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Consider the Great Things

Stonebrook Community Church https://www.stonebrook.org

SERMON POWERPOINT

Sunday, August 25, 2019  Brad Barrett

1 Samuel 12—Consider the Great Things

A story in the Gospels is one I often think about.  The story speaks of Jesus’ kindness… but man’s ungratefulness.

Jesus is walking along the road with his disciples, heading to Jerusalem.  As they were entering into a village, he encountered 10 lepers.  Leprosy in the first century—a severe skin disease—was horrific on many levels, a disease that typically resulted in being ostracized from family and from the Jewish community as a whole.  Being a leper would make one desperate.

Luke 17:11–19 ESV As Jesus entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”

When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.”

And as they went they were cleansed.  Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.

Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?  Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 

And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

Not only did only one come back to give thanks and worship Jesus, that one man was a Samaritan.  A despised half-Jew…presumably the least likely to worship Jesus. 

This story astonishes me.   These 10 men or women have just had their lives restored in a stunning, miraculous way.  They went from the deepest valley to the highest mountain.  From great sorrow to unspeakable joy.  But why did nine not come back and give thanks?  Did their mothers not teach them manners?  In their excitement did they forget who healed them?

So while I’m tempted to be angry and shocked at them, I am also humbled.  Humbled because I realize I am not that much different, at times, than the nine.   Sometimes I’m like the one who came back, but too often I’m like the nine.  I forget God. 

We are in a sermon series looking at two books in the OT called Samuel.    These books are filled with some remarkable stories.

Today our story is centered on the godly leader of Israel, named Samuel.  Samuel is near the end of his life, giving some of his last words to God’s people.  His words to them call them to remember the Lord.  To remember—to CONSIDER— how good God has been to them.  And therefore to follow the Lord with all their hearts. 

Samuel’s words will be quite relevant to us today to consider—to reflect on—the great things that God has done for us.

And then like Israel, we will be compelled to love the Lord and follow him with all our hearts. 

1 Samuel 12

Last week Matt looked at the life of Israel’s first King, Saul.  Saul’s rise and fall….mostly fall.  Neither King Saul nor the people generally walked with God.  They plugged their ears to God’s voice to them.  They walked in unbelief.  They disobeyed.  

Today we’ll look at Chapter 12.

The background:  Saul has just been anointed as King.  Samuel, the prophet and priest of Israel is an old man, nearing the end of his life.  Samuel has been the key leader of Israel for many years, but there is now a new administration. 

So Samuel has some words to the people.  It is sort of like his farewell speech or his retirement speech, even though he is still active in Israel ahead until his death in Chapter 25. 

1 Samuel 12 (ESV)

1 And Samuel said to all Israel, “Behold, I have obeyed your voice in all that you have said to me and have made a king over you.

From two weeks ago in Chapter 8, Israel demanded a king, and the Lord told Samuel to give them what they wanted, even though the people would regret it.  And even though they were rejecting God as their King.

2 And now, behold, the king [King Saul] walks before you, and I am old and gray; and behold, my sons are with you. I have walked before you from my youth until this day.

Literally, since he was a little boy Samuel has walked by faith, serving the Lord.

3 Here I am; testify against me before the Lord and before his anointed.  Whose ox have I taken? Or whose donkey have I taken?  Or whom have I defrauded?  Whom have I oppressed?  Or from whose hand have I taken a bribe to blind my eyes with it?  Testify against me and I will restore it to you.”

Samuel is very humble here, opening himself up to a congregational evaluation.   It’s quite an example of humility. 

For any of us in leadership positions, this is a good challenge.  We should consider going before the people we lead in the home, the church, and the workplace.  Open ourselves up with humility and integrity.  And make right anything that is wrong.   

4 They said, “You have not defrauded us or oppressed us or taken anything from any man’s hand.”

5 And he said to them, “The Lord is witness against you, and his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.” And they said, “He is witness.”

With God and the King (“his anointed”) as their witness, they declare they have nothing against Samuel. 

Now in vs. 6, Samuel launches into a history lesson.  But it is not for mere intellectual satisfaction or information.  Samuel is calling them and warning them based on Israel’s history of both walking with and rebelling against their true King.

6 And Samuel said to the people, “The Lord is witness, who appointed Moses and Aaron and brought your fathers up out of the land of Egypt.

