Samuel, Day 26: Cracks in the Foundation

1samuelRead 2 Samuel chapters 4 and 5

Chapter 4 is quite gruesome and gives you a sense of how Saul’s dynasty was slowly crumbling while people from Saul’s camp defected to David. The memo must not have reached everyone that David didn’t honor traitors.

Chapter 5 has a couple points I’d like you to ponder today.

David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years. In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years. 2 Samuel 5:4,5

Let’s do some math here. If David was ten years old when he was anointed king by Samuel, that means he was on the run from Saul for twenty years before he actually became king over Judah (the southern kingdom). It was 27 years before he became king over the united kingdom of Israel.

That means David was in training for a full 27 years before achieving his calling of king over Israel. Think about that for a minute. Think about that in light of anything you hope to achieve in life. If what you desire has any depth to it at all, it will take time. You need to develop into the person that is required for your desire.

The word patience literally means, “long suffering.” This is a concept that is almost totally lost in our world today. We are like two-year-olds: we want it, and we want it now. We don’t appreciate the hard work required to achieve great things.

If you long for something great: a career, to be married, to have a good marriage, to make an impact with a gift or talent, to be a leader, etc. it will take time. Fight against the idea of being an instant success and submit yourself to the work God wants to do in you to bring it about.

Now, a few verses later I want you to see the cracks that started to develop in David’s character.

And he became more and more powerful, because the LORD God Almighty was with him. Now Hiram king of Tyre sent envoys to David, along with cedar logs and carpenters and stonemasons, and they built a palace for David. Then David knew that the LORD had established him as king over Israel and had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel. After he left Hebron, David took more concubines and wives in Jerusalem, and more sons and daughters were born to him. 2 Samuel 5:10-13

Reread this text, first reading what I put in italics, then the rest. Do you see the contrast? God raised David up for the sake of the people. But David used his position to acquire a palace, concubines, and wives.

I’m sure David didn’t even notice what was happening. His heart was still after God. He was just doing what all the other kings did. It was standard practice. But he didn’t realize that these cracks in his character would lead to tragedy.

Christian culture today accepts many things that was never tolerated in the early church. So, it’s easy to have a heart for God while allowing yourself to disobey God.

We would all be wise to honestly compare God’s word to our lives and make the necessary corrections. Just because “everyone is doing it” doesn’t mean God approves of it or is pleased. Remember what we’ve learned before: God honors those who honor him.

Prayer: Father, thank you for giving me the story of David to both inspire me and warn me. I’m inspired to learn that David suffered long to become king. Help me be willing to do the same to achieve my sense of calling. I also feel warned by David taking advantage of his position. Help me to see where I might be doing the same thing so I can change my behavior so that I might live a life that honors you in ALL things. Amen.

1samuelRead 1 Samuel 24

Chapter 24 contains another fundamental attitude to possess in following God: if you want to honor God then do what he’s told you to do no matter what others say. We saw the reverse behavior earlier in the book when Saul chose to not obey God concerning the Amalekites.

In our story today Saul entered a cave to “relieve himself” where David and his men were hiding. It seemed to be an opportunity sent from heaven. David’s men insisted that he take advantage of the moment to kill the king and solve everyone’s problems. But David’s response was:

“It would be unthinkable for me to raise my hand against His Majesty, the LORD’s anointed king, since he is the LORD’s anointed.”  So David stopped his men by saying this to them and didn’t let them attack Saul. 1 Samuel 24:6,7

Doing the Unthinkable

David said that killing Saul was “unthinkable.” There are certain deeds that are unthinkable. Deeds that should never be considered so that when the “perfect” circumstances develop, the ones that all point to the “obvious” conclusion… so much that you don’t have to think or pray about it… that you will never commit the deed because it is unthinkable. It is unallowable and off limits to you. End of discussion.

We tend to leave our options open. We want everything to be negotiable…just in case. But we would be much better off if we took the time, in advance, to develop a list of “unthinkables:” things we will never do no matter how “perfect” or “obvious” the circumstances are in the moment.

Treating Others Well

As the chapter closes out, Saul comments to David:

“You are more righteous than I. You treated me well while I treated you badly.”  1 Samuel 24:17

You treated me well while I treated you badly. Such a simple principle. That’s what God did with us, right? The apostle Paul said, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.”

Thomas Merton said:

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy.

But sinful people like to fight evil with evil. We think that when someone mistreats us, we have the right to wave all decency and stoop to their level; we are no longer obligated to the ethical limits that God has given us. We get a free pass. David knew better.

This story reminds us that choice is the essence of character. Who you are when your circumstances are favorable doesn’t tell us who you really are; it’s when the pressure is on and temptation confronts you full throttle that reveals your true self.

I hope you’ll remember David’s response to Saul as you face your temptations today.

Prayer: Father, help me to stand in the face of temptation like David did. Help me to not waver; justifying what I want, only to regret it later. Help me to prepare in advance for temptation so my choice, and character, are predetermined. Amen.

Samuel, Day 17: To Obey is Better Than Sacrifice

1samuel

Read: 1 Samuel 15

This is one of the most important stories in 1 Samuel, if not in the entire Bible.

