Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I Samuel

This is the beginning of a major transitional period for Israel from the reign of judges to the reign of kings. It is a major point that is made that this was not a neutral shift in regards to the people’s attitude about their allegiance to God. God makes it clear that their choice to have a king is a rejection of His leadership. However, He still chooses not to completely reject Israel and works his purposes even in the face of this new rejection by the people and continues to show Himself merciful.


The book begins by focusing in on the final generation ruled by the judges. The story of Samuel, the final judge, is told. His mother Hannah is barren, and she cries out to God for a child. She promises that if she is given a child, she will give that child to serve God in the tabernacle all his life. God grants her request, and Samuel is born. Hannah is faithful to her promise and dedicates Samuel to serve while he is still an infant.

Meanwhile, Eli, the current priest and judge in Israel is judged by God for not disciplining his sons. They are behaving, as priests, in a way that is dishonoring and displeasing to God. Samuel hears the voice of God and brings confirmation of this judgment to come for Eli and his sons to Eli himself. Eli acknowledges God’s judgment and awaits it. In the midst of a battle, Eli’s sons are killed, and the Ark of the Covenant is captured. Eli dies at the moment he hears the news. The Philistines possess the ark for a short period of time, but they return it back to Israel after being afflicted and supernaturally assaulted because of their possession of it. Samuel eventually leads the people to repentance once they are willing to turn from unfaithfulness with other gods. In the midst of their unified repentance, the Philistines attack, but this time they are defeated by Israel. Samuel judges Israel for many years after this. The people have no faith in Samuel’s sons, and they choose to cry out for a king. God encourages Samuel to obey their desire, but he is to make clear to them that this is an unwise choice. God also makes it clear to Samuel that the people are rejecting God’s leadership by choosing a king. The people insist. God yields to their desire.


The first king of Israel is Saul. God instructs Samuel to anoint him as king. He is extremely uncomfortable and lacking in confidence in regard to his ability to be king. However, he rallies the people to a heroic rescue of the people of Jabesh Gilead, and he seems to be off to a good start. Samuel announces he is no longer going to be their judge. He challenges Israel to identify any point and time when he abused his office. The people confirmed his faithfulness in performing his role as judge without any abuses. Samuel next takes an opportunity to revisit their recent history of unfaithfulness during the time of judges and God’s continued mercifulness in the face of that unfaithfulness. He challenges them to recognize their own wickedness in demanding a king and shows them a sign of the truth of this. The people cry out for mercy. Samuel strongly encourages the people to follow God with their whole heart and warns them of the consequences if they don’t. Saul takes it upon himself to offer a sacrifice that Samuel was supposed to offer. This was a major act of disobedience to God. Samuel prophecies Saul’s loss of the kingdom. Saul fights the Philistines and wins largely due to Jonathon’s involvement and faith in God. Saul is charged with completely wiping out the Amalekites as a judgment from God. Instead, he disobeys and spares the king and the best of the spoils. Samuel pronounces judgment against Saul. Samuel is sent to anoint David as the next king.


David is brought in to play the harp to soothe Saul. Saul does not know David was anointed to be the next king. The story of David and Goliath is recounted during this time, and David and Saul’s son, Jonathon, become very close friends. After David’s victory over Goliath, he is raised to a prominent military leader and has great successes. Saul becomes very jealous of David and begins to plot David’s death. Jonathon helps David to remain safe in the midst of his father’s hatred. David finally has to flee. He hides for a while with Israel’s enemies, the Philistines. He also hides in caves and hides his parents with the Moabites until he is not concerned for their safety any longer. (Please note David’s family’s connection with the Moabites from my post regarding the book of Ruth.) David saves a city in Israel from a foreign attack at God’s command. Then God tells David that the same city will surrender David to Saul, David flees again. Saul pursues David, and twice, David has opportunities to kill Saul and end his pursuit, but he is unwilling to because Saul is “God’s anointed one.” Samuel dies, and Israel mourns. David almost carries out judgment against an evil and obstinate man, but he is stopped by the man’s wife, Abigail. The man dies soon after, and David marries Abigail. He also marries Ahinoam, and David’s first wife, Michal, is given by Saul to wed another man. David goes back to the land of the Philistines again after the second time he spares Saul’s life. David engages in secretive raids against his non-jewish neighbors and claims that he was raiding Judah. Achish, a Philistine leader, trusts him because he believes he is raiding Judah. Saul seeks counsel from God, but God does not give him any. This causes Saul to seek out a person who communicates with the dead, and Saul summons Samuel. Samuel rebukes him and tells him of his and his family’s defeat and death in the coming battle against the Philistines. David is not allowed to fight with Philistines against Israel. Philistine leaders other than Achish do not trust him. David and his men’s people are attacked and abducted while they are away meeting with the Philistine leaders. They overtake the Amalekites who took his people and possessions and defeat them and bring their people and possessions back. Saul and his sons are killed in their battle against the Philistines as it was prophesied. Israel is defeated. The Philistines desecrate Saul’s body and display it for their people to see. The inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead send a force in and take back Saul’s remains and bury them. Remember that Saul led Israel and rescued Jabesh Gilead in the beginning of his reign.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Five Years of Blogging

Wow! I did not expect to be doing this for this long. I know I don't have a large number of folks following this blog, but I can honestly say that I don't care. I truly enjoy writing, and I appreciate those who do follow it. I hope something I've written will be of use and will resonate with others who read it, but I do this for two primary reasons.

