November 17 – A King is Coming – An Unlikely Servant

Read 1 Samuel 9:1-10:27

As we launch into the 9th chapter of 1 Samuel, God has approved the position and the Israelites have agreed to the conditions of a king over Israel.  All that remained was finding the right man.  How do you find a king?  You can’t just select one of the sons of the existing king.  Remember, he is to be the first one.  So do you place a “help wanted” ad in the local paper?  Post the position online?  Hire a “headhunter” to find a handful of likely candidates to interview?

God’s plan was to personally direct Samuel in the selection process.  And God’s choice, though tall and handsome, was a man of insignificance.  He was a man from a seemingly unimportant family in one of the tribes of lesser consequence.  He wasn’t a man who had a dream of throwing his hat in the ring to run for national office.  No, he was just a man out looking for his dad’s missing donkeys.

The story has the makings of some kind of red neck reality show.  But it was reality all right.  God chose an unlikely person to contribute to His amazing plan.  Don’t be surprised by that.  God has repeated that throughout history.  In fact, that is His modus operandi still today.  In all likelihood, you are living proof of that.  Here is the way that Paul expresses it in 1 Corinthians 1:

“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.”  (vv. 26-29)

If you are a follower of Jesus, that’s a description of what happened with you!

But there is more.  The unlikely people that God chooses are the ones He also uses!  Let him use you today!

Steve Kern

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November 16 – A King is Coming – God as King

Read 1 Samuel 8:1-22

Some people just seem to have a problem with authority.  It doesn’t matter who the authority figure is or what rule or restriction he/she may be trying to enforce, those who struggle with authority will likely object.

Indeed, this was part of the challenge that Samuel faced in the latter part of his life.  Having served as a prophet/judge over Israel for decades, he sought to leave in place the next generation of leaders.  His sons seemed like the right choice.  Unfortunately, they, unlike their father, led selfishly.  And other leaders in Israel objected.  Now, certainly, their objection was in part justified.  Those who lead should be unselfish people of integrity, and Joel and Abijah were not.

But in their objection, they also voiced a wish.  They wanted a king.  They wanted to abandon the use of judges that had been part of their last 350 year history.  They wanted to try something new.  Their rationale was based on romanticized reasoning found in verses 19 and 20.

  1. “All of the surrounding nations have kings.  It seems to work for them.  We should have one too!”
  2. “Our king will be a person skilled in battle.  We will probably never lose again!”

Did they really know what they were getting themselves into?  Good question!  God tried to warn them about a military draft, about government servants, and about taxes.  Still they insisted.  In their minds, a king would solve all of their problems.

Even though God permitted Samuel to move ahead with the selection process, He, however, made clear that there was a deeper seated problem.  This was bigger than, “We don’t like the way the sons of Samuel are leading!”  No, it was more than a rejection of human authorities.  At its core, the nation had been unwilling to submit to the very authority of God!

Do you submit to His authority?  Are there areas of your life where you cut corners and compromise?  Do you perhaps rationalize that the expectations are too high?  Or that you don’t feel any immediate repercussions for choosing a course contrary to His plans?  Don’t be like the Israelites!   Gladly submit to God and to the authority structures within the nation, church, and family that are part of His plan!

Steve Kern

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November 15 – A King is Coming – Cycles

Read 1 Samuel 7:1-17

Even though the book of 1 Samuel is, in title, distinct from the book of Judges, its first chapters portray for us the final segment of the period of the Judges.   This period, spanning roughly 350 years from 1398 b.c. to 1043 b.c., was characterized by predictable, repeated cycles . . . the kind of cycles that can easily find their way into our lives if we are not diligent.  From the time of their first judge, Othniel, until their last, Samuel, the Israelite nation found itself reliving the realities depicted in this graphic:Judges_cycle_poster

The nation’s experience during the time of Samuel was no different.  From its top (Eli, Hophni, and Phineas) down, the people of God had only a superficial commitment to their God.  In their sin, they had foolishly taken the Ark of the Covenant into battle . . . and lost it to the enemy.  They had turned to pagan idols and the gods they represented, the Baals and the Ashtaroth.  But God demanded their exclusive worship and service.

In their sin, they suffered.  The Philistine army threatened again, evoking deep fear in God’s chosen people.

