A Bright Moment at the Start of Saul’s Reign

After Saul had led a military campaign to prevent a disastrous and disgraceful deal with the Ammonites done people thought that those who did not rally being Saul should be executed.  See the story of the propised deal between the Ammonites and the people of Jabesh-Gilead in 1 Samuel 11:1-11.

There is murderous intent in this patriotism

Let’s kill…

Then the people said to Samuel, Who is it that said, Shall Saul reign over us? Bring the men, that we may put them to death.

Saul says what Christ’s disciples need to say.

But Saul said, Not a man shall be put to death this day, for today the Lord has worked salvation in Israel.

Then Samuel said to the people, Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingdom. So all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before the Lord in Gilgal.

There they sacrificed peace offerings before the Lord, and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly.  1 Samuel 11:12-15

No one survives the law or thrives without repentance

Now if our actual treatment of unbelievers is to throw anything at people let us revisit our story that we have been touched by the grace of God.

The source of great rejoicing is still available: Christ the Son of God, Saviour.

​Psalm 22: snapshots of the Lord’s passion

We know that Scripture cannot be broken, that is, rendered useless.  We also know that the personal suffering of one of our Lord’s ancestors, David, comes to play a large part in assuring us that our Lord’s suffering is the most helpful thing in history and eternity.  Certain words and actions from this psalm appear in the gospels and at least letter as reminders of an unfailing plan and incomparable love.

The famous and painful words.  Mark 15:34.  Psalm 22:1

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? 

The mocking crowd. Mark 15:32.  Psalm 22:8

He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!

The physical abuse. John 19:34.  Psalm 22:16

For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet— 

The casual gaming.  John 19:24.  Psalm 22:18

they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. 

The crucified’s commitment.  Hebrews 2:12.  Psalm 22:22

I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.

It is tempting to call events that fulfil scripture incredible, but this phenomenon – the relationship between Old Testament texts and events in Christ’s life – is the most credible of all. 

Tall and Handsome Sent to Find Lost Donkeys

How Saul Ends up Anointed as King

1 Samuel 9:2_3

And he had a son whose name was Saul, a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people. (3)

Now the donkeys of Kish, Saul’s father, were lost. So Kish said to Saul his son, Take one of the young men with you, and arise, go and look for the donkeys. 

Tall and Handsome Reveres the Seer

1 Samuel 9:6.  But he said to him, Behold, there is a man of God in this city, and he is a man who is held in honor; all that he says comes true. So now let us go there. Perhaps he can tell us the way we should go.

Chosen to deliver.  1 Samuel 9:15-16.

Now the day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed to Samuel: Tomorrow about this time I will send to you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be prince over my people Israel. He shall save my people from the hand of the Philistines. For I have seen my people, because their cry has come to me.

Chosen to restrain

1 Samuel 9:17.  When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord told him, Here is the man of whom I spoke to you! He it is who shall restrain my people. 

Lost donkeys found.  1 Samuel 9:20

As for your donkeys that were lost three days ago, do not set your mind on them, for they have been found. And for whom is all that is desirable in Israel? Is it not for you and for all your father’s house?

The day passes with a visit to the high place, dining together, and. after spending the night in intriguing conversation…

1 Samuel 10:1

Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head and kissed him and said, Has not the Lord anointed you to be prince over his people Israel? And you shall reign over the people of the Lord and you will save them from the hand of their surrounding enemies. And this shall be the sign to you that the Lord has anointed you to be prince over his heritage.

God uses seemingly insignificant and every day incidents to bring together the agents of his large and uncommon plans.

May you be surprised today!

​PEOPLE SEEKING SHELTER FROM LIFE

In this episode – Jeremiah 42:7-17 covering the closing days of pre-Babylonian exile Judah –  we see the similarity to the people flirting with godliness without Christ’s flavour and people’s desire to have fish without the fishy smell.

At the end of ten days the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah. Then he summoned Johanan the son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces who were with him, and all the people from the least to the greatest, and said to them, 

They were still seeking divine help.

Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me to present your plea for mercy before him: 

The message was not what they wanted to hear.

 If you will remain in this land, then I will build you up and not pull you down; I will plant you, and not pluck you up; for I relent of the disaster that I did to you. 

If fear of God was the beginning of wisdom then Israel was all folly. They were afraid of the Babylonian king even after the memory of the Exodus.  This is similar to Christians being afraid of policemen and creditors after the memory of salvation from sin.  It bore repeating.

Do not fear the king of Babylon, of whom you are afraid. Do not fear him, declares the Lord, for I am with you, to save you and to deliver you from his hand. I will grant you mercy, that he may have mercy on you and let you remain in your own land. 

People tend to do what their ancestors did.  Egypt was good for Abraham, Joseph, the whole Hebrew family, and infant Yeshua, but with Babylon breathing down Judah’s neck Egypt was not on the destination list.  Jeremiah was again apparently on the wrong side.  Nobody should be thinking of Egypt as a refuge.

