A Shadow over the King..

“ Do you understand what it means when you sing “the Lord Almighty reigns”? Do you understand the difference between My reign and the reign of any king or ruler in this world? My reign extends to having authority over the whole world, but not only this world the whole universe as big as it is, extending tens of thousands of light years. Note though, it is not only a nominal authority it is a complete control of anything that is happening and will happen. There is not a king or ruler of this earth that I have not placed there through my authority and their authority only extends as far as I allow them. The only area that may appear that I do not have authority over is every persons will – their freedom to decide. Yet even that freedom is under my authority although it may not appear that way. So sing from the bottom of your heart ‘hallelujah the Lord Almighty reigns’, and believe it and trust it”

We continue with the choosing of the first future king of Israel in 1 Samuel 10:9-27. This should have been a joyous event, yet the writer wants you to see that there is a shadow looming over this new king.

The reader may have been encouraged by the description of Saul as a spiritually changed person as we read in the first verses of our reading today, with him ending up “prophesying with a group of other prophets. This type of prophecy, mentioned a number of times in the Old Testament, should not be confused with the great prophets of the Old Testament, like Samuel who spoke on behalf of God. It may have just extended to praise of Yahweh and telling out His attributes, but it is not clearly described and there is a suggestion that it was accompanied by music and ecstatic behaviour (New bible Commentary).

Although God has pointed Samuel to choose this man, there is a formal process which is now acted out at the end of Ch 10, where a lot is used. Before this process is initiated though, Samuel once again warns the Israelites in vs 19, “But you have now rejected your God, who saves you out of all your calamities and distresses. And you have said, “No, set a king over us”.

As I read this I was reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:21: “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father in heaven” So although God is clearly guiding the process, it is being done, clearly against His immediate will.

As the process now unfolds where is this future king? He had hidden himself vs 22b. So although he is described as having an exceptional appearance there was a sense of uncertainty.

Further on there is another warning light. Way back in the book of Judges from ch 19 onward there is an awful story which almost reminds of Sodom and Gomorrah. It shows to what depth some of the Israelites had sunk. It also results in the rest of Israel almost completely annihilating the tribe of Benjamin. The name of the city where this awful incident takes place? “Gibeah”. And now we find that the new king of Israel comes from where? Gibeah, (10:26). It surely is no coincidence this and should raise a sense of uncertainty and alarm about the king, even if only small.

Then the chapter ends on another note which should should contribute to the reader’s sense of foreboding. Vs 27 tells us that there was a definite section of the population who were not happy with Saul as a choice of future king in fact they despised him.

So this new king starts his rule with a shadow hanging over him. Strangely but for another reason the real Messiah King, of God who appears 1000 or more years later is also born and raised with the cloud of rejection hanging over Him, but for a different reason.

So what is Jesus saying to us from this passage? Important is that we should not think that because things seem to be working out we have God’s blessing. Gods blessing goes with those who choose to do His will. See also the Lord’s prayer. for confirmation of this. Secondly as we see this stuttering start to the line of kings who will rule in Israel, we may be asking ourselves ,”Does this really reflect a God who is completely in control?” In answer to that I am reminded of the the word in Matthew 13:11. Where Jesus speaks of the secret things of God. The Greek word used here is ‘mysterion’. So much of God and His actions are mysterious and only able to be understood when He reveals it to us. And if we read the context in Mat 13, it is to those who choose to do His will that He reveals His mysterion.

So, dear friends join me in seeking to “let Thy will be done” in our lives. Blessings for this week, see you next week.

God’s King Revealed.

I stand amazed in Your presence Jesus the Nazarene, I stand in awe of who You are and Your mighty works.

“I invite you to consider Me, who I am, Yahweh, the Alpha and the Omega, who from nothing has created the entire universe and everything you see. It is right and good that you be filled with awe. It is right and good that you remember Me as I had revealed my presence to My people Israel. So great yet so far removed by my Holiness. Now you are so privileged to have access into My presence, real access where you can communicate with Me and hear My voice. All the glory to My Son Jesus who made this possible. Enjoy it, enjoy Me and My presence and grow in your love and enjoyment of Me even as I continue to draw you closer and closer to Me”

We consider 1 Samuel 9:1 – 1 Samuel 10:8..The people have continually demanded a king: 1 Sam 8:19; We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations with a king to lead us and go out before us and fight our battles” Samuel had been devastated at this, since there were clearly times when God had fought their battles and he felt they were clearly rejecting God. However God had said to Samuel, “Listen to them and give them a king”.9:22

The focus then in ch 9 moves away from Samuel as the central figure to the process of identifying this new king. Although the next number of chapters are now going to focus on Saul I remind you that the real central figure in this story is Yahweh himself as he moves and unrolls history.

