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Luke 23:54-24:7

After Jesus’ crucifixion and burial –

The disciples acted as if Jesus was dead and gone

This is what they believed, and you can tell what they really believed by their actions:

  • The eleven were overcome by fear – John 20:19. In fact, they were huddled together behind locked doors for fear of the authorities. Jesus was dead, and they were afraid they might be next.
  • The two disciples on the Emmaus road were despairing – Luke 24:21. They said, “We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” But now, here Jesus is dead.
  • The women (from our own text) had given up – Luke 24:1. They went to the tomb in order to treat Jesus’ body with spices and ointments they had prepared. It’s what you do when someone’s dead.

All of these believed that Jesus was dead and gone, and they acted accordingly.

But Jesus is alive!

Picking up again with our text, first the women found the tomb was empty – vs. 3-4. But, since this didn’t fit their belief “they were perplexed” – v. 4. And then they heard the message of the angels, who told the women two crucial things. And I want us to get this.

1. You need to remember what Jesus said. Luke 24:6-7 – “Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” He said he would rise from the dead

And even deeper than this, 2. You need to understand who Jesus is. Luke 24:5-6 – “Why do you seek the Living One among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” Jesus is the Living One. Why would he be found in a tomb? That’s not who Jesus is!

No, Jesus isn’t dead, as you think and as you are living. Rather –

Jesus lives, and they should live based on this truth

  • So, the eleven don’t have to huddle in fear, they can go forth with courage and serve God boldly
  • The two disciples on the Emmaus road can have hope for the salvation of God
  • The women don’t have to give up and move on. They can press on in their service to Jesus

That’s the difference it makes to truly realize that Jesus is alive and to live like this is so.  And as we know from the scriptures – Jesus’ disciples were transformed by this realization from despair to new life.

Well, you know what?

We often act as if Jesus is dead and gone

Oh, we say Jesus is alive. But just as with the disciples our actions (our attitudes and outlook) often betray a different belief.  We act as if Jesus is unable to hear us, unable to respond to us, unable to help us; as if he’s as good as dead.

Like the disciples –

  • We too are overcome by fear, hiding away under the weight of our struggles in life and serving God
  • We too become despairing, thinking our situation is impossible
  • We too give up in the face of our difficulties

But, sisters and brothers, the truth is that Jesus is alive!

We need to hear the twofold message of the angles, just as the women did 2,000 years ago. 1. We need to remember that what Jesus said happened. Jesus was raised. He told his disciples ahead of time and they witness to us of this truth.

  • Peter said, “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.” – Acts 2:32
  • Peter also said, “You killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.” – Acts 3:15
  • Again Peter said, “The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things . . .” – Acts 5:30-32
  • Peter preached, “They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses” – Acts 10:39-41
  • Paul preached, “And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took Jesus down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people.” – Acts 13:29-31
  • Paul said, Jesus “was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead. . .” – Romans 1:4
  • Paul wrote, “Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father” – Romans 6:4
  • Paul delivered to his hearers that Jesus “was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas (or Peter), then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.” – 1 Corinthians 15:4-8
  • Paul taught that “God raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named” – Ephesians 1:20-21

 What Jesus said has indeed happened!!!

And even deeper than this, as the angels told the women, 2. We need to understand who Jesus is. He is “The Living One”; this is his very identity.

  •  Jesus said about himself, “I am the resurrection and the life” – John 11:25
  • Jesus states “just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself” – John 5:26
  • Jesus calls himself “the first and the last and the living One” – Revelation 1:17-18
  • Jesus said, “I was dead, and see, I am alive forevermore; and I have the keys to death and Hades” – Revelation 1:18
  • Jesus is called the “Author of life” in Acts 3:15
  • “The word of life” in 1 John 1:11
  • John 1:4 says, “what has come into being in him is life”  (NRSV)
  • Hebrews 7:16 says that Jesus had “the power of an indestructible life”
  • And because of this as Acts 2:24 testifies, “it was impossible for Jesus to be held by the power of death.”

This is who Jesus is. Jesus is life! He cannot, not live! This is the very identity of Jesus. And we need to remember this.

Jesus lives, and we should live based on this truth

  • So, we don’t need to be overwhelmed by our fears. We can have courage to move forward in life as we serve God.
  • We don’t need to despair. We can have hope for the salvation of God in our lives.
  • We don’t need to give up. We can press on when things get difficult

Why? Because Jesus is alive and he can hear us and respond to us and walk with us. So let’s live our lives based on this truth and move forward with boldness and faith in our lives and in our service to God.

Today is Palm Sunday, so named because the crowds placed palm branches on the path before Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem. Let’s read this story, as it’s found in Mark 11:1-11.

This is sometimes called Jesus’ triumphal procession. It was quite a sight – Jesus on a donkey, crowds putting clothes and branches on the road and praising God, saying “hosanna,” which means “praise God for salvation.”

But –

What does this all mean?

We have six clues:

1. This event comes right after the story of the healing of blind Bartimaeus, where Bartimaeus called Jesus “Son of David;” a royal title in reference to the Messiah. And Jesus accepts this.

2. That Jesus rode a donkey connects to when Solomon was anointed King of Israel – 1 Kings 1:33-34. David said, “have Solomon my son ride on my own mule . . . And let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet there anoint him king over Israel.” Jesus presents himself to Jerusalem as David’s son, come to be king, just as Solomon did.

3. Riding on a donkey connects to Zechariah 9:9, a prophecy that talks about the coming royal Messiah. This verse says, “Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Jesus is saying, “I am the one spoken of in this prophecy.” Matthew and John make this connection explicit by quoting this verse.

