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Mercy, Grace, and Accountability

Faith & Failure; 1 Samuel  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Excitement in Munds Park

I’m home for lunch and my DIL comes home from Flag and asks, “What’s going on behind the church?!”
I didn’t know but it was time for me to go back to work where I found Newton’s storage lot was quite the place to be.
State troopers, FBI, bomb squad, SWAT, dogs, and a helicopter.
Bad guy was out-numbered at least 50 - 1.
A felon driving a stolen mini-van doing 110 up I17. They try to stop him and he takes off.
He chooses MP to exit. Cops had the tire strips down so they blew out his tires. He ended up in the field next to Agee’s.
He runs into a trailer. Owner of the trailer is there; Charlie.
Charlie runs out and tells the cops where he is. Here they come.
Tom and I are watching the authorities hurry up and wait.
When the bomb squad parked right outside my window I walked out the door to see what else was going on.
That’t when they saw me and suggested I vacate in case the shooting started. Bad guy had a big gun that would blow a hole in my office walls.
I said gladly.
What I since found out is the authorities worked tirelessly to get the guy w/out having to hurt him. He was arrested w/out incident.
They had to cut a hole in the side of the trailer so the dogs could chase him out. The only damage was to the trailer and Charlie’s emotions.
I don’t know what the guy did to make him a felon besides steal the car and run from the authorities. He deserves to be punished and answer for his crimes. But he didn’t deserve to die Tuesday.
The authorities were merciful w/ the guy by giving him the opportunity to defend himself in court and pay appropriately for his crimes. He will be held accountable.
A couple of weeks ago I talked about how merciful God is with His children.
When it’s somebody else’s kid who messes up it’s easy to say the parents should come down hard.
But, when it’s your kids, you’re emotionally invested, it’s a different story.
God is that way w/ His children.
When Israel messed up, and when we mess up, God softens our landing and is there to help us up and give us another chance.
When we mess up, our lives don’t go as good as they should, but God intervenes so that they don’t go as bad as they could.
God is gracious and merciful w/ us, His children; giving us chance after chance after chance.
But, w/in the context of His mercy (undeserved goodness) and His grace (undeserved favor) there is accountability.
That is, God will allow us to experience consequences when we mess up.
Messing up is an act of unfaithful, disobedience.
Taking matters into our own hands and not trusting God to do what only God can do.
Once we’ve messed up God always gives us the opportunity make things right w/ Him again.
Repent and return to faithful obedience.
There may be scars, literal or figurative.
We may end up in the E.R., jail, divorce court, delivery room, bankruptcy, or a counselor’s office.
Landing places like this may DQ us from some of the things we used to do and want to do again.
Regret: Not getting what we want b/c we got what we wanted.
But, our relationship w/ God will be close and intact as it was before we messed up.
where Israel experienced God’s mercy, grace, and accountability.

