Devotional on 1 Samuel

2014 – Davis Mountains State Park, TX

Self-sabotage
1 Samuel 9: He had a son, Saul, a most handsome young man…he literally stood head and shoulders above the crowd!
Since I know where this story’s headed I tend to brush past the way the Bible introduces Saul. Here’s a good man. In spite of his physical domination and naturally handsome good looks he’s humble. We meet him taking care of his father’s business, looking for some lost donkeys, but also concerned that his father might be worried about him. When it’s suggested that he visit the man of God, Samuel, and ask for help in locating the animals, he goes with offering in hand. When I read this introduction to Saul I’m impressed with him. He has the potential of being a terrific leader of Israel who’ll guide the people to a close, faithful walk with the Lord. As I begin reading the story of Saul I find no reason to expect failure on his part. Instead, everything’s in place for success at every level of his life. In choosing him, the Lord isn’t setting him up for failure. Instead, Saul’s being set up for success. That’s true, too, I think, in the lives of followers of Jesus. No one is saved to ultimately fail. In fact, success is guaranteed by the blood of Jesus. The only way my spiritual journey can end badly is if I sabotage it myself. Sorry to say we’re about to see an illustration of that from this capable young man.
Take Away: The Lord gives us everything we need to live for him and then live with him in eternity.

Devotional on 1 Samuel

2014 – Davis Mountains State Park, TX

Transformed
1 Samuel 10: The Spirit of God will come on you…and you’ll be transformed. You’ll be a new person.
Beyond Saul’s natural advantages is the stated intention of God Almighty to make him into one of the heroes of the Bible. This big man is humble and practical and will be used by God in wonderful ways. What Saul lacks, his shyness and his inexperience as a spiritual leader, is recognized by the Lord so right off the Lord goes to work there. Samuel says that before the day is out Saul will be transformed into a man who openly worships God, one who can be numbered among the prophets. Failure is coming to Saul, but not because God just tossed him into the water to sink or swim. The same God who chooses him also enables him for the task. That’s still true today. What the Lord calls me to be enables me to be. There’s clearly more to be said about that, but this is a truth that’s made real in the lives of all that hear God’s call.
Take Away: Those the Lord calls he also equips.

Devotional on 1 Samuel

2014 – Davis Mountains State Park, TX

Heavenly surprises
1 Samuel 10: Saul among the prophets! Who would have guessed?!
The young man Saul is not a leader and he isn’t especially known for his spirituality. On this day, after his meeting with Samuel, Saul is headed home when he encounters a group of prophets on their way to worship. Before he knows it, Saul falls in with them, and then to everyone’s surprise he joins them in their religious expression. This is an unlikely event and word of it spreads throughout his family and friends. People are surprised at “Saul among the prophets.” After he becomes king a saying based on this incident becomes common. Anytime a person is surprised at something they shake their heads in wonder and say, “Saul among the prophets! Who would have guessed!” I’ve seen God do some surprising things in people’s lives. When I was a kid I knew a man who had been the town drunk. He was wonderfully converted and became the Sunday School Superintendent in the church where I grew up. “Saul among the prophets! Who would have guessed!” Another man, who was raised in the church, got away from God. His mother never stopped praying for him, but for years he seemed distant. One night he came to revival and responded to the invitation. A few years later he was a terrific youth leader in the church. “Saul among the prophets!” I love it when God does stuff like that and look forward to more “Saul among the prophets!” events in the days to come.
Take Away: The Lord does wonderfully surprising things in the lives of those who cooperate with his purposes for them.

