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God Is Not A Vending Machine

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Now the donkeys belonging to Saul’s father Kish were lost, and Kish said to his son Saul, “Take one of the servants with you and go and look for the donkeys.” 4 So he passed through the hill country of Ephraim and through the area around Shalisha, but they did not find them. They went on into the district of Shaalim, but the donkeys were not there. Then he passed through the territory of Benjamin, but they did not find them. 5 When they reached the district of Zuph, Saul said to the servant who was with him, “Come, let’s go back, or my father will stop thinking about the donkeys and start worrying about us.”  But the servant replied, “Look, in this town there is a man of God; he is highly respected, and everything he says comes true. Let’s go there now. Perhaps he will tell us what way to take.” Saul said to his servant, “If we go, what can we give the man? The food in our sacks is gone. We have no gift to take to the man of God. What do we have?”  8 The servant answered him again. “Look,” he said, “I have a quarter of a shekel of silver. I will give it to the man of God so that he will tell us what way to take.”  9 (Formerly in Israel, if someone went to inquire of God, they would say, “Come, let us go to the seer,” because the prophet of today used to be called a seer.) 10 “Good,” Saul said to his servant. “Come, let’s go.” So they set out for the town where the man of God was. 11 As they went up the hill to the city, they met young women coming out to draw water and said to them, “Is the seer here?” 12 They answered, “He is; behold, he is just ahead of you. Hurry. He has come just now to the city, because the people have a sacrifice today on the high place. 13 As soon as you enter the city you will find him, before he goes up to the high place to eat. For the people will not eat till he comes, since he must bless the sacrifice; afterward those who are invited will eat. Now go up, for you will meet him immediately.” 14 So they went up to the city. As they were entering the city, they saw Samuel coming out toward them on his way up to the high place.
(1 Samuel 9:3-14)

In yesterday’s passage, Saul had decided to give up looking for his father’s donkeys and return home. Saul had willingly gone to look for them but was ready to end his search after several unsuccessful days. This will become a recurring theme as we continue our study through 1 Samuel: Saul will be patient to a point, but will then quit on a situation.

Interestingly, Saul’s servant knew that there was a man of God (Samuel) in the town they in which they had stopped, in the district of Zuph. He doesn’t seem to know too much about Samuel, not understanding Samuel’s true function. Rather he considers Samuel to be only someone to turn to in response to earthly problems. Saul, on the other hand, was apparently completely unaware of Samuel, which is quite surprising.

Samuel was God’s spiritual leader over all of Israel. One would think that Saul would have heard of him, considering that Saul was God’s chosen political and military leader over Israel. Not to mention, Saul and Samuel lived in towns separated by only about five miles.

It seems that Saul was raised by a family that was not very spiritual. They likely did not attend the annual feasts or regularly attend their local synagogue. Therefore, this makes Saul a rather strange choice to be Israel’s leader.

Anyone in a leadership position who does not have a deep reverence for God cannot truly lead people. All human beings were made in God’s image. If one does not have high regard for God then one cannot have a high regard for the things of God, of which mankind is foremost. Such a person will be dedicated to themselves or the furtherance of a group they belong to, such as a political party. They won’t be concerned enough with the welfare of God’s crowning creation.

We can see that Saul and his servant don’t understand who Samuel is as they only want Samuel to tell them what way to take to find the donkeys. The servant believes that everything Samuel says comes true. They only view Samuel as a means to solve their immediate, earthly problem and nothing more – and one that has to be paid for that service. This tells us a lot about the spiritual state of Israel at this time.

At this point in time, Israel was in the era of the judges. During this time, the people of Israel were far from God. Although many still believed that God existed, they did not recognize His authority – He was not their leader. Instead, everyone did what they thought was right [Judges 21:25]. Everyone created their own truth and made up their own rules. And if they did involve God in their lives it was just to get an immediate need met.

Sadly, this is how most people view God today. They don’t realize that God created them in order to have a deep, meaningful relationship with them. Instead, they only approach Him – if they approach Him at all – when they have a need, or – more likely – a want.

God is not a vending machine – someone we turn to when we need something and once we have it walk away until next time. We were not created to live independently from Him.

Rather we were designed to be in continuous fellowship with Him. God wants to hear our problems and solve them, of course. But He also wants to give us advice and to celebrate our achievements. He cares about our fears, joys, concerns and everything that is going on in our lives – even something as seemingly trivial as lost donkeys.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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