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Mission Terrible (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
November 22, 2022 3:00 am

Mission Terrible (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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November 22, 2022 3:00 am

Many try to minimize sin or make excuses for it by focusing on perceived benefits. Discover how dangerous this approach is, and hear what happened when Saul tried to justify his partial obedience to God’s command. Listen to Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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All of us are tempted to minimize our sin.

Today on Truth for Life, we'll discover how dangerous that practice is. We'll hear what happened as King Saul tried to justify his partial obedience to God's command. Alistair Begg is teaching a message titled, Mission Terrible. For Samuel 15. And we read from verse 1. And Samuel said to Saul, The LORD sent me to anoint you king over his people Israel. Now therefore listen to the words of the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts, I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have.

Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey. So Saul summoned the people and numbered them in Tellaim, two hundred thousand men on foot, and ten thousand men of Judah. And Saul came to the city of Amalek and lay in wait in the valley. Then Saul said to the Kenites, Go, depart, go down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them.

For you showed kindness to all the people of Israel when they came up out of Egypt. So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites. And Saul defeated the Amalekites from Havilah as far as Shur, which is east of Egypt, and he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive and devoted to destruction all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good and would not utterly destroy them.

All that was despised and worthless they devoted to destruction. The word of the LORD came to Samuel, I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments. And Samuel was angry, and he cried to the LORD all night. And Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning, and it was told Samuel, Saul came to Carmel, and behold, he set up a monument for himself and turned and passed on and went down to Gilgal. And Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, Blessed be you to the LORD. I have performed the commandment of the LORD. And Samuel said, What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the oxen that I hear?

Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen to sacrifice to the LORD your God, and the rest we have devoted to destruction. Then Samuel said to Saul, Stop. I will tell you what the LORD said to me this night. And he said to him, Speak.

Amen. Well, here in chapter 15 we come to what might arguably be described as the defining incident in the rejection of Saul as Israel's king. You may recall that back in chapter 13, he had it made clear to him that as a result of his foolishness, which was displayed in his disobedience to God, there was no possibility now of him having a dynasty—that it would not fall to his son Jonathan to perpetuate his kingship, but that God had in his heart another man pointing forward to David, who would come. And then, in chapter 14, there is the absence of Samuel, and then in chapter 15, once again Samuel reappears. And Samuel comes to make clear to him, in verse 26—which we didn't read, but which, if your Bible is open, you can see—in verse 26, Samuel said to Saul, I'm not going to return with you, for you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel. And then, in the little drama that follows with the tearing of the skirt of the robe and so on, a metaphor is there. The kingdom of Israel has been torn away from Saul, and his reign now is over.

Now, it is this which is the preoccupation of this fifteenth chapter. And yet, in the midst of this, which is another great display of Saul's unwillingness to do what God told him to do, in the middle of all of that, in verse 12, we're told that when he came out to meet Samuel, he was able to do somewhat joyfully, despite the fact that he had gone off and had set up a monument for himself at that very moment. Quite remarkable, isn't it, that just at the time that he has decided not to do what God has told him to do, he thinks, I think a nice monument would be just the kind of thing that would be perfect.

And so he is off building a monument for himself or building a monument, perhaps even to himself. It is actually a reminder, just in passing, of the way in which sin blinds us to what is actually the case. Many times we want to say, Well, my conscience is clear, and therefore I'm innocent.

Well, that may be the case. But sometimes our clear conscience is not an indication of our innocence. It is an indication of the fact that we have been disobedient, and our sin has blinded us to the reality of what it is we face. The Bible is clear concerning this. Remarkably, again and again in Hebrews it comes to us, See to it that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Surely the deceitfulness of sin, which takes a straightforward command of God, changes it to suit myself, and then decides, This is a perfect time for me to build a monument so that everybody can see how significant I am. When I read it this week and read it again, I said, Perhaps the title for the entire chapter, then, should be A Monumental Collapse, just keying off this crazy idea, this ironic notion, of this monument being built. When I wrote that down in my notes a while ago now, I had in mind that I was going all the way through the chapter, as I've tried to do before. I got there so into it, then I decided, Well, I wouldn't be going all the way through. I got a little further into it, and I decided I'm not going to be going through it hardly at all. And so, this is kind of, this morning, the sermon I never planned to preach. At least, I didn't plan to preach it on Monday.

I still had it in mind on Tuesday, but by the time I got to Thursday and Friday, it was over. I think that will become apparent as I proceed. The Monumental Collapse is covered in a number of phases. Phase 1, verses 1–3, which I'm going to look at under the heading Mission Terrible. Mission Terrible. We're familiar with Mission Impossible, but this is not an impossible mission, but it is a terrible mission. Now, once again, the chronology between these chapters is not something that we ought to become preoccupied with, because it is hard to determine just what part is fitting where.

