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SAUL did not soil SAMUEL,
but DAVID delighted the LORD
1) SAMUEL AND SAUL
PRIORITIES, PURITY AND PERSPECTIVES
2) DAVID AND SAUL
GOOD, EVIL, ABSENCES AND PRESENCES
I Samuel 15:22-23
If ever there was a simple historical case of possessing your possessions, as the issue, and the price of failure to do so, it would seem to be found in the Samuel, Saul and the Lord issue and issuance.
There was Samuel, the loving prophet, there was the anointed King Saul, over whose coronation Samuel presided, there was the will of this proud and vigorous King, great in statue and desire, and there were opportunities abounding for wonderful things through him.
Progressively he failed to possess them, and in the end, if not actually possessed himself by an evil spirit, yet he was so tormented in mind and so oppressed by a troublesome spirit that it seems almost to be in that category.
In the end, contrary to orders once more, he consults a witch, and from the spirit of the now deceased Samuel, receives a rebuke he could readily have avoided. Thus in seeking to perform one's OWN ideas while seemingly in the hands of God, there is scope for finding the very different ideas which emanate from the prince of ideas-in-waiting, the alternative who loves to strut, dazzling in the spectacular, dizzy in the absence of wisdom, derelict in responsibility, whose children are many (as in John 8:44ff.). Many are his worshippers who, unlike Jesus Christ, could not resist his swaggering offers of prominence and measures of dominance.
These were blessedly dismissed by Christ as in Matthew 4, are often unblessedly received by many others, each according to measure, not in the mere operatic costumery of Mephistopheles, but in inward measures beyond this, beyond all calculation and immeasurable in cruelty.
First we briefly ponder I Samuel 15's account, and reflect on Saul's demission from the kingdom. His failure to obey, slowness to repent and abuse of truth in response to his sin came like a mounting ocean wave in a tempest. Samuel's response was categorical. It is found in these verses.
"And Samuel said,
'Has 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 heed than the fat of rams;
for rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft
and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.
'Because you have rejected the word of the LORD,
He has also rejected you from being king.' "
1. REBELLION is WORSE than WITCHCRAFT
How did this come about ?
Saul did not do what he was told, which was symbolically important and actually the will of God. It was something at the national level, the arena for a King.
Amalek, an assailing body of people, had interfered with the divine procedure in salvation for man by ruthless assault on a driven Israel on its way from Egypt (Deuteronomy 25:17ff.), so hindering the whole purpose of God's sending Israel (Isaiah 43:21) to its promised land. There was to be the axis of salvation, the avenue of truth and the decisive action for the entire history of the universe. What obstructed ruthlessly and purposefully on the way, was more than bearing a grudge against Israel, in its assault on the fleeing people, so recently at that time, mere slaves in Egypt.
There was to be no mitigation of the result for this cowardly and presumptuous assault, which threatened ALL. Saul was commissioned to overthrow that nation entirely (I Samuel 15:1ff.). He took some action, but allowed wealth for his people and ideas of his own to prevent the purpose being fulfilled. He wanted to let them profit by it, and would not execute judgment on the King whose work had slain many, an official who was no less than a murderer. FAILURE to do this was just the beginning. Saul's disobedience and alteration of his terms of reference in this mission, was not only wrong. Indeed, it inherited, in a crucial setting, the risk of all disobedience: wrong in itself, it was also perilous in portent.
As to rebellion, consider in
different degrees and even strata: Jonah, David, Judas.
The extent of David's lament for his sin is seen in Psalm 51! God loves sincerity. As to Judas, his merciless 'bowels' were to be literally exposed (Acts 1:18, Philippians 2:1).
Reverting to Saul, in the end he actually DID consult a witch! (I Samuel 15:22-23, 28:3ff.).
2. STUBBORNNESS is like IDOLATRY (and INIQUITY)
Straying King Saul, after failing in his commission, not only blessed Samuel as if he himself were one who had obeyed, but was slow to realise his sin. Thus Samuel reminded him of the noise of the NON-SLAIN animals! Saul not only blamed the people for taking them alive, but in I Samuel 15:20 he even 'adjusts' his orders as if he had kept to his mandate! Had he not 'brought back' the Amalekite King!
Samuel's response in I Samuel 15:26 is fateful! YOU have rejected the word of the Lord and HE has rejected you from being King. Samuel was slow to implement this removal of Saul from the post of King, but it had to be done. Rebellion rejects God's power direct; stubbornness essentialises rebellion. Persistence in error both comes from sin and leads to it. Consider Samson's plight when insisting on Delilah, despite her manifest betrayals. He got off lightly in that he only lost his life, while fulfilling his mission in doing so.
