|Series Theme: Meditations in 1 Samuel|
PART Four: The Rise of the Heart Man
Meditations in 1 Samuel 31. God's Heart Assessment
1 Sam 16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."
When we become a Christian a number of things change, our goal in life, our awareness of God's love, our recognition of sin and so on. But there is also something else that changes quite radically and it is how we view other people. and that comes to light especially well in this account of Samuel looking for a son to anoint as next king.
The only instruction he received from the Lord was very general: “ Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem . I have chosen one of his sons to be king." (1 Sam 16:1b) He was aware that that could turn out to be a dangerous assignment: “But Samuel said, "How can I go? Saul will hear about it and kill me," (v.2a) to which the Lord replied, “Take a heifer with you and say, `I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.' Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate." (v.2b,3) So, yes there was the indication that the Lord would show him which one to anoint when he got there.
Now there is a simple lesson in this already. We live in a generation that likes to have everything buttoned up and so we have church services, for example, so planned that there is no room for the Lord to move, but that is our insecurity, the fear that we will not hear the Lord in the service. But there are often times when the Lord calls us to step out to do something but without telling us how to proceed until we get into it. It is part of the ‘walking by faith and not by sight' thing in the Christian life.
So Samuel turns up in Bethlehem and the town's elders get nervous. What has caused the Lord's prophet to come here? Are we in trouble? (v.4) So Samuel reassures them and come the time of the sacrifice gets ready to anoint the son of Jesse. The sons line up to be blessed by Samuel (v.10) and each one comes to stand in front of him. Eliab is the oldest and so the most obvious and no doubt he is big and tough and so Samuel thinks, “ Surely the LORD's anointed stands here before the LORD." (v.6)
It is then that we come to our famous verse above: “But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (v.7) First of all a statement: no, this is not the one of my choice. Then a principle: “Man looks on the outside but I look at the heart.” That is the other thing we have to learn when we become a Christian: God has a completely different way of assessing people than we used to have and so we need to change to learn to think as He does.
We used to look at TV and film celebrities and think how wonderful they are, but the Lord teaches us to look at more than the figure portrayed on the screen and so we see their mixed up lives with multiple partners and so on. I couldn't help thinking of this the other day when in a paper there was this actress giving wisdom about how to bring up children and the article simply notes that she had three children each with a different father. What a confused and mixed up life! Or there are politicians and so-called statesmen and we listen to their clever words and are impressed but a year or so later we are scandalized to hear there are corruption changes being brought against them.
But then at the opposite end of the scale we see prostitutes and tax collectors and Jesus gives them his time and attention, and we realise that ‘heart' is little to do with outward activity, it is about openness to God. So Samuel works his way through the sons and the Lord rejects each one and I like the suggestion that perhaps he gets to the seventh son who is rejected and says in his spirit, “Lord, we've run out of sons!” Well actually no, you haven't, there is one more out on the hillside looking after sheep, he's the one.
Now why David, for that's who it is, is out on the hillside when all the other sons are there for the celebration is not made clear. There are two possibilities why Jesse didn't send a servant out there to relieve David so he could come and meet Samuel. The first possibility is that Jesse was clearly well off and had lots of sheep and so David was there as a manager over a number of shepherds and was trustworthy and Jesse felt he needed to be there. The second possibility is that as the youngest Jesse wrote him off as not being needed at the feast; in other words he was making a wrong judgment.
How often I wonder do we judge people by worldly assessment standards instead of looking at their heart and seeing what they are really like on the inside? If we judge people by colour or gender or social class, we are using wrong standards. Do we, I wonder, need to do a check on ourselves to see how we view people?
Meditations in 1 Samuel 32. Watch the Circumstances
1 Sam 16:14-16 Now the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him. Saul's attendants said to him, "See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. Let our lord command his servants here to search for someone who can play the harp. He will play when the evil spirit from God comes upon you, and you will feel better."
In an earlier meditation (possibly two) we considered the subject of God's providence, the hidden hand of God working behind the scenes, so to speak. So what have we seen so far? Saul making a mess of being king and being told God is going to provide a replacement, Samuel being sent to anoint a new king, and David being anointed as that king. However, we also noted, that it wasn't a dramatic changeover and in fact, life very much continued on as normal – except not quite.
Our verses above are quite contentious. Saul's life starts to take a downturn and the recorder puts it all down to the Lord. Now previously the Holy Spirit had come upon Saul and empowered him but when Saul did his own thing and was disobedient to the Lord, the Lord withdrew His Spirit from Saul. Saul is now on his own and vulnerable.
We need to wait until the New Testament to be told that “ the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” (1 Jn 5;19) Also in the New Testament we see a leading apostle instruct, “hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord,” (1 Cor 5:5) as a form of discipline. The revelation is that the Lord allows Satan to act as a ruler over unbelievers, hence Paul's description, “the dominion of darkness,” ( Col 1:13) which stands, with Satan ruling over it, in opposition to the kingdom of God . The Lord thus used Satan and his agents – demons or evil spirits – as means of disciplining or chastising unbelief.
