Monthly Archives: March 2013

1 Samuel 16: God Looks into Our Hearts

First of all, happy Easter to everyone out there! I hope you have a great day.

Today is also a big day on this website because we meet David. David will obviously go on to do great things for God, but in 1 Samuel 16, he is still the youngest son of Jesse working out in the fields as a shepherd.

Samuel had come to Jesse under the direction of God. He knew that Saul would eventually be replaced, and God would provide a suitable replacement.

When he walked into the house, he asked Jesse to see his sons. First, Eliab came in, and he is who I want to focus on today.

1Sa 16:5  And he said, Peaceably: I am come to sacrifice unto the LORD: sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice. And he sanctified Jesse and his sons, and called them to the sacrifice.

1Sa 16:6  And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the LORD’S anointed is before him.

1Sa 16:7  But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.

I think that verse seven is incredibly comforting to everyone. God doesn’t care about what we look like on the outside; He is worried about the inside. He does not judge us the way that the world does.

The world is about what you look like, who your family is, what kind of car you drive and how nice your clothes are.

God is about your heart as He emphasizes in verse seven.

So, what does that mean for us?

Quite frankly, it means that our hearts need to be in the right place with God. Given that today is Easter, it really worked out perfectly.

Because of what Jesus did on the cross for you and I and the fact that He rose again on this day a little bit less than 2000 years ago, we can be reconciled to Him and have eternal life. Our dirty and sinful human hearts can be wiped clean.

There’s will never be a better day than today to start this process. Click on this link to my “Start Here” page to learn a little more about this decision that I hope God is leading you towards right now.

1 Samuel 15: Obedience

1 Samuel 15 features one of my new favorite passages in Scripture. It is funny; as I continue along with this process, I keep finding new passages.

Let me give you a little bit of this story first of all. God told Samuel to tell Saul to go down to the Amalekites and destroy the city.  This all came about because those people had hunted the Israelites when they came out of Egypt.

They were supposed to destroy everything in the city, and that is not what Saul did. He ended up keeping the best of the livestock under the idea that he was going to sacrifice it to God. Unfortunately, that was not what God had commanded. When Saul tried to use that as his justification, Samuel said this to him.

1Sa 15:20  And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and have gone the way which the LORD sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.

1Sa 15:21  But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God in Gilgal.

1Sa 15:22  And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.

Doesn’t God care more about what is in our hearts than what we act like? Isn’t this what we kind of say today when we talk about salvation coming from faith rather than from works?

Certainly, we need to act like Christians because faith without works is dead. However, it all starts with our hearts, and that is why I love this verse so much. Our obedience is what God wants from us, and we ought to follow through.

1 Samuel 14: The Radical Faith of Jonathan

1 Samuel 13 starts out with a picture of pretty radical faith. I do not know many people who pull off what Jonathan, the son of Saul, wanted to pull off.

1Sa 14:6  And Jonathan said to the young man that bare his armour, Come, and let us go over unto the garrison of these uncircumcised: it may be that the LORD will work for us: for there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few.

Basically, Jonathan was sure that if God was with him and his armor bearer, they could take down virtually an unlimited number of Philistines.

I know that most of us are very comfortable saying that God can do anything, but Jonathan was really putting his money where his mouth was so to speak. He didn’t just say that he intellectually understood that God could deliver him. He went all out and decided to act on that faith.

1Sa 14:11  And both of them discovered themselves unto the garrison of the Philistines: and the Philistines said, Behold, the Hebrews come forth out of the holes where they had hid themselves.

1Sa 14:12  And the men of the garrison answered Jonathan and his armourbearer, and said, Come up to us, and we will shew you a thing. And Jonathan said unto his armourbearer, Come up after me: for the LORD hath delivered them into the hand of Israel.

In a way, it sounds like the soldiers were taunting them. They were almost daring them to come up and fight.

Of course, a few verses earlier Jonathan used that phrase as his way to know that God was with him and He would give him victory. With that reaffirmation, the two men went up to fight.

The two men took on the 20 enemies and handled them with ease. In practical terms, I do not think that Jonathan would have made this attack. Being outnumbered 10 to 1 is never a good thing, and I know that I would not walk into that alone.

That is the difference.

Jonathan was not alone. He had God with him, and that is more than enough to handle whatever might happen here on earth. Maybe if we lived our lives with this level of faith in the sovereign power of God, we could be used in many ways like Jonathan was.

1 Samuel 13: Taking Matters into Our Own Hands

1 Samuel 13 demonstrates how one action can have huge consequences. Saul invaded a Philistine city, and as a result, the Philistines decided to react and go to war.

Saul had all of his army gather at Gilgal, but the people were incredibly afraid. Saul realized that he had to do something to give the people confidence.

