May 21, 2015

Persistent sin...

1 Chronicles 9:1–10:14, 1 Timothy 5:18–6:2, Psalm 79:1–13

The first king of Israel was selected because of his appearance, but appearances don’t count with God. This king, Saul, disobeyed God after a battle where he was told to take no spoil, then he lied about it. God took the kingdom from him, yet he remained head of state for a while and led his army into a battle with the Philistines.

The battle pressed hard against Saul, and the archers found him, and he was wounded by the archers. Then Saul said to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised come and mistreat me.” But his armor-bearer would not, for he feared greatly. Therefore Saul took his own sword and fell upon it. (1 Chronicles 10:3–4) Saul’s fear of being abused by his enemies was greater than his fear of death. However, the Philistines greatly dishonored Saul’s body, a disgrace that would have horrified him had he known.

And when all the men of Israel who were in the valley saw that the army had fled and that Saul and his sons were dead, they abandoned their cities and fled, and the Philistines came and lived in them. The next day, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, they found Saul and his sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. And they stripped him and took his head and his armor, and sent messengers throughout the land of the Philistines to carry the good news to their idols and to the people. And they put his armor in the temple of their gods and fastened his head in the temple of Dagon. (1 Chronicles 10:7–10)

However, God is sovereign over the way Saul died and the way his body was shamed. “So Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the Lord in that he did not keep the command of the Lord, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance. He did not seek guidance from the Lord. Therefore the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse.” (1 Chronicles 10:13–14)

This is a warning to the people of God. If given a position of responsibility, God expects me to measure up to His faith in me by putting my faith in Him. I cannot do whatever I please. He might not put me to death (even though He could), but the result of disobedience will not be anything enjoyable.

In the NT reading, Paul gives Timothy guidance in how to deal with guys like Saul in his congregation. Even though Jesus died for our sins, this is no excuse to keep on sinning....
As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality.... The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. (1 Timothy 5:20–21, 24)

This warning is also for me and other believers who live today. Persisting in a sin is supposed to be publicly rebuked (as least as public as the sin is) so others will be afraid of the consequences of sin. While Christians are supposed to be nice and love one another, love means a deep concern for spiritual health. If other Christians love me, they must rebuke me when I persist in sin. If they do not, God will. He actively judged His people in Saul’s time and any other time they rebelled against Him. As the psalmist wrote, those sins had painful consequences...

O God, the nations have come into your inheritance; they have defiled your holy temple; they have laid Jerusalem in ruins.... How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever? Will your jealousy burn like fire? Pour out your anger on the nations that do not know you, and on the kingdoms that do not call upon your name! For they have devoured Jacob and laid waste his habitation. (Psalm 79:1, 5–7)

Still, the people of God can plead for sinners and ask God to deal with the forces that lure us into sin.... “Let the groans of the prisoners come before you; according to your great power, preserve those doomed to die! Return sevenfold into the lap of our neighbors the taunts with which they have taunted you, O Lord! But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise.” (Psalm 79:11–13)

All of this will contribute to my prayers today for the people of God. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil....”

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