Thursday, June 30, 2011

sad prophetic reality

Thus Saul died, and his three sons, and his armor-bearer, and all his men, on the same day together.
1 Samuel 31:6

God had told Saul that his kingdom would end and that not one of his sons would survive to take the throne of Israel. And in one decisive battle, the Philistine army brings about all that God said would happen. Saul began so innocently, but ran from God so much. It only seemed in his most desperate moments that he considered what God said to him.

Sad stories are found in scripture. Human life has its sad and its dark moments. And Saul's story is consumed by Saul's own selfishness. It literally drove him insane. He was given over to uncontrollable rage and introspective depression. His impatience with God was a hallmark of his life. And it led him to lead Israel inconsistently at best.

Saul started so humble, but somehow, in the throes of the leadership crucible, emerged a very self-centered and self-focused man. His death epitomizes this. Rather than die at the hands of the Philistines, he falls on his own sword. He wanted control so much, and the only thing he got to control in the end was his own painful demise.

Of course, all of this points to the next step in Israel's history, which is the Davidic kingdom. And God has already been working to bring David, the prophesied king, to the place God has for him. The sad prophetic reality will be placed by a strong prophetic leader... in time... in God's providence.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

courage & leadership

Nothing was missing, whether small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything that had been taken. David brought back all.
1 Samuel 30:19

This chapter clearly shows that David has all the characteristics in place to be the next king of Israel. After being tossed out of the Philistine army, David and his band return home to find that their town has been raided by Amalekites. Everything, including wives and families, has been taken. Their homes have been burned. David's men have been turned away from battle and now must find this disaster. To say morale is low would be an understatement.

David inquires of the Lord through Abiathar the priest. This is in direct contrast to Saul's recent attempt to summon up Samuel through the use of a spiritist. God tells David to chase after the Amalekites... that victory will be his. David and his men pursue the foe. They are able to sneak up on them in their camp as they are in drunken celebration over their "spoils". The battle swiftly and quickly ends, with David's men overwhelmingly defeating the raiders and recovering every bit of the spoils of war.

The reality of God's sovereign protection was that not a bit of the stolen goods and people were missing. All of David's men recovered all their lives. God had protected them. And God used the courage and the leadership of David to move these men beyond their pain and even their pettiness, to be a force that God could use.

David is now leading like a king. He had been fighting like a soldier for a long time. But this is clearly a new level of leadership. And key to it was that he did not abandon his spiritual commitments. He sought the Lord even as he felt powerless. He had been delivered two humiliations: 1) the Philistines refused to let him serve as a commander and then 2) the Amalekites had raided his hometown, capturing his family. Yet in the midst of that potential depression, he turned to God, obeyed God's encouragements, and saw God providentially provide a way back to usefulness for him and for his army. God rewarded his courage and commitment as David learned to lead in hardship.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

sovereign over prejudice

And Achish answered David and said, "I know that you are as blameless in my sight as an angel of God. Nevertheless, the commanders of the Philistines have said, 'He shall not go up with us to the battle.'"
1 Samuel 29:9

David is something of a victim of anti-Semitism in this part of the story. He has faithfully served the Philistine king Achish. But now that Achish joins his troops with other Philistine commanders to attack Saul at Jezreel, David's presence as a general leading his renegade Israeli troops is not welcome. The Philistine commanders don't trust the Jewish troops. And really this distrust in something of a God send for David. It keeps him from being on the front lines against Saul.

God sovereignly orchestrated the events that led to the end of Saul's reign and set the stage for David to ascend to the throne. One piece of that event that kept David's reputation clear was this prejudice. It may have been an ugly sin committed by the Philistines, but God used it to keep David from a battle confrontation with Saul and his army. God kept David's reputation clear.

Strangely, even among the pagans, David had a strong reputation for hard work and faithful service. Achish felt like David had a sterling reputation with him (even though David was not honest with him about the raids he conducted). David served the Philistine king with a ring of distinction. And that distinction earned him the chance to keep his reputation clean with Israel as well. God gave him the means to secure his reputation and God sovereignly used even the distrust and favoritism of Philistine leaders to His purposes.

