Posts Tagged 'Saul'

David and Solomon, Part 2

David didn’t have it easy. He had been anointed by Samuel to be Israel’s next king, yet that wouldn’t happen for a long time. Saul, present king of Israel, hung on to the throne by the skin of his teeth while David was waiting in the wings. Gradually losing his grip on reality, Saul knew he was in trouble but like so many in his shoes, he was in too deep. The die had been cast and whether he was fully aware or not, he was finished as king even as he was still being called “king.”

Meanwhile, David’s stunning victory over Goliath was one of those seminal events in one’s life life that causes a sea change to occur. David had been a rugged shepherd, tending to his father’s sheep. But now crazy king Saul decided to bring David from his father’s sheep pens to his royal court and give him a position in the army.

That sounds good on the surface but life in Saul’s court was like walking on egg shells. David never knew what Saul he would run into on any given day. Would he be the genial king that liked you, or the crazy old king who tried to run you through with a spear? David had no idea.

Life can be like that for anybody. But David, in the midst of a life of uncertainty, could write words like this:

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. (Psalms 34:17 | NIV84)

David and Jonathan: Best Friends

And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. (1 Samuel 18:3 | NIV84)

It wasn’t Phil Collins who said this, but he could have:

What is a friend? A single soul living in two bodies.

Who knew St Augustine could write something so sentimental as that? It is sentimental to be sure, but it certainly did describe the kind of relationship that existed between David and Saul’s son, Jonathan.

After the slaying of Goliath, David went to live in the royal palace at Gibeah. He was to serve as a court musician but also as Saul’s armor bearer when Israel went out to do battle. It was in the palace that David met Jonathan and their legendary friendship grew. Verse one describes the friendship in graphic terms. In the NIV84, it looks like this:

Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. (1 Samuel 18:1 | NIV84)

In the Hebrew, though, this is how the friendship is described:

The soul of Jonathan was “knotted” to the soul of David.

Four things characterized their friendship: loyalty, love, personal devotion, and self-sacrifice. Jesus described friendship like this in John’s Gospel, and it sounds a lot like the friendship that existed between Jonathan and David.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”. (John 13:34-35 | NIV84)

So serious did Jonathan take his friendship with David that he actually made a unilateral covenant of friendship with him. It was unilateral in the sense that Jonathan committed himself to David without regard for himself.

The Lord leads people like that into our lives. No believer can make it through life alone; we all need a Jonathan. Years ago, Christian entertainer David Meece wrote these lyrics, and they’re spot on:

I heard the news about you
A little while ago
I tried to call but you weren’t at work
I’m glad I caught you at home

No one else in this whole wide world
Could mean as much as you to me
So I thought I’d drop by for a little while
In case you needed a friend

Everybody needs a little help to get their life together
(And you’re no exception)
Everybody needs another hand that they can hold onto
Everybody needs a little help to get their life together
And I want to give it to you

You can cry if you need to
You know I’ll understand
You can tell me everything that you feel inside
Don’t you hold it in

Don’t you worry, don’t apologize
For anything you do or say
‘Cause what are friends for but to be around
When you’re feeling that way

That certainly described the friendship between David and Jonathan. No wonder King Saul was so jealous.

Saul’s anger flared up at Jonathan and he said to him, “You son of a perverse and rebellious woman! Don’t I know that you have sided with the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of the mother who bore you? As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Now send and bring him to me, for he must die!” (1 Samuel 20:30-31 | NIV84)

Jonathan paid a high price for being David’s friend, and that price was the choice between obeying his father or remaining loyal to his friend. Saul had tried to kill David during one of his crazy rages but failed, and so he enlisted Jonathan’s help to get that job done:

Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. But Jonathan was very fond of David and warned him, “My father Saul is looking for a chance to kill you. Be on your guard tomorrow morning; go into hiding and stay there. I will go out and stand with my father in the field where you are. I’ll speak to him about you and will tell you what I find out.” (1 Samuel 19:1-3 | NIV84)

That’s what a friend does; he intervenes on your behalf; he tries to find solutions to your problems. That’s exactly what Jonathan did. The fact that King Saul relented shows how well Jonathan knew his old man. Jonathan was not only loyal, but he was also sharp.

