Category Archives: I Samuel

He Strengthened Himself in the Lord (I Samuel 30)

David had it bad.  Months of avoiding the king’s deadly grip.  Then, his wives are taken.  His possessions are captured.  What was he to do?  His men rose up to stone him.  What did he do?

“He strengthened himself in the Lord.”

I imagine he’d done that before.

When the bear came, he strengthened himself in the Lord.

When the lion came, he strengthened himself in the Lord.

When Goliath, the mighty giant, came calling, he strengthened himself in the Lord.

When King Saul sought his life, he strengthened himself in the Lord.

Now, with his people gone, his stuff taken, and his men ready to mutiny, it’s no surprise what he does.

He strengthened himself in the Lord.

Not only does he strengthen himself in the Lord, but he asks the Lord a question.  He asks, “Shall I pursue them?”

God answers, “Pursue them, for you shall surely overtake and shall surely rescue.”

David had been on a long march.  He had just come in from battle.  He’s been crying so hard he couldn’t go.  Now, God says to go.  He says to face the challenge.

What does David do?  He goes.

He doesn’t just go a little.  He goes a lot.

When 200 of his mean are to tired too go on, he goes.

He goes until he finds what God promised him, even if it takes a miracle.  Even if it takes a divine act.  David goes knowing the God who promises will surely make good on his promises.

So, when you’re past going, and when you feel like giving up, pull out a Psalm, and sing a song.  And, like David, we can rise and take what God has given.  

He’s promised, but you have to go.

And what will he do?  Where will he be?

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.

Psalm 23:4-5

Surely, he will guide.  He will provide.  No need to fear.

Just go.

Jumping into the Unknown: I Samuel 24

Michael Holmes had made over 7.000 jumps.  This was a day like no other in New Zealand.  A day he’d never forget.  This time…he jumped…and his parachute didn’t open.

Randy Harris tells a story about black water rafting.  Black water rafting is very much like white water rafting…except that it’s in a cave.  So, they trekked and they traveled through the wild lands of New Zealand.  They huffed and they hiked through a cave filled with glowworms, until they reached their starting point.  A cliff.

As Randy peered over the edge, he saw the river below.  It was dark.  He says it was somewhere between 20 and 10,000 feet down.   As he looked over the precipice, the guide said, “1….2….3…jump!” Randy’s legs didn’t move.  He just stood there.  The guide asked him if he didn’t understand his New Zealand accent.  So, they went again…and before the count of three..Randy jumped.   And, he landed in the river below.  All safe and sound.

David was once in a cave, too.  He was hiding there with 600 fighting men, when King Saul entered.  That’s important because Saul put a shoot to kill order on David.  Kill him!  Here was the man who had tried to kill David on multiple occasions in the palace.  Here was the man who had killed the priests who had helped David  Yes, the spear throwing madman had entered the room…and David had his chance.   He crouched forward in the darkness, and he extended his blade.   He cut…the corner of Saul’s garment.  It was a cut to the king’s pride, but not to his throat.  In a display of restraint, David was making a statement, but he realized later that even this was wrong.  He couldn’t disrespect the king, whom he called God’s chosen, God’s anointed.

His heart burned within him, and he realized what he had to do.  He had to jump out of this cave.   He had to go over the cliff and into the hands of a militant mob.  He had to hand himself over to the king.  So, he did.  He walked out of that cave.  I don’t know if his hands trembled or his knees buckled, but I do know this….he jumped.  You see, he didn’t know what awaited him.  He didn’t know how Saul would react.  There were 3,000 armed men out there, and David was backed into a corner.

He jumped out into the open.  He jumped with legs of trusting faith.  He believed that the same God who helped him kill a giant would protect him from the armies of the king.  And, he knew that when he jumped,  that God would be with him.  So, David jumped out of that cave, and he lived.  Saul didn’t kill him.  He even asked David for forgiveness.  The mad monarch became the penitent pleader.  The hand that once threw a spear extended the olive branch.  David’s parachute opened, so to speak.

But, you know what, even if David had jumped and his parachute didn’t open, I believe God would have still been with David.  If the threads of Saul’s penitence had worn thin, and the parachute of mercy had fallen through,  God would still have been with David, and I believe he would have protected him.  Now, could you imagine that…jumping and your parachute not opening…and still surviving.  You might call that an act of God.  Some might say it was a miracle.