4. That people laid down their cloaks connects with the anointing of king Jehu – 2 Kings 9:12-13. Jehu said, “Thus and so the prophet spoke to me, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord, I anoint you king over Israel.’ ” Then in haste every man of them took his garment and put it under him on the bare steps, and they blew the trumpet and proclaimed, “Jehu is king.” The crowd knew this custom and so understood and accepted, at least here, that Jesus was coming as the king of Israel.

5. The words of the crowd in v. 9 are a praise to God for the king/Messiah. They say, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” This comes from Psalm 118:25-26, which says, “Save us (Hosanna)! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” The crowd is applying this royal, Davidic, Messianic psalm to Jesus. He is the one who comes to save.

6. The words of the crowd in v. 10 show that they are expecting David’s kingdom to be established. They say, “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” – Mark 11:10.

So what is going on? Jesus is presenting himself as Messiah and King to Jerusalem. “Here I am ,your Lord” If he was cautious before, because it wasn’t his time. Now it’s all out in the open. “I am the promised one, long predicted in the Scriptures, and I have come.” He has come to be received as king and Lord. A response is expected.

But let’s also notice that –

Jesus is a different kind of Lord

Most kings (dare we say politicians, even today?) are power hungry, arrogant, self-interested and try to get what they can get out of their power and position. Right before this parade into Jerusalem, Jesus said, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them” – Mark 10:42. They seek “to be served” – Mark 10:45.

But Jesus is nothing like this. And this is why Jesus was so careful with the imagery of kingship. He didn’t want people to misunderstand what kind of Messiah and king he is.  We can see this difference, even in this triumphal entry.

  • Most kings are proud, but Jesus is a humble king. He came riding on a donkey. He didn’t even have his own animal. He had to borrow one.
  • Most kings seek to be served, but Jesus is a servant king. In contrast to the rulers of the Gentiles, Jesus said, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” – Mark 10:45. He is not in it for what he gets out of it. He is in it for us; to save us.
  • Most kings use force to ensure their will. But Jesus is a vulnerable king. He could have come with angel armies to take the city. But he used no force. He let people choose whether they would accept him or reject him. And sure enough, just as he predicted most eventually did reject him.

Well, just as he presented himself to these people 2,000 years ago –

 Jesus presents himself to us as our Lord

He continues to seek those who will receive him as king. And he is here among us to present himself to each of you this morning. How will you respond? Will you receive him as king? Or reject him?

Jesus is the king of kings and the Lord of lords, who sits at the right hand of God in glory. 1 Peter 3:22 says, Jesus “has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.” As Philippians 2:9-11 says, “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord

Jesus is indeed the king of kings. But remember what kind of King Jesus is:

  • He is the alpha and the omegathe first and the last, but he is also humble. He will not try to impress you or make a big show of things.
  • He is the Lord of glory, but he is also a servant. He has given you much more than you will ever give him having laid down his life for you.
  • He is the bright morning star, but he has made himself vulnerable before you. So you can choose. And you can reject him if you like.

I put it before you today – How will you respond to Jesus?

Some of you need to respond to Jesus as your king and Lord, because you’ve never done it, or you haven’t gone public with it. Jesus waits for your response, even this morning.

Some of you have responded to Jesus in the past, but you have walked away from him. You may have claimed him as Lord at one time, but you know that you’re not living like he is Lord. Jesus is right now waiting for your response

What will it be?

If this is your situation, I want to invite you to pray this prayer. Listen to it first – “Jesus, I acknowledge that you are Lord and I want to submit my life to you. Cleanse me of my sin where I have not followed you and guide me in your ways. Give me your power so that I can live like you want me to live from now on. Amen”

This is the right response to Jesus. This is where to begin.

 

Some of what I will share with you today will be familiar. And that for two reasons:

  • Back in July I taught on this topic of joining in God’s mission.
  • And since then, I have refocused the teaching and have been putting it up on the screen before our services for the last several months.

I want to share it in this form, this morning as we relaunch, as it were, our efforts to connect with our neighbors and others.

I am taking a cue from Peter when he says in, 2 Peter 1:12 – “I intend always to remind you of these (things), though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.” And so I am here this morning reminding you of some things.

God’s mission

As we read the Bible we come to understand that God is on a mission, stretching all the way back to Abraham, through Moses, Israel, the prophets and culminating in the coming of Jesus. God’s mission is that every single person will be transformed and made whole through Jesus; that each person will become a part of his people and serve him, and eventually will be raised from the dead when Jesus returns and rules on this earth in righteousness and peace; when he makes all things new. And God’s mission is to be our mission, for we are his people; it’s to be our priority.

The title says, “disciplines” of joining in God’s mission. And that’s because –

It takes work!

– to accomplish God’s mission. Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 3:6-9. Here Paul is talking about how he and Apollos are both working together on the same team, fulfilling God’s mission to the world. And notice the language that’s used. Paul speaks of “planting” and “watering;” that is, farming language. He says in v. 6 – “I planted, Apollos watered.” This continues in vs. 7 and 8. And then in v. 9 he says of himself and Apollos that they are “God’s fellow workers.” Being a part of God’s mission is real labor and it is hard work and toil.

And so what I am sharing with you are seven disciplines for joining in God’s mission. These are practices that we have to work at for sure, but they allow us to be used by God to accomplish his mission in this world.

1. Let your life be a witness to others

Jesus said, “You are the light of the world, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:14, 16

And who wants to hear people ‘go on’ about a topic when you know full well that they don’t put those things into practice themselves? The way you live your life is foundational. No Christian is perfect, but we must be about the business of living the Christian life ourselves, to join in God’s mission. And then if you fail, be a model for others about how to confess, repent and get back on your feet.

