Archive for the ‘1 Samuel’ Category

Excuses, Excuses!

Well, I had a slumber party last night at a friend’s house and missed the opportunity to spread 1 Samuel 13 before the Lord. So we’ll do that this morning!

This is the first time we read of that brave, sensitive, amiable man, Saul’s son, named Jonathan.

Not surprisingly, he is introduced taking the initiative to protect the Israelites from their enemy the Philistines. He could clearly see that there was something more for the children of God than the peace of being a subjected people under their enemies.

He was certainly a can-do kind of guy, not spending much of his time in corporate meetings discussing the need or the possible solutions, but just getting out there and doing it! He’s in the same camp as Biblical Deborah…definitely not a procrastinator.

And what a bee’s nest Jonathan did stir! As soon as he starts trying to break from the bondage of life, everyone get’s in a cafuffle and makes things harder for him and the Israelites than they were before. They end up in caves, rocks, holes and pits. (that’s a cost to consider if you plan on breaking from harmful habits and old chains)

Verse four is a little disconcerting:

All Israel heard it said that Saul had attacked a garrison of the Philistines.

There’s Saul taking credit from his son. Insecurity is starting to seep into this man’s life.

I’m so prone to this sin, of taking credit for things I had no part of it, that I’ve kind of reacted to the other side of refusing credit for even things that I may be a part of. I think if I have to error on one side or the other, I’ll stay right where I am.

Interesting isn’t it, where this simple little lie (not correcting the rumor that it wasn’t him who attacked the garrison) led him to sin in other areas of his life.

From not redirecting the praise to the appropriate person, to actually engaging in sacrifices which, in the Old Testament, can only be mediated by a priest. The Lord is very specific. And Saul, from the tribe of Benjamin, did not even come close to qualifying.

Look at poor Saul, seeing the logic in striking against the Philistines quickly, he dares to engage in the activities of a priest. And in his little pea brain, it makes perfect sense.

  • We need to attack now.
  • People are losing heart and
  • need a rallying cry.
  • We need God on our side.
  • Samuel is running late.
  • I don’t want to be a procrastinator!

And off he goes, doing his own thing according to his own logic!

I’m plagued with the question arising from his actions “can there be any devotion in disobedience?”

Samuel gives Saul an opportunity to repent by asking “What have you done?”

Instead of confessing and repenting he starts to give excuses why it was “impossible” to trust in God in this situation.

“I had to do something to impress the people and gain their support back.”
And I’m sure there were many Israelites who admired Saul for offering the sacrifice. “My, there’s a man of action! He gets things done! I never understood why the priests were so special anyway.”

“You see Samuel, it was really your fault. If you would have kept your word and come earlier, I wouldn’t have needed to do this.” Is there ever a time that someone else’s sin (even if Samuel was totaly in the wrong) justifies our own?

“We really needed God’s help against the Philistines and we needed it now…so I HAD to do it.” Of all the avenues available to the general population to cry out to God, why did he engage in the one thing he must not do: offer a sacrifice?

“I FELT compelled.” A great example of why we ought not to be ruled by our feelings.

Was God’s judgment on Saul’s sacrifice, an over-reaction to what some might think was a rather small sin? “To disobey God in the smallest matter is sin enough: there can be no little sin, because there is no little God to sin against.” (John Trapp)

Lord, I don’t want to engage in anything, bad or good, that isn’t Your plan for me. Protect me from my excuses and deliver me from the dominion of my Feelings.

One Wrong Turn Does Not Disqualify

Reading of Samuel’s legacy in 1 Samuel 12 during the hubbub of primaries and elections, makes me wonder, who, at the end of their term (much less their whole life) would be able to invite people to report of any wrong-doings in his reign, and have everyone in, in one accord, declare…

“You have not cheated us or oppressed us, nor have you taken anything from any man’s hand.”

This is a priceless testimony for any leader. How precious to stand before your own people, and to hear them affirm the integrity of your leadership!

