Inquiring of God – Too Late

1 Samuel 28-31 & Psalm 18

1 Samuel 28 15 NIV

In 1 Samuel 28, we read about the low point in Saul’s life.  The Philistine army had gathered their forces to attack, and Saul was terrified.  He wanted to know what to do, so he (finally) inquired of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer him.  He had spent much of his life ignoring God, now it was God’s turn to ignore Saul.

Saul was so desperate to know what to do that he decided to seek out a medium to contact Samuel (who was already dead by this point).  Saul knew this was wrong. In fact, in verse 3, we read that, “Saul had expelled the mediums and spiritists from the land.” And now he inquired of one.

Because Saul was head and shoulders taller than everyone else, presumably, the medium knew that her disguised client was really Saul. She suspected it was a trap.  Saul swore to her, “As surely as the Lord lives, you will not be punished for this.” Saul invoked God’s name to protect her – in total hypocrisy and defiance against God.

Samuel appeared and told Saul, among other things, “The Lord will hand over both Israel and you to the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me.”

Here are my thoughts on what happened:

1.  Through a direct reading of the passage, Samuel really truly did appear.  It was Samuel, not the medium doing some mambo-jumbo “channeling” sleight of hand.

2.  The medium was terrified by this, and didn’t at all expect this.  (Hence her screaming.) I think she was expecting some hocus pocus as usual, and Samuel really showed up.

3.  Samuel interacted directly with Saul, without “channeling” through the medium.

4.  Samuel spoke the truth, referring to comments he had made to Saul in chapter 15 about God tearing the kingdom out of his hand.

5.  I believe God raised Samuel temporarily from the dead specifically to condemn Saul.  I question whether Satan has that kind of power, or if he did, that he would have used it to tell Saul the truth.

6.  We know that Samuel was a righteous man, and Saul was a wicked man.  When Samuel told Saul that Saul and his sons would be joining Samuel the next day, we can infer that Samuel wasn’t in heaven, because Saul wouldn’t be going to heaven, and that Samuel wasn’t burning in hell, since he was righteous.  This re-affirms that Samuel was just dead in the ground, where Saul was going. (Daniel 12:2 reminds us where the dead are and what they are doing – asleep in the dust of the earth.)

In Chapter 31, we read that all of this came true the next day.  The Israelite army was conquered, Saul’s three sons were killed, and Saul committed suicide.

According to 1 Samuel 28:18, all of this happened because Saul “did not obey the Lord.”

This highlights again how important it is for us to obey the Lord.  We need to get into His word to understand what He requires. And then we need to just do it.


–Steve Mattison
Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Samuel+28-31%2C+Psalm+18&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Psalm 121, 123-125 & 128-130 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Too Close to the Enemy

1st Samuel 25-27

1 Samuel 27 7 NIV

It was difficult to decide where to focus today’s devotion, with so many options to choose from today’s reading.  I finally settled on the story recorded in 1 Samuel 27.

 

Saul had been chasing David for years, trying to kill him.  Finally, David decided the only way to be safe would be to move into enemy territory. So David and his 600 men (and their families) went to Gath, a prominent Philistine city.

 

King Achish knew Israel’s King Saul had been trying to kill David for years, so King Achish welcomed David.  He probably thought, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

 

During David’s time in Philistine territory, it seems to me that David was very deceptive.  First, he asked King Achish to give David and his men a town of their own to live in. David’s excuse was that they didn’t deserve to live in the royal city with the king.  I think David actually requested this so the king couldn’t see what David and his men were really doing.

 

They got their own town, Ziklag, about 25 miles away from Gath, which they used for their base of operations for raiding surrounding towns.  They would attack a town, kill every person, and take all the plunder. The towns they attacked were either under King Achish’s control, or allied to King Achish.  But David would tell King Achish, “We attacked Israel again today. That’s where we got all this stuff.” This happened repeatedly.

 

Verse 12 tells us that Achish believed David and thought to himself, “By now the people of Israel must hate him bitterly.  Now he will have to stay here and serve me forever!”