Do you remember Michael Holmes?  On that fateful day in New Zealand, he was the one who jumped 14,000 feet.  That’s nearly a 5K.   That’s 2.65 miles.  That’s a long way!  After his parachute didn’t open, he freaked out.  And, then something amazing happened. He rolled into a four-point horizontal roll, and the energy of the crash was dissipated.  He crash landed, but he survived.

So, while I’m not about to go jump out of a perfectly good plane, I will tell you what I’ve learned.  You sometimes need to jump into the arms of grace.  Jump with the legs of faith.

It may be a job.

It may be a relationship.

It may be a ministry.

I don’t know what it is for you, but it’s time to jump.  Make that leap of faith because that’s where God will show up and show out in your life.  The impossible might just happen.  Even if that parachute doesn’t open…God will be with you.

That’s God’s promise.  That’s God’s answer.  That’s how we face the giants in our lives.  That’s how we face the armies of the accuser.  We jump knowing that the greatest power is right there with us all along.  And, he makes people walk away even when the parachute doesn’t open.

Mercy Not Sacrifice: I Samuel 21

The giant slayer was now the spear evader.  The one who slew tens of thousands is now the one who is being pursued.  And, he’s being hunted not by some giant.  Not by some Philistine.  He is being hunted by the King of Israel.  Saul.  The sweet musician of Israel is now running for his life.

Guercino [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Guercino [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Where does he run?

Well, he makes  a pit stop with the priest at Nob.  He enters the holy area with his men.  The priest is stunned.  Why is David here?  Isn’t this odd?  Why would the biggest military leader in all of the land show up unannounced, and why isn’t the army with him?  You can understand the priest’s misgivings.  You can hear the quiver in his voice when he asks David what’s going on.

Now, what happens next is what really gets to me.  He eats the consecrated bread.  The priest lets him do it.  In fact, the priest even gives him a sword, which turns out to be Goliath’s.  How’s that for a parting present!

Aert de Gelder [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Aert de Gelder [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Back to the showbread or the Bread of the Presence.  Now, that might not sound like a big deal to you…but to someone who grew up with a “never break the rules” mentality…then this really hits me hard…because after all, wasn’t David a man after God’s own heart?

Leviticus 24:9 says that the show bread is specifically for Aaron and his sons, i.e., the priests from the tribe of Levi.  And, David is not of the tribe of Levi.

So, was it right for David and his men to eat this holy bread?

Well, my initial response is a strong, kicking and screaming…

No! No! No!  Of course not!

Now, what if someone wrote a commentary on this and said that, in fact, it was alright for David to do this.  What if their argument was this:

It’s about the big picture here, and not about the ritual.

What if their argument was something like:

God is all about mercy and not about ritual and ceremony.

How would you react?

Well, some might call that person a false teacher.  Some might call them a liberal.  Some might even call them a heretic.  But, here’s the thing.  Would you like to know the author of this commentary?

Are you ready for it?

It’s Jesus.

God’s Son.  The Son of Man.  The Messiah.  King of kings and Lord of lords.  And, as someone has pointed out, he really has an advantage in Bible interpretation.

So, what does he say?  Well, listen to the words of Matthew 12:3-7:

He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.

I’m partial to Jesus’ argument.

It wreaks of grace.  It smells like the Lamb of God.

It looks like the God who stoops.  It looks like Servant who would wash the disciples grimy feet and then suffer on a cruel cross.

It sounds a lot like the one whose voice calms the storms and stills the tempest and one day will raise our bodies to life.

Yes, this sounds a lot like Jesus.

And, Jesus’ words convict me.   The one whose side was pierced pierces my heart with his words of grace, with his Sword of Spirit.

And, ironically, it’s these words that cut me deep:

And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.

Those words cut to my very heart whenever someone brings up that question, so do you think y’all are the only ones going to heaven.

Those words ring in my ears whenever I think of all the people with whom I’ve argued about ritual and forgot about mercy.

Those words sear in my mind whenever I’m starting to condemn other sincere Christ seekers who might not have all the same understandings as I do.

The Point

Now, back to David.  Why was David approved of God in that he did what he did?  Well, he was on God’s mission.  He was serving God’s purpose.  He was God’s anointed.  The showbread was there to serve God’s purpose, not the other way around.