Sometimes what we see as bad circumstances will be sovereignly used by God to accomplish His purposes. We cannot always know how or when this occurs. We know it from this passage because we have the advantage of written revelations AND the advantage of knowing the whole story now. I am sure that David was hurt and upset by this order from the commander in chief. But he did not break the chain of command, and because of that, God protected him. We may not always know why certain events occur in our lives, but if commit to following God in what we do know, He will sovereignly lead us through what we do not understand. I am certain of that truth as I see it in scripture, and in my own experience.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Monday, June 27, 2011

across enemy lines

But Saul swore to her by the LORD, "As the LORD lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing."
1 Samuel 28:10

Saul, in the waning days of his kingdom, has lost all sense of spiritual commitment. He decides to consult a medium in order to summon up the spirit of the dead Samuel. He is concerned about the Philistines encamped against Israel. And Saul crosses all rational spiritual boundaries in this episode.

He had previously enforced the law (to a degree) by driving the practice of spiritism out of Israel (although the law required punishment by death for such activity, Saul managed instead just to drive it from Israel's borders). The result is that Saul actually had to travel about four and a half miles into Philistine territory to even consult this known medium. Saul is breaking God's law across enemy lines to get what he wants.

The medium is an interesting person in herself. She is suspicious that an Israeli would seek her services. His assurances are ironic. He swears by the LORD that she will not be punished. This is the same God that had issued the covenant that forbade such practice. So Saul has really turned God's truth upside down in his mad pursuit.

What is really wild is that God allows this woman to raise the spirit of Samuel up from Sheol. From there Samuel confirms his past prophecies against Saul. It is the last word. And the woman medium is nearly as shook up by the process as Saul was by the prophecy. She is amazed that Samuel's spirit really is summoned. It is clear she has either been a flim flam psychic, or that she was used to cooperating with deceptive demons. When the real man of God comes as a spirit to her home, she is shocked and shaken, just as Saul was.

The bottom line is that God will meet people in the strangest ways. Even in their disobedience, God can choose to "show up" and warn them. That is what happened to Saul. He may have been in the wrong place, doing the wrong thing, with the wrong motives, pursuing the wrong spirituality, but God still interrupted all that string of sin to point him to the truth. And He can choose to do so in His sovereign workings even now.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Monday, June 20, 2011

Gath II: on the wrong side

And the number of the days that David lived in the country of the Philistines was a year and four months.
1 Samuel 27:7

David made the same mistake twice. He is back in Gath, serving Achish and the Philistines, this time leading his own mercenary army of 600 troops. He has taken things into his own hands again, and taken to deceit with the Philistines again. Only this time people are dying.

Achish sends David and his men on raids, and David is reporting that he is raiding Israeli towns and cities. In reality, he is raiding outlying Philistine territories, but by instituting a total "slash and burn" order, no person ever survives his attacks, thus ensuring that the truth gets concealed. David is living a list of brutal lies right now. It is not a pretty situation.

The text says that he spent 16 months of his life in this condition. He was on the wrong side and he knew it. He kept up the charade because it kept him alive and out of reach of the fickle King Saul. It was an odd situation to be in, and I wonder how he felt.

When we make decisions to do things our own way, without considering God's will in the matter, we will live in less than ideal circumstances. It is only the grace of God that kept David alive during these days of spying and lying. He would emerge from these moments by God's grace to finally be led to the throne of Israel. But during this stage, David lived like a Philistine rather than a member of God's people. And he had to keep the lies up on both sides. He had to convince Achish that he had turned against his own people. He had to keep his troops informed that this was only temporary and that he really was not interested in a permanent alliance with the Philistine army. He was constantly sinning against his own loyal army and against Achish who was being deceived by David. You cannot live in such deception without paying the price. It never pays to be on the wrong side.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Friday, June 17, 2011

radical trust

The LORD rewards every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness, for the LORD gave you into my hand today, and I would not put out my hand against the LORD's anointed. Behold, as your life was precious this day in my sight, so may my life be precious in the sight of the LORD, and may he deliver me out of all tribulation.
1 Samuel 26:23-24

David had a trust in God that restructured how he approached his life. For the second time, he has had a chance to kill Saul unawares. And for a second time, David refuses to take the situation into his own hand. Instead, he uses the opportunity to literally awaken Saul to God's sovereign control over the events in his life.

He recognized that God had put him in his current situation. It was God's plan that he be the future king. It was God's plan that he learn the lessons he was learning as a fugitive. It was God's plan that Saul learn that his kingdom would not last. But David was content to let God tie all those loose threads together. David would not step in with personal vengeance.

