Friday, 11 April 2014

(102) April 12: 1 Samuel 7-9 & Luke 13:1-21

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read consider Israel’s motives in wanting a king.

To ponder:
The ark is taken to Kiriath Jearim where it remains for twenty years. The people “mourn” and “seek” the LORD. But true repentance is proved by deeds (Acts 26v20). So Samuel says “if” they are returning to God “with all their heart” then they must rid themselves of their foreign gods and serve God “only.” Then he promises, God will deliver them from the Philistines. Well they do, and God does. They assemble at Mizpah where Samuel promises to intercede for them. They fast, confess their sin, and “pour out water before the LORD” – possibly symbolising the washing away of guilt (Lam 2v19).
            Perhaps assuming they have assembled for battle, the Philistines come against them. They ask Samuel to continue interceding with God for their rescue. He also offers a burnt offering, stressing their renewed devotion to the LORD, and God throws the Philistines into a panic with mere thunder so Israel can “slaughter” and so “subdue” them.
            Until Christ returns there is always the possibility of restoration and deliverance when Christians sin and find themselves then ruled by evil. The pattern is astonishingly similar: They must rid themselves of their sin, commit themselves to serving God alone, confess their wrongdoing, perhaps fast, be baptised as a sign of their guilt being washed away, and look to Christ to intercede with the Father for their salvation (Heb 7v25), and to his sacrifice to atone for atonement.
            We read then of the peace that was maintained during Samuel’s lifetime, the restoration of land from the Philistines, and how he travelled Israel judging the people. However, when old he appointed his sons as judges, but they proved corrupt. So the elders asked him to appoint a king. We have already seen that God always intended Israel to have a king, and that this was necessary if she were to remain faithful. However Samuel is provoked, perhaps because this was a slight on his leadership. Yet the LORD is provoked too, because it was a rejection of his. The reason is because Israel wanted a king “like other nations,” when she were supposed to be “set-apart” from those nations. The people did not want a spiritual leader to administer the reign of God and point them to him as the one to fight for them. They wanted a merely political leader to reign and fight for them himself (8v20).
            God tells Samuel to “listen to them” but “warn them” too. He therefore explains how such a king will take their children, crops and servants to serve him, and even enslave them in the end. But the people repeat their request, and so the LORD tells Samuel to “give them a king.”
            It’s an example of how we can desire right things for the wrong reasons. We revere church leaders who are dynamic, telegenic and able to draw a crowd, rather than those that are godly, prayerful and able to teach the scriptures. We can even seek Christ because we want to be religious like others, without actually wanting him to bring us under God’s rule.
            Saul is therefore just the man Israel wants: An “impressive” man, “without equal” and “a head taller” than any others. It’s all about appearance. The story of how he is led to Samuel, affirms God’s guidance of events by providence and prophecy. His appointment is God’s doing in response to the “cry” of his people. Saul will therefore “deliver” Israel from the Philistines and “govern” them. And he is not without character. When Samuel affirms “all the desire of Israel” has turned to him and his family, Saul, no doubt unaware quite what was meant, responds with humility (9v21). However hearing he is from Benjamin, we might wonder if he is the sort of king Israel need, as it is from Judah that her kings were due to come (Gen 49v10).

Praying it home:
Praise God that he is so persistently ready for sinners to return to him. Pray our motives in seeking Christ and good church leaders would be in order to be brought more fully under God’s rule.

Thinking further:
None today.

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