Love Letter From God: Whose Kingdom Is It? John 3:16, Samuel 15:12-23

Partial Transcript:


John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that who ever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life

I Samuel 15:12-23

Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the Lord sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the Lord. This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt.Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’”

So Saul summoned the men and mustered them at Telaim—two hundred thousand foot soldiers and ten thousand from Judah. Saul went to the city of Amalek and set an ambush in the ravine. Then he said to the Kenites, “Go away, leave the Amalekites so that I do not destroy you along with them; for you showed kindness to all the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt.” So the Kenites moved away from the Amalekites.

Then Saul attacked the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur,near the eastern border of Egypt. He took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and all his people he totally destroyed with the sword. But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.

Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel: “I regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” Samuel was angry, and he cried out to the Lord all that night.

Early in the morning Samuel got up and went to meet Saul, but he was told, “Saul has gone to Carmel. There he has set up a monument in his own honor and has turned and gone on down to Gilgal.”

When Samuel reached him, Saul said, “The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord’s instructions.”

But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?”

Saul answered, “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.”

“Enough!” Samuel said to Saul. “Let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night.”

“Tell me,” Saul replied.

Samuel said, “Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. And he sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; wage war against them until you have wiped them out.’ Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?”

“But I did obey the Lord,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the Lordassigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lordyour God at Gilgal.”

But Samuel replied:

“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
    as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
    and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
    and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
    he has rejected you as king.”

Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the men and so I gave in to them. Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord.”

But Samuel said to him, “I will not go back with you. You have rejectedthe word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you as king over Israel!”

As Samuel turned to leave, Saul caught hold of the hem of his robe, and it tore. Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors—to one better than you. He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.”

Saul replied, “I have sinned. But please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel; come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord your God.” So Samuel went back with Saul, and Saul worshiped the Lord.

Then Samuel said, “Bring me Agag king of the Amalekites.”

Agag came to him in chains. And he thought, “Surely the bitterness of death is past.”

But Samuel said,

“As your sword has made women childless,
    so will your mother be childless among women.”

And Samuel put Agag to death before the Lord at Gilgal.

Then Samuel left for Ramah, but Saul went up to his home in Gibeah of Saul. Until the day Samuel died, he did not go to see Saul again, though Samuel mourned for him. And the Lord regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.

Let us pray:

Hide me behind your cross, Lord Jesus. Articulate the Father’s heart through my voice and let the Holy Spirit breathe new life to us, opening our ears to hear the message of God. Amen

As we have learned about the children of Israel in these weeks of messages, we have repeatedly seen that God will tell them to do something and they will find ways to work around it. I Samuel is the first half of what was once a larger book (II Samuel is the second half), and it essentially tells the story of the last judge in Israel, who becomes a prophet and his dealings with the first and second Kings in Israel.

Because Samuel is judge for most of his adult life, but Israel begs for a King. Samuel reminds them that they have a King – God – but Israel wants a King that they can see and touch and talk to in person. God tells Samuel that they have not rejected him, but God and God will appoint a King for them. Samuel is to anoint him. Samuel warns the people that a king will demand things of them that they don’t want – and will likely try to take the honor that should be God’s for himself. But they demand a king anyway, and Samuel seeks God’s choice for the first king of Israel

Saul is chosen, although at the anointing ceremony, he hides behind luggage to avoid being in charge. The passage of scripture we have read this morning tells us that after a humble start, Saul quickly decided he was good enough and smart enough and fierce enough to be king without direction from God – and this is actually the 2nd time Saul has gotten in pretty big trouble.

The problem Saul has is a heart problem. It looks like an obedience problem, and it is, but the reason Saul has an obedience problem is because of his heart issue.

Saul has decided that he somehow has the wherewithal to be king under his own power and has set himself up as king of his own heart.

God has already given the command that God should be God and the only one worshiped – but Saul has figured that he deserves not only his own praise but also the praise of the people he governs and leads.

And therein lies the problem – Saul has done what the Israelites were warned about – he has become enamored with the results that God has blessed him with and determined they are of his own making. And he demands the people’s praise.

There’s a story in the Gospels that tell of a rich man who comes to Jesus and asks about eternal life. Jesus tells him to sell all he has and give it to the poor. The man walks away sad because he has been given so much.

Then Jesus says that it is harder for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.

