I’ve been away over the summer and am hoping to start blogging again. My plan is that this will take the form of a few short blogs exploring some themes from our Sunday service and a longer blog dealing with a theme (like holiness). This week I’m picking up our Sunday services from the middle of 1 Samuel. You can check out the audio sermons for a deeper discussion.
In 1 Samuel 15 we read of the battle that sealed Saul’s fate as a tragic failure. He failed to take seriously his responsibilities as God’s king and tried to con Samuel. In the end we were faced with the sad revelation that Samuel and Saul would not see each other again while Samuel lived. Worse, we read that Samuel ‘grieved over Saul’ and ‘the Lord was sorry that he had made Saul king over Israel.’
We left open the question of ‘what happens next?’ Israel’s experiment with having a king seemed to have failed; their government was divided and their king had shown himself unfit to lead. What would happen now?
1 Samuel 16:1-13 begins to answer these questions. It is where we meet the third major actor in our story, David, the man who would be the greatest king in Israel’s history. It is a story all about how God sees beyond what we can.
God Sees What Is Ahead
The first thing we notice is that God sees beyond our circumstances. We can only see the present and the past. God sees everything that could be and will be as well.
The story begins with a depressed Samuel. He has invested his hopes for the future in Saul and has been hugely let down. The future seems uncertain for him and for the young nation he has given his life to. More than that, however, he has seen God’s servant and his people letting him down.
I think that many of us can identify with Samuel’s grief. It is the pain of being let down by a friend or seeing your dreams seemingly collapse; it is the frustration and sadness of seeing your family, friends or even your country walk away from pursuing flourishing under God; it is the pain of betrayal, of disappointment, of knowing that this will end badly.
God does not deny or minimise Samuel’s grief and nor should we. It is proper and good to allow people space to mourn or be sad – to do otherwise is to deny the reality of sin and suffering.
Yet if we are not careful, that is where we stay. We can be left in a place of despair or grief without any hope or movement.
When we do this we misunderstand who God is. We can even begin to refuse to accept that God is in charge and not us.
The truth is that God is sovereign over everything including the failures of kings and friends, of countries and pastors. God is still God and he has a plan. So he tells Samuel to get up and get going again.
There is a challenge here for all of us.
We will face pain and disappointment. We will be hurt by people and circumstances and may even be afraid for the future. We live in a time when it will become increasingly difficult to hold to a Christian understanding of what it means to be human let alone to follow Jesus as God’s only Son.
Yet God is still sovereign despite everything and he still has a plan for us. He still has work for us to do.
Even in the midst of that pain and disappointment God has not given up on us and he has not been defeated. He is still working out his plans and his purposes and he still wants us to be involved in them.
From the nightmare of Saul’s failure will come the greatest king in Israel’s history.
We see this worked out more fully in Jesus. The moment when it appeared that God was ultimately defeated – at the crucifixion of his Son – was actually the moment of his greatest victory.
God specialises in bringing life from death, light from darkness and hope from despair.
Come back tomorrow to reflect on how God Sees What Is Inside
Franke, John R., Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1-2 Samuel, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. Old Testament, 3 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity P., 2001)
Leithart, Peter J., A Son to Me: An Exposition of 1 & 2 Samuel (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2003)
Murphy, Francesca Aran, 1 Samuel (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos, 2010)
Tsumura, David Toshio, The First Book of Samuel (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2007)