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The Message of The Bible - Part Nine
by Dave MillerIn our last lesson we were looking at the book of Judges which describes the dark ages of Jewish history. Itís a very depressing book, full of scenes of bloodshed, strife, all sorts of apostasy and departure from the will of God. The thematic statement found in the last chapter, last verse, summarizes the book, "Every man did that which was right in his own eyes."
Iíve often thought that the book of Ruth was given to us because of the depressing, negative nature of the book of Judges. The events of the book of Ruth took place during the period of the judges. The period of the Judges lasted about 300 years. The book of Ruth introduces us to a family who lived during that period. This husband and wife and two sons suffered the terrible effects of a famine that was in the land at that time. They lived in the little town of Bethlehem, so they moved to the east across the Jordan River into the land of Moab to escape the effects of that famine. They lived there for about a decade, during which time the husband of the family died. The two sons of the family met girls from the nation of Moab and married them. The names of those girls were Ruth and Orpah.
During the decade that they lived there, both boys passed away, leaving the mother of the family, Naomi, widowed and childless and her two daughters-in-law without husbands. She urged them to go on back to their own people and secure new husbands. Orpah agreed to do that, but Ruth didnít. Ruth wanted to stay with her mother-in-law. So together they left Moab after being gone for ten years and moved back to Palestine.
Naomi returned to her hometown of Bethlehem. Ruth met and married a wonderful man, Boaz. He was next in line in the levirate marriage law to replace her husband and to maintain the name of the deceased man along with the tribal land allotment, which belonged to that family. That little book comes to a close informing us that Ruth and her husband Boaz had a little baby boy, who not only refreshed Grandma Naomiís life, but actually became the grandfather of King David.
Thatís really the point of the book of Ruth. Social conditions during the period of the Judges were terrible. People were not listening to God and they were rejecting His will. Yet, there were still those faithful to God. Among those were Ruth, Boaz and Naomi. The book of Ruth closes pointing out that the child of Ruth and Boaz was in the lineage that brought King David into the world. King David, of course, was in the lineage that brought Jesus Christ into the world. That is the point of the book of Ruth. Even in the midst of depraved societal conditions, God continues to weave His will, to orchestrate His purposes and to accomplish His will. As a matter of fact, that baby was born in the little village of Bethlehem. Thatís exactly where Jesus would be born, centuries later, even though His parents were living in Nazareth. They were out on a family trip and thatĎs why the circumstances brought about His birth in the city of Bethlehem.
That brings us to First Samuel. Samuel was born into this world as a result of a request made by his mother. She was unable to have children for a lengthy period. It tormented her. In First Samuel chapter 1 weíre told that she poured out her soul. She begged God to bless her with pregnancy. God responded to her request and she gave birth to a little baby boy. She named him Shemuel, we say "Samuel". Shemuel means "God heard". She named him that because God had listened to her request and provided her with this little boy to refresh her own life.
When Samuelís mother begged God to produce this little boy, she said, "If youíll give me a child, I will turn him over to priestly service." At this point in Israelite history they had a portable tent structure that is described back in the book of Exodus. We call it the Tabernacle, the Tent. This was the focal point of priestly and ritualistic activity under the Law of Moses. At this point in history it was situated in the little village of Shiloh. This is before it was turned into a permanent structure in Jerusalem during the days of King Solomon.
Eli was the central priestly figure. So she turned little Samuel over to his priestly direction. We donít know how old he was when his mother brought him and turned him over to Tabernacle service for the rest of his life. I speculate probably nine years or less. One night the Bible tells us that Samuel had bedded down for the night when he heard his name called. The Bible tells us he jumped up and ran to Eli, who apparently had also gone to bed, and said, "What do you want?" Eli said, "I didnít call you. Go back to bed." That happened three times. On the third time Eli said, "The next time you hear your name called, stay right there where you are and say, ĎSpeak Lord, your servant is listening.í"
Eli suspected that he was being spoken to by God which the text says was extremely rare at this point in history. God had given the nation of Israel the Law of Moses. They had Godís will, the Bible, the inspired information to govern and direct their lives. They didnít need input from God miraculously or supernaturally. The Bible says it was very rare for God to step in and speak directly to people during that period of history. But He made an exception in this case. When Samuel heard his name called that fourth time, he just lay there and responded as Eli had told him and said, "Iím listening Lord. What do you have to say?" God delivered to that young child a sentence of judgment that made the ears of all who heard it tingle. It was a judgment sentence against Eli.
Eli had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, who were old enough to participate in priestly activity. But they were conducting themselves in a vile fashion. They were sexually immoral. They did other things that were inappropriate. God delivered this judgment sentence upon Eli because his sons made themselves vile and Eli did not restrain them. Thatís interesting. Eli rebuked his sons. He lectured them and told them they should not conduct themselves in this fashion. But then he took no physical steps to stop them from engaging in this illicit behavior. Therefore, God condemned him.
