Thursday, 31 March 2016

What meaneth the bleating of the sheep?

Now the word of the LORD came to Samuel, saying, "I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments." And it grieved Samuel, and he cried out to the LORD all night. So when Samuel rose early in the morning to meet Saul, it was told Samuel, saying, "Saul went to Carmel, and indeed, he set up a monument for himself; and he has gone on around, passed by, and gone down to Gilgal." Then Samuel went to Saul, and Saul said to him, "Blessed are you of the LORD! I have performed the commandment of the LORD." But Samuel said, "What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?" – 1 Samuel 15.10-14

Saul and his issues scare me a bit because he does the kind of things that I am tempted to do, and sadly sometimes do. He offered a sacrifice instead of waiting on Samuel because it made sense to him.

Here’s the story. Saul was was supposed to eliminate the enemy, including their livestock. Once again though he did what made sense to him. He decided to keep the livestock alive. No matter how you try to reason it Saul chose to disobey because he thought his choice was best.

When Samuel came Saul tried to cover it up and claimed that he did as he was told. But there was a problem. There was a noise coming from nearby.

‘What is the bleating of the sheep and the mooing of the cows that I hear?’ Samuel asked.

Caught. Can you imagine how Saul felt? Don’t you hate that feeling when you are guilty and found out and there is nothing you can do about it.

I don’t know about you – but I have been there and can still feel that emotion in my heart. I hate that ‘what meaneth the bleating of the sheep moment.’ I hate  the guilt that comes with it. I hate the shame.

But, you know what? We can avoid those moments with others and with God. All we have to do is simply do what is right. Just trust God and do right and we don’t have to worry about ‘what is that bleating noise?’

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

By many or few

Between the passes, by which Jonathan sought to go over to the Philistines' garrison, there was a sharp rock on one side and a sharp rock on the other side. And the name of one was Bozez, and the name of the other Seneh. The front of one faced northward opposite Michmash, and the other southward opposite Gibeah. Then Jonathan said to the young man who bore his armor, "Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the LORD will work for us. For nothing restrains the LORD from saving by many or by few." So his armorbearer said to him, "Do all that is in your heart. Go then; here I am with you, according to your heart." – 1 Samuel 14.4-7

I never thought much about this passage until way back in 2002. Our church plant has never been large, but in September of that year we had a huge setback. Everyone coming to church outside of our family let me know that they were no longer going to be a part of the fellowship.

I have to say that I was shaken. I was discouraged. My pride was hurt. I was upset. I was all of that and more. I wanted to quit. I wanted to load up and go back to America. If someone had offered us one way tickets to Alabama I would have gone.

But I went for a walk the next morning and God began a whole long series of encouragements to keep us here.

On one morning over the next few weeks I read this passage in my devotions. I saw myself and my family is the same situation as Jonathan and his armour bearer. They were facing the Philistines. They had sharp rocks on both sides. The tempting thing to do would have been their version of waving the white flag.

But they didn’t. Jonathan told his armour bearer that they had to finish their task. ‘Nothing can keep God from doing His work by many or by few.’

Then somehow God gave them the victory.

God doesn’t need a great multitude to do His work. He doesn’t need great resources or fancy buildings or rich benefactors to do what He wants to do. He can deliver by many or by few.

We can’t get discouraged by numbers or lack of resources. It is all Gods work and even if it is just Jonathan and his armour bearer or twelve ordinary men who turned the world upside God can do His work if we are willing to serve Him.

So even when the resources and numbers and facilities are small lets be sure we just keep plugging away because it is God who does the work through us. 

Tuesday, 29 March 2016


And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you. For now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.”
Then Samuel arose and went up from Gilgal to Gibeah of Benjamin. And Saul numbered the people present with him, about six hundred men. - 1 Samuel 13:11-15

Yesterday we looked at the problem of being impatient while waiting for God to work. I want to go back today though and look at another aspect of the same incident – the foolishness of disobeying God.

Fool is a pretty harsh word – but God tells us in Psalms that is the fool who claims that there is not God. It is obvious that the verse can be taken to apply to those who deny the existence of God, but I don’t think one needs to be an atheist to say that there is no God in various situations.

In essence that is really what Saul did here and why Samuel said he was foolish. The situation looked desperate. The Philistines were ready to strike. Samuel was late. The sacrifice needed to be offered. God’s way was not working. In other words God wasn’t doing His part in Samuel’s eyes so he took it on himself.

It is easy for us to sit back and be critical. It seems so obvious that Saul should have waited on God’s plan. He was foolish to disobey.

But then how often do we act like God is not here? How often do we act like there is ‘no God’ on the scene? How often do we put our way first because God’s way is not working out?

We too are foolish we when wilfully choose to disobey God and do things our way. Let’s not do foolishly but instead trust God enough to let Him work.

