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Saturday, October 25, 2014

1 SAMUEL+—An Illustrated Summary of Life Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible by G. Campbell Morgan

"On every page of the God-breathed writings are many thoughts that stretch out like long, clear arms of light across the darkness, discovering things otherwise hidden and illuminating wider areas than those of the immediate context. They are searchlights. From a multitude of these, I have selected one in each chapter of Scripture, for at least one central thought in every chapter should arrest the mind and affect the life," wrote G. Campbell Morgan, a wise, warm-hearted, careful Bible teacher who conducted a classic 3-year chapter-by-chapter study called Life Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible. Here are the fruits of that timeless study—summarized, illustrated, and amplified—on all 66 books of the Bible (posted one book at a time, cumulatively).
1 Samuel 1:11 "If you will give...I will give." These are the central terms of the vow Hannah made to God. A proper and beautiful passion for motherhood drove this devout Jewish woman to the Lord in prayer, and God used her prayer as His way of raising up a consistently godly leader for His people in strangely difficult times. This pre-natal dedication of a life to God's service was an act of faith that produced definite results in the life of Samuel, the child to come. Often parents ask when to begin addressing their children's relationship to the Lord. Does not Hannah's story present a somewhat startling answer to that inquiry? With all the spiritual influence of such a vow upon her, think how carefully she would guard both herself and her child so he would be worthy of the high service to which he was dedicated! Parents who truly believe that "children are a heritage of the Lord" (Psalm 127:3) give them opportunities in life that children thought of otherwise don't tend to receive. Such dedications of children cannot ensure the faithfulness of the children themselves, but it makes it very difficult for those children to go wrong ultimately. This is a great subject worthy of careful pondering.

1 Samuel 2:18 "Samuel was ministering before the Lord, as a boy wearing a linen ephod." The Hebrew words translated "as a boy" emphasize that Samuel at this time was quite a young boy. He is placed in contrast with the sons of Eli, the high priest, who were desecrating their office and bringing religious life into contempt throughout the land by their gluttonous and immoral lifestyle. Yet God saw to it that here in the Tabernacle was a lad being prepared to elevate the religious and political life of the nation. Samuel, however, had no knowledge of God based upon personal and first-hand communion with Him. His service was simply waiting upon Eli in all the details of everyday life at the Tabernacle, under the inspiration of his mother's love. This is the true line of religious activity for children. The Boy of Nazareth, long afterwards, was surely ministering before the Lord when He went down with His parents and continued in subjection to them (Luke 2:51). It should always be the aim of all who care for little ones to help them understand the sacred beauty of doing everyday things as to the Lord. It is by such devotion in ordinary things that they are being prepared for some hour when the call of God may come directly through His Word or people, and so the way will already be open on their part for cooperation with Him.

1 Samuel 3:10 "Speak, for Your servant is listening." These were the words with which Samuel yielded himself to God, receiving His Word for the nation.  Samuel is described as still a boy who "did not yet know the Lord, nor had the Word of the Lord yet been revealed to him" (1 Samuel 3:7). All that changed in an evening. The ancient Jewish historian Josephus tells us the tradition is (whether true or not) that Samuel was about 12 years old, the age at which a Jewish boy came to be knows as a son of the Law (bar mitzvah); that is, began to be directly responsible. Instructed by Eli, Samuel answered God the third time He called, submitting himself by his own will to God. Thus yielded, Samuel became the instrument of divine action in a remarkable way for, like Moses, he was not a judge only but also a prophet and a priest. Samuel's simple opening words to God reveal the one true attitude of those who are called by God to deliver His Word: a wholly-surrendered life that listens to God speaking through His Word. Too often we fail because we do not listen to God's Word before we speak. With best intentions we attempt to interpret the will of God by a general knowledge and quick observation of the circumstances of the hour. God still speaks to those through whom He would make known His will, and it is for them to wait upon Him in diligent prayer and study of His Word. Only then will there be authority in the message they deliver.

