Food for the Soul
Food for the Soul
1 Samuel 12:1-24
12 Samuel said to all Israel, “I have listened to everything you said to me and have set a king over you. 2 Now you have a king as your leader. As for me, I am old and gray, and my sons are here with you. I have been your leader from my youth until this day. 3 Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the Lord and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these things, I will make it right.” 4 “You have not cheated or oppressed us,” they replied. “You have not taken anything from anyone’s hand.” 5 Samuel said to them, “The Lord is witness against you, and also his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.” “He is witness,” they said. 6 Then Samuel said to the people, “It is the Lord who appointed Moses and Aaron and brought your ancestors up out of Egypt. 7 Now then, stand here, because I am going to confront you with evidence before the Lord as to all the righteous acts performed by the Lord for you and your ancestors. 8 “After Jacob entered Egypt, they cried to the Lord for help, and the Lord sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your ancestors out of Egypt and settled them in this place. 9 “But they forgot the Lord their God; so he sold them into the hand of Sisera, the commander of the army of Hazor, and into the hands of the Philistines and the king of Moab, who fought against them. 10 They cried out to the Lord and said, ‘We have sinned; we have forsaken the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtoreths. But now deliver us from the hands of our enemies, and we will serve you.’ 11 Then the Lord sent Jerub-Baal,[a] Barak,[b] Jephthah and Samuel,[c] and he delivered you from the hands of your enemies all around you, so that you lived in safety. 12 “But when you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites was moving against you, you said to me, ‘No, we want a king to rule over us’—even though the Lord your God was your king. 13 Now here is the king you have chosen, the one you asked for; see, the Lord has set a king over you. 14 If you fear the Lord and serve and obey him and do not rebel against his commands, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the Lord your God—good! 15 But if you do not obey the Lord, and if you rebel against his commands, his hand will be against you, as it was against your ancestors. 16 “Now then, stand still and see this great thing the Lord is about to do before your eyes! 17 Is it not wheat harvest now? I will call on the Lord to send thunder and rain. And you will realize what an evil thing you did in the eyes of the Lord when you asked for a king.” 18 Then Samuel called on the Lord, and that same day the Lord sent thunder and rain. So all the people stood in awe of the Lord and of Samuel. 19 The people all said to Samuel, “Pray to the Lord your God for your servants so that we will not die, for we have added to all our other sins the evil of asking for a king.” 20 “Do not be afraid,” Samuel replied. “You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. 21 Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless. 22 For the sake of his great name the Lord will not reject his people, because the Lord was pleased to make you his own. 23 As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. 24 But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.
“Then you will realise how wicked you have been in asking the Lord for a King”
In this passage of scripture, Samuel wants to make it plain to the people that asking for a king was a bad idea.
There is certainly nothing wrong with Godly leadership: Moses had led the people of Israel and so had Joshua. Deuteronomy 17 (written before 1 Samuel) even gives instructions on what type of King to choose! So why was Samuel (and God) so cranky about them asking for a King here?
The bible doesn’t exactly say, but earlier in 1 Samuel 8:7 it seems that God recognises that in choosing a worldly ruler, the Israelites were in-part rejecting Him and His sovereignty over them.
This makes me wonder: How have I behaved in the same kind of way?
Another way of asking would be “what have I got in my life that rules over me?”
My drive to eat, my drive to be productive, my desire not to feel out of control of a situation, all rule over me at times. There are probably even other things that I’m not even aware of.
Dear Lord, shine Your light on areas in my life that rule over me and take your place. Help me Lord to conquer these things and gain freedom to be fully consecrated to your purposes.
Written by Ps Justin Ware
1 Samuel 11:1-15
11 Nahash the Ammonite went up and besieged Jabesh Gilead. And all the men of Jabesh said to him, “Make a treaty with us, and we will be subject to you.” 2 But Nahash the Ammonite replied, “I will make a treaty with you only on the condition that I gouge out the right eye of every one of you and so bring disgrace on all Israel.” 3 The elders of Jabesh said to him, “Give us seven days so we can send messengers throughout Israel; if no one comes to rescue us, we will surrender to you.” 4 When the messengers came to Gibeah of Saul and reported these terms to the people, they all wept aloud. 5 Just then Saul was returning from the fields, behind his oxen, and he asked, “What is wrong with everyone? Why are they weeping?” Then they repeated to him what the men of Jabesh had said. 6 When Saul heard their words, the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he burned with anger. 7 He took a pair of oxen, cut them into pieces, and sent the pieces by messengers throughout Israel, proclaiming, “This is what will be done to the oxen of anyone who does not follow Saul and Samuel.” Then the terror of the Lord fell on the people, and they came out together as one. 8 When Saul mustered them at Bezek, the men of Israel numbered three hundred thousand and those of Judah thirty thousand. 9 They told the messengers who had come, “Say to the men of Jabesh Gilead, ‘By the time the sun is hot tomorrow, you will be rescued.’” When the messengers went and reported this to the men of Jabesh, they were elated. 10 They said to the Ammonites, “Tomorrow we will surrender to you, and you can do to us whatever you like.” 11 The next day Saul separated his men into three divisions; during the last watch of the night they broke into the camp of the Ammonites and slaughtered them until the heat of the day. Those who survived were scattered, so that no two of them were left together. 12 The people then said to Samuel, “Who was it that asked, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Turn these men over to us so that we may put them to death.” 13 But Saul said, “No one will be put to death today, for this day the Lord has rescued Israel.” 14 Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingship.” 15 So all the people went to Gilgal and made Saul king in the presence of the Lord. There they sacrificed fellowship offerings before the Lord, and Saul and all the Israelites held a great celebration.
What a strange story, at least in our thinking – why would anyone allow someone you are about to attack the opportunity to get some allies! But the Ammonites did. Was it a sign of arrogance and pride – I do not know – but they allowed the people of Jabesh Gilead the opportunity and it came to Saul’s hearing. When Saul heard it he was enraged. There are times in every leader’s life when a holy rage wells up and in that holy rage you stand for justice. You will defend and call others to defend the truth, or the righteous, or …
When is the last time you allowed a holy rage to rise within you in a situation of injustice? Make sure you hear both sides of the story – remember the wisdom of Proverbs 18:17 “The person who tells one side of a story seems right, until someone else comes and asks questions.”, but if there is truly injustice let the rage raise to become a call to action to defend, or right a wrong. Remember Jesus cleared the temple as it was meant to be a house of prayer not a market buying and selling good – and He did it with a whip He had woven (John 2:15)!
Father – help us to live in unity with You and if a situation occurs when we need to rise to defend Your Name, or a person who has been wronged or to right a wrong – give us the courage to do so with grace and strength – in Jesus’ Name.