Choices are a part of the human problem.  Our knowledge can be useless.  Our faith can be misplaced.  

But if you say, We will not remain in this land, disobeying the voice of the Lord your God and saying, No, we will go to the land of Egypt, where we shall not see war or hear the sound of the trumpet or be hungry for bread, and we will dwell there, then hear the word of the Lord, O remnant of Judah. 

There is no escape from the divine decree.  Judah’s humiliation was going to happen, no matter where the Judeans were. Famine – remember what drove Jacob to Egypt – would pursue them.

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: If you set your faces to enter Egypt and go to live there, then the sword that you fear shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine of which you are afraid shall follow close after you to Egypt, and there you shall die. 

NO SURVIVOR, NO REMNANT, ONLY DISASTER

All the men who set their faces to go to Egypt to live there shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence. They shall have no remnant or survivor from the disaster that I will bring upon them.  

Jerusalem, in New Testament times, became a pitiful victim of the same kind of misplaced confidence.

Consider Christ’s expression of apprehension over Jerusalem. 

And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation. Luke 19:41-44. 

When God is intervening we, like the ancient Judeans, are not exempt from seeing his provision for our welfare as destructive.  May our experience of our visitation be pleasing to God and glorious. 

As the Tide Turns

RELEASED FROM PRISON TO BE HARASSED FOR SAYING “STAY IN THE CITY AND DIE”. Jeremiah 38:2

Thus says the Lord: He who stays in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence, but he who goes out to the Chaldeans shall live. He shall have his life as a prize of war, and live. 

DEATH TO JEREMIAH FOR SAYING SO.
Jeremiah 38:4-5

Then the officials said to the king, Let this man be put to death, for he is weakening the hands of the soldiers who are left in this city, and the hands of all the people, by speaking such words to them. For this man is not seeking the welfare of this people, but their harm.  King Zedekiah said, Behold, he is in your hands, for the king can do nothing against you. 

THE DUNGEON FOR JEREMIAH FOR SAYING SO.  Jeremiah 38:6

So they took Jeremiah and cast him into the cistern of Malchiah, the king’s son, which was in the court of the guard, letting Jeremiah down by ropes. And there was no water in the cistern, but only mud, and Jeremiah sank in the mud.  

RESCUED BY AN ETHIOPIAN. Jeremiah 38:7-13 [his name means king’s (melek) servant (servant) and eunuch indicates a job title]

When Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, a eunuch who was in the king’s house, heard that they had put Jeremiah into the cistern—the king was sitting in the Benjamin Gate— Ebed-melech went from the king’s house and said to the king, My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they did to Jeremiah the prophet by casting him into the cistern, and he will die there of hunger, for there is no bread left in the city. 

Thirty Men to Lift Jeremiah from the Dungeon

Then the king commanded Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, Take thirty men with you from here, and lift Jeremiah the prophet out of the cistern before he dies. 

So Ebed-melech took the men with him and went to the house of the king, to a wardrobe in the storehouse, and took from there old rags and worn-out clothes, which he let down to Jeremiah in the cistern by ropes. Then Ebed-melech the Ethiopian said to Jeremiah, Put the rags and clothes between your armpits and the ropes. Jeremiah did so. Then they drew Jeremiah up with ropes and lifted him out of the cistern. And Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard.  

ONE-ON-ONE WITH THE KING.  Jeremiah 38:14-23.  THIS WAS A YOU-CAN’T-BE-SERIOUS-INTERVIEW

King Zedekiah sent for Jeremiah the prophet and received him at the third entrance of the temple of the Lord. The king said to Jeremiah, I will ask you a question; hide nothing from me. Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, If I tell you, will you not surely put me to death? And if I give you counsel, you will not listen to me. 

KING’S OATH.  As the Lord lives
Then King Zedekiah swore secretly to Jeremiah, As the Lord lives, who made our souls, I will not put you to death or deliver you into the hand of these men who seek your life. 

THE HARD FACTS

Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, Thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the God of Israel: 

  • If you will surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then your life shall be spared, and this city shall not be burned with fire, and you and your house shall live. 
  • But if you do not surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then this city shall be given into the hand of the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire, and you shall not escape from their hand.


ROYAL TREPIDATION and CLEAR OPTIONS

King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, I am afraid of the Judeans who have deserted to the Chaldeans, lest I be handed over to them and they deal cruelly with me. 

Jeremiah said,

You shall not be given to them. Obey now the voice of the Lord in what I say to you, and it shall be well with you, and your life shall be spared. 

People saw Jeremiah as a prophet of doom even though he wept bitterly over the nation’s harlotry and the oncoming judgment.  He was not like Jonah, wanting to see destruction and despising mercy.  The choices are clear.

But if you refuse to surrender, this is the vision which the Lord has shown to me: Behold, all the women left in the house of the king of Judah were being led out to the officials of the king of Babylon and were saying, 

Mocking Jeremiah’s plight

 Your trusted friends have deceived you and prevailed against you; now that your feet are sunk in the mud, they turn away from you.  

