Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Story 10 A New Spirit

This past week’s study, we considered 2 who had faith to stand strong, and 2 who didn’t. It was the faith of Hannah, who trusted that God would provide for her, would grant her a child. She was a barren woman in a time where having children was a mark of God’s blessing. Yet in the midst of her storm, of her family shaming her, she still trusted, even promising to return her child to the Lord. She not only kept her promise but was blessed with the birth of 3 more sons and 2 daughters.

It was her first child who serves as the other example of faith. When he was returned to the Lord, he served under the first who failed. Eli was the high priest and judge over Israel, but he had two sons who perverted the offerings and worship of God. Though Eli failed to parent his sons, he happened to raise Samuel, perhaps. Perhaps Samuel, one dedicated to the Lord, had an open heart to listen for the Lord. And heard the Lord he did.

Even after God sent to Eli a warning, Eli didn’t heed the warning. Even when the warning was wet cement through Samuel’s calling in the middle of the night, the night where Samuel mistook God’s voice for Eli’s. Again, there was the warning. Eli thought, “well God will do what He will do.” It is tragic when God gives warning, and we fail to see the opportunity.

Eli had opportunity even after the prophet, and even after the Lord talk to Young Mister Samuel. Perhaps it would not have been so tragic had Eli implored God, if he had repented and removed his sons. Yet we can’t play the “what if” game. 

Samuel’s accomplishment was that he turned the people back to God once Eli and his sons were gone. He relied and talked to God. God talked to him in turn. Perhaps Samuel wasn’t too different from Moses. Samuel served God so full heartedly that when the nation Israel asked for a king, he took it as a personal rejection. Perhaps there was some truth. As a father figure, he was akin to Eli. Samuel’s sons were also wicked judges, taken to bribery and favoritism. 

God reminded Samuel that it wasn’t himself that was rejected as leader, but the people, despite the awesome ways that God displayed the deliverance of the enemies into Israel’s hands, the people were rejecting God as their king. That’s the accomplishment Samuel had. He anointed two kings for Israel. First, he anointed Saul, then he anointed David after Saul fell. This morning, we will look at King Saul. 

Hopefully, you are already at 1 Samuel 10. Let’s read: 
Then Samuel took a jar of olive oil and poured it on Saul's head, kissed him, and said, “The Lord anoints you as ruler of his people Israel. You will rule his people and protect them from all their enemies. And this is the proof to you that the Lord has chosen you to be the ruler of his people: when you leave me today, you will meet two men near Rachel's tomb at Zelzah in the territory of Benjamin. They will tell you that the donkeys you were looking for have been found, so that your father isn't worried any more about them but about you, and he keeps asking, ‘What shall I do about my son?’ You will go on from there until you come to the sacred tree at Tabor, where you will meet three men on their way to offer a sacrifice to God at Bethel. One of them will be leading three young goats, another one will be carrying three loaves of bread, and the third one will have a leather bag full of wine. They will greet you and offer you two of the loaves, which you are to accept. Then you will go to the Hill of God in Gibeah, where there is a Philistine camp. At the entrance to the town you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the altar on the hill, playing harps, drums, flutes, and lyres. They will be dancing and shouting. Suddenly the spirit of the Lord will take control of you, and you will join in their religious dancing and shouting and will become a different person. When these things happen, do whatever God leads you to do. You will go ahead of me to Gilgal, where I will meet you and offer burnt sacrifices and fellowship sacrifices. Wait there seven days until I come and tell you what to do.” When Saul turned to leave Samuel, God gave Saul a new nature. 

It is here that I want to focus this morning. God gave Saul a new nature, and new spirit, a new heart. And what did that new nature afford him? If you follow along in The Story by Max Lucado and Randy Frazee, they label Saul as being a jealous, impatient and impetuous man. I disagree. I believe that along the way, he’d forgotten God, he’d forgotten what his obligation to God was. He became impatient, impetuous, and jealous. For now, he had a new heart.

When he is selected king of Israel, at the coronation, he is found in the luggage, or in the supply wagon, hiding. He did start off with a humility. Yet by the second time he was to go to Gilgal and wait 7 days, for he was 30 the first time, and the time in which God said his line will see the end of the kingship, his son, Jonathan, was already a skilled warrior and commander. 

