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Category Archives: The Rise and Fall of King Saul

SLOW DOWN, PART 3: HOW TO REFOCUS

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As we continue our series on slowing down, I can’t emphasize enough what slowing down in life has done for me and countless others. We are exhorted in the Bible to:

  • Redeem the time
  • Make the most of every opportunity
  • Number our days right
  • Live a life worthy of our calling
  • Live a life worthy of the Lord
  • Set our affections on things above
  • Keep in mind that life is a mere vapor
  • We are pilgrims and sojourners on the earth
  • It is appointed unto man once to die

Way too many of us believers, churches and ministries are a mile wide and an inch deep. We grow in lots of ways in life, but often don’t get around to becoming mature in our faith. Most of us wouldn’t dare to say, “Follow me as I follow Christ” because we know very well that we are much better at living as a typical American than living as a disciple of Jesus. We are way too busy. Yet the corridors of eternity still echo with “Be still and know that I am God.” Few of us are take much time to be still, and even fewer of us really know God like the saints of old whose most pressing concern was to seek the Lord while He may be found. Sure, they had other responsibilities also, but no clock. When something with eternal consequences came to their attention, it kept their attention and they had the time or made the time to tend to it.

Most of us have no intention of giving up our conveniences and way of life and relative prosperity. I get that. I don’t want to go back to outhouses and no electricity either. Lots of life in the good old days wasn’t really that good. But we can learn a thing or two from our ancestors about slowing down and perhaps re-evaluating our priorities and how we use time. If we want to have some success in deepening our walk with God like the saints of the past, something in our busy lives has to change. Being still before God has no replacements for successful growing deeper in God. Though far from being comfortable saying, “Follow me as I follow Christ,” I have changed some things in my life to try to prioritize God and His kingdom to be first. Here are some things I have found helpful in my own life to slow down, re-set priorities and grow deeper in my faith in this shallow time in history:

  • Sunday is God-day. This is not a religious thing for me, Sunday is not the Sabbath. It is just a good day to set apart for spending more time with my God
  • Wednesday is also God-day. Midweek I try to re-set my focus to spend more time with Him in the hopes that I will continue to remember what is important in life throughout the week. Sometimes this extra time with Him isn’t all that much extra time, sometimes it is hours. Either way, I refocus and it is way better than the week getting away from me while too often concentrating only on secular things
  • Give more. What Jesus said is true…where your treasure is, there will your heart be also
  • Practice the presence of God daily in everyday life. Becoming more and more conscience of the presence of God during our mundane tasks in life greatly helps priority selection, making the right decisions and consciously living for Him first and foremost. A saint from years past, brother Lawrence, who had great success in practicing the presence of God in everyday life wrote a series of letters on this subject and it has been compiled in book form. It is called, Practicing the Presence of God, and is still available today in modern English and free on Kindle. Follow the link to get your copy
  • We are told to test ourselves to see if we remain in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5), and God-days are a great time to assess how things are going in our life spiritually. Honestly, evaluate how you are doing with growing in the Lord. And change things that need to be changed.
  • Spiritual retreats are a great way to slow down and perhaps re-set our lives spiritually. For several years, I have spent some days and nights in a cabin in the woods to spend time with God, and He never disappoints. One great place to do this is Pacem in Terris in St. Francis, MN. It is a Franciscan retreat center created especially for people to check out of busy life for a time and connect with God. What great times I have had there!
  • Embarking on a study of a book of the Bible or a certain subject is always very rewarding. It is “Studying to show yourself approved (2 Timothy 2:15), you might say. When you devour a subject in the Bible your come to really know that subject and what and why you believe. Beware, though! Sometimes when you honestly study the Bible you find that you may not have been believing something right and have to change!
  • A day of prayer. The National Day of Prayer, this year on May 5, is a wonderful opportunity to take off work a half day or a day and spend extra time praying. Or, if one can’t get off work, dedicate all or most of your non-work time that day to sanctify the day for the Lord
  • Fasting has always been a common thing to do in the Christian faith. It isn’t a way to manipulate God into getting your way. Fasting helps one become victorious over the flesh and deny the flesh. It is an opportunity to become more sensitive to the things of the Spirit

To conclude, growing in our faith and having the best priorities has to be intentional. If we don’t do something to that end, we will slide through life, less than we could be, and reach old age wondering what happened to all the time. Many believers desire or intend on getting control of their life and schedule with great hopes for success. But few ever actually get control and live a life of great purpose. Life gets away from most of us, but it doesn’t have to. Doing something, anything, toward slowing down and making sure our God gets the best of us is better than doing nothing. Slow down, resolve to make some changes today, and do it!

