Nurturing/ Teaching Courses
The King and the Prophet
How to Lose a Kingdom without Really Trying
Dr Alex Tang
Saul was the first king of Israel and Samuel was the prophet who anointed him. In this sermon, we shall look at three episodes in Saul’s kingship and learn some spiritual lessons. These episodes are (1) the election of the King -1 Sam 10:17-22; (2) the incident at Gilgal – 1 Sam 13: 5-14 and (3) the Amalekites and sacrifices to the Lord – 1 Sam 15:7-21. From these incidents, there are three questions we need to ask ourselves: (1) What are our responses when God calls us? ; (2) When we are instructed to wait, do we know how to wait patiently and faithfully ? and (3) Do we try to please God on His terms or do we try to please God on our own terms. Saul was disobedient and so lost his kingdom and died a suicide. Samuel was obedient and faithful to the end.
Last month we studied the character of John the Baptist and discovered that he was able to allow Jesus to ‘increase while he decrease’ because he knows his calling and is contented with it and joyful in doing the Will of God.
If I am to ask you to choose a candidate for world leader, whom will you choose?
Candidate A: associates with crooked politicians and consults astrologists. He has two mistresses, chain-smokes and drinks 8-10 martinis a day.
Candidate B: was kicked out of office twice, sleeps until noon, used opium in college, drinks a quart of whiskey every evening.
Candidate C: decorated war hero. He is a vegetarian. Member of the Lutheran church, does not smoke, drinks the occasional beer and does not have any extramarital affairs.
Who do you choose? I am sure you have chosen C as I did.
Congratulations, you have chosen Adolph Hitler for your leader! (A is Franklin D. Roosevelt and B is Sir Winston Churchill). Each leader has character flaws. President Roosevelt, in his New Deal lead the United States out of the Great Depression n the 1930s and Sir Winston Churchill was Prime Minister of Great Britain during the Second World War
Tonight, we shall look at Saul, the first king of Israel and Samuel, the prophet who anointed the first king, thereby changing the Hebrews from a loose confederacy of tribes to a monarchy.
I. The Election of the King
Let us look to the response of Saul when he was elected king by the drawing of lots.
1 Sam 10:17-22
1SA 10:17 Samuel summoned the people of Israel to the LORD at Mizpah 18 and said to them, "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: `I brought Israel up out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the power of Egypt and all the kingdoms that oppressed you.' 19 But you have now rejected your God, who saves you out of all your calamities and distresses. And you have said, `No, set a king over us.' So now present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes and clans."
1SA 10:20 When Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, the tribe of Benjamin was chosen. 21 Then he brought forward the tribe of Benjamin, clan by clan, and Matri's clan was chosen. Finally Saul son of Kish was chosen. But when they looked for him, he was not to be found. 22 So they inquired further of the LORD, "Has the man come here yet?"
And the LORD said, "Yes, he has hidden himself among the baggage."
Duh. It’s not like Saul does not know he is chosen to be king. Earlier on, when he and a servant went to look for his father’s lost donkeys, he met Samuel. Samuel has taken him aside and told him that Yahweh has chosen him to be king. God has given Saul three signs to confirm this (1) two men near Rachel’s Tomb who will tell him that his father’s donkeys has been found, (2) three men on a pilgrimage to Bethel who will offer him bread and (3) and he will meet with a band of prophets, the Spirit of God will come upon him and he will prophesy. I Sam 9:1 – 10:16.
So it is not like it is a surprise for Saul to be elected king. So when he was elected. what did he do? He hid among the baggage! The king was hiding. What kind of leader do you think will hide when elected? Did George Bush hide when he was elected President? Where is George? There he is, hiding among the bushes!
Compare this to Samuel’s response when he was called. Samuel was much younger than Saul was. 1 Sam 3: 2-11
1SA 3:2 One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was. 4 Then the LORD called Samuel. Samuel answered, "Here I am." 5
And he ran to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me." But Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie down." So he went and lay down.
1SA 3:6 Again the LORD called, "Samuel!" And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me." "My son," Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie down." 1SA 3:7 Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD: The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.
