Pleasing The Lord With Our Own Effort

He waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the people were scattering from him. So Saul said, “Bring the burnt offering here to me, and the peace offerings.” And he offered the burnt offering. As soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came. And Saul went out to meet him and greet him. 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 13:8‭-‬13 ESV

There is no such a thing!

This is one of the many passages in the Bible that that tells us that we cannot please God on our own works. Saul decided to offer a burnt offering to God, what was bad with that? On the surface, it is seemingly a noble and rightful act – one might see it as Saul having high regards on God. However, if we have read the books written by Moses particularly Leviticus, we know that God instituted how to do the offering right down to the very details, including who should do the ceremonies, that is – the priest. So we see, Saul was not a priest nor a Levite, he was a Benjamite and yet He disobeyed the Law pertaining the offerings.

Moreover, the wrongful offering may be the tip of the iceberg. Saul did not fully have faith in the God Who made him king over Israel. God could deliver them from the possible attack of the Philistines even if Samuel arrived late but Saul believed otherwise so he acted upon himself. Too bad for him because God does not operate that way, we cannot please him by our own idea of pleasing Him, let alone disobeying His commands.

Sadly, this reminds me of a blog post I saw recently. The author supported the procession of images with Joshua 6:8.

And just as Joshua had commanded the people, the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the Lord went forward, blowing the trumpets, with the ark of the covenant of the Lord following them.
Joshua 6:8 ESV

Unfortunately, people who relies on this interpretation for the procession of images may have overlooked to read Exodus 35 onwards detailing the construction of the tabernacle and the ark of the covenant. Without a doubt, God clearly was the One Who ordered the Israelites to build the tabernacle and the ark of the covenant and He specified what they would looked like. He left nothing on the imagination of His workers.

Bezalel made the ark of acacia wood. Two cubits and a half was its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. And he overlaid it with pure gold inside and outside, and made a molding of gold around it. And he cast for it four rings of gold for its four feet, two rings on its one side and two rings on its other side. And he made poles of acacia wood and overlaid them with gold and put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark. And he made a mercy seat of pure gold. Two cubits and a half was its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth. And he made two cherubim of gold. He made them of hammered work on the two ends of the mercy seat, one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat he made the cherubim on its two ends. The cherubim spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, with their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat were the faces of the cherubim.
Exodus 37:1‭-‬9 ESV

He even sent the Holy Spirit to enable the builders for the work He intended them to do.

Then Moses said to the people of Israel, “See, the Lord has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft. And he has inspired him to teach, both him and Oholiab the son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan. He has filled them with skill to do every sort of work done by an engraver or by a designer or by an embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, or by a weaver—by any sort of workman or skilled designer.
Exodus 35:30‭-‬35 ESV

And in another passage.

“Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whom the Lord has put skill and intelligence to know how to do any work in the construction of the sanctuary shall work in accordance with all that the Lord has commanded.”
Exodus 36:1 ESV

Going back to the chapter in Joshua, let us not forget that it was also God Who communicated to Joshua how would they conquer Jericho. The command was explicit and not just Joshua’s interpretation of how God might want them to proceed. We know that this is the case because we can read them in the Bible.

Now Jericho was shut up inside and outside because of the people of Israel. None went out, and none came in. And the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days. Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. And when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people shall go up, everyone straight before him.”
Joshua 6:1‭-‬5 ESV

Furthermore, in Joshua the ark was not just a merely human-conceived image, God architected it and directly communicated it to His people. So the statues we see today are nowhere in the Bible that the Lord asks us to make yet be the object of our worship. This is also similar of having images of Jesus, which no one in our time now knows what He really looks like. Some says that it is just a representation just like the photos of our love ones. With that analogy, will they still have the same affection to the photo of their love ones if the photo does not at all look like their actual love ones? We see, we cannot represent God into the things that He created. We just cannot because we are His creation. A student cannot be above his master. Same thing that Saul and us cannot make our own rules or bend the rules just to satisfy our own idea how to please the Lord. Instead, we follow His commands in the Bible and we can only follow them if we are serious to read the Bible truthfully.

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Rhia

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Studying The Text: 1 Samuel 13:1

I must say that Bible reading is not an easy task where you use just your feelings to absorb the meaning of the texts. Reading the Bible is studying the Bible, it requires some technical aspects of it. Therefore, I am compelled to also journal the texts which I find needed further research to help me fully understand the passages and stay true to the correct way of interpreting the texts.

Instead of giving commentaries, I will just list down the site(s) I read as my references. Since I consider this blog as journal, I might want to read these entries again in the future and probably will want to recall where I read about the explanations to my queries.

References:

-Rhia

Legit Happiness: Be Full Of Mercy

As part of my desire to chronicle my study of the Word, I am also deeply convicted to start taking down notes every time I listen to worship services then meditate on the message afterwards by internalizing them in writings. In reality, I am not the pen-and-paper-journaling type of person so blogging really is my best chance to keep a memoir of what I learned from Sunday messages. With God’s help, I hope to keep this up.


