"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." 1 Peter 3:15

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Integrity part 2: Lessons from the life of Saul

We all have moments in life when we forget that God is with us behind our closed doors. Instead of boldly proclaiming “I will not be shaken”, we stumble and fall. Let’s look at two men who took some pretty significant spills in their lives: Saul and David. Both men were anointed by God to be king of Israel. But only one was called a man after God’s own heart.

In both instances, these men were confronted by Godly men. What can we learn from these men’s mistakes, and how they respond to confrontation? First, we will look at Saul. In our next post we will look at David’s great stumble found in 2 Samuel 11.

We read in 1 Samuel 15 that God commanded Saul to wipe out the entire Amalekite nation—all the people, and even their animals. It is hard for us to grasp how a loving and gracious God could command such a thing, but we must remember that God’s mind is much bigger than our own. He is just, righteous, and cannot sin. Israel were his chosen people, and he did not want them intermarrying with people who would bring their false gods into the lives of his people, robbing them of the joy they could find in him. The Amalekites were also a very violent people group who could harm Israel…and had done so in the past. God’s extreme response was to wipe them out—completely.

1st Lesson in integrity: What are the Amalekites in our lives—those things that desire to pull us from God and harm us? We all have things in our lives we need to kill off. Is it an unhealthy relationship that needs to end? Sever the ties. Temptations online? Get rid of the Internet in your home. Debt on a card? Fast from needless spending. Are these extreme responses? Yes—but so was Gods. Jesus says in Matthew 5, if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out, and if your hand causes you to sin cut it off—it is better for these parts to parish then for the whole body to be thrown to Hell!

Saul failed to obey the task God gave him, leaving the king alive, and taking the best of the livestock. Deuteronomy 25:18 tells us that the Amalekites did not fear the Lord. Saul’s disobedience shows that neither did he.

When confronted by the prophet Samuel, Saul justified his disobedience saying the plunder of the battle was to be sacrificed to the Lord. But God desired obedience over sacrifice. 2nd Lesson in integrity: We too must ask ourselves, what sin are we justifying in our lives? Justifying sin reveals the true nature of our heart before God.

Samuel responds to Saul’s justifications in verses 22-23

22 But Samuel replied,
“What is more pleasing to the LORD:
your burnt offerings and sacrifices
or your obedience to his voice?
Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice,
and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.
23 Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft,
and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.
So because you have rejected the command of the LORD,
he has rejected you as king.”

In verse 24 of 1 Samuel 15, we see Saul finally admit his sin, and plead for forgiveness. Next week, we will see that David too admitted his sin to the Lord. Yet, God’s response to these men is strikingly different. The Lord does not forgive Saul like he does to David. Why is this? We are not told directly, we could only guess. But I think the passage gives us hints.

Verse 12 tells us that after fighting the Amalekites, Saul set up a monument to himself. Only a man very full of himself would do such a thing, right? Yet, verse 17 reveals that God knew how little Saul actually thought of himself. When Saul confesses in verse 24, he admits that he was afraid of his people and did what they demanded—this is why he disobeyed the Lord. After confessing, he begged Samuel to honor him before the people by going to the temple to worship the Lord with him.

It appears that Saul’s heart found its value in what his people thought of him. He was more concerned in pleasing others than in pleasing the Lord. 3rd Lesson in integrity: Who are our hearts set to please?

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