Our lives are our most basic witness to what we believe about God and the saving work that he is doing through his Son, Jesus. Let your life be a light to this. Be disciplined in your walk with God.

2. Build relationships with the lost

Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners – Luke 15:1-2. He engaged those who needed God’s love and grace. As he said in Matthew 9:12 – “those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.”

And we must also relate to those who need God’s saving grace, and not just fellow believers. But this takes time to invest in people’s lives. It means making room for them in your life – beyond your family and current friends to love them and to serve their needs.

And everyone is so busy today! Will we make the effort? Will we make the time? This takes concerted effort.

3. Regularly ask God to give you compassion for the lost

“When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” – Matthew 9:36.

We need Jesus’ compassion in our hearts. This should be our true motivation. We should not be motivated by just getting people to come to our church. Who knows where they might end up? This church won’t be right for everyone we relate to.  The point is that we care and love those we relate to and seek what is best for them.

We also need Jesus’ compassion because we easily fall into self-righteousness. Some people’s struggles and failure we judge and then we hold them at a distance. But Jesus has compassion on each of us no matter what our struggle; and we have all failed God terribly.

This will stretch us; but it’s the same grace that allowed us to be saved and to be a part of his people. And so we must give it to all.

4. Regularly pray for someone who is lost

Pray for God’s will, who “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” – 1 Timothy 2:4.

Ask God to bring about his will that all people be saved. This is what prayer is all about. As Jesus says in the Lord’s prayer, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Prayer brings about God’s heavenly purpose here on earth.

Ask God to put someone, or several people on your heart. Who does God want you praying for regularly?

5. Be alert for opportunities to share

“Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.” – Colossians 4:5-6

 God is working all around us, and we need to open our eyes so we can join in and contribute to God’s work in the lives of others. God wants to work through us. So we need to hear and be led by the Spirit.

Ask God to show you even this week, someone to get to know; someone to share with.

6. Invite people to be a part of the kingdom

Jesus said, “Go out to the highways and hedges and urge people to come in, that my house may be filled” – Luke 14:23

I recently gave a whole message on this passage. So let me share with you a short video on inviting people, focused on Easter.

 

Who can you invite???

 7. Welcome with love all who come

“Don’t forget to welcome outsiders. By doing that, some people have welcomed angels without knowing it.” – Hebrews 13:2. To be hospitable means to be warm and friendly, to make room for someone, to include someone among us.

Let me share this with you again: According to the experts a person decides if they like a church and will come back within their first 11 minutes, which may well mean even before the service starts.

So we need to be a warm and welcoming church. And we need to be proactive about this.

Again I say This is work! It can be hard to make sure your own life is right, to relate to new people, to be stretched to act with compassion, to pray regularly, to keep alert during the day for opportunities to share, to invite and to welcome. That’s why I am using the language of “disciplines.” These are things we do that are good, but don’t necessarily come naturally to us.

We have these kinds of disciplines in many areas of our lives. So, for instance, if you are in school you need to do things like attend class, study and finish your assignments, if you want to be a good student.

And with all disciplines, the point is that they become second nature, so that we don’t even think about it. They just become a part of who we are. We become people who are compassionate toward those who don’t know Jesus. We just regularly pray for those who are lost. We become inviters and welcomers and so forth. This is the goal.

Let me end by saying – 

It is God who gives life

Let’s go back to 1 Corinthians 3:6-9, because it also makes the point that, even with all our work, in the end it is God who counts, for God gives the growth.

6I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”

God is the key. Nothing we do apart from him will yield any results; nothing of eternal value. But God does ask us to do our part because he wants to work through us to bring new life and growth.

So during this year that we have set aside to focus on connecting with neighbors and others let’s each one join in God’s mission and work hard at it. And let’s each pray that God will move among us to bring new life and growth.

The literary structure of 1 Samuel 10:17-26

Last week we finished up the story of Saul’s anointing to be king. We learned that God’s choice of Saul was made evident through a number of providential acts of God surrounding this event. And we learned that this calling was confirmed to Saul himself through three signs that Samuel predicted that all came true.

And even though at the end of the story, Saul hesitated to act after the Spirit came on him, to provoke the Philistines and then gather Israel’s army to deliver Israel, God has not set aside his plan for him.

Coming to our passage for today, since Saul’s anointing was still a private act known only to Samuel and Saul, something more needs to be done. So in this story –

Saul is chosen by lot

– as a public recognition that he is God’s choice for king.

17Now Samuel called the people together to the Lord at Mizpah.

Back in chapter 8, when Israel demanded a king, Samuel had dismissed everyone at Ramah so that a king could be selected. Here he is calling them back together at Mizpah to reveal God’s choice.

18And he said to the people of Israel, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all the kingdoms that were oppressing you.’ 19But today you have rejected your God, who saves you from all your calamities and your distresses, and you have said to him, ‘Set a king over us.’ Now therefore present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and by your thousands.”

This confirms again why God is unhappy with their demand for a king. They thought God couldn’t take care of them and so they wanted a human king with a standing army. Human kingship isn’t wrong in itself, but their lack of trust in God is evil and a sin (12:19-20). It was a rejection of God as their king.

So God reiterates that he has been more than sufficient to care for them, delivering them from Egypt and from all their enemies; “from all their calamities and distresses.”

20Then Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, and the tribe of Benjamin was taken by lot. 21He brought the tribe of Benjamin near by its clans, and the clan of the Matrites was taken by lot; and Saul the son of Kish was taken by lot.

Casting lots to discern God’s will was not uncommon in Israel. (Leviticus 16:8-10, Joshua 7:10-26, 18:6, 19:51; 1 Samuel 14:41-42, 1 Chronicles 24-26, Nehemiah 10:34, Psalm 22:18, Jonah 1:7, Nahum 3:10 See also Proverbs 16:33 and Acts 1:21-26) They were probably stones or pieces of wood with marks on them that were thrown like dice. And depending on which marks came up, they would select one option between two choices.

