1 Samuel 15:10-23 (Part 3) – The Pain of the Past; The Promise of the Future

Posted: January 29, 2018 in 09-1 Samuel

1 Samuel 15:10-23 (Part 3 of 4)
The Lord Rejects Saul

Last night in our life group, we began our new semester of meeting together weekly. Our life groups at LifeSong meet on a cycle similar to the typical college academic calendar. We meet from late August/early September until a couple of weeks before Christmas and then take a Christmas/New Year’s break and start back up again in mid- to late-January. For our life group, we all had holiday travel, vacations, family time, and so on during the break, so last night was our first Sunday night together since before Christmas. It was great to get back together. Everyone seemed eager to get back in the life group groove.

Last night began a study of the book of James in the New Testament. We started with a look at who James was. It was interesting for me when I was doing the research to lead the discussion Sunday night. Just getting at who James was. As you may know already, James was the oldest half-brother of Jesus. Because of the research that I found that really emphasized the fact that James, his brother and his sisters (the brothers and sisters of our Lord Jesus Christ – and yes, my Catholic friends, the biblical record is pretty clear that Mary and Joseph had marital relations and had other children contrary to the extrabiblical traditions built up by the church over the centuries) were not believers during Jesus’ earthly physical lifetime. In fact, James being the second in the birthline of Mary and Joseph’s children may have had a seething jealousy of his big brother, Jesus. How we started our conversation last night was I asked the question “how is your relationship with your siblings? How did you and your siblings get along growing up?” Almost to a person, male and female in our life group, they talked about having some anger and jealousies and animosities toward one or more of their siblings growing up. I had to be transparent to get the conversation started. I told them about how rocky my relationship with my own brother was growing up. By the time we were teenagers, we literally could stand to be around each other. Even now, as adults, we have grown out of a lot of those hatred and jealous emotions of our youth but the scars of our all-out wars with one another growing up remain. I know if I needed my brother, really needed him, he would be there for me but yet we still don’t have a relationship where I can say my brother is my best friend. We most likely would not be friends if we were not brothers. We are just that different.

And it’s funny how growing up with someone can so radically effect how you think of someone. To me, my brother is Little Ralph (my dad is Ralph, Jr., my brother, the first born son, is Ralph III). To the rest of the world, my brother is a career pastor in the United Methodist Church. He has served half his career in the South Georgia Conference and half here in the South Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church. To others, he is an effective Methodist minister who has served long stretches at most of his appointments (7 or 8 years at each one after a bit of a rocky start right of college but since then its been long appointments). To me, he is this the kid that I grew up with that I saw as a pain in my back side, someone who was the dark side to my light. He was the Gamecock to my Tiger. He was the opposite of everything I was and we clashed like positive and negative electrical charges. To others, he is the consummate professional as a pastor. To me, he is my brother who I knew as an annoying big brother growing up. And pretty much to a person around the room there was some pain of having brothers or sisters that caused us pain in some way. Seeing facial expressions tighten, voices tighten there were memories being dredged up as we went around the room. Even if we have resolved our relationships with our siblings, there are things that we will never be able to forget. For some in our group, those relationships still have not been mended and the pain was evident and even some tears came flowing (as we say in our life group, “it ain’t life group until somebody cries!”). But even with those who now have good relationships with our siblings or at least have relationships where we now tolerate each other, those hurts and pains and jealousies of how parents treated us different is as real and as raw as if it just happened.

I said now imagine being Jesus’ next youngest brother. To the rest of the world, he was this amazing prophet whom we now know and understand was the Son of God. He was the perfect son. He needed no discipline for their was no disobedience (beyond not letting his parents know that he was at the temple at age 12). He was far superior in every aspect of life to his siblings – he was God in the flesh after all. His wisdom and intellect was far superior to his brothers and sisters. He He would be the favorite kid. That is not a stretch. I mean, that is zero-maintenance parenting. He must have been the envy of His siblings. He must have been the point of jealousy. His parents could do nothing but heap on Him love, never disciplined, never reprimanded. And I think from a human viewpoint, that’s why His brothers and sisters rejected Him, and they did. Even His lifelong perfection, thirty years in the house, didn’t persuade them of His Messiahship. According to John chapter 7 and verse 5, His siblings did not believe in Him. They envied Him. They resented Him. Mark 3:21 says, “21 When his family heard what was happening, they tried to take him away. “He’s out of his mind,” they said.”