3. TO OBEY IS BETTER THAN SACRIFICE
1) the misuse of sacrifice
in Roman Catholic Mass:
better obey than create sacrifices (Hebrews 9:12-28, 10:10-14, SMR pp. 1086ff.).
2) the necessity to avoid abuse of sacrifice by doing it without Heart (Isaiah 1:13-20).
Sacrifice avails only when
a) God appoints it (Romans 3:23-25,Galatians 1:6-9).
b) faith accepts it (Romans 10:9).
c) it is applied (John 6:47ff., Hebrews 4:2), not merely abused (Hebrews 10:22).
When it IS applied, faith receives eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:12), which is what is on offer (John 10:9,27-28). There is the objective application, that Christ's own body did not rot but rose (so that He is very much alive and alert to your prayers in faith); and likewise, there is the subjective application, in that you take all this to heart, and act on it, like driving a car instead of merely staring at it.
Faith trembles at His word (Isaiah 66:2), it "rejoices with trembling" (Psalm 2), and hence does not despise His mouth or ignore His lips, but acts. If beginning to fail, it is moved to repent to that the believer calls on Him who gave it, to deliver (Psalm 107:27-31): if it is there, it WILL act (Matthew 14:30); and according to the need, so will He (Psalm 145:18-19, Mark 11:23-24), who having loved and given salvation, will let nothing in time or space sever ties (Romans 8:38-39, John 5:24). God never fails, delights in mercy (Zephaniah 3:5, Micah 7:19ff.) is a Rock to those who put their trust in Him: sent His only begotten Son that we might stand on His foundation, and rely on Him: there is no other Rock (Psalm 62, II Samuel 22:32, Isaiah 44:8). It is useless in this as in all things, for those who trust in the Lord to dismiss His word: as Saul did, let alone to be obstinate in doing so.
Obedience is better; it is far better, for it is a true fruit of the tree planted by the Lord (Matthew 15:13-14), which will not be pulled up, and it is in such that the Lord is pleased to give the power of His Spirit for their tasks as He appoints them (Acts 5:32), in normative relationship with Himself. His power follows His word.
In physics, you do not try to change laws, but to obey them as you move through them to your desire. In personal approach to the Lord, if repentance has brought not only rapprochement but redemption through faith in His better than Red Sea action on the Cross, to deliver us from the slavery not of Egypt but of sin, then we move through His word, His laws, His personal provisions, to His design, desire and determinate will. This is found by reading His word and seeking His face.
In this, Psalms 27, 42 show something of the vigour involved in this deep looking and finding. Then He, He is faithful in response! How often do people act as if God were a mere law, hanging from some imaginary thread, for no reason, rather than thge Eternal Basis to and for all, the Maker of law and people and conscience and consciousness; and they imagine scenarios in which HE is assumed to do nothing! Nothing could be further from the empirical facts, WHEN faith is concerned, according to His word, which sets out what is to be with far more reliability than any physics author can do for physical law.
How is this so ? It follows, since the physicist's understanding of physical law may need revision, but the Lord knows His will and word, and executes it valiantly and vigorously, and without lapse of what He has determined (Matthew 5:17-20, Joel 2:11, Isaiah 43:13, 44-45). He can make (as He will make) another world at will, other heavens, another earth, and another heart in man who repents, and is redeemed (Jeremiah 31:31ff., John 3, II Corinthians 5:217ff.).
He has the inestimable advantage of being beyond time, this itself being one of His inventions (Romans 8:38-39), the time we know; and oversight of it from first to last is as easy as, and indeed easier than for, the eye of the author over his own work (Acts 15:18, Isaiah 46:10). To understand liberty is transcendentally a facility of the One who even MADE it, and can trace its ways as readily as we can watch the flow of ripples in the lagoon or river, being able to regard or to act at will.
Obedience by man, made in His image, with facility to have meaningful fellowship, and understanding, is better than sacrifice, than molesting or manhandling anything. It is God who is needed to bring redress to man, even regeneration; and to Him who first made him, that though costly through sin-bearing, is not at all beyond His power. It is obedience which man needs when, regenerated and enabled to know God despite the deplorable history of the race and the fall of man, he seeks to find his meaning, mission and commission. It is not obedience to ideas, though ideas can be fruitful, but at this level, to the Lord who has given access, and success to access in this, that what He has said in His authorised and demonstrably true word to man, is what happens (cf. SMR, TMR).
