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"He will Take It"

Presented on The Lutheran Hour on October 24, 2021
By Rev. Dr. Michael Zeigler, Lutheran Hour Speaker
Copyright 2021 Lutheran Hour Ministries

Listen (5-10mb)  Download (35-70mb)  Reflections

Text: 1 Samuel 15

All she could do is sit there and take it as our daughter screamed at her. "You shouldn't be doing this. I don't like you. Get away from me." It had been our daughter Elise's first pair of earrings. My wife, Amy, and Elise had gone so that Elise could get the earrings put in. And after they were in, the technician told them, "Now you need to apply this antiseptic every day for the next week, morning, and evening to prevent infection." And Elise did well. She applied the antiseptic on Monday and Tuesday, but only once on Wednesday and she totally forgot on Thursday. And come Friday, she was in a world of hurt. Amy had tried to brush her hair and Elise recoiled in pain. Amy took a closer look and she saw that the earring, the little silver stud, was no longer visible.

All she could see was a red, puffy, inflamed ear lobe with a pus-filled crater at the center of it. Later at the pediatrician's office, the doctor explained what would have to happen. And an army of nurses comes in to help. They held down her arms and her legs, uncoiled her flat on the operating table, and Amy held her head steady as the doctor picks up a pair of needle-nose pliers to dig into the wound and extract the infection at its source. Amy's holding Elise's head and telling her, "I love you. We're going to get through this. It'll be okay. I love you. I love you." But Elise wasn't hearing it. She just kept screaming. And Amy just had to sit there and take it.

Now, imagine I told you that story, but had left out some important details. What if I had said, "Once upon a time, a group of adults held down a little girl against her will, and one of them used a pair of pliers to cause her great pain while she screamed at them and pleaded for them to stop"? Without the rest of the story, it would have been a very different picture, and it would have been up to you to fill in the gaps to understand what was happening. And I found that something similar happens to me when I read the Old Testament of the Bible. And maybe you can relate. When I read what's happening there, sometimes I lose sight of the bigger story. Now on this program, I've encouraged you to listen to a portion of the Old Testament, the books of 1 and 2 Samuel, which tell the story of Samuel, a prophet of God, God's spokesman, along with the first king of God's chosen people, Israel, a man named Saul. And then later the second king, David.

And I encouraged you to listen to this story. But then I realized that you're going to come across some disturbing details along the way, especially in 1 Samuel 15. Because in that chapter, God's spokesman, Samuel the prophet, tells the king, Saul, to carry out what some might call genocide. God orders His chosen people, Israel, to take their army and go attack a neighboring people. He tells them to kill everyone, not just the soldiers, but the civilians, the men and the women, the children, babies, animals, all of them. And when I hear this, my gut reaction is to recoil and to say to God, "You shouldn't be doing this. I don't like You. Get away from me."

And that's the reaction that many people have when they read things like this in the Old Testament. Everyone who listens to the Bible faces this eventually. And as we face it together, we listen to these accounts from 1 and 2 Samuel, I invite you, I encourage you. I plead with you, listen for the voice of Jesus in the midst of it. He's telling you, "I love you. I'll get you through this." Because the Bible is finally a story about Jesus and His love. But it's also a story about an infection that needs to come out. You see that these instances in the Old Testament of God instructing Israel, for a limited time, to kill whole groups of people in and around the land of Canaan, these should be understood in that context. We need to understand this as part of God's eternal warfare against evil.

Now, contrary to appearance, God's war isn't against any specific group of people. God's war isn't against people at all, no more than the doctor was against our daughter. God's war is against the infection. The source of this infection is misplaced trust. It's trust in things that are not God, trust in people and institutions, in ideas. That's the source of the infection. The Bible calls it idolatry. Idolatry is putting faith in objects, in accomplishments, in the feelings around which we have coiled ourselves. And God is devoted to removing this infection at its source, and the Bible tells the story how.

