July 29, 2018

Pentecost 10 - 1 Samuel 8:1-10

Theme: Beware of Getting Ripped Off
1. By the cheap imitations of sinners
2. From the Lord’s wisdom and grace

Have you ever been ripped off on a big purchase item? If you have, you know the horrible feeling. Chances are, that moment on being ripped off is a constant reminder for you in future purchases. Do your homework. Check reviews. Price things out. But, no matter how prepared you are, it won’t change that sinking feeling in your gut when it comes to making the payment. The uncertainty of not knowing whether it will happen again.

Thankfully, in those moments, believers can submit themselves to the will of God. God is able to overcome any deception, but the pain still lingers. It’s also a good reminder of the fleeting nature of this world. There will always be thieves, deceivers, and con artists – perhaps even more as the years move forward. Our hopes are not in this present age.

Despite the pain and difficulty of getting ripped off, it helps when those who wronged you are brought to justice. Sometimes, in that process, they get a taste of their own medicine. Jesus once said, “All who take the sword will die by the sword.” In that statement Jesus was warning His disciples about trying to accomplish God’s will through their own means. Anyone who does that, whether resorting to combat or not, will wallow away in the futility of the world and its works. A similar thought can be given when it comes to those who rip off others. There usually comes a day when they receive the same treatment in kind.

Consider such a story from a year ago in California. A con artist set up a real estate rental business and posted several properties online. He would lower the prices to the point that desperate buyers couldn’t resist, then he would set up meetings with them to make a security deposit to hold the property. Once the prospective tenants actually looked at the property in person and realized it was a vacant lot or a foreclosed home, it was too late. Those who returned to the place of business would find it empty of everything – no trace of the thieves.

When the mastermind behind the project was finally caught last year, it was estimated that he had conned over 1,000 people. But, once he was finally caught, the rip off artist received what he had coming. Not only did he have to pay restitutions to each of the victims, he was banned from ever working in any real estate field for the rest of his life. He who once ripped others off, now had his career ripped from him. As satisfying as catching and bringing that thief to justice must have been for the victims, it could never fully replace all they had lost.

Similarly, we have lost much in our lives because of our sins. But there are differences in our case. For one, no one stole righteousness from us; rather we willing gave it up. But, second, there is One who can restore all we have lost and even more. God, in His Son, Jesus, has brought us back to even by paying the penalty we incurred over our outstanding debts before God’s law. But, that same Jesus has also supplied the righteousness needed to be in God’s presence in heaven forever. Now, He beckons to us through His Word – don’t be ripped off, because by losing this precious gift of grace you also are stripped of your life with God. We read a lesson that teaches us the same from the Old Testament, an example from the life of Samuel recorded by inspiration of the Holy Spirit for your benefit and blessing today:   

1 Samuel 8:1-10 Now it came to pass when Samuel was old that he made his sons judges over Israel. 2 The name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba. 3 But his sons did not walk in his ways; they turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice. 4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, 5 and said to him, "Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations." 6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, "Give us a king to judge us." So Samuel prayed to the LORD. 7 And the LORD said to Samuel, "Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. 8 "According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt, even to this day-- with which they have forsaken Me and served other gods-- so they are doing to you also. 9 "Now therefore, heed their voice. However, you shall solemnly forewarn them, and show them the behavior of the king who will reign over them." 10 So Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who asked him for a king.

This story, in many ways, is about failure. Samuel failed by raising evil sons. As with any matter of parenting the blame here did not rest entirely on Samuel’s shoulders. But, he obviously shared in the fault to some extent. Samuel had a unique situation because he had been able to observe Eli growing up and was able to witness how Eli struggled in the very same way with his sons. Eli was a priest, Samuel was a judge – yet both raised wicked sons that turned away from the Lord. It’s a humble reminder that parents have a tremendous impact on their children, not just in how their children act but how their children will lead as parents.

Samuel, himself, could have learned from a previous Judge who had face a similar situation. Shortly after Gideon defeated the Midianites with his band of 300 warriors the people of Israel implored him saying, "Rule over us, both you and your son, and your grandson also; for you have delivered us from the hand of Midian." Gideon had an opportunity to establish a family dynasty in Israel. But, his reply revealed his trust in the LORD’s plan. Gideon said, "I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the LORD shall rule over you." (Judges 8:22-23). It wasn’t wrong for Samuel to want his sons to follow in the office of judgeship. What was wrong was to force it into being without considering the LORD’s will. Now, both Samuel and the people of Israel would suffer because of it.    

Obviously, then, Samuel’s sons failed too. Certainly, there were many virtuous things that Samuel had taught them as a faithful judge of the Lord. Joel and Abijah failed to heed their father’s Godly example. They chose to be wicked. Our theme of getting ripped off comes from what the Scriptures says about Samuel’s sons. They were using their status in the nation to purge the common people – all because of their greed. They knew what the LORD demanded of their high office yet they chose to turn from Him.