Saul listened to Jonathan and took this oath: “As surely as the Lord lives, David will not be put to death.” (1 Samuel 19:6 | NIV84)

But that didn’t last very long. There was another skirmish with the Philistines and once again David distinguished himself. This brought about another outburst of jealous rage on the part of Saul. In fact, we are told this:

Saul sent men to David’s house to watch it and to kill him in the morning. But Michal, David’s wife, warned him, “If you don’t run for your life tonight, tomorrow you’ll be killed.” (1 Samuel 19:11 | NIV84)

Michal was David’s wife and she was also Saul’s daughter, Jonathan’s sister. It seems as though the whole family liked David except for crazy Saul! Michal resorted to what we call “situation ethics” in order to make good David’s escape from her father’s men:

Then Michal took an idol and laid it on the bed, covering it with a garment and putting some goats’ hair at the head.14 When Saul sent the men to capture David, Michal said, “He is ill.” (1 Samuel 19:13-14 | NIV84)

She lied, and the Bible never condones lying for any reason, no matter how well-intentioned. However, while many Christians get all bent out of shape regarding this lie, they completely miss the really troubling aspect of this whole incident. What was a heathen idol doing in David’s house in the first place? A household idol such as this one was usually kept in a small shrine in the house, so it wasn’t just a paperweight. It’s unfortunate that so early in David’s career he was already compromising his faith. Is it any wonder Solomon built so many shrines all over the land? This was his example.

As both the friendship between Jonathan and Michal and David proves, sometimes associating with God’s people can put you in a difficult position.

The Fugitive

David was on the run for his life now, with Saul and his forces nipping at his heels. He fled from Gibeah to a community of priests with the odd name of Nob. Previously, David’s wife Michal had engaged in some situation ethics, and here at Nob David tries his hand at lying to protect himself.

David went to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest. Ahimelech trembled when he met him, and asked, “Why are you alone? Why is no one with you?” David answered Ahimelech the priest, “The king charged me with a certain matter and said to me, ‘No one is to know anything about your mission and your instructions.’ As for my men, I have told them to meet me at a certain place.’” (1 Samuel 21:1, 2 | NIV84)

David’s bald-faced lie and deception led to the slaughter of all the priests at Nob. It’s a horrible lesson that David never really learned. Out of an entire town of priests, one escaped. Abiathar somehow managed to escape the wholesale massacre at Nob and fled, meeting up with David and his band of followers. When he explained what happened, David said this:

I am responsible for the death of your father’s whole family. Stay with me; don’t be afraid; the man who is seeking your life is seeking mine also. You will be safe with me.” (1 Samuel 23:22b, 23 | NIV84)

And he was safe. As a matter of fact, Abiathar became sort of the chaplain of David’s band of heroic misfits. Many years later, after the death of David, Abiathar was given the bum’s rush by David’s successor, Solomon, as he was suspected of colluding with Adonijah, David’s other son, to take the throne from Solomon.

To Abiathar the priest the king said, “Go back to your fields in Anathoth. You deserve to die, but I will not put you to death now, because you carried the ark of the Sovereign LORD before my father David and shared all my father’s hardships.” So Solomon removed Abiathar from the priesthood of the LORD, fulfilling the word the LORD had spoken at Shiloh about the house of Eli. (1 Kings 2:26, 27 | NIV84)

David was far from perfect, but through all his ethical failings, he remained loyal to God.  The modern Christian should have some empathy for the man.  We’re far from perfect too.  David was a man of questionable ethics and morality, yet God referred to him as “the apple of his eye.”  God calls, saves, and anoints imperfect people to get His work done.

 

 

 

David and Solomon, Part 1

Israel was never supposed to have a king. In God’s plan, Israel was supposed to be a completely different of nation from any nation on earth. According to Greg Boyd –

Functioning as a microcosm of humanity, and as part of their priestly-servant role to other nations, it seems God wanted to manifest his original plan for humanity by raising up a nation that had no need of a human king, for they had God as their king. According to the biblical narrative, this is how it was for the first several hundred years after their deliverance from Egypt. Moreover, throughout the OT we find the Lord commanding his people to place no trust in human rulers, weapons or armies, but to rather find all their security in him.

