Synopsis 1Sam 12:23-13:7 9/11/2018
Samuel completed his address to the assembly. He committed to continuing in prayer for the Israelite nation. Also, he implored the people to fear and serve the Lord with all their hearts. And finally, he reminded them that if they continued to do evil, both they and their king would be swept away.
Saul began the process of maintaining a standing army with three thousand men. These were split between himself and Jonathan. The standing Israelite forces were concentrated around the tent of meeting located at Bethel and Saul’s hometown of Gibeah.
At some point Jonathan used the forces to strike the Philistine garrison near Gibeah. After this, both the Israelites and the Philistines massed forces. However, as the Israelites began to recognize the size of the Philistine forces, they became concerned. Many crossed the Jordan and slipped into Gad and Gilead – away from the battlefield.
The Prayers of Samuel
Samuel declared to the people that it would be a sin against God if he did not pray on behalf of the people. For him, to not pray was an act of faithlessness. For him, to not pray was a sin.
Samuel heard God’s voice. From his youth, people recognized that when he prophesied, his prophecies always came true. And when he revealed something, his revealings always proved to be accurate.
Samuel’s role was to pray. He served as a priest. And he offered sacrifices. So maybe one question is; was failing to pray a sin in general or only because he served as a priest?
Prayer and Faith, Hope, Love
Here’s another way of looking at it. Moses and the prophets taught two great commandments concerning personal responsibility. The first is to love God. And the second is to love my neighbor. Jesus definitively taught the same thing. So then, could I love another without praying for them? Is that possible?
It’s not a word to burden myself. (Like I need one more thing to do.) It’s just the observation that love really begins with prayer. Interceding to God for the benefit of another is faith, hope and love in a single moment of action.
“With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit. To that end, be watchful with all perseverance and supplication for all the holy ones” Eph 6:18
Synopsis 1Sam 12:14-22 9/10/2018
Samuel spoke to the assembly. He had just finished establishing Saul as king. He explained to the people that neither Saul, nor any other king, could protect them if they persisted in unrighteousness.
And, he also pointed out to them that their demand for a king was wrong in the first place. And to demonstrate this, Samuel prayed that the Lord would bring thunder, lightning, and rain during the normally dry harvest season.
The Lord sent the rain out of season. And so, the people realized that they had erred. They returned to Samuel and confessed their sin. Samuel acknowledged the seriousness of the Israelite’s sin. Still, he encouraged them to follow the Lord closely. And he assured them that God would never forsake them.
Too Late to Get Rid of the King
A sign from heaven in the form of rain. It rained outside the normal rainy season. And, it rained in the harvest – the worst time for rain. And so, the people suddenly became aware of their guilt.
They had defied God. Now, they had their king. And this new king had already saved them in a great military victory. Despite this, the Israelites realized that they had made a serious mistake. So, they came back to Samuel humbled. What could they do? What could be done?
But Samuel reassured them. He acknowledged there was no undoing the act. Saul was king. Yet, Samuel told them that God would remain faithful to them – for His own namesake. And so, just as before, their hope was in remaining faithful to God.
Awareness of the Irreversible Error
Some mistakes can be reversed. When I sin, sometimes I can undo the damage of my sin. But sometimes it’s just not possible. Sometimes what has happened is irreversible. The effect of my sin remains despite acknowledging and even repenting of the sin.
You can hang on to your failures. It’s possible to regret poor decision made in the past. It’s possible to grieve the opportunity cost of my own recklessness.
But none of that is from God. Whatever has been is an undeniable fact. We have all failed. We have all fallen short of God’s plan for our lives. These are the facts.
But God’s not holding me down. God’s not looking to suffocate me with an awareness of my own sin. He wants me to move on. He wants me to overcome.
Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.” John 5:8
Synopsis 1Sam 12:7-13 9/8/2018
After confirming Saul’s kingship in front of all the people, Samuel gave a farewell address. He reminded the people of their history with God. He reminded them that God had always been faithful to lead the Israelites and to protect them.
Samuel conveyed to the assembly the importance of their faithfulness to God. He explained to them that most of their troubles weren’t because of the power of their neighboring nations. But instead, their own unfaithfulness had created their troubles.
