This is my first blog. Louis and BJ were probably afraid they would have to explain to me what a “blog” is. Au contraire! According to one of the online dictionaries, a blog is “a website containing a writer’s or group of writers’ own experiences, observations, opinions, etc., and often having images and links to other websites.” Up to this point, I have been rather impressed with myself for learning to use “google” as a verb. But now I get to share my own experiences, observations, and opinions on a regular basis? Maybe share some really bad puns? And have a venue where I can talk about my grandchildren? Okay. Fasten your seat belts.
I’m currently reading about the life of King Saul in the book of 1 Samuel. You know the background: the main enemies of Israel at the time were the Philistines. The Israelites were tired of the ongoing struggle their enemies posed. So instead of turning to their Lord, they demanded that Samuel give them a king like all the other pagan nations had. (Ironic, isn’t it, that God called them to be different from other nations; their demand was to be like the other nations.) After Samuel anointed Saul as their king, the people became fearful that God would abandon them. Samuel gave them this assurance:
“Do not fear. You have committed all this evil, yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. You must not turn aside, for then you would go after futile things which cannot profit or deliver, because they are futile. For the LORD will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because the LORD has been pleased to make you a people for Himself. Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way. 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, both you and your king will be swept away.” (1 Samuel 12:20-25)
The passage itself is rich with truth, but notice several points to ponder in light of redemption in Jesus Christ:
1. Even though we have sin in our lives, God does not reject us—instead He exhorts us to begin again and “not turn aside”. We take up our cross (how often?) daily and follow Jesus. And every day is a new day.
2. The enticements that draw us away from the Lord are “futile”—even after we receive what we thought we wanted, they turn out to be empty, hollow, and unsatisfying. Only the Lord satisfies.
3. The reason God will not abandon Israel is not because of them, but because of Him. His Word and His name are at stake. And there is also great comfort here for believers in Jesus Christ, because He will never leave us, nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5); there is “no condemnation” for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).
4. Leaders have the responsibility to teach (hey, that’s what we do at SMBC!), but especially to pray for the body. And if I do not pray for the flock, I am sinning against God. Sobering stuff.
5. Finally, when you and I are in the battle, remember “what great things [God] has done for you.” Over and over again the refrain in Scripture is to remember, remember, remember. Do you ever become so caught up in the present problems that you forget God’s faithfulness in the past? He wants us to remember how He rescued us from those difficult times, and on the basis of His past faithfulness, to trust him for present and future trials.
If you do these things, your problems will dissolve away, right? Wrong. The Philistines remained as an ongoing challenge. But God was with them, as He is with us. The victory is not ours; it belongs to Him.