With that in mind we now observe what is going on with Saul. Something appears to be seriously troubling him and the general consensus is that it is an evil spirit that God is either specifically sending or simply allowing. This must make Saul weak, for his attendants have the temerity to suggest to him it is an evil spirit. Now comes another interesting feature of this, the belief that soothing music can help. So what follows? “So Saul said to his attendants, "Find someone who plays well and bring him to me.” (v.17) He goes along with their diagnosis. So, “One of the servants answered, "I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the harp. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the LORD is with him." (v.18) That's interesting! David is already well-known as a musician as well as a shepherd – and that God is clearly with him. Now you might think that Saul could feel threatened by this description but when you are desperate you don't bother about the details, you just want relief. If you've ever suffered a bad migraine or acute toothache you'll know what we mean. Get me free of this!
“Then Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, "Send me your son David, who is with the sheep." So Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, a skin of wine and a young goat and sent them with his son David to Saul.” (v.19,20) Do you see the circumstances rolling out before us? The circumstances mean that the head and shoulders king is bringing the heart king in although the head and shoulders king doesn't realise it and the heart king probably doesn't yet really believe it, but is just getting on with his life.
So then we find, “David came to Saul and entered his service. Saul liked him very much, and David became one of his armor-bearers. Then Saul sent word to Jesse, saying, "Allow David to remain in my service, for I am pleased with him." (v.21,22) David comes, is liked by Saul who also gives him the job of an armour bearer and really appreciates him because, “Whenever the spirit from God came upon Saul, David would take his harp and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.” (v.23)
What a strange situation! Saul has been rejected by God and indeed is suffering because of God, but is now getting relief from God's man who is established in his service. Why does God want David in Saul's service? I ask the question assuming it to be valid because what we have read appears more than coincidence; it seems more like a careful plan. Assuming the premise to be correct, I can only make suggestions in the light of all that will follow: the Lord wants to give David opportunity to shine and to be seen by all Israel in preparation for the day when he is able to take the throne. He has thus got to be able to prove himself and that means being seen as more than a mere shepherd boy. He is going to be revealed as the warrior that he actually already is, a warrior with a heart after God; what a combination!
But isn't that exactly what we are called to be? Ephesians 6 reveals the Christian life to be a life of battle, holding on to the truth, holding on to the Gospel, holding on to the wonder of who we are, and we do it as we relate to Jesus, knit heart to heart with him. What we are going to see is how two men run parallel to each other for a while until the heart man starts to take the lead and becomes a threat to the head and shoulders man. For a while it will appear head and shoulders will remain supreme, but the eventual outcome will be that God's heart man will come through to take the kingdom. Watch this space.
Personal application? Will we be head and shoulders people or heart-for-God Christians? Will it be human wisdom and human strength, or will it be the heart of God being revealed by the Holy Spirit that will rule us?
Meditations in 1 Samuel 33. The ways of the enemy
1 Sam 17:1-3 Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Socoh in Judah . They pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Socoh and Azekah. Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines. The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them.
We might think observing the Philistines is really a non-productive task but actually as one of the main enemies of Israel at this time they reveal to us something of Satan's strategies against the people of God. We should notice from the outset that they are almost certainly God's instrument for stirring Israel and driving them back into His arms. The pattern had continued for a long time, that we observed about the book of judges where the Lord used their surrounding enemies to discipline Israel so they would turn to Him afresh. So in one sense there is nothing new here.
From, a modern perspective what we read in the verses above is almost laughable, it is the style of fighting that continued for very many centuries: two armies lined up and faced each other and then at some predetermined or pre-agreed moment, they lunge at each other and all hell breaks loose. Now that's how it usually was but this time the Philistines have a got a secret weapon who doesn't remain secret for very long. We need to read the next paragraph in one piece:
“ A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath , came out of the Philistine camp. He was over nine feet tall. He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels; on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. His spear shaft was like a weaver's rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield bearer went ahead of him. Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, "Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us." Then the Philistine said, "This day I defy the ranks of Israel ! Give me a man and let us fight each other." On hearing the Philistine's words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.” (1 Sam 17:4-11)
Now just look at this. They have this warrior who makes any TV wrestler look a wimp. He's over nine feet tall and no doubt as broad as a bus! He's like an armoured tank with armour completely covering all of him except his face and his weapons are a bronze javelin and a massive spear that would have been good enough to make any whale turn tail and run. And he's got a man to carry his shield ahead of him which also says, “I will not be touched”, so one way and another he is a seriously formidable warrior.
But it doesn't stop there: he calls out and challenges Israel to send out their best man (anything less will be hopeless) to come and fight and the outcome of this two-man scrap will determine which army surrenders and which army will be the victors. How economical; one man dies and the war is decided, except the losers will become slaves.
So what can we learn from this? What can it teach us about the enemy and his strategies? Well of course our enemy is Satan and he appears to have an army of demons or fallen angels on his side. Scripture appears to tell us that he is an angel and we know that angels are, by and large, stronger than we are. Moreover Scripture tells us that he is described, among other things, as the Prince of the air and the one who rules over this world (1 Jn 5:19) So he comes and leers at us, mostly through one of his agents and demeans us and makes us feel insignificant by comparison. He presents us with people or circumstances who seem to outweigh us ten to one.
A word in passing. We often hear talk of low self-esteem. Who brings that self esteem? Not God! No, it is Satan and so often it comes through the words of people close to use: “You're useless, you're no good, you're a failure, we don't care about you, you're on your own, a loser.” All those things are lies fo the enemy designed to demean you and bring you down.