 

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SLOW DOWN PART 2

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Last time we began to talk about how different life and ministry has become in the past 200 years or so. In both business and ministry goals are often set, often without consulting God but assuming that if we grow bigger it is better. We often make OUR plans and ask (or demand) the Lord to bless them rather than consult Him first and get on board with HIS plans. As so often happens, the attitude and method of the world is slowly adopted by the church. And the world’s definition of success is often adopted by the church too. One of the blessings of America is that it is the land of endless opportunity. The more we work, the more we grow, the more productive we become, the more money we can make. The opportunity for incredible worldly success has caused greed to abound in America. The love of money is everywhere in spite of the scriptures warning us that the love of money is the root of evil. And the obsession with money and success has permeated the church along with greed and the misplaced priorities that come with it. Church folk have become as busy as the unbelievers in their quest to conquer in business and ministry. But it hasn’t always been this way, and the words of God still plead with 21st century Christians:

Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).

When David heard that King Saul and David’s good friend Jonathan had died, he stopped everything and mourned. Throughout David’s life, he checked out of busy life regularly and meditated, worshipped and wrote Psalms. In spite of having more responsibility than most on earth at the time, he had margin in his life. He kept demands at arm’s length and had the great resource of time available as needed. Several years ago I read a book by a doctor who had enough of life spinning out of control because of busyness. He took control of his life back and slowed down. His name is Richard Swenson and he wrote a book about getting control of his life again called Margin. At the time, I was also struggling with what so many are challenged by misplaced priorities and just general busyness. I stopped the madness and have never regretted it. No one who slows life down does regret it. Our only regret is that we didn’t do it sooner.

A slower life is basically what the godly have lived since the beginning of time. Whether they knew it or not, their theme verse was the verse above about slowing down and knowing God. They sought God first and whatever came out of that time with Him was their priority. They consulted God for His will rather than busy themselves with too many things and demand or request that God somehow get involved. Maybe their ministry never got beyond their small circle of friends and family, maybe it expanded. But it wasn’t their great marketing skills or fancy church service that expanded their reach. It was the Spirit of God advancing their influence as they became equipped through walking intimately with God.

When you have no goal to become well known or grow a large ministry, you generally live and stay humble. And when you live humble, you are the one most surprised when your influence grows. Your influence grows because God sees in you one who He can trust, one who can say, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”

Next time we will conclude our series on slowing down. To read part one follow this link:

https://danspulpit.wordpress.com/2016/04/19/slow-down-part-1/

 

 

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SLOW DOWN, PART 1

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David was anointed as king but had not yet assumed kingly responsibilities. Saul was still alive and on a mission to find and kill David. David was in hiding with the Philistines. By and by a battle ensued between the Philistines and Israel. Saul and his son Jonathon, David’s good friend, were both killed in the battle. In 1 Samuel chapter 1 David laments the loss of King Saul and Jonathan and it sounded something like this:

The beauty of Israel is slain on your high places! How the mighty have fallen! O mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew nor rain upon you. O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul. How the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle! Jonathan was slain in your high places. I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; you have been very pleasant to me; your love to me was wonderful, surpassing the love of women.

The thoughts that came to me as I read this lament had little to do with the text. As I read the stories of the Bible and of church and secular history, I am impressed that until the last 200 years or so, life was generally pretty slow. If someone like David needed time to lament, he took the time to do just that. In some parts of the world and in rural America we still see a slow, less hectic lifestyle. Not so much in most of the western world!

When a person catches a vision to accomplish something for God in these modern times, goals are set with a plan to accomplish those goals. Ministry has become quite similar to the way things are done in business when a new product is launched, a company is built, or new star is marketed. This includes lots of multitasking, plugging every day with as much productivity as possible, and maybe more than possible demanding overtime. Ministry, like a business, overcomes us and life becomes fast and busy.

We would do well to consider the ways people of old built their ministries, or for that matter, their business. We read their stories and wonder at the great things they accomplished for God. But they did it a lot different than we do today. We think our ways are better because they are bigger. Bigger and more productive is not always better. The truth is, few if any in the Bible and church history set out to build a ministry with any type of goal similar to the lofty goals we have in ministry today. Saints of old set out to minister, yes, and if some kind of ministry happened as a result of ministering, so be it. But they didn’t fill every day with a goal of building the next greatest ministry in the church. People were more important than ministry. Ministering was more important than a ministry.