That Israel ended up with the likes of King David was a concession of God to His stubborn people. Read carefully what Moses said to the Israelites while they were wandering in the desert wilderness –

When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, “Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us…” (Deuteronomy 17:14 | NIV84)

That’s a concession; that’s not what God ever wanted for His people, look at the wording carefully: “Let US set a king over us like all the nations around us.” But they weren’t supposed to be anything like the nations around them; Israel was created to be different, yet they wanted to be just like everybody else. That was their downfall. Back to Moses, here was how the king of Israel was to behave –

The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the Lord has told you, “You are not to go back that way again.” He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold. (Deuteronomy 17:16-17 | NIV84)

Good luck with that! Israel wanted a king and God let them have one. Saul, their first king, was a real piece of work. Mentally disturbed doesn’t begin to describe King Saul. Things didn’t end very well for him –

Saul said to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and run me through, or these uncircumcised fellows will come and run me through and abuse me.” But his armor-bearer was terrified and would not do it; so Saul took his own sword and fell on it. (1 Samuel 31:4 | NIV84)

Even though Israel’s desire for a king wasn’t what God wanted for them, He could still work through a king, and God set in motion events that put His man on the throne.

The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”(1 Samuel 16:1 | NIV84)

God chooses David, 1 Samuel 16:1 – 13

Samuel, Israel’s national and beloved prophet, was devastated that God had rejected Saul, but God wouldn’t let him sit around in his misery for long. He was given a new mission. Saul’s dynasty would not be allowed to continue. If Israel would have another king, Samuel would have to leave the past behind and move forward. Moving forward brought Samuel to Bethlehem. The Lord’s choice for Saul’s successor would be found among the eight sons of Jesse. Jesse was the grandson of Boaz and Ruth. In an interesting twist of history, Ruth was a Moabitess and Boaz’s mother was also from outside of Israel. Her mother was Rahab of Jericho.

Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,Obed the father of Jesse,6 and Jesse the father of King David. (Matthew 1:5-6a | NIV84)

It was tricky for Samuel to obey God’s directions in verse one. To go to Bethlehem from Ramah, Samuel would have to pass through Gibea, Saul’s capital. Given Saul’s mental and spiritual decay, he was taking his life in his hands. Samuel didn’t exactly lie to Jesse, but there was a little subterfuge going on –

But Samuel said, “How can I go? Saul will hear about it and kill me.”The Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.”. (1 Samuel 16:2-3 | NIV84)

The sons of Jesse paraded in front of Samuel but the prophet was given some advice from the Lord:

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”. (1 Samuel 16:7 | NIV84)

God’s standards are certainly not the same as ours! We are quick to judge by appearances, but appearances can be very misleading. And yet, oddly enough, when they finally got around to the son God wanted, we read this –

So he sent and had him brought in. He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; he is the one.”. (1 Samuel 16:12 | NIV84)

God chose the handsome one after all. But it was what was inside David that counted. God doesn’t look for people that look good or are of a certain height and weight or age, rank or position. God chooses whom He will and He sets His Spirit in those whom He accepts.

So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power. Samuel then went to Ramah. (1 Samuel 16:13 | NIV84)

David’s confidence in God, 1 Samuel 17:32 – 54

Even though the events of chapter 17 seem to occur right after those of chapter 16, some years have passed between David’s anointing and his encounter with the giant, Goliath. By this time, Saul’s mental state had deteriorated greatly. His mood swings were wild, from depression to rage at a moment. This was God’s judgment on him for his willful, sinful disobedience. Far from a child, David was a young man in chapter 17 and we catch a glimpse of his ability to lead, rule, and inspire people. It also demonstrated that David was not only a man of unwavering faith in God, but also keen military strategist.

Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. (1 Samuel 17:36 | NIV84)

David was anointed but was still waiting in the wings; Saul was still the king and David was still tending his father’s sheep back at Bethlehem. In verse 36, David was trying to convince King Saul that he could defeat the “uncircumcised Philistine.” Goliath was his name and he’s a bit of a mystery. He was a “giant,” probably clocking in at almost 10 feet tall. He was tall and powerful, arrogant and proud. He was probably a descendant of the sons of Anak, who had struck fear in the hearts of the Israelites before the conquered the Promised Land.

The people are strong and tall–Anakites! You know about them and have heard it said: “Who can stand up against the Anakites?” (Deuteronomy 9:2 | NIV84)

Apparently David thought he could stand up against one Anakite: Goliath! But David’s “self-confidence” wasn’t based in his abilities. He was riled up against Goliath because Goliath was defying “the armies of God,” or, in effect, God Himself. David’s confidence was in God, not in himself even though he had already demonstrated his skills in defeating adversaries, such as lions and bears.

