I Samuel 15 Part 1–Choose This Day Whom You Will Serve!

When God anointed Saul to be king of Israel, He did so with the understanding that Saul would follow God’s lead.  God knew that anointing a King would be difficult, but anointing a King that was self-absorbed, would doom Israel. Saul had not shown any desire to honor God in his leadership of Israel.  So, God sent Samuel to give Saul one last chance to obey God’s leadership and remain Israel’s anointed King. Here was the test–Wipe out the Amalekites–totally and completely.  Do not allow anyone or anything to live!  Not a hard test, really.  Easily measured and easily followed…at least, that is what one would think.
Saul gathered the troops, went to the Amalekites’ lands and began the annihilation.  Well, except, he did not kill their king, and he did not kill the good livestock–that would be such a waste after all.  In short, Saul did what Saul wanted to do–not what God commanded him to do.  There could be no misunderstanding–kill off everything.  Saul simply chose not to.  Needless to say–Saul chose His own way rather than God’s way.  God was not pleased.  
Sadly, in our lives, we spend a great deal of time doing most of what God tells us.  Still, there are various times when God asks us to trust and follow Him and we choose to either help God out or simply do our own plan. In those times, it is not that we do not understand God’s direction, we simply would rather not obey.  Our way seems so much better…Sorry, God does not rule by committee! We have to trust Him and follow His direction. If we will, the Lord will bless us mightily, and direct our path to a purpose-filled and meaningful life.  If we try to co-lead, God will simply step back and allow the chaos to ensue.  There is a great old hymn, I Surrender All, it is the embodiment of the right choice, “All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give. I will ever love and trust Him; in His presence daily live.  I surrender all, I surrender all. All to thee my blessed Savior, I surrender ALL!” 
Help me, Lord to surrender all!
God Bless You

Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the Lord sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the Lord. This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy[a] all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’”

So Saul summoned the men and mustered them at Telaim—two hundred thousand foot soldiers and ten thousand from Judah. Saul went to the city of Amalek and set an ambush in the ravine. Then he said to the Kenites, “Go away, leave the Amalekites so that I do not destroy you along with them; for you showed kindness to all the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt.” So the Kenites moved away from the Amalekites.

Then Saul attacked the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, near the eastern border of Egypt. He took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and all his people he totally destroyed with the sword. But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves[b] and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.

I Samuel 14 Part 3–Man Made Rules

Things were going so well.  Jonathan had listened to the Lord and as he followed God, He routed the Philistine army.  His faith inspired the army and Israel enjoyed a great victory.  Saul decided to call a fast for all the men.  He imposed the fast until the evening.  Sadly, Jonathan did not hear about the fast and ate some honey.  Immediately God withdrew his blessing.  The king imposed a rule on God’s behalf, and now his son violated it.  So, as a result the Israelites had to stop the route and go home.
I am sure Saul meant well, but, He forgot to seek God before imposing a fast in the middle of a battle.  Had he sought the Lord, God would have said–this is not the best time, your men are expending a great amount of energy fighting–they need food.  None the less, Saul’s rule caused his son to sin and ended Israel’s victory.  Jonathan was mad, Saul was grieved and God was silenced on that day.  
In our lives, we have to be careful about imposing self-made rules to show God how religious we really are.  God looks at our hearts.  If we submit to Him and He molds is into His image–the Lord will lead us to actions that are necessary to become more like Him.  God does not need our help to make ourselves more religious.  We simply need to trust God to lead and follow that lead each day.  In Colossians 2:20-23 Paul says it best,”Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.”
God Bless You

Now the Israelites were in distress that day, because Saul had bound the people under an oath, saying, “Cursed be anyone who eats food before evening comes, before I have avenged myself on my enemies!” So none of the troops tasted food.

25 The entire army entered the woods, and there was honey on the ground. 26 When they went into the woods, they saw the honey oozing out; yet no one put his hand to his mouth, because they feared the oath. 27 But Jonathan had not heard that his father had bound the people with the oath, so he reached out the end of the staff that was in his hand and dipped it into the honeycomb. He raised his hand to his mouth, and his eyes brightened.[c] 28 Then one of the soldiers told him, “Your father bound the army under a strict oath, saying, ‘Cursed be anyone who eats food today!’ That is why the men are faint.”