1 Samuel 4:22 "The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God was taken." It was a dark hour for Israel when the Philistines routed them in battle, killing 30,000 Israeli infantrymen and the two wicked sons of Eli, from whom they took the Ark of the Covenant. A woman in the anguish of childbirth understood the central tragedy, for the highlighted words are hers. Her husband and father-in-law were now dead, but the more terrible fact was that the Ark was taken. The glory had departed from Israel, meaning the symbol and pledge of God's presence among His people. To that Presence they owed everything. If that was gone, Israel had no glory, for the nation had neither might nor wisdom apart from its relationship to God. The perpetual spiritual significance of this is obvious: the people of God in every age have no glory except the true presence of God in their midst. If that is lacking, they are poor indeed. A so-called church may be rich in earthly goods, but they are poor, blind, naked, and miserable when the living Lord is not clearly among them (Revelation 3:14-22). And there is no mistaking the absent. Even men of the world know when an elaborate and spectacular organization is devoid of true power, and hold therefore it in contempt. Sensing the presence of the Lord may seem mystic, defying our explanation, but it isn't when God's people reflect God Himself by obeying His revealed Word.

1 Samuel 5:11 "Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it go again to its own place." This short chapter shows how God is able to become His own witness when His people fail in their testimony to Him among the nations. To Israel the Ark was the center and symbol of their national life, yet in itself was devoid of power. When the Israelites lost 4,000 infantrymen in an early battle with the Philistines, they hoped to save themselves simply by bringing out the Ark in another battle. That, however, was a superstitious use of the Ark that proved utterly unavailing. The Ark was not a lucky charm that could be used to deliver disobedient Israel. But God would not permit the enemies of His people to trifle with it. As Jesus said long after this, if His disciples became silent, the stones themselves would cry out (Luke 19:37-44); since the Israelites were unfaithful witnesses to God, here He made the Ark, the symbol of His presence, the occasion of His judgment upon His enemies. Thus the Philistines were made to feel that though, for the moment, they were able to conquer and break the power of Israel, they still had to deal with Israel's Godand that was an entirely different matter! This highlighted cry of the people to their Philistine lords to send the Ark away was the result of this conviction. God consistently breaks through to human consciousness, not always in ways we could describe as supernatural, but always with certainty and conviction. This fact may give us encouragement, but must not be used as an excuse for the unfaithfulness of those who should be His witnesses. If the Israelites had been obedient to God, the Philistines would never have taken the Ark.

1 Samuel 6:12 "The cows took the straight way in the direction of Beth-shemesh." These words record a remarkable fact that was conclusive proof to the Philistines of God's action and power. When the people protested to their lords about the Ark's continued presence in their midst, the lords held council and sought the advice of diviners on appeasing the wrath of the God of Israel. It is clear they were aware of Israel's history and God's central place in it. The counselors advised sending back the Ark to Israel, accompanied by offerings indicating their humble acknowledgment of the plagues that came upon them as direct acts of God. Their method of sending back the Ark was as an experiment that successfully concluded with the observation highlighted. The cows selected to pull the cart carrying the Ark and the offerings were milk cows not trained to pull loads. They traveled placidly without protest for a considerable distance, even though their newborn calves were penned at home, going straight up to the first city of Israel from where they were. To those who have eyes to see, God constantly bears witness to Himself by turning the natural courses of men and things into extraordinary events He knows will make us think.

1 Samuel 7:12 "Thus far the Lord has helped us." A dark period in Israel of twenty years is passed over without detail. It would seem there was no definite center of worship, for while the Ark was resting in the house of an individual, the Tabernacle was probably dismantled. During this period Samuel passed from youth to manhood, and now approached the hour of his leadership. This was ushered in by the lamenting of the people after God. Samuel, therefore, called the people to turn away from their idols and return to God. By direct intervention at Mizpeh, where the Israelites repented, God repelled a major attack by Philistine army and allowed Israel to regain control over all the cities the Philistines had taken from them. Samuel then set up a commemorative stone he called Ebenezer, stone of help, saying, "Thus far the Lord has helped us." That included all the experiences Israel passed through, not the victories only, but the discipline and suffering also. This man of clear vision recognized the beneficial purpose and method of God's government. To look back honestly is to see that God has always been acting for our highest welfare, even through calamity and sorrow. The light of that backward look is meant to fall upon the present and give us confidence for the future.