When David faced Goliath with no armor on, and no weapons in his hands save a slingshot and some smooth stones, the giant’s pride was offended. He cursed David, but David stood his ground and warned Goliath that the giant’s time on earth was quickly running out. And then he announced the theological purpose of is mission.

All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands. (1 Samuel 17:47 | NIV84)

David’s guaranteed victory over Goliath was going to be so much more than that. It was to demonstrate to the Philistines – and others – that God exists and that He will deliver His people no matter what. The size of an enemy’s army or the strength of their weapons is of no consequence. This victory did just that, and it also showed David’s true character. The victory was the Lord’s, not his, and everybody knew it. He made his faith known and he inspired others.

You may wonder if David was afraid facing this giant. He wouldn’t be a human being if wasn’t! But David knew the secret of winning a battle. Sinclair Ferguson, Scottish Reformed theologian, remarked,

The fear of the Lord tends to take away all other fears. This is the secret of Christian courage and boldness.

Not only that, there’s also this:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools a despise wisdom and discipline. (Proverbs 1:7 | NIV84)

And onlookers, including crazy King Saul, could see that David feared God more than he feared man and they sensed that there was something very special about this young man.

David increases in knowledge and influence, 1 Samuel 18, various verses

The sun was setting fast on Saul’s dynasty while David’s star was rising.

When Saul saw how successful he was, he was afraid of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he led them in their campaigns. (1 Samuel 18:15, 16 | NIV84)

David’s fear of the Lord was bringing him victory upon victory over Israel’s enemies, and he was being noticed and respected. Saul, on the other hand, feared David, and his sanity slowly slipped away. To Saul, David became THE enemy, and he tried to kill David repeatedly.

And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David. The next day an evil c spirit from God came forcefully upon Saul. He was prophesying in his house, while David was playing the harp, as he usually did. Saul had a spear in his hand and he hurled it, saying to himself, “I’ll pin David to the wall.” But David eluded him twice. (1 Samuel 18:9 – 11 | NIV84)

Reading the accounts of Saul’s attempts on David’s life, it’s tempting to chuckle. Saul had become a pathetic character. Saul even put David on the front lines of battle, apparently hoping he’d be killed. The exact opposite happened. Saul just couldn’t kill David. Saul imagined that David was his enemy, but in reality Saul had no better friend than David. He was loyal to the king and made sure the king wasn’t killed by the enemy. He treated crazy, dangerous King Saul with courtesy and respect even though he certainly didn’t deserve it. The Lord, who had abandoned Saul, was with David and He blessed David continuously.

 

 

God Chooses the King

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Life never just happens. It may seem like random events occurring randomly, but there is nothing random about life. The Bible tells us that God is intimately involved in the lives of His people.

The steps of good men are directed by the Lord. He delights in each step they take. If they fall, it isn’t fatal, for the Lord holds them with his hand. (Psalm 37:23, 24 TLB)

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Romans 8:14 TLB)

God’s ways of leading are as numerous as the number of people He leads. Sometimes His guidance is obvious, other times He speaks in a “still, small voice.” But lead His people God always does.

This is even true in our civic and spiritual leaders. We hold elections, of course, but the Bible decrees we get the leaders we deserve. That’s not to say our vote isn’t important, but God has a plan and He knows what, or who, is best for us. Sometimes it’s hard to understand why a certain person has been called by God to pastor a church or why another has been called to be a mechanic. For reasons and purposes known only to God, He puts the right people in the right place for the good of His people and the advancement of His plan on earth.

During Samuel’s time as Israel’s judge and prophet, the people clamored for a king. God Himself was to be Israel’s king, but He relented, gave them one, and the people chose Saul. Saul looked like he walked right out Central Casting. He looked like a king. His heart, though, was the heart of coward and a scoundrel. Saul was a disaster. Israel’s next king was chosen specifically by God Himself. David, apparently, didn’t look like a king at all. But David had one quality Saul never possessed: He met God’s spiritual standard.

Sadness leads to an opportunity

Samuel never saw Saul again, but he mourned constantly for him; and the Lord was sorry that he had ever made Saul king of Israel. (1 Samuel 15:35 TLB)

Saul was an unmitigated disaster as a king, but his sad state broke both the hearts of Samuel and the Lord. It no doubt sickened the Lord to see the damage one, rebellious man could inflict upon His people. Because of Saul’s stubborn refusal to do what he was told, Israel’s very future as a nation would be put in jeopardy. The unintended consequences of our disobedience to God can be equally as devastating. No wonder God and Samuel were so mournful.