But the more personal and comforting word from this passage is how Samuel wanted it clearly known that it was not his idea to appoint a king over Israel. This idea began in the hearts of Israel, not in the heart and mind of God. Yet God allowed it, and even directed its execution. But it was the voice of the people that prompted it.

So even after this blatant disobedience in their desire for a king, Samuel presents Israel with an important choice. If they would fear the Lord and serve Him, God could still bless them.

One wrong turn had not put them out of God’s plan forever. Yes, Israel should have never sought a human king. But now they had one, Samuel simply calls them to serve the Lord where they are at now.

We need to know that one wrong turn doesn’t wreck our lives before God! Instead of agonizing over the past, we can get right with God today. I choose to fear the Lord and serve Him and obey His voice today. God will bring good even out of yesterday’s wrong turn.

So just as Samuel puts the choice before Israel after they had made a wrong turn, we face the same fork in the road. On one side is submission to God and obedience; on the other is rebellion and disobedience.

Eventually, after it is all said and done, Israel sees their sin of wanting a king. They see it too late; if only they had realized it in 1 Samuel 8, when Samuel first warned them!

Now they are stuck with a king, yet God can still turn it for good if Israel will repent and seek the Lord. The Lord is well-able to get us on the His path of righteousness no matter where we are coming from.

And though Samuel did not minimize Israel’s sin, he does not want them to dwell on the sin of the past. He wanted themto get on walking with the Lord today.

The Living Bible puts it this way:

Make sure now that you worship the Lord with true enthusiasm, and that you don’t turn your back on Him in any way. We can’t do anything about yesterday, and at the present moment we can’t serve God tomorrow. At the present moment, all we can do is not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all
your heart.

Satan would love for us to live in the past or in the future; to do anything but serve the Lord with all we have right now!

Gracious God, thank You for Your unending patience and Your gracious power that will help me return to You no matter where I find myself today. I pray You will help me to live in the present moment…not grieving and groaning over yesterdsay’s sin, nor fearing or fretting over tomorrow’s problems. I agree with Samuel when he said “What great things You have done for me!”

Our Enemy & Our Saviour

In 1 Samuel 11, Nahash (which means snake or serpent) the Ammonite was coming up against Jabesh Gilead of Israel, just like our enemy Satan does with us.

Jabesh Gilead is on the outskirts of Israel, far from the heart of Israel, and bordering the enemy territory of Ammon.

A. Our enemy approaches us, 1) either where we are the weakest, or 2) the area we pay the least mind to.

B. Our enemy may attack us, but cannot do anything against us without our agreement or consent. He asks for, and requires our cooperation.

C. Our enemy wants us to serve him, and will attempt to rationalize and intimidate us into giving in to him.

D. Our enemy wants to humiliate us, and exalt himself over us. Through humiliating one believer, Satan can bring reproach on all of Christianity.

E. Our enemy wants to take away our ability to effectively fight against him (ie, blinding the right eye, which peaks from behind the shield being held by the left hand).

F. Our enemy wants to blind us, and if he cannot blind us completely (cannot see God exists), he will blind us partially (cannot see God is good).

The Gileadites are in a good position if you look at through the eyes of recovery!

First of all, we need to have our denial crushed. Why don’t we just submit to Nahash and become their slaves (as opposed to crying out to God)? Seems like such a peace-keeping thing to do!

Once the Ammonites cruelty rears its ugly head and Nahash’s proposed covenant is seen for what it really is, the Gileadites realize…they are powerless!

They realized they had a need, and that there is no hope in and of themselves. Is there a savior to be found?

Saul did arise to the occasion for his first kingly duty. And sobriety was accomplished because of the outside power of the Saviour!

One last piece of this chapter which is a real challenge…

10:27 we read of rebels who doubted “How can this man save us?” So they despised him.

And even then, Saul “held his peace.”

