SOAP Journal – 10 October 2017 (1 Samuel 29)

But Achish replied to David, “I know that you are pleasing in my sight, like an angel of God; nevertheless the commanders of the Philistines have said, ‘He must not go up with us to the battle.’ Now then arise early in the morning with the servants of your lord who have come with you, and as soon as you have arisen early in the morning and have light, depart.”

1 Samuel 29:9-10

David had been raiding towns and leaving no survivors for a while when the Philistines mustered their forces to go to war with the Israelites. Achish, the king of the Philistines, wanted to bring David and his soldiers along as the king’s guard. The lords of the Philistines were having none of that. They commented that the Israelites sang songs about how many enemies of the Israelites David had killed and that it would be the best thing for David if he were to turn on the Philistines in the midst of the battle and so win favor with Saul. Achish, for his part, reminds the lords of the Philistines that he has found no fault with David. Neither side is wrong in what they are saying and there is no telling what David might have needed to do had he been backed into the corner of defending Achish from the Israelite army. Fortunately for David, the will of the lords of the Philistines prevailed and David was sent back to his house.

David was playing with fire by being with the enemies of his people. Just by living among them, he felt that he had to lie about where he was raiding in order to be safe. It might have been that God would have caused Achish to be favorably disposed toward David even had Achish known that David was raiding Canaanite towns. After all, David was leaving the Philistines alone and removing potential obstacles to forming new settlements, it might have played well.

It can be the same for me, as a believer. It is possible for me to get myself into places where someone thinks that I am on their side — whether that is by outright lying or omission on my part is not pertinent — and might lead to me being put in situations where I could be asked to act against fellow believers. What would I do if that situation arose? By God’s grace, I cannot think of a time when this has happened in my own life, but it is a sobering thought. It gives me a moment’s reflection to realize that I could be in this sort of predicament and only be let out safely by God’s intervention.

Father, thank You for this warning and for the reminder that You are gracious. Please keep me from situations that might ask me to act against the best interest of Your and Your people.

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SOAP Journal – 05 October 2017 (1 Samuel 28)

Samuel said, “Why then do you ask me, since the LORD has departed from you and has become your adversary?”

1 Samuel 28:16

While the Philistine and Israelite armies are getting ready for battle, Saul does what an Israelite king should do: Asks God for instructions. But God does not answer Saul. So Saul goes looking for a medium to call up the spirit of Samuel. This is a bit of a challenge, since Saul had gotten rid of almost all of the mediums in Israel.  He finds one and asks her to call up the spirit of Samuel. God, apparently, has a sense of humor as He not only allows the medium to successfully call up Samuel’s spirit, but sends the late prophet to visit in a a bit of a mood. Saul gets to talk to Samuel, but the answer is not what Saul would have liked.

Bible teachers speculate quite a bit about why God does not answer us when we ask Him things. In this account, I have a tacit explanation given by Samuel. Saul says God has departed from me and no longer answers me, either through prophets or by dreams (v. 15). So I know that Saul is seeking God’s guidance through all the channels available to him. Samuel’s reply, which begins in this morning’s verse, includes Samuel saying The LORD has done accordingly as He spoke through me (v. 17). Samuel references what God already said. And this gives me one reason why God may be silent. Because He has already told me what He wants to tell me. If I am looking for guidance on whether or not I should pursue a hobby or some other thing that is not prohibited by The Bible and I am receiving no answer, then I need to consider whether or not He might have already spoken on the matter. Saul already knew what God has said and had been fighting it for years. That day, God was going to make good on what He said would happen.

Father, thank You for speaking to me and for bearing with my thick head. Please give me ears to hear Your answers and a mind that recalls them when I seek guidance for things You have already given me guidance on.

SOAP Journal – 04 October 2017 (1 Samuel 27)

So Achish believed David, saying, “He has surely made himself odious among his people Israel; therefore he will become my servant forever.”

1 Samuel 27:12

After God has turned the tables on Saul twice and flipped the script from Saul pursuing David to David having an opportunity to kill Sail, it might seem rational that David would consider himself safe. But he does not. David thinks, rightly, that Saul will keep chasing him, so David heads off into the land of the Philistines. While there, he raids Geshurites and Girzites and Amalekites, but leaves both Philistine and Israelite alone. However, when David is asked by Achish, the king of the Philistines, where he had been raiding, he tells Achish that he had been in the southern areas of Israel. David and his men had practiced a sort of total war, killing every human being and saving only the livestock, so the only people who could tell the truth were the dead — who tell no tales — and David’s men. This sojourn in the land of the Philistines eventually ends up traumatic (1 Samuel 30), but David, while lying to cover his backside, manages to avoid injuring his host and the people of God. No mean feat.

There is one thing that come through to me loud and clear and I read this passage: The apparent enemy of my enemy is not always my friend. David gave every appearance of being the friend of Achish. David lived off in the Philistine countryside and did not raid Philistine locations. At a minimum, it would appear that David was friendly toward Achish. And he may have even felt a friendly disposition toward Achish as a person, but the Philistines were still the enemies of the Israelites and David did not lose sight of that.

