Thursday, May 30, 2013

Reflections on 1 Samuel 26

    1 Samuel 26 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Once again, some people from Ziph went to Gibeah to talk with Saul. "David has a hideout on Mount Hachilah near Jeshimon out in the desert," they told him.
  2. Saul took three thousand of Israel's best soldiers and went to look for David there in Ziph Desert.
  3. Saul set up camp on Mount Hachilah, which is across the road from Jeshimon. But David was hiding out in the desert. When David heard that Saul was following him,
  4. he sent some spies to find out if it was true.
  5. Then he sneaked up to Saul's camp. He noticed that Saul and his army commander Abner the son of Ner were sleeping in the middle of the camp, with soldiers sleeping all around them.
  6. David asked Ahimelech the Hittite and Joab's brother Abishai, "Which one of you will go with me into Saul's camp?" "I will!" Abishai answered.
  7. That same night, David and Abishai crept into the camp. Saul was sleeping, and his spear was stuck in the ground not far from his head. Abner and the soldiers were sound asleep all around him.
  8. Abishai whispered, "This time God has let you get your hands on your enemy! I'll pin him to the ground with one thrust of his own spear."
  9. "Don't kill him!" David whispered back. "The LORD will punish anyone who kills his chosen king.
  10. As surely as the LORD lives, the LORD will kill Saul, or Saul will die a natural death or be killed in battle.
  11. But I pray that the LORD will keep me from harming his chosen king. Let's grab his spear and his water jar and get out of here!"
  12. David took the spear and the water jar, then left the camp. None of Saul's soldiers knew what had happened or even woke up--the LORD had made all of them fall sound asleep.
  13. David and Abishai crossed the valley and went to the top of the next hill, where they were at a safe distance.
  14. "Abner!" David shouted toward Saul's army. "Can you hear me?" Abner shouted back. "Who dares disturb the king?"
  15. "Abner, what kind of a man are you?" David replied. "Aren't you supposed to be the best soldier in Israel? Then why didn't you protect your king? Anyone who went into your camp could have killed him tonight.
  16. You're a complete failure! I swear by the living LORD that you and your men deserve to die for not protecting the LORD's chosen king. Look and see if you can find the king's spear and the water jar that were near his head."
  17. Saul could tell it was David's voice, and he called out, "David, my son! Is that you?" "Yes it is, Your Majesty.
  18. Why are you after me? Have I done something wrong, or have I committed a crime?
  19. Please listen to what I have to say. If the LORD has turned you against me, maybe a sacrifice will make him change his mind. But if some people have turned you against me, I hope the LORD will punish them! They have forced me to leave the land that belongs to the LORD and have told me to worship foreign gods.
  20. Don't let me die in a land far away from the LORD. I'm no more important than a flea! Why should the king of Israel hunt me down as if I were a bird in the mountains?"
  21. "David, you had the chance to kill me today. But you didn't. I was very wrong about you. It was a terrible mistake for me to try to kill you. I've acted like a fool, but I'll never try to harm you again. You're like a son to me, so please come back."
  22. "Your Majesty, here's your spear! Have one of your soldiers come and get it.
  23. The LORD put you in my power today, but you are his chosen king and I wouldn't harm you. The LORD rewards people who are faithful and live right.
  24. I saved your life today, and I pray that the LORD will protect me and keep me safe."
  25. "David, my son, I pray that the Lord will bless you and make you successful!" Saul went back home. David also left,

    Chapter 26 records a very similar event to that in chapter 24. People from the area in which David was hiding reported to the king of David's location. After Saul's previous outing to capture David and David's sparing of his life, Saul had blessed David and returned home without harming him. We are given by this the impression that Saul gave up on trying to harm David. So why did he again go after David? It leaves us wondering if those revealing David's location or maybe someone close to the king were inciting him to harm David? Then again, maybe it was just the evil spirit in him that was stirring up this desire.

    For whatever reason, Saul again took 3,000 of his best soldiers and went after David, seeking him out in the area in which the Ziphites had reported him to be. Somehow David learned that Saul was coming after him again and sent spies to discover where Saul was. When David knew where the king was camped he went there, and when night came and Saul's whole camp was asleep, David took Abishai with him and entered Saul's camp. He found Saul sleeping in the "inner circle of the camp with his spear stuck in the ground by his head." (26:7) God had made a heavy slumber come over the whole camp keeping anyone from detecting David's presence. He could have easily killed Saul, and Abishai suggested that he do just that. But again David said, "who can lift a hand against the LORD's anointed and be blameless?" (26:9) David left Saul's fate in God's hands saying, "the LORD will certainly strike him down: either his day will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish." (26:10) So David took Saul's spear and water jug that lay at his head and left the camp.

    David crossed a ravine, putting some distance between him and Saul's soldiers, and then called out to Abner, the captain of Saul's troops, taunting him for allowing potential harm to come to his king. To point out the danger Saul had been in, he told Abner to "look around; where are the king's spear and water jug that were by his head?" (26:16) Then David asked Saul to tell him what he had done to deserve being pursued "like one who pursues a partridge in the mountains." (26:20)

    Saul again recognized that David was more righteous than he and confessed his sin asking David to come back to him, assuring him that he would "never harm you again." (26:21) Saul again stated that David would become great. As far as scripture reveals, Saul never again pursued David to kill him. Finally he was resigned to accept what God brought to pass.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Reflections on 1 Samuel 25

    1 Samuel 25 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Samuel died, and people from all over Israel gathered to mourn for him when he was buried at his home in Ramah. Meanwhile, David moved his camp to Paran Desert.
  2. Nabal was a very rich man who lived in Maon. He owned three thousand sheep and a thousand goats, which he kept at Carmel. His wife Abigail was sensible and beautiful, but he was from the Caleb clan and was rough and mean.
  3. (SEE 25:2)
  4. One day, Nabal was in Carmel, having his servants cut the wool from his sheep. David was in the desert when he heard about it.
  5. So he sent ten men to Carmel with this message for Nabal: I hope that you and your family are healthy and that all is going well for you.
  6. (SEE 25:5)
  7. I've heard that you are cutting the wool from your sheep. When your shepherds were with us in Carmel, we didn't harm them, and nothing was ever stolen from them.
  8. Ask your shepherds, and they'll tell you the same thing. My servants are your servants, and you are like a father to me. This is a day for celebrating, so please be kind and share some of your food with us.
  9. David's men went to Nabal and gave him David's message, then they waited for Nabal's answer.
  10. This is what he said: Who does this David think he is? That son of Jesse is just one more slave on the run from his master, and there are too many of them these days.
  11. What makes you think I would take my bread, my water, and the meat that I've had cooked for my own servants and give it to you? Besides, I'm not sure that David sent you!
  12. The men returned to their camp and told David everything Nabal had said.
  13. "Everybody get your swords!" David ordered. They all strapped on their swords. Two hundred men stayed behind to guard the camp, but the other four hundred followed David.
  14. Meanwhile, one of Nabal's servants told Abigail: David's men were often nearby while we were taking care of the sheep in the fields. They were very good to us, they never hurt us, and nothing was ever stolen from us while they were nearby. With them around day or night, we were as safe as we would have been inside a walled city. David sent some messengers from the desert to wish our master well, but he shouted insults at them.
  15. (SEE 25:14)
  16. (SEE 25:14)
  17. He's a bully who won't listen to anyone. Isn't there something you can do? Please think of something! Or else our master and his family and everyone who works for him are all doomed.
  18. Abigail quickly got together two hundred loaves of bread, two large clay jars of wine, the meat from five sheep, a large sack of roasted grain, a hundred handfuls of raisins, and two hundred handfuls of dried figs. She loaded all the food on donkeys
  19. and told her servants, "Take this on ahead, and I'll catch up with you." She didn't tell her husband Nabal what she was doing.
  20. Abigail was riding her donkey on the path that led around the hillside, when suddenly she met David and his men heading straight at her.
  21. David had just been saying, "I surely wasted my time guarding Nabal's things in the desert and keeping them from being stolen! I was good to him, and now he pays me back with insults.
  22. I swear that by morning, there won't be a man or boy left from his family or his servants' families. I pray that God will punish me if I don't do it!"
  23. Abigail quickly got off her donkey and bowed down in front of David.
  24. Then she said: Sir, please let me explain!
  25. Don't pay any attention to that good-for-nothing Nabal. His name means "fool," and it really fits him! I didn't see the men you sent,
  26. but please take this gift of food that I've brought and share it with your followers. The LORD has kept you from taking revenge and from killing innocent people. But I hope your enemies and anyone else who wants to harm you will end up like Nabal. I swear this by the living LORD and by your life.
  27. (SEE 25:26)
  28. Please forgive me if I say a little more. The LORD will always protect you and your family, because you fight for him. I pray that you won't ever do anything evil as long as you live.
  29. The LORD your God will keep you safe when your enemies try to kill you. But he will snatch away their lives quicker than you can throw a rock from a sling.
  30. The LORD has promised to do many good things for you, even to make you the ruler of Israel. The LORD will keep his promises to you,
  31. and now your conscience will be clear, because you won't be guilty of taking revenge and killing innocent people. When the LORD does all those good things for you, please remember me.
  32. David told her: I praise the LORD God of Israel! He must have sent you to meet me today.
  33. And you should also be praised. Your good sense kept me from taking revenge and killing innocent people.
  34. If you hadn't come to meet me so quickly, every man and boy in Nabal's family and in his servants' families would have been killed by morning. I swear by the living LORD God of Israel who protected you that this is the truth.
  35. David accepted the food Abigail had brought. "Don't worry," he said. "You can go home now. I'll do what you asked."
  36. Abigail went back home and found Nabal throwing a party fit for a king. He was very drunk and feeling good, so she didn't tell him anything that night.
  37. But when he sobered up the next morning, Abigail told him everything that had happened. Nabal had a heart attack, and he lay in bed as still as a stone.
  38. Ten days later, the LORD took his life.
  39. David heard that Nabal had died. "I praise the LORD!" David said. "He has judged Nabal guilty for insulting me. The LORD kept me from doing anything wrong, and he made sure that Nabal hurt only himself with his own evil." Abigail was still at Carmel. So David sent messengers to ask her if she would marry him.
  40. (SEE 25:39)
  41. She bowed down and said, "I would willingly be David's slave and wash his servants' feet."
  42. Abigail quickly got ready and went back with David's messengers. She rode on her donkey, while five of her servant women walked alongside. She and David were married as soon as she arrived.
  43. David had earlier married Ahinoam from the town of Jezreel, so both she and Abigail were now David's wives.
  44. Meanwhile, Saul had arranged for Michal to marry Palti the son of Laish, who came from the town of Gallim.

