I SAMUEL 12/13:
We all long to succeed in important areas of our lives- relationships, careers, and finances. But sometimes in our daily pursuit of success in those areas we lose sight of the chief end of man- which is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
How does one measure success? Is it in your finances, career accomplishments and the things you own? Jesus said a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. Of the many themes and sub-themes in the books of I and II Samuel is the contrast of the life and goals of Samuel, Saul and later David. It is a study in character and conduct and how they impact one’s life.
Samuel is coming to an end of his official duties and career as we all do. However, Samuel says he will continue in two main areas: “Moreover as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way.” (I Samuel 12: 23) Prayer and the Word of God always go together.
Samuel was a man of integrity and now he is stepping down from his role as judge, for they will be ruled by a king. In his last official address to them, Samuel reviews his ministry and his life of ministry. Like Paul, Samuel is finishing the race and looks back to affirm he has fought a good fight and has kept the faith. Better yet, Jesus, Himself, reviewed His own life and ministry on earth: “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given me to do.” (John 17: 4)
A HISTORY LESSON
It was Samuel who directed them to Gilgal after the victory over Nahash and the Ammonites. He wanted them to remember what all God had done for them going back to Jacob and Moses and Aaron. It was God who appointed Moses and Aaron, not the people. It was God who enabled them to do great and mighty works. It was God who had freed them from Egypt and God who parted the Red Sea and God who had given them the Promised Land. Yet they forgot the Lord their God and served the gods of the pagans, the Baals and the Astoreths.
And as they looked back at their history it was clear from their history they continued to repeat the cycle of: disobedience, discipline and deliverance.
The essence of sin is to see God in His creation and refuse to glorify Him and give Him thanks. Paul describes this cycle in Romans 1. He is the creator of all things and all things are created by Him and for Him. But when we refuse to honor Him and thank Him – our foolish hearts are darkened and we worship the created rather than the Creator. We are to thank the Lord. We are to fear the Lord. We are to obey the Lord.
Samuel says: “And do not turn aside: for then you would go after empty things which cannot profit or deliver for they are nothing. “ (vs. 21) Have you looked in your closet lately? Have you looked in that drawer in the kitchen; in your garage, your attic? Filled with empty things which cannot profit or deliver for they are nothing. Churches must make organizational changes. We must embrace technology which helps us better spread the Gospel. But Samuel reminds them of principles that never change: the character of God, the Word of God, the necessity of faith, and the importance of obedience. Also that teaching the Word of God and prayer go together. And for God’s people not to pray is to sin against the Lord, and yet this is quite often what is lacking in the church today, prayer by the saints based on the Word of God. Samuel passed the test of leadership. And the test is always submission to God’s authority. Godly character is developed through perseverance in tribulation and trials. Perseverance is patience which is a byproduct, a fruit, which comes from the testing of one’s faith. Patience is a necessity to make one complete, lacking nothing, as James noted in James 1. Samuel did not abuse his position of authority and leadership to profit himself.
KING SAUL’S CHARACTER REVEALED
After the great victory over Nahash, King Saul will make a foolish and unwise decision which will the beginning of a tragic decline that ends terribly. Remember we are told patience is a fruit of the Spirit and a necessary ingredient to developing godly character and perfecting a believer where they lack nothing.
Let us observe the first flaws in King Saul’s character in this chapter. Their standing army has dwindled from over 300,000 to just 3,000. We are introduced to Saul’s son, Johnathan in this chapter. He has 1,000 soldiers with him when he attacks the Philistine’s garrison and defeats them. Saul blows the trumpet and announces to all of Israel, he has attacked the garrison and takes credit for the victory. Do you remember after the victory over Nahash, Saul gave the Lord credit for the victory?
Now Samuel had forewarned Saul two years ago of the event which is to occur. He told Saul when he went down to Gilgal to wait for him to offer burnt offerings and make sacrifices of peace offerings. He specifically told Saul, “Wait seven days until I come to you and show you what to do.” (I Sam. 10:8) Meanwhile the enemy was growing stronger and Saul was greatly outnumbered. His army began to grow fearful and began deserting Saul. His meager forces were shrinking by the day and Saul was growing desperate as he awaits Samuel’s arrival.
This was a test of faith and patience. “ And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who THROUGH FAITH AND PATIENCE INHERIT THE PROMISES.”
First we see, Saul takes credit for Jonathan’s victory a sign of pride and also weakness in that Saul does not want anyone to look better than him.
Second as Saul is waiting the seven days, the Lord has commanded him to do through Samuel. We see he grows more fearful as the circumstances grow direr. Fear is overcoming faith. It is easy for us to see in this story- this is the Lord’s way of testing Saul’s faith and patience. Without faith and patience we can’t receive the Lord’s promise. Unbelief and impatience are marks of spiritual immaturity. We must learn to trust God and wait on His perfect timing. We cannot learn the other lessons, nor can we receive the blessings He’s planned for us if we cannot learn to wait on the Lord.
