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A Long Obedience In The Same Direction. 1 Timothy 4

Stepping up in life to new challenges and endeavours can be daunting, even overwhelming.

A new job, a new place to live, a new study environment are life changing events, and should never be approached lightly, as these kind of decisions can shape your life, and even your eternity.

Timothy had been left in Ephesus by Paul and faced a big task, to make sure the faith and doctrine that Paul had founded the church on remained unchanged.( 1 Timothy 1:3-5).There are many challenges that faced Timothy because of this role, not the least was a perception about his age (4:12).

The encouragement Paul gives here instructs any who are seeking to be a good servant of Christ ( 4:6) and what true knowledge really is, and the importance of living godly when life is still ahead of you.

1 – Guard the Deposit v 1-5, 6:20-21, 2 Timothy 1:13-14

Paul makes it clear to Timothy, there are devilish teachings which he will have to guard himself, and those in his charge, against.

It’s not always the outright, blatant denial of the person, deity, and work of Jesus Christ that is the leading point of these devilish false teachers. It’s usually something far more subtle. Something that deceives, tricks, that sounds right, looks right, even feels right, but ends up being purely demonic. It’s falsely called “knowledge”. (6:20).

Paul gives the example of legalism. It’s teaching that adds works to salvation that is the greatest trap for every believer.

With convincing arguments, the teachers that Paul was warning of, had taken the command for purity to extents far beyond what God ever intended, making marriage a forbidden thing. They had called good things made by God evil things, demanding abstinence from things that Jesus had declared clean, and could be made holy by closer examination of God’s Word and prayerful consideration ( 4:5).

Alarm bells should ring every time we hear a call for abstinence that cannot be found in scripture.

These false things, Paul, says, must be avoided, and the true things must be taught, reiterated, and firmly guarded.

The devil loves it when people get distracted by false teachings. Anything that takes one’s eyes off of Jesus, whether it’s morality or vice, pleases the devil. He can use guilt just as much as he can use a seared conscience to his ends. He will always appeal to the flesh. Don’t become proud in your knowledge and don’t be tricked into following foolishness.
2 – Train Yourself For Godliness v. 6-10

The answer to this that Paul gives Timothy is give himself more and more over to training in what he has already received.

The words of the faith and the good doctrine (4:6b) are the antidote to lies and deception. He will remain a faithful servant of Jesus, so long as his focus stays on Jesus (4:6).

What are these ‘silly myths’ that Timothy is being warned against? (4:7)

Paul is building from what he has already stated in 1:4. Things that promote speculation, conspiracies rather than truth are things that distract us from training ourselves in the faith, or exercising our gifts.

We become poor stewards when we use our time, our resources, or other people’s time and resources to endlessly talk about things that have absolutely no bearing on eternity or the advancing of the Gospel.

Paul says that we should have nothing to do with these things, but rather, focus our energy, our time, our hearts, minds, and strength on Godliness.

The example he gives of physical exercise (v8a) is often quoted by unfit people out of context, but he proves a valid point, don’t get caught up in foolishness. The only thing that gets a workout when we exercise our flesh is our flesh. Get into arguments on social media. Berate everyone you come in contact with because they don’t think the way you do. Find the negative in every sermon, every person, every event, every point. Your flesh will be strong, and your love will be absent, and you will not have a hint of Godliness.

Instead, exercise yourself in Godliness. You are not working in the flesh so you can have notoriety in this life. You are doing what you can, with what you have, so long as God gives you breath, to build a legacy of Godliness that bears fruit for eternity.

Our hope is not found in what we can do to be noticed by others, or in what they say of us. It is found in the Saviour of the world ( 4:10).

Godliness should be the sole ambition of the good servant of Christ. Anything that distracts us from that shows that our hopes and loves are out of order. A hope set on the living God, leads to a life of value, and one that matters for eternity.

3 – Practice The Long Obedience In The Same Direction v. 11-16

This kind of lifestyle is a lifelong process. There are no shortcuts. There is only grace, and a lifelong ambition to become more like Jesus, every single day.

This a difficult thing to accept in our fast paced, instant society where if we have to wait more than five minutes for a takeaway meal, we feel put out. We want instant gratification, instant success.

Church can be the same.We demand instant help, instant inspiration, instant maturity, but true discipleship is none of these. It is a ‘long obedience in the same direction’.

“There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness.” – Eugene Peterson

A life of consistency, integrity, maturity is never achieved overnight, and perfection is never achieved in this lifetime.

This commitment to lifelong repentance is something that is best fostered in a community that encourages youthful energy rather than despising anything new or different.

Timothy faced opposition not just because the message he had was the opposite of what many wanted, but because of his age.

Too often, there is awful lot of despising of youth and not enough encouragement of the progress they are making in godliness (4:15b).

Timothy’s lack of life experience should not be an obstacle, Paul points out, because Timothy is setting such an example in so many areas of his life, anyone who dismisses him based on his age, is wrong to do so, and he should press on into the living his life and doing what God has called him to do.

There is a culture of despising of youth in some churches that goes directly against Paul’s explicit commands here. We are far quicker to criticise and even heckle than we are to encourage, come alongside and commit to seeing Christ being formed in another. We are sin hunters far more than we are grace hunters.

1 Timothy 5:1 will point out that I can’t rebuke someone older. But I can encourage them.So,I strongly encourage the older Christians of our churches to not despise the youth.

If you want to influence them, live Godly,humble, and consistent lives that bring honour to God. Don’t seek opportunities to condemn, or be cynical, but seek opportunity to encourage, and above all, let them know you are praying for them.

I have learnt far more from Godly older Christians who show me how to live rather than telling me how to live. Young people never learn to be godly by being despised. They learn Godliness by example. They don’t look for perfection, but they do see faithfulness and they will honour that.

We as a church have mastered the art of criticism. It’s time to start mastering discipleship instead.

All of this is not to say there is not an explicit call to purity of life and doctrine that young people should be exhorted to.

There is this delicate balance of Godliness. We are required to trust fully in God, and rely completely on the work of Jesus for our salvation and sanctification, but we are,nonetheless, called to works. It is a great privilege to have this calling.

