A Daily Dose of Good News
Tuesday, January 19, 2021
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Good morning! It’s time for our Daily Dose of Good News! It is January 19th and our text today is from 1st Samuel chapter 15. I’m going to read from verse 1 through verse 31. So while that’s long, I’m going to keep my comments pretty brief. I’m actually going to share something personal with you that I think might help us pull out a piece of the text that I think is important for us to consider and try to understand. So, if you have been joining us for the Daily Dose of Good News lately you’ll know we talked about Samuel yesterday. Samuel was this child who lived with Eli in the temple. He learned how to hear God from Eli. He became quite astute at hearing the voice of God, became a priest, became a prophet. He received a prophetic word from God to anoint Saul as king over Israel during these Old Testament days. So, Samuel anointed Saul and Saul became this man of God whom God had called him to be. This is a little bit further in that text, as we’ll see what has continued to occur and how the situation has continued to evolve.
Samuel said to Saul, “The Lord sent me to anoint you king over his people Israel; now therefore listen to the words of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did in opposing the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”
So Saul summoned the people, and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand foot soldiers, and ten thousand soldiers of Judah. Saul came to the city of the Amalekites and lay in wait in the valley. Saul said to the Kenites, “Go! Leave! Withdraw from among the Amalekites, or I will destroy you with them; for you showed kindness to all the people of Israel when they came up out of Egypt.” So the Kenites withdrew from the Amalekites. Saul defeated the Amalekites, from Havilah as far as Shur, which is east of Egypt. He took King Agag of the Amalekites alive, but utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep and of the cattle and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was valuable, and would not utterly destroy them; all that was despised and worthless they utterly destroyed.
Saul Rejected as King
The word of the Lord came to Samuel: “I regret that I made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me, and has not carried out my commands.” Samuel was angry; and he cried out to the Lord all night. Samuel rose early in the morning to meet Saul, and Samuel was told, “Saul went to Carmel, where he set up a monument for himself, and on returning he passed on down to Gilgal.” When Samuel came to Saul, Saul said to him, “May you be blessed by the Lord; I have carried out the command of the Lord.” But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears, and the lowing of cattle that I hear?” Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and the cattle, to sacrifice to the Lord your God; but the rest we have utterly destroyed.” Then Samuel said to Saul, “Stop! I will tell you what the Lord said to me last night.” He replied, “Speak.”
Samuel said, “Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. And the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go, utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do what was evil in the sight of the Lord?” Saul said to Samuel, “I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, I have gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me, I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But from the spoil the people took sheep and cattle, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.” And Samuel said,
“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as in obedience to the voice of the Lord?
Surely, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is no less a sin than divination,
and stubbornness is like iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
he has also rejected you from being king.”
Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned; for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. Now therefore, I pray, pardon my sin, and return with me, so that I may worship the Lord.” Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you; for you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.” As Samuel turned to go away, Saul caught hold of the hem of his robe, and it tore. And Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this very day, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. Moreover the Glory of Israel will not recant or change his mind; for he is not a mortal, that he should change his mind.” Then Saul[ ] said, “I have sinned; yet honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, so that I may worship the Lord your God.” So Samuel turned back after Saul; and Saul worshiped the Lord.
Here ends the reading.
It’s quite a text and I think one place where often readers get stuck is at the very beginning, when God says utterly destroy the people- man, woman, cattle, sheep, everything. Obliterate them. I think it’s very human for us to struggle in that space, because we know God as loving and merciful, and how does this fit with that? This call of destruction- of no, there’s not to be any salvaging here. I think we live in some tension with that. We can get stuck on that part of the story. But I’d like to offer a potentially different perspective, to help us consider it this morning. I’d like to offer a perspective of God being omniscient and knowing- better than us- what is good for us, what sin looks like, what repentance looks like and how those fit together. So in this text, God is very much calling out- ‘this is the sin of the Amalekites’. God is kind of calling a spade a spade. ‘This is sin and this is over. This is not going to continue. This is going to end right here and now. All these people are destroyed, all the livestock destroyed, I’m putting an end to this’.
I think a way for us to view that is through a Theology of Liberation. God is not for anything that we are in bondage to, that has power over us, that creates any sort of lifeless existence for us. God wants to demolish those things in our lives. God is not one to salvage sin. God is not one to try and save things that God believes areevil. That is the opposite of who God is and what God wants for us.
So, the personal way that I can relate to this a little bit, is in my marriage. Some of you may know that I’m going through a dissolution now. I know for me it was a hard decision to come to, because I thought certainly God would salvage the marriage. Like Saul, I will admit my own arrogance in thinking I knew what was best, and certainly God would salvage the marriage, certainly the marriage would continue, certainly that would be the way that this would be. I think what God demonstrated to me in that process was that God wants wholeness and health for all of us. When God looks at something and says ‘this is not what I want for you, this is not what I called you to, this is unhealthy, this is sin, there is not a chance of being redeemed or of repentance*, this needs to end here and now’. I think we have to trust God in that. I think we can trust God in that. I look back now in hindsight and think that was a wise decision. My own wisdom was not good enough. What was smart and wise in my own eyes, I don’t think would have been wise in God’s eyes. Just like for Saul, what was wise in his eyes, was to destroy the things that he considered worthless and to keep the things that he thought were valuable. If I had applied that same logic, I would have kept the marriage as what I thought was valuable. Because I would have seen that as having worth and value for my kids, and stability, and some other components like that. But for me, even in the ending of that marriage, it’s healthier now. It’s better now. My kids are in a better space now. I am in a better space now. I hope that my estranged husband is in a better space. So, it’s one of those things about our judgment of what is worthless and what is not worthless, does not always align with God. So, we need to trust that God will convey a hard stance when that’s necessary and important and to rely on that.
So, I encourage you today to look at anything in your life that God would look at it and say: ‘that’s not good for you, that’s sin, or that’sevil, or that needs to end right now’. Maybe you’re in a job that you’re trying to stay in and muscle through, and it’s just not a good environment for you, and maybe God’s calling you out of that. Or maybe there are other things that have a hold on you in a way that is unhealthy. Maybe those are things that others might consider addictions. There’s a whole range of what people can be addicted to- whether that’s alcohol, or drugs, or sexual content or work- many things. But it’s a chance for you to have a conversation with God about: Is there any place that God wants to simply pull something out of your life and say: ‘this is over’? ‘Period’. And to trust God as a faithful and loving God in that. Knowing that God has life for you, in those decisions. Have a great day, everybody. Bye-bye.
*(To clarify this point, in case I’m not saying it clearly: It’s not that God can’t redeem something. God can do anything. However, it’s about God truly knowing our hearts and whether we seek to follow God, and whether we actually repent of our actions. Or whether we’re unrepentant and therefore, the sinful behavior will stay rooted and also continue. God wants to redeem. However, we don’t always want to change our sinful actions and mindsets so God can do that).