1 Samuel 8:5 "Appoint a king to lead us, just like all the other nations have." In this chapter we come to the dividing line in the national history of Israel, whose particular character and glory to this point was being created by God as a theocracy: the Lord was its only King. Israel inspired awe among the nations when its people obeyed God, but that proved to be seldom. Their persistent disobedience created the necessity for temporary saviors known as judges, which were approximations tending toward a human king. Now the time came when the people demanded that Samuel, their last judge, give them a king just like everyone else. The childish tone of their request reveals the evil of it: Israel's glory and power to this point was precisely because they were not like every other nation. By failing to submit themselves completely to God's rule, they failed to realize its amazing breadth and benefits, so they sought conformity to the ways of other nations. It was a sad fall. There is but one King who is able to govern humanity perfectly, and that is God. Who knows better than the Creator what is best for His creatures? Humanity's only hope for peace, prosperity, true freedom and fullness of life is the Kingdom of God, the topic of Jesus' first recorded sermon on earth (Matthew 4:17) and His last before ascending to heaven (Acts 1:1-3). God has appeared in human history as Man, and "has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead" (Acts 17:31). He will govern the world in righteousness through that Man. That makes it certain that men and women who trust Him will find liberty and life in all strength and fullness.

1 Samuel 9:16 "I have regarded My people because their cry has come to Me." This is the reason God gave Samuel for allowing His people to have a king. His perfect counsel for them was that they have no king other than Himself, but they failed to realize this high possibility. Their God knew them; He carefully regarded them. Their cry for a king had come up to Him, and that cry should be answered. He would give them a king so in the long process of experience, they would learn the folly of their choice. When men and women fail to rise to the height of the purpose of God and clamor for something lower, He gives them what they ask and then watches over them as they work out their low choice to its ultimate conclusion, and thus are some eventually brought back to His purpose with a full understanding of its perfection. One thing more important than any other in our lives is to begin all our prayers by asking we be taught to desire only what God desires for us.

1 Samuel 10:24 "Long live the king!" Literally, "Let the king live" was the cry of the people when Saul was presented to them as "the one whom the Lord has chosen." It expressed the satisfaction of the people that their request was granted, their recognition of God in the appointment, and their submission to the king's authority. Such submission was wholly right. If men and women desire a king, their first duty is to obey the king. The apostle Paul recognized that ancient duty when enjoining obedience to kings and all in authority (Romans 13:1-7). The king's duty was, and is, to recognize that his authority is a delegated authority, "for there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God" (Romans 13:1). If he fails to do so and dares govern without righteousness and justice reflective of God's own, the time will come when God will act to remove him from power. All human history testifies to the truth of these things. Individual men and women in authority, with all their choosing and planning, never escape God's final authority and power. That is the one and only ground for confidence in human affairs, and it is a rock foundation.

1 Samuel 11:13 "Not a man shall be put to death this day, for today the Lord has accomplished deliverance in Israel." It seems that Saul, sending everyone home after his coronation and going down to his own house in Gibeah, did not take up the active responsibilities of his kingship until something drastic happened. The Spirit of God came upon him with great power when he heard of the dire situation in Jabesh Gilead because of Ammonite terrorists, enabling him to gather the army and lead them to victory. The closing sentences of the previous chapter mention that certain Israelites disparaged Saul when he was made king. In this day of great victory, the people suggested now would be a good time to kill those complainers. The possibility of greatness in Saul is manifested in that he refused to mar God's victory by going along with mob sentiment. When we contrast this attitude with what will come when he grows jealous of David, we realize how great was his fall. At this time Saul had a true outlook. He took no credit to himself for his victory. He knew deliverance had come from God. What right had he to put men to death because they were not loyal to him at first? Where there's an acute sense that God corrects what is wrong when it is right to do so, there's no room for revenge. To be aware of God's rule is to be patient and magnanimous in one's dealing with others. That kind of magnanimity will do more to make a throne secure than all methods of oppressive tyranny.

1 Samuel 12:23 "As for me, God forbid that I should sin against Him by ceasing to pray for you." Notice first what Samuel did not say: that he would be sinning against the people if he failed to pray for them, although that would be true in a secondary sense. Samuel's main concern was not sinning against God, who always wants His shepherds to pray for their flock. God wills to use our prayers as a means to how He acts. When we cease to pray we, in a sense, limit God; when we pray we open His way to act. It may seem to us as though our praying could not possibly make any difference to God's putting forth His divine power, even though it might possibly affect His will. As a matter of fact, the reverse is true. No prayer of ours can change the will of God, which is always "good, acceptable, and perfect" (Romans 12:3), but His Word makes it clear that He wills for our prayers to make it possible for His power to operate in ways impossible apart from them. When we cease to pray as we are commanded to, we sin against God first because we hinder Him in that we do not help Him. God forbid that we ever sin against Him or others by ceasing to pray for the spiritual and physical good of people desperately in need of our prayers!