I need to be very careful about who I consider my friend. There will be people who appear to share a common foe with me and that is all well and good. Allies are helpful. But a friend is something more and I should be deliberate and cautious about who I apply that label to.

Thank You, Jesus, that You call me Your friend if I do as You have commanded — loving God and loving my fellow people. Please give me a more loving heart that I may be Your friend.

SOAP Journal – 03 October 2017 (1 Samuel 26)

The LORD will repay each man [for] his righteousness and his faithfulness; for the LORD delivered you into [my] hand today, but I refused to stretch out my hand against the LORDS anointed.

1 Samuel 26:23

This chapter is yet another account of Saul chasing David in the wilderness. David has been doing nothing wrong, as far as the book tells us, and some Ziphites come to visit Saul and tell him that David is hanging out near a particular hill (vv 1-4). It may be that Saul had stopped chasing David because he did not know where David was. It might be that he had actually realized that David was just trying to be safe from him (Saul). The list of possible reasons just keeps going.

Saul must have marched his army pretty hard, because they all drop off into a deep sleep when they get to where David is. David and one of his men, Abishai, sneak into the camp without waking anyone up and walk out with Saul’s spear and water jug (vv 5-12).

Once they are at a safe distance, David and Abishai stand on a hill top and David has a shouted conversation with Abner, Saul’s commander, about how he (Abner) had been derelict in his duties and fallen asleep on the job … literally. David has some harsh words for Abner, saying that he (Abner) and the whole of his forces must die for failing to protect the king (vv 13-16).

Saul hears David shouting and has his own loud conversation with David, finally concluding with Saul admitting that he has done wrong in pursuing David (vv 17-21). David wraps things up with a bow in this morning’s verse.

And this entire debacle acts as a reminder that God is in control. Saul went chasing after David, but David heard about it and was safe. David has yet another chance to remove Saul from the equation, but refuses to lift his hand against the LORD’s anointed.

On the subject of the LORD’s anointed, I have heard stories of pastors and teachers and whatnot claiming that no one should bring a charge against the LORD’s anointed when they (those pastors, etc.) are called on their nonsense. David certainly brings a charge. David straight up rebukes Saul and Saul responds with I have sinned (v 21). David, the man after God’s heart, rebukes Saul for his wrongdoing and Saul admits it. No one is exempt from correction, because no one is perfect. The heart; the motives of the one doing the correcting have to be in the right place, but correction is always necessary if we are in error.

Back to David’s statement that the LORD will repay each man his righteousness and his faithfulness. People may not repay good for good. People may not appreciate the faithfulness shown them. That should not matter to the believer, because the LORD will repay. And this loops into what Jesus said about doing my acts of righteousness. When I do things in obedience to God, I need to do them to be seen by God, Who will repay me good for good. If I do them to be seen by men, then I will get whatever men give me. If I do them to be seen by God, then I will receive recompense from the LORD: good for good.

Father, thank You that You see what is done both openly and in secret. Thank You that it is You Who repay our righteousness and faithfulness, even though both are from You to begin with. Please give me a heart looking to do good things to be seen by You; to be found faithful in Your sight; to be righteous according to Your standards.

SOAP Journal – 02 October 2017 (1 Samuel 25:2-28)

Now therefore, know and consider what you should do, for evil is plotted against our master and against all his household; and he is such a worthless man that no one can speak to him.

1 Samuel 25:17

There are three main characters in the drama of 1 Samuel 25:2-28. The first is David. He took his men into the wilderness near Carmel after the death of Samuel and, as the passage later explains, took care of shepherds of Nabal among whatever other things he and his men got up to. The second is Nabal who is one of the more aptly-named people in scripture. The third is Nabal’s wife, Abigail, who is the poster woman against arranged marriages.

The story begins with David hearing that Nabal is shearing his sheep. According to everything I have read, sheep shearing time was a bit of a celebration. So David, hearing about this celebration and having protected this man’s flocks and shepherds, sends a few young men over with a message. The message boils down to: “Hey there! Heard you were shearing sheep and having a bit of a party. We contributed to that party by protecting your flocks and shepherds, so whatever you can spare for us would be great.”

Nabal is having none of it and sends the men away empty-handed. He does not even pause to fact-check the story. His name, Nabal, translates to “Fool” and his decision in that moment and the lack of surprise shown by his servants seem to indicate that his name was apt.

As it turns out, the story is totally true and one of the servants who overheard what happened heads back to the house and tells Abigail what happened. She packs up a miniature feast for David and his men and goes along with it to make sure that everything is smoothed over.

And it was a good thing that she did. When she meets David, he and his men were on their way to wipe Nabal and his men off the map. It may seem harsh to the modern mind, but the concept of hospitality was deeply ingrained in the ancient mind. Many cultures told stories of the gods traveling around and looking for hospitable people and rewarding the hospitable while punishing those who turned travelers away empty. And the Israelites were no exception. What is more, David and his men had likely faced down wild animals and raiding parties from the non-Israelite neighbors in the region. David and his men were, as the servant put it, They were a wall to us both by night and by day, all the time we were with them tending the sheep (v 16).

