“The Bible is not a book for the faint of heart — it is a book full of all the greed and glory and violence and tenderness and sex and betrayal that benefits mankind. It is not the collection of pretty little anecdotes mouthed by pious little church mice — it does not so much nibble at our shoe leather as it cuts to the heart and splits the marrow from the bone. It does not give us answers fitted to our small-minded questions, but truth that goes beyond what we even know to ask.”Rich Mullins
And then there wasn’t. God had moved on.
I believe Rich Mullins was correct when he said, “The Bible is not a book for the faint of heart.” I know that much of the Bible is not easy reading. I know that’s why some Christians don’t or won’t read it. That was me for awhile. I thought I would never understand Scripture. It was intimidating. Maybe that’s why many churches put up verses on a screen, so people don’t have to look at, or open their own Bible. It’s less intimidating that way. I’ve heard pastors say, “You don’t have to look in your Bible. We have the Scripture up on the screen for you.” On any particular Sunday, that’s all the Scripture anyone needs to see.
Lately, the Prophet Samuel has been “nibbling” in my ear. Every time I read the Book of Samuel I understand a little more about the character of God. And I find myself drawn to read and learn more about Samuel and this thing most Christians have a difficult time with, obedience.
Obedience is very important to God. I don’t see that any Christian would disagree with that truth. If there is a point to contend, it would be off, time and place. When and in what circumstances are we to be obedient? Well, the obvious answer is, always and in all. But, in 2020 many Christian leaders saw it as “obedience to God” to dismiss, challenge, and outright disobey COVID19 mandates and to support a leader, a man of contention in his many, well-there’s no nice way to say it, delusions. And everything inside my being told me they were wrong. The fact that popular and well-respected leaders were leading the battle cry for opposition made it all the more disturbing. They were using Scripture to justify outright rebellion. And still do. But, that’s not surprising to anyone.
So, once upon a time, in a land faraway, a man named Saul was anointed by God to be King of Israel. Do you know why?
“So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”
But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”1 Samuel 8:4-9
King Saul did many great things in the name of God.
“So Saul established his sovereignty over Israel, and fought against all his enemies on every side, against Moab, against the people of Ammon, against Edom, against the kings of Zobah, and against the Philistines. Wherever he turned, he harassed them. And he gathered an army and attacked the Amalekites, and delivered Israel from the hands of those who plundered them.”1 Samuel 14:47-48
But, King Saul disobeyed God and when the prophet Samuel set him straight, it was too late. And Samuel said,
“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.”1 Samuel 15:22-23
The Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul and he was greatly troubled.
“But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the Lord troubled him. And Saul’s servants said to him, “Surely, a distressing spirit from God is troubling you. Let our master now command your servants, who are before you, to seek out a man who is a skillful player on the harp. And it shall be that he will play it with his hand when the distressing spirit from God is upon you, and you shall be well.”1 Samuel 16:14-16
And the prophet Samuel was extremely angry and sadden by King Saul’s disobedience. And God regretted ever having appointed Saul as king.
Then Samuel left for Ramah, but Saul went up to his home in Gibeah of Saul. Until the day Samuel died, he did not go to see Saul again, though Samuel mourned for him. And the Lord regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel. 1 Samuel 15:34-35
The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” But Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.” The Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.”1 Samuel 16:1-3
Even after being anointed as king, his many accomplishments, it was Saul’s disobedience that struck the heart of God. Seems God even gave Samuel time to mourn over Saul. Nevertheless, because He had rejected Saul – God said to Samuel, “Time to move on. There’s more work to be done.”
And that’s the message. In the kingdom of God, there is too much work to be done to quibble over the concerns of this world. “No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier (2 Timothy 2:4).” God uses many men and women to accomplish His will – on His timeline, not man’s. And though we are a nation of theologians, at best our knowledge of God and Scripture is speculative. Our so called leaders of faith are at best questionable. For Christians to keep their eyes on any one man is futile and disappointing. God has moved on. And we need not fear what lies ahead.
Rich Mullins got it right.
“Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in your beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved and Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken.”
“We were given the Scriptures to humble us into realizing that God is right, and the rest of us are just guessing.”
“I had a professor one time… He said, ‘Class, you will forget almost everything I will teach you in here, so please remember this: that God spoke to Balaam through his ass, and He has been speaking through asses ever since. So, if God should choose to speak through you, you need not think too highly of yourself. And, if on meeting someone, right away you recognize what they are, listen to them anyway’.”
“Never forget what Jesus did for you. Never take lightly what it cost Him. And never assume that if it cost Him His very life, that it won’t also cost you yours.”
“I am a Christian, not because someone explained the nuts and bolts of Christianity, but because there were people willing to be nuts and bolts.”
― Rich Mullins
One last thing. Talking about Jesus and His love and grace and gift of salvation may turn a few hearts to God, but living and walking like Jesus, extending His grace, mercy, and love within the context of daily living, that’s the image of Christ that changes hearts. In Christ, everything is a matter of the heart.
“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”Luke 6:45