1 Samuel 28 “He Being Dead Still Speaks”

God had one more message for Samuel to deliver . . . even after his death!  Samuel had been dead for a while, and King Saul was in a very bad place.  The Philistines were gathered together for war, and Saul was afraid.  His "heart trembled greatly."  (1 Samuel 28:5)  Saul may have feared the Philistines, but his heart trembled because he had a deeper, spiritual fear.  He feared the truth.  The truth was that God had departed from him, and was giving him the silent treatment.  God did not speak to him through "dreams or by Urim or by the prophets." (1 Samuel 28:6)  God was silent.  Everything that Samuel had said before was becoming a painful reality.  The kingdom was crumbling under the feet of Saul just like Samuel had prophesied.  God's blessing was long removed, and God's voice was silent.  Saul was experiencing the truth . . . the fulfillment of God's prophetic message.  No wonder he was afraid!  In his desperation, he sought out a witch in Endor who would summon the prophet Samuel from beyond the grave.  And so, God ended his silence.  He delivered a final message to Saul . . . through Samuel . . . summoned by a witch!  (God has a multitude of tools available for his service!)  The final message was a confirmation of all of the previous messages with one terrifying addition.  "Tomorrow you and your sons will be with me." (1 Samuel 28:19)  It would be Saul's final night upon this earth.  This weird and confusing story is a cautionary tale.  It is possible to reject God's Word and disobey God's law to the point of no return.  If we plug our ears and refuse to listen, eventually God stops speaking.  We should listen now, before it is too late!

1 Samuel 25:1 “The Death of Samuel”

SamuelProphet1SMG " Then Samuel died; and the Israelites gathered together and lamented for him, and buried him at his home in Ramah."  (1 Samuel 25:1a)  This rather brief statement seems inadequate for a man like Samuel.  He had a long and distinguished career.  He was a faithful man of God, a fearless prophet, a righteous judge, and a godly priest.  Like Sampson, he had a life-long nazarite vow.  Unlike Sampson, he faithfully kept his vow.  When he first rose to prominence as a young judge, his nation was in turmoil.  His mentor, Eli, was dead.  Eli's wicked sons were killed in battle.  The ark of God was captured by the Philistines.  And, the people were drifting in various stages of spiritual apathy, rebellion against God, and idolatry.  It was a mess!  After a lifetime of courageous leadership, things had changed dramatically.  At the time of his death, the nation was united.  The people had grown spiritually.  Samuel had trained the next generation of prophets.  And, he had anointed the first two kings of Israel.  Yet, this brief obituary in 1 Samuel 25 is very fitting.  The nation mourned the loss of a great leader.  But, it really wasn't about Samuel.  Samuel was just the messenger.  He was an excellent messenger.  But, the power is not in the messenger.  The power is in the message.  The prophet was dead.  The messenger was gone.  But, the message was alive and well.  So, the death of Samuel was a grievous loss.  But, even in his death, the messenger pointed his people to the eternal and powerful message.  God has a plan to save His people.  God still speaks to His people.  Trust Him!    

1 Samuel 16 “Following God’s Will”

samuel & david
God had one final task for the aging Samuel.  And, Samuel provided us with a textbook case-study in following God's will.  Samuel had heard God's voice when he was just a young boy.  After a lifetime of faithful obedience to God's will, Samuel was in complete conformity to the leading of God's Spirit.  So, when God's final command came to him, he responded with instant obedience.  God wanted him to fill his horn with oil and go to Bethlehem.  And so he went.  The story illustrates for us some truths about God's will:
     1.  God's will is often not what we desire.  God always gives us what we need, but it is not always what we want.  Samuel really did not even want to anoint Saul as the first king of Israel, but he did because he knew it was what God wanted.  If Samuel had his way, Saul would repent and God would restore divine blessing upon his reign.  But, alas, it was too late.  Samuel was still mourning Saul's downfall, but had to move on.  It was not what he wanted, but God had a very different (and much better!) plan for His people.
     2.  God's will is often contrary to our common sense.  In Bethlehem, Samuel rounded up the sons of Jesse and immediately approached the eldest.  It made perfect sense.  He was the oldest and wisest.  He looked and acted like a leader.  Surely, this was the one that God had chosen.  But God said no.  After seven no's, they had to go searching for the least likely candidate . . . David!  Humanly speaking, it made no sense.  But, God does not look at the outward appearances, He examines the heart.  That is exactly why we must depend upon God's guidance.  We can't always trust our own senses!
     3.  God's will always provides God's power.  Obediently, Samuel provided the horn full of oil with which he anointed David.  The unlikely shepherd boy received more than just an oily head.  "The Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward."  (1 Samuel 16:13)  God chose David to be the next king, and God filled him with the power of the Spirit.  Humanly speaking, David could not possibly be king.  Filled with God's power, he became the greatest king ever.  That's what happens when you follow God's will.