    Samuel's death is noted in the first verse of this chapter, bringing to an end the period of the judges. In the following verses we see God acting on behalf of David, His anointed, as He had promised to do on Abraham's behalf. That is, He blessed those who blessed David and cursed those who treated him with contempt. It was the man Nabal who treated David with contempt in this account.

    Nabal was a rich man who had benefitted from the protection of David and his men while they were staying in the area hiding from Saul. Having no resources of his own, David was dependent on the help of those who lived in the areas where he stayed to feed himself and his 600 men. Thus David sent some of his men to request food of Nabal appealing to their protection of his servants and livestock. Nabal responded with contempt for David suggesting he was only a runaway slave, asking, "Am I supposed to take my bread, my water, and my meat that I butchered for my shearers and give them to men who are from I don't know where?" (25:11)

    When this was reported to David he had his men put on their swords ready for battle. He set with 400 of his men with the intent of killing all Nabal's servants. No doubt he would have taken the food he had requested of Nabal as well. We might wonder why David intended to kill Nabal's servants who had not been contemptuous rather than Nabal who had. We can only guess that it was a means of leaving Nabal at the mercy of his enemies, and a man of Nabal's character no doubt had an abundance of enemies.

    Nabal, however, was blessed with an "intelligent and beautiful" wife who acted quickly to save the day, both for her husband and for David. One of the servants reported to her Nabal's treatment of David's men. Knowing instinctively there would be trouble, the servant encouraged her to "consider carefully what you must do, because there is certain to be trouble for our master and his entire family." (25:17) The servant recognized the value David and his men had been to Nabal and his men. Abigail, Nabal's wife, acted quickly to gather up an offering of food to take to David, intercepting him on his way to engage Nabal's servants.

    When Abigail met David she bowed before him and made her appeal to him suggesting that the Lord was using her to keep him from participating in unnecessary bloodshed and in avenging himself by his own hand. She referred to her husband as a worthless and stupid man who lived up to his name which meant "fool." She spoke of the Lord appointing David ruler over Israel. How did she know this? Was it common knowledge or did God reveal it to her? Either way, Abigail demonstrated spiritual insight in her actions toward David. We can see that this whole affair was providential in bringing the two of them together to make Abigail wife of the king of Israel.

    Having averted David from avenging himself, God served as the avenger by striking Nabal with a stroke or heart attack which paralyzed him, after which he died 10 days later. Learning of Nabal's demise, David sent for Abigail and made her his wife. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Reflections on 1 Samuel 24

    1 Samuel 24 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. When Saul got back from fighting off the Philistines, he heard that David was in the desert around En-Gedi.
  2. Saul led three thousand of Israel's best soldiers out to look for David and his men near Wild Goat Rocks at En-Gedi.
  3. There were some sheep pens along the side of the road, and one of them was built around the entrance to a cave. Saul went into the cave to relieve himself. David and his men were hiding at the back of the cave.
  4. They whispered to David, "The LORD told you he was going to let you defeat your enemies and do whatever you want with them. This must be the day the LORD was talking about." David sneaked over and cut off a small piece of Saul's robe, but Saul didn't notice a thing.
  5. Afterwards, David was sorry that he had even done that,
  6. and he told his men, "Stop talking foolishly. We're not going to attack Saul. He's my king, and I pray that the LORD will keep me from doing anything to harm his chosen king." Saul left the cave and started down the road.
  7. (SEE 24:6)
  8. Soon, David also got up and left the cave. "Your Majesty!" he shouted from a distance. Saul turned around to look. David bowed down very low
  9. and said: Your Majesty, why do you listen to people who say that I'm trying to harm you?
  10. You can see for yourself that the LORD gave me the chance to catch you in the cave today. Some of my men wanted to kill you, but I wouldn't let them do it. I told them, "I will not harm the LORD's chosen king!"
  11. Your Majesty, look at what I'm holding. You can see that it's a piece of your robe. If I could cut off a piece of your robe, I could have killed you. But I let you live, and that should prove I'm not trying to harm you or to rebel. I haven't done anything to you, and yet you keep trying to ambush and kill me.
  12. I'll let the LORD decide which one of us has done right. I pray that the LORD will punish you for what you're doing to me, but I won't do anything to you.
  13. An old proverb says, "Only evil people do evil things," and so I won't harm you.
  14. Why should the king of Israel be out chasing me, anyway? I'm as worthless as a dead dog or a flea.
  15. I pray that the LORD will help me escape and show that I am in the right.
  16. "David, my son--is that you?" Saul asked. Then he started crying
  17. and said: David, you're a better person than I am. You treated me with kindness, even though I've been cruel to you.
  18. You've told me how you were kind enough not to kill me when the LORD gave you the chance.
  19. If you really were my enemy, you wouldn't have let me leave here alive. I pray that the LORD will give you a big reward for what you did today.
  20. I realize now that you will be the next king, and a powerful king at that.
  21. Promise me with the LORD as your witness, that you won't wipe out my descendants. Let them live to keep my family name alive.
  22. So David promised, and Saul went home. David and his men returned to their hideout.

    In this chapter we are given an important lesson from David in his treatment of King Saul. Saul had been pursuing David to kill him, viewing him as a threat to his throne. David had never given a hint of rebellion but his repeated successes as a warrior, his popularity with the people, the liklihood of bad counsel, along with the "evil spirit" that had taken control of Saul, had combined to convince Saul that David was a danger to him.

    On the occasion recorded in this chapter, Saul had returned from pursuing the Philistines to again pursue David. He had received word that David was in the "wilderness near En-gedi" and had taken 3,000 of his choice soldiers with him to pursue and kill David. When he arrived in the area where David was known to be, he saw a cave and went in to relieve himself, unaware that David and his men were in the cave. While Saul was in the cave, David crept close enough to cut off a piece of his robe. Although David's men urged him to go ahead and kill Saul, David refused. Already he was feeling remorse for even cutting the piece from Saul's robe. Saul was still God's anointed and David would not lift a hand against him even though Saul persisted in trying to kill him.

    Herein is the important lesson for us to learn. David could easily justify getting rid of his enemy, but he recognized that this was not his role in these events which had been set in motion by God, not by man. It was true that God had anointed David to become king, but it was also true that God had anointed Saul as king, and he was still in that position. These were God's plans and activities and David recognized it was not his place to intervene. Unfortunately, Saul did not demonstrate equal wisdom, for neither was it his place to intervene in God's plans for David.

    We would do well to recognize the wisdom of waiting on God to set in motion the course of events He has planned. Too often we feel justified in taking our own actions to impliment those plans God has revealed to us He has in mind. But the results are never what they would have been had we waited on God. Yes, there is a very delicate balance between those actions we should take and ones we should leave to God, but this only heightens the importance of keeping in constant communication with Him on every detail.

    After Saul had left the cave, David went out and called to him, revealing what he had done in cutting the piece from his robe. David also revealed what he had not done by sparing Saul's life, pointing out that there was no "rebellion in me." Furthermore, David said, "may the LORD take vengeance on you for me, but my hand will never be against you." (24:11, 12) Momentarily we see the person Saul could have been but lacked the strength of character to maintain. He said to David, "You are more righteous than I, for you have done what is good to me though I have done what is evil to you." (24:17) He then acknowledged that David would become king and asked him to "swear to me by the LORD that you will not cut off my descendants or wipe out my name from my father's family." (24:21)

    We see in these events a stark contrast in the characters of Saul and David. How sad it must be to recognize that your choices have removed you from God's purpose for you and you must now settle for something considerably less.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Reflections on 1 Samuel 23

