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Rise and Fall – Man of Faith

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

SERMON POWERPOINT

Sunday, August 4, 2019  Brad Barrett

1 & 2 Samuel—Rise and Fall

Man of Faith

I’ve read through the entire Bible numerous times.  At least 25 times.  And it’s difficult to find two generations in a family that follow the Lord and love the Lord.

There are some.

  • David and his son Solomon.
  • In Acts 16, a wealthy woman named Lydia believed.  And her entire household did, too. 
  • Timothy, the Apostle Paul’s disciple, was powerfully influenced by his mother and grandmother.

These are beautiful examples.  But they seem to be rare. 

Today, we are going to read about a second generation of loving the Lord.  Samuel, the godly son of a faith-filled woman named Hannah.

We are in a sermon series looking at two books in the OT called Samuel.  The first and second books, originally written as one book but split into two pieces.  These books are filled with some remarkable stories.  Stories of great faith and courage.  Like the prince, Jonathan, and his young armor-bearer.  Stories of unbelief and rebellion.  Like Jonathan’s father, King Saul, a jealous, demonically-inspired man. 

Today our story is centered on a great man of God, named Samuel.   Samuel led the people of Israel through some highs and some lows.  He serves as a shining example of faith.  The people serve mostly as warnings to us. 

We will begin reading in several minutes in 1 Samuel 7.  [page 230]

Review Last Week

Last week in Chapter 1 we were introduced to a faith-filled woman named Hannah.

[If you were not here, you can listen to that at our website, www.stonebrook.org.]

Hannah was a Nobody from Nowheresville, but her faith stands out above all others, even God’s priest, Eli. 

After years of infertility, many tears, and much anguish, in her desperate faith in prayer, God gave her a son.  She named him Samuel.  And through a vow to the Lord, she gave his life over to the direct service of the Lord.  Her son became a great man of God. 

Samuel’s Growth

So today we’ll pick up the story in Samuel’s childhood.  He stood out even as a boy.

1 Samuel 2:26 ESV  Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and also with man.

Hannah’s prayer for a son, invoking the Nazirite vow of consecration to the Lord, has been answered powerfully.

And any concerns we may have about Hannh’s actions, sending her son to Eli at a very young age to be raised by him, are answered here.  The Lord was at work in this boy’s life.  And that work continued to the end. 

1 Samuel 3:19-20 ESV  Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.  And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the Lord….

And the entire nation knew.  From Dan to Beersheba….from the north to the south.  They all saw the work of God in him.

This is the way it is with spiritual growth and leadership.  It’s generally obvious.  We don’t need to post a resume.  Others can see God at work in us.  Or they can see he is not.

Samuel followed in his mother’s footsteps, walking by faith in the Lord.

Disaster:  Chapters 4-6

The next three chapters—chapters 4, 5, and 6,  making no mention at all of Samuel– are disastrous.

Israel goes out to battle against the Philistines, and instead of trusting in the Lord, they trust in a religious object, albeit a holy one:  the ark of the covenant.   Israel falls in battle, the ark is captured, and Eli and his sons die according to prophecy.

Our series title is “Rise and Fall.”  These 3 chapters are a “Fall.”

Only after Eli’s death and a 20-year period do we hear of Samuel again in 1 Samuel 7:2-3.

Old Covenant

I would like to take an important aside for a couple of minutes.  The topic is “Covenant.”  

The Bible is split into two major parts:  Old Testament and New Testament.  Or we could say, “Old Covenant” and “New Covenant.”

The key word is “Covenant.”  In several key places in history, God has made a covenant—an agreement, like a contract.  He made one with Abraham.

He made one with Moses and the nation of Israel.  He made one with David, which we will read about in the coming weeks in this sermon series.

The one to focus on right now is the Covenant God made with Israel through Moses.  Moses went up on the mountain.  Mount Sinai.  He was given the Ten Commandments, which are representative of the covenant.

The basic elements of the covenant are threefold:

  1. The Lord calls his chosen people of Israel to follow him. 

To love him, obey him, serve him, fear him.   When you do, I will bless you in magnificent ways.  Joy, fruitful land, wealth, happiness.   Rather straightforward.  Not easy, but straightforward.