Written by Ps. Richard Botta
1 Samuel 10:17-27
17 Samuel summoned the people of Israel to the Lord at Mizpah 18 and said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I brought Israel up out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the power of Egypt and all the kingdoms that oppressed you.’ 19 But you have now rejected your God, who saves you out of all your disasters and calamities. And you have said, ‘No, appoint a king over us.’ So now present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and clans.” 20 When Samuel had all Israel come forward by tribes, the tribe of Benjamin was taken by lot. 21 Then he brought forward the tribe of Benjamin, clan by clan, and Matri’s clan was taken. Finally Saul son of Kish was taken. But when they looked for him, he was not to be found. 22 So they inquired further of the Lord, “Has the man come here yet?” And the Lord said, “Yes, he has hidden himself among the supplies.” 23 They ran and brought him out, and as he stood among the people he was a head taller than any of the others. 24 Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see the man the Lord has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people.” Then the people shouted, “Long live the king!” 25 Samuel explained to the people the rights and duties of kingship. He wrote them down on a scroll and deposited it before the Lord. Then Samuel dismissed the people to go to their own homes. 26 Saul also went to his home in Gibeah, accompanied by valiant men whose hearts God had touched. 27 But some scoundrels said, “How can this fellow save us?” They despised him and brought him no gifts. But Saul kept silent.
I can understand why Saul didn’t want to be king. Israel had shown themselves to be a chaotic, rebellious herd of cats. Israel was surrounded by all sorts of dangers from the kings around them who were being very successful against them. If that’s not enough, Samuel has made it absolutely clear that even wanting a human king was a rejection of God as their king. I’d be scared too.
When God sent Samuel to anoint Saul as king, Saul objected “But I’m only from the tribe of Benjamin, the smallest tribe in Israel, and my family is the least important of all the families of that tribe!” (1 Samuel 9:21). Now it’s time to formally choose the king in front of all the people, how does God do it? By casting lots – by tribe and family and finally Saul. The very things that Saul thought disqualified him are the things God uses to choose him. God takes Saul’s weakness and uses it to achieve his plans.
God had shown Saul how it could work when God’s Spirit came on him, and he prophesied back in verse 6. God would work in partnership with him and speak and act through him. And God works in partnership with us too, by his Spirit.
When God asks me to do something that scares me, I have a choice. I can hide like Saul, or I can cling to God. I can run away from the things he asks of me (clearly seeing that I can’t do them), or I can do them in partnership with him. The really dangerous times are when I think I can do them on my own.
As God said to a later Saul (who became Paul), “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9)
Written by David Cornell
1 Samuel 10:9-16
9 As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day. 10 When he and his servant arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he joined in their prophesying. 11 When all those who had formerly known him saw him prophesying with the prophets, they asked each other, “What is this that has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?” 12 A man who lived there answered, “And who is their father?” So it became a saying: “Is Saul also among the prophets?” 13 After Saul stopped prophesying, he went to the high place. 14 Now Saul’s uncle asked him and his servant, “Where have you been?” “Looking for the donkeys,” he said. “But when we saw they were not to be found, we went to Samuel.” 15 Saul’s uncle said, “Tell me what Samuel said to you.” 16 Saul replied, “He assured us that the donkeys had been found.” But he did not tell his uncle what Samuel had said about the kingship.
What a strange incident. Saul is anointed as the king and then he begins prophesying. Why? What is the point of Paul prophesying?
I think the point about the experience is to give Saul evidence that God is with him, and not simply so that he can be grateful for a nice experience. It is because there are things he is going to find himself doing or challenged to do, and he could be tempted to think, “I couldn’t do that.” Saul had said to Samuel, “I’m just a member of the smallest of the twelve clans”, and “I am a member of the smallest family in Benjamin”. God’s granting him this experience is designed to stop this kind of talk. “God will be with you” or “God is with you” is a common used phrase in the Old Testament, especially when God places some impossible task in front of them. In effect what the Lord is doing is saying ‘What you are is irrelevant’. The fact that God is with you (of which this experience gives evidence) is what counts.
So when have you thought to yourself – ‘I cannot do that’, ‘that will never happen’ or similar thoughts. I know those thoughts cross my mind all too often.
Yet, the Lord has anointed me, not as a king, but nonetheless he has anointed me. And he has anointed you – to be you – but not the broken, rundown you, but the whole, healed and redeemed you, not with a marred self image, but made in the image of God to fulfil His plans and purposes in your life.
Are you operating in the affirmation of God? and when do you operate out of your brokenness? God has anointed you to be all He calls!
Father, help me to remember and walk in the power of Your Spirit, not out of my brokenness but the wholeness You bring to me through the working of Your Word and Spirit in my life.
Written by Ps. Richard Botta
1 Samuel 10:1-8
10 Then Samuel took a flask of olive oil and poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him, saying, “Has not the Lord anointed you ruler over his inheritance? 2 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?”’ 3 “Then you will go on from there until you reach the great tree of Tabor. Three men going up to worship 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. 4 They will greet you and offer you two loaves of bread, which you will accept from them. 5 “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, timbrels, pipes and harps being played before them, and they will be prophesying. 6 The Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person. 7 Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you. 8 “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.”
This is a true prophet of God at work. Bringing insights only God can know to the young Saul. Bringing to Saul, with exquisite detail (what about the three men, one of whom would greet Saul and offer him two loaves of bread), the awareness of what would happen to Him next.
It is so easy to take this for granted, and not think – wow, who normally does this kind of thing? The truth is, not many people have throughout human history.
This is a special trust, a supernatural relationship, and a powerful demonstration of what partnership with God looks like – albeit a very special example of it.
For me, the encouragement is this – whilst I am, at this stage, no prophet of God, I am in relationship with the same God of this Universe. I need to expect the supernatural, and accept it, without presuming it for myself and others.
Lord, help me rise to a new place of expectant faith and bold trust – you are Supernatural by definition, I just need to keep remembering this!
Written by Ps. Rob Waugh
1 Samuel 9:11-27
11 As they were going up the hill to the town, they met some young women coming out to draw water, and they asked them, “Is the seer here?” 12 “He is,” they answered. “He’s ahead of you. Hurry now; he has just come to our town today, for the people have a sacrifice at the high place. 13 As soon as you enter the town, you will find him before he goes up to the high place to eat. The people will not begin eating until he comes, because he must bless the sacrifice; afterward, those who are invited will eat. Go up now; you should find him about this time.” 14 They went up to the town, and as they were entering it, there was Samuel, coming toward them on his way up to the high place. 15 Now the day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed this to Samuel: 16 “About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him ruler over my people Israel; he will deliver them from the hand of the Philistines. I have looked on my people, for their cry has reached me.” 17 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.” 18 Saul approached Samuel in the gateway and asked, “Would you please tell me where the seer’s house is?” 19 “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 send you on your way and will tell you all that is in your heart. 20 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 your whole family line?” 21 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?” 22 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. 23 Samuel said to the cook, “Bring the piece of meat I gave you, the one I told you to lay aside.” 24 So the cook took up the thigh 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. 25 After they came down from the high place to the town, Samuel talked with Saul on the roof of his house. 26 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. 27 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 for a while, so that I may give you a message from God.”