Many of us in society and in the church think that if we don’t make some kind of name for ourselves and grow and grow, we are pretty much a failure in ministry. Nearly extinct are those who are more concerned about quality and a job well done than quantity. A pastor of a very small church whose life is all about making disciples of his small flock couldn’t possibly be near as important as the TV pastor that has a flock of millions and a bank account with millions too. Who will hear “well done?” I don’t know, but not the man with all the numbers just because he has all the numbers.

Spiritual people in the Bible and most of church history didn’t set goals to build a ministry and become a household name. Their first priority was to know God and live every day life in a manner worthy of His name. Their definition of success largely included things like being a servant of God and others and living a Sermon on the Mount lifestyle, and hopefully, others would catch on. They sought the kingdom of God and His righteousness first, way before any ministry ambitions. Life was slow, not hurried, and no one had a watch or an alarm. When something came up that demanded time to rightly address it, they didn’t have to pore over their schedule and see if they could find a hole in it. Because of margin in their slower lives, they actually had time and willingly gave of that time whatever it took to minister to the need. Next time, more on slowing life down for the glory of God and for ourselves too.

 

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THE RISE AND FALL OF KING SAUL: PARTIAL OBEDIENCE

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On Dan’s Pulpit, we have talked before about lessons from the life of King Saul. I recently read his story again and have some more thoughts that I will add to the previous series of blogs.  We start with God’s commandment to Saul to destroy an ungodly tribe of people called the Amalekites:

Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, do not spare the. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey (1 Samuel 15:3)

When the Israelites crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land, God used them to judge many of the nations on that side of the Jordan. The price for generations of wickedness was finally coming due. And the hand of God for judgment was Israel. In the verse above we see that His instructions were very specific and clear. Amalek was to be no more. But Saul thought he could improve on God’s commands:

But Saul and the people spared Agag (the king) and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed (1 Samuel 15:9).

So Saul and the troops obeyed regarding the unwanted things but disobeyed regarding the things they deemed valuable. Surely God wouldn’t really want them to destroy perfectly good stuff! They valued the stuff more than they valued the words of God. Do we ever do that? Do we ever value stuff more than the words of God?  Hmm? So they partially obeyed. Of course, they followed orders on the worthless things; there was no sacrifice there. The valuable stuff, however, wasn’t as easy to destroy. It had value and surely Saul and Israel could put it to good use…all for the glory of God, of course. But God’s instructions were clear…destroy it all.

I am reminded of the times our children only partially obey or just blow us off altogether. There is a saying for this: Partial obedience is disobedience. What we asked them to do or not do either doesn’t make sense to them or they don’t understand the significance of the timely obedience. Most of our requests of our children have a purp0ose in the big picture—something that at their age they haven’t become skilled at considering. All they think of is the now, themselves, and the inconvenience of obedience. But we have a greater purpose not fully appreciated by them.

God also has reasons for His commands, even the inconvenient ones. He knows the end from the beginning. He is a big picture God. His commands have a greater purpose in the big picture. It’s a matter of trust. Do we trust He has the best for us in mind? Are we willing to just go with it rather than kick against His will? Must we analyze it to death? The truth is, He is always right and we are always right to submit. Eventually, we may see the wisdom of His instructions, or maybe we won’t. But do we trust Him anyway? Is He God or not? Is He a good God or not? Is He a trustworthy God or not? Do we trust Him?

 

For more in the Rise and Fall of King Saul, follow this link:

https://danspulpit.wordpress.com/category/the-rise-and-fall-of-king-saul/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THE RISE AND FALL OF KING SAUL: THE SAD FINAL CHAPTER

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This is our sixth and final observation on the rise and fall of King Saul. There is no way or reason to candy coat the story of Saul’s life: it is a very sad story with a sad ending. He had so much promise, and the Lord himself chose him to be king. The Lord offered him the chance to always have one of his heirs on the throne of Israel. But Saul became someone important in his own eyes to the point of picking and choosing which of God’s commands he would obey. Finally, the Lord had enough and departed from Saul, withdrawing His great blessings. Here were some of the results:

  • A distressing spirit from the Lord troubled him
  • The Philistines began to torment Saul
  • Saul and Israel were greatly dismayed and afraid
  • Saul became afraid of David, for the Lord was with David
  • Saul repeatedly tries to kill David, who the Lord had now chosen to be king
  • He found himself fighting against God
  • Saul tried to kill his own son Jonathon
  • When Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him
  • Saul seeks help from a medium, something he had previously outlawed
  • The Lord said, “My mercy I took from Saul”

Life just stinks without God. Much of the above was unthinkable much of Saul’s life. But the Spirit of God left him and then anything became possible. My former pastor often said something like this: Sin will take you farther than you ever thought you’d go. Indeed, and you end up thinking and doing things formerly unthinkable. This should be a warning to all Christians. Sin and disobedience leads you down dark roads. There are consequences to willful sinning. The church often has the idea that it is all under the blood, but the Bible says if we willfully keep on sinning, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of the coming wrath (Hebrews 10:26-27). These words are spoken to Christians. Sure, the grace of God extends way beyond most of our needs for forgiveness. A lukewarm Christian and even a backslidden Christian has great hope for forgiveness with repentance. But too much sinning can lead to apostasy and the Lord God giving even a Christian over to their sins. Also spoken to Christians are the words, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). Saul certainly never dreamed that sin, disobedience, and compromise would lead him down the road he eventually traveled. Though most Christians are not in danger of apostasy at all, our precious salvation is still nothing to mess with.

For the rest of Saul’s tormented life, he had times of conviction and times of all out sinning. So it is with the tormented soul who isn’t sold out to his God. They know the things they ought to do and the way they ought to live. Sometimes they do it right and sometimes they don’t. And life is miserable because of it. Most of us have had times of obedience and times of disobedience. And the results of disobedience are never good. A dark cloud hangs over our heads until we get right with God. He takes us back, but often much damage is often done in the interim. The road back can be long and hard because of our foolish choices.

The latter part of Saul’s life was not pretty and there is little positive to say about it. Ultimately he fell on his own sword and ended his formerly promising life. For me, it is one life among many Biblical lives that I can learn from. Throughout the Bible, we see the blessing of God on the obedient, and the blessing removed from the disobedient. I am reminded of the words of an old hymn:

When we walk with the Lord, in the light of His word;

What a glory He shed on our way. While we do His good will,

He abides with us still, and with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way

To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

 

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THE RISE AND FALL OF KING SAUL 5

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Sometimes, in this feel good, positive confessing time in history, I cringe at what I write. But if you read much of the Bible at all, even the New Testament, it isn’t always all that positive. Sometimes it is downright bleak.  So I write what I write, and I guess the reader can decide if there is a witness in their spirit with what is written or not.

I didn’t expect to write so many blogs on Saul, but his life is so rich with life lessons, we must go on another time or two. We will continue with the scene we left off with last time. Saul was commanded to utterly destroy the Amalekites and all their possessions, leaving no hint of them left on the earth. This was often the Lord’s righteous way of purging the earth of evil. He did it with Noah, Sodom and Gomorrah and lots of nations when Israel crossed over into the Promised Land. Some would criticize, but who are we, the creation, to find fault with the Creator? He is justified in doing what pleases Him and anyone who sins has disobeyed and deserves whatever they get. That goes for us today, too.

Anyway, Saul thought he could improve on the commandment of God and partially obeyed, something we often are also guilty of. He and the people did what seemed right to them, instead of just obeying God and trusting His judgment. We also often think we can improve on God’s ways:

  • Depending on our brand of church, we often create “better, non-biblical ways of being saved
  • We redefine what a set apart Christian life should look like, complete with excuses for sin
  • When we do read the Bible, we read the Bible in light of our beliefs and doctrines, not allowing the Word to influence us to right believing
  • We do church in whatever way we see fit at this time in history. This isn’t necessarily all bad, but we look down on others who do church differently
  • We allow worldly ways of thinking and dealing with our problems to replace Gods ways of thinking and dealing with our problems
  • Sometimes, like Saul, we convince ourselves that we are indeed obeying God, but an open, sincere study of our Bibles shows we are found wanting

God has given us the capacity to think so we should think indeed. However, that’s’ what Saul did and it got him in trouble. Sometimes we are just called to stop thinking and just obey, and trust God to make sense of the details. God said, “To obey is better than sacrifice.” And this is still a true statement today. Both are important. The sacrifice must be made, but then obedience is a way of life following the sacrifice. Extensive disobedience can cause the sacrifice to be annulled. In the case of New Testament believers, the sacrifice has been made. So we go about the business of obeying.

