How should we handle the problems that wreck our lives? Advice is given to us from every side for quick solutions but listen to this lesson to see that only the Bible has all the answers. Understand that we need to learn the basic foundation of the events of the Bible in order to apply the doctrinal principles. See that in the days of Samuel the people were turning to their cultural solutions rather than trusting God. Begin to realize the depths of depravity of our sin natures and see that we cannot compromise but must battle through the ministry of God the Holy Spirit to defeat its effects and find divine peace.
The book Dr. Dean references in this class is called The State of the American Mind: 16 Leading Critics on the New Anti-Intellectualism.
Dr. Dean also quoted from Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America by Robert Whitaker.
Sufficiency of God
1 Samuel 4:1
1st & 2nd Samuel Lesson #024
September 8, 2015
“Father, we’re thankful we can come together this evening to study Your Word, to reflect upon what it means, what happened in the original context so many centuries ago, and the implications that what You are teaching that relate to spiritual life, that relate to different areas of politics and government.
Father, help us to think through what this text is saying, what it is teaching, that we might conform our thinking to what Your Word says.
Father, we continue to pray for our nation. We pray that You’d bring up leaders who are focused on biblical principles that will provide stability and security for this nation that we can move past many of the policies that have been so destructive over the last several years.
Father, we are also thankful for a good report on Hunter Mitchell that he is going through his treatment fine. We pray that You’d continue to strengthen him, restore his health, and that he would be responsive to all the medication.
Father, we pray all these things in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Open your Bibles to 1 Samuel 4. I think we might get there tonight. We started an introduction last time. The reason I am taking this time to go back is for a couple of reasons: we need to go back and pick up context, and we need to understand what the flow is in the Scripture.
We have lived in a context. I don’t mean “we” in a narrow sense, but I mean we as American Evangelicals have lived in a general context for at least the last 100 years, where people have lost the flow and structure of biblical knowledge. That is pretty devastating.
One of the things I try to do is constantly remind all of us of the basic issues, the basic events that have taken place within the structure of the Bible so that we understand this data.
I put a slide in here and I think I put it in the wrong place. This is a quote I ran across in a book that I recommend to you for stimulation of your thought processes about what is going on in this country.
It is called The State of the American Mind, and it is edited by Mark Bauerlein and Adam Bellow. If you know Saul Bellow as an author, this is his son. Each chapter is written by a different author. They bring out a lot of different points. I am going to quote from it a couple of times as we go forward.
This quote is from the introduction by E.D. Hirsch, Jr. I first became acquainted with him back when I was in seminary, because I think the third book he wrote was called Validity in Interpretation, which is not about biblical interpretation at all. It is talking about how you interpret anything.
He is a literature professor, PhD in English literature. This was excellent. In fact, Dr. Elliot Johnson, who spoke at the Chafer Conference here in 2014, has taught advanced hermeneutics at Dallas Seminary since the mid-70s, about the time that I was a student. He has used Validity in Interpretation as a required textbook to teach principles of hermeneutics and interpretation.
But he also became very well known by a lot of people because in the mid-80s, in 1987, he published a book called Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know.
He was going completely against the flow of the culture, because his idea, as he states it, since the 1930s the idea in education was more and more that we need to teach students how to be critical thinkers—how to due process rather than teaching them a breadth of just general knowledge.
Dr. Hirsch says, “Background knowledge (“general facts”, information, memorizing dates and people and events, that’s what he means by “general facts”) is essential to educational performance...”
In his book Cultural Literacy, and in this chapter, he backs this up with a lot of statistics. He’s just talking about education in general. If you are going to have children that are going to be able to perform well on exams, they need to know general facts. Your kids that come up through elementary school and middle school and high school today in public school aren’t taught facts.
You can ask them what happened in 1776. They don’t know. What happened in 1620? They don’t know. Who are the Puritans? They don’t know. They just don’t know general facts. Dr. Hirsch recognized the principle that critical thinking skills and abstract reasoning are based on a prior knowledge of general data. Okay?
I ran across this quote, “Background knowledge (“general facts”) is essential to educational performance, … abstract skills falter without a foundation of content supporting them…. [This is] what needs to be done to produce more competent Americans.”
That is a great quote. It is a great quote for education.
If you are a homeschooler (and we have homeschoolers who listen), this is something you need to pay attention to. I highly recommend this book.
But I want you to think about this not just in a general sense of education, but think of it in terms of biblical education, Christian education.
What he is saying is that you don’t need to focus on just knowing doctrine or theological reasoning. He is not saying critical thinking skills are not important, but if you don’t have that secondary to a knowledge of biblical data, biblical facts–if you don’t know who people are…
If you don’t know the difference between Ahimelech and Abimelech? Between Mephibosheth and Mahershalalhashbaz?
Peter and Philip?
If you don’t know the difference between Syria and Damascus?
The Philistines and the Canaanites?
If you don’t know the basic data:
If you don’t know who Jesus is, Mary, Joseph, Saul, David, Abraham.
And when they lived and dates they lived, then I am telling you, the doctrine that you learn is going to be hanging there in limbo. It’s like hanging in a vacuum because you don’t have the coat hangers to organize your closet.
What would happen if you went into your closet and you took the coat hangers out? That is the general data of history and data of the Bible.
If you took the coat hangers out and put your clothes in there, what would it look like? A big mess! You have all this doctrine, this abstract reasoning in there, but if you don’t have the biblical structure to organize it, then it is all going to end up on the floor.
It is really not going to do you a lot of good. I tell you—I have seen so many Christians from so many different backgrounds who just don’t know biblical data. They are taught, maybe, a lot of good principles.
But God didn’t give us the Bible so you could just principlize it.
It is not an abstract theology. We are supposed to know the Bible.
Jesus used the Bible when He’s reacting to Satan in the wilderness. He doesn’t quote the Theology of Temptation points 5, 6, and 7. He quotes Scripture. That is important.
We are going to see this in other places. We are going to see this Sunday in Matthew 17 when God speaks.
Jesus has got Peter, James, and John with Him up on the Mount of Transfiguration. God says in Matthew 17:5, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” He is basically paraphrasing Scripture.
God quotes Himself. And if God quotes Himself, maybe we ought to quote Him, too. We need to know that basic data.
I would paraphrase that what Dr. Hirsch says here is that basic general facts about the Bible are essential to educational performance. If you want to perform well as a student of the Word, then you need to know general content.
Abstract skills would be problem-solving, which brings it right down to what we are talking about in this passage. Problem-solving skills in life falter without a foundation of content to support them. This is what needs to be done to produce more competent Christians. Do you like that? I read that this morning and that was very significant to read.
We need to know the Word. This is one reason I am taking the time to go back, because we’ve got to understand.
As I pointed out last time in 1 Samuel 1–3, we’re introduced to Samuel and his significance, because he’s going to be the human change agent that God uses about this vastly needed change that Israel needs.
They are just mired in this horrible moral relativism—a death spiral of moral relativism that is fragmenting their culture and enslaving them to sin.
But it is going to end up enslaving them once again to the Philistines. God is going to change all this.
1 Samuel 1–3 sets us up with that introduction, but 1 Samuel 4–8 gives us an understanding of how God has got to change Israel’s thinking. They are still operating on spiritual moral arrogance and negative volition. They are looking everywhere but to God to sustain them. They don’t understand that God, and God alone, is necessary to sustain them.
We see a great illustration in James 1:2–4: God’s training process through testing.
We see it also in what we are getting ready to study in 1 Peter 1:6–9. All those go together.
It is interesting how in God’s providence we are hitting these things that correlate to each other in the different studies from Matthew on Sunday to Samuel on Tuesday night, and Peter on Thursday night.
People who go back and listen to different studies independently sometimes miss how these connections come together for the folks who are sitting here. That’s what I am doing.
I am setting this up, because we have to make sure we have a good biblical framework for understanding why this information is given to us. There are probably ten gazillion other pieces of data, and other things that happened to Israel at this particular time that God chose not to tell us about.
Why did He choose to restrict the information He recorded for eternity to just these events?
That’s because it is sufficient for helping us understand the spiritual and moral dynamics related to the success and failure of Israel or any culture at this particular time.
Last time I went through various things in the background of the Old Testament. This time I want to look at this timeline.
These are some basic dates that everyone ought to know for structuring the Old Testament. I want to make a point out of all of this because dates aren’t there just to know dates, and people aren’t there just so you know people.
These organize the lessons around those people, places, and events.
The first date that is up there is probably the most significant date for Israel’s history—1446 BC.
This is the date of the Exodus, when Israel is redeemed from Egypt. We talk about this all the time. From this point on it is probably the most often referred to event in the Old Testament.
Much subsequent doctrine is built upon an understanding of what takes place in Exodus.
Of course Leviticus is part of that because Leviticus describes the ritual law that was given to Moses.
Also Numbers and Deuteronomy describe what happened to that generation. Then we get on into the conquest after that.
1446 BC is important. This is the Exodus. Israel is redeemed from Egypt. Theoretically, this is “Plan A”.
God has various plans for us. He has adapted to our negative volition. Much of us are not living on Plan A. We haven’t lived on Plan A since five seconds after we got saved. We are on about plan Z squared or cubed. We are way out there in terms of numbers, but this is God’s Plan A. He redeems Israel.
