Posts Tagged ‘saul’

Here’s what I struggled with after watching Captain America: Steve Rogers appeared to be too otherworldly. He is so good and self-sacrificing. He is so willing to lay down his life for others that he even appears to be self-centered to his friends. You’re thinking – is this guy for real? No one is this good! But then as I thought about it, I realized: that is much more an indictment on my own heart and our culture than the story. In truth, the goodness and manliness of the imperfect Rogers is what makes Captain America such a worthwhile film.

Captain America is Jonathan

One day Jonathan the son of Saul said to the young man who carried his armor, “Come, let us go over to the Philistine garrison on the other side.” But he did not tell his father…

Then Jonathan climbed up on his hands and feet, and his armor-bearer after him. And they fell before Jonathan, and his armor-bearer killed them after him. And that first strike, which Jonathan and his armor-bearer made, killed about twenty men within as it were half a furrow’s length in an acre of land. And there was a panic in the camp, in the field, and among all the people. The garrison and even the raiders trembled, the earth quaked, and it became a very great panic. (1 Samuel 14:1, 13-15 ESV)

Jonathan, the son of Saul (surprising, eh?), is a man of courage and yet humility. He is brash and, with the help of his armor bearer, and decides to take on a whole Philistine garrison by himself – which leads to a great victory. He has such a faith and an almost unbelievable self-forgetfulness about him. He cares not that David would be king instead of him – he embraces David as a loyal and dear brother. He cares not for power. He sticks with his father even as Saul becomes more and more insane and given over to darkness. Jonathan is one of the most amazing people we learn about in the Old Testament. We named my son (middle name) after him because of all this. Jonathan is very real and very much lived. I’m sure he had struggles we don’t know about, but he was an amazing man.

Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America, is Jonathan. He cares nothing for glory or for power. He cares for his friends. He hates evil and bullies. He counts himself expendable for the fight against evil and is ready and willing to lay down his life. It’s almost unbelievable but I think that’s because these traits tend to be lacking in our comfortable and safe American lifestyle.

I love the humility of Steve Rogers. He’s so unaware of himself. He is extremely loyal. He can take a beating. He is sold out to a purpose higher than himself and everything is merely a bonus. You can’t help but root for Captain America even in a all the cheesy, but not cynical, patriotism.

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. (1 Corinthians 16:13-14 ESV)

Captain America is very good film. Out of the films released this summer, it’s up there and it definitely came through on the hype. I appreciated the bittersweet ending, even knowing what was coming, because of the character of Steve Rogers. I wanted more of these characters and more of Steve Rogers.

Be sure to wait until all the way past the credits before getting up out of your seat, you will be rewarded.

Can’t wait for Avengers

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For most of my walk, I’ve simply been annoyed when I get to the beginning of 1 Samuel. Saul, this tall, handsome, promising, young man, gets his first job opportunity and it just so happens to be the first king of Israel. He then goes out, gets the nation fired up, and promptly trounces the Ammonites for a major victory in his first battle. Saul then shows some class by not putting to death his initial doubters even with the people clamoring for it. What doesn’t this guy have going for him? He sounds a little like Barack Obama, only if the pres had been a part of catching Bin Laden in his first week in office, then forgiving Rush Limbaugh in a live public address soon after!

The Good Times Just Don’t Last

Saul is riding high, seems set to lead Israel to freedom over the powerful and oppressing Philistines, and then he starts to throw it all away…

Samuel said, “What have you done?” And Saul said, “When I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines had mustered at Michmash, I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the favor of the LORD.’ So I forced myself, and offered the burnt offering.” And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the LORD your God, with which he commanded you. For then the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. (1 Samuel 13:11-13 ESV)

Soon after that, he starts to get full of himself.

And the men of Israel had been hard pressed that day, so Saul had laid an oath on the people, saying, “Cursed be the man who eats food until it is evening and I am avenged on my enemies.” So none of the people had tasted food. (1 Samuel 14:24 ESV)

Even as he descends into self-aggrandizement, he’s still laying down the wood on Israel’s enemies. God has not abandoned him but Saul still does not get it.

When Saul had taken the kingship over Israel, he fought against all his enemies on every side, against Moab, against the Ammonites, against Edom, against the kings of Zobah, and against the Philistines. Wherever he turned he routed them. And he did valiantly and struck the Amalekites and delivered Israel out of the hands of those who plundered them. (1 Samuel 14:47-48 ESV)

Finally, he gets exposed and the kingdom is essentially taken away when he blatantly disobeys a straightforward albeit difficult command.

“Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.'” (1 Samuel 15:3 ESV)

And Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed be you to the LORD. I have performed the commandment of the LORD.” And Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the oxen that I hear?” Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen to sacrifice to the LORD your God, and the rest we have devoted to destruction.” (1 Samuel 15:13-15 ESV)

From this point forward in the text, Saul grows angry and paranoid, descending into darkness as he fights tooth and nail to keep HIS kingdom intact. Saul becomes a little more like Kim Jong Il in his leadership style, entering the “Tyson Zone,” killing priests and turning against even his own son. We can take 2 views of Saul at this point both of which reveal the lurking Pharisee in our hearts.

View #1: Saul’s mistakes through 1 Samuel 15 weren’t that bad! David did much worse!

Do you realize that David actually has more outward sin, bigger national mistakes, and more severe worldly consequences for his sin than Saul? Think about it: the census, Bathsheba, killing Uriah, and the number of concubines he took. What did Saul do in comparison? He didn’t wait for Samuel to come make the sacrifice. He didn’t kill all the livestock after a victory. This was prior to the kingdom being deeded over to David! Once God’s Spirit is withdrawn, Saul heads into darkness fully given over to his flesh, fighting to keep the crown for himself and his legacy, going against anyone and everyone (including Levite priests and his own son, Jonathan) who would get in his way. This is without the Spirit though! So why is Saul hammered more than David? Why is Saul’s kingdom taken away while David’s leads to Jesus?

David practically has the perfect balance of understanding the weight of sin and yet never losing sight of his acceptance by God the Father. David rarely loses sight of his own sin and his own unworthiness. When he does lose sight, he immediately reroutes back to humility and to the ground. This gives David a lot of compassion for those who follow him, for even those who would be his enemies. David can do this because he pursues God, is honest with God, loves God, and understands closeness with Him. Saul is completely out of touch with the root of his sin and how his sin is against God. It’s an utter blind spot for him. He never seems to pursue God in relationship. He views the Lord as an ambivalent god who has delegated power to him to lead Israel. Samuel attempts to point this out to him:

And Samuel said, “Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king over Israel. (1 Samuel 15:17 ESV)

Saul never rests in God’s acceptance of him. He lives to please others, not God. As a result, as king, he constantly swings from a rash, harsh, prideful leader to a soft, disobedient to God, people pleaser.

In my own struggles, I can identify much more with Saul than David. Saul does not see his sin in light of God. He justifies and simply sees thing horizontally. Just like him, I tend to view sin in levels, I judge myself by comparison to others. At least I’m not like that dad who yells at his kid at the grocery store. At least I read my Bible more consistently than that brother over there. When I do this, I downplay my sin and I’m attempting to establish a righteousness of my own. I see people as for me or against me, not for God or against Him. There’s no freedom there. I don’t know how many people I’ve hurt battling this area of sin in my life. Now make me king of Israel and give me success. Would I handle it differently than Saul?

View #2: Saul was a lunatic, I would never do the dumb things he did!

Saul, the first king of Israel, was a man who practically appeared to be a product of our 21st Century American culture. He was impatient, rash, and people pleasing. He gets jealous of David, and plots many times to kill him, at times just trying to manipulate David to walk into his own death. He tries to kill his own son, Jonathan. He kills the priests of Nob after they innocently aid David. Near the end of his life, he goes to a medium to seek answers as opposed to pursuing God. His life seems to be a wreck by the end and he is disconnected from the God who elevated him and entrusted the kingship to him. He acts like a lunatic at times in moments of rashness.

Put yourself in his shoes. You struggle with the source of your self-worth; even hiding behind some luggage on the day it is announced you are to be king. Yet you are tall and handsome and having everything going for you but you have not known closeness with God. You then get thrown into becoming the king out of no prior experience and no rise up the ladder. You love the praise of men and here you are in the most important position ever in the kingdom of Israel. Would that go to your head? If you live for the praise of men and secure an early victory turning hearts to you, do you think you could just flip a switch and just start living for the praise of God? Not apart from the grace of God, that is for certain. Saul is almost set up for failure and does fail.

