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Day 81 – Thru the Bible
Today we continue First Samuel and Psalms.
1 Samuel 13 – Saul’s official reign begins with a test still to be passed. Does God carry weight with Saul, such that no circumstances can compel him to disobey his charge to wait for divine instruction? Recall that to “honor” God is to give him weight. Remember Saul’s first charge was to attack the Philistine garrison and then to wait for Samuel’s further instructions at Gilgal.
Here, Jonathan attacks the garrison, and Saul goes to Gilgal. When Samuel is late in arriving and Saul’s troops are deserting, Saul acts foolishly by getting on with battle preparations (i.e., sacrifices) in Samuel’s absence. This shows that, for Saul, hearing from God is not an ultimate concern. In a tight spot, Saul apparently considers other factors to outweigh his obligation, as king, to hear from the great King.
How tempting it is in pressured situations to seek security by almost any means other than by waiting on God. But the safest place to be is always in a position of trust in the Lord, whatever circumstantial storms may be raging all around us. “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe” (Proverbs 29:25). A big view of God brings peace of mind, for “the beloved of the Lord dwells in safety” (Deuteronomy 33:12).
The promise of the gospel is NOT a life free of problems and challenges. God’s people are called to suffering, some even to martyrdom. But despite all the hurts, they never suffer ultimate harm. For the Lord stands by his people, strengthens them, and empowers their witness. Ultimately, the promise of the gospel is eternal life.
How does Paul’s life reveal this truth? Hint: 2 Timothy 4:17-18.
The suffering that believers undergo is never the punishment of a wrathful judge but always guidance or opportunity from the hand of a tender Father, for Jesus Himself took our punishment in our place.
Saul’s folly reveals his small view of God, and the Lord appoints (charges) “a man after His own heart.”
1 Samuel 14 – Unlike his father in the preceding chapter, for whom loss of troop strength outweighed the necessity of waiting for the prophet Samuel and hearing from God, Jonathan is convinced that “nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few.” This conviction, however, does not by itself propel Jonathan into action; he first waits to discern God’s will. Having received a clear sign from the Lord, Jonathan and his armor-bearer go out in faith and, though greatly outnumbered, win a great victory.
A consistent theme, not only in the books of Samuel but throughout Scripture, is that God’s strength “is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9; 1 Cor. 1:25-27; Hebrews 11:34). Faith like Jonathan’s will be displayed also by David in confronting Goliath (1 Samuel 17).
How do we see this whole-Bible theme of strength through weakness ultimately and supremely revealed by Jesus Himself? Hint: 2 Corinthians 13:4.
As we fill our minds with the truths of the gospel that are secured in Jesus, we come to see that God is bigger than anything life can throw against us. When God calls us to step out in faith, with the help of God’s Spirit we can face any odds.
Jonathan’s successes contrast with Saul’s failures. Saul’s continuing folly almost costs Jonathan his life, save for the intervention of the people. Moreover, Saul’s willingness to wait on the Lord, already in question after chapter 13, shows a pattern of decline. In 14:18–19, Saul calls for an oracular inquiry in order to discover God’s will but, when the situation gets too intense, breaks it off before receiving an answer (“withdraw your hand”). Later, in verse 36, Saul apparently forgets to inquire of the Lord altogether and must be reminded by the priest.
How true this pattern can be in the lives of those who don’t take God seriously. When God does not occupy first place, He seldom remains long in second, but is quickly relegated to ever lower standing, until He is forgotten altogether.
By contrast, how are we encouraged to be responsive to the Gospel? Hint: Hebrews 10:23–24.
Psalm 81 – The only lasting motivation for obedience is grace. So Asaph focuses the worshiper’s attention on redemption. Between the Feast of Trumpets and the Feast of Tabernacles, the Israelites observed the Day of Atonement, which portrayed through two goats—one slain and the other released—both the price and the success of their forgiveness.
Atonement should prick the hearts of those whose worship is perfunctory and whose lives are hypocritical (Matthew 15:8). True obedience begins with a covenant relationship with God, who rescues us from spiritual slavery. Asaph needs only to rehearse the preface and first command of the Ten Commandments (vv. 9–10), because they summarize both the spirit that contextualizes God’s grace and the content of the law that reflects His character and care.
When the believer’s heart is warmed to love the God who delivered him, he will reject all idols.
The law is God’s gift to His people. It is fatherly instruction intended for our well-being. Jesus confirmed that the “Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms” were written about Him and therefore include blessing and direct us toward our need of rescue by Him (Luke 24:44). Like Elijah, Asaph is begging God’s people to return to Him with all their hearts so that He might bless them (1 Kings 18:37).
Under the New Covenant, how do we see that we have already received every spiritual blessing, not by our own fulfillment of the law, but by Jesus’ finished work? Hint: Ephesians 1:3-6.
What other thoughts or questions does today’s reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
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