Still Tying to Force Your Problems Into Submission?

I am going to mention a few things. If you struggle against any of these things, please know that you are not alone, here. We have people in our congregation who have been through some tough fights in their lifetimes. We do not wish to condemn or look down on anyone because of the fight he or she is in. This morning, I simply want to take some time and encourage those in the midst of some fight, whether or not I mention it by name. 

  • Drug Addiction
  • Alcoholism
  • Anger
  • Do you hold a grudge?
  • Are there family problems or divisions?
  • Do you have an ongoing health crisis?
  • Do you find yourself constantly worrying?
  • Are you plagued with feelings of inadequacy?
  • Is there sexual impurity or immorality in your life?
  • Are you at war or persecuted physically?

This morning, we read again about God’s faithfulness and goodness as we continue to walk through 1 Samuel. Saul has been struggling. He is trying so hard but cannot seem to claim victory. There is a reason for this.

1 Samuel 14:47-52

Now when Saul had taken the kingdom over Israel, he fought against all his enemies on every side, against Moab, the sons of Ammon, Edom, the kings of Zobah, and the Philistines; and wherever he turned, he inflicted punishment. He acted valiantly and defeated the Amalekites, and delivered Israel from the hands of those who plundered them.

Now the sons of Saul were Jonathan and Ishvi and Malchi-shua; and the names of his two daughters were these: the name of the firstborn Merab and the name of the younger Michal. The name of Saul’s wife was Ahinoam the daughter of Ahimaaz. And the name of the captain of his army was Abner the son of Ner, Saul’s uncle. Kish was the father of Saul, and Ner the father of Abner was the son of Abiel.

Now the war against the Philistines was severe all the days of Saul; and when Saul saw any mighty man or any valiant man, he attached him to his staff.

God’s faithfulness (v. 47-48)

Now when Saul had taken the kingdom over Israel, he fought against all his enemies on every side, against Moab, the sons of Ammon, Edom, the kings of Zobah, and the Philistines; and wherever he turned, he inflicted punishment. 

We started seeing Saul spiral out of control in 1 Samuel 13:1. We have been witnessing Saul’s degeneration as we have walked through the story together. In this passage, there is a brief repose as Samuel reminds us of the good things that God is doing through Saul’s reign. We remember that God appointed and anointed Saul according to His own plan for the purpose of delivering Israel from the Philistines (9:16,10:1). What we see, here, are things that we have seen over the course of the previous weeks. Samuel is resting, here, to remind us of God’s faithfulness and set up David’s reign as King and as a type of Christ, a historical figure foreshadowing the coming of the Messiah.

Why was Saul inflicting punishment on the Canaanite nations? God appointed Saul to deliver Israel from the Philistines, one of the Canaanite nations. God’s punishment upon the Canaanites traces all the way back to Genesis 9:25, when Ham’s son, Canaan, was cursed and it was prophesied that Canaan would be under Shem’s hand. The Israelites are descended from Shem (Genesis 11:27). In Genesis 15:16, we saw God predict to Abraham, a descendent of Shem, that his descendants would come and receive the land of the Canaanites for themselves because the sin of the Canaanites would be complete. God’s bore with the Canaanites for 400 more years before the Israelites came out of Egypt and entered that promised land. It has been 900-1,000 years since God made this promise to Abraham at the current juncture in the story, and God is still bearing in some way with the Canaanites. But, the sin of the Canaanite nations was complete. They rejected God and generation after generation had grown in their own religion and worship of false gods. God was faithful in spite of the Canaanites’ unfaithfulness. In 1 Samuel 13:14, we saw that God has already appointed David to be king instead of Saul. Like He did with the Amalekites in Canaan, God is letting Saul’s sin grow to fruition before judging justly.

All nations, according to Scripture, have their origin in Noah. According to the Biblical narrative, all peoples of the earth started with knowledge about the one, true God. Over time, like we see with the Canaanites through the metanarrative, selfish desire is conceived and gives birth to sin. When sin is full-grown, it gives birth to death (cf. James 1:14-15). Scripture even goes as far as to claim that polytheism developed when people started worshipping the creation rather than the Creator (2 Kings 17:16). If you would like my notes on one early polytheistic myth and epic, please let me know. It is cool to go through those stories and see how they developed out of a proper knowledge of the only God. It’s cool to go into other monotheistic worldviews and stories and see how everything really does point to Jesus Christ as God and King. It’s cool to see how, even when Christ is misrepresented and caricatured, we can trace every thought back to a proper understanding of who He is. Every belief system seems to point to the Bible as the central, indisputable text on which everything depends. While I don’t have time at present to defend that claim, I can provide some examples.

So, we hear a certain question posed with reference to the importance of evangelism and missions. Does God not have mercy on those who never hear about Him? The Bible simply asserts that all nations come from a proper knowledge of who God is. Since people are unfaithful, they misplace their worship like the Canaanites did. After some time passes, their religion and theology no longer resembles what they started with. Since all people and nations do this, as we discovered last week, our only hope is God’s faithfulness to call His elect people to Himself in Christ. We cannot place our hope in ourselves for this. God is faithful in spite of human unfaithfulness. He is merciful, letting sin grow to its fullness before judging those who do not belong to Him.

