Jesus' Footprints

Posts Tagged ‘Samuel

Acts 13:13-52

900165955_466ceaa8d7_mAt bedtime, I read to my son the scriptures where Paul and Barnabas visited the synagogue in Antioch and after the reading from the Law and the Prophets,  the rulers of the synagogue asked them if they had any words of encouragement for the people.  What struck me is when Paul stood up, he used this opportunity to preach about Jesus.

He didn’t start off talking about Jesus.  Instead, he gave a brief summary of Israel’s history beginning with when the Israelites were in the wilderness for forty years.  He spoke about how the Jewish people were ruled by judges until the prophet Samuel and how they wanted to be like the other nations who had kings ruling over them.  They wanted a king too even though God was their King.  They got their wish when Saul, the son of Kish was chosen to be their king.  However, God removed him because of his disobedience and chose David to be his successor.  Then, Paul introduced Jesus, saying,  “From this man’s descendants God has raised a Savior for Israel, Jesus, according to His promise.”

He spoke of the role the people had played in the arrest and death of Jesus. By doing these things they had fulfilled the Word of God.  The Good News, though was that God raised Jesus from the dead and through Him are the forgiveness of sins.  Paul made it clear that we are justified by faith in Jesus and not by the law.  His words encouraged the Gentiles who begged him to preach again to them the following Sabbath.

Has God given you an opportunity to share the Good News about Jesus with others as He did with Paul?  Would you do as Paul did and share your faith so that people will come to know the Savior who died for them as well?  You don’t have to give a history lesson like Paul did.  You can share your own testimony of how you came to know the Lord like the woman at the well.  She told her community that Jesus must be the Messiah that they had been waiting for because He knew everything about her.

What about the challenges you will face when you share the Gospel?  The following Sabbath when Paul and Barnabas returned to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles, they were met with opposition from the Jews who were envious.  They contradicted what Paul said but he and Barnabas didn’t allow them to spoil things for them.  Instead, they boldly declared to them that since they rejected the Word of God which was supposed to be given to them first, it would be given instead to the Gentiles for the Lord commanded them, “‘I have established you to be a light of the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'”  Verse 48 says that when the Gentiles heard this, “they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And all who were ordained to eternal life believed.”

Don’t be discouraged when people oppose you and contradict what you say.  It’s Satan, your enemy at work, trying to prevent you from doing what God has called you to do.  Like Paul and Barnabas did, act boldly, knowing that the Lord is your side and He will not allow His work to be hindered.  Share the Gospel for the sake of those who will gladly receive it. Don’t let the Satan or anyone put out your light.  Keep it shining for those who will come to it and receive salvation through faith in Jesus.

Today, if God gives you an opportunity to encourage people with the Good News about Jesus, grab it.  And don’t worry about what to say.  The Holy Spirit has that covered.

 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. For it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek – Romans 1:16

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bible and glassesOn the morning of February 25, 2013, my husband and I were talking about the encounter between Saul and whom he perceived to be the prophet Samuel in 1 Samuel 28. We recalled a broadcast of In Touch some time ago when Dr. Charles Stanley taught that it was God who spoke through “Samuel” whom the witch had seen coming up from the ground. Some commentators talk about how the woman seemed startled when she saw an old man with a mantle rising from the earth. Some intimate that she was a fraud and got a shock when a spirit actually came up. I wouldn’t speculate on why she was startled or how she found out that it was Saul in a disguise. What shocked me was that Dr. Stanley would preach that God would speak through the very means which He forbade His people from using. In Moses’ time mediums and those who consulted the dead were put to death (Leviticus 20:27).

God warned His people, “Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards,to be defiled by them: I [am] the LORD your God.” Why then would God who is holy defile Himself by speaking through what Saul perceived as the spirit of Samuel? If God engaged in the very practice which He prohibited, He would be a hypocrite.

Most people believe that when a person dies, they go to heaven if they are righteous and to hell if they are wicked. Does it make sense then that Samuel would be coming up from the earth if he were supposed to be in heaven? And would why would he say to Saul, “And tomorrow you and your sons will be with me” (verse 19). Would wicked Saul really be where Samuel, a man of God was? And why is “Samuel” who died and was buried in the city Ramah show up in Endor?

Consider what “Samuel” said to Saul in verses 15-19 and then consider Samuel’s behavior when the Lord rejected Saul as king. 1 Samuel 15:11 and 35 state: “And it grieved Samuel, and he cried out to the Lord all night. And Samuel went no more to see Saul until the day of his death. Nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul, and the Lord regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel.” Does this Samuel sound like the one who spoke to Saul in Endor? Even the witch showed Saul more compassion (verses 21-25).

1 Chronicles 10:13-14 say: “So Saul died for his unfaithfulness which he had committed against the LORD, because he did not keep the word of the LORD, and also because he consulted a medium for guidance. But [he] did not inquire of the LORD; therefore He killed him, and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse.” Saul sought the Lord but the Lord did not answer him in dreams or by Urim or the prophets (1 Samuel 28:6).