That is radical trust. It waits so that God is clearly the receiver of all the glory. It is focused on God. It waits for God. It trusts in God at the rejection of all personal efforts.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Thursday, June 16, 2011

protection for protection

If men rise up to pursue you and to seek your life, the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living in the care of the LORD your God. And the lives of your enemies he shall sling out as from the hollow of a sling.
1 Samuel 25:29

There are a series of relationships in this story of David, Nabal, and Abigail that ultimately point outward to the sovereign plan of God. David had been moving his troops around the region of Carmel. There, Nabal's wealth was already legendary. When David saw that Nabal's shepherding crew needed a little protection during the sheering season, he did not hesitate to utilize the resources at his disposal to protect them. Nabal's own foreman says that David had been a "wall" around them (1 Samuel 25:16).

At the end of this time, when celebrations were in order, David thought it entirely proper to ask Nabal himself to help provision his men who had helped his shepherds without any hesitation. Nabal bruskly refuses David, dismissing David as a worthless troublemaker. David had been pardoned and reinstated by Saul. He was not an outlaw any longer. He was acting as an official agent of the Israeli military. So, turning down David was a slap in the face to all of Israel, really.

Thankfully, Nabal's wife, Abigail intervenes. She loads up plenteous provisions and meets David as he is heading in to punish Nabal's insubordination. David relents from the operation he had planned, accepts the kind words and gifts from her hand, and rejoices in God with Abigail.

Abigail's own prophecy about God's protection of David come to call in her own house. The next day, after telling Nabal what she had done, Nabal suffers some sort of stroke or heart attack, dying ten days later. God did work against David's enemy. And it was clear that God was sovereignly in control of the events around David and his mighty men. David protected Nabal's shepherds in the hills around Carmel. Abigail provided for them in thankfulness and also protected David from an act of vengeance. God protected David's reputation by her wisdom in coming to David, and God showed His control over the events in the demise of a critic of David. The circles of protection move outward into God's wise and sovereign plan.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

sovereignty & trust

May the LORD therefore be judge and give sentence between me and you, and see to it and plead my cause and deliver me from your hand.
1 Samuel 24:15

It is in the midst of a strikingly mundane moment that God's sovereignty played an important role in the life of David. Saul is in hot pursuit of David and his band of refugee fighters. And the chase has now taken them into the wilderness of Engedi. There is the rocky cliffs and caves, David has a strategic advantage in the high ground, yet chooses to run rather than engage the king in battle. He is by no means going to stand against the Lord's anointed king.

Then the providential occurs in the inconsequential. While David and his men are hiding in a cave, Saul enters the cave alone. He has to go potty. The imaginations of ten year olds run wild here. Let's face it. This is a vulnerable moment for anybody, and David's men whisper to him to take advantage of the situation. David sneaks forward in the cool darkness and cuts off the hem of Saul's discarded robe, refusing to kill the king. Even that little boldness leaves David regretful of his cunning.

When Saul is finished with his business, and presumably about to move his company forward, David steps out of the cave flanked by his warriors and begs the king to stop seeking his life. The request has maximum effect. Saul is dumbfounded. He immediately agrees to stop pursuing David, in effect lifting the price on his head and pardoning him of the non-existent charges of treason.

It is worth noting that when David made his appeal, he made it in trust of God. He did not trust his own cunning. He instead simply acknowledged that everything that had occurred was under the sovereign rule of God first and foremost. He appealed to God's greater justice, and strangely, Saul was in a frame of mind to acknowledge that appeal and enter into a covenant of peace with David. When we see God's sovereign work in our lives, making circumstances we could not contrive in our wildest dreams work out for His glory, it can lead to greater trust than we ever thought possible.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

cat & mouse life

And David remained in the strongholds in the wilderness, in the hill country of the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God did not give him into his hand.
1 Samuel 23:14

David is playing hide and seek against Saul and his army. And somehow, every time that Saul closes in, God provides a way out for David. Three times in this chapter Saul has almost closed the net on the fugitive David, only to have his efforts thwarted. God is clearly teaching both men something really important.

David is learning to trust the Lord. It helps that David is protecting the last surviving member of the Israeli priesthood in his company. David is consistently inquiring of the Lord. That communication with God is key to his survival right now. David has not let the pressure of being hunted down keep him from focusing his heart on God.

