Franklin Graham, in his book Rebel with a Cause, describes the “God zone” - the places where God calls us to walk and where we cannot walk well in our own strength. In 1 Samuel 10, we see God leading Saul into a God zone. He chose Saul to be king over Israel. It was a huge responsibility. Yet, where God leads, He provides the necessary resources to live and serve in a way that honors Him. In Saul’s case, He raised up valiant men to accompany him back to his hometown of Gibeah (1 Sam. 10:26). As we follow the Lord today, He will provide all that we need to follow Him well.
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In a previous blog, I described how the Israelites suffered a stunning defeat at the hands of the Philistines (1Sam. 5:1-11). The Israelites had taken matters into their own hands by bringing the Ark of the Covenant into the battle. Their misguided attempted to secure God’s blessing did not produce a victory. In fact, not only did they lose the battle, but they also lost the Ark in the process. However, the Philistines did not escape unscathed; the Lord struck some of them with death and tumors. They finally sent the Ark back to Israel where it sat in Kiriath Jearim for 20 years (after a brief stop in Beth Shemesh). During that time, “all the people of Israel turned back to the Lord” (1 Sam. 7:2). Samuel told the people to get rid of their idols and commit themselves to the Lord. The people gathered en masse at Mizpah and confessed their sins.
Now, the Philistines viewed this national gathering as a provocation and mustered their army in response. The Israelites knew they needed God’s help, so they asked Samuel to pray unceasingly for God’s intervention. Samuel prayed and “the Lord thundered with a loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites” (1 Sam. 7:10).
What kinds of challenges do we face today? With a clean heart, let’s commit these challenges to the Lord, take action as He leads, and trust Him with the results.
After the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant from the Israelites, God’s hand was against the Philistines. Many died while the Lord afflicted others with tumors (1 Sam. 5:12). Finally, the Philistines had enough and sent the Ark back to Israel on an ox cart (1 Sam. 6). The residents of Beth Shemesh, a border town between Israel and Philistia, were overjoyed when they saw the Ark roll into town. They immediately made a sacrifice to the Lord. However, 70 of them also took the opportunity to look into the Ark, a privilege reserved for the High Priest. God struck them down. Now, if I had been one of the residents of Beth Shemesh, I would have wanted to check out the ark’s contents, too, especially after seeing my neighbors take a peek (God apparently did not strike down the 70 until later). Yet, God is a holy God. He requires us to act in keeping with His holiness. Leaders can be opportunistic. This is often a good trait provided that seizing the opportunity in no way undermines God’s holiness and the holiness He desires in us.