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Sunday, November 10, 2013

[Matt's Messages] "Who Knows?"

“Who Knows?”
A Heart for the Heart of God: The Message of 1 Samuel
November 10, 2013 :: 1 Samuel 13:1-14:52

Our series is called “A Heart for the Heart of God,” but the main character of this part of the story doesn’t appear to have one.

Unfortunately, King Saul is the king that Israel demanded, and the king that Israel deserved.

These two chapters, together with next week’s chapter 15, tell the story of what a disappointment King Saul turns out to be. In fact, next week, God will tear away the kingdom from King Saul and begin to give it to someone else.

Someone with a heart for the heart of God.

Today, we’re going to read chapters 13 and 14 with the message title, “Who Knows?”

And we’re going to ponder 3 things that might be.  Three things that might be, depending upon various factors.

The first verse of chapter 13 is presents a textual problem. In the hebrew text, there are actually no numbers, the numbers are missing. That’s why different versions will read differently here. Later manuscripts have included some numbers–the NIV has included some that match Acts chapter 13, verse 21, which makes sense to me.

I don’t think it matters very much, but one commentator that I read this week said that it was par for the course with King Saul that he didn’t even show up in his own stats. He’s that kind of a disappointment.
Let’s read. 1 Samuel chapter 13, verse 1.

“Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned over Israel forty-two years. Saul chose three thousand men from Israel; two thousand were with him at Micmash and in the hill country of Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan [that’s his son] at Gibeah in Benjamin. The rest of the men he sent back to their homes.

[You can tell that there is war brewing. War with the Philistines, Saul’s main enemy. V.3]

Jonathan attacked the Philistine outpost at Geba, and the Philistines heard about it. Then Saul had the trumpet blown throughout the land and said, ‘Let the Hebrews hear!’ So all Israel heard the news: ‘Saul has attacked the Philistine outpost, and now Israel has become a stench to the Philistines.’ And the people were summoned to join Saul at Gilgal.”

So, Saul has amassed an army and given his son Jonathan command over a thousand men.  Jonathan has attacked a Philistine outpost which has enraged and aroused the Philistines to attack.

Interesting that verse 4 says that Saul did the attacking which was actually done by Jonathan. Now, maybe that’s just because Saul did the ordering, but it may be a subtle way of seeing Saul take credit for Jonathan’s actions.

Either way, it turns out that Israel is now in trouble. V.5

“The Philistines assembled to fight Israel, with three thousand chariots, six thousand charioteers, and soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore. They went up and camped at Micmash, east of Beth Aven. [Uh oh! A giant army 2 miles away.]

When the men of Israel saw that their situation was critical and that their army was hard pressed, they hid in caves and thickets, among the rocks, and in pits and cisterns.

Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. [They got out of Dodge!] Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear.

[So, the pressure is on for King Saul. What is he going to do? V.8]

He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel [probably the 7 days mentioned in chapter 10, verse 8]; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul's men began to scatter.

So he said, ‘Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.’ And Saul offered up the burnt offering.”

Now, if you didn’t know about Levites and priests then this might sound like a good thing.

Okay, the priest isn’t around, let’s get this offering done. God must be worshipped!

But this is actually disobedience. Saul is not a Levite. Saul is a Benjamite. Saul is not a priest. Saul is a king.

And he was supposed to wait.

Even kings need to follow orders!

But Saul did not wait.

Have you ever taken matters into your own hands when you knew you shouldn’t?

V. 10.  “Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him.

‘What have you done?’ asked Samuel.

[Well, it’s nice to see you, too, Sam!]

Saul replied, ‘When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Micmash, I thought, 'Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the LORD's favor.' So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.’

[I had to. Don’t you see?]

‘You acted foolishly,’ Samuel said. ‘You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time.

But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the LORD's command.’”

Here’s point #1 this morning.

#1. WHO KNOWS WHAT YOU MIGHT LOSE THROUGH DISOBEDIENCE?

Saul lost his dynasty.

Saul may still be king, but his son will not be king. God says so through Samuel.

V.13 “You acted foolishly. You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you.”

Why?  V.14

“The LORD has sought out a man after his own heart...”

And it’s clear that that is not you.

God wants men and women to have a heart for the heart of God.