 

I’ve heard people say that they love this story because David was so deceptive. While it is an interesting story, we should never use this example from David’s life as a role model.  It is never ok to lie, and it isn’t good to glorify those who do. I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:37, “All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”

 

Even though David got away with this for a while, eventually, there were consequences.  If you do something similar, there will also be consequences. So I challenge you today, be honest in all your dealings with everyone.  Remember Galatians 6:7, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”

 

–Steve Mattison
Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Samuel+25-27&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s reading will be Psalm 17, 35, 54 & 63 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

A Perfect Opportunity for Revenge

1st Samuel 21-24

1 Samuel 24 12 NIV

In today’s reading, we see more examples of Saul’s rebellion against God and his hatred of David.  Ahimelech the priest had inquired of the Lord for David. In his rage, Saul ordered that not only Ahimelech, but all the priests must be killed – so Doeg the Edomite, one of Saul’s goons, killed 85 priests, then went to their town and killed every man, woman, and child (and its cattle, donkeys, and sheep).  In chapter 23, Saul chased David and tried to kill him multiple times.

 

In chapter 24, David finally has his opportunity for revenge.  Saul was again chasing David. David and his men were hiding in the Desert of En Gedi.  Saul and 3000 chosen troops were in hot pursuit. Along the way, Saul needed to go to the bathroom.  He wanted a little privacy, so he stepped into a cave to relieve himself. Little did he know that David and his men were hiding further back in that very cave.

 

If you were David, what would you have done?  Would you have eliminated the threat to your life, and ushered in your reign as king?  To be perfectly honest, I think that’s exactly what I would have done. David’s men encouraged David to kill Saul, but instead, David crept up to Saul, and cut off the corner of Saul’s robe.

 

Afterward, David was conscience stricken and said, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.”

 

Wow!  Clearly Saul was a scoundrel, but David spared his life because God had made him king.  I think we can learn a lesson or two from David’s respect for the office of authority, even when the man in the office wasn’t worthy of respect.

 

This is exactly what we’re told to do in 1 Peter 2:13-14 – “For the Lord’s sake, submit to all human authority—whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right.”

 

David’s actions also remind me of Romans 12:17-18 – “Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.”

 

So too, we need to submit to authority, even when we don’t like the person in authority, or what they are doing.  Also, we need to be intentional about never repaying evil for evil.

 

To finish today’s story, because David had spared Saul’s life, Saul promised to leave David alone, and returned home (for now).  David and his men went up to their stronghold. God had protected David yet again.

Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Samuel+21-24&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Psalm 7,27,31, 34 and 52 on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Becoming a People after God’s Own Heart

1 Samuel 18-20; Psalm 11 & 59

Psalm 11 1 7 NIV

Today’s reading, found in 1 Samuel chapters 18 through 20, highlights how far Saul has fallen from his successes of chapter 14.  (Remember from chapter 15, that Saul had deliberately disobeyed a direct command from God, and things have been going from bad to worse for him since.

In 18:10-11, we read, “The very next day a tormenting spirit from God overwhelmed Saul, and he began to rave in his house like a madman.  David was playing the harp, as he did each day. But Saul had a spear in his hand, and he suddenly hurled it at David, intending to pin him to the wall.  But David escaped him twice.”

Once Saul decided to abandon God, God not only abandoned Saul, God tormented Saul.  This should be a lesson to us – never disobey God – there are always negative consequences.

Saul became jealous of David, after David had killed Goliath, because the women of Israel sang this song, “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands.”  As a result of his jealousy, Saul tried to kill David with his spear in 18:11 and again in 19:10. Saul also tried to kill David by having the Philistines kill him in 18:17, 21, 25.   In 19:1, Saul urged his servants and his son Jonathan to assassinate David. In 19:15, Saul ordered his men to bring David (and his bed) to Saul to be killed, when Saul thought David was sick in bed.  In 19:20, 21 and 22 Saul unsuccessfully sent troops to get David three times.

In 20:30, Saul boiled with rage at his own son, Jonathan, who was friends with David, and in 20:33, Saul hurled his spear at Jonathan, intending to kill him.

So much for Saul, what about David?

If you were David, how would you react?  What would you do?

Remember that Samuel had anointed David in chapter 16, and declared that David would be the next king over Israel.  So what did David do? He wrote some songs about this. Let’s see what he said in those songs…

David wrote Psalm 59 when Saul sent his soldiers to watch David’s house in order to kill him.  This psalm starts out, “Rescue me from my enemies, O God. Protect me from those who have come to destroy me.  Rescue me from these criminals; save me from these murderers. They have set an ambush for me…”. This makes sense.  David was in trouble, so he cried out to God for help. David continues in verse 9, “You are my strength; I wait for you to rescue me, for you, O God, are my fortress.”

