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Los Lunas Cornerstone

Church of the Nazarene

Romans 6:1-11

Guest Preacher--Allison Storch

Are Our Rights Right? (1 Corinthians 8)

Guest Preacher--Allison Storch

Legacy (1 Samuel 31)

    Have you ever given much thought to what will be said of you after you have left this earth? That might seem like a morbid thought, but maybe one worth having anyway. What will others say about the life you lived? What will they think about your choices and your actions toward others? What will be said about the impact you had on your community? What will others say about your character?
    I admit, I hadn’t ever thought about this until my brother’s memorial service. I was shocked to my core to see that his service was overflowing with people. We held it here, and this building was packed, standing room only in just a short time. People I didn’t know, people my parents didn’t know gathered close to us to tell us about how David had touched their life. People told us stories about how much integrity he had; others talked about his kind heart and how he would always stick up for those who were being treated poorly. Others still told us that his example of how he lived his life led them back to a relationship with Christ.
    In just 21 years, he had more of an impact on the lives of all those who knew him than most people will have after a life of 80+ years. He left a rich legacy of goodness and Christ-likeness that continues now, 10 years later.
    Most people will leave a legacy behind. When we are gone, people will remember you, if only for the remainder of their lives, you will continue to affect people long after you pass. But what will that affect be? Will people look back on their time with you with fondness and a feeling of having been blessed by your time with them? Or will they look back and try to suppress the memory of who you were in their life? The choice of which legacy we will leave behind is our choice.
    That doesn’t mean we must be without fault, without mistake, or that we’ve never had a relationship with someone else go bad. It just means that we have the choice to dwell on things in our lives that are good, to be kind, to extend the love of Christ and live for the kingdom, or we can live just like the rest of the world. Our choices for how we live each and every day will determine the legacy we leave.
    Today’s passage is the final chapter of 1 Samuel, 31, and it’s Saul’s legacy. We’ve looked at Saul’s every day choices, his life and what he chose to focus on throughout the last few weeks, so as you can probably imagine, the legacy Saul left behind was not a good one. There would not be people singing Saul’s praise after his death. People would not be longing for the days of Saul again.
    I want us to start this morning’s passage by remembering what the spirit of Samuel had spoken to Saul in 1 Samuel 28. “The Lord has done accordingly as He spoke through me; for the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, to David. As you did not obey the Lord and did not execute His fierce wrath on Amalek, so the Lord has done this thing to you this day. Moreover the Lord will also give over Israel along with you into the hands of the Philistines, therefore tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. Indeed the Lord will give over the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines!” (17-19).
    Samuel told Saul that the next day, Saul and all his sons would die because Saul had not done as the Lord had asked, and the Lord was against Saul.
    Let’s look at 1 Samuel 31:1, “Now the Philistines were fighting against Israel, and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines and fell slain on Mount Gilboa.”
    Already, the words Samuel’s spirit spoke to Saul were coming true. The army of Israel was being handed into the hands of the Philistines. Historically, when one nation over took another nation, or when one army overtook another army, it was thought that it was because the victor’s god was stronger than the loser’s god, or that the loser’s god had not looked on the army of his people with favor.
    So, as the Israelite army is fleeing before the Philistines and being slain, it would have been thought by the Philistines and Israel, and any other nation close by that Israel had fallen out of favor with their God, or even that the god of the Philistines was stronger than Israel’s God.
    This would not have looked good for Saul. This is part of understanding the legacy he left behind: it was a legacy of being defeated by the Philistines, a legacy of losing the favor of the God of Israel.
    Let’s move on, 1 Samuel 31:2, “The Philistines overtook Saul and his sons; and the Philistines killed Jonathan and Abinadab and Malchi-shua the sons of Saul.” The second part of Samuel’s prophetic words to Saul came true. His sons were put to death. This is a sad chapter in the story of Israel, and in David’s story as well if we remember that Jonathan was David’s close friend and ally. Jonathan had previously saved David’s life by persuading Saul momentarily not to kill David.
    What does this mean for Saul’s legacy, that his sons are killed? We have to think about this in its historical context. Sons care for their parents in their old age. Sons carry on the business of the family. Sons carry on the family name. Sons carry on the legacy of the father. Without sons, there is no one to carry on any legacy that might be left. The Lord ensured that there would be no one of Saul’s family left who would be able to carry on the work of Saul.
    Additionally for Saul, there is the matter of his kingship. Kingdoms and crowns pass from father to son. With no sons, Saul has no one to become king after him. The kingdom would pass to a man who would not carry Saul’s legacy with him.
    1 Samuel 31:3-4, “The battle went heavily against Saul, and the archers hit him; and he was badly wounded by the archers. Then Saul said to his armor bearer, “Draw your sword and pierce me through with it, otherwise these uncircumcised will come and pierce me through and make sport of me.” But his armor bearer would not, for he was greatly afraid. So Saul took his sword and fell on it.”
    That’s the third and final part of Samuel’s prophetic words to Saul, that Saul himself would have his life ended. It’s the end of any hope that Saul could make better choices with his day to have his legacy be a good one. With his death, Saul ensures that what he leaves behind is a legacy of death and defeat.
    I’m going to read the rest of 1 Samuel 31 to further show that this is what Saul’s legacy was. “When his armor bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell on his sword and died with him. Thus Saul died with his three sons, his armor bearer, and all his men on that day together. When the men of Israel who were on the other side of the valley, with those who were beyond the Jordan, saw that the men of Israel had fled and that Saul and his sons were dead, they abandoned the cities and fled; then the Philistines came and lived in them. It came about on the next day when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. They cut off his head and stripped off his weapons, and sent them throughout the land of the Philistines, to carry the good news to the house of their idols and to the people. They put his weapons in the temple of Ashtaroth, and they fastened his body to the wall of Beth-shan. Now when the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, all the valiant men rose and walked all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan, and they came to Jabesh and burned them there. They took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days.” (5-13).
    Saul. His three sons. His armor bearer. All his men. All dead. Then the Philistines came in after the rest of the army fled and destroyed the cities, stripped the slain, and desecrated Saul’s body. A legacy of death and destruction.
    Even the small honor that the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead did for Saul after his body had been desecrated by the Philistines was not much. Certainly not what would be expected of a burial for a king. If his legacy had been a good legacy, in his death he would have been given more honor.
    This is the legacy Saul left, and he was the one who chose to leave that particular legacy through his actions. At any turn, Saul could have changed, could have acted according to God’s will and God’s character and things would have been different.
    Now, we’ll start to shift to talking about David when we start 2 Samuel in a few weeks, but already at this point in the story, we can see David making choices that will lead to a better legacy, a legacy that has him marked as one who was after God’s own heart.
    In the chapter before this, 1 Samuel 30, we have the account of David pursuing justice for a town that was burned to the ground by the Amalekites. The Amalekites had also taken captive every woman and child from the city, so David and his men set out to set the captives free. Some of David’s men however, stayed behind because they were exhausted.
    David and his men were victorious and they were able to recover the captives and they also recovered all the plunder that had been taken. David returned all the people and all the plunder to those who it belonged to, and he took the plunder that was left and split it with all his men, even the ones who had made the decision to stay behind. He was fair to all those who served him. He also showed kindness to an Egyptian slave by giving him food and water and caring for him. Moments like this would decide what David’s legacy would be, that it would be one of greatness and kindness, one that we still look up to and think highly of today.
    Every choice we make determines the legacy we leave. The way we treat others will determine if they will look at our claim to Christianity as a good thing or a bad thing. The words we speak will either turn others to Christ or turn them from Him.
    Colossians 3:17 says, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”
    Whatever you do, in word or deed!
    Even my comments on Facebook? Yes.
    Even my interactions with the person who bags my groceries? Yes.
    Even my conversation with that person who holds the opposite political view? Yes.
    Even that guy at work that is kind of weird? Yes.
    Every choice we make is meant to be done in Christ’s name. That means that it needs to be done in such a way and said in such a way that Christ could sign His name off on it as something He approved of. Our deeds and words should get His seal of approval.
    Do they?
    What legacy are you leaving? Is it one for Christ, or one that will be remembered briefly as destructive and fade quickly?

1. Think about your deeds and words, this morning and yesterday. Would your deeds and words get Christ’s seal of approval? Why or why not?

2. Based off an honest appraisal of your actions and words, do you think your legacy will be one that honors God? Why or why not?

3. What can you do from this point on to ensure that the legacy you leave is one that points others to Jesus?

 

Foxhole Desperation (1 Samuel 28)

 

