submit to God.  As always, the Bible gives us some insights; we don’t need to put Saul on the analyst’s couch to make sense of his life.  All we have to do is turn to the God’s Word.  Consider Matthew 19:16—22.

Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.”

“Which ones?” the man inquired.

Jesus replied, ” ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.'”

“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

The rich young man’s response to Jesus was similar to Saul’s response to God:  he went away.  Unwilling to do what was necessary to follow Jesus, this young man simply walked away.  Saul was unwilling to be obedient to God, and so Saul simply walked away.  Neither man was sent away; they went away.   When a person turns their back on God and walks away from His Light, there is no place they can go but into the darkness, and the darkness is a cold, hard place in which to live.

It has been almost 40 years since Saul committed his very first act of willful rebellion at Gilgal, where in his impatience and fear, he offered a sacrifice that was contrary to God’s will.  That may seem like insignificant thing, the sacrifice was done correctly after all, but that act was the thin edge of the wedge, and here near the end his life, Saul’s sin was not offering a genuine sacrifice to God, but involving himself an evil, Satanic practice.  Sin will always take you farther than you wanted to go.

1.  Saul, the fearful, verse 5

When Saul saw the Philistine army, he was afraid; terror filled his heart.

Once again the Philistines were mustering their armies to fight Israel.  David, fleeing for his life, found refuge with the Philistines and had become a kind of bodyguard to Achish, leader of the Philistines.  Now, David gave no direct pledge to help the Philistines in this battle, but it seemed that he and his band of followers had to march with the Philistine army.

Samuel, the beloved prophet of Israel, was dead.  The Spirit of God had left Saul.  To whom would Saul turn?  Because of his stubborn, rebellious heart, King Saul had no friends he could trust.  He was alone in the world.  Saul’s poor, miserable, self-confident heart began to crumble.

The last sentence of verse 3 is an explanatory note that seems out of place but necessary to set the scene for a terrible incident that will follow shortly.  At some time during King Saul’s reign, he apparently drove out all the witches and diviners from the land in keeping with the law of Moses.  Here was one incident where King Saul actually did the right thing, but to no avail, as we shall see.

Verse 5 is so telling:  he was afraid; terror filled his heart.  Apart from the grace of God, what can possibly sustain us when the hard times come?  Paul, with great inspired perception wrote—

I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  (Romans 7:18)

A person without the Holy Spirit is incapable of helping themselves because there is nothing good in them!  There is not one thing in a person that can take the place of the Holy Spirit!  There is not one thing outside a person that can take the place of ministry of the Holy Spirit.  Our own wisdom, our own strength, our own resources are very poor substitutes for the presence of God.  Jesus put it best when He said—

[A]part from me you can do nothing.  (John 15:5)

You can’t even help yourself apart from Christ!

2.  Saul, the desperate, verse 6

He inquired of the LORD, but the LORD did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets.

There in another version of this incident recorded for us in 1 Chronicles 10:13—14—

Saul died because he was unfaithful to the LORD; he did not keep the word of the LORD and even consulted a medium for guidance,  and did not inquire of the LORD. So the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.

Is this a contradiction?  John Haley, who writes about alleged discrepancies in the Bible offers a great explanation:

[I]t may be correctly remarked that Saul’s attempts at inquiry were of so unworthy a nature that it would be a misuse of language to speak of him as really inquiring of Jehovah.

Saul was desperate, but he was not sincere.  Desperation should never be equated with sincerity.  Many a confirmed, unrepentant sinner has called out to God in desperation when the circumstances warranted it, but that is not the kind of prayer God responds to.  There are times when God closes His ears to our prayers—

“Then they will call to me but I will not answer;
they will look for me but will not find me.” (Proverbs 1:28)

If we harbor sin in our hearts, God will not hear us when we pray.  If we live in rebellion to His revealed Word, He will not hear us when we pray.  Unconfessed sin will always muffle your prayers.

