Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The Life of the Prophet Samuel, the coming of King Saul

Last week we talked about the faith of Ruth and Naomi. They lived in the time of the judges, if you recall. And Israel had often been caught in the repeating cycle of sin and repentance. Before that we saw Moses and Aaron lead the Israelites out of Egypt, and Joshua later led them into the promised land. It’s all one, big story.

So this week we see the time of the judges coming to an end. And instead we have God’s speaking and leading the Israelites through a prophet.

But what is a prophet? A prophet is one who hears from God, and then speaks what God says to them to the people of Israel. Even today, in the church we have people with the gift of being a prophet, where they speak things that God tells them. I wonder if anyone here has that gifting? God will reveal it to you, if you do.

You can turn in your Bibles to 1st Samuel, chapter 1.

So this journey, of God’s prophet, who would help guide Israel, began with a woman named Hannah. She was married, but unable to have children. Isn’t it interesting that God works through people who have such difficulties? God likes to work through people who have serious problems. But Hannah goes to the temple, and prays to God, asking for a son. And there is a man there named Eli, who overhears Hannah praying. So Eli said to her, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”

God then allows Hannah to give birth to a son, and she names him Samuel. She had vowed that if God would give her a son, she would give him over to the service of the Lord. So this blessed child, Samuel, would be raised in the temple, under the care of Eli, and would grow up to be the first great prophet of God.

But during this time it was very rare for anyone to hear a word from the Lord. One night Samuel heard someone call his name. He thought it was Eli so he went to Eli, several times asking him what he wanted. But Eli said he didn’t call him. But the 3rd time Eli realized he was hearing the Lord call his name. So he told Samuel to listen for the Lord.

And God gave Samuel a prophecy about Eli’s family. That his children were corrupt and his house would be cursed. So Samuel, young guy at this point is afraid to tell Eli the prophecy, because it’s obviously not a good word, its judgment. But Eli insists to know. And so Samuel speaks it to him.

Meanwhile during this time Israel was again fighting against the Philistines, an enemy nation. And they are not doing well. So they bring out the ark of the covenant, that contains the ten commandments, the two tablets. And they bring it out with their army, because they’re hoping if they have the ark with them, then they’ll be sure to win the battle. But God is not amused with this. They aren’t obeying God, they’re just trying to use the ark as a tool to win the battle. So they lose the battle, and the philistines end up capturing the ark of the covenant. This is a nightmare really. The enemy has captured this holy ark, where God resided with the people. And it’s gone. The enemy has it.

Eli is so shocked that he falls out of his chair and breaks his neck and dies. Eli had led Israel for 40 years.

So then Samuel takes over as prophet of the Lord. And he calls the people to repentance once again saying, ““If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.”

And Israel did repent again and turned to the Lord. So the Lord granted Israel victory against the Philistines, and they were driven back and defeated.

Samuel served the Lord faithfully many, many years. But eventually as Samuel grew older in age, he planned for who would replace him.

It says in 1st Samuel 8:1-22, “When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders. 2 The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. 3 But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.

4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead[b] us, such as all the other nations have.”

6 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”

10 Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle[c] and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. 20 Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”

21 When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. 22 The Lord answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.”

So the people demand a king to rule over them. And the Lord is not pleased with this. Because they are basically rejecting God as their king and wanting a human ruler. But God allows them to have a king over them. But warns them of what it will mean.

In any case Samuel seeks the Lord and the Lord reveals to him, he will meet the man soon.

1st Samuel 9:15-17 "Now the day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed this to Samuel: “About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him ruler over my people Israel; he will deliver them from the hand of the Philistines. I have looked on my people, for their cry has reached me.” When Samuel caught sight of Saul, the Lord said to him, “This is the man I spoke to you about; he will govern my people.”

So Samuel runs into Saul, and reveals to him that he is the chosen one who will become king. There are no coincidences. God ensures that we find ourselves at the right time in the right moment for His will to be done, as long as we are following Him.

1st Samuel 10:1-8 says, "Then Samuel took a flask of olive oil and poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him, saying, “Has not the Lord anointed you ruler over his inheritance?[a] 2 When you leave me today, you will meet two men near Rachel’s tomb, at Zelzah on the border of Benjamin. They will say to you, ‘The donkeys you set out to look for have been found. And now your father has stopped thinking about them and is worried about you. He is asking, “What shall I do about my son?”’

3 “Then you will go on from there until you reach the great tree of Tabor. Three men going up to worship God at Bethel will meet you there. One will be carrying three young goats, another three loaves of bread, and another a skin of wine. 4 They will greet you and offer you two loaves of bread, which you will accept from them.

5 “After that you will go to Gibeah of God, where there is a Philistine outpost. As you approach the town, you will meet a procession of prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, timbrels, pipes and harps being played before them, and they will be prophesying. 6 The Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person. 7 Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you.

8 “Go down ahead of me to Gilgal. I will surely come down to you to sacrifice burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, but you must wait seven days until I come to you and tell you what you are to do.”

Then it says this in 1st Samuel chapter 10:9-27: "As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day. 10 When he and his servant arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he joined in their prophesying. 11 When all those who had formerly known him saw him prophesying with the prophets, they asked each other, “What is this that has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?”