That’s the same thing Jesus was saying when he said it was alright for him and his disciples to pluck grains of wheat on the Sabbath in order to eat.  That were doing God’s work.  He was God’s anointed.

The question isn’t really how do we, like David, get to do something that we normally wouldn’t be permitted to do.  That misses the point.

The real point I want to get to is how do we, like David, and like Jesus, how do we really get on purpose for God?  How do we really get into his work, his mission, and his passion, so much so that God is literally helping us along the way with his creation.  How do we do that?

Well, we simply follow Christ.  We take our cross.  We get involved in the real work of his kingdom building in this world.  That’s a lot harder than simply getting the right ritual.  That’s about becoming God’s person.  Becoming the body of Christ.  We take on a heart like his and we act like him.  Our hands become his hands.  Our feet become his feet.  And, should we do so, and one day we find ourselves needing some provisions in order to do his work, then God will provide..



  1.  How do we sometimes value the wrong things?
  2.  Do we ever miss the forest for the trees?
  3. When you first read this, did you side with the idea that David was wrong?
  4. How does Jesus interpretation of this event resonate with you?
  5. How can we value mercy over ritual?
  6. How can we become Jesus’ hands and feet?

By the Numbers: I Samuel 18-19

The numbers don’t lie, but people do.

The numbers don’t lie, but you may be looking at the wrong numbers.

You may not be looking at all the numbers.

And, when God is in the numbers, then everything changes, because you just can’t compare a number with the infinite.

That’s why a young guy named Samuel could replace the established priestly line of Eli.

It’s why an outnumbered Israel could defeat a highly numbered Amorite army.

It’s why a young boy with a sling shot could slay a giant.

Why?  Because little is much if God is in it.

So, if you’re feeling small, and you’re just at the start of something, don’t fear.  You could be like teenage David.  You may still be tending sheep.  You may still be like Hannah, and you’re into middle age without a child, and you want to know why.  God can birth in you a new thing.  You may be at the start of a new project, and you may feel like David with a sling shot in your hand, facing a giant, but you know what?  If God is on your side, you can slay that giant.  You can go out and come in in the sight of all Israel.  You can triumph if God is on your side.

The question is, are you on his?

If so, you may have some troubles.  David did.  He had a man trying to kill him.  Not just any man.  The king.  The man who celebrated his victory was now seeking his life.  The man who rewarded David for killing with a sling shot…is now trying to kill David with a spear.

Read I Samuel 18 and 19, and you’ll at least 3 times that King Saul tried to kill David by pinning him against the wall…while he was paying music!  I mean can, you imagine.  You’ve risked your life, and now you’re the king’s personal musician.  You’re playing your heart out.  The tones of the strings coming together in a beautiful minor chord, and the rhythm is swelling, and you look up…and there’s the king with a spear….pointed at you.  You jump out of the way just in time, and the spear goes deep into the wall.  The king just tried to kill you!

Now, I don’t know about you, but if I was in that situation, I might start counting my numbers.  I might see that the military was behind me.  I might see that Saul’s son Jonathan and his daughter Michal were on my side.  I might start doing my calculations, and arrive at a number: 1.  That’s the number of stones I’d have to put in my pouch and sling them into Saul’s head.  He wouldn’t even see it coming.  I’d take him down just like I took Goliath.  I mean, by the numbers, he isn’t even as big, and I’m stronger than ever.

But..that’s not what David did.  He didn’t count the numbers like that.  He didn’t paint by the numbers, he painted his life with the brush strokes of faith.   This was a faith that said, I will follow God if it means kill a giant or protecting a crazy, murderous, out of control king.

He said, I’ll go where you send me even if it means into target practice for the mad king!  But, as you know, that’s not what happened.  Saul may have thought David was in his cross-hairs, but he was really in the bulls-eye of God’s favor and grace.  He was stepping out in faith, and that’s where God blesses.  That’s where God provides, and that’s where the numbers just don’t add up.

So, if your math is ever called into question, remember something.  There’s one equation you can always be sure of.

God >

God is greater!

It Ain’t What It Looks Like: I Samuel 16


He was a young boy.  Handsome.  Had dreams.  His brothers envied him.  There were bigger ones.  Stronger ones.  And, they decided to kill him.  Leave him for dead in a pit.  Long story short is that he was rescued and God used him to rescue his whole family.