That is his first strategy, to make us feel small and insignificant, especially in comparison to him who appears to look so big and powerful. His second strategy is to create fear in us. Fear weakens, fear makes you want to run away. Linked with this fear so often are feelings of depression or of darkness, fear makes you impotent. So he conveys power and authority, might and fearsomeness and seeks to stir up fear and other weakening and debilitating emotions. Now although it is not spoken of in this situation he also uses temptation. How many in Israel 's army are hearing the temptation, just run away. It's a temptation I hear myself so often – run away from these things before you, don't deal with them, go somewhere else. It's all part of his general strategy to make us powerless and unable to deal with the things of life.
Now let's confront some of these things we've said above. First, that he is all powerful. OK, he maybe more powerful than you and me but note several things that the Scripture tells us about him. First he is just an angel, created by God. Second, the book of Job 1 & 2 show us that he can only operate so far as God specifically allows him. Third, Revelation 12 shows us that he is defeated by the armies of God and is outnumbered 2 to 1. Fourth, the weapons he is allowed to use are restricted. You can only be demon possessed when you specifically invite him in through occult practice. He can only attack you spiritually if you are purposely sinning. He can only attack you in your thinking as far as you let him. James taught us, “ Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (Jas 4:7) If we are people who are ‘in Christ' and we ‘abide in him' as we turn to our Lord Satan realises he has no hold and flees. ‘In Christ' we are protected from him, it is the ‘fortress language' of the Old Testament translated into the New.
We'll see more of this in the next two studies but before we leave, ponder this for a moment: This giant comes out and challenges Israel . Why doesn't Saul say to his men, “The best ten of you, get out there and take him down and then we can get on with this battle properly”? The reason is because he has allowed the enemy to dictate the terms. We'll look at this some more but in the meanwhile, don't let him do it!
Meditations in 1 Samuel 34. Watch the Circumstances (2)
1 Sam 17:17-19 Now Jesse said to his son David, "Take this ephah of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread for your brothers and hurry to their camp. Take along these ten cheeses to the commander of their unit. See how your brothers are and bring back some assurance from them. They are with Saul and all the men of Israel in the Valley of Elah , fighting against the Philistines."
Now we have more than once spoken about the Providence of God – the hidden hand of God moving behind the scenes – and we emphasise the hidden element because it is a case of watching things happen that appear quite ordinary, but you are left wondering how much God was involved bringing it about.
There appear to be gaps in 1 Samuel and sometimes we are not sure how much time has passed. The last we saw of David was that he played his harp before Saul and Saul appointed him to be one of his armour-bearers. However that would appear to be a part-time thing or even a thing of the past because David now appears to be back home looking after the flocks again for we read, “ Early in the morning David left the flock with a shepherd, loaded up and set out, as Jesse had directed.” (v.20) Now it was clearly the practice in those days for the family to send provisions to the battle front and as a number of Jesse's sons are already there, when Jesse comes to thinking about sending food to them, the obvious person to take it is David. A simple set of circumstances that gets David to the battle front
We'll leave what he does when he gets there until the next study because I feel there is this need for us as God's children to focus some more on His hidden hand in our lives. Jesus said, you may remember, “My Father is always at his work to this very day,” (Jn 5:17) and the apostle Paul wrote, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” (Rom 8:28) Now put those two verses together and they suggest to us that God is working on our behalf – all the time!
Now let's ponder for a moment what God might be doing in our lives. What are the sort of things He may be working into your life ?
Well, first He may be seeking to guide us. He knows what He wants to lead us into. You remember Paul wrote, “we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph 2:10) Now whatever else that might say to us it says that God knows what He wants to lead you into, things He has on His heart for you, to bless you and to bless His world. Now we have to ask the question, are we open to ‘more' or have we settled in life? The bigger question in this present context is, what is the Lord doing in and around you to lead you on into greater things for Him? Do we need to be praying, ‘Lord, open my eyes to let me see where you are directing me' or maybe it should be, ‘Lord please reassure my that the way I seem to be pointing or the way I seem to be going, is your way.' But whatever else, may we be able to says with Isaiah, “Here I am, send me.” (Isa 6:8)
Now a second thing He may be working to do is provide for you. A sign of this is a growing awareness of our limitations, which may be generally or in some specific area of our lives. We never have to work to receive God's blessings, His provision, for it always comes freely from His heart of grace. God loves to give, loves to provide - freely. All we have to do is acknowledge the need and receive the gift. Have we been struggling with our own human wisdom and human strength? (Head and shoulders?) It's time to surrender it to the Lord and let Him take the reins and provide all you need through the power of His Holy Spirit.
Now a third thing He may be working to do is provide protection for you. Again it may be a part of the provision thing, but it may also be a case of steering you clear from danger. Are there any areas of your life that, deep down at least, you know the Lord is not comfortable with, things that will make you vulnerable to the enemy's attack if they are not resolved? This is a combination of guidance and provision but in a very specific way.
Now how does He work in the background doing these things? Well, the first way has to be He seeks to communicate with you and share with you His intentions. Now the reality of having to die to the old life and its old ways means that we are so often having to struggle against self-rule and when that is happening the struggle that is going on acts as ‘white noise' (that background noise that blocks everything else out) and so it takes a while for us to become aware of the Lord's voice trying to get through to us. I have lost count of the number of times I have become aware of this happening to me.
The second way He works in the background is by sovereignly bringing about changes in our circumstances. Now He may do this by a variety of ways. First it may be by speaking into the hearts and minds of others so that they do or say things pertaining to you and your circumstances. When someone says, “I just felt the Lord tell me to give you this gift,” that is pretty obvious, but it may also be in less obvious ways. Second, he may step back and let the enemy and the world have their unfettered way to bring (probably negative) changes in your circumstances, for you to rise up against. Third, He may actively do something to change the circumstances. I have known the Lord to actively move against unbelievers with back troubles or similar afflictions to bring a halt to their activities when we have prayed.
