Guiltless (1 Samuel 26:9)

But David said to Abishai, “Do not destroy him, for who can stretch out his hand against the LORDS anointed and be without guilt?”

1 Samuel 26:9

The story of David being pursued by Saul is a familiar one to me. David is anointed king over Israel while Saul is still on the throne and Saul tries to thwart God’s plan by attempting to kill David. Not the brightest plan anyone has ever had. On multiple occasions, David is in a position to kill Saul and end the chase, but David refuses to do so. This morning’s verse sums up why.

David was mindful of something that others seemed to have forgotten: Saul had been anointed king, too. David had not been told, explicitly, anywhere in the book of Samuel when or how God was going to put him (David) on the throne. Only that it was going to happen. Lots of people would have tried to take matters into their own hands, but David waits for God to handle His business.

A descendant of David, one Jesus by name, would be nailed to a cross and ask that the guilt of His executioners not be imputed to them because they didn’t know any better. Those Roman soldiers did not know that they were [stretching] out their hands against the LORD’s Anointed (Messiah/Christ means anointed one) and Jesus makes note of that in saying that they do not know what they’re doing. As far as those soldiers were concerned, they were just executing another convict; just following orders. But David had pronounced that no one could do what they were doing and be guiltless. So Jesus asks that they be forgiven.

What about me? Am I stretching out my hand against the LORD’s Anointed? It’s possible. I can put Him to open shame by claiming His name then living in a way that is not in harmony with what He teaches. If I am obedient, then my hand is not stretched out against Him. But my disobedience is just that: stretching out my hand against Him. I do Him harm; I wound Him; I mar His image when I do not live as He commands me. To be obedient is to be guiltless.

As Yourself (1 Samuel 20:17)

Jonathan made David vow again because of his love for him, because he loved him as he loved his own life.

1 Samuel 20:17

I’ve heard people comment on the relationship between David and Jonathan. Some have some very lovely things to say while others are leveling some rather serious accusations. This morning, I read over two or more verses that talked about Jonathan’s love for David.

There have been rare occasions when I have found friends that I was able to love in a way that approached the way I care about myself. I wanted only good things for them and was not jealous of the blessings in their lives. It has been an exceptionally rare occurrence. But Jonathan and David had this sort of love for one another. At least, Jonathan did. 1 Samuel 18:1 says that Jonathan loved David as himself.

I know that there are folks who read the relationship of Jonathan and David and see something sexual or homoerotic in there. These folks are missing the point. Leviticus 19:18 and 19:34 both issue the command to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus would say that to love my neighbor as myself is the second half of summarizing the entire Law and prophets. What is being said of Jonathan is not homoerotic or sexual, but the second highest achievement of obedience. He has managed to love someone as he loves himself. We cheapen Jonathan’s obedience to God’s command when we look at it and say that it is because of something sexual or homoerotic. And, possibly, we seek to excuse our own failure to obey the command that we love our neighbor as ourselves. Essentially, we accuse Jonathan of sin (homosexuality is definitely verboten for him) in order to let ourselves off the hook. Otherwise, we would have to face the fact that his love for David is an example of how we are commanded to love our neighbor. And that makes us uncomfortable.

Two things for me today. One, I need to restrict myself to what’s on the page. No imposing interpretations that aren’t there. No reading historical societies by modern social norms. Just take what’s there in context and, if something seems a little odd, check it against the sum total of scripture. Two, I need to love my neighbor as myself. This morning, that takes the form of rewriting sections of this entry (five or twelve times each) in order to try to speak the truth in love. I know that I’m guilty of trying to read things to my advantage and I can hardly throw stones at others who do the same. But I can point out as gently and lovingly as possible that we’re doing it and pray that we correct our errors. I know that I seek to try to excuse my wrongdoing and do not blame others for doing the same, but call them to come with me and repent of our mutual wrong in trying to excuse ourselves or people we care about instead of vindicating God. Jonathan loved David enough to seek out the painful and almost deadly truth. I need to be willing to do the same.

Sinful Me (1 Samuel 17:45)

Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted.”

1 Samuel 17:45

There is an important lesson in this verse that is often touched on, viz. that the battle belongs to God when people bring a challenge against God. But there’s something more.

Last night, the Foundations class at church was on Spiritual Warfare. I had enjoyed a fairly productive workday that ended late because a meeting ran over. This meeting overrun and the fact that it meant I would go straight from work to church and not see my wife and daughter brought on some spiritual warfare. There was conflict between people — my wife had been looking forward to me being home for that short period between work and church and giving her a bit of breathing space before our daughter went to bed. That, suddenly, was not going to happen and the loss of that energy and mental breathing room caused my wife some very understandable frustration. Frustration is contagious. I reacted instead of responding to that frustration and found myself frustrated. Then frustration started to simmer and I knew I was in trouble if I didn’t get my thoughts in check (2 Corinthians 10 tells me to bring every thought captive to obedience to Christ). About half of my drive was like this. The other half was processing the fact that I had just had a battle with my old nemesis: Sinful Me. Sinful Me is a rather beastly creature that looms large over my life and challenges God to take him out. Sinful Me is defiant like that.

