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The Word became flesh and dwelt among us….

“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.

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“I Did Not Think The Grinch Lived Here!”

Little Sammy J went shopping with his mummy and daddy one day

So much to do, many things to get, as Christmas was not far away!

He had a little Christmas suit to wear, and he went around spreading Christmas cheer

Because he really did think Christmas was the most wonderful time of year.

He smiled at this person, and that one too, laughing at any that looked his way

He rocked his head in time to the music and his head, back and forth would sway

He went along,  and everywhere he went, he spread some Christmas cheer

He had not a care in the world, not a fear

Until…the grouchy old man with a nose out of shape,

Who looked like he had eaten a gazillon mouthfuls of sour grape,

Said with a scowl, “Why do you sway?”

“You’ll get a crook neck, dancing that way!”

Sammy J stopped for a moment, then waved at the man

And smiled again, thinking he was a fan

The scowling old man shook his head and scoffed out loud

And walking away mocking, quite tall and quite proud

Little Sammy J kept smiling away, spreading Christmas cheer,

All the while thinking, “I did not think the Grinch lived here!”

Little Sammy J went to church with his mummy and daddy one day

There was many things to do, as Christmas was not far away

He had his Christmas suit on, and everything he did, he was spreading Christmas cheer

Because he really did think Christmas was a most wonderful time of the year.

He sang all the songs, and danced merrily along while playing with his friend

He stared at the people, and hoped that this joyous time would not end

He really enjoyed watching all the people, and spreading his Christmas cheer

He had not a care in the world, not a fear

Until…the grouchy old lady with an ear out of joint

Who looked like she had heard too many a sermon point

Said with gruff tone in her voice,

“Quiet, you boy, we’re trying to rejoice!”

Sammy J stopped for a moment, then waved at the lady

And smiled again, thinking her a little crazy

The gruff little old lady shook her head and “Hmpfed” out loud

Then turned around, sitting quite tall and quite proud

Little Sammy J kept smiling away, spreading his Christmas cheer,

All the while thinking, “I did not know the Grinch lived here!”

Little Sammy went to the pageant with his mummy and daddy one day

There were many things to see, and Christmas was not far away.

He had on his Christmas suit, and smiled at all, spreading his Christmas cheer

Because Christmas really was the most wonderful time of the year

He smiled at the floats, so big and tall, the clowns and their wigs

With some other people dressed up as elves, dancing silly jigs

He smiled and laughed and clapped his hands, spreading his Christmas cheer

He had not a care in the world, not a single fear

Until…a grumpy little man with a mouth bigger than his belly

Said with a sour note, “This is all a bit smelly”

Sammy J stopped for a moment, and knew he was right

But smiled anyway, and gave the grumpy little man a fright

He turned on his heel, saying, “Phew” and holding his nose

And poor Little Sammy J’s mummy had to change all his clothes

All the while, Little Sammy J went on spreading his Christmas cheer,

At the same time he was thinking, “I did not know the Grinch lived here!”

Little Sammy J went driving with his mummy and daddy to see some lights one day

There were many places to see, as Christmas was really not far away

He had on his Christmas PJ’s and was spreading his Christmas cheer

Because Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year

He stared at all the pretty trees, with bright and flashing lights

His daddy held him in his arms as he took in all the sights

He smiled, and “Awwed” and spread his Christmas cheer

He had not a care in the world, not a single fear

Until…a grouchy little person, whose eyes seemed too cross

Said with an intruding tone, “It’s all pagan, you see, it’s heresy, and all is loss!”

Sammy J stopped for a moment, looked up at his dad

Who was looking at the man who looked quite mad

Then said with a flash, “And Merry Christmas to you, you silly mug”

To which the man replied as he walked away, “Bah!Humbug”

And Sammy J smiled again, and started spreading more of his Christmas cheer

All the while thinking, “I did not think the Grinch lived here!”

Little Sammy J sat on his daddy’s lap one Christmas eve night

There were many things to hear, as Christmas Day was now in sight

He had on his Christmas PJ’s, and was wrapped in Christmas cheer

As now his daddy told him why Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year.

He listened as he heard about the baby born to Mary

The part about Herod was really quite scary

But he now knew even better the reason to have Christmas cheer

Because Jesus had come to earth, and God has come near

So…there really is nothing to fear, or worry about

God has come down to sort it all out

Sammy J stopped for a moment, then looked at his dad,

And realised he felt quite glad

Because his mummy and daddy who loved him so dear

Had told him the best news he could ever hear

Jesus had come for him, so all who saw Sammy J’s Christmas cheer could see

That He had come to die for the Grinch that lives in you and in me

Elusive Rest…

By Rachel K. Watts

 

I am a mum.

I am exhausted.

I am confused.

My heart and mind seem like they are in a constant argument with each other. Much of the ‘helpful’ information i have read on the internet and in books and been told seems to go against my God given instinct as a mother.

My body screams for rest, for my little one to sleep through the night, yet my heart says give him the food and comfort he wants.

He doesn’t know any different. He is helpless, completely reliant on his mum and dad and his only way of communication is to cry.

He craves human attention just like us adults do.

I watch him play on his mat, yes he likes his toys, but they are no replacement for time spent with mum and dad.

I told myself it wont be forever, maybe three months, that sounds reasonable, but one week has turned into one month into five months attending to my little one for an hour at a time, several times a night, every night and there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight.

Other mums babies sleep through the night, why doesn’t mine?

What am i doing wrong?

’They’ say “Don’t feed to sleep”

“Don’t respond to their cries at night if they aren’t hungry”

“They have to learn to self settle”

“Don’t pick them up if they only want attention – it will teach them bad habits”

Is that why my baby won’t sleep  – because I pick him up when he cries?

‘They’ would place guilt on parents in these situations, overloading us with information and doubts…What do we actually teach them? That long term that mum and dad will ignore them so its no use trying to call out to them?

Yes maybe they have to learn to sleep through the night on their own, but how many adults do this?

Its normal for adults to wake during the night, we just don’t cry for attention when we wake.

Instead we try all manner of things to put us back to sleep, like drugs, food, drinks, essential oils, creams, cooling, heating, and even some white noise.

I need the fan going all night every night to fall asleep, without it I take forever to settle, is this a bad habit i have got myself into? If my little one couldn’t fall asleep without white noise would it be considered a bad habit? Much of the information out there would suggest so!

Maybe I have taken these things out of context and it is well meaning mothers who love their little ones, that cant cope without sleep, (ie myself), that have written numerous guidelines and techniques for helping baby to sleep through the night. I may well be writing sleep studies for babies in years to come, but i still find it confusing…and probably will even then.

What did mothers do hundreds, or thousands of years ago, or even just decades ago, when they didn’t have the internet?

When they didn’t have as many contacts via phone or email, or the copious amounts of sleeping guidelines that we have today?

Maybe they just picked up their baby and fed them and comforted them when they needed it.

 

Maybe they held their little ones all night knowing that one day they would not be little any more and they would be independent of their parents.

Thats a scary thought for me.

How will my little man do without his Mother?

One day my son wont need me to help him to go back to sleep.

He will look to other things to achieve this purpose.

Until then as hard as it is and as much as I love my sleep, I will hold him when he wants holding and feed him and comfort him when he needs it.

Maybe just one day in the future I will wish back the days when getting up every night to my son was the norm.

“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!

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