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Passing the Baton

This morning we’ll be looking at 1 Samuel chapter 12 – which is often labeled in our Bibles as Samuel’s Farewell Address. Samuel had led the people of Israel for most of His life now – not as their king, but as judge, prophet, and priest. And on this day, Samuel would pass the baton of leadership to their newly chosen King, King Saul.

And I know we’ve been making this transition for a while now – we started back in chapter 8 when all the people of Israel asked God to give them a king to lead them. Even though God was their king and He had led them faithfully for several centuries – now the people wanted a human king to lead them. And so God decided to give them what they asked for. He had Samuel privately anoint Saul as their king in chapter 10. Then, to make the public announcement some time after that, Samuel gathered together all the people of Israel and through the process of casting sacred lots to reveal God’s will, Saul was chosen and proclaimed as King.

And while most of the people were eager to embrace Saul as their king, some of the people were a little more hesitant. In fact, some were openly opposed – they didn’t feel like Saul had what it took to be king. But all that changed in chapter 11 as Saul led the Israelites into battle against King Nahash of the Ammonites. God gave Saul a tremendous victory and all the people finally affirmed that Saul was indeed God’s good choice to be their King.

And so now, with all of Israel firmly in support of their new King Saul, Samuel prepares to complete the transition and pass the baton of leadership to the next generation.

Then Samuel addressed all Israel: “I have done as you asked and given you a king. 2 Your king is now your leader. I stand here before you—an old, gray-haired man—and my sons serve you. I have served as your leader from the time I was a boy to this very day. 3 Now testify against me in the presence of the Lord and before his anointed one. Whose ox or donkey have I stolen? Have I ever cheated any of you? Have I ever oppressed you? Have I ever taken a bribe and perverted justice? Tell me and I will make right whatever I have done wrong.” 1 Samuel 12:1-3

As this chapter begins, Samuel, the judge of Israel, holds court one last time. And in essence, he puts himself on trial. Actually, as you read through the chapter, there are three parties that will be examined for guilt – but he begins with himself. He invites the Israelites to testify against him – to point out any way that he has wronged them. And if he has done wrong, then he vows to make it right.

And this is something that we just don’t see in most of our leaders today. How many leaders can you think of that would willingly subject themselves to the accusations of an entire nation? How many would choose to go on trial and answer for any wrongs that they may have committed during their time in leadership? If you follow the news, it seems most leaders invest a great deal of time avoiding such things!

But not Samuel. He invites scrutiny and accountability. He welcomes public examination of his life and ministry. What kind of man does that?

Well, I’ll you what kind of man does that – a man of integrity! A man who keeps short accounts. A man who – when he does something wrong – he quickly admits it and makes it right before things go any further.

I don’t think Samuel was perfect or sinless. In fact, I’m sure of it! I’m sure he made his fair share of mistakes in life. He sinned just like everyone else. After all, the Bible tells us clearly that all of us have sinned – I’m sure Samuel was no exception! But what allowed Samuel stand before the nation with complete integrity is that He when he sinned, he immediately dealt with it. He didn’t hide it. He didn’t deny it. He didn’t justify it. But rather he confessed, he repented, and he made things right.

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Hannah’s Prayer

This morning I’m excited to get us started into a new sermon series. I’ve been wanting to do another character study for some time now – the last one we did was back in May of 2019 when we went through the life of Joseph.

So I’ve been eager to do another one – and originally, my intention was to do a series on the life of David. I’ve preached a few sermons on David – but I’ve never systematically gone through his whole life. And so in preparation, I started looking at the beginning of David’s story – which begins by the prophet Samuel anointing David as the future King of Israel when he was just a young boy.

However, as I started reading about that in 1 Samuel chapter 16, I ended up flipping back a few pages – reading more and more about the prophet Samuel and all that happened before David was even the scene. And eventually, I ended up right back at 1 Samuel chapter 1 – which describes the events around Samuel’s birth. And there was so much good stuff in all of those chapters that I wanted to share all that stuff with you as well!