Monday, 28 March 2016


Then he waited seven days, according to the time set by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him. So Saul said, “Bring a burnt offering and peace offerings here to me.” And he offered the burnt offering. Now it happened, as soon as he had finished presenting the burnt offering, that Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might greet him.
And Samuel said, “What have you done?”
Saul said, “When I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered together at Michmash, then I said, ‘The Philistines will now come down on me at Gilgal, and I have not made supplication to the Lord.’ Therefore I felt compelled, and offered a burnt offering.”
And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you. For now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.”
Then Samuel arose and went up from Gilgal to Gibeah of Benjamin. And Saul numbered the people present with him, about six hundred men. - 1 Samuel 13:8-15

I have always been interested in this story because it is a lot like something I had would have done.

Samuel had told Saul that he would come to Gilgal in seven days to offer a burnt offering.

The seven days passed and no Samuel.

What do you do if you are Saul? I can almost tell you for certain what I would have done.

‘Hmm, Samuel is not here when he said he would be here. The sacrifice needs to be offered. I’m the king. Let’s get this thing done.’

So he offered the offering with waiting for Samuel. And as soon as he did Samuel showed up and said ‘you have done foolishly because you did not obey the Lord.’

There are times when leaders can solve problems by jumping in and doing the work, but there is always the doing what Saul did here and jumping ahead of God. That comes from the basic problem of thinking that I can sort it our better than God can.

Those of us who get impatient and impetuous have to be careful that we are not putting our ways above God’s ways and our will above His. Sometimes we need to learn to be patient and wait on God to do it His way instead of rushing out on our own.

Sometimes we need to stop thinking we know best and getting the problem solved and instead 'quietly wait and see the salvation of the Lord.'  

Sunday, 27 March 2016

He is not here

He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you." – Matthew 28.6-7

I love history and historical events. I like to try imagine what it would have been like at various times and places and while the events were taking place. There are several times I can think about that I would have loved to have seen.

But nothing captures my attention like the moment that the women walked up to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body. I can’t imagine how it would have felt. Jesus, their friend no companion and teacher was gone. Three days earlier He had been nailed to cross and suffered the shame and pain and suffering and agony of being hung on a brutal cross.

He had suffered.
He had bled.
He had died.

And now came the onerous task of going to the grave and applying the burial spices to His body.

I wonder how they felt as they walked up and saw the stone covered the tomb and a man sitting outside it?

As they approached he spoke to them. ‘He is not here. Why are looking for the living among the dead? He has risen just like He said He would. Come and look where He was laid.’

What went through their minds? Confusion? Joy? Questioning? Did someone take His body?

Did any of them think back to words Jesus had said about rising on the third day?

But, at the end of the day – the body was gone.

And that changed everything.

Death was crushed to death because it could not keep Jesus in the grave. The grave lost its sting and death lost its victory.

We rejoice today because of those wonderful words ‘He is not here, He is risen’ because it gives us assurance that death is nothing for us to fear and we can live in the victory today.

He is risen.
He is risen indeed.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Remember what God has done

Only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.” - 1 Samuel 12:24-25

Samuel continues his instructions to the people. Near the end of his farewell address he gives a few basic instructions.

Fear the Lord
Serve Him in truth
Serve Him with all your heart
Consider the things He has done for you

I could stop and talk about any of these things, but I want to focus on the one that really jumps out at me.

Consider what God has done for you.

I need to be reminded of that all the time. Fortunately this is not just a vague and unknown little tidbit of history. Paul tells us that instead of focusing on all the woes and worries and cares we ought to pray and give thanks for all that Jesus has done in order to have the peace of God. James tells us that we ought to rejoice in our sufferings and trial because through them we can learn how great a God He is and what He is capable of so we are ready for the next time.

So what is the key to overcoming fear and uncertainty? How do I get over my anxieties and worries? How do I have the peace of God reigning instead of my own turmoils?

I remember what God has done in the past and I trust Him to work in the future.

Friday, 25 March 2016

The sin of not praying

For the LORD will not forsake His people, for His great name's sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you His people. Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way. – 1 Samuel 12.22-23

I recently saw a meme on Facebook. I did not check the veracity of it, but it was a video that said that Spurgeon had a list of 100 friends hat he prayed for every night. This story went on that over the course of his life 96 of the friends were saved and that at his funeral the last four came to faith in Christ.

There is no doubt that Spurgeon was pray-er. Those who knew him attest to the fact that he was obsessed with praying for others, especially for the lost. Thousands heard him pray publicly, and much smaller number heard him pray privately. Those who did were moved by his passion for others.

I think this is the kind or praying heart that Samuel had. Samuel told the people that it would be sin for him to stop praying for them.

We all know that we should pray. Jesus put it pretty simply – ‘people should always pray and not lose heart.’ Paul wrote ‘pray without ceasing.’ We could go on and on, but we all know that we ought to pray more and surely to pray for each other. And yes, I don’t think it is too much to say that when we don’t pray for each other we too are sinning. Sins are not only things we commit but things we omit, and omitting prayer is indeed sin.

