09(1Sam 15, 22-23) Confronting Rebellion
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One of the most amazing and gratifying aspects of the Bible is its realism. It is not a book of fables, where characters are super-heroes in the fight against evil. Rather, it is filled with characters that are not perfect. We look at Adam and Eve, created in perfection with pure bodies, pure minds and a pure environment. Yet we see their descent into sin. We look at Noah, a man who is admired for his persistence in preaching for 120 years to no avail. Yet we see him after the flood in a drunken stupor. Peter is a bold believer who declares Christ as the son of the living God, who boldly professes his faith and allegiance. Yet we all too quickly see another side, as he denies and curses the very Christ he followed.
One thing the Bible does that endears it to me is that it does not shy away from revealing human scars, nor does it ignore their warts. Both are presented without any apologies. We see the flaws in Israel. Rather than only presenting Israel as a pure and perfect choice without flaws, Scripture shows us that even the chosen nation can and was a nation in rebellion.
What is true of a nation and of a people is also true of families. God invented the family. Chuck Swindoll says, “God holds the original patent on marriage.” It was His idea and it is pictured for us in Scripture in an idealistic manner. But, there is also a lot of realism about the family woven through the fabric of scripture.
The examples of family life in the Bible are not “idealistic.” The families in Scripture are comprised of real, often struggling people. None of the parents in biblical days experienced perpetual harmony and perfect joy. As in our day some stood face to face with a stubborn and rebellious youngster. Confronting rebellion was not easy for them, either.
II. How God Views Rebellion (1 Samuel 15:22-23)
8 1 Samuel 15:22 Then Samuel said: "Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. 8 23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king."
It may be encouraging to you as a parent to know that God has never been pleased with rebellion. As we see in our text, He takes a strong stand against it. If you have an older child in your home who is growing increasingly rebellious, take heart. God stands with you in your determination to do what is right.
Our Lord is grieved when He sees rebellion, and even in ancient times He would not shrug His shoulder at it. But lest anyone think rebellion is only confined to teenagers, our story in 1 Samuel shows rebellion in the heart of not only a grown man, but a king. Saul had been told to follow God’s precise orders, but did not. God viewed the king’s disobedience as outright rebellion. So the Lord sent Samuel to confront Saul. The rebuke is in verses 22-23.
A. God equates rebellion with the sin of demonism.
1Sa 15:23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.
Take time to analyze God’s view of rebellion. He considers it the same as witchcraft or divination. In other words, 8 God equates rebellion with the sin of demonism. This is not a stretch, either. Satan and his demons are quite interested in redefining the rules of the home, and destroying the lines of authority and respect that are to emulate God’s authority and paternal role over his spiritual family. What better way to disrespect Father God than to have children disrespect earthly parents, and thereby muddy the relationship and ideal of family.
B. God declares rebellion to be as evil as idolatry.
1Sa 15:23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.
When it comes to the stubborn resistance that accompanies rebellion, 8 God declares rebellion to be as evil as idolatry. It is no secret that few things are worse to God than idolatry. To equate stubbornness with idolatry is to see the stubborn insubordination as an act of rejecting the headship of the home. It is to worship self. It is to place one’s own desires as more important that obedience.
Stubbornness comes from a Hebrew word that means “to push”. That is what stubbornness is all about. It is the rebellious pushing away from authority and submission. It is pushing one’s own agenda ahead of the good of the family.
C. 8 God responds to rejection with confrontation.
1Sa 15:23 Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king."
God did not excuse Saul’s behavior. He did not laugh off Saul’s disobedience as being a strong-willed individual. God never looked for an excuse for rebellion; He just confronted it and announced He would not tolerate it. He did not count to three or come behind Saul and pick up the mess Himself.
When rebellion or stubborn resistance occurs, it is no idle matter. It is not humorous or cute or “just a stage”. Nor is it viewed lightly in the eyes of God. Hard-core rebellion is a terrible sin, calling for the strongest resistance one can muster. If God does not ignore it, we can be sure parents must not overlook it either.