The next morning Eli asked Samuel what had happened, what was the message from God. Little Samuel didnít want to tell Eli, because of the severity of this judgment sentence. Eli said, "You have to tell me." He informed Eli that because of the way his sons had conducted themselves and because of the way Eli failed to deal with it as a father, as a parent, the result would be that Eli would die. His two sons would also die on the same day. There would be other ramifications down the course of time in their family lineage. Eliís attitude was one of resignation: "If thatís the Lordís will, so be it."
In chapter 4 of First Samuel we see the beginning of the fulfillment of these terrible declarations of judgment. We are told about a military engagement with the Philistines. The Israelites deployed their forces. The Philistines deployed their forces. After that engagement four thousand Israelite foot soldiers were killed. The military forces disengaged and went to their respective encampments. In the Israelite encampment they were very upset that they had lost so many men in the first skirmish. One of the elders had an idea. He said, "Weíre going to have to do something or we are going to lose this battle." He proposed that they send to the village of Shiloh for the most sacred national treasure of Israel. That would be the sacred Covenant Box. We call it the Ark of the Covenant. They thought if we bring that to the battlefield, that will give us the extra surge we need to be victorious over the Philistines. So they sent for it. Here it came from the little village of Shiloh. Guess who was bringing it? The two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas.
Whenever it arrived in the Israeli encampment, the Bible says that the military let out such a shout of excitement that the Philistines heard it in their encampment some distance away, and it upset them. They thought, from their superstitious perspective, perhaps gods had entered into the Israelite camp. Yet, when once again military forces were deployed and engaged, thirty thousand Israelite foot soldiers were slaughtered. The battle was lost. The Bible informs us that one hardened, battle weary soldier left the front lines, ran back to the little village of Shiloh, entered into that little village and began telling the inhabitants what had happened. They began crying and shrieking and wailing.
Eli, who was now ninety-eight years old and blind from old age, had taken up a seat outdoors. He was so nervous about the Ark of the Covenant being out of its rightful resting place, that he took up a seat outdoors and was waiting anxiously for the outcome of the battle. He heard the ruckus created by the people who were so distraught over the news that this foot soldier had brought them. He asked the young man to come over and tell him what had happened. He said, "Sir, there has been a great slaughter today, a great loss. Your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas were killed on the battlefield." Then he said, "The Ark of the Covenant has fallen into enemy hands." The Bible tells us that when Eli heard this last point, he fell over backwards out of the chair in which he was sitting. The fall snapped his neck and he died.
Meanwhile, his daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant at the time. When she heard the news, the Bible says she went into labor. As she was giving birth to her little baby boy, as she was about to die in childbirth, she gasped out the intended name of this little boy to whom she had just given birth. She named him Ichabod, which means "no glory". The Bible informs us that to her, not only the loss of her father-in-law, her husband and her brother-in-law, but the loss of the Ark of the Covenant, was the loss of Israelís glory. What another tragic and sad page in Bible and Israelite history!
Not long after that, in chapter 8, the people decide that they want a change. Today weíre living in a country that is very change oriented. My generation, the baby boomers, are very restless in their desire to have new things, always to be changing. When that comes over into the realm of religion, not being content and happy with what God says, thatís a very dangerous attitude. Whenever God speaks and says, "Hereís how it is. Hereís how I want it." That should be the end of it. If you and I are always challenging that, pressing God for change, wanting something new, that attitude, most of the time, leads people into apostasy, into violation of Godís will.
This propensity for change, this restless desire for something new, came in the form of a desire to have a king over them. Whatís wrong with that request? Why shouldnít the nation of Israel have a king? Samuel was crushed by this request. He took it personally. He thought, "These people are not happy with me." The specific situation that generated some of this restlessness was Samuelís own sons conducting themselves inappropriately in their responsibilities before the nation. He was hurt by that. But God told him, "Donít be hurt. Theyíre not rejecting you. Theyíre rejecting me." God explains how He had worked with this nation, first through Moses, bringing them out of Egypt. Moses was not a king. Then he turned the nation over to Joshua, who operated in a fine fashion. The nation did well. Joshua was not a king. Then he worked for 300 years through the period of the judges. Those judges, those military deliverers, were not kings. All through those years, those centuries, God was their king. For them to request a human king was to reject their one true king who was God.
We can have that attitude in life today. We can have human religious leaders that we put our faith and stock in. God doesnít want us to do that. God wants us to trust Him. He is our King. Jesus Christ is King of Kings and Lord of Lords as the New Testament teaches. Therefore, we should not give any sort of religious allegiance, any sort of worshipful respect, to human beings. God is worthy and Christ is worthy of all our worship and respect. In I Samuel 8, when they requested a king, God took it personally. "Theyíre rejecting Me." He said, "Samuel, hereís what I want you to do. I want you to go to the people and I want you to object. I want you to protest this request of theirs. Tell them, hereís whatís going to happen if you persist in your desire for this king." He rattles off a listing of very negative results that would come by shifting to a human monarchy. God says, "After you protest and tell them everything that is going to happen, then you go ahead and give them the king which they have requested."