7 Now therefore stand still that I may plead with you before the Lord concerning all the righteous deeds of the Lord that he performed for you and for your fathers.

He is going to give them a brief but important history lesson.

8 When Jacob went into Egypt, and the Egyptians oppressed them, then your fathers cried out to the Lord and the Lord sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your fathers out of Egypt and made them dwell in this place.

9 But they forgot the Lord their God.   And he sold them into the hand of Sisera, commander of the army of Hazor, and into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the king of Moab. And they fought against them.

Samuel packs several hundred years of history into a couple of sentences.  Over and over again, Israel forgot.  They forgot the Lord.  They ignored him.  They didn’t remember how good the Lord had been to them.  They forgot how destructive sin was.   So the Lord brought severe judgment on them.  Multiple foreign armies came against them.

10 And they cried out to the Lord and said, ‘We have sinned, because we have forsaken the Lord and have served the Baals and the Ashtaroth.    But now deliver us out of the hand of our enemies, that we may serve you.’

The people finally came to their senses, repented, and cried out for mercy.

11 And the Lord sent Jerub-baal [Gideon] and Barak and Jephthah and Samuel and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side, and you lived in safety.

This very abbreviated, 300-year history is quite typical:

  • God is faithful.
  • The people are not.

Now in very recent history, just a few months earlier in Chapter 8:

12 And when you saw that Nahash the king of the Ammonites came against you, you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us,’ when the Lord your God was your king.

Their sin was rejecting the Lord as their king and demanding a human king instead.

13 And now behold the king whom you have chosen, for whom you have asked; behold, the Lord has set a king over you.

14 If you will fear the Lord and serve him and obey his voice and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God, it will be well.

15 But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you and your king.

These two verses are a summary of the Mosaic Covenant.  Two weeks ago I showed this diagram.  What I call the Circle of Life and Death. 

16 Now therefore stand still and see this great thing that the Lord will do before your eyes.

17 Is it not wheat harvest today? I will call upon the Lord, that he may send thunder and rain.  And you shall know and see that your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of the Lord, in asking for yourselves a king.”

18 So Samuel called upon the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day, and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel.

Harvest time in early summer was typically a very dry time.  No rain would be expected.  This miracle confirmed the will of God and the warnings of God.   And the heavy rain possibly damaged the harvest, bringing a form of judgment or discipline on the people.

19 And all the people said to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for ourselves a king.”

Though they had been warned (chapter 8) about seeking an earthly king, they had insisted.  Now a short time later, they finally see the evil in their ways, and they repent.  Samuel reassures them.  Yet he urges them to walk with the Lord.

20 And Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart.

He reassures them, essentially pointing to God’s great mercy.

Then he calls them to full repentance. 

21 And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty.

22 For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself.

Samuel’s words here are essentially the third “leg” of the Mosaic Covenant, this so-called Circle of Life and Death.  i.e., if you repent of your sin, the Lord will deliver you and restore you out of his mercy, which is great. 

Walking contrary to the Lord is always empty.   Sin promises but never delivers.  Never.  Sin leads only to death.

So why did Israel often succumb to such living?  And why do we?

One of the main messages of the Bible is the fickleness of our hearts and the deceptiveness of sin.  Sin hurts us and it grieves the Lord. 

23 Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way.

24 Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you.

25 But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.”

I love verse 24.  What a great summary of this brief history of God’s involvement with his people Israel. 

Re-read vs. 24:

Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you.

The command:  “Fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your hearts.”  Walk with the Lord.  Worship him.  Obey him.  Trust in him.  Not half-heartedly, but with all your hearts.

And where will Israel get the power for such living?  By considering what great things the Lord has done for them.  Considering how good the Lord has been to them over the centuries and now in recent months.

What now?

This verse—verse 24—leads us to the one point I want to emphasize today.

Let me offer one lesson we can take out of this.  I want you to remember one word from this morning.  Just one word.  It’s from vs. 24. 

Consider. 

Consider.   Consider the great things

Look over the history of God in the Bible.  Look over the history of God’s work in our own lives.  Look over that history.  Consider it.  Reflect on it.  And let that be the fuel to follow him and love him. 

The call to “Consider” is, in one sense, knowing the history of God’s work throughout the ages, including our own lives.

