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The Story, Week 10:  “Standing Tall, Falling Hard”. (To Obey Is Better Than Sacrifice)

March 19, 2017

The Story, Week 10:  “Standing Tall, Falling Hard”. (To Obey Is Better Than Sacrifice)

1 Samuel 1-15. (Chapter 8)

 

Intro:  The first 15 chapters of 1 Samuel are loaded with deep characters.  We caught a glimpse of Hannah as Casey led us in the Call to Worship.  The child Hannah bore, Samuel, becomes the pivotal character for the rest of the book.  

 

We see that he becomes a child of the temple, living under the authority of Eli, learning to hear God speak, learning to obey God and speak His truth even when it is going to be a hard word to hear.  Then Eli dies and Samuel becomes the judge of Israel, leading the people on God’s behalf.

 

And here the story gets a little messy.  Israel becomes discontent and wants a king and Israel receives a king whose name is Saul and he governs but disobeys and his reign is cut short.  

 

I do hope you read this chapter in The Story or if not will take the time to read 1 Sam. 1-15 during the week.  One theme that called out to me this week was the theme of obedience vs. sacrifice and wondering why God is so patient and yielding when we insist on having our own way rather than living in obedience to God’s will.  So in settling in on one topic from this vast expanse of great story, I’m going to focus on chapter 8.  I find that this chapter brings me to a place of sorrow and repentance which is not a bad place to be during the season of Lent.  Let’s look at it now.  READ

 

 

I want to invite you to sink in deep to your parental mindset.  You know the one that understands that it knows best.  The one that gives instructions and expects them to be obeyed because the outcome will be good for everyone.  The one that often has the right to say “I told you so” when they are not obeyed and things crumble.  Parents.  Raise your hand if you have ever found yourself in this situation.  If so, you may have a little bit of a clue as to how God feels when he calls for his children to obey him and we choose to do things our own way.

 

Hannah understood obedience.  She made a promise and kept it.  Her obedience required sacrifice but it was the obedience that God was after and it bore much fruit, not just for her but for all of Israel.

 

Samuel understood obedience.  He did just as the Lord commanded.  The disobedience of Saul, his sons, others, broke his heart.  He pointed out that God is after obedience, not sacrifice.  Sacrifice is valid and meaningful if it comes from the right motivation.  The right motivation is always to live in alignment with God’s will.

 

Saul did not understand obedience.  Even when the instructions were crystal clear, he could not obey.  He tinkered and tried to make it all fit into his own box of what it meant to be faithful to God.  Even though Samuel had made it plain.

 

The people of Israel did not understand obedience.  They were bent on what they wanted for their own selves. And God gave them what they wanted.

 

So, a good question to start with is, “Do I understand obedience the way God desires it?”

 

Let’s examine Samuel vs. the People of Israel a little closer.  In vss. 1-3 we discover that as much as Samuel wants to obey, his sons are in the business for the money.  Forget obedience to God or doing what is right by the people.  They have taken advantage of their position and this fact is not lost on the people.  I’m sure that many of us here have seen a business we’ve dealt with for years get new ownership and the quality of service diminishes to the point that you just don’t do business there anymore.  Similar to this situation.

 

But here the people have a solution to this problem.  In vs. 5 they come to Samuel and say:

    “Look,” they told him, “you are now old, and your sons are not like you. 

        Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.”

This request did not sit well with Samuel and he did what we should all learn to do when something doesn’t sit right with us - he went to God and asked for guidance!  Novel idea, eh?  

 

I imagine that Samuel was surprised by God’s response of “give them what they want.” 

What they wanted was to reject Samuel’s authority, throw over a way they had been governed for hundreds of years, reject their uniqueness as God’s people and become just like the other nations.  They, like Adam and Eve in the garden are willing to abandon the unique relationship they have with God as their king to be like everyone else.  Listen to vss. 7-8: 

    “Do everything they say to you,” the Lord replied, 

        “for they are rejecting me, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer.             Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually abandoned me 

            and followed other gods. And now they are giving you the same treatment. 

 

There is something about these verses that break my heart.  Something that pricks at my own soul and asks, “How often have you rejected God as king of your life?”  And it is painful to see it reflected in the mirror of this passage.  At the same time, I love this witness of God’s grace to Samuel, telling him that it’s not about his leadership or authority - he’s done nothing wrong.  This is all about the people rejecting God and his design for them.

 

Here’s a second question to think about: How do we, as the body of Christ - the church - keep Jesus at the center so that we don’t blend into the world and become just another institution?  How do we do this in worship, outreach, mission, fellowship, teaching?  How do we show the world that we have not abandoned the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  How do we display that Jesus Christ is head of the church and that in all things, we are seeking to serve him?

 

That word, “seeking”.  It has to do with our focus and attention.  It has to do with what we intend to be doing.

  • Hannah knew that God was the only one who could bless her with a child and so for years she went to him and asked, and wept, and didn’t give up asking, until God gave her Samuel.
  • Samuel had to learn to hear God’s voice, but living in the temple, supported by a praying mother, serving Eli, he did learn to not only hear God’s voice but to have the courage to speak what he heard.  His one desire was to do as God commanded.  He was a seeker after God’s will and a doer of it. He lived in obedience to God.
  • Saul we don’t have time to look at closely.  He wanted to obey God but had an image problem.  He wanted the people to be happy more than he wanted God to be happy so he half-obeyed. Don’t be fooled! Half-obedience is disobedience.

 

You may have noticed that the Prayer of Confession is out of place today.  It is taken from the 15th chapter of 1 Samuel and it seemed best to reflect on the attitude of our hearts following the sermon today.  You will see that your response involves the words and action of “let us consider”.  This is a good exercise for us to do while we are here, in this place together as the body of Christ on this third Sunday in Lent.  These words were spoken to Saul after he half-obeyed God.  They were intended to draw him back to obedience.  In what ways does God want us to repent and recommit ourselves to complete obedience?  Let us pray.

 

*Prayer of Confession                         1 Samuel 15:22-23

L:  “What is more pleasing to the Lord:

    your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice?

R:  Let us consider . . . 

 

L:  Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice,

    and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.

R:  Let us consider what we offer God in place of full obedience . . . 

 

L: Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft,  

   and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.

R: Let us consider our acts of rebellion toward God and confess them   

   now . . . 

 

*Assurance of Pardon

 

Prayers of the People

The Lord’s Prayer