Saul Anointed as King / Jesus Predicts his Death: May 21st 2021

1 Samuel 8:1-10:8

Even the great prophet Samuel could not get his children to behave. Even though he had appointed his sons as responsible judges they ‘accepted bribes and perverted justice’ (v.3). The elders of Israel asked Samuel to appoint a king to rule over them instead. Samuel was upset about this but God saw it as a progression in the way they had rejected Him from the time of the Exodus. Samuel warned the Israelites of the oppression, taxation, exploitation and slavery that a human king would subject them to but they refused to listen. The Israelites wanted to be like all the other nations – with a king to lead them, go out before them and fight their battles (v.20). They rejected the chance to be special, to wholeheartedly choose God as their king. They rejected the all-powerful God, who had saved them repeatedly with stunning miracles, to put their trust in a mortal man. God told Samuel to listen to them and do what they wanted.

A tall man named Saul was sent out by his father to look for their lost donkeys. After much fruitless searching, his servant suggested that they should ask the man of God, Samuel, for advice. Samuel had been told by God to anoint the Benjamite he was now sending to him as king.

Samuel told Saul not to worry about the donkeys he lost three days ago – they had already been found. This supernatural knowledge would have impressed Saul who was told to eat with Samuel and listen to his prophecy the following morning.

The next morning Samuel took a flask of oil and anointed Saul’s head and kissed him. He gave him detailed prophetic instructions about who he would meet on his travels and where these encounters would be. Saul would eventually meet a procession of prophets and then, the Spirit of the Lord would come on him in power. He would prophesy with them and ‘you will be changed into a different person’ (10:6). We are changed into a different person – a new species – by repenting and renouncing sin, becoming baptized, inviting Jesus into our lives as our personal Saviour and asking the Holy Spirit to fully activate his gifts within us.

Samuel instructed Saul to wait for him at Gilgal for seven days. Samuel would come to sacrifice offerings to God. If Saul showed his obedience to these instructions, his kingship would be off to a good start.

John 12:12-36

Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem by shouting crowds: ‘Blessed is the King of Israel’ (v.13). Jesus rode into the city on a young donkey in accordance with Old Testament prophecy. People were still flocking to him because he had shown his mastery over death by raising Lazarus from the tomb. The Pharisees were even more envious of his popularity and success. Envy is what brought the whole of humanity down, because the Devil was envious of God’s special relationship with Adam and Eve and so vowed to destroy us, by demonstrating we are not worthy of God’s love.

People from other countries, such as Greece, were asking to see Jesus. They would take his teaching back to his home nations, sowing a seed of faith to be harvested by later disciples.

Jesus pointed out that when a grain of wheat falls to the ground and ‘dies’, it then germinates, grows and eventually produces many seeds. Jesus’ death on the cross (and his resurrection) would lead to the worldwide spread of Christianity to every nation on the planet.

If we serve Jesus, he promised that his Father would honour us (v.26). Jesus asked his Father to glorify his name and a thundering voice came from heaven: ‘I have glorified it, and will glorify it again’ (v.28).

Jesus said it was time for judgement and ‘the prince of this world (the devil) would be driven out’ (v.31). The reason Jesus came to earth was to destroy the works of the devil such as sickness, oppression and death.

Jesus predicted his own crucifixion: ‘But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself’ (v.32). Jesus’ heart was troubled (v.27) at the prospect of his self-sacrificial death but he trusted his Father would deliver him.

We need to choose Jesus as the light of our lives while we are still alive. Our mortal lifespans are short. Your life could end suddenly today or tomorrow and then it will be too late to choose eternal life. We need to come to him with urgency because once we are dead and darkness has overcome us, it will be too late to choose eternal life. His light will dawn within us and shine out to others, illuminating the way to Jesus and salvation.

‘Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons (and daughters) of light’ (v.36).

Psalm 65:1-13

God forgives our transgressions, through the blood of his precious son, when we are overwhelmed by sin. He calls each one of us to him, we just have to respond to his voice. He knows our futures, who will respond to him and be blessed and who will reject his gift of eternal life.

Jesus created the whole wonderful world at Gods command: the magnificent mountains, the abundant land and the roaring seas. God cares for the land, watering it and enriching it.

He fills the world with flocks of Christians and clothes us with gladness so that we can shout for joy and sing.

He cares for our souls, filling our hearts with streams of living water from the Holy Spirit and enriching us with his word do that we can produce fruit in abundance.

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Sowing and Reaping / Jesus, ‘The Saviour of the World’: May 5th 2021

Judges 2:6-3:31

The Israelites proved to have a short memory. After their remaining great leaders had died: ‘another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel’ (v.11).

They started to follow the demonic entities that the people around them worshipped and forsook the Lord. In his righteous fury, God handed the Israelites over to raiders who plundered them (v.14). He made sure they were defeated in every battle.

