God and Idolatry

In Isaiah 44, God says the following:

‘ I am the First and I am the Last.”  Jesus said, “I am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.”

“Besides Me there is no God.”  This is true.  There is no God besides Him.  There is no other Rock besides Him.  The people made graven images, all of which were useless.  These things offer them nothing–they profit them nothing.

A man makes a god and worships it.  He makes it a carved image, and falls down to it.  He falls down before the carved image and worships it.  He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god.”  He falls down before a block of wood!

Instead of worshipping the true God–the living God who is the first and the last, the people worship the gods they made–graven images carved from wood which could not save them or help them.  These were gods that could not see, hear, speak or move.  They had to be carried. They could not deliver or redeem anyone.

God says to Israel:

“I have formed you, you are My servant;
O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me!
I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions,
And like a cloud, your sins.
Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.”

God is our Redeemer.  He formed us from the womb.  He is the Lord who makes all things.  He stretches out the heavens all by Himself.  He spreads abroad the earth by Himself.  He confirms the word of His servant and performs the counsel of His messengers.

Lord, help us to cast away any false gods we are worshipping and to worship only You, our Creator, our Redeemer and the Lord who is the First and the Last.  Help us to worship You alone, the God who formed us in the womb and who delivers and helps us.  It profits us everything when we worship You.

God confirms the word of His servants and performs the counsel of His messengers.  We know that someone is of God when what He says comes to pass.  Acts 18 says, “God who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands Nor is He worshipped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.

Paul also said “…for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.  Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.”

It is hard to believe that people would turn from worshipping God who lives and is so great that the heavens cannot contain Him; the God who loved us so much that He sent His beloved Son to die for our sins; the God who takes care of us, to worship gods made by their own hands–gods made of gold or silver or wood.

The angel encourages us to “worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water” (Revelation 14:7, last part).

Thou at worthy, O Lord, to receive honor and glory and power.  We worship You, O Lord because of who You are.

Here is some food for thought:

However much Isaiah was writing for his time and culture and people, look at how relevant the principles are for us today. The Lord, He alone is the Creator, He alone is our Redeemer, He alone can save us, thus He alone is worthy of our worship and our praise. Isaiah mocks those who create idols with their own hands, gods of their own making, and then bow down and worship them—things that are, indeed, “profitable for nothing.”

And yet, as silly and as foolish as all that seems to us, are we not in danger of doing something similar, of dedicating ourselves, our lives, our time, and our energy into things that, in the end, are “profitable for nothing,” that cannot answer the deepest need of our souls now, and that surely cannot redeem us from the grave at the end of time? How crucial that we watch and pray, that, as Paul said, we examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith  (2 Cor. 13:5). Sabbath worship, if done right, can remind us in a special way about why we should worship only the Lord. Worship should be a time that especially reminds us of what is important in life, what truly matters, and what is temporal, and even “profitable for nothing.”

We all know the danger of making idols out of money, power, prestige, and so on. What about the danger of making idols out of things such as church, the pastor, our own ministries, or even our own faithfulness or lifestyle or piety? 

Anything or anyone who comes before God in your life is your idol.  Always make sure that God has first place in your heart and in your life.  He deserves to be number one.  Make Him your first priority.  Don’t allow anything or anyone to stand between Him and you.  And always put your trust in Him.  As the psalmist said, “Trust in him at all times; [ye] people, pour out your heart before him: God [is] a refuge for us” (Psalm 62:8).

Don’t bow down to any statues or images. Worship God, the Creator only.

Source: http://www.absg.adventist.org/2011/3Q/SE/PDFa/EAQ_PDFs/EAQ311_09.pdf


Matthew, the Tax Collector

After these things He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he left all, rose up, and followed Him.

Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house. And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them. And their scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, “Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call therighteous, but sinners, to repentance”  (Luke 5:27-32).

How many of us are like the Pharisees? We look down at certain people and promise ourselves that we would never associate with them. The religious leaders saw Jesus eating with people they would never associate with and they questioned that. Jesus saw something in Levi. He saw beyond the tax collector. He saw a man of faith, a man who would drop everything and follow Him. How many people would do that?