What a day for Saul. He is a son from the smallest tribe of Israel. He heads out with a servant to find donkeys owned by his father. They walk possibly 15-20 miles in search of the donkeys and don’t find them. However, they hear that the town nearby has a Prophet who lives there, so they seek him out in hope that he knows where the donkeys are.
The prophet Samuel is a man after God’s heart. God has already spoken to him about Saul coming and that he is to anoint him as the next King of Israel. I don’t think Saul had any idea that going looking for donkeys would find him returning home anointed as the first King of Israel.
It makes me think how God has such different plans from us. Often in our simple and ordinary day to day lives, God is looking at our obedience and our heart. Just doing faithfully what we are supposed to do, lays the opening to something we could never conceive of. I love it that God works in ways that are “out of the box” and never through the eyes of man.
Thank you, Lord, that you look upon our hearts. We thank you for your love and that you honour those who walk humbly with You. Help us Lord to trust afresh our lives to you, knowing that you hold an amazing future for each one of us. Amen.
Written by Ps. Sue Botta
1 Samuel 9:1-10
9 There was a Benjamite, a man of standing, whose name was Kish son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Bekorath, the son of Aphiah of Benjamin. 2 Kish had a son named Saul, as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else. 3 Now the donkeys belonging to Saul’s father Kish were lost, and Kish said to his son Saul, “Take one of the servants with you and go and look for the donkeys.” 4 So he passed through the hill country of Ephraim and through the area around Shalisha, but they did not find them. They went on into the district of Shaalim, but the donkeys were not there. Then he passed through the territory of Benjamin, but they did not find them. 5 When they reached the district of Zuph, Saul said to the servant who was with him, “Come, let’s go back, or my father will stop thinking about the donkeys and start worrying about us.” 6 But the servant replied, “Look, in this town there is a man of God; he is highly respected, and everything he says comes true. Let’s go there now. Perhaps he will tell us what way to take.” 7 Saul said to his servant, “If we go, what can we give the man? The food in our sacks is gone. We have no gift to take to the man of God. What do we have?” 8 The servant answered him again. “Look,” he said, “I have a quarter of a shekel of silver. I will give it to the man of God so that he will tell us what way to take.” 9 (Formerly in Israel, if someone went to inquire of God, they would say, “Come, let us go to the seer,” because the prophet of today used to be called a seer.) 10 “Good,” Saul said to his servant. “Come, let’s go.” So they set out for the town where the man of God was.
This is the first time we encounter Saul, who will be Israel’s first king. Knowing this, I am wondering what kind of a man Saul is that God would choose him. Would he demonstrate clear leadership characteristics such as initiative, confidence and wise decision making skills that would indicate he would be a good choice?
Not really. We find him at home, his dad sending him out to find his lost donkeys. Saul takes a servant with him in order to search for them. When they can’t find the donkey’s Saul says they should go back home because he doesn’t want his dad worrying about him. But his servant has another idea: let’s ask the man of God. (Yay for people like this who point us towards God).
Interestingly, Saul responds “Yes, let’s go!” I think it is this response that indicates Saul’s potential: he has an open heart to the things of God. It wasn’t his wealth or height that impressed God. It was because Saul had a soft spot towards God and listened to his servant and was willing to seek the prophet’s advice. Having an open heart towards God is something God can work with.
Father God, I thank you that You look beyond our circumstances and look to our hearts. May we keep our hearts open and soft towards You and keep trusting in You.
Written by Gab Martin
1 Samuel 8:1-22
8 When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders.[a] 2 The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. 3 But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice. 4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead[b] us, such as all the other nations have.” 6 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. 7 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. 8 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. 9 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.” 10 Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle[c] and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” 19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. 20 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.” 21 When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. 22 The Lord answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.” Then Samuel said to the Israelites, “Everyone go back to your own town.”
This chapter captures a hugely significant moment in Israel’s history from God’s own perspective. Israel is choosing a human king instead of having their God as their king. From God’s perspective he is willing to let them have their way, but he sees it as a rejection of his own leadership and a road towards future trouble for his people.
I can see where the Israelites are coming from. Samuel has for the most part done a wonderful job leading Israel as a Priest. He has been full of the Spirit of God and been obedient to God. He is now old and the Israelites are wondering who will next take up this priestly position, Samuel’s sons certainly are not a promising bunch.
I can think of some specific moments in my life where I was not happy about the present circumstances that I or my work organisation found itself in, I can think of moments where I did not like the direction leadership in church or work were going, I can pinpoint moments where I thought I could see the future clearly and it wasn’t looking good.
And I can see that too many times I was just like the Israelites; I took matters into my own hands and did not wait upon the Lord. The lesson for me is clear: when things are not going well or the future looks gloomy, do not be hasty in acting according to worldly wisdom. Cry out to the Lord, seek him out as King, and let him “lead me, go out before me, and fight my battles”.
Written by Andrew Mellor
1 Samuel 7:2b-17
2 The ark remained at Kiriath Jearim a long time—twenty years in all. Then all the people of Israel turned back to the Lord. 3 So Samuel said to all the Israelites, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” 4 So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the Lord only. 5 Then Samuel said, “Assemble all Israel at Mizpah, and I will intercede with the Lord for you.” 6 When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the Lord. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the Lord.” Now Samuel was serving as leader[a] of Israel at Mizpah. 7 When the Philistines heard that Israel had assembled at Mizpah, the rulers of the Philistines came up to attack them. When the Israelites heard of it, they were afraid because of the Philistines. 8 They said to Samuel, “Do not stop crying out to the Lord our God for us, that he may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines.” 9 Then Samuel took a suckling lamb and sacrificed it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. He cried out to the Lord on Israel’s behalf, and the Lord answered him. 10 While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. 11 The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Kar. 12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer,[b] saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” 13 So the Philistines were subdued and they stopped invading Israel’s territory. Throughout Samuel’s lifetime, the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines. 14 The towns from Ekron to Gath that the Philistines had captured from Israel were restored to Israel, and Israel delivered the neighboring territory from the hands of the Philistines. And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites. 15 Samuel continued as Israel’s leader all the days of his life. 16 From year to year he went on a circuit from Bethel to Gilgal to Mizpah, judging Israel in all those places. 17 But he always went back to Ramah, where his home was, and there he also held court for Israel. And he built an altar there to the Lord.
When Israel were prepared to return to God and be faithful to Him, God demonstrated His incredible power on their behalf. God’s faithfulness to Israel is amazing – thundering loudly and completely confusing the enemy such that Israel had victory and a lasting peace.
Am I walking in faithfulness to God? Am I worshipping only Him? In the thick of life is God first in my thoughts and affections? Am I looking to Him as the one who can and will rescue me from what is against me?
God, forgive me for getting distracted or relying on myself and other things. Help me to return again to you, as the One who matters far and above all other things and who is at the centre of all things. Holy Spirit, teach me how to be faithful in the everyday rhythms and routines of life. Amen.
