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Samuel’s Solid Leadership (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
March 2, 2022 3:00 am

Samuel’s Solid Leadership (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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March 2, 2022 3:00 am

“Does your walk match your talk?” We often ask that question to encourage behavior that aligns with our words. Hear how Samuel preached a similar message to the walking contradiction that was Israel. That’s our focus on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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You've probably heard someone say, our walk should matter. To match our talk, it's an expression we use to encourage others to make sure our behavior aligns with our words. Today on Truth for Life, we'll hear how Samuel preached a similar message to the walking contradiction that was the nation of Israel.

Here is Alistair Begg. Well, I invite you to turn with me to 1 Samuel and to chapter 7, and to follow along as I read from this chapter. 1 Samuel 7 and verse 1. And the men of Kiriath-jearim came and took up the ark of the LORD, and brought it to the house of Abinadab on the hill. And they consecrated his son Eliezer to have charge of the ark of the LORD.

From the day that the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, some twenty years, and all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD. And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, "'If you're returning to the LORD with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the ashtoreth from among you, and direct your heart to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.' So the people of Israel put away the bales and the ashtoreth, and they serve the LORD only.' Then Samuel said, "'Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the LORD for you.'

So they gathered at Mizpah, and drew water, and poured it out before the LORD, and fasted on that day, and said there, "'We have sinned against the LORD.' And Samuel judged the people of Israel at Mizpah. Now when the Philistines heard that the people of Israel had gathered at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the people of Israel heard of it, they were afraid of the Philistines. And the people of Israel said to Samuel, "'Do not cease to cry out to the LORD our God for us, that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines.'

So Samuel took a nursing lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the LORD. And Samuel cried out to the LORD for Israel, and the LORD answered him. As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the LORD thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel. And the men of Israel went out from Mizpah and pursued the Philistines and struck them as far as below Bethkar. Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer.

For he said, "'Till now the LORD has helped us.' So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel. And the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. The cities that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath. And Israel delivered their territory from the hand of the Philistines.

There was peace also between Israel and the Amorites. Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life, and he went on a circuit year by year to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah. And he judged Israel in all these places.

Then he would return to Ramah, for his home was there. And there also he judged Israel, and he built there an altar to the LORD. Amen." O gracious God, we turn to your Word, and we thank you for it. We thank you for the promise of the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit, so that beyond the voice of a mere man we may hear your voice and in hearing respond in repentance and in faith and in a genuine desire that the words of the song we have just sung may be the true longing of our hearts. For we pray in Jesus' name.

Amen. Leadership is a vulnerable position, whether you are the conductor of an orchestra, whether you were the captain of Liverpool yesterday in the final of the European Championship against Tottenham Hotspur—whatever your role might be, if you serve in any capacity at all—you know what a challenge it is. Therefore, it is no surprise for us to turn to the Bible and to be considering the story here that is recorded for us in 1 Samuel to recognize that the need for stable and godly leadership was absolutely crucial in the period of time that we are considering. We have seen that under Eli's leadership—if you have your Bible before you, let me just remind you of a couple of places—but at the beginning of chapter 3, where it says that Samuel was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli, and then we immediately read, And the word of the LORD was rare in those days. And the calling of Samuel, which is then for us in chapter 3, is part one, if you like, of God's answer to the leadership crisis in Israel. Part two will be Saul. Part three will be David. Of course, the ultimate leadership is to be found in the one to whom all of this points—namely, the Lord Jesus.

And Samuel has grown up under this tutelage. In chapter 3, again, he grew, and the Lord was with him, and noticeably let none of his words fall to the ground. Of all the things that you might say about somebody, and the Lord was with him, and he grew strong, or the Lord was with him, and he was very influential—well, it might have finished that sentence. But no, the significant thing as we're about to see is that as the prophet of God, it was the Word of God that was doing the work of God. Now, chapter 6—just in case you're wondering, we're going to rehearse all the way from chapter 3—chapter 6 ends with the men of Beth Shemesh reeling from the deathly blow that has been struck. In verse 19, he struck—that is, God struck—seventy men of them, and the people mourned, because the Lord had struck the people with a great blow.

So the chapter ends with them recoiling from this impact and asking a fundamental question. Who, then, is able to stand before a holy God? If this is what happens, whether you're a Philistine or an Israelite, who is able to stand? And the correlative question, which you would see there in your text, is, Who can we get to take the ark of the Lord off our hands? Because this ark is not actually proving to be the kind of blessing that we thought. And so, the men of Kiriath-jearim, verse 1 of chapter 7, the men of Kiriath-jearim oblige, coming to take the ark of the Lord into the house of Abinadab, noticeably on the hill. Clearly, the people would have said, Oh yes, Abinadab, he lived up on the hill. Means absolutely nothing to us at all, does it?

