SUNDAY JULY 12 2020
STAY THE COURSE SET FOR YOU
Last day we covered the topic, “Searching for donkeys and finding your ministry.” This week I would like to continue our study of Saul and Samuel. We saw that Saul had been sent on a mission by his father to find his father’s missing donkeys. He was led to met with the prophet Samuel and as a result left off the finding of donkeys for others to complete while he discovered his ministry. This is recorded in 1 Samuel 9. I wish to move us along and look in detail as Saul’s ministry unfolds, but in order to do so we need to backup somewhat. I choose to jump in near the beginning of the story of Saul by referring to 1 Samuel 7 beginning at the 7th verse.
“And when the Philistines heard that the children of Israel were gathered together to Mizpeh, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the children of Israel heard it, they were afraid of the Philistines. And the children of Israel said unto Samuel, ‘Cease not to cry unto the LORD our God for us, that he will save us out of the hand of the Philistines.’ And Samuel took a sucking lamb and offered it for a burnt offering wholly unto the LORD: and Samuel cried unto the LORD for Israel; and the LORD heard him. And as Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel: but the LORD thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines, and discomforted [to move noisily] them; and they were smitten before Israel.”
The passage continues and tells us that the Philistines were completely routed and that all the cities that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored. And that Samuel set up a stone between Mizpeh, which means “watchtower,” and the place Shen. And Samuel named the place “Ebenezer,” which means ‘Stone of help.’
This should immediately remind us of our Stone of help, the Rock of our salvation! It is He who watches over us and is in fact our ‘Watchtower.’
I go back to this account which comes before last week’s meeting between Samuel and Saul to establish the heart of GOD in all this. GOD did not want these people, His called-out-ones, to be similar to all the surrounding nations. No, He in fact was calling them to be unlike all the nations round about, to be a peculiar people, a unique people, a holy nation. Just as He is calling us to be a called-out holy people, to not be lovers of this world; to be dependent upon Him and not to some world leader. During the time of this first covenant the order is established. The people cry, the prophet intercedes on their behalf, GOD intervenes and demonstrates His deliverance. GOD scatters the enemy, the people are saved and rejoice and the prophet is vindicated. There is no need at this time for a king to lead armies; the LORD GOD rules over the nation and He routes the enemy. AND all of this is established and grounded upon the blood sacrifice upon an altar of stone – The Stone of Help. And notice the order for the prophet. The people cry to Samuel; Samuel builds an altar upon which he offers up the burnt offering, then Samuel cries unto the LORD. Samuel establishes his right of access into the presence of the LORD GOD with the offering of an innocent substitute. It is by this that Samuel is confident not only that he will be heard but that his request will be answered and the people delivered!
See what the LORD is demonstrating here. What needs have you for a king? What needs have you for an army? It is I who is your watchtower. Have I not demonstrated over and over that I watch over you!
Saul was to be anointed as captain of His inheritance. Later, GOD has a future king in mind – a man after His own heart – a king that will presage the coming of The King. For this moment in time GOD desired a leader who would lead the people in pursuit of a routed enemy as per 1 Samuel 7:11; “and the men of Israel went out and pursued the Philistines and smote them . . .”
Continuing on to chapter eight of first Samuel we read that Samuel was growing old and he had turned his ministry over to his two sons. They turned out to be of little comfort to the people. They were ‘in it’ for the money and used bribes and perverted judgment. How often in our day and age have we witnessed great ministries established by a called, anointed and committed man or woman only to be later turned over to sons or daughters or administrators with catastrophic results. This was the case for the prophet Samuel. As a result of the two sons failing to live up to the task the elders came to Samuel and said as recorded in 1 Samuel 5: “Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.” Notice, they want a king so that they will be like all the nations. But, did not GOD say he didn’t want them like all the nations! No wonder their request upset Samuel. However, Samuel took it to GOD. We pick things up in verse 7: “And the LORD said unto Samuel, ‘Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.’”
What a terrible indictment! It was not the first time they rejected their GOD, and sadly, it would not be their last. It is good for us to remember this verse today. As we go about our ministries calling others to Christ only to be rejected, we must realize we are not the ones being rejected but rather it is Jesus they are rejecting. Don’t take any guilt upon yourself. “Oh I must have said it the wrong way or Oh I wasn’t very good, or Oh if only someone else had been here.’ No! We are called to be ready to give an answer as to the hope we have, (1 Peter 3:15.) Their response is theirs. It has little to do with the messenger.
The elders of Samuel’s day have rejected GOD from being their king!
Continuing on from verse 9. GOD says to Samuel, hearken unto all that they say, but be sure to tell them what they will be getting.
“And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that asked of him a king.”
Then, he lays it out for them beginning with verse 11 of 1 Samuel 8:
“And he said, This will be the manner of the king to reign over you: he will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots. And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and he will set them to ear [cut in or plough] his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots.”