Finally, he told them that, although they had been given the king they demanded, that no king could protect them from unfaithfulness.
The Protection of the Kingship
The Israelites wanted a king because they felt they would be better protected from the tyranny of neighboring nations. They wanted to end the oppression imposed on Israel from foreign military power.
But as Samuel explained, God had functioned as the king of the people from the time of Moses. God had been their protection. And they only ever became vulnerable when they did what was wrong. So, God made clear through Samuel that even a king would be of no benefit if the people were unfaithful.
Moral Responsibility and the State
I can’t transfer my moral responsibility to the state.
The thing about the natural moral law is that the state cannot insulate me from the responsibility to do the right thing. And so, persistently doing the wrong thing, especially in the midst of a community of people who persistently do the wrong things, only aggregates and compounds the wrong.
Participation in the Authentic Community means keeping my eyes wide open. So, I will examine myself daily.
“Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless, of course, you fail the test.” 2Cor 13:5
Synopsis 1Sam 11:12-12:6 9/7/2018
Saul led the army of Israel to a great victory over the Ammonites. With this victory, there was a groundswell of support for Saul’s kingship. So, Samuel led the people to Gilgal to “renew” the kingship there. The coronation turned into a spontaneous feast complete with communion sacrifices to the Lord.
Having installed the new king, Samuel announced his retirement from public life. In doing so, he challenged the entire assembly to identify any misdeed he had made during his ministry so that he could make restitution. Of course, no one could identify any misdeeds.
Saul was Only Accepted as King After He had Delivered Victory
Although he gained a few followers after being named king, many Israelites doubted Saul was the right choice. They doubted he could do what they expected a king to do for them.
In the face of this negative scrutiny, Saul wilted. He returned to his father’s farm and worked in the fields. Then, Nahash the Ammonite brought his army to conquer Jabesh. Clearly, this was a deliberate provocation. And more importantly, it was a calculated test designed to see what Israel’s new king would do if provoked.
Saul met this challenge. And because of this, he became widely accepted as Israel’s new king.
Shrug Off the Doubt of Others
God has called you. And I don’t mean He called you to merely be saved. There is something needful on this planet that only you can do. There is a needed contribution that only you can make. And God made you so uniquely that only you could fully make this contribution.
So, maybe it’s not going that well right now. Maybe you doubt God’s purpose for your life. Maybe you don’t perceive much evidence of God’s plan in your life. And maybe no one is encouraging you.
A lack of evidence is discouraging. It causes you and others to doubt your calling. It causes hesitation. And, it tempts you to quit. But don’t quit. God has called you. So, let nothing keep you from serving God in the way that only you can do. The people around you will eventually catch up.
“Let no one have contempt for your youth, but set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity.” 1Tim 4:12
Synopsis 1Sam 11:4-11 9/6/2018
Samuel named Saul king. And then, he sent all of the Israelites back to their homes. And Saul also returned to his home and his occupation. He was working in his father’s fields.
About a month later, the Israelites who lived in Jabesh were attacked and besieged by an Ammonite army intent on humiliating Israel. The people of the town sent messengers to Saul asking for help.
The spirit of God came over Saul. So, he forcefully gathered an army of Israelite warriors. And then he attacked the Ammonites. He advanced his army without detection. And at dawn, he slammed into the Ammonite forces for a complete victory.
The Spirit of God Came Upon Saul
Saul approached the kingship timidly. Perhaps he was a naturally reluctant personality or perhaps he felt completely out of his league. Whatever the case, early in his reign he did not embrace any of the trappings of his position.
Yet, when Saul heard a report about Israelites of Jabesh being threatened and abused, the Spirit of God came upon him. And God enthused him with the spirit. His natural leadership emerged. And Saul led the people to a great victory.
Without the Spirit of God You Can Do Nothing Good
It’s the grace of God’s presence dwelling in me, that makes possible any good work.
Any other way of thinking about the good I might do leaves me in charge. It leads to a contradiction because “good” only comes from God.
