1 Samuel

Tuesday Devotional: 1 Samuel 21

bibleRead 1 Samuel 21:1-9

 4But the priest answered David, “I don’t have any ordinary bread on hand; however, there is some consecrated bread here…”

Religion requires works that overlook a need for the sake of a score.  The Gospel requires personal sacrifice that creates a heart for the stranger for the sake of Jesus Christ.  In many ways, religion is easier.  We can understand scores.  We can understand a checklist.  What’s difficult for us to comprehend is an open-ended demand for love.  We respond with quantifying questions: “Love who?  How much love?  When should I love?”  This is because our sinful natures are not able to love naturally, increasingly, daily.  Trying to love that way is like holding our breath underwater until we can break the surface and breathe the oxygen we were made for.  But the love of God demands the love of God.  Period.  The first victory is the realization that we are totally incapable of that demand and therefore need God every step of the way.  As much as God wants us to turn to Jesus and rely on him for everything, sin also has a passion for redirecting our attention away from Jesus and back onto ourselves, leaving us more likely to seek our own righteousness through a list  we can follow as opposed to a task that we know we would fail at.

The Gospel always sees a specific need over a specific rule.  Is someone naked?  Give them clothes.  Is someone hungry?  Give them food.  Is someone homeless?  Give them a home.  Is someone sad?  Give them a hug.  These are the standards of Jesus and His Gospel and therefore must be the instinct of a person claiming identity in Christ and calling themselves a Christian.  A Christian does not ask for papers first and then serves second.  A Christian professes faith in the Suffering Servant and is remade in His image.  Not as a leader.  Not as a King.  Not as anything but a servant.  When we realize that our sensitivity to the needs of our fellow brothers and sisters is being overshadowed by our status, our system or our score we must pray that the Holy Spirit convict us of our religiosity and reclaim us in the name of Jesus for the sake of Jesus as a disciple of Jesus.  Actions always speak louder than words, and when our actions glorify ourselves we are no longer servants, no longer disciples and no longer Christians.

 

 

Serving the King: Obedience

Many characteristics may define a Christian life.  Many things may be signs that someone truly lives their faith in correspondence with the Gospel.  In this reflection series, we’ll explore how different Scriptures emphasize service as a defining character trait of the Christian.

Service can be defined as what you do for something or someone.  But in the Gospel context, service is much larger than that.  Service, according to the teaching of Jesus, is a way of life.  More than an aspect Christian character, it IS Christian character.  For the next five weeks we’ll discover five elements of service that please God.

  • Serving with Obedience
  • Serving with Strength
  • Serving with Suffering
  • Serving with Priorities
  • Serving with Change

 

Serving with Obedience (1 Samuel 15)

In 1 Samuel 15, we are plunged into the moment of no return for Saul, the newly anointed first King of Israel, and his relationship with God.  After Israel demanded a King of their own in place of God, God granted their request and gave them Saul.  Although he began his reign over Israel as a humble-hearted servant, Saul’s character began to change with success and popularity.  As is the case with many of us, Christian or not, the moment we see more of ourselves we see less of everything else.  This is where we find Saul as we enter into Chapter 15.

However, at this point we can’t be too critical of Saul.  Saul still believed that he was doing God’s work and acting in a way pleasing to God.  In the passage, God had given Saul direct orders to deal with the Amalekites completely and conclusively.  With zeal and strength in the Lord, Saul overpowered them with ease and was left with the choice: to see his orders out to the end or to compromise God’s will to pursue his own.  Unfortunately Saul made the same mistake that we often do. He compromised God’s true will in order to follow his own interests and desires.

God ordered Saul to eliminate the Amalekites completely. Although Saul defeated them on the battlefield, his priorities after the fight changed once he let his heart and the people around him influence his decision-making.  As the battle came to a close, Saul had the king of the Amalekites, King Agag, alive and potentially useful for a ransom reward.  Saul also found himself with an impressive financial and material bounty taken from the Amalekites.  As Saul began to listen more to the desires in his own heart, the voice of God faded ever further into the background.  Saul concluded that God would not think critically of his decision to do what he truly desired as long as God’s command was at least partially obeyed.  To Saul, there was large-scale sin and small-scale sin and God would naturally view his as that of the smallest order.  After all, he did defeat the people God ordered him to.  Would God be so displeased if he took a little reward for himself on a part of his dutiful “service” and “obedience?”

Samuel, the prophet who was God’s messenger during Saul’s ruling years, entered the scene as Saul was carrying out these sacrifices.  Noticing Saul’s blatant disobedience, Samuel began to rebuke Saul for his actions.   At this point it is far too easy for us to judge Saul’s actions, shocked that someone could disregard the commands of God in such a manner.  However, as we read this passage in front of the mirror, Saul’s actions following Samuel’s initial rebuke has a lot in common with us.  Saul begins to make excuses as to why he did not do everything God had demanded.  To this Samuel has a powerful, one-word response.  STOP.