    In 1942, U.S. military chaplain William Thomas Cummings, preached a sermon on the field during the Battle of Bataan. During this field sermon, it is said that chaplain Cummings first uttered the statement that, “There are no atheists in foxholes.” The phrase caught fire, and just 12 years later, even President Eisenhower was repeating the phrase.
    The idea behind the phrase is that in moments of desperation, moments of hopelessness and confusion, moments when one is confronted by death, all people will believe in or hope for a higher power, turning even the staunchest atheist.
    There might be some truth to this, and any true turning of the heart to God will not go unanswered. So, is there anything wrong with so called “foxhole confessions” or even “deathbed confessions” if they turn people to God? Ultimately, no, but they miss a lot of the joys that come with a life surrendered to God, and that’s not something you want to miss.
    1 Samuel 28 is going to give us an example of Saul’s foxhole desperation moment this morning, and there’s a lot we can learn about what is missed when we wait to call on the name of the Lord. Let’s jump in.
    There’s two significant things that lead Saul to his moment of “foxhole desperation” in this chapter. Look at verse 3, “Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had lamented him and buried him in Ramah, his own city. And Saul had removed from the land those who were mediums and spiritists.”
    The first significant thing we need to know about for this story today is that Samuel had died. He lived a long life, full of service for the Lord. But, he was gone. What did that mean for Israel? It’s pretty simple, it meant that there was no longer a prophet of God to speak the Word of the Lord, at least none that anyone was aware of at this point. Samuel had been it. Without Samuel, not only was the nation without someone who would speak to them on God’s behalf, and vice-versa, but the nation was also left without someone who would give its leaders God-honoring advice.
    This put the nation of Israel in a really bad place. With all that we’ve learned about Israel, we know that the nation would always go in the direction of their leader. If they had a good leader who pointed them toward God, the people would move closer to God. If they had a bad leader who lead them away from God, the people would unfortunately follow. So without anyone to try to guide Saul in the right direction, the last glimmer of hope that Saul might turn things around fades.
    Verse 4 has the second significant thing we need to know about this story today. “So the Philistines gathered together and came and camped in Shunem; and Saul gathered all Israel together and they camped in Gilboa.” The second significant thing for this story is that the Philistines were once again gathered for war. The next verse tells us that when Saul saw the Philistine army, he was afraid and his heart trembled greatly. He’s thrust into a moment of desperation, a “foxhole” moment, when despite the fact that he had long forgotten God and no longer called on the name of the Lord, he was looking for a supernatural intervention to help him gain the victory over the enemy. Saul was desperate for an answer, but Samuel had died, so Saul had to go straight to the source.
    “When Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by prophets.” Saul asked the LORD for advice. Lord is your first blank in your bulletin this morning. It was indeed a desperate time for Saul. He tried everything he could to get a hold of God.
    Now we see that there were other prophets in the land, none of whom are mentioned by name, so we know that they weren’t as prominent as Samuel. But God did not speak to Saul through them. Saul also must have brought the matter before the High Priest, because the High Priest would wear the Urim and Thummim mentioned here on his breastplate. Now, it’s interesting to me, that only the Urim is mentioned in this passage, but that’s for a specific reason. It seems that the Urim and Thummim were used as a tool that God would speak and direct through to determine if a person was guilty or innocent in a given matter.
    I say that it’s interesting that the Urim only is mentioned because the Urim would tell the High Priest that a person was guilty. By this passage only mentioning the Urim, we’re supposed to understand that Saul was found guilty. Of what, we don’t yet know, but because Saul was guilty, he received no answer from God on what to do about the Philistines who were gathered for war.
    Now, I have to give Saul some credit. At least this time he tried to ask God, tried to get God’s guidance on what he should do. I can’t help but think that maybe if he had done that back when Goliath issued his challenge, maybe things might have gone more favorably for Saul, personally.
    But, he’s found guilty, and God does not speak to him.
    Saul is desperate indeed, because here’s what he did next, verse  7, “Then Saul said to his servants, “Seek for me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.” And his servants said to him, “Behold, there is a woman who is a medium at En-dor.”
    Saul settled for a MEDIUM. That’s your next blank. Saul settled for a medium. The first verse we read this morning, verse 3, told us that Saul had previously banished all the spiritualists and mediums in the land, but with God not answering him, he turned to a medium to get the supernatural guidance that he needed in his “foxhole desperation”.
    The medium has one purpose in this story, and that is to call up the spirits of the dead. That’s what mediums do.That’s why they had been banned from the land not only this time, but throughout much of Israel’s history spiritualists and mediums were banned because they spoke to the dead. This was a big offense.
    Verse 14, “He said to her, “What is his form?” And she said, “An old man is coming up, and he is wrapped with a robe.” And Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground and did homage.”
    The spirit Saul has the medium call up is Samuel.
    Samuel definitely had words for Saul, his truly final words. “Then Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” And Saul answered, “I am greatly distressed; for the Philistines are waging war against me, and God has departed from me and no longer answers me, either through prophets or by dreams; therefore I have called you, that you may make known to me what I should do.” Samuel said, “Why then do you ask me, since the Lord has departed from you and has become your adversary? The Lord has done accordingly as He spoke through me; for the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, to David. As you did not obey the Lord and did not execute His fierce wrath on Amalek, so the Lord has done this thing to you this day. Moreover the Lord will also give over Israel along with you into the hands of the Philistines, therefore tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. Indeed the Lord will give over the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines!” (15-19).
    Samuel’s spirit tells Saul two important things. He confirms that the Lord had indeed departed from Saul and that the Lord had become Saul’s enemy. ENEMY is your next bulletin blank. The Lord turned Himself against Saul.
    Here’s the thing: I believe that in any person’s moment of “foxhole desperation” that if they genuinely turned their heart to God, He would hear them. But I also know that there are Biblical instances of people waiting and waiting until it was too late for themselves, and God did not hear. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I would never want to find out when that point is when it’s too late, and I would never want anyone I know and care about to find out when that point is when it’s too late. I’d rather stay far on the side of being safe and knowing that I made the decision to follow God and honor God in my life, and not because I was desperate and it was a last ditch effort.
    Here’s the other important thing that Samuel told Saul, that the reason the Lord had stopped listening to Saul and stopped answering Saul was because Saul did not OBEY the Lord. That’s your next bulletin blank. Saul didn’t obey what the Lord had told him to do, so the Lord no longer answered Saul’s cries, even his cries from “foxhole desperation”.
    Like I said, I don’t want to find out where that point is. I don’t want my actions to jeopardize my eternal security. I don’t want that for anyone.
    But it’s not just that. It’s not just wanting to make sure that we get into eternity. If that was the only good thing about following Christ, then confessions of “foxhole desperation” and “deathbed confessions” would be more than enough.
    The problem with waiting is that we miss out on all the good things about following Jesus now, on earth, as well. There’s more than one.
    John 10:10 tells us that Jesus came not only to give us eternal life, but to give us ABUNDANT life on earth. That’s your next blank. Jesus came to give us abundant life. All the best that God wants for us, He wants to give us. Life like we could never imagine.
    If we wait until that moment of desperation, we also miss the power that we could have over the enemy. Luke 10:19 says, “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you.” Any attack the enemy could possibly think to throw our way, He has given us the power to thwart those attacks. He has given us the power to overcome sin, all through what Christ did.
    If we wait until our “foxhole desperation” moment, we may miss out on the use of the GIFTS of the Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:4-10 details what some of those gifts are. Gifts that can be used to encourage others when they are going through a challenging time. Gifts that can be used to teach others and help them deepen their knowledge of spiritual things. Gifts that can be used to give others wisdom and discernment when they are confused and misguided. I preached a few weeks ago on the importance of each person in the body of Christ, partly because of the gifts we are meant to use to help others. It would be a shame to miss out on the purpose that we have through our gifts.
    Ephesians 1:3 says that Christ has given us every spiritual blessing. If we wait, how many of those spiritual BLESSINGS, which is your next bulletin blank, how many of those blessings will we miss out on? I don’t want to find out, frankly. This life has many challenges, sometimes they seem overwhelming and they threaten to sink us, and I can’t imagine how hopeless and pointless life would be without the blessings the Lord gives us.
    We’d also miss out REST for our soul, which is your final blank. In the midst of trials and challenges, in the midst of the storms, in the midst of the anxiety and stress, He gives us peace and rest. He helps us just be still in His presence, which is certainly something this world needs desperately.
    These are just a few things that we’d miss if we don’t come to the Lord when we have ample opportunity. Let’s not follow Saul’s example. Let’s not wait until the time has passed. Let’s not wait until that moment of “foxhole desperation”.

1. If eternal life were the only benefit Jesus has to give His followers and nothing more, would you still have desired to be a disciple? Why?

2. What is the danger in waiting for moments of “foxhole desperation” to ask for the Lord’s guidance?

3. What are steps you can do to walk in such a way that you avoid “foxhole desperation”?

For Your Good (1 Samuel 19)

 

