2 Samuel 1 – Are We Talking About the Same Person?

I’ve been to funerals where they were eulogizing the “dearly departed” and thought to myself, “Are we talking about the same person?!” Now I know it would be in poor taste to bad mouth the deceased…even if they were a mean and difficult person in life. But sometimes the things that are said about a person at their funeral barely resemble who the person was in real life. When this happens, you can’t help but wonder, “Are we talking about the same person?”

I feel like this when I read 2 Samuel chapter one. Saul was a man who was egotistical, prideful, paranoid, and homicidal. Yet to hear David’s funeral song, Saul sounds like a cross between Billy Graham and Dudley Do-Right. Saul was a man who repaid David’s bravery and loyalty by incessantly hunting him down to kill him. Still, David sings his praises and morns him as he would his own father. Why?!

Perhaps it was because David saw the bigger picture…the broader plot. David was able to see beyond the injustices that were done to him. He was able to take the wrongs of Saul’s life and see them through a spiritual lens. David related to Saul as God would relate to Saul…with grace, compassion, and mercy.

We need to remember that we only have a small and narrow picture of the person before us. Consequently, we should respond to everyone with the same grace, compassion, and mercy that we ourselves receive from God. Otherwise, these people may attend OUR funeral and think, “Are we talking about the same person?!”

1 Samuel 31 – A Long Slow Death

Have you ever watched a movie that ended abruptly, without a resolution? You’re waiting for things to turn around, but it never happens. It just ends with a heavy “thud.”

The book of 1 Samuel ends this way.

The final chapter ends the book (and the life of Saul) with a heartbreaking “thud.” You find yourself thinking back over Saul’s life and asking, “How did things come to this?”

Though 1 Samuel chapter 31 tells us when Saul came to his end, the entire book tells us how Saul got to that point. He got there gradually…little by little. He got there by…

  • Focusing on the quick way rather than the right way.
  • Worrying more about his image than his integrity.
  • Being motivated more by fear than by faith.
  • Serving himself more than serving God or others.
  • Being impulsive rather than being disciplined.

Saul was dying throughout the entire book…little by little. Chapter 31 is just the conclusion of a long, slow death.

Maybe you’ve asked the question, “How did things get to this point?” about your own life.

The record of Saul’s life is a warning to us. If we respond to things as Saul did, we too will be dying a slow, lingering death. We may live a long life, but spiritually we will die a slow death. Remember the words of Jesus…

“Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.” (Mark 8:34-35 NLT)

1 Samuel 28 – Are You Driven by Fear?

We all have things we fear, but some people are especially driven by fear. Their life is a desperate attempt to avoid things like…

  • The loss of a loved one.
  • The loss of a marriage.
  • The loss of their health.
  • The loss of financial stability.
  • The loss of position.

This is the picture of king Saul in 1 Samuel chapter 28. You can see his fearfulness build in the previous chapters…

Now, in 1 Samuel 28, Saul is so fearful of the Philistine army he scrambles to find someone to give him advice. God is no longer communicating with Saul, because of Saul’s disobedience. (1 Samuel 28:18.) So Saul breaks his own law and seeks a consultation with a medium or witch. Saul is frantically scrambling for anything to take away his fear.

It’s a strong contrast to the calm and confident David we see in the previous two chapters.

What’s the difference? Though it sounds cliché, David was trusting God and Saul was trusting Saul. David’s only focus was on what God wanted done, while Saul’s only focus was on what Saul wanted done.

Fearfulness comes from trusting yourself rather than trusting God. It comes from trying to orchestrate your own desired outcomes, rather than trusting God to orchestrate His desired outcomes.

We are not to be fearful, but rather powerful, loving, and self-controlled. (2 Timothy 1:7) So turn from fear and trust God. He alone holds the total control of our lives. (Matt. 10:28)

1 Samuel 26-27 – Balancing Kindness and Courage

Many people view followers of God as weak, passive, and vulnerable. They have trouble associating a Christian with the aggressive and calculating demeanor of a war-time general or a corporate CEO.

But in 1 Samuel chapters 26 and 27 we see David as someone who was able to balance kindness with courage.

In 1 Samuel chapter 26, David is bold and courageous when he enters into Saul’s camp and puts himself in the position of holding Saul’s life in his hands. But He is also merciful and kind when he chooses to spare Saul’s life.

In 1 Samuel chapter 27, David is so sensitive and caring he actually lives with the enemy in order to keep his men and their families safe. But David is also shrewd and calculating. He systematically does away with his enemy, while his enemy thinks David is on their side. David creates a plan to destroy his enemy, while not only gaining their confidence but also their protection. And while he is doing this, he’s earning more and more loyalty from his fellow Israelites.