But, who would have thought?  The young one?  He didn’t look like he would have been the one.

Over 400 years later.


A 40 year old adopted son strikes down someone, hides the murder, and then runs scared.  Like a little scared cat he runs away.  This is no champion.  This is a 40 year old runaway.  So, he hides in the wilderness. He’s scared to face the nation that adopted him and fearful of his own people.  When God appears to him in a burning bush, it’s no surprise that he makes excuses.  He says he can’t talk.  Think about it, though…He’s 80.  He’s been running all of his life from his real identity…but God calls him.  Think about that.  God calls an 80 year old scaredy cat.

Who would have thought?  The old one.  The runaway.   The excuse maker.

Fast forward over 400 years.


The Prophet Samuel is called to go and anoint a new king.  Saul was rejected.  Time to anoint a new one.  He’s told to go to Bethlehem, to a man named Jesse, and to choose the new king from among his sons.  So, the first one comes out.  Looks pretty good.  Strong, rugged.  He’s about to anoint him, when God says, “No – not him.”

Another son comes along…he’s not quite as big, and not quite as rugged, but he’s pretty big.  He’s got a swagger about him.  Yes, he’s the one.

God says, “Not him.”

They go through this seven times.  Seven sons are paraded.  None are chosen.  Samuel gets upset and asks them…is there another?   And they tell him, “Well, he’s just a young kid…we left him out in the flock.  We knew you wouldn’t need to see him.”

Samuel says, “Bring him here.”

Samuel knows this must be the one.  He’s expecting the new warrior king.  I wonder what was running through his mind.  He may have been thinking, “I’m pumped…our next warrior king!”

He was expecting a first year NFL draft pick…instead he got something that looked more like boy band material.

I probably would have thought, “God, are you sure?  This kid is going to be our next warrior king?  He’s going to defeat the Philistines…Couldn’t you pick someone…that looks a little…tougher, meaner…stronger…older…anybody but this pretty boy?  I was expecting someone who looked more like The Rock and less like Justin Bieber!”

That’s basically what the people thought.  That’s what Saul thought when he saw him.  But, that’s not what God said.  It’s not the way his mind works.

Here’s what God said…

But, God said to Samuel, “’Rise and anoint him; this is the one.’ So, Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David, ” I Samuel 16:12-13.

I want you to hear that again.

“Rise and anoint him; this is the one.

I’m left wondering…Why David?  

I believe that God is predictable in that he is unpredictable.

He likes to use people you wouldn’t expect.  

Think about it.  No one expected David to be king, but he was the greatest Israel ever had.  No would would have expected Moses to lead the people out of Egypt.  No one would have dared dream that the dreamer Joseph would be the deliverer of his people.

Now, if you’re doubting yourself…

I’m too old…then remember Moses.

I’m not a good speaker…then remember who held the Ten Commandments.

I was adopted…then remember Moses.

I get bullied…then remember how Joseph survived and thrived.

I’m in the pit…in prison..falsely accused…then remember Joseph who was all those things…but later became second in command in the most powerful nation in the world..

My family doesn’t even like me…then remember Joseph and how he delivered his family.

I’m too young…then remember David the greatest king of Israel.

People don’t even consider me as a leader…then remember David who was left to tend the sheep..but later we still sing his Shepherd Psalm.

I’m not big enough, strong enough, or tall enough…then remember that God rejected the proud Saul and chose the humble David.

I don’t look the part…then remember the one who was chosen.

Any time you doubt that you are right for the part…know that God can use you in your weaknesses to show his strength…because God sees you differently:

“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  I Samuel 16:7.

So, remember this…once David was chosen, God’s Spirit came upon him mightily.  Be filled with God’s Spirit, and God can use you to do awesome things.  But, remember, it’s not about you.  It’s about God working in you.


flickr photo by Themeplus

How to Reign: I Samuel 15

Saul was rejected because he didn’t really see himself as God’s anointed.  If he had, he would have obeyed God, not man.

Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed.  He had God’s Spirit without measure.  He was the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.  He reigns.

But, his reign came at a price.  The cross.  Can you imagine a King that submits to death?  Can you imagine a King that literally rises from the dead to reign?  Well, most of the Jew couldn’t.  That’s why they rejected him.  But, God didn’t.  Jesus put his faith in his Father who had the power to literally raise him from the dead.

