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Sunday, November 17, 2013

[Matt's Messages] "How to Grieve the Lord"

“How to Grieve the Lord”
A Heart for the Heart of God: The Message of 1 Samuel
November 17, 2013 :: 1 Samuel 15:1-35

Our series is called “A Heart for the Heart of God,” but for the last several messages the central character has not had one. King Saul does not seem to have a heart for the heart of God.

And last week, we saw the prophet Samuel announce to Saul that he would not have a dynasty–that his sons would not take follow him as king.  A terrible consequence for his disobedience, particularly because his son Jonathan showed so much promise.

But King Saul is a disappointment. For all of his good points–including his success in battle and the fact that he is tall–Saul is a disappointment. A disappointment to his people, to his army, to his prophet, even to his son. And, most importantly, a disappointment to his god.

In today’s chapter, the Bible tells us twice that the LORD was “grieved” that He had made Saul king. V.11 and the very last verse of the chapter, verse 35. The very last sentence, “And the LORD was grieved that he had made Saul king over Israel.”

Now, hearing that might surprise you.

You might be surprised because your English version translates it, “The LORD repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.”

And in our English today, we don’t use the word “repent” to mean “regret” or “grieve” or “feel sorrow” about something the way that Old English did.

But this is not saying that God somehow realized that He had made a mistake or an error that He now has to rectify. He does not “repent” in the sense that we are called to do in turning from our wrongdoings. The Lord does everything right, even things that He feels sorrow over.

Another reason why you might be surprised to hear that the Lord was grieved is that you didn’t know that God could be grieved!

You might not think of God as a person who has feelings.  “I mean, He’s God, right?!”

It’s true that God is not moody and erratically emotional, but our God, the real God has passions. He has emotions. He feels. He cares about things.

And because He cares, He can be grieved.

And Saul grieved Him.

In fact, today, I’m going to call this message, “How To Grieve the Lord.”

Not, of course, because I want you to. Or because I want to grieve Him myself.

Just the opposite.

In watching Saul’s downfall, we can see what NOT to do.

In verse 1 of our story for today, Samuel comes back on the scene. At the end of chapter 13, Samuel had left Saul alone and in disgrace.

But here he’s back, and he’s got a message and mission for Saul from the LORD. V.1

“Samuel said to Saul, ‘I am the one the LORD sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the LORD. This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.'’”

I would imagine that those words are as hard to swallow for you as they are for me.

But they are holy Scripture, and we need to receive them as such.

The LORD is gracious and compassionate and longsuffering and patient.

But there is an end to the LORD’s patience with rebellion and the Amalekites have reached that point.

For more than three hundred years, God has been patient with the Amalekites, but they have continued and continued sin against God and against His people. Read Exodus 17 and Numbers 24 for some of what they had done and what they continued to not repent of.

And God, in His unsearchable wisdom, decided that enough was enough and now was the time to bring total judgment on the Amalekites.

And He sends Saul to do it. And Saul sets out to do it. Verse 4.

“So Saul summoned the men and mustered them at Telaim–two hundred thousand foot soldiers and ten thousand men from Judah. Saul went to the city of Amalek and set an ambush in the ravine.

Then he said to the Kenites [relatives of Moses and Caleb who had apparently moved into their neighborhoods], ‘Go away, leave the Amalekites so that I do not destroy you along with them; for you showed kindness to all the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt.’ So the Kenites moved away from the Amalekites.

Then Saul attacked the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, to the east of Egypt.

He took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and all his people he totally destroyed with the sword.

But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs–everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.”

Make note of that. Verse 9. They “spared Agag and the best of the” livestock. “These they were UNWILLING to destroy completely.”  V.10

“Then the word of the LORD came to Samuel: ‘I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.’ Samuel was troubled, and he cried out to the LORD all that night.”

Here’s point #1 this morning.

How to Grieve the Lord?

#1. CHOOSE TO ONLY PARTIALLY OBEY HIM.

I have some friends who have what their spouse call “selective hearing.”

That is, they only hear what they want to hear when their spouse is talking to them.

Well, Saul engages here in “selective obedience.”

What was Saul supposed to destroy? Everything.

What did he destroy?  Most everything. Everything except King Agag. Maybe he wants him as a trophy prisoner. And everything but the best that the army wanted to keep. These they were “unwilling to destroy completely.”

And God says to Samuel, “I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.”

That troubles Samuel so much that he spends the whole sleepless night crying.

So, the next day he goes to talk to Saul. V.12

“Early in the morning Samuel got up and went to meet Saul, but he was told, ‘Saul has gone to Carmel. There he has set up a monument in his own honor and has turned and gone on down to Gilgal.’

[We’ll talk about that in just a second!  Saul has been getting around. And he’s actually back to the site of his greatest achievements. But not today.]

When Samuel reached him, Saul said, ‘The LORD bless you! I have carried out the LORD's instructions.’

[Really?!]

But Samuel said, ‘What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?’”

Do you hear that sound, Saul?

That is the sound of disobedience!

