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Doing Good is Not Obedience

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Scripture:
1 Samuel 15:13-15 When Samuel came to Saul, Saul said to him, “May you be blessed by the Lord; I have carried out the command of the Lord.” But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears, and the lowing of cattle that I hear?” Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and the cattle, to sacrifice to the Lord your God; but the rest we have utterly destroyed.”
Observation:
Saul had been told to destroy everything that belonged to the Amalekites, but he thought he knew better than God. Looking at the beautiful sheep and cattle, they couldn’t bear to do what God had instructed. Instead, under the guise of making a sacrifice to God, they brought the best sheep and cattle with them. 
Look carefully at what Saul says, “to sacrifice to the Lord your God.” He makes this about Samuel’s God, and not his. We have seen how he has been moving from God’s presence and distancing himself from accountability before God. N…

Serving God or Man?

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Scripture:
1 Samuel 17:8 He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me.
1 Samuel 17:26 David said to the men who stood by him, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine, and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”
1 Samuel 17:47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.”
1 Samuel 18:12 Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him but had departed from Saul.
Observation:
This is the familiar story of David and Goliath but there is something interesting happening behind the scenes. We had seen earlier that Saul was not made new, but simply different during a time in which he experienced the presence of the Spirit. By now,…

Different or New?

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Scripture:
1 Samuel 10:6-8
6 Then the spirit of the LORD will possess you, and you will be in a prophetic frenzy along with them and be turned into a different person. 7 Now when these signs meet you, do whatever you see fit to do, for God is with you. 8 And you shall go down to Gilgal ahead of me; then I will come down to you to present burnt offerings and offer sacrifices of well-being. Seven days you shall wait, until I come to you and show you what you shall do.”
Observation:
Something unusual, or even strange seemed to have happened to Saul after he was anointed. He was sent off by Samuel to meet up with a group of prophets. They were actually a band of men who worshipped God, but also studied law and were a voice for civic responsibility among the people. They had just spent time in worship of God and were filled with the Spirit. As Saul joined in, he too became overcome.
This incident is a bit of a foreshadowing of the appearance of Christ and the promise of the Holy Spirit. At th…

For The Wrong Reasons

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Scripture:
1 Samuel 9:1-2
There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish son of Abiel son of Zeror son of Becorath son of Aphiah, a Benjaminite, a man of wealth. He had a son whose name was Saul, a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he; he stood head and shoulders above everyone else.

Observation:
The Israelites had determined that they needed a King. They had been warned about this and what it would mean for them, but they wanted to be like every other country. Because they wanted to be like very one else, God allowed them to be drawn to someone with the qualities that they found appealing. Whereas God, their loving Father, was willing to care and provide for them in return for their fidelity to the relationship, they sought out an individual who would fulfill their worldly dreams. 
We are introduced to Saul in the first two verses of 1 Samuel 9. This is the young man who is to become the very first king of Israel. He had the right pedig…

Coming Full Circle

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Scripture:
1 Samuel 7:12-14
Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Jeshanah, and named it Ebenezer; for he said, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel; the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. The towns that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath; and Israel recovered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. There was peace also between Israel and the Amorites.
Observation:
When the ark of the covenant was lost it was removed from Ebenezer and ended up at Ashdod. This signified a movement from a place where the people had trusted God, to self-protection. Sadly, God’s people, who were to be holy, were no longer in God’s holy presence. 
Now, the journey seems to have come full circle. The ark had been returned and Samuel, their new leader called the people to faithfulness. They turned away from the other gods and d…

Oh To Be an Ordinary Cow

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Scripture:
1Sam. 6:10   The men did so; they took two milch cows and yoked them to the cart, and shut up their calves at home. 11 They put the ark of the Lord on the cart, and the box with the gold mice and the images of their tumors. 12 The cows went straight in the direction of Beth-shemesh along one highway, lowing as they went; they turned neither to the right nor to the left, and the lords of the Philistines went after them as far as the border of Beth-shemesh.
1Sam. 6:13   Now the people of Beth-shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley. When they looked up and saw the ark, they went with rejoicing to meet it. 14 The cart came into the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh, and stopped there. A large stone was there; so they split up the wood of the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord. 15 The Levites took down the ark of the Lord and the box that was beside it, in which were the gold objects, and set them upon the large stone. Then the people of Beth-s…

