Messy People

I.      Introduction

Sometimes I read the bible and the message is so easy.  Just one God, honor your Ma and Pa, don’t take things that ain’t yours, that sort of thing.  Other times, the message is obscure and difficult to plow through.  Ever sat down to read the bible and read it cover to cover?  How many of us got stuck in the begats, as in “Adam begat Seth, Seth begat Enos, and Kenan and Mahaleel and hundreds of other unpronounceable names?”

Today’s study sort of starts that way, the message in the Word seemed esoteric, and I’m not even sure what “esoteric” means.   For instance, here’s our first study verse for today in 2 Samuel 3:8 –

Then Abner was very angry over the words of Ish-bosheth and said, “Am I a dog’s head that belongs to Judah? Today I show kindness to the house of Saul your father, to his brothers and to his friends, and have not delivered you into the hands of David; and yet today you charge me with a guilt concerning the woman.

My first thought when I read this was, “what?”  But the key to understanding scripture is context, or as a pastor I heard put it, “location, location, location.”  I think we need some background before we can begin to understand this verse.

II.      Background of Messy People: David

So just in this first verse, I see at least 4 people discussed by name.  There’s Abner, Ish-bosheth, Saul, and David.  There’s also a woman mentioned, as well as brothers and friends of Saul.  I read ahead over the next several scripture verses – sometimes I do that when I’m studying – and there are several more people that will be mentioned later.  There’s another woman named Michal, a man named Paltiel the son of Laish.  And there’s at least two names that aren’t mentioned, Jonathan and Joab, that influence the events in today’s scripture. 

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Of all the names listed, David is probably the most familiar.  He’s also one of the most complicated.  David was a horrible failure and David was a wonderful success.  David committed murder in his later years and had an affair with Bathsheba.  And yet, David was described as a man after God’s own heart.  Sometimes when I read stories on David, I wonder what I’m missing. 

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But I think a key to understanding David is to recognize the sinner in all of us.  Are we a people after God’s own heart?  We might look at our own lives and say, well, no, It doesn’t look like I’m not a man after God’s own heart.  Look at all the things I’ve done that are bad.  If they could see who I really am, they would know me for what I am.  A sinner.  Just like David.

But God teaches us that what is important is not so much what we do, but what’s inside.  Back in 1 Samuel 16, the prophet Samuel was seeking a king over Israel.  The Lord sent him to Bethlehem because the Lord had selected a son of Jesse to be king.  When Samuel got there, he saw Jesse’s son Eliab who apparently looked like Thor and said, “whoa…

“Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”

But the Lord answered in verse 7,

“Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Slide4And there’s the answer.  David’s heart, despite his sinful nature, was always pointed at the Lord.  When confronted about his sin, David didn’t just confess his sins, he repented and went to the Lord for forgiveness.  When faced with overwhelming odds like when he faced Goliath the giant, David trusted in the Lord.  David meditated on God’s word and wrote over half of the Psalms.

       III.      Background of Messy People: Saul

So the Lord chose David to be king of Israel, but like I said, people are messy.  There was already a king in Israel, his name was Saul.  Saul also demonstrated successes and failures like David, but there was a big difference.  Even when Saul knew what the Lord’s will was, he often would do something else.  Including trying to kill David because of Saul’s jealousy. 

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Saul had 4 sons and 2 daughters.  Of the sons, Jonathan was the oldest; then came Abinadab, Malchishua and Ish-bosheth.  There’s some confusion that in 2 Samuel 21:11, 7 sons of Samuel are put to death, but those include grandchildren because at least one of them was a son of Jonathan.  And the two daughters, Merab and Michal.

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Saul’s jealousy was complicated; he seemed to alternate between loving David as a son and trying to kill David as an enemy.  David was close to Saul’s family; David’s best friend as a child was Jonathan, and Saul’s daughter Michal was in love with David.  In 1 Samuel 18:17, Saul promised to give his oldest daughter Merab to David as a prize for killing Saul’s enemies.  But Saul double crossed David and gave Merab to some other man. 

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But since Saul was jealous of David and knowing David was in love with the younger daughter Michal, Saul promised David he could have Michal if David attacked the Philistines.  Saul was hoping David would be killed in the attack, but David won, so Saul had to give Michal to David for his wife.

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Saul tried to kill David outright at this point, but David’s wife Michal helped David escape.  That apparently made Saul mad, David not dying like he was supposed to, escaping with the help of his daughter.  Saul declares the marriage null and void, then Saul then gave Michal to different man, and Michal was married to Paltiel, son of Laish.

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Despite Saul trying to kill him, David didn’t retaliate against Saul.  If David was aware of the New Testament (which he wasn’t), he might have considered this verse, Romans 13:1-2,

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.  Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.

David may have been selected by God to be king, but David respected the office of King Saul.  David spent years hiding in deserts and caves while Saul hunted him.  One of my favorite stories about David is in 1 Samuel 24.  Saul is hunting David, and had to stop and tinkle.  So he went into a cave, but David was already hiding there.    While Saul is tinkling in a corner, David sneaks up and cuts a corner off of Saul’s robe to prove that David could have killed Saul but didn’t.  What I find funny about that story is that David feels guilty about it.  He should have never cut a piece of garment off of the king’s robe, that’s just wrong, even if the king is trying to kill him.

David had another chance to kill Saul in 1 Samuel 26.  Saul is hunting David, again, but Saul gets tired, so that night Saul lays down to sleep, but he has a bodyguard, Saul’s cousin Abner.  David sneaks into Saul’s camp, finds Saul sleeping next to a spear.  He could have easily killed Saul with Saul’s own spear, but instead David takes the spear, runs over to the next hill and taunts the bodyguard.  “Hey Abner!  Is that how you guard your king?  I could have killed him, but instead, I have his spear!  Neener neener neener!”

This goes on for many years, Saul hunting David and David hiding, but Saul has another set of enemies, the Philistines, and there’s a big battle brewing between Saul and the Philistines at Mount Gilboa.  Saul of course seeks spiritual advice, but Saul believes the Lord has stopped talking to Saul, probably because Saul is trying to kill the Lord’s anointed king, David.  So Saul consults a witch instead.  I’m going to suggest that if for some reason you cannot hear the Lord speaking to you, then spend time in the Word until you do.  Don’t consult a witch, ok?  In fact, let’s take a quick look at 1 Chronicles 10:13-14,

Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord; he did not keep the word of the Lord and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the Lord. So the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.

Slide24So, don’t consult a witch, ok? 

 IV.      Background of Messy People: Abner and Ish-Bosheth

So Saul is dead, and David is finally king, right?  I told you people are messy.  Abner, Saul’s cousin and bodyguard, is very well-connected.  David becomes king over the tribe of Judah, but Abner takes Saul’s remaining son Ish-bosheth, and makes Ish-bosheth king.  Abner is able to get the other 11 tribes to unite around Ish-bosheth.  And I wish Ish-bosheth had an easier name to pronounce because saying Ish-bosheth several times in a row is a real tongue-twister.

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Actually, Ish-bosheth does have another name.   When Ish-bosheth was born, his name was Eshba’al which means “Man of the Lord.”)  Here’s a rabbit hole we’re going to follow for just a wee little bit: the definition of “ba’al” means “lord,” or alternatively “master” or “husband.”  The word had been around in early Hebrew as a generic term, but in later years the Canaanites started using “Ba’al” as the proper name of their pagan god.  The Philistines eventually started worshipping Ba’al but changed his name to Beelzebub.  In later Old Testament scripture, “Beelzebub” became known as a major demon, and Christians know the name Beelzebub as another name for the prince of demons.  In the year 1818, Jacques Auguste Simon Collin de Plancy wrote a book called “Dictionnaire Infernal” or a book on demonology who described Beelzebub as having the ability to fly.  He then became known as “The Lord of the Flyers,” or later, “The Lord of the Flies.”

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Anyway, yuck.  That’s enough of that rabbit trail.  Back to Eshba’al, Saul’s remaining son established by Abner as king over 11 tribes of Israel, the Northern Kingdom couldn’t bear to call him Eshba’al because it sounded like a profanity, being ruled by man of demons.  So they changed his name to Ish-bosheth which translates as “man of shame.”  Not exactly a flattering name, “man of shame,” but better than sharing the name of a demon.

Anyway, Ish-bosheth was sort of a puppet king over 11 tribes of Israel, controlled by Abner, and between them continued to wage war against David, the king of Judah.

I think they got tired of fighting so often.  In 2 Samuel 2, Abner’s men meet David’s men, led by David’s captain named Joab, at the pool of Gibeon, and they decide rather than everybody fight, each side would select 12 people to fight each other.  It says in 2 Samuel 2:16,

Each one of them seized his opponent by the head and thrust his sword in his opponent’s side; so they fell down together.

It sounds to me like everybody died, but commentaries say that David’s captain Joab won the battle.  Abner and his men run away, and David’s men start to chase.  Joab has a brother named Asahel who spots Abner and chases him, but when he catches up to Abner, Abner abruptly stops and kills Asahel with a spear.  Joab is inconsolable and vows to kill Abner some day, but for now, Abner escapes back to safety.  These two sides fight for the next 2 years with David’s army generally winning and Abner’s side generally losing.

So Abner gets back to Ish-bosheth, and Ish-bosheth makes an accusation.  The old dead king Saul, Ish-bosheth’s father, had a concubine named Rizpah.  Apparently Rizpah belongs to Ish-bosheth now, but Ish-bosheth accuses Abner of having an affair with Rizpah.  All of this background information just to bring us to the first scripture we’re supposed to study today, 2 Samuel 3:8 which we looked at earlier:

Then Abner was very angry over the words of Ish-bosheth and said, “Am I a dog’s head that belongs to Judah? Today I show kindness to the house of Saul your father, to his brothers and to his friends, and have not delivered you into the hands of David; and yet today you charge me with a guilt concerning the woman.

Slide2Ah, now I have a better understanding of what’s going on.  Location, location, location.  Abner has spent his life playing political games, first with Saul and then propping up Ish-bosheth as the so-called king.  And this is how Ish-bosheth repays him, by accusing Abner of having an affair with Rizpah the concubine?  Abner is furious. 

I re-read this scripture several times and couldn’t help but notice Abner said he was innocent of the charges.  He’s just mad that he’s been accused.  In fact, Abner is so mad, he tells Ish-bosheth that he’s going to give the 11 tribes of Israel to David so David can finally be the king over all Israel, just like the Lord said he would. 

And Ish-bosheth is too scared to say anything.  What could he say?  Abner had all the power, Ish-bosheth was just a puppet.

             V.      Background of Messy People: David and Michal

So Abner goes to David and tells David, “hey, let’s stop fighting.  You agree not to kill me, and I’ll agree to give you the rest of Israel.”  David goes, “hmmm…. Let me think.”

And David agrees, on one additional condition.  Remember Michal?  Saul’s youngest daughter than Saul gave to David for his wife, then took Michal away and gave to another man named Paltiel?  David wants her back.  Abner can come work for David, and all David wants is all of Israel and his wife Michal back.

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Abner agrees.  I mean, it’s not like Abner is giving away anything of his own, right?  David sends a message to Ish-bosheth, and without Abner telling him what to do, Ish-bosheth doesn’t know what else to do.  Of course David can have Michal.  I mean, it’s not like Ish-bosheth is giving away anything of his own, right?  2 Samuel 3:15-16,

Ish-bosheth sent and took her from her husband, from Paltiel the son of Laish.  But her husband went with her, weeping as he went, and followed her as far as Bahurim. Then Abner said to him, “Go, return.” So he returned.

