There are times when God calls us to take action and there are times when He calls us to wait.
So how do we know how we are to respond? Well today on Truth for Life we find out what happened when Israel's king, Saul, made the wrong choice. Alistair Begg is teaching from 1 Samuel chapter 13. The question that we are confronted with is, how in the world is it that the Israelites find themselves in such a sorry state? And the answer to that is found in the foolish disobedience of the king.
Leadership always matters. So we have this picture of Saul on the hill, grinning somewhat sheepishly and foolishly. As he looks out on the circumstances before him, and he decides, I'm gonna have to fix this myself. Now, in order to help us understand this central section, if you turn back one page to chapter 10, you will be reminded—we will be reminded—of the clear instruction that Samuel had given to Saul on the occasion of his anointing. And he said to him, Now, when the signs meet you, first of all, let me give issue to you a call to action. Do what your hand finds to do, for God is with you.
And we saw at that time that the inference was, Take care of your opponents. Then, verse 8, a call not to action but a call to wait. Then go down before me to Gilgal.
Behold, I am coming down to you to offer burnt offerings and to sacrifice peace offerings. Seven days you shall wait until I come to you and show you what you shall do. Paul eventually, in chapter 11, obeys the call to action, and now we discover in chapter 13 that he fails in the call to wait.
Now, we need to read this carefully. You will notice that it is not that he disregards the command as if to say, Well, I don't need to do that. He believes he does need to do that, and he wants to do it.
And he does it, if you like, for as long as he can. You will see verse 8 begins, He waited seven days. Well, wasn't it seven days he was supposed to wait?
Yes! He was to wait seven days until Samuel came. So he waits the seven days, but Samuel hasn't come. We don't know at what point in the day he finally shows up, but you will notice that Saul, when he is defending himself later on, says to him, But Samuel, you did not show up within the appointed time. In other words, his time was running out, and he's looking for a way to excuse himself.
What he actually does here is he just leans on his own understanding. Despite the fact that Samuel was coming to do what Saul has now done, despite the fact that Samuel was coming to tell him what he should now do, the desperate situation in which he found himself was such that he took matters into his own hands. So in verse 8, Samuel did not come, and then he does what is described for us there in verse 9, and when he had finished the beginning of verse 10, offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came. And it doesn't appear as though Saul felt any sense of concern or disappointment, as you see in that final sentence of verse 10. And Saul went out to meet him and greet him. If he had felt bad about it or if he was overwhelmed by it, presumably he would have gone and done us all again. He would have gone and found somewhere to hide.
But it doesn't. He comes out and says, Samuel. And before he can get out his question, which would inevitably be, Where have you been?
Samuel hits him with his question. And that question is simply, What have you done? That actually is a recurring question in the Bible.
If you know your Bible, you will know that that's the question that God posed to Eve in the garden. What have you done? It's actually the question that he posed to Cain in the killing of his brother Abel.
What have you done? It's the question that we discovered in Judges in the event of Achan stealing and hiding and lying, and God comes to him and says, What have you done? Incidentally and in passing, a series that we did some time ago, a long time ago now, I think, was entitled Questions Which God Asks. Many of us are very keen with the questions that we want to ask God.
Some of them are rather rude. But the real issue is, Are you able to answer? Am I able to answer the questions that God is asking me? Remember the question that Pilate was asked? What have you done with Jesus, who is called the Christ?
Well, I wonder that question could be leveled to every one of us, couldn't it? What have you done with Jesus? You become a follower of Jesus? Do you trust Jesus? Or do you just dismiss Jesus? Well, that's the way the question comes, and there's more than a hint of self-justification in Saul's reply.
If the text is before you, you can see it. And Saul replies in verse 11, Well, Samuel, listen, the numbers were dwindling. I figured if I wait any longer I won't even have an army at all.
I mean, I had three thousand, but when I looked behind me, there was only about six hundred. And furthermore, you hadn't shown up within the days. Again, I'm assuming that Samuel comes at the last minute. And so he says, I reasoned. I reasoned the Philistines are going to come and attack. I wasn't going to go out and defend against them without having sought the favor of the Lord. That's verse 12. So I forced myself and I offered the burned offering.
In other words, what he's saying is this. I did what any sensible person would do in the circumstances. That's a fairly common response to things, isn't it? Well, given the circumstances, why did you do this? Children do it all the time with their parents.
So how was it that the chocolate chip cookie actually got in your mouth? Well, in light of the circumstances of need and desire and temptation, and I did what was only sensible. And I was only doing it because Penelope here told me she needed one of these. And so immediately we go to self-justification. And the response of Samuel to that attempt is equally clear. Look at what he says. Samuel said to Saul, You have done foolishly.
