If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
— Colossians 3:1-3 - Week 19 Memory Verse

Day 1

1 Samuel 14:36-52

This is the continuation of a bit of an odd passage, and I've written more than usual today but only to try to explain some confusing things. Here’s how I am understanding what’s happening. Saul made an impulsive and ill-advised ban on eating earlier in the chapter. This was not from God or from wisdom, but Saul’s subjective and flawed sense of direction. To make matters worse, he imposes a death sentence should anyone disobey what was a stupid order in the first place. He continues to follow his own impulses, deciding to go plunder the Philistines. Samuel slows his roll and leads him to inquire of God and seek his direction. God doesn’t immediately answer and in his hasty and impetuous childishness, Saul now starts to interpret God’s silence to as a sign that someone disobeyed his order that had nothing to do with God. So continuing in his string of anxious activity and thinking, Saul attributes God’s silence to guilt in Israel and sets out to identify the offending party.

So, because God isn’t speaking in a clear and objective way, Saul sets up a casting of lots of sorts. He sets he and Jonathan on one side and the rest of Israel on the other side, and the lot (Thummin and Urim are thought to be different colors of stones, one representing yes and one representing no functionally) falls to Saul and Jonathan. The lots are cast again and it falls to Jonathan. And because of weird string of decisions grounded in desperation and impatience, he is prepared to kill his son for eating honey after a hard fought military victory. And then the people, thank God, speak up.

Essentially, the Israelites suggest that maybe God spoke more clearly in using Jonathan’s courage and skill and leadership to secure an improbable defeat of the Philistines. Maybe that was more telling than than God’s silence about whether to plunder them. Maybe, if God is behind something like the casting of lots, perhaps he is also behind the miraculous victory, and unless God explicitly is telling him to kill Jonathan, perhaps Jonathan should be allowed to live.

I just come away from this thinking about some of the weird games we play with God. We too get desperate to hear from him or receive some clear direction, and we’ll take our subjective sense of what’s next as a divine directive, or we’ll throw out a fleece like Saul did. We can get so turned around in our own heads and end up doing stupid things and unnecessary harmful things. Often, in our anxious and overly spiritualized need to be led by God, we end up doing things that God has no association with or even things that God is in direct opposition to.

I love that the larger contingent of Israel speaks some sense into Saul here. You and I need friends and people around us who can tell us when we’re being idiots, and who can speak reasonable doubt into our unreasonable self-assurance. The phrase “often wrong never in doubt” comes to mind. That really is so many of us.

  • I wonder who is in your life that can speak sanity into your crazy ideas or bloated self-confidence. We all need this. As with Saul, sometimes these people save us from ourselves, and they save others from the chaos we would otherwise create for others.

  • I wonder if you are overly reliant on subjective signs… we Christians are susceptible to subjective occurrences as objective revelation from God. The Holy Spirit does speak to us and lead us in personal ways regularly, and in revelatory ways at times, but we must be careful not to contrive these things simply because we prefer to have the weight of God’s authority behind our decisions and direction. The text is clear… God was silent and Saul was impatient and he read into the situation things that weren’t there.

Day 2

1 Samuel 15:1-9

Okay, this is always tough theological sledding, and it'll take some space here to sort throught it. I'm trusting if you're following this than you probably find a text like this worth some extra attention. Anytime God commands genocidal activity my heart skips a few beats. This is difficult to reconcile with a God who is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” I just want to be honest with this…

There is a cringe factor here for me. But, I believe in God’s word as authoritative and so where something in Scripture causes something in me to cringe, I have to submit my thoughts and feelings to God’s wisdom. So when I do that in this case, laying aside my sense of what God can or must do, or what God can’t or must not do, here’s what I see… The Amalekites were totally corrupt and godless and utterly devoted to abominable practices. They historically opposed Israel at every opportunity. They joined themselves to other kingdoms and armies to try to destroy Israel at various points, including when God was delivering them from slavery in Egypt. At the very moment of Israel’s salvation, Amalek tried to wipe them out. They hated Israel and Israel’s God and everything Israel represented. All the way back in Deuteronomy 25, God told Israel that he would give them rest “on all sides,” specifically by eradicating the thorn in their sides that was Amalek and their persistent opposition.

So, this is in fulfillment of an earlier judgement for their prolonged and pronounced animosity and violence toward Israel. This was God’s slowness to anger. It was a long time coming. And the reason is not ethnic but spiritual. God opposed Amalek because of their pagan practices and their hatred for him and his people. Think ISIS. And you better believe that God is one day going to judge ISIS. Well, that day for Amalek came in 1 Samuel 15 and was well earned.

What’s here for us at more personal level thought? I would say this: the reality of indwelling sin and resistance to God rages in our hearts, and it violently and ruthlessly opposes us and our salvation and freedom, just as Amalek had done to Israel. We also live within a world system that rejects Christ and the Gospel. We are opposed at every turn by our enemy the devil who prowls around like lion looking for someone to devour. We have Amalekites in our lives, and God has called us to put to death those things that would rob us of our freedom in Christ and that which desires to overcome and enslave us.

The question is do we tolerate the enemy of our souls or ferociously make war against our enemy? God told Saul not to spare any living thing, but to dedicate them to destruction. Brothers and sisters, this is to be our mindset and attitude toward indwelling sin… we should spare any small living sin, seemingly harmless little sin, nor cute, cuddly pet sins, but we must take aim at killing everything in our souls that sets itself up against the knowledge and glory of God.

Instead, Saul did what with the best of Amalek, what we do with our most cherished sins. He made room for them, permitted them to live, gave shelter to them and incorporated them into Israel and the life of God’s people. This is a tragic miscarriage of God’s commands and haunting picture of what we do with sin far to often.