Written by Ps. Bethany Waugh
1 Samuel 6.13-7:2a
13 Now the people of Beth Shemesh were harvesting their wheat in the valley, and when they looked up and saw the ark, they rejoiced at the sight. 14 The cart came to the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh, and there it stopped beside a large rock. The people chopped up the wood of the cart and sacrificed the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord. 15 The Levites took down the ark of the Lord, together with the chest containing the gold objects, and placed them on the large rock. On that day the people of Beth Shemesh offered burnt offerings and made sacrifices to the Lord. 16 The five rulers of the Philistines saw all this and then returned that same day to Ekron. 17 These are the gold tumors the Philistines sent as a guilt offering to the Lord—one each for Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron. 18 And the number of the gold rats was according to the number of Philistine towns belonging to the five rulers—the fortified towns with their country villages. The large rock on which the Levites set the ark of the Lord is a witness to this day in the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh. 19 But God struck down some of the inhabitants of Beth Shemesh, putting seventy of them to death because they looked into the ark of the Lord. The people mourned because of the heavy blow the Lord had dealt them. 20 And the people of Beth Shemesh asked, “Who can stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God? To whom will the ark go up from here?” 21 Then they sent messengers to the people of Kiriath Jearim, saying, “The Philistines have returned the ark of the Lord. Come down and take it up to your town.” 7 1 So the men of Kiriath Jearim came and took up the ark of the Lord. They brought it to Abinadab’s house on the hill and consecrated Eleazar his son to guard the ark of the Lord. 2 The ark remained at Kiriath Jearim a long time—twenty years in all.
This passage is the end of a fascinating story. The Philistines had just learnt the hard way, that God is holy. To treat God as less than holy was to invite the terrible consequences they experienced. So, they returned the Ark of the Lord to Israel. Now the Israelites are also reminded that God is holy.
The Israelites see the Ark returning on a cart, no one leading it, but the cows pulling the cart directly to their village. Naturally, there was a celebration. The cows were sacrificed, burnt offerings made, some Levite men set the Ark on a rock, it’s all going well until seventy men decided to have a look inside the Ark and died. The Lord’s holiness killed them.
There are no excuses, the Levite men should have known the Law and God’s clear instructions regarding the Ark. God is a holy God. His Word must be obeyed always. No exceptions, sin can not live in the presence of a holy God. Both the Philistines and the Israelites found this out. The people of the village cried out, “who can stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God?”
Ps 119 opens with this, “Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the Lord”. (NLT)
I am reminded that we don’t obey God’s law out of fear, but because of our relationship with him, his great love for us, we are now made holy though the sacrifice of Jesus, allowing us into His presence. Blessing, wisdom and joy follow.
Father, your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.
Written by Andrew Martin
1 Samuel 6:1-12
6 When the ark of the Lord had been in Philistine territory seven months, 2 the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners and said, “What shall we do with the ark of the Lord? Tell us how we should send it back to its place.” 3 They answered, “If you return the ark of the god of Israel, do not send it back to him without a gift; by all means send a guilt offering to him. Then you will be healed, and you will know why his hand has not been lifted from you.” 4 The Philistines asked, “What guilt offering should we send to him?” They replied, “Five gold tumors and five gold rats, according to the number of the Philistine rulers, because the same plague has struck both you and your rulers. 5 Make models of the tumors and of the rats that are destroying the country, and give glory to Israel’s god. Perhaps he will lift his hand from you and your gods and your land. 6 Why do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh did? When Israel’s god dealt harshly with them, did they not send the Israelites out so they could go on their way? 7 “Now then, get a new cart ready, with two cows that have calved and have never been yoked. Hitch the cows to the cart, but take their calves away and pen them up. 8 Take the ark of the Lord and put it on the cart, and in a chest beside it put the gold objects you are sending back to him as a guilt offering. Send it on its way, 9 but keep watching it. If it goes up to its own territory, toward Beth Shemesh, then the Lord has brought this great disaster on us. But if it does not, then we will know that it was not his hand that struck us but that it happened to us by chance.” 10 So they did this. They took two such cows and hitched them to the cart and penned up their calves. 11 They placed the ark of the Lord on the cart and along with it the chest containing the gold rats and the models of the tumors. 12 Then the cows went straight up toward Beth Shemesh, keeping on the road and lowing all the way; they did not turn to the right or to the left. The rulers of the Philistines followed them as far as the border of Beth Shemesh.
The Ark of the covenant was spoils of war, captured in battle. The Philistines had it by rights, however it wasn’t right for them to have it. My question is this….what is there in my/your life (hurt/resentment/self righteousness/being right/pride) which you feel is rightfully yours but which brings no peace or joy? In fact, if you are honest this thing is eating away at you, bringing destruction. We need to be prepared to examine what is within us and give back to God anything that we feel justified in hanging on to, but which is slowly destroying us or the relationships around us. It might not be gold tumours and rats, but some things can gnaw away at us just the same. This was not a question of entitlement but rather a question of what was demanded by the Most High God. The philistines had to let the ark go and show God they were sorry, maybe it’s time for us to examine ourselves and do the same.
Heavenly Father show me anything which you need me to let go. Give me the strength Lord to lay down the things I hold on to, but which bring destruction. I pray for healing and peace in my thoughts and in my relationships. In Jesus name Amen
Written by Christine Knight
1 Samuel 5:1-12
5 After the Philistines had captured the ark of God, they took it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. 2 Then they carried the ark into Dagon’s temple and set it beside Dagon. 3 When the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord! They took Dagon and put him back in his place. 4 But the following morning when they rose, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord! His head and hands had been broken off and were lying on the threshold; only his body remained. 5 That is why to this day neither the priests of Dagon nor any others who enter Dagon’s temple at Ashdod step on the threshold. 6 The Lord’s hand was heavy on the people of Ashdod and its vicinity; he brought devastation on them and afflicted them with tumors. 7 When the people of Ashdod saw what was happening, they said, “The ark of the god of Israel must not stay here with us, because his hand is heavy on us and on Dagon our god.” 8 So they called together all the rulers of the Philistines and asked them, “What shall we do with the ark of the god of Israel?” They answered, “Have the ark of the god of Israel moved to Gath.” So they moved the ark of the God of Israel. 9 But after they had moved it, the Lord’s hand was against that city, throwing it into a great panic. He afflicted the people of the city, both young and old, with an outbreak of tumors. 10 So they sent the ark of God to Ekron. As the ark of God was entering Ekron, the people of Ekron cried out, “They have brought the ark of the god of Israel around to us to kill us and our people.” 11 So they called together all the rulers of the Philistines and said, “Send the ark of the god of Israel away; let it go back to its own place, or it will kill us and our people.” For death had filled the city with panic; God’s hand was very heavy on it. 12 Those who did not die were afflicted with tumors, and the outcry of the city went up to heaven.
