The Word became flesh and dwelt among us….


September 2016

“Looking for the King: The Greater Jonathan” -1 Samuel 13-14

1 – The King Who Tried to be a Priest 13:1-15

Have you ever tried to be someone else for day? Whether it’s a costume party, or a day where you perform the duties someone else would usually do at your workplace, or in your home, we usually quickly find how lacking we are in certain skill departments or that our disguise is seen through.

Saul was king of Israel. He had been reluctant at first, but the role had grown on him, and he was beginning to hit his stride, assembling an army (13:2) to defeat enemies. It didn’t take long for Saul’s new role to be tested by the Philistines. They got sick of Israel’s boldness that came from having a king, and they sent an intimidating army to fight Saul and his fledging troops. (13:5).

The sight of the Philistine army, with all their chariots, advanced weaponry(13:19-22), horsemen, and innumerable foot soldiers, sent most of Saul’s army into hiding (13:6-7) and those who didn’t run off, were trembling. ( 13:7b).

Saul waited a seven days for Samuel, and when Samuel didn’t show to give the offerings to clear the way for battle, Saul took matters into his own hands and took on the role of priest (13:9), ‘forcing himself to do it’ (13:12).

Samuel turns up as soon as Saul has done this and rebukes him for his foolishness (13:13).

Calling someone a fool in this context isn’t so much calling them an idiot. ‘A fool says in his heart there is no god’ – this is a person who lives as though God doesn’t exist. Samuel is accusing Saul here of acting like a person who doesn’t believe in God, or that He will act.

Saul’s foolishness in taking a role that was not his cost him dearly. Saul’s family could’ve been blessed, but instead, it would pass on into history without anymore kings in the lineage.

2 – The Man Who Would be After God’s Own Heart 13:14

In not obeying God, Saul showed that although God had given him a new heart (10:9), Saul had not used that new heart to set his affections on God.His allegiance was still to himself. He was still more concerned with his appearance before men than what God had declared him to be.

The Lord had sought a man after His own heart, and Saul had proven he was not that man.

The man God sought would trust God for victory, not act in fear, but faith.

Israel’s choice had been Saul. Tall, handsome, valiant in battle, but selfish.

God’s choice would be a man whose heart was not only made right, but a man who had a place in God’s heart. Someone who knew God and was known by God.

3 – The Prince Who Trusted in God’s Saving Power 13:16-14:23

Saul may be king, but it seems as though his son Jonathan is performing most of the heroic acts that the people had wanted in a king (8:20).

While Saul hides away in a cave with a depleted and weaponless army, seeking the questionable company and counsel of Eli’s great-grandson, as his spiritual advisor (14:2-3), Jonathan instead acts in faith, trusting God to do a work (14:6).

He knows God is not limited by human numbers (14:6b). He would’ve known the story of Gideon, who only had 300. Saul here has 600, and Jonathan is convinced God can save his people with many or with few.

This side of the cross we know God can not only save his people not with 600, or 300, or with 2, but ultimately, with One.

Jonathan and his brave armour bearer take on the garrison of the Philistines, and set a panic through the camp that leads to a resounding victory for the Israelites, and the Lord saved Israel through Jonathan (14:23).

We are left to wonder, as we consider Jonathan’s faith and courage, why couldn’t he replace his father as king? God’s appointed king that would be after His heart, could not come from Saul’s line. The sins of the father have consequences for the son.
4 – The Cursed Son 14:24-52

The Israelites were ‘hard pressed’ before the battle (13:6) when they were hiding in caves out of fear of the size of the army, and then after the Philistines scatter, and the Israelites chase them down, they are ‘hard pressed’ (14:24). They are an army of only 600, chasing thousands, they were exhausted and weary, and their valiant king that they asked for is about to make it worse.He announces a curse on anyone who ate any food until the end of the day after the battle was done. (14:24b).

Jonathan had not heard his father make this oath, and when he finds some honey, he eats it, not knowing the consequences. The people who witness him eat are fearful for his life. Jonathan’s response to them is one of common sense (14:29-30).

