THE MYSTERIOUS WAYS OF GOD

Scripture Reading: I Samuel 28:8-25

“Then the woman said, ‘Whom shall I bring up for you?’ He said, ‘Bring up Samuel for me.’ When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice. And the woman said to Saul, ‘Why have you deceived me? You are Saul.'” (I Samuel 28:11,12)

In his desperation, Saul turned to the witch of En-dor for guidance. This was the low point in Saul’s life. He turned to Satan and to the occult for help.

I must confess that this is a very difficult passage to understand. God allowed something very strange and totally unusual to happen. I do not have a good explanation for why God allowed this to occur. There are many mysteries associated with God. All we can do is accept them even though we may not fully understand them.

The witch of En-dor called up Samuel, who appeared to Saul and told him his fate (vs. 9-14). Obviously the woman was shocked when Samuel appeared (v. 12). I doubt she really expected this to happen. Samuel asked her, “What do you see?” She replied, “I see a god coming out of the earth.” She went on to say, “An old man is coming up, and he is wrapped in a robe.” Saul knew that it was Samuel.

Samuel spoke to Saul — “Moreover, the Lord will give Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me. The Lord will give the army of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines” (v. 19). When Saul heard these words, he was devastated.

God sometimes acts in mysterious ways. There are things we will not understand this side of heaven. When Paul wrote about some of the mysteries of God that he did not fully understand, he simply stopped and praised God with a doxology. On one such occasion, he wrote, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor? Or who has given a gift to Him that He might be repaid? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:33-36). There are things about God that we will never be able to comprehend. We are called to accept them by faith and to yield to His will and ways.

Lord God, when I face things I do not understand about You, all I can do is admit that I am finite and You are infinite. Like Paul, I confess how unsearchable are Your ways! I bow before You as the One who is all wise and all powerful. Give me grace to accept the things I do not understand about You or about Your ways. Who am I to ever question You?

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DESPERATE MEASURES

Scripture Reading: I Samuel 28:1-7

“And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim, or by prophets. Then Saul said to his servants, ‘Seek out for me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.’ And his servants said to him, ‘Behold, there is a medium at En-dor.'” (I Samuel 28:6,7)

The Philistines gathered to fight against the army of Israel (v. 1). Samuel had died by this time (v. 3). When Saul saw the enemy, he was overcome by fear (vs. 4,5) and sought to inquire of the Lord. The Lord did not answer him (v. 6). We must remember what had happened to Saul — he failed to obey God and took matters into his own hands (15:23). Then we are told that the Spirit of the Lord departed Saul (16:14). Saul rejected the Lord and as a consequence the Lord rejected Saul.

Why would Saul turn to the Lord for guidance at this point in his life? Perhaps it was out of desperation. It certainly wasn’t out of piety. He did not have a heart for God. We know how far away he had turned from the Lord. Now he was attempting to use God.

I’ve seen people who do exactly what Saul did. They get into a desperate situation and turn to God. However, they do not have a heart for God; they do not love Him. They just want to use Him. When the crisis is over, they walk away from the Lord and return to their selfish ways.

Saul became even more desperate — “Seek out for me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.” Saul turned to a witch for help. Here was the lowest ebb in the decline of Saul. He went to the other extreme — he turned to Satan.

Saul’s basic problem was his failure to face up to his sins and to repent of them. He continued in his rebellion against God and failed to admit his sins. This is when he became desperate and resorted to extreme measures.

If anything the story of Saul is a warning to us. It shows what can happen when we are in rebellion against God. It reveals how desperate we can become when we lose our bearing with God. It is a reminder of our need to face up to our sins and to repent of them. Jesus stands ready to forgive and He will restore us when we come to Him in repentance and faith. Saul lacked both.

Lord Jesus, I confess that I am a sinner desperately in need of grace. I pray that I will not become rebellious and turn away from You. Please don’t let me turn to desperate measures rather than turning to You, who alone can deliver me from my sins and restore me to fellowship with You.

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THE TEMPTATION TO COMPROMISE

Scripture Reading: I Samuel 27:1-12

“Then David said in his heart, ‘I shall perish one day by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will despair of seeking me any longer within the borders of Israel, and I shall escape out of his hand.'” (I Samuel 27:1)

David had two opportunities to kill Saul, but he refused to do so out of respect for Saul’s position as the Lord’s anointed leader of Israel. After David had an encounter with Saul in which Saul pleaded with David to return, David became fearful. He decided to escape to the land of the Philistines.

The Philistines were the great enemy of Saul and of Israel. David felt that he had nowhere in the land of Israel to escape from Saul. He thought if he went over to the Philistines that Saul would give up and stop pursuing him. This was in fact the case — “And when it was told Saul that David had fled to Gath, he no longer sought him” (v. 4).

