In today’s chapter, although Israel is celebrating, it is a very sad day for the nation. As Samuel gathers all of the people together to speak to them about the arrival of their first king he explains to them that they have rejected their God in doing so. If there are any pastors that are reading this blog; I imagine that, much like myself, you feel the sadness of Samuel seep through these pages as you read. It is a very depressing thing to speak the word of God, know that it is truth, know that it is needed and have people openly reject it. I imagine that Samuel’s mind was boggled when he spoke to them. If Samuel and I have anything in common, he expected the people, after his strong words in regards to their turning from God, to repent. I imagine that Samuel, knowing that was he was saying was the truth of God, expect people to be weeping that day. I would have expected people to, when faced with the reality of their darkened hearts, to desire to change. I consider this chapter the alter call of Samuel. Samuel is giving them one last chance to repent before he dismisses them. But no one was convicted of their sin. They all heard the message of God and simply would not respond to it. I imagine that Samuel was a wreck emotionally. Can you imagine his mixed feelings? They were people that he loved so much, and prayed for regularly, a people that he had ministered to and tried to meet their needs, a people that he had shown compassion to and tried to point them in the right direction. Now Samuel is flooded with these conflicting emotions of disappointment, love, anger, wrath, fear and disillusionment. I wonder at what point during Samuel’s sermon/speech did he realize that it was pointless. I have to wonder if he had many more words of warning and persuasion, but as he saw the faces of the people he realized that no matter what he was to say, these people had made up their mind and no one or no God was going to change it. Samuel experienced that day what God has gone through for six thousand years in dealing with man. Pastors, leaders, we aren’t experiencing anything “new” today. The heart of man is bent toward sin and destruction (Rom. 3:10-11). I wonder how Samuel felt when the people (the only time in which they spoke during the engagement) said in unison, after the warnings, “Long live the king.” I would bet that Samuel was often awakened from his sleep by those words following that day.
But even in all of the disobedience, God, for some reason, decided to make a way. God took the disobedience of these people and used it for good in the redemption of man. Through this sad, sad situation, God would soon set up a kingly line through David that would bring the Messiah to the world. Even though His own people rejected Him and He had every right to destroy them; He still made a way for redemption. Romans 5:8 tells us “that God commended His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”
In today’s study we see how God called the first king in Israel. One might think that there is not much here to comment on; but there is always a message in the Word of God. We see in this chapter the first mentioning of king Saul. God gives us a glimpse of Saul’s life before he becomes corrupt. God told Samuel, who in-turn told the people, what a king would require of them and how a king would treat them. So we see the decent of morality and humility in the life of Saul. It is good for us to remember from where God has called us insomuch that we don’t begin to get “too big for our britches.”
Saul was, as we will see more in the next couple of chapters, a man from humble beginnings. These types of men usually make the best leaders. In my interest in leadership, I found myself reading about the generals of World War II. I had a brief view of each of their lives and how they were raised. The best of the best during that time were those “farm boys” who were raised on hard work, humble circumstances and Christian parents. I believe the reason for this being the case is what I have just mentioned; I believe that these men such as Eisenhower and Bradly always remembered where they began. Saul, as we will soon see, became very arrogant, power hungry and paranoid. The old phrase comes to mind “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Saul mentions what tribe that he is from in today’s chapter. The tribe that he is from is that of Benjamin. Benjamin was the youngest of the twelve sons of Israel and it was also the smallest tribe. The older sons had begun reproducing long before Benjamin had; in fact, as we read the story of Joseph (Benjamin’s only brother by Rebekah) we see that Benjamin is probably a young boy. He had no part in the work of the family when Joseph was sold into slavery. Saul then tells Samuel that, not only is he from the smallest tribe, but he is also from the least of the families of that tribe. It is a shame that this humility leaves the new young king so quickly.
In the same light in our walk with God, it is good to remember from where we were called. It is good; not to be filled with constant guilt, but to remember the sin and life style in which we were delivered from. When we keep these things in perspective we will not begin to think that we, in of ourselves “found God” as some may say. The fact is that He found us due only to His grace and divine choosing. It is hard to get too arrogant when we remember that it was Him that did everything in order that we might be called the sons of God. For those who believe that one can lose their salvation perhaps this is not so easy. When our salvation depends on us and our works, we can shine with pride at how well we have done. But when we realize that we are bankrupt in righteousness and that we have to put on the righteousness of Christ each day; it is a humbling reality.
