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Tag: Samuel

Saul Transformed

Today we continue looking at the book of 1 Samuel. As I’ve mentioned before, this book bridges two main eras in Israel’s history – it begins in the era of the judges and it ends in the era of the kings. During the era of the judges, the nation of Israel functioned more as a loose confederation of tribes rather than as a single, unified nation. Under the judges, they had no national government or capital city or standing army – in fact, they had no king, except of course, for God. God had chosen Israel as his people and He was their King.

But two weeks ago, we read how the Israelites rejected God as their King and they asked God to give them a human king – just like all the other nations had. Of course, God knew that this was not in the best interests of Israel, but God choose to give them what they wanted, and he agreed to give them a king.

So last week we were introduced to Israel’s first King – a tall and handsome man named Saul, although at this point in our story, Saul is not the king yet. He’s actually just out running errands for his father, Kish – looking for some donkeys that had strayed away from the family farm.

But as he’s out looking for these donkeys, God perfectly arranges all the circumstances so that Saul ends up running into the prophet Samuel who cryptically tells Saul that He and his family are the focus of all of Israel’s hopes! He doesn’t outright tell Saul yet that God has chosen Him to be king, but you can be sure that Saul’s mind is in overdrive – trying to figure out what Samuel was talking about.

But we ended last week with Samuel then inviting Saul to be the guest of honor at a banquet at the local place of worship. Saul is still hesitant to believe that he deserves such honours – but Samuel knows without a doubt that Saul will be king – even if Saul isn’t fully convinced.

We pick up the story now in 1 Samuel chapter 9, verse 25.

25 When they came down from the place of worship and returned to town, Samuel took Saul up to the roof of the house and prepared a bed for him there. 26 At daybreak the next morning, Samuel called to Saul, “Get up! It’s time you were on your way.” So Saul got ready, and he and Samuel left the house together. When they reached the edge of town, Samuel told Saul to send his servant on ahead. After the servant was gone, Samuel said, “Stay here, for I have received a special message for you from God.”

1 Samuel 9:25-27

Now there are a couple of translation issues that I should mention this morning – one is in these verses, and the other I’ll mention a little later on. But in these verses, many translations don’t talk about Samuel making a bed for Saul on the roof – but instead they refer to Samuel simply talking with Saul up on the roof. And I’m no Hebrew scholar, so I can’t really say which is more accurate – but I would assume both are implied. We can see in the following verse, that Saul obviously spent the night at Samuel’s house, because Samuel is telling him to get up the next morning, so it would make sense that Samuel made a bed for him. 

And at the same time, it would be hard to imagine that Saul didn’t have a few question for Samuel! After everything that happened that day and after everything that Samuel said to Saul, I think it would be pretty safe to assume that Saul and Samuel had a very long talk that night! 

Likely, Samuel told Saul about the people asking for a King and how God choose to grant them their request and that Saul was the man that God had chosen for the job. We might assume that Samuel told Saul about some of the responsibilities of a King and how important it was for Saul to honor God in all of his kingly duties. After all, Israel was still God’s special possession and so any king had better take good care God’s people!

Now of course, all their conversation isn’t recorded for us in the Bible, but that kind of conversation would certainly make sense.

So now, the next morning, as Saul and his servant are about to head home, Samuel instructs Saul to send his servant on ahead because God had a special message for Saul. So the servant goes on ahead and we read in chapter 10, verse 1:

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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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Getting Right With God

For the past couple of months we have been looking at the book of 1 Samuel. And even though the book is named after Samuel, so far, much of the story has focused on other characters. First, the story revolved around Hannah (Samuel’s mother) as she prayed and pleaded with God to give her a son – which God did! And in response, Hannah dedicated her little boy Samuel to live in the service of God for the rest of his life.

Then the story focused in on the priest Eli and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas – as they lived in blatant disregard for God and his commands – prompting God to warn them of impending judgement. Sadly, they chose not to heed God’s warning, and God carried out that judgement shortly thereafter when Hophni and Phinehas were killed in a battle with the Philistines. 

