Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Monday, May 2, 2016

A Tale of Two Kings

Do you know that God sees things in a different way than we do?  We look at the outward but God sees at the heart. Let me show you the difference between how we see a person and how God sees them. 

God has sent Samuel to anoint the next King of Israel and He has chosen one of the sons of Jesse the Bethlehemite, but He didn’t tell Samuel which one.  So, Samuel has Jesse bring his sons, David’s brothers, in one at a time. 

So here’s Eliab, David’s oldest brother:

1 Samuel 16:6-7 (NKJV)
16:6 So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, "Surely the Lord's anointed is before Him." 7 But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

Samuel is looking at Eliab and from Samuel;’s perspective Eliab is kingly.  He’s convinced that God wants him to anoint Eliab king, but God says, “The Lord doesn’t see as man sees.”  God doesn’t look at our looks, and our height, or any of the things we look at.  He says, “God looks at the heart.”

Today, I want to contrast two kings:  The first two kings of Israel.  I want to show you what God is looking for and how we miss those things because of our limited vision.

1 Samuel 8:1-5 (NKJV)
8:1 Now it came to pass when Samuel was old that he made his sons judges over Israel. 2 The name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba. 3 But his sons did not walk in his ways; they turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice. 4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, 5 and said to him, "Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations."

God’s Plan for Israel

Let me start today, with the back story on this scripture.  God led His people out of Egypt.  That took place centuries before our text and from the time they came out God had a plan for ruling His people.  He used judges for five hundred ten years – Leaders who judged based on God’s commands.  This way God was ruling His people.  That was always God’s intention – To rule His people.

Genesis 17:8 (NKJV)
17:8 Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God."

God’s telling Abraham that this is His plan when He brings the people into the Promised Land, and for the first five hundred years after they left Egypt that’s exactly how it was. 

God was in charge and He chose those who would speak for Him to be judges over His people.  Moses, Joshua, Gideon, even Samuel, they led Hid people in war4 and peace.  They were responsive to God’s will, but there were problems, as well.  Eli was a judge over Israel but His sons who were priests were not living integrally.  They were perverted and dishonest.  They robbed the people of their offerings and their blessings.  They slept with women in the tabernacle.

1 Samuel 2:22-24 (NKJV)
2:22 Now Eli was very old; and he heard everything his sons did to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. 23 So he said to them, "Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people. 24 No, my sons! For it is not a good report that I hear. You make the Lord's people transgress.

One of these two would have been made judge after Eli, but God short-circuited that.  God had already chosen someone to follow after Eli.  That was Samuel and you can see in First Samuel how God placed him into Eli’s household.  You can see that even as a child Samuel was responsive to God’s call:

1 Samuel 3:10-14 (NKJV)
3:10 Now the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, "Samuel! Samuel!" And Samuel answered, "Speak, for Your servant hears." 11 Then the Lord said to Samuel: "Behold, I will do something in Israel at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. 12 In that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13 For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them. 14 And therefore I have sworn to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli's house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever."

At the time Samuel was a child.  But God has set him in place to be the next judge of Israel.  In fact, he would be the last judge of Israel, because there would come a time when the people would demand for themselves a king like other nations.

It’s always interesting that people have never changed.  We’re not always content to let God call the shots in our lives.  Even as Christians we want to be like everyone else.  God calls us to be a peculiar people.  That word peculiar means distinct or different from everyone else – separate from other people, bit we’re uncomfortable with that.  We want to be accepted by people.

We’re also unwilling to completely trust God with our lives.  This is what’s happening in Israel at this time in our text.  If the people are living under judges they must completely trust God, even when it seems like God isn’t paying attention.

Imagine what it would have been like to watch Eli’s sons, knowing what they’re capable of and knowing also that they’ll be your next leaders.

Samuel as judge was righteous and God-fearing but he also had sons who were not.  They were thieves and extortionists – Look at the text:  Samuel’s sons did not walk in Samuel’s ways. They stole; they took bribes; they perverted justice, and they were next in line to judge Israel.  They problem maws that, even though Israel left Egypt behind they never left sin behind.  The people were fed up and demanded a king.