    1 Samuel 23 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. One day some people told David, "The Philistines keep attacking the town of Keilah and stealing grain from the threshing place."
  2. David asked the LORD, "Should I attack these Philistines?" "Yes," the LORD answered. "Attack them and rescue Keilah."
  3. But David's men said, "Look, even here in Judah we're afraid of the Philistines. We will be terrified if we try to fight them at Keilah!"
  4. David asked the LORD about it again. "Leave right now," the LORD answered. "I will give you victory over the Philistines at Keilah."
  5. David and his men went there and fiercely attacked the Philistines. They killed many of them, then led away their cattle, and rescued the people of Keilah.
  6. Meanwhile, Saul heard that David was in Keilah. "God has let me catch David," Saul said. "David is trapped inside a walled town where the gates can be locked." Saul decided to go there and surround the town, in order to trap David and his men. He sent messengers who told the towns and villages, "Send men to serve in Saul's army!" By this time, Abiathar had joined David in Keilah and had brought along everything he needed to get answers from God.
  7. (SEE 23:6)
  8. (SEE 23:6)
  9. David heard about Saul's plan to capture him, and he told Abiathar, "Let's ask God what we should do."
  10. David prayed, "LORD God of Israel, I was told that Saul is planning to come here. What should I do? Suppose he threatens to destroy the town because of me.
  11. Would the leaders of Keilah turn me over to Saul? Or is he really coming? Please tell me, LORD." "Yes, he will come," the LORD answered.
  12. David asked, "Would the leaders of Keilah hand me and my soldiers over to Saul?" "Yes, they would," the LORD answered.
  13. David and his six hundred men got out of there fast and started moving from place to place. Saul heard that David had left Keilah, and he decided not to go after him.
  14. David stayed in hideouts in the hill country of Ziph Desert. Saul kept searching, but God never let Saul catch him.
  15. One time, David was at Horesh in Ziph Desert. He was afraid because Saul had come to the area to kill him.
  16. But Jonathan went to see David, and God helped him encourage David.
  17. "Don't be afraid," Jonathan said. "My father Saul will never get his hands on you. In fact, you're going to be the next king of Israel, and I'll be your highest official. Even my father knows it's true."
  18. They both promised the LORD that they would always be loyal to each other. Then Jonathan went home, but David stayed at Horesh.
  19. Some people from the town of Ziph went to Saul at Gibeah and said, "Your Majesty, David has a hideout not far from us! It's near Horesh, somewhere on Mount Hachilah south of Jeshimon.
  20. If you come, we will help you catch him."
  21. Saul told them: You've done me a big favor, and I pray that the LORD will bless you.
  22. Now please do just a little more for me. Find out exactly where David is, as well as where he goes, and who has seen him there. I've been told that he's very tricky.
  23. Find out where all his hiding places are and come back when you're sure. Then I'll go with you. If he is still in the area, or anywhere among the clans of Judah, I'll find him.
  24. The people from Ziph went back ahead of Saul, and they found out that David and his men were still south of Jeshimon in the Maon Desert.
  25. Saul and his army set out to find David. But David heard that Saul was coming, and he went to a place called The Rock, one of his hideouts in Maon Desert. Saul found out where David was and started closing in on him.
  26. Saul was going around a hill on one side, and David and his men were on the other side, trying to get away. Saul and his soldiers were just about to capture David and his men,
  27. when a messenger came to Saul and said, "Come quickly! The Philistines are attacking Israel and taking everything."
  28. Saul stopped going after David and went back to fight the Philistines. That's why the place is called "Escape Rock."
  29. David left and went to live in the hideouts at En-Gedi.

    David continued on the run from Saul. By the time of events recorded in chapter 23, the number of men following David had grown from 400 to 600. With this many men they formed, with God's help, an army that could contend with the Philistines. This they did when David learned that the city of Keilah was being raided by the Philistines. David sought the Lord's guidance and the Lord enabled him to inflict heavy losses on the Philistines. The people of Keilah were glad to receive David's help but they remained loyal to Saul. So when David learned that Saul was coming to the city with his full army the Lord told him the Keilahites would turn him over to Saul, so he fled and was again on the run.

    After a while, David stayed in the hill country of the Wilderness of Ziph where Jonathan found him and encouraged him. The two of them made a covenant that when David became king Jonathan would be his second-in-command. The Ziphites also remained loyal to Saul, so some of them went to Saul to let him know David was hiding in their territory. Saul followed them to the region and came very close to finding David. At one point Saul was on one side of a mountain and David on the other. But just as Saul was beginning to close in on David he received word that the Philistines were raiding the land, so he broke off the pursuit and went to engage the Philistines.

    During this time in which David was running from Saul, he made no effort to seize the throne from Saul. Though he might have used occasions such as delivering the city of Keilah from the Philistines to turn the people away from Saul, he did not do this. He simply waited on the Lord. Was he content to do so? We have a number of his Psalms written during this time which reveal the struggle he went through both emotionally and spiritually. But God desires to use our times of trial for our good. We should not allow them to be wasted trials by becoming bitter and turning away from God rather than staying close to Him and allowing Him to do His work in us for our good.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Reflections on 1 Samuel 22

    1 Samuel 22 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. When David escaped from the town of Gath, he went to Adullam Cave. His brothers and the rest of his family found out where he was, and they followed him there.
  2. A lot of other people joined him too. Some were in trouble, others were angry or in debt, and David was soon the leader of four hundred men.
  3. David left Adullam Cave and went to the town of Mizpeh in Moab, where he talked with the king of Moab. "Please," David said, "let my father and mother stay with you until I find out what God will do with me."
  4. So he brought his parents to the king of Moab, and they stayed with him while David was in hiding.
  5. One day the prophet Gad told David, "Don't stay here! Go back to Judah." David then left and went to Hereth Forest.
  6. Saul was sitting under a small tree on top of the hill at Gibeah when he heard that David and his men had been seen. Saul was holding his spear, and his officers were standing in front of him.
  7. He told them: Listen to me! You belong to the Benjamin tribe, so if that son of Jesse ever becomes king, he won't give you fields or vineyards. He won't make you officers in charge of thousands or hundreds as I have done.
  8. But you're all plotting against me! Not one of you told me that my own son Jonathan had made an agreement with him. Not one of you cared enough to tell me that Jonathan had helped one of my officers rebel. Now that son of Jesse is trying to ambush me.
  9. Doeg the Edomite was standing with the other officers and spoke up, "When I was in the town of Nob, I saw that son of Jesse. He was visiting the priest Ahimelech the son of Ahitub.
  10. Ahimelech talked to the LORD for him, then gave him food and the sword that had belonged to Goliath the Philistine."
  11. Saul sent a message to Ahimelech and his whole family of priests at Nob, ordering them to come to him. When they came,
  12. Saul told them, "Listen to me, you son of Ahitub." "Certainly, Your Majesty," Ahimelech answered.
  13. Saul demanded, "Why did you plot against me with that son of Jesse? You helped him rebel against me by giving him food and a sword, and by talking with God for him. Now he's trying to ambush me!"
  14. "Your Majesty, none of your officers is more loyal than David!" Ahimelech replied. "He's your son-in-law and the captain of your bodyguard. Everyone in your family respects him.
  15. This isn't the first time I've talked with God for David, and it's never made you angry before! Please don't accuse me or my family like this. I have no idea what's going on!"
  16. "Ahimelech," Saul said, "you and your whole family are going to die."
  17. Saul shouted to his bodyguards, "These priests of the LORD helped David! They knew he was running away, but they didn't tell me. Kill them!" But the king's officers would not attack the priests of the LORD.
  18. Saul turned to Doeg, who was from Edom, and said, "Kill the priests!" On that same day, Doeg killed eighty-five priests.
  19. Then he attacked the town of Nob, where the priests had lived, and he killed everyone there--men, women, children, and babies. He even killed their cattle, donkeys, and sheep.
  20. Ahimelech's son Abiathar was the only one who escaped. He ran to David
  21. and told him, "Saul has murdered the priests at Nob!"
  22. David answered, "That day when I saw Doeg, I knew he would tell Saul! Your family died because of me.
  23. Stay here. Isn't the same person trying to kill both of us? Don't worry! You'll be safe here with me."

    David had gone to Gath, the hometown of Goliath the Philistine, where he found himself in danger and acted insane to protect himself. Verse 22:1 reports that he left there and took refuge in "the cave of Adullam" where his family joined him. He was also joined by about 400 men who were refugees for one reason or another. David did not feel it safe there for his family, so he went to Moab and left his parents in the care of the king. David was evidently joined in his hiding place by the prophet Gad who told him at this time that he should go back to Judah. So David left the cave of Adullam and went to the forest of Hereth.

    Meanwhile, Saul was growing more and more paranoid with his increasing insanity accusing everyone around him of hiding information from him in a conspiracy against him. To appease him and maybe to gain favor with the king, Doeg the Edomite who had observed David with Ahimelech the priest at Nob, reported this to Saul. Saul sent for Ahimelech and "his father's whole family" to enquire of them why they had conspired against him. It was not the reason for helping David that Saul was interested in, only the fact that they didn't deny helping him. For that, he ordered them to be killed, a task none of his servants would "lift a hand" to execute. So Doeg the Edomite did the dirty deed, killing 85 priests, then going to Ahimelech's hometown of Nob and killing all the inhabitants and livestock.

    Abiathar, one of the sons of Ahimelech, escaped the massacre and fled to David. When David heard what happened he took responsibility for it because he knew Doeg had been present when he was with Ahimelech. He also promised to protect Abiathar.

    Now David had in his following 400 men, who were to become his men of valor, along with a prophet and a priest. God was preparing him for his role as king. Along with this following he was gaining valuable leadership experience. There was approximately 20 years that transpired from the time David was anointed king by Samuel and the time he actually became king. Rather than questioning the periods of waiting in our lives we should embrace them as valuable times of preparation for whatever God has in store for us next. The periods of waiting are as important as the times for which they prepare us. Actually, we should not see them as separate periods, but as one and the same.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Reflections on 1 Samuel 21

    1 Samuel 21 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. David went to see Ahimelech, a priest who lived in the town of Nob. Ahimelech was trembling with fear as he came out to meet David. "Why are you alone?" Ahimelech asked. "Why isn't anyone else with you?"
  2. "I'm on a mission for King Saul," David answered. "He ordered me not to tell anyone what the mission is all about, so I had my soldiers stay somewhere else.
  3. Do you have any food you can give me? Could you spare five loaves of bread?"
  4. "The only bread I have is the sacred bread," the priest told David. "You can have it if your soldiers didn't sleep with women last night."
  5. "Of course we didn't sleep with women," David answered. "I never let my men do that when we're on a mission. They have to be acceptable to worship God even when we're on a regular mission, and today we're on a special mission."
  6. The only bread the priest had was the sacred bread that he had taken from the place of worship after putting out the fresh loaves. So he gave it to David.
  7. It so happened that one of Saul's officers was there, worshiping the LORD that day. His name was Doeg the Edomite, and he was the strongest of Saul's shepherds.
  8. David asked Ahimelech, "Do you have a spear or a sword? I had to leave so quickly on this mission for the king that I didn't bring along my sword or any other weapons."
  9. The priest answered, "The only sword here is the one that belonged to Goliath the Philistine. You were the one who killed him in Elah Valley, and so you can take his sword if you want to. It's wrapped in a cloth behind the statue." "It's the best sword there is," David said. "I'll take it!"
  10. David kept on running from Saul that day until he came to Gath, where he met with King Achish.
  11. The officers of King Achish were also there, and they asked Achish, "Isn't David a king back in his own country? Don't the Israelites dance and sing, 'Saul has killed a thousand enemies; David has killed ten thousand enemies'?"
  12. David thought about what they were saying, and it made him afraid of Achish.
  13. So right there in front of everyone, he pretended to be insane. He acted confused and scratched up the doors of the town gate, while drooling in his beard.
  14. "Look at him!" Achish said to his officers. "You can see he's crazy. Why did you bring him to me?
  15. I have enough crazy people without your bringing another one here. Keep him away from my palace!"