At this point, the story shifts it’s focus onto the Ark of the Covenant, as, in the same battle, the Israelite army foolishly tried to manipulate God by bringing the Ark of the Covenant with them onto the battlefield. But God would not be manipulated and as a result, the Israelites were soundly defeated and the Ark was captured by the Philistines.

The next few chapters of the book follow the Ark into Philistine territory and we see God displaying his might and his sovereignty over the Philistine god, Dagon, and even over nature as the Philistines struggle to contain and control the God of the Israelites. In the end, they want nothing to do with the Ark of of the Lord, and they send it back to the Israelites on cart pulled by a couple of cows.

And so by now, we’ve seen a very strong theme emerging from this book and I think 1 Samuel chapter 2 verse 30 says it best. In that verse God says:

“I will honor those who honor me, and I will despise those who think lightly of me.” 1 Samuel 2:30b

This has been a clear theme through this book so far. We see God honouring Hannah as she humbles herself before God in prayer – and as she keeps a difficult promise and sends her young son Samuel to live at the Tabernacle to serve God. God honours that and blesses both Hannah and Samuel.

But God certainly does not honor the pride and arrogance of Eli’s sons – as they dishonour Him and steal from the temple sacrifices. God executes judgment on Eli and all his family because of their sin. God despises those who think lightly of Him.

And God does not honor the Israelite army as they treat him like a vending machine – living for years in disobedience to Him with no desire to please and honor God, but yet expecting God to save them from their enemies just because they bring out the Ark of the Covenant. God certainly doesn’t honor that and the Israelites are soundly defeated.

And God doesn’t honor the Philistines either – as He strikes the them with tumours and plagues.  They were treating God as if he was just another idol – just another god conquered by their god Dagon! But they quickly learned that wasn’t the case! In fact, they seemed to learn a little quicker than the Israelites that God honours those who honor Him, but He despises those who think lightly of Him.

And that’s the same lesson that we’re going to see in today’s passage too. The Israelites seem to be a little slow to learn the lesson, but they do seem to get it in the end! So perhaps there’s hope for us too!

As I mentioned, the Philistines had captured the Ark of the Lord in battle, but because of the plagues that God sent upon them, they returned the Ark to the Israelites by sending it along with some gifts on a cart pulled by a couple of cows. The cows took it straight to the nearby Israelite town of Beth-shemesh. We read last week in 1 Samuel 6:13…

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What To Do With An Uncontrollable God

Last Sunday we read about the first of many battles recorded in the book of 1 Samuel. And at this time in Israel’s history – their main enemy was the Philistines! The Philistines had been a thorn in Israel’s side throughout their early history – battling first with Shamgar and then Samson – later on they would battle against King Saul and against David…. but at this time there was no judge or king to lead the Israelites into battle against the Philistines. Although Samuel was widely recognized as the prophet of God by this time – He had not yet become Isreal’s judge – that would happen shortly, but at this time, Israel was led primarily by the elders – the older, supposedly wiser leaders of the different clans and tribes of Israel.

But these elders didn’t seem to be particularly in-tune with God. And as we’ve noted over the past few weeks, the nation of Israel as a whole had kinda drifted away from following God. Their relationship with God had become a religion rather than a relationship, even though they were God’s specially choose people. Out of all the people on earth, God had specifically chosen them to be His holy nation – and they would be His people and He would be their God! He even promised to dwell among them… We saw last week how the Ark of the Covenant would identify God’s presence among his people. It was from the Ark that God promised meet his people and speak to them from above the cover of the Ark.

But as we’ve noted, the people of Israel weren’t all that interested in hearing from God at this point. They chose to ignore God’s commands – and everyone did whatever seemed right in their own eyes. They had no interest in serving and pleasing God – they really just kept God around because of what God could do for them!

And last week’s battle with the Philistines was a prime example of that. After being defeated in the first battle against the Philistines, the elders of Israelites decide to go get the Ark of the Lord and carry it into battle with them. We read in 1 Samuel 4 verse 3…

Then they said, “Let’s bring the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord from Shiloh. If we carry it into battle with us, it will save us from our enemies.” 1 Samuel 4:3b

And I think it’s very telling that they say “IT will save us from our enemies” – Not, “GOD” will save us from our enemies – but “IT” – the Ark of the Covenant – will save us from our enemies.

