Monday, 14 April 2014

(105) April 15: 1 Samuel 15-16 & Luke 14:25-35

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

To discover:­­
As you read consider what God desires from his kings.

To ponder:
With chapter 13, chapter 15 acts as a second witness to Saul’s disobedience of God, with the general unfitness of his character displayed in-between. The war against the Amalekites is one of divine judgement for standing against Israel after she left Egypt (Ex 17v8-16). Indeed, Saul’s warning of the Kenites shows it was specific to the Amalekites, and Agag’s death, a just punishment of a violent man (15v2, 33). The event fulfils God’s word to Moses (Ex 17v14), his promise to curse those who curse (ie. are against) Abraham’s descendents (Gen 12v1-3), and his prophecy through Balaam that an Israelite king would destroy Amalek (Num 24v27-20). The very act therefore showed the authority and certainity of God’s word. However, Saul, again, disobeyed it, taking Agag alive and keeping the best of the plunder.
            So the LORD is “grieved” that he made Saul king, describing his disobedience as “turning away” from him as God. Samuel’s night in prayer probably reflects his confusion, having previously been told to make Saul king. The fitness of God’s decision however is proved the next morning when it is reported Saul has made “a monument in his own honour,” like those at Babel seeking glory for himself not God. And Saul just doesn’t get the seriousness of disobedience. When confronted, he first claims to have carried out Samuel’s instructions, then that the animals were spared to be sacrificed. He goes on to assert again that he “did” obey, before admitting his disobedience but blaming it on peer pressure! The conversation sounds much like that between a parent and a child refusing to admit their fault. It is a terrible thing to deny or excuse our disobedience before God who sees all. Rather we should confess and repent of it.
Samuel is clear: The LORD delights in obedience far more than the worship of offerings and sacrifices. The latter shows little of the heart, whereas rejecting God’s word is to reject him. And so in response, God rejects Saul. Indeed, Samuel promises God will tear the kingdom from him and give it to a “better” neighbour. And this is certain, because (contrasting Saul) God does not lie or change his mind. With a hint of compassion Samuel then changes his mind about not going back with Saul, and goes with him to worship. He then executes Agag and never sees Saul again. So there is a rebuke here for those who go through the motions of worship but are not prepared to accept and obey God’s word. However we’re also reminded that with repentance, there is always the possibility of restoration as a worshipper of God.
One detects something of the frankness of Jesus in God’s rebuke of Samuel for wallowing in his grief over Saul (16v1). Being sent to Jesse with the anointing oil, Samuel calls the Bethlehemites to a sacrifice. In being “consecrated” for this, the people would have ensured they were clean, perhaps by offering sacrifices for personal sin, or by various washings for other uncleanness (Num 19). Thinking as a mere man Samuel assumes Eliab would be king because his stature. But God stresses whereas “man looks at the outward appearance, he looks on the heart.” Emphasizing the point, the youngest and so least humanely suitable is therefore chosen, brought in from tending sheep. The LORD declares “he is the one,” David is anointed with his brothers and probably other Benjamites as witnesses, and from that day “the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power.” The final event sees him introduced to Saul, patient in not asserting his right to rule, tender in ministering to his torment, and supreme in being a means of being able to relieve Saul from the evil spirits. In each sense he is a pattern of Christ.

Praying it home:
Praise God for the perfect obedience and character of Christ as his king. Pray for conviction of where you might be excusing sin, and repent of it before God.

Thinking further: Does God change his mind?
Today’s passage helps us resolve an apparent contradiction in God’s word. 15v11 tells us how God changes his mind over having Saul as king. But 15v29 tells us God does not change his mind! The wider narrative helps us understand. God had always been using Saul to teach the people a lesson about their motives in wanting a king, and about the sort of king they really need. In other words, it had always been in God’s purpose that Saul would fail and be replaced by David. The times when we read of God changing his mind therefore describe the working out of what he has always intended, but from the human perspective. God genuinely acts in one way, and then because of human decision, changes to act another. In describing this in human language it is therefore entirely right to say God changes his mind or relents. However, we should know that behind the scenes this is all as God always intended, for he “works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (Eph 1v11). Indeed, David can declare that “all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139v16). So it was never the case within God’s eternal purpose that Saul might have obeyed, his kingdom endure and David never come to rule. However, as our passage shows, God so governs everything that he ensures Saul still acts willingly and so is rightly held to account for his disobedience.

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