As Christians who actively work in the church, or even as Christians who are living our days under the banner of Christ, there are often times when we clearly are aware of what we are supposed to do, yet we hesitate.  For whatever reason, we doubt either our initial calling or the necessity to follow that calling to the exact specifications.  In other words, we all face moments when we want to do one thing and God wants us to do another.

It is never easy to follow a path that seems lead nowhere, or lack a purpose and direction.  However, as Christians, there must be a deeper motivation to our service.  Our service can never be about knowing the destination ahead of time, or the easiest way to get there.  As Christians and God’s children, we must follow and obey because we are aware that the One handing out the orders has our best interests in mind and deserves our service.  The moment we begin to stray from our orders is the moment that we have either lost trust in God’s ability to know how to do something, or lack the faith that he knows how to get us somewhere.  Either way, straying from the will or plans of God shows complete lack of respect.  We are prideful beings who like control and only God can heal this sickness in us.

It’s important to remember that all along Saul thought God would understand and be pleased with his actions.  Saul is not sinning in the pursuit of unrighteousness.  He is under the impression that God’s righteousness can find harmony or balance with our own personal desires.  What we learn from Saul is that, as much as we have been programmed to repent of our sins and all of our unrighteousness, we as Christians need to be ever aware of sins done out of righteousness and “good deeds.”  The one thing that Saul never says is, “I’m sorry,” or “I was wrong.”  He could not believe that God disregarded his efforts and achievements.  How could an obedient servant be criticized for such a trivial deviation from the original objective?

As we carry out duties within the church and society we must always be aware of why we are doing the things we do for God, and if we are serving to be obedient to God or to our own hearts.  In other words, do we obey out of a love for God?  Or do we obey out of a love for ourselves?  As Christians, although our dependence on sin will fade over time, as we are reborn in spirit we must be aware of the never-ending presence of sin in our lives.  Sinful desires can be overcome, but sin will never disappear as long as we are alive.  In Jesus Christ, God is with us, but because of the fall, so is sin.  Even as we go to church on Sunday and serve, even as we share the word of God, we must never forget that none is good but God.  The only “good” person has ransomed us out of our imperfection.  It takes the realization of God’s saving grace through the work of Jesus Christ to find true motivation to serve with natural, genuine obedience to God alone.  We ultimately find the motivation to “be good” only because he is perfect.  Jesus calls us to be servants, not out of the promise of riches or rewards, but out of a desire to be one with him through our sacrifice in the name of obedience.

Tuesday Devotional: 1 Samuel 2

1 Samuel 2:12-26bible

12 Eli’s sons were scoundrels; they had no regard for the Lord. 13 Now it was the practice of the priests that, whenever any of the people offered a sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come with a three-pronged fork in his hand while the meat was being boiled 14 and would plunge the fork into the pan or kettle or caldron or pot. Whatever the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. This is how they treated all the Israelites who came to Shiloh. 15 But even before the fat was burned, the priest’s servant would come and say to the person who was sacrificing, “Give the priest some meat to roast; he won’t accept boiled meat from you, but only raw.”

16 If the person said to him, “Let the fat be burned first, and then take whatever you want,” the servant would answer, “No, hand it over now; if you don’t, I’ll take it by force.”

17 This sin of the young men was very great in the Lord’s sight, for they[a] were treating the Lord’s offering with contempt.

18 But Samuel was ministering before the Lord—a boy wearing a linen ephod. 19 Each year his mother made him a little robe and took it to him when she went up with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice. 20 Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, saying, “May the Lord give you children by this woman to take the place of the one she prayed for and gave to[b]the Lord.” Then they would go home. 21 And the Lord was gracious to Hannah; she gave birth to three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord.

22 Now Eli, who was very old, heard about everything his sons were doing to all Israel and how they slept with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 23 So he said to them, “Why do you do such things? I hear from all the people about these wicked deeds of yours. 24 No, my sons; the report I hear spreading among the Lord’s people is not good. 25 If one person sins against another, God[c] may mediate for the offender; but if anyone sins against the Lord, who will intercede for them?” His sons, however, did not listen to their father’s rebuke, for it was the Lord’s will to put them to death.

26 And the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor with the Lord and with people.

How often do we take what doesn’t belong to us?  How often do we freely give of what we have? One follows the standard trajectory of the human heart.  The other follows a trajectory dictated by the spirit of Jesus Christ.  We take what is not ours due to a disregard for others and an over-inflated view of ourselves.  From that vantage point, we lack the ability to even see the interests of others because our vision is dominated by self.  And since we cannot see others at all, we can’t see their sadness as a result of their loss;  we are preoccupied by the joy that results in our gain.  By contrast, the giving heart of the Spirit echoes the heart of God.  This heart doesn’t simply evolve an interest or value in giving.  This new heart is defined by giving.  This new heart finds it nearly impossible to take and all too natural to give.  Giving in this case does not leave you without, with less than you had.  It is giving what was not yours to begin with and leaves you with what was always there.  God has brought all of us into this world not for us to fall in love with it.  He brought us into this world so we can fall in love with him through our experience in his creation.  Thus, when we fall in love with who he is, we become less aware of what he has given or taken away.  At this point it is him we desire, and nothing can take him away from us once we find him.