So as it stands today, I’m not entirely sure what this series is going to be about! Maybe this will be all about Samuel. Maybe we’ll eventually get to David too? Maybe we’ll throw King Saul in there somewhere – I’m not entirely sure yet.  All I know is that we’re going to start in 1 Samuel chapter 1 – and we’ll see where we go from there.

But, before we jump into our text, let me first give you a very quick run-down on exactly where we are in the greater story of the Bible.

The book of 1 Samuel begins right at the end of the era of the judges. By this point in time, the people of Israel had conquered the Promised Land led by Joshua and had been living there for some time. But during this time they really failed to be the “holy nation” that God intended them to be – they neglected to follow God’s commands and instructions and instead they just did whatever they wanted.

In fact, the very last verse in the Book of Judges says this:

25 In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes. Judges 21:25

And as you can imagine, when people do whatever seems right in their own eyes, things go off the rails pretty quick. The book of Judges contains some of the most horrific stories in the entire Bible as people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes. We’re going to see in a few weeks that even the priests at God’s tabernacle had abandoned the ways of God and and were living selfish and sinful lives!

So because of that, God had allowed many different enemies around them to invade and oppress the Israelites. This would continue for several years until the Israelites turned to God and God would then send them a deliverer – or a judge. You remember guys like Ehud (the left-handed man who stabbed the fat King Eglon), or Samson and Gideon, Deborah – those people were all judges of Israel. They would rescue Israel from their enemies and lead the people to again follow God. This happened over and over again many times during the time of the judges.

And Samuel, as we’re going to find out later, is actually the very last of those judges. In fact, he’s considered to be the last judge and the first of the prophets. I suppose Moses would technically be the first prophet, but he’s kinda in his own category. But Samuel would be the first of a long line of prophets who would faithfully declare the Word of the Lord to the people of Israel. That’s something that didn’t really happen during the time of the judges. In 1 Samuel 3:1 we read:

“Now in those days messages from the Lord were very rare, and visions were quite uncommon.” 1 Samuel 3:1b

In the time of judges, we see very little prophetic revelation from the Lord – but from the time of Samuel onward, we see nearly a constant presence of prophets in Israel – and of course, their prophecies make up a large portion of our Old Testament.

But this was the world into which young Samuel was born. It was a time when God seemed to be silent. The people of Israel had no king and everyone did whatever seemed right in their own eyes. There was constant danger from enemies who would invade and oppress Israel.

Overall, it was a fairly dark time. But it wasn’t all bad. Despite the many who did evil – there were still those who loved and obeyed God. And Samuel’s parents were among those people. 

We are introduced to them in 1 Samuel chapter 1. So if you have your Bibles, feel free to turn with me to 1 Samuel chapter 1, and we will begin at verse 1.

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The Reality of Discouragement

dis·cour·age·ment

noun

  1. a loss of confidence or enthusiasm; dispiritedness.
  2. an attempt to prevent something by showing disapproval or creating difficulties; deterrent.

How many of you are familiar with this word? I’m pretty sure we all are. And not just linguistically. We are intimately familiar with this word in our lives.

Discouragement is a reality that we all face. When our plans don’t turn out how we hope – or when unexpected problems arise – or when others do or say things that steal our joy and cause us to question why we’re even doing this – discouragement can set in.

We get discouraged at our workplace or when that pile of laundry or dishes never goes away. As kids, we get discouraged at school when we struggle with academics or when our friends are being jerks. We get discouraged as parents when our kids just don’t get it and they keep making poor choices. We get discouraged when we struggle with health or emotional problems or when our relationships are strained. We get discouraged when we pay our bills or when the car won’t start or whatever it is!

I think most of us face discouragement nearly every day of our lives.

So what do we do when that happens? How do we deal with discouragement? It’s easy to throw up our hands and say “I give up! I’m not doing this anymore.” Or maybe we get angry – at people or circumstances – ourselves – or even at God. Somebody’s got to take the blame – right?

How do we deal with discouragement?

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Praying to a Sovereign God

When we left Nehemiah last Sunday – he was weeping and mourning and fasting and praying to God because he heard about the terrible state of his countrymen back in Jerusalem. After many years of exile in Babylon, some of the Jews had returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt the temple, but the city was still in ruins. The walls had been torn down and the gates had been destroyed nearly 150 years ago – and they had still not yet been repaired.