So, seek the Holy Spirit. Pray that the gifts of the Holy Spirit might come to you. And when the impulse of the Spirit comes, be ready and determined to respond.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
Synopsis 1Sam 10:21-11:2 9/4/2018
Samuel used the process of casting lots to determine who among the Israelites would be king. As the lots were cast, Samuel revealed that the new king would come from the tribe of Benjamin. And then he revealed the king would be from the clan of Maltri. Finally, Samuel revealed that Saul was God’s choice as king.
After the revealing, Samuel sent all the people back to their homes. So, Saul also returned to his home in Gibeah.
Many were excited and rejoiced in God at Saul’s coronation. But others were dubious that Saul would be a good king.
And so, about a month after this, the Ammonites besieged the Israelite city of Jabesh. Nahash led the Ammonite army. The Israelites would have given any reasonable thing to end the siege. But, Nahash imposed unacceptable terms for peace. For this reason, the men of Jabesh began to look for a savior.
Saul Hiding in the Baggage Train
Saul was hiding in the baggage. This wasn’t some mistake – like he just happened to be in the baggage area during the convocation. No, he was hiding. He didn’t want to deal with God’s vision for his life. And, he didn’t want the responsibility of being king.
So, God Himself had to reveal that Saul was actively hiding amongst the bags. And only after being found out did he consent to join the community.
Saul’s general attitude of reluctance had turned into denial. Clearly he didn’t want the responsibility of kingship. And, he didn’t even want the glory of the throne. Perhaps in other circumstances his humility would be laudable. But the truth was that he actively hid himself to avoid acknowledging his calling.
A World Full of Sauls
God created everything with purpose. This means that he’s given all the necessary gifts and talents. So, God commissioned each of us with a plan for the most extraordinary and powerful life.
Yet, I hide in my baggage. In other words, I hide in my business. And, I hide in my myriad diversions. And I never look full on towards God for fear He might speak a word. That’s right, I fear that He might give a command that I do not want to hear.
Oh God – set me free from the fear that prevents me from entering into the possibility of my life.
“and free those who through fear of death had been subject to slavery all their life.” Heb 2:15
Synopsis 1Sam 10:10-20 9/3/2018
Samuel sent Saul away with his blessing. He had told him a prophecy of what would happen to him the rest of the day. So Saul began his return trip. And, everything that Samuel had said would happen came true.
Upon his return, Saul was questioned about the delay in his search for the donkeys, and why it had taken so long to return. So Saul explained about the unfruitul search. He also mentioned visiting Samuel for assistance.
Saul’s uncle pointedly asked him what Samuel had said. But Saul did not disclose anything about Samuel’s prophecy or anointing.
Several days later, Samuel called all of Israel together once again. The Israelites assembled before the Lord and Mizpah. And Samuel began the process of choosing the promised first king of Israel.
God Chose Saul
Samuel cast the “lots”. And, God chose Benjamin. In other words, someone from Benjamin would be named king. This would be the cause of wonder for many in Israel. For not that many years before, the tribe of Benjamin had gone to war against the rest of Israel. Benjamin’s losses were almost genocidal. Reportedly, Israel had killed all the Benjamite women and only a few hundred of the men had survived.
So, for the assembled crowd, Benjamin was a strange and unlikely choice. The tribes that typically vied for leadership were Judah, Ephraim and Manasseh. But for Saul, something else was happening. He suspected how this selection would go at the time that Saul called for the convocation. But, something kept him from sharing with anyone else his anointing as king and all that had happened to him.
God Choses With Gifts and Talents
God creates with purpose. Everything that exists, exists with a purpose. We, you and I, are special examples of this.
You are created with a purpose. God gave you a unique set of gifts and talents. And God placed you in a particular place and time. And now, God expects you to do something.
You can pretend that none of this is true. You can pretend that your gifts and talents and circumstances aren’t unique to you. But be careful your attitude. It is a deliberate decision and the ensuing attitude that determines true success in life.
Every subsequent decision for the rest of your life will flow out of this foundational understanding.
“your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.” Matt 6:10
Synopsis 1Sam 10:2-9 9/1/2018
Samuel anointed Saul with oil and declared him king over all of Israel. He then prophesied to Saul concerning what would happen in the coming days.
Samuel told Saul to expect encountering men with news about his father’s lost donkeys. Also, a group of worshippers would give Saul bread. And, once he arrived at Gibeah-elohim, Saul would encounter a group of prophets. And, not only would Saul encounter this group of men, Samuel told him that he would enter into a prophetic ecstasy.
