Thursday, February 28, 2013

Saul Recognizes David As A Potential Rival

I Samuel 17:53-18:16

“And the children of Israel returned from chasing after the Philistines, and they spoiled their tents.

And David took the head of the Philistine, and brought it to Jerusalem; but he put his armour in his tent.” (I Samuel 17:53-54)

After defeating the Philistines, the Israelites took all the stuff they had left behind in their camp.  David took the head of Goliath to Jerusalem to Saul, keeping his armor for himself.  It could be reworked to fit David later or kept as a trophy.

“And when Saul saw David go forth against the Philistine, he said unto Abner, the captain of the host, Abner, whose son is this youth? And Abner said, As thy soul liveth, O king, I cannot tell.  And the king said, Inquire thou whose son the stripling is.” (I Samuel 17:55-56)

While Saul had had David brought to the palace as his musician, and had made him his armor bearer, it meant very little to him.  When David went out to fight Goliath, Saul didn’t even remember who he was and asked Abner to find out.  It is just another indication of how self centered Saul was, that he didn’t even recognize his assistant.

“And as David returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, Abner took him, and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand. 

And Saul said to him, Whose son art thou, thou young man? 

And David answered, I am the son of thy servant Jesse the Bethlehemite. 

And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. 

And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father's house.” (I Samuel 17:57-18:2)

Saul made it a practice to bring all the best fighters into the army.  After seeing David defeat Goliath, he wasn’t about to let him get away.  Saul’s son Jonathan was much like David in his faith in God.  It produced an instant friendship between them, so they were almost inseparable.

“Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul.  And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.” (I Samuel 18:3-4)

David and Jonathan made a pact to be friends forever, and Jonathan gave David his own clothes and weapons as a token of their friendship.

 “And David went out whithersoever Saul sent him, and behaved himself wisely: and Saul set him over the men of war, and he was accepted in the sight of all the people, and also in the sight of Saul's servants.” (I Samuel 18:5)

Saul set David up as one of the military heroes and leaders.  The people were glad to accept him as such, and David didn’t foolishly get taken in by the adulation, gaining the respect of Saul’s staff.

“And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women came out of all cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet king Saul, with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of music.  And the women answered one another as they played, and said, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands. 

And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him; and he said, They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but the kingdom?  And Saul eyed David from that day and forward.” (I Samuel 18:6-7) 

Just as the people had recognized it was Jonathan’s actions that had produced the earlier victory over the Philistines, they realized it was David’s actions rather than Saul’s that had resulted in this victory.  They were dancing in the streets, and singing about David’s victory.

Saul got jealous of the attention they were giving David and began to fear they might decide to make him king instead of Saul.  From that time forward, Saul distrusted David and kept a close eye on everything he did.

“And it came to pass on the morrow, that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of the house: and David played with his hand, as at other times: and there was a javelin in Saul's hand.  And Saul cast the javelin; for he said, I will smite David even to the wall with it. And David avoided out of his presence twice.” (I Samuel 18:10-11) 

The next day the evil mood came back over Saul, and he began to prophesy about what would happen in the future.  David was called in to play for him and distract him in hopes of improving his attitude.  Seeing David playing just made him more upset and he grabbed up a javelin or throwing spear, making two attempts to kill David.  Both times David was able to escape the thrusts.

“And Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with him, and was departed from Saul.  Therefore Saul removed him from him, and made him his captain over a thousand; and he went out and came in before the people.” (I Samuel 18:12-13)

Realizing God was protecting and guiding David, Saul was even more afraid of him because he realized he was not likely to get rid of him.   In an effort to control his influence, he promoted David to a position far enough away he thought people would forget about him.

“And David behaved himself wisely in all his ways; and the LORD was with him.  Wherefore when Saul saw that he behaved himself very wisely, he was afraid of him.  But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he went out and came in before them.” (I Samuel 18:14-16) 

Because David did his new position so well, and God blessed him in his actions, David’s reputation grew and Saul became increasingly concerned.  Israel and Judah observed his wise decisions and loved the impact he was having.  

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Faith In God Rather Than Man

I Samuel 17:32-52

“And David said to Saul, Let no man's heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine. 

And Saul said to David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth. ” (I Samuel 17:32-33)

For about seven hundred fifty years, Israel had lived with God’s promise in Exodus 23:31.  “And I will set thy bounds from the Red sea even unto the sea of the Philistines, and from the desert unto the river: for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand; and thou shalt drive them out before thee.”  Repeatedly, he had given miraculous victories over their enemies, including Jonathan’s victory over the Philistines just a few years before.  David was convinced God would do it again.  If no one else was willing to try, he would go himself, just as Jonathan had done.

Like the other Israelites, Saul looked at Goliath.  Not only was he almost twice as tall as David, but he was an experienced soldier, while David was completely without experience.  There was no way David could defeat Goliath.

“And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him.  Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God.  David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.” (I Samuel 17:34-37a)

While David was not experienced as a soldier, he had experience in fighting both a bear and a lion.  He understood that it was not his skill, but God’s power that had enabled him to kill both of them, and he expected the same power to protect him from Goliath.   

And Saul said unto David, Go, and the LORD be with thee.  And Saul armed David with his armour, and he put an helmet of brass upon his head; also he armed him with a coat of mail.”(I Samuel 17:37b-38)

With no one else willing to go, Saul was left with little option but to take David’s offer.  Better to lose a teenage boy than to risk his own life.  He at least wanted to give David the best possible chance, and since he had the best armor, he gave it to David.

“And David girded his sword upon his armour, and he assayed to go; for he had not proved it. And David said unto Saul, I cannot go with these; for I have not proved them. And David put them off him.

 And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd's bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine.” (I Samuel 17:39-40)

Saul was the biggest man in Israel.  His armor was way too large for a teenage kid, as well as being pretty heavy.  David found he could hardly walk because it was so clumsy and fit so loosely.  To try to fight using such ill fitting equipment with no experience would ensure his death.  He would be far better off to use the weapons he had and was familiar with and trust God to give the victory, so that’s what he did.

“And the Philistine came on and drew near unto David; and the man that bare the shield went before him.  And when the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him: for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance. 

And the Philistine said unto David, Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.  And the Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field.” (I Samuel 17:41-44)

Goliath was insulted that they had just sent out a boy to fight him, and that the weapons he had were just what he would have used to chase away a strange dog.   There was no way he wouldn’t kill the kid.  He cussed David out for insulting him in such a way and promised to leave his body unburied so the animals could eat it.

“Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.  This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.  And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord's, and he will give you into our hands.” (I Samuel 17:45-47)

David was aware of the difference in their approaches, and was not intimidated by the threats.  Goliath was depending on the most up to date weapons, and a superior education at using them to give the victory.  David was just coming in the power of God, recognizing it was God’s battle, and not his.  While Goliath promised to kill David, David expected to kill the entire army, and when he did so, both Philistines and Israelites would know the power of God.  They would understand that human power was relatively minor.

Too often today, we are like Goliath, depending on education and techniques to build the church or accomplish spiritual matters.  Paul stressed using David’s approach in I Corinthians 2:1-5.  “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.  For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.  And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.  And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”  I suspect the Scopes Trial would have turned out differently had they trusted God rather than the legal skills of Clarence Darrow.  Unfortunately many Christian’s faith is in the wisdom of their pastors or churches, rather than in God, because so much emphasis has been focused on techniques and programs rather than on the power of God.

“And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came and drew nigh to meet David, that David hasted, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine.  And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth.  So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David.  Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him, and cut off his head therewith.” (I Samuel 17:48-51a) 

Goliath had considered David’s sling and staff as only good for chasing away a stray dog.  Guided by God, a single stone from the sling hit an impossibly small unprotected area on his forehead and knocked him out.  Having no sword of his own, David used Goliath’s own sword to cut off his head, adding insult to injury.

“And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled.  And the men of Israel and of Judah arose, and shouted, and pursued the Philistines, until thou come to the valley, and to the gates of Ekron. And the wounded of the Philistines fell down by the way to Shaaraim, even unto Gath, and unto Ekron.” (I Samuel 17:51b-52) 

If a single teen age boy could kill their mightiest champion with his own sword, how tough might the experienced Israelites be?  It had only been a few years before that Israel had beat them when Jonathan started the fight.  The  Philistines panicked and fled.  Israel killed as many as they could as they fled to the Philistine strongholds.