He takes them to Mt. Sinai. He gives them the Law. He tells them He’s going to dwell in their midst. That’s what He did.
Here is a picture drawn of the twelve tribes of Israel at 1406 BC. But before we get there, I went back and looked at this and said, okay, the thing that happened relating to1446 BC was the failure that took place when Israel was on the border of the land.
What happened? They sent the spies in. Moses sent them in and there were only two spies that came back and said we can do this.
The other spies said we can’t do it. There are just too many people. There are giants in the land. They’ve got fortified cities. We can’t do this. The circumstances were way too much.
God said, okay, nobody is going to go into the land except the two that would trust me. We’re going to go from Plan A to Plan B.
A couple of questions just to check your biblical knowledge:
- Where did that take place? (Kadesh Barnea).
- Who were the two spies? (Caleb and Joshua).
- Name the book and the chapter where that is described. (Numbers). Does anyone know the chapter? (13—Numbers 13).
They went to Plan B. Plan B took place in 1406 BC after 40 years of wandering in the desert.
God took out everybody except for Caleb and Joshua. Even Moses and Aaron had sinned in the wilderness. God disciplined them and wouldn’t allow them to go into the land. They didn’t lose their salvation. They just weren’t allowed to experience that additional blessing of God because of disobedience.
They were operating on Plan B. They had to go into the land. Here is another question:
- What is the first city that they conquered? (Jericho).
- In what book of the Bible is that found? (Joshua).
They went to Jericho. They conquered Jericho. They conquered Ai. Then things began to fall apart. They had a couple of other conquests. They defeated the confederacy of the kings of the north, then a confederacy of the kings of the south.
Then they were given their tribal allotments. Each tribe was sent to their tribal allotment to clean it up. Something happened along the way. They started compromising. They didn’t quite like that idea, and most of us wouldn’t like the idea that we’d have to go in there and annihilate every man, woman, child, baby, and all the livestock.
God did not want them to build a culture on the foundation of the carnality and the paganism of the Canaanites that preceded them. The Canaanites were given 400 years to come back to God, and they refused to do it. God extended a lot of grace to them for 400 years. God said, okay, it is obvious you don’t want to have anything to do with Me. You are just a blight. You are a cancer. You are a malignant tumor in humanity. In order to preserve humanity we’ve got to have a little surgical removal of the tumor. We are going to kill all the Canaanites.
But Israel didn’t do that. They weren’t allowed to take all of the land. They never took all the land. Now they are onto Plan C.
Does it sound familiar? Just like our lives. We don’t fully obey God. We get down through Plans D, E, F…
This is what happened in 1380 BC. That is under Plan C. The next generation comes in, but they compromise until it gets to the point that the tribe of Dan isn’t even able to settle anywhere in their tribal allotment because they can’t defeat any of the Canaanites. So they compromise.
Of course, the spiritual lesson is that spiritual compromise leads to spiritual defeat. To the degree that we are compromising with the world, to that degree we’re never going to have spiritual victory in our lives. The danger is always this assimilation.
- What book describes that spiritual death spiral (spiral is a key word, or cycle)? (Judges).
They go through this whole spiritual death spiral in the book of Judges. That takes us all the way down to just about where we are in 1 Samuel.
We are not quite to 1050 BC. We are probably around 1090–1080 BC.
They are going to get to this point in 1050 BC. They’ve gone through Plan A, Plan B, Plan C. If we were really honest we’ve go with each judge, Plans D, E, F, G, H, I and now they are on Plan J. But we’ll just keep it simple and go to Plan D.
God always meets us where we are. God doesn’t say, okay, we’re on Plan X. Forget it, buddy! No. God always forgives us and brings us back. He meets us where we are, which is a great lesson in grace.
But in 1050 BC what happens is that they come to Samuel, as he is getting old, and say, well, we don’t know who is going to rule us next. And instead of trusting God to provide somebody, they say we don’t like your kids. We don’t want them ruling over us. So, we want to have a king.
But what they also say is that they want to have a king like everybody else. We don’t want to have a godly king. We want to have a king like everybody else. So they go to Plan D. This is pretty far from God’s plan for them.
God had always planned to give them a king, but what God does here is He says, you don’t really want Me. You’ve rejected Me for the last 350 years. Now you have to learn a couple of lessons before I can give you the king that I always intended to give you.
You want a king like everybody else? I am going to give you a king after man’s heart.
And God gives them Saul. He looks like a king. He talks like a king. He carries himself like a king. He’s head and shoulders taller than everybody else.
We’ve got to go back. One of the things we’ve got to look at is there is a debate over just how tall Goliath was. There are some strong scholarly arguments that suggest he was shorter than what they say. But Saul is presented as being pretty tall.