To follow God does not mean you have to be weak. Like David, we are to be both kind and courageous. Like a train, we need both the rails of kindness and courage to keep us on track. Kindness without courage is impotent, while courage without kindness is dictatorial. As Jesus put it, we need to be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves. (Matt. 10:16)

How are you doing balancing kindness and courage? If you find yourself out of balance, ask God to strengthen your area of weakness, and to bring you into balance.

1 Samuel 23-24 – How to Go High When They Go Low

As children, we’re taught to play fair and do what’s right…even if no one else is…then things will turn out alright for us.

But what do you do when doing the right thing seems to make matters worse?

In 1 Samuel chapters 23 and 24, David is taking the high road and doing what’s right and honorable, yet matters keep getting worse.

  • David rescues a town of people, and they sell him out to King Saul. (1 Sam. 23:12)
  • David defeats Saul’s enemies (1 Sam. 23:5) yet Saul moves in to kill him. (1 Sam. 23:7-8)
  • David retreats from Saul, refusing to challenge or threaten him, yet Saul pursues David night and day. (1 Sam. 23:14)
  • David has the opportunity to kill Saul, yet chooses to show him honor instead. And still, Saul continues his homicidal pursuit of David.

How did David continue to take the high road rather than give Saul a taste of his own medicine?

  • David made God, not Saul, the object of his focus and asked God to show him what to do. (1 Sam. 23:2-6, 9-12)
  • David focused on God’s long-term plan, rather than his short-term relief. (1 Sam. 23:16-17)
  • David trusted God to rightly settle accounts, even if Saul didn’t. (1 Sam. 24:12,15)
  • Finally, David protected himself, while giving God time to work.

David had learned from his youth that his battles were not his to fight. He learned he should stay close and right with God and trust God to fight the battle. (1 Sam. 17:47)

What battle are you trying to fight in your own strength? What wrong are you trying to right in your own way? Perhaps David (and God) is trying to tell you something.

1 Samuel 21-22 – The Traits of a Good Leader

Leadership is a hot topic these days. If you type the word “leadership” into Amazon’s search bar, you will get over 60,000 results.

Most of the books on leadership enumerated principles, strategies, practices, and mindsets you can apply in order to become a more effective leader…even if you don’t consider yourself a “natural born leader.”

In 1 Samuel chapters 21 and 22, you will find contrasting portraits of two “leaders”…Saul and David. One of these “leaders” had the title, the resources, and the authority of a leader, while the other had none of these.

And yet the one without the title, resources, and authority proved to be the better leader.

Whether David was a “natural born leader,” we cannot say. But we can see obvious differences between David and Saul that warrant the attention of anyone who seeks to be a better leader.

  • Saul demanded what he needed, while David was resourceful.
  • Saul summoned followers, while David attracted them.
  • Saul threatened those close to him, while David protected those close to him.
  • Saul acted on impulse, while David sought wise and godly counsel before acting.
  • Saul was quick to pass blame, while David was quick to take responsibility.

Perhaps David’s traits were part of his natural make-up. Perhaps he learned them growing up. Or perhaps they were the natural outgrowth of seeking after God’s heart. (1 Samuel 13:14) But it’s clear that David had traits that God honored and to which people responded.

Do you want to be a better leader? Study David’s life and aspire to the traits he demonstrated, and you will find yourself becoming a stronger leader in the eye of God and others.

1 Samuel 16 – People Are Like a Box of Chocolates

I’m not a fan of those variety boxes of chocolates. They leave you to guess about what might be lurking inside each piece. You can pick one that looks good, only to discover some not-so-good stuff inside. Or, you can pass over a piece, until it’s the last piece in the box, only to find out it was pretty good.

This is a picture of 1 Samuel chapter 16. It’s a reminder that people come in different shapes, sizes, and appearances, but what matters most is what’s on the inside…their heart, intentions, and desires.

Only God can truly know a person’s heart.

2 Chronicles 16:9 tells us God is continually searching for a heart that’s fully committed to Him. That’s how God knew His next king would be found in Bethlehem, in Jesse’s family.

God saw David’s heart. Not his skill, his boldness, his track record, or his attractiveness. Those are things world sees. (1 Samuel 16:6,18) But it was David’s heart that caused the Holy Spirit to move on him (1 Samuel 16:13) just as it was Saul’s heart that caused the Holy Spirit to move away from him. (1 Samuel 16:14)

If we want God to use us in powerful ways, the key is not our appearance, skill, ability, or activity. It’s keeping a heart that’s humbly and consistently committed to Him.