    Today’s passage will show us that things got much worse for David before they got better. Today, we’ll look at 1 Samuel 19 and the series of attempts that Saul made on David’s life. But that’s not what our focus will be on today. Instead, I want us to look at all the ways that God used these situations where Saul was hunting after Him to do good for David instead, and what that means for us.
    We saw in 1 Samuel 18 that Saul was suspicious of David, that he dreaded David, and that he became David’s enemy. He wastes absolutely no time acting on the suspicion, dread, fear, and hatred he has for David. Let’s start with verse 1, “Now Saul told Jonathan his son and all his servants to put David to death. But Jonathan, Saul’s son, greatly delighted in David.”
    The first thing we see here is Saul giving the order to his son, Jonathan, and to all his servants to put David to death. He’s still not trying to directly kill him, but rather, just like in 1 Samuel 18 when he tried to bring David harm by putting him in the Philistine’s way, Saul continues to try to kill David in indirect ways, through orders and trickery.
    This troubled Jonathan, Saul’s son greatly though, because if you’ll recall, Jonathan and David were close, they had a special bond. The verse we just read said that Jonathan greatly delighted in David, right?
    Of course, Jonathan didn’t comply with Saul’s order. In fact, Jonathan does everything he can to persuade Saul not to have David killed. In verse 4, Jonathan reminded Saul that David had done no wrong against Saul, he hadn’t sinned against him in any way. Jonathan reminded his father that everything that David had done had been very beneficial to Saul, that it had been for Saul’s good that David risked his own life to kill Goliath, and that through David God had brought deliverance for Israel, which made Saul, the king, look very good.
    Verse 6 tells us that at first Saul seemed to listen to his son and Saul promised that he would not have David put to death. David was brought back into the King’s presence and peace resumed for a time. Now, it may seem from what we’ve read that David’s life was spared in the opening verses of 1 Samuel 19 by mere coincidence. But, I don’t believe that’s the case. I believe God used the bond that David had with Jonathan to prompt Jonathan to speak on David’s behalf to Saul to save David. I’ll show you why I think that’s the case, but for now, I want you to start to look at these instances of Saul trying to kill David and David escaping somehow as the work of God.
    However, verses 8-10 say, as soon as there was war again, the evil spirit came upon Saul and he was driven insane, and the promise he had made Jonathan was quickly forgotten. Look at verses 9-10, “Now there was an evil spirit from the Lord on Saul as he was sitting in his house with his spear in his hand, and David was playing the harp with his hand. Saul tried to pin David to the wall with the spear, but he slipped away out of Saul’s presence, so that he stuck the spear into the wall. And David fled and escaped that night.”
    For a third time Saul tried to kill David with a spear as David was trying to soothe Saul’s mind. Once again, David escaped without any harm done to him. Again, it’s possible that this escape was because David was fast and agile because he was young. But I want us to remember the key thing that set David apart from Saul, and that was that the Lord was with David. Rather than seeing this as a very improbable coincidence that David was able to escape death by spear three times, I believe it is more likely that because the Lord was with David, and because David loved the Lord, the Lord protected David from Saul’s attacks.
    Saul didn’t give up, though. He tried again to have David put to death. Verse 11, “Then Saul sent messengers to David’s house to watch him, in order to put him to death in the morning. But Michal, David’s wife, told him, saying, “If you do not save your life tonight, tomorrow you will be put to death.”
    This time David is targeted in his own home, those of his household told to watch him so he could be put to death in the morning. Again, God provides a way for David to escape death when his wife, Michal, Saul’s daughter if you recall, tells him in the next verse to go out the window and flee.
    Michal then comes up with a ruse to protect David a while longer, so it isn’t until the next day that it is discovered that David is even missing. David flees to where Samuel is, in Naioth, to seek Samuel’s help. David tells him all that Saul had done, and he and Samuel stayed together in Naioth. Once again, God uses Samuel, His prophet, this time to keep David safe. Surely by now, as David has escaped Saul three times just in this chapter, we can understand that this was not a coincidence, this was divine providence.
    Saul finds out that David is staying with Samuel, so Saul gets it in his head to send men to capture David so he can be brought back to Saul to be put to death. Look at verses 20-22.
    “Then Saul sent messengers to take David, but when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, with Samuel standing and presiding over them, the Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul; and they also prophesied. When it was told Saul, he sent other messengers, and they also prophesied. So Saul sent messengers again the third time, and they also prophesied. Then he himself went to Ramah and came as far as the large well that is in Secu; and he asked and said, “Where are Samuel and David?” And someone said, “Behold, they are at Naioth in Ramah.”
    Saul sent the first group of men to capture David, and what did God do? They saw the prophets prophesying and Samuel standing over them and the Spirit of God came upon them and they also prophesied. They didn’t lay a finger on David.
    So Saul sent a second group, and guess what? They did the same thing. The Spirit came upon them and they prophesied and left David alone.
    So Saul sent a third group of men to capture David, and again the same thing happened. The Spirit of God moved and David was left unharmed.
    You’d think that Saul might have gotten the hint, right? So far, just in this chapter, God had worked to save David from Saul’s hands six times! I’m not sure why Saul thought at this point he would be successful, but he tries again. This time, Saul himself goes to Naioth to kill David.
    I want to read verses 23-24 to you so you can see what God did to Saul to keep David safe, “He proceeded there to Naioth in Ramah; and the Spirit of God came upon him also, so that he went along prophesying continually until he came to Naioth in Ramah. He also stripped off his clothes, and he too prophesied before Samuel and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Therefore they say, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”
    Even Saul began to prophesy because the Spirit of God came upon him as the Spirit moved to intervene and protect David from Saul.
    The last four incidents we’ve looked at, the events at Naioth, are what help us understand that all the events in this chapter when David escapes Saul do not happen by coincidence. They happen through God’s movement, as He worked to protect David from harm. The Lord was with David, and that doesn’t just stop at the Spirit empowering David to take down the enemies of Israel. The Lord protected him and kept him safe, guided him to where he should go and when he should go there. How do we know this? Because that’s the way the Spirit still works today.
    That’s the way the Spirit of God works. I want us to look at Genesis 50:20 quickly before turning to the New Testament to see that God works to turn intended harm into good. Genesis 50 is the closing chapter of Genesis, and Joseph speaks to all of his brothers after they are reunited in Egypt. This is what he tells them, after all they had done to him, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” God worked what was meant for harm to Joseph to instead bring about good. Just as he did for David. Just as he does for us.
    Let’s turn now to Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” This is likely a verse many of us are familiar with. We take courage and comfort from this verse, especially in times of trial, and for good reason, It’s one of the verses that promises good in the Bible, and not just for a specific person like Joseph or David.
    There are conditions to this promise, but overall, the conditions are easy to meet. The condition of this promise is that you love God and are called according to His purpose. His purpose we see throughout the Bible: the salvation of mankind. So, if you have been saved by the shed blood of Christ, and you love God, this is a promise that applies to you.
    Good thing, too, because I myself have found this verse to bring comfort in some very dark times in my life. I spent time this week thinking about the ways that God works things for our good if we love Him and are called according to His purpose. I want to share some of the ways that I have found God works good for those who this promise applies to. I want us to understand as we go through these ten ways God works for our good, that He doesn’t always work all these ways in each situation. Sometimes it’s just one, sometimes it’s several. But if you look back during difficult times in your life, I guarantee you’ll see God working in one of these ways to turn what was meant for harm into your good.
    First, He provides for us. I can’t tell you how many times I would be going through a lean season and an envelope of money would come in the mail that day. Or money was short for groceries and someone would pay for my next meal. It might not always be through material means, either. In David’s case, he provided a way for David to escape Saul’s murderous attempts. Many times, God will provide for us in difficult situations in abundant ways that we never expected.
    He also works for our good by changing HEARTS. That’s your first bulletin blank this morning. Sometimes God will work for our good by changing hearts. More often than not, God will work by changing my heart in difficult situations. Even when my brother passed away, God worked good for me by the changing of my heart. Other times, He worked good for me by changing the hearts of others about me or about the situation.
    God also PROTECTS. This is what He did for David, it’s what He did for Joseph, it’s what He has done for His people throughout their entire history. Sometimes He works for our good by protecting us from what was intended to harm us. How many tongues has He silenced to protect the reputations of Christians? Or had false-rumors fall upon deaf ears? The Lord protects those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
    God sometimes empowers. During difficult challenges we face, sometimes He gives us the boldness we need to face those challenges head on so we can overcome them in a way that is beneficial. Think about the challenge the Israelites faced when the Philistine Goliath came before them. Every single person, Saul included, was too afraid to face Goliath. But God empowered David to face the challenge, and He worked it for Israel and David’s good!
    God can also work our good by messing up the enemy, messing up the plans of the enemy. We see this in this chapter between Saul and David, especially when Saul kept sending men to Naioth and God’s Spirit kept bringing them to prophesy, and He messed up Saul’s plan this way four times! Who knows how many times someone has designs for our harm but God frustrates and messes up their plans without us even knowing?
    He sometimes works for our good by strengthening us. Sometimes the situation or challenge we go through doesn’t change, sometimes we have to go through the difficulty, but as a result, we are strengthened. I look back on the things I’ve been through, and I marvel because I can now go through difficulties and ordeals that would have broken me ten years ago, all because God strengthened me through those trials.
    This next one I think is true every single time we go through something, as long as we let God do His work: He builds your CHARACTER. That’s the next blank in your bulletin. Think about the ways that He has refined your character over the years, I think you’ll find that most of the time He did this it was through difficulty. James says we should rejoice in our trials because we know that through those trials God is making us complete so we lack in nothing!
    God also uses hard times to heal us. He can heal physical maladies in ways that are miraculous, unexplainable through modern medicine. Sometimes He allows people to go through illnesses so that when they are healed in miraculous ways, His name is glorified among those who saw the healing take place.
    God also works our good by developing your WISDOM. That’s your next bulletin blank. Most of what I have learned about God and about my call and my purpose in life, and what I have learned about what it means to truly follow Christ has come from going through challenges and trials. We go through them, and God gives us wisdom that we wouldn’t otherwise have if we hadn’t faced those difficulties.
    And finally, God works for our good by giving us PURPOSE and direction. That’s your last blank. God called me to ministry through the hardships that I experienced growing up. He has refined that purpose and given me direction in that purpose through many other hard times and challenges. God can and does pull us through storms to give us greater insight into the human condition and experience, so that we can be more effective and empathetic in our ministries.
    Yes, He works all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

1. What does Acts 13:22 say about the condition of David’s heart? How does that fit with what Romans 8:28 says about who God works good for?

2. How does David’s experience and the Romans 8:28 promise strengthen your faith and your relationship with the Lord?

3. Think of a time of trial in your life, perhaps when someone wanted to do you harm. Write out the ways from the Romans 8:28 list that God used to do good through that situation. Spend some time thanking Him for His goodness.

 

What About Him/Her? (1 Samuel 18)

