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.

Just like Nebuchadnezzar

At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. Daniel 4:34-36

This pagan king lifted his eyes to heaven and gave glory to God. And God was pleased and gave him back his kingdom. God was pleased because Nebuchadnezzar showed two qualities He longs to see in His people: faith and humility.

God loves humility (1 Peter 5:5). And the essence of humility is to recognize that God is God and that we are only creatures. Nebuchadnezzar recognized that God has the right to do whatever He wants with whom He wants and when He wants it. And  that “none can stay His hand or say to Him, “What have you done?” He let God be God and submitted to His authority.

God loves faith (Hebrews 11:6). Faith is essential to please Him. Nebuchadnezzar knew who was God. He proclaimed that God is God and that He is eternal. He believed in God and gave Him the glory that is His. He recognized that God is King and that we are nothing before Him.

He blessed the Most High and he received His favor. Nebuchadnezzar had something I want and need to have: a heart that trusted God and surrendered totally to Him.

Abigail

When Abigail saw David, she hurried and got down from the donkey and fell before David on her face and bowed to the ground. She fell at his feet and said, “On me alone, my lord, be the guilt. Please let your servant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your servant. 1 Samuel 25:23-24

She fell on her face, at his feet and bowed to the ground. She decided that she was guilty and needed his grace. But let’s be honest. David was the guilty one. True, Nabal had not be nice, but he owed David nothing. He never asked for his help (1 Samuel 25: 1-22). Abigail had all the rights to be angry. David was being unrighteous. He was ready to kill innocents out of anger. She could have accused him, challenged him, rebuked him, but she chose to be meek, to become the lowliest. she forgot about her social statute. She forgot about everything. She chose to remember that David was God’s chosen king. Because of the hand of God on him, she humbled herself before him (1 Samuel 25:23-24).

When the servants of David came to Abigail at Carmel, they said to her, “David has sent us to you to take you to him as his wife.” And she rose and bowed with her face to the ground and said, “Behold, your handmaid is a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord. 1 Samuel 25:40-41

It was not a game. She was not talking just to calm David down. She really did not have a high opinion of herself . She  knew the true meaning of “count others more significant than yourselves”. (Ephesians 2:3) She is a heroine, a woman who understood the heart of God (1 Peter 3:4). Oh, how I want to be like her.

To the end

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:34-35

Have you ever wondered how to love as Jesus have loved you? For sure you won’t die on a cross for people you love. And washing feet… maybe. It is still a humbling way to serve and to love. It is just as when someone washes your dishes or cleans your house. It is so loving. But what is great with Jesus’ love is that it never ceases. He loves to the end (John 13:1). And that is the real challenge: not only to wash feet, but to love and serve to the end.

Jesus did not stop loving His disciples. When they were arrogant, He kept loving them. When they were selfish, He kept loving them. When they were just childish and tiresome, He kept loving them. When Peter was looking for attention instead of looking for God, He kept loving him. When I am foolish, crazy, faithless and prideful at the same time, He never stops loving me. He loves to the end. And that’s challenging.

I don’t mind loving people for even a few years, but somehow I want the right to stop loving them when I think they don’t deserve it. Jesus was different. He washed Judas’ feet. He knew Judas was going to betray Him and He loved him to the end. And that’s the call, to love in this way. To love as Jesus has loved us. To the end.

The LORD appeared to him from far away.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
Jeremiah 31:3

Whatever you want

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” Mark 10:35-36

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45

When James and John asked the Lord to do for them whatever they wanted, He did not say: “How dare you?” He was wiling to do whatever they asked for. And when they told Him what they wanted, He did not get upset. He did not even tell them that they were arrogant.  He did not question their motivations. The Lord has nothing against spiritual ambition. He has nothing against our requests. We can ask again and again and He will be willing to bless us. He is the one who said:  “Ask, and it will be given to you” (Matthew 7:7 ).

However, as with John and James, He will tell us the cost of what we ask for, the cup we ought to drink before being granting the desire of our heart. Whatever you are asking the Lord at this moment, it comes with a cost: the cost of being a slave. To be a slave is not easy. A slave has no right, no dream. His only purpose is to obey his master. A slave has no dignity. He is willingly humble or he is humiliated. A slave owns nothing, but he owes his master everything.

Are you praying to get married: are you ready to be your spouse’s slave? Are you praying for that promotion, that new house: are you ready to be your boss, your neighbours’ slave? Being a slave is not easy. It demands a lot of humility: more than we are willing to have. But humility will always be the key to get everything from God, even  the most important: Himself (Isaiah 57:15). So let’s fight for it.

Mary’s Magnificent God (by John Piper)

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” (Luke 1:46–55)

Mary sees clearly a most remarkable thing about God: He is about to change the course of all human history; the most important three decades in all of time are about to begin.

And where is God? Occupying himself with two obscure, humble women — one old and barren (Elizabeth), one young and virginal (Mary). And Mary is so moved by this vision of God, the lover of the lowly, that she breaks out in song — a song that has come to be known as “the Magnificat” (Luke 1:46–55).

Mary and Elizabeth are wonderful heroines in Luke’s account. He loves the faith of these women. The thing that impresses him most, it appears, and the thing he wants to impress on Theophilus, his noble reader, is the lowliness and cheerful humility of Elizabeth and Mary.

Elizabeth says (Luke 1:43), “And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord would come to me?” And Mary says (Luke 1:48), “He has looked on the humble estate of his servant.”

The only people whose soul can truly magnify the Lord are people like Elizabeth and Mary — people who acknowledge their lowly estate and are overwhelmed by the condescension of the magnificent God