And disobedience to His clear commands demonstrates a half-heart, at least, and when persisted in, demonstrates that there is no heart for God.

Disobedience demonstrates a heart that is diseased.

And Lord will not bless it. In fact, He will take away blessings because of disobedience.

Who knows what you might lose through disobedience?

Now, the Lord is gracious. And for the repentant, He is able to make up for the years the locusts have eaten.

Just because you have disobeyed doesn’t mean that God is done with you and that He  can’t do immeasurably more than all you can ask or think.

But don’t presume upon the grace of God and say to yourself, “I’ll sin all the more so that grace may abound!” May it never be!

Who knows what you might lose through disobedience?

I have regrets in my life for sins that I have committed and virtues that I have omitted.

Times when I didn’t do what I should do and times when I did what shouldn’t.

Who knows what blessings I have forfeited because of those regrets?

I can’t live in regret. I need to repent of those things and receive God’s cleansing forgiveness because of the blood of Christ.  And I need to trust that God will work even my regrets to my good.

But I should never think that my sins are good.

And when I am tempted to disobey, I need to remember what I might lose if I give in.

I’m sure that Saul never thought that day that he would lose his dynasty. He was just doing what seemed good to him at the time.

And he’s full of excuses, isn’t he?

Are you full of excuses?  Why you disobey?

“You don’t understand! My situation is so difficult, so different. It’s not my fault.”

Christians are called to OBEY, and God will bless obedience.

No excuses.

Don’t be a Saul. You don’t know what you might lose.

I think that one of the saddest things that Saul loses is his friend Samuel. V.15

“Then Samuel left Gilgal and went up to Gibeah in Benjamin, and Saul counted the men who were with him. They numbered about six hundred. Saul and his son Jonathan and the men with them were staying in Gibeah in Benjamin, while the Philistines camped at Micmash. [Not far away.]

Raiding parties went out from the Philistine camp in three detachments. One turned toward Ophrah in the vicinity of Shual, another toward Beth Horon, and the third toward the borderland overlooking the Valley of Zeboim facing the desert.

Not a blacksmith could be found in the whole land of Israel, because the Philistines had said, ‘Otherwise the Hebrews will make swords or spears!’

So all Israel went down to the Philistines to have their plowshares, mattocks, axes and sickles sharpened. The price was [an exorbitant] two thirds of a shekel for sharpening plowshares and mattocks, and a third of a shekel for sharpening forks and axes and for repointing goads.

So on the day of the battle [and there’s a battle coming!] not a soldier with Saul and Jonathan had a sword or spear in his hand; only Saul and his son Jonathan had them.  Now a detachment of Philistines had gone out to the pass at Micmash.”

Sounds like a set-up, doesn’t it?

The Philistines obviously have the ascendancy. They are much more numerous and they are so powerful they have disarmed the Israelites and are even getting paid to sharpen their farm tools.

Things are in a bad place for Israel. ...

But isn’t that just the time when God loves to work?  When our situations are bleak?

Just because we are helpless, doesn’t mean that we should be hopeless.  (I got this idea from Dale Ralph Davis in his little commentary on 1 Samuel, “Looking On the Heart.”)

King Saul may not understand that, but his Jonathan clearly does. Chapter 14, verse 1.

“One day [during this crisis] Jonathan son of Saul said to the young man bearing his armor, ‘Come, let's go over to the Philistine outpost on the other side.’ But he did not tell his father.”

His father was not a man of action or initiative. He was a good fighter when he fought, but Saul kept shrinking from the battle.  Jonathan decides to take some initiative of his own. V.2

“Saul was staying on the outskirts of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree in Migron. With him were about six hundred men, among whom was Ahijah, who was wearing an ephod. He was a son of Ichabod's brother Ahitub son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the LORD's priest in Shiloh. No one was aware that Jonathan had left.”

Now, I think that part of the point here is that someone is missing.

Who is not there?  Samuel. Instead of godly Samuel, they have Ahijah acting as priest, and who is he related to?  “No Glory.”  Ichabod.  Phinehas. Eli.

And they are unaware of what is going on. Another picture of spiritual blindness? V.4

“On each side of the pass that Jonathan intended to cross to reach the Philistine outpost was a cliff; one was called Bozez, and the other Seneh. One cliff stood to the north toward Micmash, the other to the south toward Geba.”

