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Category: Sermons

Chasing Donkeys

Well, we’ve been reading through the book of Samuel and we’ve now made it to chapter 9. And even though this book is called “The Book of Samuel”, Samuel actually isn’t the focus of the majority of the book.

Of course, as you’ve noticed, in the first 8 chapters, the story did revolve primarily around Samuel (around his birth, life, and ministry) – but for the next 46 chapters, the focus shifts… and Samuel becomes more of a supporting character, while others take the centre stage.

And that shouldn’t be too surprising because as we noted last Sunday, the era of the Judges has now ended (with Samuel being the last of them) and a new era of Kings is about to begin.

Last Sunday we read how the people of Israel no longer wished to be led by Judges – they wanted to have king like all the other nations around them. Mind you, they already had a King – God was their King – and in reality, they were rejecting God as their King – not Samuel as their judge.

But to make a long story short, even though God knew that human kings would never serve Israel as well as He did, none the less, at their insistence, God choose to grant them their request and He agreed to give them a King.

And that’s just what we’re going to read about today.

1 Samuel chapter 9, verse 1 begins like this:

There was a wealthy, influential man named Kish from the tribe of Benjamin. He was the son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 His son Saul was the most handsome man in Israel—head and shoulders taller than anyone else in the land. 1 Samuel 9:1-2

And I’ll just pause here for a moment because this is kinda interesting. In the chapter just before this, the people of Israel asked God to give them a ‘king to lead them’, right? They didn’t want to be led by an invisible God, they wanted to be able to see their king leading them into battle! They wanted a king that would look like a king.

And this fellow Saul certainly fit that bill! He’s was just the kind of man you’d expect to be king! As we just read, he came from a wealthy, influential family. He was good-looking – in fact, he was described as the most handsome man in nation! And on top of that, he was a goliath of a man! – standing head and shoulders taller than anyone else! He was tall, dark, and handsome – and wealthy to boot!

If the Israelites wanted a king that looked like a king – Saul would certainly be on the short-list! But of course, being a king isn’t all about appearances, but I just found it interesting that as far as appearances go, Saul was just about as Kingly as they come!

Anyways… let’s keep reading and let’s see what else we can learn about this Saul fellow. Verse 3

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Give Us A King

This morning we want to continue where we left off before Christmas – working our way through the book of Samuel. And it’s been over a month since we were last in Samuel, and so to start this morning, I thought I’d take some time to remind us where exactly we are in the bigger story of the Bible.

So far everything that we’ve talked about in the book of Samuel has happened during the time of the judges – Samuel himself being one of those judges – along with others like Samson, Gideon, Deborah, and Ehud.

And these judges were not like the judges you might think of today – sitting in a court room deciding legal matters (although some of them did seem to take on that role as well.) But these judges were really more like the generals of an army.

You see, during the time of the judges, the 12 tribes of Israel had no central government. They had no king – they had no standing army. They were really just a loose confederation of tribes that sometimes even fought against each other! But every so often, they would face a threat from a common enemy and they would unite together under the leadership of a judge who would lead them against their oppressors.

Now of course, those oppressors were usually brought on by the Israelites’ own sinfulness. Time and time again, the Israelites would rebel against God, and so God would discipline them by allowing these enemies to oppress them. Under that oppression, the Israelites would then repent of their sin and cry out to God for deliverance and God would raise up a judge who would then rescue them.

So these judges were not Kings or rulers of Israel per se, but really just temporary rescuers. They were military and spiritual leaders who would lead the Israelites to victory over their enemies and at the same time lead them back to God.

Now as you might expect, after these great victories, there were times when the Israelites wanted their rescuer to become their king! This happened to Gideon after he had rescued them from the Midianites. But Gideon very clearly told them that being their king was not the role God had for Him. If you take a look at Judges 8 verse 22, it says…

22 Then the Israelites said to Gideon, “Be our ruler! You and your son and your grandson will be our rulers, for you have rescued us from Midian.”

23 But Gideon replied, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son. The Lord will rule over you!

Judges 8:22-23

You see, Gideon understood that the Israelites already had a king. God was their King! No other nation on earth had that privilege! They were a nation unlike any other nation on earth! The Sovereign God of the universe had specially chosen them to be His people. He would be their King and they would be His people.

And so Gideon reminded the people, that although God had used Him to rescue them from the Midianites – God was the only King who deserved to be on the throne of Israel. 

And so with all that in mind, we’re ready to pick up our story today in 1 Samuel chapter 8 – starting at verse 1.

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A Future of Hope

Over the last three weeks we’ve been looking at all the background of the Christmas story. And we’ve discovered that this history of hope goes all the way back to the beginning of time when God created the heavens and the earth. 

You see, God had set up the perfect system for the perfect life – He would be the source of everything mankind would ever need. He gave them life, He provided delicious food to eat, He gave them an amazing place to live, meaningful relationships, purpose in their work – everything they needed, He would provide. 

