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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Tuesday, February 09, 2010
Did Saul See Samuel's Ghost or Not? Part -II-

We left off our last post having begun to examine the passage in 1 Samuel 28. Here we found Saul visiting a witch whom he presses to conjure up the spirit of the prophet Samuel on his behalf. We stated our intention to examine the passage as closely as possible in order that we could give a careful and well reasoned answer to the question stated in the title.

Our first foray into the immediate context took us to verses five and six. Here we read that Saul is frightened by (and of) the Philistines, and is motivated by this fear to inquire of the Lord. Noting that even though Saul inquires of the Lord, the Lord refuses to answer Saul. In order to appreciate why the Lord refused to answer the desperate inquires of His anointed King, we began to work our way backwards in the context, starting with the anointing of Saul, and working our way forward until we come to Saul's failure at Gilgal.

Here Saul was to wait for Samuel to come to Gilgal and offer burnt and peace offerings, and this according to the command of God. Saul waited until the seventh day, the day upon which Samuel was to come and offer the sacrifices, but having lost the majority of his already pathetically small (and less than armed) force, Saul transgressed the command of the Lord and "forced" himself to offer up the burnt offerings and the peace offerings himself. This, we said took place in 1 Samuel 13.

We noted in closing that Saul's heart was not contrite in that he looked to secure the Lord's favor through sacrifice rather than through contrite obedience.

Who is Saul (continued)
In Samuel 15, Saul is given another chance, as it were, to obey the Lord. Recall the opening verses of chapter fifteen:
Then Samuel said to Saul, "The LORD sent me to anoint you as king over His people, over Israel; now therefore, listen to the words of the LORD. "Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.'" - 1 Samuel 15:1-3 [NASB]

Note how the Holy Spirit (who inspired this text) chose to introduce the command of God that Samuel received and was relaying to Saul? He begins by saying, in essence, because God sent me [Samuel] to anoint you [Saul] king over His people, therefore listen [i.e. obey] to the words [i.e. command] of the Lord!

Samuel sheathes the command of the Lord in language that implicitly conveys something clear (though not explicitly stated): God made a man king over Israel in order that He might rule over Israel through him. When Saul transgressed the command of the Lord, he was (in effect) usurping the rule of God. Which is pretty heady stuff if you understand what is going on. The fact that Samuel restates it here is doubly significant, given that Saul is about to fail again, according to the same pattern established in 1 Samuel 13.

By verse four, we find Saul with a formidable army (210,000 Israelites). With this force, Saul decimates the Amalekites, but not according to the command of the Lord. Consider how scripture describes the scene:
But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were not willing to destroy them utterly; but everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed. - 1 Samuel 15:9 [NASB]

Note that Saul was just going along with what the people wanted when he spared Agag and everything that was desirable in Amalek. In verse 24 Saul confesses that he feared the people and (having acted in the grip of that fear) he chose to obey their voice over the clearly stated (and profoundly explicit) command of the Lord (c.f. verse 24).

Our generous nature allows us to give most people the benefit of doubt. I expect Samuel had a larger share of that sort of nature than most of us, but I want you to put yourself in Samuel's shoes for a moment. You come to Gilgal, and find that God's anointed king - the king you yourself anointed on God's behalf, has once again set aside the commandment of God. His response? He was distressed and cried out to the Lord all that night. I tell you, when I read that I can taste Samuel's anguish, but it is nothing compared to what was coming in the morning. On his way up to meet with Saul, Samuel is told that Saul had stopped in Carmel to set up a monument ...to himself! This, after a night of distress and heart felt prayer for Saul. Can you hear Samuel weeping face down in the midnight hours, his soul dripping out tear by tear as he cries out for the Lord to turn Saul into the king he was supposed to become. Then rising in the morning, on your way to meet with the man you have spent the night interceding for, only to learn then that on top of setting aside the command of God to appease the voice of man, Saul has also erected a monument to his own glory?

All I can say is... whatever small part of Samuel was not entirely controlled by God's grace would likely have been hot enough to ignite water.

How does Saul greet Samuel? Is Saul on his face in the dirt? Perhaps his eyes are simply downcast in the sullen sober knowledge of his failure? No. Verse 13 records Saul's greeting as, "Blessed are you of the LORD! I have carried out the command of the LORD."

Can you put yourself in the scene? When Samuel responded, I wonder if it was through clenched teeth.

You know what happened next of course. Samuel laid it all on the table, spelling out in detail exactly what God had commanded, and how Saul had set that aside. Saul's immediate response was to deny that he had done anything wrong, hear his words: I did obey the voice of the LORD.. (c.f. verse 20). Saul then lays the blame on the people - they were the ones who took the choicest spoil, but always with the intent to offer it up as a sacrifice.
...if ever there was a time we could say that God doesn't want your cows, it is when He personally devotes them to destruction.
I want you, the reader, to think that through. God tells you to go in and devote everything to destruction. It is God's way of saying, "I utterly reject this people and all they have". You can't get much more "outside" of God's grace than being on the receiving end of God commanding His king to destroy you, and everything associated with you. Bluntly stated, if ever there was a time we could say that God doesn't want your cows, it is when He personally devotes them to destruction.