How many people would give up everything—their livelihood and follow Jesus? Levi didn’t protest. He didn’t say, “But, Lord, how can I just get up and leave all of this and follow You?” or “Lord, let me get my affairs in order first and then I will follow You.” No, the Bible says, he left all, rose up, and followed Him. He decided right there and then that he would give his life to Jesus.

Levi was so grateful for the grace that Jesus showed him, that he threw a big dinner for Him. Jesus was his honoured Guest. Levi must have been on cloud nine. Here was the Messiah, the Son of God inviting him, a tax collector to be one of His disciples. What an honor. In an act of great humility and appreciation, Levi prepared a feast for Jesus and invited his friends to join them.

Seeing Jesus with these undesirables put a bad taste in the mouths of the religious leaders. They could not understand how Jesus could sit and eat and drink with these people. They complained about it. Jesus simply explained to them that these were exactly the kind of people that He came into this world to help. They needed Him. They recognized that they were sinners in need of a Saviour. If the Pharisees were not so proud and self-righteous they could have joined them and enjoyed a great feast and fellowship with Jesus.

A lot of times we look at people and form opinions about them but God looks beyond appearances. He looks at the person’s heart. Jesus didn’t see a tax collector, He saw a disciple—one who would later write the Gospel of Matthew. We can look at a bitter, rebellious youth and that’s all we see, but one day that youth could become a great pastor who can relate to other troubled youth and help them to realize their potential. People looked at Peter and all they saw was a foul mouth fisherman but Jesus saw a man who would one day give a great sermon that would convict the people and lead them to repentance.

What about us? When people look at us what do they see? Do they see a sinner or do they see a child of God? Ask God to help you to see people the way He does.

Hypocrisy of the Pharisees

Jesus said to His disciples, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees which is hypocrisy” (Luke 12:1).

Jesus gave a long list of reasons for calling these religious leaders hypocrites.

  • They don’t do as they say (don’t practice what they teach)
  • They load people down with heavy burdens but don’t lift a finger to help ease these burdens
  • They do things in public in order to be seen
  • They love to sit in the best places and seats at feasts and in the synagogues
  • They like to be greeted in the marketplaces and called, “Rabbi”  Only Christ, God’s anointed, the Messiah was supposed to be called, “Rabbi”.
  • They shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. They themselves won’t go in yourselves but they don’t let others enter either.  One Bible commentator explains it this way:  Here they are charged with shutting heaven against men: in Luk 11:52 they are charged with what was worse, taking away the key–“the key of knowledge”–which means, not the key to open knowledge, but knowledge as the only key to open heaven. A right knowledge of God’s revealed word is eternal life, as our Lord says ( Jhn 17:3 5:39 ); but this they took away from the people, substituting for it their wretched traditions.
  • They take advantage of widows and in an attempt to legitimize what they are doing, they say long prayers.
  • They pay tithes of mint and anise and cummin but neglected the weightier matters of the law which are justice, mercy and faith.  These are the things which they should make sure are being done while still doing the other things.
  • They are more concerned with their outer appearance (Jesus likens this to the washing of cups and dishes).  It doesn’t make sense to have the outside of a cup or dish clean and left the inside dirty.  Same way it doesn’t make sense for people to look Christian or act Christian but their hearts are far from God.  Their thoughts are far from Him.
  • They are like whitewashed tombs which appear beautiful on the outside but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.  So basically, they look beautiful outside but are rotten inside.
  • They appear righteous to men but inside they are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.  If they were truly righteous, they would have shown mercy to those who were less fortunate.  They would have been happy when Jesus healed the sick, cast out demons and cured diseases.  They would not look down on people who were different but show them God’s love.  If they were truly righteous they would have kept the law but not at the expense of mercy.

The Pharisees condemned Jesus for breaking the Sabbath yet they plotted to kill Him.  He preached openly but they secretly arrested Him.  They called themselves children of God but their hearts were far from Him and they rejected Him whom God sent.  They laid aside the commandment of God to hold on to the tradition of men.  It seemed to me as if they worshipped the law instead of the Lawgiver.

They claimed that Abraham was their father but they were nothing like him.  Being Jewish was not enough.  Being circumcised was not enough.  Keeping the law was not enough.  They had to be like Abraham–he was righteous and he rejoiced to see Jesus’ day.  He saw it and was glad.  They needed to be circumcised in their hearts and not just in the flesh.