  • What are you going to do with sin in your heart? Will you live with a search and destroy mentality that pursues holiness seriously and takes aim at anything that threatens your union with Christ and conformity into his likeness...? Or, will you play at Christianity while remaining friendly with the world and buddies with that which would keep you from divine purposes and ultimate joy?

  • What are you going to confess honestly, turn from purposefuly, and pursue diligently in this season of life, beginning today?

Day 3

1 Samuel 15:10-23

Again, there is quite a lot here, and I'm especially struck by some of the dynamics in light of the series I'm preaching through on conflict. We're seeing in these chapters a lot of the unhealthy by very human responses to God, to pressure, to our own mistakes, and to others when life is complicated or difficult. There is a lot of honesty in these few verses about the emotional impact and toll that sin and disobedience take on everyone.

First, in v. 11 we see God's emotional response, "I regret that I made Saul king..." This is really a statement of God's heart and emotional response to Saul's disobedience, not an admission of wrong doing on God's part. He's not saying he made a mistake, but that Saul's failure to submit to Him as the leader of His people was incredibly grievous and heavy. God felt the weight of Saul's decisions and the impact his failures were going to have on Israel.

Second, we see Samuel's reaction. When God tells Samuel that he has rejected Saul as king, Samuel gets angry and "cried to the Lord all night". There is anguish and devastation and an intense frustration on Samuel's part at Saul's sin, and perhaps to at God's decisive rejection of Saul. Again, what is clear is that Samuel feels the impact and experiences the frustration of powerlessness when people around him, particularly those in high positions, refuse to do what is right before the Lord.

Thirdly, we Saul's response, which is a bit of a mixed bag and pretty reflective of our normal responses to things. Right out of the gate, though he'd disobeyed the Lord, Saul spins his disobedience to Samuel as though it was obedience. His disobedience was veiled behind religious practice, and so Saul tried to shape that narrative right when Samuel showed up. Then when Samuel points out that Saul didn't really obey, Saul blames the people of Israel for his disobedience. And Samuel just gets frustrated with the defensive posture and is like, "ENOUGH! Here's what God told me..." Samuel concludes with a straight forward question... "Why have you disobeyed the Lord?"

And Saul tries to distract from his disobedience by pointing again to the people's disobedience as if he was innocent in the matter. This is such a normal and toxic cycle we all go through... we will do almost anything to focus on other people's sin, avoid taking responsibility for our own sin, and to resist accepting the consequences of that sin. We are experts in self-defense because we are so well practiced at it. Our hearts and minds are constantly looking to acquit, justify and absolve ourselves, while also accusing and convicting others. It's compulsive and it's chronic.

2 take aways today before seeing how this plays out fruther in tomorrow's text...

  • Watching and feeling the effects of others sin can be really oppressive and wearisome. Sin is never only an individual's to bear. We all bear the burden of pain, dysfunction and emotional weariness of each other's sin, to varying degrees depending on our proximity to them.

  • We all have sin we're instinctively trying to overlook or defend and it's killing us and those around us. In v. 23, Samuel points out to kinds of sin we may easily disregard... 1) The Sin of Rebellion, in the sense of an unresponsiveness to God's commands. This may look like harmless passivity or even like religious fidelity, but internally, we know what God requires and we just aren't moving or following willingly. 2) The Sin of Presumption - we just like to assume we're good, trust our gut and natural impulses, do what we think is right, and just presume God will approve. We don't thoughtfully or prayerfully engage with him, wrestle with the word, reflect on the gospel, depend on the Spirit, we just trust our own understanding and judgement and instincts... and Samuel says that is idolatry and iniquity.

So, is there any presumtpion or rebellion you need to repent for? Is there any sin in others that you need to grieve and process your own emotions and filter through the Gospel of God's grace? Deal with your own today on these matters.

Day 4

1 Samuel 15:24-35

Okay, so today we get Saul's "sort of" confession. In what may be a helpful way, we also see the difference between confession alone and full fledged repentance. Saul owns that he disobeyed the Lord, and he even goes deep enough to acknowledge that his sin was drive by a fear of man. He wanted the people's approval and support and feared their rejection, thus he disobeyed the Lord. That takes courage and humility and Saul should some credit for that. But...

In v. 30, as Samuel pronounces a finality of God's rejection of him as king, Saul desperately pleads for Samuel to fulfill some cultural gesture that would allow him to save face and be honored before the elders of Israel. So, he confesses his fear of man, but then promptly and eagerly feeds right back in to that same flesh pattern. Brothers and sisters, this is not true repentance. It's what the Apostle Paul calls "worldly sorrow" (2 Corinthians 7:10) which produces death. Saul's grieving the consequences of his sin, but not the grieving of God's heart and the brokenness in his relationship with God.

Godly grief, we're told in 2 Corinthians 7, leads to true repentance which is a turning away from sin and turning to God. Saul delves right back into his sin rather than breaking away from it and putting it to death. In a culture that values authenticity in general, and in a church culture like Generations that also values vulnerability, it is a trap ever before us to substitute honest confession with godly repentance. Godly repentance certainly is not less than honest confession, but it is more. Here's a few things to consider...

**1) Repentance is born of conviction from the Holy Spirit, not just consequences from those we've hurt.

2) Repentance confessess not just my sinful behavior, but my sinful desires and motives.

3) Repentance does not settle for identifying the reality of my sin, but presses for internalizing the effects of my sin.

4) Repentance includes some degree of actual change, not just an intellectual ascent to my need for change.

  • Are you settling for a diluted practice of confession that leads to death or pursuing a deep posture of repentance that leads to life?