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.

The Ark, too hot to handle.

I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene.

“Look up – look out – look at the creation I have made and with that the one moment when I met with each person who I had created and will create. The moment on the cross when Jesus said, ‘It is finished’, ‘It is accomplished’, ‘It is done’! Consider all this and be amazed this morning at My mighty works and especially this magnificent act of salvation. It was not done in the abstract, it was done with each person who has ever lived in mind – it was done with you in mind. Stand amazed and in wonder at My Presence. Soak in it and enjoy every moment of it.”

We come now to 1 Samuel ch 6. The Philistines who had been so happy at capturing the ark because they thought it contained Israel’s God, are now desperate to get rid of it. They have also developed a holy respect for the Israelites after their experience with the ark, so they are too scared to just take it back. They should make some sort of sacrifice or offering to make up for stealing the ark, so they come up with this idea of making golden rats and tumours.

By the way the prominence of the rats and tumours confirms that it was bubonic plague which had affected the Philistines- this has no significance in the unfolding story but is only of interest. Bubonic plague is transmitted by fleas, carried by rats and the most prominent symptom is the appearance of tumours or “buboes” in the groin.

The amount of gold that was sent back with the ark reminds us of the way the Israelites plundered the Egyptians when they left Egypt, taking much silver and gold with them cf Exodus 1:35,36. God was once again demonstrating His favour towards His people.

The detail in the story of the return of the ark once again shows us how real this was, not a made up story written years later and serves to remind us of the reality of the whole of God’s word.

The other point that comes to the fore is how slow the Israelites were to learn. Despite the demonstration by God of His holiness represented here by the sacredness of the ark, there are nevertheless some 70 men who would actually disregard this and go and peep into the ark to see what was inside. I stop and shake my head, how can people be so stiff-necked that they don’t learn, despite the demonstration before their eyes of the events that have been described before.

This brings me to consider one of the major lessons of this chapter. How easy it is to misread and misunderstand God and His holiness and awesome might if we are stiff-necked and hard of heart. We are reminded, lest we are in a hurry to point fingers, of Jesus’ frustration with His own disciples when they were so slow to learn and understand. Read Mark 8:17-21 for an example of this. Somehow it is so important to continually prepare your heart in your devotional time so that you remain teachable and ready to “listen to Jesus“.

So this interlude ends with the ark in the house of Abinadab with his son specially consecrated to guard over it. It is not the last that we will hear of the ark. But the message of God’s holiness which is demonstrated by His Presence, symbolized by this inanimate object should remain a lasting reminder to the Israelites and not less to us today. It should give us a new appreciation of what Jesus did on the cross so that we can have access to this awesome and mighty God through Him. Let us not ever lose our awe at the very thought of His holy Presence.

May God bless you till next week.

God cannot be contained in a Box.

“Be still and know – that I am God – be still and consider My creation – consider the lilies of the Field they don’t labour or spin yet are clothed in more beauty than a king. Consider the sparrows – they don’t sow all plant – but I provide for them all they need. I am the One who hangs out the stars at night and tells the Sun went to shine – I kiss the flowers every morning with dew, yet I am never too busy to care about you – yes I never slumber nor sleep. I am there all the time caring for you that you will not stumble or fall. Consider all these things and many more which speak of Me and know I am not only your Creator but I am also your Father and your Lover and Friend – and yes, I really care about you and everyone else who reads this blog.“

On now to 1 Samuel chapter 5. Looking back over God’s story so far in His bible we have seen various ways that God represented Himself. Each one had a significance. Think of the burning bush and Moses. Then some time later the picture in Exodus 19 where God was going to speak to His people from a mountain. Thunder and lightning, plus a warning that no-one should come near as He demonstrated His holiness and power. Then later, hiding Moses in a cleft in a rock so that he would not die as God passed by.

The end of Exodus shows God’s careful preparation of the “Tabernacle”, every part of which was significant in representing God and how He should be approached and worshipped by His people. The most significant part of the tabernacle was the “Holy Of Holies” where the golden box, containing the testimony was placed. The high priest could only go in there once a year, it was so holy and then they tied a rope around his leg so that if he should die because of God’s presence they could drag him out without going in there themselves.

Of course this was really symbolic to teach the people to be in awe of Yahweh, because God could never be contained in a box.

In Chapter 5 of 1 Samuel we see the Philistines delighted that they had captured Israel’s God. Little did they know or understand. What starts as delight soon turns to horror as their favourite deity Dagon falls on his face the first night they are together. Even worse the next day he is found broken. Interestingly He has lost his head. Dagon was then one of three major figures in 1 Samuel to be destroyed. The other two were Goliath and Saul.

Even worse the people of the area are affected by an outbreak of a disease which featured tumours (probably Bubonic plague). This supposed huge magic asset had now become a major liability and the Philistines did not know what to do with it. The writer repeats, “God’s hand was heavy on them“. Next time we will see how the Philistines desperatelytried to get rid of the Ark.

So what lessons have you picked up from this most insightful passage?

Here are some I felt Jesus was saying to me: 1.Our God can appear in any form or shape He wants and at any time. From a still small voice to mighty thunder and lightning.

2. He cannot be packaged or manipulated in a sort of magic way, like a rabbit’s foot. He meets with us (through Jesus and His Spirit) on His terms, but at the same time He is ever so close and responds to our seeking Him, since He wants a relationship with us.

3. The pagan people often believed that their God’s were high up in the mountains or on the clouds. Hence Psalm 121; “I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? (no, no not from there) My help comes from the Lord the Maker of Heaven and earth“. A God who is not restricted to time and place.

4. As much as God was angry with His people because of their neglect and symbolically left them. He was not going to allow the Phlistines to mock Him or use Him. his judgement was heavy on them. We can never play the fool with God. He might be testing others but soon may test us as well.

I am so glad I worship a God who cannot be manipulated or used. Share any other words you may have picked up from this passage with us. Bless you all this coming week.