In David's case, we will see the Lord has already trained him for battle, and taught him how to care for a flock, and so now all it needs is for the circumstances to be changed to bring David into a place where he can fight and start to learn to care for a human flock. As we have said before, watch this space!
Meditations in 1 Samuel 35. Fighting the wrong way
1 Sam 17:38,39 Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them. "I cannot go in these," he said to Saul, "because I am not used to them." So he took them off.
I want, after this meditation, to go on to the next meditation about fighting the right way for the story of David confronting Goliath certainly presents us with some strong challenges, but to do that I need to consider some of the verses that come before our verses above, but I want to leave them until the next one. However to see what goes on here, we do indeed need to see something of what happened.
As we have seen in the previous two meditations David has been sent by his father to take provisions to his brothers who are with Saul's army at the battlefront – except there is no battle going on for it has been brought to a halt by the presence of this nine foot tall giant called Goliath who has rendered Israel immobile.
Perhaps to cut the story short we will simply note that David turns up, sees Goliath, is told what the present situation is and volunteers to kill Goliath. Nice and simple! This annoys David's brothers who think this is rank presumption – how can a mere boy kill this heavily armoured giant? However David's words are reported to Saul (v.31) who sends for David and really confirms the opinion of the brothers. David, however, persists and so in the absence of any other suicidal soldier willing to go, Saul allows him to do it. It is at this point that we come to our verses above. Saul is a tough king. So far he's done a good job fighting Israel 's enemies and he knows how to do it – you arm up with every bit of armour you can carry and grab every weapon you can hold and go and beat up whoever stands before you. Saul's mentality sees that David needs to be set up like an Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rambo type figure. Nothing less than that is going to be up to the job of dealing with Goliath.
So there we have another example of Saul's ‘head and shoulders' mentality – human reasoning with human strength. That's all he knows. But it's pretty obvious to any sane onlooker that even a boy in armour is no competitor for a nine foot hulk; it's a ‘no contest', so something else is needed. Now of course we have to wait until the New Testament to find James writing, “ If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault.” (Jas 1:5) If there is no obvious human answer then godly wisdom is needed – but Saul hasn't learned that and turning to ask God seems a futile exercise because he already knows that in his unrepentant state he is not being heard by God. So he does what human wisdom dictates and loads David with armour. “I cannot go in these," he said to Saul, "because I am not used to them." So he took them off.” (v.39)
Now we need to be careful here and don't suggest that any human activity is insufficient to oppose the enemy because history show us, in respect of the abolition of slave labour for example, that ongoing hard work is absolutely necessary to defeat the enemy. In the present day, those fighting against slavery (which abounds ever greater than before across the world) spend hours and days and weeks in courts working against it. So, yes, there are times, perhaps in the absence of the church rising up in power to defeat these things, it is necessary to expend time and energy, but nevertheless the primary strategy has to be to seek the Lord as to how to fight.
Thus the corollary to that is the lesson that to simply think how we can overcome local crime, local human abuse, or whatever else it maybe that confronts us, is inadequate. Some problems in society are too big to be overcome by mere social activity. I am aware that there has been a trend in evangelical Christianity in recent years to balance up the evangelism versus social action debate and am certainly on the side of joining in social action within our local communities, but I nevertheless am totally convinced that where causes are ultimately spiritual, then the main thrust of the answer has to be spiritual. Fighting social problems or problems of any kind without prayer and without listening to God is a recipe for defeat. As much as it is absolutely right for us to counsel our church members who are in spiritual or social battles, if that is all we do, we are missing the point. The kingdom of God is in direct opposition to the dominion of darkness and the warfare is spiritual, requiring spiritual under-girding of any actions we take.
Saul wants David to come against Goliath using the same weapons that Goliath uses and that is a recipe for defeat, and fortunately David knows that. Today the enemy seeks to use lies, deceit, character assassination, bitterness, hostility and so on. Where we are confronted with those things, the answer is not to respond in like kind. Indeed we are to respond with things that are exactly the opposite. The ‘Jacob-schemer' side of me immediately wants to plot and scheme of what we can do to bring down such opposition. In our local area, youths with threatening behaviour on the streets caused first a lot of verbal hostility on local chat rooms and then came talk of vigilantes. Initially I felt akin to those people but then realised that from a spiritual point of view that was NOT how to deal with the problem on the streets. Where we do have local areas where the streets are no-go, we have to perhaps wonder where the praying church is, that should be giving it to God, seeking His wisdom and His way of dealing with such things. Here, I suggest, is a fertile area for more thought and prayer because generally, I don't think that we, the local church, do a very good job of bringing such issues to the attention of the kingdom of God.
Meditations in 1 Samuel 36. Fighting the right way
1 Sam 17:45,46 David said to the Philistine, "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel , whom you have defied. This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I'll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel .
In the previous meditation we noted that the first thing to do is always refer the fight to the Lord and seek His wisdom. We are going to now take that as read as we go on to see what happened with David and see what we can learn from it.