1. It helps me process my life and work through my own thoughts.

2. One day I want my kids to have insights into my thoughts, as well as my decisions.

Hopefully, I'll get better as I continue, but I'm thankful to have been given an outlet that gives me so much fulfillment.

P.S.--Thanks to my Myndall for your love and words of support for this creative outlet. I am blessed beyond words by having you as my wife.

Smooches and Sunshine. :)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Praying for our "enemies"

I suppose we all have them in our lives. I am referring to people who make us cringe at the very thought of them. Oh yes, the reasons vary. Some inspire this response because of their shamelessly poor treatment of others. Some cause us to feel this way because of the deeply held beliefs that are polar opposites to our own. Perhaps they are a little to willing to speak with a cruel sense of disdain about everyone and everything we care for, or they may literally be guilty of violent and abusive acts against us. Regardless of why they cause our blood to boil, our skin to crawl, and our desire to be merciful to evaporate, Jesus has instructions for us.

Pray for them. Bless them. Ask God to help them. Ask Him to forgive them. He does not command us to endorse their behaviors, beliefs, or attitudes. He commands us to pray for them.

In the sixth chapter of Ephesians, Paul makes a clear point. We, as followers of Christ, do not wrestle against flesh and blood. We wrestle against powers that are spiritual in nature. Remember that Paul was persecuting the church before he was leading it.

The violence that people are guilty of in this life, the abuse they perpetrate, the wrong beliefs they adopt and lead others astray with are real, and I am not dismissing them as not genuinely morally wrong, but our "enemies" are not our enemies. We must pray for our "enemies" because if we don't, our true enemy will use our disdain, our cringe, and our unmercifulness to defeat us from the inside out.

When we pray for our "enemies", we yield to our Lord's will, and He grows stronger within us. In praying for them, we acknowledge that the enemy that inspires them and has a hold in their life and through their life is the same one who seeks to gain a control in our lives. The ONLY way to defeat him in our lives and in the lives of those we both love AND cringe toward is to yield to Christ and let His strength win.

Sunday, March 06, 2011


The setting for the book of Ruth is during the time period of the Book of Judges. It is near the end of that phase of Israel's national history. It is somewhat unique to other Old Testament books in several ways. One of those ways is the focus on the personal story of Ruth, who is not even a Jewish woman at the beginning of the story. Ruth seems to recognize the uniqueness of Naomi, her mother-in-law. She relocates with Naomi back to Israel AND boldly aligns herself with Naomi's God. In verses 16 and 17 of chapter one, Ruth joins herself to Naomi's people, to her God, and vows to be with her til death. This is in spite of the fact that Naomi's husband has died and her two sons have also died while living in Ruth's homeland of Moab. Upon arriving back in Israel, Ruth goes out and begins to work to collect food for provisions for the both of them.

An interesting statement in verse 3 of chapter 2 seems to hint at providential guidance, "...she happened to come to the portion of the field belonging to Boaz." Boaz recognizes Ruth's character, and he invokes God when referencing her praiseworthy behavior, "All that you have done for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband has been fully reported to me, and how you left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and came to a people that you did not previously know. May the Lord reward your work, and your wages be full from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge."(Ruth 2:11&12). Boaz then orders his servants to treat her well and allow her to gather from his fields. Interestingly, he does not simply give Naomi and Ruth food, but he gives them greater access to his fields so they can come and gather enough for their needs.

The story takes and interesting twist when we discover that Boaz is a relative of Naomi's dead husband. In Israel's culture at this time, this meant that he was in a unique position to "redeem" his relatives land and lineage. This meant that he could choose to cultivate the land AND marry a bride of the dead relative to keep their family line from dying off. Naomi's advises Ruth to submit this idea to Boaz in a rather creative way, and Boaz seems quite taken with Ruth and pursues this avenue. However, there is a twist. There is one other "kinsmen redeemer" who has first choice before Boaz can have an opportunity to do so. Boaz informs his of the situation, and he declines. There is much more to digest from the way that this story unfolds than I have given time to here, but upon the other relative declining, Boaz marries Ruth, and they conceive a son named Obed. This is probably the closest to "...and they lived happily ever after..." you will find in the Bible.

There is one more interesting twist to finish off the book. The book of Ruth is also a transitional book from the time period of Judges to the time of Kings. The great hero of Israel will always be King David. You discover in the closing passages of Ruth that Boaz is David's great grandfather.

Side note--as a Christian, I cannot help but notice the unbelieveable amounts of parallels in the story and the redemption story of Christ. Feel free to explore these angles of Ruth as well as you read the story.