  • Then the Lord warns Israel:  if you rebel against me, turn your heart from me, committing spiritual adultery and worship other gods, then I will bring CURSES on you and on your land.

I will turn my heart from you, even to the point of kicking you out of the Promised Land.

  • Then third, the Lord gives a promise of mercy.  If in your stubbornness you finally repent and turn back to me, then I will show mercy.  I will forgive you, I will bring good to you, I will defeat all your enemies, and I will bring you back into the land. 

If you understand this basic covenant and remember this, you will understand much of the OT.  This cycle— I call it the CIRCLE of LIFE and DEATH—is what happens over and over and over and over again in the OT.

And 500 years later after Samuel, in 600 B.C., the Lord sends his people Israel into exile for the final time.  Then 600 years after that, Jesus Christ enters the scene into a world where the people of Israel are still largely under oppression from a foreign nation.  The Roman empire. 

So remember the essence of God’s covenant to his people, and the OT begins to make more sense.

Samuel’s Leadership

Now let’s go back to Samuel.  Turn to 1 Samuel 7.  [page 230 in the house Bible]

We pick up the story now.  We’ll go from “Fall” to “Rise.”

Israel is still under oppression from the opposing nation, the Philistines.  But they are lamenting.  They have repentant hearts.  They desire to turn back to the Lord.

1 Samuel 7:3–13 ESV And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” 4 So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth [false gods among the Canaanite people], and they served the Lord only.

The people had a history of inconsistently walking with the Lord.  In Moses’ day.  In Joshua’s.  With the judges.  They were up and down.  “Rise and Fall.”  Mostly down. 

As an aside, honestly, we’re not that much different than Israel.  Every person who has ever lived as, at one time or another, worshiped an idol.   Every person has, for short times or long times, put something else in a higher place than the Lord.  It is something we must be alert to.  And be humble towards.  If we are to criticize Israel, we have to take the LOG out of our own eyes, Jesus said, in order to remove the speck in someone else’s eye. 

So back to the people of Israel, now after 20 years of “lamenting” (vs. 2), their hearts were changing.  So Samuel calls them to wholehearted devotion, and they actually listen to him.

 5 Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.”

Samuel fears the Lord and is a man of faith.  So with good, godly leadership, he calls all the people together to Mizpah, a place in Israel, for a time of “national repentance.”  He wants to pray to the Lord for mercy for the nation.   For humility.  For forgiveness. 

Samuel walked by faith, and prayer is a strong indicator of that.  As I was studying his life, I was surprised how many times he prayed.   Chapter 3.  Chapter 7.  Chapter 8.  12.  15.  16.  He followed in the footsteps of his faith-filled, praying mother, Hannah.  More on this later. 

6 So they gathered at Mizpah and drew water and poured it out before the Lord and fasted on that day and said there, “We have sinned against the Lord.” And Samuel judged the people of Israel at Mizpah. 7 Now when the Philistines heard that the people of Israel had gathered at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel.

Since Israel was still under oppression from the Philistines, it’s possible the Philistines had forbidden them from congregating, perhaps to avoid uprisings.

 “And when the people of Israel heard of it, they were afraid of the Philistines. 8 And the people of Israel said to Samuel, “Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines.” 9 So Samuel took a nursing lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. And Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him.

This is a terrifying but beautiful moment.  The enemy was marching out to crush the apparent uprising.

So how did the people of Israel respond?  They didn’t panic.  They didn’t turn to man-made solutions.

They turned to the Lord in prayer.

Samuel is not only the judge like a governor, he is also a priest.   He intercedes on their behalf to the Lord.  Priests are essentially mediators between God and man.  Under the Covenant through Moses to Israel, they needed priests to speak to the Lord on their behalf.

We no longer need an earthly priest to intercede for us today.  For we have the Great High Priest, Jesus.  Through him we have direct access to God the Father.   Jesus is the only Mediator we need. 

 10 As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel.  But the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel. 11 And the men of Israel went out from Mizpah and pursued the Philistines and struck them, as far as below Beth-car. 12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer;  for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.”

If you’ve been at Stonebrook for awhile, you’ve heard an old hymn that uses that name, “Ebenezer.” It means, “the Stone of Help.”

