Saturday, February 18, 2012

1 Samuel 12-14, CHARACTER COUNTS, February 9, 2012

When I worked in the public schools, I came upon a program called CHARACTER COUNTS. Looking at Samuel, Saul, and Jonathan it was evident which men had strong character traits taught in the program.

T rustworthiness
R espect
R esponsibility
F airness
C aring
C itizenship

 Proverbs 22:1 A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.

“Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident, riches take wings, those who cheer today may curse tomorrow, only one thing endures—character.”  Horace Greeley:

How Character Is Formed Have you ever watched an icicle as it is formed? It froze, one drop at a time, until it was a foot long, or more? If the water was clean, the icicle remained clear and sparkled brightly in the sun; but if the water was slightly muddy, the icicle looked tainted, and its beauty was spoiled.
Just so our characters are formed. One little thought or feeling at a time adds its influence. If each thought be pure and right, the soul will be lovely, and will sparkle with happiness; but if impure and wrong, there will be deformity and wretchedness.

Character builds slowly, but it can be torn down with incredible swiftness. 
Faith Baldwin (1893–1978) 

Character Counts

  • ·        Chapter 12-Samuel A Man of Character
  • ·        Chapter 13 Saul A Man of Questional Character
  • ·        Chapter 14-Jonathan a Model of Great Character
Samuel was indeed a man of good Character. He was trustworthy and honorable,  prophesying God’s message without diluting it.  He was highly respect by the people and God trusted him with the responsibility to judge all of Israel with fairness and caring.
v. 2 Samuel said to all Israel. I have been your leader from my youth until this day
v.5"God is witness, and his anointed is witness that you find nothing against me—no faults, no complaints." Message

Samuel once again remind the people the LORD your God brought you from Egypt into the promise land. Vv.7-11 performed righteous acts for you and your fathers.  God your king- sent judges, and he delivered you from the hands of your enemies on every side, so that you lived securely. Now here is the king you have chosen,
Samuel is stepping down as leader of Israel but his is still the priest and the prophet through which God will speak to the King. With a powerful demonstration of God’s omnipotence Samuel…v18 called upon the LORD, and that same day the LORD sent thunder and rain, so all the people stood in awe of the LORD and of Samuel.
Though the people reject the Lord and asked for a king, God remains faithful.
 22 For the sake of his great name the LORD will not reject his people, because the LORD was pleased to make you his own. 23 As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. 

Chapter 13 Saul a King of Questionable Character
 1 Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned over Israel forty- two years.
During the time of the Judges the tribes of Israel were spread out and had no king and no army. When Saul was anointed king, he unified the tribes to fight Nahash and the Ammonites. Ch.11 v.6 The Spirit of the Lord came upon Saul in Power and the Ammonites were slaughtered. V.11 Remember 330,000 men were gathered
 The nation of Israel was had been subservient to the Philistines since the time of Samson. Israel enjoyed peace as subjects of philistines. As long as they behaved and didn’t cause trouble the Philistines left them alone. The Philistines had an organized army with a unified system of government. However, Israel was disorganized and no real competition for the powerful enemy. From our scripture lesson this week, the Philistines had outposts of approximately 20 men around the area.
 13: 2 Saul chose three thousand men from Israel; two thousand were with him at Micmash and in the hill country of Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan at Gibeah in Benjamin. The rest of the men he sent back to their homes.
This was probably more like a body guard than an army. Saul seems quite at ease with the Philistine’s garrison surrounding the land. However Jonathan does not seem content with this situation.
3 Jonathan attacked the Philistine outpost at Geba, and the Philistines heard about it. Seems Jonathan stirred up a hornets’ nest. Saul is set to ride the coattails of Jonathan. He blows the trumpet and takes credit for the victory. All the people are summoned to Gilgal.
 5 The Philistines assembled to fight Israel, with three thousand chariots, six thousand charioteers, and soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore.  The Philistines had the ability to smelt iron ore, using the intense heat. Thus iron proved a “secret weapon” which kept Israel subservient to the Philistines for centuries. In v.19-22 Israel has no weapon of iron or a blacksmith to sharpen tools. Bible Reader’s Companion  
6 When the men of Israel saw that their situation was critical and that their army was hard pressed, they
      Hid in caves and thickets
      Some Hebrews fled
     crossed the Jordan to Gad and Gilead
     joined the Philistines
      Men quaking and scattering

v. 9 Saul makes a hasty decision which will affect his reign as king and causes Samuel to wash his hands of him. Some commentaries feel Saul was proud and arrogant to offer the sacrifice before Samuel arrived. But I think Saul saw the massive Philistine army gathering and went into panic mode. He knew there had to be sacrifice to God before they could fight. Saul took matters into his own hands, but he had no authority to make and offering.