There are five key areas that Paul points out that are specific for Timothy in his young adulthood that will negate the condemnation he was facing because of his age. If he can be an example in these, his youth will not be a hinderance to those who which to make it one.

speech

What you say matters. The tongue is powerful. James tells us that in his epistle. It can bring life or death. Are your words offering the Word of Life?

conduct

What you do, matters. We abuse grace when we live for ourselves. In our actions, our lifestyle, who is revealed to be in charge? Us, or Jesus?

love

Who and what you love, and in what order you love them, matters. Love is first and foremost self-sacrificing. Our love must reflect the love of Christ, otherwise it’s only self-serving.

faith

What you believe, matters. People may hear what we believe, but do they see it in action? Our faith is not intellectual only, but reaches to every part of our lives. A legacy of faithfulness is the ultimate fruit of a sure faith.

purity

Your sexuality, your thought life matters. This begins in our hearts.

Restrictions and regulations don’t necessarily lead to purity. Boundaries are vital to ensure intimacy is approached with the right God-honouring attitude, but ultimately, purity is a matter of the heart. If our hearts are not holy, our minds certainly won’t be, and will be on the fast track to sexual, emotional and spiritual ruin. The chance of impurity is greatly removed when we see members of the opposite sex as siblings in the Lord ( 1 Timothy 5:2).

“There is no struggle for purity so intense that Jesus’ grace cannot win the battle.” – Heath Lambert

Paul tells Timothy to immerse himself in these things ( 4:15), to be captivated with pleasing God is an honourable calling, and it is something every believer is called to.
The call of this passage is not to be like Timothy, or even like Paul. The point is that we are called to be good servants of Christ, and we would all do well to heed Paul’s advice.

Don’t be fooled by the traps of works-based salvation or sanctification. Be immersed in the Gospel, and in pleasing God with your life.

Don’t pay attention to those who would seek to distract you, either by foolish arguments and silly myths or by being negative about your chances of success. Focus on your calling, your gift, and do all you do for God’s glory.

Set your hopes, loves, and total focus on Him, and He will bless you with the fruit of faithfulness.

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“Looking for the King: The Friend of The True King” – 1 Samuel

Friendships are something we value and treasure. Finding friends can be hard. Being one can be even harder.But lifelong friendships, forged in the fires of mutual suffering, without personal agendas, show the great possibility of peace and joy in this life.

The friendship of David and Jonathan is one that comes out of incredibly unique circumstances. These two men should have been bitter rivals, but instead, they have one of the most intimate and touching relationships recorded in all of Scripture.

1 The Friendship of Jonathan 18:1-5

Jonathan was royalty, but David was a shepherd boy. Jonathan also would’ve been much older than David, but yet their friendship was closer than brotherhood.

That their souls were ‘knit together’ (18:1) and that they made vows regarding their friendship and bond, shows us that these two men loved each other without pretence.

It wasn’t a strategic or coercive alliance.

Jonathan had everything to lose, and David had little to offer, but Jonathan is aware that God’s anointing was on David.

It wasn’t a ‘I’ll be your best friend if you give me all your lollies’ or ‘I’ll be your best friend if you act exactly like I do’ , kind of promise. It was a total commitment to the other for the sake of the other.

His giving over of his robes, armour and weapons (18:4) is an acknowledgement of the fact that he was not going to inherit his father’s throne.David had been anointed, and Jonathan was willing to submit to the will of God, which meant resigning his own rights.

Like Jonathan, we are meant to give over our right to reign in our lives. There can only be one king, and only the King that God has provided will be enough for a life of sure integrity and uncompromising conviction in the face of great hostility.

“This David – Jonathan sort of friendship is a love that sets the other free to be himself or herself – a commitment with no demands. In a culture like ours in which there is widespread avoidance of commitment because they are confining, this story of a love commitment that is freeing is a breath of fresh air. Healthy relationships do not restrict our lives; they expand our lives.” – Eugene Peterson

We look at their friendship and see it as extraordinary. But there is no supernatural power you need in order to have a close friendship with another person. Just complete openness, honesty, and accountability, all of which go both ways.

There is place for bonds of friendship, ties that can’t be broken, not matter what lies ahead in life, a unity of mind, heart and spirit to one single goal.

It’s not just marriage that serves this end. Friendship, when done in a God-honouring way, can be a vital tool to our holiness and sanctification.

You will never achieve any level of satisfactory growth in the Christian life while living isolated from everyone else around you.

In a world that’s more ‘social’ than ever, we are in need of friendships that build another up in Christ, where we can serve others with no other ambition but to see them become who God intends them to be.
2 The Jealousy of Saul 18:6-20:42

When we think of our ‘social’ culture that grounds most connections through media, we are all too aware of the seriousness of being ‘unfriended’, or worse, ‘blocked’.If Saul had a FaceBook, his activity would provide much cause for concern. Singing the praises of his friends and family one day, plotting their death and insulting them with vile language ( 20:30) the next.

It started very soon after Goliath’s defeat (18:6-10), with the songs women sang about the thousands and tens of thousands. ( 18:6-9).

Why all this was happening is clear to us – God was with David, and was no longer with Saul (18:12). David’s successes were due God’s clear blessing on his life.

Jonathan loves David. Michal loves David. The people love David. God clearly loves David. Saul cannot love him, and refuses to accept God’s plan for David, and becomes insanely jealous and fearful of David.

This is something we see all around us in a culture gone mad with self-absorption and pride, but jealousy is not limited to the world. We find it our homes, our churches, ourselves.

“Jealousy is a terrible emotion. Jealousy is the scab you keep picking only to have the wound fester. Jealousy is a hunger you simply cannot satisfy; the more you eat, the emptier you feel, and it forces you to feed it once again. Jealousy is a pain that will not abate; it persists and pounds us until we are pushed to the point of no return. Jealousy is a terrible and harsh master.” – JD Greear and Heath Thomas.

“Envy is mother of malice and gives birth to murder.” – Tim Chester

When we are envious of someone to the extent we long to see them fail we are not only committing murder in our hearts ( Matthew 5:21-22) but we are saying we know better than God. We are convinced that God is not Sovereign and is not concerned with our ultimate good.

Saul thinks he can use Michal’s love for David to his advantage and David’s destruction.(18:20-21)

When we start manipulating others peoples affections and emotions so we can accomplish our own agenda, we have exalted ourselves to a dangerous and destructive position.

Families are divided and relationships destroyed when jealousy and bitterness get a foothold. Destruction follows when selfishness rules hearts.

