The Danger of Presumption

Today’s reading: I Samuel 27-29; Luke17:1-19

15 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” Saul answered, “I am in great distress, for the Philistines are warring against me, and God has turned away from me and answers me no more, either by prophets or by dreams. Therefore I have summoned you to tell me what I shall do.” I Samuel 28:15

10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” Luke 17:10

Presumption may not be a word you hear or use every day, so let’s start with a definition. The Google dictionary says that presumption is “behavior perceived as arrogant, disrespectful, and transgressing the limits of what is permitted or appropriate.” A person with presumption is presumptuous.

Saul was presumptuous. Servants of the Lord must not be presumptuous. The nine lepers were presumptuous. Let’s look closer.

Saul was facing a military crisis. He had failed in all his attempts to find and kill, his perceived rival, David. Now the Philistine army was amassing on his border, ready to strike. Saul had a long history of presumption. He took matters in his own hands ignoring God’s law and Samuel’s instructions. God had left him, but Saul presumptuously continued to seek God’s help and direction. When he could not get an answer from God, he turned to a medium and sought the departed Samuel for guidance. Samuel merely reiterated the judgment that he had already pronounced on the king, that he would lose his kingdom. Samuel now added a timeline onto this verdict. Saul would die, with his sons, the next day. Saul was foolish to the end. His foolishness showed itself in presumption.

Jesus told a story about a hypothetical servant whose master waited on him rather than observing the normal division of labor. If that were to occur, we would charge the servant with being presumptuous, arrogantly accepting service from his master instead of respectfully offering service to him.

In another incident, Jesus healed ten lepers, an unheard of miracle. Yet only one of the ten thought to return and thank the Lord for His mercy to him. The nine were presumptuous.

Presumption shows itself in our expectations, as if God owed us something. It shows itself when we fail to be grateful for all our undeserved blessings. It shows itself in failure to confess our sin and repent before God, asking for forgiveness of our presumption.

Beware of presumption. It may not be a common word, but, I’m afraid, it is a common failure.

Heeding a Timely Warning

Today’s reading: I Samuel 25-26; Luke 16:19-31

32 And David said to Abigail, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! 33 Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt and from working salvation with my own hand! I Samuel 25:32-33

31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” Luke 16:31

A person’s life and eternal destiny depends on willingness to heed a warning.

Abigail interceded for her husband and household, warning David that he would regret taking revenge for Nabal’s insult. David saw the big picture, that God was the One watching over his life. The Lord was the One to whom David would answer. David was quick to hear (James 1:19). He heard the wisdom in Abigail’s message. He immediately called off the attack.

For Nabal things did not go well. God’s judgment fell on him and he died within days of this incident. What David had planned to do, God did. The result was the same, but, by leaving the matter in God’s hands, David did not incur guilt.

In the case of the rich man and Lazarus, the former had no concern for his soul or his eternal destiny until it was too late. He realized that his five brothers were similarly oblivious to what awaited them at death. He requested that Abraham send Lazarus back from the dead to warn his siblings to avoid the torment of Hades. Abraham told him that his brothers had sufficient information in the Scriptures, Moses and the Prophets, to escape torment and that if they did not heed the warnings already given, they would not heed the warnings of a resurrected man.

Indeed, many have heard that Jesus rose from the dead but ignore His words to their own destruction. They have been warned to flee the wrath to come but continue in complacency and unbelief (Luke 3:7; 13:1-5). Their attitude parallels that of Nabal, the fool, who thought himself safe from punishment. They assume the stance of the rich man who felt safe in his wealth.

Have you heeded the timely warning? We cannot hold on to this life. David knew that his soul belonged to God and that his actions in this world were either pleasing to Him or worthy of punishment. He chose to please God. Ultimately, neither David’s obedience nor our righteousness will be found a sufficient covering for our sin. Only Jesus Christ, who died for the sins of His people and came back from the dead, can make us worthy of eternal life, if we believe His timely warning. Do not delay. Believe Him now.

Choosing Your Master

Today’s reading: I Samuel 22-24; Luke 16:1-18

6 He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord’s anointed.” 7 So David persuaded his men with these words and did not permit them to attack Saul. I Samuel 24:6-7a

13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Luke 16:13

It is the single-minded person, one who knows whom he serves, who will be clear-sighted enough to make wise split second decisions in a crisis.