Three people and three parts in the story.

Nabal is a warning against dismissing things out of hand. His self-absorption and dismissal of David’s men very nearly cost him and those around him their lives. When he hears that his life was on the line for his folly, it actually frightens him so much that his heart died within him so that he became [as] a stone (v 37).

David is a warning against acting too quickly. He gets ready to wipe Nabal and his servants off the map as soon as the messengers return to him. It is only because Abigail intercepts him that no one is slaughtered in this story. David is also an encouragement to be quick to cool off when things are made right. Though he boiled over quickly at the thought of an injustice, he was quickly and easily pacified by the injustice being made right. This characteristic will follow him throughout his life.

Abigail is an encouragement to try to make things right, even when I am not the one at fault. She prepares food for David and his men and does so in a hurry in an attempt (a successful one) to make things right.

Thank You, Father, for the encouragement to make things right and to be quick to calm down when an injustice is made right. Thank You, also, for the warnings against being angered too quickly and against dismissing things out of hand. Please make me quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to be angered.

SOAP Journal – 28 September 2017 (1 Samuel 25:1)

Then Samuel died; and all Israel gathered together and mourned for him, and buried him at his house in Ramah. And David arose and went down to the wilderness of Paran.

1 Samuel 25:1

I find it curious that this is the first book of Samuel, but Samuel dies with another 6 chapters left in this installment and before the second installment even kicks off. It makes me wonder who the actual writer of the book is. But that is not the point this morning.

I wanted to pause and remark the passing of Samuel as the Israelites did. Samuel was the last of the judges and the first prophet to anoint a king over Israel. His life was marked by firsts and by intercession for the Israelites and their kings.

Despite his righteousness, his children did not choose to walk the same way. In a real way, he lived out the example that the best and most righteous people can raise children as best they can and those children will make their own choices about how to live. It is the kind of reality and truth that drives parents to their knees regularly.

Samuel’s passing was mourned by all Israel. This, I think, is the measure of a leader. The Israelites demanded that Samuel give them a king (God noted to Samuel that this was a rejection of God’s Kingship over them, not a rejection of Samuel’s leadership), but every last Israelite turned out to mourn him at his passing. I cannot think of the last leader or cultural icon that so unified my nation that every last one of us paused for a moment in whatever we were doing to mourn that person’s passing. Ronald Reagan’s passing is the closest I can think of in my memory.

I also note that David leaves Samuel’s house after the prophet dies as if the protection afforded is also gone. It seems that God will sometimes remove people from our lives in order to make us step further into our faith. David will go to increasingly dangerous places to stay away from Saul until he gets news of Saul’s death.

This leaves me with two challenges. First, let me live a life that will cause all who know me to mourn my passing. Second, let me not rely on any human leader for a sense of safety or guidance, but let me lean entirely on God, as Samuel did.

Thank You, Father, that You are far more than enough to lead me through anything and to keep me safe in Your hands no matter what. Please enable me to rise to the dual challenges I see in this morning’s verse: to live righteously and to rely entirely on You. In doing the second, I will accomplish the first.

SOAP Journal – 27 September 2017 (1 Samuel 24)

May the LORD judge between you and me, and may the LORD avenge me on you; but my hand shall not be against you.

1 Samuel 24:12

Saul’s pursuit of David was interrupted by the need for Saul to go defend the kingdom from the Philistines, but Saul went right back to hunting for David when the Philistines had been dealt with.

During this pursuit, Saul steps into a cave to relieve himself and David happens to be hiding in the depths of the cave. Saul does not notice David, but David and his men see Saul. David’s men tell David that it is time for him to kill Saul and take the kingdom, but David refuses. He cuts the edge off of Saul’s clothes and sneaks back over to his men to talk them down from wanting to kill Saul.

Afterward, David shows Saul the bit of fabric and lets Saul know that he (David) could have killed him (Saul) and the army could not have stopped it. David said quite a bit in his talk at Saul and Saul received it, but this morning’s verse hit home for several reasons.

First, David calls for God to do the avenging. David says May the LORD judge between you and me, and may the LORD avenge me on you. He had the perfect opportunity and he walked away from it, preferring to leave vengeance to God. Elsewhere in the Old Testament, God says that it is His place to take vengeance and repay (Deuteronomy 32:41). And Paul would tell the Roman believers to vengeance to God and quote the verse from Deuteronomy (Romans 12:19). The writer of Hebrews also quotes Deuteronomy (Hebrews 10:30). Clearly, The Bible indicates that vengeance is God’s domain.

My part is the same as David’s. David says my hand shall not be against you. In essence, David will not pursue vengeance against Saul. He had every reason to do so. Saul had chased David through the wilderness trying to kill him even though David had done nothing wrong. If anyone ever had a reason to kill someone, David had one with Saul. Yet David preferred to leave things to God to handle.

People will wrong me. I have the choice to take vengeance or to leave vengeance to God. Let me leave it to God.

Father, thank You for David’s heart toward vengeance. Those who  have wronged me have done nothing by comparison. Please give me a heart that seeks to leave vengeance in Your hands and to do nothing against those who wrong me.