During my fifty years as a missionary kid, missionary and pastor, I have seen hundreds of men like Saul, depending on human wisdom and programs to accomplish the things of God.   Many of them have little or nothing to show for their years of work.  Only rarely have I seen guys like David, who just took God at his word and acted accordingly.  Their results are correspondingly more substantial.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Intimidated By Goliath

I Samuel 17:1-31

“Now the Philistines gathered together their armies to battle, and were gathered together at Shochoh, which belongeth to Judah, and pitched between Shochoh and Azekah, in Ephesdammim.  And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and pitched by the valley of Elah, and set the battle in array against the Philistines.  And the Philistines stood on a mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side: and there was a valley between them. 

And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span.  And he had an helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of brass.  And he had greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders.  And the staff of his spear was like a weaver's beam; and his spear's head weighed six hundred shekels of iron: and one bearing a shield went before him.” (I Samuel 17:1-7) 

The Philistines and the Israelite armies camped on the hills on either side of the valley of Elah,  Goliath went out to intimidate the Israelite army.  At about nine feet eight, he was huge compared to a people whose average height was about five eight or five ten.  Israel had chosen Saul to lead them because he was a foot taller than any of the rest was nearly three feet shorter.   Some doubt the stated size, but Guiness Book of records measured Robert Wadlow of the United States at 8’11.1” in 1940.  The current tallest man in the world is Sultan Kosen of Turkey who was measured when he was 17 in 2011.  At that time he was 8’3”, and may be taller now.  When Wadlow died of an infection at the age of 22, he was still growing.

That Goliath was tremendously strong is demonstrated by the fact that his chain mail coat weighed about a hundred twenty five pounds and his spear head weighed fifteen pounds, nearly as much as a medium sledge hammer or men’s shotput.  It was affixed to a shaft several inches in diameter.  Most people would find it difficult to throw more than a few feet.  With brass leg guards and a brass breastplate, he looked nearly invincible.

Goliath seems to have been descended from the Anakims, the giants who had terrified Israel over six hundred years before. Joshua 11:22 tells us that some had survived among the Philistines.  David and his men would later kill four more giants.

“And he stood and cried unto the armies of Israel, and said unto them, Why are ye come out to set your battle in array? am not I a Philistine, and ye servants to Saul? choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me.  If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us.  And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.  When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid.” (I Samuel 17:8-11)

Goliath set out to intimidate the children of Israel, defying the entire army and daring them to send their greatest warrior to fight him.  He offered that if anyone could beat him the entire Philistine army would surrender.  They were definitely intimidated by his size and confidence, and were afraid to engage in battle.

“Now David was the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehemjudah, whose name was Jesse; and he had eight sons: and the man went among men for an old man in the days of Saul.  And the three eldest sons of Jesse went and followed Saul to the battle: and the names of his three sons that went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, and next unto him Abinadab, and the third Shammah.  And David was the youngest: and the three eldest followed Saul.  But David went and returned from Saul to feed his father's sheep at Bethlehem.  And the Philistine drew near morning and evening, and presented himself forty days.” (I Samuel 17:12-16)

David’s father Jesse was considered an old man in Saul’s day.  Because David was the youngest of eight boys and was too young for military service, he was sent home during the fight with the Philistines, despite his official position as armor bearer to Saul.  Three of his older brothers were inducted into the army, however, and the two armies had confronted each other for forty days, although neither was willing to commit to all out war.

“And Jesse said unto David his son, Take now for thy brethren an ephah of this parched corn, and these ten loaves, and run to the camp to thy brethren; And carry these ten cheeses unto the captain of their thousand, and look how thy brethren fare, and take their pledge.

Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines.  And David rose up early in the morning, and left the sheep with a keeper, and took, and went, as Jesse had commanded him; and he came to the trench, as the host was going forth to the fight, and shouted for the battle.  For Israel and the Philistines had put the battle in array, army against army.” (I Samuel 17:17-21)

In the past Israel’s soldiers had always bee responsible for their own provisions, as a volunteer army with no central government.  Jesse sent David to take provisions to his sons, and to collect their paychecks.  He also sent some cheeses to their commanding officer.  David arrived just as the two armies were preparing to engage each other.

“And David left his carriage in the hand of the keeper of the carriage, and ran into the army, and came and saluted his brethren.  And as he talked with them, behold, there came up the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, out of the armies of the Philistines, and spake according to the same words: and David heard them. 

And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid. And the men of Israel said, Have ye seen this man that is come up? surely to defy Israel is he come up: and it shall be, that the man who killeth him, the king will enrich him with great riches, and will give him his daughter, and make his father's house free in Israel.” (I Samuel 17:22-25)

Just  after David arrived, Goliath renewed his challenge, confident it would not be accepted but to further intimidate them.  The Israelites were openly discussing Saul’s offer to anyone who would accept the challenge, but no one was offering to take him up on it.

“And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (I Samuel 17:26) 

David asked who Goliath thought he was that he dared to defy God and his army.  It was an insult to Israel’s God that he dared defy them in such a manner.  Notice the difference in David’s perspective and that of Saul when he said, “Cursed be the man that eateth any food until evening, that I may be avenged on mine enemies.”

“And the people answered him after this manner, saying, So shall it be done to the man that killeth him.  And Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spake unto the men; and Eliab's anger was kindled against David, and he said, Why camest thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle.” (I Samuel 17:27-28)

Eliab was really stung by David’s comments and accused him of just running off from his job to see the battle.   After all, no one likes to be put down or thought  coward by their little brother.

“And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause? 

And he turned from him toward another, and spake after the same manner: and the people answered him again after the former manner.  And when the words were heard which David spake, they rehearsed them before Saul: and he sent for him.” (I Samuel 17:29-31)

David wasn’t calling anyone chicken, he just thought it ridiculous that even a Giant thought he could defy God, and that by not stopping him, the Israelites were encouraging him.  After all, God had saved them from far more than one giant numerous times.  Saul heard about what David had said and called him in to see who was daring to make sjuc comments.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Playing Politics

I Samuel 18:17-30

“And Saul said to David, Behold my elder daughter Merab, her will I give thee to wife: only be thou valiant for me, and fight the LORD'S battles. For Saul said, Let not mine hand be upon him, but let the hand of the Philistines be upon him.” (I Samuel 18:17

When Saul was worrying about Goliath he made some campaign promises to motivate the people.  I Samuel 17:25 describes his offer.  “And the men of Israel said, Have ye seen this man that is come up? surely to defy Israel is he come up: and it shall be, that the man who killeth him, the king will enrich him with great riches, and will give him his daughter, and make his father's house free in Israel.”

Like most politicians, as soon as he had gotten what he wanted, he began to try to use that promise as a lever to get more instead of just keeping his word.  Jealous that David might some day take the kingdom, he decided to use that promise as way to get rid of David, asking him to take on some of the most dangerous assignments.

“And David said unto Saul, Who am I? and what is my life, or my father's family in Israel, that I should be son in law to the king?” (I Samuel 18:18) 

David had not fought Goliath for the rewards, but because he was concerned about Israel, and about the mockery of God.  He wasn’t seeking to advance his political career by marrying Saul’s daughter.  In fact he didn’t feel he had much to offer the King’s daughter.

“But it came to pass at the time when Merab Saul's daughter should have been given to David, that she was given unto Adriel the Meholathite to wife.  And Michal Saul's daughter loved David: and they told Saul, and the thing pleased him.  And Saul said, I will give him her, that she may be a snare to him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him. 

Wherefore Saul said to David, Thou shalt this day be my son in law in the one of the twain.” (I Samuel 18:19-21)

When the time came for Saul to keep his promise, he broke it, giving Merab to Adriel instead of David.  David and Jonathan were pals, and Saul’s younger daughter Michal had developed a crush on David.  Saul decided to use that as a way to entrap Him.

