As long as Sha’ul lived there was bitter war against the P’lishtim. Whenever Sha’ul saw any strong or courageous man, he recruited him into his service —I Samuel 14:52
Lately I’ve been going through each book of the Old Testament and while studying I Samuel, I reached one of my more favorite chapters, chapter 14. The final verse reminded me that the defeat of the Philistine garrison at Mikhmas in no way equated to the subduing of the Philistines in general. Despite the several military activities and victories of King Saul, the Philistines remained intact and a constant source of trouble for Israel. I can do no better than to quote Dr. David Tsumura about where things stood with Saul as a transition from 1st Samuel chapter 14 to chapter 15:
“Humanly speaking Saul continued to make progress in strengthening Israel’s military power and administration. His drastic failure will come not from his mishandling of the people or his enemies, but from his neglect and disobedience to God’s Word.”
It was this neglect and disobedience to Israel’s God by Israel’s king that not only eventually proved to be fatal for King Saul and his sons, but also allowed Israel’s enemies to survive and fight another day as a never ending source of oppression and trouble for God’s people.
It’s a lesson that while preached and recorded and commented on in history books, and lamented especially by the elderly of every generation the lesson goes on ignored.
It’s a lesson that modern day Israel refuses to acknowledge and makes the same mistakes that their ancestors made. The Lord says not to tolerate shrines to pagan gods in their midst, and Israel is full of them. The Lord says to drive out God’s enemies from the land, and instead Israel tries to make peace with them. The Lord says never to give away any piece of the Kingdom of God, and Israel only negotiates how little or much they must give away to attain respect and friendship with the world.
It’s a lesson that our precious Church, itself a gift left by our Messiah, fails to grasp. A lesson that says that obedience is the only acceptable demonstration of love to God that humans have been given. And yet false doctrines have arisen that irrationally proclaim that Christian obedience to God’s Word is legalism and that obedience isn’t only a thing of the past but something to be shunned. Since Messiah’s advent we are to primarily demonstrate love of God in the form of affection and feelings of warmth towards Him and our fellow man.
Our Christian leadership often has no fear of creating self-serving doctrines and then attaching the Lord’s name to them. On the other hand the modern Christian congregation feels no obligation to seriously examine God’s Word and compare it to our leaders’ proclamations; we assume that if a “man of the cloth” says it, we have no obligation to do anything but to believe it and accept it as truth. That if we are given false information and we decide to live by it, that it is his sin and not ours. That he will bear the consequences, not us.
It is a lesson that says that while we might wish we could separate ourselves and our fate from our leadership, things just don’t (and never have) worked that way. The Lord indeed bestows His redemption on us, individual by individual, as He deems it appropriate. But almost all else in this world is interconnected. The most despotic tyrants this earth has ever known, even those loathed by his own people, will in time drag his nation down with him. It is the fear of that leader that usually keeps the people from taking courageous action, preferring instead to hope that “something” (whatever that is) will happen that will remove him and save them. But in the end it is the people who are held accountable before God for their inaction in the same way that the leader is held accountable before God for his actions.
I wonder how much more will a free nation of citizens who are given the privilege of selecting our leaders peacefully, and removing them peacefully if need be, are held accountable by our Lord for our apathy, inaction, and poor judgment. I think we tend to look at a godless nation like Russia and wonder how great God’s wrath will be on them; but in fact they don’t actually have the freedom to choose at all and are persecuted mercilessly if they look to God for wisdom. Yet those of us in the West turn around and, like King Saul, first of all absolve ourselves from the terrible and godless decisions of our leaders who we chose and aren’t obligated to keep. We who have full liberty to discover the principles of the Word of God and to live in harmony with those principles usually prefer to just put on some blinders, live our private lives, gripe a little bit, wring our hands, and compromise. I believe that our sin is greater and our consequences will be greater, and I think our present circumstances are but the harbinger of God’s disgust with us. It’s a familiar picture; one we’ve been reading about for months and months.
(I send out messages like this each morning in emails, and if you are interested in receiving them, send me your email address and I will add you—a to the list: Mail List)
I do thank you for your gifts. It is your faithful and continued support that makes these messages possible.