Today’s Reading: 1 Samuel 15 and Psalm 16
Good Morning, it’s Monday! As I write to you this morning, I’m aware that some of you may be heavy hearted as you face another week. Those that live in Bloomington/Normal are feeling the rippled effect of structural changes at State Farm. Having to put all of our faith in God and trusting Him to reveal His plan in His time is so very difficult. As I read through 1 Samuel 15 today I noticed two reappearing themes; surrender and obey. Oh I know, don’t you just want to open a new browser and do some online shopping about now? One thing that I just love is control. The very idea of surrendering and submitting my life and all its nitty gritty details to God just makes me sweat. I like the idea of doing good works and becoming a better Christian by reading the Bible and participating in small group. But, the idea of totally surrendering my life and obeying His commands all the time is something I really have to grapple with.
I found myself sort of sympathizing with Saul today. Through Samuel, God gave his command for Saul to attack the Amalekites and completely destroy everything they had. The order was clear. Do not spare any living thing that has breath. So, Saul summons his army, sets up an ambush and strikes down the Amalekites. When it’s all said and done he also kind of holds back a few of the best sheep, cattle and a few valuable objects from the plunder. He later claims that these items are to be used as an offering to God. Do you ever “kind of” follow God’s commands? I know I certainly do. It’s hard to be all in…all the time. When faced with vulnerability it’s in our human nature to take control and try to preserve ourselves. I really can’t blame Saul for holding back a few sheep. I know I hold back a few dollars for the ol’ rainy day fund whenever I get the chance. I have to discipline myself to remember that hoarding God’s gifts will not lead to security. We know this simple truth and yet we disobey our Heavenly Father over and over. Each time, he refines us and sometimes makes the next lesson in obedience a little more difficult so that we remember. I love the HCSB translation of today’s text. Listen to what Samuel says to Saul about his transgression:
“Does the Lord take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? Look: to obey is better than sacrifice to pay attention is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination and defiance is like wickedness and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has rejected you as King.” 1 Samuel 15:22-24 HCSB
By then end of the Chapter, Saul loses his Kingship because he wanted to do things his way. If only he had been obedient and followed God’s command, he would have been given the kingdom and so much more. The last verse in chapter 15 says this:
“Samuel never again visited Saul. Samuel mourned for Saul, and the Lord regretted He had made Saul king over Isreal.” 1 Samuel 15: 35 HCSB
The Lord regretted his choice. It’s not very often that we see the word “regret” associated with God in the Bible. Certainly, Saul felt deep regret. Of course he confessed his sin to Samuel and to God but it was too late for total restoration. This is a heavy message for a Monday morning but when you read between the lines, the underlying truth is that God keeps his promises to those that are obedient to Him. When we are willing to release control, to be all in, then and only then can His plan be revealed to us. Today’s psalm says this:
“…Therefore, my heart is glad and my spirit rejoices; my body also rests securely. For You will not abandon me. You will not allow Your Faithful One to see decay. You reveal the path of life to me; in Your presence is abundant joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures.” Psalm 16:9-11
Saul may have fallen, he may have lost his opportunity to be king but he was not abandoned. If you’ve fallen off your throne, and you’re facing this week with fear and anxiety, listen for His calling. Come to his alter. He will reveal the path and you will obey. At the end of that path, no matter how many twists and turns, how many set backs or storms, your Heavenly Father will greet you at the end.