3.  Saul, the apostate, verse 11

Then the woman asked, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” “Bring up Samuel,” he said.

With this one verse, we see Saul’s complete devolution and complete absorption into the Saul and witch at Endordarkness of his blackened soul.  In the Hebrew, his words are as emphatic as they can be.  Saul was so desperate; he would do what no Hebrew was allowed to do.  In the desperation and bitterness of his heart, Saul longed for even a brief word of advice from someone who had a relationship with God.  He had previously slaughtered all the priests of the Lord in one town, so who among those left alive in Israel would dare say a word to Saul?  So Saul, bereft of one ounce of God’s Spirit, will dance will the devil to get what he thinks he needs.

This story of the witch at Endor fascinates many.  What really happened that night?  Did she really raise Samuel’s spirit?  Did she communicate with the dead?  Theories abound, but J.B. Chapman boils them all down to just two:

First, Samuel did appear by special providence of God, and His appearing was a judgment upon the wicked king and a surprise to the witch, whose usual fakish claims were over-shadowed by this unexpected divine intervention.  Or second, this was just another unfounded claim of the witch to which the troubled heart of the king gave credence.  I think nine-tenths of the experiences of spiritism can be explained upon the basis of psychology, including telepathy, and whatever is not human about it is directly of the devil (1927).

Did Samuel really come back from the dead?  If so, then it is the only occurrence of this in the Bible.  Scripture roundly condemns the practice of necromancy in Deuteronomy 18:9—14, among other references.  In the story of Lazarus and the rich man, found in Luke 16:19—31 we learn that the rich man, who was dead, was strictly forbidden to return to the land of living and could not communicate those alive.  The apostle Paul was caught up to heaven was silenced; he was not allowed to speak of what he had seen and heard (2 Corinthians 12:2—4).

The fact is, Saul never saw Samuel that night; it was the witch, who may never have seen Samuel while he was alive, that claimed she saw a man wearing a robe, probably the kind of robe a prophet would wear.  Naturally in his desperate, apostate state, Saul would believe anything this woman said.

Saul had completely opened himself up to being deluded.  Without the guidance of the Holy Spirit, he had no discernment and his mind was ripe for satanic delusion.  Those who turn away from the truth will be deceived through believing a lie.

For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.  (2 Thessalonians 2:11—12)

4.  Saul, the suicide, 31:3—4

The fighting grew fierce around Saul, and when the archers overtook him, they wounded him critically. Saul said to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and run me through, or these uncircumcised fellows will come and run me through and abuse me.”
But his armor-bearer was terrified and would not do it; so Saul took his own sword and fell on it.

This chapter is repeated, in an abbreviated form, in 1 Chronicles 10:1—12, where it serves to introduce the life and times of King David.  Here, the battle rages on; it is King Saul against the Philistines.  This “last battle” of Saul went the way of every “last battle” of the one who had turned their back on God.

Saul, wounded and surrounded by the enemy, is afraid that he will be tortured by his enemies before killed, turns to his armor-bearer.  That was a very important position in the Hebrew army; David had once been Saul’s armor-bearer.  He asked his armor-bearer take his sword and run him through before the Philistines could get their hands on him.  In the last few moments of his life, this incident with the armor-bearer must have spoke volumes to the king:  Saul, once handpicked by both God and man to be Israel’s first king, full of promise and anointed with the Spirit of God, had so forsaken God, that even in his death his armor-bearer would not do what he was asked.  It is so true:  God cannot be mocked.  We reap what we sow.  Saul stubbornly refused to obey God, and now his armor-bearer refused to obey him.

Saul wanted to live his life his own way but in the end, all he achieved was dying his own way.  Again, the words of Jesus ring true—

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.  (Matthew 16:25)

Saul was determined to die exactly as he lived:  on his own terms.   Eli, the wayward priest for 40 years who raised Samuel, died by falling off his chair, so also Saul, the hapless king for 40 years, died by falling on his sword.  So is the end of all who turn from God.  There is no glory in living life “your way,” on your terms.