David found favor with Achish, king of Gath. Achish gave David the city of Ziglag (vs. 5-7). David made friends with the enemy! It seems that he made some huge compromises to do so. I believe what we see here is a weakness in David’s character. Yes, he was a man after God’s own heart, but he was also a sinner like all of us.

It seems that this is one of the few times when David faced a major crisis or a major decision that he failed to inquire of the Lord. He took matters into his own hands and acted without seeking God’s guidance. Out of fear and frustration, he threw up his hands and chose to run away.

This event in David’s life is an example of compromise. When we fail to trust God, we become weak and we become willing to make compromises in order to protect ourselves or to get what we want. Instead of trusting God, we take matters in our own hands and compromise what we know is right.

God did not leave David in this state of compromise. He would get his attention again as we will see. The good news is that God loves us too much to abandon us, even when we make compromises. David faced some difficult consequences for his compromise but God restored him. This is the gracious nature of our Lord.

Lord Jesus, thank You that You do not abandon me, even when I fail You and make compromises that I know are not best. I pray that I will have the faith to trust You no matter what I have to face. May I keep my eyes on You so that I will not grow weary or fearful.

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TAKE UP YOUR CROSS DAILY

Scripture Reading: I Samuel 26

“But David said to Abishai, ‘Do not destroy him, for who can put out his hand against the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless?’ And David said, ‘As the Lord lives, the Lord will strike him, or his day will go down into battle and perish.'” (I Samuel 26:10,11)

David had another opportunity to kill Saul, but he refused to do so. He knew that killing the Lord’s anointed was not the right thing to do. God had made Saul king and thus David respected Saul’s position.

One of David’s trusted men encouraged David to take matters into his own hand and put an end to his enemy — “God has given your enemy into your hand this day. Now please let me pin him to the earth with one stroke of the spear, and I will not strike him twice” (v. 8). It seemed so simple — one stroke of the speak and David’s foe would be out of the way! But David knew better and chose to act on principle rather than out of pragmatism.

We are often faced with issues in which we have to make choices. Do we do what seems simple to accomplish our purposes and desires, or do we do what is the right thing to do? We live in a day of pragmatism — do whatever we need to do to accomplish the desires of our hearts. We are often tempted to compromise what is right in order to achieve what we want for ourselves — a little lie here and there won’t hurt; cheating now and again is ok as long as we don’t hurt anyone else. You get the picture.

Doing the right thing may mean making hard choices. David could have killed Saul and been set free from his enemy, but he knew that was not the right thing to do. When we face the temptation to take the easy way out, we must remember that our Savior refused the easy way and chose the cross. Thus He says to us — “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). David sacrificed the easy way and chose to deny himself and to take up his cross.

What about us when we face choices? Will we take the easy way or follow Jesus and take up our cross?

Lord Jesus, forgive me when I choose to take the easy way out of things rather than doing the right thing. You took the most difficult route by voluntarily going to the cross. I pray that You grant me the desire and the strength to come after You. I know this means that I must deny myself and take up my cross daily and follow You.

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GODLY INTERVENTION

Scripture Reading: I Samuel 25:2-44

“And David said to Abigail, ‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me. Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me from bloodguilt and from avenging myself with my own hand!'” (I Samuel 25:32,33)

David sent some of his men to ask Nabal for food supplies. David and his men had protected Nabal’s servants. Nabal was a very wealthy man, but he was foolish and badly behaved (vs. 2-8). Nabal refused to give the supplies to David. When his men returned and told David how Nabal had treated them, he was furious and wanted to take revenge against Nabal. However, Abigail, Nabal’s wife, intervened and approached David.

When Abigail saw David, she got down from the donkey and fell to the found. She fell at his feet and said,’On me alone, my lord, be the guilt. Please let your servant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your servant” (vs. 23,24). Abigail went on to tell David how foolish her husband was and she presented David the food supplies he had requested.

David realized that God had sent Abigail to intervene. He also realized what a discerning woman Abigail was. Her intervention prevented David from seeking vengeance against Nabal and thus being guilty of murder, for David intended to kill all the male servants of Nabal in addition to Nabal himself. God used Abigail to prevent David from bloodguilt and from taking matters into his own hands.

We all need Abigails, those who have the courage to intervene in our lives when they see us heading in the wrong direction. The problem is that most people are not willing to confront someone in love when they see that person doing potentially harmful things. This is unfortunate, for much heartbreak could be prevented if someone had cared enough to intervene. God often uses other people as His instruments, as was the case with Abigail.

