Saul’s Stinking Legacy

Have a joyous resurrection day!

Today’s reading: 1 Samuel 13:1-14:52

My selection: I Samuel 14:47-48

When Saul had taken the kingship over Israel, he fought against all his enemies on every side, against Moab, against the Ammonites, against Edom, against the kings of Zobah, and against the Philistines. Wherever he turned he routed them. 48 And he did valiantly and struck the Amalekites and delivered Israel out of the hands of those who plundered them.

My reflections: Saul had great military victories as King of Israel. These are often overshadowed by his extremely foolish decisions and evil actions. Both Saul and David were victorious, and both men were sinners whose failures are recorded for all to see. Yet Saul’s failures seem to mark his life and legacy while David’s do not.

Saul was impatient and failed to trust God when it seemed that Samuel would not arrive in time to make the sacrifice before the battle. Saul impulsively issued a foolish command to the army to fast before and during the battle. Then he rashly committed to execute whoever broke the command. When it turned out to be Jonathan, his son who had won the day, he didn’t consider clemency but moved toward carrying out the sentence. Fortunately, the people themselves rebelled against this decision and forced Saul not to carry out the sentence.

Saul had lost the confidence of the people and even of his own son. From here on he seems to be obsessed with defending his position as king and that obsession clouds his vision and corrupts his thinking. Instead of confessing his sin and repenting, Saul dug in and attempted to hold on to his power, position, and prestige.

As a later king, Solomon, would write, Dead flies make the perfumer’s ointment give off a stench; so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor. Ecclesiastes 10:1
My challenge: Although Saul’s life brought many victories to Israel, it stunk because of his folly. It doesn’t take much. Learn from Saul’s example. Trust God. Do His will, His way, if you would be remembered fondly by succeeding generations.

Tomorrow’s reading: 1 Samuel 15:1-16:23

Godly Leadership:Teaching and Prayer

Today’s reading: 1 Samuel 9:1-12:25

My selection: I Samuel 12:18-25

So Samuel called upon the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day, and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel.

19 And all the people said to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for ourselves a king.” 20 And Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. 21 And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. 22 For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself. 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. 24 Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you. 25 But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.”

My reflections: The people of Israel had demanded a king so they could be like the other nations. God allowed them a king but, through Samuel, showed His power and displeasure by sending them thunder and rain in the midst of harvest season. Samuel taught the nation with a most memorable object lesson. They DID respond well to this message.

1. Full and prompt confession. They confessed that they had sinned in asking for a king and that this was not their only sin.

2. Humble recognition of needed prayer. They asked for prayer from Samuel.

Continuing his teaching, Samuel reminded them of God’s faithfulness to keep His covenant with them. He told them that instead of being fearful, they should serve the Lord faithfully with all their hearts. He promised to pray for them and to teach them as to how they should walk before God.

As people redeemed by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we must be quick to confess our sins and ask forgiveness. We must not lose heart and become fearful, for God will be faithful to forgive us. We also must not become passive and think that diligent obedience does not matter. We will not obey perfectly, but we must not think obedience is unnecessary. Faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is never alone.

My challenge: If you are a Christian with leadership responsibilities, your role is to teach and to pray for those you lead. Are you doing that? It is easy to worry and try to pressure others to do what is right rather than teach faithfully and pray fervently. Teach and pray today. Challenge the complacent. Confront the disobedient. Encourage the hopeless. May your ministry be as effective as Samuel’s was.

Tomorrow’s reading: 1 Samuel 13:1-14:52

God’s Glory and Judgment

Today’s reading: 1 Samuel 5:1-8:22

My selection: I Samuel 5:6;7

The hand of the Lord was heavy against the people of Ashdod, and he terrified and afflicted them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territory. 7 And when the men of Ashdod saw how things were, they said, “The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for his hand is hard against us and against Dagon our god.”

My reflections: God is committed to His own glory first and foremost. When the Israelites attempted to use the ark of the covenant as a good luck charm in battle against the Philistines, the LORD defeated them and let the ark be captured by the Philistines. Once the Philistines had the ark installed in the temple of their god, Dagon, the idol fell before the ark and was broken. The people of Philistea began to suffer from tumors. They began to pass the ark around and wherever it went judgment followed.

Although God had made a covenant with Israel, He was first of all committed to His own glory and when His people failed to obey and honor Him, He brought judgment upon them. God is free and He will judge whoever dishonors Him.

My challenge: Honor Him today. Take His commands seriously. Do not be presumptuous thinking you could never fall under His heavy hand of judgment.

Tomorrow’s reading: 1 Samuel 9:1-12:25

The Sovereignty of God in Repentance

Today’s reading: 1 Samuel 1:21-4:22

My selection: I Samuel 2:25b

But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the Lord to put them to death.