Determined to get rid of David, Saul insisted he marry one of his daughters, even offering to take Merab away from her husband if that was who he preferred.  He was not at all concerned about his daughters, or God’s command.  He was only concerned with accomplishing his goal.  Even though divorce was permitted under the Old Testament Law, the government was not authorized to grant it.  It was strictly between husband and wife.

“And Saul commanded his servants, saying, Commune with David secretly, and say, Behold, the king hath delight in thee, and all his servants love thee: now therefore be the king's son in law.  And Saul's servants spake those words in the ears of David. 

And David said, Seemeth it to you a light thing to be a king's son in law, seeing that I am a poor man, and lightly esteemed? 

And the servants of Saul told him, saying, On this manner spake David. 

And Saul said, Thus shall ye say to David, The king desireth not any dowry, but an hundred foreskins of the Philistines, to be avenged of the king's enemies. But Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines.” (I Samuel 18:22-25) 

Having been unsuccessful in his attempt to murder David, Saul conspired with his servants to try to get David to marry one of his daughters, having them tell David he really wanted him as his son-in-law.  Rather than paying a dowry as was standard, all saul was asking was that David prove he had circumcised a hundred Philistines.  It was his version of scalping people.  He was sure that one of the Philistines would surely kill David in the process, and he wouldn‘t be blamed, especially if he set a time limit to force David to hurry.

“And when his servants told David these words, it pleased David well to be the king's son in law: and the days were not expired.  Wherefore David arose and went, he and his men, and slew of the Philistines two hundred men; and David brought their foreskins, and they gave them in full tale to the king, that he might be the king's son in law.” (I Samuel 18:26-27a) 

David had no qualms about killing their enemies, and the limits Saul had set were not impossible, So David took his men and attacked the Philistines, killing two hundred of them, and taking their foreskins as proof of their death.  It was twice as many as Saul had asked for.

“And Saul gave him Michal his daughter to wife.  And Saul saw and knew that the LORD was with David, and that Michal Saul's daughter loved him.  And Saul was yet the more afraid of David; and Saul became David's enemy continually.” (I Samuel 18:27b-29) 

Clearly, Saul’s plot had failed, and he would lose his credibility if he didn’t give Michal to be David’s wife, so he did keep his word and allowed them to get married.  He also became more sure that David would become the next king and more committed to trying to stop him any way he could.

“Then the princes of the Philistines went forth: and it came to pass, after they went forth, that David behaved himself more wisely than all the servants of Saul; so that his name was much set by.” (I Samuel 18:30)

This last attack by David convinced the Philistines to withdraw their forces from Israel except for small raiding parties.  With the Philistine forces gone, David was free to spend more time in the public eye.  He quickly established a reputation for integrity and clear thinking that surpassed all Saul’s advisors.  He was gaining quite a reputation.  Saul’s political maneuvering backfired, strengthening David.

Preparing David To Be King

I Samuel 16:14-23

“But the spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.” (I Samuel 16:14)

In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit did not indwell the person, he just came upon them to direct and empower temporarily.  When Saul turned away from God, the Holy Spirit departed from him, leaving him open for demonic spirits.  This is what Jesus was referring to in Matthew 12:43-45 and Luke 11:24-26.

For the Christian, the Holy Spirit is the earnest, or evidence of their salvation, according to II Corinthians 1:22 and Ephesians 1:14.  He does not leave the Christian, but he will yield to our wishes, if we insist on maintaining control.  It explains why a Christian can only be influenced by demons, but not possessed.  The house is never empty, so demons can‘t take full possession, although they can mount seige and affect every decision.  Who is in control will soon be obvious.

“And Saul's servants said unto him, Behold now, an evil spirit from God troubleth thee.  Let our lord now command thy servants, which are before thee, to seek out a man, who is a cunning player on an harp: and it shall come to pass, when the evil spirit from God is upon thee, that he shall play with his hand, and thou shalt be well.” (I Samuel 16:15-16)

Aware of Saul’s inability to control his attitude, his servants recommended that they seek a skilled musician to calm him down so he could think more clearly.  Today, Psychologists and Psychiatrists prescribe both calming music and various medications to accomplish the same thing.  They frequently produce temporary relief of the symptoms.

“And Saul said unto his servants, Provide me now a man that can play well, and bring him to me.

Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the LORD is with him. 

Wherefore Saul sent messengers unto Jesse, and said, Send me David thy son, which is with the sheep.” (I Samuel 16:17-19) 

Understanding their concern for him, Saul agreed to allow them to proceed.   When David’s name was mentioned, it was stressed that he was also a brave and careful fighter and leader.  Saul had devoted his efforts to gathering such  men to his service so he had extra incentive to choose him.  He contacted Jesse to have David sent.

“And Jesse took an ass laden with bread, and a bottle of wine, and a kid, and sent them by David his son unto Saul.  And David came to Saul, and stood before him: and he loved him greatly; and he became his armourbearer.” (I Samuel 16:20-21) 

When David came, Saul made him his assistant and guard, his armor bearer, and not just his musician.  As a result, David would accompany Saul where ever he went, meeting all the leaders of Israel and learning what was happening throughout the land.  It would provide valuable training and contacts for the future king.

"And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, Let David, I pray thee, stand before me; for he hath found favour in my sight. 

And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.” (I Samuel 16:22-23) 

It wasn’t long before Saul decided to make David’s position permanent.  Whenever the evil attitude began to take over, David could play calming music to distract him and allow Saul to get his mind under control.  God would use Saul’s mental instability to prepare David for his future position.  It would help David to understand how important controlling his thoughts and emotions was.

Friday, February 22, 2013

David Anointed To Be King

I Samuel 16:1-13

“And the LORD said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons.” (I Samuel 16:1)

Saul had failed to Do what God wanted.  Instead of worrying about that, Samuel was to go anoint his successor.  God still had a plan.

“And Samuel said, How can I go? if Saul hear it, he will kill me. 

And the LORD said, Take an heifer with thee, and say, I am come to sacrifice to the LORD.  And call Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show thee what thou shalt do: and thou shalt anoint unto me him whom I name unto thee.” (I Samuel 16:2-3)

When Saul was selected to be king, there was enough humility to say “Am not I a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel? and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? wherefore then speakest thou so to me?,” in I Samuel 9:21.  A few years later, he had become so proud of his position that Samuel believed Saul would try to kill him if he found out that God had chosen someone else.   How could Samuel avoid risking his life?

God instructed Samuel to schedule a sacrifice just as he was accustomed to do in various cities, giving Jesse and his sons a special invitation.  When he came, God would show him who to anoint as king during the course of the sacrifices.

“And Samuel did that which the LORD spake, and came to Bethlehem. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, Comest thou peaceably?

And he said, Peaceably: I am come to sacrifice unto the LORD: sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice. And he sanctified Jesse and his sons, and called them to the sacrifice. ” (I Samuel 16:4-5) 

Samuel still exercised a lot of influence throughout Israel so when he came to Bethlehem, the leaders were concerned whether they had a serious problem.  Perhaps God was pronouncing judgment on them for something.  They were also aware of the split between Saul and Samuel. Samuel reassured them that he was only come to offer a sacrifice.  Arrangements were made for Jesse and his sons to attend the sacrifice.

“And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the Lord's anointed is before him. 

But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” (I Samuel 16:6-7)

Jesse’s oldest son just looked like a king.  Samuel immediately concluded he must be the one God wanted.  He was not the right one.  God stressed the proper king would not be determined by outward characteristics, but by the attitude of the heart.  Unfortunately, Modern pastors are often selected for educational attainments or their appearance or prestige, rather than for the attitude of their heart.

In listing the qualifications for pastors and church leaders in I Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9, Paul lists some things to look for that indicate a proper spirit or heart attitude in an individual.  If the heart attitude or spirit is not right, it doesn’t matter what other attributes the individual might have.  He is not pleasing to God.

“Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, Neither hath the LORD chosen this. 

Then Jesse made Shammah to pass by. And he said, Neither hath the LORD chosen this. 

Again, Jesse made seven of his sons to pass before Samuel. And Samuel said unto Jesse, The LORD hath not chosen these. 

And Samuel said unto Jesse, Are here all thy children? 

And he said, There remaineth yet the youngest, and, behold, he keepeth the sheep. 