1SA 3:8 The LORD called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me." Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy. 9 So Eli told Samuel, "Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, `Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.' " So Samuel went and lay down in his place.1SA 3:10 The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, "Samuel! Samuel!" Then Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening. "SA 3:11 And the LORD said to Samuel: "See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle.
WHAT ARE OUR RESPONSES WHEN GOD CALLS US?
When God calls us, do we stand boldly and say, “Speak, for your servant is listening” or do we run and hide. God calls to us. He is still calling.
(1) To those who have not accepted the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, God is calling you to believe and accept that God has come to die for your sins and has given you the faith to believe and have eternal life.
(2) To those who are Christians but are not baptized, God is calling you to be obedient and be baptized, becoming part of the Universal Church and to share at the Holy Communion.
(3) To those who are Christians, God is calling us to a deeper walk with him. A deeper inner life of discipleship. Of Bible study, prayer, fellowship, solitude and service.
And how are we responding? That we are not ready. We are too young. We are too busy, maybe next year. Maybe when the children are grown up. Maybe when we have paid off the mortgage of our house. Are us like Saul, hiding from God?
II. The Incident at Gilgal
1 Sam 13:5-14
1SA 13:5 The Philistines assembled to fight Israel, with three thousand chariots, six thousand charioteers, and soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore. They went up and camped at Micmash, east of Beth Aven. 6 When the men of Israel saw that their situation was critical and that their army was hard pressed, they hid in caves and thickets, among the rocks, and in pits and cisterns. 7 Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear. 8 He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul's men began to scatter. 9 So he said, "Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings. " And Saul offered up the burnt offering. 10 Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him.
1SA 13:11 "What have you done?" asked Samuel. Saul replied, "When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Micmash, 12 I thought, `Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the LORD's favor.' So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering."
1SA 13:13 "You acted foolishly," Samuel said. "You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. 14 But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the LORD's command."
Saul was so impatient, so fearful that he did what Samuel is supposed to do. No wonder Samuel was hopping mad. Because of his disobedience, Saul lost the dynastic succession of his kingdom. His children will never be kings.
WHEN WE ARE INSTRUCTED TO WAIT, DO WE KNOW HOW TO WAIT PATIENTLY AND FAITHFULLY.
In our hyperactive lifestyle, waiting is one of the hardest things to do. We are always on the go, always doing things, planning our next step. We want to be in control all the time. We want to move plans and manipulate situations. We want to be in control. And when we are forced to wait, we are no longer in control, someone else is. That is why waiting is so hard. We are no longer in control. We have to depend on others.
We have great plans and we are impatient to succeed. We want to change jobs to get onto the fast track. Some of us want to be married. Some cannot wait for the children to grow up. Those in midlife crisis are feeling frustrated and want to change jobs. Others want to do great things for God. But God said wait. Wait for my timing.
How can we wait, Lord? How can we let any opportunity like this pass by? If we don’t do it, nobody will do. Only we can help the church grown. You know what wise Modecai said to Esther? Esther 4:14
14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?"
If you don’t do it, God will raise up another to do it. We are not indispensable. It all depends on God’s timing. In the Bible, there is two Greek words for time: Kairos and Chronos. Chronos cronoz is the linear timeline that we are used to. 1999 lead to 2000 and 2000 to 2001. Linear time. One moment follows another. Kairos kairoz is a special moment, when God intervenes. Kairos is when Abram is called, Jesus is born, the crucifixion and resurrection, the parouisia or Second Coming. Special moments. God’s timing. As Christians, we must learn to look for Kairos rather than just existing in the Kronos.
Saul was impatient. He cannot wait for Kairos. He must act. What about Samuel? Samuel is a Kairos person. I Sam 7:2. Twenty years is a long time to wait before Samuel get into action and called the Israelites together at Mizpah.
John Milton, a blind poet wrote:
They also serve who only stand and wait
III. The Amalekites and Sacrifices to the Lord.
I Sam 15:7-21
1SA 15:7 Then Saul attacked the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, to the east of Egypt. 8 He took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and all his people he totally destroyed with the sword. 9 But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs--everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.
1SA 15:10 Then the word of the LORD came to Samuel: 11 "I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions." Samuel was troubled, and he cried out to the LORD all that night.
1SA 15:12 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."
