Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Samuel

Which Wisdom?

Saul is a foil character. A foil character exists as a backdrop against which the positive traits of the protagonist may be displayed. It’s bizarre that Saul would be one, because everyone in his day thought he was going to be the hero. It’s also bizarre because he is supposed to be the hero: he is the king of Israel!

In 1 Samuel 12, Saul experienced great victory in battle against the enemies of God’s people. All the people showed great faith in him as their leader, and the kingdom was renewed under him. 1 Samuel 13, however, tells a different story.

When the people lose faith in Saul (because they are astronomically outnumbered), Saul does the ‘wise’ thing from a human perspective. He goes ahead with the sacrifice that they needed to carry out before heading into battle. He knows there’s a time to act, and this is it, and the prophet who was supposed to do it isn’t here. It would be foolish to wait. Waiting would mean less people to fight with you. Waiting would mean looking silly as a king. Waiting would mean people would lose even more confidence in you.

When Samuel arrives, he pronounces judgement on the king, who has acted ‘foolishly,’ and announces that he will lose more than the battle–he will lose his throne.

Saul is the foil for Jonathan in the next chapter. Jonathan looks at the drastic situation (impossible by human standards), and says, ‘Hey, why not try something great and see if the Lord will bless it?’ So he grabs his armour bearer, and the two of them head off to take on the Philistines all on their own. That seems foolish–or at least foolhardy. 

But sure enough, brave Jonathan, who ventures everything on God, is blessed! They show up and immediately strike down about twenty men, cause panic in the Philistine camp, and lead the whole charge for the Israelite army. Even the chicken-hearted soldiers who fled from his father’s poor leadership came out of the caves and graves where they were hiding to follow Jonathan. 

Man’s wisdom resulted in condemnation. Saul rushed ahead and did what seemed wise from his vantage point. Jonathan examined the situation, but calculated how the Lord may be pleased to work, despite how things looked. He made the ‘foolish’ decision of risking much on God.

May God give me grace to know that kind of wisdom!

Samuel and Confronting Sin

In the Lord’s providence, we finished up our morning series in James and our evening series in Galatians on this past Sunday. It was quite interesting to me that both sermons finished with exhortations to Christians to be confronting sin in the lives of their brothers and sisters.

As I sat and listened to my friend Paul preach on Sunday evening on a topic very similar to how my message had ended on Sunday morning, I thought to myself, ‘What is the Lord teaching us? What is he preparing us for as a church?’

This morning I was reading from 1 Samuel 12, and came across a very relevant passage. Here Samuel, the outgoing judge, has just appointed Saul as the king of Israel. Samuel then addresses the people and confronts their sin. While this is not the main intention of the passage, I think there are some great truths to be gleaned here when it comes to addressing sin in the lives of others.

  1. Samuel spelled out their sin for them.
    Samuel didn’t allude vaguely to some things that they had done which might be considered wrong, but he had specific sin in mind when he addressed the people, and he was direct in letting them know what it was they had done wrong. He called sin sin. Where they had rejected God and preferred other things, he showed them. They were not left guessing as to what he was really getting at, or whether or not it was actually sin.
  2. Samuel let them feel the weight of their sin.
    Granted, Samuel had a pretty cool trick up his sleeve when he was able to make a thunderstorm appear (I don’t know how many of us will be able to use that one), but one thing he was sure to do was show them how serious their sin was. He didn’t let them get away with a merely intellectual acknowledgement of their sin. He made sure they felt it. When Samuel had showed them their sin and how it had angered God, ‘all the people greatly feared the Lord …. all the people said to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, that we may not die…”.’ His conviction about their sin had resulted in their own conviction, confession, and repentance.
  3. Samuel offered the grace of God.
    When they had experienced genuine conviction for their sin, Samuel said, ‘Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart.’ In other words, ‘Yeah, you’ve blown it pretty bad. But trust in the Lord and he will forgive you. Remember, he wants your whole heart.’
  4. Samuel assures them with the best reason to hope.
    Why should they trust him? Why should we trust God that we’ll be forgiven when we’re confronted with the reality of our sin? We should hope because of who God is: he will never change. Samuel offers this to his people: ‘For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself.’ In other words, God won’t forsake you, because he’s put his own name on you. You’re his people, called by his name and it has been his good will to make you that way. To forsake you now would be to forsake the pursuit of his own glory and his own joy–something which could never, ever happen. God will be faithful to you, because he cannot and will not abandon his pursuit of his own glory and the display of his righteousness. What a comforting thought! Unless God changes, I can never be forsaken. We who are Christians–who live this side of the cross chronologically–can look back and see that faithfulness of God to his people and the committedness of God to his own people infinitely more than even Samuel could. What comfort in the face of conviction!

This all calls for balance and wisdom. I pray that God will give me grace to be able to pursue my brothers and sisters, to confront them on specific sins, to let them feel the weight of those sins which cost Christ his life, but then to offer the grace of God and the comfort of his promised faithfulness.

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