Read now through today’s passage and consider what impression you get as this story unfolds. I see an incredible amount of detail. Much of it seemingly insignificant in the bigger scheme of things. Here is a young man. A man with great appearance huge and athletic, the perfect figure of a king. Yet he is humble, coming from the smallest tribe vs 21.

So what does all this detail tell you? Well it speaks to me of the total control of God over every individual and of the affairs of the world. Despite the fact that the people are going against God He is still guiding them in the finest detail. Of course we cannot see at this stage how this king is going to turn out in the long run, but here it is clear that he is God’s choice.

This passage climaxes in 10:6 with his anointing. Notice that Samuel prophecies that the “Spirit of the Lord will come on you in power…. and you will be a changed person.” Now if this was in the New Testament era we would immediately say that this promise was one of being born again. However as history unfolds and we look into the future the Spirit departs from him later and he is ruled by an evil Spirit. This is not part of this passage though, we will face that when we come to it. But we take note this promise is equipping him for the task ahead.

What we have seen so far is God’s intimate guidance in this process and as we meditate on this we should be reminded of Roman’s 8:28, that “God works all things together for the good of them that love Him and are called by His name”. Is that a promise unique to the NT? I don’t think so. However under the Old covenant, God tended to work with His people as a a whole group, rather than in the intimate individual way as in the NT.

Nevertheless He was working for the good of all who love Him down through the ages, as He planned the coming of His new king, the Messiah Himself, our Lord Jesus. The reminder in this passage is the fact that He is involved in every little detail of our lives. Of course when we deliberately go our own way, He will use his discipline to bring us back to Him again. Sometimes this will cause one to go on a wide detoir over many years.

May this passage and this thought bring you a deep peace and comfort in a world which seems to be being governed by evil and chaos. on all sides.

A King for the People.

Hallelujah for the Lord Almighty reigns. He is indeed our only king.

“ It took many years for My people to really understand My kingship. Many stumbling steps and deviations and even now do you you truly understand what my kingship means? My complete, benevolent authority over My whole kingdom – the whole of creation. Many have submitted and recognize Me but many have not, The day will come though, when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that I am The king of all. Bring your voice, bring your whole being and worship at the foot of My throne, singing hallelujah for the Lord the Almighty reigns and revel in My reign, enjoy it and serve Me with gladness and rejoicing”

Now to 1 Samuel 8. This is a key chapter to understanding the steps towards the appointing of a king for Israel. To put this in perspective we need to take a step back and look at what God has been doing and will do in this process.

If we look at the appointing of Saul as king it appears to be a disaster as God allows them to appoint this man apparently against His wishes as king over the nation of Israel. However if we stand back and look at the bigger picture we see that this event did not take God by surprize. He had in fact anticipated it as we see in Deuteronomy 17. When they demanded to have a king, God said, they should appoint His choice and he should be a God-fearing man, following God and His law closely.

We don’t see this yet in today’s passage but the real choice of God was actually the humble shepherd boy David. But even David was only a step in God’s bigger plan as the story of Israel unfolds, because as much as he loved God he was very humanly fallible, despite his faith and love for God. What we can see today as we look back, however is that this concept of King and kingly rule was actually looking forward to the coming of the perfect King, King Jesus, many years later.

Now back to 1 Sam 8. We see the picture of Samuel getting old and the elders gathering to make the request for a king for the nation, vs 5. But there is a fatal flaw in their request, can you see it in this verse? They want a king “such as all the nations have”. Samuel was rightly displeased, as the nation had been led up to that stage by prophets, like Moses and judges like Joshua and Samuel who acted as God’s agents as it were, with God Himself actually ruling.

Although we know that this fitted God’s bigger plan, He nevertheless tells Samuel not to take this personally, vs 7 “it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected Me as their king”. This is a symptom of their unfaithfulness surfacing again vs 8. (Remember the people had supposedly repented of their unfaithfulness in the previous chapter)

Then God tells Samuel to warn them of the dangers of having an independent king ruling over them vv 10-18 and he warns them there will come a time that the people will cry out for relief from these tyrants who would not care for them. vs 18.

Nevertheless he people ignore God’s warning and continue to demand a king so that they could be like all the nations around them vv 19,20. So God says to Samuel, “listen to them and give them a king”. vs 22.

Now there is an important application here. God wanted His people to be different, holy and different, following Him, representing Him to the nations around them. It was their very difference which would be their testimony. Yet they were avoiding this very privileged status and instead wanted to be the same as these people. Now, how often is there an avoidance on our part to standing out as God’s witness by being prepared to be different and instead wanting to “fit in” so that we don’t make ripples? You see it is not only what you say but your whole life which is a witness and if it does not demonstrate your unique relationship with our God and Creator through His Son Jesus then we are not true witnesses. It does not mean we have to be rude or prudish, we just need to live out our dynamic relationship with Jesus in a loving way in the community we live and move in and not be tempted to try and be like them so that we fit in..