Is Jesus number one in my life? I might say he is and I may portray that on the outside, but is he really? What other idols have I set up in my heart that are sitting right next to Jesus? Family, money, control, worry. ‘Dagons’ come in many forms.
Here’s the thing though, God’s presence, the Ark, should have bought blessing to the Philistines. That’s what happened years later when the Ark was moved to Obed-Edom’s house (see 2 Samuel 6:11). Instead the Ark bought tumours and death. Why? What was different?
God wasn’t first.
And that happens in my life too. It’s Jesus, but also family. Jesus, but also money. Jesus, but also my sin of choice. I have invited Jesus into my heart where I expect him to co-exist with Dagon. And then I wonder why blessing and answers to prayer don’t come!
Lord help me remember that you told me to not have any other God but you. Help me do the hard heart work – to tear down and break up the idols in my life. To make you Jesus, first. Amen
Written by Boudy Van Noppen
1 Samuel 4:12-22
12 That same day a Benjamite ran from the battle line and went to Shiloh with his clothes torn and dust on his head. 13 When he arrived, there was Eli sitting on his chair by the side of the road, watching, because his heart feared for the ark of God. When the man entered the town and told what had happened, the whole town sent up a cry. 14 Eli heard the outcry and asked, “What is the meaning of this uproar?” The man hurried over to Eli, 15 who was ninety-eight years old and whose eyes had failed so that he could not see. 16 He told Eli, “I have just come from the battle line; I fled from it this very day.” Eli asked, “What happened, my son?” 17 The man who brought the news replied, “Israel fled before the Philistines, and the army has suffered heavy losses. Also your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God has been captured.” 18 When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell backward off his chair by the side of the gate. His neck was broken and he died, for he was an old man, and he was heavy. He had led Israel forty years. 19 His daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant and near the time of delivery. When she heard the news that the ark of God had been captured and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she went into labor and gave birth, but was overcome by her labor pains. 20 As she was dying, the women attending her said, “Don’t despair; you have given birth to a son.” But she did not respond or pay any attention. 21 She named the boy Ichabod, saying, “The Glory has departed from Israel”—because of the capture of the ark of God and the deaths of her father-in-law and her husband. 22 She said, “The Glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.”
What a sad tale this is. You certainly cannot dismiss the bible for glossing over the harsh realities of life!
In one day Israel lost the Ark of the Covenant to their enemies (their symbol of God’s presence), Eli the High Priest died (their spiritual leader), and Eli’s sons and daughter in law also died (their legacy).
Although this story is a sad and tragic chapter in the history of God’s people, fortunately it is not the end of the story.
Through Jesus, we see that God has redeemed all 3 of these terrible losses:
So yes, any one of us may well lose everything in an earthly sense, but our hope in this life is not pinned on things going perfectly for us. This is not the end of the story! Our hope is in our eternal future with Jesus, and that can never be taken away from us.
Written by Shelley Witt
1 Samuel 4:1b-11
Now the Israelites went out to fight against the Philistines. The Israelites camped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines at Aphek. 2 The Philistines deployed their forces to meet Israel, and as the battle spread, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand of them on the battlefield. 3 When the soldiers returned to camp, the elders of Israel asked, “Why did the Lord bring defeat on us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the Lord’s covenant from Shiloh, so that he may go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies.” 4 So the people sent men to Shiloh, and they brought back the ark of the covenant of the Lord Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim. And Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. 5 When the ark of the Lord’s covenant came into the camp, all Israel raised such a great shout that the ground shook. 6 Hearing the uproar, the Philistines asked, “What’s all this shouting in the Hebrew camp?” When they learned that the ark of the Lord had come into the camp, 7 the Philistines were afraid. “A god has come into the camp,” they said. “Oh no! Nothing like this has happened before. 8 We’re doomed! Who will deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? They are the gods who struck the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues in the wilderness. 9 Be strong, Philistines! Be men, or you will be subject to the Hebrews, as they have been to you. Be men, and fight!” 10 So the Philistines fought, and the Israelites were defeated and every man fled to his tent. The slaughter was very great; Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers. 11 The ark of God was captured, and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, died.
“Ouch” I said aloud as I hung up from the call.
I had just been told that I wasn’t successful in my application for the job that I had been interviewed for. It’s not the first time I’d missed out on a job, but in this instance, I was sure that this job was for me.
What really hurt though was that they said they had decided to advertise the position again… That meant that I wasn’t just beaten by someone with more experience, or better interview skills. It meant that they just thought that I wasn’t cut out for the job!!
“Why God, Why!?” I demanded staring in to space, bordering between anguish and rage.
I had done all the right things. I sought God on whether to apply, I confirmed that it lined up with the call that I believed He had on my life, I prayed before and after the interview. Yet, still I failed.
1 Samuel 4 has many layers. On the surface it is about the Israelites being defeated by the people who God had called them to drive out of the Promised land and the death of two evil influencers in Israel, Hophni and Phinehas. But deeper down, it is about the attempts of God’s people to do the right thing, but in a foolish way. It is about failing when they think they are doing the right thing.
As I reflect on this passage and on times of my life where I have failed at something, I realise that God reveals my pride in those moments. It’s at these times when I realise I am angry at God for opposing me, even though in my own eyes, at the time, I thought I was doing all the right things. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6) becomes real to me in these moments.
Why does God oppose me when I am proud? Because he wants grace to abound in my life! He doesn’t want to just pour grace on me, but he wants it to flow through me into the lives of all those around me.
Thank You God for your revelation this morning.
Written by Ps Justin Ware
1 Samuel 3:1-4:1a
3 The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions. 2 One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the Lord, where the ark of God was. 4 Then the Lord called Samuel. Samuel answered, “Here I am.” 5 And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down. 6 Again the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” “My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” 7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. 8 A third time the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. 9 So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 10 The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” 11 And the Lord said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle. 12 At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family—from beginning to end. 13 For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons blasphemed God,[a] and he failed to restrain them. 14 Therefore I swore to the house of Eli, ‘The guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.’” 15 Samuel lay down until morning and then opened the doors of the house of the Lord. He was afraid to tell Eli the vision, 16 but Eli called him and said, “Samuel, my son.” Samuel answered, “Here I am.” 17 “What was it he said to you?” Eli asked. “Do not hide it from me. May God deal with you, be it ever so severely, if you hide from me anything he told you.” 18 So Samuel told him everything, hiding nothing from him. Then Eli said, “He is the Lord; let him do what is good in his eyes.” 19 The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground. 20 And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord. 21 The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word. 4 And Samuel’s word came to all Israel.
In this passage we see Samuel learn the voice and the word of God for the first time. What stands out to me is two key things. 1. God didn’t relent on Samuel when he didn’t realise it was God. God didn’t give up and kept calling out to Samuel until he responded to God. 2. Samuel needed Eli to help him. God had positioned Samuel where he had oversight and support in order to discern the word of God.