David was faced with something similar and he understood it in that context, I think. David sees Goliath — hard to miss that guy — and knows two things about him for certain. One, that he has set himself up against God and God’s people. Two, because he has set himself up against God, he is going down. It’s not a question of “if” but of “when”. Not so much a question of “How can it be done?” as one of “Who’s going to step up and kill him?” David’s conversation with Saul about fighting Goliath highlights this. David didn’t concern himself with how God was going to kill Goliath, he just knew that God was going to do it. Since everyone else was standing around wetting themselves, David figured he was as good a tool as any for God to use. I mean, David and God had history. David had faced down lions and bears (he only needed tigers for the Oz trifecta) and lived to tell the tale. This giant was no scarier than a lion or a bear, as far as David was concerned. What’s more, David heard Goliath taunt God and he knew that God was not going to let that stand.

So David goes out to kill the giant. Saul, the king, tries to send David out in armor and with normal weapons of war. David humors him, lets it all be put on, but concludes that it would be more of a hindrance than a help to him. He’ll go with the tools God has used to defeat bears and lions. So he takes a shepherd’s staff, a sling, and a few stones. So, what do I need to be victorious in spiritual warfare against my giant (Sinful Me)? Only the tools God makes available to me every day.

David’s victory over Goliath comes in this order: (1) Realize that Goliath has set himself up against God — the battle is God’s. (2) Use the tools he has become familiar with — shepherd’s tools. (3) Step up and watch God work — David ran toward the battle, not from it. My victory over Sinful Me comes in much the same way. I need to realize that (1) Sinful Me is opposed to God, so God’s going to “take care of him” (said with an Italian accent). (2) I need to suit up with the tools I use every day and that have been proven to grant victory — salvation, the righteousness of God imputed to me by Christ, truth, the gospel, The Bible, faith, prayer, and sometimes a tactical withdrawal. (3) I need to get in there and watch God work. Goliath came fully armed for battle and with the Philistine army behind him. Sinful Me comes loaded for bear knowing all of my weaknesses and with the full force of a sinful world system behind him. Goliath was killed and the Philistine army scattered. How’s my battle with Sinful Me looking?

Not As Man Sees (1 Samuel 16:7)

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God [sees] not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7

The modern world is visual. I don’t just mean that I look around and see things but that the modern world seems bent on capturing my eyes. Take Las Vegas as an example. The city is awash with replicas of famous structures and fountains the size of multiple Olympic swimming pools prodigally spraying water through the air to one tune or another to mark the hour. When the sun goes down the lights come up and Las Vegas transforms from an imitation international journey to a neon-bathed, up-all-night place to lose your money and sleep and, potentially, self-respect. Las Vegas is the modern world taken to almost absurd extremes. If all I saw was the imitation Eiffel Tower and pseudo-Roman architecture then my eyes would be taken in. But I see the pushy people trying to shove fliers for illicit liaisons into my hands as I walk down the street holding my wife’s hand. I don’t just see expensive cars in the traffic, I see trucks bearing advertisements for things that make me blush just to think about. These, too, are attempts to catch the eyes. If I catch Las Vegas in an unguarded moment, I realize that the whole city is a fraud sitting in the middle of the desert self-consciously trying to distract everyone who comes through about how much a waste of human time, energy, effort, and resources the place really is. And it serves as an excellent metaphor for the world in general.

That same metaphor can be extended to people. We can look great on the outside — perfect hair, perfect teeth, perfect physique, perfect job, perfect house, perfect life — but inside be as ruined as can be. Sure, we can seem to have a perfect body and hair and teeth, but we spent the time and resources to get those to the exclusion of something. What was it? We may seem to have the perfect job, but we may actually be miserable and unfulfilled in it. We may have the perfect house, but be underwater on the mortgage for it (highly likely in some parts of Southern California). We may seem to have the perfect life, but our marriages are in shambles and our kids neglected and bitter toward us and our carefully-constructed world needs only an unguarded moment for someone to see that it’s all a façade. But that moment may never come. And we find ourselves faced with the reality of what God says.

God tells Samuel not to get distracted by appearances. Jesse’s sons were tall, strapping, handsome men. Samuel looked at them and saw potential kings — men that other men would gladly follow. His eyes were in danger of being caught. God interjects: “I have rejected these guys as king. I see things you don’t, Samuel. Don’t get hung-up on how kingly they look.” God was looking at their hearts. God looked forward and saw them cowering with the rest of the Israelite army while Goliath taunted and mocked God. God saw them caught up in their pride and thinking that their youngest brother was only interested in his own glory — projecting their own hearts onto David. God looks at the heart. And the hearts He saw within Jesse’s sons were not fully devoted to Him. All except David.

This presents me with several challenges today.