Obedience is a chore to those who know better than the boss; or to those who chafe at the waste of time in following ludicrous forms and formulations; but to those who both know their Creator-Redeemer and follow Him, it is no more onerous than keeping to the specified side of the road. In this is order and then liberty. The road of life is demarcated with many intimations, just as are other highways. Depending on the destination desired, you follow it, or move rapidly to the ditch or the other side of the road, a movement becoming almost compulsive among the Gentile nations, as time passes and the overall journey for this, our race, comes near to the examination period, called judgment (cf. Acts 17:31).
Sowing and reaping, these provide a useful agricultural figure for man.
As seed brings harvest, so do actions; and in the next Chapter, we proceed past this pivotal event relating to the prophet Samuel, the King Saul and the action of the Lord, to a lush harvest of results in which personalities and wills on the one hand, and the good hand of the Lord on the other, worked till the point came that mercy being dismissed in favour of rebellion, events arose like a mist lifting, to disclose an entirely changed situation.
I SAMUEL 16-20
GOOD, EVIL, ABSENCES AND PRESENCES
How singular is the presence of good and evil in I Samuel! A King is troubled by an evil spirit, twice hurls a spear at his commanding son-in-law, David, again at his own son, Jonathan, and both escaping, the one aids the other in this prelude to the latter becoming king! Meanwhile, he sought once more to kill David in his bed, but was thwarted by the love for David of his daughter, who tricked him.
Above, we have seen the error of Saul, which was not limited to one, for there was more before his failure to carry out his commission. This failure, as with many modern churches, included making peace with peril and receiving what was forbidden, as also a rush to realise his desires, without waiting on the Lord, so that he might keep His word. This we have seen. There was however an earlier case. The people were mobilised in readiness to meet the powerful people who threatened, the Philistines. Saul as King was in command, but subject to divine direction, since the nation was a theocracy by choice (cf. Joshua 24). Told by Samuel the prophet to wait till he should return to make a sacrifice to the Lord, Saul nevertheless became so troubled by events, by the threatening activism of the enemy, that he made that sacrifice himself.
In Israel, however, priest and prince are separate as are the judiciary and the executive in our own land. These adjustments, in fact, this malfeasance came from an unruly spirit; but as we considered last week, OBEDIENCE is better than sacrifice: we do not have to make the Gospel or the commands of Christ, but to fulfil them.
We do not have to make a sacrifice of our own devising, for the sacrifice of Christ on the cross is the end of the line of sacrificing priests and sacrificial offerings, one for many, once for all (Hebrews 9-10). We SHOULD however rejoice in that sacrifice the more, since He who was offered, offered Himself, as must we, to Him for His service, be it never so enterprising when the time comes. We TRUST Him. Saul showed another way, multiplying sacrifice as he would!
This then we have found, that Saul's journey to presumption and unreliability had simply continued when it came to the Amalekites from this earlier beginning. This, in fact, became a procession.
Indeed, a whole new avenue of failure and fall was opening before him, and we find his spirit troubled and yet blessed by the music of a young shepherd lad, David, who later appeared though a youth, in the famous reply to the challenge of the giant, Goliath. Saul had loved the gentle musician, strong in mind, body and spirit; but when David slew the giant and became a commander in the army, his praises from the people troubled Saul's envious ear. He became enemy to David, and sought to advance his own son, Jonathan, in the kingdom, despite his own lost place. In fact, David had been anointed by divine command through Samuel, as coming King.
Saul took several steps as summarised below. In this, for David there was evil to face; for Saul, alas, it was evil to do.
A) Against David: Great Love Turned to Great Jealousy
When Saul first met the Goliath conquering David, before his famous triumph, he loved him greatly (16:21); but afterwards, when popular notions concerning the young David gave him a certain precedence, envy turned to evil and evil to an early death for the monarch. This however was not before an army of 3000 was set after his too popular son-in-law. This reminds us, Let brotherly love continue! Let meekness ally itself with strength, and this be from the Lord.
B) Against Jonathan - Frustration Turned to Deadly Wrath
Jonathan's spiritual delight in David, following his fearless assault in the Lord's name, on a Goliath whom the army seemed to fear, for mortal combat as challenged, led to a covenant of mutual protection, not only for each other, but for Jonathan's children to be. On David's continued absence, Saul grew suspicious, and when his son gave a plausible excuse, his sense of frustration at the lack of imperial future led to fire! even if the missile missed.
This reminds us of Galatians 5:14-15, in spiritual mode: You shall love your neighbour as yourself; but if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you consume one another! Amid the secular powers today, missiles are greater in devastating power, and nations being increasingly post-Christian in the West, and anti-Christian in many other places, such as lands of Islam, which denies the status and sacrificial redemption of Christ, many of its forces desiring Israel's obliteration, folly casts its eyes like a lurking lion. There is no peace that way, and a world minus Jesus Christ in so many of its powers, is predicably increasingly hell-bent, literally.