Aww. People can be pretty messy.  David might have loved Michal, but Michal had a new husband, and Paltiel loved her very much and followed her like a lovesick puppy until Abner stopped him and told Paltiel to go back home.

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All David’s conditions are met, Abner has surrendered, David has Michal back as his wife, and our study scripture for today ends in 2 Samuel 3:20-21a,

Then Abner and twenty men with him came to David at Hebron. And David made a feast for Abner and the men who were with him.  Abner said to David, “Let me arise and go and gather all Israel to my lord the king, that they may make a covenant with you, and that you may be king over all that your soul desires.”

And David finally becomes king of all Israel, fulfilling the Lord’s selection as king.  I thought this was kind of a weird spot to end or story today, though.  Most soap operas continue week after week after week, but we get about 30 minutes, and we have a lot of unanswered questions.  Did they all live happily ever after?

          VI.      They All Lived Happily Ever After.  Not.

Short answer:  No.  Not really.

Michal was not happy to be returned to David.  In the years they were apart, David wasn’t exactly pining away for her.  During the years they were separated, David took a 2nd wife and then a 3rd, each time making political marriages to secure money and supplies.  While David was living in the dessert, Michal’s affection for David began to fade.  When Abner sent for he and gave her back to David, Michal pleaded to stay with Paltiel, the lovesick puppy. 

By all accounts, Michal and David never regained intimacy; the scripture says that Michal remained childless.  The last time we hear about Michal is after she and David fight when the Ark of the Covenant is brought back into Jerusalem, and scripture doesn’t mention her again.

Abner probably had aspirations of becoming a powerful figure under David, but those aspirations were unfulfilled.  Joab, David’s captain, had been away during this time, but when he returns and finds Abner at the city gate immediately kills Abner in revenge for killing Joab’s brother Asahel.

Joab stayed in Israel for many many years, serving King David, until later in David’s life.  David’s son Solomon is set to inherit the title of King from his father David, but Joab offers his allegiance to David’s oldest son Adonijah and eventually flees, assassinated years later and buried somewhere in the wilderness.

Ish-bosheth was assassinated shortly by two of his own army captains shortly after Abner gave away Israel to David.  David honored Ish-bosheth as a king and had him buried in Abner’s grave.

       VII.      Conclusion

There are lots of little lessons in todays scripture.  Perhaps you saw something in one of those characters that resonated with you.  Broken dreams of love.  Aspirations of power to rule.  Revenge against those who hurt you.  I wanted to focus just on the history today, just to lay a groundwork of how messy people can be. 

Probably what I found so compelling is that everybody was messy, everybody had problems, everybody made mistakes.  And yet, our of all thes dysfunctional people, David was considered a man after God’s own heart. 

And it occurred to me that a good summary could probably be the same thing the Lord told the prophet Samuel when David was selected over his older brother Eliab.  People look at what we say and what we do.  The Lord look at our heart.  It doesn’t matter if we succeed or fail, the Lord loves us for who He created.

David did indeed become king of all Israel.  David begat Solomon, and then a great many begats occurred in Matthew chapter 1 until approximately 1000 years later, our Lord Jesus Christ was born to show us how non-messy people are supposed to live.  And He has invited us to invite Him in, so that we are not defined by our own failures, but by the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ who lives within us.

I don’t know if I’m as messy as David or Abner or Michal.  I know I make my own messy mistakes.  But praise be to Jesus that I’m not defined by what I made, but by what He made.

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David was a man after God’s own heart, and received an earthly crown.  If we seek Jesus, we too receive a crown.  Scripture mentions the joy of receiving these crowns, the Crown of Righteousness, the Crown of Victory, the Crown of Life, the Crown of Glory, the Crown of Rejoicing.  In the times yet to come, the book of Revelation tells us we joyfully throw these crowns at the feet of Jesus when we all get to heaven.

When we all get to heaven

What a day of rejoicing that will be

When we all see Jesus

We’ll sing and shout the victory

To God be the glory.  Amen.

Redeemed & Secure

             I.      Introduction – A Love Story

Last week, Chris introduced us to the book of Ruth.  Now, he stopped at the end of Ruth chapter 2 as Ruth and Naomi were headed back to Bethlehem.    We’re going to pick up in Ruth chapter 3, and will read about the love story about how Ruth met Boaz and they married.  That’s right, the principle difference between Chris’ lesson and mine is that in Chris’ lesson, Boaz is ruthless.

But today we are going to discuss the love story and marriage of Ruth and Boaz.

I encourage everyone to read the books of Ruth 1-4 to get familiar with their story, it is a love story, and let me give you the overall snapshot so you understand what’s going on.  Chris taught an excellent lesson last week about the decisions Ruth made that affected our lives today; Ruth was the great grandmother of King David and by her example showed us how to have a winning walk toward the promised land and how important our decisions are.

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In Ruth chapter 1, Elimelech and Naomi were living in Bethlehem when there was a great famine.  Elimelech and Naomi decided to move with their two sons to find food.  They moved to the land of Moab, which apparently were populated by Moabites, who knew.  The Moabites did not worship the Lord and treated Israelites poorly.

While living in Moab, Naomi’s husband Elimelech died.  Naomi’s two sons married Moabite women named Orpah and Ruth.  After 10 years, both of Naomi’s sons died, leaving Naomi and her two daughter-in-laws, all 3 widows.

The famine ended, Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem, and urged Orpah and Ruth to stay with the Moabites.  As we learned last week, Orpah was stiff-necked and stayed behind, but Ruth said to Naomi, “Your God will be my God,” and Ruth and Naomi traveled to Bethlehem, arriving just at harvest time.    Naomi returned to the promised land but changed her name from pleasant to bitter.  Ruth, who’s name meant “friend” or “companion,” was willing to give up everything, little as it was, to be a gentile with a heart for the Lord.

Now, Naomi and Ruth are both widows, and in the days of the Old Testament and Judges, widows were not treated well.  There might be plenty of food at harvest, but not for the 2 widows.

In Leviticus 19:9-10,

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest.  Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.

God’s people were not to harvest the outer edges of their fields because they should leave that for the poor.  So when the harvest was done, Ruth went to the leftover crops and picked grain for herself and for Naomi.  It so happened that the field Ruth went to belonged to Boaz.  Boaz was a distant relative of Naomi’s deceased husband Elimelech, and Naomi discovers that Ruth has been harvesting in the field of a distant relative.

Naomi is pretty excited about this news – she tells Ruth that Boaz is a relative and is obligated under the law to be a “kinsman-redeemer.”  Here we pause in our love story and discuss some biblical terms because, after all, this is a bible study.

There are several passages in the Old Testament that talk about the kinsman-redeemer, and the Hebrew word is “גָּאַל gâʼal” which means a relative that delivers, avenges, ransoms or purchases something.  Think of it sort of like a pawn broker who hold something of value of yours.  If you want that valuable, you redeem that item and it belongs to you again.  A kinsman-redeemer is based on Leviticus 25:47-49.

If a foreigner residing among you becomes rich and any of your fellow Israelites become poor and sell themselves to the foreigner or to a member of the foreigner’s clan, they retain the right of redemption after they have sold themselves. One of their relatives may redeem them: An uncle or a cousin or any blood relative in their clan may redeem them. Or if they prosper, they may redeem themselves.

Naomi and Ruth are in this position, poor widows, and Naomi is excited that Ruth has found favor in the eyes of Boaz.  Naomi gives Ruth a series of instructions –

  1. Wash, perfume yourself and put on your cloak
  2. Go to the threshing-floor
  3. Do not let Boaz recognize you during the feasting
  4. When he sleeps, lie down at his feet and uncover him
  5. Do whatever he tells you to do

          II.      The Seduction of Boaz

It appears that Naomi has a plan for her daughter-in-law to get rich.  The phrase “uncover him” is a euphemism for sexual relations, the same phrase is used throughout Leviticus 18 about unlawful sexual relations.  If Ruth seems enticing to Boaz, perhaps he will have sexual relations with her, get married, and they will both be saved.  Ruth is obligated to obey Naomi, but not at the cost of obeying God’s law.  How will she be both obedient to Naomi and to God?

Ruth does everything Naomi tells her to do.  That night, Ruth returns to the threshing floor – remember the threshing floor from a few weeks back, when Gideon was hiding from the Midianites?  Ok, he was hiding in a hole in the ground, but the threshing floor is a large flat surface used for separating the wheat from the chaff.  There must have been some sort of after-harvest party because Ruth 3:7 says Boaz had finished eating and drinking and went to lay down near the grain pile.  Ruth follows Naomi’s instructions and lays down at the feet of Boaz.

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Boaz wakes up and there’s a a young woman lying at his feet.  Boaz is shocked and asks Ruth what’s she’s doing.  Ruth is truthful and says she belongs to Boaz if only he will redeem her, and Ruth promises to do whatever Boaz asks.  She has placed her trust in Boaz as her redeemer, and fortunately, Boaz is a righteous man and Ruth’s chastity remains intact.  Boaz is touched.  He says to Ruth that there are plenty of younger men available, but he is flattered Ruth chose him.  And Boaz will indeed redeem her, but there’s a catch – Boaz is not the closest heir.  Boaz will redeem her, but because he’s a righteous man, he will make the offer to the closest heir first in front of the town elders, then leave the outcome up to God.

             III.      The Redemption of Ruth

At the beginning of Ruth chapter 4, Boaz finds the closest relative and asks him to sit at the gate while Boaz gathers ten of the town’s elders.

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In early Israelite towns, the town gate served as the center of public business.  Heavy wooden double doors were hung on large posts and were secured by bars and locks during the night.  In front of the gate entrance there was an open space lined with benches where the elders sat.  Matters of commerce were discussed and trade transactions were made, and the local judicial court of elders met to decide business and legal transactions.  It was also where elders delivered judgments in violation of the Law, and it was outside the town gate that the guilty were punished.

So in front of the elders, Boaz tells the other relative (who is not named in scripture), “Naomi is selling the land that belonged to Elimelech.”  Because of Jewish law, the closest relative had the right to redeem it, and the other heir says, “excellent, I will redeem it.”

Boaz then tells him that the property also comes with Ruth the Moabite, which the heir also must redeem if he is to accept the property.  At this the heir says that’s a problem and he cannot redeem it, it puts his own estate at risk.

Think back on our pawn shop example, you’re trying to redeem something of value that the pawn shop owner has.  In order to redeem it, there are 3 requirements –

  1. You have the right to redeem it. It rightfully belongs to you.  The heir in our story has the right as a blood relative to redeem the property and Ruth.
  2. You have the means to redeem it. You are willing to pay the cost.  The kinsman had the financial means to buy the property from Naomi.
  3. You are willing to redeem it. You actually want it back.  The kinsman has a concern about his own estate and decides he is not willing to redeem the property if Ruth is part of the bargain.

So the right of redemption falls to Boaz.  Boaz has the right as a relative, he has the mean to pay the price, and he is also willing to redeem Ruth.  Ruth 4:9-10,

Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelek, Kilion and Mahlon. I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from his hometown. Today you are witnesses!”

Our love story today is possible because of the righteousness of Boaz and his redemption of Ruth.  And they all lived happily ever after.