  1. I must not let my eyes be caught. The world is full of things to delight the eyes — interesting cars, fascinating fashions, attractive members of the opposite sex in those fashions. Those things, while not sinful in and of themselves (mostly), can easily lead me into sin if my eyes are caught.
  2. God knows what’s below the surface. I see only the outward in most cases. God sees the innermost detail in every case. I need to seek out His wisdom when dealing with everyone and everything that looks lovely on the surface.
  3. I need to not be jealous of the surface of another person’s life. While what I see may look great and desirable, it is only the tip of the iceberg. There is much more below the surface.
  4. My goal must be to see as God sees. If I seek His wisdom enough and look steadily at Him long enough then appearances will be shown as appearances and I will not judge based on those any longer.

Obedience (1 Samuel 15:22)

Samuel said,
“Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
As in obeying the voice of the LORD?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
to heed than the fat of rams.”

1 Samuel 15:22

Much as we are loathe to admit it, obedience is better than sacrifice. We can try to hedge and make excuses, but we know, in the end, that doing the right thing is better than making up for doing the wrong thing. And that’s Samuel’s point to Saul in this verse.

Saul had been given a task—go wipe out the Amalekites—and he had not done it. Saul’s excuse had something to do with the people (blame shifting) and making sacrifices (appeasement) and ultimately led him to think that he had been obedient. He was believing his own press so hard that he had begun to think it was true.

The same can happen to me. God gives very direct instruction—love God with everything I am and love my neighbor as myself—and I can do one of three things with it: obey it, disobey and admit I did wrong, or disobey and deceive myself into thinking I did something right. I have, in my time, done all three of these. The first is the best. It leaves me with a clean conscience and in right standing with God. No problems. The second is not as good, but is better than the last. With the second is the recognition that I have done wrong and the ability to be reconciled to God. The last is, by far, the worst of the three. If I think I’m doing something right—or, at least, not wrong—then I don’t see any need to reconcile with God and figure I can continue along my merry way.

The question this morning is whether or not there is anything God has told me to do that I have left undone and convinced myself I’m okay. If so, then I need to get my head screwed on straight about that thing, confess my wrong to God, and start moving forward. If no, then I need to stay my course of doing the right thing and confessing when I don’t.

Numbers (1 Samuel 14:6)

Then Jonathan said to the young man who was carrying his armor, “Come and let us cross over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; perhaps the LORD will work for us, for the LORD is not restrained to save by many or by few.”

1 Samuel 14:6

Sometimes I get wrong-headed about how God works. I sometimes think that He needs or wants numbers and find myself a bit depressed when the numbers aren’t there. Were I as attentive to my Bible as I ought to be, then I would remember that God has a history of saving by as few as possible.

Jonathan, Saul’s son, sneaks over to the outskirts of the Philistine camp and takes his armor-bearer with him. He stops to set the conditions of how they will know whether or not God is going to give victory and reminds his armor bearer, possibly himself, and definitely me that the LORD is not restrained to save by many or by few. Numbers aren’t God’s thing. It’s not that He is unconcerned with how many of a certain type of person there are, but that odds; statistics; probability are of no consequence to Him. This is also not so say that He doesn’t know the odds, just that the odds are no impediment to Him accomplishing His will. Throughout The Bible, the pattern is shown to be God using underwhelming force to accomplish overwhelming victory. Abraham and his servants go through and trounce five kings and their armies just to get Lot back safely. Gideon takes 300 against over 100,000 and wins. David goes toe-to-toe with Goliath and the little shepherd is the one who walks away from that fight. Jesus conquers sin and death by dying on the cross—humanity’s greatest foes defeated by Jesus laying down His life. God consistently takes the longest odds possible and works in that space. Vegas would hate Him.

I need to remember that numbers do not limit God. If a church is small; if a ministry is miniscule; if the available servants for any particular work are few still the LORD is not restrained. God can and will accomplish whatever He has set out to accomplish through His servants so long as we step out and do what He has called us to do.

(1 Samuel 12:23)

Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way.

1 Samuel 12:23

James will later write that the person who knows the good he should do and does not do it sins. That is much the thought that Samuel is expressing in this morning’s verse.

While Samuel is telling Israel that it would be wrong for him to stop praying for Israel and Israel’s people, I think there is a larger concept and application.

The NT tells me to pray without ceasing; to pray at all times and with all kinds of prayers. Jesus, when He taught how to pray, began with the words when you pray. Prayer, for me, should be a foregone conclusion. What’s more, I should never stop praying for people that God lays on my heart. Israel had been on Samuel’s heart for most of his life—definitely all of his adult life—and he regarded it as a sin to stop praying for Israel even though Israel had rejected God’s rule over them and Samuel as the judge appointed by God. So, too, should I regard it as a sin to stop praying for those whom God places on my heart even if they reject God’s lordship of their life; even if they reject me in whatever place I fill in their life.

Samuel also promises not to stop telling Israel the truth. He says he will instruct them in the good and right way. Samuel is the last judge. He is also a prophet. He spent his life speaking God’s truth to Israel; instructing them in the good and right way. He would not stop even though they rejected his work by demanding a king; would not stop even though they were rejecting God, their rightful King.

Likewise I must not stop speaking truth; instructing any who will listen in the good and right way.

I live in a nation that claims God was not a part of its history or a part of its foundation. My country is rejecting the God Who made her great. I need to continue to pray for my country and speak truth.

I must pray for and speak truth to those whom God places on my heart.