Up to this point there was really no need for a military. There was just ordinary men, farmers, artisans who would be rallied together and equipped with the Holy Spirit whenever the need arose. And after battle they were free to return to their homes, their families and their farms. They were empowered by and lead by ‘the captain of the Host of Heaven.’ With an earthly king however, there would be conscription into the military. Tax would have to be instituted in order to pay for such a military.
“And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries [ointment makers and perfumers] and to be cooks and to be bakers. And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your olive yards, even the best of them and give them to his servants. And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers and to his servants. And he will take your menservants and your maidservants and your goodliest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your sheep: and you shall be his servants.”
So, here it is! Having an earthly royalty creates the need for a military. And this military needs be provided for by the taxing of the people. One tenth, to begin with, of everything that they own. You want to emulate the nations around you, well here’s the cost. You will lose your sons and husbands to the armed forces and your daughters to their providing. And you will be paying for the whole thing! Paying not only with sons and daughters and sheep and goats and vineyards but with hard-earned dollars. With the LORD GOD as their king they were encouraged to bring free-will offerings for the work of the LORD. And those that did received a blessing of 30, 60, 100 fold in return!
When we look about our world today does anyone need be reminded of the horrendous cost of the armed forces? A ten percent tax to support these militaries, would cause us to jump at such a low cost today! I also, need not remind you of the chaos wrought upon history by the excesses of royalties. GOD wanted Israel to be unlike any of these nations; He wanted a true Theocracy conducted by a True Benevolent King. But, they would not have it. Be encouraged friends, we will have it someday when He reigns. Hallelujah!
The warning continues.
“And you shall cry out in that day because of your king which you shall have chosen; and the LORD will not hear you in that day. Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, ‘Nay, but we will have a king over us.’”
I recall another time, another choice, centuries later when they choose Barabbas over Jesus. And what was their cry then? “Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us and on our children.” (Mat. 27:25)
So, how did they respond after this eye-opening message from Samuel?
Here, after saying No to Samuel they add the following four declaration:
“That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.”
Well, how has that worked out? Four items mentioned here.
- “That we may be like all the nations;” Is that who they were called to be? Did the LORD GOD choose and create this nation to be like all others? Did GOD not instruct them to not go after other nations? Did He not craft them to be a holy example to the heathen; to be a light unto the Gentiles; to stand out and stand for a Holy GOD; to be a people chosen, loved, nourished and blessed set apart from the heathen gods around them?
In Matthew 23:27 we are confronted with another rendering of this refusal by the people to hear.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that kills the prophets and stones them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings and you would not!”
- “That our king may judge us “
They preferred to be judged by an earthly man rather than a heavenly GOD. Perhaps many in our world would want the same. They prefer dealing with someone of their own ilk; someone who can be ‘reasoned with;’ someone who is open to bribes or flatteries or favours. Not so with the LORD GOD. God however, as judge is another thing entirely. Hebrews 4:12 reminds us that God is a discerner of the thoughts and of the intents of the heart. What sinful person wants that! For as Hebrews 10:31 mentions, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of living God.”
I thank you LORD that our sins have been removed, and that we are under your grace and that we abide in your peace. And we worship you again this day as our Most High King and Priest. And we reside under the covering of your wings. And we look and long for that day when, face-to-face we will blossom in our full beauty as we walk with our King of Kings.
- “That our king may go before us.” Who went before them in fire and smoke as the people exited Egypt? Who went before them as they passed through the waters? Who led them to a land of promise in the midst of enemies all about? And yet, with short-remembered-minds they would prefer a man of the dust to lead them. The deserts of this earth are littered with the kings of men. Isaiah 43:2 reads,
“When you pass through the waters; I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you: when you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; neither will the flame kindle upon you.”
Who better to follow? Jesus once said to the listeners, “Follow me.” And I praise GOD that I did, as have you. I weep as I write for all the poor choices people make; for all the divergent paths they follow. Lead us by the hand dear Saviour, to the waters that are still, to the pastures of emerald, to a place at Your table, to fellowship with Your Father.
- “That our king may fight our battles.” My goodness. After all He has demonstrated, through all the battles He has won on their behalf, empowering ordinary men, women and boys and girls with His Spirit to set armies to flight, still they trust Him not! My Bible says, “The battle is the LORD’s.” (1 Samuel 17:49) My Bible says, He is our strong tower, our shield in the time of battle; that He is the captain of the Host of Heaven. And as Psalm 20:7 states, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.” The people of Samuel’s day forgot all that God had done in battle for them. They preferred to trust in chariots and horses and an earthly king. But we the faithful, as did Samuel, trust in the name of the LORD our God.
1 Samuel 8:21, “And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the LORD.” And the LORD told Samuel to hearken unto the people and give them what they ask for and Samuel sent the people home. Psalm 108:15,“And he gave them their request but sent leanness into their soul.”
