I Samuel 11-15 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He desires our obedience more than our sacrifice

The human will is a powerful drive. It keeps us moving forward and helps us accomplish good and sometimes great things. We see it in the very young when their will clashes with our will, perhaps as a little foot stomp of defiance. When left unchecked, a teenager often expresses this rebellion with door slamming, outbursts, and things can get ugly. From a very early age, my children more than once heard me repeat the scripture from today’s reading, “Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft,” and this was followed by an explanation of witchcraft. Their tender hearts really didn’t want to be a part of such a thing, and, thankfully, they avoided the rebellion that many teenagers allow to disrupt their young lives. Unfortunately, King Saul just didn’t get it.

@ I Samuel 15
In response to the Israelites’ demand for a king to rule over them, Samuel, under God’s direction, anointed the tall, handsome Saul to lead His people. I envision the mother’s of Israel tucking their children in at night with the assurance that all would be well because they now had a king to rule over them. Sadly, nothing was further from the truth.

“Then the Lord said to Samuel, ‘I am sorry that I ever made Saul king, for he has not been loyal to me and has refused to obey my command.’” (10) The first several months of King Saul’s reign were a disaster. In less than two years, Saul had managed to: usurp the role of priest by sacrificing a burnt offering to the Lord (13:8-14), starve his army so they did not have the strength to fight the Philistines (14:24-26), threaten killing his son because of his senseless oath (14:42-45) and disobey God’s direct orders to kill all the Amalekites (1-9). Saul certainly had been a busy king.

Saul’s disobedience led God to reject him as king and make His statement to Samuel in verse 10. When Samuel went to Saul with a heavy heart over God’s news, Saul did his best to cover his tracks and even lied to cover up his disobedience with the Amalekites – as if he could fool God. Saul argued, “I did obey…I carried out…I destroyed…” and I sacrificed. (20-21) But to this Samuel replied with a valuable lesson for all of us, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.” (22-23) And with that, Saul was rejected as king by God.

God did not include this story and others like them in the Bible to tattletale on His people. No, He included them as life lessons for us today. We may faithfully attend church, joyously sing a sacrifice of praise to Him, give to the poor and run ourselves ragged by serving on committees and doing good works.  However, if we are walking in disobedience to His voice, if we are doing all this instead of obeying Him in any area, our actions mean little to Him. In fact, He considers our rebellion and disobedience as sinful as something we would never do – witchcraft!

According to Jesus, the very beginning of our obedience is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Mark 12:30-31) If we spend more time with television, social networking or computer games than we spend meditating on Him, reading His word and praying, does He really honor and receive our sacrifice of time or money in our doing for Him? If we harbor hatred or unforgiveness towards someone, does He really honor and accept the sacrifices we make for Him? In light of I Samuel 15:22, whether or not they make us feel good, these are questions we should answer.

Moving Forward: As a New Testament believer, I’m thankful for the convicting power of the Holy Spirit that leads me to obedience. I want my sacrifice of praise today to reach God’s throne and please Him.

Tomorrow @ Psalms 36-38

Judges 12-16 (NLT) 

Discover His Heart: He is the God of mercy, patient beyond measure

Unlike all my friends, I wasn’t waiting with breathless anticipation for the day I would be licensed to drive a car.  I must admit I didn’t mind at all having my mom or friends drive me where I needed to go, and I guess this doesn’t speak well of my character.  But I think my greatest hindrance to being licensed was the driving test.  I knew I would be all over the written test with ease, but the driving test with its parallel parking portion was worrisome to me – where was the Mini Cooper when I needed it?  The thought of crunching one of those orange cones filled me with anxiety until someone explained to me that if I failed, I could take the test again!  Mercy!  I just love mercy! And I love the mercy that God extends to each one of us as He did to Samson in our reading today.

The story of Samson, a judge in Israel, is heart-wrenching. Samson was born and dedicated to God’s service as a Nazirite with a calling to deliver Israel from the Philistines, but he resisted his purpose.  Although Samson wore all the outward signs of one set apart, with his long hair and brute strength, he so often did not bear the heart of one.

