Sunday, December 2, 2018

The Danger and Deceit of Partial Obedience

Although it isn't rocket science, one of the most influential factors in parenting even small children was the use of Scripture. We didn't beat our children over the head or cram it down their throats, we simply used it as our authority. God said that my job, as a mom (or dad), is to train and discipline our children. I told them that and it made me accountable. As they saw me giving up other opportunities or priorities to train and discipline them, they were more receptive to hear what God had to say to them. After all, if I say one thing (God says Moms are to ____) but I obviously don't obey God myself, then why should they obey either one of us?

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The same thing happened in the life of Samuel and King Saul. Samuel received a message from the Lord (utterly destroy King Agag and the Amalekites). He delivered the message to Saul who then partially obeyed, partially came up with his own, "better," plan. God made it clear to Samuel that Saul had blown it, and Samuel was grieved, so grieved that he cried out to the Lord all night.

Have you been there? A grown child, spouse, or friend sins boldly against God. You see not only the pride and unbelief, but the consequences that could result. The one you love, invested in, watched, taught, and intervened for has turned his/her back on God and doesn't see it; doesn't care.

Samuel's response was so, so excellent! It's worth learning from.After a time of prayer and grieving:

  • Samuel got up early the next morning meet Saul. He didn't shy away from the encounter. He didn't procrastinate or make excuses. As soon as he was able, he determined to find Saul and work it out. "Samuel rose early in the morning to meet Saul..." (1 Sam. 15:12)
  • He did what it took to find Saul. He wasn't discouraged by the fact that Saul had moved on; Saul had already built himself a monument (note: there was no altar for God, just a declaration of Saul's prowess and might). "...it was told Samuel, saying, 'Saul came to Carmel, and behold, he set up a monument for himself, ten turned and proceeded on down to Gilgal.'"(1 Sam. 15:12)
  • Samuel wasn't put off by or distracted by Saul's cheery greeting and desire to paint things pink. "'Blessed are you of the LORD! I have carried out the command of the LORD.'"(1 Sam. 15:13)
  • Samuel asked a question regarding the evidence of disobedience, giving Saul an opportunity to come clean and repent. "What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?" (1 Sam. 15:14)
  • Saul blameshifted, denied responsibility, excused his disobedience and touted partial obedience. "'They have brought them from the Amalekites for the people spared the best of the sheep and oxen, to sacrifice to the LORD your God; but the rest we have utterly destroyed.'" (1 Sam. 15:15)
  • At this point, Samuel nearly interrupted Saul with real, actual, words of the Lord (instead of Saul's selfish, watered down, deluded interpretation). "'Wait, and let me tell you what the LORD said to me last night.'" ( 1 Sam. 15:16) 
  • He reminded Saul of who he was and how that changed with God's call on his life. "Is it not true, though you were little in your own eyes, you were made the head of the tribes of Israel? And the LORD anointed you king over Israel." (1 Sam. 15:17)
  • He restated God's command: "'the LORD sent you on a mission and said, "God and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are exterminated."'" (1 Sam. 15:18)
  • And gave Saul another opportunity to confess and repent. "'Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD, but rushed upon the spoil and did what was evil in the sight of the LORD?'" (1 Sam. 15:19)
  • Saul repeated his answer, replacing God's command with his desired interpretation, "I did obey the voice of the LORD, and went on the mission on which the LORD sent me, and have brought back Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites..." (1 Sam. 15:20)
  • Saul adds blameshifting (again) and throws the name of God back at Samuel  "But the people took some of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the choicest of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the LORD your God at Gilgal." (1 Sam. 15:21, emphasis added)
  • Samuel lays it on the line, calling Saul out with a few powerful words (1 Sam. 15:22-23).
  • In response, Saul says, "Ok, yeah, you're right, I sinned. Just forgive me and let's do this sacrifice. I'm going to worship God and move on." (1 Sam. 15:24).Notice, there is no corporate worship, no desire for fellowship, the focus is on outward doing and fixing as a substitute for heart change.
  • Samuel, praise the LORD, continued with loving confrontation. He refused to be used, bullied, or manipulated. He will not take the easy out. "But Samuel said to Saul, 'I will not return with you; for you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel." (1 Sam. 15:26).
  • In response, Saul assaults Samuel. Reaching out, he grabbed Samuel roughly and completely enough to tear his clothing. (1 Sam. 15:27).
  • Samuel then used Saul's violence as evidence of coming consequences."So Samuel said to him, 'The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to your neighbor who is better than you.'" (1 Sam. 15:28).
  • Samuel continued, his final words to Saul, words that may have echoed for years to come, words Saul fought the rest of his life, words that declare God and His character: "Also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind." (1 Sam. 15:29)
  • Again, Saul says, "I'm sorry..." just don't make me look bad. Come with me, let's do this. (1 Sam. 15:30).

Samuel went with Saul at that point, but he there is no record of conversation or moving on. After this encounter, "Samuel went to Ramah, but Saul went up to his house at Gibeah of Saul. Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death...."1 Sam. 15:34-35.

That's really long, but the point is, we have to make God's Word the authority. Allowing our children to make excuses, wriggle out from under the consequences or blame others does nothing more than train them for a life of disobedience. It's not easy. It requires constant attention, intervention, honesty, inconvenience, and hard, fast love, but it's God's calling on our lives if we belong to Him. Samuel was not responsible for Saul's choices, but he was responsible to uphold the Word of God, to represent Him accurately, and to enact consequences that were in his realm of responsibility.

Are you a Samuel or a Saul? It will be evident in your words and choices. God gives repeated opportunities to cry out to Him, confess our sin, and change. Maybe this is yours....

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