Disclaimer: What I write may not be an accurate narration or representation of the preaching of our pastors and the church I attend. Rather it is how I processed the message and relate to my own personal experiences and learnings.


Currently, our church is on a series on The Beatitudes. We were on our fifth week last Sunday which means our topic was about mercy.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Matthew 5:7 ESV

Jesus further taught about mercy on a passage where His disciples were questioned by the Pharisees, attacking also Jesus’ character, when He was seen eating with sinners. In response, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for not extending mercy to those who they think to be notorious sinners.

And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Matthew 9:10‭-‬13 ESV

So far in my life, I have not known someone who exemplifies mercy other than God. We can read in the Bible a lot about God being so merciful. I think the only people who question God’s character of being merciful are those that are not rooted in the Word. Moreover, without a doubt Jesus is God because He demonstrates mercy like the Father does.

Jesus wants us to be merciful as He and our Father in heaven is merciful. As a follower of Christ, we often hear that we cannot give what we do not have. Therefore, if we do not genuinely receive God’s mercy in our lives, then it will be impossible for us to give mercy to those around us. Furthermore, mercy is a complex word that includes kindness, compassion and forgiveness.

Kindness

It is the simplest application of mercy. A good example in the Bible of showing kindness is David to Mephibosheth.

And David said, “Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” And the king said, “Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God to him?” Ziba said to the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in his feet.” And Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and paid homage. And David said, “Mephibosheth!” And he answered, “Behold, I am your servant.” And David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always.”
2 Samuel 9:1‭, ‬3‭-‬3‭, ‬6‭-‬7 ESV

This tells us that real kindness is doing something good for people without discrimination even we know that they cannot repay our kindness. Just like God’s kindness and favors to us in spite of our depravity and inability to out-give Him. Actually, the acts of kindness we give to people are really God’s, we are just a vessel.

Compassion

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the word compassion is mentioned. It is the ability to sympathize with other people’s suffering not only through feelings but by going our way to help. The priest and the levite were regarded as holy people but the thought that it would make them unclean if they went near the man superceeded their conscience to help.

Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
Luke 10:30‭-‬37 ESV

Jesus with all His authority commands us to show compassion. If God commands, He equips and empowers.

Forgiveness

This can be the most challenging form of showing mercy and probably one of those where we need God’s transformational power the most. It is always helpful that the parable of the unforgiving servant teaches us how the Lord forgives and treats unforgiveness of His people.

“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
Matthew 18:23‭-‬35 ESV

We must first acknowledge that we are the first recipients of forgiveness and we are not different than those who hurt us. We do not deserve forgiveness but God chose to forgive and reconcile us to Him. Therefore, forgiveness is a choice more than a feeling.

With all these teachings, I admit that I am still learning to demonstrate kindness, compassion and forgiveness to others. It is a pretty steep hill to climb. If people see me not being kind, compassionate and forgiving, it is my sinful nature which I succumb to. I am not proud of it and I know that I need to change, be more intentional in my actions since God’s grace abounds. I am stilll a work in progress. If people see a change in me then it is definitely the Lord’s doing.

As a final realization, we are blessed to show mercy not only because we will receive mercy in return but we already received it first when we placed our faith in Jesus’ salvation and make Him the Lord of our lives. At times we cannot show mercy, the grace of God will carry us through.

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Rhia

Turn Always To The Lord

And Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself.

1 Samuel 12:20‭-‬22 ESV

I have a tendency to be critical of myself. Being self-aware each time I fall short to Christ-likeness or when I fail to demonstrate the fruit of the Holy Spirit. And then I get myself in to thinking whether this is me being perfectionist or it is the Holy Spirit Who appeals to my consciousness. I do not like the earlier because it means that I am legalistic and has become performance-based, taking pride of my own work when I follow the Lord while becoming disappointed when I cannot.

So I am just thankful reading this passage today, because I am affirmed of God’s grace for me, that the guilt He places on me is a guard on my heart. The Holy Spirit is actively working, allowing me to be sensitive to what grieves the Lord so my character would develop. There is no guarantee that I will always be the perfect daughter of our Heavenly Father but Jesus is His perfect Son. At times that I struggle living God’s high standards, I have to think about my relationship with Jesus, what He has done for me so I can always turn back to God. Jesus knows my struggle, He exposed Himself to worldly temptations but overcame them all. Jesus is constantly praying for me, just like He prayed for Peter for his faith to persevere. This is more than enough reason to always receive the grace and mercy that God provides to sustain my faith each day. The same power to help me live a life that really matters and glorifying to our Lord God. Forget about what I can willfully do and not do, I can always depend on God knowing He always delivers and true to His promises!

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Rhia