This whole story shows the important distinction between those who embrace God and His Messiah, and those who reject Him.

Saul, in the end, stands alone. Which is where jealousy, spite, pride, manipulation and selfishness always end. Alone. Separated from God and all the good things that He has in store for those who submit to Him and His plan.

The answer to jealousy is the same as it is for shame, which was another emotion that Saul struggled with. To find your identity in Christ as your Saviour, not in comparing yourself to others or always obsessing over what they say about you.
3 The Interceding Son 19:1 – 20:42

Saul plots several different ways to kill David, and all backfire on him, and only add to David’s renown.

He thinks having him for a son-in-law will give him a further level of control over his life, and sets an outrageous dowry ( 18:25) which David goes above and beyond in (18:27).

Next time,Jonathan intercedes for David, and reasons Saul out of it. ( 19:1-7).

Saul then tried to spear David again, who barely escaped ( 19:10).

He sent assassins, who had some scruples, as they did want to murder a sick man ( 19:11-17) and Michal goes directly against her father by protecting David, and helping him escape again.

History repeats as Saul comes looking for Samuel at Ramah. In chapter 9, Saul first meets Samuel while trying to find his donkeys. He ends up being anointed as king, much to his shock and he reacts with great humility, and as sign of this being of God, Saul prophesies and people marvel, and the Spirit of God comes upon him with power and authority (11:6).

This time he is looking for David and come to Samuel, but here there is great reversal. He is again overcome by the power of God and prophesies, but this time, it humiliates him rather than exalts him (19:22-24).

When anyone goes against the Word of God, there can only be one outcome. Saul had set himself against David, and in doing so, had set himself against what God had declared. If you think you can outmanoeuvre the Will of God, you will end up humiliated and bearing a testimony to His greatness by your smallness.

It doesn’t take long for Saul’s anger towards David to rear it’s ugly head again when David doesn’t show up to the feast and Saul sees through the story Jonathan had made up to defend him for not attending the feast. Jonathan ends up on the end of another failed spear attack, as Saul’s tryouts for StormTrooper continue.

The two friends part in peace. David is the most upset ( 20:41), as he well knows what it has cost Jonathan to save his life.

They again make a vow, not just that will cover their own lives, but also their future generations (20:42). Saul would not be the determining factor to their friendship and bond. They would not be defined by what drives them apart. They would seek peace for one another, even in spite of difficult barriers. What God has declared will be what they cling to. No “BFFs” bracelets were needed.

David makes good on all his promises with Jonathan many years later by caring for Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth ( 2 Samuel 9).

4 – The Friend of the King

David acts with integrity in the face of hatred and personal vendetta.

“David’s integrity before God was his strongest weapon during the years of persecution from Saul. You cannot control what people do to you, but you can control what you do with God.” – Warren Wiersbe

Jonathan was faced with a choice. He had to chose between having peace with God’s anointed, or accomodating compromise and evil.

“To side with Jesus will always mean difficult decisions.” – Tim Chester

When we choose to trust the Word of God rather than be fearful of men, we face hard choices.

Saul chose to be spiteful, bitter, angry, self-righteous. He did not need the Word of God, and refused to accept it. He turned on anyone who got in his way.

Jonathan chose to believe the Word of God, and that lead him to form a friendship with David that even death could not break.

To trust in God’s anointed is the call of every human being who has ever lived.

To be interceded for by the Son of the Great King, who is willing to bear the wrath of the father for the sake of saving others, is the great blessing of any who chose to believe on the Son.

If you believe on the Son, you have life.

Jesus was the Son who bore the full righteous wrath, and actually did die, but not for the sins of the father, but for the sins of the whole world, and for the glory of the Father.

He also gave up His crown to gain glory.

Oh, to be a Jonathan, a be a ‘forever friend’ of the true King!

“Looking for the King: The Giant Slayer” 1 Samuel 17

What is the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?

Killed a spider? Made a political joke on FB? Asked a father for his daughter’s hand in marriage? Asked that girl to marry you?

Courage though,is not primarily found in our actions. The best kinds of courage are seen in those that have simple faith in an extraordinary God Who acts on their behalf.
1 – The Fearful King v.1-11, 31-39.

We know Saul has fallen from grace, become petulant, moody (16:14-23), and suspicious.

He has faced the Philistines before, but his forcing the people to make foolish promise to eat no meat until they had won the battle, ended in his own humiliation and the escape, instead of destruction of the Philistines (14:24-46).

Here, the Philistines have come up against Israel again.

While the Philistines gathered ‘for battle’, Saul and his army, merely ‘gathered’. (v1-2). Saul and his army for forty days, drew up in their battle lines against the Philistines, but they are only spectators.

The cause for their concern was a single man, Goliath, a giant in size and in attitude. They were thoroughly intimidated.

King Saul, the leader of the Israelites whom they had chosen that would go out and fight their battles for them ( 1 Samuel 8:19), the one who was taller than anyone else in all of Israel ( 1 Samuel 9:2), failed to be the king they asked for.

Many years earlier, Israel had failed to enter the Promised Land out of fear of giants ( Numbers 13,14). They wandered after that in the wilderness for forty years. Here, they had been in fear of giant for forty days. Nothing much had changed. God promised deliverance, but Israel still chose to walk by sight rather than by faith.

David convinces Saul to let him go and fight Goliath by giving his resume of previous kills. A lion and bear have already met their end with David ( v34-37), and David sees this giant as being no different. God had helped him with those, He will help him with this (v37).

Saul thinks that weapons and armour are what win battles. When David came to fight the giant that Saul should have been fighting, the only thing Saul can think to give him is his own armour ( 17:38-39).

A fearful person makes a terribly impractical leader.
They micro manage.
They fail to work alongside those they lead.
They fail to acknowledge any mistake, and are quick to take the easy way out as soon as it presents itself.
They lead not from humility or integrity, but from pride and fear of losing the power they cling to as their own sense of worth.

When it came down to it, Saul did not face Goliath himself because his own fear was even bigger than Goliath was.

Saul’s parting words to David were for God to be with him. God certainly wasn’t with Saul ( 16:14), and Saul seems to know it.

2 – The Cynical Brother v. 12-30

Saul, of course, is not the only one present who is fearful (17:11). There is a whole army of ‘brave’ men that have stood for forty days, listening to Goliath.

