Wednesday, January 06, 2021

2020.01.06 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Samuel 31

Read 1 Samuel 31

Questions from the Scripture text: What is happening as David and his men split the spoil from the Amalekites (1 Samuel 31:1)? What happens to the men of Israel in this fight? Where? After whom do the Philistines follow hard in 1 Samuel 31:2a? Whom do they kill (verse 2b)? Against whom does the battle then become fierce (1 Samuel 31:3)? Who hit (lit. “find”) him? With what effect? What does Saul ask his armorbearer to do (1 Samuel 31:4)? Why? Why wouldn’t he? What did Saul do instead? What does the armorbearer see in 1 Samuel 31:5? What does he do? What was the cumulative effect of all of this (1 Samuel 31:6)? What men were where in 1 Samuel 31:7? What did they see? What did they do? Who came and did what? What are Philistines doing the next day (1 Samuel 31:8)? What do they find? What do they do to Saul (1 Samuel 31:9)? To whom do they send word? Where do they proclaim it? Where do they put his armor (1 Samuel 31:10)? His body? Who hear about this in 1 Samuel 31:11 (cf.1 Samuel 11:1–11)? Who arise (1 Samuel 31:12)? How long do they travel? What do they take from where? What do they do with the desecrated bodies? But what do they do with their bones (1 Samuel 31:13)? And then what do they do?

God’s Word is always true, but His people often aren’t.  

We’ve been kept waiting for two chapters to find out how Samuel’s words from 1 Samuel 28:19 to resolve. And resolve they do, to the great grief of Israel. 

Jonathan and brothers die in 1 Samuel 31:2. Saul kills himself in 1 Samuel 31:4. The armorbearer kills himself in 1 Samuel 31:5. All his men die in 1 Samuel 31:6. An entire region of Israelites abandon their homes and are displaced by Philistines in 1 Samuel 31:7.

But there is comfort in this grief, precisely because it is exactly as God has said. The reliability of His precious and faithful Word is upheld. And the fact of His good and wise purposes in the most grievous of circumstances is repeated.

Dreadfully, however, 1 Samuel 31:9-10 hearken back to 1 Samuel 5, in which Yahweh and the ark humiliated the Philistines and their gods, Dagon in particular. Now, the necessary judgment upon Saul has come at the cost of shame being cast upon Israel and (much worse) Israel’s God. If 1 Samuel 4 ends in Ichabod (the glory has departed), this is even more grievous: the glory has been humiliated.

Let us take comfort in the reliability of God’s Word and the reality of God’s purposes, but let us never take them as excuses for our own unfaithfulness—lest we become occasions for bringing shame uon the church and (much worse) the church’s God!

Instead, trusting ourselves to Him, let us be like onetime weak men of Jabesh Gilead (1 Samuel 31:11, cf. 1 Samuel 11:1–11). They had once depended upon the rest of Israel to come to their aid, but now with the rest of Israel dead, defeated, or running, the men of Jabesh Gilead go alone to salvage what they can of the dignity of Israel’s king and princes (1 Samuel 31:12-13). The mutilated flesh is even disposed of so that the bones may be buried in anticipation of the resurrection. 

It seems like little; but, trusting the whole to the Lord, it was what they could do. So on the one hand, seek that you do not become an occasion for shame. But rather, do what you can for the honor of the church and her King, however little it may be. You can count upon the reliability of His Word and reality of His purposes.

To what shame-bringing sin are you tempted? For what righteousness and service do you have opportunity—and why might this require courage? Where will you get it?

Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Strength” or TPH539 “Am I a Soldier of the Cross”

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