Devotional on 1 Samuel

2014 – South Llano State Park – Junction, TX

Luggage compartment
1 Samuel 10: He’s right over there — hidden in that pile of baggage.
Things are moving too fast for young Saul. Not long ago the old man of God, Samuel, floored him with the announcement that he has been picked by God to be the first king of Israel. Then there’s the surprising episode with the prophets; he still hasn’t figured that one out. Now, he finds himself at the big gathering to announce the new king. He already knows the outcome; Samuel let him in on God’s plan and the prospect of being king both terrifies and thrills him. This big man dislikes being noticed — something that can hardly be avoided. After all, just his standing up gets him plenty of attention. Almost by instinct he slips out of the main gathering to find a comfortable, out of sight place among the baggage. Here he sits, wondering what he will do when his name is announced. The answer to the question is known soon enough: he does nothing. Frozen in fear and indecision he sits there until someone finds him. Like it or not, he is the man picked by God to be king and the Lord won’t take “no” for an answer. I feel kind of sorry for Saul in this incident. In fact, I identify with both his hesitation and thrill at what the Lord’s doing in his life. Often I find myself feeling unworthy and incapable of doing what the Lord places before me. The greatest source of hope in such times is the knowledge that when God calls to some task he also provides the strength necessary to accomplish that task. Still, it would sometimes be easier to hide among the baggage.
Take Away: If the Lord calls you to it, he’ll enable you to do it.

Devotional on 1 Samuel

2015 – Pinnacle Mtn State Park, AR

The bigger they come…
1 Samuel 13: God is out looking for your replacement right now.
On the surface, Saul’s failure seems minor. All he’s doing is offering his own sacrifice instead of waiting for Samuel to do it for him. Beneath that, though, is a fault line that means catastrophe. Any king of Israel must rule only as a servant of God. Things are to be done God’s way. From the beginning of Saul’s story his position has been clearly defined. Samuel is the man chosen by God to provide spiritual leadership and that includes making ritual sacrifices. Saul has crossed that line, claiming authority that’s not his. Because of that God is rejecting him as king. Since he doesn’t accept God’s way of doing things another king will be found. I need to remember here that Saul isn’t making a mistake in this incident. Rather, he’s acting with full knowledge of what he’s doing. Simply put, he’s pushing God’s will to the side and taking what he thinks is a better course of action. While it’s true that God is testing him with the circumstance of Samuel’s late arrival it’s also true that he miserably fails the test. The Lord seeks another king because Saul, by his own decision, makes himself unworthy to be king. As I apply this to my life, I see that I must never forget that he is Lord. I’m not free to do whatever I want to do. While I know God is gracious and merciful, I also know that, in my own free will, I can push God too far. It doesn’t have to be that way, but I know that it remains a tragic possibility.
Take Away: If I’m to be God’s man I have to do things God’s way. He’ll have it no other way.

Devotional on 1 Samuel

2015 – Pinnacle Mtn State Park, AR

Being spiritual about things
1 Samuel 14: Saul did something really foolish that day.
It’s war. Saul’s army is in battle with the hated Philistines. Saul’s son Jonathan leads the way. Single handedly he’s killed about 20 of the enemy. God’s working here, bringing confusion to the enemy army. In addition to the damage Saul’s army is doing them they seem to be at war with one another. It’s now that Saul does a “really foolish” thing. He commands his army to fast while they fight. His men are in hand-to-hand combat all day but eat nothing. When the battle ends at the end of the day they’re so hungry that they’re eating raw meat, meat with the blood still in it, which is contrary to God’s Law. The writer tells us that it’s all Saul’s fault. He’s in charge and they depend on his leadership. He’s let them down by adding to their burden in an attempt to make their effort seem “more spiritual.” It’s important that leaders be spiritually sensitive. We’re not to dress things up to make them seem more spiritual than they already are, but at the same time, we’re to take the lead in recognizing God’s work in even supposed “non-spiritual” efforts. Saul overplays his hand here and the result is near disaster. I pray that God will help me to be sensitive to spiritual things and to be a leader who “is” spiritually minded rather than a person who is foolishly, like Saul, merely “acting” spiritually minded.
Take Away: Spiritual leaders don’t play the role of someone who is spiritually minded; rather, they ARE spiritually minded.

Devotional on 1 Samuel

2015 – Pinnacle Mtn State Park, AR

Thinking about leadership
1 Samuel 14: Wherever he turned, he came up with a victory. He became invincible!
Saul is a terrific military leader: brave, capable, and resourceful. My first instinct upon reading Samuel’s pronouncement of God’s rejection of Saul as king is to think that everything’s going to fall apart for him. It simply doesn’t happen. Saul builds a great army, extends his rule by taking more territory, and keeps the hated Philistines on the defense. For decades he successfully leads Israel. Whether I like it or not, sometimes godless people are very capable people. For instance, all it takes is watching the innovative, yet profane commercials during a Super Bowl to see that some of the brightest, most outstanding people in advertising are those who have anything but Christian values. So, as I read his story, I see that at on at least the public level, Saul has it all together. It’s at the private level that things are, indeed, falling apart. Without doubt, living for the Lord is the best way to live. Still, being a follower of Jesus doesn’t make one smarter or more capable. That ought to at least humble me and make me more dependent on the Lord. It may also make me think twice when I’m picking a professional to help me with my business or getting ready to pull the lever to vote in an important election.
Take Away: Some of the smartest, most capable people we know aren’t Christians – at least, not yet.