Based on the size and remains of corpses from this period, the average Israelite was about 5’6”. If Saul is head and shoulders above everybody, that would make him close to 6’3” or 6’4”.
The modern contention is that Goliath, based upon the size of the cubit and other things, probably wasn’t more than 6’9” or 6’10”. But that is not that big if you are 6’3” or 6’4”—if you are Saul. I have some problems with that, but when we get there, we’ll go into all those different issues.
So Israel gets Saul because he looks like a king. He sounds like a king. He’s going to be good, and he is just a spiritual mess. He is a believer, but he is in moral rebellion just like the people are. They get a king that is after their heart. He reflects their values. They get the leader they deserve.
We have the leader we deserve right now because he reflects American culture. We often have been given the leaders we deserve, some good, some bad, because of our moral failure.
So in 1050 BC they go to Plan D. Plan E is further down the road when you get to David.
He had the desire to build the temple. David expands the kingdom, but David compromises a lot. David is never allowed full control of the land that God has promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, so you are down to Plan E.
Solomon is going to build the temple, and Solomon is given great riches. Things could have perhaps gone a different direction, but Solomon compromises. He violates the Law like David did. He takes numerous wives, but he takes foreign wives who come and influence Him into idolatry. The last part of his reign is marked by spiritual apostasy and idolatry.
The result of it is the kingdom is going to be split in two. God is going to discipline them through civil war and a tax rebellion. It just gets worse and worse and worse and worse, because they don’t trust in the sufficiency of God to solve their problems.
That is the same thing that happens in our spiritual life. Every time we fail we go from Plan A to Plan B to Plan C to Plan D, ad infinitum, until we are so far down the chain that we can’t see the beginning because so many steps have gone by.
As we go through this, I could carry this all the way through the end of the Old Testament with the captivity and the restoration—and then on into the New Testament. I think you get the point.
This demonstrates the cycle of history. Sin brings judgment, either through self-induced destruction, or additional compound discipline through additional divine judgment.
But the message through all of this is God’s grace. God’s grace always meets us where we are. He’s got a plan and a blueprint for our lives. Every time we mess up God meets us in grace. If we turn back to Him, there is cleansing. There is forgiveness. There is restoration. But unfortunately, God doesn’t always clean-up the mess.
After we make bad decisions, there are further consequences that come into our lives that are the result of our own making. We may spend the rest of our lives just trying to clean-up the mess that is our own fault because of bad decisions we made when we were thirteen, fourteen, sixteen, eighteen, twenty, thirty, forty, or whatever the age was.
A couple of things to remember here is that in 1 Samuel 2–4, as I pointed out in the outline, God is beginning to deal with the nation to bring them back to a place of blessing.
But the Calvinist would say God is not going to give them blessing. God gave them the gift of repentance and the gift of faith. That is not what happened here. God continues to bring negative consequences into their lives until He can bring them to a point where they recognize there is no other option but to trust in Him and Him alone.
I know none of you have had that happen in your life. But every now and then people still go through that same process where God closes off every door, because we get to the point where we just can’t learn the lesson of God’s sufficient grace on our own.
A couple of principles to remind you:
1. It is God’s grace initiative to restore them to blessing. God is always initiating toward us as believers. It is His desire for us to recover and be restored.
It is not His desire to keep us in negative circumstances, in destructive circumstances, or to just keep us under discipline. But if we are going to be rebellious, then that is what He is going to do. His goal is always restoration and maturity, taking us toward maturity.
2. God doesn’t do this apart from human volition. God is not going to bring them back to blessing unless they decide that they are going to start trusting Him. They have to make a decision to quit being disobedient and move to the place of obedience.
This is known as repentance. It is changing direction. It is turning back toward God.
God uses the positive believers. We’ve seen that. He uses Hannah, who is just this inconsequential wife of Elkanah, down in a small town of Ramah, north of Jerusalem. There is nothing significant about her except for her faith in God.
He uses what appears to the world to be insignificant people. He uses Samuel. He uses this unnamed man of God to announce judgment against the house of Eli at the end of 1 Samuel 2. That shows that there is a remnant there in Israel.
3. God uses even the apostate priesthood to bring about His purposes—in spite of their negative volition and their attempts to eradicate the Law and a holy God from Israel through their assimilation to paganism, their syncretism, their ecumenicalism.
They are operating like pagans, yet despite that, God still uses them.
God still uses a lot of Christians in carnality. You know people like this. Some of you are married to them. Some of you were their children. Some of you have children like this. They are so rebellious against God, but they give you an opportunity to learn how to love people who are not very lovely.
They give you an opportunity to learn how to forgive.
They give you an opportunity to learn how to evangelize or to explain the gospel.
They give you tremendous opportunities to demonstrate grace orientation and humility.
