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Living on Dead–End Street (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
May 14, 2024 4:00 am

Living on Dead–End Street (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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May 14, 2024 4:00 am

Salvation appeals to most, but some find the commitment to follow Jesus too restrictive. They prefer to live life on their own terms now and consider faith closer to life’s end. On Truth For Life, Alistair Begg warns about the danger of this presumption.


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This listener-funded program features the clear, relevant Bible teaching of Alistair Begg. Today’s program and nearly 3,000 messages can be streamed and shared for free at thanks to the generous giving from monthly donors called Truthpartners. Learn more about this Gospel-sharing team or become one today. Thanks for listening to Truth For Life!


Maybe you know someone who's not hostile to the idea of truth of religion, but they find the idea of following Jesus to be restrictive at this point in their life. They want to live life on their own terms and they'll give faith more serious thought later.

Today on Truth for Life we'll find out how dangerous that kind of presumption can be. Alistair Begg is teaching from 1 Samuel chapter 28. We're in verses 3 through 25. And so, he and two of his buddies, two men, verse 8, came to the woman by night. Of course they did.

Of course it was night. His request is very clear. "'Divine for me by a spirit,' he said, and, bring up for me whomever I shall name to you." Now, what a response on the part of the woman!

How ironic is this? The woman said to him, "'Surely you know what Saul has done, that he has cut off all the mediums and the necromancers.'" I mean, she says, "'You know, we're not supposed to be doing this here. The king, he had an edict on this.'" No, Saul says, "'Don't even worry about that.

Oh, as the Lord lives, he swerved her by the Lord. As the Lord lives, no punishment shall come to you for this thing.'" He has got no basis upon which to make the promise. He has no basis by which he can make that kind of pronouncement. It is incongruous at the slightest.

The shameful incongruity of that reply. As the Lord lives, no punishment shall come to you for this. In other words, including the Lord in his lies. The Midrash, in the Jewish writings, they capture this incongruity when they write, "'Whom did Saul resemble at this moment? A woman who is with her lover and swears by the life of her husband.'" That is the level of the incongruity—that he requests for himself what he has prohibited for others.

Now, the woman might have thought to challenge his assurance in verse 10 but instead proceeds with the divination. "'Whom shall I bring up for you?' he said.

"'Bring up Samuel for me.'" Now, just a word of caution. I'll come back to this. The caution is this. Do not allow your curiosity to destroy the clarity of the main teaching of this passage.

That's the warning. Now, we'll come back to that. But we're told what happened. And what happened was that Samuel appeared. And when Samuel appeared, in the language of the King James Version, the woman was freaked out.

Okay? She cried out with a loud voice. Now, there's so much in this that we're not going to touch. But I actually think this had never happened to her in an entire life. Whether she was a charlatan or not, I don't know. But this she could not believe. And she had reason not to believe it, and I'll show you why I think so before we finish. But simultaneously, the woman realizes that she's dealing with the king. She was shouted in a loud voice, and she said to Saul, You've deceived me, your Saul. And the king brushes that aside again, dismisses her concerns. He wants to know who it is she sees. What do you see? You see, who's the righteous one in this?

The medium! We shouldn't be doing this. He should be saying, We shouldn't be doing this. She said, We shouldn't be doing this. You know, when the world goes upside down, it really goes upside down. And the woman said to Saul, You deceived me.

That's true. You did deceive her. Don't be afraid. What do you see? She said, Well, I see a god coming out of the earth. Now, the word that is used here is actually the word elohim, which in its various forms—plural or singular and so on—is translated variously throughout the Old Testament. And basically, she speaks as a heathen. In other words, she realizes that what she's encountering here is something that she cannot use sort of her routine language to convey. And so, not satisfied with that, you will notice Saul says to her, Yeah, yeah, okay, okay, okay. But what is his appearance?

In other words, could you please be more specific? And she said, An old man is coming up, and he is wrapped in a robe and sawing you immediately. It was Samuel. Remember how we've said all along, right at the very beginning, that his mom made him a little robe and used to take it to him, and how this robe has featured in the story. And so it is that the appearance of Samuel scares the woman. But the extent to which she was fearful I think is minimal in comparison to the mention of the robe, which brings the big guy to his knees. An old man is coming up, and he is wrapped in a robe. Oh, yeah, he knew the robe. He knew the robe. Because he tore the robe.

Fifteen. So the very mention of the robe would take him right back to that incident. Listen, you can't run and hide from that stuff.

I don't care how old you live. You can run, but you can't hide. And he can disguise his clothes, but he can't disguise his lion heart. The Lord has torn the kingdom from Israel from you this day. Back in chapter 15, Samuel said to him, And he's given it to a neighbor who's greater than you. And down here, for the first time, it finally comes out, and that neighbor is David himself.

What a picture it is! And Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground and paid homage. Now, I don't know whether Matthew Henry is onto something when he makes the comment that Saul, who refused to listen to the Word of God, stooped to try and hear the muttering voice. You say, Well, where do you get the muttering voice from?

