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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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Friday, February 12, 2010
Did Saul See Samuel's Ghost or Not? Part -IV-

We began by examining what drove Saul to the witch and Endor - the fact that God had refused to answer any of Saul's inquiries. Before we continued in the text, we wanted to answer for ourselves, why it was that God wasn't answering the inquiries of Israel's anointed king.

What we discovered was that Saul was no longer Israel's anointed king at this point, that God had already taken the kingdom from Saul and given it to David. Saul was king in appearances only, and his refusal to obey God in general, to surrender the throne in particular, and his attempts to kill God's anointed king (David) along with the fact that he butchered everyone in the town of Nob, and even cut down 85 innocent priests of God, tells us that at this point, Saul is about as far from "the center of God's will for his life" as anyone is likely to get.

The Immediate Context Revisited

Let's start by looking again at verse five in first Samuel twenty-eight. Here we find Saul's motivation for inquiring of God, for the text reads that, "...when Saul saw the camp of the Philistines, he was afraid and his heart trembled greatly. " We have already seen that Saul feared men more than he feared God, and in chronicling Saul's failures, we might be inclined to imagine that Saul had abandoned God altogether. Such was not the case.

The root problem with Saul was not that he had abandoned God altogether, he hadn't; rather his main problem was that he tried to be whom God called him in a vacuum (i.e. apart from God's strength and power) He differed from David in that David relied upon the Lord in all things.

Perhaps the contrast is most evident in the battle against the Philistines where David slew Goliath. Saul weighed the strength of Goliath against his own strength, and trembled, David weighed the strength of Goliath against the strength of God and was emboldened.

I want to make a point here about Saul. Recall from previous posts where Saul's soldiers numbered only 3000. In that pairing, the Philistines had ten chariots and two horsemen for every unarmed soldier Saul brought to the field. This number (3000) was not the number that could have come out - it was the number that Saul brought. He actually sent men away. He could have brought 200,000 or even 400,000 men into the field against the Philistines, but Saul brought only 3000. We talk about how that number dwindled to 600 so that Israel's army was out manned 50 chariots and 10 horses to one unarmed Israelite soldier, and we remark about Saul's fear - but in doing so we cannot imagine that Saul in inclined to cowardice - for he was sending men away at a time when they were profoundly outnumbered.

This is to point out that Saul was not without faith. He was God's king, fighting God's battles, with God's people - and willing to enter into that stewardship going so far as to boldly face down a fully armed Philistine army with a small, unarmed Israelite task force. I don't know if it was Saul's idea to shave the numbers down to 3000, or if God had commanded the same through Samuel (as God had limited numbers for such things many times before and since in order to clearly put on display that the victory had nothing to do with personal strength, and everything to do with the fact that God fought for you), but one thing we know: Saul was willing to go into battle thus when it seemed God was with him.

It was only when those who were with Saul began to scatter that Saul began to question whether God was *really* in it. By the time Saul offers up the sacrifice, I think he is acting out of a desperate need for assurance that God is going to be there. It is one thing to face an overwhelming enemy when you know the Lord is with you, and quite another to face that enemy when you think you are alone.

We as Christians press one another on this point - that Jesus is with us; that we are never alone, this is the root of all our strength, for we cannot walk in the Spirit unless we believe with certainty, that the Spirit is with us. If we look to the might of our enemy, rather than the might of our Lord, that is, if we look to our sinfulness rather than God's faithfulness - we will fail every time, even as Saul began to fail here. Nowhere is this imagery more clear than when Peter took his eyes off of Christ and began to sink beneath the briny wash. Which is to say, let us be reminded in the life of Saul, just how necessary it is for each one of us to put our trust in the Rock of our salvation, and not in the sifting sands of our situation and sin.

Yes, Saul's greatest failure was that he doubted that the Lord was really with him. Yes, as Saul began to rely on himself rather than on the Lord, he began to work to satisfy himself rather than the Lord. That is what walking in the flesh looks like. Saul was using the gifts God had given him (the throne, an anointing, wealth, fame, etc.) to fortify his position.

Again, we don't want to miss the parallel here. Saul believed that God had initiated something, but when trials came he misinterpreted them as indicating that God was not with him, or that God was unreliable. Saul had an image in his head of what being anointed and king should look and feel like, and when things didn't pan out the way he thought they ought to, he took matters into his own hands to try and put them where he thought they ought to be (like when he offered up the sacrifices instead of waiting for Samuel). If we doubt that God is for us, we end up trying make God be for us. It is how doubt plays itself out in our lives. We do religious things to make up for what we imagine is a lack on God's part, but what is really happening is that we are mistaken in our understanding of what God is both doing presently, and going to do in the future. We have an image of what our best life is supposed to look like, and then we think that God is supposed to give us that life - and when it doesn't' come to us by the time we imagine we ought to have it, we think God isn't for us anymore, or maybe that he never was.