The first thing we see is when David first arrived at the battlefront and his attitude was expressed as follows: “ Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Sam 17:26b) Translated we might say, “Whoever is this character who has no relationship with the Lord to be defying the people of God?” The first and foremost thing is to know who you are – a child of God and your father is the Lord of the universe, lord of everything, the all-powerful, all-knowing and all-wise Creator and Sustainer of everything. “My dad can certainly beat up your dad”, to cite the language of the playground! Know who you are, know the strength and wonder of the relationship you have with the Lord.
When David gets drawn to the attention of Saul and is questioned by him, he says to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him." (v.32) The second and third requirements for facing a fight are availability and courage . Someone needs to face the enemy and the Lord looks on those who will declare, with Isaiah, “Here am I, send me.” (Isa 6:8). A subset of the courage issue, and therefore a fourth requirement, is realism , being aware of the realities of the situation. The enemy is bigger than me but my heavenly Father is bigger than the enemy, and therefore as I rely upon him I can respond to His leading and step into this dangerous environment. That is courage in this context.
But then we find Saul querying David as to what he can do and David replies, “Your servant has been keeping his father's sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." (v.34-37) When Isaiah was challenging the resources that people turned to he declared, “To the law and to the testimony!” (Isa 8:20) The testimony is a remembrance of what God has done for you. Remembering your testimony is the fifth requirement.
In Revelation we find, “ They overcame him (the enemy) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” ( Rev 12:11) The blood of the Lamb, or Jesus' work on the Cross is at the heart of our testimony, why we are what we are and so that work plus our declaration of what it has meant to us and what he has done for us both in eternity and on this world, is the heart of our testimony. The most simple testimony which undermined all of the aggravation of the enemy through the Jews against Jesus came from the mouth of the man who had been blind from birth: “He replied, "Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!" (Jn9:25) Excellent! That is using your testimony. David's testimony was that God had delivered him in the past and that made him confident in the present, for the future.
Now we aren't told this but I would be almost certain that the Spirit of God who come on David when he was anointed by Samuel was there prompting him, so the sixth requirement is faith , which very simply is responding positively to the prompting or word of God coming to you for this situation. We should only be getting embroiled in such a battle either if God sends us to it, or if it suddenly arrives and we find ourselves in the midst of it. In either case we fight knowing who we are, declaring our availability courageously and realistically, and our testimony in faith.
But then we went through the silly situation where Saul tried to equip him with his armour and weapons, but David is not to fight as Saul fights because that is not sufficient for this battle. David simply says, “I cannot go in these because I am not used to them." So he took them off.” (v.39b) There is another, a seventh requirement here, and it is to resist temptation to do it the way the world does it and only do it the way you have learnt from God, the way you are used to , the ways you have learnt from God previously. This sounds obvious but every battle which confronts us is a challenge to remember this and resist that temptation.
So we watch David: “Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd's bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.” (v.40) All he is doing is re-equipping himself with the things he has used in the past. In the past he's fought with a sling, so now he picks up five stones. He only needs one but he is not assuming anything. For us I suggest these stones represent elements of truth, God's words to us. The eighth requirement is to present what God has said. We are often fearful of appearing presumptuous but we need to have the courage to say, “God says…..” and then we leave it to the Holy Spirit to direct it into the head of the opposition which it then brings down!
Now in this battle the enemy will seek to bring you down by fear (see v.43,44) and at that point the ninth requirement is that we faithfully hold to a faith-filled declaration of the truth, i.e. in faith we speak the outcome : “David said to the Philistine, "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I'll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel . All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD's, and he will give all of you into our hands." (v.45-47)
David delivers his stone and Goliath is slain but see what happens next: “David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine's sword and drew it from the scabbard. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword.” (v.51) It may be that there is a tenth requirement: to show by God's word that the battle is well and truly won . We may need to show the reality what the battle had been, the cause of it, and now the end of it. Enough!
Meditations in 1 Samuel 37. Covenant Friendship
1 Sam 18:1-3 After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return to his father's house. And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself.
We arrive at a significant point in the account of the rise of the heart man chosen by God to become the next king. The way ahead was going to be difficult because the head and shoulders king in control of the country is going to make life difficult for David. It is somewhat ironical that one of the primary sources of encouragement for David in the immediate days ahead is going to come from the very family of Saul, to be specific his son Jonathan.
Now we have already noted that Jonathan was of a different mould to his father. Maybe it was something to do with youth, maybe it was something more but whereas his father was somewhat indecisive Jonathan was a get up and go, a young man who took the fight to the enemy. His first mention shows this:“ Saul chose three thousand men from Israel ; two thousand were with him at Micmash and in the hill country of Bethel , and a thousand were with Jonathan at Gibeah in Benjamin. The rest of the men he sent back to their homes. Jonathan attacked the Philistine outpost at Geba, and the Philistines heard about it.” (1 Sam 13:2,3) Saul had split his fighting men into two bands, led the first bigger band himself but gave the smaller band to Jonathan. Jonathan immediately took them and went and sorted out the nearest enemy outpost at Geba.
Now some may say that was a rash move because it provoked the whole Philistine army to turn out and we read of Israel , “ their situation was critical and that their army was hard pressed, they hid in caves and thickets, among the rocks, and in pits and cisterns. Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead .” (v.6,7) Now I would suggest that the people reflected the feelings of their king who did nothing to rouse their spirits but wrongly offer sacrifices and get into trouble with Samuel (see 1Sam 13:8-13). With the dispersing of the Israelite army Saul was left with 600 men (v.15) and the Philistines couldn't find an army to fight so instead they sent out raiding parties (v.17,18) with one small group setting up a lookout post on the cliffs at Micmash (v.23). So it all goes quiet for a moment and it is then that we find Jonathan again stirring the pot when he takes his armour bearer to challenge this outpost that we saw in meditation number 26 entitled ‘Extending faith'. You can't keep him down. This is the sort of young man that he is.