Let’s be wise, though. Rebellion is not to be confused with the normal growing process, when our adolescents press for independence. The home ought to be the place where the parents help the child become an independent adult. As maturity develops, the child will eventually set their own curfew, handle their own finances, drive their own car, etc. They become self-governing as they grow into the responsibility to handle it. This kind of healthy independence is not to be viewed by parents as rebellion.
On the other hand, older children who attempt to control the home by bullying and intimidation to get their own way must be dealt with. It is at that point parents must see the rebellion, and see it with the same seriousness that God does in our text. It cannot be tolerated. Multiple authority figures in a family is a recipe for chaos and disaster.
However, let me also say that many children are confused and do not know who to respect because the standard at home keeps changing. They intimidate their parents without being confronted. That same intimidation is then shifted to their teachers at school, their youth leaders at church, and even to the cop on the corner. If permitted, indulged children will stop at nothing to get their way.
Let me say it straight: parents, it is our mandate to deal firmly with rebellion. It is unpleasant and confrontational. It will be heart-rending and at times you will think you will lose your mind. But you must stand firm. It may get volatile: it will be you against the rebel, with no easy way out. But you cannot afford to let your authority in the home to be undermined. God, who originated the family, never intended a home to be run like that.
III. 8 How to Handle Rebellion (Luke 15:11-24)
All of this provides a good setting to take a different look at a familiar parable Jesus once told. The story of the prodigal son is being acted out in families every day. This story shows us how relevant Scripture still is for us today. The principles we find are timeless. This story is somewhat mislabeled. It is primarily about the prodigal’s brother. His disgust with the father’s welcome of the prodigal is meant to show the attitudes of the Pharisees to the sinners coming to Jesus. But it is in the action of the father that I want us to focus on this morning.
Just listen as I read this familiar parable. (Read Luke 15:11-24)
8 Luke 15:11 Then He said: "A certain man had two sons. 12 "And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.' So he divided to them his livelihood.
In Jewish law, when a family had two sons, the elder would get 2/3 of the estate and the younger 1/3, all to be settled at the father’s death. The younger son in this story demands with impatience, “I want my share NOW.” By implication, “I am tired of living in the restriction of your rules and I want to go...”
The father neither argues nor pleads. I find it interesting that the father releases the boy without a fight. There is no going away lecture. We admire the father. What he did took strength. It isn’t easy to do what he did. On the contrary, it is painful, maybe even a little frightening. Dr. John White, in his book Parents in Pain, makes this comment:
“God’s dealings with his people form a pattern for Christian parents. Like Him we may eventually have to allow our persistently rebellious children to harvest the consequences of their willfulness. The time can come when we have to withdraw all support from them and oblige them, because of their own decisions, to leave home…
Parents who are reluctant to take drastic steps should ask themselves, Are they too scared? There is every reason to be scared. What parent is not? The thought of exposing a child to physical hardship, to loneliness and to moral temptation flies in the face of every parental instinct. Or is it that parents fear public opinion? Are they still clinging to unrealistic hopes that matters will magically right themselves if only they hang on a little longer when it is plain they will not?
The decision to dismiss children from home should not be made either because it will work or as a matter of expediency. It should be made on the basis of justice. And justice must consider every side of the problem. Are they old enough to care for themselves, that is, to hunt for work and provide themselves with food and shelter? Are they of legal age? Have they had plenty of warning about what will happen if they continue in the same way? Have the warnings been merely angry threats or serious talks explaining why such measures should be adopted?”
Dealing with rebellion is serious business. It is especially unpleasant because you are dealing with your own flesh and blood. There is actually no greater pain. And there is no answer that fits every circumstance. Parenting is hard work.
Back to the story. The boy announces he is leaving and soon disappears over the horizon. He spends his inheritance quickly and foolishly just as you would expect a young, immature rebel to do. I doubt his family really expected any better. Soon he is broke and must find work to survive. As a Jew, he finds work in the very indignant occupation of swine handling. An like that unclean beast he is quickly becoming the same. He is broke and he is hungry.
