Read 1 Samuel 15-16
Most of us are familiar with the phrase, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
In other words, what we see may not accurately represent the content inside. The same could be said for 1 Samuel 15 & 16.
The time has come for Samuel to go to the house of Jesse, as the Lord told him, and anoint Israel’s next king. Samuel see’s Eliab, and based on what Samuel sees, he thinks, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord” (1 Samuel 16:6).
Look at verse 7. The Lord says to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him.”
Wow. But why? Eliab looked kingly enough.
God continues talking. He says, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).”
Samuel goes on to anoint Jesse’s youngest son, David. David was not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but is referred to as “a man after God’s own heart” (See 1 Samuel 13 & Acts 13).
For most of us, judging character based on outward appearance comes naturally. We tend to create a list of qualities we admire in our own lives which then dictates what we perceive to be true about a person.
At times, our inability to see one’s heart can impede our ability to extend grace. Thankfully, God is not like that. He sees our value because of who we are in Him, all imperfections aside.
Read 1 Samuel 13-14
I remember sitting in the back corner of the church that raised me back in Somerset (which is not in eastern Kentucky, despite what some of you believe). The speaker was a church planter raising support to plant a church in the Boston area. The text was 1 Samuel 14. The point he made that night was both profound and simple enough for me to remember it some 13-14ish years later: What if God shows up?
If you’ve read today’s passage, you saw the challenge. The tandem of Jonathan and his armor bearer off on their own, facing down the Philistines. They were alone, they were outnumbered, but Jonathan was hopeful:“It may be that the Lord will work for us…” (1 Sam. 14:6).What if God shows up?
As for the speaker that night, he was pondering that question for his own ministry. The context he was walking into was a difficult one—but what if God showed up? By all accounts, God did show up, just as he did for Jonathan and his armor bearer. And God has continued showing up ever since as that church has now multiplied to additional campuses in the Boston area.
What about for you? Is there a dire situation in your life? Something that you’ve all but given up on? The repentance and salvation of a prodigal child? That besetting sin that you can’t seem to gain any victory over? The anxiety and depression that lingers over your head like a storm cloud? What in your life have you pushed into the corner because it seems hopeless?
Now that you’ve identified whatever that is, consider this question: what if God shows up? The God who brings redemption, freedom, healing, comfort, hope—what if he shows up? That changes the outlook on things, doesn’t it?
This season reminds us that we don’t have to wonder if God will show up. The virgin conceived and bore a son, and he was called Immanuel, which means “God with us” (Is. 7:14; Matt. 1:22-23). Be encouraged, dear friends—God has shown up.
Read 1 Samuel 9-10
Have you ever looked back on a choice you have made and thought “What was I thinking?!” No? Just me? Okay. well, I am sure most of us have at least one or two moments in our past that we can look back on and say poor choices were made. The big question we have as we look back is, why did we make the choice we made. what factors became so important that we made the decision to walk the path we walked? Usually it ends up being something that, as we have grown and matured, we realized was not something that should have been so important. It was a person we wanted to impress that isn’t even in our lives anymore. It was a swelling of our own pride that made us do the thing we did. It was a moment of anger or bitterness that ruled that particular day.
What ever it might have been, our hope is that now we have grown and matured and realized there has to be a better way to make choices. We need a better filter for the decisions we will be making every day, big or small. Our passage today shows us the importance of that filter. Israel had been blessed, delivered, protected, and provided for as they walked out of Egypt, through the wilderness, and into the promised land. Yet still they continued to fall into pride and bitterness. Still they continued to think they their thoughts were best in any given situation. Now, here in the land God delivered to them, they decided God was not enough and they needed a king. God, knowing their hearts, gave them a king they would want and not a king chosen by the standards of God. We can guess, probably by our own personal experience, how this is going to work out for Israel. Spoiler: not well.
So here is a question to ponder today. How do you make decisions each day, both great and small, and how do you allow God and His word take priority in that process?
Read 1 Samuel 3, 8.
9 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 10 And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.”1 Samuel 3:9-10, ESV
In 1 Samuel 3, we see this almost-comical situation. The Lord is calling out to Samuel, but Samuel has never heard the Lord before. Naturally, he assumes that Eli is calling him. When you hear someone call your name, your first guess is probably that it was someone in the next room, not the Creator of the universe. With Eli’s help, Samuel is able to respond correctly on the fourth try.