God uses those rebellious believers in our lives to teach us how to grow and mature. God uses even those who are apostate and those who are rebellious for His purposes.
4. God shows this standard pattern all throughout history: that there is grace before judgment.
What we are seeing in 1 Samuel 4 is going to be a harsh judgment on Israel. God is going to defeat them in a battle through the Philistines.
The ark is going to be captured. God is going to be kidnapped and taken off to Philistia. People are just devastated. It is one of the worst defeats spiritually, morally, and physically in all of Israel’s history.
But before it happened God gave them grace. All these years that intervened between 1 Samuel 3 and 1 Samuel 4, as Samuel is growing up, God is blessing him. The Word is being taught in Israel, but they are really not responding.
We see the principle of grace before judgment. Then judgment comes to cleanse the sin and the disobedience and the carnality. Then God gives them undeserved blessing.
We see that same pattern in our lives. We go through times when we sin, and God gives us grace. He overlooks the sin. Then when we don’t recover, when we don’t respond, then God brings judgment and discipline into our lives so that we are forced to trust in Him, to trust His sufficiency. We either turn back to Him or we bow the neck—we are stubborn and continue in our recalcitrant arrogant ways.
But if we turn, then God is going to graciously forgive us and cleanse us and bless us. All of this takes time. It took years in the life of Israel and it will take years in this nation. It doesn’t change overnight.
5. God had designed a plan for the nation that His presence was going to be uniquely in their midst. The tabernacle would be in the center of the nation with the Ark of His Presence in the center of the tabernacle.
God’s unique Presence was there. That is comparable to the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit in the life of every believer. But the people rejected that. They rejected Plans A, B, and C. The result is that they lost the Presence of God. We can’t lose the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit, but in carnality we can lose a lot that God has provided for us.
So they lose the Presence of God as it was at the tabernacle in Shiloh for over 300 years. God’s Presence never goes back to Shiloh.
We’ll go through the travels of the ark as it is taken from one place to another. Eventually David is going to bring the ark back to Jerusalem. Solomon is going to build the temple, but the Presence of God is never again quite what it was initially.
Every time we go through these bouts of carnality, there are consequences. There were consequences in the life of Israel. But God at each point meets them with grace. We have to be reminded that it doesn’t matter how many times or how seriously we apostatize, how seriously we fail—God’s grace is always there to lift us up, to restore us, to heal us, and to continue to work positively in conforming us to the image of His Son.
If we’re still alive, there is still a plan for our life. We shouldn’t judge others because we see their failures. Some people’s failures are right out there for everybody to see. Other people’s failures may be much worse, but because they are in the realm of mental attitude sins, they are covered up and are not exposed to the sight of everybody else.
Let’s go one more step into our introduction as we get into the 1 Samuel 4:
What is going on here is that there is a shift of focus. There has been a shift of focus in the history of Israel away from God and away from divine viewpoint to the secondary things that are associated with Him. That means that those secondary things replace God—those secondary things that are good, like the Ark of the Covenant, replaces God.
What happens at the beginning here is that they are going to make a good luck charm out of the Ark of the Covenant. We do the same thing. We think, well, I go to Bible class all the time, so God ought to bless me.
See? We’ve made an activity something that replaces God. We think that we go through certain things—look at all my notes, look at all my doctrinal notes—certain things replace the relationship with God. That is the nature of our carnality. We constantly seek to replace things.
This is a trap that Satan sets us up for, and we saw a great example of this just Sunday. Didn’t we? One moment Peter is there. Jesus says who do you say that I am? He says You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. He is praised by Jesus. Then Jesus says He is going to have to go to Jerusalem where He’s going to be tortured by the priests and the religious leaders. He is going to die and be buried and rise from the dead.
They don’t hear the end. They just hear the beginning. Peter says, no, that does not fit our idea of the Messiah. Peter took Him aside and out of pure human viewpoint tries to straighten out God. See? He is putting the emphasis on something that is true, the glorious reign of the Messiah. But by putting his emphasis on something that is true at the expense of a greater truth, which is that the Messiah had to first come and suffer, he shifted into human viewpoint and idolatry.
Jesus condemns him and says, “get behind me Satan.” We slip into those kinds of patterns all the time, because it is really hard for us to cling to the sufficiency of God and His sufficient knowledge—that He really does know what is best—that His plan really is what is best.
Our sin nature is great at camouflaging our human viewpoint rationalizations and justifications to make them sound like they are so biblical and righteous. This is the history of legalism down through the 2,000 years of church history.
The result is that it is difficult for us to cling to faith alone. We’ve always got to help God out. We always have to add something. Faith alone in the promise of God is the sufficiency of God’s Word.