It was not the will of God that Saul should sin. He was not a chosen “instrument of wrath”. Saul, like all of us, had a free will, and he exercised it to his demise. The Lord regretted choosing Saul. Sometimes in the Bible God says it didn’t even come to His mind what someone would do. I’m not sure we should box God up into our foreknowledge and predestination boxes. Sometimes He influences things, declares things, and sometimes He lets things play out how they will. All the more reason for us to walk close to Him and obey.

When you were little in your own eyes…The Lord anointed you king…(1 Samuel 15:17).

Here is where Saul went wrong: He increased and the Lord decreased in his life. We see it in him making up his own rules, partially obeying, and even setting up a monument to himself. Without pointing fingers, I wonder how much of this goes on in today’s church. Are our ministries and buildings monuments to ourselves? Are we creating a Christianity that resembles the Christianity of the Bible less and less? Is there an American Christianity that is different than the Christianity of the rest of the world? If you led someone to Christ and the only influence they had was a Bible and the Holy Spirit, would they come up with what we see in the American church today? Certainly yes, in some cases, but certainly not in others!

I love the church, and much good is happening in the church. However, just as in Paul’s epistles, the problems must also be exposed in the church and in our own lives and dealt with appropriately. One of the reasons I don’t shy away from speaking bluntly about the problems in the church is that too few do. Far too many have their heads in the sand, or are plugging their ears saying, “lalalalala”. No amount of positive thinking or confession changes God’s holy ways. We must embrace the good, even making it better, and expose the bad, repent of it, and purge the leaven from the lump. This has always been God’s way, clearly outlined in the Scriptures, and His ways, which are above our ways, will never change.

 

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THE RISE AND FALL OF KING SAUL 4

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As we continue our observation of King Saul’s victories and failures, remember that the people chose to have a king, but God chose who the king was to be. And there were rules:

Samuel also said to Saul, “The Lord sent me to anoint you king over His people, over Israel. Now therefore, heed the voice of the words of the Lord” (1 Samuel 15:1).

We have talked about this before but I’m not sure we can emphasize it enough: God requires obedience. We live in a day when so many sermons (too many) are about inner healing, self-actualization, the blessing of God and how you can get your healing, and well, all about what God can do for us. There are precious few talking about what God requires of his people. There is no doubt that God loves His people and loves to bless them. But, along with the blessings of God mentioned in the New Testament, there are far more verses that talk about living right. Is it a coincidence that ignoring the requirements of God in the pulpit translates in to ignoring the requirements of God in the pew? Saints from 100 years ago would be appalled at the curve we now grade ourselves on.

Anyway, Saul is given another chance at obedience with the command to attack wicked Amalek and annihilate them completely. So Saul gathered 210,000 soldiers and did indeed attack Amalek. But instead of ridding the earth of all that is Amalek, Saul and the people kept the king of Amalek alive, and also spared the best of the flocks. In fact, 1 Samuel 15:9 says they destroyed everything worthless but keep the best alive. But that wasn’t God’s instructions.

When the prophet Samuel came on the scene, Saul said, “I have performed the commandment of the Lord.” He graded himself on a curve, because he did most of what God commanded. I have always been amused at Samuel’s response: “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears?” Again, Saul said, “but the people…” It reminds me of Adam’s excuse, “But that woman you gave me…”

It seems that we always have a reason to mostly obey God. In an effort to flee legalism we accept partial obedience as a legitimate part of our lives. But if the Bible shows us anything it is the insistence by God that we obey Him completely. This means things like:

  • Always forgiving
  • Giving faithfully
  • Praying faithfully
  • Denying ourselves
  • Abstaining from sin
  • Loving one another
  • Walking in the Spirit
  • Being baptized
  • Telling others about Jesus
  • Seasoning our conversation with grace
  • Do not love the world or the things in the world
  • Renewing our minds

Far more emphasis is placed on obedience than blessing in the Bible. That suggests to me that obedience may be more important than blessing. Or maybe God knows it is harder to get us to obey than accept blessing. Regardless, we take tests, listen to Christian motivational speakers and sojourn from conference to conference to find out the will of God for our lives. And all the while it is under our noses in the Bible:

He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8)?

