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.

1 Samuel 11-12 – Balancing Mercy and Discipline

As a child, our logic is very simple. If we do something bad, something bad will happen to us. Likewise, if we do something good, something good will happen to us. If we displease our parents, they will withdraw their help and benefits. But, if we please our parents, they will help us.

And as adults, we often take that same child-like logic and apply it to our relationship with God.

Yet any parent knows that relating to your children is not that black and white. Sometimes, love will prompt mercy, while at other times, love will prompt punishment.  What occurs between parent and child is not a cut-and-dried behavioral bartering system, but rather a delicate dance between mercy and discipline.

This is the complex interaction you see in 1 Samuel chapters 11 and 12. In chapter 11, God intervenes to rescue His people, despite their rejection of Him. And the people misread their victory as a sign of God’s approval, rather than His mercy.

In chapter 12, the people brace themselves for God’s punishment, because they’ve gone against Him in asking for a king. Yet, out of His love for them, and His desire to uphold His reputation to the world, God promises not to abandon them.

Why can’t it just be cut-and-dried? Why can’t the people stick with the rules and why can’t God be consistent in His discipline?

Because, it’s not about rules. It’s about relationship. God loves His people. Sometimes He directs with mercy, and sometimes He directs with consequences. God will do whatever has the most impact on His people, in order to draw them back into a love relationship with Himself. He patently and persistently keeps turning the dial to the combination that will open our hearts to Him.

1 Samuel 10 – Commitment

have you ever known someone who had difficulty committing to something or someone? Have you ever known someone who says, “I’m in!” but still seems to have one foot out? Have you ever known someone who makes a decision, yet still hesitates to follow through with that decision?

Saul was this type of person, according to 1 Samuel chapter 10. Despite the prophet’s direction and all the confirmation he receives, Saul is still not complete in. You see this in how he stops short of telling his uncle about being anointed as king, and in how he hides when Samuel is trying to make him king. Saul has commitment issues.

Perhaps it was fear. When Saul encounters his uncle, he was in a town where their enemies (the Philistines) had an established garrison. Perhaps his difficulty with commitment was because he didn’t see himself as being worthy or able to do what he needed to do.

As you continue to read about Saul, he seems to wrestle with both fear and a lack of confidence. Yet, Scripture deals with both our fear and our lack of self confidence.

What about you? Where is it you have trouble committing to what God wants you to do? Is your hesitancy related to fear, or to a low view of yourself…or both.

God has already addressed our fear in 2 Tim. 1:7. And God has already addressed our lack of confidence in 2 Peter 1:3.

Always remember…we don’t have to hesitate in committing to what God wants us to do, because… “God will make this happen, for He who calls you is faithful” (1 Thes. 5:24.)