Saul, from champion to bad example

What do you know about Saul? Yes, Saul the king, the one before David. What do you think about him? What comes to your mind when you hear his name?

Maybe like me, you think of those following verses: “And Samuel said, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORDhe has also rejected you from being king.” (1Samuel 15:22-23 ESV).

We remember Saul as the king who chose to please people rather than God, who disobeyed and refused to surrender until the end. We know him as the one who pursued David, trying to kill him again and again. But that is only who he became after taking pleasure in being king, after tasting power and fame, after forgetting who chose him, blessed him and used him. Before that, he was quite amazing, even admirable. He was strong, humble, gentle, courageous and didn’t care much about what people could think and say. Just read:

1 Samuel 10: 26-27 “Saul also went to his home at Gibeah, and with him went men of valor whose hearts God had touched.But some worthless fellows said, “How can this man save us?” And they despised him and brought him no present. But he held his peace.

1 Samuel 11: 5-7 “Now, behold, Saul was coming from the field behind the oxen. And Saul said, “What is wrong with the people, that they are weeping?” So they told him the news of the men of Jabesh. And the Spirit of God rushed upon Saul when he heard these words, and his anger was greatly kindled. He took a yoke of oxen and cut them in pieces and sent them throughout all the territory of Israel by the hand of the messengers, saying, “Whoever does not come out after Saul and Samuel, so shall it be done to his oxen!” Then the dread of the LORD fell upon the people, and they came out as one man.

1 Samuel 11: 12-15 “Then the people said to Samuel, “Who is it that said, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Bring the men, that we may put them to death.” But Saul said, “Not a man shall be put to death this day, for today the LORD has worked salvation in Israel.” Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingdom.” So all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before the LORD in Gilgal. There they sacrificed peace offerings before the LORD, and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly.

He was chosen and anointed and walked away from that. Before judging him and looking down at him, let check our hearts and see where we stand. Every time we avenge ourselves, take a decision without consulting the Lord, refuse to cut the hand that makes us sin, don’t share our faith or sin to please people or not to be rejected, we are just like Saul.

In 1 Corinthians 10:12,  God tells us: “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” We are all in danger of becoming like Saul, of having our heart so hardened that we don’t see God anymore. Let take heed lest from champions for Christ, we become examples not to follow.

Glory

Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God. (John 12:42-43 ESV)

They loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God because they did not want to be put out of the synagogue. Being put out of the synagogue meant rejection, shame, embarrassment, loss of social status, etc. and they were not willing to endure that. Oh, I understand how they felt.  I am tempted every day to choose  the glory that comes from man.

Will I be willing, today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, etc. to be without friends at work, to be without church or to lose the consideration of my “spiritual family”, to be despised by the non-believers around me (siblings, friends, neighbors, coworkers, etc.) for the sake of Christ? Am I going to open my Bible on the bus, subway, train, even if it means being laughed at? Am I going to seek the glory that comes from God even if it means that I will have none on this earth?

Every day, you and I  must make a choice. Let the following words of Christ help us make the right one: Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:25 ESV)

Esra’s heart

For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel. (Ezra 7:10 ESV)

I don’t know if there is something to add. I am speechless before Ezra’s heart.  I want to be as determined as he was to know God’s word, to understand it, and to obey and teach it. When you set your heart, there is no place for being lukewarm; there is no place for compromising a little. When you set your heart, God is first, His honor is your goal, pleasing Him your pleasure, and you will let nothing come between you and His will.

That is the kind of woman I dream and pray to be. That is the kind of person I pray you will be.

Who are you like?

And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him. (1 Kings 16:30 ESV)

Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, and walked in the ways of David his father; and he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. (2 Chronicles 34:1-2 ESV)

Reading the books of Kings and Chronicles, we see quickly that there were bad kings and good kings. When we look deeper, we see that there were bad kings and kings worse than them as well as good kings and excellent  kings.

There were bad kings who knew that God was God, but “worshipped” Him as they wanted, making idols and altars, creating pagan places of worship. Then, there were those who worshipped Baal and other false gods. There were good kings who did not do everything God would have wanted them to and kings after God’s own heart who followed David’s example. And there were good kings who became evil and an evil king who repented.