It began with the 12 tribes, then down to the clans of that tribe, then to families and then to any sons in that family. And Saul was chosen.

Now, what do you think the odds are that among all the possible choices the lot would fall to Saul? We are talking about thousands and thousands of people. But God was in this. Saul was already chosen, and God used the lot to affirm this choice before all the people. God orchestrated all of this.

But when they sought him, he could not be found. 22So they inquired again of the Lord, “Is there a man still to come?” and the Lord said, “Behold, he has hidden himself among the baggage.” 23Then they ran and took him from there.

Saul is afraid of being king. Of course, he already knew he was the one and thus knew the result that was coming. And he hides. And so they ask, “It’s supposed to be Saul, but he’s not here – is there another?” This then requires a word from the Lord to tell them where to find Saul.

This is another indicator of Saul’s core weakness, fear, which we talked about last week. Instead of stepping forward in faith to fulfill God’s purpose for him, he hides and hopes they will find someone else.

And when he stood among the people, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward. 24And Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see him whom the Lord has chosen? There is none like him among all the people.” And all the people shouted, “Long live the king!”

Height was seen as a positive attribute for leaders in the ancient world, so Saul’s height acts to confirm his being chosen as king.

Samuel strongly affirms Saul as God’s chosen. The phrase “there is none like him among all the people” isn’t just a reference to his height. God really has chosen the best person for the job. And then Saul is acclaimed king.

25Then Samuel told the people the rights and duties of the kingship, and he wrote them in a book and laid it up before the Lord.

It’s not clear what was in this book. It seems to define the rights of a king, which were talked about in chapter 8. But here these rights are balanced by the “duties of the king” for the people, which would include providing good order and delivering them from their enemies. (Perhaps we should see the phrase in 8:20  – “to judge us and go out before us and fight our battles” – as a summary of these duties.)

Then Samuel sent all the people away, each one to his home. 26Saul also went to his home at Gibeah, and with him went men of valor whose hearts God had touched.

It’s interesting that Samuel is still in charge, he dismisses the people. As we will see, before Saul is fully established as king, he will need to pass a test to show that he is able. And that is what happens in the next story in Chapter 11.

Everyone went home, including Saul, but he goes with “men of valor” who become the nucleus of a standing army for Israel.

A story about hiding . . .

I think we should all be able to relate to Saul.

We all have fears that can keep us from doing God’s will

What has God called you to do, but your fear has stopped you from obeying?

God loves to challenge us;  to stretch us and help us to grow in terms of our character and our capacity to serve him. He often calls us out of our comfort zones, and to do things that are beyond what we would ever imagine we could do. Now, we can be like Saul and hide out of fear. Or we can step out in faith to do what God wants us to do.

And so I ask, What are you hiding from?

  • talking to a neighbor about Jesus?
  • standing up for your faith?
  • doing the right thing when no one else is?
  • beginning a new ministry role?

Hiding doesn’t work. God knows about it and has ways of calling you out. What we all need to do is let go of our fears and step out in faith to do what God wants us to do. It may seem impossible, but God doesn’t ask us to do things we can’t do; we can do whatever he wants with his help and strength. With the calling comes the anointing, just as in the case of Saul. And so we should act.

Let me end with a word of grace. Just as with Saul, if you have failed to act in faith to do God’s will or you are currently hiding from doing God’s will, this doesn’t mean that God is done with you yet. God is merciful and every day is a new day to make things right by stepping out in faith to do God’s will. And I encourage you to do just this.

The literary structure of 1 Samuel 9-10:16

Last week we saw an amazing display of God’s knowledge and ability  when he providentially orchestrated the events surrounding the anointing of Saul. It’s really quite incredible. Today we pick up the story and see how it ends. And it’s ending will give us insight into Saul and much of what is ahead in these stories about Saul in 1 Samuel.

By way of review we read again in v. 1 about –

Saul’s anointing

1aThen Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head and kissed him and said, “Has not the Lord anointed you to be prince over his people Israel? And you shall reign over the people of the Lord and you will save them from the hand of their surrounding enemies.

Right after this Samuel predicts three signs that are meant to fully convince Saul that he is to be king.

 1bAnd this shall be the sign to you that the Lord has anointed you to be prince over his heritage.

Remember, he wasn’t looking to be king, he was looking for donkeys. And you can understand some measure of reluctance. And so God is merciful to him to make it as clear as clear can be.

Sign one:  2When you depart from me today, you will meet two men by Rachel’s tomb in the territory of Benjamin at Zelzah, and they will say to you, ‘The donkeys that you went to seek are found, and now your father has ceased to care about the donkeys and is anxious about you, saying, “What shall I do about my son?”’

He came to Samuel concerned about donkeys. And he leaves with witnesses attesting that they have been found, confirming Samuel’s word to him.

Sign two: 3Then you shall go on from there farther and come to the oak of Tabor. Three men going up to God at Bethel will meet you there, one carrying three young goats, another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a skin of wine. 4And they will greet you and give you two loaves of bread, which you shall accept from their hand.

The items they have are for sacrifice at Bethel. They give Saul two loaves of bread. He came to Samuel without bread and he leaves with bread.

Sign three:  5After that you shall come to Gibeath-elohim, where there is a garrison of the Philistines. And there, as soon as you come to the city, you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre before them, prophesying. 6Then the Spirit of the Lord will rush upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man.

He came to Samuel looking for a prophecy about his donkeys but on his way home he prophesies.