David’s brothers are also there. The ones that Samuel initially thought were also ‘kingly’ material ( 16:6-13).David is sent to check on his brothers in the ‘battle’, and the history of Israel takes another pivotal turn because of what he does.

As had happened for the forty days previous, Goliath issues his challenge (17:8-9). The only difference this time is that David hears it (17:23) but instead of being afraid of this giant and his boasting, he is emboldened, intrigued, and starts asking questions about the reward on offer (17:26).

His eldest brother Eliab, however, has a dose of ‘reality’ for his young, upstart brother. He attempts to put him back in his place, reminding him that he just the little one, just the shepherd boy (17:28).

Eliab looks at all that is happening and is overcome with the reality that no man can defeat Goliath. He is overwhelmed with the might and power of men. He has a “Goliath-saturated” mind, and is cynical about David’s motives as a result. He sees Davids passion and mocks him, despises his youth, yet he’s not prepared to act himself.

David, on the other hand, sees only what God can do, and what He has promised He will do. David’s reality was far greater and deeper than Eliab’s cynical reality. David believed that God could act, and would act if someone would only believe. He has a “God-saturated” mind.

“It is a tragic irony that some of the most discouraging opposition Christians face comes from the people who should be on God’s side. Confronting an enemy like Goliath is frightening enough as it is, but often added to that are the supposed believers who do everything in their power to prevent sincere young Christians from stepping out in bold faith. The cowardly people of God are always the biggest obstacle to the mission of God.” – Heath Thomas & JD Greear

“Goliath is not really the problem here. A leather strap and a little rock can fix him. The real menacing giant in this story is the unbelief that dominates the hearts of God’s people. The obstacle is not found in God; it is not found in God’s opponents; it is found in God’s own people.” – Heath Thomas & JD Greear.

How different would our churches, families, communities be if, instead of responding with Eliab’s cynical spirit, we assumed with David, that God is poised to work powerfully, if only we would get on His side?

3 – The Giant Slayer v 40-50

David steps up, ready for action. What motivates him, although he is most certainly interested in the reward ( it was this interest that drew him to the attention Saul v31), is that a heathen man is defying God by defying God’s people ( v26b,36b).

Goliath mocks David, the same way Eliab had. He is young, he is little, he is nothing and nobody.

To Goliath, this is a joke, an insult. But to David, this is a matter not of fear of man, but of the fear of God.

It’s defiance of God that David takes issue with, not the defiance of his people, or even of himself. He does not take offence for his own sake, but for God’s name that is being blasphemed.

The punishment for blasphemy is stoning…

Armour is not going to equip David for this battle. Weapons are not going to help him. If he had taken armour and weapons, he would be relying on men’s might and power, pitted against another man’s might and power. He doesn’t come WITH weapons, but comes IN the name of the Lord, trusting God will use what he has to His glory. The anointed messenger who comes with the Word of God is what does the damage in the end.

David was going to have victory, not because he was battle wise, or more skilled in fighting, but because he knew from the very beginning, this was not his fight, but God’s. ( v45, 47).

Saul didn’t think the battle was his. The rest of the army didn’t think the battle was their’s either. They had all forgotten that their God was a God who delivers and rescues. David had not.

All throughout 1 Samuel we have seen that while people are concerned with size, looks, physical attributes, God is concerned only with hearts.

It is not by strength that man prevails. ( 1 Samuel 2:9b).
God will give strength to His king, and exalt the power of His anointed ( 2:10b).

The point of the story is not that we can overcome any odds – that we can be like David, defeat all the ‘giants’ that come across our path.

This isn’t about the little guy winning.

The interpretative problem we have with this story usually is that we identify with David. We want to be like him, standing up to the heathen, calling them out and shouting them down, before knocking off their heads. Some of us like confrontational evangelism a little too much. We forget grace, and we forget love of neighbour.

But in this story, we are not David. We are not the Saviour.

We’re the Israelite army. We need a Saviour.

David fights as the representative for all of Israel, and wins victory for all of Israel, even though they have done nothing to earn it themselves. They have been fearful, impotent in the face of Goliath. They could do nothing to save themselves. They needed someone to come in and rescue them. Someone to stand between them and certain destruction, take on the full face of death, be willing to die, and in the end, conquer.

They needed God’s anointed one to deliver them.

We are in a similar position. Our greatest problem/giant in our lives is not resolving that health issue we have. It’s not our job we need. It’s not our fragile friendships. It’s us. It’s our sin.

In the face of all my sin, and all the consequences of my sin, I cannot stand. I cannot fight. I cannot save myself.

Jesus was our representative before God. He faced that great and terrible wrath that we could not, and He conquered it. He killed death, and He killed our death.

(He was a Son Who obeyed His Father’s will fully.He was abandoned, betrayed by his brethren. He was misunderstood. He was the unexpected anointed one that saved God’s people from certain destruction.)

Because Jesus did all that, I am then freed from any other fears I have also. If He has defeated death, what is there left fear?

If God has given us all things in Christ, why would He hold anything back?

We can have courage that comes not from the absence of pain or struggle, or the absence of fear, but from having a treasure that strife and fear cannot threaten. Christ Himself.

If you want to ‘face all the giants’ in your life, there’s some bad news. You cannot save yourself. If you long to see victory in all the battles of your life, here’s some good news. There is a Saviour you can fully trust in. He has conquered the final enemy, and all who trust in Him, come eternity, will see all the sad things come untrue and all the battles we have faced work out for His glory and our good.

Galatians 1:1-10 “Free In Christ: No Other Gospel”

Have you ever felt like you have fully accomplished something and you are pleased with what you delivered, only to have someone come along and completely undermine all you’ve done! Work with a project, home with the dishes, an assignment that comes back with a lower grade than you expected…

The apostle Paul knows how you feel in that moment, but with something far more important, the gospel.

Paul wrote this letter to a church in the region of Galatia, an area in modern day Turkey. He was writing to address false teaching that added works to salvation.

We are always in need of hearing the message of Galatians. No matter how we have come to faith in Christ, it is human nature to fall into a system of merit – to think in terms of achievement and reward.

Paul establishes the foundational importance of the gospel to every aspect of the believers life. It’s not just for salvation.