They needed to keep the principles of the law not just the letter.  The law is about love-not just a list of do’s and don’ts.  It is about love for God and love for people.  The law was supposed to be a delight not a burden  Jesus was sensitive to the needs and hurts of the people while the Pharisees were not.  They condemned people.  My Open Bible says, the word “Pharisee” means separated.  Their burning desire was to separate themselves from those people who did not observe the laws of tithing and ritual purity–matters they considered very important.

Their interpretation of the law of God had become more binding than the law itself.  Jesus often challenged these traditional interpretations and the minute rules that had been issued to guide the people in every area of their behavior (Open Bible, p. 1146).

They clashed with Jesus over the Sabbath.  They strongly objected to Him healing people on the Sabbath.  They did not believe that it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath.  Jesus’ response was wonderful.  He said to them, “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out?  Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep?  Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:10-12).

God places great value on people so it is expected that He would want us to care for them at all times, even on the Sabbath or especially on the Sabbath.  God’s work of love and mercy does not cease on the Sabbath as Jesus tried to show the religious leaders.  He said to them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working” (John 5:17).  They missed the point of what He was saying to them about healing on the Sabbath–it was work God Himself did and that was why it was lawful to heal and do good on the Sabbath.  They were too busy fuming at the fact that He had said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.

As Christians, we must be careful not to be so anxious to be “not of the world” that we neglect to reach out to those who are in the world as Jesus did.  Or so particular about keeping the law that we neglect to show love and mercy and compassion as Jesus did.  Like Jesus we must practice what we preach.  We cannot call ourselves God’s children or Christians and we reflect nothing of God’s goodness or Jesus’ character.   We cannot say we love God or Christ but show no love for people.  We cannot appear to be one thing but are something else.  It’s not enough to say that we are followers of Christ, we must act as such.  Our words and deeds must reflect this.

Let us not replace God’s teachings with the traditions of men.   God’s Word transforms, encourages and saves while the traditions of men does none of these things.  The traditions of men also places additional burdens on the people who are observing them.

God Appeals to His People

We learn in chapter one of Isaiah that the children of Israel had forsaken the Lord.  They had turned away from Him and have backslided.  Their sacrifices were useless to God and He refused to hear their prayers because their hands were full of blood.

Instead of offering futile sacrifices or prayers that God would resue to listen to, God called them to wash themselves, make themselves clean.  He instructed them to:

  • Wash yourselves and be clean!
  • Get your sins out of my sight.
  • Give up your evil ways.
  • Learn to do good.
  • Seek justice.
  • Help the oppressed.
  • Defend the cause of orphans.
  • Fight for the rights of widows.

If the people repented and turned back to God, He promised that their sins would be forgiven–though they were like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.  Imagine that!  God told them what would happen if they obeyed–they would eat the good of the land.  However, if they disobeyed or rebelled, they would be devoured by the sword.

God said that He would thoroughly purge away their dross–refine them.  Dross means impurities separated from metals.  God wanted to separate the impurities from His people.  He wanted to purge them of their impurities–wipe the slate clean, so to speak, and start over.  He said Zion will be redeemed with justice and those who were penitent with righteousness.  However, those who continued to transgress and sin would be destroyed.  Those who did not turn back to the Lord–those who forsook Him would be consumed.

So not only did God point out to Israel what they were doing that was wrong in His sight, He told them how they could fix things.  He pointed out what they were doing and instructed them on what they ought to do.  God calls us on our sins and then gives us a chance to do what is right before He passes judgment.  Sometimes judgment is averted as in the case of Nineveh who repented when Jonah spoke to the people on God’s behalf.

The words which stood out for me were, “Unless the Lord of hosts had left to us a very small remnant, we would become like Sodom, we would have been made like Gomorrah” (Isaiah 1:9).  The prophet Jeremiah said, “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed because His compassions fail not” (Lamentations 3:22).  God always has a remnant.  There is always hope.

“For the Lord will not cast off forever.  Though He causes grief, yet He will show compassion according to the multitude of His mercies.  For He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men” (Lamentations 3:31-33).