Well, we now have God’s Spirit (Acts 2, I Corinthians 6).  We will reign with Christ (II Timothy 2:11-13; Revelation 5:9-10; Revelation 20:6).  We will judge angels (I Corinthians 6:3).  We are a kingdom of priests (Revelation 5:9-10).  We have duties, responsibilities, and blessings.  I say that to say, like Saul, we have to believe that.  We have to believe that God will never leave nor forsake us.  In that way, we can carry out our responsibility, and we can say with Peter,

“We must obey God rather than men,” Acts 5:29.

And, we can say with the Hebrew writer,

“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.    What can mere mortals do to me,” Hebrews 13:6.

If Saul had had that attitude, he would have reigned.

If you have that attitude, you will.

We Need a Hero: I Samuel 15

Fear God, not man.

When it comes right down to it, that’s what Saul did wrong.   That’s why he lost the Holy Spirit.  It’s why he was troubled.  It’s why he lost the kingship.  He respected man’s opinion more than God’s decree.

So, what did I learn from I Samuel 15?

If God commands you to hack Agag into pieces, you better do it.  Otherwise, it’s you that will fall apart.  Now, I don’t think God is commanding any of us to hack up any Amalekite kings any time soon, but he is telling us to offer a holy sacrifice.

Romans 12:1 says that sacrifice is ourselves.

Jesus says we are to take up our cross.

What if the Amalekite that God wants you to sacrifice to him is….yourself.  And, what if you lie about it?  Oh, you sacrifice the things that don’t cost, but when the good stuff rolls around…the things of value…you simply act like you’ve offered them up…when, in fact, you haven’t.  How do you think God will deal with that?

Well, it’s time that we offer up something that’s costly.  That doesn’t mean a few Amalekites won’t escape.  It doesn’t mean that we might sometimes slip up and let something pass through our sacrificial gaze.  But, when that happens, we won’t lie about it.  We’ll face it like a King.  We’ll pull out the Sword of the Spirit, and we’ll hack it into pieces.  We’ll completely destroy it.  Or, at least we’ll try.

If you want to know what that looks like…ask Peter.  Ask Paul.  They made some mistakes.  They let a few Amalekites escape for a while…but when they were confronted with their sin…they didn’t lie.  They didn’t shirk.  They took responsibility, and they turned around.  And, look what they became.

Saul, he didn’t fail because he thought too much of himself.  He failed because he thought too much of self and he thought too much of people’s opinions.  He didn’t have the sort of faith that says…I won’t offer God a sacrifice that costs me nothing.  He didn’t have the sort of faith that says, I will face a giant and slay him if God is on my side.  He didn’t have the kind of faith, that when confronted with a terrible sin, openly confessed and sat in sackcloth and ashes.

The question isn’t what kind of heart Saul had.  We know that he rejected God, and God rejected him.  The question is, what can we learn, and I think it’s pretty simple.

Pick a hero.

Don’t pick Saul.

Turns out, there’s another hero just around the bend.




Discussion Questions:

  1.  Who were the Amalekites?  See Deuteronomy 25:17-19; Judges 6:3-4; I Samuel 14:47-58.
  2. What does I Samuel 15:12 mean about Saul setting up a monument for himself?
  3. Why did Saul lie in verse 13?  Didn’t he know Samuel would know?
  4. I Samuel 15:17 is something that really struck me.  It talks about Saul being little in his own eyes.  Was the problem that Saul thought he was too big to obey God or too small to question the people?
  5. Why did Saul disobey?
  6. How do we respond to questions about genocide?  The question goes something like this.  If God is a God of love, as seen in Jesus, how could the same God command genocide in the Old Testament?  This can lead to apologetics type discussion or even theological discussions of the continuity of the OT and NT.
  7. Why did God remove his Spirit from Saul?
  8. Who got the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament?
  9. Who has the Holy Spirit now?
  10. Why did God deal with Saul the way he did, i.e., remove kingship and Spirit?  David, later, will sin, and God will not remove his Spirit from him.  Why not?  What’s the difference?
  11. How do we keep the Spirit?  Can we put out the Spirit’s fire in our lives?  Can we grieve the Spirit?  Can we lose the Spirit?  Why would we want to hold on to the Spirit?