One of the worst lies ever foisted on people is contained in the lyrics to “My Way,” a song that exalts the man who did lived life his way:

To think I did all that;
And may I say – not in a shy way,
No, oh no not me,
I did it my way.

If you try to go out and live life your way, you will end up like Saul.  If you call yourself a Christian, there is only way to live:  God’s way.  We all want to be the exception, but in truth there are no exceptions.  We all want to think that we are exempt from the God’s rules that govern “other” people, but none are exempt.

Paul Davis, wrote about living right:

I know that he gave his life for me
Set all our spirits free
So I wanna do right wanna do right
All of my life

You’ve got to do right
Yes, you’ve got to do right
And he’ll be your guiding light
But you’ve got to do right
And he’ll be your guiding light.

He’s right.  Jesus Christ will be your guiding light, if you live in obedience to Him.  Do right and live right!

(c)  2009 WitzEnd

SAUL: The Lost Man

Saul rips Samuel's robe

1 Samuel 15

Last time we looked at Saul, we discovered that he was, in his heart, a disobedient man.  He disobeyed the plain word of the Lord given to him through the prophet Samuel.  In chapter 13 we learned the high price he paid for his disobedience:  he would be denied a dynasty.  Nevertheless, Saul was still Israel’s king and God was not eager to withdraw His favor from His king.  Such is the Lord’s “lingering grace,” which gives the stubborn a little more time for repentance.  Saul would be given one more chance to show himself faithful to God.  Sadly, with chapter 15 Saul’s decline would be complete and irreversible; he was denied his dynasty in chapter 13, and now he will be denied his kingship.

Let’s consider—

1.  Saul’s clear mission, verse 3

Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.

Samuel was sent with a message from the Lord to King Saul.  God’s patience had finally run out for the wicked, warlike Amalekites and He would choose Saul as His instrument to completely destroy them, as prophesied as far back as Exodus 17:8—16.

The Lord’s order to Saul was to not spare anything or anybody.  The Hebrew phrase (charam cherem) is somewhat complex but literally means “to put under the ban.”  It is usually used of people and objects that have been set aside as God’s personal property, either to be used of Him or destroyed by Him in an act of judgment.   It is a powerful phrase which to our modern sensibilities is difficult to fathom.  It is a concept that could be used to describe radical surgery performed by a skilled surgeon to prevent the spread of a malignant cancer.

This was no ordinary war; Israel was expressly commanded to take no booty, and all living creatures were to be killed.  This was to be a complete judgment of God upon an evil, godless race of people who were a blight on planet earth and a threat to the continued existence of God’s chosen people.  What a solemn responsibility Saul had been entrusted with!  God, as the sovereign owner of all He has created, may choose animate or inanimate objects to execute His will over His creation.  Sometimes, God had used earthquakes and storms to benefit His people or to judge them.  This time He will use Saul to deal with the Amalekites.

Neither personal feelings nor human reason should stand in the way of fulfilling God’s will and purpose.  When God tells us to do something, we must obey to the letter His command, not embellishing it with our ideas and reasoning.  If God should tell us to walk on the water, we need to be prepared to do just that.   If God should tell us to sell all we have and give the proceeds to the poor, we must obey that command, no matter how strange it may seem to us.  To not obey the word of God is to show Him the highest form of contempt.

2.  Saul’s disobedience, verse 9

But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.

The express command of God was to spare nothing, but Saul spared a lot.  He allowed his feelings and his eyes to determine his action and his level of obedience.  Saul allowed his natural instincts as a shepherd, and as a dealer in cattle, to overrule the direct command of God, which no doubt made no sense to Him all; he spared the very best, but destroyed the weak and useless.