The mention of the Philistine garrison is key. The Philistines were once again ascendant and had a group of soldiers stationed in or near this city, which is Saul’s hometown (It is called Gibeah in v. 10 below. See 10:11 – they knew him. Also see 11:26)

Samuel promises that when the reality of the anointing comes; that is, when the Spirit comes upon him, he will “be turned into another man.” This means that the Spirit will empower him to fulfill his calling of king and deliverer.

Then Samuel shares what Saul is to do after the signs.

7Now when these signs meet you, do what your hand finds to do, for God is with you. 8Then go down before me to Gilgal. And behold, I am coming down to you to offer burnt offerings and to sacrifice peace offerings. Seven days you shall wait, until I come to you and show you what you shall do.”

The phrase, “do what your hand finds to do, for God is with you” implies that Saul is to do something. What he is to do, is to attack the previously mentioned Philistine garrison. And after he provokes them, he is to gather the Israelite army and go to Gilgal. And he is to wait seven days for Samuel to come to give further instructions. (These instructions are referred to again in chapter 13. Even though there it is Jonathan, Saul’s son who attacks a Philistine garrison and so provokes them, both Saul and Samuel know that now these instructions come into play. And Saul does not keep these instructions and is judged.) (I am indebted to V. Philips Long in his book, The Reign and Rejection of King Saul for this interpretation.)

This is how his anointing is to be made public.

Well, sure enough everything comes true.

9When he turned his back to leave Samuel, God gave him another heart. And all these signs came to pass that day.

 Everything happened just as predicted. (The statement “God gave him another heart” is probably summative of the events of the whole day, or the change began then and continued on through to his Spirit experience – see 10:6) 

And then the third sign’s fulfillment is narrated.

10When they came to Gibeah, behold, a group of prophets met him, and the Spirit of God rushed upon him, and he prophesied among them. 11And when all who knew him previously saw how he prophesied with the prophets, the people said to one another, “What has come over the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?” 12And a man of the place answered, “And who is their father?” Therefore it became a proverb, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”

As predicted “the Spirit of God rushed upon him” and he prophesied. This prophesy was an outward sign of his possession of the Spirit, even though it was temporary. (This is similar to what happened in Numbers 11:25ff, when the Spirit came upon the elders of Israel and they temporarily prophesied as a sign of their being chosen.)

Those who knew Saul from before are witnesses that the Spirit is upon Saul and they are surprised. They say, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” He was not known to be a prophet, nor perhaps anyone in Kish’s family. But then someone suggests, “And who is their father?” referring to the other prophets, making the point that prophecy isn’t hereditary. The basic point of the question, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” seems to be that someone unexpected has the Spirit working through them. (This is repeated in 19:20 when Saul was hostile to the prophets and so again his prophesying here is very unexpected. This phrase appears with Saul’s first and last encounter with the Spirit.)

Here again, with these three signs, we see God’s providential oversight.

  • Samuel predicted he would meet two men who would say such and such, and it happened.
  • Samuel predicted that he would meet three men who would give him two loaves of bread, and it happened.
  • Samuel predicted that he would meet a band of prophets and he would prophesy, and it happened.

I just have to say, wow! Isn’t God amazing?

But then we come back to our story and Saul’s missed opportunity.

13When he had finished prophesying, he came to the high place. 14Saul’s uncle said to him and to his servant, “Where did you go?” And he said, “To seek the donkeys. And when we saw they were not to be found, we went to Samuel.” 15And Saul’s uncle said, “Please tell me what Samuel said to you.” 16And Saul said to his uncle, “He told us plainly that the donkeys had been found.” But about the matter of the kingdom, of which Samuel had spoken, he did not tell him anything.

He didn’t attack the Philistine garrison. He was told to “do what your hand finds to do.” But he does nothing. So there’s a disconnect. And since this was how he was to make public his role as king, and he didn’t do it, he hid his anointing and what Samuel said about kingship from his uncle. And so the story just kind of fizzles out.

 

I want us to focus on this, because we can learn from it. Here we begin to see –

Saul’s core weakness

As we will clear soon enough, Saul ends up being a failure as a king – rejected by God and a scourge to God’s people. And it all stems from his inability or unwillingness to deal with his core weakness, which is fear.

He was afraid to act even though he was given very clear confirmations that he was to be king and the job description of a king included delivering Israel from the Philistines. And he was next the the outpost in own hometown after the Spirit came on him, and he did nothing.

And this will become a characteristic throughout his story – fear that leads to not carrying out God’s will.

  • fear of the Philistines (here and in chapter 13)
  • fear of even being king (the rest of chapter 10)
  • and fear of his own people (chapter 15)

As the story goes on from here – the question for the first time reader is, “Which way will Saul go? Will he overcome? Or will he be overcome?” Well, we already know, but we will find out what his failure looks like in great detail in chapters 13-15 and beyond.

But let’s not just focus on Saul.

What is your core weakness?

We each  an area (at least one) that can keep us from being all that God wants us to be; where we struggle to be faithful; that can keep us from fulfilling God’s purposes. We all struggle with whether we will overcome it and be fully faithful to God or whether it will get the best of us, so that we don’t do God’s will.

Do you know what your weakness is? Are you attending to it to make sure that it isn’t keeping you from doing God’s will? Are you praying to be strong, seeking God’s help and the help of others? Are you asking to be filled with the Spirit to overcome your weaknesses? Saul received the Spirit but failed to do his part. When the Spirit comes to help you, do you do your part to step out in faith to act? (Dave Weaver)

What is the story of your life? Of victory or defeat? Will you be a Saul who fails or a David who succeeds despite failure along the way?

Well, your story isn’t over yet, and so I encourage you this morning to press on and to be an overcomer.