I remember when I read, “Come now, and let us reason together,” it made me sad.  God was reaching out to His people, urging them to settle things between Him and them.  He wanted to bless them.  He wanted to give them good gifts and the best.  He wanted to shower them with love.  All He asked was for them to stop sinning, to forsake evil and turn back to Him.  I was reading the pleas of a loving Father to His wayward child.  Israel was breaking God’s heart but at the same time, I could imagine God poised, just ready to forgive them if they would just repent and turn from their wicked ways.  As I read this I was moved by the magnitude of God’s love and grace.  He longed to wash away the people’s sins and cover them in His righteousness.

Is God calling you to repentance?  Don’t delay.  Is God is appealing to you today? Don’t turn your back on Him. Stop sinning and seek His forgiveness which He is aching to offer you.  Allow Him to wash away the stench of your sins.

Passing the Mantle

In 2 Kings 2 Elijah tried to get Elisha to stay first in Gilgal then Bethel and then Jericho but each time Elisha refused to leave him.  Elisha knew that the Lord was going to take Elijah that day and he refused to leave his side until the moment the Lord took him.

When they were at the Jordan, Elijah struck the water and it divided so that the two of them crossed over on dry ground.  Then Elijah asked Elisha what he could do for him before he was taken away from him.  Elisha asked for a double portion of his spirit to be on him.

Elijah said that if Elisha saw him when he was taken from him then the double portion was his.  If not then it was not meant to be.  It was up to God.  As it happened Elisha saw when a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire and separated him and Elijah who went up by a whirlwind into heaven.  So Elisha took up Elijah’s mantle.  This signified Elisha’s  succession to Elijah’s ministry.

When Elisha struck the water of the Jordan the Lord authenticated Elisha’s succession to Elijah’s ministry and demonstrated that the same divine power that had accompanied Elijah’s ministry was now operative in the ministry of Elisha.  In crossing the Jordan as Joshua had before him, Elisha is shown to be Elijah’s “Joshua”.  Elisha and Joshua are very similar names, Elisha meaning “God saves” and Joshua “The Lord saves” (NIV Bible Study).

Elijah’s mantle was passed to Elisha whom God chose to take Elijah’s place.  A mantle is a cloak made of fur or fine material–a prophet’s garment.  Elisha was in the field plowing when Elijah passed  by him and threw his mantle on him. Elisha wanted to kiss his parents goodbye before he went with the older prophet but Elijah said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” This question “Could mean, ‘Go back, but remember what I have done to you.’ It might be a rebuke at any delay in following.” (Wiseman).

We read next that in response and perhaps to show Elijah that he was serious about following him, turned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen and slaughtered them and boiled their flesh, using the oxen’s equipment, and gave it to the people, and they ate.  Then he got up and followed Elijah.  This reminded me of James and John who left their father and trade and followed Jesus.  They didn’t ask to go and kiss their mother.  They didn’t delay.  They were ready to follow Him.  Same thing with Matthew.  He immediately got up from the table where he collected the tax money and followed Jesus.  Elisha had to take up the mantle and follow Elijah because it was only a matter of time before Elijah’s work was done.

When Jesus invites you to follow Him, will your response be immediate?  When God calls you to serve Him will you tell Him, “Okay, Lord but first let me…”?  Be ready when the mantle is passed to you.

King Ahaziah’s Choice

I read the first two chapters in 2 Kings.  Ahaziah was the son of king Ahab.  He reigned over Israel for two years.  He walked in the way of his father and mother.  He did evil in the sight of the Lord.  He worshipped and served Baal.  In 2 Kings 1 we read that Ahaziah fell through the lattice of his upper room in Samaria and was injured.  He sent messengers to inquire of Baal-Zebub, the Philistine deity worshipped at Ekron whether he would recover from his injury.

Like his father Ahab, Ahaziah did not seek or inquire of the Lord God of Israel.  So the angel of the Lord sent Elijah with this message for the king, “Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron?  Now therefore, thus says the Lord. ‘You shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die.'”

Apparently Baal-Zebub was thought to have the power of prophecy which explains why Ahaziah sent messengers to Ekron to learn of his fate.  Ahaziah should have turned to the same God who had prophesied the deaths of his parents.  God knows the future.