Saul's dilemma is both tragic and instructional. When he sees the enemies of God arrayed against the armies of God, he rightly inquires of God, but does so, not only as one who has seen his sin, and having turned from it is now concerned that God's will be done - no, Saul had turned to God in order to get out of the bind he found himself in. Saul was in a state of rebellion against God's rule in his life and in the kingdom of Israel, and so we would have been quite surprised had God answered Saul's inquiry, since, "...we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him." (John 9:31). Saul was not doing God's will, and was not fearing God in the sense of honoring God by carrying out God's will. Saul was working against God, and for that reason God refused to "hear" Saul's inquiries.

Samuel had already died by this point, but had Samuel been alive, Saul would certainly have approached Samuel next. In fact, the only reason Saul goes to the witch is because Saul is bent on talking to Samuel.

I want to point out something here, Saul knows that the Lord is with David, but Saul does not seek out David. He knew that the Lord was with Samuel in life, and because it was Samuel who first anointed him, perhaps Saul felt that Samuel would be more inclined to aid him. Recall that Samuel had spent a whole night in prayer for Saul; that is, don't recall the event itself, but recall the heart behind that event - for Saul knew that Samuel was an intercessor, and failing to inquire of God directly, Saul was seeking an intercessor to bridge the gap between himself and God - the only person Saul imagined would do that for him was now dead - but Saul was so desperate for intercession, that ... well, look at the length Saul was willing to go to, and that says it all.

But Saul was bent on a course of trying to get to God without repenting.One of the things that strikes me as most tragic here is that Saul really wanted to be "right with God" but wanted that "rightness" on his own terms. He wanted to be right with God without having to ascend the holy hill. He wanted God to descend that hill and meet him where he was. He desired God, but wanted to hold onto everything else too. He wanted God as the prize gem in his crown, and not as the crown itself. He was certainly (and wisely) afraid of God. But Saul was bent on a course of trying to get to God without repenting.

Saul's pursuit of Samuel through the witch at Endor, was typical of the pattern that was already evident in Saul's behavior: the ends justifies the means

What To Take Away From This Post
We want to see that in going to the witch at Endor, Saul was actually seeking Samuel as an intercessor between Himself and God. The question we will ask in coming posts is whether or not God allowed a witch to conjure up Samuel in order to provide an intercessor for Saul, whom God had refused to hear otherwise.

Stay with us.


posted by Daniel @ 9:46 AM  
  • At 11:15 AM, February 12, 2010, Blogger Bob Johnson said…

    I've been enjoying this series; thanks. Where this quote is concerned, "One of the things that strikes me as most tragic here is that Saul really wanted to be 'right with God' but wanted that 'rightness' on his own terms. He wanted to be right with God without having to ascend the holy hill.", I have a question. Would it be wrong to say that Saul wanted "to enjoy the blessings of being right with God" rather than to say that he wanted "to be right with God?" Not disagreeing, but the distinction occurred to me and I thought I'd ask.

  • At 12:12 PM, February 12, 2010, Blogger Daniel said…

    Bob, good question!

    When Saul failed to obey God's command in devoting the Amalekites to destruction, I think he (eventually) gave an honest answer: he was afraid of the people. He wanted to obey God, but in the moment that he made his decision, the people were more real to him that God was. I think he wanted to obey, but "turtled" in the moment of truth.

    Had he been contrite in heart, he would have admited that up front, but he wanted to hide the fact that he wasn't perfect, in this I think what you say has some merit -for Saul certainly wanted to be thought of as obedient, even when it was clear that he wasn't. Said another way, he wanted the reputation of a righteous man, but found hismelf (when push came to shove) both unwilling to earn it, and unwilling to own up to his failure.

    In that way, I think it is safe to say that he both desired to actually be righteous, and (having found himself unwilling to obey fully in the face of his fears), he wanted to hide his failure by pursuing the reputation of being righteous.

    Does that make any sense?

  • At 5:26 PM, February 12, 2010, Blogger Jim said…

    The things written beforehand are for our learning and admonition...truly!!

    The spiritual parallels of the OT narrative are truly astounding. What a contrast between a life in the Spirit and a life in the flesh. The differences become enormous as the fruit is revealed.

    Thanks again!

  • At 9:24 PM, February 12, 2010, Blogger JIBBS said…


    Great series you've got going here!

    I only have one question and that is about the kingship of Saul at this point. I agree with you in a sense that Saul has been rejected as king, but it seems to me that as long as he was alive (unless he willingly relinquished his kingship) that he was effectively the king. David refused to lay a hand on him for this reason and even had the man who brought Saul's crown to him put to death. So what I don't understand is if David was king, and knew the throne was rightfully his, since it had been given to him by the Lord, then why was he so reluctant to kill Saul, whom he called "the Lord's anointed"?? I'm confused. :(

    Thanks again for the commentary!