12 A man who lived there answered, “And who is their father?” So it became a saying: “Is Saul also among the prophets?” 13 After Saul stopped prophesying, he went to the high place.

14 Now Saul’s uncle asked him and his servant, “Where have you been?”

“Looking for the donkeys,” he said. “But when we saw they were not to be found, we went to Samuel.”

15 Saul’s uncle said, “Tell me what Samuel said to you.”

16 Saul replied, “He assured us that the donkeys had been found.” But he did not tell his uncle what Samuel had said about the kingship.

17 Samuel summoned the people of Israel to the Lord at Mizpah 18 and said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I brought Israel up out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the power of Egypt and all the kingdoms that oppressed you.’ 19 But you have now rejected your God, who saves you out of all your disasters and calamities. And you have said, ‘No, appoint a king over us.’ So now present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and clans.”

20 When Samuel had all Israel come forward by tribes, the tribe of Benjamin was taken by lot. 21 Then he brought forward the tribe of Benjamin, clan by clan, and Matri’s clan was taken. Finally Saul son of Kish was taken. But when they looked for him, he was not to be found. 22 So they inquired further of the Lord, “Has the man come here yet?”

And the Lord said, “Yes, he has hidden himself among the supplies.”

23 They ran and brought him out, and as he stood among the people he was a head taller than any of the others. 24 Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see the man the Lord has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people.”

Then the people shouted, “Long live the king!”

25 Samuel explained to the people the rights and duties of kingship. He wrote them down on a scroll and deposited it before the Lord. Then Samuel dismissed the people to go to their own homes.

26 Saul also went to his home in Gibeah, accompanied by valiant men whose hearts God had touched. 27 But some scoundrels said, “How can this fellow save us?” They despised him and brought him no gifts. But Saul kept silent.”

In chapter 11 we see that Saul leads a battle against the Ammonites, a rival nation who attack Israel and besiege the city of Jabesh. The Lord is with King Saul, and he gathers an army of 330,000 men. Saul breaks them into 3 groups and they attack the ammonites during the night, and they totally defeat them.

So the haters who didn’t want Saul as king are proven wrong. And it says this in 1st Samuel 11:12-15, “The people then said to Samuel, “Who was it that asked, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Turn these men over to us so that we may put them to death.”

13 But Saul said, “No one will be put to death today, for this day the Lord has rescued Israel.”

14 Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingship.” 15 So all the people went to Gilgal and made Saul king in the presence of the Lord. There they sacrificed fellowship offerings before the Lord, and Saul and all the Israelites held a great celebration.”

In 1st Samuel 12, we see Samuel’s final speech to the Israelites before he retires from being the prophet. He says a great deal to Israel and really calls out Israel for the evil of asking for a king. And how bad that was to do. Because it was really rejecting God and asking for a human ruler. The people confess their sin and ask Samuel to pray for them.

This is how he responded:

“Do not be afraid,” Samuel replied. “You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. 21 Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless. 22 For the sake of his great name the Lord will not reject his people, because the Lord was pleased to make you his own. 23 As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. 24 But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. 25 Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will perish.”

The point here, is that even if we mess up, I mean mess up big time. The best thing to do is to turn again to the Lord, with all your heart. That’s key, our whole heart, focus in on God once again. God is pleased to make us his own. That’s the whole point is for God to bring us back to himself. Lots of great advice from Samuel. Fear the Lord. Serve Him faithfully. Think about things he’s done in your life in the past. But there’s also a warning here, verse 25, if you persist in evil, you will perish. Same thing today, if we persist in evil, we’ll get further and further from God, until we lose everything.

So now Saul is King, and he attacks the Philistines once again. He assembles two small forces, one led by him one led by his son Jonathan. And they attack. But this angers the philistines. We aren’t really sure, but it seems like Saul impulsively attacked the philistines with small forces. And then it says, “5 The Philistines assembled to fight Israel, with three thousand[c] chariots, six thousand charioteers, and soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore. They went up and camped at Mikmash, east of Beth Aven. 6 When the Israelites saw that their situation was critical and that their army was hard pressed, they hid in caves and thickets, among the rocks, and in pits and cisterns. 7 Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead.

Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear. 8 He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter. 9 So he said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” And Saul offered up the burnt offering. 10 Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him.

11 “What have you done?” asked Samuel.

Saul replied, “When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Mikmash, 12 I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the Lord’s favor.’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.”

13 “You have done a foolish thing,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. 14 But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.””

So for many years King Saul is constantly at war with the philistines, and it’s bitter and brutal fighting. Finally, they do win a great victory, with the help of his son Jonathan. But Saul disobeys God again, when God said to destroy the Amalekites and their king, and don’t take any of their produce or cattle or sheep, instead Saul did the opposite, sparing their king and taking their produce and cattle for his troops. So again, Samuel comes and rebukes Saul. And Saul is very upset and argues with Samuel.

Samuel goes before the Lord, and the Lord says that he regrets having put Saul as king, and indicates that another will have to replace Saul as king eventually.

This is an important reminder that we ought to always obey God. If he’s calling us to do something, or lead something, or be part of something, we ought to simply obey God. The worst place to be is outside God’s will for your life and the best place in the universe to be is at the center of God’s will for your life. I know this from experience.