His father had ‘troubled the land’ by this foolish oath, and now the complete victory of the Philistines would not be possible because a depleted army was now a physically weakened army.

The army was faint, and as the day ended, and the requirement of the foolish oath passed, the people were so hungry, they ate raw meat. (14:31-35).

In forcing the people to comply to a foolish oath, Saul had forced them to sin against God’s law.

We would do well to note the lesson of holding people to oaths that may have good intentions for victory over the enemy, but their true result is to make people fearful of men, weak in the flesh, and may cause them to sin against God’s law.

Foolish promises forced upon people by weak leaders lead a people to ruin, not victory. It is oppressive to the life of a people to place fear in the hearts that they must ‘obey’ something based on particular whim of particular person at a particular time, and the end, the people may well ‘obey’ it, but to the detriment of their obedience to God’s clear commands in other areas, and all the while, they are becoming faint with a burden they were never meant to bear.

Saul, after all this has happened,again uses the discredited priest to determine why God has not answered him in the question of whether they should pursue the Philistines further(14:36-42).He reasoned there was sin in the camp, and was prepared for whoever the person was that was in error, to be punished. (14:38-39). Jonathan is chosen by the lot of Urim and Thummim to be held accountable for the breaking of his father’s foolish oath.

“I tasted a little honey…Here I am: I will die.”

The foolishness of the whole situation is evident to everyone but Saul it seems, and the people intercede for Jonathan’s life and he is spared from the wrath and stupidity of his father. (14:44-46).

There is nothing more detrimental to the well being of children, the overall dynamic of family and society as a whole, that when men fail as to be the fathers God has instructed them to be. Especially ‘spiritual’ men and men in leadership positions who are not the faithful, self-sacrificing, humble and loving fathers they should be.

Any man who is willing to sacrifice his own child on the altar of his own ego, or perception of personal importance of their ministry are not only not fit for fatherhood, but not fit to be God’s representative.

Saul is being an ‘anti-father’. He is the antithesis of the Heavenly Father, in being willing to take the life of his son, but only to save himself, not others. Saul nearly puts his own son to death as a result of a foolish promise. God allows His only Son to die as a result of His eternal promise.

The son here is not being condemned to die for the sins of the people, or for his own sin, but for the sin of the father.

Saul is preaching an anti-Gospel, and the people, to their credit, will have none of it.

5 – The Greater Jonathan

Saul returns home, and let the Philistines go after the people ransom Jonathan, and from then on his kingship is marked by valiant victories against his enemies (14:48) and further failures.

We know of his disobedience in ch 15, but the downward spiral has already begun with his unlawful sacrifices, failure to act in faith, oppression of the people by forcing foolish promises on them and taking the best of everything, and the near killing of his son.

Saul’s start has been filled with examples of why choosing second best will have disastrous consequences.

Jonathan is a shining light in a history filled with rebellious and wicked sons of leaders, both good and bad. Jonathan shows us even sons of imperfect fathers can be great men of faith.

There is of course, a Greater Jonathan that comes to mind as we look at this story.

The Greater Jonathan that truly obeyed His Father, even unto death, and still became King.

The Greater Jonathan didn’t just bravely face unnumbered foe and put the evil armies to flight by a great act of courage, but defeated the final enemy of all men.

There is a Son Who was willing to die to save the people, and intercedes for God’s people rather the people interceding for him.

In the Cross, Jesus Christ shows the obedience of the perfect Son, and we see the perfect love of a True Father.

The best thing about trusting in His sacrifice is that it saves us from bearing foolish burdens, and frees us to acts of love and faith for a King who will never crush under a load that we are not intended to bear.

God is concerned for His own glory and honour, but unlike Saul, He will not coerce or force His people, or His own Son, or deny His own character to see it done.

God is looking for a people who are after His heart – a people that are acquainted with Him, know His saving works, and trust Him alone for a great deliverance.

What does your heart trust in?

What you can do?

What you can make others do?

Or what God has done?


“A Distintive People” Exodus 33

What makes a certain group of people unique?

We can pick out family resemblances and know who is related to who by their looks, mannerisms, or customs. We can know what football team a group of people barrack for by the colours they wear.