Every human being belongs to one of those categories. If you don’t think that you are a Christian after God’s own heart, today is your opportunity to repent. There is always room for repentance in God’s kingdom, always an opportunity to become like Josiah.

Before him there was no king like him , who turned to the LORD with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him. (2 Kings 23:25 ESV)

Be blessed!

Isaiah’s song

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16 ESV)

In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: “We have a strong city; he sets up salvation as walls and bulwarks. Open the gates, that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock. For he has humbled the inhabitants of the height, the lofty city. He lays it low, lays it low to the ground, casts it to the dust. The foot tramples it, the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy.” The path of the righteous is level; you make level the way of the righteous. In the path of your judgments, O LORD, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul. My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you. For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. If favor is shown to the wicked, he does not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness he deals corruptly and does not see the majesty of the LORD. O LORD, your hand is lifted up, but they do not see it. Let them see your zeal for your people, and be ashamed. Let the fire for your adversaries consume them. O LORD, you will ordain peace for us, for you have indeed done for us all our works. O LORD our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us, but your name alone we bring to remembrance. They are dead, they will not live; they are shades, they will not arise; to that end you have visited them with destruction and wiped out all remembrance of them. But you have increased the nation, O LORD, you have increased the nation; you are glorified; you have enlarged all the borders of the land. O LORD, in distress they sought you; they poured out a whispered prayer when your discipline was upon them. Like a pregnant woman who writhes and cries out in her pangs when she is near to giving birth, so were we because of you, O LORD; we were pregnant, we writhed, but we have given birth to wind. We have accomplished no deliverance in the earth, and the inhabitants of the world have not fallen. Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead. (Isaiah 26:1-19 ESV)

“We have a strong city; he sets up salvation as walls and bulwarks. Open the gates, that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock. For he has humbled the inhabitants of the height, the lofty city. He lays it low, lays it low to the ground, casts it to the dust. The foot tramples it, the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy.” The path of the righteous is level; you make level the way of the righteous. In the path of your judgments, O LORD, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul. My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you. For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. If favor is shown to the wicked, he does not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness he deals corruptly and does not see the majesty of the LORD. O LORD, your hand is lifted up, but they do not see it. Let them see your zeal for your people, and be ashamed. Let the fire for your adversaries consume them. O LORD, you will ordain peace for us, for you have indeed done for us all our works. O LORD our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us, but your name alone we bring to remembrance. They are dead, they will not live; they are shades, they will not arise; to that end you have visited them with destruction and wiped out all remembrance of them. But you have increased the nation, O LORD, you have increased the nation; you are glorified; you have enlarged all the borders of the land. O LORD, in distress they sought you; they poured out a whispered prayer when your discipline was upon them. Like a pregnant woman who writhes and cries out in her pangs when she is near to giving birth, so were we because of you, O LORD; we were pregnant, we writhed, but we have given birth to wind. We have accomplished no deliverance in the earth, and the inhabitants of the world have not fallen. Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead. (Isaiah 26:1-19 ESV)

Blessings

Worshipping a holy God

“Then David summoned the priests Zadok and Abiathar, and the Levites Uriel, Asaiah, Joel, Shemaiah, Eliel, and Amminadab, and said to them, “You are the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites. Consecrate yourselves, you and your brothers, so that you may bring up the ark of the LORD, the God of Israel, to the place that I have prepared for it. Because you did not carry it the first time, the LORD our God broke out against us, because we did not seek him according to the rule.” So the priests and the Levites consecrated themselves to bring up the ark of the LORD, the God of Israel. And the Levites carried the ark of God on their shoulders with the poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the LORD.” (1 Chronicles 15:11-15 ESV)

God is so amazing, so unique. He is a friend, a father, a brother, a helper, a comforter among other things. It is easy to focus on these aspects of His uniqueness and to forget His holiness. We tend to see His approachability as an invitation to do as we want in our relationship with Him. But there are rules to seek God. Repentance is one, faith in Christ another one, and gratitude and reverence others.  Grace is grace, but grace is holy. Love is love, but love does not mean disrespect, contempt, or right to complain or test God. There is a place for weakness in our relationship with God, but do not expect God to change His word, His rules for you. He did not even change them for David, the man according to His own heart.