10 Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him. 11What have you done?” asked Samuel.  Saul starts making excuses.
      Philistines were coming
      The men were scattering
      You were late
      I was compelled to seek the Lord favor 
      So I offered up a burnt offering 

All Samuel wanted to hear was confession and repentance. Saul gave him excuses. Was he trying to encourage the men who were starting to scatter? He should have been more concerned about pleasing God instead of pleasing the people.
Although this one act may seem small to us; God saw the wicked mind and deceitful heart that rebelled against the providence of God. What contempt of God’s authority! God clearly the saw all the wickedness that lay hid in Saul’s heart and foresaw future offense.
13 “You acted foolishly,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. 14 But now your kingdom will not endure; 

Character is not made in a crisis—it is only exhibited. Robert Freeman (1878–1940)

God wanted a man after his own heart. Saul wanted the praise and approval of man.  
At times I have acted like Saul, trying to do accomplish difficult tasks without seeking the LORD’s guidance. Have you ever tried to help God, when things weren’t happening fast enough to suit you?  Without consulting God or asking for his blessing, I tried to organize a girls’ mission group at church. The purpose was to help my daughter “fit in” since we were new to the community and the church. Needless to say, that was a disaster.
A friend reminded me, “You are not God! You cannot fix this and you cannot control the actions of another person.” Wow! What a eye-opener!  I knew I was a fixer, trying to make everyone happy after the divorce and traumatic move from our home. But was I foolish enough to try to play God?  The Creator, Omnipotent, Omniscient LORD of the Universe did not need my help. By getting in His way, I interfered with His perfect plan for my family.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

Chapter 14-Jonathan a model of Good Character

Let’s compare the actions of Saul and the actions of his son Jonathan in this chapter.
v 1-2 While Saul is resting under a pomegranate tree with his 600 men, Jonathan comes up with a plan. He slips away with his armor bearer depending on the LORD to guide his steps.
6 Perhaps the LORD will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few.”
Expecting a sign from the LORD, Jonathan shows himself to the Philistines.
12“Climb up after me; the LORD has given them into the hand of Israel.”
In that first attack Jonathan and his armor bearer killed twenty men.
 15 Then panic struck the whole army—those in the camp and field, and those in the outposts and raiding parties—and the ground shook. It was a panic sent by God.

Two men and LORD is always a majority. 

What a difference in Jonathan and Saul!  Saul at once needs to find out who is missing and discovers it is Jonathan. Seemingly embarrassed to be shown up by his son’s initiative, the battle is now personal. It is no longer God’s battle or even Israel’s battle; it is Saul’s battle and he desires the victory. Saul impulsively resorts to curse any man who eats before the enemy is defeated.
23 So the LORD rescued Israel that day, and the battle moved on beyond Beth Aven.
vv. 24-30 The Israelite soldiers weakened from lack of food, are in distress. v25 As they enter the woods, it appears the hand of God has made provision though a supply of honey.  Jonathan dips his staff and tasted the honey and his eyes brightened. Yet no man would eat, fearing Saul’s oath. Jonathan was busy fighting when the oath was made. But Jonathan realizes the starving men cannot perform their best. Food could have fortified the men gained a greater victory for Israel.
vv.31-35 After they had struck down the Philistines from Micmash to Aijalon, the men pounced on the plunder and butchered  animals on the ground and ate meat that had blood in it.  This was strictly forbidden in the law.
Seeing this now Saul worried about their sin against the LORD and hurriedly builds an altar to the drain the blood; it was his first time to build an altar to LORD.
 36 Saul said, “Let us go down after the Philistines by night and plunder them till dawn, and let us not leave one of them alive.”…
But the priest said, “Let us inquire of God here.” v3.7 But God did not answer him that day.
vv. 38-43 Saul realizes there is sin in the camp and seeks the answer by casting lots.  And Jonathan was taken.
The unyielding Saul, who willfully disobeyed Samuel at Gilgal, is now ready to execute his own son, Jonathan for a small taste of honey. Do you think there could be some jealousy involved here?
 45 But the men said to Saul, “Should Jonathan die—he who has brought about this great deliverance in Israel? Never! As surely as the LORD lives, not a hair of his head will fall to the ground, for he did this today with God’s help.” So the men rescued Jonathan, and he was not put to death. 

I stand before my neighbors on my character; but in heaven I have no standing myself at all. I stand there in the character of my Savior.  Paul Daniel Rader (1879–1938)

At a national spelling contest in Washington, an unusual incident occurred. In the fourth round of the contest, Rosalie Elliot, then an eleven- year-old from South Carolina, was asked to spell avowal. In her soft Southern accent she spelled it. But did the seventh grader use an “a” or an “e” as the next to last letter? The judges couldn't decide. For several minutes they listened to tape recording playbacks, but the critical letter was accent-blurred. Chief Judge, John Lloyd, finally put the question to the only person who knew the answer, "Was the letter an “a” or was it an “e?” he asked Rosalie. Surrounded by whispering young spellers, she knew by now the correct spelling of the word. Without hesitating, she replied she had misspelled it. She walked from the stage. The entire audience stood and applauded, including half a hundred newspaper reporters.
                        Reputation is what folks think you are.
                        Personality is what you seem to be. 
                        Character is what you really are.
  Alfred Armand Montapert

Will you choose to be a woman of character for the LORD?