This isn’t the place to wrestle with what God asked of Saul. I will only say that in my limited knowledge of the mind of God, that it has to do with his holiness. The destruction of the Amalekites is a picture of the final judgment when God comes against everything that is opposed to him. I trust God knew what he was doing.

The bigger lesson here is to see Saul’s error. He felt comfortable modifying God’s command. For him, 90% obedience was good enough:

But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed. Vs 9

Saul set himself up to judge God’s desire. He would be the judge of what was good to keep and what was okay to kill. The key word in the sentence above might be “unwilling.” That’s not the heart that God was looking for in his leader. He was looking for someone willing to carry out all of his command.

Saul didn’t help his status by leaving the area and going to set up a monument in his honor in Carmel. He must have been quite pleased with himself. Isn’t it interesting to see the contrasting views of Saul. Saul was pleased and God was grieved. That shows how out of touch we can become in our self-assessment.

When confronted by Samuel, Saul sounded like Adam in the Garden of Eden: I didn’t do it. It was the woman! In Saul’s case, he pointed to his men. But the command went to Saul. He was responsible for the decision.

Surprisingly, he felt that he DID fulfill God’s command completely. He didn’t see the problem. He was just being practical in saving the animals and the king.

Samuel’s response is something every follower of Jesus needs to grasp:

“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”

Before Jesus left the earth, he told his disciples to teach people to OBEY everything he taught, not to simply read about it and do their best.

Disobedience can be forgiven but there are often serious consequences that follow our disobedience. In Saul’s case, he lost his position as king. He never got it back. The best way to live with no regrets is to obey God in the first place.

The church today has a similar casual attitude to obedience. We often sit in judgment of God’s word, deciding what we will and won’t obey. God still loves us, but that kind of attitude doesn’t honor God. That’s not the attitude that will receive the blessing of God.

I hope you will reflect on your life. My guess is you already know the areas that you have chosen to disobey God. Is it really worth whatever benefit you think you are getting? God honors those who honor him. I hope you will choose to honor God by obeying him in everything he’s shown you.

Prayer: Father, help me to see the areas where I am like Saul. What have I so easily justified where I don’t even see my wrong any more? Search me and show me where I’m wrong. Help me to love pleasing you more than pleasing myself. Amen.

 

Samuel, Day 15: It’s About God’s Holiness

1samuelDAY FIFTEEN

Read 1 Samuel 13 – 14:23

It’s important to read this entire section in one sitting to appreciate what is happening and see the mind of God.

First, the context. Saul is the new king with one victory under his belt. He decides to send much of his army home but keeps 3000. It doesn’t say why. Overconfidence? Maybe.

Jonathan takes out a Philistine outpost and that gets their attention. They rally with the full force of their army staring down at them. The Israelites freak out. All but 600 of them go running for the hills. Some hide. Some flee the country. Some join the Philistines.

The tradition was to offer a sacrifice before battle to ask for God’s favor in battle. Samuel said he’d be there to offer the sacrifice but he didn’t show. So Saul got desperate and offered it himself. Bad decision.

Just then Samuel shows up and is shocked to see what Saul has done. He tells him that he and his son Jonathan and his sons sons would have held the kingdom for years. But this one act of disobedience proved that he wasn’t worthy of being king.

It’s About God’s Holiness

Harsh? Here’s the deal: when God appears to be harsh in the Bible, it almost always has to do with his holiness. There is no compromise with God’s holiness. To us, mere mortals, it does seem harsh, like an over-reactive temper tantrum on God’s part. But that’s only because we don’t understand that God is not like us. He is pure in every way. We need to respect that.

God established an elaborate system for worship, involving priests and sacrifices showing that you don’t just come tripping into the presence of God. But that’s what Saul did. He felt like he could break all the rules of worship because he was going to lose his battle. He put his concerns ahead of God’s.

There are few lessons in the Bible more important than this. I think this might be THE problem at the heart of the church: not appreciating the holiness of God. It takes us off track and out of God’s will every time.

After reading what Saul did, you’d assume that the army would have been crushed as punishment for Saul’s behavior. But God used Jonathan’s solo mission as a springboard to reveal his glory. It’s like God was showing Saul that he should have trusted him more. If God could route the entire army through Jonathan and his armor bearer, how easy would it have been to route them with Saul and 600 men?

The point here is that we often compromise our faith and morality because we think we “have to.” We see no other option. We have to help God out. But with God, obedience to him is the only option. And when you honor him, he will honor you.

Prayer: Father, help me to get this one thing right. Help me to understand your holiness and honor it through my obedience. Holy Spirit please challenge my justifications and poor excuses for why disobedience is the right path. God, you are worthy of my obedience. Help me to trust that you will show up on my behalf if I have the courage to trust you today. Amen.

Samuel….. Looking for a leader, Part 2 by Remy Diederich

Sometimes God inspires us with great examples in the Bible. Other times God uses tragedies to caution about how we follow him. In this “anchor story” Remy tells the stories of Eli and Saul, two men that lost God’s blessing due to their bad choices. Download the text of the message here with study questions.

Check out this episode!