God doesn’t give up on speaking to us. It doesn’t matter if we struggle, if we are just learning, if we forget, God won’t relent on speaking to us. He is more excited to speak to us than we are to hear Him. God will position us in community to help us. The people around us are a gift when we struggle to discern the voice of God for ourselves. Who is your Eli? Who points out God in your world? We all need people like Eli in our lives.
Lord, thank you that you know me so intimately and deeply. That when I struggle to hear your voice you don’t give up on us but you position us with people to help and support us. Help us by your Holy Spirit to have ears to hear your voice and eyes to see the people you have given us to find you when we struggle.
In Jesus name, Amen!
Written by Ps. Annique Botta
1 Samuel 2:27-36
27 Now a man of God came to Eli and said to him, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Did I not clearly reveal myself to your ancestor’s family when they were in Egypt under Pharaoh? 28 I chose your ancestor out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up to my altar, to burn incense, and to wear an ephod in my presence. I also gave your ancestor’s family all the food offerings presented by the Israelites. 29 Why do you scorn my sacrifice and offering that I prescribed for my dwelling? Why do you honor your sons more than me by fattening yourselves on the choice parts of every offering made by my people Israel?’ 30 “Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that members of your family would minister before me forever.’ But now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me! Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained. 31 The time is coming when I will cut short your strength and the strength of your priestly house, so that no one in it will reach old age, 32 and you will see distress in my dwelling. Although good will be done to Israel, no one in your family line will ever reach old age. 33 Every one of you that I do not cut off from serving at my altar I will spare only to destroy your sight and sap your strength, and all your descendants will die in the prime of life. 34 “‘And what happens to your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, will be a sign to you—they will both die on the same day. 35 I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind. I will firmly establish his priestly house, and they will minister before my anointed one always. 36 Then everyone left in your family line will come and bow down before him for a piece of silver and a loaf of bread and plead, “Appoint me to some priestly office so I can have food to eat.”’”
Eli the priest and his sons had been taking more than their agreed portion of the sacrificial offerings given to the Lord by the Israelites. In doing so they were dishonouring God and those who had given the sacrificial offerings in the first place. The consequences of this grave sin was the wiping out of Eli’s family both now and in the future.
What a sobering passage of Scripture! Essentially Eli and his sons were taking and enjoying something that did not belong to them. These offerings were given to God and this should have been respected and not treated so lightly. They abused their positions as priests and it couldn’t go unpunished. It is a healthy reminder to firstly honour God and secondly those we serve as we go about doing what God has called us to do. It is so important not to take advantage of a position God places us in for our own benefit. Sometimes it’s good to take stock and ask ourselves, “Is what I’m doing honouring God and others?”
Dear Lord, please help me to serve you in way that brings you honour and glory. Amen
Written by Ps. Ainslie Woods
1 Samuel 2:22-26
22 Now Eli, who was very old, heard about everything his sons were doing to all Israel and how they slept with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 23 So he said to them, “Why do you do such things? I hear from all the people about these wicked deeds of yours. 24 No, my sons; the report I hear spreading among the Lord’s people is not good. 25 If one person sins against another, God may mediate for the offender; but if anyone sins against the Lord, who will intercede for them?” His sons, however, did not listen to their father’s rebuke, for it was the Lord’s will to put them to death. 26 And the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor with the Lord and with people.
This passage shows the inadequacy of the earlier priestly system in setting people right before God – priests were human and basically wore out. Their role was an ongoing never-ending one, representing the people before God with the endless offering of gifts and sacrifices to atone for sins. No wonder Eli was preoccupied and unable to pull his sons into line, and then it was too late.
My great high priest Jesus is not preoccupied or worn out. He is eager to know me, to walk with me, to comfort me, to bless me. Hebrews 4 and 5 reminds me that because of Jesus’ life and death I can “approach the throne of God’s grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Jesus wonderfully represents me to God, so I am not condemned.
Jesus is both priest and sacrifice. He was perfect in his life and his death. For me, for you.
Dear Lord Jesus, you are the Son of God, yet you lived among us. You are “the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him”. Help me to obey. Amen
Written by Claire Moore
1 Samuel 2:18-21
18 But Samuel was ministering before the Lord—a boy wearing a linen ephod. 19 Each year his mother made him a little robe and took it to him when she went up with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice. 20 Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, saying, “May the Lord give you children by this woman to take the place of the one she prayed for and gave to the Lord.” Then they would go home. 21 And the Lord was gracious to Hannah; she gave birth to three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord.
This is a beautiful passage about Samuel set in stark relief against the sons of Eli. We see a precious glimpse of the care of his mother toward him as they make their yearly visit to offer sacrifice to the Lord. I imagine the robes being sown and worn with much love, through the years. But there is another beautiful narrative within this story, the blessing of Elkanah and Hannah, Eli’s prayer for God to bless them with more children and the graciousness of God toward them, with a further five children.
I love the way that God weaves stories within stories, with most of the answers to our prayers coming in ways we would never expect. The story of a barren woman’s silent desperate prayer to God for a child, and in the chapters to come, the answered prayer, Samuel, who is growing up ministering in the presence of the Lord, and how he is then woven into the leadership of the nation and ultimately anointing a king who’s lineage will culminate in Jesus.
I see this small paragraph as an encouragement to us to never think that God does not hear or answer our silent desperate prayers. He hears, and He weaves the answers together in ways that we could never imagine. What an amazing God we serve.
Written by Suzie Hodgson
1 Samuel 2:12–17
12 Eli’s sons were scoundrels; they had no regard for the Lord. 13 Now it was the practice of the priests that, whenever any of the people offered a sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come with a three-pronged fork in his hand while the meat was being boiled 14 and would plunge the fork into the pan or kettle or caldron or pot. Whatever the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. This is how they treated all the Israelites who came to Shiloh. 15 But even before the fat was burned, the priest’s servant would come and say to the person who was sacrificing, “Give the priest some meat to roast; he won’t accept boiled meat from you, but only raw.” 16 If the person said to him, “Let the fat be burned first, and then take whatever you want,” the servant would answer, “No, hand it over now; if you don’t, I’ll take it by force.” 17 This sin of the young men was very great in the Lord’s sight, for they[a] were treating the Lord’s offering with contempt.
When we think of “sacrifice”, we usually think of giving something up, perhaps somehow buying forgiveness. That is so different from the role of sacrifices God gave his people in the Old Testament. Forgiveness was always based on his people humbling themselves, seeking him and turning away from sin (2 Chronicles 7:13-16). In most offerings, only the fat would be burnt on the altar. The family ate the meat with the priests and, above all, with God as a fellowship meal celebrating the restored relationship that God gives. It was a celebration of the wonderful love and generosity of their God (who, in the person of Jesus, really would pay for their sin and buy them back from slavery to it).