There are many illustrations we give, and most would be something external.

Israel were chosen by God to be His people. Their distinctiveness as God’s people though, was not in their customs, manners, or behaviours alone.

God being as holy as He is, instructed them to be holy, and gave them laws to obey Him in so they could enjoy His blessings, but as we know with any law, no matter how great the benefit of obedience to it is, it will be broken by imperfect people.

So the distinctiveness of the people of Israel had to be found in something more accessible than the keeping of the law.

There are lessons here for us as we would seek to live in a world that has no regard for God or His ways, but also as we seek to live out the identity that God has called us to with freedom and joy.

1 – The Disastrous Word v. 1-6

We find the Israelites in Exodus 33 at Mt Sinai, where they have been for some time now.

God has given them the ten commandments through Moses, and had given many other instructions on how they should live and how they should worship. The covenant had been confirmed (ch24) and Moses had been on the mountain forty days and nights (24:18).

This had been too long for the people’s liking, and they made a golden calf to worship (32:1-6).

At Moses’ intercession, God relented from destroying the people (32:11-14), but there was still a plague that came upon them ( 32:35) and many others were put to death as judgement (32:25-29).

This was disastrous enough, but as chapter 33 starts, God gives another judgement that brings the people of Israel to a point of mourning.

He tells Moses to head for the Promised Land, that God Himself would clear the way, clearing out the enemies, but He would not go with them. He could no longer be with them without destroying them (33:1-3).

They had been stiff-necked and unashamed in their sin. They had been arrogant, wilfully doing what God had forty days earlier instructed them not to do. He had given them ten commandments, and they had stumbled on the first (20:1-3). They stumbled where every other human being has ever stumbled.

Our hearts our idol factories ( John Calvin), and God cannot dwell where He does not reign. He cannot be in the presence of unrighteousness and idolatry. He cannot be with those who worship other gods or trust in anything else for righteousness.

When the people hear this ‘disastrous word’ they rightly mourn.

What hope do they have of purpose or identity, if God will not go with them?

The disastrous word the Israelites received is the word anyone who wilfully rejects the ways of God to live their own way. Anyone who rejects God’s Word, His revelation of Himself, rejects the presence and blessing of God, thereby rejecting the very thing they were made for, to live for God and His glory.

We constantly make good things our ‘god’ things. We sacrifice to the altars of power, sex, money, relationships, tradition, and are constantly left either striving for pleasure or working off a debt we can’t pay.

The Israelites were faced with losing the presence of God, they were without hope, unless someone could step in for them to intercede.

2 – The Friend of God v. 7-11

In the midst of a people that God could not be present with, there was one man who God could not only accept the presence of, but met with God ‘face to face’ (33:11a).

Moses had his own ‘tabernacle’ before the real one was made, and it’s no small thing to notice it was ‘outside the camp’ (33:7b).

Whenever Moses met with God, the people worshipped, knowing their only hope rested on God’s acceptance of Moses as their intercessory.

Joshua too, is so in awe of God’s presence, he does not want to leave the place where God has been. (33:11b).

If you long to be a leader among God’s people, you not only need to be friend of God, an intercessor for others, but above all you must hunger for His presence more than anything else the world offers.

3 – A Distinctive People v. 12-16

Moses intercedes for Israel again and again through their wilderness wanderings.

He constantly reminds God of His covenant, offers his own place in eternity in exchange for God looking over the sins of the people. There is no one else in Scripture are more accurate likeness to the work and ministry of Jesus than Moses.

He represents the unworthy, stiff-necked, faithless and failing people to a just, righteous and holy God, and uses his close relationship with God to bring forgiveness.( 33:12-13).

He lays out his reasoning as to why God cannot leave His people to go on without His presence, and his chief reason besides God’s covenant with Abraham ( 32:13) is his own personal favour with God.

The greatest thing He wants from God is to know His ways, and know Him even more, to find more favour. (33:13) Here is a man who has the ear and favour of God but has no interest in using it to his own advantage. He just wants more of God.