And this broke Nehemiah’s heart. It was bad enough that the Israelites were living in the ruins, but this was Jerusalem! Jerusalem was the city where God had chosen to make his name known. This was the city where the temple of God was. This city was a symbol to the world that the Israelites were God’s special, chosen people. But now – Jerusalem lay in ruins. Now it was a sorry reminder that the Israelites had abandoned God – and as a results, it seemed that God had abandoned them.

But God hadn’t abandoned them. Yes, he allowed them to suffer the consequences of their sin, but He never abandoned them. In fact, when they repented and returned to him, God was eager to forgive them and to restored them to their land.

And Nehemiah was convinced that God didn’t want them to go back to Jerusalem just to live in the ruins. God wanted them to rebuild. To start anew and to flourish! Nehemiah no doubt was familiar with God’s promise through the prophet Jeremiah – given when the Israelites first went into exile:

10 This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. 14 I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.” Jeremiah 29:10-14

Jeremiah and Nehemiah understood that God was not yet finished with Israel. He had good plans for them – plans to give them a future and a hope.

And by the way, God promises to deal with us the same way. Even though we seem to do a fantastic job of messing up our lives and ignoring God and we end up suffering the consequences of our sin – even then, God is eager to forgive us and to restore us. He’s just waiting for us to turn to Him and repent. If we do that, God will carry out his plans to give us a future and a hope. He doesn’t want us to live in the ruins.

Now for Nehemiah – he wasn’t the one living in the ruins. He was living in the presence of the king as the royal cup-bearer – which as we learned last week, was actually a pretty prominent position. The cup-bearer for the king would have been one of the king’s most trusted and loyal companions – since, as the one who tasted the king’s food and drink and safe-guarded it against poison, the king had to trust him with his very life. Because of that, Nehemiah, I’m sure, was well-taken care of.

Yet, as soon as Nehemiah heard the report of how bad things were for the Israelites back in Jerusalem, Nehemiah began to weep and mourn.

Usually we weep and mourn about the bad things that are happening to us – but Nehemiah had such a heart of compassion and empathy for his fellow Israelites, that for days he wept and mourned for them.

And I don’t know how that impacts you, but it sure convicts me! My own lack of weeping and mourning for others sure makes me consider how much (or how little) I care about the people around me who are suffering and hurting. And that was kinda how we ended last Sunday – asking God to soften our hard hearts, so that like Nehemiah, we might not only weep and mourn for others – but that our concern for them would drive us to do something about their situation.

Because that’s exactly what Nehemiah did. Today as we continue to look at the life of Nehemiah, we’re going to see how he doesn’t just feel bad for the Israelites – he actually begins to take action.

So let’s continue by looking at Nehemiah chapter 2 verse 1 through 3.

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Discipled By God

Six weeks ago, we began looking at a fairly straight-forward question: What does it look like to make disciples?

Does it look like Sunday morning at a mega-church? Does it look like coffee with a friend at Tim Hortons? Does it look serving the homeless at a soup kitchen? Does it look like a neighbourhood block-party? Does it look like a ladies Bible study or youth group or Sunday school or kids club or any of these things?

Well, to find the answer to these questions, we started by defining discipleship. And of course, the key passage we looked at was Matthew 28:18-20 – which by now, I imagine most of you have memorized – since we’ve looked at it for each of the last six weeks! But it says this:

18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

Now this isn’t the only place where the Bible talks about making disciples – its actually quite a re-occuring theme – but based on that passage, we defined discipleship as: helping people trust and follow Jesus.

Discipleship: Helping people trust and follow Jesus.

It’s really as simple as that. If you are helping people trust and follow Jesus – then you are making disciples. And we came to realize that we can help people trust and follow Jesus in a lot of different ways – and in a lot of different contexts.

In fact, we identified 5 different contexts in the life and ministry of Jesus that we could learn from as we try to model our discipleship on what He did.

At a glance, those five context’s were: The Public Context, The Social Context, The Personal Context, The Transparent Context, and the Divine Context.

And so the first context that we looked at was the public context. 

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