    Today’s message is one that I believe applies to each and every Christian at some point in their walk with the Lord. It’s an issue that is seen not only in the New Testament, but throughout the entire Bible, and if we’re wise, we’ll learn from the examples we’re given so we can grow into maturity as Christians.
    I’m going to be in 1 Samuel 18 today, and I want to just jump right in. Through this passage, we’re going to see David become much more prominent and successful, and we’ll see Saul handle David’s rise very poorly. I’m just going to tell you now, before we even look at the Scripture, that Saul’s go to response to David’s success is jealousy.
    What we’ve got in 1 Samuel 18 is three different events when David is shown favor in some way, and Saul’s response is to let his jealousy of David get the best of him. I want us to look at each of these events and Saul’s jealous response to see what we can learn. So, with that, let’s look at 1 Samuel 18.
    The first event we find in the first 9 verses. The key verses here are verses 6-7, which is what we’re going to start with. This takes place shortly after David has killed Goliath, and the people are rejoicing and celebrating the defeat of the Philistines. “It happened as they were coming, when David returned from killing the Philistine, that the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with joy and with musical instruments. The women sang as they played, and said, “Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands.”
    Everyone is celebrating and having a great time, they came out singing and dancing to meet King Saul, but the song the women sang gave David higher praise than Saul. So, the first point of jealousy was that the people sang David’s PRAISE. Praise is your first blank in your bulletin today.
    Even though David was the one who defeated Goliath, which also dealt a huge blow against the Philistine morale…Saul felt he should receive the largest share of the people’s praise. After all, he is their King, right? Saul just couldn’t share the spotlight.
    There’s more going on here, too, than just the people singing David’s praise. This chapter opens with Jonathan, who is King Saul’s son, forming a special bond with David. We’re told that Jonathan’s soul was knit to David’s soul, and that Jonathan loved David as himself. Verse 3 says that Jonathan made a covenant with David. This was a covenant of loyalty, where Jonathan promised David he would always fight on his side for him.
    In fact, when we read the word “knit” here, that Jonathan was knit to David, the Hebrew word qšr also hints that there was a conspiracy aspect to their bond. That may have been intentional, an intentional conspiracy between David and Jonathan against Saul, but it is most likely that this tells us how Saul viewed the bond and covenant of loyalty between his son, Jonathan, and David. Saul saw it as a conspiracy against himself.
    Add in the fact that verse 5 tells us that anytime Saul sent David out to do something, David was successful and prospered, and we have the perfect recipe for a very jealous king. Saul looked at these things: the people singing David’s praise, Jonathan’s close bond with David, and David’s prosperity; and he became SUSPICIOUS of David. That’s your next bulletin blank. Verses 8-9 say this, “Then Saul became very angry, for this saying displeased him; and he said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, but to me they have ascribed thousands. Now what more can he have but the kingdom?” Saul looked at David with suspicion from that day on.”
    Saul began to suspect that David was up to no good. He viewed David’s actions as conspiring against him. That’s probably not a good impression for a king to have, especially in an ancient culture where you could be put to death for much less.
    Let’s move on to the next point of Saul’s jealousy in verses 10-19. Verse 12 tells us this, “Now Saul was afraid of David, for the Lord was with him but had departed from Saul.” One of the causes for Saul’s jealousy of David was that the Lord was with DAVID but not Saul. That’s the blank that comes next in your bulletin. We’ve talked before about the Lord being with David, and how that made the difference between Saul’s leadership and use of his gifts, and David’s leadership and use of his gifts.
    Saul’s jealousy of the Lord being with David made him afraid of David. Verse 14 tells us that David was prospering in everything that he did because the Lord was with him. Meanwhile, the mental torment that Saul had previously experienced returned, and his mind was tortured again. Now, remember, that David would normally be the one to soothe Saul’s delirious mind? He would play his harp excellently and Saul’s torment would fade.
    Well, once again, Saul’s torment happened and David played his harp as usual to try to bring Saul some peace. Look at verses 10-11, “Now it came about on the next day that an evil spirit from God came mightily upon Saul, and he raved in the midst of the house, while David was playing the harp with his hand, as usual; and a spear was in Saul’s hand. Saul hurled the spear for he thought, “I will pin David to the wall.” But David escaped from his presence twice.”
    Saul was already suspicious of David. He feared him as well because the Lord was with David. So this time when it came time for David to play his harp for Saul, Saul took the spear in his hand and tried to pin David to the wall with it. Not once…but twice! Twice he tried to kill David. All of this coming from the jealousy Saul felt and the emotions that came out of that jealousy.
    Then we’re going to add verse 16 into the mix, “But all Israel and Judah loved David, and he went out and came in before them.” All of Israel and Judah loved David! They loved him! He was so popular with the people. So, when we’re told that David had to flee from Saul’s presence twice to escape death, we also find out from this verse that David would go amongst the people and be safe from Saul’s assassination attempts because the people loved David! I’m sure Saul felt like his own people were conspiring against him, just like he thought David and Jonathan were doing.
    So, Saul tried to conspire against David. We have this strange account in 1 Samuel 18:17, “Then Saul said to David, “Here is my older daughter Merab; I will give her to you as a wife, only be a valiant man for me and fight the Lord’s battles.” For Saul thought, “My hand shall not be against him, but let the hand of the Philistines be against him.”
    Because Saul knew that the Lord was with David, he came to the realization that he might not be able to outright kill David. So instead of trying again just yet to kill David, he conspires for David to be heavily oppressed and maybe even killed by the Philistines. Saul offers David his daughter, Merab, in marriage, if David will fight for Saul. The motive though, as we read, is to put David in harm’s way. David refuses, humbly, because he claims that his family is not lofty enough for him to be the King’s son-in-law.
    With all of this, the Lord being with David, Israel loving David, and Saul’s madness that drove him to try to kill and conspire against David, Saul DREADED David. That’s your next blank. In verse 15 we’re told as much, “When Saul saw that he was prospering greatly, he dreaded him.”
    Saul is suspicious of David, and he dreads him. Dread isn’t the same as fear. Dread carries with it an element of anxiety. It’s like fear on steroids. Not only did Saul fear David, but he was so afraid of David that it gave him anxiety about his dealings and his relationship with David.
    It gets worse, too. Let’s look at our third point of jealousy in verses 20-30. Look at verse 20, “Now Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved David. When they told Saul, the thing was agreeable to him.” Saul had already tried once to marry one of his daughters to David, though we know it was to hurt David.
    But this time, the marriage arrangement came about because this other daughter LOVED David. That’s your next blank this morning, and Saul’s third point of jealousy toward David. Saul’s own daughter, Michal, loved David. It appears as if David loved her in return.
    Now, I know what you might be thinking, that this verse said that Saul was agreeable to their relationship. What about that?  Wouldn’t that show that Saul wasn’t jealous about Michal’s love for David?
    Verse 21, “Saul thought, “I will give her to him that she may become a snare to him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.”
    David wouldn’t marry his first daughter out of humility, but he loved Michal, and Michal loved him. So the marriage was agreeable to Saul because he thought again he could trick David into being put into harm’s way. Saul goes so far as to ask for a very risky and gruesome dowry from David in exchange for Michal’s hand in marriage. Saul asks for a particular body part from 100 Philistine soldiers. You can read verse 25 quickly to see what exactly Saul asked for, and you can also see in that verse that his hope was that in collecting this dowry to pay for Michal’s hand, that David would fall by the hand of the Philistines.
    David succeeded in the seemingly impossible task though, and instead of killing 100 Philistine soldiers for this dowry, he killed 200. Saul had no choice then but to give David Michal’s hand in marriage. I want to read verses 28-29 to finish our story this morning, “When Saul saw and knew that the Lord was with David, and that Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved him, then Saul was even more afraid of David. Thus Saul was David’s enemy continually.”
    Your next bulletin blank this morning is ENEMY. You can look at your bulletin and see the progression of Saul’s jealousy. It goes from suspicious, thinking his son is conspiring with David against him…to dread, being fearful and anxious about David to the point of trying to kill David, both directly and indirectly…to finally just being a flat-out enemy of David’s, driven by all that he sees that David has, and the prosperity David experienced, and the success David had, the love David had of those who Saul thought should have loved him more.
    I want to shift gears from talking about ancient history and this story of a jealous man who lived thousands of years ago to something more recent: you and me. Remember I started my message this morning by saying that this message is one that applies to every Christian at some point in their walk? We’re addressing the issue of jealousy this morning, and it’s something each of us is sure to face at some point in our Christian life because we have been trained from the time we were very young to want more. Get the bigger, better, newer thing. Your smart phone is dinosaur if you’ve had it more than two years. Your computer is ancient if you’ve had it more than five years. You need the new and improved…whatever.
    Ooh, your co-worker has the newest, biggest, best, and now you need it too. Let’s keep up with the Johnsons. We have been trained and wired to be jealous of the things, and the prosperity and the success, and the gifts and the talents that others around us have.
    It didn’t end with Saul. It was an issue for the Corinthian church, too. They became jealous of one another’s spiritual gifts, and there was coveting and quarreling because they thought that some gifts were more important than others, and they became jealous of those who had those gifts.
    This is what Paul told them: “For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”
    Paul of course was talking about the church! Each person who makes up the church is IMPORTANT! That’s your next blank this morning. If you are here this morning, or participating in service online, or watching this at a later date, if you are a part of the church, not just this church, but the whole church, you are important. If you are a part of this church, you are important to this church. God has given you talents, gifts, possessions, and ideas for you to help this church function the way that God wants! You are vital! Your role here is vital! And it hurts the body, hurts the church when even just one person leaves or doesn’t use what God has given them to strengthen and build the church up. We are each needed in equal measure.
    Paul was addressing jealousy in this passage, and I am too. We must always be on guard against two attitudes: the attitude that we are less important and less needed in the church because we are not like so-and-so, and we don’t have so-and-so’s talents or gifts or money or time; and the other attitude is the attitude that we are better than so-and-so because we have certain gifts or talents or time or money. Both attitudes are rooted in jealousy, and both are wrong.
    I want to end with Jesus’ response to Peter’s jealousy of John. John was the disciple Jesus loved, or so John claimed, though judging by Peter’s jealousy it was likely true. Peter was constantly looking to John, asking questions about John’s life and John’s ministry. John 21:20-23 says this, “Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His bosom at the supper and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!” Therefore this saying went out among the brethren that that disciple would not die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but only, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?”
    Peter asked Jesus, “What about him? What about John?” This was just after Jesus told Peter that his job was to feed Jesus’ sheep. He personally gave Peter a mission in the church, and Peter says, “What about John?”
    And what was Jesus’ response? “Don’t worry about John. You, Peter, you, follow me. Do what I ask you to do. Don’t worry about John.”
    I think He wants to say the same thing to each and every one of us this morning. Don’t worry about so-and-so. Don’t worry about that big, huge church with all the stuff. You do what I ask you to do. Pretty simple, right?
    The answer to Saul’s jealousy was to keep his eyes fixed on God. He didn’t do that, and he fell into the jealousy trap. The Corinthians answer to their jealousy was to keep their eyes fixed on God. Peter’s fix to his jealousy was to keep his eyes fixed on God. Guess what? That’s our answer, too. That’s our safeguard against the trap of jealousy. Keep your eyes fixed on GOD! That’s your last blank this morning, and the point that I want to stick in our minds and our hearts. If we take nothing else away from this message…take this thought…keep your eyes fixed on God!

1. Think of a time you looked at another person’s gifts, talents, job, income, possessions, family, etc. with jealousy. What did that jealousy do to your relationship with that person? Your relationship with God?

