We’re in a message series called Prophetic Living. In this series, we’re learning how to live in challenging times from the life of the prophet Samuel. Today, our message is entitled “Facing Crisis.” One of the things that we don’t talk a lot about is the testing of God. God allows various things to come into our lives to test us. I believe that the crisis is a test that God has allowed in our city, state, nation and world. This crisis has impacted everyone of us, even though we may never be infected by the virus. How should we react to the testing of God? Let’s look at a Scripture passage from the book of James.
James 1:2 (ESV) Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
This first verse talks about meeting trials. Surely our current crisis is a trial. Yet, James tells us to count it all joy when we meet all kinds of trials. Our normal reaction in meeting a trial is not joy, but worry, fear, or despair. How can we meet a trial or a crisis with joy? James gives us the answer in the next verses.
James 1:3-4 (ESV) for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Here we begin to see the purpose of the trials that God allows into our lives. A trial is a test of our faith. When you are tested, your faith can pass the test or fail the test. If you keep trusting God and believing in Him throughout the trial, you pass the test. However, if you lose your faith and trust in God because of the trial, you fail the test. God wants you to pass the test. As you continue to trust God in the midst of crisis, you will grow in steadfastness or perseverance. The ultimate outcome is that you become stronger, mature and complete. That is why we can have joy in the midst of a crisis, a trial or a testing. So in the midst of our current crisis, let’s rejoice. Rejoice that God is in control and He wants to work good in our lives as we continue to trust Him and so pass the test.
Today, we’re going to continue with the story of the prophet Samuel. The main character in our story is King Saul. Saul was chosen by God through Samuel to be Israel’s king. We’re going to see the crisis that King Saul was tested with. Unfortunately, he failed the test. So we’re going to learn from his negative example of how not to face a test. Rather, we’re going to learn how to pass the tests that God allows into our lives, including the present crisis facing our world. The first lesson we can learn is to …
1 Samuel 13:2 (ESV) Saul chose three thousand men of Israel. Two thousand were with Saul in Michmash and the hill country of Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin. The rest of the people he sent home, every man to his tent.
As our story begins, Saul had a small army of 2000 men. His son Jonathan attacked and defeated a garrison of the Philistines. That did not please the Philistines and so they intended to make Israel pay for their defeat. A crisis was developing and Saul needed to learn …
1 Samuel 13:5-7 (ESV) And the Philistines mustered to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots and six thousand horsemen and troops like the sand on the seashore in multitude. … When the men of Israel saw that they were in trouble (for the people were hard pressed), the people hid themselves … Saul was still at Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling.
The army that the Philistines were gathering was enormous. They had 10 times more chariots as Israel had in ground troops, along with horsemen and myriads of troops. When the people of Israel saw the enemy forces they were afraid and began to hid themselves from the upcoming battle. Even those who continued to follow Saul were trembling with fear. The prophet Samuel had previously given Saul a detailed command from the Lord, detailed in 1 Samuel 10:8. Saul was supposed to go to Gilgal and wait 7 days for Samuel to join him. When Samuel came, Samuel would offer sacrifices to the Lord and give Saul further instructions. But the Philistines were preparing to attack. What would Saul do?
1 Samuel 13:8-9 (ESV) He waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the people were scattering from him. So Saul said, “Bring the burnt offering here to me, and the peace offerings.” And he offered the burnt offering.
Samuel had not arrived as the seventh day dawned. The troops with Saul were afraid of the coming conflict and were leaving to go into hiding. Saul took matters into his own hands, not waiting for Samuel, and offered sacrifices himself to the Lord. As soon as Saul had finished offering the sacrifices Samuel appeared …
1 Samuel 13:13-14a (ESV) And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the LORD your God, with which he commanded you. For then the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue.
Samuel clearly pointed out that Saul had not passed God’s test of keeping the Lord’s command. God had ordained that the King should receive God’s commands through God’s prophet. Saul had heard the command, but had not obeyed the command. The result was that Saul’s kingdom would now not continue through his son, Jonathan. Saul had not followed God in crisis, he had not waiting patiently, but had give into fear.
The passage in James 1 that we had read at the beginning of the message, goes on to say that God will give wisdom on what to do in the midst of trials. In our current crisis, there is much uncertainty at every level. Government guidelines are changing on a daily basis that directly affect our lives, jobs and church. We must learn to not give in to fear or worry. Rather we must simply ask God for wisdom and then follow whatever instructions that He gives us. Sometimes, God’s instructions to us are to simply wait and be patient. Don’t take matters into your own hands if God has not directed you. Part of following God’s commands is to simply follow the instructions of the authorities that God has put over us. God’s Word clearly commands us to do that. As we follow God’s instructions, He will bring peace and joy into our lives. Sometimes, God tests us with another type of trial. We need to learn to …
1 Samuel 15:3 (ESV) Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”
In 1 Samuel 14, we learn that God gave King Saul victory over the Philistines. Now, in chapter 15, Samuel gives Saul another specific instruction from the Lord. He is to defeat Amalek and destroy each person and all livestock because of their attacks on Israel coming out of Egypt. God’s command was clear and complete. But Saul needed to learn not to …
1 Samuel 15:4 (ESV) So Saul summoned the people and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand men on foot, and ten thousand men of Judah.