Get a picture in your mind?

Not smooth terrain. Dangerous terrain. Two cliffs, so slippery and dangerous that the locals have given them names.

Devil’s Elbow, right? V.6

“Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, ‘Come, let's go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised fellows. Perhaps the LORD will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few.’”

This is the key verse that led me to name this message, “Who Knows?”

And it’s point #2.

#2. WHO KNOW WHAT GOD MIGHT DO IF YOU STEP OUT IN FAITH?

I get that from what Jonathan says in verse 6.

“Come, let's go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised fellows. Perhaps the LORD will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few.”

I love that “perhaps.”

King James, “It may be.”

My words: “Who knows?”

Who knows what God might do.

Is Jonathan assured of victory this day?  Does he have a promise from God that he will win?

No. Not this day. In fact, we’re going to see that it certainly looks like he might lose. He’s definitely outnumbered and has the inferior position.

But He knows God and that God is able.

“Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few.”

He can do it. God can do it. And if He wants to give us success, there is nothing that can stop Him. “Nothing can hinder the LORD.”

That’s a great perspective, isn’t it?

Stepping out in faith, not knowing what will happen, but trusting that God can do big things.

There is a saying “nothing ventured, nothing gained,” and that’s not always true, but it generally is.

This is saying, “Who knows what might be gained if we venture out in faith?!”

Dream a little bit with me.

Who knows what God would do if you:

What?

Talked to a friend, neighbor, family member or co-worker about Christ?

Invited them over to your house for a meal and a viewing of The Cross by Billy Graham?

Who knows what God might do if you got a little bold?

Who knows what God might do if you gave a little more?

If you filled two shoeboxes instead of one.

Or if you asked another lady to come to the Holiday Tea on Saturday?

Or if you signed up to give a short testimony during the Christmas season?

Or if you ... what?

What might you venture for the Lord?

We all need to be stepping out in faith, trying things that we could not accomplish on our own.

“Perhaps the LORD will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few.”

And that’s what He did. V.7

“‘Do all that you have in mind,’ his armor-bearer said. ‘Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.’ [We need to be like, too!] Jonathan said, ‘Come, then; we will cross over toward the men and let them see us. If they say to us, 'Wait there until we come to you,' we will stay where we are and not go up to them. But if they say, 'Come up to us,' we will climb up, because that will be our sign that the LORD has given them into our hands.’”

That’s pretty risky. They are going to climb up the impassible cliffs and come at a disadvantage. But they think that if the Philistines call out to them to come up, they’ll just do that and trust the LORD to do something big.

“So both of them showed themselves to the Philistine outpost. ‘Look!’ said the Philistines. ‘The Hebrews are crawling out of the holes they were hiding in.’

The men of the outpost shouted to Jonathan and his armor-bearer, ‘Come up to us and we'll teach you a lesson.’

So Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, ‘Climb up after me; the LORD has given them into the hand of Israel.’”

I wish I had a video of this next part. It would make a great action scene, I think. V.13

“Jonathan climbed up, using his hands and feet, with his armor-bearer right behind him. The Philistines fell before Jonathan, and his armor-bearer followed and killed behind him. In that first attack Jonathan and his armor-bearer killed some twenty men in an area of about half an acre.

[That’s God. That’s God saving by few. And then God decides to use this to save by many. V.15]

“Then panic struck the whole army–those in the camp and field, and those in the outposts and raiding parties–and the ground shook. It was a panic sent by God.

Saul's lookouts at Gibeah in Benjamin saw the army melting away in all directions. Then Saul said to the men who were with him, ‘Muster the forces and see who has left us.’ When they did, it was Jonathan and his armor-bearer who were not there.

Saul said to Ahijah, ‘Bring the ark of God.’ (At that time it was with the Israelites.)

[Uh oh. Here he goes again.]

While Saul was talking to the priest, the tumult in the Philistine camp increased more and more. So Saul said to the priest, ‘Withdraw your hand.’

Then Saul and all his men assembled and went to the battle. They found the Philistines in total confusion, striking each other with their swords.

Those Hebrews who had previously been with the Philistines and had gone up with them to their camp went over to the Israelites who were with Saul and Jonathan.