Clearly, chronology is not the big issue for the one who is writing. But what we are reminded of is the fact that the role that was given to Samuel in the anointing of Saul as king was a prophetic role, and that the effectiveness of Saul's kingship was going to be directly related to his willingness to submit to the Word of God, the Word of God that came to him through the servant of God—namely, Samuel, who in this case is the prophet. And so he reiterates that. He says to Saul, The LORD, you will remember, sent me to anoint you as king over his people Israel. Now, therefore, in light of that, listen to the words of the LORD. It is absolutely essential that he does so. Now, what is this word that he is to listen to? Well, it is there in verse 3. Go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have.

Completely bury it. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey. So in a sentence, he is commissioned to carry out the wholesale destruction of the Amalekites.

Let that settle in your mind. In verse 2, we have pointed out to us that, historically, the Amalekites had opposed the people of God from the very beginning. And as a result of that, they were from the very beginning under the judgment of God.

Now, you can research this on your own, but I can get you started. For example, in Exodus and in chapter 17, at the time of the Exodus, Moses is able to let the people hear. The LORD said to Moses, Exodus 17, 14, write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, The LORD is my banner, saying, A hand upon the throne of the LORD. The LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation. You fast-forward into the people of God in Deuteronomy, then arriving at the threshold of the promised land, and Moses once again reiterates what had happened. He says to them, Now you need to remember what happened some eighty or so years ago. Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you came out of Egypt, how he attacked you on the way, when you were faint and weary and cut off your tail, those who were lagging behind you, and he did not fear God. Therefore, when the LORD your God has given you rest from all your enemies around you, in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven, and you shall not forget.

So the picture is very, very clear. The Amalekites were brutal. They sacrificed to their own gods. They sacrificed children. They were guilty of some of the most heinous acts of atrocity and brutal sexuality. And God wanted them to be destroyed, not because they were Amalekites but because of their sinful opposition to his plan, to his people, and to his purposes. But still they continued to pick off the weak, the sick, the elderly.

They brutally murdered the stragglers. Now, here we are in 1 Samuel, and the time has been filled up, if you like. Many years have gone by, many years of opportunity for them to change their ways, to turn from the idols of their own creating and to turn to the true and the living God. But again and again, reinforcing from generation to generation, we will not have this man, we will not have this king, and so on.

And here we find it. The time has come to obey the Lord of hosts. That's why we sang this morning, O Lord of hosts, how lovely is your dwelling place. This is the third time in 1 Samuel that we have come on this phrase. I'll let you go and look for them yourselves later on. You will be able to enjoy that this afternoon.

But the solemnity of the terminology is for us to pick up and understand. It is to the Lord of hosts that you must listen as you are called now to execute the divine judgment on the enemy. Well, there we have it.

There we have it. It's not very pleasant, is it? In fact, it's not pleasant at all.

Some of you are saying, goodness gracious, Labor Day weekend, and I was just thinking of a picnic, and look at what we've got. Well, as I say to you, this is the sermon that I was not planning to preach. But let me say to you, loved ones, there is no way to soften the impact of this, apart from cutting your Bible up with scissors.

It is absolutely terrible. And any attempt to minimize it or to sanitize it crumbles before the truth of Scripture. The one who stands behind this mission terrible is God. Samuel knows it. Saul knows it. Look at verse 13. And Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, Blessed be you to the LORD. I have performed the commandment of the LORD.

Now, as we will see, he changed it to his own benefit. But at least he knew that what he had been called upon to do to the Amalekites came directly from God, because Samuel the prophet had said, Listen to what God says. This is what God says. So the reason he was doing what he was doing was because it was the commandment of God.

You have the same thing, don't you? Where is it? Down in verse 18. And the LORD sent you, says Samuel. And the LORD sent you on a mission and said, Go, devote to destruction the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.

You've got to understand that unless there is a complete annihilation—if we want to think about it in terms of a cancer for the moment—the treatment will demand, often, the amputation of significant parts of tissue in order to prevent the increase and the development of the illness. And in an ultimate sense, sin cannot be tolerated by God. He is of purer eyes to look on iniquity.

Therefore, there is no way for him to say, Well, we'll just moderate it a little bit. No, because from generation to generation, the opposition against Almighty God and the opposition to his people—and remember, his plan through his people was eventually a king who was coming called Jesus. And when that king came, what did he immediately face? In his very birth, he faced the opposition of evil in the activities of Herod, and so on, all the way through the line.

