Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Arc de Triumph

Monday, April 3, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Apr 4, 1 Sam 28-31

Today's readings are 1 Sam 28-31

In 1 Sam 28, Saul faces a major confrontation with the Philistines (1 Sam 28:4). Saul seeks God’s counsel but as we saw in 1 Sam 16:14, the Spirit of God has left him, and he gets no response. In desperation, the man who once disregarded counsel from Samuel while he was alive, seeks Samuel's counsel now that he is dead (1 Sam 28:6-14). Saul enlists the aid of a medium, all of whom were expelled from the land by Saul himself. 

The passage concerning the medium is an odd one, one that has generated much discussion and debate. Scripture prohibits the use of mediums (Lev 19:31). Saul would have been aware of this. Yet he employs one. The witch at Endor seems to be able to conjure up Samuel. That she is startled at Samuel's arrival says much. Whether she is a charlatan or an actual medium, she is clearly not expecting Samuel to appear and calls him a "god." It seems she is actually more surprised than Saul. 

This is another case of God's sovereign presence and authority being exercised, even over the forces of evil, using all things for His divine purposes. Those who would be inclined to think of mediums and spiritualists as valid means of communicating with the dead would do well to see the results of this encounter. Saul is reminded that he has lost the throne and will soon die. Ironically, Saul has his wish, he has spoken to Samuel but nothing has changed in this supernatural encounter. Saul has heard all this before. In his desperation to hear something favorable from God, Saul hears exactly what he dreads hearing and is trying desperately to avoid.

Meanwhile, in 1 Sam 29, David has done a masterful job of fighting against Judah's enemies while in the service of Achish, the Philistine King who promotes him. The king plans to attack Judah. David is divinely delivered from having to attack his own people. God uses Achish's own warlords to persuade the king to leave David behind. They don't trust David and demand that Achish send David away from the battle. The Philistine king sees something different about David, calling him “blameless” and “as an angel of God". (1 Sam 29:9). Apparently, even a pagan king can see the Spirit of God upon David.

In 1 Sam 30:1-4, David's town among the Philistines, Ziklag, is captured by the Amalekites. All of its people including David's family are carried away. David inquires of the Lord by godly means. Unlike Saul, David receives clear instructions on what to do to get his people back (1 Sam 30:7-8). David shows mercy to a potential enemy (1 Sam 30:11-12) who turns out to be a valuable informant regarding the upcoming battle (1 Sam 30:13-15).  He defeats the Amalekites, rescues his family and receives the spoils of battle which he divides among all in his army, including those who did not fight (1 Sam 30:16-25). Then as a blessing and a way for his brothers to understand that David fights for them, even though he is among the Philistines, he sends gifts to Judah (1 Sam 30:26-29).

Again, we see the contrast between David -- one who trusts in God, fights for Him, shows mercy and exhibits the unity of God’s children -- and Saul -- independent, self-centered, divisive and vengeful.

As if to emphasize that contrast between David and Saul, immediately after David’s victory, we see Saul’s defeat. Saul and his sons, including Jonathan, die in battle causing Saul’s army to panic and abandon their homes to the Philistines (1 Sam 31:1-7). Their bodies are desecrated bringing dishonor upon Saul's people. Their honor is redeemed when some of Saul's valiant men recover the remains and give them proper funerals (1 Sam 31:8-12). 

1 Sam started with the story of the prophet Samuel, who would lead Israel out of the age of the judges and into the age of the kings. Israel’s first king was the one they wanted, one like the worldly kings. That proved to be a disaster. Their second king, David, was the one they needed. He didn’t look like much of a king—but he had the blessing and anointing of God, which was far more powerful than anything any earthly king could provide. Saul is dead and so is Samuel. David is ready to ascend to the throne. 

Meanwhile, we’ve learned that our earthly desires pale in comparison to what God wants for us. We should be cautious not to trade the lesser for the greater.

By God's word, David is slowly being elevated to the throne of Israel while Saul suffers the consequences for disobeying God. Saul's story is one of fear and pride, both weaknesses creating an ever widening gap between Saul and his God, ultimately leaving him to his own devices which bring about his doom.

David's story is still developing. He's clearly not perfect and prone to stumble, sometimes making questionable or even poor decisions. David is familiar with fear as well. But as fearful as David can be, he is learning to trust God in and through his fears. He is supernaturally gifted as a warrior and a leader. But, even in his gifting, he can act impulsively and in desperation. Because David has a heart after God's, God protects him, preserves him, empowers him and sheds His grace upon him. 

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