Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 29 August 2022:
1 Samuel 3:1 — And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.
Samuel 3 begins with the above ominous statement. The people had stopped hearing from God, and without God’s leading, they were doomed. The Book of Amos makes a similar statement — “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “when I will send a famine on the land— not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord (Amos 8:11). Today’s readings reveal not only that the “branch” had been separated from the “Vine” and was withering and dying, but the readings also reveal that the people were not aware of their condition – they felt that they were in a normal, healthy relationship with God.
Why had they ceased to hear God? Simple: Iniquity! (1 Samuel 3:13, 14) They had walked away from God and expected Him to follow them down their unholy path. So, when they were being defeated by the Philistines, they asked, “Why has the Lord defeated us today before the Philistines (1 Samuel 4:3)?” Then, in desperation, they turned to the idol of ‘religious ritual’ and sought the ark of God (which had become for them an idol), believing that their salvation rested in it rather than God Himself — “Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord here from Shiloh, that it may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies (1 Samuel 4:3).” Remember that similarly, Samson believed his strength came from his uncut hair rather than from his relationship with God.
Eli fell dead when he had heard the Philistines had captured the ark of the covenant, and the wife of Phinehas died in child birth “because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband.” Her dying words were, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.” She did not understand that the glory of God departed long before the ark of God had been captured; it departed when the people departed from God.
Too many Christians have grown comfortable both with iniquity and with not hearing from God or experiencing his presence in their lives. They believe that the “distance” from God they feel, along with the silence, is normal. To fill the void, many people turn to religious activities, but religion is no substitute for relationship and fellowship with God which is manifested through the fruit of loving obedience, rather than empty works. Self-serving, self-justifying, presumptuous, and prideful religion has no real power. God does not honor ritual and ‘good deeds’ without love, and love naturally seeks to honor God through obedience — “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) Only those who have a true relationship with God hear from God, though many who lack God’s revelation will mistake their emotions for the Spirit and self-talk for God’s word. Even Bible study can become an empty ritual for those who don’t see it as an encounter with God Himself and who have grieved and quenched the Holy Spirit by not responding to the conviction of the Spirit through God’s word. We must study God’s word, which is our primary source of revelation from God, but we must also abide by God’s word, walking with God in spirit and truth (John 4:24).
- James 4:8 — Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
- John 4:24 — God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.
- 1 John 3:24 — Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.
1 Samuel 3:13 — …his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them.
God expects His people to challenge sin, both within the family and in other relationships.
1 Samuel 3:18 — And he said, “It is the LORD. Let him do what seems good to him.”
Eli’s response to God’s malediction could be interpreted two different ways:
1) Eli’s statement could be taken positively as a demonstration of Eli’s respect and trust in God’s sovereignty through his punishment, Eli subjugating all else to God’s glory.
2) On the other hand, Eli’s statement could be seen as indifference or a complacent fatalism – “It doesn’t matter what I do, God is going to do what God is going to do, so why try?” The Bible does not reveal a concerted effort on the part of Eli to repent and to plead for mercy from God, contrary to the response we see from so many others when God pronounced judgment against them. What do you think?
1 Timothy 2:1-2, 8 — First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way…. I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling.
Today’s political scene is full of passion and protests, but far too little prayer, which Paul says is priority number one. Paul, who was persecuted, imprisoned, and executed for his faith, said we should not only pray for leaders and people in high positions, we should offer “intercessions (pleading to God on their behalf) and thanksgivings” for them. As political debate seems to grow increasingly meanspirited, Paul urges us to remain “dignified in every way…. lifting up holy hands without anger or quarreling.” Are you a ‘political activist’ like Paul who seeks to change the political landscape through intercessory prayer, thanksgiving, and shocking displays of the love of Christ? Wouldn’t that be revolutionary?
As Paul points out, praying for the salvation of our political leaders should be a top priority for Christians – “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made… for kings and all who are in high positions…. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4) Like everyone else, political leaders need forgiveness and a new life in Christ. (Acts 4:10-12; Romans 10:9) Don’t sin by failing to pray for them from a genuine heart of love which eagerly desires their reconciliation.
- James 4:17 — So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
- 1 Samuel 12:23 — Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you….
- Matthew 5:44 — But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you….
- James 2:9 — But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
We should also pray that God would move the hearts of our leaders to make wise decisions aligned with God’s ethics and principles. God is in control of the political situation and all the people involved. There are many amazing examples in the Bible of how God used unbelieving leaders to accomplish His purposes and benefit His people. For example, in Ezra 1, we read how God moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to support the return of Jews to the Homeland to rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem. God inspired Pharaoh to make Joseph second-in-command (Genesis 41:41-46); God inspired the king of Persia to allow the Jews to defend themselves against slaughter and to make Mordecai prime minister of Persia (Esther 3-7); and God inspired king Nebuchadnezzar to appoint Daniel as ruler of the province of Babylon (Daniel 2:48). The most powerful thing you can do to influence the political scene is to pray.
- Daniel 2:21 — He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding….
- 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 — For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.
- Proverbs 21:1 — The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.
- Jeremiah 29:4-7 — Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
1 Timothy 2:15 — Yet she will be saved through childbearing-if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.
Paul is not saying that salvation comes through childbearing. We know through the rest of Paul’s writings and the whole of Scripture that salvation comes through genuine faith in Jesus — 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10) So, then, what does Paul mean by “she will be saved through childbearing?” This is a controversial verse with many interpretations. Listen to what John Piper has to say about this verse: https://www.desiringgod.org/labs/how-are-women-saved-through-childbearing
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 29 August 22: Dedicate earnest prayers today for leaders and people in high positions. Pray that God will give you a genuine heart for those for whom you feel less inclined to pray, for those from whom you sinfully desire to withhold grace.