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Friday, January 20, 2012

Renewing and Refreshing

Does there seem to be a wall between you and God, between me and God?  David went through times like this when He feared for his life and felt God was far away and had removed His hand from his life.  He also went through times like this when he succumbed to temptation and did what God would not have him to do.  Many of these times are written about in the lamenting Psalms.  Saul also went through times like this.  Saul was considered a man above other men and not just for his stature.  He also had natural leadership ability and God saw him as being the king who could lead Israel in His ways after they urgently plead for a king just like their neighboring countries’.  Yet, with the first battle Saul proved his humanity and chose to be god for his army and called a fast.  With another battle, one against the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 15, Saul chose to fight them because God commanded it.  God also commanded other things of Saul and his army while they were defeating their enemies, the Amalekites.  He required that all their animals, sheep, cattle, camels, donkeys, everything, be killed as well as all the people, men, women and children.  Saul felt like he succeeded in doing God’s will.  He killed all the Amalekites, except  King Agag, and he killed all the animals except the choice ones.  God was not pleased.  He saw this as disobedience.  A wall was now created between Saul and God.  Saul thought he had done well.  God saw partial obedience as disobedience.  God spoke with Samuel and he was angry over Saul’s disobedience, as well (1 Samuel 15:11).  God actually regretted making Saul king of Israel.  He was not leading His children, Israel, in the ways of the Lord.  When Samuel confronted Saul about his disobedience, Samuel hedged and said he thought the animals would be a sacrifice to God for the victory and he blamed that on “the people.”  Samuel, as God’s prophet, spoke truth to Saul in verse 22, it is better to obey than offer sacrifice.  Saul wanted Samuel to speak for him to God but God had already said he rejected Saul.  Saul plead for Samuel to let him go and worship God with him and in the process tore Samuel’s cloak.  Samuel then stated that the kingdom which Saul ruled will also be torn apart.  Saul and Samuel went to worship the Lord, after Saul expressed remorse, but the future of the kingdom was set because of the sin of its first king. 
That is a strong occurrence to have happened because of the sin of a king and his soldiers but he was supposed to be the example and the ruler of the people.  He could have told the soldiers to kill everyone and everything but instead he made a visible example of disobedience to God by taking King Agag captive instead of killing him.  Since it was the king who sinned, a king’s punishment was meted out upon the king and his kingdom.  Yet, you see that God was willing for Saul to repent and worship Him again.  Even in New Testament times we see that God is willing to let people repent and to forgive them.  He says in 1 John 1:9 that If we admit our sins He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  Saul repented, was forgiven, was cleansed by God and worshipped God.  That does not mean that Saul never sinned again; we can see that Saul sins after this episode.  It is not a forever cleansing God gives us, but rather, a chance to make a new start and to choose obedience or disobedience. 
God did not make us robots who are programmed to always do right.  We are fallen humanity.  We have a choice to do God’s will or not.  When we choose not to obey, a wall is built between us and God, the freshness of our relationship with God is gone.  We become more dry each day we are separated by sin from God.  If you find that you are depending on something else to give you your strength each day, then you are not in a close relationship with God.  Your relationship is not fresh with Him.  Pray and search yourself to find where the wall began to be built and take the promise He gives to you, confess your sin and He is faithful to forgive you.  We will then be able to say what David said, “Return, O Lord, and rescue me.  Save me because of your unfailing love.”  (Psalm 6:4)  He does love us and wants to renew us to Himself.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Listening When Hearing

As I prepared to teach a lesson on Sunday, the story caught my interest. It was not so much the story in itself that attracted my interest but the lesson, listening. Further, on in the week, other readings in my Bible and in my devotion guides continued to capture my attention. My reflections revolved around this topic, listening leading to obedience. Is God trying to get me to obey Him in something? I continued to read and pray about it. 

            When you look at Saul and his first campaign as king, you also see his son, Jonathan. God appointed Saul as king because the children of Israel wanted to be similar to their neighbors and have a king. God
 told Samuel He would provide a king for them but they would be subject to the human whims and shortcomings of any king they had. Saul proved to be just that sort of king, human. In the first story of Saul as king, we find a story within a story (a pericope), one of Jonathan and his armor-bearer, which teaches the reader and his listeners how to listen and follow. The story is in 1 Samuel 14. Jonathan tells his armor-bearer what to do in verses 6-10. We see in verse 13 the armor-bearer follows Jonathan. He could not have followed if he had not listened. This following led to panic on the part of Israel's enemies, the Philistines, which led to the ultimate victory over the Philistines.

            Now, consider Jesus telling His disciples about the parables He spoke to His followers in Mark 4. Jesus spoke to the people about the sower and the seeds in the first eight verses after which Jesus proclaimed for them to hear if they had ears, leading them to consider and comprehend. Hearing comes when you actively listen. The disciples asked Jesus to explain the parable. He explains it to them and subsequently, almost verbatim, repeats vs. 9 except instead of saying "let him be hearing" Jesus says in vs. 23 "let him be listening and perceiving and comprehending" (AMP). You will notice active hearing, intense listening, must be followed with study, perception, and comprehension or else the Word spoken by God's Spirit to us falls on infertile ground.

            Let us now go to 2 Peter 3:16-18
. Peter speaks of Paul and the his difficulty in understanding many of the things of which Paul spoke. Peter warns his hearers to be on their guard so they fall not as prey to those who misconstrue and twist the Word. He wants the readers to understand beforehand this will happen and they will need to be on their guard. How then are we to be on our guard against Satan's deceivers? Peter states this answer in verse 18, "Grow in grace and spiritual strength and recognition and knowledge and understanding of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (AMP). To recognize Christ and His Word, we must have knowledge, which comes through study, understanding. To have understanding, we must obey. To obey, we must actively listen. Do we listen like Jonathan's armor-bearer and follow Christ? Do we listen as Christ speaks to us, His disciples, to be able to obey Him? How do we obey? Is it not by seeking Him and acknowledging Him and understanding Him? In which soil do we live our daily lives, fertile or shallow and thorny? Do we have a daily life with Christ where we keenly seek, listen, study and obey Him or is it haphazard? 

            Here is the challenge for us, seek him and actively listen
 to Him each day. To do this, we must read His word, not because we should by human godly standards, but because we want to hear Him, know Him, love Him, and obey Him. 

            This is not a new year's resolution but a commitment to love
 Christ fully and to know and follow Him.