    At the conclusion of chapter 20, David and Jonathan part ways after Jonathan delivered the news that his father was indeed seeking to kill David. They would never to see each other again. Now David was on the run with a group of men who were loyal to him.

    The first verse of chapter 21 tells of David going to Nob where he went to the priest, Ahimelech, to seek food for him and his men. To protect himself, he lied about his presence there, telling the priest that the king sent him out on a secret mission. Some are critical of David for lying rather than trusting the Lord to protect him. Did David do this out of weakness of faith, or are the critics caught up in legalism as were the Pharisees who criticized Jesus and His disciples for supposedly breaking the Sabbath when they picked heads of grain while passing through a grainfield? Are they more concerned for the letter of the law than the welfare of the individual? Would they also criticize David for killing an enemy out of self-defense? Is there a difference?

    David asked the priest for bread to feed himself and his men, but the only bread available was consecrated bread which, according to the law, was only for the priests to eat. But the priest, Ahimelech, gave him the bread anyway after confirming that the men had not defiled themselves with women.  This was a concession the law allowed. On the occasion in which the Pharisees criticized Jesus and His disciples for picking grain on the Sabbath, Jesus spoke to them of this occasion when David ate the sacred bread. Life is more sacred than sacred bread or the letter of the law which was given for man's good.

    In addition to the bread, David secured a sword from the priest that had belonged to Goliath whom David had killed. Then David left and went to Gath, Goliath's hometown. He was soon recognized by the king's servants as a hero of the Israelites, referring to him as "the king of the land." (21:11) When David became aware that he was recognized he feigned insanity, again resorting to deception. David was relying on an ancient practice which considered the insane to be under the protection of the gods.  And it worked for the king wanted nothing to do with him.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Reflections on 1Samuel 20

    1 Samuel 20 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. David escaped from Prophets Village. Then he ran to see Jonathan and asked, "Why does your father Saul want to kill me? What have I done wrong?"
  2. "My father can't be trying to kill you! He never does anything without telling me about it. Why would he hide this from me? It can't be true!"
  3. "Jonathan, I swear it's true! But your father knows how much you like me, and he didn't want to break your heart. That's why he didn't tell you. I swear by the living LORD and by your own life that I'm only one step ahead of death."
  4. Then Jonathan said, "Tell me what to do, and I'll do it."
  5. David answered: Tomorrow is the New Moon Festival, and I'm supposed to eat dinner with your father. But instead, I'll hide in a field until the evening of the next day.
  6. If Saul wonders where I am, tell him, "David asked me to let him go to his hometown of Bethlehem, so he could take part in a sacrifice his family makes there every year."
  7. If your father says it's all right, then I'm safe. But if he gets angry, you'll know he wants to harm me.
  8. Be kind to me. After all, it was your idea to promise the LORD that we would always be loyal friends. If I've done anything wrong, kill me yourself, but don't hand me over to your father.
  9. "Don't worry," Jonathan said. "If I find out that my father wants to kill you, I'll certainly let you know."
  10. "How will you do that?" David asked.
  11. "Let's go out to this field, and I'll tell you," Jonathan answered. When they got there,
  12. Jonathan said: I swear by the LORD God of Israel, that two days from now I'll know what my father is planning. Of course I'll let you know if he's friendly toward you.
  13. But if he wants to harm you, I promise to tell you and help you escape. And I ask the LORD to punish me severely if I don't keep my promise. I pray that the LORD will bless you, just as he used to bless my father.
  14. Someday the LORD will wipe out all of your enemies. Then if I'm still alive, please be as kind to me as the LORD has been. But if I'm dead, be kind to my family.
  15. (SEE 20:14)
  16. Jonathan and David made an agreement that even David's descendants would have to keep. Then Jonathan said, "I pray that the LORD will take revenge on your descendants if they break our promise."
  17. Jonathan thought as much of David as he did of himself, so he asked David to promise once more that he would be a loyal friend.
  18. After this Jonathan said: Tomorrow is the New Moon Festival, and people will wonder where you are, because your place will be empty.
  19. By the day after tomorrow, everyone will think you've been gone a long time. Then go to the place where you hid before and stay beside Going-Away Rock.
  20. I'll shoot three arrows at a target off to the side of the rock,
  21. and send my servant to find the arrows. You'll know if it's safe to come out by what I tell him. If it is safe, I swear by the living LORD that I'll say, "The arrows are on this side of you! Pick them up!"
  22. But if it isn't safe, I'll say to the boy, "The arrows are farther away!" This will mean that the LORD wants you to leave, and you must go.
  23. But he will always watch us to make sure that we keep the promise we made to each other.
  24. So David hid there in the field. During the New Moon Festival, Saul sat down to eat
  25. by the wall, just as he always did. Jonathan sat across from him, and Abner sat next to him. But David's place was empty.
  26. Saul didn't say anything that day, because he was thinking, "Something must have happened to make David unfit to be at the Festival. Yes, something must have happened."
  27. The day after the New Moon Festival, when David's place was still empty, Saul asked Jonathan, "Why hasn't that son of Jesse come to eat with us? He wasn't here yesterday, and he still isn't here today!"
  28. Jonathan answered, "The reason David hasn't come to eat with you is that he begged me to let him go to Bethlehem. He said, 'Please let me go. My family is offering a sacrifice, and my brother told me I have to be there. Do me this favor and let me slip away to see my brothers.' "
  29. (SEE 20:28)
  30. Saul was furious with Jonathan and yelled, "You're no son of mine, you traitor! I know you've chosen to be loyal to that son of Jesse. You should be ashamed of yourself! And your own mother should be ashamed that you were ever born.
  31. You'll never be safe, and your kingdom will be in danger as long as that son of Jesse is alive. Turn him over to me now! He deserves to die!"
  32. "Why do you want to kill David?" Jonathan asked. "What has he done?"
  33. Saul threw his spear at Jonathan and tried to kill him. Then Jonathan was sure that his father really did want to kill David.
  34. Jonathan was angry that his father had insulted David so terribly. He got up, left the table, and didn't eat anything all that day.
  35. In the morning, Jonathan went out to the field to meet David. He took a servant boy along
  36. and told him, "When I shoot the arrows, you run and find them for me." The boy started running, and Jonathan shot an arrow so that it would go beyond him.
  37. When the boy got near the place where the arrow had landed, Jonathan shouted, "Isn't the arrow on past you?"
  38. Jonathan shouted to him again, "Hurry up! Don't stop!" The boy picked up the arrows and brought them back to Jonathan,
  39. but he had no idea about what was going on. Only Jonathan and David knew.
  40. Jonathan gave his weapons to the boy and told him, "Take these back into town."
  41. After the boy had gone, David got up from beside the mound and bowed very low three times. Then he and Jonathan kissed each other and cried, but David cried louder.
  42. Jonathan said, "Take care of yourself. And remember, we each have asked the LORD to watch and make sure that we and our descendants keep our promise forever." David left and Jonathan went back to town.

    In the previous chapter David had had to flee for his life away from Saul. In the end, Saul went after David and became overpowered by God's Spirit and fell down before Samuel prophesying. We can assume Saul returned home content, for the time being, to let his relationship with David return to normal. He must have assumed that David also returned, why else would he have expected David to join him for the New Moon feast as mentioned in this chapter?
    David did return, but in secret. He did not trust that he was safe around Saul. He secretly went to Jonathan and asked why Saul was so intent on killing him? What had he done to deserve this? Jonathan insisted that if his father still planned to kill David he would know it for his father told him everything. But David replied that Jonathan's father would not likely tell him if he planned to kill David since he knew Jonathan looked favorably on David.

    David and Jonathan devised a plan by which Jonathan would go to the feast and when his father inquired about David's absence he would tell his father that David had requested to go to Bethlehem because his clan was holding a sacrifice there in David's hometown. Jonathan granted permission for David to miss the feast at the king's table. How his father responded to this news would indicate whether or not David was safe. It turned out that Saul responded violently at this news attempting to kill Jonathan. It was evident that Davd was not safe. The next day Jonathan gave the arranged signal to David letting him know he must flee to safety.

    It was an emotional parting for the two for they knew it was unlikely they would ever see each other again. Jonathan's love for David was sacrificial, for he was giving up any claim to the throne on his behalf. He seemed to even sense that in the insuing events he might not survive for he said to David, "if I die, don't ever withdraw your faithful love from my household." (20:14, 15) Whether or not Saul had ever learned of the private anointing of David to be king, he sensed, possibly through David's popularity, that David was a threat to his claim to the throne. This is apparent in his admonishment to Jonathan for allowing David to miss the feast, "Every day Jesse's son lives on earth you and your kingship are not secure." (20:31)

    Saul had not learned that God was sovereign and His plans would not be thwarted.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Reflections on 1 Samuel 19