The People’s King

So God gave them a king – I want you to see his description:

1 Samuel 10:23-24 (NKJV)
10:23 So they ran and brought him from there; and when he stood among the people, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward. 24 And Samuel said to all the people, "Do you see him whom the Lord has chosen, that there is no one like him among all the people?" So all the people shouted and said, "Long live the king!"

Saul was tall and handsome – He looked like a king.  The people would have chosen a man like him for king themselves.  God gave them the kind of king theywere looking for.  People have a tendency to look for someone they see as kingly.  We do this in elections – Does He/she look presidential?  Can I see this person as the leader of our country?  Saul looked like a king – So the people were satisfied, but Samuel had tried to warn them, about what it would be like tio be under a human king.

Samuel did warn them:

1 Samuel 8:11-18 (NKJV)
8:11 And he said, "This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. 12 He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. 14 And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. 16 And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants. 18 And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day."

The people were convinced that was what they wanted.  Saul did all of these things – and these were things that the judges had never done.

The final thing about Saul is that he was disobedient.  He became “full of himself.”  He rose up in pride.  Samuel, as he told Saul that God would take the kingdom from him even said to him, “When you were little in your own eyes.”  We look at people and see the outward things; the things they present, their looks and countenance, but we don’t always see their heart.

So, I want to contrast Saul with David.  David was a man after God’s own heart.  David was the man that God would choose for His people.

1 Samuel 16:1 (NKJV)
16:1 Now the Lord said to Samuel, "How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons."

God said I have provided MYSELF a king.  David is the kind of man that God would have chosen to lead His people.  God even called him, “A Man after my own heart.”  Remember God warned Samuel that He doesn’t see what we see, He looks at the heart.  He sees what’s hidden there.  He see character and integrity.  He looks for humility. 

So, this time God chose the youngest – a shepherd.  He’s not the one that Samuel would have chosen, but the one with a shepherd’s heart.  This is the kind of man that God would choose to lead the people. 

Was David perfect?  Not by any means.  He committed adultery.  He murdered the woman’s husband.  He sinned I big ways, but what makes David a man after God’s own heart is that he was humble enough to repent – to recognize when he was wrong and correct it.  God chose David to rule His people and David was the greatest king of Israel

So, What’s the Point

God sees in a way that you and I can’t.  Sometimes, we can see a bit of someone’s character but only God really knows what’s in a person’s heart.  So, I wonder sometimes, why do we block God’s wisdom from our relationships?  Why don’t we trust God enough to let Him help us in our relationships? 

We make judgments by our standards:  “My wife must be beautiful.”
“My husband has to be rich AND good-looking.”  We don’t always look for the right things in a person.  “She’s so beautiful – she couldn’t possibly be mean as a snake.”  “He seems like such a nice guy – He couldn’t be a liar and a cheater.”  God knows!  He cans see past the straight teeth and beautiful smile.  He can see the ugliness of the heart.

I've seen so many people choose their spouses on the wrong things; so many that have made mistakes in judgment because they relied on their own feelings and judgments.  I've known people that have married people that have taken them out of the will of God.  These are people who had a desire to do something for God but made a wrong choice in marriage.  The sad part is that they never consulted God on that decision.  God knows, He sees the heart.  Why trust your emotions when you can have the wisdom of God to help you.

In the Book of Genesis – God is creating marriage and He creates a woman for Adam out of his own body.  She’s a part of him – She’s made up of the same things and the Bible says that God brought the woman to Adam.  God knew what Adam needed.  He could see his heart.  He could see that it wasn’t good for him to be alone and he brought the best person for Adam.

Too often I see people leaving God out of their relationships.  Pray; ask God if that person is right for you.  We need to let God be part of the process in our decision-making.  He knows what’s best for us.  Israel endured Saul, because they didn’t trust God’s decisions on how to best lead them.  Israel triumphed under David because God chose for them.

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