Devotional on 1 Samuel

2015 – Beeds Lake State Park – Hampton, IA

Future knowledge
1 Samuel 15: Then God spoke to Samuel: “I’m sorry I ever made Saul king. He’s turned his back on me. He refuses to do what I tell him.”
God has given Saul explicit orders. He’s to attack Amalek and utterly destroy all life. Saul leads his army into the battle and follows God’s command. Well, not quite. Agag, king of Amalek, is captured rather than killed. Also, some of the choice animals are brought back alive. Now, I’m troubled by all this killing and I’ve written about it before so I’m going to move on to another important feature of this passage. God says he’s “sorry” he made Saul king in the first place. Some say that this is just God speaking in human terms, that he isn’t “sorry” in the sense that he regrets having made Saul king. The reason that they believe this is because taking this statement at face value doesn’t fit their theology. They see time as somehow pre-existent and that God can see into the future. “God knows everything,” they say, “so he has to know the future.” I think that such logic contains a fatal error: that the future already exists as something to be known. If time is a “thing” then, no doubt, God knows all about it. But if time is simply a measure of the flow of events, and if human beings really have free will, then God doesn’t know the future. Before you drag me out to be stoned, let me add two things. First, God knows what he’s going to do. Throughout the Bible he says, “If you do this, I will do that — if you do that I will do this.” God knows, because he’s going to act, not because he’s looked into the future and seen what he’s going to do but, instead, because he’s God Almighty and if says he’s going to do something that thing is absolutely certain to happen. Second, God could know the exact future if he wanted to. I am not saying that he somehow “limits his vision.” Rather, that if God wanted to force events to flow in a specific way he has the power to do so. However, doing that in the lives of individuals would violate the free will he granted human beings. If you’re still with me, let me conclude by adding that God had every reason to believe Saul would be a terrific leader of Israel and to be disappointed when he isn’t. In fact, that’s what God believed would (or at least “could”) happen. Saul’s failure disappointed the Almighty but it didn’t ruin his plan. The Lord goes about replacing Saul with another king, giving Israel a second chance.
Take Away: The Lord may not pre-ordain what I’m going to do, but he can handle whatever I do.

Devotional on 1 Samuel

2015 – Beeds Lake State Park – Hampton, IA

Listening, obedience, relationship
1 Samuel 15: Do you think all God wants are sacrifices — empty rituals just for show? He wants you to listen to him!
Saul’s a failure in the eyes of God. His large army and military victories don’t impress the Lord. Now Saul blames the soldiers; something that doesn’t wash with the Almighty. Then, he says he’s going to sacrifice the animals in a worship service. Pitiful! Samuel has a word from the Lord for Saul. God isn’t interested in how many sacrifices Saul might make. Instead, he’s interested in obedience. Saul said “no” to God, now God’s saying “no” to him. Saul will continue in power for some time to come, but, in reality, his leadership has come to a whimpering end. Oswald Chambers says that the greatest hindrance to our relationship to the Lord is the service we do for him. “Look at all I’m doing for God” we declare, “Surely he can’t ask more of me than that.” He can and he does. Listening, obedience, and relationship: these things define God’s intentions for me. The Lord doesn’t put out a call for volunteer martyrs. He simply calls us to hear and obey. If that means sacrifice, fine. Otherwise, I listen to his voice and live my life in a relationship with him.
Take Away: We’re called to a daily, genuine relationship with the Lord – that’s what satisfies both us and him.