“The Hebrew is striking. ‘He was as though he had been deaf’ – he pretended not to hear. He did hear; every word had struck deep into his soul, but he made as though he were deaf. It is a great power when a man can act as though he were deaf to slander, deaf to detraction, deaf to unkind and uncharitable speeches, and treat them as though they had not been spoken, turning from man to God, leaving with God his vindication, believing God will mend the situation.” –F.B. Meyer

Then in this chapter, the opportunity arose for Saul to finally “speak his peace”, as it were.

At this moment of great victory, the supporters of Saul wanted to expose and kill those who rebelled against Saul’s appointment as king in 1 Samuel 10:27.

Who is he who said, “Shall Saul reign over us?” Bring the men, that we may put them to death!

Yet Saul, in his humility would not have any of it!

Not a man shall be put to death this day, for today the Lord has accomplished salvation in Israel!

Saul wisely knew this was no time to take revenge on his opponents. Satan, having failed in the attack through Nahash, was now trying to attack Israel – even in victory – by dividing the nation against each other. Our enemy will attack us anyway he can, and often use times of victory to attack.

Lord Jesus, draw every part of me so close to You that there is no “Jabesh Gilead” lingering near the enemy’s territory. And yet Lord, for those areas that I am under attack and struggling, I ask for Your deliverance. Be my Saul.
Also Father, make me a Saul…as he is in this chapter…bold, active, and humble, willing to give all the glory to You!

Spirit of the Lord–A New Heart

Yesterday we were introduced to Saul, with much more fanfare about his fleshly qualifications, than any mention of his relationship with the Lord. When we saw him engaging in something even possibly spiritual…it was at his servant’s prompting.

So no wonder that in 1 Samuel 10, we see people amazed that he should somehow be counted amongst the prophets. How is it that he has gone from secular to spiritual?

But as it was with Saul, so it can be with us:

  • God picked Saul just as he was, even though he was not a particularly spiritual man.
  • Yet God did not want to leave Saul just as he was.
  • For God to use Saul to the fullest, He had to be turned into another man
  • by the filling of the Spirit of the Lord.

The difference between Saul’s yesterday and today was the Anointing! Not just the physical anointing of oil by Samuel onto Saul’s head, but what it depicted. That of the Spirit of the Lord coming upon him. That anointing is what turned Saul into a different man.

In Women’s Bible Study today we learned a lot about the Holy Spirit, but one of the most securing, and yet challenging truths, was that as Christians under the New Covenant, we are anointed by the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:20).

We are filled with, and blessed by, the Holy Spirit. This is something that is the common property of all Christians, but something we can and should become more submitted and responsive to.

Also, from this chapter, we see that Saul started out his reign with so much promise.

  • He was chosen and
  • anointed by God
  • He was filled with the Holy Spirit
  • He had the support of a man of God like Samuel
  • He had been given gifts appropriate to royalty
  • He had the enthusiastic support and goodwill of most all the nation
  • He had valiant men around him, men whose hearts God had touched to support him
  • And, he had the wisdom to not regard every doubter, or every critic, as an enemy

What will Saul do with these great advantages?

But even more closer to home, what will I do with the great advantages given me?

Lord Jesus Christ, thank You for choosing the unspiritual, the disinterested, as it were. And for the anointing of the Holy Spirit that is daily making me into a different woman. Father, You have blessed my life with so many earthly advantages as well. Help me to move up to higher ground because of them!

An Annoyance Led to a Crown!

Tall, Dark, and Handsome…but looking for lost donkeys! Yes, let’s pick him to be the king!

The first 2 verses 1 Samuel 9 talk plenty about Saul’s family, his heritage, his wealth, his appearance, his stature and how he compared with others … but nothing about his relationship with God. And isn’t that just like the Israelites spiritually? Wanting the image of religion regardless of the reality?

Oh Lord, let my image be sacrificed so long as I can have the real substance of a royal life.

I wonder if the donkeys had never gotten lost, or if Kish had sent another son to search for them, if Saul would have become king? Just think about that.

Going about the ordinary business of life (actually, I suppose it was a bit worse than the “usual” life…the donkeys ended up running away and I’m sure Saul had to be annoyed by the whole ordeal of going out looking for them) and closing out the day notified that you’ll be ruler over all the people of God!