“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28-29 ESV)

 

Good Friday, Easter… What for?

So many people are commemorating Jesus’ death today and will be celebrating His resurrection on Sunday. But what for?

For me,  it is a celebration of a freedom bought at a great price by a merciful Savior.

It is a celebration of the one who died for me while I was doing all I could to resist, rebel and push Him out of my life.

Those three days are a great opportunity to thank the God who gave me the freedom to be who I was created to be.

So Good Friday, Easter, what for? To remember and say thanks and worship even through tears for the forgiveness of my sins and the reconciliation with the Holy One.

A Gracious and Holy God

Their prince shall be one of themselves; their ruler shall come out from their midst; I will make him draw near, and he shall approach me, for who would dare of himself to approach me? declares the LORD. And you shall be my people, and I will be your God.” Jeremiah 30:21-22

While I was reading through Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, I was awestruck by God’s holiness. People could not come near Him as they wanted. There were rules, conditions, and requirements. Even when you wanted to make a sacrifice and to offer a gift, there were conditions. You could not just bring whatever you wanted, as you wanted. (Exodus 19: 10-25, Leviticus 1; 10, Numbers 4:18-20)

Those books remind me of a song verse, “Grateful that you hear us when we shout your praise.” This song verse and those books remind me that I should be grateful to approach God and to pray to Him. They remind me that God is not obliged to hear me even when I praise Him. When I praise Him, when I sacrifice to Him and for Him, it is a privilege. It is my privilege.

Paul told the Philippians that they have been given the privilege of suffering for Christ (Philippians 1:29). To be with God, to serve Him, to speak to and with Him, to read His word, to suffer and sacrifice for Him, to be persecuted in His name and to be single for his sake are privileges. Privileges acquired for us by Christ on the cross.

God gains nothing when we do those things. He is God and will always be. He will never change. Even if there was no believer in the entire universe, He will still be God. Even if all humans were to go to hell, He will still be God, good and gracious. He is holy and only through His grace can we approach Him and serve Him and suffer for Him. If Christ did not redeem me, I have no idea where I would be. And it is my privilege to say “Thank you Lord.”

Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. James 1:16-18

A life that praises the LORD.

Why Will You Die, Israel? “And you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, Thus have you said: ‘Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we rot away because of them. How then can we live?’ Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel? (Ezekiel 33:10-11)

Still thinking of Judah, of how his life gave praise to God.  He was not a spiritual giant. People never want to be more like Judah. There are songs and sermons about Joseph and nothing about Judah.

Judah was a mean, envious and bitter man.  He was the one who suggested to sell Joseph, manipulating his brother to accept his idea. Moreover he left his family and married a Canaanite. Then he refused to give Tamar, his daughter-in-law, to his youngest son and slept with her thinking she was a prostitute.

But God’s grace looks beyond our sins and blesses repentance. Judah could have let Tamar be burned, but instead he recognised his unrighteousness. He could have taken advantage of her, but never touched her again (Genesis 38:24-26). Then he went back to his family (Genesis 42:1-3) and used his influence for good.  He took not only the place, but also the responsibility of the leader (Genesis 43:1-10).  And when Joseph wanted to keep Benjamin as slave, Judah offered to take his place. His bitterness and envy were gone and replaced by compassion and mercy. He was ready to die to serve the other most loved son (Genesis 44).

Judah was a sinner. The kind we can easily look down upon. But he had a repentant heart. The kind of heart that pleases God. And therefore his life praised the Lord.

Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus… (Acts 3:19-20)

Let us stay near

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you. (Psalm 32:8-9)

We can easily be like horses and mules. We need to be forced to stay near God. We need rules and commands to draw near God.

Horses and mules fear humans because we stole their freedom and sometimes we are not that good to them. However, it is different with God.

We have all tasted that the Lord is good. So we have all the reasons to hang out with Him, to waste time with Him, to pray ceaselessly, singing at all times His praises.

Through Jesus, all the mercies and grace of God are ours.  Through Him, we are always welcome before the throne of grace. So let us not be like horses and mules. Let us stay near God at all times.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)