Today we are going to take a look at rebellion. What is it? Have we been operating in it? And have we become so comfortable operating in it that we have also moved into stubbornness?
Let’s begin by defining rebellion.
Rebellion is armed resistance towards an established government or leader i.e. it is prepared and planned disobedience. Rebellion is a refusal to obey God and a resistance to His authority and order (whether direct or delegated).
1 Samuel 15:23a says:
For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry…
This scripture reveals that the Lord views rebellion equivalently to witchcraft and that He equates stubbornness with evil and idolatry. Rebellion takes place in the heart before it ever becomes action and it is the heart of man that God judges (1 Samuel 16:7). The actions that any person takes are simply the means or the method in which a person chooses to fulfil their rebellion. One of the driving forces of rebellion is bravado. Bravado is a false or pretentious show of courage/boldness that has the intention of impressing others. The use of unnecessary words or actions in order to mislead others or appear more important than you actually are.
Bravado can mask itself by trying to appear godly or righteous in order to impress e.g. false humility by belittling oneself, or appearing to be more compassionate than God etc. But either way, the motive is to be esteemed in the sight of man.
Rebellion is one thing, but then to also refuse to change (repent) is another. Stubbornness is a refusal to change and is equivalent to idolatry because you place your own views and opinions above God’s. Rebellion paired with stubbornness is dangerous because it will ultimately lead you to abort the plan of God for your life.
A LOOK AT SAUL
Let’s read through 1 Samuel 15 and ask the Lord to open our eyes and soften our hearts so that He may teach us and cause us to change where necessary.
Verse 1-3: Knowing God’s Will - The Lord gave Saul a command through the prophet Samuel. In this instance the authority/order of God was delegated; nevertheless, Saul knew what the will of God was.
God can speak to us in many ways. We can receive commands from God through the scriptures, dreams, visions, His still small voice, audible voice, another person or through any of the other manners in which God speaks to us. Whichever method He chooses to make His will known to us, our responsibility is to LISTEN and HEED. It is not enough simply to listen. If we listen but do not heed, we will still be made responsible.
The key thing in these verses is that Saul knew what God’s command was. He HEARD. When we are looking at rebellion, we are talking about directly going against that which you know you should do but deliberately choose not to do. If you have heard, then you now know what God’s will is, regardless of if you choose to obey it or not.
Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. (James 4:17)
Verse 4-9: Partial Obedience – Partial obedience is already disobedience. Saul had been given a clear instruction from God and in no way was it ambiguous. The Lord had clearly told Saul (v3) that he was to destroy “all” and “spare them not”. The Lord was even gracious enough to give Saul a reason (v2) when He really didn’t have to. Nevertheless, knowing what the will of God was, Saul made a decision to do the opposite. He did some of what God had told him to do, but not all. In choosing to disobey some of God’s instruction, he became guilty of all.
For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. (James 2:10)
This scripture above is referring to the old testament law (10 commandments); however, the same principle applies when God gives us an instruction. There are many commandments that we have been given under the new testament, but this one sums them all up.
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. (John 13:34)
To love one another is a commandment and not a suggestion. If we refuse to do so or are partial in how we fulfil this commandment, we too step into disobedience as Saul did. We have been made free by the blood of Jesus in order to obey Him, not to disobey Him. If we choose to disobey Him, we are using our freedom to operate in the flesh.
For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another (Galatians 5:13)
1 Samuel 15:9 reveals to us why Saul disobeyed; it was all about what he valued. If we believe something to be “good” even though it is outside of the will of God, it will be a temptation for us – just because it is a temptation does not mean we have to sin (1 Corinthians 10:13). BUT, if we value the “good" thing above God, then we will move into disobedience just as Eve did (Genesis 3:6).
Verse 10-11: Disobedience Grieves The Lord – The Lord wants us to follow Him and He wants to use us, but our disobedience will hinder Him from being able to do so.
And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:30-32).
Any choice we make not to walk in love (which is the primary commandment of the Lord to us) will grieve the Spirit of God in us. Ask the Holy Ghost to minister to you and expose your heart as we continue reading 1 Samuel 15.
Verse 12-13: Bravado – Saul knew that he had not obeyed God, but yet he chose to boast in his achievements to Samuel - bravado. In fact, he even set himself up a monument to celebrate his disobedience and then had the audacity to lie to the face of a prophet (who represented God). Saul tried to deceive/manipulate the prophet by telling him he had performed God’s command when he knew full well that he hadn’t (perhaps he thought He could win God over to his side?). This is how bravado can fuel rebellion; it causes a person to lie, exaggerating the truth; but God is not mocked.
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. (Galatians 6:7-8)
If we sow to the flesh, we will reap from the flesh. Even if we try to deceive ourselves and others by pretending to operate in obedience (love) when we are not, the Lord knows our hearts. If we say we are operating in the spirit, but yet we are harbouring unforgiveness and bitterness, the Lord knows. If the Lord tells us to speak a word to a person in a particular way, but then we change it a bit because we think we know better, the Lord knows. If we choose, like Saul, to say we have done the will of God, but in our heart, we have made a decision not to, then we move into stubbornness which is idolatry and enmity against God (Romans 8:7).
if our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God (1 John 3:20-21 NIVUK)
Verse 14-15: Excuses are of the flesh – Samuel could hear, see and smell Saul’s rebellion, yet Saul persists making excuses and blames the people – that has been the response of the flesh from the beginning (Genesis 3:12-13). Rather than take responsibility for sin and repent, a person operating in the flesh (particularly bravado) tries to win others over using illusions of grandeur. Saul tells Samuel about his own plan to sacrifice the items that he was clearly told to destroy. This is rebellion and stubbornness now in full swing, to believe that your own way is better than (or even an alternative) to the commandment of God is to place yourself above God - idolatry. To the people Saul may have appeared holy and wise, but to God he was a rebel. If we know what the Lord has said concerning a thing, but then we have an excuse or suggestion about how to do it a different way, we are operating in stubbornness.
Verse 16-23: Denial is dangerous – This is the second time that Samuel says he has obeyed the voice of the Lord when he clearly has not. He still believes that his alternative solution to the direct commandment of God is a “good” idea or even something God might consider. If we do not understand in our hearts that there is NO ALTERNATIVE to the instruction of the Lord. Our Father will not be dictated to; He is the dictator. It really is His way or the highway. Many of us have forgotten that. Yes, God is loving and He is forgiving, but He loves obedience. The lack of fear of the Lord led Saul to be rejected by God – he did not fulfil his destiny.
The only way you and I can fulfil our destiny is through obedience and we can only learn obedience through suffering (Hebrews 5:8). Many people think there is an alternative, but there is not. Many people think they can do things their own way, but you cannot. God has a way that He does things and unless we are willing to fit His mould, we will never fulfil His will for our lives. You may do “good” things (according to your own and man’s standards), you may even accumulate “good” things, but in the sight of God, you will smell like a rebel.
To be in a position where you continue to defend your disobedience, even though all the evidence is there, is a dangerous place. If you refuse to humble yourself, by confessing and repenting of your disobedience, your pride will destroy you.
A man's pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit. (Proverbs 29:23)
True humility is simply to agree with God.
Verse 24: Fear of Man – Here Saul exposes the true reason for his disobedience – the fear of man. If we fear people more than God, we will always move in disobedience.
The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate. (Proverbs 8:13)
The fear of the Lord is KEY to walking in obedience. If you don’t have this spirit (Isaiah 11:2), you need to ask Abba to give it to you.
Verse 25: Plead for Forgiveness – It wasn’t until God rejected Saul, that Saul chose to repent. Let this not be our story. The Lord gives us multiple chances to confess our sin and receive forgiveness. Don’t harden your heart like Saul did. Excuses are of the flesh.
Saul’s confession was the first part of his repentance. We need to be truly honest about our motives and God will forgive us. 1 John 1:9 says:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Verse 26-31: True motive – Saul’s true motive was still revealed in the end. Saul acknowledged his sin, but he still cared about receiving honour in the sight of man as an alternative to the forgiveness and purpose of God for his life. True repentance is to turn or re-turn to obedience. Rather than demonstrating true repentance by doing that which God had originally commanded him to do (i.e. kill Agag), Samuel had to do it. The Lord could see the true motives of Saul’s heart and He gave him over to them; because Saul did not love the Lord.
We need to examine our hearts today. What has God commanded us to do that we have not done? What command has He given us that we refuse to obey? What are we making excuses about? What do we care more about, the will of God or recognition from man? Are we saying with our mouth that we love God and that we are repentant, but are our hearts and actions revealing otherwise?