  • At 3:50 PM, February 15, 2010, Blogger JIBBS said…

    Hi Dan

    This is totally unrelated to the current stuff, so I apologize for going off tangent. I was just wondering if you could comment on Paul having Timothy circumcised. I did a search on your blog but didn't come up with anything. I read a brief commentary by John Piper, but I still have some questions. Any thoughts you have when time is available would be appreciated. Thanks much!

  • At 4:52 PM, February 15, 2010, Blogger Daniel said…


    First and foremost let's look at what --wasn't-- the reason.

    Paul didn't do that because Timothy needed to be circumcised in order to be a Christian or any such nonsense.

    Paul's habit was to go to the Jews first, and then to the Gentiles. If Timothy was going to accompany Paul, then Timothy's lack of circumcision would be a problem.

    I think it was just a matter of convenience. Everything we have in scripture tells us that Paul was not forcing Gentile converts to be circumcised. That leaves us with only practical considerations;

    Does that help? I haven't read Piper, or anyone else on this, but that is what I expect was going on. Maybe I will change my opinion if I hear some convincing argument to the contrary?

  • At 8:46 PM, February 15, 2010, Blogger JIBBS said…

    Yeah, that's sorta what I got out of it. I guess I just don't understand why Timothy wasn't circumcised prior, since it appears he was probably raised in the Jewish tradition (his mother was Jewish). However, it is possible that he may not have been raised as a Jew, since his father was Greek, therefore, it makes sense that he ought to have been treated like any other Gentile. I realize Paul did not permit Gentiles to be circumcised, though, so I think the former is more likely than the latter. Practically, though, do you think Paul foresaw the Jews not accepting Timothy's testimony or evangelistic endeavors on the basis of circumcision? I don't want to sound crude, but would they ask for "evidence" of that? Since Paul performed the circumcision, I can only conclude he expected an encounter like that, which to my 20th century mind is hard to swallow. :) It's a different world we live in, that's for sure.

  • At 5:47 AM, February 16, 2010, Blogger Daniel said…


    I think that there were places that Paul preached where an uncircumcised Gentile would not be allowed to go.

    Paul, if you will recall, upon returning to Jerusalem for the last time, purified himself according to the Mosaic laws. He shaved all his hair, offered up the appropriate sacrifices, etc. etc. Paul knew that these things were already empty pictures of what had already been fulfilled in Christ, and yet he did these things so that the Jews would have no reason to fault him on account of his keeping the law.

    You see, it is all good and nice to preach that Christ fulfills the law, but if you are going to bring that message into a Jewish community, you have to be a Jew. Paul understood this, and so even though He knew there was no spiritual need to perform these old covenant rituals, yet he continued in them for the sake of the gospel - and it was this "all things to all men" attitude that I think carried over into the circumcising of Timothy. If Timothy was going to accompany Paul into places where Gentiles were considered unclean, and if the testimony of a Gentile or the testimony of a "renegade" and lawless Jew would have been dismissed without a hearing - then Paul was just being Paul - all things to all men for the gospel's sake.

    That's what I think.

  • At 5:47 AM, February 16, 2010, Blogger Daniel said…

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • At 6:20 AM, February 16, 2010, Blogger Daniel said…

    Double post there for some reason...

  • At 10:39 PM, February 16, 2010, Blogger JIBBS said…

    Ok. Wow. I had no idea Paul did those things (I just read a commentary on the Nazarite rites of purification). That is a lot more in depth adherence to the Law than I assumed Paul observed! Thank you for pointing that out. That definitely sheds light on my misunderstanding.

    Can I ask you another question?

    How do you think that relates to us today? I mean the "be all things to all people". Do you think Paul did that just because he was already a Jew? Of course, a Gentile would not have been allowed to enter the Temple, but if they could have, do you think he would have wanted them to? If we subjectively apply it to ourselves, it seems like it could turn into a very dangerous concept in our society, and may explain a lot of the "seeker sensitive" evangelism models that denigrate the Gospel itself. I wonder if I have created a "limit" on what I should be willing to do for Christ's sake, yet at the same time I do not want to step outside any bounds that God has set. I don't want to compromise the message of the Gospel, first and foremost, but to be honest I almost feel like Paul did in a way. So that shows my thinking is wrong. How wrong? I don't know. I've heard of people in the name of evangelism doing really strange things "for Jesus", and frankly have thought they were crazy, or being selfish, or both. But maybe I'm the one who needs to lighten up a bit.

  • At 6:35 AM, February 17, 2010, Blogger Daniel said…


    Like most believers (who read the bible) I find myself comparing my own walk of faith to the people scripture describes, and like most, I find myself dearly wanting. In fact, (like most) I began to feel like maybe I wasn't really a Christian because even though I hated myself for it, I still continued to sin.

