1 Samuel 7:3-17
Samuel is a great picture here of Jesus Christ, the true and ultimate judge. Jesus comes to turn our hearts back to the God, to be a mediator between us and God, and to intercede continually for us with God, even as we cry out to him for mercy. We think so often of judgement in exclusively negative and stark terms. I always think of judgement as the pronouncement and execution of punishment, and of the OT judges as those who foreshadow and facilitate pain for Israel.
But judgment is simply about administering justice and judges are those who carry out that work. Samuel judged Israel here, as Jesus judges believers in him today. Samuel offers a sacrifice to atone for Israel’s guilt, they turn their hearts to the Lord in repentance, and therefore God’s justice is not to punish them according to their guilt, but to make peace by his grace. Samuel’s ministry here is pointing us to the hope of the gospel for guilty idolaters. Through repentance and faith in Christ as our atoning sacrifice, the mediator of a new covenant, and the one who intercedes for our souls, our punishment has already been endured and reconciliation with God is now the facilitation of justice.
Even as we regularly press into the gospel, repenting of sin, turning to Jesus in faith, we must be aware that we have an enemy who wants to rob us of reconciliation. He will always attack us when we go to confess sin. He will always target us when we are turning to Christ. The rhythm of gospel growth is continually reconciling with God through repentance and faith and that always provokes opposition. So we must be on guard and alert as we pursue this way of life.
Lastly, just a thought on this Ebenezer stone, a memorial of remembrance for what God did to deliver them. It’s certainly a worth while practice to create reminders and ways of reconnecting to specific work God has done in our lives, to bring us back to worship and gratitude. But for the first time ever (I know, I’m slow), I realize that this is precisely what Baptism and Communion are for the Church. The Lord’s Table and the immersion in baptismal waters are visual reminders of how God has delivered us from own enemies and each and every time we bear witness to them or participate in them we are called back again to worship and rest in what God has accomplished for us by his power.
1 Samuel 8:1-9
There are a few sad things in this text. First, we see Samuel repeat the errors of Eli. He appoints his sons to be judges in Israel, but they did not fear the Lord or walk with God. They brought more corruption and idolatry back to Israel. Like Eli's sons, everybody knew it too. Their sin was observable for everyone and the corruption of leaders brought disillusionment to Israel. They were tired of their leaders turning away from God and leading the people away from God. And that brought about the second sad thing.
Israel begged for a king. They were tired of the form of leadership God had established for them. And even though they're frustration was with flawed human leaders, their rejection of this form of government was a rejection of God's governance. Samuel took it personally, but God so did God. And God's instruction to "obey the voice of the people" was not an approval of their demand, but an indictment on their desire. God gave them over to what they wanted, not as a blessing, but as a consequence.
This is the essence of sin... to reject God as King and place someone else on the throne or assume the throne ourselves. In what ways does your life reflect the Kingship of Jesus, and in what ways does it reflect your rejection of him as King?
1 Samuel 8:10-22
So, this is startling echo of the Israelites in the wilderness, soon after they were delivered from slavery. Samuel outlines all the downsides of a human king, and what it would cost them and their families, and future generations. He tried to show how the price of a n earthly king was far greater than the promise of an earthly king. But like their forefathers in the wilderness who longed to return to Egypt finding life in the desert still difficult, Israel wanted to volunteer for slavery again.
There is a lot of foreshadowing going on here. Samuel really does outline all these things that the king will require, and the future of Israel under mostly wicked kings will become so much of what Samuel prophesied.
Sometimes, there's so much pain that we will take relief in any form, even it is just a different form of pain and a more intense form of pain. Our desire to be more comfortable often clouds our judgement and leads us to make horrible decisions.
I wonder if there are any decisions you're facing today like this. Are you in such discomfort and pain and turmoil that even terrible situations seem attractive? Be very careful when making significant decisions soley as a way to escape discomfort. We lack sound judgement in pain so pay careful attention to your motives. Seek counsel and lean into the wisdom of others in seasons like this.
It's very likely that the pain we choose for ourselves will always be worse than the pain God chooses for us.
1 Samuel 9:1-16
v. 15 says this key thing: “the Lord revealed to Samuel…” Our God is a God of revelation. He reveals himself. This text is a little mundane on the surface, but go back and look again. God is orchestrating things, guiding things and moving the pieces in place to accomplish his purposes. People are involved and responsible to make choices, but God is sovereignly governing over the process. Don’t miss that.
The second thing I’ll point out is v. 16, “16 “Tomorrow about this time I will send to you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be prince over my people Israel. He shall save my people from the hand of the Philistines. For I have seen my people, because their cry has come to me.” This is regarding King Saul, but make no mistake, this prophesy of the first King in Israel is ultimately pointing us to true King of the Universe.
Saul does serve Israel and leads some degree of deliverance from the Philistines, but he is not ultimately a righteous ruler for the nation. But the true King and Better King would also see his people and hear their cries, and he would come in the anointing of the Holy Spirit to save God’s people from a far stronger enemy than the Philistines. Jesus would come to deliver us from Satan, sin and death itself. He would establish a new Kingdom where we can dwell in his presence and at peace; where we could be safe, free and loved forever.
1 Samuel 9:18-27
I love Saul’s instinctive response. “I’m from the smallest tribe, in the humblest clan? What do you want with me?” Essentially, Saul says… “I’m nobody. I’m nothing. I’m anonymous and insignificant. Why are you even considering me worthy to speak to?” Some of us feel that. I feel that way sometimes. Unremarkable. Unimpressive. Average or even mediocre. But, friends, however small you see yourself and your life, the God of the universe sees you and knows your name.
God is not drawn to the surface level things that draw our attention. God is not impressed by the outward shows of strength that impress us. We don’t need to impress God or prove ourselves to God or accomplish big things to capture his attention. You feel overlooked, dismissed, ignored and forgettable? God is personally acquainted and deeply interested in each one of us. He remembers and gets involved with each one of us. And he wants to draw you into something greater than the biggest thoughts you’ve ever had for your life. Whatever ambitions you have of worldly success, human achievement, and standout performance to earn approval and prove your worth, are diminishing your life. You were created for glory and grandeur and eternal purpose attached to the living God and his enduring story of redemption. Will you find your place in that? Will you step in and live into that? Or will you settle for such small mindedness as financial security, career success, personal comfort and relational stability. Look, they are bad things by any means, but there is more life to be found and a greater sense of significance if you live beyond those things.
One of my favorite C.S. Lewis passages of all time is this: “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Don’t settle for a life of mediocrity, a life of mundane, ordinary human achievement. You have been called by God to something greater and far more satisfying. He comes for you, not because you’re outwardly impressive, but precisely because you are unknown. Like Saul, you are nobody apart from God. But when God anoints us with his Spirit he appoints us to be the future kinds and queens of the universe. This is no cause for arrogance or ego, but for a humility, gratitude and astonishment at the grace of God that forever elevates our status.
I love the gospel!