It's the story of God's surgical intervention to heal and restore His creation through His chosen people, Israel, and ultimately through Israel's final King, the crucified and risen Jesus. Jesus, the Christ, the anointed King one day will return to fully remove the infection, to destroy the power of idols and consequently all who continue to coil themselves around them.

Now at this time in history, in the book of 1 Samuel, Israel's first king was a man named Saul. And one of Saul's early missions from God was to bring God's wrath on the idols of the people of Amalek. God had patiently delayed intervention for centuries, but now it was the time to act. The infection was so widespread, and the people of Amalek were so entangled in it, God told Saul to devote all of them to destruction. But when you listen to the story, you'll hear that something goes sideways. There's a problem with Saul, the king who carried it out. Listen to how it goes in 1 Samuel 15.

Now Samuel, the prophet, said to Saul, the king, "The Lord sent me to anoint you king over His people, Israel. Now listen to the words of the Lord. 'This is what the Lord of hosts says. I have observed what the people of Amalek did to Israel, how they opposed them on the way when Israel came up out of Egypt. Now, go and devote the people of Amalek to destruction. Do not spare them, but put to death man and woman, infant and child, ox and sheep, camel, and donkey.'" So, Saul gathered the army and struck the Amalekites from Havilah as far as Shur, which is east of Egypt, but he took Agag, the king of the Amalekites alive, and the rest of the people he devoted to destruction with the edge of the sword. Saul and the people spared Agag the king and the best of the sheep and the oxen and the fattened calves and the lambs and all that was good. They were not willing to devote them to destruction, but everything that was despised and worthless, that they devoted to destruction.

And the word of the Lord came to Samuel, saying, "I have changed my decision about Saul being king because he has turned away from following Me and he has not upheld My words." And Samuel burned with anger and he cried out to the Lord all that night. Early in the morning, Samuel got up to go meet Saul. Now, someone reported to Samuel, "Saul, he came to Carmel and look, he set up a monument for himself and he turned and he passed by and he headed down to Gilgal." So Samuel went to Saul. And Saul said to Samuel, "Blessed are you to the Lord. I have fulfilled the word of the Lord."

And Samuel said, "What then is this sound of sheep in my ears? And the sound of oxen that I hear?" And Saul said, "Well, they brought from the Amalekites is what the people spared, the best of the sheep and the oxen to sacrifice to the Lord, your God." And Samuel said, "Stop. And I will tell you what the Lord has said to me this night." And Saul said, "Tell me." Samuel continued, "Although you are small in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. And the Lord sent you on a mission. He said, 'Go, devote to destruction the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.' Why then did you not listen to the voice of the Lord? Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what is evil in the eyes of the Lord?"

And Saul said, "I have listened to the voice of the Lord. And I went on the mission on which the Lord sent me. And I brought back Agag, the king of the Amalekites. And the Amalekites, I devoted to destruction. The people took the spoil, the best of the sheep and the oxen to sacrifice to the Lord your God at Gilgal." And Samuel said, "Does the Lord delight in sacrifice as much as in listening to the voice of the Lord? To listen is better than sacrifice, to obey is better than the fat of rams. Because rebellion is as the sin of divination and presumption is as guilt and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, the Lord has rejected you from being king."

And Saul said, "I have sinned because I against the word of the Lord and against your words, because I was afraid of the people, and I listened to their voice. So now please, forgive my sin and return with me and I will bow down before the Lord your God." And Samuel said, "I will not return with you because you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel." And Samuel turned to go and Saul sees the fringe of his robe and it tore. And Samuel said to him, the Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day and has given it to your neighbor who is better than you. And the Eternal One of Israel, He will not deal falsely and He will not change His verdict, because He is not a man that He should change His verdict.