Because we don't even know the hill. But nevertheless, the detail there is of significance. Eliezer was given charge of the ark of the Lord. And quite remarkably, verse 2 tells us that the ark is now parked in the house of Abinadab for some twenty years. For some twenty years.

It's very important that when we read our Bibles, we read them carefully, because this is significant. When the last time we saw Samuel, he was a growing youth. The first time we saw him, he was in utero, so to speak. And now, all this time has elapsed, and so we're dealing with somebody of significant age. What exact age we don't know. And it raises the almost inevitable question, Well, what was happening during those twenty years?

You've got twenty years. It's covered in half of a sentence. And then the story goes on with the re-emergence of Samuel. Well, one answer to that is, if God had wanted us to know what was going on in the twenty years, there would be another chapter, and it would have contained all of that information.

The silences are as purposeful as the sounds. And so we can assume that what was going on was what goes on—business, family life, people getting married, old people dying, the visit of foreigners. And in the midst of all of that, with the ark out of sight up in Abinadab's house on the hill, the people were seduced by the attractiveness of the foreign gods. They realized, in much the same way as happened way back when Moses was taken up to the mountain, that a lot of what they had going for them as well seemed rather tame in comparison to what was offered around them. And so, almost inevitably, people said, Well, we don't really have very much in our department.

But if you pay attention to what is there, then you can get into some very interesting things. Now, presumably, in those twenty years as well, Samuel wasn't just sitting on a rock—that Samuel was engaged in the task that God had given him, and that he was, presumably, moving amongst these communities, exercising the ministry that God had given him, and waiting, if you like, for the opportune moment to step forward and do what he'd been called to do. Now, you will notice that if these things unfolded as I'm suggesting to you, the occasion caused them to reflect but not to change. So Samuel may have come to one of the towns and said, You know, it is wrong for you to be engaged in this way.

And they said, Well, you know, we'll give some thought to that. But we're not going to change. It was sufficient for them to lament the effects of their sin but not enough to turn from their sin. Dear ones, there's such a difference between feeling sorry about the impact that our sins have caused and actually repenting of our sins. I feel sorry about what happened. I wanted to mention it. Yes, but have you repented of it?

Have you turned to God and acknowledged it, you see? They were willing to tolerate certain things. Presumably, the death of the seventy, over time, was now a dim recollection for them.

They had been able now to ignore it—perhaps even in some cases, even to forget it. Just think, for example, about what it means to have been born after the falling of the Berlin Wall. As a whole generation grows up, they knew nothing about a Berlin Wall, unless somebody tells them that there was a great division that was there, and it was put there to keep people in. They could not get out in freedom. A whole group of people said, I haven't a clue what you're talking about. In the same way, there would have been children that grew up. And they said, You know, on one day God struck down seventy of our men. There were seventy funerals here one afternoon. Really?

Why? Well, let me tell you. Now, it is in that kind of framework that verse 3 comes. And Samuel said to all the house of Israel… It doesn't say he appeared, but he clearly appeared, otherwise he couldn't have said. But it is from his lips that the message comes. Now, quite straightforwardly, I want you to notice Samuel here preaching. He's preaching. The lamenting of verse 2—lamenting after the Lord or before the Lord or beginning to seek the Lord—is then addressed by Samuel's preaching. And so, within the space of relatively few verses, we discover that the people are moving from despondency there in verse 2 to victory, that they're moving from corruption, if you like, to consecration. And the ministry of Samuel, we should notice, the ministry of Samuel was in some ways just peculiarly boring.

All right? You say, Well, you're not allowed to say that about Samuel. Well, I just did. What I mean by that is we're not introduced to Samuel at any point in the proceedings as something of a man of great military might, or a person who is able to exercise political muscle, or someone whose personality just sets the heather on fire, or somebody whose creativity and his fund of ideas and expectations and consuming plans just stirs all of the people. None of that.

None of that. No, only the fact that God Almighty did not let the words of Samuel fall to the ground, because the words of the prophet are the words of God. The words that Samuel spoke were the words that God gave him to speak. That is true of Jesus. Remember, he said, The words that I speak to you are not my own.

They are the words that my Father gave me to speak to you. This is the role that is assigned to the prophet. And this, my friends, is the prophetic word in terms of contemporary life—not some notion that I or somebody else pops out of nowhere. But the prophetic word is surely to bring the very Word of God to bear upon the people of God in the context of contemporary life and to say, This is what this means, and this is why this matters. God's Word, doing God's work eleven centuries B.C.

Same thing. Mark Ashton, who exercised a wonderful ministry for a good number of years in Cambridge, addressing this, says, Many church leaders agonize over how they can move a congregation from one condition to a better state. The answer is by preaching, not by springing ideas, however biblical they may be, on the elders but by feeding the flock with the Word of God regularly so that God's Word pastors, leads, directs, and changes both individuals and the whole body. Let me say that to you again. So that God's Word pastors, directs, leads, changes both individuals and the entire body. That is God's pattern.