Devotional on 1 Samuel

2015 – Castle Rock Campground – Friendship, WI

Would you like to super-size that order? No thanks.
1 Samuel 16: God judges persons differently than humans do…God looks into the heart.
Saul’s failure weighs on Samuel. However, the Lord says it’s time to get on with selecting Saul’s successor. This is potentially dangerous because Saul’s still in power and certainly doesn’t want Samuel anointing someone else as king. Still, Samuel obeys the Lord and heads out to the town of Bethlehem to find God’s choice for second king of Israel. There he finds the young man he’s sure is the right one. It’s Eliab, son of Jesse. Tall and good-looking, in fact, you might say “regal” in appearance. But Samuel is mistaken. God reminds him that this isn’t a beauty contest and that God’s more interested in what is in the heart than he is in outward appearance. Eliab might be a fine fellow but he isn’t to be the next king of Israel. The search continues as Jessie brings one son after another before the revered man of God. Finally, all but one son has been interviewed. Young David is all that’s left. When Saul was chosen we were told that he stood a head and shoulders above the other men. Now, as David is picked, he’s called the “runt” of the family. Thus we gain an insight into how God works. He uses big, nice looking people, but he also uses those that others tend to overlook. Why? It’s because God looks on the heart. I pray that the Lord will find in me a person he can use for his purposes.
Take Away: Since the Lord looks on the heart, let’s do all we can to keep our hearts right with the Lord.

Devotional on 1 Samuel

2015 – Beeds Lake State Park – Hampton, IA

Grace at work here
1 Samuel 16: At that very moment the Spirit of God left Saul.
Over in Bethlehem a secret meeting between Samuel and David is taking place. With his brothers as witnesses, David is anointed king of Israel. This young man is God’s pick to replace Saul. Of course, Saul is unaware of all this. If he knew…well, David wouldn’t survive the day. However, in a strange way Saul knows something has happened. A spiritual light in his life is gone. In its place is a darkness that frightens him. It’s been some time since Saul’s failure with the Amalekites. It was back then that God rejected Saul as king of Israel. The interesting thing is that, according to this scripture, God’s Spirit has remained with Saul, even though God is in the process of replacing him. I can’t help but wonder why that is. Here are my two possible answers, and it really isn’t an “either/or” proposition. First, it might be that, in spite of the absolute language about Saul that the Lord’s willing to give him time and help to turn it around. The scripture tells us that Samuel grieves Saul’s failure. I can’t help but think that God does too. Maybe the Spirit of God has continued to tug at his heart even when it is almost certain that it’s too late. Second, it could be that God has continued to bless Saul for the sake of Israel. Failure or not, Saul has the power and authority in Israel. His days are numbered but as long as he remains in office God will help him — not for his sake, but for the sake of Israel. I’ve heard stories of ministers who had some secret, devastating sin going on. When it was made public people were amazed because of the power of their ministry with many lives being changed. Maybe we have a similar situation with Saul. God continues to bless his leadership and even provide personal strength for his own purposes. The sun’s setting and a new leader will take his place, but for now the Spirit of God remains with Saul. I like both scenarios. I like the idea that God gave Saul a “second chance” and I also like the idea that God took care of his people even through such an imperfect leader as is Saul. In either (or both) case(s), I see the grace of God at work.
Take Away: God is the God of Second Chances; also, the Lord cares for his people even through imperfect leaders.

Devotional on 1 Samuel

2015 – Beeds Lake State Park – Hampton, IA

The slings and stones details of life
1 Samuel 17: I’m ready to go and fight this Philistine.
David and Goliath — now this is a good story! It’s a story we’ve heard all our lives. It’s part of our shorthand vocabulary. When we want to describe the little guy taking on something big and threatening we just say, “it’s David verses Goliath” and everyone nods understandingly. David’s very likely a young man rather than a little boy. Most Bible scholars say he’s in his 20’s when this takes place. The story’s rich in devotional material. However, before I get into the story, I’d like to look at the big picture for a moment. Saul, rejected by God, is on his way out. David has been secretly anointed as his replacement. The people love Saul and are faithful to him. He’s proven to be a solid and fearless military leader. David’s best known as a musician and shepherd. These things hardly qualify him to be king of Israel. Everyone assumes that Saul’s son will succeed him as king, but even if they thought otherwise, a shepherd like David wouldn’t be a likely candidate in anyone’s mind. Thus we come to the confrontation at Oak Valley, where the Philistines and the Israelites are having a tense standoff. David’s victory over Goliath is the perfect way for God to introduce their future king to the people of Israel. Never again will David be considered to be a nice young man who plays the harp. I don’t think David’s thinking about any of this, but I believe God is. There’s lots of other good stuff in this story, but right off I see that the Lord’s not only working in the details of slings and stones, but he sees the big picture too. Today he’s helping me with the slings and stones details of my life, but he never loses sight of his own over all goals and how my life fits into them.
Take Away: I tend to focus on only the immediate concerns of life. The Lord, though, not only sees that but he also sees the big picture.