 

             IV.      The Redemption of You and Me

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Now if this was just a love story between Ruth and Boaz, it’s a beautiful story, and nobody dies at the end like “Romeo and Juliet” or “Titanic.”  But I believe God’s word has more meaning than that, and is applicable to us, today.

So, through decisions at forks in the road that Chris mentioned last week, Ruth is born a Moabite in a foreign land, but follows the God of Israel back to Bethlehem, respects her parent Naomi, and she is a widow and considered part of the property her father-in-law had.  Due to somebody else’s choices, Ruth is in bondage, is lacking freedom, and cannot free herself.  All she has is her choice on whether to be obedient to her mother and whether to follow the God of Israel.

Can Ruth free herself?  Is there a future that is in her control?    No; she is in bondage due to her ancestor’s choices, she is unable to free herself.  She needs a redeemer.

Who are we?  Who are you and who am I?  Can we free ourselves from the bondage of sin?  Is there a future that is on our control?  We are in bondage to due to the choices of our ancestors, and we are unable to free ourselves from the bondage of sin.  We need a redeemer.  Who will redeem us from this bondage of sin?

Where does redemption fit in our theology of eternal salvation?  We talk about our assurance of eternal life because of the blood of Jesus, but there are actually several things that happen in quick succession when we profess our faith and trust in the Lord Jesus.

We are born into sin; because of our sin nature – thanks a lot, Adam – but we ourselves make poor choices, and sometimes we make downright bad choices.  Our sin nature puts us in the family of the devil who rules this world.  And our Holy God has promised to right all wrongs and will eventually destroy all evil, including the evil that is within us.  A Holy God will not permit the unholy.

On our own, it is hopeless.  Romans 3:23 says we are all sinners,

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

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We are subject to the wrath of God, unless somebody purchases us, redeems us from our sin.  This scripture, Romans 3:23, may be familiar to us, but this verse in contexts says,

This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

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In order to be saved, we must belong to Christ, but at sinners, we are in the possession of the devil.  When we repent and turn to Jesus Christ, Christ redeems us from the devil, his death on the cross atones for our sins, and we are then accepted as righteous and have eternal salvation.

Does Christ meet the three requirements as our redeemer?  Let’s see, Jesus must have the right, the means, and the willingness to redeem us.

We are created in God’s image, but we are in the possession of the devil.  As the Son of God, Jesus have the right to claim what he has created, to free us from the sinful choices we made.  Because Jesus is the Son of our Creator, he does indeed have the right to redeem us.  The Old Testament qualification for our redeemer (Dueteronomy 25:5-10, Leviticus 25:25, Ruth 2:1) says that our redeemer must be related to us by blood.  Jesus fulfills these as described in Galatians 4:4-5,

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.

Does Jesus have the means to redeem us?  To be able to redeem us, he has to pay for all of our sins, past, present and future. In this world, when we do wrong, we may be able to find a good friend to bail us out of one bad problem, but not a lifetime of problems.  Our hypothetical friend has his own sin issues to deal with.  But Jesus has no sin and can freely pay for the sin we commit.  And as deity, Jesus can take away the sins of the world.  Jesus alone has the means to redeem us, Jesus and no other.  1 Peter 1:18-19 puts it this way,

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

But these two requirements we met by the unnamed heir who refused to redeem Naomi.  The heir had the right and the means, but not the will.

In John 10:14-18, Jesus said,

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep.  I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.  The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.

The price was steep, but in perfect submission, Jesus surrendered His will to that of His Father.  As steep as the price was, costing Him his very life, Jesus paid it all for us.

          II.      Conclusion – A Love Story

In Ruth 4:13-17,

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When he made love to her, the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son.  The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel!  He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”

Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him.  The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.

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So King David, a man after God’s own heart, was Ruth’s grandson, and David of course is in the lineage of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.  When Boaz redeemed Ruth, He did more than accept her as His own.  Boaz married her and accepted her as his bride.

In Revelation 21:2 at the beginning of the eternal kingdom, Jesus accepts us, the church, as His bride.  In John’s vision:

I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

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Our sins are washed away, we are righteous and beautiful before the Lord.  And in our love story, somebody does indeed die at the end.  Jesus gave up His life so that you and I could live.  And now, I know, my redeemer lives.

And we all lived happily ever after.

To God be the glory.  Amen.

The Timid Warrior

             I.      Introduction

Let’s open our bibles to the book of Gideon.  Or if you don’t have a book of Gideon, let’s open our Gideon bibles.

We’re going to look today at a warrior named Gideon in the book of Judges chapter 6, so let’s turn there.  Your bible should have a book of Judges.  It’s just after the book of jury selection.

The year is probably between 1045 and 1000 BC, and the book of Judges does not name the author, though the prophet Samuel is the likely author.  The book begins with the Israelites defeating the Canaanites and ends with the Israelites defeating the Philistines and the death of Samson.  We can summarize the entire book of Judges with these three verses,

Judges 2:16-17,

Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders.  Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. They quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the Lord’s commands.

Judges 10:15,

But the Israelites said to the Lord, “We have sinned. Do with us whatever you think best, but please rescue us now.”

And Judges 21:25,

In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.

The Lord has never failed to rescue His people when the repent of their ways, but Israel has fallen into a destructive pattern.  Obedience led to disobedience.  Disobedience led to destruction.  Destruction led to repentance.  Repentance led to rescue.  Rescue led to obedience. slide4

But enough about Israel.  Let’s talk about us.  Well, actually, maybe I already am talking about us.  We want to be good Christians, but when the Lord cares for us, it’s easy to get complacent and take the Lord’s blessings for granted.  We fool ourselves into thinking that a little misbehaving is ok, but then our misbehaving leads to trouble that we get ourselves into.  Then we cry out to the Lord, please save me, I’m in trouble.  And this time I’ll promise I’ll be good.

          II.      Gideon’s Condition

There’s got to be a better way than falling in the steps of the Israelites.  We’re going to focus on Gideon in Judges chapter 6, and this is what the land of Israel was like in those days, Judges 6:1-6,

The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites.  Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds.  Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country.  They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys.  They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count them or their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it.  Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the Lord for help.

The Midianites had oppressed the Israelites, and that doesn’t really describe how bad things are.  The people of Israel were vastly outnumbered, forced to live in caves, and anytime the enemy showed up, the enemy killed the Israelite’s sheep and cattle and donkeys.

When it appeared that life in Israel was completely hopeless, then Israel turned to the Lord.  Not as their first response, but only after they had tried everything else and lost.  Not that we would ever do such a thing, take things into our own hands until we’ve made a complete and utter mess of things, and then finally turn to the Lord and say, “Lord, where are you?”  No, of course we would never do that.

When we are discouraged or in pain, of course we cry out to the Lord for help.  And God in His great mercy and love for us often helps us, but we have to acknowledge that sometimes we create the problem ourselves, and the solution begins with obedience, finding the path the Lord has set before us and walking that path.  God does not appear like a magic genie and pluck us out of our difficulties; our spiritual growth and discipline comes first and then the relief comes later.

And it’s not enough for Israel to be sad and upset with their condition.  But if the only thing Israel is sorry for is that they are living in caves, then they do not yet understand what the problem is.  If we spend all our money on clothing or boats or travel or eating out and the credit card collectors begin harassing us, can we go to God and ask for financial blessings to rescue us?  Are we sorry we are broke, or are we sorry we were not good stewards of God’s blessings?

2 Corinthians 7:10 puts it this way,

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

God’s response to Israel was to send a prophet and clarify to Israel what the problem was, Judges 6:7-10,

When the Israelites cried out to the Lord because of Midian, he sent them a prophet, who said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.  I rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians. And I delivered you from the hand of all your oppressors; I drove them out before you and gave you their land.  I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.’ But you have not listened to me.”

God has rescued them before and will rescue them again, but God again asks Israel to repent of their ungodly ways.

       III.      Gideon’s Complaint

So the Lord sent a message to Gideon who was hiding in a basement somewhere so the Midianites couldn’t find him.  Verse 11-12,

The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites.  When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”

Usually wheat or corn is threshed on a threshing floor to remove the husks and straw, a flat surface is best.  Slide9.JPGBut Gideon was hiding from the Midianites in a winepress, a hole or a pit.Slide10.JPG  So when the angel of the Lord calls Gideon “mighty warrior,” Gideon probably looked around to see who the angel was talking to.  And it didn’t take very long to look around, because, well, Gideon is in a hole in the ground.

Gideon’s response to the Angel of the Lord is to complain, Judges 6:13,

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

So we know the answer to Gideon’s question – Israel is in this mess because they turned their backs on the Lord and worshipped false idols and other gods.  Gideon though is questioning the Lord – if the Lord is really with us, why do all these bad things keep happening?  Seriously, Lord, I’m in a hole in the ground trying to thresh wheat, so where are you?

But you know, it’s ok to bring our complaints to the Lord.  If we are in prayer with the Lord, we should be as honest with the Lord as we possibly can.  We do not need to feel we have to pray a certain way or pray only how we think the Lord wants us to pray.  We don’t need to be phony and pray the way we think Christians should pray.  Scripture is consistent that the Lord wants us to approach Him in pray with honesty, open our hearts completely, even if it is a complaint.

Remember David, a man after God’s own heart?  Here is his Psalm 10,

Why, Lord, do you stand far off?

Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

Be honest with the Lord.  If you have a complaint, bring it to the Lord.  Question the Lord and see if He will answer.  That’s what Job did – Job lost his health and his family and his friends and his livestock.  It must have been a mystery to him since he was a righteous man, and he took his complaint to God.  Job told God he wished he had never been born, that he has no peace and no rest and he has unending troubles.  And the Lord answered Job.

God has rescued them before and will rescue them again, but God again asks Israel to repent of their ungodly ways.

          IV.      Gideon’s Reluctance

In answer to Gideon, the Lord didn’t bother to recap Israel History 101.  The Lord tells Gideon in verse 14,

The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

If we have a single scripture to remember today, it’s this verse from Judges 6:14, “Go in the strength you have.”  Gideon was a timid man, hiding in that hole in the ground so his enemies wouldn’t find him, and the angel of the Lord called him, “mighty warrior.”  Gideon’s response shows that Gideon didn’t feel he was the right man for this job.  Verse 15,

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

Gideon feels inadequate because he is the runt of the litter.  Gideon’s error is that Gideon seems to think he has something to do with the Lord’s victory.  The Lord doesn’t need our help, but He desires our heart, our willingness, our obedience.  God wants us to step out on His behalf, to be His ambassador, but the victory is the Lord’s, not ours.  The Lord’s response in verse 16,

The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”

God calls us to lead a godly life of repentance, obedience, love and joy and peace and sometimes it seems like it’s just too hard to do everything we are supposed to do.  It’s just too much.  It’s too stressful, I can’t be sure I’m doing it right, I don’t see it working, we find a myriad of excuses.  Gideon’s excuse is that he was too little.   He’s little enough to hide in a hole.  He’s the runt of the litter.  He’s the smallest of the small.  Other people are better suited.

But that completely misses the point of what God is asking of us.  He’s not asking us to be victorious, he’s asking us to be obedient and then God will be victorious.  Go in the strength you have.