When all the Israelites who had hidden in the hill country of Ephraim heard that the Philistines were on the run, they joined the battle in hot pursuit.

So the LORD rescued Israel that day, and the battle moved on beyond Beth Aven.”

Who knows what God might do if you step out in faith?

Jonathan got the ball rolling just by taking a risk in the name of the LORD.

He didn’t know if it would work. God hadn’t promised that it would.

But He knew that God could do big things with little people who are faithful.

What risk might you take this week, or even today, to step out in faith and venture for the LORD?

“Perhaps the LORD will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few.”

Do it!

Who knows? Who knows what God might do?

Now, I wish this was the end of the story.

It would end a lot better and a lot cleaner if we could just stop right here.

But there was another story going on that day, the story of the half-hearted foolishness of King Saul.

Even though there was a great victory that day because of Jonathan’s venture of faith, it was a very difficult, distressing day for Israel, as well. Look at verse 24.

“Now the men of Israel were in distress that day, because Saul had bound the people under an oath, saying, ‘Cursed be any man who eats food before evening comes, before I have avenged myself on my enemies!’ So none of the troops tasted food.”

Now, I tried to figure out this week WHY Saul did that.

I mean, was he trying somehow to get God to do a miracle? We’ll all fast while we fight just to make it impossible to win, okay?

It doesn’t say. And the rest of the story makes it clear that this was not just foolish, it was stupid.

Saul was being stupidly foolish and putting every one of his men at unnecessary risk.

And I think it’s because Saul did not have a heart for the heart of God. He was not wise. He did not have the fear of the LORD that is the beginning of wisdom.

He was not a wise...as his own son.

He told his army not to eat. V.25

“The entire army entered the woods, and there was honey on the ground. When they went into the woods, they saw the honey oozing out, yet no one put his hand to his mouth, because they feared the oath.

But Jonathan had not heard that his father had bound the people with the oath, so he reached out the end of the staff that was in his hand and dipped it into the honeycomb. He raised his hand to his mouth, and his eyes brightened. [Ooh, that’s good.]

Then one of the soldiers told him, ‘Your father bound the army under a strict oath, saying, 'Cursed be any man who eats food today!' That is why the men are faint.’

Jonathan said, ‘My father has made trouble for the country. See how my eyes brightened when I tasted a little of this honey. How much better it would have been if the men had eaten today some of the plunder they took from their enemies. Would not the slaughter of the Philistines have been even greater?’”

Here’s our last point for today.

#3. WHO KNOWS WHAT GOD COULD DO WITH A HEART THAT IS WHOLLY HIS?

Jonathan has some hard words for his dad.

“My father has made trouble for the country.”

Ouch. That would hurt to hear.

And Jonathan says, who knows how much better it could have been for us if the army had been allowed to eat?

“How much better it would have been if the men had eaten today some of the plunder they took from their enemies. Would not the slaughter of the Philistines have been even greater?”

We could have won the whole shooting match today!

If only Saul had a heart for the heart of God.

And not a foolish, half-hearted heart.

What might have been!

As it is, Saul let his men to be so hungry they got out of control when evening came. V.31

“That day, after the Israelites had struck down the Philistines from Micmash to Aijalon, they were exhausted. [Wonder why?] They pounced on the plunder and, taking sheep, cattle and calves, they butchered them on the ground and ate them, together with the blood. [Against the Law of Moses.]

Then someone said to Saul, ‘Look, the men are sinning against the LORD by eating meat that has blood in it.’ ‘You have broken faith,’ he said. ‘Roll a large stone over here at once.’

Then he said, ‘Go out among the men and tell them, 'Each of you bring me your cattle and sheep, and slaughter them here and eat them. Do not sin against the LORD by eating meat with blood still in it.'’ So everyone brought his ox that night and slaughtered it there.

Then Saul built an altar to the LORD; it was the first time he had done this.”

Hmmm.

If Saul had been a better leader, they would have never gotten to this place. V.36

“Saul said, ‘Let us go down after the Philistines by night and plunder them till dawn, and let us not leave one of them alive.’ ‘Do whatever seems best to you,’ they replied. But the priest said, ‘Let us inquire of God here.’

So Saul asked God, ‘Shall I go down after the Philistines? Will you give them into Israel's hand?’ But God did not answer him that day.”