“We’re going to watch Paul challenge them, and us, with the simple truth that the gospel is not just the ABC of Christianity, but the A to Z – that Christians need the gospel as much as non-Christians…that the truths of the gospel change life from top to bottom…The gospel – the message that we are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope – creates a radical new dynamic for personal growth, for obedience, for love.” – Tim Keller
1 – The Gospel of Deliverance v.1-5

Paul’s very opening words tell us this letter is unlike others he wrote.

Not only is there no personal greeting or encouragement we might find in other epistles, but from the first sentence, Paul establishes his authority as an apostle of Jesus Christ. He will go on to further build on his personal calling and authority to preach the gospel in the rest of ch 1 and 2.

Straight off the bat, he is making very clear, he not only has something of vital importance to say, but he has the authority to demand that they listen to him.

“His authority was not political or denominational. Neither was it derived from popular support. It was an authority and commissioning that came from a divine source. He was appointed by the Lord.” – Bruce Atkinson

Jesus had personally appointed Paul as His apostle, and the message of the gospel he shared had authority not just because of it’s truth, but because of his extraordinary commission. We might not have the authority Paul had, but we do have the same commission.

The gospel Paul preached and lived was clear and understandable.

That we are helpless and in need of deliverance. v4a
That Jesus gave Himself for our sins, buying our freedom with His death (v4). This is important, because Jesus’ death for our sins, in our place, was either fully completed for us, or it was not. It was either a full substitution, or it was not.
Paul leaves no doubt as to who the agent of our deliverance was, and Whose will it was that it was to happen this way (v4b).
That God gets the glory forever for our salvation and deliverance is also of vital importance (v5). Either salvation is all of God – His action, His work, His plan, His calling, His grace, or it is just partly of Him.

This is the humbling truth at the heart of the gospel and our faith as Christians, we cannot be our own saviours.

We find messages and teaching of self-salvation attractive, but the truth of God’s grace to us in Jesus totally ruins all our desires for glory, personal perfection and the approval of men.

The gospel tells us that we are in such a desperate situation that you need a deliverance that has nothing to do with you at all. It also tells us that God in Jesus provides this deliverance that gives us far more than any false salvation our hearts would rather have.

God gets the glory because He does the delivering. The work of our salvation rests with Him. We are saved, not by works which we have done, but by His mercy. There is nothing left for us to do but to respond in faith to His grace. It is not about the performance, it’s not even about the level of faith, it is about Who saves, and whether we believe. The A-Z of the gospel in our lives is a work of God’s Spirit, not our flesh (3:3).
2 – The Only Gospel v 6-9

This outline of the gospel is intentionally simple. We may be staggered at how it all happens,how God’s sovereignty and our responsibility coincide to make it all possible, but at it’s heart, the gospel is simple. ‘Believe on Jesus, and you will be saved.’

It’s almost too simple. We feel like we need to add some things to that.

Believe and repent.

Believe, repent and be baptised.

Believe, repent, be baptised and live holy.

Even though our intentions might be ‘pure’ and even accurate in a doctrinal sense, pretty soon we enter territory that is open to interpretation or at least various definitions, and we start to get confused about what is meant to be simple, and that’s without even entering what Paul was covering here.

We also easily create divides, as happened in Galatia, about who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’, all based on who uses the right terms, definitions, and interpretations based on our subjective personal understanding, experience, or creedal/denominational alignment.

Again we note the starting tone of this epistle is very different to ones we would find elsewhere written by Paul.He is astonished (v6a), surprised, even angry.

The believers at Galatia had deserting the call of God who had given them grace and peace, to turn to a ‘different’ gospel (v.6), and because there isn’t really any other gospel than the one Paul had given them (v7a), what they are turning to is confusion, distortion and perversion.

He has surprise and disappointment for the believers, but he announces a curse for those who are presenting a distorted gospel.

This a serious issue. Messing with and distorting the gospel is not to be taken lightly.

As we will see, the addition to the gospel that Paul is taking issue with is what a group of Jewish teachers from Jerusalem were pressuring the Gentile believers into accepting – that adherence to the cultural customs of the Mosaic Law, especially in regards to diet, circumcision, and ceremonial law were still necessary to live a life that pleased God.
It was Jesus, plus law in order to be fully accepted by God.

Pointedly, the things these false teachers wanted the Galatians to adhere to were all external things. They were things that other people could see. This is fundamentally opposed to what the gospel really is. Yes, people will see a change in the lives of those who believe in Jesus, but this is not a manufactured change because of the adapting of some behaviours, but because the heart has changed, and the Spirit now resides in the believer, bearing out His fruit (5:22-24) and the works of the flesh are put to death as a result.

When we add anything to the gospel, it ceases to be the gospel, and becomes something else (v7a).

“If you add anything to Christ as a requirement for acceptance with God – if you start to say: To be saved I need the grace of Christ plus something else – you completely reverse the ‘order’ of the gospel and make it null and void. Any revision of the gospel reverses it…To abandon gospel theology is to abandon Christ personally (6a).” – Tim Keller
The gospel message is not open to tender. There is no other message to proclaim, other than what has clearly already been stated.

This means that anyone claiming to have something to add to the gospel, or claiming an original thought about it, should not be heard, and must be seen for what they are, a walking contradiction, a cursed person, a charlatan.

“Paul insists we must accept the gospel on its own supernatural authority, no matter what the status of any person who seeks to change it – even if it’s Paul himself, or an angelic being.” – Bruce Atkinson

Jesus plus nothing equals everything. Jesus plus something else, equals manmade systems of religion that bind and blind.

Paul can’t say it any plainer, and as we will see in the rest of Galatians, this is an incredibly liberating truth. We do not have to be held in bondage to any system or religion, we have been set free in Christ (5:1), so we can be justified by His works, not our own. This frees us to love and serve God without trying to earn anything as a result. It also helps us see the law in the right way (3:21-29).
If the knowledge of the law doesn’t drive us to Jesus, we’re doing it wrong.
3 – The Approved Messenger v 10

Who can deliver the approved message?

The messenger is only ever approved by the message they deliver, and the one who sent them to deliver it.

Paul clearly states that his motivation when he shares the gospel is not to get men’s approval.

He knows that if he preaches the message that God has given him, he will please God and at times, displease men. He also knows that if he wants to please men, he could preach something other than what God has given him, but that would displease God.

We are not called to seek the approval of men, the moment we do, we abandon the true message.

There is only one way.