How many tries would it take God to reach you? Maybe we don’t hear an audible voice, but we can experience God calling us in different ways. We can feel the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When the Lord calls, we should all strive to respond the way Samuel does. “Speak, for your servant hears.”
Read 1 Samuel 1-2.
And Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the LORD; my horn is exalted in the LORD. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation.”1 Samuel 2:1 (ESV)
Some stories take a little while to get moving. We’ve all had a friend recommend a book or a movie or tv show with something along the lines of, “It starts a little slow, but just stick with it.”
Well, I’m here to tell you that 1 Samuel is not that kind of book. From the first verse, we find ourselves right in the middle of the action. The story of Elkanah’s family is dramatic enough, but Eli’s family takes the intrigue to another level. That said, the point of the story isn’t merely to entertain us but to engage us spiritually, and while the book is named for Samuel, I think it’s fair to say that Hannah is the one at the center of these opening chapters. We see her faithfulness throughout, and we hear it in her prayer. This isn’t a pious performance. Hannah was pouring out her heart to the Lord to the point that Eli thought she was drunk. Her relationship with God was real. It was honest. Hannah prayed with a confidence that God was neither blind or deaf to the plight of the lowly and poor. She prayed to a God who was and is on the side of those who are weak, poor, and hungry. Hannah knew the Lord. She cried out to Him in her distress. She rejoiced in His salvation. It may have seemed that God’s work in her life started a little slow, but God showed Himself faithful–to Hannah and to His people.
Where are you waiting on the Lord to move?
Read Ruth 3 & 4
There are times when God’s Word jumps off the page and reminds me of a song. Some of you may be able to relate.
The bridge in the song “Waymaker” says, “Even when I don’t see it you’re working. Even when I don’t feel it you’re working. You never stop, you never stop working.” After reading Ruth chapters 3 and 4, I can’t stop seeing the connection between their story and the lyrics to this song.
In chapters 1 and 2 we learn Naomi has lost her husband and two sons. One of her son’s was married to Ruth. Because of harsh laws regarding the rights of women, Widows were among some of the most helpless people in society. Left without any way to support themselves, Naomi and Ruth were left desolate.
Naomi had traveled to Bethlehem, where she was hopeful to find Ruth a home where she would be well provided for.
Fast forwarding a bit, Ruth does as Naomi says and Boaz ends up being the guardian-redeemer for Ruth. They are no longer left desolate but have been redeemed and now taken care of. Take some time to read through chapters 3 and 4 if to get all the details.
After reading these chapters, I’m reminded that God is always working. Even when we don’t see it (just like the song says too).
It must have been difficult for Naomi and Ruth to see how God could or was working in their desperate situation. But He was. And He did.
He already knew both would be restored, redeemed, and taken care of far beyond their imagination. God restored them and God restores us. Even in our darkest of days, God is working to make all things new.
God made a way for Naomi and Ruth and He’s making a way for us too.
Read Ruth 1-2
“God won’t give you more than you can handle!”
That sounds nice in the land of trite religious phrases, but drag that out into the real world and see how it holds up. More specifically, try telling that to a woman that has lost her home, her husband, and both of her sons. From Naomi’s perspective, not only had God given her far more than she could handle, he had dealt very bitterly with her, emptying her and bringing calamity upon her (1:20-21).
As it turns out, God will give you more than you can handle—a lot more than you can handle, actually. Maybe you’ve been there before. Maybe you’re there now. If not, you certainly will be there someday. Empty. Exhausted. Overwhelmed. At the end of your rope.
Yet, as painful as it is, God is still working out his plan of redemption even in—especially in—the dark days. This was Naomi’s story—homeless and widowed. This would be Israel’s story—enslaved and exiled in a foreign land. This would be Jesus’ story—dead and buried in a borrowed tomb.
Don’t be surprised when the dark days come. But take heart! “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5).
Read Judges 15-16.