29 Jonathan said, “My father has made trouble for the country. See how my eyes brightened when I tasted a little of this honey. 30 How much better it would have been if the men had eaten today some of the plunder they took from their enemies. Would not the slaughter of the Philistines have been even greater?”

I Samuel 12–Samuel’s Farewell Address

God gave Israel what they asked for. He gave them a king.  But He was not about to do so without making clear that Israel’s choice, (to be like everyone else), was the ultimate rejection of God.  He called them to be holy–separate from everyone else. But throughout the history of Israel, they turned aside from God time after time.  When they did so, they fell into captivity and were treated horribly.  They would then return to God and He would deliver them. Sadly, once free, they would return to their wicked ways and God would once again pull back.

God saw that giving Israel a king put power into the hands of a leader that could easily lead them away from Him.  The king would also take their freedom and make them subject to his will not God’s. The people began to grasp how they had destroyed a great gift–true freedom, by taking a king.  Samuel encouraged them–he let them know that God would not abandon them despite their rejection of Him. He was clear, however, that If the king or the people walked away from God, then the nation would be on its own.

The same holds true for us. God wants to lead us and keep us free. Daily pressures are constantly drawing us away from the very One that can free us.  We are often looking for a quick fix to make things easier rather than looking for God’s lead to make things better.  Like Israel, we are constantly looking around at what others have; rather than looking to God to see what he has planned for us.  God will not share the throne. Either we choose to follow Him, or we choose to abandon Him–He allows either. Simply put, if we choose to follow the Lord–our lives will be full, meaningful and purposeful. If we abandon Him, we will have what the rest of the world has–chaos and madness!

God Bless You

Samuel said to all Israel, “I have listened to everything you said to me and have set a king over you. Now you have a king as your leader. As for me, I am old and gray, and my sons are here with you. I have been your leader from my youth until this day. Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the Lord and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these things, I will make it right.”

“You have not cheated or oppressed us,” they replied. “You have not taken anything from anyone’s hand.”

Samuel said to them, “The Lord is witness against you, and also his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.”

“He is witness,” they said.

Then Samuel said to the people, “It is the Lord who appointed Moses and Aaron and brought your ancestors up out of Egypt. Now then, stand here, because I am going to confront you with evidence before the Lord as to all the righteous acts performed by the Lord for you and your ancestors.

“After Jacob entered Egypt, they cried to the Lord for help, and the Lord sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your ancestors out of Egypt and settled them in this place.

“But they forgot the Lord their God; so he sold them into the hand of Sisera, the commander of the army of Hazor, and into the hands of the Philistines and the king of Moab, who fought against them. 10 They cried out to the Lord and said, ‘We have sinned; we have forsaken the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtoreths. But now deliver us from the hands of our enemies, and we will serve you.’ 11 Then the Lord sent Jerub-Baal,[a] Barak,[b] Jephthah and Samuel,[c] and he delivered you from the hands of your enemies all around you, so that you lived in safety…“Now then, stand still and see this great thing the Lord is about to do before your eyes! 17 Is it not wheat harvest now? I will call on the Lord to send thunder and rain. And you will realize what an evil thing you did in the eyes of the Lord when you asked for a king.”18 Then Samuel called on the Lord, and that same day the Lord sent thunder and rain. So all the people stood in awe of the Lord and of Samuel.

19 The people all said to Samuel, “Pray to the Lord your God for your servants so that we will not die, for we have added to all our other sins the evil of asking for a king.”

20 “Do not be afraid,” Samuel replied. “You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. 21 Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless. 22 For the sake of his great name the Lord will not reject his people, because the Lord was pleased to make you his own.