The problem with Eli’s sons starts in their hearts: they “had no respect for the Lord” (v12) and so they “treated the Lord’s offerings with contempt” (v17). They turned a celebration of God’s love and generosity into an exercise in selfishness. Instead of receiving a portion of the offering as a gift, they took it. They didn’t even take their part in making the offering (they sent their servants) they just took the best parts for themselves, including the parts that belonged to God.
This passage is included as a contrast to Samuel, who served the Lord (v 11 and 18), and to God’s generosity in his blessing of Samuel’s parents (v 21). So how should I be the opposite of Eli’s sons? At a personal level, I’m challenged to embrace God’s love and generosity, in my relationship with him, and to recognise and copy his love and generosity. But God wants that generosity to be celebrated with love and generosity for the people God has put around me. This is how people will recognise me as one of Jesus’ followers (John 13:35).
Written by David Cornell
1 Samuel 2:1-11
2 Then Hannah prayed and said: “My heart rejoices in the Lord; in the Lord my horn[a] is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance. 2 “There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. 3 “Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the Lord is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed. 4 “The bows of the warriors are broken, but those who stumbled are armed with strength. 5 Those who were full hire themselves out for food, but those who were hungry are hungry no more. She who was barren has borne seven children, but she who has had many sons pines away. 6 “The Lord brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up. 7 The Lord sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts. 8 He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. “For the foundations of the earth are the Lord’s; on them he has set the world. 9 He will guard the feet of his faithful servants, but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness. “It is not by strength that one prevails; 10 those who oppose the Lord will be broken. The Most High will thunder from heaven; the Lord will judge the ends of the earth. “He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.” 11 Then Elkanah went home to Ramah, but the boy ministered before the Lord under Eli the priest.
This passage of Scripture is a prayer to God from Hannah at the time she presents Samuel to Eli the priest. From this point onwards Samuel would be raised in God’s house and eventually become a priest.
Hannah’s prayer starts with how she is feeling; happy, strong, rescued and rejoicing are the words she uses. This is the woman who is giving up her only child and at this point she doesn’t know that she will go on to have other children. Hannah will only see Samuel once a year when her family visits the tabernacle. What an amazingly selfless and faithful response!
From the rest of the prayer we can see that Hannah truly knows her God – his nature, his character, power and his sovereignty. It’s all down to God not human endeavour.
It’s interesting to note that Hannah did not pray for another child.
As a mum I do wonder how Hannah could keep her promise to God and give Samuel up. How difficult it must have been, heart wrenching I reckon. We know Hannah was a woman of prayer and in those times of prayer she came to know God intimately. This knowing God helped her to give up her son and still genuinely rejoice in her heavenly Father. They had a rich relationship. I am so challenged to know God better so that I am able to step out in faith like Hannah. I wouldn’t mind her attitude either!
Dear Lord, thank you for the example of Hannah. Please help me to know you in a similar way; to have that rich relationship that enables me to step out in faith for you, Amen.
Written by Ainslie Woods!
1 Samuel 1:21-28
21 When her husband Elkanah went up with all his family to offer the annual sacrifice to the Lord and to fulfill his vow, 22 Hannah did not go. She said to her husband, “After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the Lord, and he will live there always.” 23 “Do what seems best to you,” her husband Elkanah told her. “Stay here until you have weaned him; only may the Lord make good his word.” So the woman stayed at home and nursed her son until she had weaned him. 24 After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. 25 When the bull had been sacrificed, they brought the boy to Eli, 26 and she said to him, “Pardon me, my lord. As surely as you live, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord. 27 I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. 28 So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” And he worshiped the Lord there.
What a huge commitment Hannah was making, after years of ridicule & shame, now to give this little one up, I can’t imagine and yet her gratitude to God for her child is palpable.
However, I am taken by her husband, Elkanah’s response, “Do what seems best to you” V23. He did not override her decision, which in this culture and time he easily could have done, Hannah’s decision would also greatly impact him, he didn’t say she was crazy, or make her obey him to travel to fulfil his vow. He supported her. This was her choice, God had not requested it of her, it was her heart response to her prayer being fulfilled in Samuel. We don’t know Elkanah’s motive for supporting Hannah other than his love for her V5 and his devotion to the Lord V3.
It makes me think of how precious it is when you feel fully supported, whether that is in a ministry venture or just in normal life decisions, when those around you are in full support of you. It also makes me question if I have been equally supportive others, do they know of my love and belief in them. Am I being as generous to them in love and support as Elkanah was to Hannah. I think too, that our support of others is also a reflection of our relationship and devotion to our Father God, for out of our heart for Him our response to others flows.
Jesus, help me to continually have a heart of support and generosity toward others, continue to remake my heart to reflect yours. Thank you for your generosity to me and your love supporting me through life. Amen
Written by Suzie Hodgson
1 Samuel 1:1-20
1 There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite[a] from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. 2 He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none. 3 Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the Lord Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the Lord. 4 Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. 5 But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the Lord had closed her womb. 6 Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. 7 This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. 8 Her husband Elkanah would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?” 9 Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on his chair by the doorpost of the Lord’s house. 10 In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. 11 And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.” 12 As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk 14 and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.” 15 “Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. 16 Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.” 17 Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.” 18 She said, “May your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast. 19 Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the Lord and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah made love to his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. 20 So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, “Because I asked the Lord for him.”
What a classic case of being misunderstood or even mistreated by everyone. Hannah has a husband-sharing arrangement with Peninnah which was accepted cultural practice in her day, but just a headache of a practice. And open to getting a little warped – which in Hannah’s case meant a husband who favoured her and a fellow wife who mistreated her.
Elkanah didn’t understand Hannah – how could a man with many children already understand the longings of a woman who’s probably dreamt of being a mother since childhood, but sees this dream wasting away before her.
And then there’s the Priest, Eli, who calls Hannah out as a drunk!
Reasons for giving up abound here. But I ask myself – who’s the hero in this narrative recount? Who comes in to save the day? You could say Hannah, but she comes to the temple weeping and unwilling to eat.
No. Is it not the Lord, who neither misunderstands nor mistreats Hannah, but loves her, hears her prayer, and brings blessing to her and her family?
For me, it’s clear – when everyone else doesn’t get me, there’s always one who never fails to. Even if I have to wait years for Him, He has seen me, heard me, and understood me the whole time.
Lord, help me keep this awareness of you – especially when my world seems to misunderstand or mistreat me. You always hear me and help me. AMEN.
Written by Ps. Rob Waugh
11 See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand! 12 Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh. 14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which[a] the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. 16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to[b] the Israel of God. 17 From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.
I saw the cutest photo of a new baby recently. It brought to mind the vulnerability and newness of a new little one – new skin, new nails, new experiences, a new start!
Paul’s focus in this final section of his letter is on grace which makes all things new. A new creation in Christ. “What counts is the new creation” – v15. I believe this is because becoming a new creation in Christ brings us into a whole new relationship with God and the world. Grace saves, the law condemns. Grace brings life, the law brings death.