Solomon, after experimenting with all the world had to offer summed up his findings at the end of his life:

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

 

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THE RISE AND FALL OF KING SAUL PART 3

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The blessing of God was upon Saul, who was anointed as king over Israel. The Spirt of God was upon him and he prophesied, made wise decisions and won battles. But something began to change inside Saul that soon manifested itself through his behavior and disobedience to God. Saul, whether he should have or not, gathered 3000 to attack the garrison of Philistines, Israel’s on-going enemy. This ticked off the Philistines big time and they then gathered thirty thousand chariots and six thousand horsemen and people as the sand of the seashore. When the men of Israel saw this they hid in caves, holes and pits.

Saul was in Gilgal and was awaiting Samuel’s arrival. Samuel, being the prophet, was going to offer a sacrifice and likely ask God what to do with the Philistines. When Samuel was later than planned, Saul began to feel the pressure to perform and come up with a sacrifice and answers on what to do in their present situation with the enemy. So Saul, against the word of the Lord, went ahead and offered sacrifices without the prophet. Wouldn’t you know it, the smoke was barely dissipating when Samuel showed up and caught Saul in the sin he had committed. Samuel said, “What have you done?” Saul responded, “When I saw that the people were scattered…I felt compelled and offered a burnt offering.” When I saw the people, I felt compelled. This is not the last time we will see Saul influenced by the people.

Samuel said to Saul,

“You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the lord your God, which He commanded you. For now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever” (1 Samuel 13:13).

Saul was God’s plan A. The long-term blessing on Saul’s house was contingent on Saul’s obedience to God. But something was happening in Saul that caused this disobedience. He was being influenced by others instead of God, and God has little use for those who fear others more than Him. Samuel continues:

“But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart…because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you” (verse 14).

Was it just one sin that disqualified Saul from the throne? Perhaps, but I doubt it. Saul’s successor, David, a man after God’s own heart, made his share of booboos. And yet his throne continues and will continue forever through Jesus. When David sinned, his response was repentance, not excuses. No, I suspect that we see the beginning of Saul hearts filled with himself and needing God less and less. Eventually his story will unfold and we will see that indeed that was the case. God was in the process of being dethroned in Saul’s life and God knew it, and would not remain with a man who had no need or desire for Him.

Those of us who live in the most prosperous place and time in history also run the risk of dethroning God in our lives. Our blessings abound. But with the blessings come the risk of loving and depending on the good life instead of the author of life. We find it hard to put our complete faith in God because there are so many other things that can fill the voids. Our medical needs, financial needs, social, psychological and all our physical needs can be nicely provided for by the blessings that come with being an American. And the blessings are good and something to be thankful for. But, what about our God? Is He our first go-to choice, or is He our choice when all else fails? Will we wait for Him to meet our needs or will we, like Saul, take things into our own hands? Is the speed of blessing in our lives fast enough for us or are we getting ahead of God? We read we are to “wait” on the Lord, but often have no time for such unproductive activity. When He takes longer than we want to wait, we take things into our own hands and put it on credit, read a book that promises instant blessings, give an offering to a man of God or maybe a fool who promises blessings in return, or go to endless conferences seeking the blessing and anointing of God through the latest star preacher.

What happened to, “Be still, and know that I am God?” Walking with God isn’t necessarily running with God. It takes time, a life time, to nurture love and dependence on the Almighty. But only with brick upon brick building are we equipped to face life’s challenges and resist the temptation to, like Saul, take things into our own hands. Be still, and wait.

 

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THE RISE AND FALL OF KING SAUL 2

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King Saul had been anointed King of Israel by the prophet Samuel. He received from God a new heart and the Spirit of God was upon him. He was wonderfully equipped to lead God’s people through more time of peace. Valiant men were with him, whose hearts God had touched (1 Samuel 10:26).

The Ammonites came up against Jabesh Gilead, part of Saul’s tribe of Benjamin. 1 Samuel 11:6 says, “Then the Spirit of God came upon Saul when he heard this news, and his anger was greatly aroused.” Most of us are familiar with the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians chapter five. But sometimes righteous indignation is part of life in the Spirit. Many of the leaders of Israel and leaders of the church have expressed righteous anger when they saw unrighteousness having its way. Indeed the Bible records both God and His Son Jesus very angry at various times. We listen too much to what the world thinks a Christian is supposed to be rather than what the Bible says a Christian is supposed to be.  Sure we are to be humble, loving, kind and gentle.  But the apostle Paul also exhorts us to abhor what is evil and cling to what is good. Abhor is a pretty strong word. History is full of men and women who spoke for God and often it wasn’t all that nice sounding. Sometimes there were even godly threats. In this later time of history the love of many  is growing cold and sin is having its way just about everywhere including in the church. It should not surprise us to hear someone rise up like the prophets of old, point at the guilty and cry, “Repent or perish!”