He acted valiantly and defeated the Amalekites, and delivered Israel from the hands of those who plundered them.

God uses Saul in exactly the way that God said He would use Saul. He delivers Israel from the Philistines and other Canaanite nations during Saul’s reign. God knows what He is doing even though Saul is a ravenous wolf (cf. Genesis 49:27). God is faithful despite human unfaithfulness!

Verse 48 refers to Saul as acting valiantly. There is a difference between acting valiantly and being valiant. Anyone can act valiantly or do some good things on occasion. Not everyone is the real deal, the genuine article. What does it take for someone to be valiant rather than mere act valiantly? We are going to see this depicted as we transition from Saul to David in the story. David will still sin. David will to some awful things. Yet, he will not only be described as doing valiant things, but being valiant—an man after God’s own heart. So, stay tuned. You’ll have to watch next season.

Saul’s family (v. 49-51)

Now the sons of Saul were Jonathan and Ishvi and Malchi-shua; and the names of his two daughters were these: the name of the firstborn Merab and the name of the younger Michal. The name of Saul’s wife was Ahinoam the daughter of Ahimaaz. And the name of the captain of his army was Abner the son of Ner, Saul’s uncle. Kish was the father of Saul, and Ner the father of Abner was the son of Abiel.

How many people, here, get really excited about genealogical information? Why do you think God has included this information in His Bible? Lists of families and descendants are included throughout the Old Testament because these records are the historical records of the Israelite nation. I am about to make a claim that is going to really shock some. The documents compiled in the Holy Bible are not necessarily super spiritual. They do inform our spiritual existence, but they are histories, poems, letters, and researched-based accounts. Most importantly, they are the inspired words of God written to people living on planet Earth. This message, written to God’s intended audience, does not merit hyper-spirituality. God wants us to talk about real stuff.

Do you ever notice how other religious documents in the world tell a story that is highly legendary with their focus mainly on that which is perceived as a higher plane of existence? Do you notice how some will take the Bible and twist its words so that they can sound overly spiritual? The great truth about Scripture is that God has taken the time to speak through real people to real people on our level. This is evidence of the Bible’s reliability concerning reality, not some made up stuff that might seem spiritual. This is one thing that sets Biblical Christianity apart. Inherent within a Biblical worldview is the desire to discover that which is true using whatever real tools that God has given us, including science, history, and philosophy.

So, when we see genealogies in Scripture, we know that they are historical records. They are not meant for us to glean some secret knowledge by reading between the lines. If God wants us to know something, He tells us plainly. That is why we use Scripture to interpret Scripture. That is why we try not to read into the Scriptures what is not there. That is why we resolve to simply walk through God’s word on a regular basis as we gather together for the purpose of our sanctification in Christ. That is why we consider every verse in its literary and historic context.

Saul’s attention (v. 52)

Now the war against the Philistines was severe all the days of Saul; and when Saul saw any mighty man or any valiant man, he attached him to his staff.

Because of what God was doing to the Philistines, the war is severe during Saul’s reign. God had boon working this together for a long time, at least, and explicitly, from the time of Noah. In the second half of verse 52, we see that Saul’s focus is on that fight. Saul is always preparing for war. War is what Saul does. Saul has to win. He has to overcome. He has to make sure the struggle is worth something. Can you relate? Saul’s focus, though, is not on God, who is working Saul’s fight together for His own good purposes. When our focus is on the fight rather than on the God of the fight, we set ourselves up for failure and we begin thinking that all of life is about our overcoming something, whether it be sin, addiction, circumstances, enemies, haters, or whatever. We just have to get through another day, right? We can easily get so caught up in the fight that, like Saul, we never really know the God of the fight, who is working our struggles together for His good purposes (see my exposition of 1 Samuel 13:1-23). Listen to the words of the apostle, Paul.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.

Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:10-17).

The might is not ours. We are not strong enough. It is by putting on God’s armor that we can stand firm against the adversary’s schemes. For, our struggle is not against flesh and blood. It is against forces of wickedness. There is a reality against which we struggle that doesn’t stop at the physical things we struggle with. This is a battle of the heart and mind, and we struggle against those things beyond what can be physically seen. Instead of focussing on the fight, the apostle bids us focus on the God of the fight by putting on His armor—His truth, His righteousness, His gospel of peace, His faith, His salvation, and His word. It is all His, and nothing of ourselves. This is how we stand as we simply trust the Lord of the fight to determine the outcome of the fight. We simply want to be faithful to stand with Him. This will be one difference we see between Saul and David. Saul focusses on the fight. David focusses on the God of the fight.

This truth informs our focus on mere politics, the shortfalls of organizations, denominations, local churches, teachers, social issues, our personal fights and every worldly conflict—verbal or physical. Do we get worried about and caught up in the fight, which is a worry that will destroy us like it is destroying Saul? Or, do we rest in the God of the fight, which will bring the joy we will see characterize David’s reign? Those of us in the room who have overcome some kind of addiction know that, as long as we are trying to force our addictions into submissions we can never win. Our focus must be on the one who rules over that fight. God is drawing His people among the nations to do just that. As for me, I will rest in the God of the fight and find my victory in His word, not in the lesser victories of the world. Will you?

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