Not the Best, it Could be Worse

Rejected God

1 Samuel 12:8–13 NIV
“After Jacob entered Egypt, they cried to the Lord for help, and the Lord sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your ancestors out of Egypt and settled them in this place. “But they forgot the Lord their God; so he sold them into the hand of Sisera, the commander of the army of Hazor, and into the hands of the Philistines and the king of Moab, who fought against them. They cried out to the Lord and said, ‘We have sinned; we have forsaken the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtoreths. But now deliver us from the hands of our enemies, and we will serve you.’ Then the Lord sent Jerub-Baal, Barak, Jephthah and Samuel, and he delivered you from the hands of your enemies all around you, so that you lived in safety. “But when you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites was moving against you, you said to me, ‘No, we want a king to rule over us’—even though the Lord your God was your king. Now here is the king you have chosen, the one you asked for; see, the Lord has set a king over you.
1 Samuel 12:8–12 NIV
“After Jacob entered Egypt, they cried to the Lord for help, and the Lord sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your ancestors out of Egypt and settled them in this place. “But they forgot the Lord their God; so he sold them into the hand of Sisera, the commander of the army of Hazor, and into the hands of the Philistines and the king of Moab, who fought against them. They cried out to the Lord and said, ‘We have sinned; we have forsaken the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtoreths. But now deliver us from the hands of our enemies, and we will serve you.’ Then the Lord sent Jerub-Baal, Barak, Jephthah and Samuel, and he delivered you from the hands of your enemies all around you, so that you lived in safety. “But when you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites was moving against you, you said to me, ‘No, we want a king to rule over us’—even though the Lord your God was your king.
1 Samuel 12:2–12 NIV
Now you have a king as your leader. As for me, I am old and gray, and my sons are here with you. I have been your leader from my youth until this day. Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the Lord and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these things, I will make it right.” “You have not cheated or oppressed us,” they replied. “You have not taken anything from anyone’s hand.” Samuel said to them, “The Lord is witness against you, and also his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.” “He is witness,” they said. Then Samuel said to the people, “It is the Lord who appointed Moses and Aaron and brought your ancestors up out of Egypt. Now then, stand here, because I am going to confront you with evidence before the Lord as to all the righteous acts performed by the Lord for you and your ancestors. “After Jacob entered Egypt, they cried to the Lord for help, and the Lord sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your ancestors out of Egypt and settled them in this place. “But they forgot the Lord their God; so he sold them into the hand of Sisera, the commander of the army of Hazor, and into the hands of the Philistines and the king of Moab, who fought against them. They cried out to the Lord and said, ‘We have sinned; we have forsaken the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtoreths. But now deliver us from the hands of our enemies, and we will serve you.’ Then the Lord sent Jerub-Baal, Barak, Jephthah and Samuel, and he delivered you from the hands of your enemies all around you, so that you lived in safety. “But when you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites was moving against you, you said to me, ‘No, we want a king to rule over us’—even though the Lord your God was your king.
Samuel reminds them of the history. The facts.
1 Samuel 12:
It was God who delivered you each time. Not a man.
God used men. But, God was responsible.
Jacob and his sons went into Egypt where Joseph had made arrangements for them to settle.
There was a severe famine at the time so they left the land given to Abraham and passed down to them.
Not the best move. But, they survived.
The Hebrew nation grew over the course of hundreds of years and became a threat to Egypt so they enslaved them.
The people cried out to God who finally acted to free them.
He empowered Moses and Aaron to lead them out.
Moses and Aaron did not, could not have done this on their own. It was God. He heard their cries and answered them.
Moses led them to the PL, Joshua led them in.
Remember the covenant promise. The land and people are unconditionally promised by God.
Staying in the land, prospering in the land is not. This is conditioned on Israel living faithfully and obediently in the land.
It didn’t take long. They didn’t.
What they did do is forget all this that God had done.
So, after multiple warnings and lesser attention-getters sent by God, empowered Pagans to pester Israel.
Let that sink in. God used unbelievers to get the attention of the believers to return to Him.
Not Satan, God.
For you and me, too. Sometimes God empowers unbelievers as attention-getters.
Not Satan causing you trouble, God is.
The people got the message. They cried out, repented.
Owned their sin, admitted it, stopped it.
God sent men and He delivered them through these men.
These men didn’t, couldn’t. God did through them.
Over time another threat arose, the Ammonites.
Rather than turn to God, they demanded a human king to lead them and deliver them from the threat.
Samuel warned them about how bad it would be for them under a king other than God.
They rejected God as their King and demanded a human king. So, God obliged, gave them Saul.
Samuel warned them, don’t do this. Repeatedly. They did it anyway.
Finally, they got what they did was wrong. Now what?

Repented

1 Samuel 12:19 NIV
The people all said to Samuel, “Pray to the Lord your God for your servants so that we will not die, for we have added to all our other sins the evil of asking for a king.”
1 Samuel 12:9 NIV
“But they forgot the Lord their God; so he sold them into the hand of Sisera, the commander of the army of Hazor, and into the hands of the Philistines and the king of Moab, who fought against them.
Finally, they got it.

But, it was too late to correct it completely. They had a king.
The genie was out of that bottle.
A woman regretting that one-night-stand. She’s pregnant.
A man regretting that one-night-stand. His wife found out.
God always allows His children to repent and the relationship to be fully restored.
But, there may be scars or baggage in the consequences.
A restored relationship w/ God w/ baggage is always better than a distant relationship or no relationship at all.
A person’s life may not be as good as it should be, but it won’t be as bad as it could be.
Israel realized in that moment they had messed up. It was bad. They cried out and asked Samuel who maintained a close relationship w/ God to cry out on their behalf.
So, what would God’s response be?
He held them accountable for their sin and brought appropriate attention-getters into their lives. It worked.
We also know God is gracious and merciful.

