Today’s Reading: 1 Sam 2:22–4:22, James 1:9–18, Ps 119:17–32
Today’s Theme: Man’s Vanity vs God’s Glory
When the vanity of man puts itself against the glory of God, there can be only one winner. Set your heart to live for God’s glory rather than living in the vanity of man.
1 Samuel 2:22–4:22
Wicked men and weak women
Now Eli was very old, and he kept hearing all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who were serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 1 Samuel 2:22 (ESV)
Eli’s sons are debauched. They were the worst kind of sinners because their rebellion against God was so open, in the face of God’s blessings and the responsibility placed on their lives.
These “ministers” of the tabernacle were committing adultery with the sanctuary workers. This shows how evil their apostate hearts had become.
Ministry and worship is a dangerous endeavour for those whose hearts do not belong to, or remain focused on the Lord. The one performing the ministry is in a place of influence and responsibility, whilst the one being ministered to often opens themselves up in trust.
This is why the ministry is not just a profession, it is a calling from God. As believers we need to walk in holiness and exercise discernment, measuring ourselves and our ministers by the word of God, which rules over us all.
Paul warned the younger Pastor Timothy about these wicked men in 2 Timothy 3:5–9 “… For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions,… But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all…”.
If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the LORD, who can intercede for him?” But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the LORD to put them to death. 1 Samuel 2:25 (ESV)
These men were guilty of high handed sin against God and none could deliver them from the judgement that God had determined to give them.
We should give thanks that we do have an advocate with God the Father, who intercedes for us, namely God the Son, Jesus Christ.
John encourages us in 1 John 2:1, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”
However we must not take this intercession for granted. Paul warns us in Ephesians 4:30 “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” And we must remember that the Holy Spirit is involved in our intercession as the bible tells us in Romans 8:26.
If we grieve the Holy Spirit, how can the Spirit make intercession for us? We must not take this for granted, we are called to live in honour to the Lord and to repent quickly if we slip.
For those who resist the call of the Holy Spirit there remains no other method of intercession for their sins offence before God as Jesus taught us in Mark 3:29
Why then do you scorn my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded for my dwelling, and honor your sons above me by fattening yourselves on the choicest parts of every offering of my people Israel?’ 1 Samuel 2:29 (ESV)
We must not make our children into little idols, challenging God for honour and worship in our lives. Matthew 10:37
The bible calls us, as parents, to shepherd our children, which includes rebuking them where necessary.
We need to face up to the biblical truth that our children are all born into sin, with a sinful nature and bent toward rebellion. Without our love, guidance and discipline, they will walk in gross sin.
If we love our children, we will not make them into idols, exalting them above God and His word.
Hebrews 12:11 remind us “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Although it is not easy for the child, it is hard for the parent also.
Proverbs 23:13-14 teaches us “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.” If required, controlled smacking is biblical and helpful.
Be encouraged by the word of God today, to actively discipline your children to the glory of God.
Therefore the LORD, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out before me forever,’ but now the LORD declares: ‘Far be it from me, for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed. 1 Samuel 2:30 (ESV)
God is not bound by the laws of the universe, as some cults teach. Some teach that even if someone is living in rebellion against God but follows some spiritual laws or godly principles, that God is obligated to bless them… this is heresy.
God is not ever obligated to do anything. God is completely free. Anything God does is what He has chosen to do. God declares His freedom here by stating that He will only honour those who honour Him.
Hear God’s voice
Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant hears.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 1 Samuel 3:9 (ESV)
Samuel was sleeping where the Ark of the Covenant was, which speaks of God’s presence and God’s covenants. Today these would be the Holy Spirit (God’s presence) and the Bible (God’s covenants). It is primarily through God’s word that we hear God’s voice today.
We are also led by God the Holy Spirit and God can, by the Spirit’s insight and revelation, use things all around us to speak to us.
We need to live our lives in God’s presence, by mediating on His word and walking in step with His Spirit, this way we will hear God’s voice clearly.
Jesus said in John 10:27 “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
Like Samuel, we say today, “Speak Lord, your servant hears”.
And when the people came to the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the LORD defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD here from Shiloh, that it may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies.” 1 Samuel 4:3 (ESV)
The people wanted the Ark, not God. Notice they said “that it may come among us”, not that God might be with them.
We are not saved by the things of God but by God himself. We must not put our trust in any external thing, no statue, cross, building, book or place, will bring us salvation.
We cannot separate the things of God from God Himself, we cannot use the things of God aside from a loving relationship with God.
Baptism, communion, corporate worship, prayer and bible study are all of benefit (when undertaken), in the context of a loving, living relationship with God.
The ways of God cannot be separated from the person of God, if they are we end up with vain and dead religion. Romans 1:21
And she said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.” 1 Samuel 4:22 (ESV)
This is a sad state for any Christian and for any church. The glory of God had left Israel, God’s glory is God’s presence and for us, this is God the Holy Spirit.
As Pastor Dennis teaches, we must not grieve or quench God the Holy Spirit in our lives, He is the very glory of God.
Jesus told us in John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
Do not live a vain and dead life today, live in and for God’s glory, live by God’s word and His Holy Spirit.
For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. James 1:11 (ESV)
As we go about our daily tasks, like going to our place of employment, going to school or working in the home, we must not allow these pursuits to overtake us.
In particular, we need to be careful when we are pursuing more money, it is so easy for the pursuit of money and money itself, to become an idol. Our culture encourages us to get more and more. We need to avoid the crazy rush for more things, because as James says, the rich man fades away in the midst of his pursuits.
The crown of life
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12 (ESV)
God rewards us for enduring trials and remaining steadfast in our commitment to the Lord. “Trials” here, simply means, difficulties in life that may threaten our faithfulness to God.
We are called to persevere, this will produce character in us and it is for our perseverance that God rewards us.
An old but good biblical doctrine is, “The perseverance of the saints”, which states that those who are truly saved will have a desire to persevere and by God’s Holy Spirit and grace, will indeed persevere to be ultimately saved.
Those who persevere through life’s many trials, prove themselves to be God’s elect children and prove through their perseverance, that they actually love the Lord.
The crown of life is a conditional promise only to those who love the Lord. As Jesus said those who love the Lord will persevere in keeping the Lord’s commands.
Thank God for the promise of the crown of life that is yours in Christ today, this very promise should help us all to persevere.
Desires and appetites
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. James 1:14 (ESV)
Our temptations come from our own desires, we cannot be tempted with something we do not want.
You could not tempt me with a Marmite sandwich… I hate Marmite, but you could tempt me with a jam one!
The food example is simple and humorous, but it is a good picture when it come to all types of desire. We can only be drawn away by something we actually want. This is why God changes our hearts, through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, so our desires are changed.
Check your desires today, if your appetite needs to change then ask God to change your heart. This is one of the greatest keys to overcoming temptations. Only God can do this for you of course, but you can humbly ask God to change your desires.
At the same time, you need to eat the kinds of things that will train your taste and appetite to be for the things that please God. One way of doing this is reading the bible regularly, watching and listening to biblical things and cutting down on your intake of less helpful things like TV etc.
Vain cycle of sin
Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. James 1:15 (ESV)
The cycle of sin is always the same and always brings death in one way or another, sin is a cycle of vanity.
We should not live our lives in the frustrating and unsatisfying vanity of sin, but to the glory of God.
As our Pastors always say, “you cannot sin and win”. Sin will always lead to death, so do not be fooled by the false promise of temptation. Flee temptation and sin today.
A selection of creatures
Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. James 1:18 (ESV)
There is nothing that makes us more special than the next human being. God desires that all would be saved. However, God according to His sovereign will, chose to “actually” save us by the truth of His word.
The reasoning James gives here is that, God wants a first fruits of His creatures. God wants to save a selection from every nation, tribe and language.
There are still unreached people groups who have never heard the Gospel, we must do our part in seeing the Gospel reach to the ends of the earth, so that the first fruits will have representation from all peoples.
Find out more about unreached people groups here http://joshuaproject.net/
Jesus died for all types of people, without distinction, while actually atoning for those He chose from before the world began. For this we should give God praise.
Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. Psalm 119:18 (ESV)
There is GREAT treasure in God’s word, it so rich and wonderful. If you cannot see that, ask God to change your heart and submit under the biblical teaching of our leaders, to start to cultivate a heart that sees the wonder of God’s word.
Clinging to the dust
My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word! Psalm 119:25 (ESV)
We, by nature, cling to the things of this world and are drawn away by earthly desires. We need God to give us the regenerating life of Himself, through the Holy Spirit and the life sustaining truth of His word.
Most of the above post is a copy of the original notes from the same date in 2014.
The Gospel Coalition on James 1