    1 Samuel 19 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. One day, Saul told his son Jonathan and his officers to kill David. But Jonathan liked David a lot,
  2. and he warned David, "My father is trying to have you killed, so be very careful. Hide in a field tomorrow morning, and I'll bring him there. Then I'll talk to him about you, and if I find out anything, I'll let you know."
  3. (SEE 19:2)
  4. The next morning, Jonathan reminded Saul about the many good things David had done for him. Then he said, "Why do you want to kill David? He hasn't done anything to you. He has served in your army and has always done what's best for you. He even risked his life to kill Goliath. The LORD helped Israel win a great victory that day, and it made you happy."
  5. (SEE 19:4)
  6. Saul agreed and promised, "I swear by the living LORD that I won't have David killed!"
  7. Jonathan called to David and told him what Saul had said. Then he brought David to Saul, and David served in Saul's army just as he had done before.
  8. The next time there was a war with the Philistines, David fought hard and forced them to retreat.
  9. One night, David was in Saul's home, playing the harp for him. Saul was sitting there, holding a spear, when an evil spirit from the LORD took control of him. Saul tried to pin David to the wall with the spear, but David dodged, and it stuck in the wall. David ran out of the house and escaped.
  10. (SEE 19:9)
  11. Saul sent guards to watch David's house all night and then to kill him in the morning. Michal, David's wife, told him, "If you don't escape tonight, they'll kill you tomorrow!"
  12. She helped David go through a window and climb down to the ground. As David ran off,
  13. Michal put a statue in his bed. She put goat hair on its head and dressed it in some of David's clothes.
  14. The next morning, Saul sent guards to arrest David. But Michal told them, "David is sick."
  15. Saul sent the guards back and told them, "Get David out of his bed and bring him to me, so I can have him killed."
  16. When the guards went in, all they found in the bed was the statue with the goat hair on its head.
  17. "Why have you tricked me this way?" Saul asked Michal. "You helped my enemy get away!" She answered, "He said he would kill me if I didn't help him escape!"
  18. Meanwhile, David went to Samuel at Ramah and told him what Saul had done. Then Samuel and David went to Prophets Village and stayed there.
  19. Someone told Saul, "David is at Prophets Village in Ramah."
  20. Saul sent a few soldiers to bring David back. They went to Ramah and found Samuel in charge of a group of prophets who were all prophesying. Then the Spirit of God took control of the soldiers and they started prophesying too.
  21. When Saul heard what had happened, he sent another group of soldiers, but they prophesied the same way. He sent a third group of soldiers, but the same thing happened to them.
  22. Finally, Saul left for Ramah himself. He went as far as the deep pit at the town of Secu, and he asked, "Where are Samuel and David?" "At Prophets Village in Ramah," the people answered.
  23. Saul left for Ramah. But as he walked along, the Spirit of God took control of him, and he started prophesying. Then, when he reached Prophets Village,
  24. he stripped off his clothes and prophesied in front of Samuel. He dropped to the ground and lay there naked all day and night. That's how the saying started, "Is Saul now a prophet?"

    As David became more and more successful, Saul spiraled downward as he was overtaken by what scripture refers to as "an evil spirit from the LORD." (19:9) There is no clear understanding of what this means. It seems that with God's Spirit removed from Saul he was subject to diabolic forces that brought on depression and jealousy so strong Saul lost the ability to think logically. We are not neutral beings. Either we open ourselves intentionally to God and His influences in our lives or by intention or default we open ourselves to the influences of Satan and his diabolical forces.

    In Saul's mental and spiritual state he was unable to keep an emotional balance. Verse 18:30 reported that "Every time the Philistine commanders came out to fight, David was more successful than all of Saul's officers. So his name became very famous." As a result, jealousy overcame Saul and he ordered Jonathan and all his servants to kill David. Jonathan cared too much for David to let this happen, so he warned David and then talked his father out of his intent to kill David. But it was short-lived. When David again led the troops to victory over the Philistines Saul made another attempt to kill David with a spear. David escaped the attack and Saul sent agents to David's house to watch for him. This time David's wife, Michal, helped him escape and he went to Samuel at Ramah.

    Once David was with Samuel, the Lord intervened more directly. Three times Saul sent agents to seize David and all three times "the Spirit of God came on" them and they started prophesying, disabling the agents from carrying out their mission. Finally Saul went himself, but the same thing happened to him. He was so disabled by God's Spirit that he removed his royal robes and lay prostrate all day and night allowing David to escape.

    Any attempt to thwart God's plans turn out to bring us down rather than God's plans. So it was with Saul. The more he tried to get rid of David and thus thwart God's plan to make him king, the more Saul brought himself down.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Reflections on 1 Samuel 18

    1 Samuel 18 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. David and Saul finished talking, and soon David and Jonathan became best friends. Jonathan thought as much of David as he did of himself.
  2. From that time on, Saul kept David in his service and would not let David go back to his own family.
  3. Jonathan liked David so much that they promised to always be loyal friends.
  4. Jonathan took off the robe that he was wearing and gave it to David. He also gave him his military clothes, his sword, his bow and arrows, and his belt.
  5. David was a success in everything that Saul sent him to do, and Saul made him a high officer in his army. That pleased everyone, including Saul's other officers.
  6. David had killed Goliath, the battle was over, and the Israelite army set out for home. As the army went along, women came out of each Israelite town to welcome King Saul. They were singing happy songs and dancing to the music of tambourines and harps.
  7. They sang: Saul has killed a thousand enemies; David has killed ten thousand enemies!
  8. This song made Saul very angry, and he thought, "They are saying that David has killed ten times more enemies than I ever did. Next they will want to make him king."
  9. Saul never again trusted David.
  10. The next day the LORD let an evil spirit take control of Saul, and he began acting like a crazy man inside his house. David came to play the harp for Saul as usual, but this time Saul had a spear in his hand.
  11. Saul thought, "I'll pin David to the wall." He threw the spear at David twice, but David dodged and got away both times.
  12. Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was helping David and was no longer helping him.
  13. Saul put David in charge of a thousand soldiers and sent him out to fight.
  14. The LORD helped David, and he and his soldiers always won their battles.
  15. This made Saul even more afraid of David.
  16. But everyone else in Judah and Israel was loyal to David, because he led the army in battle.
  17. One day, Saul told David, "If you'll be brave and fight the LORD's battles for me, I'll let you marry my oldest daughter Merab." But Saul was really thinking, "I don't want to kill David myself, so I'll let the Philistines do it for me."
  18. David answered, "How could I possibly marry your daughter? I'm not very important, and neither is my family."
  19. But when the time came for David to marry Saul's daughter Merab, Saul told her to marry Adriel from the town of Meholah.
  20. Saul had another daughter. Her name was Michal, and Saul found out that she was in love with David. This made Saul happy,
  21. and he thought, "I'll tell David he can marry Michal, but I'll set it up so that the Philistines will kill him." He told David, "I'm going to give you a second chance to marry one of my daughters."
  22. Saul ordered his officials to speak to David in private, so they went to David and said, "Look, the king likes you, and all of his officials are loyal to you. Why not ask the king if you can marry his daughter Michal?" "I'm not rich or famous enough to marry princess Michal!" David answered.
  23. (SEE 18:22)
  24. The officials went back to Saul and told him exactly what David had said.
  25. Saul was hoping that the Philistines would kill David, and he told his officials to tell David, "The king doesn't want any silver or gold. He only wants to get even with his enemies. All you have to do is to bring back proof that you have killed a hundred Philistines!"
  26. The officials told David, and David wanted to marry the princess. King Saul had set a time limit, and before it ran out,
  27. David and his men left and killed two hundred Philistines. He brought back the proof and showed it to Saul, so he could marry Michal. Saul agreed to let David marry Michal.
  28. Saul knew that she loved David, and he also realized that the LORD was helping David.
  29. But knowing those things made Saul even more afraid of David, and he was David's enemy for the rest of his life.
  30. The Philistine rulers kept coming to fight Israel, but whenever David fought them, he won. He was famous because he won more battles against the Philistines than any of Saul's other officers.

    David's feat in killing the giant Goliath changed his life. Actually, his life was changed a few years earlier when God anointed him king, but the feat with Goliath inaugurated his progression from shepherd to king. Immediately Saul's son, Jonathan was drawn to David, so much so that he placed his own robe on David. Jonathan was the heir apparent to the throne, but he symbolically, if not in actuality, handed off his claim to the throne to David.

    Saul made David a soldier, and when David was "successful in everything," Saul promoted him to commander. This reportedly "pleased all the people and Saul's servants as well." (18:5) People were drawn to David. No doubt David was naturally appealing, but God's Spirit was upon him, enhancing all he did, moving him toward the throne. When he returned with the army from killing Goliath, the crowds gathered to celebrate their victory and the women sang, "Saul has killed his thousands, but David his tens of thousands." (18:7) When Saul further promoted David to commander over 1,000 men, David continued to be "successful in all his activities." It was because, "the Lord was with him." (18:14) Now, "all Israel and Judah loved David because he was leading their troops." (17:16) Through it all, David remained humble, but Saul grew to fear him.

    Saul's first act against David came when David was playing the harp for him. Saul picked up a spear and attempted to pin David to the wall. But David escaped.  Next, Saul decided to let the Philistines kill David for him, so he offered his daughter Merab as David's wife in exchange for David being a warrior. But David did not feel worthy to be the king's son-in-law. Whether because of David's response or because Saul reneged on the offer, Merab was given to another man to marry. Then Saul learned that his daughter Micah loved David and saw this as an opportunity to trap David, so he offered Micah to be David's wife. Again David pleaded his unworthiness to be the king's son-in-law. He also claimed to be a poor man and unable to pay the bride-price. Saul took care of this by asking only for "100 Philistine foreskins" as a bride-price. But Saul's main motive in this was to have the Philistines kill David. David returned with, not 100 but, 200 foreskins and married Michal.

