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The Word became flesh and dwelt among us….

“Looking for the King: Bethlehem’s King.” 1 Samuel 16

The internet has been flooded with information and plenty more misinformation about the transition from Obama to Trump.

Memes that portray VP Biden refusing to give the new administration the WIFI password are funny, and a needed relief for all the other upheaval surrounding the recent election.

Outgoing leaders, when leaving against their will, can be insolent and ungracious. Saul was such an outgoing leader. Desperate to hang onto power, and trying to kill off any rival.

The fist encounter between Saul and his successor, however, ends with Saul loving David, and welcoming him into his innermost circle.
1 – The King-Elect v 1-13

Saul continued on in his reign for many more years, but God’s blessing was no longer upon him, and a new king had to be anointed, and this time, it would be the one God had in mind, not the one the people demanded.

God tells Samuel to stop grieving over Saul (v1), and He sends him to Bethlehem.

Samuel is somewhat reluctant, and we can understand(v2). Anointing a new king while there is still one on the throne is hardly ever a move that can well. Saul would see it as treason, and as we will see, he is insanely jealous.

God gives him an ‘excuse’ to meet the sons of Jesse, and he is told to anoint the one that God shows him as being the right one.

A sacrifice is made, and Jesse presents his sons to Samuel.

What happens next both amuses and confuses us. It should also humble us.

It amuses, because we know David is the son Samuel has been sent to anoint, but he isnt present.

It confuses us, because God chooses the kind of person we wouldn’t choose.

It should humble us for exactly that fact. God does not choose the proud, the high and mighty, the strong, the ones who seem to have it altogether. He chooses the weak, the small, the ordinary, the outcast, the forgotten.

God is never impressed with physical appearance (16:7), the object of His attention is always our hearts.

This is good news, as we now know that we don’t have to measure up to the world’s standards on body shape, career, parental abilities, relationship status, or friendship connections.

It should come as a very liberating truth that God is not concerned with our successes, or even our failures. But we are so often intent on walking by sight and not by faith.

It also creates a problem in that we also know that none of us have heart that are pure. The heart is deceitfully wicked. No one can know it or change it but God ( Jeremiah 17:9-10; Hebrews 4:12).

The difference between David’s heart and Saul’s was not that David was sinless. The difference is that it was a softened heart, one willing to be convicted of sin, repent of it, and be used by God for His glory, rather than seeking to use God for personal glory and power. David’s heart was a ‘Godward’ heart.

If you’ve ever been part of an awkward silence, you know something of the discomfort that Jesse and his family would have felt while Samuel made all stand while they waited for David to come (16:11).

I also know how David feels in that moment. It’s often the middle child who is forgotten in my experience.

David would seem to have nothing going for him in his culture. The youngest, given the most menial and servile task possible. Forgotten. He is still a boy. He is small. Despised by his own father and brothers. Rejected by men, but chosen by God.

But God chooses him and rejects others.

God gives him His Spirit, while taking it from Saul.

‘The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble bind on strength.’ (2:4).

God brings down, and God raises up. He resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.

Saul minimised sin and minimised God’s judgement He did not think it was possible for God to do the things He said He would do, in the ways God had commanded they should be done. When we do this, we limit God.

When we limit God, we will end up disobeying Him, either by our action or our inaction, and when we limit God’s abilities, He will never be able to use our’s for His glory.

Do you have David’s heart?

You can’t know. Jeremiah would tell us that. But you can know God, and if you know Him, truly know Him, and desire to know more of Him, you’ll have a heart like His.

There is another lesson and application here for us.

If we can only see the outside, and only God can see the heart, what does that mean for how we treat other people? Especially people we consider as being ‘different’ to us?
2 – The Troubled King v 14-23

While we are filled with hope about God choosing David, giving him His Spirit ‘from that day on’, we are startled by the contrast of the next verse and section. Verse 14 tells us, in the very next breath, that God’s Spirit departed from Saul, and not only that, but that Saul was then tormented by another kind of spirit, one sent from God that was anything but good.