Ahaziah sent a captain with fifty men to Elijah in an attempt to take Elijah prisoner in order to counteract the pronouncement of his (Ahaziah’s) death. Ahaziah attempted to place the prophet under the authority of the king.  This constituted a violation of the covenant nature of Israelite kingship, in which the king’s actions were always to be placed under the scrutiny and authority of the word of the Lord spoken by His prophets (NIV Study Bible).

The first captain called to Elijah, saying, “Man of God, the king has said ‘come down'”  Elijah replied, “If I am a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men.”  Fire came down from heaven and consumed them.

Undaunted or perhaps being stubborn, Ahaziah sent another captain with fifty men to Elijah.  This captain said, “Man of God, thus has the king said, ‘Come down quickly'”.  He added the word “quickly” as if to say “Get down here now!”  Again the prophet said that if he were a man of God fire would come down from heaven and consume the captain and his men.  It did.

A third captain was sent with fifty men but unlike the previous captains, he did not order Elijah to come down.  Instead, he got on his knees and when he called Elijah, “man of God” he meant it.  He knew that Elijah was a man of God because of what happened to the first two captains and their men.  Elijah had proven that he was a man of God.  The third captain pleaded for his life and the lives of his men.  The angel of the Lord encouraged Elijah to go with the captain.  Elijah went to the king and delivered the same message in person.

Ahaziah died according to the word of the Lord which Elijah had spoken.  In the end Ahaziah was punished for turning away from the God of Israel to a pagan deity and the word of the Lord was shown to be both reliable and beyond the power of the king to annul (NIV Study Bible).

The lesson here is:  seek the one true and omniscient God. Perhaps if Ahaziah had sought God in the first place, he might have recovered from his injury and lived.  This is another sad consequence of a wrong and foolish choice.

God Saves Jehoshaphat

1 Kings 22:44 says that Jehoshaphat made peace with the king of Israel.  We learn more about this in 2 Chronicles 19:2, 3 where Jehu went out to meet Jehoshaphat and say to him, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord?  Therefore the wrath of the Lord is upon you.  Nevertheless good things are found in you, in that you have removed the wooden images from the land, and have prepared your heart to seek God.”

Ahab could not escape God’s judgment.  Wearing a disguise did not save him from the random bow that struck him.

Jehoshaphat should not have gone with Ahab to fight the king of Syria after he learned that it was God’s will that Israel be defeated–that the promise of victory was a lie.  He was not obligated to go and he should have withdrawn his support. He could have been killed had it not been for the grace of God who saved him.  We read about this in 2 Chronicles 18:31, 32:   So it was, when the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, that they said, “It is the king of Israel!” Therefore they surrounded him to attack; but Jehoshaphat cried out, and the LORD helped him, and God diverted them from him.  For so it was, when the captains of the chariots saw that it was not the king of Israel, that they turned back from pursuing him.

I can’t believe that Jehoshaphat went along with Ahab’s plan.  What was he thinking?  This is what I call blind trust.  What did he think was going to happen?  And he was right there when the prophet declared, “Therefore look! The LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of these prophets of yours, and the LORD has declared disaster against you.”

The lesson here, is that we should not follow people who don’t fear God.  Jehoshaphat went along with Ahab who was a scoundrel.  He disguised himself while he persuaded Jehoshaphat to wear his robes, probably hoping that if the Syrian army saw him they would kill him instead.  It was by the grace of God that Jehoshaphat returned safely to his home in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 19:1).  And no doubt Jehoshaphat realized what a close call he had and despite his plan to escape death through deceit, Ahab was killed and he died later that day as the sun set.

We should not allow others to persuade us to do what we know is wrong or pointless, even if they are our friends or families.  Perhaps Jehoshaphat felt obligated because he and Ahab were family.  2 Chronicles 18:1 says:  by marriage he allied himself with Ahab.  Perhaps what Jehoshaphat should have done was say to Ahab, “I am as you are, and my people as your people; we will be with you in the war if it is the Lord’s will.  Please inquire for the word of the LORD today.” And then seek the Lord’s guidance.  Once he learned that God would not deliver Ramoth Gilead into Israel’s hand,  he should have tried to dissuade Ahab from going into battle against the Syrians.  And if Ahab insisted on going to war, then Jehoshaphat should have declined to join him because it was a bad idea. Unfortunately, he didn’t do the right thing and it almost cost him his life.  Perhaps the Jehoshaphat should have heeded these words of another king, “Do not enter the path of the wicked, And do not walk in the way of evil” (Proverbs 4:14).