He hadn’t performed any miracles for them growing up. He hadn’t raised any dead playmates. He hadn’t created birds. John 2:11 says that when He turned water into wine it was the beginning of the signs that He did. His childhood was normal from the standpoint of absent miracles and supernatural works. But His perfection was obvious to all. He lived a life that was in dramatic contrast to James, Joseph, Simon, Jude, and the girls. But it didn’t convict their hearts, and it didn’t convince them of His true identity because, as we all know, familiarity breeds–What?–contempt, and perfection generates rejection. And in their minds they had scorn and disdain for Him so that they designated Him as a man who was out of His mind, to make the claims that He made when He began His ministry.

Even at Jesus’ death, his brothers and sisters are nowhere to be found in the biblical narrative. They aren’t there to defend Him. They aren’t there to stand by Him. They aren’t gathered around Mary as she stands alone as a widow at the foot of the cross. They’re not anywhere. They don’t find their way among the apostles in the Upper Room. They’re nowhere to be seen, which indicates to us that they were still in unbelief. But undoubtedly in that moment of which Paul speaks when He appeared to James, that stunning reunion became the moment of James’ conversion, when He saw the risen Christ, his brother, Jesus. And that explains why he and the other brothers are gathered in the Upper Room and the sisters as well. James, the stubborn, skeptical, second-born son of Mary, comes all the way to saving faith, puts his trust in his older half-brother, the Lord Jesus Christ, through a post-resurrection appearance. And then is there with the rest of the family in the Upper Room on the Day of Pentecost.

To them all the way up until Jesus appeared to them after the Resurrection that their minds were changed about Jesus. To them, to his brothers and sisters, he was this annoying perfect big brother that they were no doubt constantly compared to. They loved him for sure, because who couldn’t of loved Jesus if you got the privilege of knowing him personally during His time on earth but I bet they didn’t particularly like Him. He was not the Savior of the world to them. He was their annoyingly perfect big brother.

That’s the thing I thought of this morning as I read through 1 Samuel 15:10-23 for the third of four blogs on this passage. That thing was the fact that sometimes our past follows us. For Jesus’ own family, the past was an impediment to their own salvation. They did not see the Savior of the world. They saw a brother of whom they were jealous and thought he was “out of his mind” saying he was the Son of God (see Mark 3:21). It is sometimes the expectation that we have is that our past disappears when we accept Christ is our Savior, but that’s just not true. Sometimes, our sins follow us and sometimes people’s opinions of us do not change. Sometimes, we still have to pay for the mistakes we made before salvation. Let’s read the passage now:

10 Then the Lord said to Samuel, 11 “I am sorry that I ever made Saul king, for he has not been loyal to me and has refused to obey my command.” Samuel was so deeply moved when he heard this that he cried out to the Lord all night.

12 Early the next morning Samuel went to find Saul. Someone told him, “Saul went to the town of Carmel to set up a monument to himself; then he went on to Gilgal.”

13 When Samuel finally found him, Saul greeted him cheerfully. “May the Lord bless you,” he said. “I have carried out the Lord’s command!”

14 “Then what is all the bleating of sheep and goats and the lowing of cattle I hear?” Samuel demanded.

15 “It’s true that the army spared the best of the sheep, goats, and cattle,” Saul admitted. “But they are going to sacrifice them to the Lord your God. We have destroyed everything else.”

16 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Stop! Listen to what the Lord told me last night!”

“What did he tell you?” Saul asked.

17 And Samuel told him, “Although you may think little of yourself, are you not the leader of the tribes of Israel? The Lord has anointed you king of Israel. 18 And the Lord sent you on a mission and told you, ‘Go and completely destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, until they are all dead.’ 19 Why haven’t you obeyed the Lord? Why did you rush for the plunder and do what was evil in the Lord’s sight?”