Jabesh Gilead was saved from the Ammonites under Saul who said, “Today the Lord has accomplished salvation in Israel.” Saul was small in his own eyes and had those eyes fixed on his God.

After the victory the prophet Samuel addressed the people reminding them of their conditional God. The fact that God was a conditional God was very well established in Israel by then. Now I know many people love to talk about an unconditional God but that is clearly not the God of the Bible. Both the Old and New Testaments are full of the word “IF” spoken by God. His blessings and curses are conditional. Here is what Samuel said:

“If you fear the Lord and serve Him and obey His voice, and do not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then both you and the king who reigns over you will continue following the Lord your God.  However, if you do not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you, as it was against your fathers. If you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king” (1 Samuel 12:14-15,25).

So we see the blessing of God on Saul because of Saul’s humility and the anointing. You always see the blessing of God on all humble, anointed people. It is because they are humble and anointed. We would all do well to make it our business to pursue humility and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. The Bible says humility comes before honor. It also says we will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on us. The condition of consistent obedience is on all the blessings of God. If we forgo obedience we forgo blessing.  Even though God makes conditions on His blessings, He really, really wants to bless His people. He is in the business of blessing, for sure. But we aren’t just blessed to feel good or just soak in the blessings. We are blessed that we may in turn also bless God and others.

 

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THE RISE AND FALL OF KING SAUL PART 1

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God had great plans for a man named Saul. When the Israelites asked for a king, Saul was God’s plan A. There were qualities in Saul that helped make him the man for the job, and, with the anointing from the Lord, he would lead the people of Israel in the path of righteousness. But things didn’t quite work out the way Saul thought they would, and, it could be argued, the way God planned either. Let’s learn a few things from the life of King Saul.

The hand of the Lord was against Israel’s long time enemy, the Philistines, all the days of Samuel’s life. Things were going pretty well. Late in his life Samuel made his sons judges over Israel. The elders of Israel objected because Samuel’s sons did not walk in his godly ways. As Solomon said later, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34). So, against Samuel’s warninges, the people asked for a King. And God told them to give the people a king. Enter Saul…

God told Samuel to anoint Saul as king of Israel and, through quite a chain of events, he did. Saul was taken back…”who, me?” He said, “I am a Benjamite, of the smallest tribes of Israel and my family is the least of all the families. Why do you speak like this to me?” Saul was humble, or as he is later described, he was small in his own sight.

God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Saul was humble and was given the grace of leadership and an anointing. And that anointing, along with humility, is what made Saul the man for the job. Throughout the Bible and church history ordinary men and women did extraordinary things because of the Spirit of God on and in them. They went from obscurity to fame, from weakness to great strength, from mere men and women and women to men and women of God. When the naysayers saw the courage of Peter and John they marveled, and took notice they had been with Jesus. We alone are little match for the devil. But when God comes on the scene, the devil flees.

When Saul was anointed crazy things happened. First, God gave him another heart. God loves to give heart transplants. Some years later God promised a repentant Israel a new heart and a new spirit. Now he gives out new hearts and spirits every day to those who believe.

Next the Spirit of God came upon him. Nothing is the same when the Spirit of God comes on you. Things look different, sound different and one’s entire outlook changes. Jesus said, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.” No kidding. He also was the One coming who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. Before the baptism of the Holy Spirit the disciples fled to save their lives. After the Holy Spirit they gave up their lives. All throughout the Bible you read, “The Holy Spirit came on whomever, and they did great things. The Holy Spirit has everything to do with breaking out of defeat and ordinary living and moving on to the extraordinary.

Next Saul came upon some prophets and he joined them and began to prophesy. This humble man who thought Samuel was talking foolishness was already being greatly influenced by the eternal God. When the people saw this, they asked, “What has become of Saul, the son of Kish?” Do people say that about you? Has your life radically changed or does your life look like the average earthling’s life? You are called to more. As a believer, your citizenship is now in heaven and your affections are on things above. You no longer are shackled by the ways of the world but have been set free! When you receive a new heart and spirit you are free to live right, free from fear, free to go beyond the ordinary to extraordinary. The old is gone, the new has come!

“But one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

 

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