I do apologize for yesterday’s missing post. Today we will look at two chapters as we study together:
In chapter seven we see that God has decided to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines. As we saw in the earlier chapters, the Israelite people trusted that God had the power to deliver them, but their hearts were in the wrong place. Chapter seven shows what God had intended for His people in order to use them as a light to the nations around them. In chapter six verse six we see the key to the reason that God had decided to deliver His people from their enemies. They had repented of their wrong doings. God was not going to simply protect them because they were His chosen people. But if God’s people approach Him with a repentant heart; we see in scripture that God answers. In verse six we see that the people fasted before the lord. Fasting was an illustration of a broken spirit. It represented the heart of the people remembering their sin and confessing it. We see in Isaiah chapter 58 when the prophet speaks the words of God in regards to the heart of the people; God asks them: “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke. Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh?” (Is. 58:6-7) The people were going through the motions on the day of sacrifice, but there was no heart change. God demands a heart change. He demands repentance from His people.
In this chapter we see the outcry of the people for a king. They no longer wanted to be a theocracy, but instead like the other nations that surrounded them. It was not God’s desire, but He allowed it to happen. When man continually rebels against the will of God, He usually allows man to fall into his own folly. We can read about all of the turmoil that the kings of Israel caused. These problems were not God’s fault; but instead it was the disobedient heart of the people. We see many times in the books of Kings and Chronicles how the people cried out to God for help; but help seldom came. Just as we do today as a nation and as individuals. We tell God that we want it our way. We tell Him to “get out of my way; I know what I want / need!” Then, when the bottom falls out we blame Him because He did not step in to help us. We have kicked God out of our schools and our courthouses. God has politely stepped aside; we are now beginning to see the repercussions of our choices as we live in a nation that has moved God out of it’s society. When we decide that, we as individuals, want to make choices outside of the Word and will of God, He doesn’t stop us, but it never ends well. God doesn’t cause the calamity to fall upon us; it is just what happens naturally when we step outside of the boundaries of God’s truth. He always tries to reason with us to choose His ways. Sadly, we often think that we know more than He does and go at it in our own wisdom only to find ourselves exasperated and miserable. Once again in these chapters we see that the heart of man has changed little over the years.
In today’s reading we encounter the Philistines returning the ark of God back to Israel. Sadly as we look at this piece of Israel’s history; they did nothing to glorify God. We also see that the Philistines did nothing that glorified God. We only tee two beings that were obedient to God in this story; those two were two milk cows.
The priest of the false gods of the Philistines told the leaders of those five regions that they were to hook a cart up to two milk cows and to stable their calves. The choice of “motoring” the cart has much more to do with this story than we may see at first glance. Oxen that were trained to follow straight paths were not used, nor was a donkey or a pack mule which were both domesticated into work animals. Instead two milk cows; one would have to imagine why. Milk cows are grazing animals. They simply eat until their immediate mouthful is finished and look far enough ahead to find their next bite. It is in their DNA to simply wander and look for food. A milk cow would not be an animal that would be used to hook to a plow or a cart because they were not accustomed to following orders, or walking paths. In fact the text said that they were commanded to choose milk cows that had never been yoked. They also had calves which were locked up in pens. The only more powerful instinct to an animal than eating are protecting and caring for their young. The Philistines (as we see in verse 9) were testing to see if the plagues that came upon them were by chance or due to the hand of God. Isn’t it funny how we all find it hard to believe when God acts? These two milk cows should never have made it to their destination. They had three things against their nature that would have stopped them: The first thing is that they had never been yoked. They yoked these animals together; remember these are grazers. These cows now had to work in perfect tandem in order to take the ark back. The second thing is that they left their young in order to step up to the task. Cows do not ignore their young; they are genetically designed to protect their young because they are natural prey to many predators. Thirdly they should have wandered off into the fields to graze. But none of these things stopped them. They delivered the ark as God had intended them to do. The obedience of these two milk cows glorified God unlike the very man that God had created in His own image.
If we could, as believers, just be as good as one of these cows, we would change the world. Let’s see the four things that they did that are valuable lessons to us all:
- They left what they loved to serve God (6:10) . When God ordained them to return the ark back to its rightful place they simply left their old life in order to comply. Even at the urging of their calves as they, almost definitely, cried out to their mothers. They also left their feeding ground (their way of life).
