Friday, October 17, 2008

Repenting of Our Attitudes Toward the Word of God

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Study 10 --- 1 Samuel 12

12:1 And Samuel said to all Israel, “Behold, I have obeyed your voice in all that you have said to me and have made a king over you. 2 And now, behold, the king walks before you, and I am old and gray; and behold, my sons are with you. I have walked before you from my youth until this day. 3 Here I am; testify against me before the Lord and before his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Or whose donkey have I taken? Or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed? Or from whose hand have I taken a bribe to blind my eyes with it? Testify against me and I will restore it to you.” 4 They said, “You have not defrauded us or oppressed us or taken anything from any man's hand.” 5 And he said to them, “The Lord is witness against you, and his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.” And they said, “He is witness.”

6 And Samuel said to the people, “The Lord is witness, who appointed Moses and Aaron and brought your fathers up out of the land of Egypt. 7 Now therefore stand still that I may plead with you before the Lord concerning all the righteous deeds of the Lord that he performed for you and for your fathers. 8 When Jacob went into Egypt, and the Egyptians oppressed them, then your fathers cried out to the Lord and the Lord sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your fathers out of Egypt and made them dwell in this place. 9 But they forgot the Lord their God. And he sold them into the hand of Sisera, commander of the army of Hazor, and into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the king of Moab. And they fought against them. 10 And they cried out to the Lord and said, ‘We have sinned, because we have forsaken the Lord and have served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. But now deliver us out of the hand of our enemies, that we may serve you.’ 11 And the Lord sent Jerubbaal and Barak and Jephthah and Samuel and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side, and you lived in safety. 12 And when you saw that Nahash the king of the Ammonites came against you, you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us,’ when the Lord your God was your king. 13 And now behold the king whom you have chosen, for whom you have asked; behold, the Lord has set a king over you. 14 If you will fear the Lord and serve him and obey his voice and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God, it will be well. 15 But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you and your king. 16 Now therefore stand still and see this great thing that the Lord will do before your eyes. 17 Is it not wheat harvest today? I will call upon the Lord, that he may send thunder and rain. And you shall know and see that your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of the Lord, in asking for yourselves a king.” 18 So Samuel called upon the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day, and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel.

19 And all the people said to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for ourselves a king.” 20 And Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. 21 And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. 22 For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name's sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself. 23 Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way. 24 Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you. 25 But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.”

Comment:

I am struck by verses 14-15 and the phrase that is repeated twice: “rebel against the commandment of the Lord.” Literally, in the Hebrew it says “rebel against the mouth of the Lord.”

It is impossible to be humble and submissive before the Lord, but rebellious toward his Word! Jesus teaches us that “man lives . . . by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Mat. 4:4). The Word of God is not optional for our lives. We ignore it at our peril. Even worse, if we are rebellious toward it, we risk eternal harm.

So few people today understand the priority that God’s Word must have in our lives. Here are some of the attitudes we see among professing Christians toward God’s Word:
  • Apathy --- So many Christians are simply apathetic toward God’s Word. They rarely read it. They never meditate on it. They do not study it. And when it is faithfully preached they want other things besides it.
  • Rebellion --- Some professing Christians are up front about their rejection of God’s Word as the ultimate authority of their lives. They replace the authority of the Word with the church’s teaching and tradition (Roman Catholics), with feelings/experience (the Charismatics), with reason (Protestant Liberals), or in some other way with the autonomous community or self.
  • Diversion and Distortion --- Some professing Christians are diverted from God’s Word by a worldview other than the Bible’s worldview. In our culture this most often is a therapeutic mindset which is brought to the reading and study of the Bible, which distorts its meaning. We use the Bible in a therapeutic way to help us with personal problems, when God’s Word is actually intended to cause us to know the triune God, his ways, and ourselves so that we fellowship with the Father through the Son and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Verse 14 teaches us how the Word of God is to stand over our lives. Even the king was to be subject to God’s Word!

All three attitudes above place something above God’s Word. Whether it is the church or tradition or experience or reason or psychology, I live by something other than God’s Word. I regard something else as more important or reliable than what the Lord says in his Word.

All of this is quite humbling, because if we are honest, we all, collectively and personally, are prone not to live by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Mat. 4:4). As Samuel says of the Israelites and us, “you have done all this evil” (v. 20).

But God is so very gracious to us in his Son. Samuel also says, “Don’t be afraid.” He can say this because the Lord is always gracious to those who turn from following their own hearts and idols and turn to follow the Lord. So let us find God’s grace by “renewing the kingdom” (1 Sam. 11:14) as Samuel calls this meeting in chapter 12, by coming to Jesus Christ our King at the foot of the cross. Let us come to him like the Israelites with repentant and resolved hearts that “fear the Lord and serve him faithfully” (v. 24).

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