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Charles Spurgeon's "Morning & Evening"
Devotional: April 23rd
“If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
1 Samuel 15:1-3 , 1 Samuel 15:9-11 , 1 Samuel 15:13-23
1 Samuel 15:1-3
This wandering people had wantonly attacked the Israelites in the desert, in the most cowardly manner, and this national sin had long been registered in God’s book against them. They were moreover a barbarous race of plunderers, most dangerous to their neighbours and to all settled government. The time was come when divine justice required that they should be brought to condign punishment. Saul was therefore sent of God to be the executioner, and was commanded to do his work thoroughly.
1 Samuel 15:9
This was half-obedience, which is whole rebellion. Many are ready to slay their disreputable sins, but their fashionable transgressions they cannot give up.
1 Samuel 15:11
The rejection of sinners is a great grief to saints: God has no pleasure in the death of sinners, nor have his people.
1 Samuel 15:15
He lays his fault upon others, and pleads the good intention of the act. Neither excuse would avail.
1 Samuel 15:16-23
Nothing can compensate for a want of obedience to Gods will. We may pretend great zeal for God’s glory, but wilful neglect of divine commands will condemn us. External religion cannot be a substitute for holiness. Those who pretended to witchcraft were put to death by Saul, but so long as he himself would not do as the Lord bade him, he was as guilty as the witches whom he slew. Idolatry was known to be overt rebellion against Jehovah, but obstinate disregard of his law was quite as evil a form of rebellion. May the Holy Ghost make us scrupulously obedient, for nothing short of this will prove us to be the true servants of the Lord.
“Rend your hearts, and not your garments.”
The plea of Saul that he had preserved the cattle for sacrifice, when the Lord had bidden him destroy them, reminds us of the folly of those who imagine that religion lies in outward forms, and forget that it is a matter of the heart. To such persons the Lord spake by the mouth of his servant Isaiah, and said Isaiah 1:10-20.
The mention of Sodom and Gomorrah was intended to be a warning to them of the certain punishment of their crimes. On account of their forms and ceremonies they reckoned themselves to be the favourites of heaven, but for their hypocrisy they were named after the most accursed of men.
They stopped at the outward shell, and never entered upon the kernel of real love to God; hence their religion was useless.
God wants not the superstitious to adore him, he has never invited them to his house. He seeketh those who worship him in spirit and in truth, and not mere formalists.
While they were cruel and oppressive, it was idle to offer elaborate ceremonies, devout postures, holy days and many prayers, for God abhors a heartless worship. Men who do not really believe in the Lord Jesus and obey the Lord’s will, might save themselves the trouble of attending upon sacraments, for they only make their case worse, and add to their sins.
Isaiah 1:16 , Isaiah 1:17
Repentance, practical and thorough, is a great gospel duty, and a grain of it is better than a ton of ceremonies.
Have done with the vain boast of your religiousness, and be indeed religious, spiritually and practically. Seek mercy of the Lord with humble heart, since he is ready to bestow it, for the vilest sins can be put away by Jesus’ blood; but mere ceremonies avail nothing.
To the same purport is that memorable passage in the book of Micah.
The true proof of godliness is not expensive rites, but hearty obedience; not a loud profession, but holy living; not large subscriptions, but a yielding up of the heart. Have we this vital godliness? Has the Holy Spirit wrought in us a change of heart?
Not streaming blood, nor cleansing fire,
Thy righteous anger can appease;
Burnt offerings thou dost not require,
Or gladly I would render these.
The broken heart in sacrifice,
Alone, will thine acceptance meet:
My heart, O God, do not despise,
Abased and contrite at thy feet
the First Week of Advent
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