Restored

1 Samuel 12:20–22 NIV
“Do not be afraid,” Samuel replied. “You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless. For the sake of his great name the Lord will not reject his people, because the Lord was pleased to make you his own.
1 Samuel 12:20
The relationship was fully restored.
There were consequences. They had their king instead of God.
Samuel had said earlier, on behalf of God, If they would obey God and not rebel against His commands He would take good care of them and their king.
A restatement of the conditional part of the promise.
Another chance. No additional strings.
Live faithfully and obediently. No other gods. Obey the commands out of love for God.
B/C God loves you He will mercifully forgive and not bring the judgment you deserve. And, He will graciously bless you as you live in the land.
God is gracious and merciful. Yet, still, holds us accountable. As Saul and Israel are about to learn one more time.

Partial Obedience is Still Disobedience

A small force

1 Samuel 13:2 NIV
Saul chose three thousand men from Israel; two thousand were with him at Mikmash and in the hill country of Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan at Gibeah in Benjamin. The rest of the men he sent back to their homes.
1 Samuel 13:
Saul had 300,000 men. Farmers, shepherds, merchants.
He kept 3000 and trained them to be soldiers.
If he needed the rest he could call them back. But, for the battles they faced he felt sure 3000 trained special forces were enough.
He led 2000. His son, Jonathan, led the other thousand.
They were expected to defend and protect the rest of Israel.
Sometimes, the best protection is to strike first.
Which is what Jonathan did.

Picked a fight

1 Samuel 13:3 NIV
Jonathan attacked the Philistine outpost at Geba, and the Philistines heard about it. Then Saul had the trumpet blown throughout the land and said, “Let the Hebrews hear!”
They had had trouble w/ the Philistines in the past. So, Jonathan believed it best to remind them who’s boss.
God didn’t tell him to do it. Nor did his father, Saul.
But, Saul took credit for it and celebrated it. Under his command.
Like picking a fight w/ the schoolyard bully. Nerd gets tired of being picked on so at recess sneaks up behind the bully, taps him on the shoulder, and when he turns around slugs him in the nose.
The bully is stunned.
What happens next?

Surprised by the response

1 Samuel 13:5–7 NIV
The Philistines assembled to fight Israel, with three thousand chariots, six thousand charioteers, and soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore. They went up and camped at Mikmash, east of Beth Aven. When the Israelites saw that their situation was critical and that their army was hard pressed, they hid in caves and thickets, among the rocks, and in pits and cisterns. Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear.
One chariot and horse per Hebrew soldier.
But, 2 charioteers. Soldiers too numerous to count.
Israel was in trouble and they knew it. Their soldiers were afraid and began to dessert. They ran and hid. They would be no match for the Philistine army.
So, as they prepared for the inevitable attack, they knew they needed God now more than ever.
At the same time they drew up battle plans, they planned to hold a worship service and make sacrifices to God.
Only the priest could make the sacrifices so they called Samuel out to lead the worship.
But, Saul didn’t wait and made a rash decision.

A rash decision

1 Samuel 13:8–10 NIV
He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter. So he said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” And Saul offered up the burnt offering. Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him.
1 Samuel 13:
Samuel had sent word he’d be there in 7 days.
Every day more soldiers deserted. The panic spread and multiplied. Not just the additional men who ran, multiples ran.
Fear was growing. Saul waited. 7 days. He couldn’t speed up the clock. Had to wait.
Then, on the 7th day, still no Samuel.
Saul knew worship was the key to invite God to fight on their behalf.
Israel was vastly out-numbered in men. But the Philistines were equally out-numbered in gods.
So, rather than wait until the 8th day if necessary, Saul prepared the sacrifice and made it himself.
But, the law, given by God, said only priests could offer a sacrifice.
And, do you remember the conditional part of the covenant? Live faithfully and obediently then God would take care of them.
In the middle of the worship service that Saul was leading Samuel arrived so he paused the service and ran to greet Samuel.
The greeting didn’t quite go as he had expected.

