Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Daily reading assignment: 1 Samuel 26-31

Today’s scripture reading sets the stage not only for the death of Saul, Israel’s first king, but also his son Jonathan who was in line for the throne (although we know David had already been chosen by the LORD and anointed by the prophet Samuel as Saul’s successor).

Integrity, a rare virtue among 21st century men, is descriptive of David whom God described as “a man after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14).  He was not a perfect man; however, integrity was a dominant characteristic of his life.  David loved God from His youth; he was a faithful son, loyal friend, and a great soldier. He was a man of courage; heroic in his deeds and humble in his walk.  When a second opportunity to kill king Saul presented itself in 1 Samuel 26; David, in spite of the appeal of his servant to take his enemy’s life, refused reasoning it was a grave sin to “stretch forth his hand against the LORD’S anointed” (1 Samuel 26:9-24).

Observation: Men of integrity are not driven by opinions or political correctness; their foremost concern is to honor and obey God.

1 Samuel 27-30 is, in the words of John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress”, a “Slough of Despond” in David’s life; a representation of sin—portrayed by Bunyan as a deep and muddy pit into which “Pilgrim” falls while on his way to the City of God.  It is the place where Christians stumble when they take their focus off God and view trials through the eyes of fate rather than the eyes of faith.

Life’s trials and troubles present us with two choices: 1) We can walk through life living by our wits and human reasoning and find our dwelling in emotional and spiritual pits; 2) Or we can look at trials and troubles through the eyes of faith and obedience and choose joy.

A spirit of despair grips David’s heart in 1 Samuel 27.  He had overcome the temptation to kill Saul in chapter 26, but we find him in chapter 27 struggling with a spirit of pessimism and anxiety (27:1).  Allowing his fear of Saul to become greater than his faith in God’s promises (Proverbs 29:25), David departed from Israel and encamped among the Philistines (27:1-3).  For 16 months, David and his men appeared to prosper in the midst of the Philistines (27:8-11); however, tragedy struck while the men were away from their families when the Amalekites attacked their city, destroying their homes by fire and taking their wives, sons and daughters captive (30:1-4).  Distraught and overcome with grief, the hearts of David’s men became bitter and turned to revenge: “David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him…” (30:6a).

David had lived away from Israel and the LORD and, for the first time in 16 months, we read “David encouraged himself in the LORD his God” and “enquired at the LORD” (30:6, 8). God answered David’s prayer and restored to him and his men their families and possessions (30:17-19).

One might feel a certain human empathy for Saul in the latter years of his life and reign.  The king is old and the strength and vitality of his youth has faded.  David, the man who has served him faithfully, Saul has made his enemy.  Worse of all, because of his sin and rebellion, Saul knows the LORD is no longer with him (16:14-15).

(c) Paintings Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Paralyzed by a spirit of foreboding (38:5-6) and desperate for a word of reassurance, the king adds to his spiritual failures consulting with a “witch diviner” seeking a consultation from the dead prophet Samuel (28:7-15; Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 19:31).  The LORD allowed Samuel to appear to Saul; however, rather than hope, the prophet warned the battle that would follow against the Philistines would bring the death of Saul and his sons and the throne would pass to David (28:17-19).

1 Samuel 31 brings us to the inevitable, inglorious end of king Saul.  The battle went against Israel and Saul received word his sons were dead and the army was in disarray (31:1-2).  Having suffered a mortal wound from an arrow, Saul commanded his armor bearer to slay him, but he refused.  Knowing he would soon fall into the hands of his enemy, Saul fell upon his own sword (31:3-4).  Adding to his ignoble death was the humiliation that followed for Saul and his sons (1 Samuel 31:8; 1 Chronicles 10:8-10).

1 Samuel 31:8-10 – “And it came to pass on the morrow, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his three sons fallen in mount Gilboa. 9  And they cut off his head, and stripped off his armour, and sent into the land of the Philistines round about, to publish it in the house of their idols, and among the people. 10  And they put his armour in the house of Ashtaroth: and they fastened his body to the wall of Bethshan.”

1 Chronicles 10:13-14 leaves no doubt why Saul and his sons suffered such a tragic end: “So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the LORD, even against the word of the LORD, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to enquire of it; 14 And enquired not [no desire to repent] of the LORD: therefore he slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse.”

The life and death of Saul affirm you can be certain, “your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23b) and “sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:15b).

Sin and rebellion cost Saul everything…his army (31:1), his sons (31:2), his life (31:3-4) and his honor (31:9-10).   My friend, sin is hard, cruel and merciless.  Sin will destroy your marriage, strip you of your crowning achievements and leave you despairing of life. Sin will rob you of everything you hold dear.

If you are in the midst of sin, it is not too late to turn back to the LORD who is “full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth” (Psalm 86:15).

2 Peter 3:9 – “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith