Good afternoon! Today, I would like to start my sermon by asking you if you are a cow-lover? You know, many people in this world love cows. You have many, especially in Texas, who do. Down there, ranchers fight over them. They make sure they are cared for, that they are fed right and treated right. They are passed down from generation to generation. Then, of course, you have those who love cows because of the fun they get out of them. They put saddles on them, or a rope, and they ride them, as they would a horse. People spend a fortune to get the right cows to do that.
Some others, in this world, simply love cows for the great food they provide. I still donít think anything compares to a good steak from a cow. Iíve had deer, lamb, pork and chicken. My favorite is still prime rib and I love that glass of milk I can drink with cookies, too! I donít know what I would do if I lived in one of those places where cows were sacred!
That reminds me of another people who love cows. In India, you have millions of people who treat them as if they were gods. No one is allowed to harm a cow. I understand that you canít even move the ones who are lying in the middle of the street without facing angry people. Itís amazing, isnít it, how many love cows? As a child, I remember, I couldnít wait to pet one.
But this afternoon, I want to talk to you about a man, in the Bible, who loved cows, a little too much. And you are going to see where I am going with all of this by the end of the lesson. So donít answer my question too fast, just yet. When I am asking if you are a cow-lover, I have something specific in mind.
If you would, open your Bibles to the Book of I Samuel. For those of you who just joined us, we are in the midst of a study on that book, and more particularly, we are on our way to taking a close look at David. Before we deal with him, though, we need to get acquainted with a few others. This afternoon, we will focus our study on Saul, the cow-lover. If you would read with me, I Samuel, Chapter 15, verses 1-23: ďÖĒ. There are so many things I want you to see this afternoon from this story. But perhaps, we need to make sure that we, first, clearly understand the events of this record. You know, Samuel was rejected by the people in Chapter 8. The Israelites wanted, so much, to be like the world that they pleaded to be governed by a physical king, rather than by a spiritual one. And God warned them, that in the process, they would lose a great deal. See, you canít replace the Heavenly Father, with an earthly ruler, and come out on top. Any time you choose man over God, to rule over you, itís a matter of time before you are taken advantage of and destroyed! Man simply canít offer you what God offers you. God is righteous, man isnít! But the people, in their stubbornness, still wanted a king. So God looks through the land and He picks the best He can offer. In I Samuel 9:2, we read Saul was an ďimpressive young man, without equal, in Israel!Ē He stood a head taller than all others. But not only that, at first he was humble. In I Samuel 9:2, when Samuel lets him know the plans of God, look at his reaction: ďÖĒ. He has been a farm boy, often working behind a team of oxen, trying to plow the fields. He is overwhelmed that God has chosen someone, like him, to be king. So really, what I want you to see is that, at first, Saul had everything to be a great success. He was tall and strong. And you know tall, strong people have an advantage in positions of leadership, especially if itís a military leadership. They are respected a little quicker. Nobody dares argue. But not only that, he possessed one of the qualities that God loved the most. He was poor in spirit. And you know God doesnít want anyone with pride to serve Him. So Saul should be a good king.
But you come to I Samuel 15 and you see that something has changed. Saul has been in power, for a few years now, and he has forgotten how he got his crown and his position. And the promising king ends up being a pitiful failure. He has courage. He goes to fight when God commands. He defeats a great nation, but he fails to carry out the whole will of God. And folks, mark my words, God cannot be pleased with partial obedience. He doesnít want you or Saul to follow half-heartedly, half-passionately. There are no half measures for those in Him. It is everything or nothing. You either do fully or donít do at all. Itís not like when you clean your house, when you can afford to do the job halfway.
You know what happens when most people find that out? They back off and say, ę Whoa! I canít do that. It is too hard! Ľ But folks, itís not too hard. John, in his first epistle, Chapter 5, verse 3, said that the love of God consists in keeping his commandments and his commands are not burdensome. They are not! Sure, at times, you will mess up, but, as long as you follow, with all of your heart, you will remain pleasant in His eyes. John says, ďIf you walk in the light, His blood will cleanse you from every sinĒ. And so, the problem is not that you canít do what He asks, the problem lays somewhere else! And so, this afternoon, I want to see, through Saul, the root of disobedience. Why do we often do almost all of Godís will and fall short?