Notice what we learn about God, His nature, His character. The Old Testament serves, in terms of one of its central purposes, to let us know who God is and what Heís like. When people clamor to God and insist upon their way, they had better be careful. God might give it to them. In contrast, we should have the attitude described in James chapter 4. James said you shouldnít make all your plans to do this and that without taking God into account. What you should say is, "Over the next year or so weíll go into the city. Weíll buy, sell and gain, if the Lord wills." That was the attitude of Jesus in the garden. Not many moments before He was arrested and ultimately crucified, He prayed to God three times, "May this cup pass from Me." He was saying, "I donít want to have to endure all of this pain and suffering, so I am asking You to remove this requirement from My life." But then every time He said, "Nevertheless, not My will but Thine be done." There is the attitude of a submissive compliant Christian.
God spoke to this nation and told them, "I donít want you to have a king." But they insisted, "We want a king." Then God said, "Alright, Samuel give it to them. Tell them whatís going to happen, and then give it to them." We need to stop and think about that in our lives and never insist upon anything in our lives that may not be in harmony with Godís will. We should always have an attitude of resignation and submission. "God, Your will be done." Certainly we ought to pray to Him, beg from Him, plead with Him regarding our needs and our desires. But the Bible says we should always pray according to His will and ask that His will be done in our lives no matter what we may want (James 4:15; I John 5:14).
Notice that God gave them the best man for the job. Even though it was against His will that they even have a king, He went ahead and assisted them in the selection process. He selected a man from the tribe of Benjamin, the son of Kish. His name was Saul. The Bible says He stood head and shoulders above his contemporaries. But in I Samuel 13, just a short time after his selection and coronation, weíre told Samuel had given him instructions about a number of things. Once he got to this particular location and prepared to engage the enemy, the Philistines, in battle, he was to await Samuelís arrival. Keep in mind that Samuel was the last judge in this string of judges from the book of Judges but he also served as a prophet. Saul was to await Samuelís arrival in order for Samuel to offer certain offerings, sacrifices to God, before Saul was to engage the enemy. As the time drew closer when Saul was to engage the enemy, the troops got restless. The people were scattering. It appeared that the Philistines were amassing and preparing to attack. The Bible says Saul became very concerned that Samuel had not yet arrived. So he took it upon himself to go ahead and to offer the sacrifices. This action, though religious, was religiously wrong, because Samuel was the only one authorized to offer the sacrifices on that occasion.
When Samuel arrived and saw what Saul had done he said, "What have you done? Youíve done foolishly here, and God will discredit you because if this." Two chapters later, in I Samuel 15, when God gives further instructions to Saul, he does the same thing again. He complies with about 90% of the instructions but makes adjustments. This time God tells Samuel, "When you see him tomorrow morning tell him I have rejected him from being king." When he met Saul, Saul said, "We saved the best of the sheep and oxen to sacrifice to God." Samuel said, in I Samuel 15:22, "Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams."
We are never justified in making up our own approach to worship or religion, even if we are sincere about it. The only way truly and sincerely to love God is to conform to Godís specifications. That passage in I Samuel 15:22 makes it clear that we are to comply with Godís will. Samuel said, "Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, God has rejected you from being king." Therefore he selected a successor. Weíre told in chapter 16 of I Samuel that the successor was a very young lad. He was about the eighth in a string of sons that were born into the home of a man by the name of Jesse. He was the youngest son. From physical appearance and from a human perspective he was the least likely to fulfill this role as the second king of Israel. But, the statement is made to Samuel by God on that occasion, "God doesnít look on the outside, like humans do." We look at some big, robust, muscular fellow and say, "He would make a good king." God says, "I donít look on the outside like humans do. I look on the inside. I look on the heart. I determine the character, the spirit and attitude of a man."
As we continue reading in the book of First Samuel, itís interesting to note that Saul reigned for a period of forty years. In the next lesson we will take a quick look at some of the events that took place in the thirty-one chapters of First Samuel during the time that Saul reigned. We will see how the political circumstances were maneuvered in order for David to occupy the throne and become the second king of the nation of Israel.This item originally appeared in The Truth In Love Television Program
The Message of The Bible - Part One
The Message of The Bible - Part Two
The Message of The Bible - Part Three
The Message of The Bible - Part Four
The Message of The Bible - Part Five
The Message of The Bible - Part Six
The Message of The Bible - Part Seven
The Message of The Bible - Part Eight
The Message of The Bible - Part Nine
The Message of The Bible - Part Ten
The Message of The Bible - Part Eleven
The Message of The Bible - Part Twelve