You can't account, for example, for the impact of Spurgeon in Victorian England, beginning with such a handful of people and eventually filling the Crystal Palace with folks. Everybody there to listen, and listen to Spurgeon, to his congregation. I charge you before the Most High, never depend upon my ministry. What am I? What is there in me? I speak, and when God speaks through me, I speak with a power unknown to men in whom the Spirit dwells not. But if he leave me, I am not only as weak as other men, but less than they. For I have no wisdom of years, I have no human learning, I have taken no degree in the university, I wear no titles of learned honor. If God speak by me, he must have all the glory. If he saves souls by such a frail being, he must have all the glory. Give unto the Lord glory and strength.

Lay every particle of the honor at his feet. But do continue to pray, do plead with God for me, that his power may still be seen, his arms still put mightily to work. Prayer honored must be recollected when we set up the Ebenezer and say, Thus far the Lord has helped me. So, you see, when a congregation understands the place of preaching, properly understood, it actually minimizes the preacher and glorifies God. Improperly embraced, it glorifies the preacher and minimizes God. Pathway one, bless it.

Pathway two, bondage, chaos, and eventual dissolution. Read your Bible. You'll find that it is the case. So, all this to remind us that Samuel came preaching. And he preached very straightforwardly, didn't he? It was a very long sermon, at least here as it's recorded for us. He says, I want you to know that if you are genuine—I've heard a lot of lamenting—if you're really serious about this, then prove it. Isn't that what he says? If you're returning to the Lord with all your heart, then prove it. Don't just sit around here and cry in your coffee.

Do it. You see, what they were doing was they were tolerating these things. They were incorporating these things. The things of the Philistines, they'd begun to say to themselves, Well, there's really no harm in this at all. This is perfectly fine.

We don't have to worry about this. But yes, they did, and so do we. Now, I'm not gonna take time this morning to unpack the sordid, horrible details of the Baals and the Ashtaroths.

You can do that on your own time. Suffice it to say that the appeal of these foreign gods was straightforward and actually repeated again and again throughout history. And that is, these foreign gods offered the chance to combine sexual indulgence with religious devotion. You go read it for yourselves, and you'll find out that at the very heart of it is perversion and corruption at the level of human sexuality. Is it any surprise that here we are at the twenty-fourth century, and at the very knife edge of the future of evangelicalism in the United States of America, is this very question, Is it okay to do this?

Is it fair enough to tolerate this? And so on. It's the same question.

Years have gone by. We're far away. But no. You see, the activities in which they were being seduced to engage in were entirely incompatible with the law of God. Okay?

Excellent street. You will have no other gods before me. Which part of that, the Lord might say, are you having difficulty in understanding? Okay, so it's not an issue of understanding. It is a moral issue. It's not an intellectual issue. It is a moral decision.

It is an immoral decision. No, no, it's okay for us. We can have the ark.

It's up on the hill somewhere. We're not worried about the ark right now. No, no, we've got far more exciting things going on here. We've got the church over here. It's kind of boring. All they ever do in there is preach. But over here, there's—oh, there's so much stuff over here.

It's very exciting. God does not tolerate a hybrid religion where we pick and choose the parts we want to keep from Christianity and blend it in with the appealing aspects of the surrounding culture. You're listening to Truth for Life with Alistair Begg. To avoid being seduced into idolatry or hybrid religion, it's important for us to spend daily time in the Bible. If you don't currently subscribe to the Truth for Life daily devotional, you can sign up for it for free. When you do, each day you'll receive a passage of Scripture, along with the corresponding commentary from Alistair delivered to your email inbox. The daily devotional is a great way to start or end your day reflecting on God's Word. You can subscribe for free.

Go to slash lists. Many people ask the question, is attending a local church in person really all that important? Well, the Bible points again and again to the local church as the primary place for Christian fellowship and belonging. And today we want to recommend a book to you titled Love Your Church, that explores some of the obstacles that prevent many people from fully engaging with their local church community. If you'd like to increase your local church participation, the book Love Your Church will motivate you to take the next step. This is a great book to help you enjoy the benefits you'll find in being an active member of a local church. This is what Alistair had to say about the book Love Your Church. He said, this book reminds me why it was that long before I became a pastor, I was thrilled to be part of a local church.

I commend it enthusiastically and hope that each member of my church will read, mark, inwardly digest and live out the lessons learned. Request your copy of the book Love Your Church when you donate today. To give, click the image you see in the mobile app or visit us online at slash donate. Or you can call us at 888-588-7884. And if you'd rather mail your donation along with your request for the book, write to Truth for Life at P.O.

Box 398000, Cleveland, Ohio 44139. I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for joining us today. We hope you'll listen tomorrow when we'll find out why idolatry is ultimately an inside job. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-28 09:56:21 / 2023-05-28 10:04:53 / 9

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