The circumstances were scary. One’s imagination runs wild in these situations as we believe there is no way out. Saul has shown himself to be prideful, jealous of anyone who looks better than he looks, after all appearances are very important to man known for his appearance.
Saul was very adept at making excuses and reasons which justified his actions. His army was deserting him. He faced an overwhelming problem. He needed to make the sacrifice before going to battle and Samuel was not there. It was Samuel’s fault not his. Eve blamed the serpent. Adam blamed Eve and God who gave him Eve. It is the “blame and shame” game which has been around since man’s first sin.
Saul is very good at making excuses. As we often see, those who are good a making excuses are rarely good at anything else. He had no other choice Saul tells Samuel. It was Samuel’s fault for not arriving earlier and the soldiers’ fault for deserting. Notice what Saul said: “I SAW that the people were scattered from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed and the Philistines were gathering at Michmash.” Saul was walking by sight and not by faith. When faith is defeated by fear, then unbelief and impatience replace faith and patience.
We see his flawed character which first is revealed in his pride, then his impatience which leads to disobedience and deception. Samuel announces God’s sentence: your kingdom shall not continue because you do not have a heart after God.
WRITTEN FOR US
Paul reminded us all these things written in the past were to teach us that through patience and comfort, the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Waiting on the Lord is mention so many times and always coupled with the reward we will receive if we wait on the Lord and do good. If we wait patiently.
So let’s look at what has been written for us for those times we must wait on the Lord:
“The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and foes they stumbled and fell. Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear, thought war may rise against me; in this I will be confident. I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait I say on the Lord.” (Psalm 27)
“Rest in the Lord and wait patiently on Him.”(Psalm 37)
“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth neither faints or grows weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases in strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not faith.”
Remember earlier I quoted from Galatians 3: 29 which tells us if we are Christ’s we are the seed of Abraham and heir to the promises. The verse from Hebrews 6 which speaks of faith and patience as necessary to receive the promise are about Abraham. And we know from study of the Scripture it took Abraham 25 years to see that promise fulfilled. Surely Abraham would have lost faith and hope if he did not see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Are you facing what seems to be an impossible situation? Are you and your loved ones standing at the entrance of what you know will be a time of hardship and you are wondering am I up for this undertaking? Can I stay strong in what I know will be a scary, draining, and painful journey?
You believe God and His promises, but like Saul, you are looking at the circumstances and they look contrary to what you think God has promised you. This is when the enemy wants to create doubt. Did God really say He would do this?
Romans 4 and in fact the story of Abraham in Genesis was written for us. I love the story of Abraham and I love Abraham, because he was a man, a frail human being just like us. He would sometimes make a great step of faith, only to see him face a trial like a famine and take off to Egypt. Facing a powerful king, he resorts to lies, deception and excuses to get himself out of harm’s way. When the promised child is not born. When the promise now is becoming even more impossible to fulfill because of his age and Sarah’s barren womb they devise their own plan to fulfill God’s promise by Abraham having a child by Sarah’s maid, Hagar. The result is disastrous, Ishmael.
Now remember – without faith it is impossible to please God. Faith is the key to righteousness. Faith is the sole basis for our relationship with God. By studying what has been written for us we can see the following about the nature of faith:
1. Faith involves agreeing with what God has said.
2. It involves living not merely with a hopeful wish but a solid expectation that God will do what He said He would do.
3. It means we depend not on ourselves but on God.
4. It requires us to see the invisible reality of God’s plan despite the physical evidence.
5. It compels us to live as though what GOD SAID HAS ALREADY BEEN MADE MANIFEST EVEN THOUGH IT HASN’T APPEARED YET.
6. It removes ‘impossible’ from our vocabulary, for all things are possible to those who believe.
So these things are written for us to realize the promises depend on God’s faithfulness and not our own. Faith puts our focus on God, not on ourselves or our circumstances.
*If you live in fear that your ability to mess up is greater than God’s ability to set you right, that’s works, not faith. God said to Abraham: “I HAVE MADE YOU FATHER OF MANY NATIONS.” God is taking full responsibility for the outcome. What work must I do the crowd ask Jesus- believe in the One Whom He sent, Jesus replied.
When I look at Abraham’s story, I see myself. His faith wavered on more than one occasion. He tried to fulfill God’s promise in his own strength. But what I like most about Abraham and Sarah’s story is even though they wandered, and wondered if God was really going to fulfill His promise we see the end result, which is what God always looks at:
“ Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might sure to all seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also those who are of the faith of Abraham who is the father of us all, for it is written, (“ I have made you a father of many nations.”) in the presence of Him whom He believed- God who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did: who contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “ so shall you descendants be.” And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead, since he was about a 100 year old and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God.” (Romans 4)
Have I wavered in unbelief and impatience before and made foolish decisions? YES, just like Abraham and Sarah did. But ultimately Abraham and Sarah believed God and were fully convinced God was able.
This story shows us how faith works. How patience is developed and how it takes time. It is a process. And the journey is not an easy one at times. But God never places more on us than we can bear. And when we make mistakes and get ahead of Him, there will be consequences, but even the consequences work for our good.