My reflections: People cannot repent without the grace of God in regeneration. Eli could confront his sons. He could plead with his sons. He could reason with them but he could not cause them to repent and they would not repent because they COULD not repent. Eli was powerless to change them and they were powerless to avoid the path of destruction they had chosen. Yet God uses means and, in the case of Jonah, He chose to use a resentful prophet to turn the hearts of the pagan people of Nineveh to Himself. Lesson one: proclaim the gospel which includes both law and grace but know that the results of your proclamation are in God’s hands.

The godly understand and accept that God is sovereign in repentance and, thus, in salvation. Eli, for all his failings, was quick to say to Samuel, “It is the Lord. Let him do what seems good to him.” (I Samuel 3:17b). Lesson two: give praise to God that His secret purposes in the life of every person will be completed for His glory.

My challenge: Proclaim the gospel diligently to the lost. Trust God to work in the hearts of those to whom you proclaim it. Accept that God is glorified in both saving sinners and judging sinners.

Holy God, may I be consumed with Your glory so that I proclaim the gospel faithfully but trust You completely to do Your will in the hearts of those I love.

Tomorrow’s reading: 1 Samuel 5:1-8:22

Respect for Women

Today’s reading: Ruth 2:1-1 Samuel 1:20

My selection: Ruth 2:8, 9, 22

8 Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. 9 Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping, and go after them. Have I not charged the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn.”

 22 And Naomi said to Ruth, her daughter-in-law, “It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, lest in another field you be assaulted.”

My reflections: Reading between the lines, one can easily see that, in Israel, during this period of the Judges, a poor woman gleaning in the harvest along side of the men would be in danger of being assaulted if she did not have the protection of the landowner. The poor had the right to gather behind the reapers (Leviticus 19:9-10; 23:22; Deuteronomy 24:19), but, in actuality, they were not safe from being accosted. God protected Ruth, but we are reminded of what little fear of God existed in those days in Israel. Legal rights and status do not change the hearts of men who can treat women as if they were a product to be consumed or exploited.

Christian men should be different if they understand that women, in general, and their mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, and female friends in particular were created in God’s image and are due equal respect not merely legally but socially and personally. Boaz modeled this beautifully in protecting Ruth from his workers. He did not allow her to be abused or exploited.

My challenge: Men, are you treating the women in your life with respect? Are you protecting them from exploitation as much as depends on you?

Women, do you know that you are worthy of respect as a woman? Are you alert and resistant to those men who are selfish and abusive? Is there a Boaz in your life who looks out for your best?

Jesus Christ, our ultimate Redeemer, is the One who truly frees us from the bondage of our sin as Boaz freed Ruth from the bondage of her poverty and childlessness. He is the model for all Christian husbands.

Ephesians. 5:25,33 “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

A husband that loves like Christ will be easy to respect. A woman who holds out for a husband like that will find it easy to respect him.

Tomorrow’s reading: 1 Samuel 1:21-4:22

Can failure be God’s will?

Today’s reading: Judges 20:1-Ruth 1:22

My selection: Judges 20:18

18 The people of Israel arose and went up to Bethel and inquired of God, “Who shall go up first for us to fight against the people of Benjamin?” And the Lord said, “Judah shall go up first.”

My reflections: The people of Israel were properly outraged by the evil that had occurred in Gibeah. They sought to punish those responsible, but the tribal leaders of Benjamin defended the guilty and blocked any execution of justice. Israel prepared to fight them. Again Israel properly sought God’s direction for how to begin the battle. Twice the LORD told them to go into battle and twice they were brutally defeated. Finally in the third battle, Israel was victorious.

Does God ever decree failure for His people who do His will? This incident would indicate that God may, at times, decree apparent failure for His people, even in a good and noble endeavor. We may not assume that it is never God’s will for us to “fail” at something He has told us to do. Success, as we understand it, may not be His will. Failure may be. Israel did eventually succeed, but it would have been wrong to conclude after one or two failures that they were on the wrong track, that they had misunderstood His directions.

I believe that the LORD was using the two early defeats in battle for another secret purpose. What secret purpose? We are not told. However, there is another notable incident in biblical history where we are told how apparent defeat really led to victory. Jesus’ death on the cross seemed like complete defeat at the time. Now we can see that it led to the ultimate defeat of Satan, the crushing of the serpent’s head after the bruising of Jesus’ heel. (Acts 2:22-24; Genesis 3:15).

My challenge: Has God called you to serve Him in some way that does not seem to be successful? If It is His call, remain steadfast in spite of apparent failure. Our calling is to be faithful. Success is not always what it seems. Success is to obey and keep on obeying.

Tomorrow’s reading: Ruth 2:1- I Samuel 1:20

The Ambitious Minister

Today’s reading: Judges 18:1-19:30

My selection: Judges 18:19-20

And they said to him, “Keep quiet; put your hand on your mouth and come with us and be to us a father and a priest. Is it better for you to be priest to the house of one man, or to be priest to a tribe and clan in Israel?” 20 And the priest’s heart was glad. He took the ephod and the household gods and the carved image and went along with the people.

