Monday, March 24, 2014

"For the sake of His great name!"

Day #87:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - March 25th

Scripture Reading:  I Samuel 11 - 15 …

Reading through the history of the people of Israel, you have to wonder at some point why God didn't just forget about them and carry out His plan to bring salvation to those who believe through some other nation or people group.  Their track record reveals one act of rebellion after another mixed with idolatry and every sin you can imagine.  Contrast this with the LORD's track record with them, as Samuel declares in Chapter 12, verse 7:  "Now then, stand here, because I am going to confront you with evidence before the LORD as to all the righteous acts performed by the LORD for you and your fathers."  Though Israel failed God often, God NEVER failed them!

Saul was now their King, but Samuel reminded them:  "If both you and the king who reigns over you follow the LORD your God - good!  But if you do not obey the LORD, and if you rebel against His commands, His hand will be against you, as it was against your fathers" (12:14-15).  The people asked Samuel to pray for them and Samuel said, "Far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you" (12:23).

But it is verse 22 that explains God's commitment to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob throughout the Old Testament and even up to the return of Jesus Christ.  I have actually heard pastors and others say that to teach that everything God does is for His glory makes God to be unfeeling, arrogant, unloving and lacking compassion.  They believe and teach that God does everything for the welfare of mankind and that He loves everyone the same and eventually will forgive everyone and welcome them into His presence.  Samuel and the rest of the Bible teach otherwise.

God is GOD!!  To think that anything God does could be considered "self-serving" is to speak in utter ignorance.  God IS compassionate, merciful, gracious and loving.  But as God, the Creator of the universe, there is one reason that explains why He "puts up with" Israel and, indeed, the human race:  "For the sake of His great name the LORD will not reject His people, because the LORD was pleased to make you His own" (12:22).  God chose this people and it is for His glory that He fulfilled His purpose to bring a Savior through the tribe of Judah and that He will again rescue Israel from the attacks of the nations of the world when Jesus returns!

Saul appeared to begin well as king of Israel, but it was not long before he displayed the same fatal flaw that resides within each of us.  When Samuel delayed his coming to offer the burnt offering before Israel went into battle, Saul took things into his own hands (13:9-10).  God's response:  "Your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after His own heart and appointed HIM leader of His people, because you have not kept the LORD's command" (13:14).

Isn't that a little extreme?  After all, nobody is perfect.  But you see, that's precisely the point!  Without perfection no one can stand before God.  Partial obedience is not obedience!  God helped Israel in battle after battle, for the sake of His great name.  It should not be surprising when God allows Israel to be defeated ... it is more surprising when He delivers them ... except for the reason God Himself gives:  for the sake of His great name.  After Saul disobeys God again in keeping some of the spoils of the battle against the Amalekites and blaming it on his soldiers, God reveals an extremely important principle:

15:22:  "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD?  To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams."

God desires obedience.  Saul thought that he could disobey God's commands so long as he continued to offer sacrifices.  God would understand.  But Saul and many today do not understand that partial obedience is not obedience.  God never puts us in a place where we have to choose between two evils, where it is not possible to obey God completely.  Many today live life thinking that they can offer God partial obedience and He will accept whatever we offer.  People settle into a pattern of sin, but as long as they offer God an occasional prayer or "go to church" on Sunday morning they think all is well.  God isn't impressed.

If you and I take the name of Jesus Christ upon us, God calls us to obedience!!  "To obey is better than sacrifice!"  God sends Jesus to pay the penalty for sin and then sends the Holy Spirit to enable us not only to believe but to OBEY!  "What the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, GOD did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.  And so He condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit" (Romans 8:3-4).

So, as those who have been washed by the blood of Christ and called to be holy, why do we put on all the armor of God and pursue holiness?  For the sake of His great name!!  Our lives put the power and wisdom of God on display to the world.  When we fail to obey, we dishonor our Father in heaven and the Holy Spirit convicts us and calls us to walk in the paths of righteousness FOR HIS NAME'S SAKE!

Let this be your motivation every day and God will complete the work He has begun in you ... for HIS glory ... and for your good.

"Heavenly Father, I know that I still fall short of Your glory, yet in my heart I desire to magnify Your Name, to testify to Your power at work in me and to point others to You.  Let me live today and tomorrow for the sake of Your great Name!!  In Jesus' name, Amen" 

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