1 Samuel 14 – Biology, Sociology, or Spirituality?

Have you ever noticed how two people from the same family can be radically different from one another? Are those differences related to biology (nature) or sociology (nurture)? The answer is probably a combination of both.

But there’s a third factor which can over-ride biology and sociology, and that factor is spirituality.

Jonathan (Saul’s son) was influenced by his father, both biologically and sociologically. Yet, they were noticeably different spiritually.

1 Samuel chapter 14 highlights the differences between Saul and Jonathan. Saul tends to rely on himself more than God, while Jonathan tends to rely on God more than himself. (Compare verse 6 with verse 36.) Saul uses God for his own desires, while Jonathan wants to be used by God to accomplish God’s desires.

Reading 1 Samuel 14 should give us hope. Though we have no influence over our biology (the family we’re born into) and little influence over our sociology (the way our parents chose to raise us), we have a lot of influence over our spirituality. And since our spirituality can over-ride both our biology and our sociology, we have more influence over who we are than we tend to believe. That is the hope we have in Christ. The One who rose from the dead offers us resurrection from our dead ways!

1 Samuel chapter 14 also gives us a warning…don’t be like Saul! It’s so easy to live life on our own strength, trusting ourselves, figuring things out on our own, doing what our logic or emotions tell us to do. But resist that. Instead, live trusting God’s sovereignty, wisdom, and plan. Live more like Jonathan…unsure of yourself and what you can do, but confident in God and what He can do. (1 Samuel 14:6.)

1 Samuel 13 – Pay Attention to the Red Lights

Some people are “feelers.” They respond to things based upon their feelings.

Now feelings are not bad and should not be avoided. God Himself has feelings and expresses emotion. (Gen. 6:6) (Ex. 4:14) (Job 33:26) But, we should not allow our feelings to drive us.

Feelings are like the red lights on the dashboard of your car. They warns you that something needs your attention. If you ignore the red lights, or cover them up, or disconnect them…you court disaster. The red light is not the problem. It’s just an indicator of a problem.

Here’s what this has to do with 1 Samuel chapter 13. Saul was a feeler. He made decisions based upon feelings, not faith. When the situation became grave, Saul followed his feelings and panicked. His feelings over-ruled his faith, causing him to disobey the Lord in an attempt to calm his fear. Then, when confronted with his disobedience, Saul (driven by guilt) sought to covering things up with rationalization. (1 Sam. 13:11-12)

If you’re a feeler, the key to not letting your emotions drive you is found in what Samuel tells Saul. (1 Sam. 13:14) Samuel tells Saul that God is looking for someone who is after God’s heart, rather than their own.

Pay attention to your feelings, but be more concerned with God’s feelings than your own. Bring your feelings in line with God’s through prayer and a knowledge of His word. Then, when your feelings light up, you’ll know there is something going on under your hood that need to be tuned up or corrected.

Pay attention to your red lights.

1 Samuel 11-12 – Balancing Mercy and Discipline

As a child, our logic is very simple. If we do something bad, something bad will happen to us. Likewise, if we do something good, something good will happen to us. If we displease our parents, they will withdraw their help and benefits. But, if we please our parents, they will help us.

And as adults, we often take that same child-like logic and apply it to our relationship with God.

Yet any parent knows that relating to your children is not that black and white. Sometimes, love will prompt mercy, while at other times, love will prompt punishment.  What occurs between parent and child is not a cut-and-dried behavioral bartering system, but rather a delicate dance between mercy and discipline.

This is the complex interaction you see in 1 Samuel chapters 11 and 12. In chapter 11, God intervenes to rescue His people, despite their rejection of Him. And the people misread their victory as a sign of God’s approval, rather than His mercy.

In chapter 12, the people brace themselves for God’s punishment, because they’ve gone against Him in asking for a king. Yet, out of His love for them, and His desire to uphold His reputation to the world, God promises not to abandon them.

Why can’t it just be cut-and-dried? Why can’t the people stick with the rules and why can’t God be consistent in His discipline?

Because, it’s not about rules. It’s about relationship. God loves His people. Sometimes He directs with mercy, and sometimes He directs with consequences. God will do whatever has the most impact on His people, in order to draw them back into a love relationship with Himself. He patently and persistently keeps turning the dial to the combination that will open our hearts to Him.

1 Samuel 10 – Commitment

have you ever known someone who had difficulty committing to something or someone? Have you ever known someone who says, “I’m in!” but still seems to have one foot out? Have you ever known someone who makes a decision, yet still hesitates to follow through with that decision?

