Jeff Mangum teaches on blind obedience using 1 Samuel 9:1-20.
As the New Year approaches we tend to look back at the previous year with thankfulness for everything that’s transpired, but also look forward to new hopes and dreams for the upcoming year. It’s natural for us to think about what we want and hope for and if you’re like me, you start to desire really big things. I want God to move mightily in my life. I want to be part of something big. I want to have robust moments this year. We hope and dream big. Sadly, we tend to overlook the details of our heart.
Either we don’t see them, or we’re so used to having parts of our lives never redeemed that we grow accustomed to being a certain way. We give up trusting God will actually change something in us. Usually it’s the small things we give up on.
I want us to be a people, His people, redeemed and restored by the person and work of Jesus Christ, that truly believe and live out surrender with everything.
Usually when we say, “I surrender” we’re surrendering something specific, like a relationship, money or some big decision. However, through out Scripture, the things Jesus spends time on with people are not usually the big things. It’s the small things that have been overlooked or never addressed; the character flaws like arrogance, pride, ego, lack of forgiveness, impurities of some sort, things you might not think are the worst of the worst, things you can excuse away.
It’s not possible to bypass these things and say, “I don’t want to address any of these kinks in my soul, but God would you include me in something big?” They have to be addressed.
When I say I want to be a man who is fully surrendered to Jesus, I have to mean all of me, including the normal moments of being a dad, a father, a co-worker, and in all the seemingly smaller things. Our whole lives need to reflect Jesus. This means He’ll have to bring to surface things we haven’t seen in a while or have never addressed.
The Israelites’ Flaws
The Israelites had a very predictable cycle of behavior. They would find themselves in harmony and peace with God, recognizing and worshipping Him as above all things. Then they would begin to have a wandering eye and look at other gods, thinking they weren’t complete and needed something else. In order for their grip to be loosened off these idols God would bring something difficult into their lives; famine, war, or hardship. It would crush them. He did it out of kindness, like a father spanking his children. It wasn’t wrath, but rather discipline, since discipline is restorative by nature. They’d be left with nothing and would cry that they needed Him and would find themselves back in their original place. Then the cycle would begin again and would repeat itself over and over.
In 1 Samuel 7, the people of Israel are at war with the Philistines who were beating them. They went to Samuel, the last judge of the people of Israel and asked him to pray to God that He would rescue them, demolish the Philistines and give them life again. Samuel said he would do it, but told them they also had a responsibility, to repent.
Repentance wasn’t a vague call. Historically, they would carve out these small figurines that represented larger statues. If they were in a drought, they would carve out a figurine for the false god of rain and would put the figurines in their pockets. They would grab ahold of it and pray to the god of rain. They weren’t praying to the one true god, but pursuing a false god. They would have multiple figurines in their pockets simultaneously and would grab ahold of whatever one necessary for each circumstance.
Samuel telling them to repent meant they must to do away with all of their pursuits, not just the outlandish ones, but also the subtle ones, because they were just as damaging to their hearts.
The Israelites’ King
In 1 Samuel 7, God demolished the Philistines and the Israelites were victorious. In 1 Samuel 8 they found themselves in a great place, but then their eyes began to wonder again, looking at all the countries around them who had kings. They didn’t have a king, just Samuel the judge. God was their King, but He was ambiguous. They wanted a king who had gold, an army and could defend them. They told Samuel they didn’t want him to be their judge anymore and to tell God what they wanted.
God told Samuel He would give them what they wanted. He told Samuel to warn them that they would get a king, but they would also get everything that came along with one; they would be poor, because a rich king becomes rich from taking from his subjects, they would say goodbye to their sons who would make up the king’s army and they would lose their daughters, because a king has a whole palace that needs servants.
Sin is interesting. Even when we know what it means for us, we want what we want, even when what we want is irrational.
In 1 Samuel 9 we come across Saul, who will become the first king of Israel.