We need to know history.  But this is not history in the dry, purely factual way.  This is history as it impacts eternity and your own life, and the lives of your descendants. 

So we should get a PhD in history.  We should become very good at considering….considering the great things God has done.   We need to do this because we tend to be very forgetful.  We forget who God is, just like Israel did for centuries.  We become ungrateful, just like the nine lepers whom Jesus healed. 

So we must “CONSIDER.”   Three things to consider.

  1. God’s great deeds in biblical history.

We must consider and reflect on and believe what great things God has done in biblical history.   It’s one reason why I hope you read the Bible every day.  The list of these stories is endless.

Here are a few examples.

The story of Creation in Genesis 1-2. 

Genesis 1:1,26 ESV  In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”

This is stunning.  The power and creativity and authority of God.  If God is the Creator—and I believe with all my heart he is—then this changes everything we know about life in this world and life beyond the grave.

In the NT, the Apostle Paul makes reference to it. 

Colossians 1:16 ESV  “…all things were created through him and for him.”

Jesus Christ is your Creator.  And you have been made by him and for him.    You have been made FOR GOD.  Not for yourself.  This changes everything.

Do we know this story?  Do we dwell on it?  Are we growing in understanding the impact the story has on how we think and act?  Do we grasp what it means to be made in the image of God?  And do you know this story so well that you can tell others about it?

The story of Israel and Moses in Egypt, and then their deliverance through the Red Sea.

Exodus 14:30–31 ESV  Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore.  Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.

This story teaches us lessons about mankind, and our stubborn, idolatrous hearts.  It teaches us lessons about how God’s people cried out in their suffering, and God mercifully—even surprisingly—shows compassion.  He sends a deliverer.

God enacts one of the most stunning miracles in history.  Do we know this story?  Do we believe it?  Have we learned about the nature of mankind and the nature of God from it?

The stories we’re reading in Samuel.

  • The story of a woman named Hannah, desperate in prayer to have children.  We see her faith in the Lord through her tears and anguish.
  • The story of King Saul who had excuse after excuse not to trust and obey the Lord.  And it ruined his life and the nation’s. 

Do we know these stories and believe them?    Do they bring warning and caution?  Do they bring inspiration and hope?  Have they impacted you?

Then there is the ultimate story in all of history.  Without exaggeration.  The greatest work of God in history.  God sent his Son into the world.  His glorious, holy Son who created the world.

The angel Gabriel spoke to a young woman named Mary:

Luke 1:31–33 ESV And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

This story tells us that Heaven invaded earth.  God the Creator took on humanity and became one of us.

In his holy justice and astonishing mercy, Almighty God poured out his wrath over sin on his own innocent Son.  And he did it so that you and I would have a chance to live forever and ever and ever and ever in glory in the presence of our beautiful God.

Do you believe this story?  Has it impacted you?  Do you consider it every day?  Do you know this story so well that you can tell others about it?

So back to 1 Samuel 12:24, Samuel says to “fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart, for consider what great things he has done for you.”

The Bible is full of stories of God’s great works on our behalf.   He has proven himself over and over and over again to be holy, faithful, merciful, and good. 

As we CONSIDER and remember the great works of God—and believe them—we will be changed from the inside out. 

Then not only has God done great things in history centuries ago, he has done great things in our day and in our lives. 

  • Consider God’s great deeds in my history.

And in your history.  Our stories are not detached from the Lord.  When we consider our stories, you and I must consider how God has played a role in that.  What he has done for us. 

A powerful word is given from the Apostle Paul to some pagan philosophers in Athens.

Acts 17:26–27 ESV 

And God made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us…

Paul says that God’s great works include orchestrating our lives to the period and the place we were born. 

Born in Iowa, in China, in Nigeria, in Korea.  All over the world.   All for the purpose of us seeking after God and finding him. 

I believe that.  And so I look back at seemingly random events in my life, and I see God at work.  At the time, I typically didn’t see God or know what he was going to do.

But now I can see how he wove seemingly random events together into a beautiful tapestry. 

I will share with you a few excerpts from my story to give you an example.  There are key moments in my story that led to my salvation. 

Here’s excerpts from my story. 

My dad rarely went to church, but my mom did.  And she took me to church.  There I was exposed to the things of God.

