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Trust and Obey: The Challenge of Samuel-Kings (Fall Sermon Series)

Posted in Bible, Old Testament, Sermons

Murder. War. Romance. Kingdoms rising. Kingdoms falling.
Fugitives. Depression. Anger. Dancing. Dueling. Judgment. Victory.

Is this a sequel to Downton Abbey or some new Netflix series? No, it is the stuff of the history books of the Old Testament, especially 1-2 Samuel and 1-2 Kings. On September 1st, Lord willing, we'll begin our new sermon series there. But if you're like me, you could use some over-arching ideas to get acclimated to a new series like this.

The books begin with Samuel the prophet who then appoints Saul as Israel's first king. Saul starts well, but ends fatally. David becomes the new hope for Israel. He is a hero in so many ways, but proves to be as fallen as anyone. Still, God keeps his promise to David to give him a son on the throne perpetually. The whole history of Samuel-Kings covers roughly the 900's B.C. to the 500's B.C.

The centerpiece of the books is the covenant God makes with David in 2 Samuel 7. God promises the newly established king that "I will raise up your descendant after you,...and I will establish his kingdom....I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever" (vv. 13, 14). A shadow of the fulfillment is found in Solomon, but the ultimate fulfillment is Jesus Christ who is often called "the Son of David" (Matt. 1:1).

But these books are far from theology textbooks. They show a cross-section of life during the era of the kings of Israel, and much of the time it isn't pretty. Men responsible to lead the people of God crumble under temptation. Priests entrusted with the Word of God defy that very Word. Kings who have everything throw it all away in a moment of weakness. In other words, these books are a lot like…us.

But the point of these books is not merely to show how evil and foolish we can be (though that's one lesson, for sure). They challenge us to trust and obey. We are challenged to trust God in impossible situations and to obey God amidst life's temptations.

This trust is not the saving faith that begins our spiritual journey with the Lord, but the faith that must rise to meet the Philistines, Goliaths, and impossibilities that we find in our paths. In the face of a brutal giant before us, God wants us to trust him. Really trust him. Faith speaks like David at such times: "The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine" (1 Sam. 17:37). David is a type of Christ in these books, the human deliverer who points to the divine Savior Jesus. And yet, his faith is meant to provoke faith in our lives.

Whether the situation is cancer, a job loss, a broken relationship, a dead transmission, a child drifting from the Lord, or a water heater we thought would last for years more, God wants us to meet the crisis with a sure confidence in the God who can do all things.

And this faith is to be married to obedience. God is not looking for moments of brilliance in an otherwise mediocre career. He is looking for a simple obedience that remains faithful over the long haul.

Saul is rebuked in the harshest terms and loses the dynasty because he chose the path of unfaithfulness when obedience seemed too hard. Samuel tells him, "Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry" (1 Sam. 15:22-23).

Disobedience brings disastrous consequences. Households are wrecked, kingdoms are lost, lives are ended prematurely, relationships are destroyed, and blessings are removed because of it. One of the powerful things we learn as we read our Bible is that God judges sin. Even if we escape the ultimate judgment of hell, he judges sin in this life to save us, to glorify his name, and to purify his people. Passages like Samuel-Kings make that crystal-clear.

If you're like me, you're now totally discouraged. The truth is, we're a lot better at doubt than trust, more practiced in the art of disobedience than obedience. These books will also show us that the last word is always one of grace. Failure upon failure upon failure does bring God's discipline, but it also creates an opportunity for grace to shine even more brightly. God continues to pursue his people and raise up godly leaders just when we thought all hope was lost. Yet, the ultimate hope is not in any of the kings who reign in Samuel-Kings. It rests entirely in that greater Son of David—Jesus Christ!

That's a brief overview. Please read through them if you get a chance. And if you're particularly zealous (like Clay Shelor!) about such things, you might be looking for some commentaries to chew on as we work through this series. Dale Ralph Davis has a set of four great works in the Focus on the Bible series. They are easy reads, but well done at many levels. You can also go to the ESV Study Bible for solid introductions to the theology and organization of these books. The contributors there did an excellent job.

So, be challenged by these books, but also be encouraged. God wants to meet you right where you are, and we think he will use Samuel-Kings to do that.


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