When the celebration of sin replaces the confession of sin, God removes His presence

If you reject God, you reject good, and what you will have a result is a constancy of evil in your life that will torment, depress, and in the end, destroy you.

We must careful here to never say that all suffering, torment and depression are a result of God’s punishing hand. Many suffer without a cause, and due to no fault of their own, but as a result of other’s sins, or living in a fallen world with fallen minds and bodies.

Saul is not one of those people.

His rebellion and disobedience against God lead to God’s rejection and punishment in this way. He is in torment because he did not repent. He removed himself from the authority of God, and God, in turn, removed His presence, blessing, and Spirit from Saul.

When you purposely go against all that God says, when you are self-righteous and will not admit your sin, or seek forgiveness.When you say that you know better than God, and do the opposite of what He says, what do you think is left for you when you find you have removed every “God” thing from your life?

There will never be anything good left. Only evil. As the writer of Hebrews warned, for people who harden their heart after having knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sin.

3 – The Servant King v 18-23

All that happens later with Saul’s hunting after David and desiring his death, makes this story of David’s entering Saul’s house and becoming his closest confidant seems ironic to us, but it’s also very revealing.

It reveals that a true king can serve anyone, even his most bitter enemy. Someone who hates him.

David knew what was up. He knew he had been anointed as the next line to the throne, but he serves Saul willingly and exceptionally.

A servant king, willing to use the gifts God had given him in any capacity.

He could play to calm a flock of sheep, or he could play to calm a troubled king. God had given him both places to prepare him for what lay ahead.

The pasture prepared him to shepherd God’s people, and his willing servant heart, both in submission to his father, and to Saul, show a kind of leadership that God is after in all people. Those who lead not so much by example only, but by faith. Those who do their work as ‘unto the Lord’.

God uses those that are willing to be used. Those who will serve Him by serving others.

People in Saul’s service knew of David’s skill with music, his valour, his bravery, that he carried himself well, and most of all, that ‘The Lord is with him’. (16:18). How an obscure shepherd boy had such a reputation in the palace while being so disregarded at home makes us wonder, but all the same, God was with him, and that was got him into the service of King Saul.

Too often we cut people down because we see them as inexperienced, not of ‘the mould’ we expect, or just because we think they are incapable.

Never despise a person who has placed their trust in God. You never know what God has in store for them.

We also should never despise the ministry of music to the soul. I know well the value of music that speaks to and calms the soul when it’s troubled. I wouldn’t be where I am in my faith today if it was not for music that spoke truth to my soul when everything else was dark and hopeless.

Music is gift from God. We should never belittle it.

4 – Bethlehem’s King v 1,4.

‘Once in royal David’s city…’

The place of Bethlehem in the story of God’s salvation is so significant, that if it wasn’t for this place, we would not have a hope.

The king from Bethlehem chosen in 1 Samuel 16 by God made way for the King sent from God to save the world that was born many years later in that same town, establishing the throne of David forever.

“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” Micah 5:2

Because of Bethlehem, we have a Saviour King.

Bethlehem shows us that God uses unusual, unexpected, little places, and ordinary, unknown, little people to do amazing things, for His great and eternal purposes.

God chooses the weak things of the world to shame the strong ( 1 Corinthians 1:27).

He takes young shepherds and makes them kings, and He takes young virgin girls and gives them His Son to bear into the world.

Never limit what God can do. He has already done the ‘impossible’.

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?

1 Samuel 15 “Looking for the King: The Rejected King”

We never need to be taught how to rebel, it comes very naturally, and we seem to spend our whole lives trying to avoid obedience and submission, if not outwardly, than certainly inwardly. We want to do what is right in our own eyes.

The only thing worse than a people who do whatever is right in their own eyes are rulers who do whatever is right in their own eyes and ignore God’s clear instructions.