2. Every believer is a vital and important part of the body of Christ, the church. How does jealousy of roles create disunity? What happens to the body when this happens?

3. What are some practical ways you can keep your eyes fixed on God to help avoid falling into the jealousy trap? Daily gratitude for what you have? Using what you have been given? Praise and worship of the Lord? More quiet time spent in the Word? Put into practice one way you can keep your eyes more fixed on God this week!

The Living God (1 Samuel 17)

 

    You know what I really like? I really like when you hear a song a dozen times and it’s a great song, but on the 13th listen, you connect with it in a deeper way that really speaks to you and you never listen to the song the same way again. Or a good book, that you can read several times, but the next time you read it, you really connect with a character that you never really cared about before.
    I particularly love it when this happens with Scripture. I’m sure many of you have experienced this. With very familiar passages, it can sometimes be a challenge to see how there can be anything new we can learn or glean. We can sometimes read a familiar passage and think that we’ve learned all that we can from that passage. But every now and then, even the most familiar of stories can surprise us.
    I found today’s passage surprising. It’s very familiar, perhaps one of the most familiar stories throughout the entire Bible. Songs have been written about it, and it’s become sort of a pop-culture reference for tackling what seems to be the impossible in our lives. Of course, I’m talking about the story of David and Goliath.
    We’ve talked about why Saul fell out of favor with Samuel and how he became non-dependent upon God which caused God to reject him. We’ve talked about David being chosen by God because he loved the Lord, because the Lord was with Him. We’ve talked about how David took the gifts and talents he was given by God and grew them to be able to offer God the best he could.
    Today we’ll talk about David’s view of God, and what his view of God led him to do. It’s something I never realized until rereading this passage this last few weeks. I hope this morning, we’ll get a fresh set of eyes and a new perspective on this timeless story.
    We’ll be in 1 Samuel 17 this morning. I invite you to join me in your Bible. To set the scene, the Philistines continue to be a thorn in Israel’s side. They gathered their armies for battle on one side of the valley of Elah, with Saul and the Israelite armies gathered for battle on the other side of the valley. If they followed through with the full-on battle they were gathered for, it would have been a scene of complete and utter carnage and destruction. Both sides would lose a lot of men. Neither side could afford to lose the amount of men that would be lost in such a battle.
    The solution was a historically common one. The best warrior from the Philistine army would come out from the masses and would take on the best warrior from the Israelite army. This was common enough, but there was something unique about the champion, the best warrior from the Philistine army. We all know about Goliath’s uniqueness. We’re told in 1 Samuel 17:4 that Goliath was six cubits and a span. This means that Goliath was about 9 1/2-10 feet tall.
    Have you ever seen pictures of really tall basketball players standing next to people of average height? The average height of basketball players is 6’7”, but the tallest reach above 7’5”. Yet, when you put them next to people of average height, they make those normal people look like dwarves. Can you imagine someone 9 1/2 feel tall? It would make even the tallest basketball players look like children.
    So, we can see why when Goliath stepped out from the front lines, not one single man from Saul’s Israelite army dared to step forward to face the man who earned the title “giant”.
    Goliath stepped out in his armor, a bronze helmet, scale-armor that covered his body, made of bronze, bronze greaves on his legs, and a bronze javelin. We’re told that the head of his spear weighed six hundred shekels of iron, making the head of his spear weigh about 15 pounds! He was outfitted in absolutely the best armor that money could buy, and the best weapon to get the job of defeating enemies done.
    The best armor that could be made to protect him physically. This armor, coupled with the height of his stature gave Goliath overwhelming confidence to do what he did and to say what he said to the Israelite army.
    1 Samuel 17:8-10, “He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel and said to them, “Why do you come out to draw up in battle array? Am I not the Philistine and you servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will become your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall become our servants and serve us.” Again the Philistine said, “I defy the ranks of Israel this day; give me a man that we may fight together.”
    Saul and the Israelites were shaking in their boots. Verse 11 tells us that they were dismayed and greatly afraid. Hmm. Verse 16 tells us that Goliath came forward morning and evening for forty days to issue this challenge. Forty days this man-to-man challenge went out, and forty days it went unanswered.
    Remember Jesse, David’s father? David was the youngest of eight sons. Jesse’s three older sons were sent out with the armies of Israel. As the youngest, David would go back and forth from service to Saul to Jesse’s house to tend the sheep. He’s still in humble service. Even though he has been given a position in the king’s court and is the only one able to soothe Saul’s illness when it gets bad, David is still a humble servant. He hasn’t let his position go to his head. He’s even still humbling himself to serve his father as his father’s shepherd, even though he surely could have used his position in court to do something greater.
    After the forty days, Jesse told David to take grain and loaves of bread to the camp to his three older brothers. He told David to take cheese to their commander, and then to bring back news of how his brothers were doing to Jesse.
    David gets up the next day and takes all these supplies and goes to the army, and as he was talking with his brothers, Goliath came out and started issuing his challenge again, saying the same words he did every day, “Why do you come out to draw up in battle array? Am I not the Philistine and you servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will become your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall become our servants and serve us. I defy the ranks of Israel this day; give me a man that we may fight together.”
    David heard the words and spoke to the men who were with him, verse 26, “Then David spoke to the men who were standing by him, saying, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?”
    Oh boy. David gets it. Who is this man, giant or no, that he should taunt the armies of the living God? Who is he?
    He knows something that Saul and the rest of Israel has forgotten.
    You see, Israel acted up to this point as if God was irrelevant to their battle. They went out to meet the Philistines on the battle field, and not once does the Bible mention that they sought the will of the Lord in this battle. Not once does the Bible mention that they prayed or asked God to be with them. Saul continues in his pattern of just doing whatever he wants without depending on God for anything, and he has led Israel to do the same.
    They have left God out of the battle entirely. They acted as if God could do nothing for them, could do nothing through them. And if that’s true, if God was irrelevant to the battle then they had no hope. No wonder they were dismayed and greatly afraid. Even the king, even Saul was terrified.
    But David identified that they were supposed to be the armies of the living God! What does that mean? What difference does it make that they serve a living God instead of a mythological god?
    Living means He is ALIVE, ACTIVE, and POWERFUL. Those are your first three blanks in your bulletin today. He is alive, active, and powerful. He’s not dead, He’s not fake or made up. He’s not off in a corner sleeping. He’s not engaged in more important things. He’s not irrelevant and there’s nothing He can’t do. The Israelites forgot that, but David didn’t. He knows exactly the kind of God the Lord is, the Lord he serves.
    David stands firm on his confidence in the Lord, and word gets around to Saul that David has it in his mind that he’s going to be the one to take down Goliath. Saul calls David to him and basically tells David that there’s no way he’s going to be able to take down Goliath because David is a young man, inexperienced, whereas Goliath is a seasoned warrior, preparing for battle since he was a youth.
    David says to Saul, “Look, I may be a shepherd but when bears or lions came to attack my sheep, I took them down. This Philistine, he’s nothing! And he will be like one the animals I killed because he taunted the armies of the Living God.” And then, 1 Samuel 17:37, “And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you.”
    Saul tries to give David his armor, but David refuses. He hasn’t been battle-tested in Saul’s armor and isn’t confident in it. David went before Goliath with his shepherd’s crook in hand, and five smooth stones in his bag, along with a sling.
    Goliath saw him coming and starts to taunt David, you know the typical war trash-talk. “I’m going to rip you apart, the birds and beasts will eat your flesh.” Really nice stuff.
    I absolutely love David’s response to Goliath, because it shows the depths of David’s dependence upon God, but it also shows how David understands who God is and how big God is!
    1 Samuel 17:45-47, “Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands.”
    David’s answer to Goliath’s taunt tells us that David believes that God is the one who will defeat Goliath. God will use David, but it will be God’s power, the living God who is alive and active. David knows that apart from being on the same side as the living God, he doesn’t stand a chance. For David, it’s unthinkable to go to battle apart from the living, alive, active, powerful God.
    For David, this belief in a living God goes deeper than faith, David doesn’t just believe that God is alive and active and powerful, he acts on it. That’s your last bulletin blank, David ACTS on it!
    We know the rest of the story: David took that first stone and slung it and it struck Goliath on his forehead and actually sank into his forehead, and he fell to the ground dead. David cut Goliath’s head off, just as he had promised. And all of this was done for God’s glory, so all the people would know how BIG the God of the Israelites is!
    We serve the same living God. He’s not irrelevant…He is alive and active and powerful! We believe this, oh, yes! But do we believe it like David did?
    Do we believe that God is alive and active and powerful in our every day lives and act on it? Do we act on it when tragic death grips our family and we’re brought to our knees in grief? Do we act on it when the doctor says the word “cancer”? Do we act on it when we lose our job of fifteen years? Do we act on it when our vision starts to go? Do we act on it when our prodigal child is still a lost lamb?
    When your Goliath comes taunting, do you have the David-like faith to tell your Goliath that he is nothing but animal fodder because your God is the living God? You might not…yet.
    This week’s questions were put together with this in mind. I want you to use the questions this week to figure out what it looks like in your life to have David’s faith in God and to act on it!

1. What does serving a living God mean to you personally? How does that affect your daily faith and actions?

2. Do you live as though you serve a living God, who is bigger than your problems, who is in control, who is alive and active and powerful? If not, what are some specific ways you can change your actions to act on this truth?

3. Spend time meditating on Ephesians 6:10-18, the Armor of God. How can this armor become alive for us each and every day? How does God use this armor to protect us?

