Monday, December 15, 2008

Lessons from First Samuel

Blog No. 16 turns to a topic close to my heart ...

The book of First Samuel never ceases to amaze me. It contrasts King Saul’s rejection of God with David’s constant drive to align himself with God’s rule his life.

While David’s failures standout in 2 Samuel -- like adultery with Bathsheba and her husband’s murder in chapters 11 and 12 -- his life was marked by willingness to constantly repent and turn his life back to God.

From David’s first encounter with the Philistines in chapter 17, it’s evident that he honored God in every aspect of his life. David recognized that God would give him victory against the Philistine giant:
Moreover David said, “The LORD, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:37).
David knew (through faith) that God would give him victory, even though he was up against Goliath. Saul, in his lack of faith, reasoned that David wouldn’t be ”able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are a youth, and he a man of war from his youth” (1 Samuel 17:33).

The sad truth of the story is God’s rejection of Saul in chapter 15, a direct result of his rejection of God’s word (1 Samuel 23, 26). Although Saul often expressed remorse for his sinful ways, he never really repented. Saul spent must of his time on the throne serving him own desires instead of seeking God’s desires.

It was this Old Testament account that impressed me last October as I prepared for our Wednesday night Bible class. I read the last 13 chapters book in one setting on the bus home.

It’s as if I had never read the story of Saul and David, united Israel’s first and second kings. It was like God’s words were new and I was reading them for the first time.

The story of Saul’s pursuit of David excites you when you read of the time David secretly cut off the corner of Saul’s rode in the cave (1 Samuel 24:1-7). Despite encouragement from his soldiers, David restrained himself from killing Saul, a man David recognized as his master and the Lord’s anointed.

The book invokes great sadness when you read of Saul’s misplaced allegiance to himself and his earthly desires. He spent many years chasing David throughout Israel instead obeying God and following His law. Saul’s clandestine visit to a medium on the day before his death characterized his failure to call on God in times of trouble (1 Samuel 28:7-19).

First Samuel also causes great contemplation in the reader. David’s faith during those years and into his 40-year reign over Israel and Judah. After all, it’s David who's included in this great statement of the Hebrew writer:
... who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens” (Hebrews 11:33-34).
So, read through the book. It's much more than endless stories of an ancient kingdom. Woven into the battle between Israel and the Philistines are the reactions of two kings. One king who honored God in his life, and the other one that rejected Him.

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