Where Christ is, let love continue, not casually astray, but in the power and love of the Lord.
NOT SO FUTILE
C) Against Saul - Talent Turned to Burning, Belligerence and Passion
The King reminds one, as if he were becoming the Ahmadinejad of his Day,
dangerous to his own forces and precipitate in action.
Alas, the more he exceeded with others, the less he succeeded with himself. Isaiah 10 has much to say on this theme. Actually both Iran and Iraq relate territorially to ancient Assyria,
and one is down while the other rages. After Assyria is dealt with, Isaiah 11 goes on to show the virgin-born Messiah ruling on this earth with a judicious dynamic, and a just care and concern. Thus the word of God establishes not only principles, and procedures, but practical outcomes; for whether one seeks one's own will or the will of the Lord, it is the latter which IN THE END, will be accomplished.
THE GOOD WILL OF GOD
ACTION BY PRESENCE
A) by the Love of Jonathan - even the armour made a Figure of Transfer
(I Samuel 18:3-4), as the king's son girds David with these emblems of strength.
Just as Jonathan admired and found kinship in David, beyond his own family, so David is here a figure or type of Christ, and Jonathan of His Church. Just as Jonathan gives his sword to David, and garment, so the Lord's people give their fealty to Christ, our flesh subjected to His power, our implements to His use and our reliance on Him. Then as members of His body, we find we work with His sword in our hands, not our own, and His garment covering us, that of His righteousness as in Isaiah 61:10 and Romans 5:17-18.
B) by the Holy Spirit, as Saul is moved to prophesying with Samuel and his school of prophets (I Samuel 19:1,20-24)! This teaches us that not everyone talking in tongues is sound, and reliance on such phenomena is like walking on ice one millimetre thick.
C) by the Test and Warning of Jonathan (I Samuel 20). How prudent and practical were these plans, with what good will wrought, and with what care executed! Let us carry out Christian testimony with nothing less adroit!
D) by the Lord's Alerting him Twice (I Samuel 18:10, 19:10-11). A nimble body, a ready mind and a watchful eye are not enough, for in one second the thrust may come: David's Psalms show how greatly he relied on the Lord, His high tower, fortress, Rock and strength, protection and King (Psalm 17:6-7,18:1-3,27:1-2).
Consider how the case for David is covered in word, as in deed, and how we must tread in the spiritual warfare on this earth (Ephesians 6), with faith and reliance, with joy in the Lord's presence.
I have called upon You, for You wilt hear me, O God:
incline Your ear to me, and hear my speech.
Show Your marvellous lovingkindness,
O You who save by Your right hand
those who put their trust in You from those who rise up against them.
I will love You, O LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer;
my God, my strength, in whom I will trust;
my buckler, and the horn of my salvation,
and my high tower.
I will call upon the LORD,
who is worthy to be praised:
so shall I be saved from mine enemies.
The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
When the wicked, even my enemies and my foes,
came upon me to eat up my flesh,
they stumbled and fell.
Though a host should encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear:
though war should rise against me,
in this will I be confident:
One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after;
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.
ACTION BY ABSENCE
A) from needless mingling with Saul, given his intent
B) from bed via the love of his wife (I Samuel 19:11-18)
C) from meals (I Samuel 20:24ff.)
D) from the court (20:28ff.) -
In these things, there was an absence which enabled his continued presence, his life a present from the Lord, as is the case for each one of us; for He gave Himself for us, that we might give ourselves to Him, using His armour and His sword, for His kingdom (Ephesians 6).
David by being absent, was present where he should, ready for works of obedience and devotion to come. A diamond misplaced can be used to sever much; set in beauty, can delight the eye, and fire the mind.
Likewise let us who love the Lord and His word, absent ourselves from meals and presence in the fellowship of those who depart from the word of the Lord, and change it, molest it, attack the preaching of truth as in I Timothy 6, II John 2, I Corinthians 5-6 and II Chronicles 19:1ff..
Let none of us nod in assent to the Bible in principle, yet rebelliously remaining present where our absence is required, be needlessly smitten! or worse, encourage others to do the same with equally evil results. Indeed, we need all of us who are believers in the LORD Jesus Christ, to separate ourselves NOT ONLY FROM fellowship with unbelievers and false brethren, whose word is their own, to alter or to refashion the Bible, but TO and FOR the faithful love of the Lord, to do His bidding without treachery or evil intent, in the offing. HIS fellowship more than atones for the loss.
There is enough to do for the kingdom without collusion with its enemies; there is enough to be done with His friends, without forsaking their stand for the Lord. In the love of the Lord, there is much to be wrought, all in reliance on the Lord, with mutual concern and reliability!