But we always have to have faith plus something else. I can trust in God, but I’ve got to add something. We’re good at this. When this happens, when we’re not depending on God alone, when He’s not the only basis of our hope, then we are going to have trouble. This frequently happens when we go into some kind of a crisis.
We have personal problems, or we face challenging situations. We are often like Peter. He’s looking at Christ, and he’s walking on the water in the turbulent sea, then all of a sudden he sees this big wave coming. He gets his eyes off the Lord and shifts to focus on the wave, and then down we go.
What happens after that is when Peter looks back and focuses on the Lord, that occupation with Christ, then he is able to continue walking on the water. They walk back to the ship. We just went through that not long ago on Sunday morning.
Too often what we are trying to do is—God’s resources are great—but He needs a little help. Nobody here does that, I know that. But we all run into that at some point or another. Again and again that is what God is teaching us—the sufficiency of our relationship to Him.
We often add something from our culture to the Bible because the idea of biblical sufficiency and God’s omnipotence is sufficient to handle my problems … is really threatening. You realize how vulnerable we have to be to really just trust God, because then we have a battle on our hands. I’m going to trust God and struggle with my sin nature. That is a battle! A battle is not where the Holy Spirit is going to do it for you.
That battle was what the problem was with “Victorious Life” views of Christianity. Just “let go and let God.” It didn’t work. It is not biblical, because with the power of the Holy Spirit He helps us.
The battle is the Lord’s, but we’ve got to do what? We’ve got to pick up the sword of the Spirit. We’ve got to hold up the shield of faith. We have to put on the full armor of God. It is a struggle! That is what Paul says in Ephesians 6:10–12. He talks about the fact that this is a war. It is a struggle. It is not a piece of cake. We’re not dancing through the daisy fields.
It is a battle against our own sin nature day in and day out. What we’ve got today is a generation of wimps, spiritual wimps, who do not want to battle their sin nature. As soon as things really get bad and we have to struggle with the fact that my sin nature is seriously and significantly tempted in certain unpleasant directions, then we want to look for somebody else to blame. That is what Adam did. Or we want to look for some other way to make it go away.
We live in a culture today that is going to provide it for us. You’ve heard me talk many times about the dangers of psychology today. What that is is some promotion that is usually camouflaged with a lot of Bible verses that are taken out of context.
I remember I lived through at least two major battles when I was in seminary in the 1970s and 1980s. One was over the battle of inerrancy. But see, the corollary to the inerrancy of Scripture, if the Bible really is God’s Word, then the Bible really is sufficient. That’s the second battle.
That means it is sufficient in the area of every temptation in our life. Some people struggle with temptations to depression. Some people struggle with other forms of mental attitude sins that are deep mental struggles.
Other people have other struggles that relate to their own bodies. Some of that is related to sexual temptation, whether it is same-sex temptation or heterosexual temptation. They struggle with that, and they think I just need a pill.
We’ve become a pill-oriented society. I have wrestled with this for years. I saw this in the 1970s as Christian psychology got more and more of a foothold in the seminaries and the churches. I remember hearing pastors that would say, well, I went through seminary and I learned the Bible, but now I need to go get a degree in psychology so I can help people.
Don’t you believe in God? God says He is our Helper, Yahweh yireh. He’s the one who helps us. He’s the one who sustains us. Don’t you believe in God? Why do you have to go back and study Freud and Maslow and Jung, and all of these psychologists, and try to work your way through all of their writings and pull out a few universal principles that they borrowed originally. They were stolen from the Bible.
That is like saying there are some good things. There are some establishment truths in the Koran. Well, do you want to go through the Koran and find them? You’ll pick up a lot of garbage along the way if you can isolate those principles.
How about the Bhagavad Gita? That will bless your heart every morning. Just get up and spend ten minutes reading the Bhagavad Gita. Why would you read garbage in order to find a few elements of truth?
For years I have railed against the fact that we’ve gone to psychology to sustain us. We’ve gone to sociology now. That’s been going on since really the 1970s as well, because the Word of God isn’t enough to build churches.
Remember, Jesus said I’ll build My church. Peter, you go feed the flock.
But what we do today is we say the pastor is going to build the church, and the Sunday school teachers are going to feed the flock. That’s not what the Scripture says. It’s because we don’t trust the sufficiency of God’s grace anymore to provide the hearers and to provide the resources. You have churches trying to add to that all the time.
One of the big areas that is an issue, and it has been a question for a lot of people for a lot of years, has been the role of medication in Christianity. I have said for years that I suspect that the problem is that we don’t understand that this really isn’t a solution.
The two biggies are:
- What about bipolar?
- What about schizophrenia?
I know there are people who are listening to me. There have been people in the congregation who have children ,who have family members who have been diagnosed as schizophrenic or bipolar. What I’m suggesting here is that there is a wealth of literature that is showing that the accepted viewpoint in modern psychiatry is completely fraudulent.