Samson. What a guy. Every time I read the account of Samson’s life, it stirs in me the same feelings of contempt and frustration. I am always befuddled at his flippant attitude toward his consecration, his ridiculous bent toward revenge, and his overwhelming arrogance. I always find myself muttering under my breath as I study his life…things like, “I’d have liked to knock him down a notch.” “Does he not realize the source of his power AND the responsibility it brings?” “I can’t believe God didn’t just write him off.” But that’s the point–isn’t it? As a judge he did succeed at conquering the Philistines. However, all through his journey he was selfish and willy-nilly with his calling. However, despite his detestable flaws and tendency to indulge in his own pleasures and revenge, God continued to use Him for His glory. Ultimately, God was glorified through Samson’s last act. Even though he had selfish motivations, he also displayed faith that the one true God could restore his strength. And He did.
So even though Samson frustrates me to no end, his is both a cautionary tale and a gospel connection. Don’t I allow my pride to hinder my walk with Christ? Don’t I sometimes let my anger get the best of me? Don’t I act out on occasion when things aren’t going my way or things get complicated? The answer is a resounding yes…because I’m nowhere near perfect. I’m not called to spend my time judging Samson or anyone else for that matter. I’m called to be set apart, glorifying God with in word and deed, spreading the gospel to the nations. God doesn’t use perfect people, but He does change hearts and strengthen faith. We can be reminded through this account that Jesus is the only perfect person that God has used. If He could use Samson–with all his flaws–He can use us as well. But let’s not simply live in our sin knowing God can still use us, let’s be proactive and seek to imitate His Son, striving to grow in righteousness and faith.
Read Judges 13-14.
In Judges 13 and 14, we get a thorough introduction of Samson, the twelfth judge of Israel.
24 And the woman bore a son and called his name Samson. And the young man grew, and the Lord blessed him.Judges 13:24, ESV
You may have heard of Samson before. In these chapters we see his birth foretold as well as a list of things he should not do as a Nazirite, someone set apart for service to God. After he is born, the text jumps ahead to show an adult Samson doing some crazy things. He picks out a fiance. He tears a lion apart with his bare hands. Later on, he eats honey that he finds in the carcass of that same lion. He presents a riddle about said honey and lion. He loses a bet regarding said riddle and kills thirty men in order to use their belongings to square up on that bet.
Why is Samson’s story, even just what we’ve seen in Judges 14, important? So far we’ve seen him killing guys and breaking lion’s faces. Eating honey. By today’s standards, Samson is a fairly chaotic person. But he is also one of the judges sent by God to rescue Israel from their enemies. God’s plans are being accomplished in part by the actions of this long-haired strongman. We can learn so much from Samson’s story, but for today, the main point is that God can work through anybody.
Read Judges 6-7
What has you scared this week? Maybe it’s how far behind you are on your Christmas shopping. Maybe it’s the latest news concerning the ever-evolving pandemic. Or maybe those haven’t even entered your mind. Maybe there are other things that have you scared, or maybe you aren’t feeling all that fearful today. Regardless of how you are experiencing fear right this moment, we all know what fear feels like–and so did the Israelites.
The book of Judges tells the story of God’s people in a cycle of rebellion, oppression, repentance, and deliverance. In Judges 6, it is Midian that overpowered Israel, stealing their produce, until they cried out to the Lord for help. That’s when God sent a word to the people that they were not to fear the gods of the Amorites because He was the Lord their God. And yet, the people continued to disobey God’s voice. That’s where Gideon would come in. God was determined to use Gideon to rescue his people from the oppressive practices of the Midianites. The problem was Gideon wasn’t so sure. He was, after all, the weakest member of the weakest family in Israel. He was going to need some clear signals (apparently clearer than an angelic encounter) that this was God’s plan. The Lord’s message, however, was unwavering, “Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die.” Did that eradicate Gideon’s fear? He would do what the Lord said, but he did it under the cover of darkness because of his fear of his family and his community.
The life of Gideon was lived–like ours–at the intersection of faith and fear. He listened to the Lord, trusted Him, and obeyed. But he was also keenly aware of the risks involved with answering God’s call on his life. Gideon’s story shows us that faith and fear aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, by the time we reach Judges 7:10, we hear the Lord speaking directly to Gideon’s fears, “But if you are afraid to go down, go down to the camp with Purah your servant. And you shall hear what they say, and afterward your hands shall be strengthened to go down against the camp.” God didn’t react to Gideon’s fears by withdrawing His presence. He didn’t grow frustrated by Gideon’s repeated requests for confirmation. He led Gideon as He does us when we are afraid–with tenderness and patience. So whatever has you scared today, you can trust God to lead you.