A Leaky Vessel

Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on Saul's head and kissed him, saying, "Has not the LORD anointed you leader over his inheritance?

When you leave me today, you will meet two men near Rachel's tomb, at Zelzah on the border of Benjamin. They will say to you, 'The donkeys you set out to look for have been found. And now your father has stopped thinking about them and is worried about you. He is asking, "What shall I do about my son?" '

"Then you will go on from there until you reach the great tree of Tabor. Three men going up to God at Bethel will meet you there. One will be carrying three young goats, another three loaves of bread, and another a skin of wine. They will greet you and offer you two loaves of bread, which you will accept from them.

"After that you will go to Gibeah of God, where there is a Philistine outpost. As you approach the town, you will meet a procession of prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, tambourines, flutes and harps being played before them, and they will be prophesying. The Spirit of the LORD will come upon you in power, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person. Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you.

"Go down ahead of me to Gilgal. I will surely come down to you to sacrifice burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, but you must wait seven days until I come to you and tell you what you are to do."  As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul's heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day.1 Samuel 10:1-9

Finally the times comes for Samuel to anoint Saul. The prophet of God gave Saul specific instructions about where he would find the donkeys he was looking for, food, and the procession of prophets. He knew that Saul would be too excited to worry about food and the donkeys, so he had to be instructed in detail. Samuel even told Saul that he would be changed into a different person after the Spirit of the LORD came upon him.

The key phrase in this passage seems to be that Saul would be a changed person when the Spirit of the LORD came upon him. Granted, not all of us are leaders, but we can certainly learn from Saul: when the Spirit of the LORD comes on us, we should be changed.

That's the challenge we all face, because like D.L. Moody said when someone asked why he asked often to be filled with the Holy Spirit, "Because I leak."

I can relate.

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Saul the Pampered

Then Samuel brought Saul and his servant into the hall and seated them at the head of those who were invited—about thirty in number. Samuel said to the cook, "Bring the piece of meat I gave you, the one I told you to lay aside." So the cook took up the leg with what was on it and set it in front of Saul. Samuel said, "Here is what has been kept for you. Eat, because it was set aside for you for this occasion, from the time I said, 'I have invited guests.' " And Saul dined with Samuel that day.

After they came down from the high place to the town, Samuel talked with Saul on the roof of his house. They rose about daybreak and Samuel called to Saul on the roof, "Get ready, and I will send you on your way." When Saul got ready, he and Samuel went outside together. As they were going down to the edge of the town, Samuel said to Saul, "Tell the servant to go on ahead of us"-and the servant did so-"but you stay here awhile, so that I may give you a message from God." 1 Samuel 9:22-27

Samuel was all about pampering Saul and preparing him for a work. I'm sure Saul didn't know what to think of all the fuss. Think of a person you really really respect serving you hand and foot. You'd be puzzled too. And then Samuel says that he has a message from God for Saul.

I find like to be like that on occasion. A number of years ago, my wife and I traveled to Kenya and Sudan for a medical missions trip. After we had boarded and were ready to be seated, the flight attendant singled us out and called us forward. We thought they would be questioning what was in my wife's baggage (artificial legs and feet). No, the attendant walked us to First Class and sat us down separately and said it was an upgrade. For the next eight hours we enjoyed First Class seating and service. Why? To this day I'm not sure because some of our team (doctors) were still in the rear of the plane. Needless to say it was an enjoyable flight.

So why did this happen? No idea. You see, both of us were unemployed at the time but both of us felt we should make the trip using a lot of our own money. I have to admit I had some doubts about whether it was the right thing to do. The upgrade was as if God was saying, "I can take care of you on the way over AND after you return home." He knew what we needed at the time. It wasn't something we prayed for or sought. It was something we accepted.

Sometimes you just have to sit back and soak in the goodness of God.

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(King) Saul the Humble

Saul approached Samuel in the gateway and asked, "Would you please tell me where the seer's house is?" "I am the seer," Samuel replied. "Go up ahead of me to the high place, for today you are to eat with me, and in the morning I will let you go and will tell you all that is in your heart. As for the donkeys you lost three days ago, do not worry about them; they have been found. And to whom is all the desire of Israel turned, if not to you and all your father's family?" Saul answered, "But am I not a Benjamite, from the smallest tribe of Israel, and is not my clan the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why do you say such a thing to me?" 1 Samuel 9:18-21

Based on what we know about Saul in his later years, it comes as a surprise to us that he's very humble and respectful to Samuel. He knows what tribe he's from (youngest and the least of the 12 tribes of Israel), and is puzzled by the prophet Samuel's words. Saul seems to be saying to Samuel, "are you sure you know what you're doing?"

Samuel is silent. On the one hand Samuel recognized the potential problems that Saul will face as a king (after all, God said it would be unwise to have a king, so it must be a headache-filled position). But on the other hand, he knows that it will be a fulfilling responsibility, something that people will be talking about 3000 years later.

We can learn from Saul's humility; we will learn a very different lesson about the arrogance and heavy handedness he displayed in the later years of his life. Humility is such a forgotten virtue these days. You are constantly required to sell yourself. Sometimes you begin to believe your own resume. In fact, the world views humility as a weakness. Don't believe a word of it. If anything, it's a strength that too few possess.