So keep that in mind as you look at this. The one who is calling for this to happen is the righteous judge of all the earth, as we read in Genesis 18. And this episode and other episodes like it occur at the command of God. The destruction of the Amalekites is not called for on the basis of their ethnicity. Do not let anybody tell you that, as the contemporary atheists love to do, Dawkins, at the very forefront of it all, he loves to go to passages like this and say, You see, in the Bible what you have are these dreadful forms of ethnic cleansing. This is not ethnic cleansing. This has nothing to do with the ethnicity of the Amalekites. It has to do with the fact that they are sinners against God. And so, for example, the great pile of stones that was heaped on top of Achan back in Joshua, who himself was a member of the Israelite family—the great heap of stones that descended upon him was not because of his ethnicity, but because of his rebellion against God. And so it is a judgment on sin.

And therefore, we are alarmed by it, and we struggle with it, and we struggle with it particularly, first of all, because we say to ourselves, I don't think it's fair, and then when we think about it, we realize, no, I struggle with it because I believe it is fair. You see, we are not Amalekites, but what we have in common is that we're sinners. The fate of the Amalekites here is not an exception from a bygone era.

The fate of the Amalekites is, if you like, a thumbnail sketch pointing to a coming day of judgment. And the reason—one reason—that we immediately recoil from this is because we don't know the Bible, secondly, because we don't believe the Bible, thirdly, because we only believe the bits in the Bible that seem to fit us and make us feel comfortable. So actually, we don't believe the Bible at all. If I believe only what I want to believe in the Bible, then what I actually believe is myself and not the Bible.

No. The God who commanded the destruction of the Amalekites is the God who has determined that eventually, on that day, the wicked will be destroyed. Sinners will not stand in the judgment nor in the congregation of the righteous, says the God who is perfect in his wisdom and in his justice, who's too kind to be cruel and who is too wise to make a mistake. Another reason that we find great difficulty with it is because of the philosophical climate in which we live. Now, those of you under a certain age know nothing other than this kind of egalitarianism that is part and parcel of life, a sort of philosophical neutrality base.

It goes like this. All right, children, we're going to have sports day today, and before we begin, I want you to know that you are all winners. All right? Well, how wonderfully comforting. And what a load of nonsense. You see, these people can't tolerate the Olympic games. Because the Olympic games have times. They have medals.

They have someone coming first, someone coming second, someone coming last. But as soon as we have imbibed the spirit of the age that says, But, you know, those things, they don't really matter. You know, we're all absolutely fine.

Soon as you import that into your psyche, into your frame of reference, and then come to the Bible, unless you're going to allow the Bible to adjudicate on that faulty thinking, then you're going to discover that that kind of faulty thinking will flavor the way in which you read the Bible. Everybody gets ribbons. Everybody's shoes are lovely. Everybody comes first. There's no exam. There's no end. There's no judgment.

Frankly, the moon's a balloon. Now, loved ones, that is an influencing philosophical framework in our culture. And so we come as people who have one foot planted in the culture and one foot planted in the Bible, asking God to make clear to us how to navigate this kind of world.

God, because he is holy and pure and righteous, cannot tolerate sin, not in any measure. You're listening to Truth for Life. That is Alistair Begg reminding us of the deceitfulness of sin. We are now just a week away from the start of the Advent season, the four weeks of preparation before we celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus. As you get ready for Christmas, we want to recommend the Advent devotional titled The Dawn of Redeeming Grace.

This is written by Sinclair Ferguson. This book presents 24 daily readings to help you explore what the first two chapters of Matthew's Gospel teach us about Jesus' birth. If you've read books by Sinclair Ferguson before, you know that he helpfully unearths details in the scripture that many of us overlook. For example, in the book, The Dawn of Redeeming Grace, he unpacks why the names of Jesus' genealogy are sorted into three groups of 14 generations each.

He also considers what it must have been like for Joseph to experience an angelic visit, and he ponders the question, who were the wise men? Trace your way through these remarkable events as you prepare for Christmas. Request The Dawn of Redeeming Grace when you visit truthforlife.org slash donate or call us at 888-588-7884. You can also request the book when you add a donation after purchasing some of the recommended books you find in our online store today. One of the items is something we want to make sure you take advantage of, a large print English Standard Version Bible. This version comes in top grain brown leather.

It includes extensive cross references at the bottom of each page. And if you're looking to make this holiday season a gospel sharing time, we want to recommend to you this Bible. It's an extraordinary gift, and it's available to purchase for just $35. Now I should mention that this Bible normally sells for almost $200. Look for it at truthforlife.org slash gifts. And again, don't forget to request The Dawn of Redeeming Grace when you add a donation at checkout.

I'm Bob Lapine. Is it really necessary for us to tell others about God's vengeance? Can't we just focus on His grace? We'll hear the answer as you join us tomorrow for the conclusion of today's message. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-11-22 09:48:09 / 2022-11-22 09:56:33 / 8

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