1 Samuel 16 “Third Try”

samuel & david
The sixteenth chapter of First Samuel opens with an odd scene.  The aging Samuel is mourning.  He is mourning the fact that the Spirit of God had departed from king Saul.  Before Saul was King, Samuel was Judge.  The people had rejected Samuel and insisted upon a king.  Now that King Saul had failed and had forfeited God's blessing, this would be the perfect time for Samuel to say "I told you so!"  Samuel could have easily fallen into self-pity and lamented the fact that he had lost his opportunity to lead Israel as judge.  But that is not who Samuel is.  This aging man of God does not rebuke the people for their foolish decisions, nor does he mourn for his own loss of authority.  Rather, he mourns . . . for Saul.  Sure, Saul was God's second choice, not the first.  But, still, he was God's king.  He had so much potential.  If he faithfully obeyed God, he could lead the nation into a new era of strength and prosperity and blessing.  But, alas, King Saul was just like all the other kings.  He descended into rebellion against God, and could have easily dragged the entire nation down with him.  So, Samuel mourned.  The people had rejected God's first plan.  God graciously gave them a plan B.  Now, plan B had failed miserably.  Yet, in God's gracious provision, this was not the end.  There was a third chance.  There was another alternative waiting.  God gave Samuel a mild rebuke, "How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel?"  God had one more job for wise old Samuel.  God had another king waiting . . . a man after God's own heart.  It was time for Samuel to stop mourning about the failure of plan B and get busy embracing God's third chance.  This one would not fail.  This one would establish a royal line that would produce the Eternal King of Kings and Savior of the world . . . Jesus, the Son of David!

1 Samuel 12 “Here I Am”

samuel's speech
Samuel gave a profound and passionate speech on a very important day.  It was the day that he stepped aside as ruler (judge) over his people and recognized the new king, Saul.  Samuel would still be around as a spiritual adviser, prophet, and priest.  But he would no longer have political power or authority.  He began the speech by acknowledging his old age and his years of public service.  Then, he asked a series of questions.  "Here I am.  Witness against me before the Lord and before his anointed:  Whose ox have I taken, or whose donkey have I taken, or whom have I cheated?  Who have I oppressed, or from whose hand have I received any bribe with which to blind my eyes?"  (! Samuel 12:3)  The simple answer was:  nobody.  There was no one to be found who had been cheated or oppressed or wronged in any way by Samuel.  He was a man of honesty, transparency, and integrity.  This gave him the moral authority to speak to his people.  They had an obligation to listen to him because he had demonstrated his character and wisdom.  If Samuel had indeed committed any of those sins, he could have repented.  He could receive forgiveness from God, and he could restore to the victim that which he had wronged him.  Forgiveness is a wonderful blessing!  Surely Samuel had been forgiven for his sins, but he did not need to be forgiven for theft.  He had stolen nothing.  He needed no forgiveness for oppression.  He had oppressed no one.  Integrity is better than forgiveness!  And, that is my goal.  Christ forgave all of my sins when I accepted Him as Savior.  My sins are many, but there are also many sins that I have studiously avoided.  My goal is to avoid them until God takes me home.  When I get to Samuel's advanced age, (it won't be too long now!) I hope that I am able to simply say, "Here I am."  A lifetime of integrity speaks for itself.