Saul’s heart was not in the right place. He had been disobedient to God for such a long time that the Lord’s Spirit had left him. And it proved that Saul’s heart was not in the right place because in his desperation, he sought the help of a witch. As one commentator rightly puts it, “He had done so in form ( 1 Sa 28:6 ), but not in the spirit of a humble penitent, nor with the believing confidence of a sincere worshipper. His enquiry was, in fact, a mere mockery, and his total want of all right religious impressions was manifested by his rushing from God to a wretched impostor in the service of the devil [ 1 Sa 28:7 ].”

The manner in which Saul sought the Lord explains why he received no answer. David knew how to approach the God of his fathers. ”The sacrifices of God [are] a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart–These, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). What Saul needed was a broken spirit and a contrite heart and God would have responded to him.

This sad chapter in Saul’s life demonstrates just how important it is to read the Word of God for ourselves instead of simply relying on pastors and ministers. We ought to be like the Bereans who after listening to the apostle Paul’s sermon and readily receiving it, still consulted the Scriptures to make sure that what they were heard was in harmony. Once they were satisfied that it was, they believed.

So many Christians are being led astray by pastors and ministers who believe in what they are teaching but whose teaching are contrary to what is in the Bible. We encourage Christians seek the Word of God and prayerfully ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into God’s truth. Don’t be surprised if the truth that is revealed to you is different from what you have been taught.

It is so easy to misinterpret or misunderstand God’s Word but the Holy Spirit is there to guide us. Jesus used the Scriptures to teach His disciples and show them the way. The disciples encountered a lot of opposition from people who did not believe in the Gospel. They challenged their beliefs and teaching but the disciples stood their ground because they had the Word of God on their side. Jesus used the Word of God to defeat the enemy who was trying to tempt Him. The enemy quoted from scripture but used it in the wrong context. This goes to show you that a person may know the Bible and quote scores of scripture from it but it doesn’t mean that the person knows what he or she is talking about.

In his letter to the Christians in Galatia, Paul wrote, “But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.” It is important to search the Word diligently, prayerfully and without any preconceived notions. Be open to the leading and teaching of the Holy Spirit. Don’t resist the truth because it is different from what you have believed for years. God once encouraged me to embrace the truth. Remember what Jesus said about the truth setting you free.

“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” – Acts 17:11.

Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD” – Psalm 31:24

Is there any hope?  Yes.  Jesus is our hope for a better life, a life not marred by sin.  Jesus’ death on the Cross gave us hope of having our sins forgiven and having a relationship with God.  Hope for everlasting life—eternal life made possible by Jesus shed blood.  I have hope in the Lord who is faithful and keeps His promises.  I have hope in the Lord because nothing is impossible for Him.  I have hope in the Lord who has plans for my life and who promised that He will guide me.

I have hope in the Lord who never forsakes His children.  I have hope in the Lord who loved us so much that He sent His Son into the world to die for my sins.  God has said and done many things to make us hope and when we hope for something it means that we believe they can happen—that they are possible.  God has taught us that anything is possible and that we can do all things through Him.

  • To hope is to have faith that the thing we hope for is not out of our reach.
  • To hope is to be confident that we can achieve anything we set our hearts on.
  • To hope is to believe that we can have what God means for us to have.
  • To hope is to be assured that we can get what God plans to give us.
  • To hope is to be encouraged because it seems that what we dream of is possible, promising.
  • To hope is to trust that it can and will happen.
  • To hope is to expect it to happen.

Hope springs eternal.  To hope is to trust in the Lord, to look on the bright side, to be optimistic.  As Paul writes in his letter to the church in Rome, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:5)

Hope is the same as faith.  Faith is to believe in that which we cannot see and so is hope.  We don’t know what our futures hold but we can each hope for a bright one.  God promised that He has plans for us so we have those to look forward to and what makes this more exciting is that what God’s plans for us are always beyond our wildest dreams.  Look at how blessed Abraham was after Isaac was born.  He became the father of nations as God promised.  Hannah prayed for a son and was blessed with Samuel and other children.  Leah was blessed with six sons and a daughter and God’s favour.  Ordinary men became great apostles whose gospels and letters we read to give us inspiration and a better insight to who Jesus is.

It is exciting to hope when you read how the lives of these people and others in the Bible changed when they came to know Jesus.  As Paul rightly says, “But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.” (Romans 8:25)  Hope makes us steadfast and more focused on God.

Knowing who God is and what He has done makes it easy for us to hope in Him.  He is loving, kind, merciful, faithful and compassionate.  In Psalm 145:9, David says that the Lord has compassion on all that He has made.  This is true.  He had compassion on Leah who was unloved by her husband.  He had compassion for Hannah who was barren.  He had compassion for the woman who would have been stoned for committing adultery had He not been there.  God does indeed take care of His children and as long as we hold on to that fact, we will always have something to hope for.