20 “But I did obey the Lord,” Saul insisted. “I carried out the mission he gave me. I brought back King Agag, but I destroyed everyone else. 21 Then my troops brought in the best of the sheep, goats, cattle, and plunder to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.”

22 But Samuel replied,

“What is more pleasing to the Lord:
your burnt offerings and sacrifices
or your obedience to his voice?
Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice,
and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.
Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft,
and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.
So because you have rejected the command of the Lord,
he has rejected you as king.”

In this passage, we see that Saul’s excuses had come to an end. It was the time of reckoning. God was not rejecting Saul as a person. He could still seek forgiveness and restore his relationship with God, but it was too late to get his kingdom back. His actions though had permanent consequences that could not be avoided. Even for us, there are consequences to our sins even after seeking forgiveness from God. God will grant us forgiveness for our sins through Jesus Christ even we come to Him with a repentant and humble heart.

However, that forgiveness does not change what can be the real consequences of our sins. There can be relationships that are beyond repair or at least will never get back to where they used to before sin got in the way. There are sometimes legal consequences to our sins that cannot be changed that forever follow us through our future lives even after salvation, even after years of growing in Christ. We may still be labeled as something that we no longer are. I knew my brother way back when and it affects how I perceive him. A lot of people who knew me prior to my salvation at age 39 may find it laughable that I am going in the ministry now but those who have known me since then see it simply as the next progression of a man who loves the Lord. At the same time, there are consequences of my sins prior to my salvation that still haunt me today. It’s not just incredulity of people who knew me in my wild child days. There are consequences of sin that follow me to this day. That’s the way sin is. It is a permanent stain. It has unchangeable consequences on our lives. Saul is a perfect example of that. However, because of Jesus, we are not destined to stay shackled by the results of our sins, not destined to stay shackled to what people who knew us when say about us, not destined to stay shackled to the hurts and angers of those that we have disappointed, we are made new even if we still suffer the consequences of our past sins. We are made new through Christ. We no longer have to live in the dungeon of what other people think of us. We no longer have to live in the dungeon of our sins. We have been set free through the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross.

To James, his big brother was a pain and annoyingly perfect and a person for whom he held great jealousy. But he was changed by Jesus. He became a pillar of the early church. He was the leader of the Christians in Jerusalem. He was so changed by Jesus that he called what was his annoying big brother, his Lord in the opening to his book/letter. What a radical change.

With family, we may have hurts and angers that still pain us to this day about our siblings, but we can get beyond them through forgiveness and the healing power of time. We can come to have close relationships with our siblings because of forgiveness and realizing that hey we aint perfect either. We can change our opinions and grow to have solid, loving relationships. But that past will still be there. The past will still hurt. I am sure James could kick himself for how he treated his big brother Jesus over the years and it probably was an impetus for the depth of gratitude He had for Jesus’ saving grace in his own life. But there surely was remorse at the missed time of knowing who Jesus really was. That was a consequence of James’ sin.

Saul could have been reclaimed personally by God through repentance, but the consequences of sin would have remained. He lost his kingship no matter what even if he did repent. We cannot change the stupid mistakes of the past even after we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior. Some may scoff at our new life and never believe that we are changed. We may continue to have pain for what has happened to us or what we have done to others. But that’s just it. The past is the past. Can’t change it. Saul couldn’t change it. James could kick himself for how he treated Jesus growing up but he couldn’t change it.

That’s the thing about Jesus. He knows our past. It’s plain as day to Him. It’s there for Him to see. He knew how James treated Him. He knows how we treated Him. But He still loves us anyway. He may allow our past mistakes to play themselves out in our lives even after salvation but He does not define us by our past. Jesus just cares about your future. He will forgive you. He will accept you and love you and throw your past self aside and love you despite who you used to be. He makes us new. He made James new. He can make you new.

Amen and Amen.

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