1st of 3 Strikes Against King Saul
1 Samuel 13:13 "You have acted foolishly." What had Saul done? At the beginning, when Samuel anointed Saul as king, he sent him to Gilgal and told him to wait for Samuel to give him specific instructions from God (1 Samuel 10:8). The same thing happened here (and probably many other times through the years), but Saul grew tired of waiting and took matters into his own hands, violating a clear commandment in Scripture. The circumstances he found himself in were particularly trying, for the Philistines were amassed against him in numbers far beyond his own. Saul's soldiers were slipping away daily to avoid the upcoming fight so Saul took it upon himself to act like a priest (he was not) in an attempt to use religion to keep his army intact. Saul's impatience, presumption, disobedience, and self-sufficiency cost him his kingdom. As Samuel said when he came on the scene as Saul finished his showy sacrifice, "Now your kingdom shall not endure. The Lord has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has appointed him as ruler over His people because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you" (1 Samuel 13:14). However dark the day or difficult our circumstances, we are never justified in following our own ideas when they conflict with divine instructions. Since God's commandments express utmost wisdom, anything that controverts them is ultimately foolish.

1 Samuel 14:45 "The people rescued Jonathan and he did not die." In this act the people represented God by asserting their will against the will of King Saul by setting aside his ruling and thus preventing a great wrong against Saul's own son, the hero of this chapter. Saul's ruling came from a rash oath that was wholly wrong because it hindered rather than helped their pursuit of their enemies, it ensnared Jonathan in an unwitting trespass, and led the people into a sin of their own. When the result threatened was the death of Jonathan, all the deepest things in Israel's national life found expression, and the king was gloriously disobeyed. Such things have often happened in history because deep down in the human heart is that which understands the right because we were made in God's image (Genesis 1:26-31). Under the stress of circumstances, that understanding becomes active. When it does, it is invincible. Presidents, kings, parliaments, and rulers are swept aside and the right thing is done. Those who desire to lead others in right ways may always appeal to this deepest fact in human consciousness. It, of course, will not always be obeyed, but God has not left Himself without witness in the human soul. Whenever we appeal for righteousness and truth, we may know there is an answering appeal within the human conscience.

1 Samuel 15:23 "Because you have rejected the Word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king." God's  appointments are conditional. He appointed Saul to the office of king, but that position had been clearly defined for him from the beginning. In God's own words (1 Samuel 8:7), the people were rejecting Him as King when they asked for another king. He did not give them up, however, or resign His position as their King; granting them their request for a king, He had not for a moment ceased to reign. From the first, Saul's job was to do God's will for the people, which depended on obeying God's every Word. When Saul instead leaned on his own understanding and disregarded God's clear instructions, he forfeited his right to rule. In this chapter is the second main time he did that. Therefore God rejected Saul as king. When God today calls people to positions of high responsibility and authority in His service, His Word still makes clear the conditions upon which they will be able to discharge their responsibilities and exercise their authority. If they fail to fulfill those conditions, they become disqualified from that service. We find this principle repeated in the New Testament. The apostle Paul wrote, "Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things.... I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified"  (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

1 Samuel 16:11 "There remains yet the youngest but behold, he keeps the sheep." That is how Jesse expressed what he considered to be David's disqualifications for the office of king. That David was his youngest son removed him furthest from the possibility of responsibility, and his doing the family's most menial work made it most unlikely he should in any sense be fitted for such responsibility. So completely was David out of the running in his father's mind that he had not even been sent for. Yet he was God's choice because although "man looks at the outward appearance, the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7). All the things men and women count as privileges leading to fitness for position and high service are in themselves of no value to God. He considers the deepest parts of a person: the inner and hidden impulses, desires, and affections. David's supposed disadvantages were advantages because the discipline of his earlier years would make him more free from arrogance than Eliab, the firstborn. David's work as a shepherd was excellent preparation for the true art of kingship. "All kings are shepherds of the people," to quote Homer, well summarizing a consistent biblical theme. God's choices and appointments are always based on the highest and deepest wisdom.

1 Samuel 17:45 "You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied!" The contrast is between the equipment of these two very different men. Looking at them apart from that equipment highlights the inequity of their combat. Goliath stood somewhere near 10 feet high and was massive in proportion; David was by comparison  a twig. On that level of observation, an onlooker would say this is not war but murder since the youth stood no chance. That was not David's own conception of things, as our highlighted text reveals, because he took account of the equipment of each. The giant came armed with offensive weapons, all in the realm of the physical. The youth also had material weapons, but of a simple nature and he did not name them. What he did name was the name of the Lord of hosts, for David was armed with God and a profound faith in the rightness of His cause. The armies defied were the armies of the Lord of hosts. In His name then he went forth to single combat. David's material weapons were needed and proved superior to those of Goliath since they operated before the sword, spear, or javelin could be brought into use. But it was God Himself and David's faith that gave inerrancy and strength to the slingshot that brought down the giant. This truth is of abiding application.

1 Samuel 18:9 "Saul looked at David with suspicion from that day on." The context gives two reasons for Saul's feelings: jealousy and fear. He was jealous because after David killed Goliath, he was drafted into Saul's army and very successful in killing Israel's oppressors, which was fine with Saul until he heard all the women welcome them back from fighting one day with this little tune: "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands" (1 Samuel 18:7). What is more, "Saul was afraid of David, for the Lord was with him but had departed from Saul" (verse 12). This is an inexpressibly sad and tragic story. Saul was rightly set aside from a position of trust because of his own sin, but now was filled with hatred of the man called by God to assume that position and fulfill the responsibilities from which Saul had been rejected. The progression of sin unchecked is terrible indeed: out of the first act others inevitably sprout until the whole nature becomes corrupted. Saul stooped to the basest acts in his attempts to rid himself of his rival. In all this we see the blindness that results from sin. Saul seems to have had no consciousness that in persecuting David, he was fighting against God. When we become aware of sin in our lives, we should acknowledge it at once, confess and repent of it to God and anyone else involved, and humbly and patiently deal with the consequences of our actions. What a different man Saul would have been if he had submitted to God's discipline and received David as the appointed king! Even though the opportunity of some special service is lost forever through disobedience, fellowship may be restored and maintained. In some other way God may bless and use those who, having failed, are yet responsive to the deepest intentions of His discipline.

1 Samuel 19:9 "An evil spirit from the Lord was upon Saul." This evil spirit came upon Saul when the Spirit of the Lord left him (1 Samuel 16:14). While it is obvious that Saul suffered throughout the rest of his life from a mental disorder, the Scriptures make it clear this malady is attributed to an evil spirit who rushed in when the Spirit of the Lord was withdrawn, but that spirit (like all spirits) was under God's rule, thus literally described as being "from the Lord." The tendency of modern thinking to deny the influence of spirits on human life is out of harmony with biblical teaching and therefore unrealistic. The spirits that have access to human souls are entirely evil; they are spirits of lawlessness. There is but one Spirit who brings to the soul purity, wisdom, and strength, and that is the Spirit of God. Those evil spirits, however, are under the control of God. They are permitted to act, but only as He sees fit for His high purposes. Their leader, Satan himself, had to get God's permission before testing Job (Job 1-2) and the apostle Peter (Luke 22:31-33). No created being, whether angelic or human, escapes the government of God.

1 Samuel 20:17 "Jonathan...loved him as he loved his own life." The friendship of David and Jonathan is one of the most beautiful and noble of all time. Its beauty is enhanced in the sacred Scriptures because it is set in relation to an exceedingly dark background, which is where love shines brightest. From the account of the beginnings of this friendship right after David killed Goliath, it seems that Jonathan's love for David was earlier than, and the inspiring cause of, David's love for Jonathan. In fact, their friendship had even finer expression in Jonathan than in David. There was, perhaps, less selfishness in it. Jonathan was heir-apparent to the throne of Israel, but he knew God had chosen David for that position. He joyfully submitted to the divine will and remained David's friend, loving him more rather than less because he was the Lord's anointed (1 Samuel 16:1, 13). Jonathan loved David as he loved his own life or soul, which is the essence of godly love: loving your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 22:36-40). Such love is not common, but is unmistakeably beautiful when it appears. Happy is the man or woman who finds a true friend in this sense, but happier still is he or she who becomes such a friend to someone else! David was blessed by Jonathan's friendship, but in the deep experience of his own soul Jonathan was supremely blessed in his Christ-like love for David.