Now it may be all of this that endears him to David and in David Jonathan senses a kindred spirit. In the intervening period David has become harp player to Saul and then done his giant slaying thing. Jonathan would have been around during all of this and we hear nothing more of him until this point where the growing bond between the two young man comes into being and will play a significant part of what follows.
Thus we now read, “After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.” (1 Sam 18:1) Now what is sad is that in today's climate there are those who claim this was a homosexual relationship but there is no indication whatsoever of this. Indeed it also shows is that such people are ignorant of the classical experience of men with men in relationships of valour where quite contrary to the modern concept where one man takes on feminine role, both the men take on an even stronger masculine role that exults in feats of valour in battle. David has just slain Goliath and Jonathan exults in this. He is a warrior just looking for an opportunity to deal a blow against the enemy and even though Goliath had been a bridge too far for him, he rejoices that that wasn't so for David. This is the thing that unites these two young warriors.
Indeed we see more signs of this in what follows: “From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return to his father's house.” (v.2) So David remains there with Saul and we will see this as the start of his promotion in the eyes of the people, but then we read, “And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. “ (v.3) Note there is nothing legalistic about this, no, ‘I ought to do this for this is what men do', but it came out of his sense of unity with David, a heart unity of two warriors and so to seal this two-way pact, “Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.”( v.4) Jonathan, the prince, son of king Saul, warrior that he is seals the pact (not with a kiss as modern homosexuals would do) but by giving his signs of royal affluence, his robe and tunic to David along with his weapons of warfare, his sword and bow, one warrior to another.
Now that was all there is to it at that point and later on we will see the significance of this and so we will leave it there, but there is much more to come.
Meditations in 1 Samuel 38. Success breeds Antagonism
1 Sam 18:5,8,9 Whatever Saul sent him to do, David did it so successfully that Saul gave him a high rank in the army. This pleased all the people, and Saul's officers as well….. Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him. "They have credited David with tens of thousands," he thought, "but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?" And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David .
And so the drama unfolds. David is now with Saul and is successful, so successful in fact that he is promoted and given high rank: “ Whatever Saul sent him to do, David did it so successfully that Saul gave him a high rank in the army.” (v.5a) Now we asked the question previously why was it that God brought about a situation where the heart man was serving under the head and shoulders man, and we suggested it was so that he could rise up in the sight of Israel and be ready when the time came to be accepted by all Israel as their king after Saul. Thus we now find in respect of his promotion, “This pleased all the people, and Saul's officers as well.” (v.5b) David was clearly a natural leader and was quickly approved by all – well not quite all as we shall soon see.
David's successes clearly raises the morale of the people: “When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with tambourines and lutes. As they danced, they sang: "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands." (v.6,7) Oooops, that's not so good in the light of the sort of person Saul is: “Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him. "They have credited David with tens of thousands," he thought, "but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?" (v.8) Bear in mind that David is not looking for anything, but Saul now has thoughts that David might plot to take the kingdom from him. Paranoia! “And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David .” (v.9) So note the stages in Saul: anger and then jealousy, but it's about to get worse:
“The next day an evil spirit from God came forcefully upon Saul. He was prophesying in his house, while David was playing the harp, as he usually did. Saul had a spear in his hand and he hurled it, saying to himself, "I'll pin David to the wall." But David eluded him twice.” (v.10,11) Now these are a really weird couple of verses. Saul is in his home, David is playing the harp for him and that seems to release the Spirit of God so that Saul is prophesying!!!! BUT as this happens an evil Spirit from God comes forcefully upon Saul!!!! What a conflict! What is going on here! Let's try and analyse it.
When the man after God's own heart plays the harp it opens the door for the Spirit of God to come and bless Saul. Now that is amazing because Saul is in a place of unbelief and rejection but still, in the right environment, can receive God's blessing. Remember Jesus taught at one point, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous,” (Mt 5:45) meaning that God's general blessings are there available for all to receive, including those who are out of sorts with God. An unbeliever can come into a church service and hear a prophetic word that is for them and be blessed by it. Amazingly they can even be swept up in the worship and be blessed by it. That doesn't make them saved, it just makes them blessed.
Now it's that fact that they are still not saved that means they are still open and vulnerable to the enemy and so when they go outside of the presence of God they lose that sense of blessing and in fact come under the power and presence of the enemy. I have seen it happen. Now something we learn from Job 1 & 2 is that Satan is limited to what he is allowed to do, and how far he is allowed to go with his agents. Now there are clearly times when God uses Satan to discipline people (see 1 Cor 5) and He does it by allowing Satan or his demons access to that person who is in rebellion. When it says an evil spirit from God, it is more likely to mean an evil spirit who has been given permission by God to move against this person. The fact that the word ‘forcefully' is used here, suggests that Satan bursts into the room, so to speak, breaking in on what is going on, demanding his right to attack Saul. Remember, all by the permission of God, and only in respect of a rebellious person.
But why? Partly because the Lord is disciplining Saul. At any time (when not under the attack of the enemy) Saul could have whole-heartedly repented, but he didn't. Discipline is designed to bring change of action but where there is a hard heart even that discipline will not work. Partly also, I suggest the Lord is allowing the enemy access through Saul's anger and jealousy to provoke the situation and allow it to develop as it does so eventually David will separate out from Saul, as we will see soon.