At this time, Saul’s army was far larger, consisting of 210,000 men. Most likely Saul reckoned that victory would be relatively easy. No one was trembling in fear, no one was scattering from the army. The Scripture records that Saul and his army completely defeated the Amalekites. Yet, God’s command was to do more than just defeat them. His command to devote to destruction meant that every living thing must be killed with no exceptions.
1 Samuel 15:9 (ESV) But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them. All that was despised and worthless they devoted to destruction.
Saul and his army killed all the Amalekites except their king, King Agag. And he spared the best of the livestock, while killing the lesser value livestock. So, we see that Saul had partially obeyed God, but had not completely obeyed. In essence, he had taken some of what was meant to be destroyed for himself. Why did he do that? We look into that in more detail in the next point. Victory or success can be just as much a testing of our faith as a crisis.
In success or victory, the test of our faith is to remain humble. To give the credit for our success to God, rather than take it for ourselves. When Saul did not obey in crisis, his disobedience brought God’s judgment. We’re going to see that no obeying in times of victory will also bring God’s judgment. We can learn some lessons regarding this from the current crisis. Before this came to pass, business was booming, the economy was roaring, unemployment was at record low rates. We may have been tempted to think that our success in our careers had to do with our own abilities. Yet, every blessing that we have comes from the Lord. Yes, we are to work hard with the abilities that God has given us. But we must remember that God is the one who gave us our abilities, health and jobs. This crisis shows us how fragile and helpless mankind is without God’s help to combat an invisible virus that came from the other side of the world. We must continue to learn to …
1 Samuel 15:12 (ESV) And Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning. And it was told Samuel, “Saul came to Carmel, and behold, he set up a monument for himself and turned and passed on and went down to Gilgal.”
We see that Saul was quite pleased with himself for the victory over the Amalekites. Rather than giving God the glory, He built a monument for himself. As we’ll see, Saul had no idea or conception that he had disobeyed God’s commands. It is apparent that Saul allowed himself to become very prideful over this victory, rather than embracing humility. God then sent His prophet Samuel to confront Saul and teach us the lesson to …
1 Samuel 15:19-21 (ESV) Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD? Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what was evil in the sight of the LORD?” And Saul said to Samuel, “I have obeyed the voice of the LORD. … But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the LORD your God in Gilgal.”
Samuel immediately rebukes Saul for his disobedience to the Lord’s command. Saul attempted to justify his actions by saying that he had obeyed God and listing the things that he had done. It was true that Saul had killed all the Amalekites, but he had not killed their king. His obedience was partial, not complete. Saul next blames the keeping of the livestock as an action of the people, not taking responsibility as a leader. Then he says that they kept them in order to sacrifice to the Lord. Samuel points out to Saul that …
1 Samuel 15:22-23 (ESV) And Samuel said, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king.”
Samuel teaches Saul and us that obedience to the Lord’s commands is of the greatest importance. The fact that this disobedience would have increased the sacrifices to the Lord was of no importance. This disobedience of Saul was characterized by Samuel as rebellion and presumption. Saul had decided that his way of doing things was better than God’s direction, the sin of rebellion. He assumed that God didn’t care about partial obedience, the sin of presumption. The end result was that not only would Saul’s descendants not continue his kingdom, but now he would be removed from being king. God would appoint another king to take his place, a king who would obey the Lord with a humble heart. This king would be King David.
What can we learn from Saul’s negative example of not following God in humility? We must believe that God’s plans for our lives are the best, better than anything we could plan. God is sovereign and can work even the bad things of life into something good for those who follow Him in complete obedience. God requires obedience whether we are being tested with a crisis or with success. If we disobey God’s instructions, we must humbly repent and get back on track with God. We mustn’t justify our sin, follow the crowd or make our plans. As we simply obey God, we’ll pass the test and God will bring blessing into our lives now and for eternity.
This current crisis is a time of testing for all of us. Let’s pray for God replace any fear or worry in our lives with joy. We must trust that God has a plan for each of our lives and simply seek to follow God’s plan. To follow God’s plan requires humbly admitting that we don’t know what’s best but He does. Even though God’s plan may not be the easiest road, it’s the right path. As we follow God’s plan He will bless us and help us be a blessing to others.