Sermon Manuscript . . .
What to Do When Your World Falls Apart
Introduction to the AMAZING PEOPLE of 1 Samuel
Life does not always go as planned. Two men went out to hunt, so they went to a friend’s house on some farmland to ask him whether they could use his land to hunt. The one who knew the farmer went up to the door and the other man waited in the car. He asked, “Can we use your woods area for hunting?” The farmer replied, “Oh, that’s great–but I need a favor. I’ve got this old horse I love and it needs to be shot. It’s too old and I can’t bring myself to kill her. Would you do that for me?”
His friend said, “I don’t want to shoot your horse,” and the farmer said, “I just can’t do it. Please do it for me. Would you go ahead and shoot the horse for me?” His friend said, “Okay, I’ll shoot your horse and then hunt with my friend.” So he went back to his friend in the car and thought he’d have some fun–so he went up to his buddy in the car and said, “I can’t believe this guy. We’ve been friends for years and he just totally put me off. He told me to drop dead. We’ve been friends for years and he’s not going to let us hunt on his farm.”
So he got in the car and started to drive off, and when he went by the horse he said, “Wait a minute, I’m going to get this guy.” He got out of the car and said, “I’m going to shoot his favorite horse,” and he pulled out his gun and with that he shot the horse. Then immediately after he shot the horse, he heard, BANG BANG, and he turned to his friend who said, “Hurry up, let’s go–I just shot two of his cows.”
Life does not always go as planned. We can all learn from experiences like that. Some of the most effective learning comes through failure, difficulties, trials and those times like in our day, when our Lord makes it really obvious that He, and not you, is in total control. We know this–like when a note is included with your paycheck stating you’ve been laid off. Or you get a phone call from the police informing you your son has been arrested. Or the doctor calls to tell you what you feared most–you have caught the virus, and now the four walls of your private world close in around you.
God gives His best lessons during the toughest times. God’s guidance comes through knowing His Word and through those examples who follow His Word–and sometimes by those who are failing to obey his Word. Like good math, add God, plus His Word, plus trials, with some living examples, amazing people you can learn from, and that equation will result in sanctification. And for a few, it will lead to salvation–the way we glorify God, by becoming like Christ and coming to Christ. My family, this is what 1 Samuel is going to do for you.
We are taking a break from our normal exposition of 2 Peter to allow the unique teaching of this great Old Testament book to fire up your growth, by studying some amazing people whose example encourages growth in Christlikeness. Contained in this book are raw descriptions of life at its worst, emotions on the edge and hurts that the most beaten can identify with. That is why the book of 1 Samuel is loved so much—it’s a book that shows us how to handle the transitions of life. This book shows us the transition from judges to kings, and from a theocracy to a monarchy, from Eli to Samuel, from Samuel to Saul and from Saul to David.
But it’s also a book of emotion, life, rejection, hurts, failures, friendships, betrayals, successes, jealousies, passions and loyalty during a very low time in society. It’s a book that shows us how to deal with life when life is unfair, overwhelming, and when it’s falling apart. And what you’ll find at the beginning of this book is a society that is much worse than ours–a world that is falling apart. And you’ll see God’s people trying to fix it, but try to fix it the wrong way.
Originally, 1 and 2 Samuel were one book, called Samuel after the prophet. The primary geography and location of the book is the central Benjamin plateau, right in the middle of Israel–including Shiloh, Gibeah and Jerusalem. And my hope for you in this series is to see the hand of God through the lives of those who followed His Word, and to learn from the bad examples of those who did not. To begin that process, you need to know and understand the world in which Hannah, Eli, Samuel, Saul, Jonathon and David lived–what was their culture and society like?
Take a journey with me back to the beginning, as we set the stage for the difficult time of 1 Samuel. After God created the world and mankind, we find people and God locked into an endless cycle. Men chose to sin, and God righteously judges and graciously provides salvation. Adam and Eve rebelled against God, God proclaims the judgment of death and curses them, then provides a sacrifice by killing some animals to provide them with animal skins for clothes. But the entire human race intensifies their rebellion against God, and God righteously judges them with a universal flood, and yet again graciously provides salvation for some through Noah and the ark.
But society continues to rebel against God by building a utopia without God, centered around a tower. God judges them by confusing their language, and in doing so, creates many nations. But where is God’s salvation here? God chooses one man who would become a nation in order to reach the nations with the good news with the knowledge that will lead to faith in God. That man was named Abraham. But in order to become a nation, three things were necessary. Just as there are certain ingredients necessary to make a cake, there are certain ingredients necessary to make a nation–in fact three. You need a people, a constitution and a land.
So God places his people in Egypt and blesses them with a supernatural birthrate, so within just a few hundred years, they have grown into a body of more than 2 million. So they are now a people. Then God delivers them from Egypt through Moses and sends them to Sinai, where they receive their constitution, called the Law (found in Exodus and Leviticus). A big failure of trust led to 40 years of wandering (recorded in Numbers), then they‘re reminded a second time about their constitution (in Deuteronomy).
Then under Joshua’s leadership, they cross the Jordan, conquer up the middle, then south, then north–becoming a true nation with a people, constitution, and now a land. But God commanded them to fully occupy the land, remain unique, and not lose sight of their purpose. But again they disobey, and as a result they intermarry, lose sight of their mission to show off the one true God, and they become fragmented.
What was it like in their day? During the time of the judges, everyone did what was right in his own eyes–immorality, homosexuality, murder and rebellion ravaged the land. Society was incredibly wicked. They have concubines–then one of them was abused, killed, and then cut up into twelve sections and shipped to the twelve tribes, proving just how warped everyone’s moral compass was. Genuine faith was non-existent or drifted to externals. Pagan religions and their own designer beliefs were mixed into God’s law, to the point that evil was called good and good was called evil.
And you thought it was bad in our day. Friends, this is what it was like as the book of 1 Samuel opens. That’s why as you read the opening chapters, it doesn’t seem abnormal in chapter 1 for Elkanah to have two wives—Hannah, the mother of Samuel, and Peninnah. Hannah is an amazing mother in difficult times. It doesn’t surprise us that Eli the high priest has two worthless sons who didn’t know the Lord–yet they were priests. Eli and his boys function as a warning example. Instead of living as examples and teaching obedience to God’s Word, Eli’s sons stole the Lord’s sacrifices, and had sex with as many women as they could in the very entrance area of the tabernacle.
But that evil is nothing compared to what is about to happen. The nation of Jews was harassed by a coastal, seafaring, idol-worshipping people named the Philistines. Israel goes to war against them and they lose badly. Now the nation of Israel is a conquered, defeated people. Many have lost their homes, many are hiding in caves to save their lives. The Philistines now control everything and the Israelites have lost everything, including the ark of God and the Tabernacle in Shiloh. What do they do?
Instead of seeking God’s rule through His Word, they want an earthy ruler, like the world. And God gives them Saul, the first king in Israel. Saul becomes an example of doing things man’s way. Almost immediately, Saul demonstrates his true character and the rest of 1 Samuel is about the disqualification of Saul and the genuine qualification of God’s chosen king, David. The rest of 1 Samuel shows Saul on a steady decline down and David on a steady incline up. Saul continues to disobey and David increasingly obeys, to be examples for you and me.
In this seven-week series, we will learn from Hannah, Samuel, Eli and his boys, from Saul, from his son Jonathon and from king David–all who will impact you in great ways. We will not exposit the entire book, but exposit each section describing these amazing people to learn from. What happens when your world falls apart? What happens when society and the Christians who live there are devasted by an earthquake, a fire, a death, a virus? What are Christians supposed to do?
# 1 Don’t try to change your situation, but change your HEART
Turn to 1 Samuel 4, as everything is about to collapse. Look at 1 Samuel 4:2, “And the Philistines drew up in battle array to meet Israel. When the battle spread, Israel was defeated before the Philistines who killed about four thousand men on the battlefield.” Israel goes to battle against those accursed Philistines and they lose–four thousand are killed. They can’t understand why God has let them lose–but instead of examining their own hearts, instead of repenting, instead of evaluating their own relationship with the Lord, instead of confessing their sinfulness, look at what they decide to do.
In verse 4:3, “When the people came into the camp, the elders of Israel said, ‘Why has the Lord defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us take to ourselves from Shiloh the ark of the covenant of the Lord, that it may come among us and deliver us from the power of our enemies.’ ” They go and get god in a box.
Notice they called the ark an it. They have replaced a relationship with a religion. It is not about the Lord, but the Lord’s power. It’s not about internally pleasing Him from the heart, but it’s about externally getting the box to cause us to win. So let’s go get the powerbox. Maybe they thought, “If we open the lid, it will melt their faces off”–I’ve seen that somewhere. They turned the ark into an idol. And they believe this idol will deliver us, not God. Let’s change our situation, not our hearts. Our world is falling apart, so let’s get the box to fix our world and clean up this mess.
Isn’t that just like today? God can’t be trusted, so we’ll buy possessions. God isn’t going to help, so we’ll pursue pleasure. God doesn’t care, so we’ll claw for a higher position. So Israel gets Eli’s two wicked sons to bring the god in a box from Shiloh. Israel shouts in victory when it arrives, the Philistines get afraid, but are exhorted to fight. And look what happens in verses 4:10 to 11, “So the Philistines fought and Israel was defeated, and every man fled to his tent, and the slaughter was very great; for there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers. 11And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.”
Now their world has really fallen apart. God is their king, but now there is no symbol for their King–the ark is gone, there is no capital. Archeology tells us Shiloh was burned to the ground after this battle. The ark never returned, there is no priesthood–Eli hears the news in verses 12 to 18 and falls over, breaks his neck and dies. There is no land or wealth–the Philistines have captured all the trade routes so Israel is forced into hiding. They have lost all their wealth from the caravan tariffs. And there is no theocracy–the people have rejected God as their ruler, as their only King.
So what happens? God humorously shows the Philistines He doesn’t want them messing with His ark and it eventually is returned to the people. Then Samuel, God’s prophet, calls the people to return to the Lord. Turn to chapter 7, verses 3 to 6, “Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, ‘If you return to the Lord with all your heart, remove the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your hearts to the Lord and serve Him alone; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.’ 4So the sons of Israel removed the Baals and the Ashtaroth and served the Lord alone. 5Then Samuel said, ‘Gather all Israel to Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.’ 6And they gathered to Mizpah, and drew water and poured it out before the Lord, and fasted on that day, and said there, ‘We have sinned against the Lord.’ ”
At no time does God, through Samuel, tell the Israelites to fix their situation. But in verse 3 He tells them to “return to the Lord with all your heart.” And what does it mean to change our heart? Three things–verse 3 again, “If you return to the Lord with all your heart, remove the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your hearts to the Lord and serve Him alone; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.”
1 In verse 3, serve God alone
Dedicate yourself to Him alone–through the means of grace . . . reading, studying, memorizing God’s Word, being filled with the Spirit
2 In the middle of verse 3, remove the foreign gods
Dislodge any idol, any competition–remove anything keeping you from your relationship with the Lord . . . any sport, hobby, habit, or lust
3 And in verse 5 to 6, prayer and confession of sin
Disclose your sin to God–agree with Him about those sins in your life and ask for His help
What happens when your world falls apart? Don’t try and change your circumstances. Don’t pursue a political, financial, medical, physical answer–make certain your heart is right before God. God is in charge of all circumstances–He is in control. “But,” you ask, “why does God let it get so bad?” Yes, as an expression of His just anger and righteous judgment. Yes, as a reminder of His sovereign control. But also to get our attention.
Did changing their hearts work for Israel? Yes, chapter 7 tells us they defeated the Philistines, they got their cities back, and God blessed them greatly for a season. But things changed–in chapter 8, when Samuel grew old, with his sons living horribly–like Eli, Samuel was a poor example of a parent, since verse 3 tells us Samuel’s sons took bribes and perverted justice. The people lost heart again.
But what does Israel do? Do they repent and turn their hearts toward God? Do they serve Him, turn away from idols and confess their sin like they had done before? No. They try to change their situation/circumstances. They imitate the world by asking for a king. Look at the end of verse 5, “Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations. We want to be like everyone else. We don’t like our situation, so we’re going to fix it politically. We don’t like where our nation is headed, so we want to fix it just like the world does, with the right political leader.
What did God think of all this? Look at verse 7, “And the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Listen to the voice of the people in regard to al that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them.’ “ Their world was falling apart, but instead of changing their hearts, they were trying to fix their situation with a political solution by asking for a king. As a result, they were rejecting God. Every time, every time we seek a solution outside of God and His Word, we are rejecting God too.
They were rejecting God and so do you when you seek for a change other than going to God Himself. What they should have done was seek God with all their heart. But because they did not, God gave them what they wanted—a king like all the other nations. His name was Saul. The people don’t want God as King, they want their king. Way back in Deuteronomy 17, God made provision for a coming King–that wasn’t the problem. No, what the people wanted was a king like all the other nations–a king who would replace God, a king who would restore the glory of the nation of Israel without having to submit to their God, the one true God. They want an earthly king, a worldly king.
Kings during this time were the biggest and baddest warriors–the guy who led out front with the biggest club and the biggest sword. And that is just what Israel wanted. A GQ, 6-pack abs, Navy SEAL fighter–type king. And that’s just what Israel received. Don’t try to change your situation, but change your heart.
#2 Don’t try to offer a sacrifice, but OBEY His Word
Saul reigned for 40 years and it is often forgotten that Saul began really well as king of Israel. Here he was, head and shoulders bigger than anyone. He was humbly hiding when called to be king. For his first few years as king, he not only ruled well, but he took care of the enemies of Israel. But Saul’s world began to fall apart.
In chapter 13, Saul became proud and took the place of the priest by offering a sacrifice. In chapter 14, Saul made a foolish vow in the midst of a battle that caused him later to try to kill his own son Jonathon, who broke the vow. In chapter 15, Saul chose to disobey, the clear word of God through Samuel. So in chapter 16, God’s spokesperson Samuel anoints another who would be a king after God’s heart and not man’s desire–his name is David. And when Saul thought he might lose his position, power, heritage and fame–when the song, “Saul has slain his thousands and David his ten thousands” hit the top ten in Israel, Saul’s world fell apart.
Instead of trusting God, Saul was now in a position to lose everything that was important to him–he thought, because of another person. Like some of us here today, we feel because a fellow employee, our world is crumbling. Because of a virus, we’ve lost everything. Because of an unsupportive spouse or rebellious kids, all bad. But what do we do, when our world is falling apart? Saul shows us what not to do, and Samuel tells us what to do in chapter 15.
Read verses 1 to 3, “Then Samuel said to Saul, ‘The Lord sent me to anoint you as king over His people, over Israel; now therefore listen to the words of the Lord. 2‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, “I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt. 3Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” ’ ”
Here was a wicked people who butchered thousands. So what did Saul do? Look at verses 7 to 9, “So Saul defeated the Amalekites . . . 9But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were not willing to destroy them utterly; but everything despised and worthless, they utterly destroyed.” And what did God think of Saul’s action? Read verse 11, “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not carried out My commands. And Samuel was distressed and cried out to the Lord all night.”
So when Samuel confronts Saul with the truth of His disobedience, listen to what Saul says in verses 20 to 23, “Then Saul said to Samuel, ‘I did obey the voice of the Lord, and went on the mission on which the Lord sent me, and have brought back Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. 21But the people took some of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the choicest of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God at Gilgal.’ 22And Samuel said, ‘Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. 23For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king.’ ”
Saul tried to make it right, but it was too late. What do you do when your world falls apart? Don’t rationalize like Saul. Don’t plan to make a big sacrifice. Don’t try to bargain with the Lord. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Don’t make deals with God. Don’t say you’ll get your life together. No–obey God’s Word. Obey what God has said. When your world is falling apart, the only safe place is right in the center of God’s will, which is found in God’s Word. Do what God asks and don’t do what He says not to do. Imitate His attitudes, speak His words, obey His commands, and in time God will bless, reward, and honor. To obey is better than sacrifice.
Children–that means everyday obedience is better than a one-time act of cooking dinner or cleaning your room. Husbands, that means regular attention and affection is better than a one-time flower or card. (Of course those are nice too.) Employees–daily hard work and dedication is better than a one-time gift or complement to the boss. What is the path to blessing? It’s regular obedience. So when your world is falling apart, God calls you to obey–even when you don’t feel like it.
It will get scary in this new world–don’t skip, don’t bend, don’t compromise. Stand firm on God’s Word. “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”
What to do when your world falls apart? God shows us through the example of 1 Samuel that we . . .
A Don’t try to change your situation, but change your HEART before the Lord by
Dedicating yourself to Him alone
Dislodging any idol, any competition
Disclosing all sin to God
B Don’t pursue the world’s ideas, but pursue God’s plan
Did God call us to clean up the fishbowl, or to fish? Protecting the environment is cleaning the fishbowl. Feeding the poor is cleaning the fishbowl. Handing out condoms is cleaning the fishbowl. We must be compassionate, but our mission is to the share the Gospel. Better government doesn’t make better people, but better people (transformed) make better government. People only get better when they meet Jesus Christ.
How did God change the Roman empire, with its homosexual emperors, an army that butchered millions and rampant immorality, slavery and idolatry? It was not through political change, but through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Sharing the good news of how Jesus changes lives from the inside out—that changed society. It’s only God who changes society and the method God has given us is His Son, for once His Son indwells you, the Spirit changes a person for His glory and their good. Transformed people which transform society–not human means.
C Don’t try to offer IDEAS, tell others the TRUTH
Do not try to earn salvation. Do not try to look religious. Do not try to work your way to Heaven, but depend on Christ. When your world falls apart, it is your time to surrender your life to the one who is sovereign over this world. God must judge your sin, and the only one who could take your punishment and please God Himself, was the perfect God-man, Jesus Christ. He died for sin on the cross and rose from the dead. And if you admit your sinfulness, believe Christ is God who died in your place and have a heart that is willing to follow Christ as your Master, you can be saved.
When your world falls apart, give your whole heart to Christ. When your world falls apart, don’t make big sacrifices–no, obey God’s Word in the big things and little things. Like Daniel, do not compromise. And when your world falls apart, submit to the One who is control of this world and who will soon rule this world physically and permanently. Those who submit to Christ now will be blessed forever. Those who rebel from Christ now, will be cursed forever. Turn to Christ.