What gets is the way? I wish I knew. Well, I do know, but it sounds awful to put in down in words. We are too lazy to pray. We are too selfish to pray. We are too self-centred to pray like we should. We get caught up in things that we think are more important, like watching our television programme or checking our Facebook feed or fighting over politics or making sure our opinions are known or playing our video games or checking the scores or whatever. It seems like there is always something 'more important' than prayer.

Are any of those things bad? Of course not – but it becomes sin when we sacrifice prayer in order to do them. Our flesh battles against prayer. Satan battles against prayer. The pressures of the world battle against prayer. And too often we let them win.

There are hundred of books about prayer. I probably have a couple of dozen books on prayer on my shelves.

But it is not that hard. How do we pray?

We stop, lay other things aside, and talk to our God.

God forbid, may it never be, that we sin in not praying for each other.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

God does not forsake His people

For the LORD will not forsake His people, for His great name's sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you His people. Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way. – 1 Samuel 12.22-23

God loves His people. His people are not perfect – far from it. But His people are His people, and He does not forsake them.

To the Jews this was primarily a corporate promise. God would never forsake them as His people. He would chasten the nation and they would go through troubles and eventually be scattered, but they are still His people and one day they will be restored through faith in Christ. God told the people through Samuel here that He would never forsake His people.

This truth reveals the faithfulness of God.

This trait is one that carries over to the church age. God is still faithful to His people, to those who put their faith in Jesus Christ. Those who are truly saved have the blessed promise that God will never, ever forsake us.

This passage from Hebrews is of great comfort to God’s people today – it is proof that God still does not forsake His own.

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say:
“The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear.
What can man do to me?”

Think about it. Not only will Jesus never forsake us and therefore my eternity is score, but there is more.

No matter what comes my way Jesus will never, ever, ever forsake me. He will always be there. There is no need to fear the future because Jesus will not forsake me. There is no need to fear opposition because Jesus will not forsake me. There is no need to fear the unknown because Jesus will not forsake. There is no need or profit in coveting what others have or their circumstances because Jesus will not forsake me. There is no need to fear loneliness because Jesus will not forsake me.

‘Don’t be afraid,’ God says, ‘because I am with you wherever you go.’

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

You and your king

Now therefore, here is the king whom you have chosen and whom you have desired. And take note, the Lord has set a king over you. If you fear the Lord and serve Him and obey His voice, and do not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then both you and the king who reigns over you will continue following the Lord your God. However, if you do not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you, as it was against your fathers. – 1 Samuel 12.13-15

Samuel was coming the end of his reign and judge. He was about the hand power over to the new king. He had reminded the people that this King was their choice, not God’s and they agreed.

Despite the fact that the people had chosen their way over God’s way He was still willing to bless them.

So as Samuel gives his farewell address he gave some instructions as to how to make sure that they had God’s blessings.

‘Here is the king you have chosen. God has given him to you just like you asked. If you fear God and serve Him and obey His voice and don’t rebel against Him the you and the king will follow Him and be His people.’

That's the good thing – they could set things right by doing right.

‘But if you don’t obey God and His commandments and do rebel God’s hand will be against you – He won’t bless you.’

God desires to bless His people – and it is simple. All we have to do is trust Him enough to obey Him and rely on Him to sort it all out.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Another man with another heart

Then the Spirit of the LORD will come upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man. And let it be, when these signs come to you, that you do as the occasion demands; for God is with you. You shall go down before me to Gilgal; and surely I will come down to you to offer burnt offerings and make sacrifices of peace offerings. Seven days you shall wait, till I come to you and show you what you should do." So it was, when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, that God gave him another heart; and all those signs came to pass that day. – 1 Samuel 10.6-9

We often think about how different the Old Testament times and the New Testament times are – and they do have a lot of differences. But there are themes, basic Bible truths, that run throughout.

Samuel had taught Saul the word of God. That’’s great, but just knowing God’s word does not qualify us to do God’s work. Knowing God’s word does not even make us people of God.

In order to be a man or a woman of God there must be a new you and me. If anyone is in Christ they are a new creation, old things have passed away and all things are now made new. Once we are gone’s people we are different people. We aren't the same.

And that is what God is doing here. He is remaking Saul into a different person.

God did that just as Samuel had told him God would. When he left Samuel God gave Saul a different heart. He changed him completely. He changed how Saul saw things.

And that is what God does to us at salvation. He gives us a new heart which is a heart after His heart.

But even a different man with a new heart is going to struggle. We know that from places like Romans 7.

Because we have new hearts there is no excuse when we choose to sin.

Monday, 21 March 2016

I will show you the word of God

As they were going down to the outskirts of the city, Samuel said to Saul, "Tell the servant to go on ahead of us." And he went on. "But you stand here awhile, that I may announce to you the word of God." – 1 Samuel 9.27

Samuel just about had Saul taught about being king. He had gone through all he needed to show. As they were leaving Samuel told Saul to send his servant on ahead. The reason Samuel gave Saul was this – ‘I will announce to you the word of God.’