The literary structure of 1 Samuel 9-10:16 or how this story is put together

Today we’re looking at the story of the anointing of Saul. This is an unusually long story covering all of chapter 9 and 16 verses of chapter 10, or 43 verses. So I’m gonna summarize most of it today, but also come back to the end of it, Lord willing, next Sunday in more detail (10:1-16). I encourage you to read through this story. It’s artfully arranged. (See above, the literary structure of this narrative.)

Last time, at the end of chapter 8, Samuel had sent the elders of Israel home, so that the process of selecting a king could begin. And God is busy at this in our story.

The anointing of Saul

A brief introduction. In vs. 1-2 – we learn about Saul’s family and father, Kish, who was well to do. We also learn a bit about Saul’s looks. v. 2 says that –

he was “a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.”

[Commentary for those who want to go through the verses and not just have a summary: The introduction in v. 1 is similar to what we find in chapter 1 regarding Elkanah. Kish was a “wealthy man” or it can be translated, “a man of standing” NIV. He did have wealth as we see here, he had more than one servant and he had donkeys (9:3). That Saul was outstanding in his looks is not a negative portrayal, as if this is all Samuel or anyone else is looking at (1 Samuel 16:7). Saul also has good qualities and God gave him “another heart” (10:9). And David was noted as being handsome (16:12). There is a tendency throughout this passage to read into the story negative characterizations based on Saul’s later choices.]

Saul’s journey.  vs. 3-4 introduces us to the problem. Some donkeys are missing and so Saul and a servant are tasked to find them. They traveled for three days (v. 20) through the territory of Ephraim and Benjamin and ended up in the land of Zuph. But their search was futile.

In vs. 5-10 Saul is ready to give up since he doesn’t want his father worrying about him being lost, but his servant counsels that they ask the man of God in the city about the donkeys, whom we find out later is Samuel.

[Commentary: The first clue that the so far anonymous “man of God” is Samuel comes from v. 5. The land of Zuph is the territory where Samuel lives, in Ramah (1 Samuel 1:1). The second clue is in v. 6. The phrase, “all that he says comes true” refers back to 1 Samuel 3:19, “The Lord . . . let none of his words fall to the ground” (also Deuteronomy 18:21-22). Ramah was just 5 miles from Saul’s home in Gibeah. The issue of the gift for the man of God is not that such was required by Samuel, but that it was a form of support. Like with Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 10:8-10 no payment is required by the prophet, but it is the responsibility of the person to give. A quarter shekel of silver is a little over a week’s wages for an ordinary person.]

vs.  11-14 – As they went toward the city they met some young women who told them how to find the man of God. And sure enough, they run into Samuel on his way out of the city to a sacrificial feast.

[Commentary: This was most likely in the evening, since this was the common time for women to gather water. Note the sense of urgency – Saul and his servant are to hurry to go meet Samuel. At this time Israelites still used “high places” for sacrifice and worship. After the temple was built in Jerusalem they were forbidden. This one was most likely built by Samuel – 1 Samuel 7:17. As noted before, Samuel was a Levite and has some kind of oversight role here.] 

Next, we jump into our text, with a flashback –

God’ word to Samuel about anointing a king.

15Now the day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed to Samuel: 16“Tomorrow about this time I will send to you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be prince over my people Israel. He shall save my people from the hand of the Philistines. For I have seen my people, because their cry has come to me.” 17When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord told him, “Here is the man of whom I spoke to you! He it is who shall restrain my people.”

So God has prepared Samuel with instructions ahead of time. And now he points out the very man – Saul, who is to be king. He is to anoint him to be “prince” which probably means here, the one who will become king. He will “restrain” or keep within proper bounds God’s people.

To anoint with oil in this way is to symbolically designate someone for a role. Saul is anointed king and deliverer. (Before this, it seems only priests were anointed, e.g. Exodus 28:41). The oil represents the Spirit’s empowerment (Isaiah 61:1, 1 Samuel 16:13)

It’s amazing that despite their rejection of him, God is concerned about their well-being and raises up Saul to defeat the Philistines for them. This is another example of how God’s love is truly steadfast.

A banquet. In vs. 18-20 Samuel invites Saul and his servant to a meal and tells them that their donkeys have been found.

[Comments: It’s not clear what “all that is on your mind” (v. 19) refers to. Is Saul concerned about the well-being of Israel? Does he know that there is a search going on for a king? v. 12 indicates that this meal was already planned. Samuel is in town “because the people have a sacrifice today.”]

In vs. 20b-21 Samuel gives him a big clue as to what’s going on; he tells Saul that he is the one chosen as king – he is the one desired by all Israel. And Saul responds by humbly expressing his unworthiness.

[Comments: Saul responds humbly, even though he is from a prominent family. And it is true that the territory of Benjamin was small and they were almost wiped out by the rest of Israel in Judges 20-21. Samuel acknowledges Saul’s humility in 15:17  when he says, “you are little in your own eyes.” Samuel never responds to his question in v. 21.]

In vs. 22-24 Samuel gives Saul a head seat and the best portion of the meal, before 30 invited guests. And then in vs. 24-26 Samuel hosts Saul and his servant overnight and sends him off in the morning.

[Comments: After the meal at the high place they come back into the city and Saul stays in Samuel’s home. Sleeping on the roof was a cool place on a hot night.]

This, then brings us to the anointing of Saul and God’s word to him.

27As they were going down to the outskirts of the city, Samuel said to Saul, “Tell the servant to pass on before us, and when he has passed on, stop here yourself for a while, that I may make known to you the word of God.”

So here it comes!

10:1aThen Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head and kissed him and said, “Has not the Lord anointed you to be prince over his people Israel? And you shall reign over the people of the Lord and you will save them from the hand of their surrounding enemies.

