Understanding His story helps us to understand that His-Story is our Story!
The Kingdom Era
How Much Do You Know?
When God created the human brain in Adam and then reproduced the same abilities in Eve, He had made a truly unique and amazing thing in the universe! The human brain! The human brain is so amazing that scientists are still struggling with the questions of just how it works and why we have so many differences than any other types of living creatures. Computers use wires and electrical pathways to send information around the computer and out to a screen.
The human brain uses the same principle. It is called neural connections. It is the electrical wiring of our brains! It is our nervous system. We usually discover that system the first time we get hurt as a child! But, did you know that your brain has more electrical wiring than all the computers in the whole world put together? How’s that for an all powerful Creator!
In our brains, we think things other animals never think! In fact, we study what other animals think but no animals ever have the desire to study us? We are so different! Other things we do that nothing else does? We create art! We desire to improve ourselves and our surroundings, We express ourselves through poetry. We make up fictional stories, we worry about the future, we think about the consequences of the past and we wonder about where we are going? In fact, we do something else that is common to humans: It is called "mimetic desire"! Them thar words bes fancy words for “I want what they have!” What happens when you place two children together in a room and offer them both a gummy worm? These gummy worms taste identical but one is yellow and one is green. One of the kids is allowed to pick first and he takes the yellow one. Which one do you think the second child is going to want? Yep! Scientists tell us that almost every time the second child wants what the first child has, even if there are more gummy worms laying on a plate in front of them! Mimetic desire! They say it does not matter what their favorite color is or even if they like the gummy worms, they still want it because the other kid has it!
You say why are we talking about this? Because it has been getting us into trouble ever since the Garden of Eden! Eve wanted to know good and evil! Why? Because God knew it! It was knowledge He had and she wanted it too! I have no doubt that Adam wanted what his wife had because she had what God had and he wanted it too!… And they got what they wanted...
The people of Israel are no different than Adam and Eve, nor are they different than us. They want what someone else has! So they tell Samuel, “‘Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations.’” (1 Sam. 8:5b).
Here is a little something extra for you science buffs and mathematicians: In the human brain, the estimation is that there are 100 billion neurons, with about 10,000 synapses each. The number of potential connections may as well be infinite because the estimate is that the brains possible on-off firing patterns "has been calculated to be 10 to the 1,000,000 power...This number is thought to be larger than the number of atoms in the known universe." Mindsight, Daniel Goldman. And that is what God gave Adam along with you and I!
At the conclusion of this lesson, students should be able to self-evaluate and look for things that are leading them away from a spiritual walk with the Lord. They should be able to understand and recognize mimetic desires which we will also call, “The I want that too” syndrom.
Intro: Have you ever seen someone with a new car and instantly you thought, “I need me one of those!” No? How about a new phone, iPad, a house, a boat or whatever material thing we see? So many people see what others have and run straight out and whip out the plastic or sign the loan and buy what they don’t really need. Or at least they want to! I know! I am human too! So, maybe we can understand the people of Israel a little better and, in the process, we can learn to control our own “mimetic desires” (the “I want what they have” syndrome) by learning to submit our will to His will instead.
The people of Israel saw the nations around them and wanted what “all the other nations have” (1 Sam 8:5)! Kind of sounds like a kid throwing a tantrum. “All my friends have a cell phone! I want one too!” This little temper tantrum of Israel's leadership is going to cost them dearly, because it is not some logical decision that will lead their country into prosperity and peace! It is a decision to reject the Lord Himself as their King! The Lord told Samuel, “‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you.’” (1 Sam. 8:7-8 NIV).