And Saul said, "I've sinned. Now please, honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel and return with me and I will bow down before the Lord, your God." So Samuel turned after Saul and Saul bowed down before the Lord. And Samuel said, "Bring me Agag, the king of the Amalekites. And Agag came cheerfully saying, "Surely, the bitterness of death has passed." And Samuel said to him, "As your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women." And Samuel put Agag to death in the presence of the Lord at Gilgal. And Samuel returned to Ramah and Saul to his home in Gibeah, and Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, because he grieved over Saul. And the Lord regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel. It's from the book of 1 Samuel 15.

My teacher, Dr. Tim Saleska, whom you'll hear from at the end of this message, he says that this is the saddest chapter in all of the Bible. It's an account of God's judgment. It's judgment that knows no bounds. Men, women, children, me, you, no one is exempt, even Israel's king, God's chosen king is right there with us under God's judgment. Saul's idols aren't all that different from the people of Amalek—from yours or mine. A little extra money in your pocket, a little extra security, a little more honor and power: idols come in many forms, but we coil ourselves around them just the same.

But the king of Israel was supposed to be different. He was supposed to be God's greatest servant. He was supposed to heal. He was supposed to remove the infection, but this king can't. And that's really the point of most of the Old Testament that this people, this prophet, this king can't do it. He can't save us, only God can.

There was a moment just before Jesus was crucified, a man asked Him if He were the king. The man who asked was the Roman official, Pontius Pilate. They had arrested Jesus and brought Him in for questioning. Pilate asked, "You are the King of Israel, the King of the Jews?" And Jesus answered, "Are you saying this on your own or did others tell you about Me?" Pilate replied, "I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and Your own chief priest handed You over to me? What is it that you have done?" And Jesus said, "My kingdom is not from this world. If My kingdom were from this world, My servants would fight. But as it is, My kingdom is not from here." And Pilate said to Him, "So you are a king." Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this, I have been born. And for this, I have come into the world in order to testify to the truth."

Jesus is a different kind of king. He's not just another human king. He's the eternal Son of God become the human King. And He came to witness to the truth. He came to remove the infection and He did it, not with weapons, but with the Word of God, not grabbing for honor, but embracing us in our shame, not hoarding spoils, but stripped of all He owned. The cross was King Jesus' throne. And it wasn't just another preview of Judgment Day; it was the final judgment happening ahead of time. Jesus took the infection from us forever and His resurrection, His life-giving Spirit is the promise of our healing and restoration.

Our daughter, Elise, did end up getting another pair of earrings, a few years later. Amy, my wife, went with her and held her hand as they put them in and they were all more diligent when it came to applying the antiseptic. The event with the first pair of earrings happened 10 years ago, but Amy says she can still remember it very clearly, how she just had to sit there and take it in love for her daughter.

You and I will experience God's judgment in this life, whether it's firsthand or through the experiences of others as we listen to the Bible. But Jesus has shown us that the only power more encompassing than God's judgment is God's love. This life at times is like being in the doctor's office, held down against your will. And at this point in the procedure, you and I can't see the whole truth. We don't have the privileged position of the loving parent behind the pain. We're the child on the operating table and sometimes all you can do is cry out. So, cry to Jesus. He can take it.

And pray with me. Jesus, only You can heal me of this infection. I am in Your care. Amen.

Reflections for October 24, 2021

Title: He Will Take It

Mark Eischer: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. For FREE online resources, archived audio, our mobile, and more, go to Now, once again, here's our Speaker, Dr. Michael Zeigler.

Michael Zeigler: Thank you, Mark. Today, I'm visiting with Dr. Tim Saleska. He's a professor at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. He teaches future pastors, deaconesses, and teachers about life with God, especially as He's revealed Himself through the Bible's Old Testament. Dr. Saleska, thanks for being here.

Tim Saleska: Very happy to be here, Michael.

Michael Zeigler: We've been listening to the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel. One of the problems that I've encountered as I listened to this story is that I can't help feeling sorry for Saul. He's supposed to be the bad guy, but maybe it even feels like God's not being fair with Saul. Am I wrong to feel that way?