    Saul's every effort to harm David failed and meanwhile David's popularity grew. This caused Saul to fear David even more and he "was David's enemy from then on." (18:29)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Reflections on 1 Samuel 17

    1 Samuel 17 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The Philistines got ready for war and brought their troops together to attack the town of Socoh in Judah. They set up camp at Ephes-Dammim, between Socoh and Azekah.
  2. King Saul and the Israelite army set up camp on a hill overlooking Elah Valley, and they got ready to fight the Philistine army that was on a hill on the other side of the valley.
  3. (SEE 17:2)
  4. The Philistine army had a hero named Goliath who was from the town of Gath and was over nine feet tall.
  5. He wore a bronze helmet and had bronze armor to protect his chest and legs. The chest armor alone weighed about one hundred twenty-five pounds. He carried a bronze sword strapped on his back,
  6. (SEE 17:5)
  7. and his spear was so big that the iron spearhead alone weighed more than fifteen pounds. A soldier always walked in front of Goliath to carry his shield.
  8. Goliath went out and shouted to the army of Israel: Why are you lining up for battle? I'm the best soldier in our army, and all of you are in Saul's army. Choose your best soldier to come out and fight me!
  9. If he can kill me, our people will be your slaves. But if I kill him, your people will be our slaves.
  10. Here and now I challenge Israel's whole army! Choose someone to fight me!
  11. Saul and his men heard what Goliath said, but they were so frightened of Goliath that they couldn't do a thing.
  12. David's father Jesse was an old man, who belonged to the Ephrath clan and lived in Bethlehem in Judah. Jesse had eight sons:
  13. the oldest was Eliab, the next was Abinadab, and Shammah was the third. The three of them had gone off to fight in Saul's army. David was Jesse's youngest son.
  14. (SEE 17:13)
  15. He took care of his father's sheep, and he went back and forth between Bethlehem and Saul's camp.
  16. Goliath came out and gave his challenge every morning and every evening for forty days.
  17. One day, Jesse told David, "Hurry and take this sack of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread to your brothers at the army camp.
  18. And here are ten large chunks of cheese to take to their commanding officer. Find out how your brothers are doing and bring back something that shows that they're all right.
  19. They're with Saul's army, fighting the Philistines in Elah Valley."
  20. David obeyed his father. He got up early the next morning and left someone else in charge of the sheep; then he loaded the supplies and started off. He reached the army camp just as the soldiers were taking their places and shouting the battle cry.
  21. The army of Israel and the Philistine army stood there facing each other.
  22. David left his things with the man in charge of supplies and ran up to the battle line to ask his brothers if they were well.
  23. While David was talking with them, Goliath came out from the line of Philistines and started boasting as usual. David heard him.
  24. When the Israelite soldiers saw Goliath, they were scared and ran off.
  25. They said to each other, "Look how he keeps coming out to insult us. The king is offering a big reward to the man who kills Goliath. That man will even get to marry the king's daughter, and no one in his family will ever have to pay taxes again."
  26. David asked some soldiers standing nearby, "What will a man get for killing this Philistine and stopping him from insulting our people? Who does that worthless Philistine think he is? He's making fun of the army of the living God!"
  27. The soldiers told David what the king would give the man who killed Goliath.
  28. David's oldest brother Eliab heard him talking with the soldiers. Eliab was angry at him and said, "What are you doing here, anyway? Who's taking care of that little flock of sheep out in the desert? You spoiled brat! You came here just to watch the fighting, didn't you?"
  29. "Now what have I done?" David answered. "Can't I even ask a question?"
  30. Then he turned and asked another soldier the same thing he had asked the others, and he got the same answer.
  31. Some soldiers overheard David talking, so they told Saul what David had said. Saul sent for David, and David came.
  32. "Your Majesty," he said, "this Philistine shouldn't turn us into cowards. I'll go out and fight him myself!"
  33. "You don't have a chance against him," Saul replied. "You're only a boy, and he's been a soldier all his life."
  34. But David told him: Your Majesty, I take care of my father's sheep. And when one of them is dragged off by a lion or a bear,
  35. I go after it and beat the wild animal until it lets the sheep go. If the wild animal turns and attacks me, I grab it by the throat and kill it.
  36. Sir, I have killed lions and bears that way, and I can kill this worthless Philistine. He shouldn't have made fun of the army of the living God!
  37. The LORD has rescued me from the claws of lions and bears, and he will keep me safe from the hands of this Philistine. "All right," Saul answered, "go ahead and fight him. And I hope the LORD will help you."
  38. Saul had his own military clothes and armor put on David, and he gave David a bronze helmet to wear.
  39. David strapped on a sword and tried to walk around, but he was not used to wearing those things. "I can't move with all this stuff on," David said. "I'm just not used to it." David took off the armor
  40. and picked up his shepherd's stick. He went out to a stream and picked up five smooth rocks and put them in his leather bag. Then with his sling in his hand, he went straight toward Goliath.
  41. Goliath came toward David, walking behind the soldier who was carrying his shield.
  42. When Goliath saw that David was just a healthy, good-looking boy, he made fun of him.
  43. "Do you think I'm a dog?" Goliath asked. "Is that why you've come after me with a stick?" He cursed David in the name of the Philistine gods
  44. and shouted, "Come on! When I'm finished with you, I'll feed you to the birds and wild animals!"
  45. David answered: You've come out to fight me with a sword and a spear and a dagger. But I've come out to fight you in the name of the LORD All-Powerful. He is the God of Israel's army, and you have insulted him too!
  46. Today the LORD will help me defeat you. I'll knock you down and cut off your head, and I'll feed the bodies of the other Philistine soldiers to the birds and wild animals. Then the whole world will know that Israel has a real God.
  47. Everybody here will see that the LORD doesn't need swords or spears to save his people. The LORD always wins his battles, and he will help us defeat you.
  48. When Goliath started forward, David ran toward him.
  49. He put a rock in his sling and swung the sling around by its straps. When he let go of one strap, the rock flew out and hit Goliath on the forehead. It cracked his skull, and he fell facedown on the ground.
  50. David defeated Goliath with a sling and a rock. He killed him without even using a sword.
  51. David ran over and pulled out Goliath's sword. Then he used it to cut off Goliath's head. When the Philistines saw what had happened to their hero, they started running away.
  52. But the soldiers of Israel and Judah let out a battle cry and went after them as far as Gath and Ekron. The bodies of the Philistines were scattered all along the road from Shaaraim to Gath and Ekron.
  53. When the Israelite army returned from chasing the Philistines, they took what they wanted from the enemy camp.
  54. David took Goliath's head to Jerusalem, but he kept Goliath's weapons in his own tent.
  55. After King Saul had watched David go out to fight Goliath, Saul turned to the commander of his army and said, "Abner, who is that young man?" "Your Majesty," Abner answered, "I swear by your life that I don't know."
  56. "Then find out!" Saul told him.
  57. When David came back from fighting Goliath, he was still carrying Goliath's head. Abner took David to Saul,
  58. and Saul asked, "Who are you?" "I am David the son of Jesse, a loyal Israelite from Bethlehem."

    This account in chapter 17 of David and Goliath is a favorite with many and known to many who are not otherwise familiar with the Bible. In it, we get our first glimpse of this one God sent Samuel to anoint as the next king. The one of whom it was spoken in 1 Samuel 13:14: "The LORD has found a man loyal to Him." From this glimpse we quickly understand why God would find David loyal to Him, for David considered this whole affair with Goliath an affront to the Lord and himself an humble servant of the Lord. When he spoke of the feats he had accomplished in killing lions and bears, it wasn't he who had done it, but the Lord "who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear." He also anticipated that the Lord would rescue him "from the hand of this Philistine." (17:37)

    David's encounter with Goliath was not the only amazing feature of this account. We should also include God's orchestration of events to move David toward the role for which God had appointed him - that of king over Israel. This was no happenstance encounter. It was no accident that David showed up on the scene when he did or responded in the way he did. And he responded with confidence, displaying no doubt that he could kill this giant. But we see no display of pride or bravado. His confidence was in the Lord, not in his own abilities. This is a characteristic of David we see throughout most of his life. No wonder God considered him a man who was loyal to him.

    The impression is given from the account that Saul did not know who David was even though David had served as his court musician for a period of time. This impression is given first in that no greeting was given by Saul in recognition of David when he was brought to Saul. The impression is given further when Saul asked of Abner, the commander of his army, "Whose son is this youth, Abner?" Though it is not too surprising he would not know who David's father was, he did not name David but refered to him as "this youth." One of the more plausible explanations for this is that David was likely around age 12 when he played the harp for Saul and was at this time around 17 or 18 with a period of a few years in between. With the lapse of time, David having changed considerably with age, and two very different settings, it is not unreasonable that Saul would not recognize David. We should also add that David did not speak with familiarity to Saul either. The whole matter of familiarity between the two may simply have been an omission by the writer.

    It is inspiring to see the results of one who is wholeheartedly devoted to the Lord, acting courageously out of faith that God will respond faithfully.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Reflections on 1 Samuel 16

    1 Samuel 16 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. One day he said, "Samuel, I've rejected Saul, and I refuse to let him be king any longer. Stop feeling sad about him. Put some olive oil in a small container and go visit a man named Jesse, who lives in Bethlehem. I've chosen one of his sons to be my king."
  2. Samuel answered, "If I do that, Saul will find out and have me killed." "Take a calf with you," the LORD replied. "Tell everyone that you've come to offer it as a sacrifice to me,
  3. then invite Jesse to the sacrifice. When I show you which one of his sons I have chosen, pour the olive oil on his head."
  4. Samuel did what the LORD told him and went to Bethlehem. The town leaders went to meet him, but they were terribly afraid and asked, "Is this a friendly visit?"
  5. "Yes, it is!" Samuel answered. "I've come to offer a sacrifice to the LORD. Get yourselves ready to take part in the sacrifice and come with me." Samuel also invited Jesse and his sons to come to the sacrifice, and he got them ready to take part.
  6. When Jesse and his sons arrived, Samuel noticed Jesse's oldest son, Eliab. "He has to be the one the LORD has chosen," Samuel said to himself.
  7. But the LORD told him, "Samuel, don't think Eliab is the one just because he's tall and handsome. He isn't the one I've chosen. People judge others by what they look like, but I judge people by what is in their hearts."
  8. Jesse told his son Abinadab to go over to Samuel, but Samuel said, "No, the LORD hasn't chosen him."
  9. Next, Jesse sent his son Shammah to him, and Samuel said, "The LORD hasn't chosen him either."
  10. Jesse had all seven of his sons go over to Samuel. Finally, Samuel said, "Jesse, the LORD hasn't chosen any of these young men.
  11. Do you have any more sons?" "Yes," Jesse answered. "My youngest son David is out taking care of the sheep." "Send for him!" Samuel said. "We won't start the ceremony until he gets here."
  12. Jesse sent for David. He was a healthy, good-looking boy with a sparkle in his eyes. As soon as David came, the LORD told Samuel, "He's the one! Get up and pour the olive oil on his head."
  13. Samuel poured the oil on David's head while his brothers watched. At that moment, the Spirit of the LORD took control of David and stayed with him from then on. Samuel returned home to Ramah.
  14. The Spirit of the LORD had left Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD was terrifying him.
  15. "It's an evil spirit from God that's frightening you," Saul's officials told him.
  16. "Your Majesty, let us go and look for someone who is good at playing the harp. He can play for you whenever the evil spirit from God bothers you, and you'll feel better."
  17. "All right," Saul answered. "Find me someone who is good at playing the harp and bring him here."
  18. "A man named Jesse who lives in Bethlehem has a son who can play the harp," one official said. "He's a brave warrior, he's good-looking, he can speak well, and the LORD is with him."
  19. Saul sent a message to Jesse: "Tell your son David to leave your sheep and come here to me."
  20. Jesse loaded a donkey with bread and a goatskin full of wine, then he told David to take the donkey and a young goat to Saul.
  21. David went to Saul and started working for him. Saul liked him so much that he put David in charge of carrying his weapons.
  22. Not long after this, Saul sent another message to Jesse: "I really like David. Please let him stay with me."
  23. Whenever the evil spirit from God bothered Saul, David would play his harp. Saul would relax and feel better, and the evil spirit would go away.