There is another application which is echoed in Romans chapter 1. Three times in vv 24, 26, and 28, Paul says, “God gave them over” to continue in there sin. The warning is that if one sins continually and does not heed God’s warnings, He will step back, in judgement and “give you over” to continuing in your sin and then let you face the consequences of that. So here is and example of that. The Israelites kept demanding a king like the nations around them so God “gave them over” and said to Samuel “give them a king“, and we shall see what sort of king they got in the next chapters as we meet king Saul.

The message Jesus seemed to be saying to me was a reminder as to the the difference between human kings and rulers and our Almighty King and ruler of the universe. A reminder to examine my heart to plumb the depths as to whether I truly wanted to be totally different, in His words holy at the danger of being rejected by some. But the joy of realizing what it actually means to believe in this King of ours and truly serve Him. The question to you and and to me is do I really grasp and understand this? Like many things about our loving God, some things are so clear and some remain a mystery.

God bless you this coming week.

Returning to the Lord.

The battle belongs to You oh Lord and in the midst is the Lamb.
“Yes Ian, although you cannot see it, you can and do feel the effects of the unseen battle which is raging between My forces and the forces of evil. In the midst, symbolically stands the lamb – the symbol of victory won at a specific time and place on a cross. yet, although He has won the victory, the battle on the personal level still continues and will only cease when I wrap up the whole of history. It is important that you are aware of this much deeper level of our relationship because even as you face the battle you must remember the battle belongs to Me and you must stand in My armour and face the battle. The first step is just a reminder to be aware of this additional dimension of the walk along the narrow path filled with obstacles so that you can grow continuously.

Now on to 1 Samuel 7. After the apparent complete loss of awareness of Jehovah as described in Judges 21:25, and the evil of Eli’s sons, Israel has been brought up short by a massive defeat by the Philistine army. They then remember the ark, which represented God’s presence in the tabernacle and fetch it to help them in this battle. At this stage it seems they were seeing the ark as a sort of power in itself and God teaches them another lesson by allowing the Philistines to steal the ark. This proves to be a huge problem for the Philistines however and they get rid of the ark, sending it back to Israel. There it is put in the house of Abinadab under guard.

Today’s reading opens with the remark that the ark remained there for 20 years. A half a generation, a long time. Then comes this insightful statement in vs 2, “all the people of Israel mourned and sought after the Lord.” Samuel picks this up and makes the key statement of this chapter, “If you are returning to the Lord” vs 3.

Now there is a repeated sequence in the book of Judges which is repeated here. Israel sins, God brings judgement as a punishment which leads to Israel’s repentance. Samuel, who is now called a judge vs 15, picks up this lament of Israel and points them to why they are experiencing God’s judgement and what they should do about it. vs 3b. “If you are returning to God, get rid of all the foreign gods and Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to God and serve Him only and He will deliver you.”

Samuel calls the people together for a huge religious ceremony at Mispah. Here he calls on God on behalf of the Israelites. The Philistines misinterpret the gathering, thinking that the Israelites were gathering together for war and start mobilizing their troops. This terrorizes the Israelites even more. There follows a touch which is a shadow of something which would happen many years down the line. Samuel takes a suckling lamb and sacrifices it. Echoes of the words in John 1:29, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”. This turning from their sin in repentance and calling on the Lord for salvation from their hearts is followed by a divine slaughtering of the Philistines who are never again a problem to the Israelites.

Chapter 7 then is a story of the Israelites turning in repentance away from their unfaithfulness and to the Lord, but it is also a picture of Samuel’s rule, as judge over IsraeI. It describes the end of theocratic rule (rule by God directly through a human instrument) before the beginning of the choosing of the first king of Israel which we will see in the next chapter

There is much to learn from this chapter, which I am sure you can see. The way sin and unfaithfulness weakens us, the process that God uses to bring us to repentance. Does God still use this process today? To find the answer we need to look at this passage through the gospel filter. We have the Holy Spirit who helps us to walk with the Lord, we have Jesus who has died on our behalf for our sins, so we are very privileged. However we are still sinners and there is a pattern within this that God uses to discipline us and bring us back to Him.

The encouraging reminder here is that just as we are still involved in a spiritual battle, just as those Israelites, the battle belongs to the Lord. We need to use His tools to fight the battle, the main one is the shield of faith and we all need to learn that trusting God is the only way to win the battle. Take Ephesians 6 seriously where Paul describes the full armour of God. We also should not be fooled into thinking that there is no battle. The first step to victory is to recognize the reality of the battle.

So rest in God. When the storms of life arise and relationships are under attack, remember the battle is not yours, it belongs to the Lord. So bless you all till next week.