Saul’s failure became an opportunity for God to act; for God to do something great for His people. He was fair. God gave the people a chance to choose their own king. Now He would choose one for them. God’s king would have a big job to do. He would not only have to lead a spiritually dull people, but he would have to clean up Saul’s mess.

Finally the Lord said to Samuel, “You have mourned long enough for Saul, for I have rejected him as king of Israel. Now take a vial of olive oil and go to Bethlehem and find a man named Jesse, for I have selected one of his sons to be the new king.”

But Samuel asked, “How can I do that? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.”

“Take a heifer with you,” the Lord replied, “and say that you have come to make a sacrifice to the Lord. Then call Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you which of his sons to anoint.” (1 Samuel 16:1 – 3 TLB)

The Bible doesn’t tell us how long Samuel mourned for Saul; how long his bitter disappointment and depression lasted, but it had to come to an end. It ended with a new plan. This time, God Himself would choose Israel’s new king. The Lord didn’t intend to give Saul yet another chance to get it right. In fact, God had given Saul many chances, yet each time Saul acted in a rebellious manner. God was finished with Saul and it was time for Saul’s tenure on the throne to wind down. In chapter 16, we see God finding a way to slip His man into the royal house. God will brilliantly contrast David and Saul so that even the people will see the difference. The people needed to see how they failed in choosing a man based on something as slim as appearance, and Saul needed to see what God’s man really looked like.

It would be an awkward time, and Samuel was concerned for his life. Saul was, at best, highly unstable. He couldn’t be trusted. But Samuel had to trust God. His anointing of one of Jesse’s sons would take place in public, so the Lord concocted a stealth plan. B.B. Warfield observed,

Nothing, however small, however strange, occurs without God’s ordering, or without its particular fitness for it place in the working out of His purpose; and the end of all shall be the manifestation of His glory, and the accumulation of His praise.

God’s clever plan

Like it or not, Samuel was a sort of celebrity in his time, and his arrival in the little town caused quite a ruckus.

So Samuel did as the Lord had told him to. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the city came trembling to meet him.

“What is wrong?” they asked. “Why have you come?”

But he replied, “All is well. I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Purify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.”

And he performed the purification rite on Jesse and his sons, and invited them too. (1 Samuel 16:4, 5 TLB)

Jesse and his family lived in Bethlehem. Jesse, as it turned out, was the grandson of Boaz and Ruth, the Moabitess. In an ironic twist, the mother of Boaz was also not an Israelite. She was a prostitute from Jericho named Rahab, a point not missed by Matthew, who mentions it in his genealogy of Jesus.

Samuel knew that the next king would be one of Jesse’s boys, and he was pretty sure he knew which one it would be. He was wrong. As spiritual as he was, he was still not living by faith. He was undoubtedly obedient to God, but slightly carnal in his thinking. God set him straight, though.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by a man’s face or height, for this is not the one. I don’t make decisions the way you do! Men judge by outward appearance, but I look at a man’s thoughts and intentions.” (1 Samuel 16:7 TLB)

This is a classic verse that explains the inner workings of God’s reasoning mind. In this chapter we are given some powerful spiritual principles. In the previous chapter, we were given another classic verse:

“Has the Lord as much pleasure in your burnt offerings and sacrifices as in your obedience? Obedience is far better than sacrifice. He is much more interested in your listening to him than in your offering the fat of rams to him.” (1 Samuel 15:22 TLB)

Our love for Jesus Christ is measurable. We demonstrate our love for Him by being obedient to Him. There are lots of people, even Christians, who don’t understand this simple, yet profound principle. Telling Jesus that you love Him doesn’t count for a lot. You can say anything, but that proves nothing. What Jesus wants is precisely what Samuel told Saul. It not what we say about Jesus, it’s what we do. We manifest our love for Him by being obedient. The Christian life is reality, nothing else.

We learn something about God, too. He looks at us from the inside. He sees us as we really are, not as we appear to be. Character is vitally important to God. Samuel thought he knew whom God would choose, but Samuel couldn’t see inside Eliab, David’s older brother. Perhaps Eliab looked kingly, but he obviously didn’t have the heart for the job. It’s not that Eliab was a bad person, he just wasn’t God’s person.