Behold, to obey [is] better than sacrifice” – 1 Samuel 15:22

Obeying God is the key to having a productive and lasting relationship with Jesus. “As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you.  Now remain in My love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in His love.”  Jesus is telling us that His love for us is the same as His Father’s love for Him and that just as He obeyed God out of love, we should also obey Jesus out of love.  When we obey Jesus we remain in His love, we remain connected with Him because we are living by His guidelines. 

 

The definition of a commandment is: A rule or teaching that people should obey.  God gave us commandments to help us to live good, productive lives.  They are designed to keep us from sinning and from hurting each other.  Jesus’ commandments are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and being and to love our neighbour as we would love ourselves.  Jesus loved God and obeyed His commandments and glorified Him.  When we live as Jesus instructed us to live, we are glorifying Him.

 

It is not enough to declare our love for the Lord, we have to show Him and we only do this by obeying His commands.  Obedience is another form of love.  It is a willingness to do whatever we are asked to do for the One we love.  We know God loves us because He has expressed it in words and in deeds.  Jesus willingly gave up His life for us so we should willingly give ourselves to Him.  We can never repay Him for all He has done for us but we can try.

Abraham loved God enough to obey Him when He asked him to pack up his family and belongings and move to a new place.  He obeyed God’s command when He asked Him to sacrifice Isaac.  Noah obeyed God when he was told to build the Ark.  Gideon obeyed God when He told him to take fewer men in battle against the Midianites.  Peter obeyed Jesus and went to preach the gospel to the Gentiles.  These men remained in God’s love.

 

When we disobey God, we are rebelling against Him.  Adam and Eve disobeyed God and as a result sin and death entered the world.  Saul rebelled against God by offering up sacrifice at Gilgal instead of waiting for Samuel.  As a result, his kingdom was taken away from him and given to David.  The Israelites rebelled against God when they were in the desert on the way to the Promised Land by worshipping a golden calf.  They rebelled against God when they worshipped other gods and built altars and offered sacrifices.  They turned their backs on the same God who led them out of Egypt and provided them with food and water while they were in the desert.  The same God who delivered them from their enemies and saved them every time they cried out to them.  The same God who repeatedly forgave them the moment they repented. 

 

God loves us and desires that we love Him in return.  All He wants is for us to obey Him, follow His guidelines.  We see what happens when we don’t.  We should obey all commandments not just some.  Just as we don’t murder, commit adultery, steal, give false testimony, covet what other people have, call God’s name in vain, we should worship one God, honour our parents and remember the Sabbath and most importantly, love God with all our might and soul and love one another. So the bottom line is, obedience to God is our guarantee of a good, Christian life and a lasting relationship with Father and Son.

Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth” – Psalm 54:2

When we pray to God, we should kneel before Him, an act of humility for He is sovereign.  We should revere Him and remember that He is almighty.  When we pray we do so with the knowledge that God desires to show us His compassion and goodness because He is a loving God.  The love of Christ is so profound that He gave His life for us.  When we pray to God we should thank Him and acknowledge that He is able “to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us.” (Ephesians 3:20)

When we come to God in prayer we should remember to whom we are praying.  Hannah wanted a child and she turned to the Lord because she knew that He was her only hope.  She prayed continually and in her heart.  She was pouring out her soul to God and she believed that He would answer her prayer because her face was no longer downcast.  And God answered her prayer.  He remembered her and she conceived and gave birth to a son.  “For this child I prayed and the Lord has granted me my petition which I asked of Him.”  (1 Samuel 1:12-13, 18, 19, 20, 27)

Samuel is recognised as a prophet in all of Israel.  He Lord was with him and his mother too because she gave birth to more children.  God gave Hannah above and beyond what she asked for.  Hannah praised God and acknowledged His goodness.  “My heart rejoices in the Lord.” (1 Samuel 2:1a)  “There is no one holy like the Lord, there is no one besides You, there is no Rock like our God.” (1 Samuel 2:2)

I have learned that for prayers to be effective they must be specific, such as asking for understanding, strength or for the healing of a loved one.  We should ask for things only God can give you as nothing is impossible for Him.  We must be humble, submissive and unselfish when petitioning God.  “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up.” (James 4:10)  We must be like the publican who recognized that he needed God instead of the Pharisee who felt he didn’t need God.  We must recognise and give thanks to God for His faithfulness and glorify Him in our prayers.

 This was how Paul prayed for the Colossians who were new to the faith.  He asked God that they be filled with knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. (Colossians 1:9)

This was how Hannah prayed.  She was barren and longed for a child.  She prayed to God asking for a male child whom she would dedicate to Him.  She knew only God could open her womb.  She was humble, weeping and praying with all her heart and from the depths of her soul.  She was willing to give up her son to serve the Lord once He granted her request.  Praying to God lifted Hannah’s spirits and she went home, confident that her prayer had been answered.  She recognised that there was none besides God and she rejoiced in His salvation (1 Samuel 2:1).



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