As we saw, anointing symbolizes the empowerment of the Spirit, and the reality of this happens in 10:9-10, when the Spirit God comes upon Saul.

The key theme in this story is that –

God is orchestrating all of this

Saul and his servant were guided to an end that they had no idea about. They were clueless, but God did it anyway. (Tsumura highlights this kind of reading of the story.)

1. That the donkeys were lost is not an accident, and also that Saul couldn’t find them. This is what God told Samuel in v. 16 – “Tomorrow about this time I will send to you a man from the land of Benjamin.” This was how God did this, having the donkeys run off three days before.

2. They end up in Samuel’s hometown in the region of Zuph and the city of Ramah.

3. The servant speaks up just in time to keep Saul from going home. He suggests that they should talk to the man of God in the city about the donkeys first.

4. The servant finds money to give to the man of God, to appease Saul’s concern that they can’t talk to him without a gift. v. 8 says more literally, “there is found in my hand” this money (a divine passive). God provided that this would be there a head of time, so Saul would have no reason not to go to Samuel.

5. Samuel “happens” to be in town for a sacrifice. In v. 12 the women tell them that “he has come just now to the city.” God times things just right.

6. The women tell them to hurry or they will miss Samuel.

7. Samuel is the first person they come across as he is on his way to the banquet (vs. 14, 18). Again, the timing is perfect.

And God also worked on Samuel’s end to prepare things for Saul’s arrival. If Saul was unknowing in all this, Samuel knew.

1. God spoke to him a day before about a Benjamite (v. 16)

2. God identified Saul when they met. This is the guy!

3. By faith Samuel had the best portion waiting for Saul, as v. 24 says, “it was kept for you until the hour appointed, that you might eat with the guests.”

God brought all this together. This is a true divine appointment between Saul and Samuel.

For one thing this teaches us that God really has chosen Saul to be king. And the story goes on to confirm this more as I hope to show you next week. Despite Saul’s later disobedience and failure, it was God’s plan to have him be king. The failure was due to Saul’s choices, not God.

But clearly this story emphasizes how amazing God is, who can know all things and bring things together in this way, when he chooses to do so.

 And God still works in this way today

 1. God providentially watches over us.  This isn’t to say that things are always so scripted, as it is here. But as Jesus teaches in Matthew 10:29-31, God knows everything that is going on, even when a sparrow falls to the ground. And he knows the number of our hairs. We are not subject to fate, powerful forces that control our destiny that have no love or concern for us. Neither are we subject to a random, arbitrary world, where nothing has meaning or leads to any purposeful end. God orders and shapes all things according to his will. And God acts for us to care for us and intervenes in our lives according to his purposes. This is reassuring.

And this also applies to our congregation. All that has happened in the last number of months. God knows and God is overseeing. We don’t usually see the bigger picture in the moment or maybe even after many years. In the story of Saul we have a divine window into what’s going on. But in the end, on the final day, we will see how God has worked to bring things together and what God has been up to in our lives, and in our life together as a congregation.

2. God works to raise up leaders for his people. This is what is going on in this story. And he often picks and prepares those that no one would expect. Saul was focused on farm life – here looking for donkeys. But then he is anointed to be king. No one expected this, least of all Saul.

Who will God raise up to be leaders among us? Maybe we will be surprised as well. Maybe God will surprise you by tapping your shoulder.

3. Everyone has a role in God’s plan, not just prophets or princes. (Mary J. Evans) Both Saul’s servant and the young women played a crucial role. Without them, the story would not have played out like it does here.

What is your place in God’s plan? And what is your role in what God is doing here at New Providence? What is God asking you to do? How will God use you?

The literary structure of 1 Samuel 8:1-22

We are back into 1 Samuel today, chapter 8 if you would like to turn. Last we saw, in chapter 7 Israel finally got it. If they repent of their sins, God will bless them and take care of them as promised. And God gave them a miraculous deliverance from the Philistines through Samuel’s prophetic leadership. And they had peace for many years.

When we come to chapter 8, however, things take a real turn for the worse, because now –

Israel wants a king

The story begins with Samuel’s attempted retirement.

1When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel. 2The name of his firstborn son was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba.

Many years have passed and Samuel is old. He has appointed his sons to take his place. Perhaps having them down in the remote city of Beersheba (50 miles south of Jerusalem) was to test whether they could handle the job. We find out the results in v. 3.

 3Yet his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain. They took bribes and perverted justice.

So Samuel’s kids didn’t turn out to be faithful to God. (Unlike Eli and his sons, Samuel is not a part of their sin by overlooking it or even profiting from it.)  This shows once again that good people and good parents can raise children who don’t follow in their path.

In this case it presents an opportunity for the elders of Israel. 

4Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah 5and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.”

What they want is to switch from having a tribal confederation led by judges, who were usually raised up by God for a specific need and often only in one part of Israel to a permanent, centralized monarchy held by one family.

They are taking advantage of Samuel’s son’s not being like their father, to make a request for a different system that, ironically is entirely built on heredity, where sons are often worse than their fathers. So this is confusing. The problem of Samuel’s sons is real, but it’s a cover for their actual reason in asking for a king, which comes out in v. 20 – they want a king with a standing army to protect them.

6But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.”

More literally, it says the thing was “evil in his eyes.” And so Samuel seeks God. v. 6 goes on to say,

And Samuel prayed to the Lord.

 He’s troubled and so he sought out God and what God would say. This is a good model for us when we are troubled, to pray and make sure we are in tune with God before we speak or act. 