God sees the heart. We human beings aren’t terribly good at doing that. Even Samuel, as close to God as he was, made the same mistake the people Israel did.

John Newton’s words are worth remembering:

God often takes a course for accomplishing His purposes directly contrary to what our narrow views would prescribe.

God makes His choice – the right choice

So Jesse sent for him. He was a fine looking boy, ruddy-faced, and with pleasant eyes. And the Lord said, “This is the one; anoint him.” (1 Samuel 16:12 TLB)

Given the fact that God looks at the heart and isn’t concerned with appearance, this is a very curious verse. After what we were told, it seems as though God would choose a homely, unattractive man to be king. But we are told David was a “fine looking boy.” God doesn’t despise beauty. He can use anybody, and obviously there was a quality or qualities in David that nobody else saw, save the Lord. David may have been handsome, but that is not why God chose him. David is an interesting character. Of course we know that he failed God a number of times. Yet David possessed a faith that never failed.

So as David stood there among his brothers, Samuel took the olive oil he had brought and poured it upon David’s head; and the Spirit of Jehovah came upon him and gave him great power from that day onward. Then Samuel returned to Ramah. (1 Samuel 16:13 TLB)

At the moment God’s Spirit came upon David, He left Saul. It seems as though David’s brothers were unaware of what this anointing ceremony was all about. Why would they even suspect that their younger brother had just been anointed king? He’s not the type they would have chosen.

But when David’s oldest brother, Eliab, heard David talking like that, he was angry. “What are you doing around here, anyway?” he demanded. “What about the sheep you’re supposed to be taking care of? I know what a cocky brat you are; you just want to see the battle!” (1 Samuel 17:28 TLB)

God more than qualified David for the job to which he had been called.

Saul’s decline

Even though David had been anointed king, Saul was still on the throne. It wasn’t yet time for David to succeed him. Saul’s days were numbered, and he was in decline.

David continued to succeed in everything he undertook, for the Lord was with him. When King Saul saw this, he became even more afraid of him; but all Israel and Judah loved him, for he was as one of them. (1 Samuel 18:14 – 16 TLB)

As was noted earlier, it was important in God’s scheme of things for the people to see a clear difference between Saul and David; between their choice and His, between a man overcome by his passions and one full of the Spirit of God. After the Lord’s presence left Saul, his decline seemed to speed up. Saul was now completely forsaken of God, a choice Saul made and God honored. David was brought in the palace to play his harp. The people don’t know it yet, but they were listening to their new king.

The Fruit of Disobedience

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Obedience to the will of God is an absolutely essential component of the Christian faith. Yet there is always a tension between obedience – how we live and what we do – and grace. In Ephesians, Paul wrote this:

Because of his kindness, you have been saved through trusting Christ. And even trusting is not of yourselves; it too is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good we have done, so none of us can take any credit for it. (Ephesians 2:8, 9 TLB)

Our salvation isn’t dependent on how closely we align ourselves to God’s will, yet as Christians God expects us to do just that. We can look the basics of salvation in the way God dealt with Israel. Very shortly after He delivered the Israelites from Egypt, God gave them His Ten Commandments, which began like this:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:2, 3 NIV)

Their deliverance – their salvation – came first, followed almost immediately by a call for absolute obedience and faithfulness. In terms of their deliverance, God did all the work. But after that, the Lord expected His people to live their lives according to His terms.

“Obedience” is a characteristic that is the hallmark of true believers and disciples of Jesus Christ. Think of how many times the great apostle Paul referred to himself as a “servant” of Christ. What does a servant do if not obey his master? Christians are also referred to as “servants” who serve the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God… (Romans 1:1 NIV)

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. (Romans 6:22 NIV)

It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:24b NIV)

We can learn a lot about obedience by looking at someone who wasn’t very obedient, King Saul.

1 Samuel 13:1 – 14

When the men of Israel saw the vast mass of enemy troops, they lost their nerve entirely and tried to hide in caves, thickets, coverts, among the rocks, and even in tombs and cisterns. Some of them crossed the Jordan River and escaped to the land of Gad and Gilead. Meanwhile, Saul stayed at Gilgal, and those who were with him trembled with fear at what awaited them. (1 Samuel 13:6, 7 TLB)

We aren’t told how old Saul was at this point in his life, but we can make an educated guess. His son, Jonathan, was by now a great warrior in his own right, so with a grown son, Saul was likely in his forties.