There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, a Benjaminite, a man of wealth. 2 And he had a son whose name was Saul, a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people. 3 Now the donkeys of Kish, Saul's father, were lost. So Kish said to Saul his son, “Take one of the young men with you, and arise, go and look for the donkeys.” 4 And he passed through the hill country of Ephraim and passed through the land of Shalishah, but they did not find them. And they passed through the land of Shaalim, but they were not there. Then they passed through the land of Benjamin, but did not find them.
5 When they came to the land of Zuph, Saul said to his servant who was with him, “Come, let us go back, lest my father cease to care about the donkeys and become anxious about us.” 6 But he said to him, “Behold, there is a man of God in this city, and he is a man who is held in honor; all that he says comes true. So now let us go there. Perhaps he can tell us the way we should go.” 1 Samuel 9:1-6 (ESV)
The father has lost his donkeys. He sends his son to find them. After a couple days, Saul has grown weary, is no longer interested in this meaningless task and wants to go home. His excuse was not wanting to worry his father. His servant tells him they’re not going to bail, but be faithful. He suggests someone that can help them.
7 Then Saul said to his servant, “But if we go, what can we bring the man… 1 Samuel 9:7a (ESV)
Saul immediately has another excuse why he doesn’t want to be faithful in his simple task. This foreshadows a pattern with Saul who was always only interested in the real sexy things of life; war, rulership, gold, kingdom, power, looks, and charm. He was never a man who was ever interested in the things that went unnoticed, the simple things. You already see this character flaw in this first story. He wants to bail out on the task because it’s not sexy enough. The handsome man who has everything in front of him wants no part of these humble pursuits.
…For the bread in our sacks is gone, and there is no present to bring to the man of God. What do we have?” 8 The servant answered Saul again, “Here, I have with me a quarter of a shekel of silver, and I will give it to the man of God to tell us our way.” 9 (Formerly in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he said, “Come, let us go to the seer,” for today's “prophet” was formerly called a seer.) 10 And Saul said to his servant, “Well said; come, let us go.” So they went to the city where the man of God was. 11 As they went up the hill to the city, they met young women coming out to draw water and said to them, “Is the seer here?” 12 They answered, “He is; behold, he is just ahead of you. Hurry. He has come just now to the city, because the people have a sacrifice today on the high place. 13 As soon as you enter the city you will find him, before he goes up to the high place to eat. For the people will not eat till he comes, since he must bless the sacrifice; afterward those who are invited will eat. Now go up, for you will meet him immediately.” 14 So they went up to the city. As they were entering the city, they saw Samuel coming out toward them on his way up to the high place. 15 Now the day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed to Samuel: 16 “Tomorrow about this time I will send to you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be prince over my people Israel. 1 Samuel 9:7b-16a (ESV)
This story sounds insignificant, which is the point. God spoke two things to these men. He told Saul to go chase donkeys. He told Samuel, “There’s a man who thinks he’s chasing donkeys, but I’m just using this to get him to you. When you find him, you will anoint him to be the first king of my people.”
He shall save my people from the hand of the Philistines. For I have seen my people, because their cry has come to me.” 17 When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord told him, “Here is the man of whom I spoke to you! He it is who shall restrain my people.” 18 Then Saul approached Samuel in the gate and said, “Tell me where is the house of the seer?” 19 Samuel answered Saul, “I am the seer. Go up before me to the high place, for today you shall eat with me, and in the morning I will let you go and will tell you all that is on your mind. 20 As for your donkeys that were lost three days ago, do not set your mind on them, for they have been found. 1 Samuel 9:16b-20 (ESV)
Saul had all this promise, vision and desire. He wanted to be used mightily and powerfully for great things; he wanted to be a great man, to rule and lead. A lot of his desires were good. Yet, in the most meaningless of moments, he didn’t have the character or the spiritual spine to uphold anything. It was his servant that got him from Point A to Point B in the first place.