How to Soar on Eagle’s Wings: I Samuel 10-13

It’s great when God calls you to do something important…except when you realize that it’s a responsibility.  Then, you might hide from it (I Samuel 10:22).

It’s good to be given great power, except for when you forget where it  comes from (I Samuel 13).

It’s good to be king, except for when it’s not.

Here’s when it’s not:

When you don’t see where the real power and blessing comes from.

Here’s the thing: God has called us to do extraordinary things.

Here’s the two ways we mess it up:

1.  We hide.

When, we look at our weakness and inadequacy, we hide.  Can you think of a time that you just thought you weren’t up to the task.  It was something that God has called you to do, but you just didn’t accept the calling.

“I’m not smart enough.”

 “I’m not strong enough.”

“I just don’t think I can do it.”

Truth, is..they were looking for you.  You were the one for the job…but you hid.

It’s time to come out of hiding and accept the call of God on your life.

2.  We don’t wait on God.

Now, let’s say you’ve come out of hiding.  Maybe someone pulled you out.  And, now you’re front and center.  You’re doing the things God would have you do.  You’re out there working, you’re shining, you’re making things happen…and then you get the idea that it’s you that’s making things happen.  So, you begin to trust in yourself to get things done, and not wait on God.

“I’m ready to get married…so I know my girlfriend won’t help me reach my potential for God…but I’m ready right now.  God will understand.”

“I know this career move isn’t something that God would have me do…but I need the money, and I’m tired of waiting…gotta make things happen.”

Sound familiar?

What happens when we don’t wait on God?

Well, ask Saul.  He was king and one day decided that he didn’t need to wait on God.  He took matters into his own hands (I Samuel 13).  He was rejected by God, and ultimately, let’s just say it didn’t turn out well.

Here’s the other option:   “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
    they shall walk and not faint.”  Isaiah 40:31 ESV.

The Key

What’s the key to it all?  Remember that if God calls you to do something, don’t shirk.  Go for it.  But, when you do, remember one thing:  It’s God’s mission, his calling, and his blessing.  Just follow in faith, and he will take you places you never imagined, and show you things you could never dream.  It may be hard, and there may be a few Philistines and Amorites along the way, but stay faithful, and he will be faithful to his promise.   You can soar like the eagles.

Discussion Questions

  1.  Name some characters in the Bible who made excuses when God called them?
  2. How does God call us today?  Is it through a prophet like Samuel, is it through his Word, or what?
  3. Name a time when you made excuses for not accepting God’s Word in your life/
  4. Name some characters in the Bible who trusted in themselves and not in God?
  5. How did it turn out for those who trusted in themselves?
  6. Name some times in your life when you trusted in yourself and not in God.
  7. Are there ways right now that I’m trusting in myself and not in God?
  8. How are arrogance and low self-worth related?

The Gospel of Samuel : I Samuel 8-10

I recently saw Randy Harris preach on Mark 8.  He called his message “The Gospel of Peter.”   It was about the crucified Messiah, the cruciform life, and the gospel of the cross.

For Randy, preaching is 75% listening and 25% speaking.   So, he built a sermon on Mark 8 by trying to listen to the text.  He used a sort of odd way of doing it, that he called the Ignatian way.  (It’s so odd that WordPress doesn’t recognize “Ignatian” as a word!).  What that means is he tried to imagine himself in the text.  He imagined himself as Peter, and out of that grew his sermon (and a very powerful one to me).

Well, I thought, why don’t we try to do a little Ignatian way with the Bible class this Sunday.  Why don’t we try to enter the text.

The text is I Samuel 8-10.  It’s the story of Saul becoming King.  

Well, when I really listened to the text, I found some surprises.  The Bible has a way of doing that.   So, I’m not going to spoil all the fun in this post, but I would suggest that as you read through I Samuel 8-10 that you try the following:

  1.  Imagine that you are Samuel.  Try to tell the story as Samuel.
  2.  Now, imagine that you’re Saul.  Put yourself in his shoes.  I think you’ll find a really interesting story there.
  3. Finally,  put yourself in the shoes of the people.  Try to tell their story.  I sort of did that in this post.