Samuel's words were clear. Wait until I come to you and show you what you shall do. Now, in reading this, if we were just having a conversation with one another, I don't think it would be too long before somebody said, Well, wait a minute. We shouldn't be too hard on Saul. After, I wouldn't call it foolish. It seems to me that it was the only sensible approach to take. Well, yeah, he reasoned from the circumstances—dwindling numbers, attacking force, no-show Samuel—but what about the alternative? He didn't have to do this.
He chose to do this. Oh, so somebody… You mean the alternative like simply trusting? No.
No, no. Not simply trusting. Excruciatingly trusting. Trusting against all odds. Trusting in the face of massive opposition. Trusting in light of the dwindling numbers.
Trusting in light of one's own personal sense of inadequacy. Trusting God by obeying his words. See, what Saul does here is he sets his own heart and mind against the clear command of God.
And the implications of this are of vast significance. Verse 13. If you had done what you were told to do, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever.
But now your kingdom shall not continue. It is a huge mistake to think that obeying God is an easy thing to do. Trusting God is neither straightforward nor simple. If you rehearse your life, you know that's true. Think of the things that come in opposition to you.
Think about the challenges that are yours right now in this moment as I address you. And the last thing that you probably want to hear from the Bible or from me is something like, Well, why don't you just simply trust? And you're saying to yourself, I can't. I won't.
I don't know. And here you have it crystallized. Solomon, later on in the kingship, was going to tell his son, Son, trust in the Lord with all your heart. And don't rely on your own insight. In all your ways, acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths. Now, the interesting thing is, that's not a call to some kind of intellectual decision-making process.
The intellect's involved, but you notice what he says. Trust God with all your heart. Because the heart in the Bible is the epicenter of who and what we are. It is involving our minds, our emotions, and our wills. To trust God with all my heart is to display a deep, settled confidence in God's care.
A deep, settled confidence at the very core of my life, where my desires, where my anxieties, where my doubts, where my disappointments live. And all those things come and clamor for attention and wake us up in the night and make us fearful and cause us to say, Yeah, but if you understood the circumstances, you would realize that the only thing I could possibly do was just disobey God. That's why I made the business deal. That's why I slept with her. That's why I did this. In the circumstances, if you knew the circumstances—well, God knows the circumstances.
That's why God has given Saul Samuel, so that he might have the prophetic word of God. You say, Well, I wish I had won. You do have won. It's right here. It's absolutely clear. When it says, Wait, it means wait. When it says, Stop, it means stop. When it says, Go, it means go.
Oh, but, hey, no one said it's simple. Now, look at this. God's care expressed in this way was the basis upon which Saul would be able to obey the command. Let me just turn this in a slightly different direction for a moment, as we mention this notion of heart. You remember, in Psalm 14, it says, The fool has said in his heart, There is no God. The fool has said in his heart, There is no God. What are we discovering here is the essence of folly? The essence of folly. Saul's folly is not because he's a dimwit. His folly is expressed in his disobedience.
You have done foolishly. Now, when you take that in terms of Psalm 14—"The fool has said in his heart, There is no God"—that's not a comment on the intellectual capacity of the individual. It's a comment on the moral circumstance of the individual, in his heart. Because we know that many of our friends who are atheists are really intelligent. They're really bright.
We can't hold a candle to them. And the Bible says, You're foolish. The same thing that Paul picks up in Romans 1, where he's describing the way in which God, having revealed himself in creation and in the conscience of a man, describes what happens when, under the disguise of being really wise, men and women become foolish. We sang about it. Once I was blind, yet believed I saw everything. Proud in my ways, yet a fool in my part. And Saul says, You don't understand.
I did a PhD at Case Western Reserve. That's absurd. We're not talking intellect. You say, But I don't see any evidence of it in the world.
I'll tell you why. The darkness is not on the outside of you. The darkness is on the inside of you. Well, that's a staggering revelation, isn't it? In other words, at the very core of our being, the fool is someone who lives as though God does not exist or God doesn't matter. And what happened to Saul in this circumstance was that he finally said, It matters more that I take this action than that I obey God. The implication, then, is straightforward. We noted it in verse 14, Your kingdom shall not continue.
Why not? Because the only king that can rule Israel is a king who is obedient to God. And so he tells him, he says, God has his mind on such a king. God has a man after his own heart. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart. In other words, God knows exactly the one that he has in mind.
There's a hint of David and ultimately the picture of Jesus. It will always lead us forward to the obedient king. Jesus is the obedient king. Remember, in Gethsemane, he says, Father, not my will but yours be done. And that's why, when we read the Old Testament and when we read this about this ancient king and what he did and the decisions he made, we'll go wrong unless we allow it to take us all the way forward to Jesus, who is the king, who didn't consider any quality with God, something to be grasped. But he made himself of no reputation. And when all other circumstances appeared not simply to be against him but to be the kind of circumstances that one could say, Well, maybe there's another way.