And Samuel said unto Jesse, Send and fetch him: for we will not sit down till he come hither.” (I Samuel 16:8-11) 

Even by his own family, David was considered just a kid, to young to even go to the sacrifice with the men.  They left him behind to keep the sheep while they went.  It must have shocked them when Samuel stopped everything until David was brought.

“And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. 

And the LORD said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he.” (I Samuel 16:12)

When David arrived, he was healthy and vigorous looking, with pleasant and  attractive features.  God made it abundantly clear that this was the one he had chosen, and that Samuel was to anoint him.

“Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah.” (I Samuel 16:13) 

Samuel followed God’s instructions, anointing David as king before returning home to Ramah.  David had already had a spirit or attitude of pleasing God, but from that time forward, he had God’s spirit resting on him.  Please note that it was upon him, not within him as it is with the Christian.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Execution Of Justice

I Samuel 15:32-16:1a

“Then said Samuel, Bring ye hither to me Agag the king of the Amalekites.” (I Samuel 15:32a)

Saul and the Israelites had saved king Agag and the best of the Amalekite livestock alive, contrary to God’s command.  After informing Saul that his failure to obey was going to cost him the kingdom, Samuel demanded that Agag be brought before him.

And Agag came unto him delicately.  And Agag said, Surely the bitterness of death is past.” (I Samuel 15:32b)

The common custom was to cut a defeated king’s thumbs off and make a slave of him to show how inferior he was.  Having been defeated, Agag knew he would either be treated the same way or killed, so he came with a show of humility, hoping to avoid death.  After all, the battle was over, and perhaps they were no longer so angry.

“And Samuel said, As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the LORD in Gilgal.” (I Samuel 15:33) 

Like many today, Agag had no concept of justice.  He thought he had just made people mad, and when they got over their anger they should just forget about what he’d done.  Justice requires that the guilty experience the same harm he did to others.  If he stole something, he not only has to give it back, but give up one of his own.  If he broke his arm, his own arm was to be broken.  Since Agag had killed others, justice required he be killed.  It is the logical extension of doing unto others as you wish them to do to you.

Samuel chopped Agag in pieces just as he had had others chopped up.  He was dispensing justice, not just taking out his anger on Agag.  There is a vast difference.

“Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house to Gibeah of Saul.  And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the LORD repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.” (I Samuel 15:34-35)

Though Samuel lived several more years, he never again met with Saul to tell him what God had said.  It was obvious Saul had no interest in what God wanted.  As James 1:5-7 says, a person who will not commit to God doesn’t need to expect any direction from God.   God sent him no more messages.

Though he had opposed making Saul king, Samuel still was saddened by his actions and sin.  In I Samuel 12:23, he had said, “Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way:”  Samuel was still deeply concerned about the kingdom, and about Saul personally, although there was nothing for him to do about it.

Hebrews 13:17 warns, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”  Almost any teacher can tell you how bad it hurts to watch those you have tried to teach what is right throw their lives away on drugs or alcohol or some other meaningless pursuit.  It takes away all sense of accomplishment, leaving you feeling that you wasted your time trying to show them something better.

Some teach that God will hold us accountable for the failures of those we have taught or mentored.  Scripture teaches that each man must take his own responsibility.  Galatians 6:5 declares, “For every man shall bear his own burden.”  God was not pleased that Samuel continued to fret about what Saul was doing.

“And the LORD said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel?” (I Samuel 16:1a)

Saul’s actions were no longer Samuel’s concern.  He had rejected God, and God had rejected him as king.  Samuel needed to focus on what God wanted rather than on Saul’s sin.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Refusing To Take Responsibility

I Samuel 15:14-31

“And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?

And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.” (I Samuel 15:14-15)

Dead sheep don’t bleat, and dead cows don’t low.  Clearly they had not killed all of them.  Immediately, Saul started making excuses.  It wasn’t his fault, the people brought them. I Samuel 15:9 states, “But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly.”  Saul was more guilty of choosing to save them than anyone.  Had he not allowed it, none would have been spared.

He then tried to justify their failure to obey.  “We were just doing it for sacrifice to God.”  King Agag was not an acceptable sacrifice, and had they killed them where they were supposed to, it would have been an offering to God.  How many times do people try to make their disobedience appear spiritual?  For example, “We won more people to Christ because we didn’t waste any time teaching them.”

He then tried misdirection, pointing to the part they had done, “…the rest we have utterly destroyed.”  After all they had done some of the command.  Surely God ought to appreciate that.  “Look how many we got saved,” in our previous example.

Unfortunately, people don’t just do this with the Great Commission, but with every command God gives, from attending church to witnessing.

“Then Samuel said unto Saul, Stay, and I will tell thee what the LORD hath said to me this night. And he said unto him, Say on. 

And Samuel said, When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the LORD anointed thee king over Israel?  And the LORD sent thee on a journey, and said, Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until they be consumed.  Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the LORD, but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the sight of the LORD?” (I Samuel 15:16-19) 

God chose Saul when he was a nobody, making him king over Israel.  Then he gave him a job to do, to destroy the Amalekites completely.  Why had he decided that God’s command didn’t matter and focused on getting what he wanted instead of obeying?  Had he forgotten what God had done for him, or didn’t he care?

“And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and have gone the way which the LORD sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.  But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God in Gilgal.” (I Samuel 15:20-21) 

Saul refused to acknowledge his own sin. “I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and have gone the way which the LORD sent me.”   He makes it sound like God had told him to bring Agag, but there is no such indication in scripture.  It was just Saul’s idea.

The sin was all the people’s fault, according to Saul.  “But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God in Gilgal.”  He implies he had stood against them but they ignored him.    He’s not going to take the responsibility for the sin, any more than he took responsibility for impeding their victory against the Philistines.

I John I:8-10 states, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

By his refusal to admit his sin, and blaming the people, Saul was effectively calling God a liar.  Knowing how upset I get if someone calls me a liar, I can only imagine how it offends God, who cannot lie.

“And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.  For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.” (I Samuel 15:22-23) 

God wants our obedience.  He’s not interested in our great accomplishments or religious activity.  Obedience is more pleasing than anything we could do for him.  Refusal to obey is as bad as dabbling with Satanism or other idolatry.  Being stubborn is deliberate sin.  Because Saul had counted god’s word as unimportant, even to the point of calling him a liar, and refused to repent, God has decided to remove Saul as king.

“And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.  Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD.” (I Samuel 15:24-25) 

When he learned that it was going to cost him his kingdom, Saul suddenly changed his stance, admitting he had sinned.  Notice that he still doesn’t take responsibility for his sin but blames it on the people, “because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.”  He’s trying to make it sound like a confession without admitting he was wrong.  It’s kind of like saying “I’m sorry your feelings were hurt,” instead of saying “I shouldn’t have said that.”  Saul hoped it fool Samuel into thinking he had repented and would let him continue as king.  

“And Samuel said unto Saul, I will not return with thee: for thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD hath rejected thee from being king over Israel.” (I Samuel 15:26)

Neither God nor Samuel were fooled.  God’s decision to remove Saul was final and would not be changed.  I suspect that if he had been honest and confessed when first confronted, he would have been forgiven.

“And as Samuel turned about to go away, he laid hold upon the skirt of his mantle, and it rent.  And Samuel said unto him, The LORD hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou.  And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent.” (I Samuel 15:27-29) 

Determined to force Samuel to change his mind, Saul grabbed his jacket, tearing it.  Samuel used it as an illustration that god would tear the kingdom away in much the same way, and that nothing Saul could do would change God’s mind any more.