When I did all of that, I came away with one lesson.  It’s a simple one, and yet it’s one that I sometimes forget.  I think not just me, but WE forget.  We tend to forget this huge lesson because it just doesn’t feel right.  It just doesn’t set well with us sometimes.  But, when we do get it, it changes everything.

Are you interested in that lesson?

It’s God’s plan, and I will follow it even when I don’t understand and even when it hurts.

That’s it.  It’s his plan.  His kingdom.  His work.  His purpose.  We get to get in on it.  We may not understand it.  We may not see how the gears of his plan are fitting together to turn the wheels of history.  We may not understand how the foundations are being laid and the structure is being built.  But, he’s doing it.

I don’t know if Samuel understood what God was doing…but he was faithful.  Now, there’s a lesson.  You see, it hurt Samuel to appoint a King.  He felt rejected.  He felt like a failure.  And, I don’t think he really understood what God was up to with all of this…the long term…centuries long plan that was being carried out…but you know what?  Even though it hurt…even though he didn’t understand…he followed God.

Even When It Hurts (Hillsong United) 

Take this fainted heart
Take these tainted hands
Wash me in Your love
Come like grace again

Even when my strength is lost
I’ll praise You
Even when I have no song
I’ll praise You
Even when it’s hard to find the words
Louder then I’ll sing Your praise

This is the challenge for me.  Follow God, even when it hurts.  Strangely enough, this gets us back to Mark 8 and Randy’s message.  You see, in Mark 8, Jesus called his disciples to follow him…even if it means losing their lives.  Peter didn’t get that the Messiah had to die.  Didn’t understand.  He didn’t understand the message of the cross.  Sometimes, we don’t either.  But, just like Samuel who followed when he didn’t understand, and just like Samuel, who followed, even when it hurt, we take up our cross, and follow the crucified King, the King of all King, and the Lord of all Lords.  And, guess what?  He’s worthy of our following.  He’s worthy of our praise.  Even when we don’t understand, and even when it hurts.  Why?  Because he’s doing something more wonderful than we could have ever imagined.  That’s the gospel (good news) of Samuel.  

 Now to him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy,  to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forevermore, world without end.  Amen.


  1.  What do you think of the Ignatian way of reading Scripture?
  2. When you look at the story from the people’s perspective, what do you see?
  3. When you look at the story from Samuel’s perspective, what stands out?
  4. The story of serving God even when he feels distant is found throughout Scripture.  Name an example.
  5. The idea of serving God even when you don’t understand is tough.  Think of a time in your life when you dealt with this.  How do you find strength in the story of Samuel?
  6. Serving God even when it hurts is tough.  What are the benefits of doing this?  Why do we often fail?  What lesson are we going to learn from Samuel?
  7. What does the writer mean by the “gospel of Samuel”?

Make Israel Great Again!

I’m telling you, they crossed the Jordan on dry ground.  Dry ground. It was terrific.  They had great leaders.  And, it got better.  They conquered Jericho.  I guarantee their enemies respected them then.

But, something happened.  Terrible leadership.  Terrible.  These last priests…total disaster.  Total disaster, I’m telling you.  And, I guarantee you this, Israel wasn’t respected.  The ark had been taken away.  Can you believe that?  The Philistines had taken cities, and the last judge…he was so old and fat, that when he heard the news, he fell out of his chair and his neck broke.

A tall, authoritative man came a long.  He was strong.  He looked like a leader.  He had a history of winning.  What did the people want?

Make Israel Great Again!

You see, they saw a strong human leader as the hope of Israel.  And, his name was Saul.

You see, they wanted a King.  But, when they put their hope in human leader, they were rejecting the divine one.  When they had their eyes set on an earthly king, they took their eyes off the heavenly King.  And, the shocking truth came later…God would be their King.

I wrote a post some time back titled More Than Decency: Jesus for President.  The backdrop of this is simple: When Jesus went to the cross, died, and was resurrected, this wasn’t just about forgiving us of our sins, though that’s a huge  part of it.  It was about God becoming King.

Now, Israel rejected God as their King, and history tells us how that turned out.  There is scandal in a King that has been crucified.  Truth is, there is scandal in following a cross-shaped life.  But, let me tell you this:  There is also resurrection.  And, in that pattern, we find the truth of the only one that can make Israel great again:

King Jesus.

Feature image courtesy of flickr/Gage Skidmore