Saul is learning difficult lessons in the sovereignty of God. He is chasing a delusion that is so strong that he thinks God wants to give David into his hands. But each lead that looks like the way to get David, becomes a place for David's escape. In fact, when Saul's army is just perhaps a few hundred yards from capturing all of David's forces, an urgent message from the Philistine battle front forces Saul to call off the pursuit to protect the nation elsewhere. God is showing Saul who his real enemy is, but Saul is not really listening.

The wild thing about this cat & mouse lifestyle on the part of David, is that many of the most powerful Psalms we have today were written during this episode of David's life. There was a lot of downtime in the hiding. There was a lot of emotional and spiritual tension when Saul was suddenly hot in pursuit. And David's answer for it all was to act shrewdly while simultaneously focusing on God for help, protection, and perspective on his troubles. This is great insight into how to handle stress.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Monday, June 13, 2011

collateral damage

But one of the sons of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped and fled after David. And Abiathar told David that Saul had killed the priests of the LORD.
1 Samuel 22:20-21

This was a sad unintended consequence of David's quick thinking deception. Now the priestly line has been nearly wiped out by Saul's hot-tempered revenge. It has come to the king's attention that the priests offered aid to the fleeing David. In retaliation, he has the priests all killed, and their homes and families obliterated. Only one son of Ahimelech escapes. Abiathar brings David the bad news. David accepts this fugitive priest into his company.

David's life is now that of a renegade general. It is not what he has chosen. But Saul has turned bitter and suspicious. He has made David into a wanted man. And now he roams the Judean wilderness with a band of desperadoes. David is a leader of a group that would later be known as his "mighty men". For now, they are just desperate, debt-ridden, depressed but faithful to David. And God would make of this group the finest army Israel ever would know.

I am sure that when David first concocted his deception to the priests, he never thought Saul would twist it like he did. But now David must live with the collateral damage that he caused. He must take responsibility for the last surviving priest in Israel. He must protect the Lord's reputation and must take responsibility for leading beyond his past mistakes.

This is a lesson worth contemplating. Many times we make quick and selfish choices that later come with damaging consequences. God's grace can lead us to accept and move beyond them. That is what David did. He kept leading and stayed faithful despite his past sins and mistakes. That is the mark of a leader who is truly courageous.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Thursday, June 9, 2011

desperate lies

And David rose and fled that day from Saul and went to Achish the king of Gath.
1 Samuel 21:10

David's life as a fugitive from Saul begins with a sad note. He runs in desperation. He deceives people to protect his own skin. The matter is not one that I enjoy reading. The first person that David deceives is Ahimelech, the high priest. David talks him into providing the very sacrificial bread reserved for the priests to him for his flight from Saul. David outright lies to the priest, telling him he is on a secret matter for the King. Given his reputation, he is basically convincing the priest he is a covert operative on a military mission.

He uses the same ruse to arm himself with the sword of Goliath. It is not clear how he got permission, but it appears to have been kept as a memorial trophy. David talked one of Saul's servants into giving it to him so that he could go on "the king's business" with it. And then David heads off with Goliath's sword straight into Goliath's home town, Gath.

There, David somehow gains the permission of Achish, king of Gath, to stay among the Philistines. It is such an insane idea, that the only way David could pull it off was to appear to be crazy himself. It worked. Achish knew David by reputation. He knows this is the man that slew his champion. He lets David hang out at the city gates as he pretends to be a madman. This buys just enough protection for David to get by and strategize. But again, this is a desperate lie.

The Bible does not condone David's actions. In fact, we will see that eventually God brings sovereign consequences on these actions that really do get David's attention as to the sins he has done. But for now, God in His forbearance is saving David in spite of his actions, not because of them. David strung together lies and self-serving choices in a period when he was on the run, not thinking at his best, and maybe not as close to God as he could have been. God was merciful to him in spite of this.