Throughout history, God’s people have had memorials.  Objects to help them remember the deeds of the Lord.  Some of those memorials were commanded by God.  For example, the Feast of the Passover, remembering God’s deliverance of his people from bondage in Egypt.  For us today in Christ, we’ve been commanded a memorial called “Breaking of Bread.”  To take bread and wine and remember…..remember Jesus, who gave up his body and his blood to pay for our sins and bring us to God.

 13 So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel. And the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel…

What happened here in chapter 7 is what I described about the Covenant to Israel.

  1. They had rebelled, so the Lord brought judgement on them.  They were under Philistine oppression.
  2. But then here in chapter 7, they repent.  And the Lord himself as their Commander in Chief routed the Philistines and he restored his people to prominence.

He blessed them once again.

1 Samuel 8

So in Chapters 4, 5, and 6, Israel FELL.  In Chapter 7, they ROSE.

Now in Chapter 8, they FALL again. 

1 Samuel 8 (ESV)

1 When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel.

2 The name of his firstborn son was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah;  they were judges in Beersheba.

3 Yet his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain.  They took bribes and perverted justice.

Samuel’s sons were much like Eli’s sons.  Eli’s sons were wicked men.  Samuel’s ended up that way, too.  How that happened we are not told.  Perhaps Eli’s bad example set the tone for Samuel as a father.  Or perhaps something else was at play.  Regardless, Samuel’s sons did not take their father’s faith as their own.   

4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah

5 and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.”

This is a turning point in biblical history.

Israel had 300 years of the “judge system.”  This is really all they knew.  Since Abraham, the people of God had never had a king.  They had always had some patriarch or judge/prophet type of leader.  Jacob.  Jacob’s sons.  Moses.  Joshua.  Then all the judges like Gideon and Samson.  Now Samuel. 

6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord.

Samuel is upset.  This is a great test to him personally as a leader.  The people understandably aren’t happy about his sons.  They wonder about the future leadership of Israel.

This is disconcerting for Samuel.  It displeased him.  It may have hurt him.

What does he do?  He prays.  He takes his burdens and frustrations to the Lord.  Another great example of faith under pressure. 

7 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.

8 According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you.

9 Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”

What the people asked for was not inherently wrong.  Nowhere in the Law of Moses was a king forbidden.  In fact, it seems to allow for it, or at least expect it.

The ultimate problem was not having a judge or a king.  The ultimate problem was Israel’s heart.  In their hearts was a coldness towards the Lord.  The Lord was their King, and they were rejecting him.

So a bit surprisingly the Lord says, “Give them what they want.”  This seems to be the Lord’s way of disciplining them.  If they reject him, then they will face some consequences.

Again it’s the Circle of Life and Death of the Old Covenant.  He tells Israel,

  1. If you love me and follow me, I will bless you.
  2. If you reject me, I will bring curses on you as judgment for sin.

10 So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking for a king from him.

11 He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots.

12 And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots.

13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers.

14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants.

15 He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants.

16 He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work.

17 He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves.

18 And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

Samuel gives a clear picture of what life will look like under a monarchy:  The people will become slaves to the king. 

19 But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us,

20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”

Instead of trusting in the Lord to win the battle against the enemies….just like he won against the Philistines a few decades earlier….they want to trust in earthly kings.

And also quite telling:  They want to be just like the other nations.  They don’t want to trust the Lord.  They don’t want to be separated— consecrated—to the Lord.  They just want to be like everyone else. 

21 And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the Lord.

22 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey their voice and make them a king.” Samuel then said to the men of Israel, “Go every man to his city.”

He prays again.   Samuel double-checks with the Lord.  The Lord says, “Give them what they want.”

What now?

But what now?   What can we take from these two very different chapters?

At the beginning of Samuel’s ministry, Israel is on the RISE.   They repent.  The oppressive Philistines are routed by the Lord.

Then near the end of Samuel’s ministry, Israel is FALLING.  They reject the Lord.  They want to be just like the other nations.

The RISE and the FALL of God’s people.  God is always true.  The people are fickle.

Let me offer a few lessons we can take out of these two very different stories.