Remember when God asked Moses to lead His people out of Egypt?  In Exodus 3, God appears to Moses as a burning bush and says to Moses, “Go, I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”  Moses’ first response is, “Who am I to do these things you ask?”  And God says, “Just go.”  And Moses says, “What if they don’t listen to me?”  And God says, “Just go.”  And then in Exodus 4:10-13,

Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”

The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord?  Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.”

One thing I know about each and every believer: God has a plan for each one of us, a plan to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us hope and a future.  And I cannot fulfill the plan God has for you, and you cannot fulfill the plan God has for me.  The plan God has for you can only be fulfilled by the one person God created to fulfill that plan.  Moses finally recognized that God had a plan for him and became obedient.  When Moses finally appeared to Pharaoh and began to lead the Lord’s people out of Egypt, there was quite a few obstacles, including that inconvenient Red Sea obstacle.  But when it came time to overcome that obstacle, who parted the waters?  Was it Moses?  Or was it God?

When Peter walked on water, was He enabled by Jesus, or did he walk on water on his own power?

God doesn’t ask us to be victorious, He doesn’t ask us to move mountains, He doesn’t ask us to perform miracles.  He just asks us to be obedient.  Use the mouth the Lord gave you to speak and do not be concerned whether you speak well.  Use what the good Lord gave you, and that’s more than enough.  The Lord has already equipped you for the work He has given you.  It’s not about us, it’s about the Lord, and the victory is already His.

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In the next chapter of Judges, Gideon finds out he is massively outnumbered before the battle with the Midianites.  Gideon has 32,000 men, the Midianites have 135,000 men.  The Midianites outnumbered him four to one.  And the Lord says to Gideon, “You have too many men,” and Gideon’s army was reduced to only 10,000, or 13:1.  And the Lord says, “You still have too many men.”  And Gideon’s army was reduced to 300 men.  He’s now outnumbered 450 to 1.

Why does God drastically reduce the size of Gideon’s army?   If Gideon is outnumbered 4:1 or even 13:1, Israel might boast of their victory.  But when they are outnumbered 450:1… Israel would not boast.   It is apparent that with such overwhelming odds there was no way Israel could win.  The victory belonged to the Lord.  It could only have been victorious because of the Lord.

That’s why it doesn’t matter what you think about your abilities.  If you speak well, or you’re unable to speak.  If you can lift 1000 pounds or 10 pounds.  God created you for the task He gave you and you are already perfectly equipped to fulfil that task.  Just be obedient to the call you hear.

Ephesians 2:8-10 puts it like this to the body of Christ.  You do not save yourselves, there is nothing you can add to or take away from your salvation, it is a gift and all of the glory belongs to the Lord.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

             V.      Conclusion

I’ve got a snippet of a video that sort of illustrates this point, and I hope you’ll bear with me.  It’s not exactly the best illustration of today’s lesson, but I baked my brain in the sun this week and I was a little incoherent.  But I went with the strength I had and the victory belongs to the Lord. Here’s the setup:

When Barney sings under his own power, the result is, shall we say, acoustically challenged. Andy comes up with a plan but it requires Barney getting out of the way:

So the day of the performance arrives, and here’s the result:

God wants us to open our mouths, then get out of the way and let Him sing through us.

Judges 6:14 –

Go in the strength you have.

And the victory belongs to the Lord.

To God be the glory. Amen.

I Believe in Miracles

             I.      Introduction

Let’s start our lesson today in the book of Joshua, book 10.  We actually have to start at Joshua 1 to find our place in history, so let’s have a little background.

Moses has led the Israelites out of the land of bondage with the Egyptians.  For several reasons, Moses was not able to lead them into the Promised Land before he died, and that task was given to the Lord’s servant and prophet Joshua.  Joshua believed the Lord when he said in Joshua 1:3,

I have given you every place where the sole of your foot treads, just as I promised Moses.

The land of Israel belonged to the Israelites, and the Lord will deliver that land if His people just follow the Lord’s commands. slide2

When we get to chapter 10, Joshua has led Israel against several cities such as Jericho where the walls of Jericho miraculously fell before the conquest.  Joshua has conquered a city called Ai and completely destroyed it, and the town of Gibeon has effectively surrendered.

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The Amorites who lived in the land were greatly alarmed at this, and 5 Amorite kings banded together, joined forces, and set out toward the town of Gibeon to take it for themselves.  Joshua set out toward Gibeon with his entire army to confront the Amorites.

One thing we need to know about Joshua is his complete trust and obedience in the Lord and His promises.  When Joshua first came to Israel as a spy, it’s documented in the book of Numbers.  Ten of the twelve spies reported that the land was full of milk and honey.  And giants.  Caleb and Joshua, though, said the Lord has given the land to the Israelites, so nothing should stop them, including the giants currently living there.

Now, years later, Joshua is still the fierce warrior and dedicated servant of the Lord.  When Joshua hears that the Amorites have gathered against him, the Lord tells Joshua (Joshua 10:8):

The Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them, for I have handed them over to you. Not one of them will be able to stand against you.”

The Lord said it, so Joshua believed it.  It is done.  Joshua attacks and defeats them and the Amorites begin to run.  Joshua doesn’t even have to chase them, verse 11:

As they fled before Israel, the Lord threw large hailstones on them from the sky along the descent of Beth-horon all the way to Azekah, and they died. More of them died from the hail than the Israelites killed with the sword.

The Lord is not slow about keeping His promise to Joshua.  A hailstorm from the sky on top of your enemy is certainly miraculous, but then something even more miraculous happens.  Joshua needs more time to defeat the remaining Amorites, so he prays for the day to be longer.

          II.      God Answers a Big Prayer

Joshua 10, verse 12,

On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to the Israelites, Joshua spoke to the Lord in the presence of Israel:
“Sun, stand still over Gibeon,
and moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.”

And the Lord answers in verse 13,

And the sun stood still
and the moon stopped
until the nation took vengeance on its enemies.

Have you ever doubted something you read in the bible?  Over the years from my early days as a casual Christian to later years as a disciple of Jesus’ teachings, my level of trust in the bible has certainly grown.  But I still stumble over passages and wonder if what I’ve read is true.  Today’s passage is one of those.

When preparing to study for today’s lesson, I wanted originally to gloss over this passage.  I could focus on God’s promise to Joshua and God answering that promise, and I think we’re still going to do that today.  But the longer I pondered this passage, I realized I couldn’t just skip over it.  The Holy Spirit was telling me I had something to learn, and I wasn’t going to learn it if I skipped over passages I found difficult.   If Joshua’s faith was rewarded for believing in the Lord, then my doubts over something the Lord says tells me I have a lot to learn from Joshua.

The bible makes some grand claims, and sometimes does so in spectacular ways.  God said, “Let there be light.”

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God placed Adam and Even in the Garden and Eve, who were then deceived by a serpent.

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God sent rain for 40 days and 40 nights and flooded the earth.

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A prophet was swallowed by a big fish and lived to preach in Nineveh.

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God caused the sun and the moon to stand still for an entire day.

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God rose His son from the dead.

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       III.      Can I Trust God?

When I was younger, I made a lot of excuses for God.  The Garden of Eden is a figurative place, it didn’t really exist, but the imagery was useful in teaching about our relationship with God.  Or 40 days and 40 nights flooded a large area, and even though the bible said it flooded the whole earth, it just seemed that way to the people at the time.

There are four miracles attributed in the book of Joshua, we’ve already talked about two of them, the hailstorm and the day that the sun stood still.   Earlier, Joshua parted the Jordan River, and on another occasional, Joshua blew the horn and the walls of Jericho fell.  How much do I trust the scripture?

Let’s start with what the bible says about the bible.  We just finished studying the books of Peter recently, and in 2 Peter 1:20-21, Peter says,

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things.  For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

The bible tells us that the bible wasn’t written by men.  Sure, men put the words on the paper, but it was the Holy Spirit telling them what to write.  We can also look at 2 Timothy 3:16-17,

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Your version may translate “God-breathed” as “inspired,” which is more or less accurate, but the original Greek work packs a lot more meaning into it.  The word is “theopneustos,” “θεόπνευστος,” and literally means “divinely breathed by God.”  God spoke His Word to us with purpose for us.

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And let’s not forget the beautiful opening words of the book of John 1:

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.

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God did not intend for us to misunderstand His Word.  It’s a mystery only in the sense we have not completed our lifelong study of His will.  The words themselves are both simple to understand and difficult to fully comprehend.  As Mark Twain once put it,

It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.

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The biggest problem I see it that when I try to determine which parts are true and which parts are stories, then I am essentially deciding to be the arbiter, the judge, of which parts of the bible I want to believe.  And then it’s a short step to decide on my own which parts I want to obey.  In essence, I have appointed myself God.

Is that what God meant when He breathed His word for me to read?  What if I take the Word at its Word?

Certainly, there are parts that are figurative, but for the most part, they’re labeled clearly.  The parables of Jesus, for instance, almost always start with the words, “Then Jesus told a parable…”  But Jesus himself described the Bible as historical and authentic and referenced on separate occasions Moses, Noah, Sodom, Johah, and Lot’s wife.  And Jesus did not leave an opening for me to choose some parts of the bible to be accurate and allow me to disregard other parts.  In Matthew 5:18, even the individual letters in the word are to be believed:

For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

Jesus asks me to trust the Word, because He *is* the Word.  The bible claims to be both infallible and inerrant.  It’s God’s Word.  When I start to question what I read, then I am reminded than the Holy Spirit Himself is directing the words, and doubting what I read in the bible is doubting God.

The understanding and trust of God’s word grows over our lifetime.  We begin our earthly lives as enemies of God, and this is how we understand God’s words in 1 Corinthians 1:18,

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

And we spend our entire lives, practicing to be the very perfection of Christ, trying to live up to these words in Proverbs 3:5-6,

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

In other words, we begin thinking everything we read is foolishness, and end with thinking everything we read is wisdom.

Which makes sense to me.  So I made a decision. When I have been given a choice between trusting God’s Word the way it is written versus trusting my own interpretation, then I will trust in the Word.  I will doubt my doubts.  I will believe in Him.

So back in Joshua 10, is it so hard to believe that God made the sun stand still?  Let’s look at this verse again,

“Sun, stand still over Gibeon,
and moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.”
And the sun stood still
and the moon stopped
until the nation took vengeance on its enemies.

Maybe I misread it, or it’s not translated right.  What does “stood still” mean?  The Hebrew word is “amad” “עָמַד” and means, “to stand, to cease, to continue, to dwell, to endure, to establish, to be, to raise up, to remain, to set forth, to wait.”  Ok, I don’t see a lot of wriggle room there.  The sun stood still.

I read lots of commentaries on this, from perspectives ranging from very liberal to very conservative.  Critics and liberal theists insist that the event was impossible.  Couldn’t happen so it didn’t happen.  And by the way, since you can’t trust this story, you can’t trust the rest of scripture either.

One explanation is that it’s figurative, a story.  For instance, maybe the Lord helped Israel win so decisively in such a short time that it felt like the day was longer.  But this breaks one of the basic rules of translations of the bible, in that one should translated literally until proven figuratively.  Joshua 10 is written as an historical narrative, not like a fable.  The text is simple, “the sun stood still and the moon stopped.

Or maybe there was some sort of natural explanation.  Some proposed that the planet Mars passed so close to the planet Earth that it tilted on its axis, making the sun hang in the sky longer than normal.  Not a whole lot of evidence for this one, the earth has never tilted on its axis like that and who knows what sort of earthquakes or tsunamis we’d see.

