A daily devotional walking through God's word together using The Bible Reading Plan at http://www.bible-reading.com/bible-plan.html. Our website http://alittlewalkwithgod.com
Bible Reading Plan - www.Bible-Reading.com; The Story, Chapter 10; You Version Bible app Engaging God’s Story Reading Plan Days 64 through 70
Samuel is recognized as the last of Israel’s great judges and the first of it’s great prophets. Eli, failed in his responsibilities to carry on the priestly duties required by God. He, like Aaron before him, didn’t keep a reign on the training and discipline of his sons, Hophni and Phinehas. They didn’t act like the representatives of His holiness He expected of His priests and were killed in battle. When Eli heard the news, he fell backward off his chair and broke his neck. Samuel became the priest and prophet for the nation in his stead.
There was a problem in Israel, though, that plagues many of us today, though. Israel, like Hophni and Phinehas, like all of those teens that wore the straight black hair and black clothes and black fingernail polish and black lipstick during the “Goth” fad. In trying to be “unique” we end up trying to be like all those “unique” people, so we end up being like everyone else.
Israel did that too.
They left a kingdom that suppressed and enslaved them and God defeated 31 other kings over a period of seven years to take over the land He promised to them. Those kingdoms were stronger with bigger armies, but God intervened and fought their battles and the land flowing with milk and honey became their possession just as He promised Abraham 600 years before.
For all that time, they listened to the priests God put in place to share His message and remind them of who He was and what He wanted from them, sort of. You see, time and time again, they would look around at the kingdoms around them and want what they had. They would see the shiny idols and would begin to worship them instead of the invisible invincible God who brought them there in the first place. They forgot the One who saved them from their trouble and wanted to be like the kingdoms around them.
In their desire to be unique as a nation, the Israelites would like around and say to their priests, “We want to be different...like Moab! We want to be different...like Midian! We want to be different...like Edom!”
Just like our kids, and us when we were teenagers when you think back honestly about it, we want to be unique just like those around us. Let me be like the popular guys or girls around me, I’ll dress like them and talk like them and act like them so I fit in, so I’ll be liked, so I can be popular, so I will be accepted. You probably remember the pressure of being a teenager and young adult and getting through those awkward stages. The problem is, we really never grow out of those awkward stages. We keep doing it all through life, it just isn’t quite as obvious as we figure out that “Goth” won’t get us a job. So we dress and act like the people who get the best jobs. We act like our neighbor and try to keep up with the “Jones” so to speak. We ape those around us because we don’t really want to be different after all.
Israel asked for a king. They got one. Saul. He was handsome, the Bible tells us. He stood a head taller than everyone else. The was the photogenic type that the politicos would look for today if they were trying to pick their poster child for the campaign. And Saul started out pretty well. He didn’t want the job and hid in the luggage when they tried to crown him. But like many at the top, power corrupted him.
Samuel warned the Israelites what kings would do to them. He told them kings would levy taxes against them. Draft their sons into his army. Take their lands. Make demands on them that would put them into slavery every bit as cruel and harsh as what they experienced in Egypt. Saul didn’t. In fact, interestingly, Saul was the only king that didn’t raise a standing army. He fought against Israel’s enemies, but the army was volunteers who then went home after defeating their foes.
Saul never raised taxes. He didn’t take any of their lands or build a palace or declare a capital city or establish a throne. He led the country, but he kind of led the nation from his house and just showed up for battles when necessary. Except of course, when he was after David. David was the first to really levy taxes and keep a standing army and build a palace and capital city in Jerusalem. David started building projects and put in place a government that would later lay some fairly heavy burdens on the people and would ultimately cause the split of the kingdom into two nations because of his grandson’s poor decisions.
But the problem for Israel all started with one little problem that we all have and it runs counter to what God wants of us. God wanted Eli and Hophni and Phinehas to be representatives of His holiness. They weren’t and they died. God wanted Israel to be different from the nations around them and demonstrate His holiness by living according to His laws. They didn’t and they ultimately fell into captivity because of their apostasy.
And God’s wants you and me to be different from the world around us. We live in evil times. Many will tell you that it’s okay to do things or live certain ways. But it’s not. God hasn’t changed. There is still right and wrong. Good and bad. Holy and evil. God wants us to do what He says. It’s that simple. It’s not always easy in a world that has turned everything upside down and hijacked words and symbols and definitions and tried to confuse us with all of it.
Gay meant happy and light hearted at one time. Marriage meant a solemn and holy union between only a man and a women at one time. The rainbow was a symbol of God’s promise to never destroy all the world by a flood again at one time. Evil has turned bad into good and good into bad and blinded people just as God’s word said it would so that many follow down that broad road to destruction and few find that narrow path that leads to life everlasting.
We try far too hard to different like everyone around us and so look just like the world. We try far too hard to fit in and be noticed and accepted instead of remembering that Jesus said if we really want to follow Him, the world will hate us just like they hated Him because of His message of righteous living. You see, God won’t let us live any way we want if we follow Him. He wants to have an intimate face-to-face relationship with us, but He is a holy God and will not walk in the presence of evil. It’s a problem He has set a plan in place to deal with, but we must accept that plan. And that plan includes stepping out of the mold the world puts us in and living according to His precepts.
So, the sixty-four dollar question for today: Are you different like Hophni and Phinehas and Eli and Saul, patterning yourself after those who are successful in the world? Or are you different like Samuel listening to the voice of God and following in the path He lays out, even though it may not be popular or appealing from the world’s perspective? The answer makes a huge difference as to what happens when you wake up on the other side of this life and open your eyes in eternity.
You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more about The Story and our part in it. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn’t, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.