“Then he said, I have sinned: yet honour me now, I pray thee, before the elders of my people, and before Israel, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD thy God.  So Samuel turned again after Saul; and Saul worshipped the LORD.” (I Samuel 15:30-31)

Saul then begged Samuel to stay with him and maintain an appearance of unity so the others did not turn away from him and so that he could worship God.  Samuel agreed to do so, and Saul thanked God.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Partial Obedience Is Disobedience

I Samuel 15:1-13

“Samuel also said unto Saul, The LORD sent me to anoint thee to be king over his people, over Israel: now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the LORD.  Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt.  Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.” (I Samuel 15:1-3)

Almost seven hundred years before, in Exodus 17, the Amalekites had attacked Israel, when they first came out of Egypt.  Though they are descendants of Esau, and thus of Abraham, God has not forgotten that first attack.  In the intervening period, they had attacked Israel repeatedly, even during Saul’s reign.  Each time they have seen God’s power in their defeat.   They had refused to acknowledge God since the time of Esau, over twelve hundred years before.  Now God said they had been given more than a fair chance.  It is time to destroy them.  There is a limit to God’s patience.  Genesis 6:3 declares, “And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man…”

For the first time Israel had a standing army, and central government.  Saul had been designated by God to be king, and now God wants him to take the leadership in punishing Amalek for centuries of rebellion.  He was directed to go and kill every living thing,  Nothing was to be saved, not even their gold or silver.  Such and attack should provide a powerful warning to other bands and tribes of the consequences of attacking Israel.

“And Saul gathered the people together, and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand footmen, and ten thousand men of Judah.  And Saul came to a city of Amalek, and laid wait in the valley. 

And Saul said unto the Kenites, Go, depart, get you down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them: for ye showed kindness to all the children of Israel, when they came up out of Egypt. So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites.” (I Samuel 15:4-6)

With an army of two hundred ten thousand, Saul approached one of the Amalekite cities.  Among the Amalakites were a group known as the Kenites, descendants of Moses’ father-in-law, who had helped Israel when they first came out of Egypt.  They had maintained good relations with Israel throughout the period, and it was a Kenite woman who killed Sisera in Judges 4.  Their kindness was not forgotten seven hundred years later, and they were advised to leave while the Amalekites were destroyed.

“And Saul smote the Amalekites from Havilah until thou comest to Shur, that is over against Egypt.  And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. 

But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly.” (I Samuel 15:7-9)

Closely related to the Edomites, the Amalekites had moved freely through Edom, from the Arab Peninsula, conquering much of Simeon and southern Judah and occupying a lot of the Sinai Peninsula.  Saul destroyed the Amalekites throughout the Sinai peninsula and southern Israel, killing all the people.

Unfortunately, he did not follow all the instructions.  It was a custom to make conquered kings into slaves to show off one’s superiority, and Saul apparently was following the custom, saving the king, Agag, alive.   Both Saul, and the people saved the best of the livestock and property, destroying everything they didn’t want.  After all, they had earned it, and the Amalekites didn’t need their stuff anymore.

“Then came the word of the LORD unto Samuel, saying, It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the LORD all night.” (I Samuel 15:10-11)

The Lord told Samuel he was sorry he had made Saul king because he would not obey God’s command, but had turned his back on God.  Samuel was broken hearted that Israel had taken a king and then turned away from God.

“And when Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning, it was told Samuel, saying, Saul came to Carmel, and, behold, he set him up a place, and is gone about, and passed on, and gone down to Gilgal. 

And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the LORD: I have performed the commandment of the LORD.” (I Samuel 15:12-13)

The next morning, Samuel set out to confront Saul.  When he met him, Saul bragged about how he had done what God sent him to do.  “I have performed the commandment of the LORD.”

The Great Commission, of Matthew 28:18-20 describes the mission of the church.  “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

We are to go, and teach(mathatno-enroll as a disciple) all nations.   Job one is to win them to Christ.  Secondly, we are to baptize them.  Finally, we are to teach(didasko-to teach) them to keep all the things Christ has commanded us to do.  Unfortunately many Christians are like Saul, bragging about having the job God gave them, while only doing one part, whether winning souls, or baptizing them, or teaching them.  Partial obedience is still disobedience.   It doesn’t matter that we won ten thousand to Christ, if we haven’t taught them to do what God expects, we haven’t done our job.  If we haven’t won them to Christ, nothing else matters.

Samuel asked, “What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?”  If they had done the Job, there would have been no sheep to bleat or oxen to low.  If we have done our job, there will be no Church members who don’t understand what God expects.  The fact that many we have won are unknowingly living in disobedience makes it clear we have not fulfilled the Great Commission.  II Corinthians 10:18 declares, “For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.”

Monday, February 18, 2013

Unintended Consequences

I Samuel 14:31-52

“And they smote the Philistines that day from Michmash to Aijalon: and the people were very faint.  And the people flew upon the spoil, and took sheep, and oxen, and calves, and slew them on the ground: and the people did eat them with the blood.” (I Samuel 14:31-32) 

In an effort to motivate the people, Saul had pronounced a curse on anyone who ate before evening.  Fighting required extra energy and their reserves were depleted.  By nightfall, the people were desperate for something to eat.  In their desperation, they didn’t take the time to fully drain the blood from the animals bodies before cooking them, violating God’s command.

“Then they told Saul, saying, Behold, the people sin against the LORD, in that they eat with the blood. 

And he said, Ye have transgressed: roll a great stone unto me this day.  And Saul said, Disperse yourselves among the people, and say unto them, Bring me hither every man his ox, and every man his sheep, and slay them here, and eat; and sin not against the LORD in eating with the blood. And all the people brought every man his ox with him that night, and slew them there.  And Saul built an altar unto the LORD: the same was the first altar that he built unto the LORD.” (I Samuel 14:33-35) 

Hearing what was happening, Saul demanded that the people bring their animals to a central place to be slaughtered so he could be sure they were doing it the right way, than telling them and trusting them to follow instructions.  He had to be in control and couldn’t trust anyone including God.  

“And Saul said, Let us go down after the Philistines by night, and spoil them until the morning light, and let us not leave a man of them. 

And they said, Do whatsoever seemeth good unto thee.” (I Samuel 14:36-37a) 

Saul had forbidden his men to eat to satisfy his own ego according to I Samuel 14:24.  “Cursed be the man that eateth any food until evening, that I may be avenged on mine enemies.”  They had fought until they were fainting for lack of food, but now Saul  wants them fight all night in an effort to totally annihilate their enemies.  Clearly, he has little concern for his men, but is focused on his own agenda.  His attitude is typical of those who want to have control.   Fortunately, the priest was not as focused on his desires as Saul was.

Then said the priest, Let us draw near hither unto God. 

And Saul asked counsel of God, Shall I go down after the Philistines? wilt thou deliver them into the hand of Israel? But he answered him not that day. 

And Saul said, Draw ye near hither, all the chief of the people: and know and see wherein this sin hath been this day.  For, as the LORD liveth, which saveth Israel, though it be in Jonathan my son, he shall surely die. But there was not a man among all the people that answered him.” (I Samuel 14:37b-39)

When Saul asked the Lord whether they should go on, and if he’d give them victory, the Lord didn’t answer.  Saul’s purpose was entirely selfish, “…that I may be avenged on mine enemies.”  James 4:3 declares, “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” It really isn’t surprising God didn’t answer.

When Saul didn’t get an answer, he jumped to the conclusion it was someone had disobeyed him.  He would kill whoever had done so, even if it involved own son, Jonathan.  Even the people who knew that Jonathan had broken Saul’s command refused to tell.

“Then said he unto all Israel, Be ye on one side, and I and Jonathan my son will be on the other side. 

And the people said unto Saul, Do what seemeth good unto thee. 

Therefore Saul said unto the LORD God of Israel, Give a perfect lot. And Saul and Jonathan were taken: but the people escaped. 

And Saul said, Cast lots between me and Jonathan my son. And Jonathan was taken. 

Then Saul said to Jonathan, Tell me what thou hast done. 

And Jonathan told him, and said, I did but taste a little honey with the end of the rod that was in mine hand, and, lo, I must die. 

And Saul answered, God do so and more also: for thou shalt surely die, Jonathan.” (I Samuel 14:40-44) 

A thorough investigation revealed that Jonathan had violated Saul’s command.  He had not broken any of God’s commands or committed any crime, nor had he known that the command had been made, yet a death sentence had been imposed.  Saul wasn’t concerned at all about the injustice of his decision.  He wasn’t about to admit he had been wrong in or change his mind.  He was going to carry out the threat to prove he meant what he said, right or wrong.

