Friday, August 5, 2011

Another Heart

Today's passage:  I Samuel 10
     I'm thinking about when my Dad had his first heart attack.  He was 42.  I was only 12 at the time, and my youngest brother had just turned 2.  I remember the ambulances and fire trucks in front of the house.  I remember being told to stay in the spare room at the back of the house we dubbed the TV room.  I remember hearing police radio static and chatter.  I was scared.  I did not know what was going on.  The door cracked open and our neighbor ushered us out of the house but not before I saw my Dad lying on the living room floor, a weak smile on his face as if to let us know he was okay, paramedics fluttering around him.  My brothers, sisters, and I spent a mostly restless night sleeping on our neighbor's carpet, wondering what had just taken place.  The following morning my mother was able to tell us that Dad suffered from a heart attack.  I wasn't sure if he was still alive.  I didn't know people could survive them.  All the people I had heard about having one of those, had died.  My Mom assured us that he was in the hospital and doing okay.  He would need surgery though.  In fact, we would later find out he would need bypass surgery (I can't remember if it was triple or quadruple now).  In either case, the surgery was completed, and it was almost as if Dad had a brand new heart.  But it would only last as long as he took care of it.  He would have to quit smoking.  He would have to eat less and eat healthier.  It would be wise to exercise.  He would be prescribed blood thinners to keep his blood from clotting and clogging those freshly unblocked arteries.  All of these things would keep that heart pumping like an automotive piston.  The less he followed this regimen, the more it would slow down, and eventually come to a halt.
     Israel had never had a king before.  In the beginning of this chapter, Samuel does more than have a conversation with Saul, he anoints him.  Now, if I was Saul, I might think God's prophet was a little crazy.  He was old after all, and he had been living in the mountains for a while.  He might remind me of the Grandfather in the story Heidi.  When Samuel starts pouring oil on Saul's head and kisses him as if he is royalty, Saul would have understood the significance, but he may have dismissed him as a crazy old man.  Almost as if Samuel sensed this, he tells Saul on his journey home he will encounter some unusual circumstances.  The last meeting will be with God's prophets, who will start praising God with instruments and prophecies.  Saul will be overcome with God's Spirit and join them.  Verse 9 says, "And it was so, that when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart:  and all those signs came to pass that day."  God does something in Saul's heart this day.  He renews him.  He fills Saul with his Spirit.  When Saul joins the prophets in their praises, something evidently Saul had never done before, the locals are surprised to see it.  This was not the Saul they had known.  Something different had taken place in him.
       Word has spread that Samuel has an announcement. All the tribes have gathered in Mispeh to hear it.  Samuel is about to tell the people who has been chosen to be their very first king.  Saul is still clueless.  He still has not processed all that is to come.   Of course, who wouldn't want these thoughts uttered right before they were about to be crowned?
"And ye have this day rejected your God, who himself saved you out of all your adversities and your tribulations; and ye have said unto him, Nay, but set a king over us.  Now therefore present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes, and by your thousands."
     I mean, thanks Samuel, what a way to ruin a moment.   All the tribes gather up, looking between themselves, sure that the king will be from among their tribe.  Reuben steps up, but is eliminated.  Simeon, Levi, and Judah's tribes follow, but they are also excluded.  Each of Israel's tribe steps forward, hoping to have one of their own anointed.  Benjamin's tribe is last.  By this time, all the other tribes have figured out that it must be someone from that tribe, and the grumbling has already begun.  Benjamin's tribe?  Really? 
     Saul in the meantime, has gone into hiding.  As he is watching all the tribes step up, he must become nervous, because perhaps the weight of what is really happening has dawned on him.  Now he is starting to realize that Samuel was not a crazy old man.  That anointing was genuine.  He was being selected as the next king.  Perhaps his knees buckled a bit.  Maybe he needed time to gather his courage and his breath.  When his tribe is called, he is missing and is called in front of the people.  As he emerges from the crowd, he looks like a king.  He walks like a king.  He carries himself like a king.  Some of the grumbling subsides.  He may be from the least of the tribes and a lesser known family, but he certainly looked the part.  Most of the people are satisfied with this choice.  He certainly looked like a man who could deliver them from the Philistines.  He surely had a commanding presence, and could stand toe-to-toe with other nation's kings.  He might even tower above them.  Not a bad quality.
Samuel Anointing Saul as King--Taken from Standard Bible Readers, Book Five
By Lillie A. Faris, Illustrated by O.A. Stemler and Bess Bruce Cleaveland
The Standard Publishing Company, 1928
     The last verse shows us the factions that Saul would have to deal with from his very first day.  Some were discontented with this choice, and they would not bow to this Benjamite. Saul would already get a taste of being a leader.  He would have to deal with criticism, and he hadn't done anything yet.  He felt he had something to prove (and he did).   These sentiments will propel Saul to make future decisions he might not otherwise have made.  As any leader, he wants to be taken seriously.  He wants respect.  He doesn't always know how to earn it.  He isn't always pleased when it is not given.  These dissenters will stir up a paranoia in Saul, and it will have damaging effects.
     God gave Saul a new heart, but it was only as good as He allowed God to work in it.  If he allowed it to clog up with distrust and disobedience, he would find it would not work very well at all.  God gave me a new heart at the moment of my salvation.  It is clean and pumping with love for Him.  But when I allow the filth of this world to enter through my eyes, ears, and hands, I can be certain that the pumping will slow down.  Those arteries will get bogged down with impurities, and will hinder all I try to do for Him.  If I keep a proper regimen of reading His Word, prayer, witnessing, church attendance, Scripture memory, His blood will keep pumping through me, and allow me to serve Him.  Thank you, Lord, for giving me another heart.

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