Saul wanted to do what was right. After his coronation, the Ammonites rose up to make war. They besieged a city and offered terms for the city’s inhabitants. We will accept your surrender if you allow us to blind your men, taking their right eyes. Of course they had 7 days to see if anyone would come to their rescue. So when Saul heard that his people were under attack, the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, like the Spirit did for Samson. He raised an army, 330,000 men came to Saul’s command. Yet, Saul didn’t go this alone. His command was in his and Samuel’s name. He relied on Samuel as a spiritual advisor, a leader skilled on the battlefield, a mentor, if you will.  In this, he shows wisdom.  And God blessed him. He delivered the city, and the coronation was reaffirmed. But that would also be the last Samuel stayed with Saul. He was now king.

Saul became accomplished on the battlefield. And I think that is where his pride started coming into play. Before long, the Amalekites were creating trouble and God’s time of reckoning was at hand. Moses had written down God’s future judgment for these people because they not only denied passage through their lands during Israel’s wilderness sojourn, but they raided. God, through Samuel, told Saul to totally destroy them. Kill everyone, kill everything. Saul did, mostly. Instead, he spared the king and the best of the cattle for “sacrifices”, plunder but was caught. After Samuel confronted Saul, Saul went to grab for Samuel to plead that Samuel still remain, Samuel’s cloak ripped. “Just as you have ripped my cloak, so the kingdom will be ripped from you and handed to a man far better than you.”  

As I read that passage, 1 Samuel15, Saul stopped following God. Despite his new heart, it grew cold. Saul referred to God as Samuel’s God. Saul, in Carmel, had set up a shrine dedicated to his own glory. He was a god. But he took the king of the Amalekites and the best of the livestock to Gilgal, where he proudly boasted to Samuel of his obedience.

So what is the application to us today? When you were clothed in Christ, when you were baptized into Christ, do you realize that you were given a new heart? If you are in Christ, you are now a different person than you were before, or at least you should be. You are not just different, you are new. 

According to Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians, we are new creations. Our old nature is gone. He goes on to say in the same passage that God has reconciled us through Jesus, which is why we are new. Think about that for a moment. We are reconciled through Jesus’ blood, and are therefore made new. We are declared spotless, pure, according to Romans.

Do you realize what this means? We live in a world that is hurting, that is dying, we have the answer to the big question that everyone is asking in their own vocabulary. What is the purpose of life?  God wants a relationship with His creation. That is you and me, and our lost neighbors, family and friends. Coming back to our Heavenly Father is our goal in life, despite what the world tells us. And we have that answer. Shouldn’t we be trying to persuade those close to us, be it close in our hearts or close to our homes, about getting right with God?

Another take home, unlike Saul upon whom the Spirit of God came, we have been given the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit when we clothed ourselves in Christ. And that Spirit is mighty. And that Spirit can strengthen us, if we allow it. Consider the Scripture reading earlier. Do you know that you are a holy people with an eternal hope and inheritance? Do you pray that the Spirit will work mightily through you? We have that same power that raised Jesus from the dead living flowing in us.

That verse, Ephesians 1.19 continues to be a “whoa” verse. I have to pause every time that I read it. That we may know... the his incomparably great power that He has for us who believe. 

Ah to know that. How? That is the awesome blessings of living in fellowship with one another. It comes from spending time in the Word. It comes from living for God. Living for God, there is a short list in 1 Thessalonians 5. The longer list is Proverbs, the whole book. Then there is following Paul’s example from Ephesians. Prayer. 

Now for the invitation. This is as much for us here as those who will hear this message on the internet. The reason we are following The Story is because from the beginning of Creation, He has wanted a relationship with you and me. But we now live in an imperfect world brought that way by our sins. Still through Jesus, the reconciliation was paid. Last week we considered Isaiah 55.6, that we can call upon the Lord and he will hear, we can seek the Lord and He will draw near. Now is that time. Come, talk to me. As long as you have breath, our Heavenly Father wants to be yours too, or even again. Let’s now sing our song of prayer. 

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