Like there’s this fender bender, you might say, that disrupts ordinary life, and the next thing you know, Saul is on the ascent to the throne! Talk about a bad thing turned good! If the beasts had not meandered away, Saul would have never met the person who could change his life!

Charles Spurgeon (my all time favorite) said, “Saul went out to seek his father’s asses, he failed in that search, but he found a crown!”

Lord Jesus, Editor of my life, help me to see every Disappointment as “His appointment”!

Can you imagine coming to a “man of God”… “an honorable man” … a man that “all he says surely comes to pass” … asking for help to find…donkeys? I wonder if some of my requests seem that way to Jesus, small and so much less than what He wants to provide for me! Excuse me, Warren Buffet, could you loan me a dime!

Oh Lord, let me drink of Your fullness, and experience Your wholeness, rather than spend time with donkeys!

If I had the choice to either follow God’s lead by chasing after jackasses or hearing Him talk in my ear…I’d rather be a Samuel!

Open my eyes, Lord
I want to see Jesus.
To reach out and touch Him
To show Him I love Him

Open my ears,Lord
And help me to listen
Open my eyes, Lord
I want to see Jesus

Parenting, Prayers & Ripples

Who can tell just how far-reaching our influence may be? Because of Eli’s parenting skills (or perhaps, better stated, lack of them) many people’s lives were affected.

To think of everyone who was abused by his two boys as they violated the women, pillaged the men, and robbed from God, and the ripple effect from there on out, is mind-boggling.

1 Samuel 8 is just a microcosm of the ill-effects that Eli’s decisions regarding his children impacted world history.

(now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a blog from a single gal blasting someone else’s child-rearing tactics. I’m more convicted by the question, “is there anything I am doing that will have a negative impact on someone else’s life?”)

The Israelites suffer through a number of years under High Priest Eli’s reign as his boys plunder the countryside. Samuel brings a reprieve and recovery is enjoyed by the children of God.

But apparently, though Samuel could lead a nation (perhaps due in part to his mother’s prayer for her son in 1 Samuel 2), he seemed most influenced by Eli when it came to parenting.

The first 3 verses of chapter 8 sound very reminiscent of the Phinehas and Hophni days.

“but his sons did not walk in the ways of Samuel; they turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice.”

As a result of the boys behavior, the elders of Israel demand a king. Its as if they were driven to the request because of how they were being treated by Sam’s sons. And just like a script right out of Hollywood, a lot of previewing for the chapters ahead are given to us in verses 10-18. The 400 years of kingdom-living will reek with everything described in those 9 verses!

But I like what Samuel did when people asked something of him. (Oh, how I wish I responded like him more often).

“The elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said, ‘Give us a king to judge us.’ So Samuel prayed to the Lord!”

  • I need to do this when I hear displeasing news.
  • I need to do this when I’m requested to do something.
  • I need to do this when confronted by a number of people on all sides.
  • I need to do this when someone attempts to manipulate me into thinking it’s my fault (see verse 5).
  • I need to do this when I am criticized or evaluated.
  • I need to do this all the time!

Oh Lord God, how many times I could have saved myself heartache and wasted time, if I had only prayed to You first. Teach me to come to You with every decision I make (that sounds like a lot of times in any given day Lord, but I don’t suppose there is such a thing as communicating with You too much!) And if I have started any negative ripples in this pool of life, I pray that You will intervene and convert them into splashes of joy instead!

Hitherto has the Lord Helped Us!

Isn’t Samuel a breath of fresh air after the last judge we read about? (Remember the exploits of “faithful” Samson?) He had plenty of dysfunction in his surroundings and circumstances, and yet, it is he that the Lord used to bring the nation of Israel back to Himself!

In 1 Samuel 7 we see a battle that is won, after Samuel had the children of Israel tend to their idolatry and sin issues. It seemed his first concern was a reviving of the heart whether in war or peace time. That is a good reminder to me, that I should draw near to the Lord before I go about my day or confront my struggles head on.