David was such a man. He knew what he believed and he held to it when he had to make the choice between a popular, logical option and a wise, godly one.

He and his men had been fleeing from Saul for some time. There were close calls when they barely escaped capture and sure death. They must have been weary of this kind of constant pressure. It was not fun.

Then, all of a sudden, their enemy was in their hands. He was helpless before them. David’s men urged him to finish him off and end the madness. David did not flinch. He knew immediately what to do and not do. He spared the king’s life but took the opportunity to prove to Saul that he was not against him. His men must have been incredulous. Saul showed temporary remorse for his treatment of David, but the pursuit would go on.

David did not serve two masters. He knew God well and served Him completely. He would be king, but in God’s time. He would not compromise his principles of trusting God to work in His way and on His schedule. Thus, when the opportunity came to kill the king, David knew instantly the right course to take.

Jesus taught that one must be clear about whom he serves. No one can truly serve two masters. There will come a day when loyalty will be tested. Which master will you serve? Only One is worthy of our complete devotion and He is the Triune God revealed in Bible. Any other master is a rival, a counterfeit god.

Prepare yourself for the test that will come. Who’s your master?

Ugly Ungratefulness

Today’s reading: I Samuel 19-21; Luke 15:11-32

4 And Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, “Let not the king sin against his servant David, because he has not sinned against you, and because his deeds have brought good to you. I Samuel 19:4

31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’” Luke 15:31,32

Ingratitude can bring irrational behavior and hatefulness toward others.

Saul was so blinded by jealousy and fear of David that he could not see that the man he wanted to kill was his most loyal and beneficial ally. Saul was king of Israel but the history of his reign is overshadowed by his senseless rivalry with a man who (as we shall see in subsequent readings) would not hurt him even when he could have easily assassinated him. Jonathan attempted to reason with his father and to point out how David had brought success to Saul but he could not keep this perspective clearly in mind. Saul would momentarily relent but then renew his pursuit of the man he feared.

Saul was ungrateful for David. Instead of thanking God for him, he spent most of his energy trying to destroy David.

A similar attitude can be seen in the parable of the prodigal son which is really as much a story about the older brother as it is the wayward younger brother. The older brother could not celebrate the return of his wasteful brother. The father begged him to join in the party, but he was offended by the graciousness and mercy of his father toward the returned son. He complained about not getting such glorious treatment himself. He had never eaten pig slop. He had always been safe and secure. But he focused on what he had not received. He resented the father’s generosity because he felt entitled to more than his brother.

It is curious that Luke does not tell us how the story ends. We leave them with the party going on. The father and older brother are standing outside discussing whether or not he will join the celebration. Does the brother continue to mope and pout, or does he enter into the food and festivities? We aren’t told.

How do you respond? Do you rejoice in the goodness and grace of God in your life or do you feel short-changed, deserving of much more? Are you grateful for God’s mercy or resentful that others who have sinned greatly have been blessed with forgiveness? Ungratefulness is ugly, but, worse than that, it reveals a hardened, lost heart. Think about it.

Rock the Boat

Today’s reading: I Samuel 17-18; Luke 15:1-10

14 And David had success in all his undertakings, for the Lord was with him. 15 And when Saul saw that he had great success, he stood in fearful awe of him. 16 But all Israel and Judah loved David, for he went out and came in before them. I Samuel 18:14-16

1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” Luke 15:1-2

He who does God’s will is likely to attract the attention and animosity of the vested elite of society. David and Jesus turned the course of history by doing God’s will. They were both beloved by the rank and file people of their day but drew scorn and hostility from those whose positions of power were threatened.

David distinguished himself early by his passion for the glory of the living God who Goliath and the Philistines disrespected (17:26). So vocal was he that he irritated some and attracted others, even Saul (17:31). But David’s success with Goliath and in subsequent battles eventually unsettled Saul who was increasingly fearful of him. Saul began to look for ways to eliminate David. Saul sought his own glory and completely misunderstood the glory of God that David so passionately defended.