Devastating and Certain Consequences

 All your wives and your sons shall be led out to the Chaldeans, and you yourself shall not escape from their hand, but shall be seized by the king of Babylon, and this city shall be burned with fire.

SURRENDER TO BABYLON OR DIE.  [what a thing to say!]

Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, Thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the God of Israel: If you will surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then your life shall be spared, and this city shall not be burned with fire, and you and your house shall live. But if you do not surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then this city shall be given into the hand of the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire, and you shall not escape from their hand. 

KING’S SECRET.  Jeremiah 38:24-28

Then Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, Let no one know of these words, and you shall not die. If the officials hear that I have spoken with you and come to you and say to you, Tell us what you said to the king and what the king said to you; hide nothing from us and we will not put you to death, then you shall say to them, I made a humble plea to the king that he would not send me back to the house of Jonathan to die there. 

Then all the officials came to Jeremiah and asked him, and he answered them as the king had instructed him. So they stopped speaking with him, for the conversation had not been overheard. And Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard until the day that Jerusalem was taken.  

The familiar narratives about the security of holy city, and victory over all enemies, and the endurance of the temple are about to undergo a radical twist.  Fire will consume both the city and the temple.  How can the 21st century believer survive if the one voice of reliability – Yeshua, Saviour of the world – is practically silenced and his name is a curse-word?  Hardly.

Thunder, Violence and Stones of Help

…but the Lord thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines, and discomfited them; and they were smitten before Israel. And the men of Israel went out of Mizpeh, and pursued the Philistines, and smote them, until they came under Beth–car. (1 Samuel 7:10b-11)

If God thundered and shook up the United States of America some of her neighbours and people that she had oppressed might be heard saying “It’s a natural phenomenon”.  It would be quite another thing for the US’ neighbours to move in on the US with violent intent.

God does shake people up with earthquakes, cyclones, fires and poor leadership but thankfully our neighbours are not our enemies. So there is no chance of us pursuing and smiting our neighbours.

We are at risk of treating our neighbours as inferior specimens all the while putting ourselves, our own clan, family, village, city and nation as the epitome of goodness and excellence.

Let us make sure that our Ebenezers – our celebrations of God’s help –  are free from sinful intent, free from pride and prejudice, not coloured by our achievement, and are genuine expressions of gratitude. No ifs, no buts.

Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Eben–ezer, saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us. (1 Samuel 7:12)

​Historic Troubles Everywhere?

Most people who are familiar with the prophecies about the end of time will recognize the certainty of extreme catastrophic events before the end of the present age.  The Bible uses three pictures to help us navigate the tumult of the final events: sealed scrolls opened (social dysfunctions and catastrophic events unfold), bowls of rage poured out (catastrophic upheavals unfold ), trumpets blown (catastrophic events unfold).  The unprecedented nature of the three series has led to the word apocalypse being treated as simply destructive, but the word still means unveiling or revelation.  
The Revelation is about Jesus and it is from Jesus.  So it would be sensible to hear what he has to say about the time of the end (TTOTE).
His disciples had taken a good look at the temple complex buildings and were in wonder as to how beautiful things were and shared their amazement with him.

He did observe the temple complex and remarked (Matthew 24:22b) Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down. 

Then privately the disciples (Matt. 24:3) wanted the schedule, asking, “when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” In answer to those questions, our Lord predicted a series of national and international events and this forecast.
For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. Matthew 24:21

History and Christ’s story

Who can sit and listen to the fascinating  preview of history, those mindboggling scenes in the Book of Revelation or the Book of Daniel and not be totally amazed as a child listening to a story told by a great storyteller would be?  Christ has a story to tell.  Assuredly, his infancy, flight from assassination attempt attempts, ministry to the people, opposition to his destiny, death, burial and resurrection are all vital to his narrative, but it is not all about him.  His story includes our tenuous grip on life.  Persecution and the list of birthpangs should sober us up.  His story is the one that covers history with accuracy and authority.  Everything happens exactly as he said it would and and when he says it will happen.
So as we are watching earthquakes, famines, pestilence, deception and international wars and rumours of war increase in frequency and intensity we are encouraged that that our priest-king is moving to the finale of history.

Attitudes for Troublesome Times 

Avoid the ignorant and deceived. Stop being afraid and stop being troubled.  Troubled people are not conducive to growth and security.  According to the Lord’s forecast, neither we nor our abcesturs have seen anything yet.  Troubles need not trouble us. Terrifying scenarios need not terrify us. The disturbing things need not disturb us.  Criticism need not make us critical (being condemned does not mean we should walk around slamming the gavel on everyone).  
Remember, it is just when that unprecedented crisis arrives that deliverance comes. 

At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book.

Daniel 12:1

I am planning to be around to see our sun go supernova, which in the realm of the natural is millions of years away and a spectacle of immense proportions.  The reliability of Bible prophecy needs no help from natural science.  My faith says, “God is our refuge”.