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1 Samuel

The Beginning of the End
29:1 - 31: 13

Matthew 23:12
And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
KJV


God fulfills His purposes in the lives of His saints.


related readings

1 Chronicles 10

Psalm 1

Psalm 86

Proverbs 14:1-12

1 Peter 3:8-17


 

Studies have shown that the halfway point of all human knowledge is located less than ten years ago; that is man’s knowledge has doubled within the past decade. Every 60 seconds, 2000 typewritten pages are added to man’s knowledge and the material produced every 24 hours takes one person 5 years to read.

Revelation tells us we are living at the edge of time. Christ could return at any moment to claim His bride, the church, and take us home. We know from our study of prophecy that this event commences the Tribulation which is to be followed by the millennial kingdom and then eternity. The Church Age is truly the end of the beginning of Christian Bible history.

Life is not a long process, but a fleeting moment in time. James calls it a vapor (James 4:14). The trouble is, as we live it, life seems to be a long, burdensome road. Often, the beginning seems like it ought to be the end. Do you suppose Saul felt this way back when he tore Samuel’s robe? The prophet used it as an illustration of God ripping the kingdom from Saul (15:27, 28).

ole90.gif How does life seem to you? Long and burdensome? Not enough time? Both?

 

A New Beginning [29:1 - 11]

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Back in chapter 27, David fled to the Philistines for protection from Saul. This move may have suddenly seemed rash to the shepherd. Chronologically, most of chapter 28 goes with chapter 31, while chapters 27, 29 and 30 go together. In fact, chapter 31 is the morning after Saul’s mistaken seance with the witch of Endor.

The Philistines view the time as ripe for an attack on Israel. The reasons for this are not stated. It may be they felt the split between David and Saul provided the opportunity. Perhaps, David’s deceitful lies to Achish created a false sense of security in the Philistine king. Whatever the reason, David is in a tight spot as Achish makes the shepherd his personal bodyguard for the up coming battle with Israel. What a spot!

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How often do our mis-steps place us in tight spots?

Who is responsible for such situations?

The Philistines unwittingly come to David’s assistance. While King Achish may trust David, the rest of the Philistine princes do not. They want nothing to do with David fighting beside them. Achish gives into the princes demands and dismisses David from service. David protests the decision, then marches toward home (29:8-10).

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Sin’s consequences are inevitable, even if delayed. What if David had been forced to go into battle against the Israelites? What would have been his chances as king after that?

 

book2154.gif Sin’s consequences hurt not only ourselves but others around us. Notice it was not only David, but his entire band of followers who would have to fight against their brothers.
ole93.gif How often do you hurt those you most love? Why?
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God is faithful and true. Is not David’s situation an example of 1 Corinthians 10:13?

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

 

God gave David an actual escape. Notice carefully, however, the end of this verse. The means to escape is frequently not a way around or out of the storm, but the power to walk through the storm – “that ye may be able to bear it.”
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ole94.gif When was the last time God held your hand while you walked through the storm?

 

Encouragement, Victory, and a Replay [30:1 - 31]

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David’s return home was like turning the corner and seeing a sea of fire trucks. Ziklag was aflame and everything was gone. The Amalekites had been there!

Remember the Amalekites? Saul had been directed to destroy them completely (Chapter 15). Instead, the king brought home spoils and King Agag. God truly took the kingdom away from Saul for his sin and disobedience. It was all downhill for Saul thereafter. Now David and his men are paying the price for Saul’s disobedience.

David’s reactions are in sharp contrast to those of Saul. His men turn against him. And why not? They have just lost all their possessions and all their wives and children. David was greatly distressed and the people wanted to stone him. How did David react? Did he get depressed? Angry at his men? No . . .

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And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.

1 Samuel 30:6

David proves why he was a man after God’s heart. In times of real distress and trials David turns to God for encouragement and for answers. Friends are frequently available. Pastors will always come. Family may be a great help. But our real comfort lies with God Almighty.

ole95.gif Where do you turn in times of great distress?

David waits on the Lord (30:8) and then heads after the Amalekites full of power. Even though one-third of his army was too weak to fully enter into battle, God was with David and his men. First, God places an Egyptian, an Amalekite slave, by the road. The Egyptian leads David to the Amalekite camp. Then, God brings David’s force upon the enemy while the enemy is having a party. It is a long, ferocious battle. All but 400 of the Amalekites are slain. David and his men recover all of their families and possessions (30:17-19). In addition, David’s band take home spoils from the victory.

Fresh on the heels of this victory, David faces yet another challenge. Some of the men who were in the battle do not want to share the spoils of victory with the 200 men who were too weak to cross the brook Besor. David, however, sees God as the source of victory. God’s goodwill and mercy demands that all share in the spoils. The bounty is divided amongst all the 600 men. This principle later became the law of the land (30:25).

In a gesture of goodwill and gratitude, David also sends booty to all the elders of Judah (30:26-31). This was a “thank you” for any help they may have given David while he was being pursued by Saul. It was also a wonderful political outreach by the future king.

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When God blesses you with “spoils” do you share them?

Do you at least tithe?

 

A Sorrowful End [31:1 - 13]

 

David basks in glory and God’s love and mercy. Saul was last seen with the witch of Endor. Remember, Samuel’s admonition from the grave? Saul would be dead within twenty-four hours (28:19). Even with this warning in hand, Saul and his army go forth to battle. Israel is soundly, terribly defeated.