1 Samuel 21:12 "David ... greatly feared Achich king of Gath." This is a strange story about David, and yet not strange in that it is so true to human experience. Fear and faith are constantly antagonistic. The triumph of the one is always the defeat of the other. This is a rare time in David's exemplary life when fear triumphed over faith. In fear of Saul, David fled where he had no business fleeing: the stronghold of his people's enemies, in the very town where Goliath came from! There David was filled with fear of King Achich, and we have the sad picture of God's anointed man feigning madness in a crafty yet dishonorable attempt to protect himself. These were days of great strain for David; judging simply on what man is able to endure in his own strength, we cannot wonder that the tension reacted upon him. But there was no need for David to depend upon himself. Faith might have triumphed over fear of Saul. Had it done so, David would not have sought refuge with Achish and reduced himself to such unworthy expedients for securing safety. While David's experience in Gath calls out our sympathy because we have so often yielded to fear and then resorted to foolish methods to manage our messy situation, the lesson is not to take refuge from any peril among the enemies of God's people and purposes. That means, finally, that fear is wrong. Faith in God is the strength of righteous action, and there is no reason for any other attitude of mind than perfect confidence in Him.

Cave of Adullam
1 Samuel 22:2 "Everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him." David fled to Adullam, a large, easily defensible cave in Israel, when he left Philistine territory. That cave soon became a rallying ground for what was a sorry crowd at first: men in distress, in debt, and discontented gathered around David. Probably from Saul's viewpoint they were unfit men who were a menace to the existing order of things, but it is more likely they were as they were from the chaotic condition of Saul's kingdom: their distress from a false method of governing, their debt from oppressive taxation, and their discontent from righteous indignation over prevailing wrongs. The true kingliness of David is seen in the effect he had on these men. They became an orderly company of mighty men, filled with the high heroic spirit capable of unshakeable loyalty and glorious deeds. This applies as a parable in modern times: King Jesus is still rejected by men and women, though appointed by God. Through this time of rejection, He is gathering about Him those in distress, in debt, and discontented. He is progressively changing them by His rule into mighty men and women who will stand by Him and serve Him well until the day of His earthly coronation. The phrase "cave of Adullam" has come to mean a place for the disaffected. If such people gather about God's King, their discontent will be made the dynamic of human deliverance.

1 Samuel 23:14 "Saul sought David every day, but God did not deliver him into his hand." Here the historian is declaring a great fact about the history of David. He was the object of Saul's bitter hatred, but was perfectly safe in God's keeping. This chapter is packed with episodes that reveal the difficulty of David's position. Saul, still nominally king, was devoting all his strength to persecuting David, but the affairs of the kingdom were in hopeless confusion. While David in exile was popular with the people, their fickleness was manifested by the treachery of those from Keilah and Ziph, made worse because they had reason to thank him. Nevertheless, David trusted in God and displayed the true patriotism of a king by protecting Israeli cities from Philistine attacks. Jonathan came to David in hiding during this stressful time "and encouraged him in God" (1 Samuel 23:16). David as the anointed future king was learning that while he would not be free of persecution, he would be delivered from it. To be in the will of God among men and women who disobey that will is inevitably to be persecuted: "Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Timothy 3:12). Their persecutors will ruthlessly seek to harm and destroy. But they are powerless. God will never deliver His servants ultimately into the hands of His enemies. There came the hour when great David's greater Son was "delivered over by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23), but that was to the pathway that led to final victory (Hebrews 2:8-18).