Then an astounding thing happens.  David starts praising God – in advance of God’s rescuing him.  Psalm 59 ends with, “But as for me, I will sing about your power.  Each morning, I will sing with joy about your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress.  O my strength, to you I sing praises, for you, O God, are my refuge, the God who shows me unfailing love.”

David, the man after God’s own heart was actually praising God when he was literally afraid for his life.  This shows his great faith that God will indeed rescue him. Maybe this is one of the reasons he was called a “man after God’s own heart.”

Psalm 11, the other chapter from today’s reading also shows David’s faith through difficulty.  It starts out, “I trust in the Lord for protection…”, and ends with “For the righteous Lord loves justice.  The virtuous will see his face.”

I believe David’s response is a good example for us.  When times are tough, it’s natural to cry out to God for help.  We need to move on from just asking for help, and follow David’s example to also have faith and praise God, even before the answer comes.  And in the process, we, too, may become people after God’s own heart.

–Steve Mattison
And, of course – it’s a great day to celebrate a risen Savior (as is everyday) so enjoy some time reading from the gospels as well.  Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and/or John 20-21 provide some exciting reading for the day.  He is Risen!
Tomorrow’s reading will be 1st Samuel 21-24 as we continue our journey into God’s Word on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Waiting on God

1st Samuel 13-14

1 Samuel 14 37 b NIV

What do you do when you think God is taking too long to answer your prayer?

If you are King Saul, you tell the priest to “withdraw your hand” (1 Sam 13:19) – meaning that God is taking too much time responding to a prayer request. King Saul believed that he had some sort of advantage over the enemy and didn’t want that advantage to slip away. So he took matters into his own hands, assembled his men, and went into battle. The outcome wasn’t too good.
Have you ever prayed for something so long, that you become impatient waiting for God to give you directions and end up rushing the timeline just to pursue your own desires, wishes, or dreams? Any time we read a Bible study about an individual doing something for him/herself rather than waiting on God, it never ends well; it’s always a disaster.  Why do you think that is?
After some careful self-reflection, I think that I’ve got it figured out for myself: It’s because I like being in charge – to be independent – to not have to rely on someone else’s timing. And even as I type these words, I know it’s ludicrous because my decisions are based on a very limited perspective; whereas, God has a completely different view of my life. His reasons for delaying an answer to prayer, is all about the timing that will give him the most credit.
So the next time you are tempted to move on without God’s response to your prayers, just remember that Saul  ended up making some outlandish ultimatums and in so doing, ended up discrediting himself and losing God’s favor.
Stay persistent in your prayers. Do not give up. Keep waiting for an answer to your prayers. At the proper time, God will provide an answer or solution for your need. And in the meantime, always remember that God is by your side – he has not abandoned you.
Bethany Ligon
Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Samuel+13-14&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s reading will be 1st Samuel 15-17 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan .
It’s also a great time to read from the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) as we reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice….and wait on God…for the resurrection.

God Calls and Qualifies

1st Samuel 9-12

1 Samuel 10 9 NIV

Have you ever found yourself in a position totally unprepared or unqualified? When I was in college for my bachelor’s degree, I took Cellular & Molecular Biology as part of my program to become a secondary science teacher. It just so happened that this was the same course that was required for pre-med students. Somehow, I ended up getting an invitation to join a study group with these pre-med students. After 5 minutes with these people, I realized that they were a completely different caliber of student – I was so out of my depth.