I’m inclined to believe that because most of science is fraudulent, because when you are starting your knowledge foundation on something other than the Word of God, you can’t arrive at truth.
Most of modern society, since the mid-1850s with Darwin and then Freud and Herbert Spencer and Karl Marx, have been trying to build a culture that can work apart from God. Those men define modern American history. So of course, it has influenced medicine.
There is a chapter in this book, The State of the American Mind, called the “Anatomy of an Epidemic,” written by Robert Whitaker. He has written a book by that topic. I think he is right. That is my opinion. But if you are taking any kind of anti-depressant, if you are taking any kind of anti-psychotic medication, or you know someone who is, or you as a parent have a really active kid (I’m not going to use the word hyperactive. I am not going to legitimize it), then you just have a kid that is energetic.
The solution is that you become more of a parent. You become more of a disciplinarian. The solution is not that you drug him. In fact, the number of adults and children that have been put on these drugs to control ADHD has gone up like ten times in the last few years. This is insane, absolutely insane.
There is a book that Gene Brown gave me 15–18 years ago, called Toxic Psychiatry: Why Therapy, Empathy and Love Must Replace the Drugs, Electroshock, and Biochemical Theories. Dr. Peter Roger Breggin was a head psychiatrist in the New York City area who had been practicing in psychiatry. He was not a Christian, just a doctor. He was putting out all kinds of evidence then to show that what happened when you took these drugs is that it rewires your brain.
To get your brain off of those drugs might be impossible, and it might even contribute to the fact that things are just going to get worse for you. I just want to read some quotes from this guy. You need to investigate both sides of this if you are considering these options.
I’m not telling people forget it, because there may be a couple of exceptions, but you need to be educated. Don’t just take the word for it that you go to the doctor and you get drugs.
Dr. Breggin says, after going through a lot of evidence that I can’t possibly regurgitate, he says: “the bottom line is that anti-psychotics, anti-depressants, and the collection of drugs used to treat bipolar disorder worsen outcomes over the long term.”
Short term you may see some benefits, but long term, six months, a year and beyond makes it worse. Moreover, Dr. Breggin says, “as researchers have tried to understand why anti-psychotics and anti-depressants would have this long-term effect, they have theorized that it may be that the drugs trigger compensatory adaptations in the brain that oppose their initial intended effects.”
If God invented the brain—God invented all of this. The issue is that when you start introducing these other chemicals, your brain is trying to go back to normal. It is over compensating. It is going to rewire itself.
This creates what he calls “a paradox in outcomes—that drugs that are effective over the short term could worsen outcomes over the long term.”
Dr. Breggin then quotes a man named William Carpenter, who led one of three National Institute of Mental Health funded studies. He concluded at the end of one of them, and notice how cautious he is,
“We raised the possibility that anti-psychotic medication may make some schizophrenic patients more vulnerable to relapse than would be the case in the natural course of the illness.”
Some of the other things that he says, “Anti-psychotics worsen long-term outcome.” Then he has data to support all of these things that he specifically says. He says that “decline in bipolar outcomes in the modern era is also well recognized.” In other words, that the drugs become less and less effective, and you get more and more people who are put on the drugs.
He says, “whereas 75% or so in the pre-lithium era (lithium is a drug used to treat bipolar), before that 75% or so in the pre-lithium era would remain employed. Today that functional outcome has dropped to around 33%. Bipolar patients today, who are regularly put on a cocktail of drugs, show signs of cognitive decline, whereas, that didn’t used to be the case.”
Then Carpenter quotes a 2007 paper from Nancy Huxley and Ross Baldessarini from Harvard Medical School that summarizes the deterioration and outcomes: “Prognosis for bipolar disorder was once considered relatively favorable, but contemporary findings suggest that disability and poor outcomes are prevalent.”
See? The real problem is always going to be sin. Ultimately, if you don’t deal with the spiritual solution, then your other solutions are probably just going to make things worse.
He says, related to the fact that people are arguing that these things are chemical, “Psychiatric drugs do not fix chemical imbalances, but instead induce them, and the drugs worsen outcomes over the long term.” Then he goes, “Here is the data.” He has two pages of data that he puts out there. He goes on…
I am not going to read more, but you need to read this if you are on anti-depressants, if you are on any of these anti-psychotic drugs, or you know people who are. These need to be entered into cautiously because God designed us.
We have a problem with our sin nature, and if we don’t fix that problem, then it is just going to become more and more exacerbated. The sin nature is going to cause chemical imbalances eventually, because of the mental attitude state that we are in.
This is what Paul says in Romans 8:13, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die.” He is talking to believers. He is not talking about physical death. He is talking about living a deathlike existence. It is going to get miserable.