If we want the favour of God, the friendship of God, a close communion with Him, we can never settle for the status quo. There is no such thing as a ‘grace graduate’.

If you have friends it’s because you have reached level of intimacy where you have gotten to know who they, different or alike to you, and have accepted them. If you reach a level of intimacy where you can know so much about the other person ( and they you) and are still wiling to love and accept them that’s a deep oneness that imitates Gods love. Good friends are side by side & face to face, always seeking more knowledge about the other.

If you are content with your current understanding of God and His ways. If you think you are favoured by God because you have achieved a standard no one else can or has, you are not just deluded, you are most likely lost.

Friends of God are never content with how much they currently know about Him, and they are certainly never happy to settle with anything less than seeing God’s promises fulfilled and His people blessed by His presence.

God’s responds to Moses’ intercession is to assure His presence will go with them, and give them rest (33:14). This is what would define the people of God, He would be with them.

In the wilderness.

Despite their failings, complaining, and lack of desire for His righteousness alone.

In battles they would face, in rivers they would have to cross.

God would be with them.

What makes God’s people distinct?

Not their appearance.

Not their ability to keep the law. They had failed miserably at that.

Not their heritage. Many of those who left Egypt never saw Canaan.

Not just the ability to follow directions God gives.

God’s promise of His presence is what defines His people, and if His presence is not noticeable in the lives of those professing to be His people, then the people are lost. If there is no fruit, there is no life.

We have an identity crisis in so many life situations, because most of the time, we have forgotten we need the presence of God, and we rely instead on our own understanding or personal efforts and works.

We pontificate about modesty but take no heed to hearts filled with lust. Women covering up is not the issue, men with wicked hearts and minds are real problem.

We spend energy discussing church politics and credal alignments when we should be aiming for Christian unity.

We make rules about the consumption of substances that are prone to abuse, but neglect clear biblical warnings about other potential abuses of our bodies.

We think we are more favoured than others because of our affiliations, our knowledge, our abilities, our appearance, our efforts, our presence.

We have this issue because we have not ‘internalised’ righteousness. Righteousness has become a set of man-made laws for people to check off in order for acceptance. Righteousness as God sees it, of course, is never the external. God looks at the heart.
How does the believer know they are a child of God? The Spirit bears witness (Romans 8:16). We have God with us in more ways than the people of Israel ever did, not only as Immanuel, but also as the Comforter that Immanuel so freely gives those who believe in Him alone.

4 – Seeing God’s Glory v. 17-23

The reward God gives Moses is not only favour, the affirmation of His presence, confirmation of His promises, but He also grants him his request to see His glory.

In one of the most awesome passages of Scripture, we have this encounter between God and Moses. (33:20-23).

Moses, hidden in a cleft of a rock, sees God. The very sight of only the back of God is enough for Moses’ face to shine (34:29-35).

You may never physically see God like Moses, but you can see God when you acknowledge His goodness, hear His name proclaimed, and accept His gracious and merciful Sovereignty as being the essence of Who He is. ( 33:19).

You may never see God, but you can know His Word, seek His ways and live in His favour.

You can know His Word and His glory in more ways than just the reading of it.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us (tabernacled) and we have seen His glory.

There is a great danger in knowing the revelation of God, but not trusting in Him, hardening your heart to His ways. If you do not want the knowledge of God, you will not enter the rest He has promised. ( Psalm 95:10-11).

Why wouldn’t you want to enter the eternal rest of God, the rest that releases you from sin, shame and the crushing burden of self-salvation through your own efforts?

If you do not have any rest. If you are constantly fearful, or anxious, or bitter, or angry, or just generally frustrated with you lot in life, chances are you have placed more faith in your abilities than you have on God or His presence in your life.

When we stop obeying the dictates of our fears, desires, our need for approval of or supremacy over others, and when we see the only glory we can have is the glory of God being revealed to us and through us, we will pursue that glory through obedience, not out of manipulation, guilt or coercion, but out of hearts that have seen Him and His goodness, and the deep peace that comes from knowing we have a rock of salvation that never fails and that our identity comes Him being with us.

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