Though Saul called Jonathan’s action sin, the real sin was Saul’s failure to believe God that impelled him to give the command.  It had several unintended consequences.  The warriors were weakened by lack of food, Jonathan’s life was placed in jeopardy for nothing, and the warriors were tempted to sin because of Saul’s lack of faith.  Self-centered  people rarely consider the side effects of their actions.

“And the people said unto Saul, Shall Jonathan die, who hath wrought this great salvation in Israel? God forbid: as the LORD liveth, there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground; for he hath wrought with God this day. So the people rescued Jonathan, that he died not.” (I Samuel 14:45) 

The people recognized that the victory they had won had been because Jonathan was obeying God.  It would not be right to punish him for doing God laid on his heart because Saul didn’t trust God.  Even a king cannot stand against a united populace for long, so Saul capitulated.

“Then Saul went up from following the Philistines: and the Philistines went to their own place. 

So Saul took the kingdom over Israel, and fought against all his enemies on every side, against Moab, and against the children of Ammon, and against Edom, and against the kings of Zobah, and against the Philistines: and whithersoever he turned himself, he vexed them.  And he gathered an host, and smote the Amalekites, and delivered Israel out of the hands of them that spoiled them. 

Now the sons of Saul were Jonathan, and Ishui, and Melchishua: and the names of his two daughters were these; the name of the firstborn Merab, and the name of the younger Michal: And the name of Saul's wife was Ahinoam, the daughter of Ahimaaz: and the name of the captain of his host was Abner, the son of Ner, Saul's uncle.  And Kish was the father of Saul; and Ner the father of Abner was the son of Abiel. 

And there was sore war against the Philistines all the days of Saul: and when Saul saw any strong man, or any valiant man, he took him unto him.(I Samuel 14:46-52)

Saul spent his entire reign fighting against the neighboring countries, fighting numerous battles with all them.  To do so, required a constantly growing military force.  He was constantly on the lookout for the strongest and bravest soldiers and leaders, drafting them for military duty.   In the six hundred years before they made Saul king, they had never needed a standing army.  After Saul became king, they were constantly at war.  

Friday, February 15, 2013

Where’s The Faith?

I Samuel 14:16-31

“And the watchmen of Saul in Gibeah of Benjamin looked; and, behold, the multitude melted away, and they went on beating down one another. 

Then said Saul unto the people that were with him, Number now, and see who is gone from us. And when they had numbered, behold, Jonathan and his armourbearer were not there.” (I Samuel 14:16-17) 

Saul’s observers noticed the commotion in the Philistine camp and that it looked like they were fighting among themselves and running away.  When they reported it, Saul demanded to know who could be causing he commotion.  The only two that were missing were Jonathan and his armor bearer.

“And Saul said unto Ahiah, Bring hither the ark of God. For the ark of God was at that time with the children of Israel.  And it came to pass, while Saul talked unto the priest, that the noise that was in the host of the Philistines went on and increased: and Saul said unto the priest, Withdraw thine hand.” (I Samuel 14:18-19)

Even with the Philistine army running away, Saul was afraid to attack without a special sign from God.  What a contrast between his lack of faith and his son’s faith.   Jonathan said “there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few,” and went ahead,  while Saul said I don’t think we have enough and waited for more.  Finally it became so obvious what was happening, he decided he didn’t need to pray about it any more.   According to James 1:5-8, it was probably his lack of faith to commit that prevented his getting an answer.  

“And Saul and all the people that were with him assembled themselves, and they came to the battle: and, behold, every man's sword was against his fellow, and there was a very great discomfiture.  Moreover the Hebrews that were with the Philistines before that time, which went up with them into the camp from the country round about, even they also turned to be with the Israelites that were with Saul and Jonathan. 

Likewise all the men of Israel which had hid themselves in mount Ephraim, when they heard that the Philistines fled, even they also followed hard after them in the battle.  So the LORD saved Israel that day: and the battle passed over unto Bethaven.” (I Samuel 14:20-23)

When Saul committed to fighting, the people who had surrendered to the Philistines and those who were hiding out came out to help him.  Had he simply trusted God enough to go fight without waiting for some special sign by Samuel, he probably would have already had the victory.  God gave a great victory.

“And the men of Israel were distressed that day: for Saul had adjured the people, saying, Cursed be the man that eateth any food until evening, that I may be avenged on mine enemies. So none of the people tasted any food. 

And all they of the land came to a wood; and there was honey upon the ground.  And when the people were come into the wood, behold, the honey dropped; but no man put his hand to his mouth: for the people feared the oath.” ( I Samuel 14:4-26)

When Saul attempted to motivate Israel by threatening to kill their oxen if they didn’t come help fight the Ammonites, only about half as many showed up as had been available when they came into the land.  When he offered the sacrifice in an effort to rally their support they deserted him, leaving only six hundred.  In another effort to motivate them, Saul pronounced a curse on anyone who ate anything before victory was complete.  Once again, his efforts to motivate them were counterproductive.

They were severely weakened by their lack of food, and when they found a place where there was a ready supply of quick energy, no one dared eat any because of Saul’s curse.  It didn’t matter that God had supplied it for them.

“But Jonathan heard not when his father charged the people with the oath: wherefore he put forth the end of the rod that was in his hand, and dipped it in an honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth; and his eyes were enlightened.” (I Samuel 14:27)

Jonathan had been busy doing what the Lord led him to do.  As a result he didn’t know about the curse, so when he saw the honey God supplied, he took some, and recovered his energy.

“Then answered one of the people, and said, Thy father straitly charged the people with an oath, saying, Cursed be the man that eateth any food this day. And the people were faint. 

Then said Jonathan, My father hath troubled the land: see, I pray you, how mine eyes have been enlightened, because I tasted a little of this honey.  How much more, if haply the people had eaten freely to day of the spoil of their enemies which they found? for had there not been now a much greater slaughter among the Philistines?” (I Samuel 14:28-30)

When they saw Jonathan eating the honey, the people warned him about Saul’s curse.  Jonathan pointed out that Saul’s  efforts to motivate them had been counterproductive, leaving them weakened and famished just when they needed the most strength.  Had they been at full strength, they would have been better able to finish the battle.  This is frequently the result when we set our own standards in an effort to produce better results.

“And they smote the Philistines that day from Michmash to Aijalon: and the people were very faint.” (I Samuel 14:31)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Just Trusting God

I Samuel 13:15b-14:15

“And Saul numbered the people that were present with him, about six hundred men.  And Saul, and Jonathan his son, and the people that were present with them, abode in Gibeah of Benjamin: but the Philistines encamped in Michmash.” (I Samuel 13:15b-16)

Saul had a standing army of three thousand.  When the Philistines invaded, he had called for all Israel to come help.   Delaying while he waited for Samuel to come give his blessing had resulted in his army shrinking to only about six hundred men,  camped in Gibeah.

“And the spoilers came out of the camp of the Philistines in three companies: one company turned unto the way that leadeth to Ophrah, unto the land of Shual: And another company turned the way to Bethhoron: and another company turned to the way of the border that looketh to the valley of Zeboim toward the wilderness.” (I Samuel 13:17-18) 

The Philistines maintained a large army to keep Saul busy while they sent three raiding parties out to pillage the unprotected cities and farms.  With almost all the men in hiding, the land was easy pickings.

“Now there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel: for the Philistines said, Lest the Hebrews make them swords or spears: But all the Israelites went down to the Philistines, to sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and his ax, and his mattock.  Yet they had a file for the mattocks, and for the coulters, and for the forks, and for the axes, and to sharpen the goads. 

So it came to pass in the day of battle, that there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people that were with Saul and Jonathan: but with Saul and with Jonathan his son was there found.  And the garrison of the Philistines went out to the passage of Michmash.” (I Samuel 13:19-23)

The Philistines had successfully disarmed the Israelites, by banning them from doing their own blacksmithing for fear they would build their own weapons and overthrow the Philistines forces. To have their tools repaired, they had to go to a Philistine blacksmith, although they were allowed files for sharpening them.  Only Saul and Jonathan had been allowed to keep their swords and spears.    Armed only with farm tools, it is not hard to understand Israel’s fear of a well armed army with thirty thousand iron chariots.