The Philistines appear to have singled out Saul and his sons. The theory would be that an army without its head is disorganized and demoralized. Both were certainly true in this case. Saul is sorely wounded. Saul’s sons, including Jonathan, are killed.

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One of the difficulties Christians all face is the untimely death of someone “good.” Sometimes this is a child. Other times it is a godly believer who dies young. We always ask “Why?” Such is the case with Jonathan? Why did he die, when Saul’s fourth son, Ishbosheth, lived? Ishbosheth causes problems for David as he attempts to take the throne (2 Samuel 2:8). Maybe Jonathan dies to remove the threat of his desiring David’s throne? On the other hand, maybe he died to preserve his testimony? Either way, it is difficult to understand, difficult to explain, and difficult to accept.

 

book2158.gif This chapter is being written shortly after the terrible train wreck outside of Chicago. A mother with three children and her friend with two daughters were traveling back home on that train. The girls were sleeping in a separate car, having a slumber party. They had just kissed parents good night and were heading back to their berth when the wreck occurred. Two of the three children of the first family were killed as was the mother and one daughter of the second family. The daughter of the dead mother had to have her leg amputated. The parents of the two dead children appeared on national television, testifying to their emotional pain, but giving Jesus Christ the glory for seeing them through this turmoil. On national television, they discussed their faith and salvation, as well as the fact their two daughters had accepted Jesus and were now in heaven. The mother had sat with her friend’s child as she went through the surgery to remove her leg, even though the mother was grieving the loss of her two daughters. The pain was obvious during the interview, but what a testimony! God received great glory! We can ask why the girls had to die so young, but God knows the heart and how He can best use our individual testimonies and stories. Likewise, He knew how best to use Jonathan.

Saul commits suicide, desiring not to be further humiliated by the Philistines before they kill him. Just as Samuel predicted, Saul’s kingdom has come to an end.

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Second Samuel commences with an Amalekite relaying a story to David about how the Amalekite came upon the wounded King Saul. At Saul’s request, so goes this story, the Amalekite kills the king. This raises a question in some minds as to which version of the story of Saul’s death is true. It is best to accept the king’s death as a suicide as recorded in First Samuel. Here, the story of the battle and the king’s death is told to us in the third person by the author of First Samuel. In the case of the Amalekite, he is a long time enemy of Israel’s. His story is told from a humanistic point of view with the goal of obtaining favors from David, the new king. After all, David would still not be king if Saul were alive. God’s Word is true in that everything it records is accurate. But not all of God’s Word is truth. Here, the Amalekite’s story is an accurately recorded lie.

 

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To be fair to the other side, many reconcile the two stories, finding great irony in Saul’s death at the hands of an Amalekite, the people he lost his throne over. The Amalekite arrived as Saul was wounded, but not dead. He finished the work, perhaps, thinking he was doing David a favor, or maybe he was just getting even with Saul. The lesson to be learned, if in fact the Amalekite’s story is true, is that sin does cause our downfall.

 

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Saul’s death raises the issue of suicide. Nowhere in Scripture is suicide called a sin and specifically prohibited. But, all of the suicides are events replete with tragic overtones and set in situations of sin and disobedience. Saul’s is the second recorded suicide or assisted-suicide in Scripture. Look at the list – Abimelech in Judges 9:54; Saul in 1 Samuel 31:6; Saul’s armor-bearer in 1 Samuel 31:6; Ahithophel in 2 Samuel 17:23; Zimri in 1 Kings 16:18; and Judas in Matthew 27:5 and Acts 1:18. The suicides are all desperate acts of persons who are deeply troubled. None are a role model of piousness. Each death occurs as a direct result of disobedience to God’s anointed. Also, keep in mind that it may be argued that a suicide is a violation of the sixth commandment against murder – in this case the deliberate murder of one’s self.

 

David has spent ten long years running from Saul. The times have been troublesome. David’s anointing as king of Israel did not bring peace but turmoil. Yet, God was with David and David’s heart was forever fixed toward His Creator.

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My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise.

Psalm 57:7

ole97.gif How many of us can claim such an assurance and right standing with God?

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book2164.gif This ten year period was David’s training period. Moses spent forty years in Egypt, then forty years in Midian before God sent him forth to lead the Nation out of Egypt. Joshua spent a long period of time as one of Moses’ “generals” before God placed him in command. Paul went off to Arabia and spent at least fourteen years in training before he became the great evangelist who gave us so much of the New Testament (Galatians 1:17,18; 2:1).

Even as the great men of God must go through these periods of training prior to becoming God’s leaders, so must each of us train to learn about God before we can become truly great leaders for Him. He has given us just one life each. We must choose how to live that life. We must choose who to obey, who to follow.

How we do this determines who we are and how God will use us.

book2163.gif Saul’s sins start out as “little matters.” He was impatient, showed incomplete obedience, and rationalized his decisions. But once sin gets hold of your life, it goes from bad to worse. Not being right with God means we cannot be right with other people. There is no excuse or substitute for true confessions. This is the only cleansing process God accepts. Natural gifts, abilities, and characteristics are no substitute for the power and presence of God. And God accepts no substitute for true obedience.

First Chronicles records a dark, cold view of Saul’s death. It reflects the condition of the king’s heart.

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13 So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the LORD, even against the word of the LORD, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to enquire of it; 14 And enquired not of the LORD: therefore he slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse.

1 Chronicles 10:13-14

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Will your obituary read the same?

Or will your obituary record that you, like David, were a man after God’s heart?

 

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