The street may appear inviting and exciting. It may seem free and easy going. But in truth it is a godless, shameless pigsty in the worst sense of the word. If you are thinking of running, better reevaluate that option!
The boy realized all too well that no one cared for him like his dad once did back home. 8 Did you notice verse 16, “And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything” (Luke 15:16). This is where depravity reaches full bloom. This is where the boy and every rebel finally end up, at the bottom of the pit.
The prodigal finally woke up and began to speak to God. 8 The next verse says, “But when he came to himself” (Luke 15:17). That suggests he had not been thinking clearly throughout the rebellion. He was temporarily out of his mind, & may be why parents can’t reason with rebels who resist all counsel.
Let me remind all who are parents that you can rebuke a rebel. You can discipline him. You can warn him, try to correct him and point him in the right direction. But you cannot force him to change. Some are so hellish in their rebellion they are completely unreasonable. At that point, you are at the mercy of time. Having released him, you have to trust God to get his attention.
No one knows how long the boy was in the pigsty and on the streets. But when he came to himself, he began to look up. For the first time in a long time he thought straight. Luke 15:17 says, “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!’”
His plan is to return to his dad and become one of his hired servants. But his father had other plans. 8 Verse 20 tells us, “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.” The father did not come down the road wagging his index finger at the son or say “I told you so.” He forgave his son. Words cannot describe that moment, when father and son embraced. But what a great reunion it was.
Waiting for such a moment can seem like a lifetime. Sometimes you will wait for months. Sometimes for years. Seasons may come and go without a call or letter. But remember, the misery of the rebellious child is equally painful. So when the reunion comes, forgiveness and thankfulness should rule the day. 8 Perhaps the father sums it up best for every waiting parent when he says, “for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (Luke 15:24).
It says, “They began to be merry”. What an understatement! Imagine the joy in the home at this reunion. It is a marvelous story. And I realize for some this reunion has not happened, not yet. But have faith in God’s word and in your stand for the truth.
8 Let’s conclude this story by pointing out what we have seen in how to handle rebellion.
A. 8 No rebellious child can be allowed to ruin a home.
It doesn’t matter how old or how gifted the rebel may be, no rebel is worth the destruction of a family. No matter the background, no matter how intimidating, no matter how violent or how much trouble it may be to confront the unpleasant, a rebel must not be allowed to ruin a home.
B. 8 When rebellion necessitates separation, you must choose principle over person.
If there is a principle at stake, no matter what the relationship, you take a stand on the principle, even if it is your child. Some will disagree with me on this, but part of the reason we have such a confused generation in our day is that the child doesn’t know where the standard is. If it bends in the home, it will bend in the school, and then in life…ultimately, everything bends. The lines of right and wrong get blurred. Kids who are permitted to take control don’t know which way to go. Stand firm on this principle!
C. 8 When repentance occurs, God honors the response of forgiveness.
When true repentance occurs, you will know it. It will sound and feel like your own repentance before God. There will be no pretense, no ulterior motive, and no expectation of benefit. When that occurs, God has shown us all through Scripture that the response to repentance is forgiveness.
The extension of forgiveness when banishment might be justified is called grace. We are creatures of grace. We have been reborn in grace. Our operation and responses are based on that grace, even when responding to a formerly rebellious and hurtful person. They don’t deserve it. Neither do we deserve it. But that is the love of God working through us.
8 There is an old gospel song that says,
I’ve wandered far away from God; Now I’m coming home;
The paths of sin too long I’ve trod; Lord, I’m coming home.
I’ve tired of sin and straying, Lord; Now I’m coming home;
I’ll trust Thy love, believe Thy word; Lord, I’m coming home.
The beautiful part of those lyrics is that the Heavenly Father waits with His arms open, ready to say, “I forgive you; come on home.”
A rebel is unpleasant to deal with, but not impossible. If you are in the midst of such a situation, you have my prayers and respect. But more importantly, you have God’s strength on which to lean.