“Now it came to pass upon a day, that Jonathan the son of Saul said unto the young man that bare his armour, Come, and let us go over to the Philistines' garrison, that is on the other side. But he told not his father.

“And Saul tarried in the uttermost part of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree which is in Migron: and the people that were with him were about six hundred men; 1sa And Ahiah, the son of Ahitub, Ichabod's brother, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the LORD'S priest in Shiloh, wearing an ephod. And the people knew not that Jonathan was gone.” (I Samuel 14:1-3) 

Like the others, Jonathan got restless and decided to go over and spy on the Philistine army.  Knowing that Saul had no plans to attack, he didn’t bother to tell him where he was going.  He just went trusting God to lead and protect him.  Neither Saul nor the others even noticed that he was gone.  Saul and the priests were probably waiting for some miraculous sign from God to tell them it was time to attack.

“And between the passages, by which Jonathan sought to go over unto the Philistines' garrison, there was a sharp rock on the one side, and a sharp rock on the other side: and the name of the one was Bozez, and the name of the other Seneh.  The forefront of the one was situate northward over against Michmash, and the other southward over against Gibeah.

And Jonathan said to the young man that bare his armour, Come, and let us go over unto the garrison of these uncircumcised: it may be that the LORD will work for us: for there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few.

And his armourbearer said unto him, Do all that is in thine heart: turn thee; behold, I am with thee according to thy heart.” (I Samuel 14:4-7)

There was a large canyon between Micmash and Gibeah.  Jonathan had suggested that they go down and look over the situation and see what God wanted because He was able to give the victory regardless how small the army was.  It was totally and act of faith, as was his armor bearer’s response.

“Then said Jonathan, Behold, we will pass over unto these men, and we will discover ourselves unto them.  If they say thus unto us, Tarry until we come to you; then we will stand still in our place, and will not go up unto them.  But if they say thus, Come up unto us; then we will go up: for the LORD hath delivered them into our hand: and this shall be a sign unto us. 

And both of them discovered themselves unto the garrison of the Philistines: and the Philistines said, Behold, the Hebrews come forth out of the holes where they had hid themselves.  And the men of the garrison answered Jonathan and his armourbearer, and said, Come up to us, and we will show you a thing.” (I Samuel 14:8-12a) 

After looking and praying about it, Jonathan suggested the expose themselves to the Philistines.  If they ordered them to halt they’d just wait and see what happened.  If they dared them to come up, on the  other hand, they would take it as a sign that God wanted the two of them to attack the camp.  When they showed themselves, the Philistines made fun of them and dared them to come up where they could show them something.

"And Jonathan said unto his armourbearer, Come up after me: for the LORD hath delivered them into the hand of Israel. 

And Jonathan climbed up upon his hands and upon his feet, and his armourbearer after him: and they fell before Jonathan; and his armourbearer slew after him.  And that first slaughter, which Jonathan and his armourbearer made, was about twenty men, within as it were an half acre of land, which a yoke of oxen might plow.  And there was trembling in the host, in the field, and among all the people: the garrison, and the spoilers, they also trembled, and the earth quaked: so it was a very great trembling.” (I Samuel 14;12b-15) 

It was exactly the sign Jonathan had asked for, so by faith he said let’s go and started climbing the rock wall using both hands and feet.  There were about twenty Philistines at the top of the cliff in an area about the size of a large city lot.  They had no fear of two Israelites crawling on their hands and knees, especially since a lot had already surrendered.  Since Jonathan had the only sword, he led the attack, knocking them down while the armorbearer made sure they were dead.

For six hundred years, the Philistines had heard how God protected Israel, and had been defeated several times during Samuel’s judgeship.  Already on edge, the noise of fighting caused a ripple of fear throughout the Philistine camp, and especially when it was accompanied by a small earthquake.  

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


I Samuel 13:1-15

“Saul reigned one year; and when he had reigned two years over Israel, Saul chose him three thousand men of Israel; whereof two thousand were with Saul in Michmash and in mount Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin: and the rest of the people he sent every man to his tent.  And Jonathan smote the garrison of the Philistines that was in Geba, and the Philistines heard of it.” (I Samuel 13:1-3)

Two years after being anointed king, Saul established Israel’s first standing army, a security force of three thousand men.  Keeping two thousand for his personal guard, he assigned a thousand to his son Jonathan, sending everyone else home.  The Philistines had established several military posts in Israel to prevent uprisings against them.  Jonathan took his thousand men and attacked the outpost in Geba, destroying it.

 “And Saul blew the trumpet throughout all the land, saying, Let the Hebrews hear.  And all Israel heard say that Saul had smitten a garrison of the Philistines, and that Israel also was had in abomination with the Philistines. And the people were called together after Saul to Gilgal.” (I Samuel 13:3b-4)

Saul immediately had the victory publicized, taking credit for it.  Rumors that the Philistines were going to invade began to circulate.  Saul called the people together to Gilgal, where he’d been anointed king to get ready to fight.

“And the Philistines gathered themselves together to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots, and six thousand horsemen, and people as the sand which is on the sea shore in multitude: and they came up, and pitched in Michmash, eastward from Bethaven. 

When the men of Israel saw that they were in a strait, (for the people were distressed,) then the people did hide themselves in caves, and in thickets, and in rocks, and in high places, and in pits.  And some of the Hebrews went over Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead.” (I Samuel 13:5-7a)

When the Philistine came, they had ten times as many tanks(chariots) as Israel had in their army, and twice as many cavalry men.  They couldn’t even guess how many ther were in the main army.  They came straight to where Saul normally held court, blaming him for the uprising and determined to take him out.  If they did so, they would crush the new government.

The Israelites were terrified when they saw the forces arrayed against them.  Many deserted their homes, hiding out in caves or in the cliffs and forests in hopes of escaping detection.  Some even fled across Jordan to escape.

“As for Saul, he was yet in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling.  And he tarried seven days, according to the set time that Samuel had appointed: but Samuel came not to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him. 

And Saul said, Bring hither a burnt offering to me, and peace offerings. And he offered the burnt offering.” (I Samuel 13:7b-9)

Gilgal was one of Samuels regular circuit courts and places of worship.  He had promised to be there in seven days, so Saul and his followers waited for him in fear.  When they saw nothing happening, the people began to gradually slip away.   Panicked that he would lose his entire army, Saul decided he had to do something to inspire them.  He decided to offer sacrifices to God as a way of convincing the people God would be on their side.

When he went against the Ammonites, Saul had depended on human motivation rather than the power of God to produce followers.  Here he does the same thing, trying to use psychology to motivate them, rather than depending on the Spirit of God.  Just as he had ignored God’s command about who was required to fight when he fought the Ammonites, he ignored God ‘s command about who should offer the burnt offerings when threatened by the Philistines.

In Numbers 16, Korah and several of the Levites decided they could perform the priest’s office.  In Numbers 16:8-10, Moses rebuked them.  “And Moses said unto Korah, Hear, I pray you, ye sons of Levi: Seemeth it but a small thing unto you, that the God of Israel hath separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself to do the service of the tabernacle of the LORD, and to stand before the congregation to minister unto them?  And he hath brought thee near to him, and all thy brethren the sons of Levi with thee: and seek ye the priesthood also?”  By taking the priest’s office and offering the offering himself, Saul was doing the same thing.

“And it came to pass, that as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might salute him. 

And Samuel said, What hast thou done? 

And Saul said, Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash; Therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the LORD: I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering.” (I Samuel 13:10-12) 

Saul had just finished making the offering when Samuel showed up. When Samuel asked him what he’d done. He blamed the people for not being more faithful and Samuel for being late.  He hadn’t spent the time in prayer and he just had to do something, so he forced himself to offer the burnt offering.  He really hadn’t done thing wrong, he just had to do something.

“And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever.  But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee.” (I Samuel 13:13-14)

Because Saul didn’t trust the Lord enough to obey him, the kingdom that could have been his and his family’s forever will be taken away and given to someone else, a man who will put God above all.  How many times do we as Christians get worried that something has to be done and forget what God has said?