That admonishment doesn’t mean no one who has means can get to God; it means that one who has means doesn’t think they NEED God. And that is Saul’s predicament as well.

Saul thinks he no longer needs the very one who chose him and put him in power and awarded him victory after victory. Saul thinks he is king enough and man enough to be victorious on his own. Samuel tries to warn him the first time he disobeys – in that moment, Saul actually set up an altar after a battle and did the sacrifice to God on his own, even though he was told to wait for Samuel. He did it because he wanted his subjects, who were getting restless waiting for Samuel after a battle, to see how much power and impressive skill he had – not a desire to worship God. Saul TELLS himself he wants to worship, but really he wants everyone to see how amazing he is.

And Samuel warns him of his folly.

But Saul doesn’t see.

And so this time, when Saul disobeys, God strips him of the anointing presence of the Holy Spirit which has been the blessing of Saul’s kingdom up to this point, and suddenly, Saul is no longer the king he once was.

God quickly anoints David, who at this point is a very young boy, serving as a shepherd in Bethlehem. David will come and serve under Saul, and then Saul will become jealous of David after he defeats Goliath and Saul is determined to kill David.

Because he sees how David has what he once did and recognizes that if he doesn’t kill David, David will become king in his place.

The rest of I Samuel is the telling of Saul’s pursuit of David and the ways God protected David. Saul ultimately takes his own life after a defeat in battle. II Samuel tells much of David’s story, and next week we’ll learn of the mistake that David made and how the result was somewhat different – because David’s heart was different.

But for today, I’d ask you to think about what things God might be asking you to give over for the sake of the Kingdom? What area do you feel as though you are “king” over in your life? What place do you need to ask God to work with you on, because you’ve said “thanks God, I’ve got this”?

We all find places to evict God as King of our lives – sometimes it’s in parenting, sometimes it’s in our jobs, sometimes it’s how we spend our money, sometimes it’s how we handle hard times. God shows us over and over that when God is given control or kingship over an area that we wanted to keep – God shows us that God’s way, God’s leadership, God’s direction is always covered with blessing. Sometimes that blessing is in resolution of our circumstance or in a better job, a better financial situation, better health. But sometimes God’s blessing is just the knowledge that God is working and God is not only at work in the situation, but that God is with us in it.

Because we don’t always get the promotion, even when God is king over our work life.

Because we don’t always get healed the way we want to, even when God is king over our health.

Because we don’t always get financial freedom, even when God is king over our money.

But we do get GOD. And God as King means that even if our lives are a mess from the world’s standards, our lives can be blessed by the Kingdom standard – because blessing, the best blessing, isn’t #blessed on a happy day of life, but it is God’s continual working presence in our lives and our hearts, so that everything we do is done with the focus of God’s kingdom, not our own.

As we have been doing every week in this series, I will remind you of what it looks like to say that the love of God is found in every page of Scripture:

What does it mean to say God loves?

God loved us enough to create us, to form us from the dust.

God loved us enough to let us fail, to let us choose our own way over God’s – to let us chain ourselves to sin and defeat and heartbreak and sorrow and death.

God loved us enough to provide a rescue, a way back: through wanderers, murderers, adulterers, defaulters, promise-breakers, foreigners, strangers, and lovers.

God loved us enough to show us mothers, judges, kings, and prophets who loved and spoke for God and kept reminding us of the promise of redemption

God loved us enough to show us how evil and wrong continually mess things up and how obedience to God fosters holiness and bestows blessing

God loved us enough to send us Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, to preach and live peace, grace, hope, joy, and love.

God loved us enough to see Jesus rejected, to see him die, to see him buried.

God loved us enough to raise Jesus from the dead and send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all we have in him and empower us to live like him.

God loved us enough to want us to live like Jesus – and abundant life infused with all the fruit of the Spirit, redeemed, free, loved.

God loved us enough to still let us choose our destiny.

God loved us enough to promise the hope of forever, of resurrection from the dead, and judgement.

God loved us enough, God loves us enough, God will always love us enough.

For God so loved the world…

God loves you.

God wants you to know it. God wants you to live in it.

God wants you to be able to love others because you know you are loved.

God’s love is expressed to us every week, most tangibly, as we gather at this table: The Son who died and yet lives, gave everything so we could know the depth of God’s love.

So, Come. Drink the wine. Eat the bread. Know you ARE loved.

God loves you. Go, love the world with him.

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