But there is a word in all of this chapter that ministers to me most…Ebenezer.

Not because it was at Ebenezer Baptist Church where Martin Luther King, Jr. first preached his message of nonviolence.

Not because Mr. Scrooge discovered what it is to have a heart and live for others after three visits from Christmases.

But it’s because of its meaning and principal.

An old hymn by William Wilberforce’s spiritual mentor, John Newton, says it succinctly.

His love in time past forbids me to think
He’ll leave me at last in trouble to sink;
Each sweet Ebenezer I have in review,
Confirms His good pleasure to help me quite through.

How good it is for me to argue from the faithfulness of God in the past. David was able to face Goliath as he reminded himself of God’s protection in the past (1 Samuel 17:31-37):

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 Philipstine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, the Lord be with you!”

Why would I waver in doubt and fear, if I remember His kindness in leading me these past 20 years?

O Lord, here the Israelites were afraid of the Philistines, and yet with Your intervention, there was recovery! Help me to remember the wondrous works You have done, to encourage me to face the Philistines of my life today. And just like in the days of Samuel, help me to recover lost ground and to enjoy years of peace with all those around.

Kine-kind of Faith

Didn’t you find 1 Samuel 6 to be a POWERFUL chapter! I am exceedingly challenged by the cows.

It is very interesting how the Philistines reason about the Lord God of heaven.

“give glory to the God of Israel, perhaps He will lighten His hand from you, from your gods, and from your land.”

They are so close in their thinking to touching eternity, and yet…

And just a quick note on the rats…though it doesn’t mention rats in our translation of the Bible in chapter 5, in the Septuagint 1 Samuel 5:6 it reads:

“But the hand of the Lord was heavy on the people of Ashdod, and He ravaged them and struck them with tumors and in the midst of their land rats sprang up, and there was a great death panic in the city.”

But enough about rats, let’s talk about cows!

The Ark of the Lord was the presence of God. Though no one would glorify Jehovah, He would glorify Himself wherever the Ark was.

* Two milk cows (mommas)
* With babies
* Who had never been yoked before

And what did they do with these two milk cows? They hitched them to a cart. They took their babies and sent them home, away from the kine.

Then they put the Ark of the Lord (which had been plaguing everyone else) and hitched it up to these two mommas. And then they sent it away.

The “fleece,” or test of this whole venture was this:
1) if they milk cows did the natural thing and returned to the barn to nurture their calves, the Philistines would be convinced that everything up to this point was coincidental. That the plagues and tumors only seemed to follow the Ark of the Lord.

2) but if the momma cows did the very unnatural and very painful thing of leaving their babies behind to go away from home…then the Philistines would be convinced that it was the hand of the Lord that produced these “loud” plagues.

Now, if I were the cows, I would most certainly turn back to my cherished loved ones and let those prideful Philistines get their due. But not these two.

Verse 10-12 are so heart-wrenching:
“Then the men did so; they took two milk cows and hitched them in the cart, and shut up their calves at home. And they set the Ark of the Lord on the cart…then the cows headed straight for the road (away from their babies) to Beth Shemesh, and went along the highway, lowing as they went, and did not turn aside to the right hand or the left.”

Here the cows are separated from their calves. And we know that for ourselves that separation hurts, and rips apart the tightest bonds. For myself, having experienced separation, I don’t wonder but that they lowed all the while as they went.

  • The wonder of it is that they choose to separate from their calves.
  • That they did not turn aside to the right hand or left.
  • That they did not procrastinate (straight also carrying the connotation straightway, or quickly).

As a result of this very unnatural separation, they brought healing to the Philistines, joy to the Israelites, and glory to God.

But that’s not all. They didn’t return home to their darlings. Rather, the cows were offered as a burnt offering to the Lord. They had willingly sacrificed everything (remember, nobody drove them to leave their calves), even their dearest and choicest loved ones, to do the Lord’s bidding. It cost them their lives.