1. A Human King is What They Wanted and That is What They Got!
The hunt for the king is brought to an end when Saul is identified by Samuel as the one who would become king of Israel. God selects Saul, so we can assume that Saul had great potential, but it may not have looked so at the beginning. Saul seems to be a little bit of a coward as he is hiding among the baggage while Samuel is announcing him to be the new king! But everything changes when the Spirit of the Lord comes upon him! He leads Israel in battle against the Ammonites and after the victory, he even forgives those who had stood against his kingship when he could have had them killed. Saul sounds like a likable, humble person that might make a good king, but the position comes with some stipulations for Saul and for Israel! “‘Now if you fear and worship the Lord and listen to his voice, and if you do not rebel against the Lord’s commands, then both you and your king will show that you recognize the Lord as your God. But if you rebel against the Lord’s commands and refuse to listen to him, then his hand will be as heavy upon you as it was upon your ancestors.’” (1 Sam. 12:14-15 NLT).
Samuel reinforces that when he tells them, “‘But be sure to fear the Lord and faithfully serve him. Think of all the wonderful things he has done for you. But if you continue to sin, you and your king will be swept away.’” (1 Sam. 12:24-25 NLT).
When Samuel first met Saul, Samuel told him, “...the Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you . . . You will be changed into a different person.” (1 Sam. 10:6 NIV and NLT)! And that is what happened. We often think of Saul as a bad person but the truth is Saul is like many believers today. He was just human! Maybe even like me or you? Saul was given a new heart! Literally in the Hebrew, he was made into a new man! So how could he mess up so bad that God pronounces destruction on him and his family? He had a genuine encounter with the Lord and it changed him.
2. Impatience and Pride! - I want what they have! Now!
In Chapter 13, we find that old enemy again. The Philistines are back and this time they have 30,000 chariots! And they have 6,000 men on horses! Chariots were the battlefield tank of the day. It was common knowledge that an army with chariots would destroy and army of foot soldiers with ease. A chariot typically had two men riding in it. One would concentrate on driving and the other would concentrate on nothing else except killing people with his bow or with his spear. And that is not counting the other soldiers with them that were too many to count! As they get ready for battle with the Philistines, the people are disappearing. They are slipping off into the caves and crossing the river. “But as for Saul, he was still in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling.” (1 Sam 13:7 NASB). They were scared and so was Saul! As he waits for Samuel, it seems that his fear was growing and he was losing people and they slipped away.
Saul had probably been king for many years when he found himself facing an enemy of overwhelming force. There had been plenty of time for Him to learn how to be the king God wanted him to be. We do not know if did the things listed back in Deuteronomy 17:14-20 which included the command that the king write the Word of God (the Law) down over and over so he would know it well. So we can assume that he did know better than what he was about to do.
There, in Gilgal, Saul is waiting for Samuel. When Samuel does not arrive at the time Saul thought he should be there, Saul uses the opportunity to try to become essentially, the High Priest of Israel. Saul decides to combine the office of priest and king!
And because of that bad decision he hears these words... “‘You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. Had you kept it, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom must end, for the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart.’” (1 Sam. 13:13-14 NLT). He is human! He makes the same prideful decisions that Eve and then Adam made! To take matters into his own hands! In pride, he believed that God would answer him in the same way he answered Samuel who was a Levite! Soul certainly knew that only Levites could offer sacrifices. Saul was a Benjamite. It had not been long since he had told Samuel these humble words… “‘But I’m only from the tribe of Benjamin, the smallest tribe in Israel, and my family is the least important of all the families of that tribe!’” (1 Sam. 9:21 NLT). Saul had been given everything and he threw it away because of pride and arrogance! In fact, it looks like “established your kingdom over Israel forever” in verse 13 means that the Messiah could have been born from the tribe of Benjamin and from the line of Saul if Saul had just obeyed the Lord?
But, the Scriptures had predicted that the line of Judah would produce the Messiah? How could God have used Saul and his family to bring the Messiah and establish Saul’s kingdom forever? We don’t know that answer. Maybe God would have joined the two lines together through David and one of Saul’s daughters instead of Bathsheba? No one can be sure about it but, what we can be sure of, is God has always known that Saul would do this and that because of Saul’s actions, God would have to find another. “One after His own heart,” David. And He knew that the Messiah would then come through Judah and David’s line by Bathsheba. In this exchange of words between the Lord and Saul through Samuel, God does reveal something that only the Omnipotent Lord God Almighty could know for sure! That is “What could have been”. We will never know for sure what could have been, but the Lord not only knows, He actually cares about what could have been!