Saul was this type of person, according to 1 Samuel chapter 10. Despite the prophet’s direction and all the confirmation he receives, Saul is still not complete in. You see this in how he stops short of telling his uncle about being anointed as king, and in how he hides when Samuel is trying to make him king. Saul has commitment issues.

Perhaps it was fear. When Saul encounters his uncle, he was in a town where their enemies (the Philistines) had an established garrison. Perhaps his difficulty with commitment was because he didn’t see himself as being worthy or able to do what he needed to do.

As you continue to read about Saul, he seems to wrestle with both fear and a lack of confidence. Yet, Scripture deals with both our fear and our lack of self confidence.

What about you? Where is it you have trouble committing to what God wants you to do? Is your hesitancy related to fear, or to a low view of yourself…or both.

God has already addressed our fear in 2 Tim. 1:7. And God has already addressed our lack of confidence in 2 Peter 1:3.

Always remember…we don’t have to hesitate in committing to what God wants us to do, because… “God will make this happen, for He who calls you is faithful” (1 Thes. 5:24.)

1 Samuel 9 – The Master Chess Player

I’m not very good at chess. I can’t think like a chess player. Really good chess players think many moves ahead, as if they already know what’s going to happen.

God is a really good chess player.

When you look at 1 Samuel chapter 9, you will find one “coincidence” after another…pointing to God’s sovereignty and intricate timing. For example…Saul, looking for some donkeys that had run away, “just happens upon” Samuel. For this to happen…

  • The donkeys had to wander off at the right time.
  • The servant had to think of consulting Samuel just when they were close to the town Samuel was in.
  • Saul had to encounter the women who knew where Samuel was.
  • Saul and the the servant had to catch Samuel before the feast began.
  • Etc.

You can’t read 1 Samuel chapter 9 without seeing God’s complete control and sovereignty. That, in itself, is amazing. But even more amazing is the fact that God’s complete sovereignty and control is used in accordance with God’s great love and mercy. (1 Sam. 9:16)

After being rejected time and time again by His children, God could have used His sovereignty to punish them. But instead, He continues to orchestrate every little detail, so that He might continue showing mercy and grace.

When it comes to chess, God is the Master chess player. He sees many moves ahead of us. So look at your circumstances and situations. They may not be what you want (as when the donkeys ran away), and they may not be what God wants (as when Israel rejected Him and wanted a king.) But God is still in complete control and He’s moving all the pieces around the board to give you the greatest shot at being who He wants you to be.

1 Samuel 8 – Teenage Rebellion

In 1 Samuel chapter 7, we compared the nation of Israel to little children who get distracted and wander away from their parents. But sometimes, God’s children are more like willful teenagers, opposing what God wants and willfully choosing a different direction.

This is what you see in 1 Samuel chapter 8. Israel decides that they want to be like everyone around them, rather than look like their parent (God.) They want God there when they need help, but they still want to do their own thing. And even after they are warned about the difficulties and dangers their choices will produce, they still want what they want. And they are willing to enter back into a slavery of sorts to get what they want.

The truth is, we are more like the Children of Israel than we want to admit. How often we disregard what God wants in favor of what we want. How often we turn our back on His provision and find ourselves in slavery to what we thought we wanted/needed.

And like a good parent, God will hang back and watch us make poor choices. He will allow us to willfully turn away from Him, while all, the time waiting for us to realize the slavery and mess we’ve chosen. Then, when we cry out to Him, He will step in to help us walk out of our mess.

God wants children who will stay close and dependent to Him, not teenagers who will willfully break away from Him. The question is…which are you?

1 Samuel 7 – Wandering Off

You’ve seen it before. A young child is walking through a store with a parent when the child gets distracted and wanders off. But when the child realizes they can’t see their parent, they begin to feel vulnerable and scared. Their lip starts to quiver, tears begin to roll, and they cry out for their parent with increasing panic and volume.

This is a picture of 1 Samuel chapter 7. The children of Israel have wandered off from God to explore other things. When they begin to miss God’s presence, they mourn, believing God had abandoned them. (1 Sam. 7:2) Samuel points out it was they who abandoned God. (1 Sam. 7:3) Samuel calls them to stop chasing after things that don’t satisfy and instead seek and obey God. (1 Sam. 7:3)

The people respond rightly and return to God. In turn, God’s presence (not their prowess) saves them and brings them security. (1 Sam. 7:10-11)

Like that wandering child or those wandering Israelites, we get distracted by other things (success, financial security, material things, relationships, pleasure, etc.) and we wander off from God. We typically don’t realize it at the time…until things start to fall apart.