Or maybe it was just a local miracle.  Maybe the sun’s rays refracted off the moon so miraculously that the night appeared as bright as day.  Or maybe it was the earth that stopped spinning and then started back up.  The trouble with these explanations is that you’re basically replacing one miracle with another, and the basic problem skeptics have is that it’s a miracle in the first place.  That’s what they’re trying to eliminate.

Or we take the scripture at face value.  The simplest explanation.  The sun stopped, the moon stopped.  Indeed, the entire universe may have stopped in its tracks for a day, with all relative positions and motions simply suspended.  A miracle.  Joshua prayed for assistance to do the Lord’s will, and the Lord answered.

Why is it so hard to believe in miracles?  If we are going to believe God created the entire universe by speaking it into existence, well, let’s look at Psalm 33:8-9 –

Let all the earth fear the Lord;
let all the people of the world revere him.
For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood firm.

An interesting thing about this passage is that other cultures record this same day.  In pagan culture, the ancient Greeks record in their Orphic hymns that the god-man arrested the course of the sun and the moon.  In Hindu culture in India, legend says that the sun stood still to hear the cries of the prophet when Crishna died.  In Buddhist culture, a holy Buddhist named Matanga prevented the sun at his command from rising.  The ancient Incas and Aztecs of Mexico also have a legend, as well as a Babylonian and a Persian legend.  China says that when Emperor Yeo died, the sun stood still.  Herodotus says Egyptian priests showed him their temple records with a strange account of a day that was twice as long as the natural length.  And Harry Rimmer in 1940 wrote that the Polynesians also have in their history of a day that the sun stood still.

The entire universe, the sun, the moon, and the earth are a miracle that exist because God says so.  And a God that can do that can do anything.  He can suspend the very rules He created.  I choose to doubt my doubts, the bible says what it says.  God spoke the world into existence and for that particular purpose on that particular day, God paused the Universe so that Joshua would win the battle.

          IV.      God Makes a New Promise

If we are going to fully understand God’s word, then we need to learn to accept God’s Word like Joshua.  Accepting some of the Word is a good start – it opens up even more of the Word.  The Word itself says so.  In Matthew 13:11-13, the disciples of Jesus ask Him why He speaks in parables.  Jesus says that one must understand a little of the scriptures before you can understand a lot.  So what’s with all the stories, Jesus?

He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.  Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.  This is why I speak to them in parables:

“Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.

Jesus says if you want to understand the entirety of scriptures, start by understand what you already know, and more of the Word will be revealed to you.

             V.      God Fulfills a New Promise

Once we accept that the Lord performs miracles to serve His will, then it becomes much easier to accept that God has been at work throughout the human history and He is not finished with us yet.  In Isaiah 7:14, God describes in advance a miracle He is going to provide.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Two thousand years ago, a virgin conceived and gave birth to a son.  A miracle.

slide21

The magi from the east came to Jesus, bearing gifts, by following a star.  A miracle.

slide22

Jesus lived and died in accordance to prophecy, taking away the sins of the world.  A miracle.

slide23

Today, I am assured of a place in heaven because I have placed my trust in Jesus and I believe.  A miracle.

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          VI.      Conclusion

Joshua believed the word given to Him, that the promised land belonged to Israel.  He acted with faith that the Lord’s word was infallible and inerrant, and the Lord provided a miracle so that Joshua would win the Lord’s battle.

We can believe the word given to us, that we too will win the battle and will one day dwell in the promised land.  And that is the true meaning of Christmas, the miracle of Christ the Savior.  A miracle we can believe it.

Isaiah 9:6 –

For unto us a child is born,
unto us a son is given,
and the government will be upon his shoulders.

And his name will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

slide26

I believe in miracles.

To God be the glory.  Amen.

A Harsh Word, A Gentle Word

   I.      Introduction

Once upon a time, a very long time ago, there lived a husband and a wife named Nabal and Abigail.  This is a story of their lives in the land of their king, King David.

II.      Nabal

Now Nabal was a very wealthy man.  He had a thousand goats and three thousand sheep.  I’m not exactly sure what one does with 1000 goats; make tons and tons of goat cheese, I guess.  I am not rich like Nabal; I myself do not have 1000 goats, nor would I want 1000 goats.  The closest I have to that is 1000 goat jokes. Slide2

Like, “What do you call a goat with one ear?  Vincent Van Goat.”

Or this one: A farmer found out his pig had been murdered in the barn.  The only witness was a rabbit.  The farmer lined up all the suspects, the cow, the horse, the goat, the rooster.  The farmer asked the rabbit who did it, and the rabbit stared right at the goat.

The goat said nervously, “I didn’t do it!”  And the farmer said, “Hare’s looking at you, kid.”

So I’m not a wealthy man like Nabal with his 1000 goats and 3000 sheep.  Thank goodness.

All this wealth did not make Nabal a happy person.  In verse 1 Samuel 25:3 – oh, I forgot to tell you this is a bible study, so open your bibles to 1 Samuel 25.  In verse 3 in the NIV, Nabal is described as “surly and mean in his dealings.”  The NASB calls him “harsh and evil.”  The King James calls him “churlish”, whatever that is, but I’m guess it’s surly and mean and harsh and evil.  Or it means he owns goats.Slide5

Historians aren’t sure that Nabal is his real name.  The word “Nabal” occurs 42 times in the Old Testament.  Twenty-two occurrences are in this chapter, describing this man.  The other 20 times the word “nabal” is translated “stupid, foolish and wicked”.  As in Jeremiah 17:11,

Like a partridge that hatches eggs it did not lay
are those who gain riches by unjust means.
When their lives are half gone, their riches will desert them,
and in the end they will prove to be fools (nabal).

Slide6So it’s possible that the writer changed the name of the man to “fool” because he didn’t want to honor this man throughout history.

Then I went on a rabbit trail.  Who *was* the writer of the books of Samuel?  Was it Samuel the prophet?  Let’s look at the first 3 words of this chapter, 1 Samuel 25:1,

Then Samuel died.

I’m thinking if Samuel wrote this entire book, then Samuel had help.  Most scholars believe that chapter 1-24 were indeed written by Samuel the prophet, but starting in 1 Samuel 25, Nathan, the son of Saul, probably completed the books.

In says in verse 2 that Nabal was shearing his sheep in Carmel, and I don’t believe for a moment that Nabal was shearing the sheep himself.  I think he ordered his servants to shear the sheep.Slide8

Carmel was a small town in the hill country of Judah, about 10 miles south-southeast of Hebron, near the bottom of the Dead Sea.  Remember 3 weeks ago when we heard of Saul’s partial obedience in killing the Amalekites, but he spared the best of the cattle for himself and then build a monument to himself to proclaim how good he was?  That was at Carmel.  Saul is still nearby; Saul sometimes proclaims how great David is and other times tries to kill David, and right now there seems to be peace between them.  The point is that Nabal would know everything going on at this point since he’s living and working at the heart of this conflict.

Nabal is also a distant relative of David, because verse 3 says Nabal was of the house of Caleb.  He was a Jew, though his parents aren’t mentioned anywhere in scripture.  Caleb, you might remember, was one of the 12 spies representing the tribe of Judah, and David, too was descended from the line of Judah.

III.      Abigail

Now Nabal the fool was married to Abigail the beautiful and wise.  I know she was beautiful and wise because in verse 3 it says Abigail was beautiful and wise.   Abigail, too, was a Jew, though it’s not clear in the passage.  Her lineage is real confusing.Slide10

2 Samuel 17:25 Abigail is listed as the daughter of Nahash, whose name means “serpent.”  It’s not exactly clear who this Nahash is; there is a Nahash, king of the Amorites in 1 Samuel 11 who routs Jews at the city of Jabesh-gilead and threatens to put out the right eye of every male Jew until Saul, recently appointed king, kills all the Amorites and possibly Nahash.  I say possibly because 40 years later, Nahash, king of the Amorites, is a friend to David in 2 Samuel 10.

As if that wasn’t confusing enough, in 1st Chronicle 2:1-16, we find out that Abigail is a sister of David.  Some scholars think Nahash and an unnamed woman had a daughter, when Nahash died, Jesse married her and adopted Abigail.  Others think this is a completely different Nahash and might even be a woman, the name of Jesse’s wife.  Still other scholars think that Nahab might even be another name for David’s father Jesse.Slide13

I spent way too much time on this.  Let’s just say Abigail was beautiful and wise and David already knew her.

 

IV.      David

Then there’s David, son of Jesse, King of Israel if Saul would quit horsing around, slayer of Goliath, and a man’s after God’s own heart.  And it’s that last description that makes this passage so crazy.  David wants to kill Abigail’s husband, Nabal.  And like a good CSI:Israel show, let’s review the plot and motive to see how a man’s after God’s own heart went into a murderous rage.

See, while Nabal was in Carmel, he had his 3000 sheep with him and it was sheep-shearing time.  No doubt this was long hard work.  Sheep wool is thick and difficult to cut, and they had hand tools, so I’m certain it took days or even weeks to shear all the sheep.  Unless you’re Matt Smith from New Zealand and you set the world record for sheep shearing, 731 sheep in 9 hours averaging one every 44 seconds, like this:

Some days I have trouble staying focused on the lesson.  Let’s just say that shearing Nabal’s 3000 sheep took a lot longer than 44 seconds.  It was such hard work, but apparently it’s also a festival time, because 1 Samuel 25:8 says it’s a feast day.

What has David been doing lately, besides hiding out from Saul?  Among other things, David and his soldiers have been near Nabal’s flock of sheep, and since they’re armed fighting men, nobody dares attack Nabal’s herd.  Nabal’s getting free protection.  Now that the sheep-shearing feast day has arrived, David and his men are hungry, and, well, here’s 1 Samuel 25:4-8,

When David heard in the wilderness that Nabal was shearing his sheep, David sent ten young men; and David said to the young men, “Go up to Carmel, go to Nabal, and greet him in my name.  And thus you shall say to him who lives in prosperity: ‘Peace be to you, peace to your house, and peace to all that you have!  Now I have heard that you have shearers. Your shepherds were with us, and we did not hurt them, nor was there anything missing from them all the while they were in Carmel.  Ask your young men, and they will tell you. Therefore let my young men find favor in your eyes, for we come on a feast day. Please give whatever comes to your hand to your servants and to your son David.’”

Basically, David’s saying, hey, we’ve been guarding your flock for free, and now that you’re having a feast for those who have been helping you, how about a little something for me and my men, whatever you can spare.  We like BBQ lamb.

Nabal’s response is mean, verse 10-11,

“Buzz off, Goat-breath.”

Slide17

And in the NIV translation,

Then Nabal answered David’s servants, and said, “Who is David, and who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants nowadays who break away each one from his master.  Shall I then take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers, and give it to men when I do not know where they are from?”

The response is both mean and a lie.  If Nabal doesn’t know who David is, how does he know he’s the son of Jesse?  He’s saying that David is just a runaway slave and Nabal is not even going to provide bread and water.

When David’s men return and tell David, David goes ballistic.  Not literally, because they didn’t have bullets back then, but you know what I mean.  David tells 400 of his men to grab their swords, they are going to slaughter Nabal and every male that belongs to him.  So sayeth the man after God’s own heart.  We’re going to come back to that in a moment.