Samson certainly showed faith in God’s Spirit in him when he took on the lion and 30 Philistine men, but he revealed himself to be self-centered and willful when he married from the very group he was sent to destroyThe word audacity comes to mind when I read Samson’s story, yet all of us are attracted at one time or another to the very thing that will do us the most harm.  Just a side note, the fact that Samson called his wife a heifer, well, that pretty much nailed his coffin for me.

@ Judges 16
Each willful decision brought Samson closer to destruction.  The playful cat and mouse game with Delilah ended badly for him, “Delilah lulled Samson to sleep with his head in her lap, and then she called in a man to shave off the seven locks of his hair. In this way she began to bring him down, and his strength left him. Then she cried out, ‘Samson! The Philistines have come to capture you!’ When he woke up, he thought, ‘I will do as before and shake myself free.’ But he didn’t realize the Lord had left him.” (19-20) Samson lost his hair, his strength, his eyes, but more importantly, He lost the Lord’s presence in his life.

To wake up one day without the nearness of His presence is a thought that drives me to my knees.  I cry with David, “Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.” (Psalm 51:11-12)

Fortunately, Samson’s story doesn’t end here because hair grows back and God forgives when we repent of our sins.  Samson’s hair came back and so did his strength, but it was his prayer that got God’s attention.  “Sovereign Lord, remember me again. O God, please strengthen me just one more time. With one blow let me pay back the Philistines for the loss of my two eyes.” (28) And Samson “killed more people when he died than he had during his entire lifetime.” (30)

Samson’s life was filled with disobedience and selfishness, but somehow he garnered the privilege of rubbing shoulders with the Biblical greats in the Hebrews 11 Hall of Faith through his renewed faith in God’s mercy. Though the road to his purpose had its share of potholes and detours, Samson was given one more opportunity to accomplish what he had been born to do when his death began the deliverance of Israel from the Philistines.  A life of folly was transformed to a life of faith when he prayed, “Sovereign Lord, remember me again… 

Moving Forward: I will run from the attractive things that seek to do me harm and rob me of my spiritual strength.  If I fail, with its consequences, I will run to the God of mercy and cry with a heart of repentance, “Sovereign Lord, remember me again.” 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 21-23

I Samuel 11-15 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He desires our obedience more than our sacrifice

The human will is a powerful drive. It keeps us moving forward and helps us accomplish good and sometimes great things. We see it in the very young when their wills clash with our wills, perhaps as a little foot stomp of defiance. When left unchecked, a teenager often expresses this rebellion with door slamming, outbursts and things can get ugly. From a very early age, my children more than once heard me repeat the scripture from today’s reading, “Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft,” and this was followed by an explanation of witchcraft. Their tender hearts really didn’t want to be a part of such a thing, and, thankfully, they avoided the rebellion that many teenagers allow to disrupt their young lives. Unfortunately, King Saul just didn’t get it.

@ I Samuel 15
In response to the Israelites’ demand for a king to rule over them, Samuel, under God’s direction, anointed the tall, handsome Saul to lead His people. I envision the mother’s of Israel tucking their children in at night with the assurance that all would be well because they now had a king to rule over them. Sadly, nothing was further from the truth.

“Then the Lord said to Samuel, ‘I am sorry that I ever made Saul king, for he has not been loyal to me and has refused to obey my command.’” (10) The first several months of King Saul’s reign were a disaster. In less than two years, Saul had managed to usurp the role of priest by sacrificing a burnt offering to the Lord (13:8-14), to starve his army so they did not have the strength to fight the Philistines (14:24-26), to threaten killing his son because of his senseless oath (14:42-45) and to disobey God’s direct orders to kill all the Amalekites (1-9) Saul certainly had been a busy king.

Saul’s disobedience led God to reject him as king and make His statement to Samuel in verse 10. When Samuel went to Saul with a heavy heart over God’s news, Saul did his best to cover his tracks and even lied to cover up his disobedience with the Amalekites – as if he could fool God. Saul argued, “I did obey…I carried out…I destroyed…” and I sacrificed. (20-21) But to this Samuel replied with a valuable lesson for all of us, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.” (22-23) And with that, Saul was rejected as king by God.