    When I read in Galatians that Peter -- Peter -- sinned at Antioch by schmoozing up to the Judaizers in a way that presented a corrupted understanding of the gospel itself (and Peter of all people knew better given his roof top vision, and his visit to the household of Cornelius). I look at this man and see that for all his Apostleship, for all his time spent with Christ, and for all the miracles that were performed by him in the name of Christ - he was still able to sin. That understanding alone has kept me from such errors as perfectionism, etc.

    But it also reminds me that even the Apostles weren't perfect.

    Paul was a Jew. He had kept the law according to the traditions of the Pharisees. I am completely convinced that Paul understood perfectly that the Nazarite vow, and circumcision were all associated with a promise that was no longer in effect.

    Recall that the canon of scripture was not yet closed - that is, Paul's ministry took place at a time when Jews who were saved under the old testament, had yet to understand that a new testament was in effect. They had been saved already under the old covenant already, but had yet to be ushered into the new covenant and receive the promise of the new covenant (the indwelling Holy Spirit). On the one hand Paul was preaching that it wasn't the keeping of the law that saved a man, nor was the keeping of the old covenant necessary under this new covenant, but this was being misunderstood by Jews who heard word of it as though Paul were simply preaching against the Jews, against the law, and against the temple (c.f. Acts 21:28).

    Didn't Paul use his status as a Roman citizen to get out of a whipping once? I mean, seriously - Paul used whatever he had with all his might, to do what he was called to do. He was born a Jew and raised a Pharisee - sometimes he used these things - even taking advantage of doctrinal disagreements between the Pharisees and the Sadducees to save his neck when he was on trial.

    I think that we should do the same. If I were a Jew who came to Christ, I would probably use the doors that opened to me on that account to share the gospel. If I were not a Jew, then trying to imitate one for the sake of the gospel would be ridiculous and, well, it would be a zeal without knowledge.

    I have to go to work or I would ramble on a bit more.

  • At 7:30 AM, February 17, 2010, Blogger Daniel said…


    I was just about to write the fifth post, when I remembered that I had yet to answer you on a point (Sorry about that), you said, ...what I don't understand is if David was king, and knew the throne was rightfully his, since it had been given to him by the Lord, then why was he so reluctant to kill Saul, whom he called "the Lord's anointed"?? I'm confused. :(

    This is too good a question to answer here in the comments. I didn't plan to, but as I read it again, I think I should address it as an installment in the series.

    Stay tuned.

  • At 10:13 AM, February 17, 2010, Anonymous Sabeian said…

    I am enjoying your series and look forward to your next installment. I try to read your posts every day. They are very informative and enlightening.

  • At 11:07 AM, February 17, 2010, Blogger Daniel said…

    Sabeian, thanks for the encouragement. My hope is that in discussing these things two things happen, first I want to take nothing I am already convinced of for granted, so this is an exercise in challenging myself to be sure that what I regard as fact, can be found in scripture, and secondly, as I go through the procerss, to show how I think and why I think what I think so that others may either benefit from it (if it is sound), or correct it (if it is faulty).

    Whether my convictions stand at the end of the day, or require modification, one thing is certain, my understanding (not only of this point, but of several others) will have been deepened for my efforts.

    In the end, it ends up feeding me, more than anyone else who reads it. In a very real way, I pity people who refuse to study the scriptures, but just read them all namby-pamby. They deny themselves a great joy, having tried to learn who God is through some other means.

    Glad to hear that my efforts are not all in vain. ;)

  • At 6:00 PM, February 17, 2010, Blogger JIBBS said…


    thanks for all your answers to me personally and for the encouragement to those of us who are blessed enough to know about your blog. There are a lot of solid Reformed blogs out there, but very few provide the depth of yours. I almost always leave this blog challenged in my thinking, convicted of my sin, and thirsting for righteousness and God's truth. I hope you never quit blogging.

    Regarding the conversation we were having about Paul, God providentially had one of the chapters of my daily Bible reading as Matthew 17. I read it after I read your reply last night. I thought this was interesting:

    Mat 17:24 When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, "Does your teacher not pay the tax?"
    Mat 17:25 He said, "Yes." And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, "What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?"
    Mat 17:26 And when he said, "From others," Jesus said to him, "Then the sons are free.
    Mat 17:27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself."

    Jesus' was Paul's example. That sums it up for me and in fact reveals to me personally that what I might think is a boundary or roadblock in sharing the Gospel may not be so at all. It reminds me of another verse where I think it was Paul who said something along the lines of "don't condemn yourself by what you approve." You I am sure understand it already, but I just discovered the FREEDOM that idea prescribes! That's awesome!

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