    Saul's disobedience regarding the spoils of victory over the Philistines was the beginning of the end for him. After Samuel confronted Saul about his sin, Samuel left him and "never again visited Saul." (15:35) Samuel's withdrawal from Saul was symbolic of God's withdrawal. God was ready to move on to the one He had chosen for king. It was not as if Saul was God's plan A and David plan B. Rather, David had always been God's plan. Saul was a sidetrack that the people had insisted upon and God granted.

    God prodded Samuel to get over his mourning of Saul and to go anoint the one He had chosen to replace Saul as king. Since Samuel was concerned that Saul would kill him if he discovered his mission to anoint a new king, Samuel's journey to Bethlem had a dual purpose: to offer a sacrifice to the Lord, which would be viewed by the general puplic as the only reason for the journey, and also to anoint the new king which was witnessed only by the family of the one anointed.

    When Samuel arrived at Bethlehem he had no clue who he would be anointing but he was instructed to consecrate the family of Jesse to attend the sacrifice to the Lord. We are not given details of how or when the selection process coincided with the sacrifice. It seems that it may have been a private ceremony between the sacrifice and the meal. In the ceremony seven of Jesse's sons were brought before Samuel one by one and each was rejected as God's chosen one. Samuel asked if he had any other sons and Jesse told him his youngest son was out tending the sheep. Samuel had Jesse send for this son, delaying the meal until he arrived. When the boy arrived, the Lord said to Samuel, "Anoint him, for he is the one." (16:12) Verse 13 says that this boy, David, was anointed "in the presence of his brothers," suggesting that this was a private ceremony.

    Once David was anointed, "the Spirit of the LORD took control of" him. At the same time, the Spirit of the Lord left Saul. Verse 14 says that when "the Spirit of the LORD had left Saul," an "evil spirit from the LORD began to torment him."  It seems unlikely that God would give him a demonic spirit and more likely that this was a troubling of Saul's own spirit. Whatever it was, it tormented him and was very unpleasant for him. As a means of calming him when this spirit came upon him, Saul's servants suggested they find him someone who played the harp who could play for him when the spirit overtook him. Saul took their suggestion and sent them to find such a person, and they came back with none other than David, the Lord's anointed to replace Saul as king. Only the Lord could have brought this about.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Reflections on 1 Samuel 15

    1 Samuel 15 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. One day, Samuel told Saul: The LORD had me choose you to be king of his people, Israel. Now listen to this message from the LORD:
  2. "When the Israelites were on their way out of Egypt, the nation of Amalek attacked them. I am the LORD All-Powerful, and now I am going to make Amalek pay!
  3. "Go and attack the Amalekites! Destroy them and all their possessions. Don't have any pity. Kill their men, women, children, and even their babies. Slaughter their cattle, sheep, camels, and donkeys."
  4. Saul sent messengers who told every town and village to send men to join the army at Telaim. There were two hundred ten thousand troops in all, and ten thousand of these were from Judah. Saul organized them,
  5. then led them to a valley near one of the towns in Amalek, where they got ready to make a surprise attack.
  6. Some Kenites lived nearby, and Saul told them, "Your people were kind to our nation when we left Egypt, and I don't want you to get killed when I wipe out the Amalekites. Leave here and stay away from them." The Kenites left,
  7. and Saul attacked the Amalekites from Havilah to Shur, which is just east of Egypt.
  8. Every Amalekite was killed except King Agag.
  9. Saul and his army let Agag live, and they also spared the best sheep and cattle. They didn't want to destroy anything of value, so they only killed the animals that were worthless or weak.
  10. The LORD told Samuel,
  11. "Saul has stopped obeying me, and I'm sorry that I made him king." Samuel was angry, and he cried out in prayer to the LORD all night.
  12. Early the next morning he went to talk with Saul. Someone told him, "Saul went to Carmel, where he had a monument built so everyone would remember his victory. Then he left for Gilgal."
  13. Samuel finally caught up with Saul, and Saul told him, "I hope the LORD will bless you! I have done what the LORD told me."
  14. "Then why," Samuel asked, "do I hear sheep and cattle?"
  15. "The army took them from the Amalekites," Saul explained. "They kept the best sheep and cattle, so they could sacrifice them to the LORD your God. But we destroyed everything else."
  16. "Stop!" Samuel said. "Let me tell you what the LORD told me last night." "All right," Saul answered.
  17. Samuel continued, "You may not think you're very important, but the LORD chose you to be king, and you are in charge of the tribes of Israel.
  18. When the LORD sent you on this mission, he told you to wipe out those worthless Amalekites.
  19. Why didn't you listen to the LORD? Why did you keep the animals and make him angry?"
  20. "But I did listen to the LORD!" Saul answered. "He sent me on a mission, and I went. I captured King Agag and destroyed his nation.
  21. All the animals were going to be destroyed anyway. That's why the army brought the best sheep and cattle to Gilgal as sacrifices to the LORD your God."
  22. "Tell me," Samuel said. "Does the LORD really want sacrifices and offerings? No! He doesn't want your sacrifices. He wants you to obey him.
  23. Rebelling against God or disobeying him because you are proud is just as bad as worshiping idols or asking them for advice. You refused to do what God told you, so God has decided that you can't be king."
  24. "I have sinned," Saul admitted. "I disobeyed both you and the LORD. I was afraid of the army, and I listened to them instead.
  25. Please forgive me and come back with me so I can worship the LORD."
  26. "No!" Samuel replied, "You disobeyed the LORD, and I won't go back with you. Now the LORD has said that you can't be king of Israel any longer."
  27. As Samuel turned to go, Saul grabbed the edge of Samuel's robe. It tore!
  28. Samuel said, "The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel away from you today, and he will give it to someone who is better than you.
  29. Besides, the eternal God of Israel isn't a human being. He doesn't tell lies or change his mind."
  30. Saul said, "I did sin, but please honor me in front of the leaders of the army and the people of Israel. Come back with me, so I can worship the LORD your God."
  31. Samuel followed Saul back, and Saul worshiped the LORD.
  32. Then Samuel shouted, "Bring me King Agag of Amalek!" Agag came in chains, and he was saying to himself, "Surely they won't kill me now."
  33. But Samuel said, "Agag, you have snatched children from their mothers' arms and killed them. Now your mother will be without children." Then Samuel chopped Agag to pieces at the place of worship in Gilgal.
  34. Samuel went home to Ramah, and Saul returned to his home in Gibeah.
  35. Even though Samuel felt sad about Saul, Samuel never saw him again. The LORD was sorry he had made Saul the king of Israel.

    Saul again proved to be unworthy and unfit to be king. Was this because he was unable to lead the people? No, it was because he was unwilling to fully obey the Lord who made him king. He was weak of character. The Lord gave him a very clear assignment: "Now go and attack the Amalekites and completely destroy everything they have. Do not spare them. Kill men and women, children and infants, oxen and sheep, camels and donkeys.'" (15:3) They were placed under the "ban of holy war." (Exodus 17:8-16) Everything was dedicated to the Lord. Saul followed the Lord's instructions except he spared the king and the best of the livestock.

    We see in verse 12 Saul's likely motivation for this disobedience when Samuel went to confront Saul for his disobedience. Samuel couldn't find Saul because he "went to Carmel where he set up a monument for himself." Saul had become proud over this great victory, as if he had done it on his own. Besides setting up the monument for himself it appears that he intended to display the king and the best of the livestock as trophies of his great leadership.

    Though Samuel did not witness any of this, the Lord spoke to him and told him, "I regret that I made Saul king, for he has turned away from following Me and has not carried out My instructions." (15:11) When Samuel confronted Saul, Saul made excuses. First he blamed his men, saying, "The troops brought them from the Amalekites." Then he attempted to make it seem a good thing by saying they spared the best sheep and cattle, "in order to offer a sacrifice to the LORD your God." (15:15) Samuel's response to this is a classic and often quoted statement from scripture, "Does the LORD take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? Look: to obey is better than sacrifice, to pay attention is better than the fat of rams." (15:22)

    The great lesson in this for us all to learn is that no act of worship takes the place of obedience. Furthermore, we learn that partial obedience equates to disobedience. It is like the math equation in which any number multiplied by zero is still zero. We cannot choose those instructions from the Lord we like and obey those and disobey by not doing those things we don't like and conclude that we have been obedient. Obedience times zero is zero - disobedience. Samuel added to this classic statement an even more sobering statement: "For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and defiance is like wickedness and idolatry." (15:23) Disobedience (rebellion) is equivalent to divination, wickedness, and idolatry. So the full equation looks like this: partial obedience = disobedience = idolatry.

