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Tag: Samuel

The Lord Looks at the Heart

This morning we begin a new chapter in 1 Samuel – both literally and figuratively. Of course, we literally begin a new chapter just about every week, but today the direction of our story really takes a significant turn.

Today we are introduced to David.

Did you know that David is the most mentioned person in the Bible aside from Jesus Himself? David is mentioned by name over 900 times – that’s 3 times as often as Abraham – who is considered to be the Father of Israel! Of the 66 books of the Bible, David is mentioned in 28 of them!

As you go through the Old Testament prophecies, the promised Messiah is constantly connected with David and his kingdom. In the New Testament, that theme continues and Jesus is even referred to as the Son of David. If you remember the story of blind Bartimaeus, that’s how he refers to Jesus. In Mark 10:47….

When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Mark 10:47

David is obviously a very significant figure not only in the history of Israel, but in God’s overarching plan of Salvation for mankind! So I think it’ll be great to go through his life and perhaps see why God chose David to be such an integral part of the Salvation story.

I think I mentioned back 17 sermons ago when I started this series that the whole reason I wanted to go through the book of Samuel was to study the life of David! He’s such an interesting  and unique character – and of course, David’s life is filled with incredible stories. 

Slaying the giant Goliath, fleeing from the mad King Saul, pretending to be crazy himself to escape from the Philistines, leading his ever growing band of mighty men in great exploits against the enemy, rising from shepherd boy to King of Isreal, committing murder and adultery, but repenting and being called a man after God’s own heart, fleeing from his own son who tries to take his throne, and through it all composing hundreds of songs and poems to God that make up a significant portion of our Bible today.

David’s story is really incredible and I’m super excited to learn from his life as we go through these next chapters together.

To start off this morning, I just want to remind you where we left off last week. King Saul had been chosen by God to be the first King of Israel, and while Saul had been very successful in his military endeavours, he had been an utter failure in his relationship with God. Twice now Saul has been rebuked by the prophet Samuel for his disobedience. And because Saul had not been loyal to God, God has declared that Saul’s Kingdom will be torn away from him and given to another man – a man after God’s own heart!

But we closed the last chapter with both God and Samuel grieving over Saul’s foolish choices. The final verse we read tells us:

35 Samuel never went to meet with Saul again, but he mourned constantly for him. And the Lord was sorry he had ever made Saul king of Israel.

1 Samuel 15:35

It’s certainly not a very positive note and things are not looking very hopeful for the future of Israel. However, God’s purposes would not be thwarted by a disobedient King. God had already planned and accounted for all this and God was prepared to move forward with or without Saul. So we turn now to 1 Samuel chapter 16 to literally and figuratively begin this new chapter in the story of Samuel. Verse 1 begins like this:

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Obedience Is Better Than Sacrifice

For the past few weeks we’ve been following the career of King Saul – the first King of Israel. And it’s really been a mixed bag of the good, the bad, and the ugly. There are times when Saul does a fantastic job as king. As you read through 1 Samuel, often Saul is presented as the hero of Israel – rescuing the nation from all it’s enemies!

For example, at the end of the chapter we read last week, we find a bit of a summary of Saul’s military success. If you look at 1 Samuel 14, verse 47, it reads like this:

47 Now when Saul had secured his grasp on Israel’s throne, he fought against his enemies in every direction—against Moab, Ammon, Edom, the kings of Zobah, and the Philistines. And wherever he turned, he was victorious. 48 He performed great deeds and conquered the Amalekites, saving Israel from all those who had plundered them.

Then we get a brief summary of Saul’s family tree – which I won’t read right now – and then verse 52 continues…

52 The Israelites fought constantly with the Philistines throughout Saul’s lifetime. So whenever Saul observed a young man who was brave and strong, he drafted him into his army.

1 Samuel 14:47-48, 52

So as you can see, from a military point of view, Saul was a very successful King. It says he saved Israel from all who had plundered them. Where ever he turned, he was victorious! In the eyes of the people of Israel, Saul was exactly the kind of King that they wanted.

