Newsletter August, 2002

AUGUST, 2002

Better Than Sacrifice

Reading: I Samuel 15:17-30

In First Samuel Chapter 9, God sent the prophet Samuel to anoint Saul to be the first king of Israel. Saul reacted by saying, "I am only a Benjaminite, from the least of the tribes of Israel, and my family is the humblest of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin. Why have you then spoken to me in this way?" When Samuel cast the lot upon him, Saul even tried to hide himself. This humble response had a historical background. After entering into the land of Canaan, the tribe of Ephraim often took the leadership, whereas the tribe of Benjamin was nothing in comparison. Therefore, when Saul was called upon as the new king, he felt unworthy for the job. However, when a man humbled himself, the Lord gladly raised him up and could more easily work through him. God chose Saul and thus worked on him.

First, Through Samuel God told Saul that the Spirit of God would greatly move him and he would speak with the prophets (I Sam 10:6). Surely the Lord gave him a new heart (I Sam 10:9), and made him a new man with the presence of God (I Sam 10:7) and the power of the Spirit. This testified that God had chosen him as His vessel and made him a great soldier. God gave him a group of men to follow him (10:26), so they could defeat the Ammonites (Chap. 11).

All these were beyond the imagination of Saul. One would think that he would be grateful and therefore rule the nation with humility and the fear of the Lord. Unfortunately, shortly after his victory, Saul became proud and stopped following the way of the Lord by disobeying God's command. As a result, God rejected him and Saul failed. Whence did he fall, and what can we learn from his life?

  1. Saul was told to wait for Samuel to offer the sacrifice at Gilgal at the appointed time. Before Samuel arrived, he was afraid that the people would become impatient and slip away. Therefore, he violated God's commandment and offered the sacrifice himself. Because of this foolishness, he lost his reign as the king (13:8-14). To wait upon the Lord is the secret of our strength (Isa. 40:31). So often we waited for a long time, but because of delay and the slipping away and complain of people, we do not stay on till the end. Using the way of man, we try to keep people with our foolishness. The result is simply that we lose the presence of God; the work is of no fruit and the blessing of God is missing. Such a spiritual crisis is an important lesson for each of us.

    Furthermore, in his perceived urgency Saul thought his sacrifice would bring God's protection and blessing. But "to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams" (I Sam 15:22). God is much more pleased with the obedience than the burnt offering and peace offering. Offering sacrifices is the duty only entrusted to the priests, not to King Saul. Because he was anxious, "I forced myself and offered the burnt offering," he said to Samuel. Religious ritual can never please God, who saw through the motivation in Saul's heart that caused his fall. The Lord Jesus said, "They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them." (John 14:21). During His time on earth, the Lord humbled Himself and was obedient till death. His example teaches us to be still before God and live with obedience before offering sacrifices.

  2. In I Samuel 15, through Samuel God instructed Saul "to go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey." Yet Saul "spared Agag and the best of the sheep and of the cattle and of the fatlings, and the lambs and all that was valuable, and would not destroy them," (15:9). Because of his selfish desire to profit himself, he lied to Samuel and blamed the people "who spared the best of the sheep ….. to sacrifice to the Lord your God," (15:16). What an excuse and how dreadful a lie!

    By His grace God lifted man to important positions, not for personal gains but for God's work. Many servants of God started out with a simple and pure heart. However, once used by God to gain reputation and open doors in ministry, they could not resist temptations but fell into the trap of power and wealth, resulting in self-destruction spiritually and the stumbling of many other weaker brothers.

  3. When Samuel rebuked Saul in I Samuel 15:24-30, Saul responded by saying, "I feared the people and obeyed their voices," and asked for forgiveness (15:24-25). It is clear that Saul had more fear for man than of God. Finally, Samuel pronounced that the Lord had torn the kingdom from him and rejected him as the king. Saul pleaded by asking, "I have sinned; yet honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me," (15:30). He was still more concerned with the glory from man than having any fear of God. Note that in I Samuel 15:15, 21 and 30 Saul mentioned to Samuel of God by saying "your God", never "my God". He seemed to know God and worship Him, but did he truly fear God and consider God the Lord of his life? Without the Lordship of God in him, he feared man more than God, and tried to please man only.

    From the life of Saul we are reminded that true honor comes from God. When one is lifted up by God, how he needs to take heed in self-control and discipline, lest pride should engulf him. Knowing his background of a lowly family, Saul initially had a humble heart. But once ascended to the throne, his pride led him to reject and sin against God. In the end, he himself was rejected by God and fell terribly. We pray that every child of God would please Him and fear Him in remembering that to obey is better than sacrifice. Since God is the One we serve, let us obey Him and please Him as our Lord in all things.

A Letter from Brother Liu

Note: Brother Tung-kun Liu of Australia was scheduled to come to Orlando on June 19, and to lead in our special meeting of June 21-23 this year. Unfortunately, while leading a retreat meeting in Maryland in May, he developed a severe heart attack, which required immediate medical care and surgery. The recovery would require about six weeks, and our special meeting had to be cancelled. With this news, the church began praying for him earnestly that the hand of the Lord be upon His servant and His power and mercy be manifested in this matter. Thank God for He indeed has heard the prayer of the church. Our brother successfully went through the five-fold by-pass surgery, fully recovered and returned to Australia in mid-July. Glory be unto our God!

The following is a letter recently sent by him on August 1 to the church.

Dear brothers and sisters,

Peace be unto you. An eight-two year old man is like an old truck that has worn parts all over and cannot be used by the master anymore. Consequently, after the summer meetings in Rome and Milan, the Lord led me to speak at the retreat of the Maryland Bible Church. The day after the retreat on May 26, the symptoms for my heart problem became clear and I was admitted to a hospital in Washington, DC immediately for surgery. It turned out that five of my heart blood vessels were blocked and needed by-pass operation right away, lest there should be further life-threatening danger.

The surgery took place on the morning of the 29th. The doctor at the same time gave me a full checkup for my lung, kidney, stomach, intestines, bones and other internal systems. After six weeks of resting in Maryland, the doctor finally released me and allowed me to go home. We arrived back in Melbourne, Australia on July 17.

Thanks be to God. With a repaired heart, the blood circulation was greatly improved and my recovery was speedy. On July 20 I began leading the Bible study for our leadership training group. On the 21st, I had an opportunity to preach and to testify the power of God in my recovery. On the 29th my heart specialist here in Australia examined me. He confirmed that I am fully recovered, ready to go on for the ministry of the Lord again.

The whole event testifies to all of us that our God indeed is the One who turns void into being and raises the dead to life. To all who have faith in Him He gives the power of God (Romans 1:16) and miracles happen. During this time of surgery, many churches shared their love and concerns in prayers. I send my deepest gratitude and greetings in the Lord.

In Christ, 
Tung-kun Liu