Regular readers of my blog will know that a steady daily devotional time doesn’t always happen. I went for quite a while judging myself over this until I realized that my daily intake of God’s Word was still happening, just not all in one shot or in the way many people assume. My prayer time as well, although not concentrated in one time slot, was still happening because I believe in including God in all aspects of my daily life, so the conversation can be ongoing most days. I can go for months at a time with a daily time slot set aside, then life changes. After life changes, I have to deliberately set about making time again, or it doesn’t happen.
This morning I had ample time and was going to carry on in 1 Samuel 13, when a verse near the end of Chapter 12 jumped out at me instead.
1 Samuel 12 sees the prophet Samuel preside over the coronation of Saul as the first King of Israel. God is not pleased at the people’s demands and directs Samuel to remind them of not merely how good God is, but how terrible He is too when His ways are deliberately spurned. There are times even in our lives when we consider going our own way, and God tells us to stand still and see what He is about to do as He told the Israelites through Samuel in verse 16. God is a jealous God and won’t hand over His people to anyone willingly, giving those people reason for pause to hopefully get them to see the error of their ways and choose instead to return to His way. Israel however, was steadfast in their resolution to have an earthly ruler like all the other nations around them. Samuel continues with his reminder speech, and then we come to verse 24.
1 Samuel 12:24 Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you.
Because of all that God has done for us, we should choose to and actively serve Him a) in truth, and b) with all our hearts! This verse isn’t saying to serve God for what He CAN do for us, what He WILL do for us, or to get God to answer our prayers in our favour in our preferred manner. No. Here we are admonished to serve God truthfully and whole-heartedly because of what He’s ALREADY done for us.
This is in line with the verse:
1 John 4:19 We love him, because he first loved us.
If 1 Corinthians 13 is considered, “The Love Chapter”, then 1 John 4 should be considered “The 2nd Love Chapter”. The former relating to how we should love each other and the latter primarily dealing with the love between us and God, wrapping up with love for our brother. But notice in this particular verse, who loved who first? Who is responding to who?
Our love for God is in direct response to His love for us! God loved us FIRST! Because of that love, He sent Christ to die for us.
John 3:16-17 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
How are we to respond to that love? The answer is the Jewish Shema:
Deuteronomy 6:4-5 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: 5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
This is later echoed by Christ in the New Testament:
Mark 12:29-31 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: 30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. 31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
Once again there is that tie-in between loving God, and loving others. We serve God by serving others. This is why Christ said:
Matthew 25:34-40 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Now it must be noted that it is thoroughly possible to serve God in a spirit of selfishness, for personal gain, for notoriety, and other reasons completely divorced from who God is or what He’s already done. We run into this in the same parable references above. It is thoroughly possible to see one’s self as being a do-gooder, a “goody-two-shoes” as the saying used to go, but do it for all the wrong reasons. Christ has harsh words for those earlier in the book of Matthew:
Matthew 7:21-23 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Matthew 7 goes on to describe the manner in which we show God we love Him – via our obedience to His commands. Serving others is not enough to show God our love for Him. It is a big part of it, but it is not the defining part. Obedience to God’s commands given in Scripture show God our hearts. When we WANT to please God, we WILL obey Him! That want-to comes from having a deep-seated revelation of just how much God loves us both as individuals and as communities of believers. When we finally grasp a) God’s love and b) what that love drove God to do on our behalf, obedience becomes a desire, a longing as I’ve written about before. We can’t serve God in truth if we are not living on obedience. Living in disobedience is living in selfishness, living in a me-first orbit around ourselves, and as a result, living in sin. Self and pride are at the root of all sin. We can serve God sure, we can be completely humanitarian in our outlook on life and be the most giving people you’ll ever meet. But if we are not living in obedience to God’s Word or living in a way that shows our gratitude for all God has done for us, we may as well not even bear the name Christian and go work for the United Way!
The truth of God’s Word needs to be reflected in who we are, what we do, why we do it, and who we do it for.
John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
Christ wraps up this discussion very well:
John 15:3-14 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. 6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. 9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. 10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. 11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. 12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
The answer to Samuel’s plea with the children of Israel, is the same answer for us today. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us! Jesus Christ is the Truth, the Way and the Life. When we serve God in truth, we are serving God from our position IN Christ! Christ did what no one else would or even could ever do for mankind! He took our place on the Cross, He paid our punishment for sin, He rose again to grant us eternal life with Him forever! Indeed, consider what great things He has done for you!