Jesus stated that clearly ( John 14:6),and as the rest of Galatians will outline, if there were any other way for us to be saved, Christ died for no purpose.

We see the reason was Paul was eager to get his point across. The gospel is not a discussion, or a debate. It is an announcement. There are no other options.

For unbelievers and believers alike, the questions are the same.

Do you think you need the gospel?

And what are you doing with it?

Has it’s truth saved you?

Has it’s truth changed your life and your allegiances?

Whose approval do you most want? God’s? Or man’s?
Are you free?

“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.

Looking for the King: The Hidden King. 1 Samuel 10:17-12:25

1 – History of Grace 10:17-19 & 12:6-13

History can be fascinating. We can spend much time engrossed in documentaries or books about world wars, leaders, and the ancient cultures of various countries. We usually treat it like an academic exercise. We are just accumulating knowledge. For some of us it’s a hobby, or even obsession, binging on Netflix to get our fix!

Samuel gives Israel a history lesson as they assemble to choose their first king ( 10:17-19). It’s a familiar story, and he even repeats it in chapter 12:6-13.

God delivered Israel – from Egypt, from all kingdoms that had oppressed them. He sent Moses and Aaron ( 12:6-8). He had sent judges like Gideon, Barak, Jephthah and Samuel ( 12:11), giving them deliverance from many enemies. But now they were rejecting Him, and all because they wanted to be ‘like all the other nations’ (8:4b,20).

They had an identity problem. They were getting their identity from the ungodly people around them rather than from being who God had declared them to be.
2 – The Hidden King 10:20-24

In what is a comical and ironical situation, at the official naming of Saul as king of Israel, Saul is chosen by lot, but cannot be found. The tallest man in all of Israel is found cowering in the luggage after God gives away His hiding spot. (10:22).

This seems a very strange action on Saul’s part. He has had the affirmations that all of what Samuel had told him was true, he had been given a new heart (10:9), and the knowledge that God was with him (10:7). But when it comes being revealed to all of the nation as king, he hides.

We assume he wasn’t playing hide and seek. Was he embarrassed? Overwhelmed by the responsibility?

We’ve had a few hints from what we know about Saul so far as to why he might feel shame enough to hide away.

“Shame is the deep sense that you are unacceptable because of something you did, something done to you, or something associated with you. You feel exposed and humiliated.” – Ed Welch

What do we know so far?

He is a Benjaminite ( 9:21).

His hometown was Gibeah.( 10:10,26).

There is a sad and sorry history with Saul’s hometown and tribe that may give us insight to some of his actions.

We find the terrible account in Judges 19-21.

A Levite from Bethlehem has a concubine, and she decides to go back home. He goes after her, and on the trip home, decides to stay the night in a town called Gibeah of Benjamin.

Not knowing anyone in the town, he prepares to stay in the town square, but an old man takes them in to stay with him for the night, because, like Sodom, Gibeah is not a safe place for visitors.

Like Sodom, the men of the city come to the old man’s house and demand he hand over his guest so they could ‘know him’ .

The Levite throws his concubine out to them to save himself. She dies as a result of the horrific abuse, and the Levite, in full “righteous anger”, rallies all of Israel by cutting his concubine into twelve pieces, sending a piece to every tribe, demanding a response and judgement on Gibeah and Benjamin.

The resulting conflict between the rest of Israel and Benjamin is horrific loss of life on both sides, and in the end, the near annihilation of Benjamin as a tribe.

The rest of Israel feel sorry for Benjamin, and to make sure they don’t die out, they steal young women from a town called Jabesh-Gilead so the Benjaminites could have some wives.

It’s an horrific history, and it’s Saul’s family story. This would’ve only been a couple of generations before, no doubt fresh in all of Israel’s minds, but so raw and real to all the people of Benjamin, and the people of Gibeah especially.

God has his purpose in choosing Saul, a Benjaminite from Gibeah for the first king. He was showing mercy, and doing a work of restoration.

3 – The Spirit-Filled King 10:25-11:15

Saul doesn’t go about building a palace or setting up a cabinet, or doing the things we would expect of a newly chosen leader.

He goes back to doing what he knows. Farming. (11:5).

What changes him from a farmer to king is the urgent need to defend the town of Jabesh-Gilead ( Note the name of the town from the story in Judges 19-21. This would’ve been Saul’s grandmothers or great-grandmother’s hometown) from an evil and sadistic guy named Nahash. ( 11:1-3).

Saul becomes king not because of any personal rage he musters, but the Spirit of God rushes upon him, kindling a righteous anger to bring justice.

He brings the people together to deliver Jabesh-Gilead, they come, they conquer and the people rejoice – they believe they’ve made an excellent choice! They have the king they wanted.

Saul shows great graciousness. He forgives those who initially despised him (10:27 & 11:12-13),and gives God the glory for the victory.

Saul is officially crowned king (11:15), and the people rejoice, and we would do well to hope ‘they all lived happily every after’ .What could be better? The people of Israel have a Spirit-filled king who gives God glory for victories and has accepted his new identity, redeeming his tribe, hometown and lineage of any shame they may have had.

The people thought they had chosen well in choosing to be like all the other nations. But they had not chosen the best, and their joy was to be short lived.

4 – What Happens When You Accept Second Best 12:1-25

“Samuel’s address to the people completes a major and radical transition in Israel’s life, from leadership by men and women whose primary orientation was to God, to a leadership by kings, leaders whose primary orientation was to the people.
God raised up judges; the people demanded a king.
The prophetic judges were God appointed; the political kings were people – acclaimed…Samuel announces the era of the ‘second best’.” – Eugene Peterson

Samuel reminds them again of what they are getting themselves in for and the dangers of not following the commands of God ( 12:13-15).

As a sign of the seriousness of their rebellion against God has their ruler, they are judged with thunder and rain ( 12:16-18).

God is not a tyrant or a bully. He does not force submission. But if you choose anything other than Him, He will not hold back judgement on account of your foolishness.

The people of Israel had chosen poorly by not choosing God.

There are two kinds of people at the end of time. Those to who say to God, ‘Thy will be done’. And those to whom God will say, ‘Thy will be done’. – CS Lewis

When we don’t chose God, we chose oppression. To chose second best is to chose judgement.

5 – The One Who Intercedes For And Covers Our Inadequacies 12:19-25

We need to acknowledge, as the people of Israel did, we have done evil. ( 12:19).