And that is where I really take heart. I think many times God forbears what I do and shows me mercy despite what I do, not because I do anything good at all. In fact, that is the reality with every sinner, redeemed and lost. God is merciful, even in our worst sins. And I thank Him that is true! I would not be here if God was not that way.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

a friendship forever

Then Jonathan said to David, "Go in peace, because we have sworn both of us in the name of the LORD, saying, 'The LORD shall be between me and you, and between my offspring and your offspring, forever.'" And he rose and departed, and Jonathan went into the city.
1 Samuel 20:42

Two men
fast friends
tested by trial
found to be true
faithful through changes and trials.

one man
king's son
prince and warrior
brave in dark battle
tested by his father's rage

one man
God's choice
after His heart
loyal to the king
who wants him quickly dead

both men
truly led
held in covenant
faithful to God's call
will be separated by circumstances

each man
holding true
to his God
and his friend's pledge
will remain true beyond death

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

running to God

Now David fled and escaped, and he came to Samuel at Ramah and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and lived at Naioth.
1 Samuel 19:18

David was running for his life from the undeserved anger of Saul. And the first place he runs is to Samuel, the prophet and priest of God. David's intuitive move is to run to the place where God's protection would be clear. To do anything else would be to take his life in his own hands. But to run to Samuel clearly showed where David's heart was centered.

David is running to God while Saul is running from God. This is quite a contrast. David finds refuge, help, and understanding with Samuel. Together they both go to Naioth with a company of prophets. It is there that God protects David and affirms him, even as He sovereignly and comically chastises Saul. David runs to God. Saul is running from God. The two of them meet at Naioth.

There in the company of Samuel and the prophets David is safe. And it is there in the company of prophets that Saul is humbled by God. First, Saul sends three different companies of men to apprehend David. It is no secret that David is with Samuel. All three companies of men are "overcome" by the Spirit of God and join the prophets in prophesying, failing to capture David. Finally, Saul himself goes into Naioth to capture David, only to have the Spirit of God overpower him, and over the course of a day and night, is driven by God in a prophetic fervor, literally stripped of all he had, even his robes. God is sending a message to Saul of His sovereign control. And God is confirming David.

So this is an interesting comparison. We are shown the joys of running to God when in trouble. We are warned of the dangers of running from God. And we see that God can do anything He wants, even with the person most interested in defying Him. So in end, nobody ever outruns the long arm of the Lord!

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Monday, June 6, 2011

rise & fall

Then the princes of the Philistines came out to battle, and as often as they came out David had more success than all the servants of Saul, so that his name was highly esteemed.
1 Samuel 18:30

This chapter documents the rise in the popularity of David, and the decline of Saul's influence as king. A series of events lays out this movement. And it is clear that God is sovereign in the rhythm of the reigns of rulers. David is taken into the household of Saul. Saul's son, Jonathan, makes a unique covenant with the youthful warrior (1 Samuel 18:1-5) in a friendship that would become generational in its impact.

The common people wildly accept David as a military leader, to the point that singing of his exploits is more impacting than recounting Saul's. This has a detrimental effect on Saul's opinion of David. Saul begins brooding over his throne and becomes suspicious of David. (1 Samuel 18:6-9). But God is in control even of these events. The text goes straight to the sovereignty of God, attributing even Saul's foul moods to the hand of God (1 Samuel 18:10-11).

Despite the politics and pouting, God kept David safe and granted him success in his military endeavors. This created more fearful distance between David and Saul, but increased David's esteem among the Israelites. It is very clear that the rise of David is God's design, and the decline of Saul is also happening as part of the judgment God announced against him for his casual and frequent disobedience (1 Samuel 18:12-16).

By the end of the chapter, a plot Saul devised to eliminate David on a hero's quest, ends with him giving his daughter to David in marriage, cementing a "relational" claim to the throne for David. God orchestrates at this point using even Saul's lame-brained schemes to further the process of David's rule. The result is that David becomes the leader general in Israel's armies and is doing the work that the king has been assigned to do, eliminating enemies and furthering the claim of Israeli territory in the Promised Land (1 Samuel 18:17-30).

So this chapter is a good look at how God's sovereignty works. It is not without its questions, but the recorder of these events is clearly impressed with God's rulership over the political scene. And we have to be impressed by this as well. Nothing happens in the affairs of state, in the actions of people, in the lives of individuals, that is beyond the sovereign hand of God.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Friday, June 3, 2011

courage for God's sake

And David said to the men who stood by him, "What shall 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 defy the armies of the living God?"
1 Samuel 17:26

This was the courage that drew David to face Goliath. When every other warrior in Saul's army would only cower in fear at the sight of the giant, David felt that the honor of the name of God was at stake. It was not about fear or the outward threat of a man. It was about the integrity of the God of Israel and the power He could bring to bear in battle. David could not stand that this pagan mocked God by mocking Israel.

