The House of Samuel

A Game of Thrones  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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We are reminded that God graciously promises not to turn away from us. We are encouraged to look to God alone for guidance and comfort.

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Have you ever seen something on TV and just been really happy thinking “man, I’m glad that’s not me.” Now, I’m not talking about something serious like a natural disaster, when you see that you’re not really happy thinking that it isn’t you - you’re probably more likely to feel survivor's guilt. I’m talking about something like watching America’s Funniest Videos and a blindfolded little kids misses the pinata, swinging the bat directly into his dad’s sensitive area. You laugh at the poor guy as you think “glad it wasn’t me.” Our story today probably belongs somewhere in the middle of those two situations. Because I think the best thing to take away from the reading is “thank goodness that wasn’t us.” It actually reminded me of a demotivational poster - yes I said demotivational poster - from where they say “motivational posters don’t work, our demotivational posters don’t work better.” Here it is . . .
Mistakes - It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others.

Witness to the Fall

And that’s how I want to frame this last sermon in our Game of Thrones series, because the house we’re looking at is the House of Samuel. And Samuel is an interesting Biblical character because most of what we see of him is what God tells him to do or say in response to the things that Israel is doing. You see, over the past month if you’ve been here every week you’ve heard messages on Saul’s rise and fall from power, on Jonathan’s loyalty, on the Philistines as God’s tool, and on David and the reality of consequences - but one character who is present in all of these stories moving in the background is the prophet Samuel. And he witnesses a chain of events that culminates in our story today as Saul approaches the medium of Endor.
Samuel is there when Saul can’t find his father’s sheep, when an incompetent shepherd is made king over Israel because of the people’s whining.
Samuel is there when Saul makes in impulsive sacrifice to seek the favor of the Lord, trusting in his own efforts to earn God’s blessing.
Samuel is there when Saul makes a rash vow that no one will eat until he is avenged on his enemies, a vow that Jonathan unknowingly breaks and is nearly sentenced to death over it.
Samuel is there when God tells Saul to destroy Amalek and Saul decides he knows better, failing to follow through on God’s instructions.
Samuel witnesses Israel’s desire to trust in kings instead of in God, Samuel witnesses Saul’s tendency to trust his own wisdom instead of in God, and Samuel witnesses the consequences that result from all these mistakes.

The Night is Dark and Full of Terrors

And, as you may have guessed, there’s a character from Game of Thrones who bears witness to the rise and fall of some of the contenders for the throne. Melisandre, otherwise known as the Red Woman or the Red Witch, is a priestess of the Lord of Light throughout the series and plays witness in a similar way to Samuel. And something that is a bit of a mantra in her faith is the line “the night is dark and full of terrors.” That’s the line I want to draw attention to and connect it with what we’ve talked about so far, because (like Joel brought to us last week) actions have consequences.
Saul and Israel disobeys God again and again, putting their faith in men, in themselves instead of in almighty God, and the results are dark, and full of terror. Saul goes to the Medium of Endor and asks her to bring up the spirit of Samuel - who has died at this point. And the spirit of Samuel says “the Lord has turned from you and become your enemy.” That thought is dark and full of terror. Saul put his faith in something other than God and, in the end, God turned away from Saul and left him to lose his kingdom, to die, and to condemnation. And I can think of no better way to describe what it must be to have the living God turn His back on you than Melisandre’s words, it is a place that is dark and full of terrors. And if we put our faith in our own wisdom, our own righteousness, our own power - God will turn His back on us as well, leaving us in a place that is dark and full of terrors.

Valar Morghulis, Valar Dohaeris

But Saul isn’t the only king that Samuel bears witness to, he also anoints David to succeed him. And with these two kings, the process of causation we see takes two diverging paths - a choose your own adventure of sorts. Both kings make mistakes, both kings commit sins and this causes both of them to be convicted by a prophet of God, this causes God to threaten punishment for both of them. But here’s where the paths diverge.
One one hand, we have Saul who doubles down on trusting himself. He doesn’t beg for forgiveness or seek God’s grace, when the Lord doesn’t go after him he seeks after a medium to try and force God’s hand. And as a result, God’s back stays turned and Saul is condemned. And we put ourselves dangerously close to this when we try and justify ourselves, when we think that we’re good enough on our own somehow.
On the other hand, David throws himself at the mercy of God. He confesses that he has sinned against God, he seeks forgiveness. And as a result, Nathan (a prophet after Samuel) tells David that “the Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.” And this is a truth we share, God has put away our sin through the work of Jesus Christ, when our faith is in Him and He does all the work to justify us - we become good enough because He calls us good.
Which brings me to one other line from the Red Witch and others - valar morghulis, valar dohaeris which means “all men must die” and “all men must serve.” Because there’s a powerful truth to these words. All men must die - each and every one of us has to face that reality. Samuel died, Saul died, David died, and we will follow them into the grave unless Jesus comes back first. And the question at our death deals with the other reality that all men must serve, we can choose to serve our jobs, we can choose to serve our families, we can choose to serve our egos, we can choose to serve our greed - but all of those things will not protect us from condemnation that is dark and full of terrors. Instead, we trust that the Holy Spirit works in our hearts giving us faith to serve Jesus, to confess Him as Lord, to trust in his life, suffering, death, and resurrection to put away our sins, to remember it no more. Because that is the promise He offers to us, that He will never turn His back on us, that He will answer us and bring us into eternal life, eternal paradise with Him.
The night is dark and full of terrors, but the master we serve brings us into eternal light. Amen.
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