Jesus brought division to His society. The outcasts loved Him. He brought them hope of forgiveness and redemption. The Pharisees and scribes grumbled because of the Lord’s acceptance of sinners. They sought to justify themselves before God and completely misunderstood the holiness of God and His mercy toward sinners.

Those who know God well and proclaim His name faithfully are liable to upset the powers that be. Seek to know God well. Seek to lift up His name faithfully. Accept the consequences. God’s approval is all that matters. Go ahead, rock the boat.

Rejection and Mercy

Today’s reading: I Samuel 15-16; Luke 14:25-35

26 And Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you. For you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.”      I Samuel 15:26

27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.                                                                                                                                 Luke 14:27

God is merciful but that quality must not be allowed to eclipse His holiness.

Saul persisted in disregarding the commands of God. In the battle with the Amalekites, he spared the king and the better animals rather than carry out the orders he had been given by God through Samuel. When confronted by Samuel, Saul shifted the blame to the people, making his sin even worse by failure to own up to his responsibility. He showed his lack of heart toward God by referring to the Lord as “your” (Samuel’s) God.

Jesus called people to follow Him and be His disciples, but He was not so desperate for followers that they could come on their own terms. He told them they must hate their relatives and even their own lives if they would follow Him. [see footnote]  Those who follow Christ carry their cross, ready to die for Him at any time. This would not be an easy road and one ought to count the cost before setting out.

Is there no mercy and grace for our failure and sin? Yes, of course, there is. Jesus showed mercy and grace to Peter who denied Him at the time of His arrest. Are disciples of Jesus in danger of rejection with no appeal for forgiveness? No. The Lord is forgiving and His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). But remember Who you serve. He is perfectly holy and we need to take seriously our walk with Him.

Christian brother or sister, learn from Saul who barely confessed his sin after repeated promptings by Samuel. Confess sin fully. Receive mercy and grace to go on. You get a fresh start each day. Jesus paid for your sins.

Footnote “[Jesus] teaches that being His disciple means loving Him so unreservedly that all other loves seem to be hatred by comparison.” Reformation Study Bible page 1818

Humility Rewarded

Today’s reading: I Samuel 13-14; Luke 14:1-24

14 But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.” I Samuel 13:14

11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14:11

Humility is a quality which God looks for in a person who is “after his own heart.” Saul was a negative example of this truth which Jesus emphasized in His teaching.

Saul had early success as king and military commander, but it did not last long. He knew he was supposed to wait for Samuel to meet him on the battlefield. He knew he was not to offer sacrifices, a responsibility reserved for priests. He knew but he rationalized that it was more important to take matters in his own hands and avert a loss in battle than to trust God to work despite the circumstances.

It cost Saul his kingdom to offer the sacrifices. His days were numbered and he would not have a son sitting on the throne. God had a man after His own heart who would sit on Saul’s throne. Saul lacked humility and trust in God and paid dearly for his arrogance.   In a short while he had gone from a frightened, self-deprecating nobody to a proud, self-righteous tyrant. Promotion can be disastrous to one’s humility.

Jesus made a number of observations at the dinner he attended. These observations served to provide a context for His teaching. He saw the pride and jockeying of the guests for the best seats at the meal. He told them to take the lowest seats to avoid possible embarrassment later on when they might be asked to give up their seats to more distinguished guests. He also told them to apply humility in inviting guests, not seeking to be repaid for their invitation. He mentioned being repaid at the resurrection of the just (v. 14). The point is that God has invited people to His banquet and been rejected. The Lord then invites those who were sick or even non-Jews because God does not honor those who exalt themselves but those who humble themselves, those who have nothing to offer.

If we would be godly, we must seek to grow in humility. Seek not the status and honors afforded by society, but, instead, seek to walk humbly before God, to be after His heart. Who’s on your guest list?

Finishing the Course

Today’s reading: I Samuel 10-12; Luke 13:22-35

23 Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way. I Samuel 12:23

32 And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. Luke 13:32

There is a point in the life of every minister that his work on earth comes to an end. Both Jesus and Samuel were looking at that point in their lives in today’s readings.