1Sa 13:7  And some of the Hebrews went over Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. As for Saul, he was yet in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling.

1Sa 13:8  And he tarried seven days, according to the set time that Samuel had appointed: but Samuel came not to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him.

1Sa 13:9  And Saul said, Bring hither a burnt offering to me, and peace offerings. And he offered the burnt offering.

So what is the problem with that? Well, only the priest was supposed to perform the sacrifice. Saul certainly knew this, but when he did not see Samuel coming through, he decided to take matters into his own hands.

Of course, like it always seems to happen, right when he was finishing up the job, Samuel did arrive, but he did not bring good news.

1Sa 13:11  And Samuel said, What hast thou done? And Saul said, Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash;

1Sa 13:12  Therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the LORD: I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering.

1Sa 13:13  And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever.

1Sa 13:14  But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee.

Because on his disobedience, his family would be taken off the throne. While it may seem drastic, and you might wonder where the forgiveness of God is in this picture, no one ever said anything about him not being forgiven.

He could have been forgiven and possibly he was if he sought it out, but his actions disqualified him for a leadership position. To be the King of Israel, his heart needed to be in the right place. Given what we know about his future life, it is hard to tell if it was.

1 Samuel 12: God is King

1 Samuel 12 essentially outlines the problem with putting our faith in worldly things.

On one hand, having a government is not a bad thing. Under the judges and even under Moses, there was a definite sense that Israel had some type of governmental structure. However, the difference lies in the fact that God put the first system in place.

At this point, the people of Israel were saying that they wanted something different than what God had put in place.

1Sa 12:12  And when ye saw that Nahash the king of the children of Ammon came against you, ye said unto me, Nay; but a king shall reign over us: when the LORD your God was your king.

They did not want to have God as their King anymore. They wanted a literal human king like every other country in the world. Wouldn’t you think that having a perfect King who had proved himself over and over again would be better than the alternative?

Getting back to my first point, the government was not the problem. Samuel even said that, despite the fact that the people should not have said they didn’t want God, this system could be successful.

1Sa 12:14  If ye will fear the LORD, and serve him, and obey his voice, and not rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then shall both ye and also the king that reigneth over you continue following the LORD your God:

1Sa 12:15  But if ye will not obey the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then shall the hand of the LORD be against you, as it was against your fathers.

If everyone involved followed God, there’d be no problem. That makes a lot of sense. After all, we are each told to follow God, and if you scale that up to all of society, it follows that everyone should follow God.

I think that the major application from this passage reemphasizes that God should be the ultimate authority in our lives. Even if society uses different standards for measurement, God is our ultimate bottom line for truth.

1 Samuel 11: What Kind of King Do You Want?

Because Easter is coming up, 1 Samuel 11 made me think about what type of king Israel wanted.

In this chapter, the people were in trouble, but Saul was able to rally 300,000 people from around the country to come and militarily defeat the Ammonites. After seeing his potential, here is what the people of Israel said.

1Sa 11:12  And the people said unto Samuel, Who is he that said, Shall Saul reign over us? bring the men, that we may put them to death.

The people could literally not believe that some people would oppose Saul as king of Israel. Why did they love him? They loved him because he was able to free them from oppression.

Wait a minute. By whose will did they actually win the battle? It wasn’t because of Saul. It was because of this physical deliverance that the people were loyal to him.

Now, let’s look at the ultimate King and what kind of deliverance He was going to bring.

Luk 19:37  And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen;

Luk 19:38  Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.

Luk 19:39  And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples.

Luk 19:40  And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.

Luk 19:41  And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it,

Here we have a King that everyone was expecting to throw out the Roman Empire. In a way, they expected Jesus to do what Saul had done. Perform some military conquest, and then you can be our King.

We can come to this conclusion from the fact that they were praising Him for his works. Of course, His works were great, but at this point, He had not even done His most amazing deed.

I think that is why Jesus was crying at what would seem to be a very happy moment. The people of Israel had no idea what He was about to do and why. They didn’t realize that they needed a lot more than just an earthly king.

1 Samuel 10: Giving God What He Deserves

Like I mentioned yesterday, God allowed the Israelites to have a king, but it was not what He had ultimately planned for Israel. This point comes through very clearly in 1 Samuel 10.

In this passage, we see the coronation of Saul. However, here is what Samuel said to call the people together.

1Sa 10:18  And said unto the children of Israel, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all kingdoms, and of them that oppressed you:

1Sa 10:19  And ye have this day rejected your God, who himself saved you out of all your adversities and your tribulations; and ye have said unto him, Nay, but set a king over us. Now therefore present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes, and by your thousands.

God is pretty much saying that even though He did so much for Israel, they had rejected Him. Although this hasn’t necessarily been said yet, a verse from Jeremiah essentially sums up the relationship between God and Israel from God’s perspective.