I know what those sheep and those cows are. They are partial obedience which is no obedience at all.  V.15

“Saul answered, ‘The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the LORD your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.’

‘Stop!’ Samuel said to Saul. ‘Let me tell you what the LORD said to me last night.’ ‘Tell me,’ Saul replied. Samuel said, ‘Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king over Israel.

And he sent you on a mission, saying, 'Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; make war on them until you have wiped them out.'

Why did you not obey the LORD? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the LORD?’

‘But I did obey the LORD,’ Saul said. ‘I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king.

The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God at Gilgal.’”

In other words..."I obeyed more than 90%!  I was 9 for 10. Isn’t that really good?

I went on the mission.
I completely destroyed (except for Agag, of course.)
And what the soldiers took, but we were going to sacrifice. Really!"

But to the Lord, only partially obeying intentionally is (v.19) doing “evil in the eyes of the LORD.”

If you want to grieve Him, then choose to only partially obey Him.

Saul tries to deflect the blame. He blames the soldiers. He makes excuses.
He tries to wiggle out of it.

He might not even SEE that He is disobedient!

But Samuel sees it. And God sees it. In fact, it grieves the Lord.

He feels it. It moves Him. It pains Him.

God is not the Force from Star Wars.  He is not an impersonal life force that flows around the universe.

God is personal. He is passionate. He cares. He feels. He is moved by people and their choices.

And He is not pleased by half-hearted obedience.

God is wants us to have a heart for the heart of God.

Not half a heart with half a measure of obedience.

Is there an area in your life right now that you know is un-surrendered to the Lord?

You’re obeying 9 out of 10 and you hope that’s a A-.

But you know about that 1 out of 10 and you’re keeping it for yourself?

Now, I’m not talking here about perfection. Having a heart for the heart of God is not having a perfect heart and always obeying perfectly.

But it is, not holding a part of your life back from Him.

Making excuses. Shifting the blame. And picking and choosing which commands you want to obey.

“I’ll pray, but I won’t forgive.”
“I’ll love the church, but I won’t love my enemies.”
“I’ll obey my parents, but I won’t honor them.”
“I’ll give my money, but not my time.”

Do you see how that works?

Is there an area of obedience to Christ’s Lordship that you are choosing to ignore?

Paul says in Ephesians 4&5:

“[D]o not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.” [Eph. 4:30-5:4]

Is there an area of obedience to Christ’s Lordship that you are choosing to ignore?

That’s how to grieve the Lord.

Here’s number two. It’s closely connected.

#2. THINK YOU CAN “GET BY” ON SACRIFICE ALONE.

Verse 20 is so sad. “But I did obey the LORD,” Saul says.

He tries to convince Samuel that his partial obedience is full obedience, but Samuel isn’t buying it. In verse 21 he says that they took the sheep and the cattle to sacrifice them at Gilgal. Which may or may not have some truth to it.

Probably not, because verse 9 said that they were unwilling to destroy them. They were probably really keeping them for themselves.

But even so, Samuel says, verse 22.

“But Samuel replied: ‘Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.’”

It grieves the Lord that you think you can get by on sacrifice alone.

To have no heart for the heart of God and to try to just make it up with sacrifices.

That’s no better than rebellion in God’s eyes.
And arrogant rebellion is no better than witchcraft and idolatry.

God does not delight in sacrifices as much as in He does in obedience.

Does this mean that the sacrifices were bad?

Of course not. The sacrifices were a God-thing.

But they were not meant to be alternatives to a heart of obedience.

They were not “get out jail free cards.”

Sacrifice is bad if it is not from the heart.

I think that a lot of times people decide to sin and promise to make it up to God later.

I know that I shouldn’t do this, Lord, but I’ll make it up to you later.

I’ll put something special in the offering plate.
I’ll do this now and ask for forgiveness later.

Have ever done that?

Are you doing that nowadays?

I know that’s how some Catholics use the confessional.

“Well, I’ll just run out and do what I like and then get absolution later.”

But Protestants can do the very same thing.

And Samuel said, “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”

And if you have it backwards, you are grieving the LORD.

In fact, King Saul. You aren’t really King Saul any more. V.23

“Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.”

But Saul doesn’t feel the weight of that sentence. I don’t believe he ever really gets it. V.24

“Then Saul said to Samuel, ‘I have sinned. [Ok. Yeah.] I violated the LORD's command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them.

Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the LORD.’”

Here’s a third way to grieve the Lord.

#3. FEAR OTHER PEOPLE MORE THAN YOU FEAR GOD.

Saul admits that he sinned, and he actually reveals why. V.24 again.

“I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them.”

That’s really sad.

Instead of fearing God, Saul fears people.

What they will do, say, or think of him.

And he fears them so much that he is willing to disobey the Lord.

And even now when Samuel is confronting him, that’s seems to be all that Saul can think of–the people. V.26

“But Samuel said to him, ‘I will not go back with you. You have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you as king over Israel!’ [You aren’t listening.] As Samuel turned to leave, Saul caught hold of the hem of his robe, and it tore.

[Rip!]

Samuel said to him, ‘The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors–to one better than you.