Rest in God’s Acceptance of you and repent vertically!

After Saul is exposed when he doesn’t have the livestock killed in 1 Samuel 15, he is broken but only horizontally.

Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. Now therefore, please pardon my sin and return with me that I may worship the LORD.” And Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you. For you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel.” As Samuel turned to go away, Saul seized the skirt of his robe, and it tore. (1 Samuel 15:24-27 ESV)

Half-hearted is not even the right word for his repentance here – I think he really feels like he is repenting but what is he repenting of? He seems to be repenting of being exposed and being embarrassed. This is why he still wants Samuel to come with him, and make an appearance with him despite all that has happened. I do this all the time. I deal with sin because I have been exposed. I am embarrassed. I seek forgiveness from my kids or my wife, and completely ignore how I have ultimately sinned against God. I inadvertently downplay my sin. I miss out on true repentance.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1 ESV)

The lesson of Saul’s life is that we must rest in the fact that God has adopted us and that he is pleased with us as our Eternal Father. God is not satisfied with us but He is pleased with us. He will never leave us nor forsake us. There is no need to downplay or disregard or hide sin. Jesus paid for it all. We can view sin as it truly is, in us, and hate it and not fear rejection! Saul’s life is a tragedy because he never connected with this like David did. In Jesus, I can reject the way of Saul, the Pharisees, and myself because I am not condemned! I can hate sin and walk in freedom in the love of my Father.

The Rest of the Series:

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee: Jacob – Part 1

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee: Jacob – Part 2

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee: Ahab

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I think we all are born with the gift and ability to read the Bible through the eyes of a Pharisee.  You know you do it.  Why does Abraham lie about his wife and put her in jeopardy? I would never do that. Why is Jacob such a momma’s boy and trickster? What about Moses?  That guy heard God speak to him from a burning bush and then told God to have someone else do it? No way would I do that! King Saul, why not wait just a little more for Samuel before the rash sacrifices? Or all those kings after Solomon – so foolish. It’s a simply a little 3 step process that our flesh seems to have programmed into us:

Step 1. Stop confessing sin. Let your own sin become vague and distant to you.

Step 2. Make sure you’re comparing yourself to others around you, a lot.

Step 3. Be sure to only identify with people in Biblical accounts who are not in sin.

Over the course of the last 2 years or so, the way I read the Bible and see things in it has slowly started to transform, especially with regard to the lives that God documents for us in the Bible.  I am slowly learning to stop reading the Bible like a Pharisee (my flesh!) and to get more comfortable taking them off. I am slowly learning that the dudes in the Bible were real people just like us and I am just as much a sinful human being as they ever were. I am learning that the statements “I would have done the same thing” or “I totally did that last week” are much more accurate than “I would never do that” or “I’ve never been as bad as _____!” Maybe that is too much of a simplification but the key issue is this: Do I come to the Bible humbly as a sinner saved by grace or do I approach the Bible seeing things nearly all from just a religious legalistic perspective? Jacob is that passive liar. Ahab is that horrendous king. David was awesome (except for all that sin stuff with Bathsheba, you know, that was just a bad week). Joseph was the good brother who endured, and so forth. We judge these historical people in the Bible like the elder brother would in Luke 15. How about let’s be done with that? Let’s be done reading the Bible like a Pharisee. Maybe you don’t struggle with that but I certainly do. Tim Keller puts it like so:

“… we usually read the Bible as a series of disconnected stories, each with a “moral” for how we should live our lives. It is not. Rather, it comprises a single story, telling us how the human race got into its present condition, and how God through Jesus Christ has come and will come to put things rights. In other words, the Bible doesn’t give us a god at the top of the moral ladder saying, ‘If you try hard to summon up your strength and live right, you can make it up!’ Instead, the Bible repeatedly shows us weak people who don’t deserve God’s grace, don’t seek it, and don’t appreciate it even after they have received it.” – Counterfeit Gods (p.36-37)

In this series we’ll take a look at a number of men  of the Old Testament who have helped me, through whom I feel like I’ve seen in a new light recently, and whose stories give me a ton of encouragement in that new light. I am going to look at a few of the guys we classify as the “biggest losers,” and dig in a little bit:

Jacob (Genesis 25-50) – The deceiver. The passive whiner. The momma’s boy.

Saul (1 Samuel 8-31) – The people’s champion. The jealous king. The rash prideful fool.

Ahab (1 Kings 16-22) – The worst king of all? The weak husband of Jezebel. The enemy of Elijah.

These are men whom I would not instinctively name any kids after! But I have grown to love their stories and to really identify with them. Actually, you could say their stories teach me more about the Gospel than almost any other biographies in Old Testament.

The Series

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee: Jacob – Part 1

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee: Jacob – Part 2

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee: Saul

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee: Ahab

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My wife and I saw the new movie Robin Hood with Russell Crowe last week. Most of what I had heard about it was just so-so. Ebert thought it was too realistic and not fun. Someone else said it was too predictable. The previews with Russell Crowe rising out of the water made me laugh and think it should have been called “Gladiator 2”. On top of that, it was another Robin Hood movie.  How many predictable Robin Hood movies do we need? We had the disney cartoon, Men in Tights, Kevin Costner, and more old school Robin Hood movies I haven’t seen. Well, I think this one was worth it, especially because Russell Crowe absolutely destroys Costner in terms of acting chops and machismo. Crowe is the main reason I wanted to see this one; I knew that he would play the role well. As much as the guy is hard to like in real life, I have a hard time not appreciating his skills as an actor (even if it is the same role! See: Gladiator, Cinderella Man, Robin Hood). (Spoiler Alert!! for rest of this post)

But this movie, to me, is not really about Robin Hood. He’s just a part player who has a cool story – the fatherless wayward man who gets adopted into a family and then restored his true legacy to his true father who he never knew. It’s awesome how the true Lochsley son gets killed and Robin gets “grafted” in in his place.  He then takes on that identity, wins the heart of the lady, and is a key catalyst in defending England from invasion. Robin then becomes an outlaw because of his politic views (about half a century too early…) that he inherited from his father and because his leadership is a threat to the king. That’s a good story. But Robin Hood was not the key to the bigger plot of this movie:  a devious plan to destroy England. Who is the key? A man named Marshall played by William Hurt.

Marshall is the key advisor to the king, Richard the Lionheart and was adviser to Richard’s father as well. King Richard is killed and his brother John becomes king. The storyline is straight out of 1 Kings. John is young and foolish, and immediately kicks Marshall out and make the lying snake Godfrey his adviser. Godfrey then hatches the plot to help France invade. What would you expect Marshall to do next? Fade into the background, go off to pasture for sure. Nope. Marshall stays loyal to the king and to the big picture of protecting the country and keeps an eye on Godfrey. Marshall discovers the plot to invade, wisely figures out the best way to tell the king, and does his best to unify the country as Godfrey turns everyone against the king. Even in the midst of this, when King John learns of France’s invasion, he still balks at Marshall’s counsel. What is Marshall’s attitude? He still fights for him, works for the king’s best, and subjects himself to the king, who gets more prideful and foolish as the film goes on.

Marshall is such a good character. He is a man who seems to seek no glory for himself. Even at the end when all is settled, he gives all the glory to Robin. All Robin does is make one good speech and lead the men to battle, a battle that is pretty much settled once England unites. Marshall then becomes the official adviser to King John once again. This man pretty saves the country by discovering the deception and helping avoid civil war to then defeat an invasion and he just steps back into his old role that the young king embarrassed him in previously. Does he whine, complain, or seek recognition? Nope. Does he slander the king, a terrible and prideful leader? Nope. Does the king deserve to be followed like this? No way.

Though Marshall is an older character with no route to kingship, the way he supports the king and fights for the kingdom reminds me of Jonathan, the son of King Saul, and best friend to David (see 1 Samuel). King John reminds me of Rehoboam, the foolish son of Solomon (look it up in 1 Kings 12). Jonathan is the rightful heir to the throne but seeks not his own glory but the best for David, whom he knows is destined to be king. At times, Jonathan is ust as much of a warrior with heart for God as David is. You could argue that Jonathan would make a better king than David even – Jonathan walks in integrity, leads men by word and example, trusts God to enable to do what it takes, and is loyal and self-sacrificing. In all this, Jonathan walks in utter humility and deference of power to be a friend to David and to see God glorified not himself. This is Marshall. Except Marshall is a friend to the king and kingdom with no reward and no return. He essentially helps a king who practically acts like an enemy. The character of Marshall makes Robin Hood a really good movie.

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