Let the wicked fall into their own nets, While I escape safely – Psalm 141:10.

Ahab’s Treaty with Ben-Hadad

In the second victory over Syria God sent a prophet to king Ahab who said, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Because the Syrians have said, “The LORD is God of the hills, but He is not God of the valleys,” therefore I will deliver all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the LORD.’”  And they encamped opposite each other for seven days. So it was that on the seventh day the battle was joined; and the children of Israel killed one hundred thousand foot soldiers ofthe Syrians in one day.

Ben-Hadad begged king Ahab to let him live.  This is the same king who went up and besieged Samaria and made war against it.  He is the same king whom Ahab said of, “Notice, please and see how this man seeks trouble, for he sent to me for my wives, my children, my silver, and my gold; and I did not deny him.”

Ben-Hadad made war with the king of Israel twice yet when he asked Ahab to spare his life Ahab made a treaty with him and sent him away.  Later he received this message through one of the prophets, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Because you have let slip out of your hands a man whom I appointed for utter destruction, therefore your life shall go for his life, and your people for his people.'”  Ahab went home sullen and displeased.  He made a treaty with the enemy and it will cost him his life.

This reminded me of Saul who spared Agag, the king of the Amalekites when he was commanded to utterly destroy men, women, children and the animals.  He was told, “Go, and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.”  However, Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fallings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them.  As a result of his disobedience, the Lord rejected Saul as king over Israel.  He tore the kingdom of Israel from Saul and gave it to David who was a far better choice.  Samuel, the prophet ended up killing Agag who thought or hoped that the bitterness of death was past (1 Samuel 15:8, 9, 18, 28, 32-33).

Ahab should have consulted the Lord before releasing Ben-Hadad.  Ben-Hadad called himself Ahab’s servant but Ahab called him “brother”.  He invited the defeated Syrian king into his chariot.  A peace treaty was made and during all of this God was not consulted.  Ahab was treating Ben-Hadad as a friend rather than an enemy of Samaria and Israel.  Whereas Saul was rejected as king for sparing the Amalekite king, Ahab was condemned to death for sparing Ben-Hadad.  Both paid dearly for their disobedience–for failing to follow the will of God.

Bottom line:  obey the voice of the Lord so that it may be well with you.  Jesus said that His brothers and sisters are those who do the will of the Father (Matthew 12:50).

Total Obedience

My husband and I were reading 1 Samuel 15 where Samuel gave Saul God’s instructions to “go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”  Before the prophet gave this order, he said to Saul, “The LORD sent me to anoint you king over His people, over Israel. Now therefore, heed the voice of the words of the LORD.”

Saul was chosen and anointed king of God’s people and was expected to listen to and obey God’s commands.  God gave strict instructions to Saul.  He was to attack Amalek and to destroy all that belonged to them.  He wasn’t to spare anyone–not even women, children or the animals.  Everything was to be destroyed.  These were simple instructions which the king was supposed to follow to the letter.

Who were the Amalekites and why did God want to destroy them?  The Amalekites were nomads who attacked the Hebrews at Rephidim (Exodus 17:8-10) in the desert of Sinai during their exodus from Egypt.  They were the first to come into contact with Israel after they left Egypt.

Moses reminded the Israelites of their first contact with these enemies. “Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you were coming out of Egypt, how he met you on the way and attacked your rear ranks, all the stragglers at your rear, when you were tired and weary; and he did not fear God. Therefore it shall be, when the LORD your God has given you rest from your enemies all around, in the land which the LORD your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance, that you will blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. You shall not forget” (Deuteronomy 25:17-19).

The Amalekites were hostile to Israel.  together with the Ammonites, they assist Eglon of Moab, and (Judges, vi. 3, 33, vii. 12) they aid the Midianites and the children of the East against Israel. Ps. lxxxiii. 7 refers to both occasions. It is on this account that Saul leads an expedition against them (Jewish Encyclopedia).