And as their source, He would also be their authority. Of course, He certainly gave them incredible freedom – as well as authority and responsibilities of their own, but He was to be the ultimate authority. He was the one to determine right and wrong. 

And that was God’s setup for the perfect life. As long as mankind looked to God as their source and as their authority, life would be amazing!

And it worked great! With this setup, Adam & Eve enjoyed life to the fullest as God intended it – and it was sweet. They had everything they wanted. Their relationship with God and with each was perfect and beautiful – Never any conflict or never any strife – it was exactly what you might describe as heaven.

But something happened. Sin happened. Adam & Eve rejected God as their source and as their authority and they took that role for themselves and as a result – everything fell apart. Their relationships with God and with each other was broken. The sweetness of life turned to bitterness and life on earth became painful and difficult. In fact, life for all of mankind has been a struggle ever since.

But of course, God had a plan. God knew this would happen even before He created the world, so all along, God had a plan. And this is what we’ve been looking at for the past three weeks – God’s plan to put things back to the way they were when He first created them.

And all along the way, we’ve seen that God has given us hints of His plan – He’s given several different people several different promises that all point to the same thing. 

But in case you missed the previous three Sundays, let me give you just a quick summary of some of the promises that God had given to various people throughout the Old Testament: 

  • On week one, we learned how God promised Adam & Eve that one day, one of Eve’s descendants would crush Satan’s head and defeat sin and death for all time. 
  • On week two, we learned how God promised Abraham that one day, one of his descendants would be a blessing to every single family on earth. 
  • On week three, we learned that God promised King David that one day, one of his descendants would be King for all time.

And as we looked at some of the old testament prophecies, and then as we looked at the Christmas story as recorded in Luke, we came to realize that all these promises were fulfilled in the birth of Jesus Christ. He was the one that God had been promising for some 4000+ years. He was the one who would crush Satan’s head. He was the one who would be a blessing to every family on earth. He was the one who would be King forever.

And that’s what made that first Christmas such a big deal – its because finally, after years of hoping and waiting for God to fulfill his promises, finally, God’s own Son, Jesus Christ was born as a human being and He would make things right again.

But here’s the big question that we were left with last Sunday. If you look around at the world today – it doesn’t really seem like everything’s right again – does it? There’s still pain. There’s still suffering. Satan seems as active as ever. Sin is still around in bountiful supply. Our relationships with God and our relationships with each are far from perfect. 

So… what happened? Did God’s plan fail? Did Jesus not accomplish everything He was supposed to do? Did we somehow misunderstand God’s promises? Or is it just that the story isn’t over yet? Well, that’s what we’re going to look at today. 

In our progression through this History of Hope, we left off last week with the angel Gabriel declaring to Mary that she was about to have a baby. And perhaps you came here, on this last Sunday before Christmas, expecting to hear the story of the angels and the shepherds and the wiseman and the manger and all that good stuff. 

But I’m guessing that you probably already know that part of the story and if you don’t, you can tune into our Christmas Eve Zoom party later this week and we’ll be reading through all that part of the story – complete with visual aids provided by all the kiddos! But this morning, I’m going to fast forward a little bit. I actually want to focus on what happened after Christmas – so for now, we’re going to skip the whole birth of Jesus part of the Christmas story.

I won’t spend much time talking about Jesus’ childhood either. In fact, apart from one incident from when He was about 12 years old, we don’t hear anything about Jesus until He was about 30. That was when He started doing all those miracles and teaching the crowds and training his disciples and doing all those things that you read about in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Most of what happens in the Gospels happens within a period of about three years when Jesus is probably in his early thirties. But that’s still not the part I want to focus on – let’s fast-forward just a little further.

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The Fulfillment of Hope

For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been looking at the Bible as a History of Hope. Sometimes it’s difficult to put the whole Bible together – to see how one story connects with the others – to see how the old Testament fits with the new Testament. But over the past couple of weeks, we’ve been trying to do just that and what we’ve discovered is that the whole Bible is actually  the Christmas story. Everything in the old testament points us ahead to the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ – and everything in the new testament is the result of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

Jesus Christ the central figure of the Bible. He’s the central figure in world history. All of history is HIS STORY.

And so today we’re going to continue looking at God’s story. Just by way of a quick recap: Two weeks ago we started in the beginning – with God creating the heavens and the earth. And He setup mankind to have a perfect life. As long as mankind looked to God as the source of everything they needed and as long as they acknowledged God as their ultimate authority, their relationships would be sweet and life would be awesome. 

But of course, we know that Adam and Eve chose to reject God as their source and to reject Him as their authority – and as a consequence, their relationship with God and with each other was broken. Life became very difficult and painful for them – and all of us. The consequences of their sin would effect mankind for the rest of history, but God made a promise to Adam & Eve – that one day He would set things right again.