I. We donít obey because we love our own ideas a little too much.
Because folks, just like Saul, we love our own ideas a little too much. When Saul left, he was told to destroy everything; but did you see what he did? He came up with a ę better Ľ plan. He kept the cows and judged it far wiser to use that which God had provided for his own glory! I wonder, how many times we do the same thing? How many times when God asks us to do something a certain way, do we come up with a better plan? Folks, honestly, looking at the way some Christians are changing the worship practices, what do you think is the problem? I tell you, they think their innovation will make things better, a little instrumental music here and there, a little dancing over here, a little clapping over there, women taking a more active role. You would think that God didnít know what was best when he gave us the guidelines for worship. We say, ďWe need to be able to express our joy!Ē Funny that God thought the first Christians could do that without innovations. Did He say in James 5, ďIf you want to express joy, play an instrumentĒ? No! ďYou are to clap your handsĒ? No! ďYou are to danceĒ? No! He tells us in the Scriptures: ďYou sing!Ē ďIs anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.Ē ďMaking melody in the heartĒ, Paul will add, in Eph. 5 :15. See, I donít need a better plan in worship or any other area of my life. God has said what I need in the scriptures, and folks, God is not a cow. Did you see, in the text, how the cows reacted when Saul changed Godís pattern? They didnít. Cows do not care how you worship. They will accept a more progressive approach. They will enjoy singing, dancing and whatever else you want to do. They loved it when Saul changed Godís plan.
II. We donít obey because we love cows too much!
But I tell you another problem. Too often, we love cows a little too much. Have you ever noticed how many times, in scripture, cows ended up being a problem? What caused the Israelites to stumble when Moses was away? A golden calf! What caused the Israelites a problem when the kingdom divided? Wasnít it a golden cow that Jeroboam set up in Bethel? Time and time again, you read about a cow being the reason for disobedience. And I want you to notice that those cows were the result of an attachment the people had developed, much earlier, in their lives. See, the Israelites had learned to love cows, in Egypt, in the pagan worship. Jeroboam had learned to love cows, earlier, when he saw other nations worshipping Baal. Saul had learned to love cows in his youth. He had learned the financial value of them then, while working on his farm. And now that he came back to his palace, he brought with him, a herd of cattle.
And I think, that many times, we become displeasing to God because we also want to bring with us, into the Church, what we previously valued in the world! Maybe it is a sin, a desire for alcohol or any other addiction. And when we are converted, we want to still be able to give in to those things. We donít want to have to give it up! Maybe, also, our previous habits are seen by the way we speak or joke. Or, it may be something we used to do in other religious movements. How many times have I heard people say, ę I wish we had a piano Ľ or ę I wish you could wear a collar. Ľ And do you know what they are telling me? ę I learned to love cows when I attended such and such Church and now, I want to bring those cows with me in Godís Church. Ľ But, folks, cows canít be pleasing to God! He wants us to put them to death, before we enter His chosen land!
III. We donít obey because we love other cow-lovers.
The next reason I think we, often, fall short is because we love other cow-lovers, a little too much. Did you see why Saul said he kept the flocks? Look at v. 24, ďÖ.Ē. Now Saul, here, seems to be blaming somebody else to excuse his behavior; but, do not believe a word of it. He is lying because, if you look in v. 9, you see he was in the planning all along. But I think, never the less, that we see, here, how Saul was always concerned about being a people-pleaser. He wanted, so much, to be accepted, by the people of his own nation and of other nations, that he disobeyed God.
As people in ministry to God, we need to know that there will always be people who complain. Often, they will want to change things. They will not like Godís non-progressive programs. They will try to pressure you into changing Godís will. But donít you dare give in! You hear, stand firm! Donít become a Saul or an Aaron! You are not serving to please men. You are trying to please God. You donít work for people; you work with people for God. God is your boss, not man. If Saul had remembered that, had he remembered whose he was and who put him in power, he would never have ended up where he did.
I. Cow-lovers dress cow worship to look like Godís.
I am out of time, but I want to finish by showing you one last thing. Look at Saulís answer, when confronted by Godís prophet, again, v. 20 and 21, ďÖĒ. You find there that cow-lovers are very deceptive. Cow worship very often resembles Godís worship and yet it is very different. It claims to be pleasing to God, but it isnít. It claims obedience, but it doesnít. But Saulís story is just one example of it. Do you remember when Jeroboam set up the cow worship in I Kings 12? Look at verses 29-33, ďÖĒ. Everything resembled Yahwehís true worship. They had a house, like the temple, a feast on the same day and a priesthood like the Levites. They even offered perfume, just like in Jerusalem, but it was a fake. It fell short, for anyone who could tell the difference between a bull and a heifer! See, such is the nature of cow worship. So donít be deceived by what you often see in the religious world, by the enthusiasm Saul was enthused with. God has one church and one way to be worshipped. Itís the Bibleís way and anyone who studies the Bible will be able to tell the difference! So study and learn to beware of cow-lovers and cow worship! Learn not to keep old cows in your own barn! Learn to please only one and only one!
So let me ask you, this afternoon, do you love God? Do you serve Him whole-heartedly? Do you obey him in all you do? Itís not that it is too hard. If not, it may be because you love your own cows, a little too much. Maybe it is because you brought cows, in His church, with you? Maybe it is because you love people, a little more than God. What is it you need to give up, this afternoon, to be pleasing to Him, in your worship, in your family life, in your work life, in your school life? Why donít you commit to do that right now as we stand and sing.