Their faith was in a gold box, rather than in the God who spoke to them from the gold box. They had been disobedient to God for years and really had no interest in changing their ways, but yet, they thought they could harness and manipulate the power of God by trotting out the Ark of the Covenant and carrying it into battle with them.

But one of the main themes that comes out of the book of Samuel – and we’ve seen this several times already – is that God will honor those who honor Him, but he will despise those who think lightly of Him. And we see that playing out clearly in this story.

The Israelites carry the Ark of the Covenant with them into battle – hoping to manipulate the power of God in their favour, but God does not honor those who refuse to honor Him and the Israelites are soundly defeated. 30,000 men are killed and the Ark of the Covenant is captured by the Philistines!

And that leads us into our passage today. As I mentioned last week, the story of 1 Samuel doesn’t revolve around Samuel – it doesn’t even revolve around the Israelites – it revolves around God! This is His story, and so the camera pans away from the defeated Israelites and it follows the Ark of the Covenant carried by the victorious Philistines into the nearby Philistine town of Ashdod.

We pick up the story in 1 Samuel chapter 5, verse 1.

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God’s Not Your Lucky Charm

This morning we are continuing on in our study of First Samuel. For the first 3 chapters of this book, the author has focused mainly on the birth and early life of Samuel, but for the next three chapters, the focus shifts and the story revolves mainly around the Ark of the Covenant (or the Ark of the Lord.) Samuel isn’t even mentioned again until chapter 7.

And in some ways, this next part about the Ark of the Lord might seem like a bit of a rabbit trail from the story of Samuel – but it’s not a rabbit trail at all. It actually reminds us who this story is really about – this is not a story about Samuel – this is a story about God!

And that’s important to remember when we read through any of these great old testament stories! These stories are not about Daniel and the lions or David & Goliath or Moses or Jonah or any of those guys – the entire Bible is the story of God. He is the main character. These fantastic stories are only in the Bible because they teach us about God – Who He is, what’s He’s like, what He’s done, and what He’s going to do! 

So today’s passage about the Ark of the Lord is most certainly not a rabbit trail from the story of Samuel – but rather it conveys to us some very important information about who God is and how we are to interact with Him! As we go through it, we’ll see that it fits very much within the themes of the book of First Samuel!

First Samuel chapter 3 ends on the note of little Samuel growing up to a confirmed prophet of the Lord. His messages proved to be true and reliable as He faithfully delivered the Word of God to all the people of Israel.

But after saying that, the scene totally changes and we are told in chapter 4 verse 1…

At that time Israel was at war with the Philistines. The Israelite army was camped near Ebenezer, and the Philistines were at Aphek. The Philistines attacked and defeated the army of Israel, killing 4,000 men. 3 After the battle was over, the troops retreated to their camp, and the elders of Israel asked, “Why did the Lord allow us to be defeated by the Philistines?” Then they said, “Let’s bring the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord from Shiloh. If we carry it into battle with us, it will save us from our enemies.” 1 Samuel 4:1b-3

Now just for a little bit of background here, the Philistines are probably the most well-known enemies of the Israelites. We first hear about the Philistines way back in Genesis – during the the time of Abraham. But of course, there was no nation of Israel to fight with at that time – there was just Abraham’s family!

But the real fighting between the Philistines and the Israelites began during the time of the judges. We’re told that one of the first Judges, Shamgar, once killed 600 Philistines with an oxgoad! The strongman, Samson, fought his many battles against the Philistines – burning down their crops, killing them with a jawbone of a donkey, pulling down their temple on top of them! Most of Saul’s battles, as the first king of Israel, were fought against the Philistines. David’s first battle was against the Philistine giant, Goliath. And so its not unusual to see Israel at war with the Philistines! But this particular war was going to be unusual.

As we read in the passage, the first battle in this war was a total loss for the Israelites. They were soundly defeated and 4,000 men were killed. So they go back to their camp and regroup. It’s at this point that the elders of Israel ask a very important question. They say “Why did the Lord allow us to be defeated by the Philistines?”

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