God could have just given up on Israel when they rejected His plan. He could have jus let them go on their way. But in spite of their rejection God gave them a king and told Samuel it should be Saul.

And he still wanted to make sure Saul had all the tools he needed, including the most important one. Samuel wanted Saul to know how to rule in accordance to God’s word so He had to teach him God’s word.

This is the only solid foundation that really matters for Israel, and for us.

Whenever we start some new task or new endeavour we always consider what God’s word says. It is too easy to get caught up in the excitement of change or newness and just head off on our own without regard to God and His way.

God’s word must lay the foundation in all we do. Then it is up to us to follow it. 

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Looking good

There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish the son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Bechorath, the son of Aphiah, a Benjamite, a mighty man of power. And he had a choice and handsome son whose name was Saul. There was not a more handsome person than he among the children of Israel. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people...
And Saul answered and said, “Am I not a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel, and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? Why then do you speak like this to me?”
Now Samuel took Saul and his servant and brought them into the hall, and had them sit in the place of honor among those who were invited; there were about thirty persons. And Samuel said to the cook, “Bring the portion which I gave you, of which I said to you, ‘Set it apart.’ ” So the cook took up the thigh with its upper part and set it before Saul. And Samuel said, “Here it is, what was kept back. It was set apart for you. Eat; for until this time it has been kept for you, since I said I invited the people.” So Saul ate with Samuel that day.
When they had come down from the high place into the city, Samuel spoke with Saul on the top of the house. They arose early; and it was about the dawning of the day that Samuel called to Saul on the top of the house, saying, “Get up, that I may send you on your way.” And Saul arose, and both of them went outside, he and Samuel. 1 Samuel 9.1-2;21-26

God’s choice for Israel’s first king was a man named Saul. Though he was shy and retiring he seemed like a good choice. He must have suited the people with his stature and his good looks. He was also a humble man and humility is a trait that God always honours.

Samuel set up a meeting with Saul. They met and Samuel told Saul God’s plans for him.

You have to like Saul when he becomes king. He sure looks like the right guy. Israel must be feeling pretty good about things.

The problem is that you can’t always judge the success of a man by his appearance. We are going to see that Saul was not all he was cracked up to be.

The world judges by all that it can see – God knows the heart. The people must have though Samuel was being way to cautious with all his warnings. But God knew the whole story.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Let them have their way

So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who asked him for a king. And he said, “This will be the behaviour of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants. And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day.”

Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, “No, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he repeated them in the hearing of the Lord. So the LORD said to Samuel, "Heed their voice, and make them a king." And Samuel said to the men of Israel, "Every man go to his city."  - 1 Samuel 8:10-22

The debate between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will is one that has raged for thousands of years and I am sure will rage on till Jesus returns. We are never going to get it.

This event here I think shows just how complicated it can be.

Having a king was not God’s plan. God planned to continue to use judges under his command.

But the people didn’t like that plan. They looked around and they wanted a King like everybody else had. God told Samuel to warn them about how living under a King would be. It was going to be horrible. The king would raise their taxes. He would draft their children in to his won work force. He was take them to war. He would confiscate their goods. He would take a portion of their crops.

They would be so desperate that they would cry out for God to deliver them.

It was going to be a miserable life.

But they didn’t care – ‘give us a king.’

So God said ‘give them their king.’

These people rejected God’s plan. The ignored God’s warning and insisted on their own way. So God let them have their way.

Dumb people.

But no dumber that we are when we reject God’s way and insist on our own way. We have a free will. We have a choice. God will let us decide – and then we get to deal with the consequences.

God is sovereign. We have a free will to choose.

When we choose our way over His we get to deal with our foolish choices just like Israel did.

Friday, 18 March 2016

The have rejected Me

But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” So Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt, even to this day—with which they have forsaken Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you also. – 1 Samuel 8.6-8

I hate rejection. I always have. When I was young was a terrified to ask a girl out on a date because I hated rejection so much. The bad thing is you would have thought I would have gotten used to it as often as it happened. I had the strangest girl is my class, she spent every weekend evening washing her hair!

Rejection always hurts. It hurts when family and friends reject us. It happens when we pour our hearts and our souls into people and they suddenly turn away and treat us like enemies. Rejection hurts, but it happens.

And Samuel faced rejection. He had done good job as their judge – but near the end of his life the people decided that they wanted a King.

It’s like ‘I poured my life into these people. I led them and directed them and worked for them and prayed for them and what do they do? They reject my way and demand a king. How can they do that to me?’

But God had a word for him.

‘They have not rejected you – they have rejected me.’

How many people have we loved and witnessed to and cared for and poured our lives to when something happens and all of a sudden they turn against us? We are hurt, or course.

Other times we share our faith and love people and they just never accept the good news of salvation and we feel like we have failed.

This isn’t like the rejection I mentioned at the start – that’s just part of life. But when we are rejected for the cause of Christ we need to heed God’s words to Samuel. They have not rejected us personally, but they have rejected God and His word. We can’t be discouraged or get down or feel rejected if we are rejected for His sake.

So we just keep loving and caring and meeting needs and being there as hard as it might be.

Who knows how God might work through our perseverance?

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Ego Patricius peccator

For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God – Romans 3.23
To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, - Ephesians 3:8

‘My name is Patrick... I am a sinner, a simple country person, and the least of all believers. I am looked down upon by many.

I couldn’t help myself. I had to do a St Patrick's Day devotion today. I think I did one last year, but today is a good chance to look at the testimony of our brother in Christ.

Reading The Confession (Attributed to Patrick) is a great challenge for believers today.

Patrick believed that man is a SINNER who violates God’s law and justly deserves His displeasure:
Patrick believed that it is THROUGH FAITH IN CHRIST that we are saved:
Patrick believed we are saved by God’s GRACE, not by ourselves:
Patrick affirms the second coming of Christ to judge the world in righteousness:

Patrick was a man much like us. He felt like he was called ‘to the uttermost parts of the earth’ because at that time there weren’t many places more uttermost than Ireland. He was deeply burdened to the Irish people and their need of the gospel.

Patrick was a saint. He didn’t need a special designation. He was a saint just like all Christians are saints – sanctified and set apart by our salvation.

So let us as Christians enjoy a day set apart to honour our brother in Christ and let us do say in a way that honours the Christ who saved him and us.

Ego Rogerius peccator – what a great reminder.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Like everybody else

Now it came to pass when Samuel was old that he made his sons judges over Israel. The name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba. But his sons did not walk in his ways; they turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice. Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, “Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.”. – 1 Samuel 8.1-5

Even Samuel had problems with his sons. Joel and Abijah were to be the judges after Samuel when he got old.

It is kind of hard to blame them really. Good leaders have been few and far between since the days of the judges. They figured they had a plan that had to be better than God's.

I am going to look at the king notion in a couple of days, but I want to look at one phrase today – ‘give us a king…like all the other nations.’

We want to be like everyone else. It starts as children. ‘Can I go to this or that?’ Parent responds: ‘no, not this time.’ And what is the first response? ‘Why not, everyone else is going.’

But that becomes a way of life. We want what everyone else has or we want to do what they do. Most of us have a ‘it's not fair’ attitude when others have what we don’t have and that is how Israel is here.

Discontent is a horrible thing. Israel thought they had it figured out. God’s judges were working out so they thought ‘everyone else has a king, that must be the way to go.’

But it wasn’t God’s plan. We'll see more later.

Let’s be guided by God’s way and not what everyone else has or doesn’t have – His way is best.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Pray for us

So the children of Israel said to Samuel, “Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, that He may save us from the hand of the Philistines.” – 1 Samuel 7.8

The children of Israel may have been a mixed up mess, but they still knew the importance of prayer.

Remember the state they were in. Eli and his sons were dead and the ark had been taken by the Philistines. They had repented of their sins and turned back to God, but now they had to go and fight the Philistines again.

And they were afraid, but who wouldn't be?

So the came to Samuel and said ‘Please don’t stop praying for us.’

Asking for prayer is a regular theme in God’s word because prayer is so vital to the child of God. When Paul was facing spiritual battles much, much later he says in one of his letters ‘brethren pray for us.’

Whenever we are facing a trial or a difficulty or a challenge ‘pray for me’ ought to be part of our conversation. Sometimes we don’t want to ‘trouble’ other with our requests for prayer, but that is hardly a Biblical thought. ‘Please pray for me’ is not a bother or a sign of weakness, it is a part of our unity as children of God.

Of course, when that request is made it is incumbent on his to join in the effort with our prayers.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Return to the Lord

Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, “If you return to the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths from among you, and prepare your hearts for the Lord, and serve Him only; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.” So the children of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtoreths, and served the Lord only. – 1 Samuel 7.3-4

There was only one answer to ‘Ichabod.’

Samuel said ‘if you want deliverance you must return to the Lord with your whole heart, you must get rid of the false gods, you must prepare your hearts, and you must serve God only.’

The amazing thing is that  God’s mercy would even give them a second chance. Why even bother with people who keep turning away to other gods and whose hearts are so easily drawn away.

But God is not like man. He is a God of mercy so He wants men to come back to Him. All He wants is true repentance and that is what He is talking about here.

I am grateful that we still serve a God who is the God who is always waiting for us to return to Him. In fact it is so important that He gave us the illustration of a way faring son who comes back home and is welcomed with open arms.

God doesn’t give up on His children. He wants them back. All we have to do is to repent and come back to Him.

He is always there waiting for us.

Sunday, 13 March 2016


Then she named the child Ichabod, saying, "The glory has departed from Israel!" because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband. – 1 Samuel 4.21

Hophni and Phineas were dead due to their sinful choices. The ark had been captured and taken by the Philistines. Eli was dead when he fell off his bench and broke his neck.