1 Samuel 24:12 "May the Lord avenge me on you, but my hand shall not be against you." In this chapter we have the account of how mundane circumstances suddenly put Saul in the power of David. It would have been easy for him to take the life of his enemy, and so put an end to the bitter experiences through which Saul was making him pass. From the standpoint of worldly wisdom, David missed his opportunity and prolonged his suffering. From the standpoint of true wisdom that results from faith in God, he acted rightly. To kill Saul would have been to take things into his own hands, which brings disaster. It is always better to wait for God than attempt to hurry His purposes by actions dictated only by the appearance of fortuitous circumstances. That is perhaps one of the hardest lessons for the human heart to learn, yet more harm than we think is done to God's work by zeal without knowledge. The tempting hour comes when we have the chance to get even, wipe out old scores, and end our suffering by some swift act in the dark. Let us be very much afraid of such hours! They always conceal perils far greater than those from which they seem to afford opportunity of escape. It is always better to wait for God. Humbly remember that He sees all, but we only a part.

1 Samuel 25:29 "The life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living with the Lord your God." This is how Abigail expresses her understanding to David of how his life fits in the will and power of God. The first and simple meaning of her declaration is that the life of the man chosen by God to be king would be safe in His keeping. "The bundle of the living" is a poetic description of all things precious to God, and therefore held together by His preserving power. The idea of close fellowship with God is suggested by the statement that He Himself in a sense is included in that bundle of life (yet still distinct from His creation). David's life was bound up in that bundle with the Lord God. How perfectly safe is any life when it is thus bound up with God Himself! The strength of that bundle comes not from any special ties, but from the identification of God with all included in the bundle. In Abigail's wise words we see a glimmer of the great privilege of fellowship with God, which finds its full exposition in the New Testament. In Christ, God has identified Himself with manand man with Himself. That is the meaning of eternal life. Those who have that life are indeed bound up in the bundle of life with God. They live one life with Him. In that is their safety. Because of that union, the bitterness and harshness of the Sauls and Nabals in this world cannot prevent God's people from coming ultimately to enjoy all the good that is in the will of God for them.

1 Samuel 26:21 "Behold, I have played the fool." Saul said this in a moment of mental and spiritual illumination. Once again his life fell into the hands of David, yet David refused to slay him. From a safe distance David brought that fact to Saul's attention, along with the wickedness and unreasonableness of pursuing him so relentlessly. Then suddenly the whole truth became clear to Saul about himself and his actions: he was a foolish man doing foolish things. To him had been given the greatest of opportunities and resources. Saul received the Spirit of God, the friendship of Samuel, and the devotion of men whose hearts God had touched, but he had so acted that the Spirit departed from him, Samuel was unable to help him, and the hearts of his people turned away from him. Saul's main problem was leaning on his own understanding instead of obeying God out of faith and love. That made him become an evil-tempered man mastered by hatred and fighting against God's revealed will. He truly had played the fool. So does every man and woman who fails to believe that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 9:10). The very gifts of God are of no value when they are not received and held in that holy, cleansing fear.

1 Samuel 27:1 "David said to himself, 'Now I will perish one day by the hand of Saul.'" Once more we see David gripped by fear and dwelling for a time among the Philistines. Long and weary indeed had been his period of suffering. He twice was merciful to Saul, but became afraid Saul would revert to his deranged self yet again. There came upon David a depression that tempted him to lose hope that he could remain in Israel, which is why he returned to live among his enemies. It was a sorry period. David made occasional raids upon other ancient enemies of his race, and with success. To hide that fact from the Philistines and make them believe he was a traitor to Israel, he resorted to telling untruths. When a man is mastered by fear through a failure of faith and consequently occupies a false position, he is always in grave danger of violating some principle of his loyalty. David lost for a time the clear vision of God that made him strong against Goliath. This period in David's life suggests a contrast between David and his greater Son. David was the anointed king, yet was persecuted by the rejected king. All this was repeated in the history of Jesus, yet no fear ever made that Anointed One cross over to enemy territory to find personal safety. He often spoke of the fact that men would kill Him, but always concluded by affirming His ultimate triumph. Because of that triumph, those of us who trust Him "are more than conquerors through Him" (Romans 8:37), no matter what fears we face. 