Jonathan’s attack on the Philistine garrison at Geba triggered the events that led to the men of Israel acting like a bunch of scared school girls. Saul, the man who looked like a king, didn’t really act like one. He cooled his heels at Gilgal, the very place he had been proclaimed king. Samuel hadn’t forgotten about him.

Samuel had told Saul earlier to wait seven days for his arrival… (1 Samuel 13:8a TLB)

Saul had to do one thing: wait a week at Gilgal. That’s all. One week. We aren’t given the reason why; perhaps he was. From the story, we know he had to wait for Samuel to arrive to offer some sacrifices for some reason. However, things had deteriorated quickly, and the king decided to take matters into his own hands. It is here that the true character and temperament of Saul begins to surface. Saul was an impatient man and he was a presumptuous man. As far he was concerned, he had three valid reasons for disregarding his instructions: the people were leaving, the Philistines were coming, and Samuel was nowhere in sight. Saul was behaving like a lot of Christians behave today; he was rationalizing his disobedience. Christians are a funny bunch. They instinctively know God’s will in a given situation, yet believe they are the sole exception to it. As Saul did, they rationalize and justify their disobedience, as if God’s rules applies to everybody else, but this time, not to them. It’s a foolish way to think and has the potential of being a dangerous way to live.

Here was the king’s big mistake:

…he decided to sacrifice the burnt offering and the peace offerings himself. (1 Samuel 13:9 TLB)

Eventually, Samuel showed up and he was not happy. Saul’s response to the prophet also shows us what this first king’s character was really like. To put it in way modern man would understand, the buck never stopped at Saul.

Samuel said, “What is this you have done?”

“Well,” Saul replied, “when I saw that my men were scattering from me, and that you hadn’t arrived by the time you said you would, and that the Philistines were at Michmash, ready for battle, I said, ‘The Philistines are ready to march against us and I haven’t even asked for the Lord’s help!’ So I reluctantly offered the burnt offering without waiting for you to arrive.” (1 Samuel 13:11, 12 TLB)

Saul did wrong and he knew it. But instead of owning up to his disobedience, he deflected any blame onto: the people scattering; Saul arriving late; the Philistines; and even God! So it was everybody’s fault that he had to offer that darn sacrifice; everybody’s but his.

Samuel had to break some very bad news to Saul. The consequences for his arrogant presumption would be dire and far reaching.

“You fool!” Samuel exclaimed. “You have disobeyed the commandment of the Lord your God. He was planning to make you and your descendants kings of Israel forever, but now your dynasty must end; for the Lord wants a man who will obey him. And he has discovered the man he wants and has already appointed him as king over his people; for you have not obeyed the Lord’s commandment.” (1 Samuel 13:13, 14 TLB)

In the very first test of his kingship, Saul failed miserably. However urgent the circumstances may have been they were no justification for disobedience. It’s interesting that, at least in the beginning, Saul’s kingship would become a dynasty had be been obedient to God’s commands. It was never God’s will for Israel to have a king, but God allowed them to have one with one big stipulation: the ruler must obey Him. In other words, the king would himself be subject to Heaven’s King.

This is the kind leader our nation is in dire need of today; one who is governed by the Lord. All our problems as a nation stem from the fact that we are being led by a political class that has never been further from God. Naturally, the world will not see such a leader until our Lord returns, which is God’s ultimate will for our planet.

1 Samuel 15:1 – 11

Even though Saul was informed that he would have no dynasty and that his days as king were numbered, he was still king, and would be for while to come. He had his hands full and was most definitely “in over his head.” He battled the Moabites to the southeast, the Ammonites to the east, the Edomites to the south and east, the kings of Zobah to the north, and the Philistines to the west. But it was his Amalekite campaign that caused him the most grief. To keep his army strong, Saul instituted conscription, which Samuel had predicted.

If you insist on having a king, he will conscript your sons and make them run before his chariots… (1 Samuel 8:11 TLB)

God’s urgent command to Saul regarding the Amalekites couldn’t have been more clear. Not even Saul could misunderstand what God was requiring of him!

