I Samuel 17 Part 1–Facing the Giants

The people in Israel were in the midst of regaining their standing as a nation. Saul, their king had been making a name for himself by attacking the Philistine outposts. The battles had gone back and forth–but on this day, Israel had a big problem. His name was Goliath he was 9’6″ and armed to the teeth.  He stepped out to the battle lines and made a challenge. Send anyone from the Israelite army to face Goliath and winner takes all.  From Goliath’s standpoint, there was no one that was nearly close to a match of size or strength.  He neither feared God or men.
 
Across the valley, the mighty army of Israel sat in paralyzing fear.  Their King, Saul had rejected God’s leadership.  He no longer heard from God or trusted God to battle on Israel’s behalf.  So when a mighty warrior almost twice as large challenged them–rather than looking to God; they looked hopelessly at each other. What do we do now?  Israel had become a mighty nation by looking to God for direction and seeking His leadership in war and peace.  Now, since they no longer had God’s direction, they wandered aimlessly and fearfully through the battle.  Make no mistake, God still cared for His people, but the Lord was unwilling to bless a king who rejected Him and His leadership.
 
Israel’s problem was huge–but it was not the giant. Israel’s problem was chasing other gods.  Some had names like idols–Rah. Baal, Asherah. Other God’s were not named–power, riches, lust, and rage. Israel had simply lost sight of the God that freed them, protected them, provided for them and prepared them to take their place as a mighty nation. Never-the-less, God had a plan.  God would, as he always does, bring a warrior like none other.  When he was done, the warrior would make clear that it was God that would battle Israel’s enemies, and God would make Israel victorious.
 
In our lives, we, like Israel, get easily distracted by other gods.  Some have names–Hollywood, sports, politics. Others are unnamed like stress, finances, power, or lust. Still, when we lose sight of God, we begin to be overtaken by fear and confusion.  Our problems seem to be gigantic and armed to the teeth–but, as we learn, they are not the giants we think we see. Instead, it is our lack of submission to God as our Lord. When we humble ourselves, confess our sin and resubmit to God’s leadership; then the Lord himself will battle the giants we face. He will be victorious and He will get the credit. The beauty is that, when God takes the credit–everybody wins.
 
God Bless You

Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Sokoh in Judah. They pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Sokoh and Azekah. Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines. The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them.

A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span.[a] He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels[b]on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels.[c] His shield bearer went ahead of him.

Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” 10 Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” 11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.

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 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.

1 Samuel 10 Part 1–Samuel Anoints a King

It was no small thing to be anointed as Israel’s 1st King. Still, Saul, the farmer’s son was simply out looking for his dad’s livestock, (and not having any luck…). So when God’s prophet anointed Saul as king of Israel, there was no fanfare, no parade. Fox and NBC were not on site. It was a small and very private ceremony. I am sure that as Saul stood looking at Samuel he was a bit peeved when the prophet poured oil over his head. Still, what happened that day was the beginning of a change in Israel that would lead to the redemption of the world.
 
After the anointing, Samuel sent Saul on his way home. He warned Saul though that his life was about to change. once the Spirit of the Adonai filled him, Saul would be changed for life.  It is important to note that in those times, that the Holy spirit was only active in prophet’s, priests and now kings.  They were God’s intermediaries for the people.  That is why it was critical that those people be above reproach.  Saul would be the 1st King anointed–So what he did and what he became would impact what happened with his nation.
 
In our lives, we have been given the same gift that Saul would enjoy. The Holy Spirit does indwell us–as children of God.  Acts 1:8, “ But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  We receive the spirit as a guide, comforter, teacher and lead.  As we seek the Lord, that lead carries us through life’s greatest challenges and opportunities.  We have to be sensitive to the Spirit’s leadership, and follow the Lord with humility and a grateful heart.  That is what the prophet’s, the great King’s and the devoted priests did.  Jesus said it best, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you!” Matthew 6:33  Let’s seek the Lord, and allow the Spirit to lead so we can be like a King!
 
God Bless You

Then Samuel took a flask of olive oil and poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him, saying, “Has not the Lord anointed you ruler over his inheritance?[a] When you leave me today, you will meet two men near Rachel’s tomb, at Zelzah on the border of Benjamin. They will say to you, ‘The donkeys you set out to look for have been found. And now your father has stopped thinking about them and is worried about you. He is asking, “What shall I do about my son?”’

“Then you will go on from there until you reach the great tree of Tabor. Three men going up to worship God at Bethel will meet you there. One will be carrying three young goats, another three loaves of bread, and another a skin of wine. They will greet you and offer you two loaves of bread, which you will accept from them.

“After that you will go to Gibeah of God, where there is a Philistine outpost. As you approach the town, you will meet a procession of prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, timbrels, pipes and harps being played before them, and they will be prophesying. The Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person. Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you.

“Go down ahead of me to Gilgal. I will surely come down to you to sacrifice burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, but you must wait seven days until I come to you and tell you what you are to do.”

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.

I Samuel 7–Israel Returns to God

What a Great way to start a story. Israel returns to God.  When they were given the promised land, God told them to continue to follow him and look to him. Their failure to do so would cost them all that they had been given. Still, as time marched on, the Israelites became more comfortable and less dependent upon God. As that occurred, they started to replace God with idols and sin.  It became so bad, that they lived as if God did not exist.  So, God began to leave them to their own devices.  Soon, they were being attacked by enemies and invaded by those that would try to reclaim the gift God provided.
 
They now were facing enemies without success. They were dying in battle and falling into the hands of the enemy.  So God brought Samuel. Samuel would become the last judge of Israel. He drew the people’s hearts back to God.  When they returned to God and His leadership, God began to protect and provide as before.  After a series of defeats, When the people destroyed their idols and focused again upon God, he began to restore them and reinstate them in the promised land.  Samuel literally made a sacrifice to God before battle and prayed for them and God destroyed their enemy.  I am sure that was a great day for Israel and a great day for God.
 
God still wants men’s hearts.  He still calls us to seek Him and follow Him–so then God can bless us.  Like Israel, We must throw away the idols that stand between us and God. When we do, we have to turn our hearts back to the Lord.  He will gladly embrace us, He wants nothing more than to bless us.  We simply have to trust God and follow Him.  Pray, study His word, and live for Him and for others–not simply for ourselves.  If we will, God will certainly return to our lives and help us to defeat our enemies–no matter how big they seem to be.
 
God Bless You

So the men of Kiriath Jearim came and took up the ark of the Lord. They brought it to Abinadab’s house on the hill and consecrated Eleazar his son to guard the ark of the Lord.The ark remained at Kiriath Jearim a long time—twenty years in all.

Samuel Subdues the Philistines at Mizpah

Then all the people of Israel turned back to the Lord. So Samuel said to all the Israelites, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the Lord only.

Then Samuel said, “Assemble all Israel at Mizpah, and I will intercede with the Lord for you.”When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the Lord. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the Lord.” Now Samuel was serving as leader[a] of Israel at Mizpah.

When the Philistines heard that Israel had assembled at Mizpah, the rulers of the Philistines came up to attack them. When the Israelites heard of it, they were afraid because of the Philistines. They said to Samuel, “Do not stop crying out to the Lord our God for us, that he may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines.” Then Samuel took a suckling lamb and sacrificed it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. He cried out to the Lord on Israel’s behalf, and the Lord answered him.

10 While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. 11 The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Kar.