If you as a believer are living according to your sin nature it is going to just foul things up, and things are going to get worse. “… but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body.” When your body is tempting you, in certain ways, you have to use the Word of God to counter that.
Is that easy? NO! But we have God the Holy Spirit. We have the Word of God, and we have to be trained by these things just as Jesus was trained by the things that He suffered, according to Hebrews 2. We have to put to death the deeds of the body, and we will live.
In Romans 6:11–12, Paul says, “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin.”
We have to adopt a battle mentality. We have to be tough between the ears with relation to our sin nature. That’s our enemy. Too often we coddle it. We say, well, I’ll go this far, but I won’t go that far.
Is that how the allies treated the Nazis in WWII? That is how we are treating the Iranians today. And guess what we expect? We expect the nuclear option. That’s going to get really bad! You don’t compromise or coddle with an enemy. You try to destroy the enemy in battle.
The Word of God gives us those battle tools. Paul says, “reckon yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.” He doesn’t say some of the time, most of the time, in some areas of lust. He says period over and out—do not let sin reign in your mortal body.
Romans 6:16–18 says, “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slave whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?”
What is happening in Israel at this time?
1 Samuel 4, they are giving themselves over to the syncretism, the ecumenicalism, the false religion, the paganism of the Canaanites, and what is happening?
It is creating a deathlike existence in Israel. They are under the control, the thumb, the dominion of the Philistines, just as most Christians are under the total dominion and control of their sin nature. Every now and then they confess their sins and hope that somehow that gets them out of it.
Guess what? The sin nature only gets you in a position where you can go back into the battle. It does not remove you from the battle. It doesn’t make the battle easier.
The more we give in to sin, the more it creates an entrenched habit pattern. I think it has certain consequences chemically. It is just like sugar. The more you eat sugar, the more it creates certain chemicals, and the more that becomes a pleasure, or any other drug. When things get tough you just want that little extra dose of whatever it is that makes you feel good. You go right back to it.
The issue is you can’t compromise like that at all.
- Sin leads to death
- Obedience leads to righteousness
Those are the options—one or the other.
Israel keeps choosing sin.
What God is going to do is He is going to say, you are going to get defeated and I am going to leave you. I am going to be captured, but I am still in control. And boy are the Philistines going to regret it, because they think that they control Me. I am going to show them that they don’t control Me, but I am going to show you that without Me you are completely given over to the worldview of the Philistines. And I just remove that restraint.
That is like Romans 1—God turning them over to these various stages of sin. God says when I turn you over so you can just reap the consequences of your carnality, you’ll become so immersed in slavery under the power of the Philistines that finally you are going to want to turn to Me.
It took them a while. It did not happen overnight.
This takes us basically up to the start of the chapter. We will get there next time in 1 Samuel 4:1. But we understand what is happening here. This is a literal, historical event, but it reveals the spiritual condition of Israel’s soul. This is often a picture as we look at what happens to Israel corporately in the Old Testament.
It is a picture of what often is going on in the dynamics of the soul of the individual believer. We can’t give in. We can’t compromise. We can’t find a workable solution with evil, with sin, and with the idolatry of the culture around us.
God calls us to be holy. Holy doesn’t mean morally perfect. He praised David because David was a man after His whole heart. Was David sinless? Not at all! You read through 1 & 2 Samuel and you just see how many times David sinned.
At the end God doesn’t say, “well you were just a moral, spiritual failure. You are just such a loser, David. Look at all the sins you committed.” But at the very core of David’s soul was a desire to serve God—that even when he blew it, and he blew it badly, he still wanted to serve God.
Not Saul. We are going to see this great contrast between Saul and David. Saul didn’t really care whether he was serving God. He was a man after man’s heart. David was a man after God’s heart. It doesn’t mean we’re sinless, but we want to live distinctly unto God.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study these things and to reflect upon the message of Your Word, the data of Scripture, understanding that these specific incidences are not just legends. They are not just metaphor, but they happened specifically to teach, to illustrate dynamics of a spiritual relationship of individuals in a culture to You.
Father, help us to understand these things, to recognize that we need to battle with our own sin nature. We need to trust in Your sufficiency, and the power of Your Word, and the power of God the Holy Spirit to handle the unpleasant aspects of our nasty sin natures. There are no shortcuts to those solutions. The solutions are laid out in Your Word and it entails a daily battle, and as Paul says, it is a struggle.
We wrestle. These are the metaphors of the spiritual life. Too often we’re just so soft in our culture that we’ve lost this concept of mentally wrestling and struggling with the sin in our own lives.
Father, we pray that You would give us the victory, give us the focus on Your Word, intensify and strengthen our positive volition. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”