Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 4 May 20:
Today’s readings reveal how pride leads to sin and the difference between being “sorry” and true repentance. God doesn’t want us to simply mourn our sins because of sin’s inevitable consequences, He wants us to sin no more that we may have unity with Him and experience the fullness of joy in Him.
1 Samuel 15:12, 13 – “And Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning. And it was told Samuel, ‘Saul came to Carmel, and behold, he set up a monument for himself and turned and passed on and went down to Gilgal.’ And Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, ‘Blessed be you to the Lord. I have performed the commandment of the Lord.’”
Saul set up a monument for himself, disobeyed God and yet had still convinced himself that he was godly – “I have performed the commandment of the Lord.” How often do people use religion to validate their prideful disobedience? Disobedience in all forms is like setting up monuments to self – idolatry.
1 Samuel 15:14 — “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the oxen that I hear?”
Having chosen his own desires over obedience, Saul still attempted to claim obedience and fidelity to God though his disobedience was plainly obvious. We may fool ourselves, and perhaps others, in our justifications of disobedience, but God hears clearly the bleating of the sheep.
1 Samuel 15:15-16 — “Saul said, ‘They have brought them…. the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen to sacrifice to the LORD your God, and the rest we have devoted to destruction.’ Then Samuel said to Saul, ‘Stop!”
Instead of humbly confessing His sins, Saul blamed other people and said his actions were for The Lord (good intentions). Samuel couldn’t listen to Saul’s pathetic denial and deflections any longer. You can’t fix what you aren’t willing to be honest about. Samuel was compelled to hold Saul accountable. Who holds you accountable? Who do you need to hold accountable?
1 Samuel 15:22 — “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.”
True worship is obedience to God’s word, not just ceremony and superficial displays of emotion or sacrifice. Disobedience is a rejection of God’s Lordship and makes an idol of ourselves as we place our selfish desires over God’s commands. Partial obedience is disobedience, and like Saul, we tend to hold something back from God, often telling ourselves, “God is OK with it; he understands.” As you consider your life and your fidelity to God can you hear the “bleating of the sheep… and the lowing of the oxen?” What sins have you been holding on to that you need to surrender this moment? “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15).”
– James 4:7 — Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
1 Samuel 15:23 — “For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king.”
Again, when we reject and disobey God’s word, we make idols of ourselves and serve ourselves instead of God. We might not practice witchcraft or worship statues, but the Bible says that rebellion and presumption are essentially the same thing, prioritizing something over the LORD.
1 Samuel 15:25 — “Please pardon my sin.” As we will see in our readings ahead, Saul was “sorry” for sinning but not repentant. Being sorry and being repentant are not the same thing. A person can be sorry because they don’t want to suffer the consequences of their sins without being repentant. Repentance is a “good grief” motivated by heartfelt regret for having offended and dishonored God, a regret not motivated by a fear of punishment but rather a desire to be reconciled to God. Repentance is a heartfelt desire to be forgiven and to never sin again. Repentance is approaching God honestly in total humility (no pride at all) and poor in spirit (admitting complete spiritual bankruptcy) and appealing to God’s mercy and grace. And the Bible says, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17) In areas where you have made bad decisions, are you just sorry or truly repentant? “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 4 May 20: Today, reflect on Saul’s story and pray that God will enable you to see your sin the way He sees it. Pray that God will inspire in you a true heart of repentance motivated by genuine love for Him, and finally, pray that He will inspire you to trust in His grace and forgiveness and to confidently and enthusiastically share the Good News of His grace to others that they too may be freed from the bondage of sin.