Starting at the end
1 Chronicles 10: Saul died in disobedience.
When we first read the story of King Saul in 1 Samuel we get the full treatment, so we know all about how he was anointed and how his rejection of God unraveled his kingship and his life in general. Here, we start at the end of his life. The writer seems to be in a hurry to get to King David and I think I know why. This book is being written to remind the people of Israel where they came from and who they are. The desire is to reignite their connection to one another and to God. Saul could have been the first and greatest king of Israel, but he failed, dying not in glory, but in disobedience. Later on, we’ll work through the failures that led to the exile, but here in the early going the idea is to inspire and ignite enthusiasm. Sad to say, Saul’s story might be good for warning people of pending failure but it won’t do much to unite and give a sense of pride. There’s a time to focus on such things. After all, spiritual failure is a real possibility. For now, though, the writer just wants to set up the story of David and give his readers something to cheer about. Know what? That’s okay with me too!
Take Away: While we know all about spiritual failure it’s good to be reminded of the very real possibility of spiritual success too.
The bigger they come…
1 Samuel 13: God is out looking for your replacement right now.
On the surface, Saul’s failure seems minor. All he’s doing is offering his own sacrifice instead of waiting for Samuel to do it for him. Beneath that, though, is a fault line that means catastrophe. Any king of Israel must rule only as a servant of God. Things are to be done God’s way. From the beginning of Saul’s story his position has been clearly defined. Samuel is the man chosen by God to provide spiritual leadership and that includes making ritual sacrifices. Saul has crossed that line, claiming authority that’s not his. Because of that God is rejecting him as king. Since he doesn’t accept God’s way of doing things another king will be found. I need to remember here that Saul isn’t making a mistake in this incident. Rather, he’s acting with full knowledge of what he’s doing. Simply put, he’s pushing God’s will to the side and taking what he thinks is a better course of action. While it’s true that God is testing him with the circumstance of Samuel’s late arrival it’s also true that he miserably fails the test. The Lord seeks another king because Saul, by his own decision, makes himself unworthy to be king. As I apply this to my life, I see that I must never forget that he is Lord. I’m not free to do whatever I want to do. While I know God is gracious and merciful, I also know that, in my own free will, I can push God too far. It doesn’t have to be that way, but I know that it remains a tragic possibility.
Take Away: If I’m to be God’s man I have to do things God’s way. He’ll have it no other way.
“Good enough” thinking isn’t good enough
Joshua 17: But they never did get rid of them.
In some movies when certain people appear on screen or when certain words are said we hear the background musical score take on an ominous tone. That’s what we ought to hear when the phrase, “they never did get rid of them” or something similar is read concerning the occupation of Canaan by the various tribal groups. As happens in those movies, what sounds pretty innocuous in the Book of Joshua becomes deadly serious as we continue reading into the Book of Judges and beyond. So far as the Israelites under Joshua’s leadership are concerned it’s not a big deal. Their opposition is defeated. There are no more armies to fight. A few stubborn hold outs won’t give up and move away, but they’re submissive and provide reliable slave labor. Out on the edges of the land there are still serious enemies, but they have great respect for the power of the army of Israel and aren’t a threat. Israel will leave them alone if those unfriendly neighbors will leave them alone. After a generation of war it’s time to build houses and plant crops and adapt to a more peaceful life. Again, it seems reasonable, practical. However, it’s not what the Lord told them to do. Their failure is going to cost their descendants dearly. It will all be quite clear as I continue into the Book of Judges and beyond. I think we all live in danger of “good enough” thinking. What’s good enough for me right now may not have the momentum to carry through the next rough spot that’s over the horizon. I need to let this passage remind me to pay careful attention to the Lord’s direction on my life and not substitute my so-called wisdom for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Take Away: “Good enough” isn’t good enough until we’ve do all the Lord has told us to do.