One of the men approached Nabal’s wife, and says, “Dear Abby, King David asked for a little food during the sheep shearing feast, and Nabal was verbally abusive and insulting to David.  Now David wants to slay every male here, including me.  What should I do?  Signed, Confused in Carmel.”Slide19

I’m certain that I’ve mentioned that Abigail was beautiful and wise, and she demonstrates her wisdom this night.  Abigail gathers a feast of bread and wine and lamb and raisins and figs, and meets David who is in full battle mode.  And Abigail dismounts off of her donkey, falls at David’s feet and says,

Dear Confused,

My husband is an idiot.  Please don’t kill us.  Here, have a sandwich.

Slide20

This is from Michael’s paraphrased edition, of course.  The longer version says Abigail fell on her face before David, and she said her husband matches his name, he is ignorant and he is a scoundrel.  But I, Abigail, didn’t know you needed help, I didn’t see the men you sent, please forgive me.  I know that the Lord is with you and will defeat your enemies.  If you spare us, then the Lord will remember your goodness, and then when the Lord has dealt well with you, please remember me.

And David listens and blesses the Lord for Abigail convincing David to stay his hand and from coming to bloodshed.  And he accepts her sandwich.

Abigail has done both a good thing and a bad thing; she has definitely disobeyed her husband, but her disobedience is outweighed by the good.  She’s avoided bloodshed and she’s obedient to David the future King of Israel.  But now she has to go home and tell her husband Nabal why they’re out of mayonnaise.  She’s made sandwiches for King David and all of his men, despite her husband saying they should be sent away hungry.  Her husband is mean and an idiot, what shall she say to him?

In verse 36,

Now Abigail went to Nabal, and there he was, holding a feast in his house, like the feast of a king. And Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunk; therefore she told him nothing, little or much, until morning light.

Ok, she’ll wait until the morning to tell him, after he’s slept off his drunken gluttonous stupor.  Verse 37,

So it was, in the morning, when the wine had gone from Nabal, and his wife had told him these things, that his heart died within him, and he became like a stone.  Then it happened, after about ten days, that the Lord struck Nabal, and he died.

Um, I guess that’s good news.  This sounds like Nabal first had a stroke and then died 10 days later.  This was certainly good news for David, who then gave thanks and praise to the Lord for protecting David from doing evil, verse 39,

So when David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Blessed be the Lord, who has pleaded the cause of my reproach from the hand of Nabal, and has kept His servant from evil! For the Lord has returned the wickedness of Nabal on his own head.”

And in the remaining verses in 1 Samuel 25, David sent for Abigail and then proposed to her.  She accepted and became David’s wife, and they all lived happily ever after.

  V.      Various lessons

I enjoyed studying for this lesson, and I hope you enjoyed today’s story.  However, trying to find an application of this particular story to our daily lives was a challenge.  There is not a single, coherent theme that runs through this chapter.  Instead, I found a great many smaller lessons.

And isn’t that the way our lives go?  In my own life, I often don’t see God’s Grand Plan being lived out through me day to day.  Instead of being called to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, I’m asked to love my neighbor.  Instead of building an ark and saving all animals and humanity from the flood, I’m asked to love my enemy.  Instead of facing my giant with nothing more than a sling, I’m asked to trust in the Lord for my daily bread and know that He will provide for my needs.

Nabal is the least likeable person in this story, and for good reason.  Besides being mean-spirited, he’s not smart, and he’s given to overeating and overdrinking.  And all of this brings about Nabal’s destruction.

I think Proverbs 15:1 illustrates all 3 people very well,

A soft answer turns away wrath,

But a harsh word stirs up anger.

Slide24

Nabal has a harsh word for David.  David gets furious and wants to kill Nabal.  Abigail provides gentle words for David, and David’s wrath is calmed.  Perfect illustration of this proverb.

Nabal’s not a likeable character.  I mentioned a moment ago about loving our neighbor and loving our enemy, and Nabal illustrates the opposite.  Even though David and his men had been guarding Nabal’s sheep and men and lands, David’s request to Nabal was pretty reasonable, I thought.  “Hey Nabal, you’re having a feast, can you spare a bite to eat?”

And rather than give David a little of his surplus, Nabal thumbs his nose at David.  Harsh words stir up anger, and David is mad.  David probably had a right to demand some of the food; after all he was the future king of Israel.  But his anger is stirred not by righteous anger for the Lord, but by personal  selfish anger.

And Abigail is disobedient to her husband, but obedient to the Lord.  It is righteous submission to the Lord’s will, and her soft answer turns away David’s wrath.

And did they live happily ever after?  David proposes and marries her, but David was already married.  When David defeated Goliath, Saul gave his daughter Michal to David as his wife.  David went on to marry Abigail, and then later married Bathsheba, after having an affair with her and sending her husband to the front lines of a battle in order to kill him off.  And then David married Ahinoam.  And Maacah.  And Haggith and Abital and Eglah.  We know David had at least 8 wives, and in 2 Samuel 5:13 we are told David has other wives in Jerusalem.  Also there were concubines.Slide25

It’s important to remember when we are studying the bible that everything recorded in the bible is not approved in the bible.  Polygamy may be recorded in the bible, but it’s clear from Genesis that says the “two will become one flesh,” not more than two.  And thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife from Exodus 20:17, not thy neighbor’s many wives.   It’s clear from scripture that God’s plan is for man to have a single wife.  God seemed to allow it in the Old Testament sort of the way He allowed divorce – because men’s hearts were hard.

And in David’s life, these multiple marriages came back to cause all sorts of grief later, family infighting, greed and jealousy, and murder.  One could only imagine how David’s life would have gone if he was not only a man after God’s own heart, but also a man after God’s own will.

VI.      Conclusion

Our story today was the story of the fool who was also gluttonous and a drunkard.  It was the story of the beautiful and the wise with a soft word that turns away anger.  And it was the story of a man after God’s own heart who demonstrates his own flaws, his own anger, and his own mistakes.Slide26

Somewhere in our story, we may also find our own story.  We are flawed, we make bad decisions sometimes.  As Christians, our goal is to live according to the will of God despite our circumstances.  If we are not invited to a feast, we don’t assemble an army to kill them, of course not.  We let the Lord’s will prevail in our life and in theirs, leaving justice to the Lord and practicing forgiveness and gentleness.

And, regardless of our flaws or our actions or our emotions, there is a happy ever after for those who place their faith and trust in Christ the Lord.

To God be the glory.

Facing Our Giants

  I.      Introduction

Have you ever heard the story of David and Goliath?  That’s exactly what I thought – everybody has heard this story.  Christians have heard this story since they were children.  Even non-Christians have heard this story.  It’s inspiring, about an average David standing up to a giant.  We all know this story.

They even made a cartoon about it, a boy named Davey and his talking dog Goliath.  Only Davey could hear the dog talk, so I sort of wonder whether Davey was just hearing voices.  Fun facts about this series, it ran on television from 1960 to 1965, although several specials were made all the way through 2004.  The series was created by the same guy that created Gumby, and was produced by the Lutheran Church of America.Slide2

Perhaps during our study today, we can learn some new insights about this famous battle.

II.      David

Let’s take a look at David first.  You know, in my early Christian days, I was always amazed at the number of people named David in the bible.  There was David and Goliath, David and Bathsheba, David the man after God’s own heart, Jesus from the line of David… it wasn’t until I actually read 1st and 2nd Samuel that I realized they were all the same David.Slide3

Like this sculpture of David by Michelangelo.  I had seen picture of this sculpture over the years, and then I was blessed to work in Florence Italy briefly a few years back.  Most people will see the replica of the stature outside in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, but the original is inside the Galleria dell’Accademia.  It was only when I was reading the history of the sculpture that I realized David is holding a sling over his shoulder, and this is the same David as the David and Goliath.

Which is probably why Goliath was defeated so easily.  Goliath was probably thinking, “Hey, this guy that came out to fight me is naked as a jaybird!  What does he think he’s doing?”  ***thwaaack****

In our study of 1 Samuel 17 today, David is still a young boy.  He looks like this picture of David by Michelangelo.  Ok, he probably doesn’t, the Renaissance artists weren’t exactly known for being authentic when depicting figures from the bible.  Last week, Theresa taught us how Samuel was in communion with God, and almost selected Eliab, the oldest son of Jesse, but the Lord told Samuel that the Lord will look to a man’s heart, and not his outward appearance.  Then Samuel interviewed all the remaining sons and finally had to send for the youngest, David, from the field where he had been attending sheep.  The Lord confirmed to Samuel that the Lord had chosen David to be the future king of Israel, and it says in 1 Samuel 16:13 that Samuel anointed David in the presence of his brothers.  That’s an important statement and we’ll discuss this shortly.

You might also remember from 2 weeks back that Saul, the current King of Israel, had a son Jonathan.  Saul put Jonathan in charge of 1000 men, and then Jonathan attacked a Philistine outpost, which really ticked off the Philistines, and the Philistines have decided to eliminate the Jews from the land.

III.      Goliath

So at the beginning of 1 Samuel 17, the Philistines have arrived.  Verses 1-3,

Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Sokoh in Judah. They pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Sokoh and Azekah.  Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines.  The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them.

Now, even though the Philistine army outnumbered the Israelites, the Israelites had chosen a good defensive position for their camp.  The Philistines would have to fight uphill against the Israelites.  So the Philistines stopped at one side of the valley, and the Israelites at the other side of the valley.  Stalemate, neither side wanting to fight uphill.

Slide5

So the Philistines selected a champion named Goliath.  I’m going to use the Contemporary English Version for this verse because all the sheckels and cubits are translated into measurement that make sense in Texas.  1 Samuel 17:4-7,

The Philistine army had a hero named Goliath who was from the town of Gath and was over nine feet tall.  He wore a bronze helmet and had bronze armor to protect his chest and legs. The chest armor alone weighed about one hundred twenty-five pounds. He carried a bronze sword strapped on his back, and his spear was so big that the iron spearhead alone weighed more than fifteen pounds. A soldier always walked in front of Goliath to carry his shield.

Slide7This was a big guy, a very big, strong guy.  This is JJ Watt on steroids.  His armor and weapon weighed at least 140 pounds.  Since there was a standoff between the two armies, Goliath would come and stand in the Valley of Elah and taunt the Israelites.  Goliath challenged the Israelites to find somebody to fight him, winner take all.   It says in verse 11 that Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.  This giant of a man is just too big and too strong to fight.

And this goes on for 40 days, every day a fresh taunt from Goliath.  Goliath would say, verses 8- 11:

Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me.  If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.”  Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.”  On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.

Goliath would continue with taunts like,

  • You’re such a weakling. You need to get two friends to help you change your mind.
  • When they were giving out heads, you thought they said beds, and you said “I’d like something soft.”
  • Your armpits smell so bad your teacher gave you an A for not raising your hand.

Ok, those taunts are funny, but I want to reflect a moment here.  We all face giants in our lives, a problem that is just too big to overcome.  A disrespectful kid.  An abusive coworker.  A bill collector.  The loss of a job.  In Theresa’s case, she shared her giant with us, multiple myeloma and the resulting bone lesions.  These giants stand between us and our goals, and they taunt us every day.  And the next day.  And the next day.

The response of the Israelites was to shake with fear.  Now, I’m no motivational speaker and I don’t have answers for all of life’s problems, but “shaking with fear” isn’t exactly a solution, is it?  Yet, we all do it in the face of our giants.

