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Wednesday, July 8, 2020

2020.07.08 Hopewell @Home ▫ Read 1 Samuel 13

Questions from the Scripture text: How long had Saul been reigning (1 Samuel 13:1)? Whom did Saul choose for himself (1 Samuel 13:2)? How had they been split up? What did he do with the rest? What was Jonathan doing in 1 Samuel 13:3a while Saul did what in verse 3b? What version of the story did Israel hear in 1 Samuel 13:4a? To whom had Israel become odious? What did the Philistines do in 1 Samuel 13:5? How many chariots? Horsemen? Foot soldiers? How did Israel respond in 1 Samuel 13:6-7a? Where was Saul, and what were his people doing (verse 7b)? For whom were they waiting (1 Samuel 13:8)? What were the people doing? What does Saul do in 1 Samuel 13:9? What immediately happens (1 Samuel 13:10)? What is Saul’s explanation for taking it upon himself to offer the sacrifice (1 Samuel 13:11-12)? What does Samuel say about Saul’s action (1 Samuel 13:13)? What will the Lord not do for him now (1 Samuel 13:14)? How many people did Saul have left at this point (1 Samuel 13:15)? Where were he, they, and Jonathan (1 Samuel 13:16)? What did the Philistines do (1 Samuel 13:17-18)? Why didn’t the Israelites have swords and spears (1 Samuel 13:19-22)? Which Israelites did (verse 22b)? Where were the Philistines (1 Samuel 13:23, cf. 1 Samuel 13:16b)?
Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks upon the heart. That’s the theme of 1 Samuel, and the primary application is that the only way that “God knows my heart” becomes good news is if  what God sees is the character of Christ through faith in Christ, producing obedience to Christ.

For Saul, it is decidedly not good news. We see the dire straits of the Israelites. There’s no second amendment from the Philistines, who currently have the upper hand. The sheer numbers of 1 Samuel 13:5 are much exacerbated by the armament issues of 1 Samuel 13:19-23, which form an inclusio (literary “bookends”) with that verse to draw our attention to Saul’s sin in the middle.

With those bookends, and some emphasis upon the direness of Saul’s rapidly (1 Samuel 13:1-21 Samuel 13:15b) and visibly (1 Samuel 13:6-71 Samuel 13:11) dwindling numbers in we’re a little surprised at how heavily Samuel (and really, Yahweh by the mouth of His prophet) brings down the hammer in 1 Samuel 13:13-14. Who wouldn’t have done the same that Saul did?

God’s Word answers, “someone with a heart after Yahweh’s own” (1 Samuel 13:14). The heart of the matter is the heart!

Numbers, after all, don’t matter so much to God. John Knox (and many after him, such as Luther and Frederick Douglas) said rightly, “One plus God is a majority.” But really, “God plus no one is a majority.” When Joshua meets Jesus outside of Jericho and wants to know if He is for them or for their enemies, Jesus says, “No, I’m the Captain of My own army, so take your shoes.” We’re always fearing Canaanites from Jericho and Philistines at Michmash, when “the only thing we truly have to fear is God’s holiness itself.”

There are times when obedience is hard. In those times, we need to remember that God has given us Christ as Priest to offer Himself as sacrifice, because with any other priesthood or sacrifice, rather than incurring Yahweh’s favor, our worship to God offends His holiness and incite His wrath.

For Saul, that meant waiting for God’s appointed servant to offer God’s appointed sacrifice, both of whom God had ordained to point heart and mind forward to the Lord Jesus.

But like Peter looking down at the water, or Gehazi seeing tens of thousands of Assyrians instead of mountains covered by the warriors of heaven, Saul can’t see Jesus by faith and only sees innumerable well-armed Philistines, and increasingly numerable and poorly-armed Israelites.

So, 1 Samuel 13 points us to the greatness of God’s holiness, and the greatness of that sacrifice that He alone provides, NOT by minimizing the difficulties of our circumstances but by embracing them. And embracing the “greaterness” of God’s holiness and salvation by comparison. If we are going to be undauntedly obedient in daunting circumstances, we need to see God by faith in Jesus Christ, and then what God will see when He looks upon our hearts will be not our disobedience (also innumerable) but the perfect righteousness and sacrifice of His Son (infinitely greater).

A heart thus directed will obey, even with Saul’s six hundred (which, after all, was twice what God gave Gideon, and twice what God had just used to humiliate Nahash the Ammonite).
What obstacles to obedience do you face? Where/when/how does God set His holiness and gospel before you as greater? In what manner will you attend upon His means, to embolden your faith and obedience?
Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or TPH244 “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”

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