Devotional on 1 Samuel

2015 – Castle Rock Campground – Friendship, WI

Wrestling with bears
1 Samuel 17: God, who delivered me from the teeth of the lion and the claws of the bear, will deliver me from this Philistine.
Saul, not to mention Goliath, towers over David. We’re told that his family calls David the “runt” and that Saul is a head and shoulders taller than the average man. When word comes to Saul that he has a volunteer to fight nine-foot-tall Goliath he’s pleased, but when he sees David, well, let’s just say David is a surprise to him. Saul rejects David as too young and inexperienced but David immediately states his credentials. Apparently, shepherding isn’t all about sitting around watching sheep and playing the harp. David has some war stories of his own, stories that include hand-to-hand (or better hand-to-claw or hand-to-teeth) combat with some pretty impressive adversaries. He didn’t just run the wild animals off. Rather, he grabbed them by the throat, wrung their necks, and killed them! Have you grabbed a bear by the neck lately? It’s my understanding that this isn’t considered a wise thing to do! Seriously, David knows that his ability to kill a lion or bear with his own hands is an extraordinary thing. In other words, he knows that he would be a dead man had it not been for God’s help, enabling him to be a lion killer even as Samson had done generations earlier. It’s because of these victories that David’s ready to take on the big guy here. It’s when I’ve gone through smaller battles (although I am not sure how “small” fighting lions should be considered) and won by God’s help that I can take on giant issues with confidence. The same God who brought me though the smaller fights of life is well able to deliver me when I’m in the fight of my life.

Take Away: As I remember the Lord’s help in the past I face future challenges with greater confidence.

Devotional on 1 Samuel

2015 – Castle Rock Campground – Friendship, WI

The danger of natural attributes
1 Samuel 17: Go. And God help you!
I’ve been thinking about why Saul, himself, didn’t fight Goliath. After all, Saul is the king, leader of the army. He’s never been afraid in previous battles and has a reputation for being a fierce fighter. Goliath stands over nine feet tall, but Saul towers a head and shoulders above all the other men of Israel. Yet day after day, he allows his army to cower before Goliath’s challenge. I think the last part is the key. Saul is used to being the biggest. David isn’t a big man in the first place, but Saul is. In fact, and I’m just guessing here, it may be that Saul has never in his adult life seen another human being who’s taller than himself. Think of the psychological impact of that. Saul sees in Goliath not only a man bigger than he is, but also a man who’s clearly more skilled at hand-to-hand combat. This frightens Saul in a way that he’s never been frightened before. In fact, it has frozen him to the point that he’s ready to send young David, with all the confidence of his youth, to battle the giant in his stead. I think that it’s possible for our advantages to become our disadvantages. Natural attributes can blind us to our own weaknesses. Gifts can hinder the development of skills. For instance, a person who’s naturally a good speaker or singer may rely on that gift, but ultimately will be less useful to God than a person who had to early on learn to rely on God if they were to effectively minister. Sooner or later life sends us a Goliath, a circumstance in which our natural gifts, as great as they are, aren’t enough. Even gifted people must learn to rely on God, or they risk becoming Saul, hiding in his tent instead of battling Goliath.
Take Away: Ultimately, we all come to the end of ourselves so it’s better to early on learn to rely on him.

