Monday, August 8, 2011

He grieved long & deeply over him

Lately I've been reading through the Book of 1 Samuel in the Bible and the character of Samuel himself has really been making an impression on me. First of all, Samuel is the son of Hannah - one of my favorite people in the Bible due to her raw honesty before God. Just like so many of us, Hannah's life was not picture-perfect and yet she had an intimate relationship with God. When Hannah's dream came true, she gave it, she gave him, right back to the Lord.

OK, don't get me started talking about Hannah. This is about Samuel. Today I was particularly struck by Samuel's relationship with King Saul in 1 Samuel 15. Through Samuel God had given Saul specific instructions on what to do during a battle with one of Israel's enemies. Like so many of us, Saul listened to God to a point, but then thought he could make some improvements on God's plan. Always a mistake. 

Saul partially obeyed God, but ultimately decided to follow his own wisdom. Poor Samuel had no choice to tell Saul exactly what God thought of his half-hearted obedience (He's not impressed, God is an all or nothing kind of guy). 

When Saul tries to argue that his disobedience was really for God's glory (he was going to sacrifice the animals he had sinfully kept to God), Samuel says: Do you think all God wants are sacrifices - empty rituals just for show? He wants you to listen to Him! Plain listening is the thing, not staging a lavish religious production. Not doing what God tells you is far worse than fooling around in the occult.

However this is the part that really got me. Eventually Saul confesses that he sinned and he says to Samuel, "I have sinned. But don't abandon me! Support me with your presence before the leaders and people. Come alongside me as I go back to worship God." And Samuel did. After all that you would think Samuel might have self-righteously abandoned Saul to suffer the consequences of his sin. But he didn't. Samuel went with Saul. 

At the end of chapter 15 it says that after Samuel and Saul parted ways that "Samuel never laid eyes on Saul again in this life, although he grieved long and deeply over him". That line struck me more than any. I think Samuel probably cared for, or even loved, Saul and desperately wanted him to do the right thing, but Samuel couldn't control Saul. When Saul chose disobedience and the wrong path, it deeply grieved Samuel. At that time, who was closer to God than Samuel? As far as we know, no one. Samuel knew for certain what God wanted accomplished through Saul, but he could not control Saul's response. 

Samuel's relationship with Saul is essentially what all human relationships are like. We cannot control what another human being does. We can hope, pray, encourage, exhort, love, and confront. But we cannot control. And when we try to control it is always going to be miserably frustrating for either others, ourselves, or both. 

I just like Samuel. Just as his mother's life was not easy but honest, his life also seems full of so many frustrations that he must endure and stay faithful in. I love chapter 15's story of Samuel's faithfulness to both God and Saul. I pray that I will be as faithful and loving to both Jesus and the people He has put in my life for me to love and serve. 

* All Scripture quotes are from The Message

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