Then last week we fast-forwarded to Mount Sinai – where God made a covenant – or an agreement with the Israelites. And the basic gist of that agreement was that as long as the Israelites looked to God as the source of everything they needed and as long as they acknowledged God as their ultimate authority, their relationships would be sweet and life would be awesome. Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

But the trouble was, everyone of the Israelites was already born with a sinful nature. Every single one of them was already naturally inclined to reject God. Sin was their default. And with that sinful nature, there was NO WAY that they, (or anyone else for that matter), could possibly obey all of the terms of that covenant that God had just made with them. Our sinful nature makes it impossible for us to fully obey God.

But of course, God knew that, and so in that covenant, He gave the Israelites another glimpse of hope. Even though the penalty for sin was death, God allowed the Israelites to bring an animal and offer it in place of the person who had sinned. Instead of the person being put to death for their sin (as they deserved), the animal would be put to death in their place. It would take their punishment and it’s blood would temporarily cover their sin.

Of course, the blood of those bulls and goats couldn’t take away their sin, but it served as a symbol of hope – hope that one day, God’s promised Messiah – the Lamb of God – would come and would die in their place and His blood would take their sins completely away.

So that was last week – now again today we’re going to be doing a lot of fast-forwarding – we’ve got about 1000 years to summarize and nearly 35 books of the Bible to go through – so let’s jump right in.

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Symbols of Hope

Last week we started looking at the Christmas story. Mind you, we didn’t get very far. We started in Genesis chapter one and we made it all the way to Genesis chapter 3. There’s just 927 chapters to go before we get to the part about the baby in a manger. But that’s ok. You’ve probably heard that part of the Christmas story before anyway.

You see, most people are familiar with the shepherds and the wisemen and the angels – but they might not have heard the parts of the Christmas story that come before all that.

Because as we talked about last week, the whole Bible is the Christmas story. It begins in Genesis with Adam and Eve and it goes right through to the end of time in Revelation. All of history is the Christmas story. 

And so we started in the Beginning – when God created the heavens and the earth. And He set up the perfect design for the perfect life. God designed life to operate by three basic principles that would make life on earth awesome and amazing. And these were the three principles.

#1. God is the source. #2. God is the authority. #3. Life is all about relationships.

And with these three principles in place, Adam & Eve enjoyed a perfect life. 

With God as the source, Adam & Eve had everything they needed. God gave them life, God gave them an amazing place to live, God gave them delicious food to eat, a fulfilling job to do – He gave them close relationships – both with Himself and with each other. It was really the perfect life.

As long as Adam & Eve looked to God as the source of all they needed and as long as they recognized that God was their authority (living within the bounds that He had set), their relationships would be sweet and life would continue to be amazing. That was God’s design. That’s how God intended the human experience to be. That’s the kind of life that God wanted you and I to live.

But unfortunately, as we talked about last week, one day that all changed. Adam & Eve decided to reject God as their source and to reject God as their authority by taking and eating the fruit from the tree that God commanded them not to eat – and as a result, their relationship with God and their relationship with each other was broken. Life would become very painful and hard for Adam and Eve, and all of Creation would suffer.

In fact, to this very day, we suffer the effects of sin in the world. All of us have broken relationships both with God and with each other. Our experience is far from the perfect life that God intended for us to live! But the good news is – there is Hope. The entire Bible is a History of Hope. One day, God would undo the damage that was done in the garden of Eden and we would again experience life as God intended it.

And that part comes a little later in the story, but today, we’re going to continue looking at God’s story, the Christmas story – to see how God continued to give mankind hope throughout the course of history – even as they struggled with the consequences of their sin.

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The Need for Hope

We are now just two days away from December and the Christmas season is upon us. We’ve got snow on the ground, some of you have your Christmas trees up already, and as we just witnessed moments ago, today is the first Sunday of Advent. And so rather than continuing our study of Samuel through December – I thought I’d take a short break and do a series of Christmas messages.

Quite often I shy away from a lot of seasonal-type messages – just because we hear the same things year after year after year. But this Christmas, I do want to take the next four weeks to tell you the Christmas story – the whole Christmas story. I think sometimes we get gypped and we only hear part of the story. We hear about the angels, about the shepherds, about having no room at the inn, about the wisemen, but we miss out on all the stuff that happens before that.

So I want to start us off today, not with the wisemen, not with the shepherds, not with Mary & Joseph – not even with the prophets that foretold the birth of Jesus. Instead, I want us to start in the beginning. Literally. In the beginning – Genesis 1:1 

Because that’s truly the beginning of the Christmas story. In fact, the entire Bible is the Christmas story. Everything that happens in the Old Testament is a lead up to the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Everything that happens in the New Testament is the result of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

So this Christmas I want us to take a look at the big picture. I want us to try to see what God was doing right from day one. Because Jesus’ birth didn’t just happen. In fact, all of history didn’t just happen. God wasn’t just making stuff up as He went along. Before He even created the world, God had a plan. And that plan involved all the stuff that we read about in the Bible – everything from Adam & Eve in Genesis all the way to the end of time in Revelation. God had and still has a plan. 

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