REPENT & FORGIVE
One thing that the Lord has really put on my heart for His people is that we need to repent concerning unforgiveness. Now is the time for you to ask Abba to examine your heart. Are you holding unforgiveness? If so, you need to repent and then make a decision to forgive. It might be towards somebody in your church or ministry, or it may be towards someone else. Either way, Abba takes unforgiveness seriously. If you know you have been harbouring this in your heart, today is the day to repent and truly forgive.
Forgiveness is a commandment to the believer. It is not a suggestion and there is not an alternative. Regardless of what a person has done, we have no right to hold unforgiveness. It is a serious thing. Unforgiveness is a sin and the Lord will judge us on it.
But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:15)
If you don’t forgive, Abba will not forgive you. This is what Jesus said with His own mouth.
Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:21-22)
There are no conditions as to when you cannot forgive. Excuses are unacceptable. Regardless of whether a person deserves it or not, we are commanded to forgiven them seventy-seven times, which represents complete perfection.
I really believe part of the rebellion that has been operating in the Body of Christ is a refusal to forgive completely. A feeling that God “understands” why we choose not to forgive a person with all our hearts. I believe many times it has been said with the mouth that we forgive, just as Saul spoke with his mouth saying “I have done the will of God”, knowing full well that he hadn’t.
People often ask, “how do I know if I’ve truly forgiven?” Or maybe you’re thinking that you’ve forgiven before, but then the feelings came back etc. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean that what they did was okay or that your pain doesn’t matter. What it means is that you make a choice to see them, treat them, speak about them and to them, and think about them with love. It is a decision that regardless of whether they hurt you again you are going to love them. It is a decision that regardless of whether they do not apologise you are going to love them. That’s what it means. Forgiveness is not the emotions you feel.
The same way you choose to do anything is the same way you choose to forgive. You set your mind to forgive. You use your will to forgive. Until you can accept that forgiveness is a commandment that you must follow and stop making excuses, you cannot fully do the Lord’s will in this area. If you know God has commanded us to forgive, but you choose not to, or you choose to only forgive a bit, then you are in rebellion. If you say you have forgiven, but you have only forgiven a little bit (or some things) and do not confess the truth, then you are in stubbornness.
The temptation not to forgive may arise, just as the temptation for all other sins may arise. But guess what? Christ has overcome the world. Just because the temptation not to forgive arises, does not mean you have to succumb to it. You need to learn to cast down every thought that opposes itself against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:5). You can no longer be passive about unforgiveness, satan has been using this in the church for too long. Offences will always come (Luke 17:1), but you need to forgive quickly and love your brethren as Christ loved you because it is a commandment. You can move from fellowship to fellowship, local assembly, to local assembly and I guarantee someone will cause offence. The only solution you truly have is to learn to mature right where you are. Choose to confess. Choose to repent. Choose to forgive. Choose to love.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, NIV UK)
Forgiveness vs. Reconciliation
Before you take the time to speak with Abba, repent and truly make a decision to forgive now and always, I quickly want to highlight the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation.
Forgiveness (towards others) is really the part between you and God. Whereas reconciliation is between you and your brother or sister. You do not need the other person in order for you to forgive. It is a decision you make irrespective of their response or their action. There is no conditional factor for forgiveness, you just always do it because Christ forgave you and has commanded you to do the same.
On the other hand, reconciliation is the restoration of your relationship with your brother or sister. Sometimes you are able to come to a place of peace without the need to speak to your brother, but sometimes it is a necessary part of your own healing and to shut any doors that satan may try to enter through. Matthew 18:15-17 reveals the protocol if a believer has sinned against you:
You go to them and tell them their wrong; prayerfully they receive it, apologise and you can reconcile your relationship. If you have already chosen to forgive them, then this can easily be done in love. But if you haven’t made that decision and are making your forgiveness conditional (based on their response) then it is unlikely that you will operate in love.
If your brother/sister won’t hear you, then you can bring one or two others to hear what you say to them and they can help judge the situation.
If after that, your brother/sister still refuses to hear, you bring the issue before the whole church, but if they refuse to hear even then, they become as a heathen to you because clearly their heart is hardened.
There is also a protocol for if you know your brother/sister has something against you. Jesus says that it is our own responsibility, in that case, to go to them and reconcile with them (Matthew 5:23-24).
The reason these procedures are in scripture is because Jesus knew that there would be incidences where our brothers/sisters hurt us. However, His heart is not for discord but unity. If we learn to obey the Lord in these things we can truly begin to see this unity emerge.
And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:14, NIVUK)