Week of Pentecost 8 – Tuesday Devotion

Readings:  1 Samuel 13:1-18 and Acts 23:12-35

1 Samuel 13:11-12:  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.”

Acts 23:12-13:  When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul.  There were more than forty who made this conspiracy.

 

“It Felt Good at the Time to Do This”

We do know that Paul had found out about this ‘conspiracy’ of the forty-plus men to kill him.  God spares him this tragedy.  But the forty-plus men probably  either held to their oath and died, or took the ‘easy way’ out and disassociated with this group and went to the local McDonald’s to get something to eat.  It may have felt good at the time to make a vow not to eat until something was done, even if that meant taking another person’s life.  But hunger was probably a greater ‘feeling’ to satisfy with earthly food over the foolish feeling of keeping a frivolous vow.

Saul was pressured to do something as well.  It felt good only because he knew it is good to call on the name of the Lord, and if it helps, add a sacrifice to show your heart is in the right place.  But sadly, that was not Saul’s position or authority to offer sacrifices.  Because of this act, Saul’s kingdom would not last.  God would begin looking for another to take his place as king of Israel.

Has that ever happened to you?  Were you pushed to make some decision based on what you knew, but also knew that it was not legally or morally right?  “It felt good,” we say as we defend our reasons for doing what we did.  “The end justifies the means,” is another rationale we use to defend our actions.

The rioters today must think it ‘feels good’ to get involved in a demonstration and crank up the intensity to add violence and destruction to the agenda.  Things get out of hand.  The reason for demonstrating may have some merit—our Constitution’s freedom of speech gives us that opportunity to express our thoughts about public matters.  But the Constitution does not give position or authority to destroy other people’s property. 

Samuel’s question of Saul, “What have you done?” echoes another time when God asks the question of a man whose position and authority was to tend and protect the Garden of Eden but God found that chewed up core of the forbidden fruit lying on the ground.  Adam came up with a reason defending why he felt it was good at the time, but it was just the beginning of the ‘blame game’.  

When we sin, the question is, “What is this that you have done?”  Martin Luther, in the ‘Christian Questions and Their Answers’ asks this series of questions:

Q:  Do you believe that you are a sinner?  A:  Yes, I believe it. I am a sinner.

Q:  How do you know this?  A:  From the Ten Commandments, which I have not kept.  

The Commandments of God continually ask us each day: “What have you done?”  Saul heard it.  Adam heard it.  Every man, woman, and child hears it.  It’s the position and authority of the Law to do so.  It’s not a matter of feeling but one of a just and holy God and Judge who hates sin.  We may think it felt good at the time to ‘break’ one of God’s laws, but it wasn’t our position or authority to do so.

But God so loved the world (John 3:16).  That’s not feeling; it’s love!  God’s love!  With God there is also forgiveness that He may be feared (Psalm 130:4).  That’s God’s position and authority to forgive, cleanse, and restore.  That forgiveness is more than feeling.  It’s faith that grasps this great news.  Paul had such a faith to carry him through those tough times and threats in his life.  May God grant you that faith that trusts in Him to deliver and preserve you!

 

Let us pray:  O Lord, our heavenly Father, almighty and everlasting God, You have safely brought us to the beginning of this day.  Defend us in the same with Your mighty power and grant that this day we fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger, but that all our doings, being ordered by Your governance, may be righteous in Your sight; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.  (The Collect for Grace)

Our Father…

Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times in every way.  The Lord be with you all.  2 Thessalonians 3:16