The people of Samuel’s day have forgotten who they are; why they are. They have run off ahead of God down paths not intended for them. There was to be a king over Israel someday, David, and even as the people fussed and worried about their future, God was at His wheel moulding a king that would be fit to represent The King. It is good to be looking for donkeys and finding one’s ministry, but we must be diligent not to run ahead. Perhaps a season of incubation is in store. God knows what He’s about and is never caught by surprise. His timing is perfect, ours is not always so. Saul will start out well, considering he has been placed in a most untenable position. The eyes of the people will now be focused upon him rather than upon the Lord God. God will support and bless Saul until the day he strays from his appointed task, until he goes beyond his anointing and crosses a line usurping another’s ministry. But as they say, that my friends is for another day.
Be encouraged that God calls ordinary busy people to follow Him. Be confident that your name is upon His lips and He does have a beautiful calling for you. Be willing to step out when the call is given. Be blessed, knowing that He will provide all your need in Christ Jesus. And mostly, be faithful in all that you put your hands to. Amen.
Almighty God, You are the giver and sustainer of all Life. The Earth is Yours, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for You founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the waters. (Psalm 24:1) You are the King of Glory, the Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. (v. 8) We give You our hearts, we give You our souls, we live for You alone. Purify our hearts dear Lord, that there be no other gods before You. Help us to follow hard after Jesus, and to choose to walk in Your Word and Your Ways – for Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”. Father God, we recognize, with humble hearts that we cannot find our Way to You without Jesus. Father God, we recognize, with humble hearts that we cannot know the Truth about You without Jesus. And Father God, we recognize, with humble hearts that there is no Life without Jesus. We fall on our knees and on our faces before You with complete and utter adoration and worship dear Lord. You deserve every word of praise we could ever say and every song we could ever sing. Hallelujah!
Thank You Lord that You are our Rock, our Fortress, and our Deliverer. You are our God, our keen and firm Strength. We trust in You Lord and take refuge in You. You are our shield and the Horn of our Salvation. – Psalm 18:2
Thank You Lord, that as we worship You we are dwelling in the secret place of the Most High, abiding under the shadow of the Almighty. Thank You Lord, that we need not fear pestilence, plague, calamity, destruction or sudden death that lays waste because You cover us with Your wings. Thank You Lord that You give Your angels especial charge over us as we make You our refuge, and the Most High our dwelling place. Thank You Lord that You will never forsake us, no, never, because we have set our love upon You. – Psalm 91:1,4,6,9,10,14
Thank You Lord that we may confidently and boldly say, “The Lord is my Helper” and live our lives without fear or dread. – Hebrews 13:6
Thank You Lord that no weapon formed against us shall prosper, this is our heritage as Your beloved. – Isaiah 54:17
We trust in You Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Our times are in Your hands. We will be strong and take heart because our Hope is in YOU! – Psalm 31:14,15,24
Thank You Lord that Your eyes are always upon us and that Your ears are open to our every cry. Thank You that You are always thinking about us and are especially near when our hearts are breaking. – Psalm 34:15; 139:17; 34:18
There is no one like You, oh Lord. Your Love is all embracing and all forgiving. We surrender to that Love and commit ourselves wholeheartedly to You Lord. Your goodness overwhelms our hearts with joy and Your praise abounds upon our lips. Your beauty is beyond compare and shines like the noonday sun, Your justice is Righteous. We submit to Your care and keeping, Lord.
Thank You Lord that You are our Healer and that You are healing us every day. Thank You that by the stripes of Jesus we are healed. Help us to submit to Your Word and agree with it. Help us to keep Your Word before our eyes and written upon our hearts, knowing that as we do this, it will be Life, Healing, and Medicine to our bodies, and, indeed, every part of our lives.- Proverbs 4:20-23
Father thank You that nothing can separate us from Your Love. Lord, we pray that You will pour out Your Love and Comfort today especially on those who are grieving in our midst. Ila and Betty have recently lost loved ones, and there are so many others over recent months and years. Be with each one Lord, help them to cast their care upon You. Help them to work through their grief and come out again on the other side when it is the right time for each one.
Father, we ask You to bless our faithful Pastor as he continues to prepare encouraging and challenging messages for us each week. We pray for our government Lord. Give our leaders wisdom, especially at this time. Help all of us to be patient and cope well with the strains of the lockdowns we have been going through. Help each one who has been suffering financially to have good shelter and enough food to eat. Encourage those who have to give generously to those who do not have. Help us to be shining lights of Your Love and Peace and Joy to the confused or hurting people around us. Help us to speak for Jesus at every opportunity. To God be the glory!
We all have disappointments and struggles in our lives Lord, but we know that You are with us in the midst of them. Help us to keep our eyes upon You that we may finish well.
We offer all of our prayers and praise to You Lord in Jesus’ name. Amen.