Devotional on 1 Samuel

2015 – Castle Rock Campground – Friendship, WI

Shopping for armor
1 Samuel 17: Then Saul outfitted David as a soldier in armor.
Since David’s going to fight Goliath, Saul’s preparing him for battle. Being given the king’s own helmet and sword is an honor for David. However, in spite of the seriousness of the situation, the result is comical. The helmet’s way too big, the sword, when strapped around his waist, drags the ground. The oversized armor weighs David down to the point that he can hardly move much less fight. Thus we come to the truism that we each must wear our own armor. We individualist Westerners can really get off on this one! “I have to do this my way…what works for you won’t necessarily work for me…after all, I can’t wear someone else’s armor.” Let’s step back for a minute and look at this situation again. Saul’s armor, including his weapons of war aren’t suitable for David so David simply picks another approach that already belongs to someone else. We don’t know who invented the sling, but it certainly wasn’t David. Probably way back in the first pages of Genesis there’s an untold story about how some enterprising fellow came up with the sling as a way to hunt. When wars came along the sling became one of the weapons every soldier attempted to master. So, when David rejects Saul’s “armor” he is actually accepting that of someone else. I think that it’s rare for God to call us to be totally original. After all, “there’s nothing new under the sun.” The Bible’s full of principles that can be applied to the issues of life. Someone has already thought through ways to deal with most issues. David didn’t go out and invent the sling so he could fight Goliath; he simply picked it as the method for accomplishing his purpose — a method pioneered by someone else. The fact that David couldn’t fight in Saul’s armor doesn’t give me permission to go around acting like the Lone Ranger doing everything my own way. It just reminds me that there’s more than one way to accomplish things, and I need to know enough about the issue at hand, and to listen carefully enough to the voice of the Lord in my life, to pick the right one.
Take Away: A wise person has more than one tool at hand and that person knows which tool fits that particular situation.

Devotional on 1 Samuel

2015 – North Pier Lighthouse – Menominee, MI

The cost of spiritual isolation
1 Samuel 18: Saul hated David
Saul hasn’t forgotten the words of God’s man, Samuel: “God has rejected you as king over Israel.” Still, long after that word of rejection Saul continues in power, enjoying considerable military success. Then comes the Goliath incident. He shouldn’t have let David fight Goliath. As King, the General of the Army, it was his battle, not David’s. But David did fight, winning not only the battle, but also the hearts of the people of Israel. Now, in the eyes of the people of Israel, David can do no wrong. He never acts in a way that speaks of betrayal to his King and, instead, faithfully and with frustrating success carries out every command. The people fall in love with David and because of that Saul hates him. There’s a lot going on here. For instance, Saul is likely clinically depressed. At first, it appears that Saul doesn’t actually need God at all, but now his life apart from God is taking a terrible toll on his mind and spirit. We know that things will only go downhill from here. Then there’s David who simply keeps doing the right thing — even when Saul tries to pin him to the wall with a spear! There’s also an unattractive “but what have you done for us lately” element in the people’s changing loyalties from Saul to David. I don’t guess the writer of this portion of Scripture is teaching any particular lesson in this passage. Rather, he’s just telling the story. Still, there are several things to think about here.
Take Away: Living apart from God takes a terrible toll on a person.

Devotional on 1 Samuel

2015 – Gladstone Bay Campground, Gladstone, MI

President of David’s fan club
1 Samuel 19: I’ll go out and talk about you with my father and we’ll see what he says.
Saul has a haunted look these days. There’s no peace for him, but instead, a constant, nagging fear. He has power and authority and a certain kind of cunning, but things are going downhill for him. David is his greatest irritant. David is everything Saul should have been. No one will actually say this to Saul, but in his heart he knows that David is the next king of Israel. Of all people who should side with him in opposition to David, his son Jonathan should be first. In this age, when the throne’s at stake, there’s generally a bloody coop. Jonathan should realize that, not only is his future position at stake, but his very life depends on dealing with David. Jonathan, though, will have none of it. He’s the president of David’s fan club. When Saul signs a death warrant for David, it’s Jonathan who talks his father out of it. Every time Jonathan appears in this story he’s doing the right thing. He fights the enemies of God with skill, bravery, and resourcefulness. He’s a friend to David without thought to himself. He stands up to his father even when doing so can easily make himself the target of his father’s murderous rage. It occurs to me that Jonathan reminds me of one of my favorite people in the book of Acts, the Son of Encouragement: Barnabas. I thank God for people who simply do the right thing. Often they aren’t the ones with the starring roles in life’s stories but they support the stars, like David or Paul. Jonathan, like Barnabas, is a good role model for me.
Take Away: Jonathan’s example of always doing the right thing should challenge and encourage us.

