"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." ~ Deuteronomy14:2

Friday, May 22, 2009

Raising The Standard: Responsibility is Realizing The Importance Of The Task Assigned To Us

How Does Scripture Illustrate Responsibility In Performing A Task? The history of God's chosen people is interwoven with failures and successes of those who were charged with difficult responsibilities.
As the young nation of Israel traveled from the land of bondage to the land of promise, a shocking report spread throughout the camp. A horde of wicked people was following close behind them waiting for those who were weaker and fell behind the main group. Then the Amalekites would rush upon those sick or weary, mercilessly slaughter them and steal their possessions. God determined to destroy these wicked people but gave them many opportunities to repent. Years later the seer Balaam, hired by a neighboring king to curse the nation of God, looked toward the land of Amalek and predicted, “Amalek was the first of the nations to war against Israel, but it’s latter end shall be that it will perish forever.” Four hundred years later, the time came for God to destroy them, and He sought a man who would fully carry out this grave responsibility. He gave the opportunity to a tall, handsome and courageous man. With him an army of two hundred and ten thousand men crept up to the valley next to the city of Amalek. At the given signal they made their attack; the defenses crumbled before them; victory belonged to the nation of Israel. God had given His commander strict instructions. “Go and smite the Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have and spare them not.” But the irresponsible leader did not fully obey the directive of God. Instead he spared the king and the best of the sheep and oxen. God had given the task to this man as a test to determine whether or not he would be successful as the first appointed king of Israel, and he had failed. When approached by Samuel on his return the disobedient king said, “I have performed the commandment of the Lord.” Confronted with the obvious evidence that he had not obeyed, he blaimed the people for sparing the animals and assured the prophet that they were going to sacrifice them to the Lord. Then Samuel uttered the famous words, “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to harken than the fat of rams…. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, He hath also rejected thee from being king.” Years later this irresponsible king was motally wounded in a fierce battle with another nation. After the battle a man returned to report what had happened. When he was asked how he knew that King Saul was dead, he replied, “I found him wounded, and he was afraid of being captured by the enemy. The arrow had not killed him, and he asked me to come over and help him drive his spear into his heart. I did what he asked. Then I took his crown and bracelet and fled.” When asked who he was, he simply said, “I am an Amalekite.” (From 1 Samuel 15)
Why Did God Want Saul To Destroy The Amalekites?
One of the promises that Jacob received from his father was that those who cursed him would be cursed and those who blessed him would be blessed (Genesis 27:29). His brother Esau, despised Jacob to the point of wanting to kill him when he learned that he was to be his servant (Genesis 27:40-41). Esau's grandson, Amalek, continued the family feud (Genesis 36:12). The descendants of Amalek and a group called the Kenites demonstrated the truth of the blessing which Jacob had received. The Kenites helped the nation of Israel to their new land by guiding them through their journey by making war against them (Exodus 17:8-13). As God's spokesman Moses promised to do good to the Kenites (Numbers 10:32) but to utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under ehaven (Exodus 17:14). It was Saul's responsibility to fulfill these promises by sparing the Kenites and destroying the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15:3-6).
Why Did Saul Disobey Such Clear Instructions?
Saul's invalid excuse for sparing the best of the sheep and oxen was that the people wanted to offer them to the Lord (1 Samuel 15:3-6). God had already banned all of the animals and commanded their destruction; they were not the people's animals to offer. It seems that Saul and the people were selfishly preserving the best of the animals to enjoy the sacrificial feast. Saul did not even offer an excuse for sparing King Agag, but it is possible that he was observing a common custom of increasing his prestige among surrounding nations by turning a powerful king into a royal servant. It was an act motivated by pride and an unwillingness to be the follower and servant of the Lord.
What Were The Consequences of Saul's Disobedience?
The punishment was severe. The Lord rejected him from being king over Israel and selected another to replace him (1 Samuel 16:1). The Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul and an evil spirit terrorized him for the remainder of his life. Saul knew no peace during his reign, and he was finally killed by the Philistines with three of his sons. His body was disgraced even after death (1 Samuel 31:8-10). One of Saul's remaining sons was assassinated by two of his own commanders (2 Samuel 4:7). Two other sons and five grandsons were hung in revenge by the Gibeonites (2 Samuel 21:9). Because Saul did not utterly destroy the Amalekites, they remained in the land for over three hundred years, and it was not until the reign of Hezekiah that God's judgment on them was finally completed (1 Chronicles 4:43).
How Does The Crow Illustrate Responsibility In Performing A Task? A distant sound broke the stillness of the afternoon. Indistinct at first, the noise grew in volume until a muffled flapping of wings filled the air. Gleaming, black-feathered crows approached from an adjacent field, soared past a white pine grove and began feeding on remnant corn left behind from the year’s harvest.>
Dozens followed the the first crows, gliding past a narrow stream to join their comrades on the ground, chattering noisily among themselves. But all were not involved in the company’s activity. Two sentry crows sat on the topmost branch of a dead tree, guarding the group. At any given moment some member of the flock is alert and on the lookout for possible danger. It was the duty of these two sentinels to give an alarm at the slightest indication of intrusion. The birds continued foraging among the trampled stalks and husks for whatever corn might have been left behind. The two sentinels, assuming that their feeding site was free from danger, became careless in their vigil. But their inattention was not without consequence. Another sound, the carefully placed steps of an intruder, blended with the chatter of the feeding birds as the afternoon sun extended lengthening shadows from the base of the forest bordering the field. The intruder skirted the grove of white pine cautiously and then stealthily crept forward. The threatening intruder drew closer and closer to the field, but the sentries were preoccupied and failed to notice his approach. The warning which should have been given was not, and the crows remained unaware of the unauthorized spectator. Suddenly the stranger was spotted by one of the birds on the ground and a scream of alarm was taken up by one crow after another. Almost as a unit, the entire flock took to wing, but they did not fly away as the intruder had expected. To his amazement they began diving viciously in attack, against the two sentries. The unreliable guards were torn to shreds by sharp beaks and claws in a brief brutal and fatal battle. Justice was delivered swiftly for their failure to watch and warn. The flock could not afford to tolerate such irresponsibility. To ensure that the sentries would never again be in a position to jeopardize the safety of their group, they were swiftly eliminated. The untrustworthy sentinel crows lost their lives because they causally regarded a very serious responsibility. As a rule though, the crow demonstrates unusual reliability as evidenced in its cooperative communication and teamwork in warding off enemies. Their dependence on each other for responsible communication may be one factor which explains their ability to survive despite man’s encroachment. Within each flock, a high degree of loyalty binds the group into a cohesive unit of operation.

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