Wednesday, April 26: 1Samuel 13- Choices.

We face choices every day and all day long. Choices move and determine life. Some of our choices are wise, some not so much. Some choices are big and others little.

Saul made a HUGE foolish choice.

Saul was losing the heart of his men who were growing impatient, so he acted. While decisive action is the mark of a leader; the choice a leader makes also reveals her or his character. Saul chose to cross a faith line. He disregarded the Lord’s command and offered unauthorized sacrifice. In his day this was a significant breach of faith. Saul sought to appease God rather than listen to the Lord.

One lesson of the Old Testament is “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams” (1Sam 15:22)

As I ponder this episode from Saul’s life I am wondering about my own living. Is it my instinct to obey the Lord or attempt to appease Him by acts of sacrifice… giving money, serving others, etc., that drives my actions? I realize that giving money and serving others are good things, so was animal sacrifice in the OT, but why am I doing these things? Am I trying to buy God’s love and care or am I doing them because I know they reflect the heart of a Christ-follower?

I realize there is a fine line of motivation that differentiates these two similar actions. As I ponder my inner world of motivation, I am realizing it is not always apparent what my motivation truly is and, yet, this quest is spiritually healthy. It is part of a life lived openly and honestly before the Lord.

Lord, I lay before You my inner self; my hurts and wounds, my inner motivations, my mixed-bag of faithfulness and faithlessness. Help me parse my inner life so that I can discard sin in its various forms. Use Your Word and my time in it to divide joints and marrow, to help me grow in You. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

 

 

Tuesday, April 25: 1Samuel 12- Integrity.

 

Samuel’s final testimony grabbed me. He has led Israel for years and as he prepares to step aside so that Israel’s first king can take over, he calls people to evaluate his integrity.

“I have listened to everything you said to me and have set a king over you. Now you have a king as your leader. As for me, I am old and gray, and my sons are here with you. I have been your leader from my youth until this day. Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the LORD and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these things, I will make it right” (1-3).

Samuel’s comments launched me into self-reflection. When life is ebbing and the sunset of my life is cresting will I have lived my life in such a manner that I could stand before family, friends, coworkers, bosses, subordinates, and neighbors and say, “Testify today have I cheated, wronged, hurt or taken advantage of you in any way. If so say so, that I may make it right with you right now.”

The deeper question I am wrestling with today is how must I live to be able to make that kind of a statement in the future? Are there things I need to change and correct in the way I am living today so that I am in a better position to be able to say those things in the future?

Lord, I have much to learn and many areas of growth needed. Guide me into deeper and more faith-filled following. I pray in Jesus, my Lord’s name. Amen.

 

Monday, April 24: 1Samuel 11- Who is your leader, who is your Savior?.

A subtle shift has occurred in Israel since the days of conquest. As they moved from Egypt to the Promised Land, God’s anointed led the people. Moses and Joshua were very careful not to take credit as leader themselves but to constantly point to the Lord. In fact Moses didn’t enter the Promised Land because in a moment of frustration he said, “Must I bring water from this rock for you?” The Lord did not allow Moses to enter the Promised Land because of the transgression.

Then come the judges, men and a woman, who led for a time, sometimes a significant length of time, but there was no family lineage. And many judges rose up in a time of need and then disappeared after God used the judge to deliver Israel.

Next came Eli and Samuel; more like Moses they were prophets who heard from God and reported the things of God to the people. They didn’t lead battles or ‘reign’ in any way.

Now comes Saul… as king. Today’s reading is on the threshold of Saul being confirmed king for the second time.

The subtle shift is that he will lead. Ideally God will lead Saul. With Moses and Joshua the Lord directed them and then they directed the people. The king, however, assumes leadership and hopefully he is listening to the Lord.

The shift is subtle but real.

And the shift challenged me to probe my own life… am I living my life in the model of:

·         Moses… listen for the Lord’s leading and then act accordingly, or

·         Saul… act on your own leading, ‘assuming’ you are in tune with the Lord?

This is a difficult question because it probes dark recesses of my life. It causes me to ask penetrating and difficult questions of myself…

Am I my own leader and savior, or am I following after the Lord?

Lord God, keep probing me and don’t let me off the hook easily giving trite or stock answers. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Saturday, April 22: 1Samuel 10- Sad day in Israel.

One would think that the anointing of a king would be a great and wonderful day. But not so for Israel. The anointing of Saul as king was a dark day. The people may not have realized it, but God made it clear to them. Samuel summoned the people of Israel to the LORD at Mizpah and said to them, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘I brought Israel up out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the power of Egypt and all the kingdoms that oppressed you.’ But you have now rejected your God, who saves you out of all your disasters and calamities. And you have said, ‘No, appoint a king over us.’ So now present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes and clans.” (17-19).

The Lord gave them what they wanted, but sadly what they wanted was not God’s best.

This got me thinking about my prayers.  Do I ever beg God for what I want, without asking the deeper question, ‘Is this what the Lord wants?’ Oh, the heartaches that come when we beg God for things that are not His best for us.