I Samuel 11 Part 2–Look at the King WE Picked

People are funny.  Here, Israel was so concerned about Samuel’s sons’ corruption, that they demanded to have a king.  God provided them the coolest king–tall, dark and handsome. Then, as Samuel anointed Saul, several leaders said in effect–“He ain’t my king!” Then the Ammonites started terrorizing the people and Saul, with God’s power, led Israel to a great victory! Now everybody was on board. It was time to throw a party.  The people were so proud of themselves–“Look at this great King WE picked!” In the land, there was great celebration. 

Israel had no idea what they were choosing.  As they submitted to God’s leadership, He blessed them, protected them, provided for them and made them a nation to be reckoned with. Now, they had a king. If they submitted to the king, he would lead them but, he would also make pretty difficult demands upon them, their families and their possessions. If they failed to submit–well that would be treason and they would die. Kings did not possess the grace and mercy that God possessed. God loved them like His kids. A King treated them like his subjects. 

The saddest part of living independent from the Lord is that God is the only leader that longs for us to be free. God has no personal agenda, separate from seeing us have a great life.  He needs nothing from us, and He only  wants what is best FOR us. Both then and now–God simply wants to be in relationship with His own.  That is why Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of GOD and HIS righteousness, and all these things will be added to you!” Matthew 6:33. The Lord still offers to be our King, and by following the Lord, we can truly experience freedom as it is meant to be!

God Bless You

The people then said to Samuel, “Who was it that asked, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Turn these men over to us so that we may put them to death.”

13 But Saul said, “No one will be put to death today, for this day the Lord has rescued Israel.”

14 Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingship.”15 So all the people went to Gilgal and made Saul king in the presence of the Lord. There they sacrificed fellowship offerings before the Lord, and Saul and all the Israelites held a great celebration.

I Samuel 11–Saul Musters an Army

Israel was in need of leadership.  While it was still God that truly protected them, and it had been Samuel that led them, they were not following. So at their request, God gave them a king.  The Ammonites did not much care, however, and their leader was disgracing Israel a tribe at a time.  They were now threatening Saul’s tribe–big mistake! Saul, when he heard the threat, felt the spirit of the Lord come over him–He was angry, not just ticked, but–Saul literally was feeling the anger of the Lord. He made clear by God’s power that it was time for Israel to comer together.  And when they did–there were 330,000 troops.  They entered the Ammonite camp and slaughtered them from night until mid day. There were few survivors and those who escaped, left alone.  There was no opportunity to regroup. and there was no more Ammonite threat.
Under God’s leadership, His chosen will be protected and provided for.  If we are willing to trust and follow the Lord, He will bless us and lead us through life’s challenges. He will even use the challenges of our lives to draw us closer to Him.  We must, however, seek God and allow His spirit to guide us. When we do that, amazing things begin to happen.  Saul was just a farmer. He had no formal training as king–yet, as he relied upon God to lead him; King Saul saw great success.  Joshua said it best–“Choose this day whom you will serve…As for me and my house, we will Serve the Lord!” Joshua 24:15
God Bless You

But Nahash the Ammonite replied, “I will make a treaty with you only on the condition that I gouge out the right eye of every one of you and so bring disgrace on all Israel.”

The elders of Jabesh said to him, “Give us seven days so we can send messengers throughout Israel; if no one comes to rescue us, we will surrender to you.”

When the messengers came to Gibeah of Saul and reported these terms to the people, they all wept aloud. Just then Saul was returning from the fields, behind his oxen, and he asked, “What is wrong with everyone? Why are they weeping?” Then they repeated to him what the men of Jabesh had said.

When Saul heard their words, the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he burned with anger. He took a pair of oxen, cut them into pieces, and sent the pieces by messengers throughout Israel, proclaiming, “This is what will be done to the oxen of anyone who does not follow Saul and Samuel.” Then the terror of the Lord fell on the people, and they came out together as one. When Saul mustered them at Bezek, the men of Israel numbered three hundred thousand and those of Judah thirty thousand.

They told the messengers who had come, “Say to the men of Jabesh Gilead, ‘By the time the sun is hot tomorrow, you will be rescued.’” When the messengers went and reported this to the men of Jabesh, they were elated. 10 They said to the Ammonites, “Tomorrow we will surrender to you, and you can do to us whatever you like.”