So twice David elides Saul's attack and so we find, “Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with David but had left Saul. So he sent David away from him and gave him command over a thousand men, and David led the troops in their campaigns.” (v.1`2,13) So see now the combination of things in Saul's life: anger, jealousy, demonic attack and fear. Saul's problem is his paranoia, the fear that people might plot against him. He doesn't want to upset his people and yet they like David, and so he has to keep David to please them. To do this he sends David away with an army force to do battle and we find, “In everything he did he had great success, because the LORD was with him .” (v.14)
Saul is in this cleft stick, we tend to say, because, “When Saul saw how successful he was, he was afraid of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he led them in their campaigns.” (v.15,16) Again, watch this space.
Now what should we take hold of out of this. Well first, we need to learn to discern what is going on with people. It all goes back to their heart. If their heart is ultimately in rebellion against God then they are vulnerable to the enemy, especially if they have had contact with occult things, tarot card reading, playing with Ouija boards, seeking out fortune tellers and spiritists etc.; all these things leave you vulnerable to the enemy and you need to renounce all such things.
Second, people can appear to be blessed of God but unless these issues are resolved properly before God they will keep on coming back to bite you. I have seen people blessed and blessed again by God but still they are vulnerable to the enemy suffering acute depression and having thought of suicide, all because they have never fully renounced those past works of darkness and received full cleansing by a work of the Holy Spirit. These are very real issues in the Christian world.
Meditations in 1 Samuel 39. Spiteful Scheming
1 Sam 18:17 Saul said to David, "Here is my older daughter Merab. I will give her to you in marriage; only serve me bravely and fight the battles of the LORD." For Saul said to himself, "I will not raise a hand against him. Let the Philistines do that!"
We have previously read that Saul was both angry and fearful of David and as a result of that we move into an area of scripture that I do not find particularly edifying but it does, as does all scripture, reveal how life is sometimes. The heading above gives away my feelings of what is now going on. David is successful and Saul resents that and so Saul, being the insecure sort of person he is – yet with power – decides to set up circumstances where David will be at risk and possibly be killed. We have seen Saul himself trying to kill David while under the influence of an evil spirit but now he decides to manage the circumstances so that their enemies might kill David.
It starts off, “ Saul said to David, "Here is my older daughter Merab. I will give her to you in marriage; only serve me bravely and fight the battles of the LORD." For Saul said to himself, "I will not raise a hand against him. Let the Philistines do that!" (v.17) i.e. I will honour you by making you part of the royal family but you have got to earn your place as my warrior. Now whether David sees through this or he is just humble and doesn't see himself in the royal family, he demurs: “But David said to Saul, "Who am I, and what is my family or my father's clan in Israel , that I should become the king's son-in-law?" So when the time came for Merab, Saul's daughter, to be given to David, she was given in marriage to Adriel of Meholah.” (v.18,19) Now it is not really clear how this worked out, sufficient to say that Saul ended up giving his daughter to another at the last minute, but that is not the end of it.
Saul has another daughter: “Now Saul's daughter Michal was in love with David, and when they told Saul about it, he was pleased. "I will give her to him," he thought, "so that she may be a snare to him and so that the hand of the Philistines may be against him." So Saul said to David, "Now you have a second opportunity to become my son-in-law." (v.20,21) David was a handsome and successful warrior and so it was not surprising that young girls fell for him. Saul is aware of this and also is aware that this daughter is a bit of a shrew and so if he can link the marriage to fighting again, and one way or another life should get difficult for David.
So, “Saul ordered his attendants: "Speak to David privately and say, `Look, the king is pleased with you, and his attendants all like you; now become his son-in-law.' " They repeated these words to David. But David said, "Do you think it is a small matter to become the king's son-in-law? I'm only a poor man and little known." (v.22,23) Again David demurs and again it would appear it is humility that makes him respond like thus, but Saul is not going to be put off and so presents David with a gruesome challenge: “When Saul's servants told him what David had said, Saul replied, "Say to David, `The king wants no other price for the bride than a hundred Philistine foreskins, to take revenge on his enemies.' " Saul's plan was to have David fall by the hands of the Philistines.” (v.24,25)
David sees this as an honourable way of winning a wife, the way of a warrior and so, “ When the attendants told David these things, he was pleased to become the king's son-in-law. So before the allotted time elapsed, David and his men went out and killed two hundred Philistines. He brought their foreskins and presented the full number to the king so that he might become the king's son-in-law. Then Saul gave him his daughter Michal in marriage.” (v.26,27) What a gruesome trophy but he's done it but he's actually killed double the number Saul asked for. Now remember why all this was happening: Saul was stressed with David and with his successes as a warrior so that he outshone Saul and so Saul's intent was to get rid of him by these devious means, again and again getting him to go to battle in the hope that he would be felled by the enemy.
As I said previously, not the most edifying passages of scripture and yet, “ All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” (2 Tim 3:16) We have seen a man who is insecure and therefore feels threatened by someone who seems to be doing better than he is. The question has to arise, can we be secure in who we are in Christ, knowing we are called and gifted by him in a unique way and therefore different to those around us, some of whom may be called to great things. Can we joy in their successes without feeling jealous, secure in knowing who we are and being just that?