Well, that was one of the features of divination. Later on, the prophet Isaiah is going to remind the people that they need to stay away from all of this stuff. And when they say to you, says the Lord through Isaiah—this is eight of Isaiah—and when they say to you, inquire of the mediums and the necromancers, listen, who chirp and mutter. Who chirp and mutter. And Matthew Henry says he wouldn't listen to the straight Word of God, but he's gonna bend his ear to listen to the chirping and the muttering.

What a situation, huh? Now, let me pause again before we just look at the final two sections. There is, as I'm pointing out to you, plenty in this passage to fascinate the curious.

One commentator in a masterful understatement says, This passage has caused many an exegete an uncomfortable moment or two. So what do we have to make sure we don't do? Well, we have to resist the temptation to fill in the blanks.

It's not a retreat to say the main things are the plain things and the plain things are the main things. It is an honest acknowledgement of the fact that we are not given an explanation of how it was that Samuel appeared. And the reason we have no explanation is because we're not supposed to have the explanation. What we know about necromancy and mediums and the occult is that it is absolutely verboten.

It is completely forbidden. The Bible is clear about that. The Bible actually tells us nothing about how these things happened. And it is an absolute mistake to try and draw conclusions on those matters from this chapter.

Now, I say that to you acknowledging the fact that many people do, and if you're of that kind of ilk, you will go to those people rather than be content with what I'm suggesting. You see, here's the question. Did this woman have dark powers by which to bring Samuel back from the dead?

Did she? The Bible doesn't say so. Woodhouse, who is a salvation for me so many times, gave me a wonderful sentence when he pointed this out. He said this, It seems far more likely to me that the LORD sent Samuel to Saul on this evening, just as on a very different occasion he sent Moses and Elijah to Jesus.

In other words, a sovereign God, even in the midst of stupidity, darkness, and chaos, will still accomplish his purposes. So, he is desperate, he's disguised, and he is, in 15 and following, deserted. He's deserted. Samuel is now in the focus. Actually, Samuel is the main focus in many ways after Moses, all the way through these Old Testament sections. And Samuel said to Saul, Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?

I was having a very good sleep. This is true to his character. He's an outspoken chap, Samuel, isn't he?

I mean, he'd give it to you straight, I think. When he didn't like something, he said it. And Saul's explanation in response is almost word for word with verse 6. Remember, back in verse 6, we're told that when Saul had inquired of the LORD, the LORD didn't answer, either by dreams, by Urim, or by the prophets. Now, here, this is what he says, I am in great distress, for the Philistines are warring against me.

That was the presence of the Philistines. God has turned away from me. That is the silence of God. And he answers me no more, either by prophets or by dreams.

What's the missing one? The Urim. Why is there no Urim? Of course, there ain't no priests. Why are no priests? Because Saul had them all slaughtered. So you're not gonna… I imagine that he just said, Pass over that one. I don't want to mention the absence of the Urim. I mean, it's gonna reflect poorly on me.

Probably just his guilty conscience. Now, what he's actually saying to Samuel in common language is, I couldn't get a hold of anyone else, so you're my last resort. I'm sorry I had to wake you.

That's what he's saying. And I am expecting you to tell me what to do. That's why I have summoned you. You see the big guy again, giving out directions, summoning people, and so on? He thinks he still thinks he's in control.

His life is dying from the inside out. I have summoned you to tell me what shall I do. And Samuel said, Well, why do you come and ask me? The Lord has turned from you, and I'm the prophet of the Lord. So if the Lord has turned from you, I'm with him.

Therefore, I've got nothing to say to you. Because the prophet of the Lord cannot be separated from the message of the Lord. And the message of the Lord I gave to you back in chapter 15, when I told you the Lord has torn the kingdom from you. Now, once again, it is important not to be diverted in considering this dialogue by speculating about the nature of the dialogue, about how this could actually happen, how it could take place.

It is taking place. He's not dealing with a specter. The one who did not complete the destruction of the Amalekites, says Samuel, is about to be destroyed completely.

Verse 18, Because you did not obey the voice of the LORD, and you didn't carry out his fierce wrath against Amalek, therefore the LORD has done this thing to you this day. In other words, he didn't have anything else to say. There is nothing else to say. He didn't answer him. The reason he didn't answer him is because what was he going to tell him?

You know, there's a cross-reference for you and follow it up on your own. But Luke records for us one of the most chilling little pieces of engagement that we have in relationship to Jesus and others. This is Luke 23. When Pilate heard this, he urged whether the man was a Galilee, and that is Jesus, which he discovered that he was, that he belonged to Herod's jurisdiction, and he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time.

Now, listen to this. When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer.

He had nothing to say to Herod. It had all been said. The people listening to me preach now, they're growing old, listening to me say the same thing again and again. The Spirit of God will not always strive with you.

You may shut your ears for one last time to the Word of the Lord and discover that never in your life will you ever have a sensitive moment to the Word of God ever again. That's what happened to Herod. That is what has happened to Saul.

Be not deceived, God is not mocked. The tragic picture of this man, the utter hopelessness of this man, painfully exposed. He's desperate, he's disguised, he's deserted, and in 20 to 25, in a sentence or two, he's done.