God gives us this responsibility. His Word says, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:1,2).

Lord God, give me the courage to intervene when I see a loved one or a friend who is heading down a dangerous path. However, let me keep watch on myself so that I won’t be tempted to be self-righteous and harsh. Let me speak the truth in love. Thank You for the many times You have intervened in my life to prevent me from sinning against You and others. Thank You for Jesus, who is our great Intercessor.

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GOSPEL COUNTER-CULTURE

Scripture Reading: I Samuel 24:16-22

“He (Saul) said to David, ‘You are more righteous than I, for you have repaid the good, whereas I have repaid you evil. And you have declared this day how you have dealt with me, in that you did not kill me when the Lord put me into your hands. For if a man finds his enemy, will he let him go away safe? So may the Lord reward you with good for what you have done to me this day.'” (I Samuel 24:17-19)

The gospel creates a counter-culture that is the reverse of the culture of the world. Saul was amazed that David didn’t kill him — “For if a man finds his enemy, will he let him go away safe?” Saul could not understand why David didn’t kill him. In Saul’s culture, if a man finds his enemy, he puts an end to him. That is the culture of the world. One seeks revenge and does harm to his enemy.

But the gospel creates a culture that is different from that of the culture of the world. These are the words of Jesus — “You have heard that it was said, ‘an eye for an due and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go a mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you” (Matthew 5:38-42). The gospel creates a counter-culture that the world does not understand and one that we cannot operate in without the power of the Holy Spirit.

David acted in a counter-culture way. Even though Jesus had not spoken these words yet, David acted with a gospel driven focus. Remember that the Spirit of God had come upon him and given him a new ability — “You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’ but I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” (Matthew 6:43-47).

David was gospel driven and Spirit led, and Saul noticed the difference — “You are more righteous than I, for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil.” It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that we can apply the counter-culture of the gospel to our lives.

O Holy Spirit, I read these words of Jesus and know that it is impossible to obey them without Your power and presence in my life. I could never do these things in my own strength. You change me from the inside out and You give me the desire and ability to obey. Fill me fresh today and allow me to live my life in line with the truths of the gospel.

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WALKING IN INTEGRITY

Scripture Reading: I Samuel 24:1-15

“And afterwards David’s heart struck him, because he had cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. He said to his men, ‘The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord’s anointed.'” (I Samuel 24:5,6)

David was hiding in the caves at Engedi when Saul came there with three thousand men in pursuit of David. Saul went into a cave to relieve himself. It happened to be the very cave where David and his men were hiding. Here was David’s opportunity to put an end to the man who was trying to kill him. His men said to him, “Here is the day of which the Lord said to you, ‘Behold, I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it shall seem good to you'” (v. 4).

David chose to spare Saul’s life, but he cut off the edge of his robe (v. 4). However, David’s conscience troubled him because he had been disrespectful to the Lord’s anointed — “And afterwards David’s heart struck him because he had cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.”

When Saul departed from the cave, David came after him and called to him with respect — “‘My lord the king!’ And when Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the earth and paid homage” (v. 8).

How can we explain David’s actions toward his enemy? The answer is simple and yet profound — David was a man of integrity — “Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering” (Psalm 26:1). David was committed to do the right thing, to walk in integrity — “But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me” (Psalm 26:11). David did the right thing and he trusted God for the outcome.

God calls us to live our lives with a heart of integrity. He wants us to do the right thing, even if it puts us in jeopardy. Integrity means that I do the right thing because it is the right thing to do. It means that my “yes” is “yes” and my “no” is “no.” Integrity means that I am willing to take risks to do the right thing. God honors those who seek to live a life of integrity.

Lord God, it is difficult at times to do the right thing. I am prone to compromise and to take the easy way out. Forgive me when I dishonor You by failing to live my life with integrity. Grant me grace to walk in integrity and to trust in You without wavering.

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OUR ROCK OF REFUGE

Scripture Reading: I Samuel 20-23

“And David remained in the stronghold in the wilderness, in the hill country of the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God did not give him into his hand.” (I Samuel 23:14)

This verse summarizes what happens in chapters 20 through 23. Saul out of his anger, jealousy, and envy sought to kill David. Saul’s son, Jonathan, warned David about Saul’s plan to kill him (20:1-42). He helped David escape, and when Saul found out he became angry with his son and sought to kill him as well.

David fled and sought help from the priests of Nob (21:1-9). Unfortunately, Saul found out about this. David escaped, but Saul had the priests of Nob slain. Saul pursued David everyday, but God protected him (23:14).