The most charitable thing we can say about Saul's answer to Samuel was that he utterly misunderstood what would have been an acceptable sacrifice to offer God. Especially given that if a sacrifices was merely physically marred it would be entirely unacceptable to God - how much more so when it is already devoted to destruction?

No. As charitable as we would like to be to Saul, the man could not possibly have been that dense. This was clearly a dodge - a slippery attempt to justify his giving into the desires of the people. When this comes out of Saul's mouth, Samuel lambastes him, asking whether it is better to offer sacrifice than to obey, stating in no uncertain terms that this rebellion on Saul's part was equivalent to the sin of divination (c.f. verse 23).

Whoa. Did Samuel just call Saul a rebel who was as just as guilty as anyone engages in divination (witchcraft)? Yeah-huh. Hey! aren't we examining a passage that deals with Saul doing just that - dealing in witchcraft?

Can I say that if rebellion is as the sin of divination, that divination is as the sin of rebellion? Of course I can, and naturally you see that too if you have read this far.

Saul admits he has sinned even as he lays the blames on the people. I think Adam did something similar in the Garden: sure I ate the forbidden fruit, but hey! the woman *YOU* put here with me, *she* gave it to me... Yet, however that might seem to us, Saul doesn't stop there. Saul goes on to ask Samuel not only pardon his rebellion but also to honor him before the elders of Israel by going back with him.

I marvel at Saul's conduct here. He seems desperate and even irrational. Is he even on the same page as Samuel? Hello Saul, God just rejected you as His king, and you want Samuel, God's prophet, to come and honor you before the elders of Israel??

We all remember the next scene. Samuel turns to leave, and Saul actually grabs his robe - tearing it in doing so. I mean, Samuel was no youngster at the time. Picture the an old man, turning away, and Saul grabbing his robes to stop him, so that in pulling away from Saul, Samuel's robe is torn; Samuel uses the image to bring home the message again to Saul in verses 28 and 29: The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to your neighbor, who is better than you. Also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind

The irony hangs in that statement like a thick vapour you can't help but see as you inhale. God commanded Saul to wipe out the Amalekites. The God of Israel is not like a man who changes his mind, that is the God of Israel is not like you Saul, who says, "I will obey" then later changes his mind. <cough, cough>

So Samuel goes back with Saul, but takes that opportunity to hack king Agag to pieces, something Saul should have done in the first place. I can't think of anything more humiliating than to have the aged prophet of God have to do what you failed to do, and to do it before all of Israel. Small wonder that this was the last time Saul saw Samuel's face in this life.

Concluding Thoughts For This Post
What we want to "take away" from this post is that by this point, Saul's obedience was being given, first to the world and only then to God. We see that in the next chapter (16) the Spirit of the Lord departs from Saul (c.f. 16:14). Recall God's promise to David's descendant, given through the prophet Nathan, and recorded in 2 Samuel 7:14-16;
I will be a Father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever. [NASB]

In particular note the underlined part, that God's lovingkindness departed from Saul, replaced by, or so we learn later, a calamitous spirit sent from the Lord.

When we begin to examine the "Saul" we find in 1 Samuel 28, we know that the man we see there, though willing to rule as king, is not willing to obey the Lord when push comes to shove. So far as it stands, we find a man who was rejected by God as king, but who refused to relinquish the throne. We find a man engaged in an act of rebellion (divination), and I for one do not marvel that God ignored his inquiries.

Yet that is enough for today's post. In the post to follow, I hope to show that Saul was not content to disobey God, but was actively working to thwart God's will by pursuing (with intent to kill) the man whom God anointed to take Saul's place.


posted by Daniel @ 1:36 PM  
  • At 2:30 PM, February 09, 2010, Blogger JIBBS said…

    It's interesting that when confronted by Samuel about not obeying the commandment, Saul quickly responded by saying what he had done was a good thing. He took the very best of the animals to offer unto Samuel's God as a sacrifice.

    And I love the sarcasm in Samuel's reply when Saul tells him he had obeyed God!

  • At 4:58 PM, February 09, 2010, Blogger Jim said…

    There is a lot to chew on here...some very profound lessons for us. These are some of my favourite passages in the OT.

    I agree that Samuel must have been heart broken over Saul's Pride and rebellion.

    It is a sober thing to think that our disobedience can actually lead to a life of opposing God's anointed servants.

  • At 10:34 AM, February 10, 2010, Blogger Daniel said…

    I love what insight this passage offers to those who are willing to plumb it.

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