1 Samuel 28:16 "The Lord has departed from you and has become your adversary." Saul's visit in the day of his trouble to the witch of Endor was one of the worst manifestations of his degradation. When faced with dire calamity, Saul knew the insufficiency of his own wisdom and the uselessness of human advice so he longed for a voice from the spirit world. To grasp it he turned to a woman whose practices were condemned by the law of God. It is strange that this chapter is often cited in defense of the occult, but not by those who actually read it since it clearly condemns what Saul did. The witch herself obviously had nothing to do with bringing up Samuel from the dead. She commenced to practice her black art with her usual deceptions, but was startled beyond measure when Samuel actually appeared! He did not come in response to her call, but was sent by God to rebuke Saul for his unholy traffic with these evil things and to pronounce his doom. Samuel's words are full of solemn significance. God, departed from a man, becomes his adversary. As Samuel explained to Saul earlier, "Because you have rejected the Word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king" (1 Samuel 15:23). Saul's rejection of God led to God's rejection of Saul. God does not depart from a man until the man has departed from Him. Then, in the interest of righteousness, God is against that man.

1 Samuel 29:4 "The commanders of the Philistines were angry with him." These commanders were angry with Achish, king of Gath, for allowing David and his men to join the Philistine army as they prepared to march against Israel. They quickly realized what naive Achish did not: the danger they were exposed to, for they were familiar with the song that boasted of David's killing "his ten thousands"their own people! Yes, Achish put in a good word for him as a refugee fleeing trouble from his homeland, but the commanders figured David would try to curry favor with Saul by betraying the Philistines in the midst of battle. On the basis of policy, their objection was justified. Achish formed a high estimate of David and a strong affection for him, but was compelled to yield to the majority. It was not in the purpose of God that His anointed king should be placed in such difficult and compromising circumstances. Here we see God acting on David's behalf along the line of perfectly natural emotions. He made the wrath of the commanders praise Him in that it accomplished His purpose. God's Kingdom rule operates everywhere, controlling all circumstances and all people, who often contribute unknowingly to the realization of His will.

1 Samuel 30:24 "As his share is who goes down to the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage; they shall share alike." David and his mighty men, wonderfully delivered by God from being attached to the Philistine army, looked forward to a happy greeting from their families when they marched back to their home base at Ziklag. When they approached the city, no one was there! The city was burned and all the people, animals, and articles of value taken away. These battle-hardened men "lifted their voices and wept until there was no strength in them to weep" (1 Samuel 30:4). Their emotions were so out of control, there even was talk of stoning David to death, "but David strengthened himself in the Lord his God" (verse 6). With prayer and guidance he moved his men forward and they were completely successful, punishing their foes and rescuing all their own. In the course of this rapid and strenuous action, 200 of his company were completely exhausted and unable to ford the swollen brook Besor, so they waited there with the extra gear of the 400 who were able to cross with David. When those men returned victorious, some among them wanted to withhold any portion of the extra spoils from those who had been unable to accompany them all the way. This David strongly forbade and on the spot laid down a law that is impeccably correct. The measure of personal responsibility in a righteous campaign is to put forth one's full strength. That those men at Besor had done. Those who went all the way had done no more. Therefore, they were all to share the spoils. This story has warning and comfort in it. If a man rests at Besor when he has strength to go forward, he is derelict in duty and no share of the spoils should come to him. If he puts all his strength into the enterprise and stops at Besor because he has no strength left, he has done all and may honorably share in the triumph.

1 Samuel 31:6 "So Saul died." This closing chapter of 1 Samuel is draped in black and covered with ashes. It tells the tragic last act in the drama of a king who was a ghastly failure. Imminent defeat at the hands of the Philistines drove Saul to uttermost desperation. Wounded in the final fight and fearing that the last blow would come in the worst way imaginable by the enemy, he ordered his armor bearer to run him through with a fatal thrust. Upon his servant's refusal to do that (perhaps he recalled David's godly fear of taking Saul's life), Saul died by his own hand physically, as he already had to God's purposes by his own sin and folly. Suicide is the ultimate act of cowardice: the last act here on earth of men and women who dare not stand up to life with what God sets before them. It has been wisely said that suicide often comes not from the hatred of life, but rather the love of it. Certain men and women, because they cannot live what they consider a full life on their terms, decide to play God and wickedly choose not to live at all. One of the chief values of 1 Samuel is the solemn lesson we learn from the life and failure of King Saul. Great advantages and remarkable opportunities are in themselves no guarantees of success. Unless the heart be firm and steady in its allegiance to principle and loyalty to God, those things will end up as burdens, crushing the soul and bringing ruin to the man or woman to whom they come.

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