In what the ESV Bible calls “Samuel’s Farewell Address,” the prophet closes with the words above. He promises to pray for the people of Israel and to instruct them in the good and right way. This a fitting summary of the work of all those called to shepherd God’s people: prayer and the ministry of the word (Acts 6:4).

Likewise, Jesus’ ministry was characterized by teaching and prayer. In verse 22 we read, “He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem.” Luke frequently tells about Jesus’ prayer life. The Lord is aware that He is about to finish His course. Meanwhile, He teaches His way to Jerusalem where He will be crucified, made an offering for the sins of His people.

Not all of us are called to full-time ministry, but we, Christians, are all charged with finishing the course that God has given us. Be sure you include prayer and the study of God’s word. Be sure that you encourage your pastor to pray and to teach God’s word. Are there ways you can help him not be distracted from his calling?

Limits to Cause and Effect

Today’s reading: I Samuel 7-9; Luke 13:1-21

10 As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel. I Samuel 7:10

1 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way?      3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Luke 13:1-3

While cause and effect relationships exist in our experience, it is not possible to draw perfectly correct conclusions about those relationships because God intervenes in ways we do not always understand.

The Israelites suffered for years under oppression by the Philistines. Finally, they cried out to the Lord for deliverance. Samuel, who was faithful as both a judge and a prophet, called them together for prayer and repentance. Immediately, the Philistines were suspicious of this gathering and saw an opportunity to increase their power over Israel. In the short run, the Israelites were intimidated by the approach of their enemies. It must have seemed to them like the national prayer meeting was a really bad idea that was actually making things worse.

But then God intervened sending a tremendous thundering sound so horrific that the army of Philistea was thrown into confusion and defeat. The men of Israel chased them and struck them down.

In Jesus’ day, there were two incidents which resulted in speculation about causes and effects. Some Galileans were killed by Herod while attempting to offer sacrifices to God. A tower fell on a group of people at Siloam causing their deaths. Were those people merely reaping the consequences of their sins? Jesus denied that those victims were any worse sinners than their neighbors. He warned His hearers to repent or they would also perish.

There can be an apparent disconnect, at least in the short term, between a person’s spiritual life and their outward blessing or suffering. Sometimes evil people prosper in this world. Sometimes godly people face enormous suffering in this life (Psalm 73). Turning to the Lord is not a quick fix for all our difficulties. It may bring on greater difficulties. Ultimately, the Lord promises that His people will “dwell in the house of the Lord forever”, so we plod on in faith waiting for that day (Psalm 23:6b).  Are you suffering despite your obedience to God? Plod on in faith. May God give you grace.

Faithful and Responsible

Today’s reading: I Samuel 4-6; Luke 12:35-59

19 And he struck some of the men of Beth-shemesh, because they looked upon the ark of the Lord. He struck seventy men of them, and the people mourned because the Lord had struck the people with a great blow. 20 Then the men of Beth-shemesh said, “Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God? And to whom shall he go up away from us?”                                                                                                         I Samuel 6:19-20

Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.                                        Luke 12:48b

God holds people responsible according to what they have received from Him. We are to be stewards of God’s truth and God’s gifts.

The Israelites had entered into a covenant with God in which they were His unique people in all the earth (Exodus 19:1-6). God revealed His law to them which included instructions about the priesthood, the tabernacle, its furnishings, and the sacrifices to be offered. The Ark of the Covenant was to be kept in the most holy place in the tabernacle as it was where God met with the high priest on the Day of Atonement each year.

But in the days of the judges, everyone did what was right in their own eyes and, in that spirit, the priests allowed the ark to be carried onto the battlefield as they fought against their enemies, the Philistines. The plan backfired and Israel was defeated. God would not allow Himself to be manipulated or what He has declared sacred to be desecrated. Rather, God held His people responsible for what they had been given.

Peter asked Jesus if the parable about the servants waiting for their master was given to them or to all. In His typical fashion, Jesus redirects Peter’s mind to his own responsibility and away from what is being expected of others. In essence, Jesus tells him “everyone is responsible for what they have been given, so be concerned about what you have and what you do with what you have.”

Jesus has promised to return. Meanwhile, we have been given truth to apply, gifts to use, and opportunities to serve Him as we wait. Be faithful today with what you have for His glory.