Saul has gotten the idea that there is something wrong. Again, he is fairly blind spiritually and only half aware of what is really going on. V.38

“Saul therefore said, ‘Come here, all you who are leaders of the army, and let us find out what sin has been committed today. As surely as the LORD who rescues Israel lives, even if it lies with my son Jonathan, he must die.’ But not one of the men said a word.

[You see it in your mind’s eye?]

Saul then said to all the Israelites, ‘You stand over there; I and Jonathan my son will stand over here.’ ‘Do what seems best to you,’ the men replied.

Then Saul prayed to the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Give me the right answer.’ And Jonathan and Saul were taken by lot, and the men were cleared.

Saul said, ‘Cast the lot between me and Jonathan my son.’ And Jonathan was taken.

Then Saul said to Jonathan, ‘Tell me what you have done.’ So Jonathan told him, ‘I merely tasted a little honey with the end of my staff. And now must I die?’

Saul said, ‘May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if you do not die, Jonathan.’

But the men said to Saul, ‘Should Jonathan die–he who has brought about this great deliverance in Israel? Never! As surely as the LORD lives, not a hair of his head will fall to the ground, for he did this today with God's help.’ So the men rescued Jonathan, and he was not put to death.”

Saul has not yet lost the kingdom, but he’s already lost the army.

You want to put Jonathan to death?  He, with the LORD[!], is the reason why we are celebrating today. Where were you?

Saul has lost the favor of his son and his army and his prophet, and his Lord.

You know when I read this story, the thing that jumps to the top of my mind is how much better a king Jonathan would have been than Saul.

And now Jonathan is never going to be king because of Saul.

How much better it could have been...

Who knows what God could do with heart that is wholly his?

Verses 46 through 52 sound like the end of Saul’s life. They have that “summing up” feel about them.

And there is a lot of good stuff in there that Saul did and accomplished.

God used him.  But how much more could have been accomplished if Saul had a heart for the heart of God?  V.46

“Then Saul stopped pursuing the Philistines, and they withdrew to their own land. After Saul had assumed rule over Israel, he fought against their enemies on every side: Moab, the Ammonites, Edom, the kings of Zobah, and the Philistines. Wherever he turned, he inflicted punishment on them. He fought valiantly and defeated the Amalekites, delivering Israel from the hands of those who had plundered them.

Saul's sons were Jonathan, Ishvi and Malki-Shua. The name of his older daughter was Merab, and that of the younger was Michal. His wife's name was Ahinoam daughter of Ahimaaz. The name of the commander of Saul's army was Abner son of Ner, and Ner was Saul's uncle. Saul's father Kish and Abner's father Ner were sons of Abiel.

All the days of Saul there was bitter war with the Philistines, and whenever Saul saw a mighty or brave man, he took him into his service.”

That last sentence is a set-up, isn’t it?  If you know the story, you know how that sets up what is to come with a young man named David.

And it’s a sad sentence, isn’t it?

“All the days of Saul there was bitter war with the Philistines...”

Saul’s life was a mixed bag with mixed results.

He accomplished some things for God. He actually fought valiantly when he fought.

But if he had had a heart for the heart of God, what more could have been accomplished?

Maybe there would have been no ongoing bitter war with the Philistines?

I went to Moody Bible Institute.

It was founded by Dwight L. Moody who had been a shoe salesman and eventually became a large-event evangelist, a forerunner of Billy Graham.

In 1872, Moody was challenged by a British revivalist named Henry Varley with this sentence, “Moody, the world has yet to see what God will do with a man fully consecrated to him.”

Moody chewed on that sentence for a whole year.

And then he got back together with Varley and he told him:

“Those were the words sent to my soul, through you, from the Living God. As I crossed the wide Atlantic, the boards of the deck of the vessel were engraved with them, and when I reached Chicago, the very paving stones seemed marked with ‘Moody, the world has yet to see what God will do with a man fully consecrated to him.’ Under the power of those words I have come back to England, and I felt that I must not let more time pass until I let you know how God had used your words to my inmost soul.”

“The world has yet to see what God will do with a man fully consecrated to him.”

Moody is often quoted as saying, “By God’s help, I aim to be that man.”

Who knows what God could do with a heart that is wholly his?

Let’s give our hearts to Him and see!


***

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."

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