He's done. He who stood head and shoulders above most of the community is now flat on his face. At once he fell full length on the ground. In other words, he didn't ease himself down on his hands and knees and then laid down. No, bam, he went down, flattened, filled with fear, because of the words of Samuel.

You see that? The words of Samuel. The words of the prophet, the Word of God, sharper than a two-edged sword, cutting into the very heart of things. That's why we always say, Listen, today, if you hear his voice—oh, yes, he heard his voice—and it was clear, You and your sons are finished. You're finished.

You and your sons are going to be with me—i.e., dead. Now, some or another, this lady, whom I'm suggesting to you is actually coming out pretty nice in this story, shows up again. And she, recognizing the predicament of Saul, that he's not eaten, he's dehydrated, he's as shambles, he has no strength in him, realizing that he's terrified, he's got the shakes, she says, You know, your servant has obeyed you.

I've taken my life in my hand. I've listened to what you said to me. Now, therefore, you should obey your servant. And she encourages him to eat. He says he doesn't want to eat.

And then she encourages the servants to join her in the exhortation, and he listened to their words. So he arose from the earth and sat on the bed. It's beyond comprehension. If you can conjure this picture and be unmoved, then I feel bad for you. It began with such promise.

Everybody thought he was the best. Now, look at him sitting on the bed like a shriveled mess, waiting on this lady to prepare this meal, preparing a meal fit for a king, for a man who wasn't fit to be the king. This is the end, you see.

There was a man all alone. Well, you say, it's a drama. Of course it is. It's striking.

Of course it is. Yeah? But you know one of the features of our day? Hopelessness. Do you know the description that Paul gives of the Ephesians, which is true of all of us by nature, without God and without hope in the world? In the introduction to the book The Light of the World, the man who writes the foreword, George Wiesel, describes our world. He says it's a world that has lost its story, a world in which the progress that was promised over the last three centuries is now gravely threatened by an understanding of our humanity that reduces it to just cosmic chemical accidents, that ours is a humanity with no intentional origin, no noble destiny, no path to take through history. And into that world of hopelessness, listen to the proud assertions of people in the realm of particularly academics and philosophy. 1946, the president of Dartmouth, John Sloan Dickey, says to the graduating class of Dartmouth, There is nothing wrong with the world that better human beings cannot fix.

And in 2010, the then president of Dartmouth, Jim Yong Kim, says to the graduates, You are the better beings that we've all been waiting for. Really? Really?

No. It is a classic Old Testament picture of the predicament of man without hope and without God in the world. Remember, the two fellers were going down the road to Emmaus, and their whole life had collapsed, their story had collapsed with the death of Jesus of Nazareth.

We had hoped that he was going to be the one. And then, of course, he spoke, and their eyes were opened, and they realized that in the historical reality of the resurrection, there was not only for them hope in their hopelessness, but there is hope for all time, for all people, in the one source, namely, Jesus himself. Do you know that hope?

If God is speaking to you today, if you hear his voice, do not, like Saul, harden your heart. If you're listening to Truth for Life with Alistair Begg, Alistair will return shortly. Last week, we had the privilege of hosting many of our translation partners for Truth for Life here in Cleveland. These are individuals representing publishers or ministries who are translating Truth for Life's teaching and books from Alistair into their own language, and it's a great encouragement for us to see how God is using these partnerships to publish and distribute books taken from the scriptures, including the Truth for Life Daily Devotional. Some of the languages where Alistair's books are now available include Spanish, Italian, Romanian, German, Korean.

There are many more projects underway, including translating books into Chinese, Hindi, Portuguese, and Arabic. In fact, we recently heard from a man who read Brave by Faith in Ukrainian. He said, the book captivated me. It's relevant for our times and for the context of our country. It calls us to be courageous in a secular-minded society, to respond to the challenges of the heart and the Christian life.

I found the book to be affirming, strengthening, and inspiring. Keep in mind, when you give to Truth for Life, your donations are helping to pay for these translation projects. Your support helps to care for the expenses associated with the translation work. It brings Alistair's teaching to people in dozens of countries in their own languages. So if you're looking for a mission field to invest in, when you give to Truth for Life, you're bringing the gospel to people all across the globe.

You can donate today through the Truth for Life mobile app or online at slash donate, or call us at 888-588-7884. When you donate today, be sure to ask for your copy of the booklet How to Memorize Scripture for Life. It's our way of saying thanks. Now, here is Alistair with a prayer. Father, thank you that all the things that were written in the past were written down so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope. Lord, we're about to go out into our week again, the recurring theme of the prevailing, dominating sense of despair and discouragement and unknownness that is far greater than just about where we are and our physical predicament. No, it is a deep-seated emptiness that the gods of this age offer to us answers, but they can never fulfill. They tell us they can fix us, but they deplete us.

They hold out hope that never is realized. Oh, but how we thank you that in Jesus there is a hope. God grant that we might turn to him and rest in him, for his name's sake. Amen. Tomorrow we're going to hear an encouraging message from Alistair about God's steadfast mercy, even when we make a royal mess of things. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-14 06:43:26 / 2024-05-14 06:51:53 / 8

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