Jer 32:38  And they shall be my people, and I will be their God:

The people did not understand that this relationship went both ways. They could not throw God to the side. God would be there and take care of them, but they needed to submit to God’s direction. They wanted all of the benefits without having to give anything. If this were a human friendship or relationship, we would say that it was unfair. Both parties should be valued by the other. God obviously loves and values humanity, but humanity does not always value Him.

The Israelites were just like that. They wanted a king to be a human figurehead like all the other nations had. If only they realized that what they had was so much better than what the world had to offer.

1 Samuel 9: Who Can Be a Leader?

Today, in 1 Samuel 9, we meet one of the more well-known figures in the history of Israel. Saul was directly chosen by God to be the first king of Israel. God told Samuel ahead of time that a man would come in to visit him, and that man was to be named king.

1Sa 9:16  To morrow about this time I will send thee a man out of the land of Benjamin, and thou shalt anoint him to be captain over my people Israel, that he may save my people out of the hand of the Philistines: for I have looked upon my people, because their cry is come unto me.

It is interesting that Saul did not come looking to be king of Israel. He came looking for his father’s donkeys that had wandered away.

I think that that is often how God plans on using us. He chooses people for who they are. It was clear that God does not necessarily want to have a king in Israel. However, he did choose Saul to lead the people. Even though Saul certainly made some bad decisions later in life, he was the man who had been chosen.

Think about all of the other reluctant leaders. We read about Gideon not too long ago. He was not seeking out a leadership position, but God specifically chose him. Obviously, the power was from God, but He worked through Gideon.

Another great example is Esther. She wasn’t necessarily looking to be the spokesperson for the Jewish nation, but God put her in the right place at the right time to be an advocate. He was able to use her as well.

I think this is what people don’t realize today. We all think that we need to be someone amazing to be used by God. That is simply not true. God will use whoever is willing to be used.

It didn’t matter who they were before. Obviously repentance and forgiveness are vital if we want to be used by God, and we need to be a living sacrifice. However, never think that you are too small to be used by God. It is God’s power that matters anyway.

Rom 12:1  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

1 Samuel 8: When People Don’t Listen

1 Samuel 8 signifies a major turning point in the history of Israel. Samuel himself was old, so he made his sons the next judges over Israel. However, it did not work out too well.

1Sa 8:3  And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment.

The children of Israel were obviously upset, and I cannot say that I blame them. After all, nobody likes bad judges who do not administer the law correctly. As a result, a bunch of the elders got together and came to Samuel with a request.

1Sa 8:5  And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.

Samuel was unhappy about this, so he prayed to God. I think that God’s response is very important for all of us today.

1Sa 8:7  And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.

I am not going to make excuses for many churches today. Many churches have wandered away from God, and because of that, many people have said that Christianity itself should be thrown out.

That is exactly what is happening here.

Because of human errors, people immediately attribute that to God. They say that there is no way that God can be real because His people are such a poor reflection of Him.

As Christians, we need to understand that the God has a perfect plan. His perfection is reaffirmed several times throughout the Bible which Christians need to take as fact.

We also need to realize that humans are by nature sinful beings. I don’t think it takes an awful lot of thought to realize that humanity has done a lot of awful things.

Even Christians do bad things. Becoming a Christian does not mean that we are all of a sudden perfect. It means that we are working to become more like Jesus. We can never reach perfection, but we can at least become better mirrors to reflect the glory of God.

A lot of people don’t realize this and all of a sudden turn on God because there are some evil people here on earth. It is probably one of the most important reasons that people turn away from God. It is not because of Him, but it is because of His people.

We obviously have an obligation to be the light of the world, but these critics also need to realize that the essence of Christianity is not watching what other people here on earth do. Christianity teaches that people will do bad things. Everything comes back to your personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

1 Samuel 7: Put Your Heart in the Right Place

In 1 Samuel 7, we get to see a very nice picture of the forgiveness of God. At this point, Israel had been doing some pretty bad things for a long time. If we look back to chapter 4, this entire situation started because of disobedience.

Nevertheless, Samuel knew that God would be faithful to forgive the people if they truly repented.

1Sa 7:3  And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the LORD, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.

The people were quick to return to God again, and guess what happened.

1Sa 7:13  So the Philistines were subdued, and they came no more into the coast of Israel: and the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel.

1Sa 7:14  And the cities which the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron even unto Gath; and the coasts thereof did Israel deliver out of the hands of the Philistines. And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites.

I think that the application here is rather straightforward. If we want God to do great things through us, we need to make sure that we have our hearts in the right place. If we’re busy worshiping other things, God will not be happy with that. He wants all of our hearts.

I know that sounds a little bit possessive, but when you think about from the perspective that He owns the entire universe, why would He not have access to our hearts?