Tim Saleska: I will say that 1 Samuel 15 has to be one of the saddest, if not the saddest chapters in the Old Testament, to me. Sad, but also so hard. I mean, Saul receives this hard law at the end of the chapter from the Lord Himself, and it's difficult to swallow. And then when you get to chapter 16, God doesn't stop. He actually takes the Spirit of the Lord, the Holy Spirit, from him and sends an evil spirit, a "raah," a harmful spirit, to torment him. What kind of God does that? You see, that kind of judgment is incomprehensible, and we sit in shocked silence at the Incomprehensibility. God has hidden Himself, so as not to be found. And you notice in the rest of the narrative, Saul can't find Him. He finally is driven to the witch of Endor. He's desperate to hear some word from the Lord as he goes on, and the message there is, "Fear God," first of all. "Fear God" doesn't mean just hold him in awe and respect. I mean, for me, you have to tremble at a God who could do this to Saul, and it drives me again to the question, "Well, what about me? What is God going to say to me? Where do I find any certainty? If he can do this to Saul, what does it mean for me?"

You see, and this is where Lutherans have this unique move that we make that other Christians don't always make. This is where we flee from the God who has hidden Himself, to the God who has revealed Himself. In other words, in Christ, He has hidden Himself, so as to be found, right? Whereas here, you see Him hiding Himself, so as not to be found. When reading a chapter like this, it terrifies you, so I have to be driven from God to God, as we say, and I think that's an important move that is made all the time in the Old Testament.

Michael Zeigler: I like how you said, it's not just fear God in an intellectual sense or something, because the narrator really works at this. The narrator is doing this, not just in an intellectual way, but in a whole emotional sort of way.

Tim Saleska: He really is. The thing about reading Samuel is it's not just cognitive historical information, it's very affective. Because again, it raises serious questions about who God is and the kind of God we're actually dealing with, and where we find our certainty in the midst of this uncertain world, and a God who can do the kinds of things that you see God doing in 1 and 2 Samuel. And so, it's brutal reading in that sense, but that's what makes it worthwhile. We're not just reading it for the information that it can give us.

Michael Zeigler: That's really important, I think for understanding the whole Bible as a dramatic narrative that's doing something to us as listeners and readers. God is deliberately hiding Himself so that we would seek Him only in Jesus.

Tim Saleska: You're not going to find them in the things of this world, for example. When you ask the question, "Why is God doing this to someone? Why is He doing this to this country? Why is He doing this in the world?" You're never going to find the answer. God has hidden Himself, so as not to be found. So where do you find God? Ultimately, He has spoken to us in Jesus. That's why the Gospel is the center of our theology. We begin with Jesus, where God has spoken, and what has He told us? He's told us, "I'm going to raise you from the dead." And so, we actually through the proclamation of the Gospel, through your preaching, for example, that the Holy Spirit brings people into His kingdom.

I always remind people that what do you think Baptism is? It's God exercising His choice through you. He's bringing you into His kingdom, making you a child of the promise. Same thing when we proclaim the forgiveness of sins at Holy Communion. God is giving us his end-time Word that we're going to hear ahead of time. And so, we're always making this move against the God who is bringing us through judgment to the God who promises us salvation. So as Luther says, once again, "For us, eternal death is turned into temporal death." We live by that promise, and you can see that pattern, so to speak, throughout the Old Testament.

Michael Zeigler: Again, it makes me want to come back and re-read and listen to this narrative. I had forgotten about the witch of Endor, you mentioned, there's this seance in the Bible, and it actually works. It actually brings Samuel back.

Tim Saleska: It's crazy. Yeah, I don't know what happens there. Yeah.

Michael Zeigler: Oh, it's so much, but like you said, the center of it is always to lead us, point us to Jesus. Thanks for being here with us.

Tim Saleska: Sure enough, Michael.

Music Selections for this program:

"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.

"From God Can Nothing Move Me" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)

Change Their World. Change Yours. This changes everything.

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