I have heard some people talk about God’s permissive will verses His perfect will. This is certainly an example of permissive vs best will. Hezekiah's extra 15 years may be another example. After all, Manasseh was 12 when Hezekiah died and he became king. This means Manasseh, one of the worst kings in Israel’s history, would never have been born if Hezekiah’s life wasn’t extended by the Lord. 

As much as I may want something at a particular moment, I do not want my will or desire to ever take precedence over the Lord’s good and perfect will for my life. For this to be true I must continually surrender my will to the Lord’s will, something Israel was never truly able to do.

Oh, God, I pray for the strong presence of Your Holy Spirit in me. Teach me, Lord, to listen and OBEY the Spirit’s leading always. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen

 

Friday, April 21: 1Samuel 9- In the midst of life.

This historical sliver of Israel’s history didn’t carry any big God-moment as I was reading. No verse leapt off the page to my heart. It seemed like any historical narrative I could read in any number of books.

But then almost as soon as I finished the chapter a spark hit me… in the midst of life, God shows up!

I found myself quietly saying, “Yes.” Yes, that is how the Lord often works. In the midst of life, a nudge, a thought, a Scripture, a song, a conversation happens and God uses it to direct me.

The Lord doesn’t need extraordinary moments to lead and guide. God doesn’t wait only for special days or moments, God is around me.  He is with me all the time and in everyday moments He is speaking and guiding.

Am I listening?

Saul could have begged off his servant’s suggestion but something told him to listen and his life was forever changed because he stopped to see Samuel. It is apparent that Saul doesn’t even know who Samuel is!

Here’s my challenge growing from my time with the Lord in Samuel 9. Will I keep my eyes and ears open to the Lord’s direction today? In all likelihood it won’t be as life altering as Saul’s but then again it could be. Will I be listening for the Lord’s voice, His nudge, His direction today and will I do this every day?

It doesn’t seem like Saul was necessarily listening for God, so God broke in. As a Christ-follower I have God, the Holy Spirit, in me and with me.  I can do better than Saul. I can be attentive to the Spirit directing me in the midst of life.

Oh, God, I am so blessed that You are a God who speaks, a God who directs and leads and cares and loves. I praise You, Lord, and I ask You to train me in understanding and discerning Your voice when You call… in every way You choose to communicate with me. I love You, Lord. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Thursday, April 20: 1Samuel 8- to be like everyone else.

Samuel was a great leader. He listened to the Lord and did as the Lord bid. But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice (3). So the people begged Samuel to anoint a king. Samuel went to the Lord and the Lord told Samuel it was not Samuel they rejected but the Lord as Israel begged for an earthly king (7).

God did not seem phased that Samuel’s sons weren’t following Him. I wonder if the Lord had a plan for future leadership about which we will never know.

Whatever God would have done, the people wanted a king to be like all the other nations (see 5 and 20). This truly was a rejection of the Lord and a desire to be like everyone else.

Isn’t that what we still want to this day… to be like everyone else?

I want a house like everyone else and a car like everyone else and a computer like everyone else and a… fill in the blank.

It is not that these things are bad, but is it wants the Lord wants for me, that is the question.

Maybe I should probe our (my) desires from the opposite direction. Does the Lord want me to have a house, car, computer, etc.?

God’s desires for us and not what others will think, should be my (your) motivation.

This thought bites… I suspect that I am motivated by what others think more than I want to admit!

Oh, Lord, I don’t even know how to speak right now. I feel conviction settling upon me.

Forgive me where I have erred and show me the correct way. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Wednesday, April 19: 1Samuel 7- Sheep need a shepherd.

Like sheep, Israel was prone to wander from the Lord. A neighbor’s god seems to bless them and so Israel turns to the neighbor’s god. A neighboring people finds success so Israel tries out the country’s god. Over time Israel is worshipping this god and that god and maybe the Lord alongside of those other gods.

When the Lord returns the Ark, Israel turned back to the Lord. So Samuel said to all the Israelites, “If you are returning to the LORD with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the LORD only (2b-4).

Samuel understood that fidelity to the Lord was the foundation for the nation. The Lord was their strength, their protection, their wisdom, their everything. When Israel trusted the Lord they prospered. When they followed the Lord’s direction they prospered. When they went their own way and adopted other gods they faulted.

Over and over again God welcomes them back when they repent.

As I considered this chapter I realized Israel’s story is my story. I, too, drift from the Lord. It is not so much that I out and out turn my back on the Lord, but I drift. I start to trust my intuition rather than rely of the Lord and His wisdom. Then God gets my attention and as soon as I turn back to Him He welcomes me and calls me to deeper fidelity.

Samuel knows that fidelity to the Lord is the KEY ingredient for a faithful Israel so at the first sign of returning to the Lord he declares what they all need to do.

Samuel’s role causes me to ask, “Who speaks truth into my life… into your life?”

Sheep need a shepherd. We all need someone who can speak truth into our lives, like Samuel did for Israel.

Oh, Lord, continue to provide voices who can speak Your truth into my life. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.