Friday, October 14th
By: Terrence Raper
I guess this should make me feel bad, but in a lot of ways I identify with Saul throughout most of these last chapters of 1 Samuel. We don’t lead very parallel lives. That is to say, there isn’t a whole lot of killing and foreskin collecting in my life(actually none, in case you were worried). However I feel like Saul’s story in these chapters is a desperate one. He is a man who was ordained king, and for a brief time was on top of the world. Saul even had favor with God for a short time. However he disobeyed God, and continued down that path.
In Saul’s disobedience, he kept looking for a quick fix. So as he has lost favor with God, and Samuel has ordained someone else as king, Saul thinks he can fix this, just by killing the future king. He continues to make poor decisions, and soon his family is involved. Saul is making a huge mess of everything. I can relate to this. I have had times in my life when I went against what God wanted for me. Because of my disobedience I began to suffer in some way, and instead of repenting and changing my behavior-I looked for a quick fix. A way out of the discomfort without confession.
We can make a huge mess if we decide to go our own route after we have sinned. God has so much better planned for us in our lives, than running from him, and feeling awful. We may have to go through the pain of confessing, or coming clean with God and others. However the reconciliation will free us from the feelings of desperation. And it will eventually repair our sin and relationships.
Thursday, October 13th
By Terrence Raper
Saul has some good moments, but eventually fails to follow God. Samuel is tasked with secretly anointing a new king behind Saul’s back. This process for choosing the next king laid out in this chapter has always been interesting to me. God tells Samuel it’s going to be one of Jesse’s sons, and God speaks to Samuel as each one passes by. I can remember God talking to people in the Bible, and I can remember examples of people casting lots. In Chapter 16 it seems like Samuel is doing both in real time. That just stuck out to me.
Samuel’s connection to God in this moment of choosing the next king, reminds me a lot of Paul’s final instructions in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Paul tells them to “pray continually”- Which was “pray without ceasing” in the King James, the original way I heard the scripture. I have always thought of Paul’s instruction in terms of literal and nonliteral. I believe Paul was asking the Thessalonians to be faithful, and prayerful: reminding them it is important to submit to God in all things.I also think Paul was talking about a mindfulness. I don’t mean mindfulness in a new age kind of way. I think Paul was asking them to think of everything in terms of Godly wisdom. I believe this to be a step in the process of obedience to God between belief and actions.
So Saul heard the voice of God in real time. This is not impossible, but it hasn’t been a part of my experience of God. I have had to begrudgingly ask myself what truths do I know about God, and in turn how would God like me to act, react, respond in this scenario. What does Godly wisdom tell me about this scenario?
Wednesday, October 12th
Jonathan and his armor-bearer are riding a pretty incredible high in Chapter 14. God has clearly given them victory over 20 men, and He continues to allow them to prosper. Jonathan knows all of this prosperity is coming from God. Evidently he didn’t know the entire promise that his dad had made to make the victory possible, at least that is his story.
I find it hard to believe (even by Old Testament standards) that Jonathan didn’t know of the covenant Saul had made. In my opinion, Jonathan knew the details of the promise his dad had made with God. Jonathan was just acting like most of us would have acted after such a hugely successful day. I feel like we have all fallen victim to this in some way. We have a good run, or a big win and it changes the way we act. Sometimes humble people become conceited. Some hard working people decide to ease up and take a little break from the hard work. Sometimes we begin to overestimate ourselves and make lazy choices. Anyone who has ever taken a long break from exercising understands this let down. The moment you step back onto a treadmill for the first time in months, and you see how much you have regressed.
Life is long. We will have extreme highs – and lows. Sometimes the lows will immediately follow the highs, and conversely. I think what Paul was trying to teach us in Galatians 6:9 is to calibrate our effort. Galatians 6:9 doesn’t assume that someone could live an entirely obedient life. I think it teaches us to continue to strive for excellence at all times. Even when we feel worthless, or when we feel like we are on top of the world. We must not grow tired of trying to do what is best in all situations.
Jonathan grew complacent. Saul grew complacent. God had to continue to remind them of the favor he had shown them. Being mindful of our blessing is not for God’s benefit. Continuing to know how well the divine has treated us, and of the gift of Jesus, should give us fuel for doing good.
Tuesday, October 11th
By Terrence Raper
These chapters really shone a light on how great Samuel was. He was completely blameless. He even offers a penance for anyone who would have ever had a grievance with him. The tragedy of Samuel’s service to the people of Israel is during his old age. He is forced to step down as leader, and knows that things are going to get very bad.
Samuel is still clearly displeased with the choices his people have made. This had to be exceptionally difficult for him. He had lead Israel faithfully, and blamelessly, but they continued to reject him and God. Samuel laid out what will happen to his people, and all the trouble that will befall them. They still refused to obey.
