Worthless Things

Samuel replied, “Don’t be afraid. Even though you have committed all this evil, don’t turn away from following the Lord. Instead, worship the Lord with all your heart. Don’t turn away to follow worthless things that can’t profit or deliver you; they are worthless. 1 Samuel 12:20-21

My wife and I enjoy antiquing. Some of the items we find are beautiful, old, rare, and perhaps quite valuable. One of the things I enjoy the most is finding something of great value at a low price. To me it is like finding a diamond in the rough. On the other hand, there are many items in antique stores that can be classified as worthless. I have heard it said that one man’s junk is another man’s treasure, but some of these items are valueless, and should be thrown on the junk pile.

Samuel reminded the people that they needed to follow the Lord and worship Him with all their hearts. God is a great treasure. He owns everything in the world and has great power but too many times the Israelites rejected the one true God and sought false gods that were worthless. These false gods were of no value; they did not profit the people or deliver them from their enemies.

Challenge: God is your treasure and great find! Put your trust in Him. Seek Him with all your heart. Worship and follow Him. Are you putting your trust in the worthless things of the world rather than in God? Thank God that He is your God and put your life in His hands. He will take care of you.

See What Great Things God Can Do

Now, therefore, present yourselves and see this great thing that the Lord will do before your eyes. Isn’t the wheat harvest today? I will call on the Lord and He will send thunder and rain, so that you will know and see what a great evil you committed in the Lord’s sight by requesting a king for yourselves. 1 Samuel 12:16-17

In the Atlantic ocean hurricanes usually occur during the months of June and November peaking in late August through September. January 14, 2016 hurricane Alex formed in the Atlantic Ocean west of the Canary Islands. Alex became the first named storm of 2016 as well as the first hurricane to form in the Atlantic in January since 1038. This was a rare occurrence.

The wheat season usually came in the summer when it was dry and rain was unusual. Samuel told the people that he was going to call on God to bring rain and thunder. The rare occurrence of rain during this time would be an indication to the people of God’s displeasure with Israel’s demand for a king and show the great power and authority that God had over every element of life, including the weather.

Challenge: God is in control. There is nothing that God cannot do. He can bring about a miracle in any situation. Seek Him and His ways and see what great things God can do. Listen to the song, “How Great Thou Art” as sung by George Beverly Shea at the Billy Graham Crusade in New York, New York in 1969 on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dsrEscUUNMA

Fear, Worship, and Obey God

If you fear the Lord, worship and obey Him, and if you don’t rebel against the Lord’s command, then both you and the king who rules over you will follow the Lord your God. However, if you disobey the Lord and rebel against His command, the Lord’s hand will be against you and against your ancestors. 1 Samuel 12:14-15

We all desire for our children to obey and do what we say. We want only the best for them and provide direction to protect them. When our children are obedient, we are proud parents and want others to know that they are our children. On the other hand if they disobey, we may be reluctant to proclaim they belong to us. Regardless of their behavior, our children are still our children and we should love them unconditionally and continue to do what is best for them.

God loves all of His children and desires only the best for each one. If we follow His commands and directions we will find the abundant life that Jesus describes in John 10:10. God blesses the good and the bad, but I firmly believe that He watches over and protects those who obey Him and strive to follow His commands. When we rebel and disobey God’s laws, we usually suffer the consequences of our poor choices.

Challenge: Fear the Lord. The word “fear” carries the connotation that we are to treat God with reverence, honor, and respect. Worship the Lord. The word worship actually means to serve the Lord. Obey God. Follow His laws and the direction you find in the Bible. Regardless of your behavior, God still loves you and wants only the best for you.

God Is Your King

But when you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites was coming against you, you said to me, “No, we must have a king rule over us” – even though the Lord your God is your king. 1 Samuel 12:12

As parents our goal is to bring our children up to become adults who will make all of their own decisions. As children, we guide them and tell them what they should and should not do. But as they mature, they become more independent and make more of their own decisions. Even though all of my children are now grown, I am still their parent and expect them to respect me as their father. There is no greater joy than when my children call me and ask for my advice and direction.

Samuel reminded the Israelites that they now had what they had requested – a king that would rule over them and protect them. He went on to say that the Lord God was their true King. Even though they had an earthly king to rule over them, they still needed to make God the real King of their lives and look to Him for direction and protection.

Challenge: God is the King of everything and we are subject to His laws. No one is exempt from God’s laws. We must recognize God as King and pattern our lives according to His laws and principles. God is pleased when we look to Him for direction and protection.

Refusing to Listen

The people refused to listen to Samuel, “No!” they said, “We must have a king over us.” 1 Samuel 8:19

I am fortunate to have five grandchildren. All of them are three years of age and younger. Three of them are one year old and are at the age where they are getting into everything. They are exploring their world. We have to keep an eye on them at all times in fear they will get into something they should not or break something. We can say “No” and move them away from something that might be harmful to them, but they will immediately crawl or walk back to the object regardless of our warnings. This represents our sinful nature as humans – we like what we are doing and do not want to yield to the warnings. We often continue to return to our sinful behavior even when it causes us pain and suffering.

The Israelites were determined to have a king rule over them regardless of the warnings that Samuel gave them. They seemed to be blinded to the truth. That is the way Satan often works in our lives. He blinds us to the truth so we will keep pursuing the sinful behavior in opposition to God and that for which He stands.

Challenge: When have you been stubborn and demanded “I must have”? God will allow you to make poor choices, but you must understand that poor choices results in poor results. Don’t demand your own way. Seek God’s way and follow His leadership in your life.

What is God’s Perfect Will?

“Listen to them but you must solemnly warn them and tell them about the rights of the king who will rule over them.” 1 Samuel 8:9

In our world there seems to be warnings all around us. Warning: small objects, choking hazard; Warning: Alarm will sound when door is opened; Warning: Contains peanuts. The list is endless of the numerous warnings we encounter each day, however the warnings help to protect us and keep us safe.