However, in the eyes of God, King Saul had not been quite so successful. Two weeks ago, we saw how Saul disobeyed the command of the Lord by offering up a burnt offering to God – instead of waiting for the prophet Samuel – who was the only one God had authorized to make such an offering. Saul over-stepped the bounds of his God-given authority as King, and took the role of priest for himself. And as we’re going to see today, this wasn’t just an isolated incident of sin –  It wasn’t a one-time foolish choice in a moment of weakness – this was evidence of a heart that would increasingly become prideful and arrogant.

Although Saul had very humble beginnings, it seems that his position of power and his military success caused him to grow in his esteem of himself and decrease in his esteem of God and his commands.

And so today, as we turn to 1 Samuel chapter 15, we’re going to see this pattern continue – with Saul concluding that his ways and his decisions are just a little bit wiser than God’s ways and God’s decisions. But I should warn you… As we go through this story and see how foolish and arrogant Saul has become, we need to be careful, because we might just see ourselves doing the exact same thing…

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Ritual or Relationship

Over these past months, we have been reading through the book of 1 Samuel and last week we finally completed the transition from the era of the judges to the era of the kings. For many years after conquering the Promised Land, Israel had been led by judges – men and women whom God raised up at just the right time to rescue Israel from its enemies. But in recent days, the people of Israel had asked God for a king to lead them. They wanted to be like all the nations around them and have their king lead them into battle. Of course, this was really a rejection of God as their King, but God graciously decided to honour their request and to give them the king that they so desired.

And so God instructed Samuel, the final judge of Israel, to anoint Saul as Israel’s King. And last week we saw how Samuel then passed the baton of leadership to King Saul – firmly establishing Saul as Israel’s new leader. 

However, in his final address to the nation, Samuel solemnly warned Saul and all the people, that their obedience to God would determine their future fate. We read his words in 1 Samuel 12:24….

24 But be sure to fear the Lord and faithfully serve him. Think of all the wonderful things he has done for you. 25 But if you continue to sin, you and your king will be swept away.” 1 Samuel 12:34-25

Samuel makes it very clear that the success of Israel and its new King would depend solely on their decision obey the Lord or not.

And as we turn to chapter 13 today, that’s exactly the decision that will be put to the test. Will Saul and the people of Israel fear the Lord and faithfully serve Him? Or will they continue to sin – choosing instead to follow their own way? Let’s find out!

1 Samuel chapter 13 begins like this:

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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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The Transforming Power of God

Last week we witnessed the inauguration of King Saul – the first King of Israel! And for Israel to get it’s first king had been quite a process. But to briefly summarize it in point form:

The elders of Israel had foolishly requested it. God had graciously allowed it. Samuel had faithfully arranged it. Saul had reluctantly accepted it. And all the people gladly affirmed it. Well, most of the people gladly affirmed it.

You’ll recall at the very end of 1 Samuel chapter 10, as Saul’s Inauguration Day came to a close, it says…

…there were some scoundrels who complained, “How can this man save us?” And they scorned him and refused to bring him gifts…1 Samuel 10:27

So it would seem that not everyone was convinced that Saul was the man to lead their nation – or more specifically, they were not convinced that Saul was the man to save them from their enemies – which was really what they wanted a king for in the first place. You’ll recall back in chapter 8 that the elders of Israel, after being warned of how costly a king would be, they said to Samuel:

“…we still want a king,” they said. “We want to be like the nations around us. Our king will judge us and lead us into battle.” 1 Samuel 8:19

Having someone to lead them into battle was one of the underlying reasons for having a king. They wanted someone who could command the armies and give them victory over their enemies!

And at first glance, it would certainly seem that Saul was an ideal candidate for that! You’ll recall that he was a big boy – he stood head and shoulder taller than everyone else. He was just the kind of guy that you’d want to follow into battle. He’s no scrawny pencil-pusher – he’s a bit of a hulk! He’s a well built farm-kid that towered over everyone else!

So why would these scoundrel’s complain “How can this man save us?” Why would they doubt his abilities to be their king and lead them into battle?

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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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