We need an intercessor, who, like Samuel, will go before God for us constantly (12:23).

He wasn’t going to shirk his responsibilities.

He said it would be a sin if he did not pray for his fellow Israelites.

If more of us felt that way, our prayer meetings would overflow, and would always be seeking to pray with and for one another without pretence and with a proper fear of God.

We also need constant Gospel reminders like Samuel gave the people. God keeps His promises. We should seek to serve Him faithfully with our whole heart. We should not turn aside after empty things this world offers.

“Consider what great things He has done for you” 12:24

Right from the very start of human history we have sought to avoid exposure of our true selves. It’s part of being human. Hiding and covering are instinctive.

We’ve tried to hide away our true identity with the things of this world.

Money.

Power.

Sexuality.

Relationships.

Work.

Pleasure.

Adam and Eve used leaves.

Saul used luggage.

You feel like something has touched you deep inside and it’s cracked your very soul. You are broken and everyone can see your innermost. This is shame, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

The cracks you think are irreparable are in fact, redeemable. Healing and redemption come from the stripes and wounds of a Saviour who is willing to bear your sin and the sin committed against you.

In time, you will see that the cracks are where the light shines through the strongest.

Shame can cripple us, but what we often need is a reminder of our new identity that God has given us, to consider all the great things that He has done for us, despite our past. Despite our sin and shame.

God is in the business of providing covering for those who are exposed.

He did it for Adam and Eve with a lamb. He has done it for us through His son.

We have a King who had never done any wrong. He had a flawless history, a perfect Father, and yet never was anyone in all of human history as exposed and vulnerable as He was.

“What is shame? The Son of God, while on a rescue mission of love, was misunderstood, insulted, betrayed, denied, mocked, spit on, cursed, abandoned, stripped, crucified…The Cross is…the summary of what God says to unworthy people.” – Ed Welch

God raises up those who are not able to raise themselves. ( 1 Samuel 2:7-8).

He brings the poor up out of the dust. The needy from the ash heap. He makes those who are lowly and hiding themselves away with the baggage of their lives to sit with princes, to inherit a seat of honour as heirs of the kingdom.

We have a King Who raises us up. No matter our past. No matter our history, we have a future that is a bright as the promises of God, but we also have a present that can be full of rejoicing in the redemption that God brings to broken people.

If you’re going to hide behind anyone, hide behind Him. He is the safest and greatest rock there is.

There is no rock like our God!

A Poem For A Grandson

My wife & I recently welcomed our son into our lives & we are so blessed & grateful.

His Granddad wrote a special poem on the occasion of his birth & I thought it most certainly worth sharing with you all!

“Samuel’s Poem”

by Peter Budimir

 

Samuel, we waited long or so it seems

For us — yet God the time we wait redeems,

For nothing’s wasted in His tapestry,

Though hours and days and years can painful be,

When God says wait, but wait we cannot bear,

And doubt whispers, “Wait means God does not care.”

 

Was Hannah tempted so to think of God,

As grief and sorrow paved the way she trod?

Perhaps? Yet Hannah’s wait did her no ill,

For God and grace and good were with her still,

So that her cry, her eyes were upward raised,

Her heart drew nearer God, His name she praised!

 

Samuel, your parents struggled much the same,

Who, like us all, were tempted God to blame,

And who like Hannah felt the weight and loss,

Of childless days that seemed to them a cross.

Not knowing why, not knowing when or how,

Yet knowing Him — sufficient that for now.

 

Samuel, your mother suffered much for you,

When after waiting long her time was due,

To see come to this broken world, a son,

Through pain and blood and tears her joy was won,

A picture solemn of God’s strange design,

Who oft through deepest woe brings Grace divine.

 

For Christ himself trod not a painless way,

But steep and rough and under sky of grey.

No bright and sun-filled day to ease the weight,

That constant press of sin, of pride, of hate,

And in those  last few hours the darkness reigned,

Yet darkness died, and death, and joy regained.

 

Samuel, your days on earth have scarce begun,

As mother, father watch their newborn son,

In wonder, yes in awe of God’s hand true,

That wove in secret place one life from two,

They gaze and care and hope and pray and love,

Though days ahead unknown, yet God’s above.

 

Yes, often prone to worry, parents are,

And ponder days ahead both near and far,

So much in sin this fallen world remains,

Yet certain that our God the good reclaims,

Though labour we in life by good or ill,

T’is all in vain without the Maker still.

 

But days ahead need not a worry be,

If Christ’s our hope in all upon life’s sea.

Samuel, though life’s path take you far or near,

Christ in the boat will quieten every fear,

And take us home at last, each one His care,

To join the little one already there.

Looking for the King:The Weightof Glory. 1 Samuel 4-7

There are some things we take a little too lightly.

We sometimes take lightly the warnings about obeying road rules until we have an accident ourselves, or someone close to us has one. We don’t so much fear the ‘weight of the law’ but the consequences that come from breaking it.

God’s glory has a ‘weight’ to it that we should take even more seriously.
‘It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God’ .

Taking God Lightly 4:1-11

The nation of Israel, hear the word of God through Samuel, a word of judgement against Eli’s house (4:1),but if they really believed the word to be true – they would not have done what they did in bringing the ark of the covenant out to the battle as a ‘good luck charm’, and the very men that came out from Shiloh with the ark were the men God said He was going to judge ( 3:11-14;2:26;4:4,11b). This is not going to end well.

We would call something like this ‘sacrilegious’, but there is far more happening here than just desecrating something holy. What the Israelites did was take God lightly.

Israel had ‘tamed’ God. He was not all-powerful Sovereign.He was quite literally their ‘God-in-a-box’ ( Eugene Peterson)

“The living God cannot be used, manipulated, or managed. Spiritual power is not a matter of getting our hands on the right method or technology. The personal God cannot be reduced to an impersonal power.” Eugene Peterson

There are ways we do the same.

-We want all the comfort of a divine reality without any of the demands.

-We ‘observe’ and ‘participate’ in or at church, without actually being the church.

-We have knowledge of the Gospel, and it’s power, but we do not seek to live it out.

-We say we believe in God and think He can help us, heal us, guide us, but we do not pray or ask others for prayer.

-We have an appearance of godly wisdom of self-control and restraint of our appetites, but our hearts are far from God.