Devotional on 1 Samuel

2015 – Sand Point Lighthouse – Escanaba, MI

The cement of lasting friendships
1 Samuel 20: God will be the bond between me and you, and between my children and your children forever!
There’s a lot of tension around the palace these days. King Saul is unpredictable and on the verge of losing it altogether. He’s developed a habit of sitting on his throne with his spear by his side. If anyone displeases him in the slightest his glare tells him or her that the spear isn’t just for appearances. Even his own son, Jonathan or the hero of the land, David is not exempt. In fact, both of these good men have barely escaped with their lives when Saul made use of the spear. Jonathan still thinks he can handle his father but David is unconvinced and urges his best friend to test things for him. David’s concerns are justified. Saul’s a danger to anyone who’s in his vicinity, but especially to David. If he’s to survive it’s time for David to run. As he and Jonathan meet in preparation for David’s departure we get a glimpse into the heart of their deep friendship. The bond is God. They both love the Lord with all their hearts. Both are willing to die for the Lord. It’s their relationships to God that’s cemented their friendship with one another. The best, lasting, healthiest, most satisfying relationships have, at their core, God. This is beautifully illustrated in this passage.
Take Away: Where the Lord is at the core of a relationship that relationship will be marked by love.

Devotional on 1 Samuel

2015 – Along Lake Michigan at Manistique, MI

Hide and seek
1 Samuel 23: Saul was on one side of the mountain, David and his men on the other.
Saul and David are playing a deadly game of hide and seek. In spite of David’s continuing to be a defender of Israel Saul has made him public enemy number one. David’s band is growing, now numbering over 600, but Saul’s army vastly outnumbers them. Beyond that, David doesn’t want to fight Saul or any of his countrymen. The nation of Israel is divided. Some are loyal to Saul and others to David. In fact, one group, the Ziphites, betrays David to Saul. They report David’s whereabouts to Saul and help set up an ambush. It’s nearly successful. At one point Saul almost has David and his men cornered. If not for word of an attack from a real enemy that forces Saul’s attention elsewhere, David’s story would end right here. Because of this, this area is called “Narrow Escape.” So, was the attack by the Philistines at such a critical moment just good fortune for David? I think not. God’s fingerprints are all over this. Still, it’s interesting that God used the enemies of Israel, the heathens of the land, to deliver David. The lesson for me is that this is a reminder that God is truly sovereign. Even when godless people act in ways intended to destroy, God can give a gentle push in some particular direction and use their sinful act to accomplish good rather than evil. Even when it seems evil has won the day, God is still God, and he’s working in surprising ways in and through it all.
Take Away: When all is said and done it’s the Lord who has said the last word.

Devotional on 1 Samuel

2015 – Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore – Munising, MI

Close encounters of the Third Kind
1 Samuel 24: There was a cave there and Saul went in to relieve himself.
I know this isn’t the most inspiring statement in this story, but it is attention getting. David and his men have retreated to En Gedi, an area with lots of good places in which to hide. Saul has received a tip concerning David’s location, so he and his army are working through the region, searching for David. Saul knows he’s closing in on David, but has no idea of how close he actually is. Then, as happens at inopportune times, nature calls. There are no rest stops in the area, so Saul picks a convenient cave for privacy, dismisses his aids, and enters by himself, never guessing that David and his men (likely a patrol and not the whole 600) are hidden farther back in the cave. Talk about catching a man with his pants down! At this point it will be very easy for David to strike Saul down. His men see this as a golden opportunity to kill Saul, but David sees it as a chance to show mercy and to prove his respect for the person God placed at the head of the nation of Israel. David cuts off a piece of Saul’s laid aside robe. Then, as Saul rejoins his troops, David appears at the mouth of the cave Saul has just departed. The fringe of the robe proves that David has spared Saul’s life and, temporarily at least, Saul’s heart melts. Centuries later one of David’s descendants will declare the principle that directed David’s action that day. He said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” Before the Sermon on the Mount was ever preached David illustrated it at the cave in En Gedi.
Take Away: Doing the right thing sometimes means we let a golden opportunity to force the issue pass by.

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