1 Samuel 9-10 “With God, There are No Coincidences”

Samuel was pretty good at discerning God's will and following it.  He had heard God's voice when he was a child.  He was familiar with God's divine providence.  Still, the story of how God led Samuel to Saul is quite remarkable.  It was a long series of "coincidental" events.  Of course, nothing is coincidental with God.  The entire story illustrates how God controls the tiniest details in order to accomplish His providential plan.  The story actually began with some lost donkeys!  The future king, Saul, was sent by his father to find the lost beasts.  Then, Saul's father sends a servant to go with Saul.  The servant would play an important role, because the servant was familiar with Samuel.  The servant eventually led Saul to the prophet/priest.  The two "coincidentally" encountered some women drawing water out of the well.  Remarkably, the women knew exactly where Samuel was and what he was doing.  So, Saul and found Samuel just in time for dinner!  Everything worked out exactly as God had designed it.  The day before Saul arrived, God had already told Samuel "in his ear" exactly what would happen in the next 24 hours.  From the donkeys wandering off, to the specific choice of a servant, to a chance encounter by a well, God had sovereignly directed his will.  So, the next time you experience a remarkable coincidence, remember that it is really the unseen hand of God's providence.

1 Samuel 8 “Same Old Excuses”

When I was young, I learned that an "excuse" is "the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie."  There is a big difference between a legitimate reason and an imaginary excuse.  In 1 Samuel 8, the people of Israel approached the aging Samuel.  They wanted something different.  They demanded a change.  They were tired of doing things God's way, and they thought that they had a better idea.  They no longer wanted to follow Samuel's leadership (or God's!), they wanted a king.  And, so they offered two lame excuses.  The two excuses are classics that are still used today.  First, they didn't want to follow God's plan anymore because God's people (Samuel's sons) were corrupt.  It sounds familiar, doesn't it?  It is one big reason (excuse!) that people do not go to church.  "I know the people that go to that church, and they are hypocrites!"  This is certainly not a reason to disobey God, but it is a commonly used excuse to avoid church.  The second excuse is also familiar.  The people begged Samuel to give them a king because all the other nations had a king.  How many times have you heard that one?  "Everybody else is doing it."  There certainly was some truth to their statements.  Samuel's sons were terribly corrupt indeed.  And, it was definitely true that all of the other nations had kings.  But, that truthful skin of a reason was stuffed with a rotten lie.  The real problem was the spiritual condition of the people.  They no longer feared God.  They had no desire to serve Him.  Their love for their Lord had grown cold.  Samuel grieved because he knew that these flimsy excuses masked hearts that were in rebellion against God.  So, the next time you hear those excuses (especially if you hear them coming out of your own mouth!), remember the words that God spoke to Samuel, "They have not rejected you, but they have rejected me."  (1 Samuel 8:7)

1 Samuel 7 “The Funny Thing About Idols”

Samuel came of age during a very dark time.  The people had forsaken God, the priesthood was corrupt, and God's judgment had been clearly announced to young Samuel.  The Philistines defeated the armies of Israel, captured the ark of God, and killed the wicked priests, the sons of Eli.  The glory had definitely departed.  But then a funny thing happened.  And, by funny, I mean both strange and humorous.  The ark of God was taken to the city of Ashdod and placed in the house of Dagon, the Philistine god.  The next day, Dagon was face down on the floor, so the Philistines picked him up and dusted him off.  The next day, Dagon was face down on the floor with his head and arms broken off.  So, they picked him up and glued his head and arms back on.  Then, the people of Ashdod were struck with painful tumors.  Finally, they had had enough.  So, they got rid of the ark of God.  This was the exact opposite of what they should have done.  Wouldn't it have been better if they would have cast away the worthless, lifeless, powerless Dagon?  Shouldn't they have bowed down before the One and True Almighty God and begged for mercy?  Alas, it was much easier to cling to the old familiar Dagon and get rid of the All-Powerful Truth that would save them.  And, unfortunately, the people of Israel were doing the same thing.  When Samuel addressed the people, he urged them to put away the foreign gods and prepare to serve the One True God.  And so, the people put away their Baals and Ashtoreths.  (1 Samuel 7:3-4)  How sad that the people of God were in possession of false idols.  Again, it is an illustration of human natures.  It is so easy to forget God and to turn to something else.  When the ark of God came to Ashdod and crushed Dagon, the people kept their broken idol and expelled the ark of God.  And, the Israelites, who had the presence of God in their midst, kept looking to other idols.  Idolatry is indeed a funny thing.  And by funny, I mean strange.  It is definitely not humorous!