- They stayed the right path (6:12). They did not get side tracked by their desire to go off the path and graze. They were able to defer from their natural desire to accomplish the mission that God had intended for them.
- They didn’t do it for the glory. (6:14). Upon their arrival no one cheered for the cows. The people of Beth-Shemesh cheered because the ark had been returned; not for the ones who returned it.
- They gave their all (6:14). In the end these two milk cows gave their lives in sacrifice to God. They didn’t decide that they would retire from their work due to how well they had performed. Their commitment involved their entire life.
These two cows have taught us today what the true meaning of “Lordship” really is. They did not give what they had left over in their lives. They instead illustrated what we read in Romans 12:1-2: “I beseech ye therefore brethren by the mercies of God that you present your bodies a living sacrifice unto God which is your reasonable act of service; and be ye not conformed to this world, but instead be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may be able to prove the good, acceptable and perfect will of God.”
When the people of God truly give Lordship over to Him. He receives the glory. When God’s plan trumps our plans, He is glorified. When His desires supersede our own desires, He is glorified. God will never be glorified in the life of one who will only give what is convenient to give. Who would have thought that we could learn so much from two milk cows?
In today’s chapter God allowed His power and might to show without Israel getting any of the glory or the credit. When the people of Israel brought the ark into battle, God allowed 30,000 men to be slaughtered. God was not to be used as a tool to simply threaten someone’s enemies. But God did not allow the Philistine’s a victory either. God allowed His power and might to be used against the evil Philistines also. God did not choose to protect Israel just because of their blood line, but He did protect them when they came to Him with a heart of repentance and trust toward Him. How much better would things have turned out for the people of Israel if they were to proceed in the way God had intended. I believe that we can picture here the fact that God can, and will, do as He pleases. But it is up to us whether or not God will allow us to join Him in His victories. God today is in the business of saving the lost. He does not need us in order to do so, but if we are obedient, we can have a part in what God is doing. He did not need the army of Israel to punish the Philistines, but He would have allowed them to be a part if their hearts were in the right place. Instead, God’s people were not elevated in the sight of the other nations. God Himself alone was. We are told a number of times in scripture that God Lifts the head of the humble but the prideful He will debase. If the people would have been humbled by their sin and trusted in God, they too would have been lifted up in the sight of the world around them.
If you are reading the King James version you will notice that God gave the people “emrods.” Some translations call them “tumors in their private parts”. The word “emrod” means hemorrhoids. Tell me that God does not have a sense of humor! We also see in this chapter the heart of the Philistine people. As the curses from God came down due to having the ark in captivity; they simply shipped it off to other regions of their people. What great neighbors! I wonder if the first city had stock in Preparation “H”?
Another interesting thing in this chapter is that the false god Dagon (which was half man and half fish made of stone), when it fell, lost his hands and feet. God was, I believe, showing the Philistines that their god was incapable of doing anything. One is not much good when missing all of their extremities.
At the end of the day the Philistines realized that they had to send this ark back before they were all destroyed. Although the pride of Israel had been lost; the God of Israel was still in complete control.
Bible study helps video. Sorry about the poor audio:
In today’s reading we see that what God had told Samuel would happen in Israel and to the household of Eli starting to take place. As we look at today’s chapter we once again see that people have not changed much over the years. All of the technological advances in the world will not change the heart of man.
Israel is in a fight with the Philistines (modern day Palestinians from descent) and they come up with an idea. Their idea is to take the ark of the covenant into battle with them in order to defeat the enemy. Their mistake had cost them greatly, in fact it cost them the lives of thirty-thousand men. Instead of trusting in God, they put their trust in a box. The word ark means “box.” They used the ark as a type of “lucky rabbits foot” as they went up against their enemy. This chapter is so rich with illustrations that I could write for hours on them; but I will only highlight the symbolism of what these men did that shows the heart of the religious man who has no relationship with God.
The ark of the covenant was to be in the holy place and it was there that the mercy seat was placed. The mercy seat is a representation of Christ. As the priests would bring the blood of the sacrifice to the temple it was a symbol of sin equaling death. The sacrificial death of an animal could not take away sin, but confession of sin before the mercy seat allowed a covering for sin. We see in Hebrews that this sacrificial system was a “shadow of the good things to come.” The good thing to come was a sacrifice that would stand once and for all for the removing of sin in Christ.