Nothing is as frustrating or heartbreaking as watching someone you love experience hardships that could have been avoided. I know I have struggled with this throughout my life. I have had to watch people that I love harm themselves in unnecessary ways. I have fought with these people. I have tried giving advice. I have conveyed first hand experience with them of the bad choices I have made. Yet, for some people none of that works.
1 Samuel 13:13 “You have done a foolish thing,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. 14 But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”
Monday, October 10th
1st Samuel 8:19,20
But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”
by: Terrence Raper
I said yesterday that I struggled drawing a parallel with the God of the Old Testament, and the grace of Jesus shown in the New Testament. Jesus represented God, but in a way that seems to us studying the Bible years later completely new. In some ways he made obedience seem more realistic. He also taught us that even though obedience may be more realistic, it will require a lot of forgiveness and a different way of thinking about obedience. We will have to strive for excellence in how we treat each other. We will no longer work out our good deeds on some sort of accounting ledger in hopes that we are in the black with God.
Before, it was about how well we followed all of the law. The law seemed tangible, and measurable. In a way, that’s how we like it. We love tracking our progress. At the very least we like noticing the failings of others. Then Jesus tells us, we are missing the point. He explains that God has a plan. We say “okay, what is it?” We are told to trust in the plan. We ask again, “what is it?” We seem to only trust in God’s plan when we understand it. We have a hard time tracking the measurables within God’s plan. This has been the story of us for a long time. The people of Israel got tired of waiting. So when Samuel got old they told him “appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have (I Samuel 8:4).” Basically we have done it God’s way, now we are interested in the system they have in other nations. This is the longing for more than what God has given us.
We all act this way. We act impatiently with our money, our relationships, with our expectations. This is not the behavior of faithful followers of God. One thing I have heard said in every church I have ever attended is “God is good”. Some of us even say this on Sunday mornings to stir the congregation to comment back “all the time”. Do we truly believe that God is good? Because if we did truly believe God is good, our whole world would be different. We would trust that God had our best interest in mind. We would stop rushing our own plans. We would stop trying to make relationship works that aren’t blessing us. We wouldn’t try to make scriptures and truths fit into our own agenda. We would be more faithful with our time and resources.
The Israelites failed to remain faithful. They stopped believing God was going to do what was best for them. So they wanted a king. King Saul is a fascinating person in the Bible. I find something newly perplexing every time I dive into these Scriptures. I hope I find something new to share with everyone moving forward.
Sunday, October 9th – Start of Week 12
By : Terrence Raper
The Philistines capture the ark of the covenant, and it seems like a huge symbolic victory, to accompany the actual victory over the Israelites. Except for the part where God begins to place His “heavy hand” on all those around the ark of the covenant. Steven Spielberg was not too far off with his portrayal of what trouble befalls those who mess with the physical symbol of God’s covenant. Several cases of tumors, and a crushed pagan deity, and now no one wants the ark in their town.
The ark in these few chapters reminds me of the anecdotal nature my parents used to talk about the prospect of my brothers and I being kidnapped. They used to say that they weren’t worried about anyone snatching up one of us. My parents joked that we would have been promptly returned to them due to how much trouble we would have caused. Also, that we would have annoyed the kidnappers so much that they would have risked being caught, and would have given up any hope of ransom just to return us home.
The return of the ark to the Israelites came with even more bloodshed. Some Israelites were killed for looking inside. I still find it hard to reconcile the God of the Old Testament, with the father of Jesus. It is hard to see the forgiving actions displayed by Jesus, connecting to the seemingly static commands of God. I believe God is omnipotent and all knowing. So I wonder sometimes if this is the way it had to be, or was this bloody history found in the Old Testament part of God actually changing his approach towards human kind?
Saturday, October 8
It is so easy to get lost in our understanding and planning sometimes. We forget just how little a scope we have on life and forget that God’s ways are not our ways and don’t trust what He is doing. Responding to the Holy Spirit and discerning the nudges that it gives is so important. I love the story in 1 Samuel 3 when Samuel is called. It is a powerful and even a little funny story. I always chuckle a little when Samuel, after hearing God is running back and forth to Eli saying here I am and Eli just sends him back to bed.
I can’t imagine the intensity of that encounter! To hear God and have him tell you his plans. The wonderful application I believe we can take from this story is to answer when God calls, trust his plans, and stay in the word. The last few verses sum that up very well I believe. 1 Samuel 3:18-21″ So Samuel tole him everything and did not hide anything from him. Eli responded, “He is the Lord. He will do what he thinks is good.” Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him, and he fulfilled everything Samuel prophesied. All Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a confirmed prophet of the Lord. The Lord continued to appear in Shiloh because there he revealed Himself to Samuel by His word.”