7And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. 8According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. 9Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”

The immediate question is, “Why is asking for a king so wrong?” Deuteronomy 17:14-20 predicts Israelite kingship without judgment, as do other Scriptures (Genesis 17:6, 16; 49:10; Numbers 24:17-19; Judges 17:6, 18:1, 19:1 21:25, 1 Samuel 2:10). And God works to bless and bring about this request in the stories that follow, especially with David. So what’s going on here?

I believe that God is flexible with how Israel is organized. And he might have raised up a king of his own initiative, perhaps with David, at the right time. The issue is why they ask. They think God is inadequate! This is plain and simple a rejection of God as their king, because they think God can’t take care of them properly. (That God’s adequacy to save is the issue here is confirmed in 1 Samuel 10:18-19 that talks about the rejection of God. Samuel reminds them that God has and can continue to save them, but they wanted a king. And also in 1 Samuel 12:7-11 Samuel recounts how God has saved them in the past, and in 12:16-18 the miracle confirms that God can still save them, which leads them to repentance for asking for a king.) The lack of faith in God shows that their demand for a king here is an expression of their tendency to idolatry. They want a king as an idol, something they rely on instead of or in addition to God for their salvation and security, which is why v. 8 categorizes this as “forsaking me and serving other gods.”

This must have been particularly galling to God and Samuel, because Israel has just lived many years in peace after God miraculously delivered them from the Philistines (1 Samuel 7:14). And on top of this the reason for their previous struggles with defeat at the hands of their enemies was due to them, not God! They were unfaithful to God as so God did not bless them. It was entirely and without exception their fault. But they blame God. What an insult and slander of God, what they are saying! (See similarly Numbers 14:11.)

So yeah, God’s unhappy. He grants their request, but as God says in Hosea 13:11 – “I gave you a king in my anger.” (The rest of the verse, “and I took him away in my wrath” refers to the end of kingship in northern Israel with the Assyrian conquest. The southern monarchy ended with the Babylonian exile.) (We will see why God allows a king in chapter 12.) If they wanted to ask for a king in a way that didn’t slander God it should have gone like this, “God, we are unfaithful and so we keep breaking covenant and being defeated. Can you make it easier for us by giving us a king? Can you accommodate our failings?”

This is just another in a long line of betrayals. It’s really amazing to see God’s patience with his people. And we can be sure that we also try and test God’s patience at times. What a loving God we have!

Note also here that when God’s people reject God, they reject his servants who represent him as well – their rejection of Samuel. This is still the case today. God comforts Samuel – it’s not about you, but about their rejection of me. But you can tell he still felt it.

Then we come to God’s warning about the ways of a king. As we read, notice the seven statements, where the word “take” or the phrase “appoint for himself” are used.

10So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking for a king from him. 11He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. 12And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. 15He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. 16He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17He will take the tenth of your flocks . . . 

This is a picture of how the Canaanite kings around them operated, which seems to be what they have in mind.

Kings take things, because it takes a lot of bureaucracy to support a royal family and a royal court and a standing army. It requires things like your sons and daughters, taxes, your land and your crops. And “you shall be his slaves.”

This was a huge change for the people of God. Kings would have near arbitrary power over them. They would be in a class above the rest of Israel. The judges never had any of this.

and you shall be his slaves. 18And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

God often judges by giving people just what they want. In the book of Judges, Israel wanted to serve the gods of the nations around them, and so God gave them over to the power of these nations until they cried out for salvation. (See also Romans 1). Here their judgment is giving them what they want, with the end that they will be slaves. If before they cried out for deliverance from the oppression of their enemies, now they will cry from the oppression of their king (Stephen B. Chapman). But God will have none of it. They asked for it.

Israel’s stubbornness

19But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, 20that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”

Their hearts are set. Even if it causes them pain, they want a king. They think a king will properly protect them.

21And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the Lord. 22And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey their voice and make them a king.” Samuel then said to the men of Israel, “Go every man to his city.”

Work has to be done, which starts in our next chapter. And then he will gather them together again for next steps.

There’s a lot to learn from in this passage, and I have already mentioned several themes, but surely the most important one is this –

Trust God to take care of you

Samuel was old. Things were good for many years under his leadership. But they feared with his passing that their enemies will again cause them great suffering. And since they don’t trust God to take care of them, they need something else, here a king to make up for God’s supposed lack of provision.

Where in our lives do we not trust God to take care of us? We also want peace and security. And we are afraid of suffering. So what do you do when:

  • God says, “I will give you daily bread” – but you were raised in poverty and so you want more than that, you need a full pantry and bank account to feel safe.
  • God says, “I want you to give up your career and do something different and I will bless you” – but you rely on your career to provide for you and your lifestyle choices.
  • God says, “I want you to give up your house and home and move somewhere else” – but you can’t even imagine doing this.
  • God says, “I want you to endure a time of testing a bit longer, but don’t worry, my grace is sufficient for you” – but you feel you must get out of the test now.
  • And how does this apply to our congregation and where we are?

In these situations we might even pray or demand from God, “I have to have this or this or that to keep moving forward.” And maybe God gives it to you and so you keep moving forward or maybe God doesn’t and so you stop following God. But in either case we are no different than the ancient Israelites. We are saying, “God, you are inadequate. I don’t think you can take care of me. Your grace is not sufficient for me.”And we turn something that is good and can be a blessing, into an idol because we trust in it and rely on it, more than God.

Where are you struggling in your faith this morning?

If you are struggling let me counsel you to be honest and confess it to God. Be like the man who said to Jesus, “I believe, but help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24.) Give me the strength to move forward in faith, even though I don’t have it in me.

And finally let me encourage you. God is faithful to his promises. God is more than sufficient! In the midst of your struggle, receive these words from Isaiah 41:10 as God’s words to you this morning: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you.”