Sunday, 13 April 2014

(104) April 14: 1 Samuel 13-14 & Luke 14:1-24

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

To discover:­­
As you read consider how Saul’s fallibility is seen.

To ponder:
Humanly speaking there is so much promise in Saul and his heir, Jonathan. Both are courageous. Indeed, like Gideon, Saul sends soldiers home keeping just three thousand to tackle the Philistines (Jud 7v1-6). Like Joshua he is prepared to face an enemy as numerous as “the sand on the seashore” (Jos 10v4). But however fit as a military leader, he proves unfit as a spiritual one, throwing away all the promise bound up with him and Jonathan.
            First, seeing his men scattering through fear at Gilgal, he disobeys Samuel’s explicit instructions (10v8) by failing to wait for him. His motives seem right in making the offerings himself to gain “the LORD’s favour” in case the Philistine’s attacked. However they displayed a lack of faith in God’s word mediated by Samuel, and so in God’s ability to protect Saul and his men until Samuel arrived. Samuel’s instructions were a test of whether Saul was prepared to obey God’s law which required absolute obedience to his prophet (Deut 18v19), and so whether as king he was prepared to be subject to God himself. Indeed, the event establishes the truth that Israel’s kings were always to be under God’s law and so the authority of the prophets who often rebuked them.
            Once more then, we see the absolute authority of God and his word over all other authorities, including our own. Christians can easily veer towards pragmatism in organising church life, dealing with difficulty or doing evangelism. But furthering God’s purposes never justifies disobeying his word.
Samuel’s rebuke here is clear: Saul acted “foolishly,” disobeying God’s “command,” and so forfeited having his line rule Israel “for all time.” Rather, he is told the LORD had found “a man after his own heart and appointed him leader.” This phrase highlights that Saul was the sort of leader the people desired rather than that God did.   
At this point Saul and Jonathan are left with just 600 men and no weapons but their own, because the Philistines had banned blacksmiths from making them. Despite this, while Saul and the army rest (idly?) under a pomegranate tree, Jonathan displays glorious faith in attacking an outpost with just his armour bearer, convinced that “nothing can hinder the LORD from saving.” He displays humility too, recognising he might have read the situation wrongly. So, trusting God’s governance even of the Philistine’s decisions, he decides to take it the LORD had given them into his hands only if they respond in a certain way. Because of Jonathan’s actions, panic strikes the “whole” Philistine army, exacerbated by an earth quake. Saul then brings the ark and enters the fray, Hebrews that deserted to the enemy rejoin him, as do those who had hidden in fear; and so “the LORD rescued Israel.”
But it is just at this high point that Saul blew it. We see the oath he forced the people to take was wrong by its consequences: It meant that the army could not be refreshed by the honey the LORD provided in the woods, which in turn led them to eat the plunder with such hunger that they didn’t first drain the blood, directly contravening God’s law (Deut 12v23). Jonathan’s comment affirms Saul should have at least let his men eat the plunder during the day (14v29-30). Because even hasty oaths before a holy God are binding, it also brought risk to Jonathan because he ate honey unaware of the ban. The fact that God didn’t answer Saul because of this and caused the lot to show Jonathan as the reason, means Jonathan had sinned unintentionally – but only because of Saul’s foolishness. This in turn lead to disunity in the ranks as Saul vowed to kill Jonathan but the men vowed to resist him, because Jonathan won his victory with God’s help. It warns us of how thoughtless action even in God’s name, can have devastating consequences, and often for those we love.
Praying it home:
Praise God for his word in scripture, through which Christ governs us. Pray that you would not just act according to its commands but according to its wisdom.

Thinking further:
None today.

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