Here is his commandment to you: ‘I have decided to settle accounts with the nation of Amalek for refusing to allow my people to cross their territory when Israel came from Egypt. Now go and completely destroy the entire Amalek nation—men, women, babies, little children, oxen, sheep, camels, and donkeys. (1 Samuel 15:2, 3 TLB)

If this seems a little extreme to you, you might have forgotten what the Amalekites did to Moses and Israel generations earlier.

Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt. When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and attacked all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God. When the Lord your God gives you rest from all the enemies around you in the land he is giving you to possess as an inheritance, you shall blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget! (Deuteronomy 25:17 – 19 NIV)

Had the Amalekites lived, they would have been just as bad, if not worse, than the Philistines. Saul actually spared some of the Amalekites. In the book of Esther we meet one of them, a nasty gentleman named Haman, who attempted to exterminate the entire Hebrew race. Had it not been for God’s timely and imaginative intervention, Haman would have succeeded. When human history is viewed from God’s perspective, God’s actions and commands make sense.

The Amalekites were an evil, war-like people. Their fate was sealed. The Israelites would be God’s hand of judgment upon them. In this world or the next, God’s judgment are righteous and true. R.C. Sproul observed:

God is not obligated to save anybody, to make any special act of grace, to draw anyone to Himself. He cold leave the whole world to perish, and such would be a righteous judgment.

The root of disobedience ran deep in King Saul.

Then Saul butchered the Amalekites from Havilah all the way to Shur, east of Egypt. He captured Agag, the king of the Amalekites, but killed everyone else. However, Saul and his men kept the best of the sheep and oxen and the fattest of the lambs—everything, in fact, that appealed to them. They destroyed only what was worthless or of poor quality. (1 Samuel 15:7 – 9 TLB)

Apparently, Saul had learned nothing. Habits are hard to break, especially sinful ones. Saul and his men rebelled against the expressed will of God. They spared Agag, perhaps for the purpose of killing him later. But they also kept a lot of good Amalekite stuff. It would appear that for Saul, the only reason for attacking the Amalekites was to get his hands on their “stuff.”

Verses 10 and 11 are just pathetic.

Then the Lord said to Samuel, “I am sorry that I ever made Saul king, for he has again refused to obey me.” Samuel was so deeply moved when he heard what God was saying, that he cried to the Lord all night.

Some people wonder about God “being sorry” that He made Saul Israel’s king. Such a statement seems to go against what we know about God’s character. John Goldingay offers an interesting analysis:

To speak of God changing his mind about an act or regretting it suggests the reality of his interacting with people in the world…His reactions to the deeds of others reflect a coherent pattern rather than randomness. Further, whereas human beings make their decisions unaware of all their consequences, so that those consequences catch them out, God can foresee not only the consequences of his own actions but also the nature of the responses they will meet with and the nature of other human acts, so that he can in turn formulate his response to these in advance.

Goldingay takes a roundabout way to get to the point that nothing catches God off-guard, so He never needs to change His mind about anything. When God says that He “regrets” something, it’s a way saying the ways of man sicken Him; they don’t surprise Him, but they create a feeling akin to regret.

1 Samuel 15:12 – 29

Samuel replied, “Has the Lord as much pleasure in your burnt offerings and sacrifices as in your obedience? Obedience is far better than sacrifice. He is much more interested in your listening to him than in your offering the fat of rams to him. For rebellion is as bad as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as bad as worshiping idols. And now because you have rejected the word of Jehovah, he has rejected you from being king.” (1 Kings 15:22, 23 TLB)

When confronted with what he did, Saul once again passed the buck, but Samuel would have none of it. These two verses are among the most well-known passages on the importance of obedience and moral conduct. God rejected Saul as king because he is habitually rebellious and disobedient. Verse 22 has an interesting parallel in Egyptian writings: “More acceptable is the character of one upright of heart than the ox of the evildoer.”

But more is at play here than just Saul’s low character. The point of these two verses is this: any sacrifice made to God must be offered on HIS terms, not ours. Saul postponement of the complete destruction of the Amalekites, regardless of why he did it, was an obvious violation of God’s will.

There is a great lesson here for us. Many Christians today are doing just what Saul did. They do their best to serve and worship God on their terms; when they want to and how they want to. Rather than bend their wills to God’s, they try to bend His to theirs. God doesn’t work like that. If the Lord rejected Saul because of his continual disobedience, why do we think we’ll get away with it?


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