Text: 1 Samuel 13, 15, 31
I am going to start this sermon with a story. I used to work with elementary schoolers before. Once I was sitting at the lunch table between two kindergarteners who were five year old by that time. Oliver had a piece of lego in his hand. Gabby wanted to play with it so bad, so she asked me, “Can you tell him to share? I really want to play with it.” So I asked Oliver, “Hey, Oliver, would you mind sharing your lego with Gabby?” Oliver said, “But she’s not going to marry me.” I turned to Gabby, “He wants you to marry him. Would you marry him?” Gabby thought about it for one minute, seriously, and said, “Fine, I’ll marry him. But it’s just pretend. It’s not for real.” Oliver said, “See, she is not going to marry me for real.” I asked Gabby, “What do you want to do now?” She thought about it for another minute, seriously, and said, “Fine, I’ll marry you for real. Can I just have the lego right now?” Oliver hesitated, “But I think I like my lego better.”
Sometimes, we are just like my student Gabby. We can be so focused on something we want, we think it’s good and lose the sight of anything else. It does not have to be legos. Sometimes, it could be the troubles we experience in our lives. Sometimes, it could be something we think is good. Sometimes it could be the things we like so much and we just want it so bad. Actually, today I am going to talk about a Bible character who had similar experience. His name is Saul.
Saul’s story actually started with humility. By lot, Saul was chosen as a king. As a huge man, he hides himself in the baggage because he thinks he is not worthy. That was just the beginning.
- In troubles, we need to focus on God.
In 1 Samuel chapter 13, once Saul was in the battle against Philistines. Saul has 3,000 people in his team. Philistines have 30,000 chariots, 6,000 horsemen, and people like the sand on the seashore just like the descendants of Abraham. Guess which team would win? It is not anything like Alabama Crimson Tide vs Ohio State Buckeyes. This is like the best players from those two teams play against us (happened to be 10 people in class). Just like we need one more person in our team, Samuel promised to bring Saul a best player. And it was almost the time. But Saul has been waiting because Samuel was late. Seven days passed, Saul still didn’t see Samuel anywhere. But what he sees is that people are scattering from him, Samuel is no where close, and Philistines are assembling. After seven days, Saul is done. He cannot wait anymore. So Saul goes ahead and offer sacrifice which he should not. As many of you know, in Old Testament time, only priests can stand in front of God and give sacrifice. Giving sacrifice oneself without doing it through a priest is definitely a big no no. When Saul is experiencing such difficulty, he cannot see God anymore. He only focuses on his trouble.
Do you ever experienced a time that the you feel the problem is so big? You just cannot deal with it. It gets bigger and bigger when you start to focus on it. And at one point, it would cover your eyes that you cannot see God in your life anymore. There is a quote I liked a lot, “Do not cry to God how big is your trouble. But claim to your trouble how big is your God.” Yes, our God is greater! Our God is greater than any troubles in our life. If our God is the greatest, who or what should we focus on rather than God? There is nothing else worth our attention because we have the greatest One and we are standing by the greatest One already!
- We should focus on God when we think something is good.
Let’s continue with Saul’s story. In 1 Samuel chapter 15, another time, Saul is in the battle again. This time, he has to fight against Amalek. The LORD tells him before that he needs to kill everyone from Amalek city, everyone from that city and destroy everything they have everything they have, including ox, and sheep, camel and donkey. This is a very clear command. Saul did pretty well this time, unlike last time. When Saul defeated Amalek, he captures the king and kills all. At the same time, Saul keeps all the ox and sheep because they are good. Hmmm, ox and sheep, they are good for barbecue, stir fry, grill… Saul must think they are yummy so he keeps them. But Samuel does not think so. Samuel comes to rebuke Saul, “Why didn’t you follow the command of the LORD?” Saul was like, “Hmmm, well, you know, the people think these things are good so they kept them. And maybe they can be good for sacrifice too.” Samuel said something very important, “In the eyes of the LORD, obedience is preferred than sacrifice.”
Saul focuses on the things that he thinks it could be good. But God clearly says NO. Many things can be seen good in human eyes but not God. In ministries, it can be so attempting to preach the Gospel to people only by telling them believing in Christ can bring eternal life without mentioning sin. Who doesn’t want eternal life? And we can get more people to church in this way. Is that the God you believe or tell people about? Are you sure that is the God of Holiness, righteousness and that is the God who is coming back to judge us one day? It can be so attempting to tell people, “‘God’ wants you to sell everything and follow Him. Just sell everything and donate to church.” Then we can get more money and have a bigger building and more equipments for worship service. And it also feels good to speak in the name of “God”, right? But God does not work that way. If focus on the things we think is good, we cannot see God. And it also makes us blind which unables us from seeing God’s standard of doing things.
- The result of not focusing on God.
Let’s take a look at Saul about his ending. In 1 Samuel chapter 31, in the end of the story, Saul is in the battle against Philistines again. His families and people died. Saul is badly injured.He focuses so much on himself that he does not want to be killed by gentiles. He kills himself. The greatest tragedy of Saul is not the suicide, but he does not have chance to repent. In these stories of Saul, we do not see God anywhere. Saul focuses on himself which leads him further and further away from God. To one point, he cannot return and makes the decision of committing suicide.
Brothers and sisters, what is it in your life that is covering your eyes? What is it in your life that makes you blind and cannot see God? Where is the place you cannot see God? Unlike Saul, we still get time today, we still get time right now to repent to God, to go back to Him, to turn back to Him and fix our eyes on God. He gives us grace and He is the God of forgiveness.
Let’s pray. Dear heavenly Father, We thank you for the story of Saul as a warning in our life. We thank you for this day and breathe we have. Please help us to see those things, remove those things away from our life, and fix our eyes on the You again because you are the greatest One in this world. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.