God was going to allow the Israelites to have the king they desired, but He wanted Samuel to warn them of the dangers of having a king rule over them in place of following God and making Him the King of their lives. There are always consequences and implications for the decisions we make. Sometimes God allows us to make a poor choice even though it may lead to pain and suffering. He can use our poor decisions as a way of teaching us a lesson.

Challenge: You have choices to make. God may allow you to make a poor choice and you will be in God’s permissive will. It is not the best way, but God can still work His good from your poor choices. If you make a good choice then you are in God’s perfect will and you may not have to experience the pain and suffering of a poor choice. Pray that God will reveal His perfect will for your life and that you will make good, wise choices.

Feeling Rejected?

But the Lord told him, “Listen to the people and everything they say to you. They have not rejected you; they have rejected Me as their king. They are doing the same thing to you that they have done to Me, since the day I brought them out of Egypt until this day, abandoning Me and worshiping other gods. 1 Samuel 8:7-8

There is nothing much more painful than being fired from a job. A person feels hurt and rejected and that he is not quite good enough. Sometimes a person deserves to be fired because he is not fulfilling his responsibilities or is not doing his job correctly, but frequently a person is fired without legitimate cause.

Samuel felt that he was being fired as the judge and prophet of Israel. The people did not want him to lead them any longer. They wanted a king to lead them so they could be like other nations that had a king. A change in leadership was what they wanted. Doesn’t that sound like the political system in the United States? It seems that no matter who the elected official may be, there is always a group that wants a change. They want someone else to lead.

God affirmed Samuel and told him that the people were rejecting Him rather than Samuel. The people were rejecting God as their king. No matter how much God loved them, protected them, and provided for them, the Israelites seemed bent on following other gods and rejecting the one true God.

Challenge: How have you rejected God by your actions? Instead of rejecting and abandoning God, make Him the “King” of your life. Let Him rule in every area of your life. He will show you the right way to live so you can minister to others and bring honor and glory to Him.

The Same As Everyone Else

“Therefore, appoint a king to judge us the same as all the other nations have.” When they said, “Give us a king to judge us,” Samuel considered their demand sinful, so he prayed to the Lord. 1 Samuel 8:5-6

As a former youth pastor I understand the pressure that many teenagers face to be like their peers. They want to have the same hairstyle, wear the same type of fashion brand shoes, pants, and shirts, and want to go to the same concert or movie. In general they want to be like everyone else so they will fit in and be accepted. One of the worst experiences for a teenager is to be ridiculed and excluded from the group. We often think this is just a teenage problem, but adults often exclude others because of the way they dress, where they were educated, where they live, what type of car they drive, where they work, and even were they go to church. The pressure to conform and be like everyone else extends into adulthood.

This is exactly what the Israelites wanted – a king so they could be like all of the other nations. But this was exactly opposite from what God desired. He wanted them to be different and set apart from all of the other nations. He desired for them to be a people that put God first in their lives and followed Him and His leadership rather than an earthly king.

Challenge: God still has that same desire for His people today. Evaluate your own life and determine if you are seeking the approval of others or God. Have you excluded others for some reason? Pray that God will lead you in the ways of righteousness and that you will follow with obedience.

Are You Setting A Good Example?

So all the elders of Israel gathered together and went to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “Look, you are old, and your sons do not follow your example. 1 Samuel 8:4-5 HCSB

We just celebrated Father’s Day. God has blessed me with four wonderful children, two boys and two girls. I hope and pray that I have brought them up correctly and that they have learned from me how to live and conduct themselves in a Christ-like manner. It is a challenging responsibility to raise children and bring them up in the ways of the Lord. I pray that I have set a good example for them to follow.

Evidently, Samuel set a good example for his two sons to follow, but they chose to go their own way. They lived lives that were characterized by dishonest gain, bribes, and perverted justice. They were not good candidates to become the next leaders or judges of Israel, therefore the elders from each tribe came to Samuel to request that God appoint a King to rule over them instead of Samuel’s sons.

Challenge: What type of example are you setting for your children? Children must make their own choices. If you have a child who has made wrong choices, it does not necessarily mean you have set a bad example. Ask God to help you to be a shining example to your children and others. May the Light of Jesus shine forth in your life. Watch the video on YouTube of the song “Slow Fade” by Casting Crowns. at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QASREBVDsLk

Follow The Instructions

The cart came to the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh and stopped there near a large rock. The people of the city chopped up the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord. The Levites removed the ark of the Lord, along with the box containing the gold objects and placed them on the large rock. That day the men of Beth-shemesh offered burnt offerings and made sacrifices to the Lord. 1 Samuel 6:14 HCSB

There is something about the male ego that does not want to ask for directions or find it necessary to read instructions. A man wants to do it on his own without any help from others. Several times when I have tried to put something together without reading the instructions and assumed I could figure it out by myself, only to find that I needed guidance if I was going to put it together correctly. Without reading the instructions I have usually missed a vital step that needed to be included.

This passage references female cows, so when the people sacrificed the cows as a burnt offering, they were not following the law of God which says, “to bring an unblemished male” (Leviticus 1:3) as a burnt offering. This is an example of doing something with the right motive but still not following God’s instructions. The next verse tells us that the men of Beth-shemesh offered burnt offerings and made sacrifices. The Levites should have offered the burnt offerings for the people, so again the people were not following the instructions of God.

Challenge: God gives us instructions for our own good and benefit. They guide and help us do things in a way that brings honor and glory to Him. When we fail to follow God’s instructions and do things our way, we often find ourselves in a mess that is hard to untangle. Pray that God will help you know and follow His instructions.