We’ve heard David was a man after God’s own heart, and David is going to enter our story now.  David’s 3 oldest brothers have followed Saul off to war and are facing the Philistines.  I don’t know what brothers 4-7 were doing, the scripture is silent, but the youngest, David is tending sheep.  No doubt Jesse is worried about his older sons, so he packs a picnic basket of bread and cheese, gives it to David and says, “take this to your brothers and bring back to me word of how they are doing.”  Let’s read verses 20-24,

Early in the morning David left the flock in the care of a shepherd, loaded up and set out, as Jesse had directed. He reached the camp as the army was going out to its battle positions, shouting the war cry.  Israel and the Philistines were drawing up their lines facing each other.  David left his things with the keeper of supplies, ran to the battle lines and asked his brothers how they were.  As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it.  Whenever the Israelites saw the man, they all fled from him in great fear.

When I first read these verses, I saw this scene in my head.  David arriving at the battle front just as Goliath comes out to taunt them again.  David with his picnic basket dropping off the bread and cheese, all the Israelites quaking with fear.  But there’s more in these verses; remember, these are the actions of a man after God’s own heart.

First of all, David is being obedient.  His father asked him to do something, so David took care of his responsibilities, making sure the sheep were cared for, grabbing the supplies and delivering a basket of goodies to grandmother’s house, deep in the woods.  The giant has come out to fight, but not David.  David is just trying to be obedient to what has been asked of him.  When we are facing giants in our lives, just continuing with our lives bravely and being obedient is a suitable offense.

David is also serving others, he’s brought food for his brothers that are fighting.  Or, actually, his brothers are not fighting, they’re cowering, but you know what I mean.

And finally, I noticed that line that says, “David left his things with the keeper of supplies.”  In other words, David left his baggage behind.  Carrying around old baggage is not helpful when getting ready to face our giants.

Slide11

IV.      Facing Our Giants

There are many reasons given to David next why he should fail when facing the giant.  First is the discouragement from others in verse 25,

Now the Israelites had been saying, “Do you see how this man keeps coming out? He comes out to defy Israel. The king will give great wealth to the man who kills him. He will also give him his daughter in marriage and will exempt his family from taxes in Israel.”

Others around you may say, “Of course you’re going to fail.  It’s just too hard.  There are too many obstacles.  Just give up and give in, you can’t win.”  Let’s face it, the world can be a discouraging place.  Even well-meaning Christians can be discouraging as long as they preface their discouragement with “Bless your heart.”  “Bless your heart, having to deal with a coworker like that.  You should just quit.”

We should be attentive to our own words and be careful what we say to somebody going through tough times so that we do not discourage.  I love the way Hebrews 3:13 admonishes us,

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today.”

What day is it?  Yes, it’s today, again.  Seems like every day is “today,” now that I think about it.  What is David’s response?  Verse 26,

David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

What kind of unholy sin dares to stand up to the Living God?  Or as Romans 8:31 says,

If God is for us, who can be against us?

When we fear our giants, we demonstrate that we have little faith in our God.  We see a big giant, and think our little god can’t handle it.  We see a storm and complain how big the storm is instead of telling the storm how big our God is.  David is astounded that this uncircumcised Philistine is still standing in the Land of Israel.

Remember David’s brothers?  Samuel anointed David as the future king of Israel in front of David’s brothers, yet David’s brothers have no faith in the Lord acting through David.  They belittle him.  Verse 28 says,

When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.”

But what day is it?  It is today, the day the Lord hath made.  We should rejoice and be glad in it, and we should encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today.

Saul, the current king of Israel, hears of David’s faith and sends for him, and David tells Saul that David will answer the challenge of Goliath.  More discouragement follows, for Saul tells David that the battle is hopeless, Goliath is going to win because he’s more experienced and David is just a boy.  But David knows the Lord has equipped him for this battle.  He tells Saul in verse 34-37,

But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.  Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God.  The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”

Slide18

David’s God is bigger than the storm.  What does David have to fight Goliath?  David is a young sheepherder, not a warrior, but the Lord has been equipping David for this battle.  David has protected his flock from lions and tiger and bears (oh my), and the Lord has protected him.  That same strength from the Lord will protect him now.

Your giant may also seem too big for you to handle.  And you may be surrounded by people that tell you that the battle is hopeless.  But the Lord does not stand idly by to watch His children fail.  The Lord is my banner, Jehovah Nissi.  The Lord is Almighty and All-Sufficient, El Shaddai.  Slide19There is no battle bigger than the Lord, and He has been with you your entire life, through your triumphs and through your failures, through your joy and through your sorrows.  And the Lord has brought you to today to face your giant and he has spent a lifetime equipping you.  Who is this uncircumcised Philistine in your life that should defy the army of the Living God.  You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.

I suppose Saul sees the strength in David, or he just wants the battle to end, I’m not sure.  Saul continues in verse 37-38,

Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.”

Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head.  David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them.

If it’s not bad enough that others around us discourage us and tell us that the battle is lost, when it’s clear you’re going to fight anyway, they then try to load their baggage on us and weigh us down.  David is a boy; Saul was a king and a warrior.  Saul is saying to David, look, you cannot win, but if you’re going to fight, you need to be weighed down with all the same baggage that made me afraid.   David immediately recognizes the problem, one that cannot be solved by wearing heavy, unfamiliar armor.  Remember, when we face our giants, the battle belongs to the Lord, and the Lord has equipped us for today.  We do not need to place our trust in man-made bronze helmets.  We need to place our trust in Almighty, all-powerful Jehovah God.

“I cannot go in these,” David said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off.  Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.

Win or lose, David is going to battle with the tools that God has already given him.  There is truth and wisdom listening to the advice of others, but once you have considered all the options and you have prayed to our father in heaven, God has equipped you for exactly the giant you are facing.  Don’t let others, no matter how helpful they are trying to be, load you down with weight.  Don’t let them tell you that you need to pray more, or tithe more, or give more, or serve more.  Let the Lord tell you what He desires, and He will equip you to fight the battle.

Goliath, the giant facing Daniel, curses and discourages him again, in verse 41-43,

Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David.  He looked David over and saw that he was little more than a boy, glowing with health and handsome, and he despised him.  He said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.  “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!”

Your giant doesn’t respect you, either, by the way.  But it matters not, if the Lord is on your side.  David responds with what I think is one of the greatest declarations of faith I have ever heard in verses 45-47,

David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.  All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

 

David took his sling, fitted it with a single smooth stone, slung it and killed the Philistine giant.  For David knew that that battle wasn’t his alone.  David knew the giant wasn’t standing there against God’s will.  David knew the giant was not invincible.  David knew the Lord was with him, and would equip him as necessary.  David’s God was bigger, far far bigger, than any giant the Philistines could put in front of him.

  V.      Conclusion

How is your giant looking now?  Does it still loom huge in front of you, taunting you, calling you names, discouraging you?  David teaches us that our giants are not invincible and cannot defeat us.  As David was obedient in caring for his sheep, we should continue to be obedient in caring for those God has place in our path.  As David was serving others, we too should continue to do the Lord’s work as He leads in our lives.  And rather than let taunts discourage us or let others weigh us down with unnecessary baggage, like David left his baggage with the keeper of supplies, we can leave our baggage at the feet of Jesus.  And when the devil curses us, we can stand firm so that all those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give our giants into our hands.  For we know the battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore, we put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, we may be able to stand our ground, and after we have done everything, to stand.

We don’t tell our God how big our giant is.  God knows.

We tell the giant how big our God is.

Slide24

To God be the glory.

Almost Obedient

  I.      Introduction

Slide1We’ve been studying the book of 1 Samuel, and if you remember back in 1 Samuel 8, the people Israel demanded a king.  Samuel said, “Are you sure about that?”  And the Lord said, “my people have rejected me, so I will give them what they want.”  So today, we’re going to look at the king the people of Israel received.  I think two verses illustrate this new king very well.  First is 1 Samuel 9:17,

When Samuel caught sight of Saul, the Lord said to him, “This is the man I spoke to you about; he will govern my people.”

Then a few verses later in 1 Samuel 10:20-22, it’s time to present Saul as king to the Israelite, and I’ll paraphrase a little here:

But when they looked for [Saul], he was not to be found.  So they inquired further of the Lord, “Has the man come here yet?”

And the Lord said, “Yes, he has hidden himself among the supplies.”

So Samuel appointed Saul as the first king who had been hiding in the kitchen pantry for some reason.  The people of Israel eventually had to seize him and force him to be king.

The Philistines mostly ignored the happenings within Israel, but the formation of a monarchy is about to renew the conflict with the Philistines.  The Philistines had defeated the Israelites in previous conflicts; if you remember all the way back to 1 Samuel 4, the Israelites made an attempt at independence, attacking the Philistines while holding the Ark of the Covenant in front of them like a luck rabbit’s foot.  On that day, 30,000 Israeli soldiers died and the Ark was captured by the Philistines.Slide3

The Philistines maintained control over Israel with strategically placed garrisons.  While the tribes of Israel were easily dominated, when Israel proclaimed they had a king, this was a sign of independence and the conflict began anew.

At the beginning of the chapter of 1 Samuel 13, the new king Saul divides his army and puts his son Jonathon over one division with 1000 men.  Jonathan was a devoted follower of the Lord and he faced a decision; the Lord had long commanded that the people of Israel occupy the land of Canaan, but the Philistines are in control.  Jonathan displays fearless devotion to God and immediately attacks a small Philistine outpost and routes them.  It’s a small victory.Slide4

Israel has been repeatedly defeated by the Philistines, so any victory here over the Philistines is significant.  Losing this garrison was humiliating to the Philistines, but it also threatened the Philistine’s control of the region.  While before small skirmishes erupted from time to time, this time because of the new proclaimed king and the loss of the outpost, scripture says Israel has become obnoxious to the Philistine.  The Philistines decide to eradicate the people of Israel.  Now it’s war.

The Philistine outmatched the Israelis in numbers, strategy, organization, and weaponry.  Let’s look at the Philistine army in 1 Samuel 13:5 –

The Philistines assembled to fight Israel, with three thousand chariots, six thousand charioteers, and soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore.

Some manuscripts say 30,000 chariots.  Either way, this is the largest chariot force mentioned anywhere in the Old Testament.  Continuing in verse 6 –

They went up and camped at Micmash, east of Beth Aven.  When the men of Israel saw that their situation was critical and that their army was hard pressed, they hid in caves and thickets, among the rocks, and in pits and cisterns.

Slide5

Whew.  Israel expected some sort of punishment or military retaliation for their raid on the outpost, but this is a full-scale invasion that appears intent on eradicating Israel forever.

The Philistines had iron weapons and chariots; the Fighting Farmers of Israel had pitchforks.  Worse, Israel was dependent on Philistine blacksmiths for making and repairing tools they needed to farm.  This was a strategic decision by the Philistines; it says in verse 19 there was not a blacksmith to be found in Israel to prevent them from making swords and spears.  So the Philistines arrive in overwhelming numbers and defeat seems inevitable.