The grace of God makes all things new.
I am reminded of 2 Corinthians 5 verse 17. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here.”
After lockdown and changes, and for many people loss of some kind, this is an amazing message. God is about restoration, new beginnings. When I walk with him, new beginnings are possible in all areas of my life – in relationships, attitudes, priorities, provision, dreams. When I trust God, he opens my eyes and heart to new possibilities. Where I only saw defeat, or rejection, he brings new hope, new opportunities.
It doesn’t matter where we have come from, what we have done, what baggage we are dragging behind us, God is about making things new, about bringing restoration of his creation – that means you and me.
Dear Lord Jesus, you are the great restorer, bringing broken people back to you, back to life. Even though I have been walking with you for many years, I need your restorative work every day in my life. Dear Lord, show me what needs to be made new. Amen
Written by Claire Moore
6 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, 5 for each one should carry their own load. 6 Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor. 7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Strong words from Apostle Paul – strong words we need to hear. What are the influences on our lives and are they good and for God or are they designed to distract, divert and disrupt??
There are some who subscribe to the wisdom of man more than the wisdom of God. I have always taken the view that I must read God’s Word, the Bible, at least as much as any other book, nowadays as much as I listen to podcasts etc. Why, because a knowledge of the Truth will guard me from imbibing false doctrine including the philosophies of man. How dreadful to be under God’s curse that comes from leading people away from God and His truth – and there is this possibility – which of itself should shake us to our core. We need to stay true to Christ in all we are and in all we do and believe. Confusion about God, His plan of salvation, that Jesus is the one and only redeemer and that all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory must not be the fruit of our ministry. We should maintain our beliefs, while keeping an attitude of grace, of love, acceptance and forgiveness – there is no other Name under heaven by which we can be saved.
For the Galatians they had people telling them the grace and faith needed ‘added extras’ to truly save you. Any ‘added extras’ represent false teaching – may we be careful we add nothing to God’s plan of salvation!
Father help me to stay true to Your Word in all I say, do and think. May I lead people truly in Your kingdom.
Written by Ps. Richard Botta
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
One of my favourite passages – the description of the fruit of the Spirit. This is a reminder that God wants us to be amazing people who are full of love and kindness. It’s great to get a new way to think about these ideas God wants us to use to guide our lives. So take a look at the way The Message version lays out these verses and see if that gives you a richer picture of what God means here.
Affection for others = love; exuberance about life = joy; serenity = peace; willingness to stick to things = patience; sense of compassion = kindness; conviction of basic holiness of people = goodness; being loyal in our relationships = faithfulness; not needing to force our way = gentleness and about to marshal and direct our energies wisely = self-control.
These are the fruit of the Holy Spirit. There was probably one of these that really appealed to you today – one that you would like to be better at/have more of/grow in. Grab hold of that one today and chat to the Holy Spirit about how to do that.
God promises that our lives can be filled with these gifts – we can always be more kind, more gentle, more patient, more joyful, more loving, more faithful, more controlling of ourselves and our reactions, more peaceful. God always wants us to have more of these gifts so we can be blessed and we can bless others. We just have to ask and to follow His guidance to get there.
Dear Lord thank you so much for the gifts you promise to give us. Help us to remember to ask for your help to grow in these gifts. Also help us to keep our eyes on who you want us to be not to compare ourselves to others so that we get distracted. Thank you that you have made each of us an original – you need the part each of us can play in your plans. Amen
Written by Therese Manning
13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. 16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
I read this scripture and felt immediately rebuked. So many of these “cravings/attitudes” I can see in my life.
In this season of Covid19 in isolation and lockdown; I feel like there has been so much in my world trying to “salvage”, to plan, to prepare, to focus, to refocus, that I feel as though I have lost some of my “God’s eyes” in the middle of it. My natural self wants to “bunker down”, to keep to the routine, prepare and rescue – but my Spirit wants to be free of the burden and to just step out and reach into peoples’ worlds bringing love and hope.
Galatians says: for me to “be completely free of self-indulgence”, “expressing love in all we do”, “abandon the cravings of your self-life”.
As we begin to head out of Covid isolation, I feel a fresh wind to chase after the things of God anew. To not worry so much about what I can’t do, but what I can do. They key I see in verse 16: as I yield freely and fully to the dynamic life of the Holy Spirit – I can follow after Him completely. He will lead and guide me.
Lord, thank you for your presence. We are never alone because you are with us. Thank you for your grace and mercy. Lord we thank you for your love and protection during this season and pray that we all with have experienced a deeper walk with you as a result. Amen.
Written by Ps. Sue Botta
7 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? 8 That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. 9 “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” 10 I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty. 11 Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. 12 As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!
Do you ever get distracted or find yourself getting absorbed by something other than what you’re supposed to be doing?! I know I do. Sometimes we need a reminder to get back on track and to refocus.
Today, I find this passage is just that: a reminder or wake-up call to spiritual living. The Galatians had been following after Jesus and living by faith. But somewhere along the way, they got off course. They slipped into their old way of doing spiritual life by relying on their own efforts, rather than relying on Jesus and believing that what He had done was enough.
Be encouraged! Just like God reminded that Galatians, may we also be reminded to stay on track and run our race.
Holy Spirit, help us to fully rely on Jesus and to be alert to what makes us take our eyes off Him and what He has already done for us.
Written by Gab Martin
2 Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
A girl aged 5 runs out of the school gates to be greeted by her mother. The first trembling words from her lips “he called me ugly” indicating a boy aged 5 from her class. Girl’s mother speaks to boy’s mother regarding comment made. A few days pass. The girl receives a handwritten note from the boy. “Sorry for hurting your feelings.” Girl’s mother reads note to girl. Girl replies with happiness “he still loves me!” Her young heart learns to forgive the boy for the hurtful words spoken to her.
It is a simple story, but it shows wrongdoing, sadness, hurt, pain, consultation, consolation, consideration, forgiveness, love and joy.
In the law prior to Jesus coming, being circumcised, among other rituals, was an act to show that a person was consecrated before God, clean and acceptable. It was thought that with these rituals the soul would be suitably fit to serve God. Paul writes in verse 6 that “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision or uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love”.
For me, true faith is a working grace; which works by loving others and loving God. Everyday, most of us encounter others through direct contact or via a video or telephone call. There are numerous opportunities that we are given each day to love others. In each situation we may feel a variety of emotions; hurt, pain, happiness, frustration or ambivalence. If we chose to love others, as Paul has instructed, we will serve a greater purpose.
In the story above, the girl’s mother could have disregarded the comment, but instead she saw an opportunity. The outcome was that two small children were guided by their respective parents to understand what it is to apologise and to forgive and to love again.
Dear Jesus, help us all to remember the power of love that you bestow to each of us to serve the world. Help us to see “opportunities” in our midst when we are challenged by others wrongdoing. Thank you for the power of forgiveness and for first forgiving us. Amen
Written by Susannah Ware
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