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There was a Benjamite, a man of standing, whose name was Kish son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Becorath, the son of Aphiah of Benjamin. He had a son named Saul, an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites—a head taller than any of the others. Now the day before Saul came, the LORD had revealed this to Samuel: "About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him leader over my people Israel; he will deliver my people from the hand of the Philistines. I have looked upon my people, for their cry has reached me."  When Samuel caught sight of Saul, the LORD said to him, "This is the man I spoke to you about; he will govern my people." 1 Samuel 9:1-2, 15-17

Prior to Saul being anointed as the leader in Israel, the people had cried out that they had wanted a leader, even though the Lord had said that it wouldn't be a good idea. It's interesting that the Bible says that he was "without equals among the Israelites," a reference to his height. Kish sent his son and his servant on a trip to find Kish's lost donkeys. On the journey Saul and the servant came across Samuel. Saul had no idea what was about to happen; Samuel knew exactly what would happen.

Many Christians say they don't believe in coincidences. The thing is, you never know when you're about to do something that is "God ordained." Rarely do you think that the hour long traffic delay or the wrong turn you just took could in fact be God directing your path (or slowing you down). It is only later when you view the events of the day that you discover the accident you avoided. It happens every day.

Instead of looking for the large God-ordained events in our lives, we should be on the lookout for small God-ordained things: the natural smile you give the overworked, underpaid cashier, the courtesy you give drivers all around you, or the unexpected kindness you show your employees. By such acts, you could be acting on God's behalf towards those people. Instead of being blessed, we can bless.

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Careful, Careful

But when they said, "Give us a king to lead us," this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD…
But the people refused to listen to Samuel. "No!" they said. "We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles." When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the LORD. The LORD answered, "Listen to them and give them a king." Then Samuel said to the men of Israel, "Everyone go back to his town."
1 Samuel 8:6, 19-22

Poor Samuel. He had the unenviable job of representing the people to God and God to the people. From experience he had known that what God says is good, it must be good, and what He says is bad should be totally avoided. God knew his people. He knew how they would act under royalty. But because the cry of the people became so loud, He let Israel have a king.

We see this kind of behavior often in the world. Some call it "mob rule" or "herd mentality." We saw it with Moses and the people of Israel. And of course, we saw it as Pilate presented Jesus to the people.

Crucify Him, crucify Him!
But he's done nothing wrong!
Crucify Him!

It is next to impossible to calm a reckless and violent crowd. And when people in a large group get in their minds that they want something that is contrary to sound Biblical teaching ("Death to Israel" chant comes to mind), occasionally God gives it to them. The old saying still matters, "Be careful what you ask for in prayer. You just might get it."

(this is a first devotional in the series about Kings in the Bible)

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Seek Instruction

Stop listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge. Proverbs 19:27

I used to think that knowledge was the key to life. What I mean by that is, I once thought that if we were all enlightened and went to college, we would know how to solve the world's problems. In fact, with so much collective knowledge out there, why aren't the world's problems solved?

But there's knowledge and there's instruction. We often equate the two, and sometimes they're related. More often than not, though, they're as different as night and day. You can get knowledge from a book or an internet site. An instructor can impart knowledge. However, Instruction is a personal thing. "Instruction" is that same teacher having a heart to heart with you after class and telling you that you don't need to misbehave like so and so does in order to be accepted. Instruction is having "that talk" with your child before his or her peers talk about it. Instruction is the wisdom and wise counsel that goes along with those types of scenarios. 

Never stop seeking instruction from those who have been on thr path we're on. Jesus offers us instruction as well, if we'll accept it.

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The Poison of Bitterness

Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him. John 12:9-11

It's difficult for me to imagine the hatred that the Jewish leaders had not only for Jesus but for Lazarus. Say what you want about Jesus healing a man, but Lazarus' only crime was that he was raised from the dead. He is one of only a few people who have ever been dead and raised to life, and now the leaders want to kill him? What was the logic in their thinking? Did they think that the "movement" would cease because they killed a follower?

But if we aren't careful, we too could be filled with the same kind of hatred. When we let a little bitterness set in, it can do one of two things in us: die or grow. Obviously we need to make sure it dies, because if not, it eats away at our very soul.

As an amplified example, there are teachers of hate in the Middle East who chant "Death to America," "Death to Israel," "Death to the West." If Israel, America, and the West ceased to exist, would their hatred be eliminated? In other words, would they be satisfied? Probably not. They would have to move on to another object of their hatred. The Jewish leaders wanted to strike out at Jesus and his followers.

Let's examine our own thoughts and actions to see if we are harboring any unresolved bitterness. Someone once said, "Bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die."

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A Simple Message

That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." Romans 10:9-10

I would be remiss if I didn't conclude 20+ devotionals on the topic of faith without a means to a clear call to accept what I've written. The Good News or the "Gospel" is contained in the verses above. There's no trickery to it. It's a fairly simple salvation message. It's not rocket science or brain surgery, and yet it's deceptively simple. Of course there's the theology behind the verses that is powerful and wonderful and yet very simple: God reached out to man through his Son Jesus. The Son of God became a man: fully God, fully man. He died, was buried, rose on the third day, and ascended to the Throne of God.

If you are reading this and you don't know at all what I'm talking about, I'd love to correspond with you about it. No pressure, nothing to sell, no gimmicks, no trickery, just a good ol' fashioned heart to heart (via email).

Don't let the simplicity of the words fool you.

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