Now, though I love animals, what makes it so exceptionally moving, is to think of people who may have done the same thing. Perhaps even to the shouts of others yelling “you’re abandoning your children. You are being irresponsible.” But they had heard the call, the call to separate.

Oh Lord God, there is no way I could ever separate from my choice idols, or even dearest loved ones if it not by Your enabling. Help me to have the kind of kine-faith, that will sacrifice all, everything, enduring any hardship that might come as a result of trying to follow You. I do desire You would use me to “heal the Philistines & bring joy to the Israelites” (whatever that may look like).

Dagons of My Life

The Israelites had treated the Ark of the Lord as a good luck charm in chapter 4, and today in 1 Samuel 5 we see the Philistines creating a religious ritual of not treading on the threshold of Dagon’s temple. There is a vital element missing in the choices that the Israelites and the Philistines made regarding the Ark of the Lord…God Himself…I certainly don’t want to miss it!

Though the glory of God may have departed from the midst of Israel, God’s glory did not cease to exist! While the Ark of the Covenant stood as a trophy in the temple of Dagon, God’s glory began to shine.

God is not simply trying to show that He is better than Dagon, but He is reaching out to the Philistines themselves. Yet, even after the Philistines recognize that the Lord God of Israel is superior to their headless, handless Dagon, they refuse to turn to the Almighty.

Instead, they make a religious tradition of it. They would rather glue the pieces of their god together than worship the Lord and have their lives and thinking changed.

How often do I do that with my pet sin? How often must the Lord demonstrate the weakness and insufficiency of my choice idols? What do I do with my little powerless, witless little Dagon? Why do I keep erecting it in my heart, thinking it is as necessary to life as air itself? What a mercy it is that the Lord dealt with the idol.

But when we close our ears to God, He often finds another way to speak to us. And it wasn’t a pleasant form of communication!

So even the tumors, hemorrhoids, and destructions were God reaching out to display His glory in such a way, that men would repent and enjoy the benefits of a right relationship with the Lord. But alas! Instead of submitting to the God of Israel, they decided to get rid of Him.

Lord Jesus, You are so merciful how You grace us with Your glory, even when we refuse to acknowledge it. I invite You in to my life to deal radically with my Dagons and strengthen me to turn to You even in the midst of pain and confusion. I don’t want You to ever go away.

The Ark of the Lord

We had the Word of the Lord in 1 Samuel 3, and today the emphasis seems to be on The Ark of the Lord in 1 Samuel 4.

But one things seems to have become quite clear…that without the Word of the Lord to guide the going forths of even the very Ark of the Lordwe can end up getting ourselves into some very messy trouble!

Having read the about Hophni and Phinehas in chapter 2, it seems a terrible blight to the glory of the Lord to have them possessing the ark of the covenant of God. The Mercy Seat (which resided in the Ark of the Lord) morphed into a rabbit’s foot or a good luck charm.

I sure hope I don’t treat prayer, or Bible Study, or going to church or tithing like the Ark of the Lord was treated in this chapter…they didn’t even take the time to seek God’s mind on the matter.

What kind of testimony am I leaving behind? Is my life one that people will look back and actually draw conclusions from. What I mean is this…look in verse 7-8:

So the Philistines were afraid, for they said, “God has come into the camp. Woe to us! Woe to us! Who will deliver us? This is the God who struck the Egyptians with all the plagues.”

They are using the events of the Exodus that occurred 400 years earlier as an argument for their conclusion in the present. Apparently, even up until this time, the dealings of God with the Egyptians and the Israelites still spoke loudly as a testimony to those surrounding the area.

The glory of God has departed.

Can you think of sadder words than these? Perhaps we may feel as if the presence or cheer of God has left us, but it is never true. For He promises, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Thank You Jesus for securing us from the departure of Your glory.

Lord, I so desire to have a heart in tune with Your cares, and Your glory. Make me a bright and bold witness for You. Protect me from ever treating You as, or thinking of You as, a vending machine or good luck charm.