Saul had started out well, but in chapter 15, we see how he lost the blessing of God upon his life.

There are warnings for all of us who are tempted to rebel, to fight against God, and would rather do things our way than His.

1 – The Danger of Minimising God’s Judgement v. 1- 9

There is no denying the start of this section is a difficult one for us to look at. God commands the complete destruction of a people group. (15:3).

This is a hard topic, and one we would either usually skim over, dismiss, or misunderstand, all of which would be to our detriment. It is a key issue for many opponents to Christianity, in that they say that God commanded genocide.

That God commands the complete destruction of the Amalekites is clear.

Why would God command such a thing?

The reason given to Saul is that the Amalekites opposed Israel when they came up out of Egypt (v2). Exodus 17:8-16 gives the record of what they had done, so all of Israel to know this day was coming, their enemy would be defeated forever, blotted out from memory.

They were the archetypical enemy of God and His people all through the OT. Even in Esther, the name of Agag comes up again, as Haman is revealed as descendant (Esther 3:1).

Isn’t this just ethnic cleansing?

“To modern ears, this sounds alarmingly like ethnic cleansing.
But this is ethical cleansing rather than ethnic cleansing.

This is an act of judgement against sin.

Destruction will come to the Amalekites not because they are Amalekites, but because they are sinners.

In a sense, this should alarm us. Not because it is unfair, but because it is fair; and because while we are not Amalekites, we are sinners.

Their destruction is a picture of what humanity deserves, and faces, from God.

When judgement comes, nothing – nothing – is left.”
– Tim Chester

“If we are inclined to minimise divine judgement, it is perhaps because we are inclined to minimise human sin.” – Tim Chester

This was Saul’s problem. He did not see the seriousness of what the Amalekites had done, so he did not take seriously the command to execute judgement on them.

God’s judgement is never ‘half done’. It must be satisfied, and He must be obeyed.

2 – The King Who Excused Himself v. 10-34

It would seem initially that Saul obeyed God fully, as the Amalekites are defeated (v7), but it is revealed that he had spared Agag, as well as best livestock (v8).

The Lord tells Samuel that He ‘regrets’ making Saul king, and Samuel is sent to confront Saul.

Saul is brazen enough to say he has ‘performed the commandment of the Lord’ (v.13), but Samuel is neither fooled nor deaf. He can hear the evidence of Saul’s lie (v14).

From the start of human history, we have been tempted to doubt the word of God and the necessity of our obedience.
If you’re more worried about your reputation than you are your sanctification, you will never accept criticism or rebuke from God’s appointed leaders in your life, or more ultimately, His direct Word.
All you’ll have left are excuses.

Saul’s excuses start coming in thick and fast.

Look at what I HAVE done.

Saul effectively says, “Yes, I didn’t do ALL that God said, but I did MOST of what He said!”(v20).

We excuse our sin on the basis that we have not sinned in ‘worse’ ways. We think things like, “Yes, I got angry, but at least I didn’t hit anyone”.

We add up our good against our bad, and think we stack up ok, but partial obedience is disobedience.

Everyone else does it

Saul blames the people (v21). Finger pointing began in the garden, and we’re just as proficient at as Eve and Adam were.

“I got angry, but he said….”

“I lusted, but she…”

“I lied, but they…”

It’s amazing how nothing is ever really our fault when our inner lawyer takes over.

It seemed the right thing to do

Killing all those animals seemed like such a waste when they could be used to sacrifice to God (v15). It is when God’s Word doesn’t make sense to us that we should examine our hearts. Our sense will never trump God’s Word.

I did it for God

Yes, I technically may have sinned, but my motives were good. I did it for God, really.

We gossip and say it’s because someone should know the truth.

We purposefully manipulate others and say it’s so God’s Will can be fulfilled in their lives in ways only we can see.

We end relationships and leave churches on bad terms because, ‘God told me to.’