David was very much aware of the fact that God was protecting him. He knew that God had not given him into Saul’s hand. David wrote about his experiences of God’s protection in Psalm 31 — “In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in Your righteousness deliver me! Incline Your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me! For You are my rock and my fortress; and for Your name’s sake You lead me and guide me; You take me out of the net they have hidden for me, for You are my refuge. Into Your hands I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God” (Psalm 31:1-5).

Do you recognize these words from Psalm 31:5? The greater David, Jesus Christ, spoke these words while he was on the cross. He committed His spirit to His heavenly Father and entrusted Himself into His care. On the third day after His death, He rose victoriously. Now Jesus is our Rock of Refuge. He is our strong fortress. When we face danger and the uncertainties of life, we can commit our spirits to Him who is our Lord, our faithful God.

Lord Jesus, You are my rock and my fortress. You lead and guide me and You are my refuge in times of trouble. You have delivered me many times and I know that You will continue to do so. You are my Redeemer, my Lord, and my faithful God.

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WHEN EVILDOERS ASSAIL ME

Scripture Reading: I Samuel 19

“Saul sent messerngers to David’s house to watch him, that he might kill him in the morning. But Michal, David’s wife, told him, ‘If you do not escape with your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed.’ So Michal let down David through the window, and he fled away and escaped.” (I Samuel 19:11)

Throughout his life, David learned about the providence and protection of God. He knew that God was in charge and that He would protect David. David wrote these words in Psalm 27 — “When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear, though war arise against me, yet I will be confident” (Psalm 27:2,3).

Out of his jealousy and envy, Saul sought to kill David, but God protected him against Saul’s evil plots. God even used Jonathan, Saul’s son. Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul and Saul received David back into his presence. But Saul had another fit of anger and tried to kill David. God protected David and he escaped from Saul’s hand.

Saul came after David in his own house. But Michal, David’s wife and Saul’s daughter, helped David escape (vs. 11-17). God used Michal to protect David and to deliver him from Saul.

David fled to Samuel. Saul sent messengers to take David, but again God intervened — “the Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied” (v. 20). Finally, Saul went himself, but God stepped in again — “And he too stripped off his clothes, and he prophesied before Samuel, and lay naked all that day and all that night. Thus is tis said, ‘Is Saul among the prophets?'” (vs. 23,24).

Do you see God’s hand at work? When evildoers came to assail David, they stumbled and fell. When the forces of Saul encamped against David, his heart did not fear. David was confident that God would protect him. When we feel overwhelmed and come under attack, be assured that the God of David is our God also. We do not have to fear. We can be confident because God is with us and He will protect us!

Lord God, my Savior and Defender, I thank You for Your providential care over my life. I thank You that You have promised to protect me and to deliver me from evil and evildoers. I am confident in You, and I have nothing to fear, for You are with me to protect and defend me. I trust You with my life and rest in Your tender care.

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JEALOUSY AND ENVY

Scripture Reading: I Samuel 18:17-30

“But when Saul saw and knew that the Lord was with David, and that Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved him, Saul was even more afraid of David. So Saul was David’s enemy continually.” (I Samuel 18:28,29)

According to the Bible jealousy and envy are works of the flesh — “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:20,21). These are strong words! I don’t often put jealousy and envy in the same category with sorcery, idolatry, and sexual immorality, but God does.

Saul’s relationship with David was destroyed because of jealousy and envy. Saul was jealous of David’s relationship with the Lord and with his daughter Michal. He was envious of the many successes David had. Saul’s jealousy led to fear and bitterness. He became paranoid of David and he wanted to kill him. It is amazing what jealousy and envy can do to a person. It creates deep seated bitterness that causes people to do irrational things. Look at what Saul did — he attempted to kill David on several occasions.

Unfortunately, I have witnessed the disastrous results of people who are filled with jealousy and envy. I have seen friendships broken, families divided, and people who have become bitter and angry. Jealousy and envy are serious offenses against God. Paul wrote these words to the Corinthians — “For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?” (I Corinthians 3:3). Jealousy and envy are part of our fleshly nature. Let’s not make excuses when we experience them.

The key to dealing with jealousy and envy is found in our relationship with the Spirit of God — “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Galatians 5:16,17). The remedy for jealousy and envy is to walk by the Spirit. When we do, the Spirit will give us the desire and power to put away the works of the flesh and instead to put on love, forgiveness, and grace!

O Spirit of God, grant me grace to put off the jealousy and envy that comes when I am not in step with You. Forgive me when I fail to be gracious and loving with others and become jealous and envious of them. I know that these are works of the flesh and are not from You. Fill me fresh that I may walk by You and not by my selfish desires. I cannot do this without You, but with Your power I can be filled with love, kindness, patience, and self-control.

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