My reflections: The Levite who had illegally been installed as priest to the household of Micah in Ephraim has now received a greater “call”. The men of Dan make him an offer he can’t refuse, to be the priest for a whole tribe rather than merely for one family. It is a real promotion and he is glad to take it. Besides, there were 600 armed men ready to pounce on him and his master should they cause any trouble.

Having already wandered from obedience to the law of God, the priest (whose name is never mentioned) had neither the character nor the commitment to resist this new “opportunity.”

My challenge: If you are a minister of the gospel, do you serve the Lord and obey Him whether or not it advances your status, financial prosperity, or security? Are you eager to promote yourself? Do you consider whether the offer for a more prestigious position is in accord with the ways of God as revealed in His word? Are you caving in to pressure from powerful forces to act in ways that are not true to God’s word?

Minister, be faithful. Make obedience to God your sole aim, not personal advancement or the appeasement of powerful people.

Christian, pray for your pastor and all those who are serve the Lord that they may be faithful and content to serve in the place and way they have been called.

Tomorrow’s reading: Judges 20:1-Ruth 1:22

Everyone is doing it!

Today’s reading:Judges 14:1-17:13

My selection:  Judges 17:6:

In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

My reflections: The theme of the day in the period of the Judges was “everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Samson, though called to be a judge, was a prime example of political leadership corrupted by evil. The Ephraim family in Ch. 17 was another example of religious corruption as they set up their own personal temple and priest in their own home rather than obey the law of God.

Enlightenment thinking laid the foundation for people doing what seems to be self-evidently right and true. There may have been a time when there was some consensus based on a Christian legacy in western civilization that vaguely reflected the Bible. That is certainly not the case now and has not been for many years. Who is to say what is self-evidently right and true?

Ancient Israel had the law of God but they did not know it or heed it. The problems they encountered were many. The modern church has the law of God. Do we know it? Do we heed it?

My challenge: Pray today that God would revive His Church and turn His people to a fervent passion for obedience. It would change our world.

Tomorrow’s reading: Judges 18:1-19:30

Jephthah’s Foolish Vow

Today’s reading: Judges 10:6-13:25

My selection:

39 And at the end of two months, she returned to her father, who did with her according to his vow that he had made. She had never known a man, and it became a custom in Israel 40 that the daughters of Israel went year by year to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in the year.

My reflections: Jephthah shows an appalling lack of understanding of God and His ways. He made a rash vow, apparently, to gain God’s favor in the battle. To do this implies the one making the vow believes that God can be pressured or needs to be pressured to act in some way. God is free from any constraint. He does not need a man to make a vow in order to carry out His will.

What exactly did Jephthah vow to do? Did he vow to offer his daughter as a sacrifice to God or did he merely vow to not give his daughter in marriage so that she remained a virgin all her life? I believe it was the former but there may be some dispute about this.

Either way, Jephthah should not have made this vow and, having made it, he should not have carried it out. The victory in the battle proved to be the Lord’s will and it would have happened despite the vow.

My challenge: Do not make vows in order to attempt to coerce God. Trust God that His plans and purposes will be carried out. He has given us ample promises to answer our prayers in Jesus’ name according to His wise will. Trust Him to always do what is best for His children.

Tomorrow’s reading: Judges 14:1-17:13

Beware the Seduction of Power

Today’s  reading: Judges 9:1-10:5

My selection: Judges 9:1-2

Now Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem to his mother’s relatives and said to them and to the whole clan of his mother’s family, 2 “Say in the ears of all the leaders of Shechem, ‘Which is better for you, that all seventy of the sons of Jerubbaal rule over you, or that one rule over you?’ Remember also that I am your bone and your flesh.”

 My reflections: Gideon had to be coaxed by God to take a leadership role in Israel. This was not true of his sons. There arose a controversy between the illegitimate son of Gideon, Abimelech, and his 70 other sons. Abimelech won over his mother’s relatives in Shechem to make him their ruler. Once established he killed the 70 sons of Gideon. Eventually, however, even the people of Shechem would grow dissatisfied with Abimelech and he would be overthrown.

An aspiring leader must seek the Lord’s direction and timing to move into a position of authority. Gideon, timid and hesitant as he was, could not avoid the role that God had designated for him. Abimelech, aggressive, violent, and conniving as he was, could not hold on to the role not designated for him.

Jesus’ disciples fought among themselves for first place but Jesus told them that was not the path to greatness.

Mark 10:42-45

42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” 

My challenge: Do you aspire to a powerful position? Are you willing to be a servant and wait for God to give you the position He has for you? Are you resisting God’s calling to you for a position of influence? Will you trust Him to sustain you in that role?

Seek to serve Christ faithfully whether in a very visible position or in obscurity.

Tomorrow’s reading: Judges 10:6-13:25