From Ebenezer to Ashdod

Scripture:
1Sam. 5:1   When the Philistines captured the ark of God, they brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod; 2 then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon and placed it beside Dagon. 3 When the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, there was Dagon, fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord. So they took Dagon and put him back in his place. 4 But when they rose early on the next morning, Dagon had fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord, and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off upon the threshold; only the trunk of Dagon was left to him. 5 This is why the priests of Dagon and all who enter the house of Dagon do not step on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day.
Observation:
The Israelites thought that if they took the presence of God with them in to war, they would be victorious. Therefore, they grabbed the ark of covenant and took this most precious container of God’s presence with t…

Why It May Be Better to Follow the Rules

Scripture:
1Sam. 2:22   Now Eli was very old. He heard all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 23 He said to them, “Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all these people. 24 No, my sons; it is not a good report that I hear the people of the Lord spreading abroad. 25 If one person sins against another, someone can intercede for the sinner with the Lord; but if someone sins against the Lord, who can make intercession?” But they would not listen to the voice of their father; for it was the will of the Lord to kill them.
Observation:
We met the women at the tent of meeting long ago, during the time of Moses. These women were fulfilling a holy duty, caring for the place where God and man met. During the time of the exodus the women serving the tent of meeting gave up the mirrors which they wore around their necks so that they could be melted down and made into the basin which th…

The Power of Testimony

Scripture:
Psalms 78:52-55 Then he led out his people like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock. He led them in safety, so that they were not afraid; but the sea overwhelmed their enemies. And he brought them to his holy hill, to the mountain that his right hand had won. He drove out nations before them; he apportioned them for a possession and settled the tribes of Israel in their tents.
Observation:
Over and over again the people of God are reminded of God’s faithfulness. They recount God’s provision when they were led out of Egypt. Like a shepherd God led them to safety. The analogy to the good shepherd here in the Psalms should not be lost on us, for not only is it recounting the past but it is foreshadowing a future in which the good shepherd will be revealed in the incarnation of Christ. 
The attributes of the good shepherd are seen in the guidance and loving care provided for God’s people. They are led in safety, kept from fear, taken to the holy hill, and finally settled. …

What Are You Boasting About?

Scripture:
Gal. 6:14 May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! 16 As for those who will follow this rule—peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.
Observation:
Paul could have boasted about many things in his own life. He was highly educated, very successful and driven in all that he had done. It was his deeply personal encounter with Jesus Christ that changed everything. When he experienced the deep love of Christ he was completely transformed and the things he used to boast about no longer brought significance to his life. 
Application:
In the era of social media it’s easy to get caught up into discussions and posts which may be used to elevate our own sense of accomplishment. Before long we can get drawn into believing that what we are accomplishing is as a result of our own skills a…

Accountability

Scripture:
Gal. 6:1   My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. 4 All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor’s work, will become a cause for pride. 5 For all must carry their own loads.

Observation:
Spiritual growth and development is necessary in the life of a believer. Paul gives practical advice for those who are following Christ and this includes accountability within a community of faith. This means that we must be willing to be held accountable before others for our behaviors, and that we must be willing to provide gentle, spirit-led correction in the lives of others. One person’s pain and burden, become another’s. No one is to think that they are …

Freedom in the Spirit

Scripture:
Gal. 5:16   Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Gal. 5:22   By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us …

When God Uses Bad for Good

Scripture:
Gal. 4:12   Friends, I beg you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You have done me no wrong. 13 You know that it was because of a physical infirmity that I first announced the gospel to you; 14 though my condition put you to the test, you did not scorn or despise me, but welcomed me as an angel of God, as Christ.

Observation:
This is a portion of scripture that is rather obscure and for which we know very little detail. It can be interpreted in any number of different ways, but some would suppose that when Paul arrived in Galatia, he was either ill, or was suffering badly from persecution, which could have included beatings. Whichever the case, he was not in good physical condition and evidently needed the help and assistance of the people in Galatia. At the same time, because he needed care, it appears that he ended up staying among these people and they welcomed and cared for him. As a result, he had ample opportunity to share with them the gospel.
Applicati…