When we make light of God, we cannot expect to have a burden for His glory, and our end is sure defeat.

The great irony is, that while the Israelites were busy not taking God seriously, the Philistines were. ( 4:7-11).

They have a better theology and knowledge of God than God’s people do. They remembered the stories of the Exodus ( 4:8;6:6), and although the Israelites also knew the story of their redemption, they did not live in light of it.

In 4:1-2 they lose to the Philistines “without” God. In 4:10-11 they still lose, even though they have the symbol of God’s presence with them.

They didn’t lose because God wasn’t on their side, but because they were not on His. God’s glory must central to the life of His people. If it is not, we are in a losing battle.

The Death of Eli 4:12-18

The news of this defeat comes to Eli, who awaited, not to hear of the news of his sons ( their death came as no surprise to him as he had accepted God’s judgement – 3:18 ) his heart trembled for the safety of the ark( 4:13). He had failed so disastrously in his priestly duties, that even the most sacred symbol of the presence of God had been taken from it’s rightful place.

Eli’s felt the weight of the seriousness of God’s glory, but although his heart now as he died was for God’s glory and holiness, his life had been lived for his own indulgence and his compromises had terrible consequences.

‘The Glory Has Departed’ 4:19-22

The news of death kept spreading, and it brings on the birth of Eli’s grandson.

What a legacy to be born into. This child should have been born as heir to the priesthood, instead he comes into the world the very day his grandfather, father, and uncle die as a result of direct judgement from God.

Phineas’ wife names the child “Ichabod”, because the glory of God had departed from Israel.

Where had the glory gone?

In a way, it had been stolen by Eli’s family. Their contempt for the sacrifices of God and other pagan things they had done had taken away God’s glory so they could have their own.

We bemoan the ‘missing’ glory of God in our day, and in some ways it’s true, even in some churches, that God’s glory has left, but God’s glory is never ‘missing’ it is just too often stolen, or misplaced.

– We don’t give Him the sacrifices He requires ( Psalm 51:16-17;Romans 12:1).
We don’t give Him the worship He deserves for what He has done.
We do things to please ourselves or men more than to please God.

The Weight of Glory 5:1-7:2

The captured ark was taken by the Philistines first to Ashdod (5:1-2) where they placed it with their idol, Dagon.

What was meant to be sign of the defeat of Israel and the Israelite’s God, soon turned into an embarrassment and then a humiliation, both spiritually and physically for the Philistines.

Dagon falls over, gets propped up, then gets decapitated( 5:3-5).

If you have a god that needs your help to stand up when it falls over, you probably need to reconsider your belief system. If your god can’t defend itself, you have a false god.

Our God needs no propping up.

Before THE LORD, all other gods must fall and will fall. Only YAHWEH, the God of Israel has glory and substance. Nothing else can rival Him.

He cannot and will not co-exist with our idols.

“The hand of God was heavy against the people” ( 5:6;9;11;6:3;5) wherever they sent the ark to escape the judgement, the heavy hand of God followed, and no one escaped this humiliating punishment.

The tumours they received were a sign of uncleanness, of impurity, of disgrace.
When you disgrace God, you will end up disgraced yourself.(2:30). When you seek to humble God, rather than being humbled by Him, His hand will be heavy on you.

Judgement follows wherever God is not taken seriously.

The great danger is not that people do not believe in God. Those who don’t believe may one day come to believe, by grace. The greater danger is that people would believe and know of God, as the Philistines did ( 4:7-8), but then ask Him to co-exist with all the other ‘beliefs’ they have as well. That is dangerous because an absolute truth can never be watered down to be palatable. It must be accepted, not merely ‘accommodated’.

There are people we have as ‘friends on FaceBook, but we certainly don’t ‘follow’ them. You can’t treat Jesus that way.

The Philistines knew God’s hand was upon them (6:5) and knew again the danger of hardening their hearts towards Him ( 6:6).

They sent the ark back, with a guilt offering, hoping to appease God.

What a relief to us that the ‘appeasement’ of God’s wrath doesn’t come through our efforts.

The ark is back in Israel, where it belongs (6:13-16) , but even the Israelites had not yet learnt their lesson. Some of the men take the sacredness of the ark lightly yet again, and now the Israelites mourn over the weight of God’s hand of judgement. ( 6:19-20).They cry out that God’s holiness was too great for them to bear, and it is.

This is the turning point in story. We might well smirk at the humour of Dagon falling down, or the Philistines getting humiliating tumours, but this incident brings us back to where we are meant to be – God’s people are still taking God lightly, and they are finally starting ask the right kind of questions,questions we need answers to also.

When the weight of God’s glory presses down, who can stand?

Who is safe in the presence of a Holy God?

The Philistines were no real threat to Israel. God’s glory and their holy obedience to Him is what they should be concerned about, and they are realising they need help to do what God has called them to do – be holy because He is holy.

They ‘lamented after the Lord for twenty years’ ( 7:2), and God hears their prayers, and sees their hearts are finally ready to receive more of His Word, and Samuel’s words again go out to all of Israel, and this time, they are ready to hear and obey ( 7:3).

The Thunder of Heaven and the Rock of Assurance 7:3-17

Samuel speaks to the hearts of the Israelites, because that’s where their cry and lament had come from.

There is no point in changing our behaviours unless our hearts have been captured by God’s glory.

He calls the people together for prayer, for fasting, for worship, for confession of sins, and they come. They truly repent from other gods. They are not just sorrowful, they worship. They don’t just turn from sin and idols, but they turn back to God, which is what true repentance is.

The thunder of heaven came down ( 7:10), and God delivered His people. What a way for the glory that had once departed, to return! It also again, fulfils Hannah’s prophecy in chapter 2. ( 2:10)

The thunder of heaven is a sign to us that it is God who does the work of deliverance and salvation.

God takes the weight of His glory so seriously, that He took all of that weight on Himself.

Jesus took the full weight. He was crushed for our iniquities.

We should die for what we have done, but instead we have this Ebenezer we can come to, the Cross of Christ, and we can say, ‘This is what God had done to help me.’

The Israelites now told their history in such a way that they no longer knew the name of place of their defeats, only of their salvation. (4:1;7:12).

Our rock of assurance is that Lamb of God Who bore the thunder from heaven so we could be delivered.

Truly, we can say again with Hannah, “There is no rock like our God!”( 2:2)

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