How easy it is to give God the things we don’t want and to keep the best for ourselves.  God was not at all pleased that Saul partly obeyed; do you suppose God will accept our partial obedience?  Do you suppose God will accept the weak and the useless from us, even as we keep the best for our own purposes?  To partially obey is to disobey and whenever self-interest is allowed a place in our service to God, we are faithless and open to His rebuke.

3.  Saul’s lame excuses (more of the same), verses 13, 15 20, 21

When Samuel reached him, Saul said, “The LORD bless you! I have carried out the LORD’s instructions.”

Saul answered, “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the LORD your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.”

“But I did obey the LORD,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king.  The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God at Gilgal.”

This singular event was Saul’s final probation; he had been warned many times before and repeatedly came up short.  It is quite possible that verse 11 is about the saddest verse in all of Scripture—

“I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” Samuel was troubled, and he cried out to the LORD all that night.

The Hebrew for “grieved” is nacham, meaning “to sigh,” “to be sorry,” “to rue.”   It does not mean that God somehow changed His mind about Saul, as some have suggested.  God does not “learn” about us nor does God have to “adjust” His thinking toward us.   God interacts with human beings all the time and His reactions to what we do show that God is absolutely coherent in his thoughts and He is never caught off guard.  That is, we can predict how He will react with certainty if we act in a dishonoring manner or if we act in way that pleases Him.  The difference between God and human beings is that when we act we often have no idea what the unintended consequences of that action will be.  However, God does.  Our actions never catch Him off guard, and so He never has to change His mind about us.

Walter Kaiser:

God can and does change in His actions and emotions towards men so as not to be fickle, mutable, and variable in His nature and purpose.

God was broken hearted that Saul disobeyed, and Samuel’s reaction was a mirror reflection of how God was grieving.

When the prophet finally met up with Saul after Saul had erected a monument of his victory, the excuses came flowing out of Saul like wet cement.  Like the crowing of the rooster when Peter denied his Lord, so the bleating of the sheep mocked the Word of the Lord to Saul.  To make matters worse, Saul insisted that he had been obedient. Once again, he thought that partial obedience would be good enough for God.

It is pitiful when we, like Saul, justify our sins of disobedience when confronted.  But how many of us are masters of self-deception?  How many of us have actually convinced ourselves that partial obedience is good enough?   How many believers have deluded themselves into thinking they are “right with God” because He hasn’t sent a plague on them or struck them dead?   Galatians 6:7 is a frightening verse—

Do not be deceived:  God cannot be mocked.

You will reap what you sow; if you continually sow seeds of disobedience, you will reap what Saul is about to reap.  God is predictable in how He deals with disobedient sinners.  And God knows your heart, like He knew Saul’s.  We can’t delude Him.

If Saul had only obeyed, how different things would have been.  But most of us are about as reliable as Saul was.  Complete obedience is so hard.  Some Christians think complete obedience is impossible.  Is it really impossible?  Not according to this verse—

For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.  (2 Chronicles 16:9)

That is all God wants from any of His children:  a full commitment.

4.  Saul’s “confession,” verse 24

Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the LORD’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them.

The more Saul spoke, the more his heart was revealed.  He was right to confess that he sinned; he had been caught.  But then the secret came out:  He feared the people, and the fear of man did him in.

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.  (Proverbs 29:25)

How many believers never accomplish anything for God because they fear what man will think?

  • I’m afraid to witness to my friend because I don’t want lose his friendship.
  • I don’t go to church because it might make my wife mad.
  • We don’t say grace in restaurants because it’s embarrassing.

We, who think things like this, need to pay heed to what the Lord said to the prophet—

“I, even I, am he who comforts you.
Who are you that you fear mortal men,
the sons of men, who are but grass.”  (Isaiah 51:12)

The child of God is clothed in the armor of God, but so-called Christians with no backbones are cowards.

The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?  (Psalm 118:6)

5.  Saul’s final rejection, verse 26

But Samuel said to him, “I will not go back with you. You have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you as king over Israel!”