David's source of courage was the power of God to save. He knew it. He may have been just a "youth", but he had already faced impossible odds. God had given him the strength to defeat a lion and a bear that had threatened his father's flocks. God would give him the power to defeat this "animal" that defied God's people. David was a man with risk taking faith at his disposal.

One important facet of faith is the courage it produces. If I don't have a confident expectation in God, why bother believing at all? If I know that with God's help, I can face what seems impossible, than I know the courage that comes in faith. That is where I really am impressed with Christian faith. It gets me through what seems impossible. I know this, just like David did. In my case, it has not been lions or bears that threatened me, but I have seen plenty of impossible situations that faith and courage in God have strengthened. And I am not talking about my own life. One of the unique privileges of ministry is to be involved with people in their impossibilities. It can be at the death bed of a loved one. It can be through a debilitating illness. It can be through the loss of a job. It can be through what seems a hopeless marriage. It can be through a bitter struggle with a painful past. In all these things, I see the courage that God gave David to face a giant carry people through by faith. And courage for God's sake will make a life SOLID. It really will.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Thursday, June 2, 2011

the measure of a man

But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart."
1 Samuel 16:7

In this account of the anointing of David as a boy to be the future king of Israel, we have a look into how God chooses the person He uses. Samuel knew that one of the sons of Jesse would be chosen by God. And the very first son, Eliab impresses Samuel with his appearance. But God gives the old prophet a reminder that there is much more to this than meets the eye. God had not chosen Eliab, as impressive as he appeared on the outside. It was the same story for seven of Jesse's sons.

God wanted a man with the right heart to lead Israel. Jesse had an impressive family. Samuel was taken with the outward appearance of Jesse's sons. But God was concerned with the heart of just one of them, the youngest shepherd boy, David. And in that moment, Samuel learned the importance of the heart in God's choice for a king.

This was a moment where God made a move in a different direction. Saul had been anointed king while still a farm boy. But he was an impressive figure of a man, standing tall, head and shoulders above the rest of the people. David, though a fine looking young lad, was just a boy, so faithful to his father's commands that nobody thought to call him away from tending the sheep on the hillsides outside of town. But it was the faithful shepherd boy that God had chosen to be king.

The reason this was so was that God was looking first at the heart of the leader. And David became known as the "man after God's own heart". You only have to read the Psalms, most of which are attributed to David, to know this to be the case. David had a passionate love for God. He made art out of it. The measure of a man is his heart, and only God can truly know it. That is why we must let God speak to the heart through His Word and change the heart through His Spirit's work.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

obedience over sacrifice

And Samuel said, "Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams."
1 Samuel 15:22

Saul learned the bitter lessons of incomplete obedience. He chose to listen to the voice of the nation, rather than the command of God. The result was that he did not follow the explicit instructions of God to him regarding eradicating the Amalekite oppressors. Saul saw in the flocks and herds fine animals. He took Agag, their king, prisoner as a token of war. All in all, he deliberately chose to disobey God, and he knew it.

When Samuel came to confront him for his disobedience, Saul tried to put a "righteous" spin on his sinful actions. He modified his sin to make it sound holy. The flocks were taken for sacrifice to God. Agag was brought back (though Saul fails to state any kind of reason for this). In Saul's twisted version of it, he has fulfilled the mission God gave him (1 Samuel 15:20). It is only after Samuel confronts Saul that he admits his transgression (1 Samuel 15:24), ascribing it to his fear of the people who wanted to take the spoils of war.

It is in this context that Samuel reminds Saul of the greater form of devotion to God. He knew that the sacrifices were a symbol of something greater. What God wanted was obedience and devotion to Him. Saul had agreed to do this by assenting to God's call for him to destroy Amalek. By disobeying God's command, Saul showed utter disregard for the person of God. Trying to make amends by sacrifice of what God wanted destroyed would not do. It was obedience that God rejoiced in. Saul never quite got this. And the pathetic pleading that he does (1 Samuel 15:30) only makes the story harder to take. It is clear that even after "repenting", Saul was only concerned about saving face.

I take from this the overarching principle of obedience. Clear... first time... complete... those are the words that describe obedient faith. If I modify a biblical conviction or truth, or if I find myself excusing myself from a biblical command or principle, I have a heart like Saul's. Obedience is what God delights in with His children. And it is what should mark my commitment to Him.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13