Bible reading for September 4.
I Samuel 28.
"Moreover, the LORD will give Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me." (1 Samuel 28:19)
THE WITCH OF ENDOR. Earlier Saul had prohibited necromancers (mediums) from being in the land (as the Law stipulated), but now he is at the point of desperation and turns to occult means. The Bible condemns all practices of the occult, including necromancy (Deut 18:10-12). It seems most likely that seances do not actually communicate with departed spirits but rather with deceiving, demonic spirits. But here in God's remarkable providence he allows this medium to make actual contact with Samuel, who reiterates what God had already plainly said to Saul. He does learn something new: his sons and he will be dead within 24 hours. Later God would say through the prophet Isaiah, "And when they say to you, 'Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter' should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn" (Isa 8:19-20). This story of Saul and the witch of Endor is not written to legitimize occult practices, but to show us how far Saul has fallen from God. The Bible really does tell us everything we need to know.
REFLECT. When we get to a point of desperation in our lives we may be tempted to turn back to old ways of coping, or of trying to control our destiny: "If God won't answer me, then I'll find something (or somebody) else that will." People may turn to horoscopes, divination, or tarot cards to get information about the future. Magic is a way humans seek to gain control and manipulate the spirit world for personal advantage. What occult practices are prevalent in our society today? Why do you think God wants his people to avoid all use of the occult?
1 Corinthians 9.
"But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified." (1 Corinthians 9:27)
PASSION FOR THE GOSPEL. It seems that some of the churches like Corinth may have thought Paul was something less than a first-string Apostle (2 Cor 12:10-12). Paul was not an eloquent speaker nor philosophical in his approach. He did not demand an honorarium for speaking, and he usually supported himself by being a tent-maker, a blue-collar trade. In this chapter Paul defends his approach to ministry and financial support. He goes to almost any length to freely and publicly proclaim the gospel to his generation. "I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings" (v 23). His mindset is that of an athlete (vv 24-27). He wants to subject all of himself and all of his life to the one goal of making Christ known.
LEST I BE DISQUALIFIED. Does the last verse indicate that Paul was unsure of his salvation? The word translated "disqualified" [Gr., adokimos] has a range of meanings: "failing the test, or disqualified; worthless; useless." He could be referring to the need for perseverance in salvation (1 Cor 15:2; cf Matt 10:22; 24:13). But it seems in this context (that is, sharing in the blessings of the gospel) he is likely referring to finishing well in his labors as a servant of Christ. Paul does not take for granted that he will finish well. I believe he was secure in his salvation (Rom 8:29; Phil 1:6; 2 Tim 1:12) but, given his view of the judgment seat of Christ (1 Cor 3:9-15; 2 Cor 5:10), he wants his "offering" of the Gentile believers to be acceptable to God (Rom 15:15-16). So, like an athlete he wants to be disciplined, keeping his body under control, and running the race according to God's rules.
ALL IN, ALL OUT. The Apostle Paul wants to be all-in for the gospel and going all out for the Lord. Consider what he says here, which may be applied to our entire Christian life: "Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil 3:12-14).
REFLECT. We must hold the assurance and security of our salvation in one hand, and the necessity of living well for the Lord on the other. We may not be condemned in judgment along with the world, but one day we will appear before our Lord for reward, or loss of reward, on how we lived for him. How important is it to you that you live well, and finish well, in your Christian life and service?
Image credit. Photo by Braden Collum on Unsplash.
We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson.
Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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