But it is interesting what fear and suffering will cause people to do.  As the prophet/judge Samuel called them to repentance, they returned to the Lord without hesitation.  And, as a result, God rescued them.  In fact, He even saw to it that the Philistines were driven from the land of God.

Have you ever lived this cycle?  When life is going along well, it is easy to let your commitment to Christ slip.  Slowly but surely, small compromises are often made.  Little by little, the world’s perspective takes on a more and more dominant role in the way you think.  But then, one day, you experience a wakeup call.  Things like difficulty, pain, problems, and trouble cause you to run back to God, calling out to Him for help and deliverance.

Probably all of us have experienced that cycle to a greater or lesser extent.  Meanwhile, God calls us to faithful diligence.  His clear preference is that we experience a different cycle.  He wants you today to remain faithful to Him.  And when the sun rises tomorrow, He wants you to commit once again to that same faithful obedience.

Steve Kern

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November 14 – A King is Coming – God is not Mocked!

Read 1 Samuel 5:1-6:21

Years ago, a Russian leader is reported to have publicly expressed his conviction that God does not exist.  As his proof, he cited the cosmonauts who had been in space and yet had not seen God there.

This leader is not alone.  Throughout the ages, there have been those who have questioned the power, superiority, and even existence of God.  Perhaps they even felt as if they had proof of their conviction.  They may have even made a prideful boast of their conviction.

The Philistines must have drawn similar conclusions.  In their battle against the soldiers of Israel in 1 Samuel 4, they were first struck with fear as they realized that the people of God had (foolishly, I might add) brought the Ark of God to battle with them.  They had heard stories of the plagues that this God had brought on the Egyptians centuries before.  In spite of their fear, the Philistines fought valiantly and won the battle.  As part of their booty, they took this once feared but now apparently powerless Ark into their possession.  In fact, as an expression of God’s inferiority, they placed the Ark in the temple of their highly revered fish god, Dagon.  In their minds, the God of heaven was weak and second-rate.  Their god was powerful and greater.

Not so!

Over the next days, the existence, power, and superiority of God became clear.  The Philistines found their idol, Dagon, face down before the Ark, and then later with his head and hands severed from his fishy body.  Soon, they began to experience their own plague in the form of boils and tumors on their bodies.  As the Ark was moved from one Philistine city to the next, the plague followed.  Ultimately, the Philistines sent the Ark back!

Even though people may pridefully conclude that God is weak, inferior, or non-existent, He will not tolerate it.  Whether in this life or in the future, He is One who will take vengeance against those, who, in pride, try to mock Him.  That reality enables us to relax when people seem to get away with a lack of respect for Him.  But, it also calls us to boldly and lovingly invite them to reconsider their conclusion and come to the Savior.

Steve Kern

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November 13 – A King is Coming – Ichabod

Read 1 Samuel 4:1-22

Ichabod!

This was a tragic day in Jewish history!  Thirty thousand Israelite soldiers fell in battle.  Three spiritual leaders and a wife from the same family died.  But as sad as the loss of life is, there was still something even more heartbreaking.  The Ark of the Covenant had been taken.

God had given clear instructions about its construction in Exodus 25.  Inside, the people of God had placed important articles (a sample of manna, the tablets of the 10 commandments, and Aaron’s rod that budded) that reminded them of special encounters with God.  As God’s people moved during the Exodus, this special box was carried on poles.  No one was to touch it directly.  When God’s people came to a stop, the Ark was placed into the tabernacle of God . . . in its innermost part, the Most Holy Place.  It was here that a special sacrifice for sin was made and here that the presence of God was manifested in a unique way.  The Ark of the Covenant was a critical part of Jewish life.

As the people of God found themselves losing in battle to the Philistines, they came up with this great (at least they thought it was) idea.  “Let’s carry the Ark of the Covenant into battle with us!  After all, it represents the power and presence of God.  There is no way that the enemy can defeat us, if we have this good luck charm along!”  Although it may have seemed like a great idea, they had never sought God about the reason for their defeat or their next strategy for battle.

Indeed, even the Philistines shook in their shoes when they realized that the Israelites had brought the Ark of God to the battlefield.  But, at the end of the day, not only were the Philistines victorious, but they were also the possessors of the treasured Ark.