According to Luke 9:26, to reject God’s Word is to be rejected of God—

If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

Saul’s so-called confession and so-called repentance was too little to late.  Verse 27 shows the violence in Saul’s heart—

As Samuel turned to leave, Saul caught hold of the hem of his robe, and it tore.

The arrogance of the man!  The tearing of the robe dramatically illustrated the loss of the kingdom.  But God’s ever-faithful prophet had the last word—

Samuel said to him, “The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors—to one better than you.   (verse 28)

Of course, that neighbor was David.  Just as “obedience is better than sacrifice” so David was better than Saul.  How ironic that Saul “was better” and “without equal” when God first called him?  Saul’s downfall was his doing; he was his own worst enemy.

Verse 29 says more about Saul’s character than it does about God’s—

He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind.”

Everything good about God was nowhere to be found in Saul.

It is possible to be a Christian, full of the Holy Spirit, yet not live the kind of life that glorifies God and brings honor to His Name.  It is possible to be a Christian but live in disobedience to the revealed Word of God.  But be warned:  such believers live in danger of becoming lost at any moment; shipwrecked on an island of sinful isolation from the body of Christ, a stumbling block to the rest of us and an offense to God.  Someone once wrote:

There is line by us unseen,
That crosses every path;
The hidden boundary between
God’s patience and His wrath.

How close are you living to that line?

(c)  2009 WitzEnd

SAUL: His Decline

Samuel and Saul

1 Samuel 13:1—15

The history of Saul’s reign as Israel’s first king really begins in chapter 13, and according to the custom of recording the history of the kings, it begins with a statement of his age.  The NIV begins like this—

Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned over Israel forty-two years.  (1 Samuel 13:1)

A look at how the RSV translates this verse shows the difficulty translators had in tackling this verse—

Saul was…years old when he began to reign; and he reigned…two years over Israel.

And the literal version sounds like this—

A son of a year [is] Saul in his reigning, yea, two years he hath reigned over Israel.

What does all this mean?  The NIV has calculated that Saul was 30 years old when he became king, but the text does not say that.  In fact, Saul could have been 40 years old.  What we know for sure is that his son, Jonathan, was fully grown by now and an accomplished warrior.   So why is the Hebrew so obscure?  Given the disaster that Saul would become, some Bible scholars offer this paraphrase of the obscure Hebrew—

Saul was like a child of one year when he began to regin

Saul was chosen out of obscurity and rose to dizzying heights in such a brief time that he was unprepared for the office and as clueless as the people he was leading.  According to God, the only preparation Saul needed was to be obedient to Him.  But no, he could not do that.  Saul was a product of a corrupt generation and the people got a leader exactly like they were.

While the story of Saul’s reign begins here, so does the story of his decline.  It is not a stretch to say that after an initial victory at Jabesh Gilead, Saul was a complete failure as a political leader.  But the prophet Samuel, in love and faithfulness to the Lord, told the nation of Israel in his farewell address in response to this request—

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.”

“Do not be afraid,” Samuel replied. “You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart.  Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless.  For the sake of his great name the LORD will not reject his people, because the LORD was pleased to make you his own.  As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right.  But be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.  Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will be swept away.” (1 Samuel 12:19—25)

Saul was given every opportunity to succeed in his new career, and like another king of Israel, Uzziah, he was helped by God until he was strong—

In Jerusalem he made machines designed by skillful men for use on the towers and on the corner defenses to shoot arrows and hurl large stones. His fame spread far and wide, for he was greatly helped until he became powerful.

But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the LORD his God, and entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense.  (2 Chronicles 26:15—16)

The pride that resulted in his success would surely end in Saul’s destruction.  Did God forsake Saul?  According to Samuel, Saul forsook God and reaped what the seeds of his disobedience produced.

1.  Saul’s duty was obvious, verse 8

He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter.