But then this man seeks to use cunning to overcome the one he now sees as his enemy. When we find those in opposition to us can we overcome the temptation to strategize how to get the better of them, and leave it with the Lord? If there are genuinely people who we view as ‘enemies, can we be obedient to Jesus and pray for them? “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Mt 5:44)
But if we are on the other side and the enemy seeks to tempt you into accepting a challenge can we be secure enough in who we are to resist. I have found this in the past in respect of drinking. In some Christian circles alcohol consumption is acceptable (I am OK with it in small amounts, in me and in others) and there is often a prompting to drink, but if I do not want to, I will simply decline and resist any pressure, even if a drink is then bought and put in front of me. There may be other activities that some feel comfortable with and you may not. Do not allow yourself to be pressurized by the crowd, be yourself and don't be afraid to stand out. That includes stag parties and the like. The world does crazy things these days and if there is pressure on you to join in, simply say you would rather not. This is not to say generally be standoffish but don't be afraid to steer clear of dubious activities that could lead you into danger or temptation that would be hard to overcome. Don't let the world and the enemy dictate terms. Don't be afraid to stand out as a loving and gracious child of God who will not participate in the ways of the world; the Lord will bless you for it.
Meditations in 1 Samuel 40. Covenant Friendship (2)
1 Sam 19:1-3 Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. But Jonathan was very fond of David and warned him, "My father Saul is looking for a chance to kill you. Be on your guard tomorrow morning; go into hiding and stay there. I will go out and stand with my father in the field where you are. I'll speak to him about you and will tell you what I find out."
The pressure between Saul and David builds up. We saw how anger, jealousy and fear stirred Saul to at least twice try to kill David (1 Sam 18:11) and now he conveys that desire to his servants. It is a stepping up of his hostility and desire to destroy David. We have also previously seen Jonathan making a covenant of friendship with David (1 Sam 18:1-3). That friendship comes to the fore now as Jonathan's father makes his intentions blatantly obvious, so Jonathan warns David and tells him to go into hiding the next day while Jonathan checks out the situation some more, no doubt with the intention of being a peacemaker on David's behalf. (Presumably this instruction from Saul came in the evening and Jonathan takes the opportunity of the night to slip out and speak to David.)
And so, presumably the next morning, as Jonathan had said, he spoke with his father: “ Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, "Let not the king do wrong to his servant David; he has not wronged you, and what he has done has benefited you greatly. He took his life in his hands when he killed the Philistine. The LORD won a great victory for all Israel , and you saw it and were glad. Why then would you do wrong to an innocent man like David by killing him for no reason?" (v.4,5) His words are reasonable and gracious and produce a favourable response: “ Saul listened to Jonathan and took this oath: "As surely as the LORD lives, David will not be put to death," (v.6) which enables the circumstances to be normalized: “So Jonathan called David and told him the whole conversation. He brought him to Saul, and David was with Saul as before.” (v.7) It appears the whole thing has blown over so David is able to carry on as usual: “Once more war broke out, and David went out and fought the Philistines. He struck them with such force that they fled before him.” (v.8)
Now one thing I have noted over the years is that gracious words can appear to bring temporary relief to stressful circumstances but unless the root cause of the stress is properly dealt with it will simply burst forth again at some future date, and thus we now go on to read, “But an evil spirit from the LORD came upon Saul as he was sitting in his house with his spear in his hand. While David was playing the harp, Saul tried to pin him to the wall with his spear, but David eluded him as Saul drove the spear into the wall. That night David made good his escape.” (v.9,10) Jonathan has truly acted as a peacemaker and temporarily put his father's mind at rest, but all that happens is that life carries on exactly as before with David being more and more successful and Saul becoming more and more resentful. It is Saul's ongoing sin, his wrong attitude, that opens him and makes him vulnerable to Satan and the evil spirit is thus able to come against him and stir him up and seek David's death for a third time. Jonathan has done all he can do but it is not enough to deal with the root cause within Saul.
As tends to happen in circumstances like this, the situation does not stand still but gets worse: “Saul sent men to David's house to watch it and to kill him in the morning.” (v.11a) If Saul cannot kill David then he will get others to do it for him. The good news is that families often don't keep secrets and Saul's younger daughter, married to David, hears the instructions and takes action: “But Michal, David's wife, warned him , "If you don't run for your life tonight, tomorrow you'll be killed." So Michal let David down through a window, and he fled and escaped. Then Michal took an idol and laid it on the bed, covering it with a garment and putting some goats' hair at the head.” (v.11b-13) So warns him, helps him escape and deceives the watchers: “When Saul sent the men to capture David, Michal said, "He is ill." Then Saul sent the men back to see David and told them, "Bring him up to me in his bed so that I may kill him." But when the men entered, there was the idol in the bed, and at the head was some goats' hair.” (v.14-16) When Saul, finding he has been deceived, challenges her, she lies: “Saul said to Michal, "Why did you deceive me like this and send my enemy away so that he escaped?" Michal told him, "He said to me, `Let me get away. Why should I kill you?' " (v.17)
As I said in the previous meditation it is not a particularly edifying passage of scripture; indeed it is messy, but it does show us how, unless we resolve and repent of our ongoing sins, they can make us open and vulnerable to the enemies attacks. From David's side they remind us that as the chosen of God we are in a battle and Satan will seek to use whoever he can to come against us. We must, in Jesus' words, be “be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves ,” (Mt 10:16) and use the weapons God gives us (see Eph 6). These are important lessons even though the passage is not a major blessing!