That was where Jesus was, wasn't it? He said, If it is possible, I'll let this cup pass from me. But nevertheless, I am the obedient king. And it's that obedient king who, unlike Saul, calls us to his army, extends to us a welcome. He's gentle. He's lowly in heart. He's not rude. He's decisive. He's powerful.
He's God. And so we want to listen to those promises of welcome. And finally, we want to ponder the warning that is provided in Saul's response. And it's a straightforward warning, isn't it?
I made a note to myself. I said, Alistair, you need now to beware of the least disobedience. Because it will be impossible to disobey God and his clear command without facing the implications that follow from it.
That is true for an individual. It's true of a church—the empty churches that remain empty and will finally close. Close because they're foolish. And their folly lies in this—to refuse the command of God. Some of us say, Well, I've done a lot of foolish stuff.
We all have. The evil one wants to come and rub our noses in that. And our response to that is not to say it didn't happen.
It's not to say I can justify it. It is to say the obedient King has borne all of my rebellion, all of my punishment, all of my sin, in his own body on the tree. And that's why I'm looking forward to communion tonight, so that I can remind myself that my presence in his company now and ultimately then is on the strength of his obedience and his sacrifice and the fact that he was so unlike Saul when the chips were down. Lord, let us trust your promises. Let us obey your commands. Let us live to your glory. Thank you for the wonderful way in which the gospel reaches out to every one of us. You know everybody who's here today.
None of us are here by chance. Match whatever there is in my faltering words that is actually conveying the truth of the gospel and the Bible. Match it to the needs of each of our lives, we pray. Let us understand that when the Bible says, Whosoever would come may actually come.
And may none of us falter for failing to respond to such a welcome. For we pray in Christ's name. Amen. Obeying God is not always easy, and trusting him isn't always as straightforward or simple as we'd like for it to be. But disobedience is inevitably folly. You're listening to Truth for Life.
That's Alistair Begg with a warning about the consequences of disobeying God. I think most of you know that the teaching you hear on this program is made possible entirely by listeners like you. As we head into the final turn of this year, we want to ask you to consider giving a generous gift so that we can end the year strong and look forward to another year of ministry in 2023. It is quick and easy for you to give a donation.
You can do it online at truthforlife.org slash donate, or you can call us at 888-588-7884. When you donate, we invite you to request a copy of the new volume of Alistair's devotional, Truth for Life, 365 daily devotions volume 2. In fact, Alistair took a moment and recorded an excerpt from one of his daily readings that unpacks a verse for us from the book of Proverbs.
The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor. All day long he craves and craves, but the righteous gives and does not hold back. Proverbs 21 25 and 26. The book of Proverbs is an intensely practical book.
It reminds us that a godly life is lived out in the everyday events of our journey. One lesson that Proverbs teaches us is the consequence of laziness. The biblical text uses the word sluggard to refer to a lazy person. It's not a contemporary word, but it is a suitable word, one that describes a habitually inactive person whose lifestyle is framed by indolence and dormancy.
The sluggard, we learn, is hinged to his bed. This could mean that the person rises from bed after lunchtime, or simply that they make little or no progress in their daily work. They never actually refuse to do anything, but they put off tasks bit by bit.
They deceive themselves into thinking that they'll get round to it, but minute by minute they allow opportunity to quietly slip away. A lazy person does not finish what they start, but we, as followers of Christ, are called to a kind of perseverance that, as we work unto the Lord, will reap a harvest in due season if we do not give up. As we remain accountable in Christian community, we can help each other see our blind spots, so that the excuses we make for our lazy behaviors don't become larger issues of self-indulgence.
The real tragedy of the sluggard's life is that laziness is not an infirmity, but a sin. God created us to work with a purpose, that we may let our light shine before others, so that they may see our good works and give glory to our Heavenly Father. The best adventure you can have is found along the pathway of goodness and duty. The greatest reward is not leisure and ease and ducking out, but in giving and giving and not holding back.
How will that shape your approach to your day and your tasks today? Now that is just a sample of one of 365 lessons you can ponder as you read volume 2 of the Truth for Life devotional in the new year. You can purchase copies of the devotional while supplies last. Today is the last day we'll send it to you as a thank-you gift when you make a donation to Truth for Life. So don't delay, simply ask for the book when you give online at truthforlife.org slash donate. Here at Truth for Life, our greatest desire is to make clear and relevant Bible teaching available to as many people as possible, everyone all around the world, without cost being a barrier. Because of your prayers and your financial giving, all of Alistair's online teaching can be heard or watched or even read for free. So if you are one of our listeners who supports Truth for Life, we want to offer a sincere thank you on behalf of so many people. I'm Bob Lapine, thanks for listening today. It was a failure of faith that disqualified King Saul from his leadership. Tomorrow we'll find out how his son Jonathan boldly stepped into the gap. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-11-17 17:38:09 / 2022-11-17 17:46:26 / 8