11 The next day Saul separated his men into three divisions; during the last watch of the night they broke into the camp of the Ammonites and slaughtered them until the heat of the day. Those who survived were scattered, so that no two of them were left together.

I Samuel 8 Part 1–We Want a Cool King

The apostle Paul said it best, “I have learned to be content, whatever my circumstance. Well fed or hungry living in plenty or in want–I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” Philippians 4:12-13.  After several years of peace and blessing, Samuel became old and brought his sons in to help him Judge.  They were evil. They took bribes and acted poorly. So the people of Israel approached Samuel and demanded to have a king–like everyone else! One can only imagine the emotion Samuel experienced.  Anger, guilt, sadness all must have passed through his mind as he approached God with the news. Funny thing was, God was not surprised. 
God told Samuel, “They are not rejecting you, they are rejecting Me.” It was true. The people of Israel, a truly free people, were being led by God. He led them out of Egypt, through the desert, into their promised inheritance and had protected them through thick and thin. All the Lord required was that they follow His lead. To do so, however, required that they submit to His lordship and not chase other gods.  For Israel, that had always been a struggle, and especially difficult when things were going well. So now, while the nation was at peace and prosperous, they rejected God’s leadership.  They wanted a King, hopefully a cool King. So God told Samuel not to fret, but to explain that they would be getting a lot more than what they were bargaining for–and none of it good.  So, that is what Samuel did.  Israel still wanted a king.
In our lives, we face the same struggle. God reaches out and gives us salvation. As we follow Him, He protects us, provides for us, and prepares us for an abundant, and purposeful life here, and eternity with Him after.  Still, when things are peaceful and our tummies are full–we want more.  We want what everyone else has. We want a cool king! It makes God sad–but not surprised, you see He has been dealing with it since the garden.  We have to evaluate what the cool kings are in our lives, and lay them on the alter before God.  If we submit to the Lord’s leadership, rather than the leadership of the cool kings, (Money, beauty, power, stuff), then He will lead, bless and guide us to the life we really want–a life of peace and no worry. We will also see that God is truly the COOLEST king of all.
God Bless You

When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders.[a] The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribesand perverted justice.

So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead[b] us, such as all the other nations have.”

But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”

I Samuel 7 Part 2–Samuel, The Last Judge

Interestingly, The 2 books of Samuel say very little about the man himself.  We know he faithfully served the Lord.  We know he lived in Ramah.  He married and had at least two sons–and while he led Israel, things were relatively peaceful and improving.  The people turned back toward God, the enemies of Israel were kept at bay; all-in-all Samuel was the right leader for the time.  It is clear that Samuel had a great relationship with God.  Like Moses, Samuel and God talked.  Samuel was not afraid of God, but, He had the right respect for The Lord.
In our lives, that kind of relationship and leadership is the place Christians want to be.  Simply living a life that honors God, listening to His word and walking in His ways. There does not need to be a dramatic story, but, often there are times and things that God provides that are clearly a blessing directly from Him. We cannot try to do things apart from God. If we do, it takes the ability away from God to bless us.  Samuel knew that, and so should we.  Samuel sought the Lord with all his heart and it changed Israel. As God’s chosen, We should strive to seek and honor God with our lives–then like Samuel, God could use us to truly make a difference!
God Bless You 

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer,[b]saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”

13 So the Philistines were subdued and they stopped invading Israel’s territory. Throughout Samuel’s lifetime, the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines. 14 The towns from Ekron to Gath that the Philistines had captured from Israel were restored to Israel, and Israel delivered the neighboring territory from the hands of the Philistines. And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites.

15 Samuel continued as Israel’s leader all the days of his life. 16 From year to year he went on a circuit from Bethel to Gilgal to Mizpah, judging Israel in all those places. 17 But he always went back to Ramah, where his home was, and there he also held court for Israel. And he built an altar there to the Lord.