“God does not need us to break his laws in order for his will to be done.” – Tim Chester

I was afraid of other people

Saul’s final excuse for not obeying God was he was fearful of other people. (v24).

Fear of others is no justification for sin.

When we don’t fear God, we will be afraid of everyone, always second guessing whether they love us, respect us, like us, and we will not be wise.
………
What all of these excuses do in light of God’s direct commands is question His authority.

Most disobedience is not an absolute defiance, but a nibbling away at the edges of God’s authority – Eugene Peterson

We start to think we know better than God, and we end up cursing ourselves.
Saul failed not just in not obeying God, but in justifying his disobedience.

God weighs our actions, so proud, self-justifying talk is pointless as a defence against the God Who knows all things. ( 1 Samuel 2:3).

3 – What God Delights In v. 22-23

Samuel’s words to Saul are well known.

That ‘obedience is better than sacrifice’ is something we quote often,mostly out of context.

We look at obedience as something we can see. When someone disobeys the law, they are punished. When they obey, they are not punished. Modifying our behaviour has visible benefits, even just in a social sense.

But obedience to God is never just a matter of outward behaviour modification.

Behaviour modification without a heart motivation change never leads to lasting change, or worse still, only make a change for the worse.

Samuel’s challenge is that obedience to God can only come from a heart submitted to the Will and Word of God. That is a change that works from the inside, out.

Rejection of God’s Word is a rejection of God Himself.You can choose the path, you cannot choose the consequences. If you reject Him, knowing His judgement, you are without excuse.You choose your own rejection when you choose to reject God.

You may sacrifice much in the name of God, but if you’ve only done it out a manufactured repentance that only lasts as long as people are looking your way, you haven’t done anything for God’s glory really. Many will say “Lord, Lord, did we not”…but God doesn’t know them. (Matthew 7:21-23).

The faux repentance Saul had in v24-29 is revealed in that he still wants public honour before men, even though he has dishonoured God in such a public way (v.30). His heart was not tender.

The fact also that he still tries to change the mind of God, without wanting to change his own, shows that although God will not coerce us, we so often think we can coerce Him.

It is hard to resist the temptation, especially when we suppose that we are doing something special for God, to expect special favours from God, and on occasion, to use forms that are virtually equivalent to theological blackmail…A God who can be coerced is not much of a God. – Eugene Peterson

Samuel may have given in to Saul’s begging to go back with him, but Samuel’s main action is to finish what God had commanded. (v32-33).

When we are confronted with our sins, our first impulse is to defend, to justify ourselves.

We are always usually first concerned with our standing before men.

When we are not grieved by our sins, we will dismiss warnings and the coming consequences.

Saul was more concerned with appearing honourable before the elders than he was with grieving over his sins. Samuel did that for him (v35).

If we will not mourn over our sin, God will mourn over us.

Does God change His mind? (v.11, 35b)

It was Saul that had changed, not God. God alters His own actions ( from our perspective) in order to be consistent with his character. Because Saul had failed to obey, God responded by giving him the consequences of his sin.

Though evil and flawed men seek power and seem unaccountable, God will raise up His chosen king. (1 Samuel 2:10).

God had another king in mind, one who would not be outwardly good-looking, surrounded by approving people, tall, strong, and mighty in battle. He had someone ‘smaller’ in mind. Someone who was so obscure, they would forgotten by their own father, spurned by their own brothers, and face battles far more terrifying.

How long will you mourn over failed leaders, relationships, kings, politicians, failed plans?
Thankfully, in Jesus, we have a king Who obeyed God fully, completely satisfying His judgement for sin.

We have a King Who not only obeyed fully, but Who was Himself, the sacrifice.

“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!

“Looking for the King: A King Like All The Other Nations” 1 Samuel 8:1-10:16

How many of us have been disappointed by results in an election? Or by our elected officials?