Finally, Samuel gave Saul specific instructions to meet him at Gilgal in seven days. Then, as he turned to leave, God changed Saul’s heart.
Saul’s Fragile Faith
Saul was uninitiated into the ways of God. He was filled with youthful skepticism. To Saul, Samuel’s behavior and prophecies seemed like the mutterings of a mad man.
Still, his social training taught enough to defer to Samuel. But he did not believe the words Samuel was saying. He could not believe the words he was saying.
Samuel knew that Saul didn’t understand. He knew that he couldn’t understand. And so God provided evidence to bolster Saul’s capacity to believe. The evidence came in the form of a very specific prophecy followed by a command that required Saul to act. He was to meet Samuel at Gilgal in seven days.
The Power of the Prophetic
We live in a world of constant change. One of the challenges of constant change is knowledge. Claiming to know something when everything is a constant swirl of change is, at best, a risky business.
This is the reason that prediction is the gold standard of knowledge. In our ever changing world, anyone who can predict anything with certainty has real power.
So, you and I were born. And, you and I will die. And if there’s any purpose for anything in our universe, we will be called to judgement. This is either a deep, prophetic truth. Or, it is utter nonsense.
And each of us must decide.
“Just as it is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgment,t 28so also Christ, offered once to take away the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him” Heb 9:27
Synopsis 1Sam 9:21-10:1 8/30/2018
Saul came to town to ask Samuel where to find his missing donkeys. But to Saul’s surprise, Samuel invited him to a feast.
Saul felt confused. He was not from an elite family. And he came from a tribe that had nearly been wiped out in a civil war. He felt sure that Samuel had mistaken him for someone else.
But it was no mistake. So, Saul went to the feast. And though there were thirty other guests, Samuel served him the choicest portion. After the feast, Samuel provided lodging for Saul. And so, Saul spent the night.
The next morning, Samuel woke Saul and sent him away. As they exited the city gate together, Samuel took oil and anointed Saul. This act made Saul the first king over all of Israel.
Saul Didn’t Know He Was King
That’s ironic. Saul didn’t realize he had been singled out to be king. He had no clue. And he didn’t perceive himself as a candidate to become king. He was just minding his own business. He was looking for his donkeys. And suddenly all of this just fell on him.
Christian Didn’t Know Why He Was Saved
How about you? Do you realize all that God has in mind for you?
But as it is written: “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him,” 1Cor 2:9
Synopsis 1Sam 9:12-20 8/30/2018
Saul and his servant decided to visit Samuel. They wanted help finding a herd of missing donkeys. As it happened, Samuel was in the city that day preparing for a feast.
What Saul did not realize was that Samuel was waiting for him. God had told Samuel the day before that a man from Benjamin would come to him. This man, God had disclosed, would save Israel from the Philistines.
When Saul finally found the prophet, Samuel surprised him by inviting him to the feast.
It Wasn’t About the Donkeys
Saul thought he understood what he was doing. He was out looking for his father’s donkeys. Only, that’s not really what he was doing. What he was really doing is moving toward a divinely orchestrated appointment with Samuel.
Divine Appointments and What You Thought You Were Doing
I like to think that I’m in control. I like to think that I set my own agenda. And generally speaking, I execute my daily routine with focus and determination.
But I’m not some godless technocrat. I acknowledge God. I say my prayers. And I’m usually pretty consistent about expressing gratitude.
And yet, I still walk among the unseen – usually with no clue what God’s working to accomplish. Just as the apostle says, “God works all things together for good…” But I’m not a prophet like Samuel. I never see God’s purpose in events until way after the work He intended is complete. Most often, I rarely even see it then.
This is why Givenness matters so much. When I’m flowing in this attitude, I find myself actively looking for what God is doing. I find myself looking for God’s purpose in every encounter. And I commit myself to love whoever is in the mix, wherever I find them. Because the truth is, no matter how “in control” I feel, God is orchestrating my circumstances. And so, what matters least is what I thought I was doing. And what matters most is what God is working to accomplish through my encounters.
When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” Luke 19:5