He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind.’

Saul replied, ‘I have sinned. But please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel; come back with me, so that I may worship the LORD your God.’ So Samuel went back with Saul, and Saul worshiped the LORD.”

You see how he’s not listening?

“Yeah, yeah, I sinned. You’re right.”

“But come back and honor me” before whom? “The elders of my people and before Israel.”

That’s what Saul really seems to care about. Yes, he’s worshiping the Lord, but mainly as a show.

The sacrifices are show.

The confession is a show.

He wants the prophet to come back with him to show the people that things are okay.

But they are not okay.

The LORD has torn the kingdom away from Saul like a ripped robe.

And He’s not giving it back. V.29 again.

“He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind.”

Interestingly, “change his mind” is the same word as in v.11 and v.35 for “grieve” or “regret” or older versions have “repent.”

And we know that it can’t mean the same thing in each case because God is regretting in verses 11 and 35 and verse 29 says that He doesn’t do that.

So, there must be a sense in which God does grieve His choices and a sense in which He does not.

In verses 11 and 35, God is revealed to feel sorrow and pain over His choice. Not that it was the wrong thing for Him to do, but that it was a painful thing for Him to do.

He gave Israel what they deserved and what was right, but it wasn’t all good. King Saul wasn’t all good for them. In fact, he was downright disappointing.

But God has now said that King Saul will no longer be, in God’s eyes, the King of Israel. He is being replaced.

And that is a decision that is final. The decision to make him king was not final. It could be changed depending on Saul’s actions. But this decision is final, and God is not moody or capricious or whimsical or arbitrary in His choices.

He’s not like us. What He says, goes.

Now, I think that if Saul had responded well to this rebuke, then Saul could have been saved as a person and useful to the Lord. Not the king, because this was final, but a useful counselor to the new king and maybe a mighty general in his army.

But Saul never seems to respond well to any rebuke.

All he ever seems to care about is saving face.

What other people think of him.

He’s really into making everything about himself, isn’t he?

In the last chapter, instead of being concerned about his army’s health and welfare, he is only concerned about wiping out “his” enemies even if his men have to go without food.

In this chapter, he has won the battle, and the first thing he thinks to do is to set up a monument to himself!

Let’s make that #4.

#4. MAKE EVERYTHING ALL ABOUT YOU.

That’s what Saul does, and what grieves his Lord.

He doesn’t care that God get the glory. Not really.
He doesn’t care about his people. Not really.

He cares what they think of him, but not how they are doing, do they have what they need.

He gives in to his people because he wants them to like him.

That’s the fear of man, and the Bible says that it will prove to be a snare.

And it’s also a kind of self-love and self-worship.

It’s making everything all about me.

Me. Me. Me. Me. Me.

That’s why, I think, that Saul kept Agag. He wanted to have his own little king for a pet.

Look what I have!  I have a king.

This is all that’s left of the Amalekies because of me!

Me. Me. Me. Me. Me.

He doesn’t care that God had commanded that Agag die.

So Samuel has to do it. V.32

“Then Samuel said, ‘Bring me Agag king of the Amalekites.’ Agag came to him confidently, thinking, ‘Surely the bitterness of death is past.’ [The king isn’t here. Just a prophet. I’m safe!] But Samuel said, ‘As your sword has made women childless, so will your mother be childless among women.’ And Samuel put Agag to death before the LORD at Gilgal.

Then Samuel left for Ramah, but Saul went up to his home in Gibeah of Saul. Until the day Samuel died, he did not go to see Saul again, though Samuel mourned for him. And the LORD was grieved that he had made Saul king over Israel.”

I think that’s really sad.

Samuel leaves Saul for the last time.

Saul will go to him, but Samuel will not come to Saul.  (Unless you count the time he shows up at Endor–but we’ll get to that later.)

Saul is left alone.

Samuel mourns for him. He feels bad.

And the LORD feels bad, too.

Because it hurt that He had, in His wisdom, made Saul king over Israel.

It was the right thing to do, but it was sure painful for a God who loves His people.

God had chosen a king who made everything about himself instead of everything about the Lord.

You and I can make that mistake, too, can’t we?

When was the last time you said something that sounded a lot like:

“Me. Me. Me. Me. Me.”

Or set up a monument to yourself?

Or cared more about what people thought of you than what God thought of you?

Or thought you could get by on sacrifice alone and make it up to God later.

Or picked and chose which of Christ’s commands you want to obey?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to grieve the Lord anymore.

Let’s give Him our whole hearts so that we have a heart for His heart.

And not follow Saul where he chose to go.

Let’s not make everything about us, but about Him. About the Lord.

And that will not grieve Him at all.


***

A Heart for the Heart of God

01. Hannah's Prayers
02. Those Who Honor Me I Will Honor
03. Speak, LORD, for Your Servant Is Listening
04. God In A Box
05. Who Can Stand in the Presence of the LORD, This Holy God?
06. Be Careful What You Ask For
07. "Go and Look for the Donkeys."
08. From Here On
09. Who Knows?

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