We get frustrated with  corruption, greed, agendas, slogans, dodgy campaign tactics, and knowing we can’t realise trust anybody who is a elected to fulfil their promises, let alone fulfil what we want to see in a government.

All too often we look to secular governments to deliver what can be achieved by obedience to God in the hearts of men and women made new by Him. 

The people of Israel were at a point in their history of transition, or at least they thought so. They were sick and tired of judges and priests. They wanted a king, at any cost.

1 – The Last Judge 8:1-5

There are several ironies in this story.

Joel and Abijah,Samuel’s sons, like Eli’s sons, were not the leaders they should’ve been. Unlike Eli, Samuel bears no blame here and he is not accused of being complicit with their bribery and perverting of justice(8:3b).

That this pattern is repeating in Israel shows again that no one can rest on an inherited faith or testimony. Even the best and Godliest of leaders can have children who make evil and selfish choices.

Another irony is that the elders of Israel come to Samuel and their main argument for having a king is that they did not like the way hereditary leadership was working out with Samuel’s sons. Monarchy is founded on hereditary leadership, but that point seems lost on the elders of Israel.

Samuel was going to be the last judge, as far as they were concerned.

Ironic then, that even though they get the king they ask for, Samuel still had authority to remove his kingship and anoint another king in his place. ( 1 Samuel 15).

One more irony is that the people wanted ‘to be like the other nations’ (8:5b).

Why would we want something that everyone else has?

Not necessarily because that thing is inherently good for us, and would benefit us, but most of the time, we want what others have because we want to be like them.

The people of Israel don’t have a leadership problem. They have a profound identity problem. They had forgotten who they were and Whose they were.

God had repeatedly instructed them that He was their God, and they were His people. That they should be a holy people because He is a holy God.

They wanted to be like other nations more than they wanted to be like God.

 

Instead of being a light to the other nations, instead of reaching other nations with God’s glory and holiness, they wanted to be like them. They had lost their identity and their mission.

2 – The Wrong Kind of King 8:6-22

The history of Israel clearly indicates that they would one day have a king. ( Genesis 17:6; Numbers 24:17-19). The law allowed for a king and predicted this very day ( Deuteronomy 17:14-20). Throughout the book of Judges we are told everyone did what was right in their own eyes because there was no king ( Judges 21:25). Hannah foretold it ( 2:10b) and it seemed to the elders of Israel, now was the right time of all of this to be fulfilled.It seems strange then, that God sees this as a personal rejection ( 8:7). But…“The people were asking for the wrong king, with the wrong motives.” – Tim Chester

God tells Samuel to give them what they want, but only after he would warn them regarding ‘the ways of the king who shall reign over them’ ( 8:9b,11a).

The king they are asking for will take their sons and daughters ( 8:11b-13).

He would take the best of everything they have (v 14-17). He would take, take, take, take, take, take.

Even after all these warnings – the people still cry out “No! There shall be a king over us!” ( v19b). These people that had cried out only years earlier for God to save them from the Philistines and saw His miraculous intervention with thunder from heaven ( 7:8-10), are now adamant that they need a human king to fight their battles.

How often we make this same mistake. In thinking we will be free of God by establishing our own way, we end up enslaved to a monster of our own making.

“It typifies humanity. We reject God as King even though it means choosing tyranny.” – Tim Chester

When we know what God has said about something, a lifestyle, a behaviour, an attitude, an attraction, an addiction, and we know the consequences of giving into those things God has warned against, but we do those things anyway.

We’ve bought into the old lie of the devil that God is just a prohibitionist and we can be our own sovereigns.

One of the worst judgements we can have on our lives is that God would give us what we want. ( Romans 1:28).

3 – The Anointed King 9:1-10:16

Everyone is expecting a king to be announced. Samuel has instructed everyone to go home and await his word( 8:22b), so it’s no surprise the next person we are introduced to is the king.