This time it looks like the Lord is hurt and disappointed. It is obvious that the Lord had high hopes and dreams for Saul and Saul threw it away. It looks like he wanted to be a great king/priest just like the other kings of the nations around them had? Kings in the Mesopotamia and Middle Eastern areas commonly proclaimed themselves divine kings and priests of their local gods as they ruled. They were doing this as early as 2,500 BC. It was a way they could hold onto power. But God had given laws against such things in Israel.
If Saul had only obeyed and served the Lord with all of his heart! This makes me wonder if King Saul was on his way to becoming one of the greatest followers of God in the whole of the Bible! But instead, he became one of God’s greatest disappointments?
It makes me wonder about what could have been? I wonder what would have happened if he had actually followed the Lord in faith instead of making himself priest and acting the way he did?
3. What Could Have Been?
Imagine this… The King of Israel is there with his people at Gilgal as they are preparing for battle against overwhelming odds and there in front of his tent, the king is sitting at a table. He is writing the Word of God with his own hand just as God had commanded him! And the people hear him reading out loud as he writes! They hear him praising God as he recites the Scriptures he is writing! Scriptures like: “Moreover, I will make My dwelling among you, and My soul will not reject you. I will also walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.” (Lev. 26:11). Or how about, Deuteronomy 4:31, "For the Lord your God is a compassionate God; He will not fail you nor destroy you nor forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them.”
What would it have been like to be there facing the Philistines and hear your king cry out as he writes the words, "’The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.’" (Deuteronomy 31:8)!
It is what could have been! God had given him the things that would make the difference in the hearts of the people that followed him. The people probably would have followed him against the gates of Hell itself if he had just followed the Lord with all of his heart! Instead, he desires that everyone else follow his instructions without question. Instead, he sends out orders that state everyone who does not come and fight in the battle will be punished or even killed! (1 Sam. 11:7) He is not leading from a relationship of love for the Lord! He is leading from his position of authority as king. And by the start of the great battle with the Philistines in chapter 13, many of the people abandon him and were slipping away. They would rather face the wrath of Saul than to die for a king that does not seem to care about them at all! At least that is the way it looked!
Saul no longer lives by the new heart that God gave him. He has buried what God did for him that day, years ago, when he met Samuel! The new heart is covered with dark and numerous sins, fear and a lack of faith. His faith is in his own abilities. No one can approach him! No one can be honest with him. In fact, Saul becomes so self-centered and so far away from God that even Samuel is afraid of him! The Lord tells Samuel to go and find the new king that God has selected and Samuel says, “‘How can I go? When Saul hears of it, he will kill me.’” (1 Sam. 16:2).
4. The Enemies Tactics...
Up to this point, the Philistines have not been able to conquer Israel! Even though Saul has had his problems. So they change tactics. Blacksmiths!!!
During the reign of Saul, the Philistines seem to have changed tactics. They would bide their time and carry out their plan to disarm Israel. King Saul was a poor manager of Israel. It would seem that after Samuel’s death there was another, at least short, famine of God’s Word. King Saul would have to resort to throwing sacred stones to make decisions (like throwing dice). He did not keep an eye on the economy of his country the way he should have. The people were trading with the enemy! Saul did not keep an eye on the technology of his country! Israel had no one with the knowledge of metal working!
Here is what it had come to! “There were no blacksmiths in the land of Israel in those days. The Philistines wouldn’t allow them for fear they would make swords and spears for the Hebrews. So whenever the Israelites needed to sharpen their plowshares, picks, axes, or sickles, they had to take them to a Philistine blacksmith. The charges were as follows: a quarter of an ounce of silver for sharpening a plowshare or a pick, and an eighth of an ounce for sharpening an ax or making the point of an ox goad. So on the day of the battle none of the people of Israel had a sword or spear, except for Saul and Jonathan.” (1 Sam. 13:19-22 NLT).
