Monday, 21 November 2011

Are you a jealous person?

It is little wonder that jealousy is known as "the green-eyed monster", for it is indeed a dangerous and sinister force that can damage and weaken the testimony of the Lord's people. As we read through First Samuel we can see that Saul himself seems to have fallen victim to its destructive influence.

green eyes

Notice how that in 1 Samuel 13 that the victory that Jonathan had won over the Philistine garrison at Gera quickly becomes Saul's victory:

"And Jonathan smote the garrison of the Philistines that was in Geba, and the Philistines heard of it. And Saul blew the trumpet throughout all the land, saying, Let the Hebrews hear.

And all Israel heard say that Saul had smitten a garrison of the Philistines..."

How easy it was for Saul to twist the message so that the people were under the impression that it was his hard-fought victory! We see this again of course, famously in chapter 18 after David had defeated Goliath:

"And the women answered one another as they played, and said, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.

And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him; and he said, They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but the kingdom?

And Saul eyed David from that day and forward"

Saul's attitude seems churlish and petty, but I think this is perhaps more common than we think amongst the people of God today! I know this because I have witnessed it myself, whether it be a spirit of bitterness or a sly comment that is meant to take away from a fellow brother or sister's good work. At the heart of it is jealousy, that someone else should be progressing and being used of God instead of us! Our pride and flesh puffs up and we feel aggrieved and sorry for ourselves, and just like Saul here our thoughts turn dark and destructive as the flesh takes hold and gets the better of us.

Just look at how this unsavoury part of Saul's character festers and takes root, soon he is hurling javelins at David in fits of rage and experiencing wild mood swings. I'm not sure a true believer would go this far (!) but it surely shows us the ultimate end of such an unhealthy attitude! God give us the necessary grace in our lives to have a right outlook and right relationships with our fellow believers.

Remember that Paul speaks much about pride and jealousy in his letter to the Corinthians:

Paul warns - "that no one of you be puffed up for one against another"

And again he exhorts the believers - "Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things..."

I think these verses are most challenging, may God help us to realise their import in our own lives!

Yours in Christ, Mark

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Saul: Outwardly Good, Inwardly Bad

I wonder if our inside matches our outside? What I mean by that is that it's very easy to put on a front and appear spiritual on the outside, to be at the meetings and look the part etc. But what about on the inside, where it matters? Do we have a love for the Lord? Do we have an interest and passion for the things of God? Are we concerned with living a holy life, where Christ comes first?

I want to look at Saul's early life to show you what I mean.

[caption id="attachment_205" align="alignleft" width="193" caption="The important lesson with Saul is not to judge people on their outward appearance, a bit like books by their covers..."]a pile of books[/caption]

Directing our attention to 1 Samuel 9, this chapter introduces us properly to Saul, the first king of Israel. It is important to note that despite Saul's weaknesses and failures that he was God's choice for the people at that time, v16+17 of this chapter would make that clear I feel. Let's look at a few things in this chapter and make some applications to Saul and learn some lessons.

Saul and the asses

Whereas David is associated with sheep when we first meet him,(a picture of his gentle & caring shepherd character) Saul on the other hand is associated with asses. These beasts are wild and unruly, stubborn and belligerent. Looking at Saul's later life, it's not heard to see similarities between the two! It is not clear that Saul himself lost his fathers asses (that would be conjecture, although a possibility!) what is clear is that Kish felt it wise to send Saul with a servant to handle the task. In the light of Saul's attitude later on, perhaps Kish knew his son's character better and didn't trust him by himself to do it!

See in v5 how easily Saul gives up, it certainly comes across in the text that Saul seems to be looking for an excuse to go home! He again looks for excuses in v7, anything to get out of continued searching! As I read this I certainly found this challenging in relation to my attitude to hard work in my Christian life, and my work within the assembly - do I shy away from hard work, or am I a 'fellow-labourer'  as Paul would say?

Saul meets Samuel

In fact, the servant seems to show more drive and determination than Saul! He shows a willingness and resourcefulness to get the job done, and also a good deal more spiritual discernment. Note that it is the servant who knows about the man of God (Samuel), Saul certainly didn't he didn't even know him when face to face with Samuel in v18! The servant knew where Samuel lived and he also had something to give him, Saul on the other hand was ignorant and totally unprepared. Don't forget that Samuel was long-established as a prophet, priest and judge in Israel (see chapter 3:20 and 4:1) and the scriptures tell us that he judged Israel all the days of his life, so for Saul to be completely oblivious to this shows a real lack of interest and spirituality I would judge.

It seems as though God chose Saul to show the people that rule by man instead of God was going to be far from perfect. Also, by choosing someone physically impressive to lead them was also wrong thinking. The people of God needed strong spiritual leaders (and we still do!) and Saul was not that. Saul was externally very impressive, verse 2 makes that clear! But as God later said to Samuel when selecting David, "man looks on the outward appearance but the Lord looks upon the heart..." God had a different set of criteria, and Saul's failure would lead to God installing David instead, a man after his own heart.

The Lord challenge our hearts as we strive to be internally what we appear to be externally!

Yours in Christ, Mark

1 Kings 19: Elijah and God

I was listening to a podcast the other day which was speaking about 1 Kings 19 and it reminded me of how very relevant this passage is to ou...