Whether you’re an optimistic person or a cynic, if you are a Christian, your prayers begin to center around something else. We ask God to use us, to do a work in us, to allow us to be a part of something big and to be used for great things. However, it’s easy to dream all these big things, but neglect your heart at the same time. The mission of God is intoxicating. It’s easy for me to have tunnel vision on preaching. I can get so intoxicated by studying the Scriptures in preparing a sermon for you, but not for my own heart.
Saul had everything in front of him, but when it came to the basic tasks, his character was flawed and he didn’t even see it. He never stopped to address it. No one ever came to him, except David, to tell him he had no spiritual backbone. He would go back on his word; he wasn’t faithful, or steady and trusting in God’s provision. No one told him that until he addressed these things, he wouldn’t be a great anything.
Let us stop and thank God for His faithfulness. Let us ask Him to expose the things we haven’t even stopped to address. Let us finally deal with the little matters of our heart. Once those things get addressed, we’ll start seeing how we’re be able to be used in ways we never thought possible.
Jesus Was About The Heart
At the apex of Jesus’ ministry, Him and His disciples were headed to Jerusalem. His disciples thought this was their moment, they were about to march into Jerusalem and overthrow the Romans. They were expecting to wreck shop. If it were up to them they would have had a lavish way to announce Jesus’ arrival to everyone. However, Jesus didn’t roll that way. He was constantly addressing the hidden elements of the heart.
Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. Matthew 21:1-2 (ESV)
The disciples had aspirations of a grand entrance. Walking in on a donkey was the opposite of what they expected or wanted. They wanted power and to see a movement happen. They must have been so conflicted.
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. Matthew 21:6 (ESV)
They obeyed, because they trusted Him. They trusted that what He asked of them was always for their good. It sounds like a simple task to us, go to a village and get a donkey and a colt. However, it was a large task for them. This was the kind of thing Saul struggled with his entire life. He wanted the marvelous things, but not the simple things to be made right.
When my wife and I first got married I knew God had been calling me into vocational ministry, but I wanted nothing to do with it. I got a job with a software development company instead. I continued to wrestle with the call God had put on my life and I finally gave in to His persistence. I put in my two months notice with the plan to become a youth pastor. Within those two months, I discovered things in me that I never knew about. I started coming in late, taking longer lunches and leaving early. I was barely working, rather coasting.
The CEO of the company, a friend of mine, called me into his office two days before I was done. He wanted to talk about my supervisor Michael. He was a smart man, a nice guy and an atheist to the core. He hated anything to do with Christianity. My friend said, “I just had a meeting with Michael. He said that the last two months he’s been disgusted with watching you work. You don’t show up, everything you do is poorly done and you basically have only been present here. I want you to know that when I started this company 12 years ago, Michael was my first hire. I have poured my life into him and his wife, showing them grace and forgiveness, praying hard for their salvation. What I’ve been working hard on for 12 years, you have just undone in two months.”
No one had ever called into question those parts of my character; I was lazy, not applying myself and wasn’t diligent in anything. These things had been overlooked, because I never stopped to address them. Yet, I wanted to be used by God? It hurt to recognize the real me, but it was one of the greatest things that’s ever happened to me. From that point on, I have been realistic with where I sin in these areas.
Being a great man or woman for God is not about being skilled, being at the right place at the right time, your resume or how you look and present yourself. It’s about recognizing how broken you are, not skipping past the things that are uncomfortable to move on to something else. It’s about addressing the really difficult things.
Addressing Our Flaws
Some of you have significant image issues, bouts of depression, or arrogance, some refuse to forgive, the list could go on. Stop and ask God to address it.
I’m a better husband and father because my friend called me out in those areas and challenged me to repent.
As Jesus exposes these things in you, run to Him. He perfectly lived out every one of your flaws, did everything you can’t, didn’t avoid what you ignore or are too lazy to confront. He’s not just our example, He’s our substitute. Like Samuel told the people of Israel, intercession will be made, but you must repent. However, you can’t repent until you stop and ask God to expose what’s foul.
As we look at the New Year approaching, let us ask God to search your heart for things you didn’t even know were there that you need lay down. Let us be a surrendered people.