There is more going on than just getting plows and axes sharpened. It seems obvious to me that the position that Israel was in without their own technology of blacksmithing meant they could not make the plows or any tools for themselves. So they would have to go to the blacksmiths of the Philistines.
Through archaeology, we now know that the Philistines were masters at forging iron and turning it into steel. They did not invent the technology of making steel but they perfected it. they also protected it and would not allow other cultures to learn the process of producing steel. They had figured out that if they left the iron in the fire for longer periods at higher temperatures that the iron would absorb some of the carbon from the wood in the fire. They may not have known about carbon molecules, but they certainly understood that charcoal made the iron harder. And they figured out that when they mix this metal with certain other kinds of softer metals, that the steel would get even harder.
The land of the Philistines was located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in an area which Israel should have taken during the conquest. But they did not. (The area is called the Gaza strip today.) The area was sitting on a major trading route and because of this the Philistines influenced the world from their location with their metal work and their beliefs. This was a job that Israel was supposed to have been doing.
Today, archaeologists find iron artifacts like plows and axes at most Israelite sites from this period, but weapons are found only at Philistine sites. So, science has confirmed the Bible again! “So on the day of the battle none of the people of Israel had a sword or spear, except for Saul and Jonathan.” (v. 22 NLT).
If only Jonathan and Saul had swords on the day of the battle, then that confirms to us that the Philistines were not just sharpening the tools of the Israelites. It seems that the Israelites we're having to take metal to the Philistines in order to have them shape them into necessary farm implements and tools in order for the Israelites to grow their crops. It was probably in this way that the Philistines disarmed Israel. Israel would have still been using bronze swords. Bronze swords would have been considered to have been well out of date when put up against modern weapons like steel swords or spears.
And remember our mimetic desires? The Philistines had iron/steel farm implements, axes and hoes and the people of Israel wanted them too. At least this is how it makes sense to me. And I believe that the fact that there were only two swords left in Israel confirms this conclusion. If you needed a new plow you went to the Philistines even though they were the enemy, and you handed them whatever metal you had which was probably bronze and probably a sword or other weapon, then you paid them in silver to take your only defensive weapon, which was your sword or spear, and turn it into something else that you could not use as a proper weapon to defend yourself against the enemy who were also your blacksmiths! Wow!
It is a spiral of destruction! You give up what you have to defend yourself with, in order to have something in its place that may give you prosperity and you do this by going to your enemy so that they can then come and take away your prosperity when you cannot defend yourself? And King Saul let this happen under his watch!
And God's people are still falling for that today. How many things has the devil put in our path that we want to have, we want to hear, we want to watch, we want to taste, we want to experience, we want to feel, we want to know… and we even pay for it so it can distract us and take us away from spiritual growth! Away from God’s people! Away from Church! Away from His Word! Away from family! And even away from God Himself! How much do we pay for cell phones for our kids? Cable or satellite or Internet? Do we guard our spiritual walk with God against these things that can so easily influence us? Are these things and more, taking away our defensive weapon? The Word of God is a Two Edged Sword! Do we wield it and sharpen it, or do we trade it for the chance to be like the people around us?
And why do we do it? Because we want what they have too!
Application - Connecting it to Jesus…
Like Saul, God has prepared things for us to do in this life! “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10 NASB). And like Saul, the Lord tells us that if we obey Him we will be blessed! (Luke 11:28 NASB) James, who was the brother of Jesus, tells us, “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.” (James 1:22–25 NLT).
Think about it! What is distracting you from what is truly important? And while we are on it, what are you teaching the next generation by letting that happen?
What Have You Learned?
Here's the list of daily Bible readings for the week of this lesson:
Monday, 1 SAMUEL 10:1-11:15
Tuesday, 1 SAMUEL 12:1-25
Wednesday, 1 CHRONICLES 9:35-39, 1 SAMUEL 13:1-18
Thursday, 1 SAMUEL 14:1-52
Friday, 1 SAMUEL 15:1-16:23
Saturday, 1 SAMUEL 17:1-31
Sunday, 1 SAMUEL 17:32-18:30
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