Ichabod!  This was a tragic day, because it was the day when the glory departed from Israel.

Ichabod compromises are only a step away from any of us.  A foolish decision made without consulting the Lord can lead us to tragic outcomes where we have abandoned our God.  Instead of revealing and basking in His glory, we can find ourselves wallowing in the ashes of abandonment.

Guard yourself from your own Ichabod!

Steve Kern

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November 12 – A King is Coming – Hearing Voices

Read 1 Samuel 3:1-21

“Do you hear voices that no one else hears?”

That question is not uncommon as counselors gather intake information from new clients.  Let’s face it, the average one of us would probably steer clear of those who would answer “yes.”  Indeed, some mental illness and even some medications can cause individuals to “hear things.”

How about Samuel?  Would you have kept a safe distance from him?  He was likely an adolescent or young adult when he first heard “a voice.”  Attributing it to Eli, Samuel went to him repeatedly asking why he had called.  But it wasn’t Eli.  No, this voice had a different origin.  This was God speaking to Samuel.  The Lord wanted Samuel to understand in advance the judgment He was going to bring on Eli, his family, and his heirs.  He wanted Samuel to realize that He was up to something . . . that He would not put up with the nose-thumbing blasphemy that had characterize the priest’s sons.

This was not the only time that Samuel “heard voices.”  God in His sovereign grace, you see, had selected Samuel as a prophetic mouthpiece to His people Israel.  His prophetic calling was confirmed by the fact that God let “none of his words fail” (v. 19, cf. Deut. 18:21, 22).

How about you?  Heard any voices recently?  I am guessing that you would be reluctant to give a “yes” answer?  I am too.  Meanwhile, part of me hopes that we have.  In fact, part of me would be surprised if we haven’t.  Sound scary?  It shouldn’t when we remind ourselves of the words of Jesus from John 10:27:

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”

How might you hear the voice of your Shepherd today?  Well, it may not be as dramatic as with Samuel.  It may not be as prophetically predictive as with this prophet of old.  But it will be real nonetheless.  You might “hear” it as you tune into a sunset or a star filled sky that speaks of His power and glory (Ps. 19:1, 2; Rom. 1:19, 20).  You might “hear” it through the written word of God that bears witness of Him.  You might “hear” it in a less clearly explainable prompting that comes from His Spirit, Who dwells within you (Rom. 8:16).

Are you listening?

Steve Kern

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November 11 – A King is Coming – Solid Faith or a Mere Veneer?

Read 1 Samuel 2:12-36

The boy Samuel had been dedicated to the Lord.  Even before his conception, his mother, Hannah, had vowed to give him to the Lord and to His service.  As a young lad, then, he was left in the hands of Eli, in close proximity to Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phineas.  Although Samuel’s mom and dad, made regular visits and dropped off care packages for their son, the influence of those around him on a daily basis was certainly strong.  I suppose his proud parents could have reasoned, “What could be better?  Our son is learning to serve the Lord with godly mentors!”

But, as you saw in today’s reading, that was far from the truth.  Even though Hophni and Phineas seemed to “serve the Lord,” in reality they “had no regard for Him!”  They were more concerned about filling their own stomachs than they were honoring the Lord.  They were more concerned about satisfying their own lustful urges than they were pleasing God.  To borrow the words of the NIV in verse 12, “Eli’s sons were scoundrels!”

Let’s pause here for a moment and pose an important personal question.  Is your spirituality a mere veneer placed on the surface of an otherwise self-serving life?  Do you even try to leverage your so-called commitment to God in order to get the things that you want?  Or is it your objective to honor God independent of sacrifices you may have to make?

Back to the story . . . apparently, the fruit did not fall too far from the tree!  Now let me be quick to say that many children choose paths of rebellion in spite of their parental influence.  But that was not completely the case here.  As the man of God spoke to Eli (verse 27), we learn that he too had scorned the sacrifices.  He had been guilty of preferentially honoring his sons over God, and the consequences would be felt for generations to come.

There is no denying it.  Our deep and sincere commitment to Christ is essential!  The consequences of anything short of that are significant and far-reaching.

Steve Kern

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