In order to fully understand this verse, we need to glance back at 10:8—

“Go down ahead of me to Gilgal. I will surely come down to you to sacrifice burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, but you must wait seven days until I come to you and tell you what you are to do.”

This was some time before the events of chapter 13, but this was what Saul was supposed to do when the situation warranted it.  But here is the true nature of Saul’s heart working itself out in disobedience.   This word from God given through Samuel was given, perhaps, as many as three years before, but that did not negate it; this was a standing order from God for Saul’s benefit.  Saul needed God’s help, and all he had to do get it was to obey.

Saul’s sin was not that as king he was forbidden to offer sacrifices.  Consider what Kinds David and Solomon did—

David built an altar to the LORD there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the LORD answered prayer in behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.  (2 Samuel 24:25)

Then Solomon awoke—and he realized it had been a dream.  He returned to Jerusalem, stood before the ark of the Lord’s covenant and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings.  Then he gave a feast for all his court. (1 Kings 3:15)

Saul sinned simply because he disobeyed God’s word through the prophet Samuel, and he would do it again near the end of his career.

What is our duty as Christians?  To obey the Word of God; our responsibility is to live according to the light we have in God’s revealed Word, the holy Bible.  There are those in Church today who teach that parts of the Bible are outdated and no longer apply to modern Christians.  Liberal theologians teach that these parts of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, are “lesser inspired” and modern Christians can overlook them.  But, here is what some “lesser inspired” verses say—

Preserve my life according to your love,
and I will obey the statutes of your mouth.

Your word, O LORD, is eternal;
it stands firm in the heavens.

Your faithfulness continues through all generations;
you established the earth, and it endures.  (Psalm 119:88—90)

The eternity of God’s Word is linked to His unfailing love.  If we, like Saul, are conscious of having been chosen by God and anointed by God by being filled with His Holy Spirit, then the revealed Word must become our absolute rule to live by; it needs to be the unconditional law of our lives—all of it, not just the parts we like or make us feel good.

2.  His faith was tested, verse 5

The Philistines assembled to fight Israel, with three thousand chariots, six thousand charioteers, and soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore. They went up and camped at Micmash, east of Beth Aven.

These ancient enemies of God’s people hated Israel; Israel literally stunk to them.  As a result, Saul mustered his troops to Gilgal.  He started out waiting for Samuel as prescribed by the prophet.  But we read this—

He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter. (verse 8)

Why did the men scatter?  Obviously they scattered because they were afraid and they were afraid because Saul was not leading them.  Beyond one single battle, what had Saul ever done to inspire the confidence of his people?  In fact, the great military brain of the family was Saul’s son Jonathan, not Saul!  Jonathan won a great victory and his father took the credit for it!  Who would trust a man like that?  He took credit for something somebody else did!  So the men took to hiding.  Poor Saul; he was unable to keep his troops together.

What we are witnessing here is a test of Saul’s faith.  Notice that Saul outwardly obeyed God.  His problem was he failed to trust God, failed to trust Samuel and instead he couldn’t take his eyes off his frightened soldiers.  In other words, Saul’s outward circumstances determined the strength of his faith instead of the other way around.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.  This is what the ancients were commended for.

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.  (Hebrews 11:1—3)

For we walk by faith, not by sight.  (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Of course his circumstances were desperate; desperate circumstances always highlight a person’s faith.  And there is always a struggle between faith and sight.  But the reality for the believer lays, not in what they can see, but in their faith in what God has said.  We assume that what we see is what is real, but that is not what the Bible teaches. But this is what Saul thought; the desperate circumstances he found himself in negated God’s word.  God Word is never negated by circumstances.

3.  His failure was complete, verses 9, 10

So he said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings. ” And Saul offered up the burnt offering.  Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him.