There have been other times in my life when my own inexperience and inadequacies seemed to cast a blinding glare onto the responsibilities that I had to carry out. Even now, after 23 years of experience in education, there are times when I have no clue on how to handle a given situation.
This is how I relate to Saul being approached by Samuel to become king of Israel. His response is that he’s a nobody, from the smallest tribe and his clan is the least of all. How is it that he has been selected to rule over an entire nation?
But isn’t that just like God to do something like that? God seems to select those who are the most unlikely to be successful. Why does He do this? What I have learned, is that it makes me more dependent on God and less likely to take the credit.
Being part of the FUEL leadership team for many years, I have seen time and time again when a situation developed that was bigger than our resources and everything ended up working out because we depended on God. Anyone out there remember the year that we stopped going to Taylor University and started going to Manchester University? Yeah, we weren’t sure if FUEL was going to happen that year. But with a lot of prayer (and hard work by the directors) we were able to gather again because God pointed us in the direction we needed to go. God provided us with exactly the right site, to work the best conference staff, to continue to return for many years.
I recently read a phrase that I think is appropriate here: “God doesn’t call the qualified; God qualifies the called.” If you’re willing to be used by God, you will find yourself in circumstances that seem way out of your league. While you may not be so confident in your abilities, know that God is more than able to see you through. After all, it’s His reputation on the line and God never fails.
Bethany Ligon
Today’s Bible reading passage can be read, or listened to, at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Samuel+9-12&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s reading will be 1st Samuel 13-14 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

God is Present

1st Samuel 4-8

1 Samuel 4 3 NIV

If a tree falls in the forest, does it make any sound?

This is what I think of when I read 1 Samuel 4-8. The Israelites and Philistines seem to think that the presence of the ark of the covenant is equivalent to God being present and vice versa, if the ark is not anywhere around, God must be absent. The ark of the covenant is merely a physical and tangible symbol of God’s presence. And while it is true that some amazing things took place while the ark was in possession of the Israelites, it wasn’t always a guarantee that having it around would lead to a win. That my friends, is called manipulation. It’s honoring the thing rather than the Creator.
I feel like I might have shared this story with some of you before, but here I go again. Many years ago, I was out on the lake with some friends. It was a gorgeous day and we were wake boarding. I was out in the water waiting for the boat driver to circle around and I just started praying out loud, not loud enough for others to hear me, but it was obvious that my lips were moving. After I had gotten back into the boat, a friend asked me what I was talking about and I just responded, “I was praying”. And her response has stuck with me, “You can pray out on a lake?” She wasn’t kidding, when she asked me that question. She really wasn’t a church goer but she had gone through Catholic Catechism. She was so used to the act of praying being limited to certain environments that praying on a lake was a new concept for her.
It’s easy sometimes to compartmentalize our lives. If we’re not careful, we may find ourselves dressing, speaking, and acting one way at home, another way at church, and another way at school or work. We can become chameleons in our environments in order to cast a persona that works for our benefit, instead of being our real and authentic selves.
What 1 Samuel 4-8 can teach us, if we’re willing to pay attention, is that no matter where we are, what we are doing, or who we are with, God is present. And our ever-present God desires to be our authority, our protector, our provider, our friend. Should we ever be insistent on wanting something else to stand in his place, that is our choice, but that does not mean that God goes away. He will always be there, wherever we are, whatever we’re doing, and whomever we’re with, loving us just the same as always.
Bethany Ligon
Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Samuel+4-8&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s reading will be 1st Samuel 9-12 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Pouring Out My Soul

1 Samuel 1-3

1 Samuel 1 15c NIV

Raise your hand if you are in the habit of writing out your prayers.

I am not consistent with the practice, but whenever I do, I’m glad that I did. I’ve gone back and read some of my past prayers and I wonder who in the world wrote them. It’s like I’m a different person when I write out my prayers. As I write out my thoughts while praying, I spend much more time acknowledging God and less time on my own wants. When I write out my prayers my words are more intentional than when I speak. When I write out my prayers my ideas seem to be more in alignment with who God wants me to be compared to when I ramble on in my own mind without recording my thoughts.
As I read 1 Samuel 2, I take in the words of a woman who fully expresses who she has experienced God to be. He is her Rock, her God. God is one who knows her heart and strengthens her when she stumbles. God blesses her and sends thunder against her enemies.
I am thankful that this particular prayer was recorded for us to read. It’s an encouragement for us to persist in prayer. It reminds us of who God is and of his power and might, his peace and his love, his provision and his holiness.
If you are already in the practice of writing out your prayers, spend some extra time this week, going back and reading previous prayers. What have you learned since? How have you changed?
If you do not already write out your prayers, I encourage you to spend some time this week, recording your prayers. How do your written prayers compare to your verbal prayers? What might you gain or learn from the process?
Keeping a prayer journal is a discipline that has many benefits. Learn from Hannah and spend time praising God.
Bethany Ligon
Today’s Bible reading, 1 Samuel 1-3, can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Samuel+1-3&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s reading will be 1 Samuel 4-8 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan