What is it?

Looking through my journals and email, I found out that I was wishing for a lot of good things to happen. I claimed to be “hoping,” but I did not/could not be confident the desired outcome would happen. That is not what hope is about. Hope is more than wishing. [Want to know more? Click here.]

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Historical Patterns

As I studied 1 Samuel 11, I didn’t have any great insights leading to practical application for me. The notes I referenced, Tom Bradford’sTorah Class, told readers of the historical books to be looking for patterns that occur over time and throughout the books of the Bible.
His thoughts were that things and events in Scripture do not happen in isolation. The events in Scripture build upon one another. I think we should have started our study of these historical books in the book of Judges, but even then there are links and patterns dating even further back in history.
For instance, 1 Samuel 11:6-7 give us an account of the way Saul called all the people of Israel together – by cutting apart two oxen and sending parts to each of the tribes with the message to all the able-bodied warriors to meet Saul in Bezek. The purpose was to form an army strong enough to go out against the army of Ammon who had severely threatened a town in Benjamin.
It’s kind of gruesome; however, it was not done in isolation. It actually had occurred before where the individual cut up was a man’s concubine who had been murdered by the people. In that situation, the tribes were gathered together to avenge those who did this wrong to the woman. Here, in 1 Samuel, Saul is reminding the tribes of this incident and asking them to come defend the city where that man had lived, kind of as pay back. (See Judges 19-21 for the background and beginning of this pattern.)
There are many more examples of events that happened in this chapter that can be seen as a pattern throughout the history of Israel. Without the help of the commentators, they are sometimes hard to see. I think, as we do our daily reading of the Bible, we need to take into account the whole picture. This is why Bible reading is as important as daily excursions into individual passages or chapters (Quiet Times), and deep and devoted time spent in Bible study. We need the overview. We need to watching for patterns and repeated commands so we don’t see each event and situation in isolation from the rest of Scripture. If you are not currently doing an “overview” type of reading the Bible, just start somewhere, keep track of where you’ve been, and look for the patterns.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Salvation Before the Law

    1 Samuel 10 gives the account of how Saul was both privately and publicly announced as king of Israel. Part of Samuel’s conversation with Saul in private included a series of events that would happen to confirm to Saul that Samuel’s message was from God. These prophecies immediately occurred and, hopefully, confirmed to Saul that he was designated by God to be the first king of Israel, although Saul was initially not very excited about the idea.
     Samuel gathered all the tribes of Israel so God could reveal the anointing of Saul to them. After a process of elimination, Saul was the “chosen” one, however, Saul could not be found. He was hiding with the baggage. We are not told why he was doing this; it could be from humility, fear, reluctance, or something completely different.
Before the choosing process occurred, the Lord spoke to the people through Samuel. “Thus says, the Lord, The God of Israel, ‘I brought Israel up from Egypt, and I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the power of all the kingdoms that were oppressing you.’ But you have today rejected your God, who delivers you from all your calamities and your distresses; yet you have said, ‘NO, but set a king over us!” (1 Samuel 10:18-19).
     The point I want to look at comes from the description God gave for what He did for the people: “delivered” and later, “delivers.” Some translations use the words “saved” and “saves.” This is an account of God’s salvation being freely offered to the people of Israel. The same salvation He offers to us. Notice, God said He saved them before they had one word of the Law. The Laws is not, then or now, the means of salvation. Salvation is a choice God makes and provides a way for us to access it through faith.
     This is an important truth for every person on this earth. Following the precepts and statutes of the Old Testament saves no one. That is not the purpose of the Old Testament, even the first five books, the Law. Romans 3:20 tells us the purpose of the Law: “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.” The Old Testament account here of the words of God reveals the same truth to us. This is the message of all of Scripture. This is the truth from the beginning of time. 
     Whether a Jew or Gentile we are saved apart from the Laws God gave Moses. It’s been salvation then Law since the beginning of time. Therefore, we should not expect people to follow the Laws (of society or of God) before they are saved. Obedience to the Law only becomes possible after being saved. Let me say it again: it is not the Law that saves us. It’s God’s grace and mercy and power.