    Saul confessed his sin and asked for forgiveness. With forgiveness we can start fresh and have a new beginning but we cannot necessarily return to the way things were. The kingship was taken from Saul because of his sin even though God forgave him the sin. Though the people recognized him as king another 15 years, to the Lord he was deposed.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Reflections on 1 Samuel 14

    1 Samuel 14 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. and Saul was in Geba with his six hundred men. Saul's own tent was set up under a fruit tree by the threshing place at the edge of town. Ahijah was serving as priest, and one of his jobs was to get answers from the LORD for Saul. Ahijah's father was Ahitub, and his father's brother was Ichabod. Ahijah's grandfather was Phinehas, and his great-grandfather Eli had been the LORD's priest at Shiloh. One day, Jonathan told the soldier who carried his weapons that he wanted to attack the Philistine camp on the other side of the valley. So they slipped out of the Israelite camp without anyone knowing it. Jonathan didn't even tell his father he was leaving.
  2. (SEE 14:1)
  3. (SEE 14:1)
  4. Jonathan decided to get to the Philistine camp by going through the pass that led between Shiny Cliff and Michmash to the north and Thornbush Cliff and Geba to the south.
  5. (SEE 14:4)
  6. Jonathan and the soldier who carried his weapons talked as they went toward the Philistine camp. "It's just the two of us against all those godless men," Jonathan said. "But the LORD can help a few soldiers win a battle just as easily as he can help a whole army. Maybe the LORD will help us win this battle."
  7. "Do whatever you want," the soldier answered. "I'll be right there with you."
  8. "This is what we will do," Jonathan said. "We will go across and let them see us.
  9. If they agree to come down the hill and fight where we are, then we won't climb up to their camp.
  10. But we will go if they tell us to come up the hill and fight. That will mean the LORD is going to help us win."
  11. Jonathan and the soldier stood at the bottom of the hill where the Philistines could see them. The Philistines said, "Look! Those worthless Israelites have crawled out of the holes where they've been hiding." Then they yelled down to Jonathan and the soldier, "Come up here, and we will teach you a thing or two!" Jonathan turned to the soldier and said, "Follow me! The LORD is going to let us win."
  12. (SEE 14:11)
  13. Jonathan crawled up the hillside with the soldier right behind him. When they got to the top, Jonathan killed the Philistines who attacked from the front, and the soldier killed those who attacked from behind.
  14. Before they had gone a hundred feet, they had killed about twenty Philistines.
  15. The whole Philistine army panicked--those in camp, those on guard duty, those in the fields, and those on raiding patrols. All of them were afraid and confused. Then God sent an earthquake, and the ground began to tremble.
  16. Saul's lookouts at Geba saw that the Philistine army was running in every direction, like melted wax.
  17. Saul told his officers, "Call the roll and find out who left our camp." When they had finished, they found out that Jonathan and the soldier who carried his weapons were missing.
  18. At that time, Ahijah was serving as priest for the army of Israel, and Saul told him, "Come over here! Let's ask God what we should do."
  19. Just as Saul finished saying this, he could see that the Philistine army camp was getting more and more confused, and he said, "Ahijah, never mind!"
  20. Saul quickly called his army together, then led them to the Philistine camp. By this time the Philistines were so confused that they were killing each other.
  21. There were also some hired soldiers in the Philistine camp, who now switched to Israel's side and fought for Saul and Jonathan.
  22. Many Israelites had been hiding in the hill country of Ephraim. And when they heard that the Philistines were running away, they came out of hiding and joined in chasing the Philistines.
  23. So the LORD helped Israel win the battle that day. Saul had earlier told his soldiers, "I want to get even with those Philistines by sunset. If any of you eat before then, you will be under a curse!" So he made them swear not to eat. By the time the fighting moved past Beth-Aven, the Israelite troops were weak from hunger.
  24. (SEE 14:23)
  25. The army and the people who lived nearby had gone into a forest, and they came to a place where honey was dripping on the ground. But no one ate any of it, because they were afraid of being put under the curse.
  26. (SEE 14:25)
  27. Jonathan did not know about Saul's warning to the soldiers. So he dipped the end of his walking stick in the honey and ate some with his fingers. He felt stronger and more alert.
  28. Then a soldier told him, "Your father swore that anyone who ate food today would be put under a curse, and we agreed not to eat. That's why we're so weak."
  29. Jonathan said, "My father has caused you a lot of trouble. Look at me! I had only a little of this honey, but already I feel strong and alert.
  30. I wish you had eaten some of the food the Philistines left behind. We would have been able to kill a lot more of them."
  31. By evening the Israelite army was exhausted from killing Philistines all the way from Michmash to Aijalon.
  32. They grabbed the food they had captured from the Philistines and started eating. They even killed sheep and cows and calves right on the ground and ate the meat without draining the blood.
  33. Someone told Saul, "Look! The army is disobeying the LORD by eating meat before the blood drains out." "You're right," Saul answered. "They are being unfaithful to the LORD! Hurry! Roll a big rock over here.
  34. Then tell everyone in camp to bring their cattle and lambs to me. They can kill the animals on this rock, then eat the meat. That way no one will disobey the LORD by eating meat with blood still in it." That night the soldiers brought their cattle over to the big rock and killed them there.
  35. It was the first altar Saul had built for offering sacrifices to the LORD.
  36. Saul said, "Let's attack the Philistines again while it's still dark. We can fight them all night. Let's kill them and take everything they own!" The people answered, "We will do whatever you want." "Wait!" Ahijah the priest said. "Let's ask God what we should do."
  37. Saul asked God, "Should I attack the Philistines? Will you help us win?" This time God did not answer.
  38. Saul called his army officers together and said, "We have to find out what sin has kept God from answering.
  39. I swear by the living LORD that whoever sinned must die, even if it turns out to be my own son Jonathan." No one said a word.
  40. Saul told his army, "You stand on that side of the priest, and Jonathan and I will stand on the other side." Everyone agreed.
  41. Then Saul prayed, "Our LORD, God of Israel, why haven't you answered me today? Please show us who sinned. Was it my son Jonathan and I, or was it your people Israel?" The answer came back that Jonathan or Saul had sinned, not the army.
  42. Saul told Ahijah, "Now ask the LORD to decide between Jonathan and me." The answer came back that Jonathan had sinned.
  43. "Jonathan," Saul exclaimed, "tell me what you did!" "I dipped the end of my walking stick in some honey and ate a little. Now you say I have to die!"
  44. "Yes, Jonathan. I swear to God that you must die."
  45. "No!" the soldiers shouted. "God helped Jonathan win the battle for us. We won't let you kill him. We swear to the LORD that we won't let you kill him or even lay a hand on him!" So the army kept Saul from killing Jonathan.
  46. Saul stopped hunting down the Philistines, and they went home.
  47. When Saul became king, the Moabites, the Ammonites, the Edomites, the kings of Zobah, the Philistines, and the Amalekites had all been robbing the Israelites. Saul fought back against these enemies and stopped them from robbing Israel. He was a brave commander and always won his battles.
  48. (SEE 14:47)
  49. Saul's wife was Ahinoam, the daughter of Ahimaaz. They had three sons: Jonathan, Ishvi, and Malchishua. They also had two daughters: The older one was Merab, and the younger one was Michal. Abner, Saul's cousin, was the commander of the army. Saul's father Kish and Abner's father Ner were sons of Abiel.
  50. (SEE 14:49)
  51. (SEE 14:49)
  52. Saul was at war with the Philistines for as long as he lived. Whenever he found a good warrior or a brave man, Saul made him join his army.

    In this account and later ones, Saul's son Jonathan demonstrates greater character than his father. Saul comes across as impulsive causing him to make unwise decisions, such as we see in this account. It weakened his effectiveness as a king, leading ultimately to his removal as king.

    If Saul had not previously taken it upon himself to offer a burnt offering, he might already have defeated the Philistines. But instead, most of his army had deserted, hiding in caves, and Saul was left with only 600 troops encamped, waiting for what the Philistines would do. Saul's son, Jonathan, took the initiative, and did so in secret, unbeknownst to his father. One wonders if Saul had known, would he have foolishly hindered Jonathan. Acting with guidance from God, Jonathan took only his weapon bearer and confidently went to enter the Philistine camp with the expectation that God would give him victory, saying to his weapon bearer, "Nothing can keep the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few." (14:6)

    God enabled Jonathan and his attendant to kill 20 Philistines and then God did the rest. As the Philistines realized what happened with the 20 men Jonathan killed, God caused an earthquake and put terror in the hearts of the Philistines. Their whole camp went into confusion, and they turned their weapons on each other. When Saul realized what was happening he marched his troops to enter the battle and was joined by the deserters as they became aware of this turn of events. At this point another of Saul's unwise decision hindered complete victory over the Philistines. He had made an oath with a curse that no man was to eat before evening, before he had taken vengeance on his enemies. As Saul's troops began chasing the Philistines into the forest, they become overcome with exhaustion for lack of food even though there was honey in abundance around them.

    In their exhaustion, the Israelites rushed to kill the sheep and cattle they plundered from the Philistines and were beginning to eat the meat with the blood still in it, which was strictly forbidden by God. To keep his men from sinning further, Saul called them back and had them do the slaughtering appropriately. With their strength renewed, Saul wanted to go after the Philistines that night and "plunder them until morning," annhilating them. But when he enquired of the Lord about doing this, there was no answer from God, signaling that there was sin in the camp. When Saul investigated he discovered the sin was with his son Jonathan who had eaten without knowing of the oath. In the end, Jonathan was spared, but meanwhile the Philistines escaped to their own territory. Saul would have to deal with them another day, missing his opportunity to be rid of them that day.

    Timing and opportunity are determined by the Lord rather than by circumstances. If we allow ourselves to be pushed by circumstances rather than by God's timing, we set ourselves up for grief. We can only avoid this temptation by close and continual communion with the Lord. Otherwise the press of circumstances will win out.