And finally, in our text, the people of Israel failed. They rejected the LORD’s plan for their nation and chose to follow the model practiced by foreign nations. As in any matter of faithlessness, the people couldn’t completely reject God’s work in their lives. It is true that He remained with them as He allowed them to be ruled by a king. God would still be active in their nation, by choosing their kings and anointing them. But, a clear message had been sent by the people. They wanted to walk their own path. They wanted to choose how they would be led. They didn’t want to trust God’s office of the Judges. This rejection was a serious thing as the LORD compared it to the lessons learned during the Exodus. Once again, the people were reverting to the same ways of practicing their faith – by only calling on the LORD in trouble and no heeding His Word during good times.

These examples in our text are lessons for our lives. There are many ways, some even the very same as the people in this story, that we can turn from the LORD. It’s easy and logical to think that God isn’t involved in our lives. When bad things heap up, one after another, it’s not hard to doubt that God is working all things for our good. There are simply too many choice opportunities to weaken our trust in God because of the bad things that happen around us. This is especially true when we confront our mistakes head on. What areas of your life might you be like Samuel – where though you had good intentions to follow the Lord you nevertheless strayed from Him? In those moments it’s easy to keep on moving forward without trying to change anything. By convincing yourself that your sins aren’t all that bad or that other people are even worse than you are. Heed the first and most simple lesson of our text, trusting in cheap imitations will only lead to getting ripped off. That’s the situation when it comes to facing down the problem of sin – you can go your own way or you can submit to God’s.

Part 2

While this text does have a lot to say about failure – there is also a glimmer of hope. While we see the ways that Samuel, his sons, and the people made mistakes, we also see why God’s story of salvation did not extinguish here. Likewise, in our lives, it’s important to remember that there’s nothing we can do to undo God’s finished work of salvation. The warning alarm that God sounds throughout His Word is absolutely true enough – life with God can be spurned and rejected. But, despair has no home in a Christian’s heart because the glimmer of hope, born from and won by the merits of Jesus, is always present for each person.   

We see two examples of that hope in our text – both from Samuel. Despite being a sinner, he was still faithful to the LORD. You can follow that same path. You won’t be able to avoid your sin – it’s actually quite dangerous to try so. But, God is gracious and powerful enough to still allow you to be His child, even when you fall into sin. The first way we see that with Samuel was how he displayed his hope moving forward. Even though we read that Samuel was displeased with the peoples’ request for a king, his next move was to consult the LORD in prayer. As a leader, Samuel probably had the power to just ignore the people and stick with his own plan of having his sons succeed him. A great temptation must have been present to do this. By rejecting the office of the judges, the people were rejecting Samuel as well as his family. All he had done for them, all he had patiently endured for them – he was being told that it wasn’t good enough. But, Samuel put himself aside for the moment and listened – first to the LORD and then to the people.

Listening is such a simple thing – it often doesn’t take any effort at all. Yet, because of our own cares, desires, and the distractions of the world, listening has become a monumental task for people. But, what a profound difference we see once Samuel listens, and continues to listen. Instead of compounding the original failure to make it worse, it ends at this point. So, also, the same is true in your life. If you’re confronted with the painful consequences of your sin, and who isn’t, you can also listen to the LORD, and to the people He was put in your life, for help. God designed His Word to you with that express purpose in mind. He speaks life and forgiveness to you through it. He reassures you of a second, third, fourth, and beyond opportunities to be renewed by Jesus. Remember when Peter tested the Lord on this matter – how often should I forgive my brother? Yes, seven was a lot for a sinner to give to a sinner. But, the Lord said even more – 70 times 7. When you listen, the Holy Spirit brings that to your heart so that you may once again hear, know, believe, and trust it.

Once Samuel listened, we see the natural progression to the next glimmer of hope. Samuel spoke. We’re told in the last verse that Samuel told ALL of the LORD’s words to the people. Just like any moment of speaking the truth, this was not an easy thing. Sure, the people got what they wanted. But, it would come with some harsh realities – realities that would play out for generations to come, even up to the birth of the Messiah. Simply put, the people would get ripped off by many wicked kings. They would be taxed. Their lands and their children taken from them. They would have to swallow the bitter pill of total subservience. There would be much pain and suffering for their children and their children’s children because of their choice. And sadly, even more seriously, many would be ripped off from the LORD by being led into the same blasphemies and idolatry as their kings.    

But, Samuel didn’t hesitate and he told them ALL that the LORD had said. Yet another humble reminder that God’s will is done – even by the sinners that He calls to speak. When a person is led by faith they can do this incredible thing.

So, do you enjoy that feeling when justice is served? It’s hard not to appreciate the irony of a rip off getting ripped off. Heed the lesson in your life. When it comes to your faith and your salvation, don’t fall for the cheap imitations offered by mankind. Some are simple. Some are complicated. All are very personal. It can happy as easily as talking big as a Christian yet failing to listen to God’s Word. Heed the warning so you aren’t cut off from God’s wisdom and grace in Christ! But, heed also, and more importantly, because by that same wisdom and grace of Christ God promises that He will always renew and forgive you. Amen.

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