I didn’t really believe those stories at the time.  I didn’t take them as my own.  But I was exposed to the truth. 

When I was 10, my Dad died from cancer.  That rocked my world.  Then 2 years later, my mom remarried.  THAT also rocked my world.  Then my mom had some health problems, so when I was 18 and starting here at Iowa State, they moved to Colorado for health reasons.

They went to a church with a pastor Glenn Brown.  He preached about Jesus and sin and the need for salvation.  My parents had neighbors and some old friends who all talked with them about Jesus.   That year, my parents then my three sisters all believed.  And then the summer after my freshman year, I worked in Colorado with three Christians. 

Everywhere I went, I was exposed to God’s great works and the message of Jesus. 

And God was even using my own sin to stir up in me an emptiness, and then he gave me a hunger to have it filled with what Jesus offered.  All of this God was using to point me to himself. 

Finally, one warm August evening—41 years ago today!!—my first day back for my sophomore year, God took all that I had heard over many years.  He brought me to my knees.  I humbled myself and believed.  I was born again. 

Before I was terrified of going to hell.  Now I was confident because of the great works of Jesus, I was going to heaven.

Then a month later I met people in this church.  I met my wife here.  We’ve had so many good friends who loved Jesus and loved us.  I have learned so much.  And we have been served and helped and strengthened countless times by them. 

In all these aspects to my story over all these years, I see God at work.  He placed me just where he wanted to be.

What is your story of God’s great works that you should consider?

Do you have a story? 

Some of us here this morning may not have a story.   Perhaps you’re not even sure who God is.

Perhaps you’re just searching.  Maybe just starting to read the Bible and coming to church. 

If this describes some of us, I suggest you’re in a good place.  If you don’t know what your story is, I would enjoy talking with you.  Or talk with a friend who brought you here.

Many people here at Stonebrook know their stories.  They know the Lord.  They understand God’s works in history.  They have seen God work in their own lives.  

If you do have a story, CONSIDER it.  Dwell on it.  Remember it.   Reflect on the power and wisdom of God.  Meditate on his kindness and mercy.  On his ability to take bad things and turn them on their heads for good. 

We need to give ourselves a personal history lesson with regularity.  Get a PhD in history.  The history of God’s great works in the Scriptures.  The history of God’s work in your life. 

As we consider such things, we will find ourselves strengthened to serve the Lord and to love the Lord with all your heart. 

Finally, one more thing to CONSIDER

  • Consider your “What if?” history. 

What do I mean?  Fairly often over the years, I have spent some time….usually just a few minutes here and there… thinking about the “What if” in my life.  What if God had not saved me.  What if God had not worked around me and in me?

What would my life be like?   I have to use my imagination, but it’s not too difficult.  The purpose is to stir up gratefulness for what he has done.

If God had not saved me and not used event after event to work them out for my good, I would be lost both in this life and in the next.

I would be deserving of God’s wrath.  I would be headed for hell.   I would be an anxious, fearful, selfish, stingy, drunken, lazy, irritable, and rude man.  I think I would have few friends.  I might even be dead by now physically.

It makes me shudder to think where I would be without the Lord.  And I appreciate him all the more because of it.

Said in a negative way, here is what happened to Israel when they didn’t consider the great deeds of the Lord.

Psalm 78:9–11 (ESV)

The Ephraimites, armed with the bow, turned back on the day of battle.

They did not keep God’s covenant, but refused to walk according to his law.

They forgot his works and the wonders that he had shown them.

The NT calls us to CONSIDER.  To remember the great works of the Lord.  And let that become the motivating power in our lives. 

One example: 

Ephesians 5:1–2 ESV Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Paul is telling us to consider what Christ has done for us.  That becomes the source of motivation and power and love to live wholeheartedly for the Lord.

Conclusion

Will we be like the men of Ephraim who turned back on the day of battle because they forgot the works of God? 

Or will we stay strong and full of faith by considering how good God has been to us?

Will we be like the nine lepers who experienced God’s great healing but paid little attention to the Healer, Jesus? 

Or, will we be like the one—even a Samaritan—who with gratefulness comes to the feet of Jesus and worships him?

It all hinges on the word “CONSIDER.”  Will we consider the Lord and what he has done?  Will we apply our minds and hearts and souls to him who has done so much… for so long… for so many?