Excuses

1 Samuel 13:11–14 NIV
“What have you done?” asked Samuel. Saul replied, “When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Mikmash, I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the Lord’s favor.’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.” “You have done a foolish thing,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”
1 Samuel 13:
Saul waited into the 7th day, just not long enough.
“What have you done?” Samuel asked.
“Well, I, uh, you know, you weren’t here, so I, uh, you know...”
Saul made excuses. 3 of them.
The soldiers were scattering. Running scared.
Saul was late. (not really, but it seemed that way)
The Philistines were gathering for battle.
Again, not real strong leadership. Like when he was inaugurated he was hiding among the supplies.
Good leaders take responsibility and don’t make excuses.
So, he felt compelled to act. It wasn’t God leading him. It was his own fear, insecurity, and arrogance.
Fear that the Philistines would destroy them.
Insecurity that God would not protect them.
Arrogance that he could do this on his own.
Sometimes we feel compelled to act. Make sure God is leading you and it’s not you leading yourself.
Saul obeyed Samuel, and God, by going to Gilgal and waiting. He faithfully believed worship was necessary for God to deliver them once again.
He would have been better off waiting another day, risk losing more men, risk the Philistine’s attach before they could worship.
Instead, his partial obedience was no obedience at all.
God help him accountable for his actions.
This cost him his reign. In fact, God had already chosen his replacement, a young shepherd boy, the youngest of Jesse’s sons.
Consequences. No longer king of Israel. His sons would never know the throne. Someone else would.
A severe price but for a significant sin.
Only the priest could make the sacrifice and only after he had made atonement for his own sin.
Again, God reminded them of His holiness and their dirtiness.
It’s God’s program. He decides the roles, script, actions, and expectations. If we don’t like it, well, God is gracious and merciful w/ us.
But He will hold us accountable.
Israel experienced God’s mercy again. They won the battle w/ the Philistines that day.
God easily could have turned His back and let them suffer tremendous losses.
But they are His children. And He was preserving them for the king who had a heart after God’s heart.
Our God is gracious and merciful. Yet, He still holds us accountable for the times we mess up.
Our lives should be better. But they could be much worse, too.
Praise God for how He treats us so undeservedly well.

Applications

Trouble

When you’re troubled, dealing w/ a tough situation an accurate diagnosis of the cause is vital to resolving the issue.
There are several potential causes to your trouble.
Satan might be attacking you. We have an enemy and He is real. If you have strong positive impact on the lives of those around this is possible. But, remember the One who is in you is stronger than the One who is in the world. Pray your way out of it.
Poor decisions. Maybe yours, maybe shrapnel from someone else’s poor decisions. Let God transform your mind so you can make better decisions and change your course. And, distance yourself from those making bad decisions around you.
Just the result of living in a fallen world. Cancer, accidents, bad guys w/ big guns run into an innocent guy’s trailer. God will lead you to the eye of whatever storm you’re dealing with. Stay close.
God may have led you into a trial to develop your faith like going to the gym to develop your muscles and cardio strength.
Diagnose the trouble and let God change your course and lead you out.

Compelled

When you have a strong feeling, compelled to act. Make sure it’s the HS leading you and not your own fear, insecurity, or pride.
B/C if it is, you will multiply your trouble.
If it’s God, it will always work out for the better in His time.

Accountable

God will hold you accountable. Don’t be surprised if God lets you experience the consequences of poor decisions when you mess up.
When we mess up, our lives don’t go as good as they should, but God intervenes so that they don’t go as bad as they could.
God is gracious and merciful w/ us, His children; giving us chance after chance after chance.
But, w/in the context of His mercy (undeserved goodness) and His grace (undeserved favor) there is accountability.
That is, God will allow us to experience consequences when we mess up.
Messing up is an act of unfaithful, disobedience.
Taking matters into our own hands and not trusting God to do what only God can do.
Once we’ve messed up God always gives us the opportunity make things right w/ Him again.
Repent and return to faithful obedience.
There may be scars, literal or figurative.
We may end up in the E.R., jail, divorce court, delivery room, bankruptcy, or a counselor’s office.
Landing places like this may DQ us from some of the things we used to do and want to do again.
Regret: Not getting what we want b/c we got what we wanted.
But, our relationship w/ God will be close and intact as it was before we messed up.
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