Ephesians 6:21-24 “Beloved & Faithful Tychicus”

In Paul's conclusion to his letter to the Ephesians, he sent the letter in the hands of his beloved friend and faithful servant, Tychicus.  So, who is this behind-the-scenes Tychicus?  His name means "fortuitous."  And, although he is little known, he is mentioned five times in the Holy Bible.  He first appears in Acts 20:4 as part of a group who traveled with Paul to deliver a generous offering to Jerusalem.  These men must have been well respected and trustworthy men.  About four years later, Tychicus was with Paul while he was in prison in Rome.  Paul sent him from Rome to deliver the letter to the Ephesians and the letter to the Colossians (Col. 4:7-9).  He was also assigned the delicate task of accompanying the run-away slave, Onesimus, as he returned to his Christian master, Philemon, in Colosse.  Tychicus is also mentioned in the pastoral epistles.  Paul sent Tychicus to the island of Crete to temporarily relieve the pastor, Titus. (Titus 3:12)  And, in Paul's final letter before he died, he sent Tychicus back to Ephesus (2 Timothy 4:12).  Again, perhaps he was sent to pastor the church there giving Timothy a needed break!  It seems as if Tychicus was always in the right place at the right time.  He was always willing to do whatever was necessary to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Yet, he was always second fiddle.  Nobody remembers his name.  He was never a Scripture-writing Apostle like Paul.  He was just Paul's faithful companion.  Even when he pastored a church, he was only a back-up for the bigger names of Timothy and Titus.  He just faithfully kept the churches going in the absence of their shepherd.  In other words, Tychicus was just an ordinary guy that God used to accomplish extraordinary things.  There are very few Paul's or Timothy's.  But we sure need a lot of Tychicus's!  By God's grace, I aspire to be one of them.

Ephesians 6:18 “The Four All’s of Prayer”

The most important piece of the Armor of God is not really a piece of armor.  It is not a shield or a helmet or a sword.  It is . . . prayer!  Prayer is the all-important glue that holds the armor of God together.  Without prayer, our breastplate of righteousness falls off and becomes useless.  Without prayer, it is impossible to wield the sword of the spirit (the Word of God).  Without prayer, our shield of faith will not protect us.  Read Paul's words carefully, "praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—"  (Ephesians 6:18)  There is one thing that really jumps out from this verse.  It is the constant repetition of "all."  In fact, there are four distinct universal "all's" in this one brief sentence.  1) We should pray at all times.  The first all is part of the word "always".  The true believer lives in a constant attitude of prayer.  Paul uses this same sentiment in his letter to the Thessalonians, "Pray without ceasing." (1 Thess. 5:17)  Our communication with God is a continual habit.  2) We should pray all varieties of prayers.  Since our prayer life is constant, there are many varieties of prayer.  A Christian should have regular, scheduled, focused times of prayer as well as unexpected emergency prayers.  Some prayers are full of praise and worship, while other prayers are full of sorrow and confession.  This is what Paul meant by "all prayer".  3)  We should pray with all perseverance.  Prayer is not easy or natural.  It takes hard work and perseverance.  In fact, it may take all the perseverance we have!  4)  We should pray for all the saints.  This is the object of our prayers.  Nothing is off limits.  Everyone needs our prayers, especially other believers!  (the saints)   Nothing is too big for God or too insignificant for God.  We should pray for all things and all people.  Unfortunately, I am pretty good at praying some times in some varieties of prayer with some perseverance for some of the saints.  But God wants more.  He wants all!


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