To borrow from Forrest Gump… People are like a box of chocolates. You never know what you might get. But God knows, because He knows the heart. How’s your heart today?

1 Samuel 15 – “Because I Said So.”

“Because I said so!” Most of us can remember hearing this from our parents. We didn’t like it then, and we still not crazy about the “because I said so” reason for doing something.

But there are times when we’re called upon to simply obey…whether we like it or not.

This is the central theme of 1 Samuel chapter 15. There, Saul is given a simple command that required simple obedience, and he chooses to ignore it.

Why is obedience so hard? At times it’s because we what what we want. Other times, our pride keeps us from humbling ourselves and obeying. Sometimes, we’re afraid we won’t like the outcome of our obedience. Other times, we’re afraid we will look bad in the eyes of others. All of these can lead to disobedience… Saul’s and ours.

As a Heavenly Father, God loves us and desires to be close to us. He wants to protect us, provide for us, and encourage us. But as a Father, God will also tell us what He wants us to do. Despite all He has done for us, He is still God! Despite the fact that we, as believers, are His children, we are still His creation and His servants. And we are still called upon and expected to obey.

Like Saul, our disobedience may seem small and inconsequential, but as someone once said, “partial obedience is total disobedience.” And disobedience can have debilitating consequences.

When God calls us to do something and our human nature rise up in opposition, may God give us the Spirit of Jesus who said, “Not my will but yours be done.” (Matthew 26:39) May we respond like Jesus, who humbled Himself and became obedient…even to death. (Phil. 2:7-8)

Because, God’s commands are not our options.

1 Samuel 14 – Biology, Sociology, or Spirituality?

Have you ever noticed how two people from the same family can be radically different from one another? Are those differences related to biology (nature) or sociology (nurture)? The answer is probably a combination of both.

But there’s a third factor which can over-ride biology and sociology, and that factor is spirituality.

Jonathan (Saul’s son) was influenced by his father, both biologically and sociologically. Yet, they were noticeably different spiritually.

1 Samuel chapter 14 highlights the differences between Saul and Jonathan. Saul tends to rely on himself more than God, while Jonathan tends to rely on God more than himself. (Compare verse 6 with verse 36.) Saul uses God for his own desires, while Jonathan wants to be used by God to accomplish God’s desires.

Reading 1 Samuel 14 should give us hope. Though we have no influence over our biology (the family we’re born into) and little influence over our sociology (the way our parents chose to raise us), we have a lot of influence over our spirituality. And since our spirituality can over-ride both our biology and our sociology, we have more influence over who we are than we tend to believe. That is the hope we have in Christ. The One who rose from the dead offers us resurrection from our dead ways!

1 Samuel chapter 14 also gives us a warning…don’t be like Saul! It’s so easy to live life on our own strength, trusting ourselves, figuring things out on our own, doing what our logic or emotions tell us to do. But resist that. Instead, live trusting God’s sovereignty, wisdom, and plan. Live more like Jonathan…unsure of yourself and what you can do, but confident in God and what He can do. (1 Samuel 14:6.)

1 Samuel 13 – Pay Attention to the Red Lights

Some people are “feelers.” They respond to things based upon their feelings.

Now feelings are not bad and should not be avoided. God Himself has feelings and expresses emotion. (Gen. 6:6) (Ex. 4:14) (Job 33:26) But, we should not allow our feelings to drive us.

Feelings are like the red lights on the dashboard of your car. They warns you that something needs your attention. If you ignore the red lights, or cover them up, or disconnect them…you court disaster. The red light is not the problem. It’s just an indicator of a problem.

Here’s what this has to do with 1 Samuel chapter 13. Saul was a feeler. He made decisions based upon feelings, not faith. When the situation became grave, Saul followed his feelings and panicked. His feelings over-ruled his faith, causing him to disobey the Lord in an attempt to calm his fear. Then, when confronted with his disobedience, Saul (driven by guilt) sought to covering things up with rationalization. (1 Sam. 13:11-12)

If you’re a feeler, the key to not letting your emotions drive you is found in what Samuel tells Saul. (1 Sam. 13:14) Samuel tells Saul that God is looking for someone who is after God’s heart, rather than their own.

Pay attention to your feelings, but be more concerned with God’s feelings than your own. Bring your feelings in line with God’s through prayer and a knowledge of His word. Then, when your feelings light up, you’ll know there is something going on under your hood that need to be tuned up or corrected.

Pay attention to your red lights.