Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Leader to Follow

Today's passage:  I Samuel 14:24-52
     My first job in college was working at McDonald's.  My manager was a soft-spoken man, a Christian, who could be seen mopping floors as often as in the office filling out invoices.  Something about seeing your manager getting his hands dirty with the rest of the workers, gives you a sense of respect for your boss.
     I feel for Saul.  He wants to get things right, but he doesn't know how.  Have you ever met someone who was trying so hard to lead, who was trying so hard to earn respect, and failed miserably?  I have.  I've met people who want to love God and serve Him and at every turn, seem to do the opposite.  It is almost like they don't know how.  The only thing I can recommend to these people is to do things God's way.  If you don't know what that is, like anything else in life, you need to find out how.  You can find out how by going to His House and by going to His Word.  Really, it sounds simplistic, but that is the only way to know what God wants from you.  Reading books that men have written can be very helpful, but unless those are supplements to reading God's Word, all the books in the world will not help.  Saul's life is a good example of someone who had the tools but did not use them.  He had access to one of God's greatest men--Samuel.  But rarely do we see Saul consulting with him, only after he tried his way first, which only created messes for Samuel to try to correct.
     Saul's command for the people to fast until they had suppressed the enemy was not directed by God.  It was Saul's assumption of appeasing God for the displeasure he had already caused Him.  Ordering this fast, in effect, caused the people to sin in a greater fashion because by the time they had battled all day on empty stomachs, they were famished enough to kill the looted livestock right in the field, and eat it without draining off the blood.  This was definitely against God's laws.  So, Saul's attempt to please the Lord, by calling this fast, in essence caused greater displeasure.  This leads Saul to his next decision which is to ask the priest for prayer to determine whether they should go after the Philistines.  He doesn't get an answer.  We have already seen that Saul does not like to wait.  When God does not give him an immediate answer, he wants to know why.  He deducts that there must be sin in the midst, but he does not first ask God if the sin is his.  He immediately guesses that the sin must be among his soldiers.  Another mistake.  We should always check with God about our own sin before going after someone else's.  Jonathan is discovered to be the culprit.  While out in the woods, Jonathan had eaten fresh honey from an open hive.  He was not aware of his father's order to fast.  The people's respect for Jonathan was so great, that when Saul casts lots to determine who had sinned, they do not tattletale on Jonathan.  They could not be sure how the lots would come out, but they were willing to take their chances and even risk their lives for this young man.  Jonathan seemed to be able to demand respect without even trying, something his father was not able to do.  Why?  Because Jonathan did not try to demand it.  He followed God, which earned respect from the people.  He didn't base his decisions on what people thought, he based them on what God thought.  Would these same men have been willing to die for their king?  I think not.  I think the situation would have been drastically different.  Saul tried too hard.  He tried too hard to garner respect from people, and did not try hard enough to respect God, which would have given him men's respect as well.
     It may seem that the world does not respect us.  Actually, in my experiences, they do.  More than they will ever let on.  When we put God first, when we do what He wants from us, respect from others will eventually follow.  They might begrudgingly admit to it, but in moments of weakness, they will admit their admiration.  Not for us, so much, but for our devotion to Someone they cannot see.  I sometimes heard the sniggling remarks when our McDonald's manager mopped another floor.  Many workers had to feign disrespect, because in their estimation, that was beneath a manager to be doing those kinds of menial tasks.  But beneath the outward bravados, I saw workers who felt able to go to him and ask him about things.  I saw the respect in their eyes, if not coming from their mouths.  He did not have to earn respect by ordering us to do these things, although he would often ask us politely to attend to something, because he led by example.  When he saw something amiss, and he was able to do it, he would do it.  When he was not able to, and instead asked us, we usually responded without grumbling, because we knew if he could, he would.  Some people have a natural ability to earn people's devotion.  This manager was one of those people, and I learned a lot just by watching him.  Saul could have learned a lot by watching his son.  He could have learned even more by watching Samuel.  Saul could not watch another king, he was the first.  That is why, he needed God's guidance even more. 
     When I want respect, I need to give God His respect first.  The rest will follow.  Maybe subtly, maybe without a lot of outward demonstrations, but quietly and simply, people will fall in line.  You will be surprised how many people will follow, when You are following Him.

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