Wednesday, December 16, 2020

2020.12.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Samuel 27–29

Read 1 Samuel 27–29

Questions from the Scripture text: What does David surprisingly (cf. 1 Samuel 16:10) say in 1 Samuel 27:1? Where does he go with whom, and whom do they bring (1 Samuel 27:2-3)? What did this accomplish (1 Samuel 27:4)? For what does he ask (1 Samuel 27:5), and what does he receive (1 Samuel 27:6)? For how long (1 Samuel 27:7) was David doing what, where (1 Samuel 27:8-9)? But where did he tell Achish he was doing this (1 Samuel 27:10)? So what did Achish believe (1 Samuel 27:12), and why (1 Samuel 27:11)? What was Achish going to do in 1 Samuel 28:1, and whom did he tell to come as what (1 Samuel 28:2)? What does the Holy Spirit tell us about (1 Samuel 28:3-25), while letting the suspense and drama of this situation hang in the balance? How does God get David out of it (1 Samuel 29:1–11)? What does Achish still believe at the end of all this (1 Samuel 29:3b1 Samuel 29:6)? How does David act at the news (1 Samuel 29:7-8)? Meanwhile, who is on the other side of this Philistine lead-up to war (1 Samuel 28:4)? What did he desperately seek and how at first (1 Samuel 28:5-6), and then later (1 Samuel 28:7)? Why was this challenging (1 Samuel 28:8-10)? What happens, and what does the woman conclude (1 Samuel 28:11-14)? What does Saul do and ask (1 Samuel 28:14-15)? What does Samuel explain as the reason (1 Samuel 28:16-18) for what is about to happen (1 Samuel 28:19)? How does Saul respond to the news (1 Samuel 28:20)? How does Saul end up having what for his last supper (1 Samuel 28:21-25)?

Was David right or wrong? Well… yes. Things are often more complex than that. But the introduction to the episode, the contrast to his former actions, and the parallel with Saul that so rudely interrupts the passage all point to significant error—even sin, as we should call it when it appears—on David’s part. 

But Yahweh saves Him and does Him good! Yes, and that is a great part of the teaching of the text. The Lord Who is saving us does so not based upon how well we are doing, but upon His gracious intentions. Almost certainly, David doesn’t feel that everything is going swimmingly. 

When Samuel’s death—and Saul’s attempted undeading of his services—so rudely interrupts us in 1 Samuel 28:3 (cf. 1 Samuel 25:1), David is between a Ziklag and war-place. How will he squirm out of this one? The text actually leaves us under that pressure until 1 Samuel 29:1–4, reminding us in the meantime of how bad things have gotten with Saul. That all leaves us wondering if David’s faithless feeling/thinking in 1 Samuel 27:1, and the fact that he is no longer consulting Yahweh as in 1 Samuel 23:1–13, means that we may be on the verge of Saul 2.0.

So, yes, Yahweh saves him, but the flow and force of the text seem to be saying that it is not so much by cleverness and shrewdness with God’s enemies, but by the sheer grace of what God does in the hearts of the princes of the Philistines in 1 Samuel 29:4.

But how about the eliminating the threat of raiding bands (Geshurites, Girzites, and Amalekites, 1 Samuel 27:8) in the Judean hill country? Isn’t that a good thing for a king to do? Well, yes, to an extent (God hadn’t commanded him to do so, and 1 Samuel 27:11 makes it plain that David wasn’t carrying out conquest-judgments but rather closing lip-holes in his Achisch-pacification plan. And it’s telling that the brutal completeness of his modus operandi in 1 Samuel 27:91 Samuel 27:11 draws a contrast to the comparative (self-interested, and wickedly intended, to be sure) mercy of the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 30:2.

So, God does good to those upon whom He has set His grace, even when they are not doing particularly well. And God does good through many who are not doing particularly well spiritually. I’m sure the Israelites “south of the Jerahmeelites or south of the Kenites” (1 Samuel 27:10) were happy for God’s reprieve from the wicked raiders.

But God takes our sin extremely seriously, and that’s the point of the Saul narrative that the Holy Spirit uses to build pressure while we and David are cliff-hanging. Saul has done much by now that is rather wicked; but it is ironic that while David does not seem to be seeking Yahweh at all, Saul wants the (earthly, to be sure, rather than spiritual) help of the Lord of Whom he had made an enemy (1 Samuel 28:16) by half-obedience and neglect of His honor (1 Samuel 28:18). 

It’s amazing that it’s this incident—“you did not obey the voice of Yahweh nor execute His fierce wrath upon Amalek”—that is still the primary cause of Saul’s demise. How easily Samuel could have added the sin of consulting a medium! But there are no small sins. And that’s a big part of the point.

Which brings us back (literally, 1 Samuel 29:1) to David and sharpens the focus of chapters 27–29 upon the grace of God. He is not inviting us to be sympathetic with David’s actions, but rather to hope in David’s God, and that God’s great grace. For, in that grace, God would be bringing great David’s greater Son, Who would speak and do only as He saw from His Father in heaven, and yet would suffer a punishment far worse than Saul in order to bring a deliverance infinitely better than David’s.

When we read this passage, but especially when we consider what our King had to offer in His perfect obedience and suffer in His fully-atoning sacrifice, we realize that none of our sins are small. But, we also realize that the grace of this God is infinitely bigger. So, we see His love and respond to Him with repentance that seeks to be holy even to the level that He is holy. And, rather than being dismayed when we keep committing these very not-small sins, our loving and grateful repentance comes also with the confidence that He has been doing good to us and through us, throughout it all!

When has God worked in or through you, while you were sinning? Why isn’t this an encouragement to sin?

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH433 “Amazing Grace”

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