The people did not come with repentant hearts over their sin as they sacrificed; they instead went through the motions of the ceremonies (as mentioned in Isaiah chapter 58 for further studies). They did not want to come to God for the remission of sin, they instead wanted to use God to meet their personal needs.
The mercy seat was considered, in symbolism, the throne of God. It was a symbol of where God dwelt. So the people placed their trust in the house of God instead of in God Himself. So often we place our trust and salvation in a meeting place. The place of worship has become today, much like the mercy seat was back then. We so often use it to get what we desire when necessary. Salvation relies on the box (or church building) where God stays. He has no part of a life outside of that box. We come to the box to make sure we have met our self decided requirements in order to keep Him in good standing with us. Then, when things get way out of control in life, even if we have not been to the box in months, we run to the box and expect it to fix everything up just the way we like them. If things go back to normal, we put that box back where it belongs and continue on in our lives until the next big threat comes our way.
God shows the nation of Israel that He is not a pawn or a weapon at their disposal. Sadly, the unbelieving enemy had more faith in the power of God then did God’s own people. God gave Israel feasts so they would remember what He had done in Egypt (before the ark was even given by the way) and how He had miraculously delivered those who obeyed them. The philistines instead, as we read in this chapter, remembered the saving arm of God when the people of Israel did not.
We learn so much from the Old Testament. I hope the we will never put it on the back burner forgetting all of the wisdom God shows us in it.
In today’s study we see the transitioning of how God speaks to and deals with Israel. Up to this point, as I mentioned in day one of this chapter the nation was a theocracy and had no human leader. God would, at times, send judges to bring Israel back to where they needed to be. God was now allowing the people to have what they were longing for. Even before they asked for a king to lead them God had already begun the process, even though it was not in line with His will. God would soon begin using prophets to speak to the kings and the people of Israel. We need to understand that at this point in time He had not chosen to do so. Samuel will be the first prophet/priest to come about. There is a brief symbol of this transition in the text that is easy to overlook. Early in the chapter it mentions that as Eli (the acting priest) was sleeping, the lamp of God in the tabernacle was about to go out. This lamp was to burn continually and it was the priests job to ensure that it was doing just that. So, I believe, that God was showing the symbol of Eli’s spiritual leadership coming to an end. At this very time, God began calling Samuel.
Samuel was not yet a man, but nor was he a small boy. Josephus (an historian during the time of Christ) states that Samuel was twelve years old. No one can know if Josephus was guessing, or if he had knowledge of this; but it wouldn’t make logical sense for God to call a toddler to act as the first prophet! When God called Samuel, Samuel did not recognize the voice of God. Men much smarter than me have stated that this call is the call of salvation in Samuel’s life and that it is an illustration of the call of salvation in our lives as well. Not all that are called are willing to follow, just as we saw last week in our study in Acts: Fetus had Paul removed when he began feeling afraid of the words of judgement and righteousness. Instead of just commenting on today’s chapter I picked up one of my favorite theologians named J. Vernon McGee and read his comments on the chapter. J. Vernon states that he believes that the first two calls of God were the call of salvation. Samuel served before the Lord, but according to this chapter “Samuel did not yet know the Lord.” So after answering the call the second time, J. Vernon considered the second two callings of God to be the calling of servant hood. I highly respect the late J.Vernon McGee and he may very well be right. But I have trouble with that line of thinking. Because, from what I see in the new testament, the call to salvation is in itself a call to servant hood. But in either case; we all have the opportunity to either answer the call of God when we recognize it or we can not answer the call. Thankfully Samuel answered the calling of God.
We see a great picture of the character of Samuel in this chapter. Even though he knew that Eli had done evil and God was getting ready to remove him, Samuel still realized that until the time that God had chosen to remove Eli; Eli was still in the position of leadership. Samuel did not try and undermine Eli’s authority. Samuel simply patiently waited on the Lord and trusted in God’s time table.
When reading of Eli’s demise in the ministry, it sends a shiver up my spine. We must all be aware that God is very graceful and compassionate. But God will not let our sin go on forever. If we do not repent and turn away from things that are displeasing to Him, He can easily replace us. We need to remember that he called us from nothing, with nothing for no particular reason other than His grace. If He could do that for us, how easy would it be for Him to replace us with someone else.
I hope you are enjoying our study together in First Samuel. God will bless us if we continue in His Word.