When they were in great distress, groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them, God would raise up a judge to save them from their enemies. God was with the judges while they were alive but each time one died, the Israelites returned to ways even more corrupt that those of their fathers: ‘following other gods and serving and worshipping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways’ (v.19). Our society will be like this as the Covid pandemic recedes. Covid shut down the nightclubs and the pubs where people worshipped alcohol and sex. People stopped spending money on frivolous items at department stores, theoretically freeing up disposable income to give to charity. God heard the cry of the frightened and bereaved and sorted out vaccines. Once we have been delivered, people will rush back to the pubs to corrupt themselves even more than before.

God decided not to drive any more enemy nations from the promised land keeping them in place to constantly test Israel’s loyalty to him. The Israelites failed the test. They intermarried with the pagan nations and served their gods.

The first judge was Othniel, a nephew of the legendary warrior Caleb. ‘The Spirit of the Lord came upon him’ (3:10). He defeated the king of Aram and Israel had peace for 40 years until Othniel died. Notice that the Holy Spirit came upon Othniel and empowered him for this leadership task. How much more are Christians empowered today because we have the Holy Spirit living permanently within us? We just have to co-operate and pray for him to activate his gifts within us.

The Israelites committed evil again and so were handed over to the king of Moab for eighteen years. God gave them a new deliverer, Ehud, who stabbed the evil king with a double-edged sword: ‘I have a message from God for you’ (v.20). The Bible tells us that the word of God is a double-edged sword that we can use to metaphorically stab our enemies. Jesus stabbed Satan with sacred scripture during his temptations in the desert. The Israelites followed their new strong leader into battle and Moab was defeated. Then ‘the land had peace for eighty years’ (v.30).

The Holy Spirit gave certain judges supernatural strength and endurance in battle. The next one, Shamgar, stuck down six hundred Philistines with an ox-goad and saved Israel (v.31).

John 4:27-42

The Samaritan woman went back to her town and said: ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?’ The Samaritans listened to her and came out of the town to see Jesus. After Jesus’ resurrection, when Mary Magdalene told the weeping and mourning disciples that she had see the risen Jesus, ‘they did not believe it’ (v.11). It is wonderful that Gentile Samaritans were hungrily looking for the Messiah when so many Jews had rejected him. We should tell as many people as we can to ‘come and see’ and invite them to a Spirit filled dynamic church so that their lives can be changed.

Jesus sent us out to preach the gospel to the end of the world. Covid has shut down travel to a great extent but we can still tell people about Jesus via the internet. Greetings to my readers right across the world. Our food is to finish his work and proclaim the saving power of Christ.

Jesus saw the town’s people making their way towards him. ‘Open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest’ (v.36). Someone must have previously sown faith in the Samaritans hearts that made them long for the Christ. Jesus, and his disciples, could now harvest these believers for eternal life. So many people taught me different bits of the Bible as I grew up; not least, the Anglican vicar who gave me intensive tuition on Christianity before my wedding in a High Anglican church. We might not see any growth or harvest as we talk to people about Jesus but God’s word will germinate in their hearts allowing others in the future to harvest them into heaven.

Just from the woman’s testimony, many Samaritans believed in him (v.39). The Holy Spirit can give us supernatural words of knowledge about people that can not only convert an individual, they can convert others to Christ through that convert’s powerful testimony. The Samaritans urged Jesus to stay with them. He agreed, stayed for 2 days and many more became believers. Hearing Jesus for themselves strengthened their belief in the woman’s testimony enabling them to declare that he really was the Saviour of the world (v.42).

It must have been so refreshing for Jesus to teach people who wanted him there. This is the kind of refreshment we can enjoy when we attend a faith-filled church or go on a Christian retreat. Sometimes, we all need our batteries charged up with positivity which will give us renewed strength to face more challenging audiences.

Psalm 56:1-13

Even kings can be afraid. When King David was afraid, he chose to trust in God (v.3). If God is for us, what can mortal man do to us (v.4) ?

People watch Christians intently. They conspire as they lurk in the shadows, plotting to twist our words, looking for faults. Many people have fallen for the most basic trap of the devil by rejecting Christianity as nonsense due to the terrible sexual sins carried out by a tiny minority of religious professionals. Yet, they would never withdraw their child from school or not attend hospital despite the thousands of teachers, doctors and nurses that have abused the people entrusted to them.

When David called on God for help he had expectant faith that his enemies would turn back (v.9). He vowed not be afraid of any man because of his trust in God. Christians have vowed our lives to God and we should praise and thank him for his saving grace. Jesus has delivered us from death by his sacrifice on the cross. When we believe and are baptized we can forever walk before God, our Father, in the light of life. The Holy Spirit inside us will stop us from stumbling on our journey. God will deliver us from our enemies, ourselves and from death itself.

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