Saturday, 19 April 2014

(110) April 20: 1 Samuel 27-29 & Luke 17:1-19

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read note the differing attitudes of David and Saul.

To ponder:
Once more we see a chapter (Saul and the witch) sandwiched between two others (on David with the Philistines). This contrasts David with Saul. David is amongst the Philistines, but still committed to God and Israel, whereas Saul is in Israel, but rejecting God for Philistine practices.
            In escaping to the Philistines under the assumption that he will be destroyed by Saul, David may be displaying a lack of faith in God’s promise to him. Alternatively, he may just be recognising that God’s protection will be worked out through his wise actions. Whatever the case, he returns to King Achish (of 21v10-15), this time with 600 men and their families, and God’s protection is seen as Achish gives David (and future kings) Ziklag. This hints to God’s promise that his people will one day inherit the earth from the nations.
Settled in Ziklag for almost a year and a half, David might be understandably tempted to be disloyal to his people in their failure to stand with him, and even serve the Philistine gods (as suggested in 26v19). Instead, he continues to battle Israel’s enemies, and mislead Achish into thinking he was attacking Judean territory and allies, so gaining his trust. When Christians are treated badly by other Christians it is all too easy to bitterly reject them and even God. But even when rejected by his own, Christ went to the cross in obedience to his Father, so that they might be saved. Likewise, we should never turn from our commitment to God and his people.
As the Philistines then seek battle with Israel, a crisis looms. Achish expects David to fight for him. David’s answer could be taken two ways (28v2), but Achish assumes he is an ally and makes him his bodyguard. It is here we turn to Saul. Facing the Philistines he is filled with fear, unable to gain direction from God by the three possible means of personal dreams, the Urim in the priest’s ephod or a prophetic vision. This is a sign the LORD is not with him. However, rather than repent of his sin and begin obeying God’s commands, Saul once more does things his way by seeking out a medium (having previously expelled them, 28v3), and even making an oath before God not to punish her. This is to explicitly disobey God’s law and engage in a practice he described as particular to the Canaanite nations (Deut 8v9-14). So often those who confess Christ obey only until it doesn’t suit, and then opt for the things God forbids.
The shock when Samuel appears suggests the medium may not have actually expected results! Ironically, now Saul does get a word from a prophet, and it is one of judgement: Samuel reiterates that God has become Saul’s “enemy,” doing only what he predicted in 15v18-29. So, with a striking contrast to God’s protection of David and his men amongst the Philistines, Israel will be handed over to the Philistines, and Saul and sons will “be with” Samuel in the place of the dead. Contrasting David’s courage amongst the Philistines, Saul is then paralysed with fear, and ends up comforted not by God, but by the forbidden medium. So it is that those who turn from the LORD fall further and further.
As the Philistines and Israelites now face each other, we see David being led against his own people. However, his previous behaviour (27v8-12) suggests he intended to turn on his hosts. Providentially, the Philistine commanders suspect this and persuade Achish to send David home. As the book draws towards a close we therefore find the Philistines in Israel’s land and Israel’s king in waiting, in the Philistine’s! Could such a situation be rectified?

Praying it home:
Praise God for that he protects his people even amidst all the evils of the world. Pray for repentance in those you know who have turned from Christ.

Thinking further: Saul and the witch of Ednor
The appearance of Samuel through the activity of the medium has caused much debate. It doesn’t tell us what mediums do actually engage in. The woman’s surprise when she sees Samuel hints that she may not have expected anything to occur and was a charlatan, or that she would not usually see someone, but only hear a voice that may or may not be the person sought. The possibility that those mediums contact are not the people they portray themselves to be may be hinted at by the stress on Saul confirming the person appearing was actually Samuel.
Whatever the case, as Samuel directly addresses Saul, we see this is an exceptional situation permitted by God, not an affirmation that mediums do actually contact the dead. Although our resurrection bodies will be given us at the return of Christ, it seems that as with Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration, God had Samuel return from heaven for this particular purpose, and gave his spirit a body and clothes (or at least the appearance of these), perhaps as he does for angels when they appear.
By saying he has been “disturbed,” Samuel implies after death he was at rest, enjoying a better reality than this one. However, we should not assume Saul would share this reality. The fact that we are told God had become his “enemy” suggests he would not. So when Samuel says after death Saul would be “with him,” he probably just means Saul would be in the realm of the dead, whatever that would mean for Saul.

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