The Lord has a plan – doesn’t He always have a plan?  It’s our pride and independence that gets us into trouble, which we would avoid if we just stayed obedient.  What are the Lord’s instructions to Saul?  Let’s back up a little bit to last week’s lesson in 1 Samuel 10:5-8.  The prophet Samuel takes a flask of oil, anointing the new king Saul in the name of the Lord, and then says –

After that you will go to Gibeah of God, where there is a Philistine outpost… Go down ahead of me to Gilgal. I will surely come down to you to sacrifice burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, but you must wait seven days until I come to you and tell you what you are to do.

Pretty straightforward.  Wait seven days for the prophet Samuel who will offer a sacrifice to the Lord and then tell you what comes next.  But what does Saul actually do?  1 Samuel 13:7b-13 –

Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear.  He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter.  So he said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.”  And Saul offered up the burnt offering.  Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him.

“What have you done?” asked Samuel.

Saul replied, “When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Micmash,  I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the LORD’s favor.’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.”

“You acted foolishly,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time.

God’s instructions through Samuel told Saul to Gilgal and wait seven days for the priest Samuel to come and sacrifice burnt offerings.  Faced with overwhelming odds from the Philistine army, Saul acts by assuming the role of the priest and offering a sacrifice.  Saul foolishly disobeys God’s command out of fear, and his disobedience reveals that Saul has no comprehension of his responsibility to God.  Saul feared the loss of his soldiers and he feared losing the battle.  And what’s more, the whole purpose of sacrificing a burnt offering indicates absolute dedication to God, so Saul’s disobedient offering had absolutely no meaning.  If Saul was truly dedicated to God, he would have obeyed and waited on God.

II.      Fear

After Saul has completed his sacrifice, Samuel arrives and asks, “What have you done?”  It’s not like Samuel didn’t know, the aroma of burned meat was still in the air.  Ever come home at the end of the day and your neighbors are barbecuing?  You know exactly what they’re doing.  Samuel knows, too, but he asks Saul anyway to get the disobedient king to think about what he’s done.

But instead, Saul comes up with excuses for being disobedient.  The 7th day was not over, yet Saul didn’t wait until the evening.  Therefore, it must have been Samuel’s fault for not arriving earlier.  Saul was forced to do what he did.  When scholars write of Saul’s disobedience, they discuss failures ranging from taking on the role of the priest to failing to wait the full amount of time.  But the real reason is Saul’s character.  He didn’t trust the Lord to do what he was supposed to do.  He feared the consequences of failing to sacrifice more than he trusted in the Lord to whom he was offering the sacrifice.

Slide9

Proverbs 29:25 says that fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord will be kept safe.  Saul was afraid of the battle, afraid of the enemy, afraid his own men were not up to the task.  And so out of fear, Saul was attempting to summon the Lord’s power with his sacrifice, to pull a miracle out of a hat.  But one cannot conjure up a miracle from the Lord.  One commentary calls this “theological blackmail.”  The Lord will save His people, not because He has been summoned through our actions, but because it is in His nature to do so.  We cannot compel God.  God acts because He loves us.

We still do this today, don’t we?  How often out of fear, out of panic, out of lack of trust do we go to the Lord in prayer?  I remember the panic when both Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Ike were bearing down on Houston and reading about how many people went to the Lord in prayer for the first time in weeks or months or even years?  Yet to seek the Lord’s favor only in times of panic is futile.  God wants us to seek Him always.  God does not want us to live in fear; 2 Timothy 1:7 says –

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

Slide10Samuel tells Saul that if he had obeyed, the Lord would have established Saul’s kingdom over Israel for all time, but because of his disobedience, Saul’s kingdom will not endure. Unfortunately, Saul doesn’t learn from his disobedience; I think Saul is in denial about his disobedience, especially since we’re about to see this disobedience continue.

 

III.      Redefine Obedience

Let’s turn to 1 Samuel 15; the Lord has put Saul in charge of punishing the Amalekites; we have to go all the way back to Exodus 17 to understand who the Amalekites are.  They’re one of the many -ites that trouble Israel over the centuries.  The Amalekites, the Amorites, the Canaanites.  The Nightlights.  The Stalactites and the Stalagmites.  The Saturday Nights.

Moses, leading the Israelites out of Egypt in the Desert of Sinai, are attacked from the rear by the Amelekites who are picking off women and children that are straggling.  You may recall Joshua led a battle against them while Moses held his hand in the air.  Moses’ arm is tired so his arm is held up by Aaron and Hur.   Joshua wins that battle, but our God isn’t pleased that while leading His people to freedom that they are attacked.  In Exodus 17:14-16,

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”

Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner.  He said, “For hands were lifted up to the throne of the LORD. The LORD will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.”

Slide11God’s justice will remove the Amalekites and blot out their memory.  Anybody here know any Amalekites?

Now is the time God has chosen for Saul to wipe out the Amalekites; 1 Samuel 15:1-3,

Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the LORD sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the LORD.  This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt.  Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’ “

The time for justice to be delivered to the Amalekites has come, but listen to how Saul carried out these instructions in 1 Samuel 15:7-9 –

Then Saul attacked the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, to the east of Egypt.  He took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and all his people he totally destroyed with the sword.  But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.

Of course Saul obeyed the Lord, *if* you redefine what obedience means.  In 1100 BC, capturing the king during a war meant riches for the winner.  The king could be ransomed off for a handsome profit.  And it would be a shame to kill all the animals, too, when there were so much better uses for them.

IV.      Denial

In verse 10, the Lord tells Samuel that He is grieved because Saul didn’t carry out His commands, so Samuel goes to see Saul, who in verse 12 is told that Saul is busy building a monument in his own honor.  In verse 13-15 –

When Samuel reached him, Saul said, “The LORD bless you! I have carried out the LORD’s instructions.”

But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?”

Saul answered, “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the LORD your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.”

It’s like Saul is saying, “Hey, not only did I obey, but I improved upon the Lord’s instructions!  I did so good, I awarded myself a trophy!”

But did Saul obey?  Saul is in denial about his obedience.  “The Lord bless you, I have carried out the Lord’s instructions,” he says.  As Christians today, we have specific instructions, too.  “Forgive one another, up to seventy times seven.”  And our response?  Oh, I forgive him, I don’t hold any grudges.  I just want to talk to him or ever see his face again.  Submit to one another, love one another as Christ loves us.  Are we really being obedient?  Or are we in denial, too, redefining what it means to be obedient?

  V.      Partial Obedience

One method of denial, a method of disobedience, is to be partially obedient.  Samuel’s question – if you obeyed, why do I hear cows? – is a telling one.  First he is in denial, then Saul explains that partial obedience is more than enough.  Look at verse 20 –

“But I did obey the LORD,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king.

The Lord said to destroy the Amalekites; Saul said of course he destroyed them except their king.  Colossians 3:5-6 says –

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.  Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.

Those are the Lord’s instructions to us, these are the Amalekites of sin to us.   Yet, too often, we believe that we can pick and choose among God’s instructions, and then we act as though God should be appreciative of the bits and pieces that we do.  God defines obedience as total obedience.  We obey mostly, but we leave kingdoms of sin in our lives.

Let me offer a question for us to ponder – rather than asking ourselves how much we obey God, let’s ask God to show us where we do not obey.  Scripture tells us to hold captive every thought so that we do not sin.  Ever had a critical thought about somebody?  Scripture says we should be slow to speak so our tongue does not cause us to sin.  Ever said anything unkind?  We shouldn’t fool ourselves and imagine we are obedient.  We are nonstop disobedient; we just don’t want to acknowledge it.  We pretend partial obedience is sufficient.  But we cannot think ourselves as obedient to God when we redefine to ourselves what it means to be obedient.  If we’re partially obedient, we’re still disobedient.

VI.      Blame Others

Another way we are disobedient to is to blame our disobedience, our partial obedience, on somebody else.  I could forgive him if he wasn’t such a jerk.  It would be easier for me to go to church if the people there were friendlier.  That what Saul says.  In verse 20, Saul says, “But I did obey the Lord” and then he continues on in verse 21…

The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God at Gilgal.”

I did obey the Lord, but the soldiers didn’t do right.   I had this great plan to serve the Lord, but somebody else messed it up.  Of course I made a covenant with my spouse for better or worse, but you don’t know my spouse.  Of course I can forgive my friend as soon as she asks for forgiveness. Sometimes we even blame God.  I lost my temper, sure, but God made me that way.

This disobedience is literally the oldest trick in the book.  Adam blamed his disobedience on Eve.  “It’s her fault!” And the Eve blamed it on the serpent.  But we cannot blame our own disobedience on somebody else.  God will see through that every time.

Slide22

VII.      Rely on Rituals Instead

And finally, we disobey because, well, that’s the way we’ve always done it.  There’s no need to change if nobody’s complaining.  Besides, as a Christian, I attend church, I go to bible study, I tithe, I serve, I pray, I teach.  So those things cover up what little disobedience remains, right?

Verse 22-23, Samuel answers that question.

But Samuel replied:

“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD ?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.

For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the LORD,
he has rejected you as king.”

The Lord expects and receives our sacrifices, but He does not delight in them.  Sacrifices in the Old Testament atoned for sins.  Sacrifices in the New Testament further the Kingdom of God.  Those things are good, but God does not delight in them.  God delights in obedience.  God delights in the righteous who seek after Him.  Look at Matthew 5:23-24,

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

Jesus tells us that if we bring a sacrifice to the temple but we have something against our brother, we are to leave that sacrifice there and make amends with our brother.  Only then are we to return and offer our sacrifice.

Look, making it up to somebody when you’ve wronged them is a good thing.  But wouldn’t obedience in not wronging them in the first place be better?  Sacrifices are payments for disobedience, sacrifices are accepted by God, but it’s not sacrifices that God wants most.  He doesn’t need our sacrifices, because the Lord needs nothing from us.  He desires us to be obedient for our benefit.

VIII.      Conclusion

A man wanted to help his son understand the importance of making right choices.  He put up a post in the back yard, and every time his son made a bad choice, the father would give him a nail and have him nail it into the post.  When he made a good choice, he’d get to remove a nail.  As the boy grew, there were always a couple of nails in the post, but as he grew and matured, one day he pulled the last nail out of the post.  He felt pretty good about it, too.  But his dad asked him to take a good look at the post.  The nails were gone, but the post was full of holes.

Slide27

We’re forgiven of our bad choices.  But the effects of our sins leave scars.

We disobey for many reasons and in many ways..  Fear, redefine, denial, partial obedience, blame others, rely on rituals.   Saul performs a perfect hat-trick in verse 15; denial, partial obedience, *and* blaming others all in one sentence, so we’re not limited to disobedience in one category.

The Lord calls us to obedience, and sometimes we’re our own worst enemy when we try to obey.  We act out of fear instead of trusting in the Lord.  We deny our disobedience or try to redefine it.  We make excuses, or we try to make up for it afterword.   Don’t ask yourself in what ways you’re being obedient to the Lord; in some small ways, everybody is partially obedient.  Ask yourself instead how you’re not obeying the Lord.  Are you following God’s commands?  Are you living a life of partial obedience to God’s commands?  Do you find it easier to be obedient when you know people are looking?  Have you been struggling with some area of your life that you know needs to be surrendered to God?

Don’t try to answer the question by listing all the things you do.  I go to church, I sing in the choir or play in the band.  I teach a class.  I serve God most of the time.   That is not the standard God wants for us.  Partial obedience doesn’t cut it.   God wants us to trust Him and follow Him with all of our heart, our soul, our mind and strength.  Don’t settle for less.

To God be the glory.