The Lord is With Him (1 Samuel 16)

    This morning we’ll meet a person in the Bible who was a very important person; one of the most important in the Old Testament. His story and his writings take up a good portion of the Old Testament. His introduction here though, is humble in many ways, but even with his humble introduction, there are glimpses and hints of the greatness that God had planned for this man.
    Of course, I’m talking about David.
    We’ll be in 1 Samuel 16 today, and the chapter opens with Samuel mourning the loss of Israel’s king, Saul, and the friendship that they had at one point. God starts by basically telling Samuel that it’s time to dust himself off, pick himself up, and get over it. The Lord tells Samuel that he needs to go to Bethlehem to anoint the new king that God has chosen to replace Saul. He’s to go to Jesse’s house, because one of Jesse’s sons will be the chosen king.
    Before we go any further, I want us to understand who Jesse is. We went through the book of Ruth at the beginning of our virtual church services in April, so hopefully this will be familiar to many of us. I’d like to draw your attention to Ruth 4:17. Ruth and Boaz were married and they had a child, and this verse is about their child, “The neighbor women gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi!” So they named him Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David.”
    So Jesse is the grandson of Ruth and Boaz, making David, the future king of Israel, the great-grandson of Ruth and Boaz. It’s exciting to have this information because we can see what God was doing through the bold choices that Ruth made to honor Naomi and to follow Naomi’s God. He honored Ruth’s choices and gave her a hope for her family after her family had been devastated by death.
    Now, we don’t get much information about David’s early years, and I wish we did, but perhaps we can use our sanctified imaginations that have been developed by reading the Bible. My own grandmother just celebrated her 92nd birthday. She’s told me many times how much of a blessing it has been to her that she has been able to see her great-grandchildren. Not just see them, but actually get to be a part of their lives in a meaningful way!
    People live longer now, but both my parents and Jonny and I didn’t start our families until we were around 30. But, couples generally started families at a much younger age in ancient times, usually by the time a couple was 20 they had had many children. With that understanding, I can’t help but wonder if Ruth and Boaz got to see David as a child. They would have been well on in years, but it is a possibility. I wonder if maybe Boaz had gathered all his great-grandsons to him, David included, and told them the story of all that God had done when He brought Ruth to be Boaz’s wife. I wonder if Ruth and Boaz got the chance to tell Jesse how blessed they were to get to be a part of their grand-children’s lives. All this to say, that David was a child of blessing.
    He’s similar to Samson in that way, he came from a family that had made the decision to follow God, but there was something different about David that set him apart from Samson and the other evil judges, as well as King Saul.
    When Samuel got to Jesse’s home in Bethlehem, Jesse called all of his sons before him to see which son would be the one God chose to be anointed as the future king of Israel. His first son, Eliab, came before Jesse and Samuel, and we’re told that when they saw him, Samuel thought for sure that this was the one that God was going to anoint as the king. God had a different plan. 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart.”
    Jesse and Samuel went through all Jesse’s sons and all of them were rejected. So Samuel asked, “Are these all your sons?” And Jesse says, “Well, no, there’s my youngest son, but he’s out with the sheep.” For some reason, maybe because he was the youngest, maybe because he was just the shepherd, but Jesse didn’t even consider that his youngest son, David, might be the one God was going to use.
    But the key to what set David apart was what God had told Samuel, that the Lord looks at the HEART. That’s your first bulletin blank this morning. The Lord looks at the heart. What was in David’s heart set him apart as different from all his brothers and even King Saul. What was in David’s heart? We’ll explore that a lot as we focus more and more on David in the weeks to come, but simply put, what was in David’s heart was love for God.
    David is anointed in the presence of his family, but it will still be quite a journey before he actively becomes the King of Israel. See, even though God has rejected Saul as king, Saul still sits on the throne. But David will become more and more prominent as God has chosen him.
    Let’s look at 1 Samuel 16:13, “So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David…” Your second bulletin blank this morning is POWERFULLY. The Spirit of the Lord came upon David powerfully. Now that David is the anointed king, on his way to displacing Saul, chosen by God, it’s only fitting that the Spirit would come upon David. After all, David is going to need the Spirit’s help and guidance and power to be the king God needed him to be.
    Now look at 1 Samuel 16:14, “Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him.”
 Just as the Spirit came upon David, the Spirit then departed from Saul. That’s your next bulletin blank, DEPARTED. God’s presence was no longer with Saul. He was not just rejected, but God took active steps to remove Himself from Saul’s life. This is certainly not a place I ever want to come close to being in.
    And what is this about an evil spirit from the Lord that tormented Saul? Does this mean that the Lord sent an evil spirit to Saul? Doesn’t that seem sort of contradictory to what God would do? 1 Samuel 18:10 and 19:9 give us a little insight into what this evil spirit was doing. “Now it came about on the next day that an evil spirit from God came mightily upon Saul, and he raved in the midst of the house, while David was playing the harp with his hand, as usual; and a spear was in Saul’s hand.” Just after this, we’re told that Saul threw this spear at David trying to kill him. 1 Samuel 19:9 tells us that this spear incident with Saul trying to murder David happened not once, but twice.
    There are quite a few Bible scholars who think that these incidents, as well as others, may mean that what Saul was dealing with was some form of mental illness that to ancient peoples would have appeared very much like demon possession. But, it is possible that Saul was actually tormented by an evil spirit, just as we read. Not sent by the Lord, but allowed by the Lord.
    This is what we see throughout scripture, any time that an evil spirit or demon possession happens, it’s always because the Lord allowed it to happen. He doesn’t cause it, because to cause evil would be against His righteous character, but He allows evil because it is the consequence of sin. In this case, Saul sinned by not being obedient to the Lord, by not depending on God, and the consequence of that sin is the removal of God’s Spirit upon Saul, which left him open to being tormented by an evil spirit, or at best, developing a mental illness.
    The good news is that this kind of torment that Saul experienced was only possible because he did not have the Spirit on him. Ephesians 1:13 says, “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise,”
    When we receive Christ, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit. If we think about a seal, there’s two things this could mean. In ancient cultures, a seal could be something that was a sign of things yet to come. Think about the seals that must be broken in the book of Revelation. These seals are a promise of things that haven’t happened yet, but will happen. In that way, the Holy Spirit is a promise given to believers to assure us that we have eternal life, even if we aren’t experiencing eternity yet.
    But a seal also preserves things. A jar that has been sealed insures that the contents of the jar stay preserved, clean of outside dirt and bacteria. In this way, the Holy Spirit insulates believers against the contamination of the world’s sinfulness. Without the seal of the Holy Spirit, we are open to any sort of sin or evil that is known to man. It is only by the Holy Spirit that we can hope to be free of that!
    So, without the Spirit upon him, Saul was open to any sort of evil spirit, to be tormented.
    Saul found that the only thing that would be able to soothe his disturbed state of mind is music.
    With that, the story shifts back to David. 1 Samuel 16:16 gives this idea to Saul, “Let our lord now command your servants who are before you. Let them seek a man who is a skillful player on the harp; and it shall come about when the evil spirit from God is on you, that he shall play the harp with his hand, and you will be well.”
    They need someone who is a skillful harp player. Someone who is good, who knows how to play their instrument really well.
    Verse 18, “Then one of the young men said, “Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite who is a skillful musician, a mighty man of valor, a warrior, one prudent in speech, and a handsome man; and the Lord is with him.”
    David just happens to be such a man. Look carefully at the description of David given to Saul. He is a skillful musician. He knows how to play his instrument really well. I want to come back to this to make my point today. But, David is also a might man of valor. This means he wasn’t afraid to do hard things. He wasn’t afraid to be put into situations that might be dangerous. He was a warrior, which is great if he’s going to be leading a nation’s army against foreign enemies. He was prudent in speech. That means he was a great speaker. We can see that clearly through the multiple Psalms that David wrote over the course of his life. He was a handsome man, too. Clearly a good choice for a king. But again, we come back to the most important of David’s qualifications, the Lord was with him.
    Without the Lord being with David, none of the other things matter at all.
    The same holds true for us. It doesn’t matter if we’re the absolute best at our talents. It doesn’t matter if our character is strong. It doesn’t matter if we’re really strong or great at physical things. It doesn’t matter if we speak well. It doesn’t matter how good looking we are. God can use all of those things, it’s true, but the Lord looks at the heart, and always chooses to work through those who love and seek Him over those who are the best at…whatever.
    But, we’re told in four separate verses that David was a great musician. He was so skilled at playing the harp that when he played, he soothed Saul’s delirious mind and Saul was given peace. David was really good! David was the best!
    The most important thing was that the Lord was with him, but David worked hard at being the best musician he could be. I’m sure he spent hours and hours, days, weeks, months, years, practicing his skill so he could take the raw talent and gift that God had given him and make it the absolute best it could be. And as a result, God used that talent to minister to Saul.
    That’s the amazing thing about our talents and gifts, that if we are living for the Lord, He takes what we have and makes it enough, makes it more than enough. But we have to offer what we have, and work hard to make it something great for the glory of God!
    David didn’t just sit around and think, “Eh, well I can play okay, and that’s good enough.” No! He took his talent and made it the best offering for the Lord that He could, not so David would be glorified, but so God would be glorified as He worked through David.
    Whatever you have, if you offer it to God, He will make it enough, He will use it. But how much more glory will the Lord receive if we take what we have and grow it as we offer it, so that what is offered is the best that we can offer.
    Jesus offered the same lesson to his disciples, and that includes us, in Matthew 25:14-30 in what we call the parable of the talents. A man was going on a journey, so he called his servants to him and gave them talents, coins. To one servant he gave five talents. To another he gave two talents. To another he gave one talent. Each servant was given according to his ability. The servant who was given five talents took what he had and gained five more talents. The servant who was given two talents took his and gained two more talents. But the one who had been given one talent, hid his, he didn’t grow it, he just saved it.
    When the master returned, he was pleased to see that two of his servants used what they had been given and grew it, and so he gave them more. But the one who had hidden his talent and didn’t grow it, he called that servant wicked and lazy and cast him out.
    What God gives us is enough, and He can use what we have been given, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that we can get away with not trying to grow what He has given us. He holds us responsible for using what He has given to the best of our ability.

1. We can sometimes be tempted to rely on our history, tradition, family, talents, etc. to be what defines us, but the most important thing is what lies in our hearts, and the presence of the Lord in our lives. What are you tempted to rely on?