Then we wonder why God has left us…when in fact it was we who left Him. (Heb. 13:5) But if we will cry out to Him and submit to Him, He will joyfully and powerfully respond. (James 4:7-10)

So how about it? Look around. Do you see God close by, or have you wandered off from Him. If you’re off by yourself…you now know what to do.

1 Samuel 5-6 – When God Parents Teens

Parent is a difficult job, no matter the age of your children. But it is especially difficult to parent teens. Teens strongly demonstrate and exercise their self-will. They are also very good at diverting blame and misrepresenting loving discipline as punitive retribution.

1 Samuel chapters 5-6 portray the Israelites much like teenagers. In chapter 4, the Israelites independently do what they want to do, without consulting God. Because of this (and previous offenses,) they bring about a disconnect in the relationship…symbolized by their separation from the Ark of the Covenant.

As a good parent, God works behind the scenes (unbeknownst to them) to reconnect the relationship and return the Ark. Like teenagers, the Israelites are happy to receive the blessing of the Ark’s return, but they continue to do what they want to do. They continue to treat God with casual disrespect. And when God disciplines them for this attitude, the Israelites respond as if God is to blame (1 Sam. 7:2)

Too often, I respond to my Heavenly father as if I’m a teenager. I want what I want, when I want it. I’m glad to receive His benefits, but hurt when He disciplines me. And I’m usually more concerned with Him not leaving me, then with me not leaving Him.

I tend not to recognize:

  • All He did behind the scenes to restore our relationship.
  • The fact that He, more often than not, is the one who makes the first move to restore the relationship.

Yes, 1 Samuel chapters 5-6 make theological statements about the omnipresence of God in a pagan culture. And yes, you see teachings about God’s sovereignty and holiness. But mostly you see a God who goes out of His way to move towards His children…even when they have rebelled and disconnected from Him.

Be grateful God has a heart for teenagers…like us!

1 Samuel 4 – Are You Superstitious?

Would you consider yourself superstitious? Most of us would deny being superstitious. In our modern, scientific, and technologically driven world, we would see superstition as archaic and mythological.

Superstition takes a right concept (the idea that there is an unseen force which effects our lives positively or negatively) and links that right concept with a wrong connection (a certain object or sequence of events.)

In 1 Samuel chapter 4, the Israelites were superstitious, because they wrongly connected God’s favor with the physical Ark of the Covenant. They assumed that God’s favor was in holding onto the Ark of the Covenant, rather than holding onto the Covenant itself. The Israelites saw God’s presence and favor as the result of keeping the box that held God’s law, rather than keeping God’s law itself.

An initial reading might prompt us to say, “I can’t believe these ancients were superstitious enough to think that putting a golden chest in the middle of a battle would ensure their victory!”

But before we’re too hard on the Israelites, let’s be honest. Don’t we tend to think that the more we’re inside a church building the more God will like us? Don’t we tend to think that the more good things we do, the more God will bless us?

We can be just a superstitious as the Israelites.

How often do we feel we’re made right by visiting God’s house, rather than abiding in Him? How often do we feel better about ourselves because we carry and read God’s word, rather than obeying and living God’s word?

We need to turn from our religious superstition by finding our comfort, direction, and strength in God Himself, rather than in the things that symbolize Him.

1 Samuel 2-3 – Does God Choose Favorites?

“Mom always liked him better.” “Dad always favored her.” What sibling hasn’t said or thought something like this?

Some would say God plays favorites, because some people seem to be blessed while others encounter one hardship after another. If God loves us all the same, why doesn’t He give everyone the same deal?

Let’s be clear…God does not show favoritism, in the sense that He arbitrarily chooses to be good to some and not to others. (See Acts 10:34, Rom. 2:11, Eph. 6:9, and Col. 3:25.) God loves each person the same (John 3:16) and will work with each person to achieve His best for them. (2 Pet. 3:9) But each person is responsible for their response to God. (James 4:6-8.) Though it’s possible to experience hardship through no fault of our own, quite often the difficulties we experience are not the result of God’s favoritism, but ours! We show favoritism toward ourselves, rather than God, and in so doing, we choose to honor that which is flawed over that which is perfect…giving us flawed results.

This is what’s happening in 1 Samuel chapters 2-3. There you see a distinct contrast between the life and direction of Samuel and the life and direction of Eli’s sons. Samuel is clearly headed for greatness, while Elli’s sons are headed for destruction. But Hophni and Phinehas’ fate is not because God favored Samuel over them. It’s because they favored themselves over God.

God does not promise each person the same path to travel, but He does promise each person the same love, care, and help for their journey. And it’s His desire to see each person arrive at the right destination. God does not play favorites, but we do. The question is, do we favor ourselves or God?