Saul did lead the expedition and attacked Amalekites, but we read that while he utterly destroyed the destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword, he spared Agag, their king and kept the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, because he and his soldiers were unwilling to utterly destroy them.  They destroyed everything they believed was despised and worthless.  Did Saul heed the words of God?  Did he follow the instructions to the letter?  No!  He spared the king when he was supposed to kill him along with the rest of the people and he spared the best of the cattle when he was supposed to destroy them as well.

We learned that Saul’s actions grieved God who said to Samuel, “I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments.”  Samuel was also grieved and he went to see Saul the next morning.

When Saul saw Samuel, he greeted him with these words, “Blessedare you of the LORD! I have performed the commandment of the LORD.” I couldn’t believe he said that.  He said he performed the commandment of the Lord.  If that were the case,  how come Samuel was hearing the bleating of the sheep and the lowing of the oxen?

The problem with Saul was that he partially obeyed God’s command.  He utterly destroyed the people but spared the king and the good cattle.  He did not completely obey God.  Obeying God in some things and not in others is unacceptable.  When Samuel asked him about the live cattle, Saul’s response was, “They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen, to sacrifice to the LORD your God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.”  Notice he said, “the Lord your God”.  Wasn’t the Lord his God too?  And did God ask him to make any sacrifices?  Saul was not being honest.  We read that he and his men were unwilling to destroy the best of the cattle.  Their reasons for sparing these animals had nothing to do with God.

You can hear Samuel’s disgust and impatience with this weak and disobedient king.  He told him to be quiet and allow him to give him God’s message.  Then he told him, “When you were little in your own eyes,were you not head of the tribes of Israel? And did not the LORD anoint you king over Israel?  Now the LORD sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go, and 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 evil in the sight of the LORD?”

But Saul insisted that he had obeyed the Lord.  He said that he went on the mission which God sent him on and brought back king Agag and utterly destroyed the Amalekites.  Then, he doesn’t take accountability where the cattle are concerned and said that “the people took of the plunder, sheep and oxen, the best of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the LORD your God in Gilgal.”  He was shifting the blame off of himself and unto the people by claiming that they were the ones who decided to spare the cattle instead of destroying them because they wanted to make a sacrifice to God.  Again he says “your God”.

At this point Samuel had had enough.  He told Saul that God preferred total obedience as opposed to unwanted sacrifices and that he, Saul because of his rebellion, stubbornness and rejection of God’s instructions, was rejected as king.  Saul then proceeded to make a confession but it was a weak and ridiculous one.  He said, “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 he is saying that it was fear of the people that made him disobey God.  What kind of king would fear the people whom he was to rule over and obey them instead of fearing the God who made him king in the first place?  He was making things worse for himself.  He was basically making the case that he was not fit to be king.  Any king who would obey the voice of people rather than the voice of God is not fit to rule.

Saul was a stubborn king who took it upon himself to play God.  He decided that he would spare king Agag and plunder the best of the cattle.  He was disobedient and when Samuel called him out on this, he made feeble and foolish excuses.  He did not take responsibility for his actions but blamed the people instead.  He was in charge.  He was the one whom God commissioned to destroy the Amalekites and their possessions but he digressed and then when he was confronted, he failed to take responsibility.

God doesn’t want us to partially obey him.  He wants total obedience.  When Jesus was here, He obeyed the Father completely, even unto death.  He did the Father’s will.  Saul did not do God’s will.  He did not carry out the mission as he was instructed.  He probably felt that as he was king, he could do whatever he pleased.  As a result of his disobedience, God tore the kingdom of Israel away from him that very day and gave it to David, a man after His own heart.

When God calls you to do something, make sure that you follow all of His instructions.  Give Him your total obedience.  Remember, obedience is the key to His heart.  He requires it more than sacrifice.  And a sacrifice has no meaning if it is the result of disobedience.  Saul thought that he could appease God and Samuel by claiming that the people had spared the cattle in order to sacrifice them to God but that wasn’t the case.  God wanted his obedience not sacrifice. Give God what He asks for not what you think He should have.

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