Once again I must apologize and ask forgiveness for being late with our Bible study post. It’s been a full, somewhat tumultuous week for me. A number of friends are going through tough times … like, Really. Tough. Times. And I just can’t seem to wrap my head around certain issues that may not directly affect me but still feel so painfully personal. On top of that, my mom has been in the hospital for two days. She’s okay and should be discharged this afternoon, but living 800 miles away can truly be the pits.
All that to say I have excuses, but no excuse.
1 Samuel 11–12
We had great discussion on Wednesday night! This week we talked about the 11th and 12th chapters of First Samuel.
If you’re not yet following along, go ahead and grab the “homework” notes from the Big Word tab. You can start at the beginning or just jump in right where we are now.
In these chapters our reluctant King Saul is finally moved to action. The people of Jabesh Gilead, who have a long-standing treaty with the Israelites, are threatened by the Ammonites. They try to make a treaty with this new enemy — even though the Ammonites are sworn enemies of Israel — and are given a choice. They can have peace with the Ammonites, but only at the cost of all their right eyes.
This is an interesting proposition for a couple reasons. First, the Ammonites are using these poor villagers to humiliate Israel. Their mutilation will prove that Israel can’t protect their allies. Second, the loss of one eye equals the loss of depth perception. Without depth perception, these people will never, ever be able to fight back. The Ammonites aren’t posing peace; they’re imposing a lifetime of helpless, hopeless servitude.
When Saul hears this, the Spirit of God descends upon him and he goes a little nuts. He hacks up some oxen, sends them out to the corners of his kingdom and basically threatens all the people if they don’t do what he wants. What he wants is war. Over 330,000 men come to fight for Saul.
The Israelites conquer the Ammonites and now — Surprise! Surprise! — all those who doubted hiding, sniveling not-so-little Saul want to praise him for their victory. Saul does the right thing by giving credit to God, and Samuel officiates a “renewal” of the kingdom.
During this second coronation, Samuel holds court. He first makes sure no one has anything against him and then he states what he and God have against the people of Israel. He explains why asking for an earthly king is the equivelent of rejecting God as their eternal king. They cry and ask for forgiveness, God grants forgiveness and then Samuel charges them with this:
“Serve the LORD with all your heart. And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. For the LORD will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake … Only fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you.”
He promised to continue praying for them and warned them against wickedness.
What does this mean for us?
We talked a lot about the change in Saul. Last time we saw him reluctant, literally hiding among the baggage trying to avoid God’s call on his life. This time we saw him take charge and be a leader. And not just any leader, but a pretty good one! What made that change? The Spirit of God.
In the New Testament we read about the “Holy Spirit.” In the Old Testament we read about “the Spirit of God.” In the homework I encouraged you to think about these two titles. Do they reference the same thing? Are they both one part of the Trinity, just given different names? Or are they different entities? They certainly act differently.
The OT Spirit is temporary, but instant. There is no period of growing or sanctification. He comes, someone gets power; He leaves, that person loses power.
The NT Spirit is constantly with and indwelling believers. The power is certainly there, but it is actualized differently. Or at least seems to be.
I don’t know the answer to this question, but I do wonder if the Spirit of God is all of God descended and empowering at once. Whereas the Holy Spirit is one part of the Trinity granted as our Helper until the return of Christ.
Just as Saul received direction from God, we do, too. Saul initially responded with timidity, but when he recognized God’s power, he gained confidence. Does that sound familiar? Has that ever happened to you? One question I posed in the homework asked what truths about God can we cling to when we feel overwhelmed. By looking at Him and His character, we almost always get a perspective adjustment. Knowing Him enables us to be what He created us to be and do what He asks us to do.
Here are some of the passages our Wednesday night group listed:
- Psalm 56:3–5
- Romans 8:28–31
- Isaiah 40
- 2 Corinthians 4:7–10
Take a moment to look up those verses. Be encouraged!
The last major topic we discussed was obedience vs. consequences. When Samuel confronted the Israelites with their sin, they didn’t change course. They asked forgiveness and accepted their punishment, but no one said “Hey, he’s right! Let’s forget this whole earthly king business and go back to following God.” How often do we do the same thing?
We rationalize. We explain. We say we’re sorry, but ultimately we decide that the pleasure of sin is greater than the discomfort of punishment. We’re wrong. We may not see how wrong because our perspectives are so finite. God, however, sees all things and we must trust Him fully. Completely. With all of us and all we have.
So, those are the highlights from our in-house group. I’d love to hear what you think about all this. And don’t forget to grab our next homework set: Chapters 13–15.
Your turn: What observations did you make through these chapters? What points in the homework made you think the most?