Saul waited almost the whole time, but he grew impatient with Samuel.  Really, Saul grew impatient with the will of God; things were not happening fast enough for him; God wasn’t doing things the way Saul thought they should have been done, so he took matters in own hands.  He chose his own way and stepped out of God’s will and favor.

Every single Spirit-filled believer will have their faith tested.  Even our Lord, Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, was not exempt from this testing.  As soon as He was baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit, He was purposely led into the wilderness to be tested by that same Holy Spirit!   Thank God He remained faithful.

Abraham was tested, and thankfully he passed otherwise he never would have become the father of the faithful!

Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God.  (Romans 4:20)

And Moses was tested and the whole nation of Israel survived because he stood his ground and remained faithful—

By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.  (Hebrews 11:27)

That is how you become useful to God:  by enduring as seeing him who is invisible.  If, when we face our testing, we fear and we take our eyes off of God and see our circumstances, we become life-long cripples in the work of the Lord; we become useless to Him.  Whenever, as servants of God, we choose our way rather than God’s way as revealed in His Word or when we rush ahead of God instead of waiting on Him, we become like bones out of joint in the Body of Christ.  What a painful way to live.

5.  His excuse was lame, verses 11, 12

“What have you done?” asked Samuel.

Saul replied, “When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Micmash,  I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the LORD’s favor.’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.”

In a sense, we can almost understand Saul’s motivation to offer the sacrifice.  His army was deserting him, the Philistine army was pressing in, Samuel was long in coming, and Saul’s own patience was waning.  Saul’s excuse to Samuel was to point to the circumstances and point out the urgent need to seek God.  What Saul did not realize is that animal sacrifice was not what moves the Hand of God.

And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.  (1 Samuel 15:22, KJV)

There is never an excuse for disobedience.  We all want to be the exception to the God’s rule, and we make lame excuses just like Saul did:

  • My marriage was falling apart and my secretary loves me more than my wife, so I don’t think I really committed adultery.
  • Things are really tight this month, so God will understand why I don’t tithe.
  • I didn’t lie, I misspoke.
  • Who cares if our new pastor is gay.  He still loves God, and really, everybody sins, right?  He such a nice man.
  • Well, I know that what Jesus said, but nobody can live up to that!  Besides, God knows I am only human, right?

No argument and rationalization can mitigate the guilt of doing what we know to be contrary to the Word of God.   The saddest part of this story is how Saul tried to justify what he did by blaming everybody but himself.

What’s worse is that even after Samuel’s rebuke and solemn warning; Saul showed absolutely no signs of sorrow or repentance.  He proceeded to number his followers.  When we have sinned and when we find out we have made a mistake, when we stumble and fall and fail, and when we disobey, repentance and confession is the only way to get back into God’s favor and make things right.

6.  The consequences terrible, verse 14

But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the LORD’s command.”

Saul turned away from God, and so God chose another man to take his place.  Saul was a man after his people’s heart, but God’s new man would be a man after God’s own heart.  We might look at this and think God was reacting harshly to what Saul did.  But Saul was warned not once but twice that if he did not obey God’s command, he would be replaced by someone else.  This tells us what Saul really thought about God; he didn’t think God really meant what He was saying.  Or he thought God was not a God of His word.  He soon found out otherwise.

God means what He says in His Word.  There are no exceptions to His rules.  We, who live in this present dispensation of grace are fortunate enough to experience the forgiveness of our sins.  But God’s rules are still for us.  We have an obligation to live in obedience to them.

For Saul, all his plans for establishing his kingdom in Israel  would come to nothing because Israel’s God had plans and nothing Saul could do could change that.  Saul’s power was gone.  It is sad but true  that there are believers who perform like Christians very well but they are doing so in the power of the flesh because there is no Spirit empowering them.  To choose to live our lives according to our set of rules is to choose a life of defeat and failure.

May God give us the wisdom and the ability to allow Him to work in us to will and to act according to his good purpose (Philippians 2:13).

(c)  2009 WitzEnd

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