1SA 15:13 When Samuel reached him, Saul said, "The LORD bless you! I have carried out the LORD's instructions."
1SA 15:14 But Samuel said, "What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?"
1SA 15:15 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."
1SA 15:16 "Stop!" Samuel said to Saul. "Let me tell you what the LORD said to me last night."
"Tell me," Saul replied.
1SA 15:17 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. 18 And he sent you on a mission, saying, `Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; make war on them until you have wiped them out.' 19 Why did you not obey the LORD? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the LORD?"
1SA 15:20 "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. 21 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."
The Lord’s instruction was very specific. All humans and animals were to be killed and all property destroyed. The background to this was in during the time of the exodus Israel’s encounter with Amalek lead to undying hostility. After the victory at Rephidim, when Aaron and Hur held up the arms of Moses, the Lord said he will blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven (Exod 17:14). Note that Saul said that the sheep and cattle are for sacrifice to the Lord. He did not say why he spares King Agag.
DO WE TRY TO PLEASE GOD ON HIS TERMS OR DO WE TRY TO PLEASE GOD ON OUR OWN TERMS?
This is what Saul did. He tried to please God on his own terms. Instead of destroying everything, he kept some animals to sacrifice to the Lord. Because of this disobedience, he lost his kingdom and God chose David.
As we look at our own lives, I wonder whether we are like Saul, trying to please God on our own terms. We bargain with God, if you give us this, we will do this to honor you. We know that God wants us to pray but we pray with a shopping list. We come to church each Sunday and do everything that Christians are supposed to do and the other six days we are the devil in our behavior.
The Pharisees tried to please God. But they tried to please God on their own terms, instead of God’s. The Pharisees divided God’s Law into 613 rules; 248 are commands and 365 are prohibitions. And there are 1,521 emendations! And they believe that God will be pleased with them if they followed everything to the letter.
What about Samuel? Samuel carried out God’s command by killing King Agag. I Sam 15:32-33. The Hebrew word carried the meaning that Samuel the Prophet hacked King Agag to pieces! Samuel’s life was a life of obedience. I Sam 12:2-5. What a contrast.
1SA 12:2 Now you have a king as your leader. As for me, I am old and gray, and my sons are here with you. I have been your leader from my youth until this day. 3 Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the LORD and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these, I will make it right."
1SA 12:4 "You have not cheated or oppressed us," they replied. "You have not taken anything from anyone's hand."
1SA 12:5 Samuel said to them, "The LORD is witness against you, and also his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand."
"He is witness," they said.
Lessons for Us
What have we learnt from our study of the lives of Saul and Samuel?
In these three episodes, Saul disobeyed God.
(1) When called to be king, he hid himself.
(2) He was impatient in Gilgal and instead of waiting for Samuel as instructed did the burnt offering himself.
(3) In the war with the Amalekites, instead of total destruction, he kept some of the best booty, which he claims to for sacrifice to God.
Samuel on the other hand led a model life.
(1) He was ready to serve when called.
(2) He was obedient and waits twenty years for the kairos moment to rally Israel.
(3) He obeyed God’s instruction for the total destruction of the Amalekites by killing King Agag.
One was a life of obedience to the Lord while the other is one of disobedience.
I Sam 15: 22 summarizes tonight’s study.
1SA 15:22 But Samuel replied:
"Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
What the Lord desires is obedience. How are we to obey?
(1) First we need to know God and what he wants us to do. We learn this by studying his word and by prayer.
(2) Secondly, we need to obey what he wants us to do by doing it.
Obedience starts with small things.
Francois Fenelon, Talking with God, wrote in the chapter Faithfulness in Small Things
‘We may compare the Godly life with our temporal goods: there is more danger from the little expenses than from larger expenditures, and he who understands how to take care of little things will soon accumulate more. Everything great owes its greatness to the small elements that compose it. He that loses nothing soon become rich”.
We begin to obey in small things in our lives. Like not jumping queue, exceeding speed limits, buying pirated VCD, telling white lies or cheating at exams. Then we can begin to obey in bigger things like our giving or tithing, our lifestyles and our addictions.
Soli Deo Gloria
"treat, heal, and comfort always"
"spiritual forming disciples of Jesus Christ with informed minds, hearts on fire and contemplative in actions"
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