James 1:2-8 addresses this situation.  “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.  But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.  If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.  But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.  For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.  A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”  

A person who isn’t committed to obeying God even when it seems like God doesn’t understand the urgency of the situation is not fully trusting God, and cannot be depended on to obey God in any circumstances, because one never knows when he will get impatient and disobey again.  He shouldn’t expect God’s blessings until he learns to walk by faith.  I’ve spent a lifetime learning this lesson and I still struggle with it.

“And Samuel arose, and gat him up from Gilgal unto Gibeah of Benjamin.” (I Samuel 13:15a)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Past Sins Must Not Prevent Serving God

I Samuel 12:16-25

“Now therefore stand and see this great thing, which the LORD will do before your eyes.  Is it not wheat harvest to day? I will call unto the LORD, and he shall send thunder and rain; that ye may perceive and see that your wickedness is great, which ye have done in the sight of the LORD, in asking you a king.” (I Samuel 12:16-17) 

When wheat is ripe, the seeds can be shaken out of the head very easily, by a wind or a rain.  They are very hard to pick up off the ground.  Farmers plant wheat so it ripens at a time when storms are least likely to avoid losing the crop.  Their celebration was taking place during wheat harvest season, when thunderstorms were almost unheard of and would do the most damage.

Samuel advised the people that God was going send a thunder storm To make them aware how evil their demand for a king was.  Loss of their crop to rain would affect their economy throughout the coming year.

“So Samuel called unto the LORD; and the LORD sent thunder and rain that day: and all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel. 

And all the people said unto Samuel, Pray for thy servants unto the LORD thy God, that we die not: for we have added unto all our sins this evil, to ask us a king.” (I Samuel 12:18-19)

Samuel had warned the people they were doing wrong in demanding a king, but they had refused to listen.  Only when God himself intervened did they realize how sinful their demand was.  They asked Samuel to pray for them that God would not pour out his judgment.

“And Samuel said unto the people, Fear not: ye have done all this wickedness: yet turn not aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart; And turn ye not aside: for then should ye go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain.  For the LORD will not forsake his people for his great name's sake: because it hath pleased the LORD to make you his people.” (I Samuel 12:20-22) 

Though Israel had sinned terribly in demanding a king, Samuel promised that if they would serve him whole heartedly, God would not hold it against them.  They were God’s people, and he was not going to turn his back on for their sin.  They would need to avoid chasing after the world in other things.

Over the years, I have seen this same pattern in my own life as well as the lives of others.  We commit to a set of actions even though we know we shouldn’t, such as partnering with a non Christian, whether in business or marriage.  God causes things to happen to remind us that while we may not be able to undo the sin that led us to that point, we still have an opportunity and obligation to serve him in the situation we are in.

Paul dealt with a similar situation in I Corinthians 7:18-22.  “Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised.  Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.  Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.  Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.  For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant.”  

If there is a way of undoing the situation without harm to our testimony, or to others, it would be better, but if not, just realize that God is still in control and he will not turn his back on us.  He is able to forgive to the uttermost according to Hebrews 7:25.

“Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way: Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart; for consider how great things he hath done for you.” (I Samuel 12:23-24) 

Though they had deliberately ignored his warnings and gone against God, Samuel said it would be sin for him to turn his back on them or stop praying for them.   In his teachings in Matthew 18:15-18, Jesus did not authorize shunning the guilty when they were put out of the church.  Instead they were to be treated like other unsaved people.  Matthew 18:17 instructs, “And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.”  II Thessalonians 3:14 commands, “And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.  Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.”

“But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king.” (I Samuel 12:25)

The fact that God will forgive sin does not give us license to sin.   As Romans 6:15-16 warns, “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.  Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?”  To continue in sin is much like a woman messing around with somebody other than her husband, pretending she isn’t already married.  It will cause trouble.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Permissive Will Of God

I Samuel 12:1-15

“And Samuel said unto all Israel, Behold, I have hearkened unto your voice in all that ye said unto me, and have made a king over you.  And now, behold, the king walketh before you: and I am old and grayheaded; and, behold, my sons are with you: and I have walked before you from my childhood unto this day. 

Behold, here I am: witness against me before the LORD, and before his anointed: whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed? or of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith? and I will restore it you.” (I Samuel 12:1-3)

Samuel was still concerned that Israel had chosen to replace God as their ruler.  Unlike many leaders, he was aware of his responsibility as an example for those he led.  James 3:1-2 advises, “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.  For in many things we offend all…”  Leaders, more than any other person, influence the attitude of their followers.  Samuel wanted to be sure he had not in some way offended them, causing the m to turn against God.

He questioned whether they felt he had ever abused his position or taken advantage of them.  Had he rendered a judgment they didn’t think was fair?  Had he forced someone out of their home or taken any bribes?   Was their anything he had done that made them think they needed a king?

“And they said, Thou hast not defrauded us, nor oppressed us, neither hast thou taken ought of any man's hand. 

And he said unto them, The LORD is witness against you, and his anointed is witness this day, that ye have not found ought in my hand. 

And they answered, He is witness.” (I Samuel 12:4-5)

The people were definite that their decision was not the result of something Samuel had done.  They had simply decided this was what they wanted.  They were not blaming him for any of it, and they called on God to backup their claim.  While the leader has more influence than almost anyone, he is not personally responsible for people’s decisions, just for the example and teaching he has set before them.  Israel was accepting full responsibility for the decision.

“And Samuel said unto the people, It is the LORD that advanced Moses and Aaron, and that brought your fathers up out of the land of Egypt.  Now therefore stand still, that I may reason with you before the LORD of all the righteous acts of the LORD, which he did to you and to your fathers. 

When Jacob was come into Egypt, and your fathers cried unto the LORD, then the LORD sent Moses and Aaron, which brought forth your fathers out of Egypt, and made them dwell in this place.” (I Samuel 12:6-8)

He reminded them that it was God who had chosen them, had delivered them from Egypt, and had given them the land they lived in.  Along the way he had provided their daily needs and given them victory over superior forces with better weapons and defenses.

“And when they forgat the LORD their God, he sold them into the hand of Sisera, captain of the host of Hazor, and into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the king of Moab, and they fought against them. 

And they cried unto the LORD, and said, We have sinned, because we have forsaken the LORD, and have served Baalim and Ashtaroth: but now deliver us out of the hand of our enemies, and we will serve thee.  And the LORD sent Jerubbaal, and Bedan, and Jephthah, and Samuel, and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side, and ye dwelled safe.” (I Samuel 12:9-11) 

He also reminded them of the various times they had turned away from God, and had wound up oppressed by other peoples.  Each time they turned back and asked the Lord for help, he had provided a leader who enabled them to break free.  Why would they want to change a system that had worked so well for six hundred years?

“And when ye saw that Nahash the king of the children of Ammon came against you, ye said unto me, Nay; but a king shall reign over us: when the LORD your God was your king.  Now therefore behold the king whom ye have chosen, and whom ye have desired! and, behold, the LORD hath set a king over you.” (I Samuel 12:12-13) 

When they saw the possibility of another conflict with the Ammonites, they had chosen to have a king to lead them instead of trusting God to do what he had always done before.  God had acquiesced to their demands, giving them a king as they demanded, even though it was not his will.

Today we sometimes hear about the permissive will of God.  This is a prime example.  Israel was sinning, going against God, but God chose to allow them to do so.   It was an abuse of God’s love, doing what they wanted even though they knew God wanted something else.  That God didn’t punish them immediately demonstrates how much he loved them.  Anytime we insist on “God’s permissive will” rather than simply obeying what he wants we are abusing his love.  We are actually out of his will, but because of his love he chooses to not stop us.

“If ye will fear the LORD, and serve him, and obey his voice, and not rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then shall both ye and also the king that reigneth over you continue following the LORD your God: But if ye will not obey the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then shall the hand of the LORD be against you, as it was against your fathers.” (I Samuel 12:14-15) 

There was a very real danger that they would become more concerned with satisfying the king than with obeying God, effectively putting the king in God’s place.  If they would continue to follow God, the sin of making someone king would be overlooked, and they could still receive God’s blessings.

On the other hand, if they began to ignore God’s commands, even if they were obeying the king’s orders, then God would turn against them the same way he had when their fathers sinned against God.   Since they were already rebelling against God, it would only be a small step over the line.