Lessons:

Imitate the faith and fear of the Lord that Samuel had. 

Leadership is very testing on a soul.  Leadership in the church.  In a family.  In a business.  In war.

Samuel had many pressures.  A relentless enemy army.  Sinful sons.  Complaining people.  He could have resorted to complaining.  To despair.  To bitterness.  To manmade solutions.  Yet in every case—in every case recorded in Samuel—he sought the Lord in prayer.

Another story near the end of his life reveals this again:

1 Samuel 12:23 NIV  As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you…

A couple of weeks ago, I realized I had not been praying much.  That concerned me, for it indicated to me that I simply wasn’t believing.  I wasn’t believing the truths about God:  that he is good, that he cares, that he listens, that he is powerful, that he is merciful.  The Holy Spirit used Samuel’s story to jar me a bit.  To get more desperate with God.  To seek the Lord.  To yearn for greater intimacy with him.

A couple of mornings ago, I was meditating on all this.  And I uttered a prayer like the man in the gospels:  “Lord, I do believe, but help my unbelief.”

Prayerfulness is the fruit on the tree, and it indicates strong roots.

Prayerlessness is a fruitless tree, and it shows that something is wrong at the root.  A lack of water or nutrients or some sickness in the plant.

May the Lord help us imitate Samuel’s faith, demonstrated by prayer. 

Conversely to Samuel’s faith and prayer, we must beware of how easy it is to slip into unbelief. 

Be alert to stubbornness and unbelief. 

The people of God throughout the Bible often went over time from faith to unbelief.  And we should guard ourselves and one another from this.

A week or two ago, I was reading of a Christian author and pastor who recently denied the faith.  He actually said, “I no longer consider myself a Christian.”  That alarmed me.  I wondered how he ever got there.  I don’t know his story.  But I suspect he arrived at that conclusion one step at a time.   One discouraging day at a time.  One day of unbelief at a time.  One unrepented sin at a time.  One failure on someone else’s part to keep him encouraged. 

The good news is that we can help one another one day at a time.  We can help stave off unbelief.  Discouragement.  Hardheartedness.  Deception.

Here is one God-given solution.  A prevention to stubborn, unbelieving hearts.

Hebrews 3:12–13 NIV  See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

The Lord’s emphasis here is not for me to demand that others encourage me.   The emphasis here is for me to do my part in helping others.      To daily point others to Jesus.  To daily help them to learn and grow.  To daily love and serve them.  To daily pray for them, that their hearts would be soft. 

This is one reason why being a devoted part of a good church is so important.  Not just once a week on Sunday.  Every day.  We need one another every day.

Be alert to unbelief. 

Rejoice that we have a better covenant.

We’ll talk more in coming weeks about God’s covenant to Israel and now his new covenant to us in Jesus Christ. 

But briefly, I mentioned the essence of the covenant God gave to Israel through Moses.

Israel was promised so much blessing from God if they would simply walk with the Lord and love him and obey him.  It was a beautiful promise from the Lord.

But the consistent story of OT history is the Israel couldn’t and wouldn’t keep the covenant.  The problem was not with God.  The problem was with the people.

This eventually led to the unveiling of God’s plan for a new covenant.  An eternal covenant.  Not written on tablets of stone but written on the heart.  This new covenant can be summarized with two words:  Jesus Christ. 

A very abbreviated discussion on this is found in Hebrews 8.

Hebrews 8:6–8 ESV  But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. 8 For he finds fault with them when he says: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah…

The entire book of Hebrews deals with the supremacy of Jesus Christ in the new covenant— the New Testament—as compared to the covenant Israel had—the OLD Testament. 

In this New Covenant of God’s Son, everything has changed for the better.   God has brought a better Lamb to sacrifice for sins.  He has brought a better High Priest to intercede for us.  He has committed to never leave us nor forsake us, guaranteed through the Holy Spirit.

We can still sin like Israel….we are inherently no different and no better.

But God has done a beautiful, powerful, eternal work through his Son.

All that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, and David were promised has finally come true in Jesus Christ. 

In Jesus, all of you who believe in him are in a beautiful, glorious place.  We should rejoice in the work that God has done in his Son.  We should rejoice in the work that God has done in our hearts.