2. Our talents and gifts aren’t to be neglected, but grown so we can offer our best to God. What talents and gifts do you have that can be grown to be used by God to minister to others?

Co-Dependent (1 Samuel 15)

 

    There are few words that sum up the Western culture like the word independent. We like the idea of independence, don’t we? From the time we signed our nation’s declaration of independence, we have been drawn to the idea of independence. It’s what lured people out of the east and into the wild west, the idea that you could be out on your own and own your own land and do whatever you wanted to do whenever you wanted to do it. Independence.
    We raise our children to be independent, don’t we? It’s a very Western idea that the moment your children hit 18 years of age, they better have a self-supporting job and be living in their own place, as far away from their parents as possible. Every parenting moment that we have is more often than not, aimed at teaching our children to be as independent as possible from an early age so they don’t have to rely on us. Independence.
    We love independence, don’t we? But at what cost? Have we sacrificed anything for the sake of gaining independence? Have we maybe sacrificed close family bonds that we see in other cultures? What affect does our independence have on our Christianity? Is it okay to be independent Christians?
    Today, we’re going to be in 1 Samuel 15. In 1 Samuel 13 & 14, King Saul begins to act in more self-assured ways. He starts to move toward doing things that God says are not right, and makes rash decisions, without consulting God first. The chapter we’re going to look at today is the last straw. Saul makes a bad decision, and doesn’t seek God’s guidance first, in fact, he goes directly against what God had told him to do, and it doesn’t go well for Saul.
    Let’s look at this last straw, and see what happened. 1 Samuel 15:2 tells us this, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt.”
    We start with the Lord setting out to punish the Amalekites for consistently being a thorn in the side of the Israelites. The Amalekites were long-time enemies of the Israelites. They can trace their lineage back to Isaac, just like the Israelites. The Amalekites however, were descendants of Esau, Isaac’s firstborn son; whereas the Israelites were descendants of Jacob, later named Israel, who was Isaac’s second-born son, and Esau’s younger twin.
    We have to remember that Jacob schemed to steal his brother’s birthright, and then schemed to steal his brother’s blessing from Isaac. He got both, but it put him and Esau at odds. Jacob had to flee from his home because Esau had his heart set on killing his brother Jacob. They were eventually able to reconcile, but it seems like their descendants weren’t able to leave the past alone.
    The incident that God is talking about in 1 Samuel 15:2 we can read about in Exodus 17:8-16, Numbers 14:45, Judges 3:13, 7:12. It happened while Moses was still alive, and Joshua was his second-in-command. Just as the Israelites got out of Egypt and into the area near the promised land, the Amalekites came against them, possibly to keep them from entering the promised land. And now, the Lord had in mind to punish the Amalekites for coming against His people.
    1 Samuel 15:3 tells us what God told King Saul, “Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, cattle and sheep, camel and donkey.”
    If you’re taking notes in your bulletin this morning, your first two blanks are CATTLE and SHEEP. God wanted Saul and his army to completely and totally destroy the Amalekites. To not leave one single person or animal belonging to the Amalekites alive.
    We’ve talked before about how odd it may seem to us that God commanded the death of people we might think would be innocent. Why put to death children and infants? Surely, they must be innocent, even if their parents aren’t? And what’s with killing the livestock?
    To answer that, I want you to remember Israel’s past. Samuel reminded the people of that past in the passage we read last week, 1 Samuel 12. They have a past of forgetting the Lord is their God. They have a past of serving other gods because they forgot that their God is the only God. They have a past of idolatry being their “pet” sin.
    Because of this past, God knows that if His people allow foreign, pagan people into their midst, it’s very possible that the Israelites will be persuaded to turn back to idols and forget their God again. In the past, this was proved to be true, when the Israelites would marry foreigners, they would indeed forget their God and worship false gods. Ordering the Israelites to put to death everyone assures that this won’t happen.
    We need to keep in mind as well, that the depths of evil that were prevalent in these ancient cultures around Israel were truly abominable. We’re talking child sacrifice, temple prostitution, and other very evil things. God didn’t want His people to be tainted by the evil that was passed from generation to generation.
    What about the animals? What is the sense in killing the livestock? It’s not to prevent the continuation of evil in Israel, or the temptation of Israel’s people to idolatry. Destroying even the livestock would show that Israel wasn’t fighting to try to get rich or gain anything; rather, they were fighting as an act of obedience to God, to carry out God’s will as He set out to right a wrong. The point wasn’t to get wealthy, the point was to do God’s will.
    So, the command is to destroy the Amalekites, people and livestock, and leave nothing and no one standing.
    What is Saul’s response?
    1 Samuel 15:9, “But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were not willing to destroy them utterly; but everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.”
    Saul and the army, the people spared the king of the Amalekites and the livestock. They were not willing to destroy them utterly. Why? We’ll see that in a bit, but the thing we need to know right now is that  once again, Saul did things his own way. He went against God’s command, a very specific command that really didn’t leave any room open for interpretation. But, Saul figured he knew better, that he could go it alone and do things his own way. He was wrong.
    God spoke to Samuel and told Samuel that He regretted making Saul king, so Samuel went to Saul to find out why. What had Saul done that would cause God to regret making him king? Saul assured Samuel that he had done exactly as God had commanded, that he had done nothing wrong.
    1 Samuel 15:14 is, in my opinion, one of the most humorous verses in the entire Bible. “But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the cattle which I hear?”
    I can almost hear Samuel saying, “Really, Saul? You’re innocent? You’ve done nothing wrong? You’ve obeyed the Lord’s command? Then why do I hear sheep bleating? Why do I hear cattle lowing?”
    “Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and oxen, to sacrifice to the Lord your God; but the rest we have utterly destroyed.” 1 Samuel 15:15 is Saul’s reply to Samuel’s skepticism.
    Saul claimed that they kept the sheep and the cattle to offer as a sacrifice to the Lord. But that’s not what God asked them to do. He didn’t ask for a sacrifice, He asked for them to do His will. To trust Him, depend on Him. The last thing He wanted was for Saul to do things his own way, even with good intentions.
    Isn’t that just like us, in so many ways? How often do we do things in our daily lives, going about from place to place, sometimes with the best intentions, but it’s not what God wants us to do? How many times do we just do what we want to do with our days, instead of seeking what God desires of us? We love our independence, don’t we? But the Christian life is not meant to be independent.
    We are meant to be co-dependent on God. We’re not meant to go it alone, we’re not meant to be lone cowboys. We need to depend on God, for everything. Every tiny little detail of our lives is meant to be dependent on the Lord. We are supposed to seek Him first for everything, to know His will for each and every step we make.
    What about Saul? Look at 1 Samuel 15:22-23, “Samuel said, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king.”
    OBEY is the next blank in your bulletins this morning. See, regardless of our best intentions, regardless of how independent we are and how well we think we can run our own lives, none of that matters. God doesn’t want us to just do things our own way and hope for the best. He wants us to do things His way, because it is best!
    Now, Saul had said that he spared the king and the livestock because he wanted to make a sacrifice to God, but verse 24 shows us that this isn’t true. “Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned; I have indeed transgressed the command of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and listened to their voice.”
    He feared the people and listened to their voice. We don’t know what the voice of the people was saying, exactly. Maybe they wanted to keep the plunder of livestock to provide the best food for their families. Maybe they wanted the livestock to show their power and might over the Amalekites. We don’t know what exactly the people wanted, but it’s clear that Saul was more dependent upon what the people said, than what God said.
    This verse shows us that what Saul’s sin was, and the next blank in your Bible this morning, was a lack of DEPENDENCE on God!
    Even though God was quite clear about what He wanted from Saul, clear on what Saul’s actions should have been, Saul didn’t walk in God’s ways. Saul didn’t depend on God to work in the situation and handle the victory. Saul didn’t depend on God to provide for Israel.
    This isn’t just Saul’s problem. This is a problem with humanity in general. We love our independence. We like to think we don’t need to rely on anyone for anything, including God.
    Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.”
    These two verses hit all the areas of our life where we need to depend on God: our hearts—our emotions and our feelings, we must depend on God to be the source of the emotions we dwell on because our own hearts cannot be trusted. Genesis 6:5 says that every inclination of our hearts is evil. Jeremiah 17:9 says “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” God needs to be the source of our emotions.
    Proverbs 3:5-6 also says we should not lean on our own understanding. We need to depend on God to be the source of what thoughts we dwell on. 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Colossians 3:2 tells us to set our minds on the things of God.
    And, Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to acknowledge God in all our ways which speaks to our actions, what we do. Do we acknowledge God with all our actions? Do we ask Him what He wants with our days? Do we ask Him to plan each day so we depend on Him? We should!! Ephesians 2:10 reminds us that we should walk in the good works that God has prepared for us beforehand. Psalm 32:8 says that God will instruct us and teach us in the way we should go. All we have to do is ask, and be dependent upon Him.
    See, Christians aren’t called to independence. We are called to be DEPENDENT on God in all our ways. That’s your last blank this morning. We must be dependent on God for everything. Our emotions, our thoughts, our actions all must spring from our dependence on God. There’s more too, though, isn’t there? The example of prayer that Jesus gave His disciples says that we should depend on God to provide for our daily needs. He also told us not to worry about those things because God knows we need them, but rather we should fix our eyes on the things of God, in other words, we need to depend on God!
    We’re even called to depend on one another! The New Testament is full of examples of how the early church depended on one another. They depended on each other to be the means that God used to provide for their needs. They depended on the prayers of their brothers and sisters. They depended on their Christian charity and love. They depended on their work for the kingdom. We are not lone cowboys. We need God, and we need each other.
    We cannot be independent and be Christians.

1. 1 Samuel 15:24 reveals Samuel’s true heart issue: a lack of dependence on God. Are there areas in your life you need to be more dependent on God? What are they?

