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Obedience...

(This is a rather long blog because of the following scripture—-but it’s an important story. I hope you find the time to read it and reflect upon it. These verses spoke strongly to me.)

Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the Lord sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the Lord. This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy[a] all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’”

So Saul summoned the men and mustered them at Telaim—two hundred thousand foot soldiers and ten thousand from Judah. Saul went to the city of Amalek and set an ambush in the ravine. Then he said to the Kenites, “Go away, leave the Amalekites so that I do not destroy you along with them; for you showed kindness to all the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt.” So the Kenites moved away from the Amalekites.

Then Saul attacked the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, near the eastern border of Egypt. He took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and all his people he totally destroyed with the sword. But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves[b] and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.

Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel: “I regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” Samuel was angry, and he cried out to the Lord all that night. Early in the morning Samuel got up and went to meet Saul, but he was told, “Saul has gone to Carmel. There he has set up a monument in his own honor and has turned and gone on down to Gilgal.”

When Samuel reached him, Saul said, “The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord’s instructions.” But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?”

Saul answered, “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.”

“Enough!” Samuel said to Saul. “Let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night.”

“Tell me,” Saul replied.

Samuel said, “Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. And he sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; wage war against them until you have wiped them out.’ Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?”

“But I did obey the Lord,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.”

But Samuel replied:

“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.”


Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the men and so I gave in to them. Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord.”

But Samuel said to him, “I will not go back with you. You have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you as king over Israel!”

As Samuel turned to leave, Saul caught hold of the hem of his robe, and it tore. Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors—to one better than you. He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.”

Saul replied, “I have sinned. But please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel; come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord your God.” So Samuel went back with Saul, and Saul worshiped the Lord.

Then Samuel said, “Bring me Agag king of the Amalekites.”

Agag came to him in chains. And he thought, “Surely the bitterness of death is past.”

But Samuel said, “As your sword has made women childless, so will your mother be childless among women.” And Samuel put Agag to death before the Lord at Gilgal.

Then Samuel left for Ramah, but Saul went up to his home in Gibeah of Saul. Until the day Samuel died, he did not go to see Saul again, though Samuel mourned for him. And the Lord regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.

Ahh— one of the saddest stories in the Bible! King Saul had it all and threw it away! What a waste! God chose Him for great things and he lost it all because he refused to humble himself and obey God. What are you and I throwing away by our refusal to obey? What is our nation tossing into the garbage heap by turning our back on what is right and pleasing to Him?

Politicians tend to blame everyone but themselves. Where’s the humility that God requires. It seems like our only choices right now is the meanness of Trump or the pride of Biden. Is it not possible to have a person truly in love with God to lead our state, nation and the free world?

God did not create, redeem or appoint us to live like this—-or teach, train, and prepare our children to live like this. Oh to have a President give a SOTU address and take little credit for the good that has happened… and share the blame for all the blunders! Can you imagine how beloved such a President could be if he pointed out the good things his predecessor accomplished, praised the positive intentions of the other party, and admitted he had fallen short of what he had hoped to do? And imagine those seeking the office of President of the USA in the next election to choose to say kind things about the other contenders and never, ever resort to name-calling or sarcastic attacks! Wouldn’t you want such a man or woman to lead this nation in the next term. God have mercy on us!

God, the Almighty, demands obedience….not excuses, spinning the story, whining about our lot in life…and certainly not anger at Him for what WE choose to do! What a pity, Saul lost his kingdom, and an inheritance for his sons and grandchildren because he was too much of a coward to trust God!!! But what about you—me——our Governor—-our President??? Do we—-and they—trust that if we obey God He will bless us? Or are we too smart, or, worse, too afraid, to trust Him? A man who obeys God is the bravest of men—-while those that say and do things to please others or win an election are the most craven and spineless.

Saul was already in trouble with Samuel and the Lord by the time this happened—he had already disobeyed earlier. And now he did it again. Both times that he disobeyed it was not a matter of morality, or breaking one of the ten commandments, or following false gods, etc. No, each time he was guilty of knowing what God had directly and clearly told him to do, and then doing the opposite! And the reasons he disobeyed God was clear: he was afraid to trust God——afraid of what his soldiers might do to him if he was obedient to God. So he used his own wits, common sense, natural instincts and did the wrong thing! Ladies and gentlemen, when God speaks to you, gives you direction, responds to your questions, and so on, the last thing you need to is disobey Him! Be careful of ignoring God’s commands or direction in your life because you’re afraid that obeying Him might make you look stupid. In fact there’s a good chance that obeying God will make you look stupid! That’s the test He sometimes sends our way: Will we trust Him or are we afraid of what others will think? When it comes to eternal matters, you can be sure that God has little patience with cowards. It doesn’t mean He does not love you, but Jesus died to turn cowards, like Peter, into lions. The call of Christ is not a call for temerity, bashfulness or wavering. We’re called to slay Goliaths, stand tall in the face of impossible odds, and faithfully do things and say words that a coward would hide from.

Saul wanted the praise of men——more than the praise of God. The men he led were not privy to what God had told Saul to do—-they might not have obeyed the words that God spoke to Saul if they knew, but they were innocent of what God told Saul to do; and yet those closet to Saul paid the price for following a man that defied God—-many would suffer and die because of Saul. What about you? Who is close to you that you are endangering because of your neglect to obey God in some secret area—-something He has spoken only you and you alone about? But it’s also warning to those of us who have allegiance and close bonds to men, like Saul, that are living in rebellion to God. Be careful of who you choose as your best friend, your confidant, your spouse, your inner circle!

Consider these final two things:

Obey God when His Spirit speaks to you—-and He will if you are listening. Some time in the year 386, Augustine and his friend Alypius were spending time in Milan. While outdoors, Augustine heard the voice of a child singing a song, the words of which were, "Pick it up and read it. Pick it up and read it." He thought at first that the song was related to some kind of children's game, but could not remember ever having heard such a song before.Then, realizing that this song might be a command from God to open and read the Scriptures, he located a Bible, picked it up, opened it and read the first passage he saw. It was from Romans. Augustine read:

“Not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual excess and lust, not in quarreling and jealousy. Rather, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.” Romans 13: 13-14. He knew that God was speaking to Him—-and he gave his life to Jesus Christ.

God may speak to you about picking up the Bible and reading something, but in today’s world, with all the pornography and filthy things being said or printed, His Spirit is more likely to tell you to put it down and don’t read it….. turn it off and don’t watch it! He speaks to you and me all the time, but we’ve got to be quiet to hear him. Each morning and afternoon I drive boys to school and they ask me to play their song on the radio, and once the music begins then the questions and conversations begin—-and I can’t hear the music or the questions! It happens every day. Do you want to hear your kids—-then turn off the TV or radio. Do you want to hear God—-then “turn off” everything else and be alone with Him and listen.

And I would add that we should be very careful of claiming God spoke to us and we’re acting in obedience to Him, when in fact we are hiding behind God by claiming we’ve had an epiphany, when all along we and God both know we are choosing what we want to do and them blaming for God it! That’s blasphemy.

Here’s how we use God for our own purposes——and I am sure you’ve seen it many times if you’re old enough:

You make a vow, covenant or contract and then brake it and apologize by saying that you “prayed about it and God told you to do this or that”—-even though it represented a broken promise. God does not work against His own nature—-which is holy and trustworthy. Broken vows do not represent God’s nature but man’s fallen nature. Don’t blame God for your broken promise. Maybe the marriage was bad, the working contract was poorly considered, or you made a foolish vow, but I can’t find one example of God telling us to break a promise or vow in all the Bible.

The task I enjoy the least at my camp is fund raising. What I hear all the time from folks I contact about making a donation is that they “will pray about it” and then respond. Now I am sure that some folks do pray about it, but I think most don’t pray about because they are afraid that God will tell them to write us a check.

But one of of the biggest areas of disobedience, for the Christian, is in reference to church attendance, participation and membership. The wacky excuses Christians come up with for not coming to church, or not being very involved, or even migrating from church to church is amusing, I suppose. But you’re playing with fire when you suggest that God told you to stop going to church, or attending worship, or to jump from church to church, when He did not. I am not privy to what God tells you or someone else—-that’s between them and God. But we should not stop worshipping God because we’re angry at a person, or we don’t like a pastor, or we feel that the theology is wrong. We should work to heal the relationship, remove the pastor, fix the theology or immediately find another church to join where we can be accountable to the leadership of the church!

I have only left one church in my life because of issues within the church. The preaching was not sound and the pastor’s education was lacking. When people asked why I left I told them the truth. I never suggested that God told me to pack up and leave——He never did….He never had to. But I think it’s wrong to suggest that God has told you to stop coming to church when in fact it is you, for your own personal reasons, have decided to stop attending church.

To hear His voice is to be reminded that you are beloved. Has He told you what to do or not do recently? You cannot honestly want to hear God speak if you’re already imagining or telling Him how to speak! It does not work like that. You have to humble yourself and say, “speak Lord, your servant is listening”…. In fact, I wonder how many of us really want God to speak to us. When you hear me speak I am saying what I hope and believe is the truth, like this message, but you can always say, “well, that’s just your take on this….”, and you go on living the same. You can even read about God’s expectations and demands upon His people in the Bible, and still find a way to spin the truth and justify your disobedience by offering the excuse that the Bible is hard to understand…or that the words He spoke were not meant for you, but for another people at another time.

But when God speaks to you the game’s up. You’ve heard Him,,, you know what He said….you know what it will cost you…..and now it’s a matter of ignoring Him and going your own way—-and then for the rest of your life wondering why you never hear Him anymore and why you’re so anxious…why you find the need to move about from place to place to find the right marriage, church, friendship, or fortress of peace….


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