When Eil’s grandson was born his daughter in law named the baby ‘Ichabod’ because the glory of the Lord had departed from Israel. His name means ‘where is the glory?’

What a tragic day for the nation.

Is there a sadder question than ‘where is the glory?’

This isn’t just a question for Israel – it is a question which must be asked of people of all ages. It is a question we ignore at our own peril today.

I found the following and I think the author describes a tragic illustration for today. We have seen so many churches who were once on fire for God and true to His word and who refused to compromise the truth. The building may still be there. Vast numbers may even still attend – but where is the glory?

It is a terrible thing to experience the loss of the glory of God. And while Israel’s ruin was temporary “until the fullness of the Gentiles” would be brought into the kingdom of God on earth (Romans 11:25), one wonders how many churches today have lost the glory of the Lord, whether willingly or unknowingly. The same things that caused Ichabod in Israel—sin, disobedience, idolatry—are present in many of today’s churches. Christians must never take the glory of God in our midst for granted, lest we wake up one day and find that Ichabod has become a reality among us.’

Whenever we allow sin and disobedience and idolatry to creep in there is no room for the glory of God.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

A life well lived

So Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel had been established as a prophet of the LORD. Then the LORD appeared again in Shiloh. For the LORD revealed Himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the LORD. – 1 Samuel 3.19-21

The passage here gives is loads more detail about Samuel growing up. One could almost preach a series on it.

Here we read that:

Samuel grew
The Lord was with him
None of his words fell to the ground (God heard all his prayers)
He had a testimony that was known through all the land
The Lord revealed himself to Samuel through his word

Wow! Just wow!

What an example of a life that pleases God!

And the great thing is that is the a kind of life that we too can have by the grace of God. As we grow in our faith we can trust that the Lord is with us – after all He told us that He would be with us always.

We can also trust that God hears our prayers when we pray. ‘Call unto me and I will answer thee’ God says.

As we live for Christ we too can be glowing testimonies of God’s grace.

And we have the blessing of knowing that God will always reveal Himself to us through His word. The nice thing about God revealing Himself through His word is that we have a written record we can go back to again and again and not have to worry about it changing.

O to have a life story like Samuel!

Friday, 11 March 2016

He is the Lord

Then Eli called Samuel and said, "Samuel, my son!" He answered, "Here I am." And he said, "What is the word that the LORD spoke to you? Please do not hide it from me. God do so to you, and more also, if you hide anything from me of all the things that He said to you." Then Samuel told him everything, and hid nothing from him. And he said, "It is the LORD. Let Him do what seems good to Him." – 1 Samuel 3.16-18

I am the kind of guy who likes to be in control. When I walk into a situation I usually have a plan of some sort about exactly how it should go and if I am not careful I can even jump in to sort it out.  If God isn't doing it my way I am even tempted to sort it myself.

Eli had had enough of that though. He had, in our modern parlance, blown it. He knew that he had messed up by doing things on his own.

He finally comes to the conclusion ‘He is God, let Him do whatever He thinks is best.’

It is a shame that it took such a mess in his family to come to this conclusion. How much things would have been different if Eli had had the ‘let the Lord do what seems good to Him’ earlier.

I get frustrated at myself when I try to outguess or outplan or outfigure or outwise God. I am not good without God – God is all good. I am not holy apart from Christ – He is all-Holy. I am not wise – God is alone wise.

Why then do I have such a hard time with ‘the Lord is God, let Him do what is good to Him’?

The Lord is good, He is a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows those who trust Him.

Can’t we trust Him to do what is good?

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Here I am

Then the Lord called yet again, “Samuel!” So Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” He answered, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” (Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, nor was the word of the Lord yet revealed to him.) And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. So he arose and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you did call me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord had called the boy. – 1 Samuel 3.6-8

What really jumps out at me here is an attitude that Samuel has while he was young. I should have done this yesterday and it would have made more sense, because in verse 10 we see Samuel responding to the Lord’s call.

But even before that we see something about Samuel’s attitude that shows he was ready for service.

Over and over Samuel says ‘here I am’ when he was called. He didn’t crawl deeper under the duvet. He didn’t fake being asleep. He simply jumped up and said ‘Here I am.’

It is this willing attitude that God wants to use. It’s the kind of attitude that when a volunteer is needed says ‘Here I am, I’ll do it.’ It is the Isaiah like attitude that answers God’s call for workers – ‘Here am I Lord, send me.’

It is the kind of attitude expressed in the hymn ‘Here I Am Lord.’

Here I am Lord, Is it I, Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if You lead me.
I will hold Your people in my heart.

Do you and I have that ‘here I am’ spirit? 

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Speak Lord

Now the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel answered, “Speak, for Your servant hears.” – 1 Samuel 3.10

This is one of those great Bible stories that we teach our children and that never lose their impact or importance.

Samuel was still young and serving in the temple with Eli. While he was sleeping one night he heard someone call his name. He naturally assumed that it must be Eli so he went to him. ‘It wasn’t me, go back to bed.’

The same thing happened a couple more times. Finally Eli said ‘go back to bed and if you hear the voice again say ‘speak Lord, for your servant hears you.’

And he does hear it again. And He does say ‘speak Lord for your servant hears.’ And God talks to him.

God spoke to Samuel because he was listening. His listening shows a willingness to follow.

I wish I would listen with the same intensity as Samuel. If I was really listening with God I would never worry or fret because He reminds me every time I do that He has it sorted. I would never allow temptation to linger because I know it doesn't please God. If I really listened I could live in the peace that passes all understanding.

Speak Lord – and help me listen like Samuel.

This Stuart Townend hymn is a little long, but it's words speak the message of ‘speak Lord’ far better than I could.

Speak, O Lord, as we come to You
To receive the food of your holy word.
Take Your truth, plant it deep in us;
Shape and fashion us in Your likeness,
That the light of Christ might be seen today
In our acts of love and our deeds of faith.
Speak, O Lord, and fulfil in us
All Your purposes, for Your glory.

Teach us Lord full obedience,
Holy reverence, true humility.
Test our thoughts and our attitudes
In the radiance of Your purity.
Cause our faith to rise
Cause our eyes to see,
Your majestic love and authority.
Words of power that can never fail;
Let their truth prevail over unbelief.

Speak, O Lord, and renew our minds;
Help us grasp the heights of Your plans for us.
Truths unchanged from the dawn of time,
That will echo down through eternity.
And by grace we'll stand on Your promises;
And by faith we'll walk as You walk with us.
Speak, O Lord, 'til your church is built
And the earth is filled with Your glory.

Stuart Townend & Keith Getty
Copyright © 2005 Thankyou Music

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Bad parenting

Why do you kick at My sacrifice and My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling place, and honour your sons more than Me, to make yourselves fat with the best of all the offerings of Israel My people?’ Therefore the Lord God of Israel says: ‘I said indeed that your house and the house of your father would walk before Me forever.’ But now the Lord says: ‘Far be it from Me; for those who honour Me I will honour, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed. Behold, the days are coming that I will cut off your arm and the arm of your father's house, so that there will not be an old man in your house. – 1 Samuel 2.29-31

We don’t know all that happened it Eli’s house while Hophni and Phineas were growing up, but here we have a hint at part of why things went the way they did.

‘Why do you honour your sons more than you honour Me?’ God asked Eli.

This is a great lesson in parenting, even if it is a negative example. Eli’s problem was that he wasmore concerned about pleasing his sons that he was about pleasing God. His son’s wants and desires came before doing right by God.

I’ll admit it can be a very hard balance to find. While we need to love our children and provide for them and do what we can to take care of them and meet their needs and even some of their wants, we cannot do so at the expense of honouring the Lord.

While we are not to ‘provoke our children to wrath’ we also are to ‘bring them up in the nature and admonition of the Lord.’

It is great to give our children nice things. We like to give them gifts. It's not even wrong to ‘spoil’ them just a bit – but when we cater to them without regard to teaching them God’s way we do everyone harm.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Samuel grew before the Lord

And the LORD visited Hannah, so that she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile the child Samuel grew before the LORD... And the child Samuel grew in stature, and in favor both with the LORD and men. – 1 Samuel 2.21,26

On one hand we have the sad and tragic story of the sons of Eli – and more about them later.

On the other hand we have the wonderful story of Samuel growing up. We already know that Samuel served the Lord from childhood. Here we read that he grew before the Lord, he grew physically, he grew spiritually, and he grew socially.

This reminds me of when we read about how Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and man.

Why did Eli’s sons do so badly and Samuel do so well? I think it is in the words ‘Samuel grew before the Lord.’

Samuel’s mom and dad had prepared him properly for the Lord’s service. Something they did in the years they had him made a difference. From what we read of Eli’s parenting the teaching did not come from him.

Samuel grew before the Lord. Are we doing our part to see that our children and grandchildren and children we work with are growing before the Lord. All we can do is all we can do, they will have to decide one day if they are going to follow on.

But while we have them it is our solemn task to see that they grow before the Lord.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

They did not know the Lord

Now the sons of Eli were corrupt; they did not know the LORD. – 1 Samuel 2.12

For the rest of 1 Samuel 2 we see a back and forth contrast between Eli’s sons and Samuel. They couldn’t be more of a contrast.

Samuel, who assisted Eli in the temple knew God and served Him. Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phineas did not know God.

What a terrible sadness to think of two sons who were not just apathetic or casual about their relationship to God, but did not even know Him at all.

This reminds is us that being a religious family doesn’t mean anything. Everyone must come to a relationship with God on their own. Hophni and Phineas should have assumed their priestly duties, but they were corrupt.

Everyone needs to be sure that their faith is theirs, not their parents, not their church, and not their society.

‘The did not know the Lord’ may the saddest words of all.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

The child served

Then Elkanah went to his house at Ramah. But the child ministered to the LORD before Eli the priest. – 1 Samuel 2.11

Mary have I have always, since even before we were married, been involved with children. We have our own children and grandchildren now, but we have always worked with kids. We take seriously the words of Jesus when He said ‘let the little children come to me and do not forbid them, for of such is the kingdom of God.

We cannot afford to ignore children and set them aside. Children are valuable to the Lord and are capable of serving the Lord.

We need to realise what our children and grandchildren can do. We need to teach them to serve while they are young. We can teach them to serve at church by picking up rubbish and tidying up messes and setting up chairs and all those kinds of little chores.

We can also teach them to serve others. Teach them to put others first. We can start at home. Teach them to clear their things from the table and to offer to help others. Give them more serving jobs as they get old. Teach them that serving is part of life.

Our children can serve them. It is our job to teach them how.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

From the rubbish heap to the prince's seat

He raises the poor from the dust And lifts the beggar from the ash heap, To set them among princes And make them inherit the throne of glory. "For the pillars of the earth are the LORD's, And He has set the world upon them.  – 1 Samuel 2.8

The first thing I thought of  when I read this is a message I preach from Psalm 113.7-8 which says ‘He raises the poor out of the dust, And lifts the needy out of the dung heap, That He may seat him with princes— With the princes of His people.’

I call the message ‘From the Dung Heap to the Prince’s Seat.’

I am not sure but it looks like Psalm 113.7-9 is a quote from Hannah, because it adds on that God allows the barren women to take care of her children – which is just what He did for Hannah.

In the KJV the word sometimes translated ‘ash heap’ is normally ‘dung heap.’ From what I have read both of those translations are accurate.

Anyway, the first thing I thought about when I studied this was a tour of Trim Castle. Of course, the person who had it made in the castle was royalty, the prince in this context.

At the other end of the spectrum was a man called the gong farmer. His job, believe or not, was to stir up the chambers beneath the garderobe (toilet) where all the human waste was stored. This released the ammonia which was used to kill various bugs in the clothing which was hung in the garderobe.

It is hard to imagine a lower job than that.

But that makes this passage all the more special. God, and God alone, can raise us up from the dung heap of this world. If you are in the castle it is hard to imagine the guy down in that pit suddenly be elevated up into the prince’s bedroom. I realise that this is a medieval illustration of an Old Testament truth – but it is appropriate to what Hannah says here.

No matter where we are in this life, no matter how bad it gets, no matter how bad our depths of despair our God is able to lift us up. No matter how bad the depth of sin God is able to lift anyone up who can turn to Him.

Praise God that He is the one to raise me up.

I don’t know if these words were meant to talk about God – but they sure describe what God can do for us:

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains.
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas.
I am strong, when I am on Your shoulders
You raise me up to more than I can be.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Proud speech

"Talk no more so very proudly; Let no arrogance come from your mouth, For the LORD is the God of knowledge; And by Him actions are weighed.  – 1 Samuel 2.3

Hannah sounds like she is talking to today’s world. We have just finished an Irish election campaign and he US is in the middle of one. Proud speech is everywhere we look.

Here is how Hannah puts it.

Stop talking so proudly
Stop your arrogance
God knows all about you
He, and He alone will judge

A lot of folks thinks they are above judgment. This old world thinks it can keep on going unchecked and blatantly ignoring God. It is easy, especially right now on this day, to point fingers at the leaders and politicians, but the kind of things Hannah talks about in her praise song could well describe us at certain times and places.

I think the anonymity of the Internet has done a lot to inspire a culture of proud and arrogant speech. It is everywhere. Politicians are now more known for their sound bites than their depths of thought. Everyone seems bound to get in that last shot.

And the tragedy is that it has crept into the church. Christians have been caught in the trap of thinking that if we say it loud enough and harsh enough and shocking enough we are going to win our argument.

But we are not going to be judged by our words. God judges actions – and if we are truly God’s people our actions will reflect our faith. Words mean nothing without actions. Our faith, if it is not accompanied by works, is dead faith – not matter how great our words.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

None beside God

"No one is holy like the LORD, For there is none besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God.  – 1 Samuel 2.2

‘There is none like you
No one else can touch my heart like You do
I could search for all eternity long
And find there is none like You’

These are the words from a popular and they certainly express the sentiment of Hannah as she continues to praise God for what he has done.

We have plenty of things that can draw us away from God today. The distractions are numerous. We can all find ourselves at times trying to squeeze God into our busy schedules.

And that should never be.

Nothing is more important than Him. Nothing is as strong as Him. Nothing is as holy as Him. He is all we need. There is no one beside Him.

We live in a day of great turmoil. At this moment the political futures of my birth country and my adopted country are in great question. We certainly can’t put any faith in politics and can’t afford to be diverted by that.

We certainly can’t depend on our economies. Who knows what is going to happen next?

Social media is fun and informative and maybe even useful – but it can distract us from the Lord. It's nothing compared to the Lord.

There is none like Him – no one and nothing.

Why then, do we chase after everything else?