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mule April 13 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: 1Samuel 13:1- 14:52; 1Chronicles 8:1- 9:1a; 1Chronicles 9:35-44; 5:7-10; 5:18-22

Faith or Obstinacy?

“I don't want any help. I can do it myself!” says the small child (many times teens and adults say the same thing, right?). While we want to encourage children to try things for themselves and learn to succeed, sometimes the tasks are too great for them. They have to learn to trust their parent(s) for awhile and learn to do things right. What should we do when children (or adults) are obstinate? Today we will learn what to do.

King Saul began his reign well because he was humble and his power to command was from God. Saul showed godly concern and zeal in helping the people of Jabesh Gilead, who were seriously threatened by the Ammonites. He cut up a pair of oxen and sent the pieces to the twelve tribes of Israel and threatened that God would do this to them if they did not get behind Saul and Samuel to defeat the Ammonites. Immediately, a force of 333,000 men was mustered to fight against the Ammonites, and God gave them a great victory. Then Saul was reaffirmed as king. Saul showed magnanimity in overlooking the insults of those who earlier opposed him and led the Israelites to give praise to God for the victory. God was gracious to Saul, and Saul was faithful, but quickly that all changed. He began to foolishly rely upon himself; his position as king, and his victories went to his head.

Sometime later, King Saul faced threats by the Philistines. He was encamped at Micmash and in the hill country of Bethel with 2,000 men. His son Jonathan was encamped at Gibeah with 1,000 men. Evidently, this was Saul's regular army. However,

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.
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. 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 (1Samuel 13:5-7, NIV).

Sometimes when the pressures of life are great, we feel we must do something, even when the best thing to do is wait on God. King Saul faced pressures that caused him to disobey and lose his privilege to have an enduring kingdom. The Philistines were attacking, and his men got scared and were disbanding or hiding (1Samuel 13:1-14). Instead of trusting the LORD, like Gideon, and encouraging his men, Saul panicked and offered his own burnt offering in order to get God's blessing before going into battle. He did this even though he was not a Levite. For disobeying the LORD, Samuel said that God would not allow his kingdom to endure. God wanted a man after his own heart to lead Israel.

At first glance we might think this judgment was rather harsh. After all, we might have succumbed to the same pressures if it were us. That may be true, but are we leaders of God's chosen people? To whom much is given much is required (Luke 12:48). Saul was not just a political leader; he was also a spiritual leader. Whichever direction the king went spiritually, the people followed. In our modern day we have tried to divorce politics from religion and morality, but it simply is not and never has been possible. Many people will follow the morals of leaders, and decisions that are made for the country always involve morals. The king of Israel was not just protecting his people and leading them into physical battles; he was also leading the nation spiritually. Whether we are government leaders, business leaders, church leaders, or simply parents we must keep in mind that we are affecting others spiritually. We will either lead others toward God or away from him. Even indifference will lead others away from God.

Saul acted foolishly by relying on himself. Jonathan, Saul's son, however, showed more faith than his father (1Samuel 13:3-5; 14:1-15). Jonathan led attacks on the Philistines. In his second attack, only Jonathan and his armor-bearer attacked the Philistines. Jonathan had faith that God could save by many or by few. Saul counted on numbers; Jonathan counted on the LORD. God helped Jonathan by sending a panic into the Philistine army, and the Philistines were routed by Jonathan and Saul's army.

What a leader does when he is under pressure reveals his true character. Besides the incident at Gilgal in 1Samuel 13, Saul did some other things foolish things (1Samuel 14:24-45; 15:12). In a foolish attempt to get glory for himself, he bound his army with an oath not to eat any food until he had avenged himself of his enemies. This was his selfish ambition and ego; he did not care for the welfare of his troops. Did his army raise objections? No, though he was foolish and self-willed, he was the king, and they let him experience the results of his folly, even though they suffered for it. Saul's foolish vow caused the famished troops of Israel to sin by eating blood of the animals they captured in plunder. Saul redeemed himself, somewhat, by setting up an altar so the meat could be offered up to God, cooked, and then served to the men.

Saul was, however, a slow learner. He did not confess his own sin in making a foolish vow that caused his men to sin. Rather, he again sought to move ahead by praying for another blessing from the LORD to give him victory. But, the LORD was displeased and would not answer him. Saul was at least astute to realize something was wrong.

Saul therefore said, “Come here, all you who are leaders of the army, and let us find out what sin has been committed today. As surely as the LORD who rescues Israel lives, even if it lies with my son Jonathan, he must die.” [Jonathan, not knowing about the curse, had eaten some honey].

But not one of the men said a word. …“Do what seems best to you,” the men replied. (1Samuel 14:38-40, NIV)

They did not try to correct the obstinate Saul. Those who are obstinate are convinced they are right and will not listen. When it is safe, those who are stubborn should be allowed to make their own mistakes whether they are a child, teen, or adult. Success and failure are part of life as each person must find out for himself. Saul in his pride was willing to keep the vow and sacrifice his own son, Jonathan, who helped initiate the great victory God gave them. Thankfully, Saul's army stopped his foolishness. Sometimes we, too, have to stop the foolish behavior of willful people because the results could be devastating. Saul would have lost not only his son but the confidence of his army.

Despite Saul's self will, God still used him to win victories against the Philistines. Like Samson, who was also self-willed, God used these self-directed leaders to punish the Philistines because he loves his people. Most of us have served under self-willed leaders so this gives us some hope. Neither Samson nor Saul, however, had an enduring rule with God's favor upon them. Do we want God's blessings on us to continue? We need to act with humble faith, not foolishness. We need to choose to seek God's glory, not our own.

During the time of Saul, the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh were also busy fighting wars (1Chronicles 7:10). They, too, were given victories like Jonathon. He answered their prayers because they trusted in him. (1Chronicles 5:19-20, NIV). Because these tribes trusted in God, the eastern tribes of Israel plundered these city nations.

They seized the livestock of the Hagrites-- fifty thousand camels, two hundred fifty thousand sheep and two thousand donkeys. They also took one hundred thousand people captive, and many others fell slain, because the battle was God's. And they occupied the land until the exile. (1Chronicles 5:21-22, NIV)

Lessons to live by:

•  If you are obstinate, are you tired of being that way? God can forgive you, give you peace and give you spiritual life (more...)

•  When God is gracious to give us leadership, we need to be humble, careful and responsible. We need to remember that God gives us this responsibility to serve others and glorify him, not ourselves.

•  We need to wait on God even when we are afraid or pressured.

•  We will either lead others toward God or away from him.

•  Be responsible, or he may give your leadership to another who is more deserving.

•  What a leader does when he is under pressure reveals his true character.

•  When it is safe, those who are obstinate should be allowed to make their own mistakes. Other times, however, we have to stop the foolish behavior of willful people because the cost is too great.

•  Do we want God's blessings on us to continue? We need to act with humble faith, not foolishness. We need to choose to seek God's glory, not our own.

Today's Bible memory verse:

1Samuel 14:6c “Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few.” (NIV)

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