God did not include this story and others like them in the Bible to tattletale on His people. No, He included them as life lessons for us today. We may faithfully attend church, joyously sing a sacrifice of praise to Him, give to the poor and run ourselves ragged by serving on committees and doing good works, but if we are walking in disobedience to His voice, if we are doing all this instead of obeying Him in any area, our actions mean little to Him. In fact, He considers our rebellion and disobedience as sinful as something we would never do – witchcraft!

According to Jesus, the very beginning of our obedience is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Mark 12:30-31) If we spend more time with television, social networking or computer games than we do meditating on Him, reading His word and praying, does He really honor and receive our sacrifice of time or money in our doing for Him? If we harbor hatred or unforgiveness towards someone, does He really honor and receive the sacrifices we make for Him? In light of I Samuel 15:22, whether or not they make us feel good, these are questions we should answer.

Moving Forward: As a New Testament believer, I’m thankful for the convicting power of the Holy Spirit that leads me in obedience to God. I want my sacrifice of praise today to reach God’s throne and please Him.

Tomorrow @ Psalms 36-38

Judges 12-16 (NLT) 

Discover His Heart: He is the God of mercy, patient beyond measure

Unlike all my friends, I wasn’t waiting with breathless anticipation for the day I would be licensed to drive a car.  I must admit I didn’t mind at all having my mom or friends drive me where I needed to go, and I guess this doesn’t speak well of my character.  But I think my greatest hindrance to being licensed was the driving test.  I knew I would be all over the written test with ease, but the driving test with its parallel parking portion was worrisome to me – where was the Mini Cooper when I needed it?  The thought of crunching one of those orange cones filled me with anxiety until someone explained to me that if I failed, I could take the test again!  Mercy!  I just love mercy! And I love the mercy that God extends to each one of us as He did to Samson in our reading today.

The story of Samson, a judge in Israel, is heart-wrenching. Samson was born and dedicated to God’s service as a Nazirite with a calling to deliver Israel from the Philistines, but he resisted his purpose.  Although Samson wore all the outward signs of one set apart, with his long hair and brute strength, he so often did not bear the heart of one.

Samson certainly showed faith in God’s Spirit in him when he took on the lion and 30 Philistine men, but he revealed himself to be self-centered and willful when he married from the very group he was sent to destroyThe word audacity comes to mind when I read Samson’s story, yet all of us are attracted at one time or another to the very thing that will do us the most harm.  Just a side note, the fact that Samson called his wife a heifer, well, that pretty much nailed his coffin for me.

@ Judges 16
Each willful decision brought Samson closer to destruction.  The playful cat and mouse game with Delilah ended badly for him, “Delilah lulled Samson to sleep with his head in her lap, and then she called in a man to shave off the seven locks of his hair. In this way she began to bring him down, and his strength left him. Then she cried out, ‘Samson! The Philistines have come to capture you!’ When he woke up, he thought, ‘I will do as before and shake myself free.’ But he didn’t realize the Lord had left him.” (19-20) Samson lost his hair, his strength, his eyes, but more importantly, He lost the Lord’s presence in his life.

To wake up one day without the nearness of His presence is a thought that drives me to my knees.  I cry with David, “Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.” (Psalm 51:11-12)

Fortunately, Samson’s story doesn’t end here because hair grows back and God forgives when we repent of our sins.  Samson’s hair came back and so did his strength, but it was his prayer that got God’s attention.  “Sovereign Lord, remember me again. O God, please strengthen me just one more time. With one blow let me pay back the Philistines for the loss of my two eyes.” (28) And Samson “killed more people when he died than he had during his entire lifetime.” (30)

Samson’s life was filled with disobedience and selfishness, but somehow he garnered the privilege of rubbing shoulders with the Biblical greats in the Hebrews 11 Hall of Faith through his renewed faith in God’s mercy. Though the road to his purpose had its share of potholes and detours, Samson was given one more opportunity to accomplish what he had been born to do when his death began the deliverance of Israel from the Philistines.  A life of folly was transformed to a life of faith when he prayed, “Sovereign Lord, remember me again… 

Moving Forward: I will run from the attractive things that seek to do me harm and rob me of my spiritual strength.  If I fail, with its consequences, I will run to the God of mercy and cry with a heart of repentance, “Sovereign Lord, remember me again.” 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 21-23