Saul comes from the small tribe of Benjamin,son of a wealthy farmer, and the writer goes out their way to point out he was talk, dark, and handsome.

Really, really handsome, or as certain of the poets have said, “Really, really ridiculously good-looking” , better looking than anyone else in Israel and  taller than anyone else in Israel ( 9:2).

Here’s a likely candidate…He just doesn’t know it yet!

One minute he’s out looking for his dad’s lost donkeys, then ‘nek minnut’ he’s being anointed by Samuel as Israel’s first king.

Although Saul doesn’t know what is about to happen, Samuel does ( 9:15-16).He invites Saul to feast with him, giving him a place of honour and praising him ( 9:19-24).

Saul spends the night with Samuel, and as he is leaving the town, Samuel secretly anoints him as a prince ( under-king) of Israel. ( 9:25-10:1a).

Saul shows humility at all the fuss (9:21), he’s not after fame, he’s just doing what his father asked of him.

Samuel knows this is a lot for Saul to take on board, so as he secretly anoints him, he gives him three signs that will be a confirmation that God has really chosen.

Sign 1 – two men would tell him the donkeys are found and his father is now worried for him ( 10:2). 

This is a lesson for Saul that God would solve all his problems. God is always at work, and those who trust Him will have assurance He is on their side.

Sign 2 – Some other men will give him some gifts ( v3-4)

This shows that God would always supply his needs. He would need to depend on God for everything, and God would supply it.

Sign 3 – He would be filled with the Spirit and prophesy with the other prophets (v 5-6).

This showed that God equips those He calls with the gifts they need to do what they need to do.

All these signs proved to Saul that God was truly with Him, and more than that, had given him ‘another heart’ (v.9).

Saul knew God was with him, that his calling was real, and that his life would never be the same.

He had been granted a position, a power, and a heart he had not sought after or worked for. God had chosen him, from the least of the clans, from the least of the tribes. 

 

4 – The Everlasting King 

How often do we ask for the wrong king?

Not just political leaders, but in our hearts and lives, we are so often setting up false sovereigns. Usually ourselves, or a projected image of ourselves.

We get frustrated, angry even, when public policies don’t go the way we think they should.

When our family members don’t treat us the way we want them to.

 

When we don’t get what we want in life, we blame God, and ask for our king.

Even in our churches, we allow our identity to be shaped, our behaviour to be governed, and our message to be dictated either by the culture around us, or by our own personal traditions,ideals and agendas rather than by God’s explicit commands.

You cannot legalise your sin anymore than you can legislate righteousness, and trying to do either abdicates Jesus as King of your life and puts self on the throne.

Don’t be fooled by the ‘trending topics’, the hashtags, the slogans. Vote wisely when you vote, and certainly stand up for Godliness, and vote for Godliness, but do not put your hopes and faith in what is temporal.

We don’t need any other King than the One we have been given. Only in Jesus are completely free of condemnation, not because we can do whatever we please and get away with it, but because He has given Himself fully for us, we joyfully submit ourselves to His Kingship.

That is the only way to political peace, community peace, church peace, family peace, and personal peace.

Put Jesus first.

“When people transfer their expectations for righteousness and salvation from God to government, they are sure to be disappointed.” – Eugene Peterson

Their first king, they ask for and accept based on his personal appearance and the perception that his strength, attractiveness and ability would deliver them from their enemies and finally give them some respectability.

The King they needed, but wouldn’t accept, was One that would one day come in obscurity.

There was no beauty that anyone would desire Him.

He didn’t seem majestic, or strong.

He was despised and rejected by men. ( John 19:15 – ‘we have no king but Caesar’)

He wasn’t seeking fame, He just came to to the will of His Father.

At the end of it all the government will rest upon HIS shoulders.

The shoulders of the One Who came not to be served, but to serve.

Not to take, but to give Himself.

The One Whose kingdom is not of this world.

This is the only King Whose way is perfect.

All others will one day bow the knee to Him.

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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