2. What was the response to Saul’s lack of dependence and disobedience in 1 Samuel 15:27-29?

Take Your Stand (1 Samuel 12)

    Today we’ll look at the last public address Samuel makes. We’ve seen through the passages we’ve studied in 1 Samuel that at this point, Samuel is old and one of the factors in the people deciding they wanted a king was because of Samuel’s advanced age. The people knew he wouldn’t be able to lead them as their judge much longer. God chose a king: Saul. He’s been affirmed by the people. All that’s left to do is to give one final speech, one final warning and farewell to the people. He’s in good company, too. We saw Moses and Joshua do the same thing when they were about to die. Now, Samuel isn’t going to die yet, but after this address to the people, he does fade away from public service. He still works behind the scenes though, as one who regularly hears from God, to guide Israel when having a king goes south.
    We’re going to be in 1 Samuel 12 today, and Samuel starts his farewell speech by reminding Israel that he has been a good leader to them, that even in appointing them a king, which he didn’t want to do, he has always done what they have asked of him. He asks them in verse 3, to bear witness against him before the Lord and the anointed king. What he’s asking them to do is to examine his life and see if he can be found to be good and trustworthy.
    Samuel says this, “Whose ox have I taken, or whose donkey have I taken, or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed, or from whose hand have I taken a bribe to blind my eyes with it? I will restore it to you.” (v. 3).
    If you’re taking notes in your bulletin this morning, you’ll see that OPPRESSED is your first blank. Samuel, is trying to build a case for himself, to have the authority to say to the people one more thing that he desperately hopes they will listen to. So when he asks, “whose ox have I taken, whom have I defrauded, whom have I oppressed or taken a bribe from,” he’s reminding them that he has always treated them well. He’s always done what was right, not only by them, but in the Lord’s eyes as well. He’s reminding them that he had never given them any reason not to trust him. He led them for many many years, from the time he was a young boy to the moment they decided they wanted a king in his old age. Samuel has always done right.
    The people agree in verses 4-5 that Samuel has always treated them well. Samuel has always done right. Samuel has never wronged them. Samuel has earned the right to speak plainly, boldly, to them, regardless of what he might need to say.
    It’s the same sort of tactic that Paul used on numerous occasions, talking to different churches, writing letters to them. He would start by saying, “Look, you know me. You know my heart and my deeds. You know that I was the one who spoke the truth to you about Christ and saw you come to faith in Jesus.” That was always with the purpose of reminding the people of the truth they had accepted, and the love that Paul had for them.
    And then he would move on to the hard stuff. He would say, “You know, you started off great, but now I’m really disappointed because I’ve heard that you have quarrels and arguments between you.”
    That’s what Samuel is doing here. After he reminded them of their trust for him, and how he has always done what was right, he moves on to the hard stuff.
    Here’s the hard stuff:
    Israel’s history of forgetting the God who had set them free.
    1 Samuel 12:9 says that they forgot the Lord their God.
    They forgot all that God had done for them.
    Why is that hard stuff? You might ask. Why is it hard to be reminded of your past if it’s no longer an issue? It’s not, unless the past is still relevant.
    This is hard stuff because Israel was still forgetting the Lord their God. Look at 1 Samuel 12:12, “When you saw that Nahash the king of the sons of Ammon came against you, you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us,’ although the Lord your God was your king.”
    They were still forgetting the Lord their God. He reminded them of their past as a way of telling them that their past was still their present reality. Their sinful attitude toward God had not changed. He was warning them not to continue in that attitude.
    Samuel gives them a prescription for their attitude as well, a way to help them keep from repeating their history of forgetting the Lord their God. Look at verse 14, “If you will fear the Lord and serve Him, and listen to His voice and not rebel against the command of the Lord, then both you and also the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God.”
    We have four blanks in that verse because I want this verse to stick with us. FEAR, SERVE, LISTEN, and REBEL, are our four blanks for this verse. “If you will fear the Lord and serve Him, and listen to His voice and not rebel against the command of the Lord, then both you and also the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God.”
    That’s what Samuel tells them to do in order to remember that the Lord is their God. He says, do these things and you and the king who is over you will follow God. Do these things, and you won’t repeat history. Do these things, and you won’t forget the Lord your God.
    Okay.
    Let’s look at each of these things.
    The Fear of the Lord. What does that mean? Are we to be afraid of God, the way we’re afraid of death, or public speaking? The Hebrew word can be translated that way, yes, but more often than not, when we’re speaking about the Fear of the Lord, we’re talking about a translation that means to honor, or to revere, or to hold in awe.
    For the Israelites at this time, fear of the Lord was of the highest importance. Remember that Samuel reminded them that they chose a king when God was already their king. Think about people like kings for a moment. Kings, presidents, good leaders in any community. We honor them, don’t we? We revere them, and hold them in high regard. So when the people chose to have a king appointed over them, they took the honor, reverence, and awe that should have been placed on God, and they placed it on their king, Saul. Samuel warned them that this would be a problem.
    Anytime that we hold a leader in higher regard than God, that’s idolatry. It doesn’t matter how good that leader is, it doesn’t matter if they profess Christ or not, it doesn’t matter. If we give leaders the honor, reverence, and awe that is due to God and God alone, that’s wrong. Samuel was urging the people to make sure to give God the honor that is His alone.
    Serve the Lord is the next one. What does that mean? There’s a lot of descriptions in the Bible of the relationship between God and His people as a master/servant relationship. Unfortunately, that’s been misunderstood, especially in recent years. This is not a master/slave relationship. God does not have us in bonds. He is not a puppet-master pulling our strings.
    The relationship that is described throughout scripture as a master/servant relationship, is rather one of a generous, kind, loving master whose servants choose to serve because of the goodness He has shown them and the love He has for them. They could choose to serve someone else, to work for someone else, but why would they when He treats them so well? He cares for their every need, they never want for anything, and they are compensated well for their work. Why would they leave?
    That’s the master/servant relationship described in the Bible when we hear those buzz words, words like: serve, master, servant.
    So, when we hear that we should serve the Lord, what that means is that we do what God asks us. Not because we’re obligated, not because we have to, but because we have experienced His great love, kindness, and goodness, and we know that He has our best in mind. So we do as He asks, because we know He is acting for our ultimate good. Serve the Lord. Do as He has asked.
    Listen to His voice is the third thing that Samuel tells the people to do. This is a little easier to explain and understand. In order to listen to His voice, we must know how to hear His voice. How is that? His Word. This is His voice. This is His Word and His Words. If we want to listen to His voice, we would be wise to start with Scripture.
    But, the Bible is not the only way the Lord speaks, is it? He speaks through other people, we know this for certain. He spoke through Samuel, Moses, Joshua, Abraham, so many others throughout history. He still speaks through people, doesn’t He? If I have done my job right, if I have prepared properly through time spent with Him in prayer and in His Word, if I have listened to Him, then He will use me to speak to you this morning!
    He speaks through our brothers and sisters to us. He speaks through those who are in fellowship with Him.
    He speaks in the silence, too, especially if He knows we’re listening. This is why prayer is so vitally important to those who claim a relationship with God, and why prayer must be so much more than just a list of things we want God to do. Prayer must involve long periods of silence so we can listen to what He is speaking to us. If we don’t listen, we won’t hear His voice.
    The fourth thing Samuel tells them to do is to not rebel against the command of the Lord. That is anything that the Lord has commanded, the people are to do. To obey is better than to give sacrifices, right? Those who love Him will obey His commands, right? It’s simple, what Samuel is urging the people to do is to not act in sin toward the Lord. Don’t rebel against Him. Don’t go against what He has said. That is the very definition of sin that we use as Nazarenes, that sin is a willful disobedience of a known law of God. Samuel is telling them not to sin.
    Do these things, and you will follow God and the king over you will follow God.
    This prescription Samuel gave the people to not forget the Lord their God is the same prescription we have. We might have it worded a little differently for us, for us as New Testament Christians, it sounds like this, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. And love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-38). The words are a little different, but when you really look at what it means to do this, it’s the same as what Samuel told the Israelites, “If you will fear the Lord and serve Him, and listen to His voice and not rebel against the command of the Lord, then you will follow the Lord your God.”
    Then, Samuel told them something that caught me off guard this week, 1 Samuel 12:16, “Even now, take your stand and see this great thing which the Lord will do before your eyes.”
    Those are the last three blanks in your bulletin, TAKE YOUR STAND.
    I was caught off guard by the words “even now.” If you read on a little bit, you’ll see why Samuel was saying that to them. I want you to look at verse 20, “Samuel said to the people, “Do not fear. (Why would they fear? Usually when you’re confronted with something you’ve done wrong, you’re fearful of the consequences…) You have committed all this evil, yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart.”
    The “even now” in verse 16 is talking about the state of the nation. He says, “even now”, even while you have committed evil, even while you are still in the act of not following the Lord, even while you are persisting in sinning against God, even while you have a wrong…action, word, thought, attitude.
    It’s not too late.
    It’s not too late to repent of that wrong attitude. That wrong thought. That wrong action. Those wrong words. It’s not too late.
    Even now, take your stand.
    Even now, take your stand.
    And what is the promise that goes with that? “Even now, take your stand and see this great thing which the Lord will do before your eyes.”
    I don’t know about you, but I want to see the great things the Lord will do before my eyes. I want to see them. I want to see Him move. I want to see Him change things, but that great thing starts with me taking my stand.
    Samuel’s final words of encouragement to the people echo in my ears. 1 Samuel 12:24, “Only fear the Lord and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you.” He has done great things. He has more yet that He wants to do. Even now, take your stand, and see this great thing which the Lord will do before your eyes.

If there ever was a week to answer the questions that I ask every week, this would be the week. I urge you, as one who has hopefully earned the privilege of getting to ask you to do hard things, please, answer these questions.
1. If you asked the question Samuel asks in verse 3 of your closest friends and family, what would the answer be?

2. Verse 20 indicates that even if we have done evil, it is never too late to serve the Lord. Even if we have done what is wrong, the right thing to do is to not turn from the Lord. Is there anything in your life (actions, words, even thoughts/attitudes) that are wrong right now? What can you do to right those wrongs?

3. What things might God be calling you to take a stand on in order to see the Lord do great things through that stand?

 

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