Saul’s lack of obedience flowed from his lack of relationship with and trust in God. He was forsaken by God – but so was Jesus, so that, in his mercy, we might not be.
1 Samuel 27:5-28:20
5 Then David said to Achish, “If I have found favor in your eyes, let a place be assigned to me in one of the country towns, that I may live there. Why should your servant live in the royal city with you?”
6 So on that day Achish gave him Ziklag, and it has belonged to the kings of Judah ever since. 7 David lived in Philistine territory a year and four months.
8 Now David and his men went up and raided the Geshurites, the Girzites and the Amalekites. (From ancient times these peoples had lived in the land extending to Shur and Egypt.) 9 Whenever David attacked an area, he did not leave a man or woman alive, but took sheep and cattle, donkeys and camels, and clothes. Then he returned to Achish.
10 When Achish asked, “Where did you go raiding today?” David would say, “Against the Negev of Judah” or “Against the Negev of Jerahmeel” or “Against the Negev of the Kenites.” 11 He did not leave a man or woman alive to be brought to Gath, for he thought, “They might inform on us and say, ‘This is what David did.’” And such was his practice as long as he lived in Philistine territory. 12 Achish trusted David and said to himself, “He has become so obnoxious to his people, the Israelites, that he will be my servant for life.”
28 In those days the Philistines gathered their forces to fight against Israel. Achish said to David, “You must understand that you and your men will accompany me in the army.”
2 David said, “Then you will see for yourself what your servant can do.”
Achish replied, “Very well, I will make you my bodyguard for life.”
3 Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had mourned for him and buried him in his own town of Ramah. Saul had expelled the mediums and spiritists from the land.
4 The Philistines assembled and came and set up camp at Shunem, while Saul gathered all Israel and set up camp at Gilboa. 5 When Saul saw the Philistine army, he was afraid; terror filled his heart. 6 He inquired of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets. 7 Saul then said to his attendants, “Find me a woman who is a medium, so I may go and inquire of her.”
“There is one in Endor,” they said.
8 So Saul disguised himself, putting on other clothes, and at night he and two men went to the woman. “Consult a spirit for me,” he said, “and bring up for me the one I name.”
9 But the woman said to him, “Surely you know what Saul has done. He has cut off the mediums and spiritists from the land. Why have you set a trap for my life to bring about my death?”
10 Saul swore to her by the Lord, “As surely as the Lord lives, you will not be punished for this.”
11 Then the woman asked, “Whom shall I bring up for you?”
“Bring up Samuel,” he said.
12 When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out at the top of her voice and said to Saul, “Why have you deceived me? You are Saul!”
13 The king said to her, “Don’t be afraid. What do you see?”
The woman said, “I see a ghostly figure coming up out of the earth.”
14 “What does he look like?” he asked.
“An old man wearing a robe is coming up,” she said.
Then Saul knew it was Samuel, and he bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground.
15 Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?”
“I am in great distress,” Saul said. “The Philistines are fighting against me, and God has departed from me. He no longer answers me, either by prophets or by dreams. So I have called on you to tell me what to do.”
16 Samuel said, “Why do you consult me, now that the Lord has departed from you and become your enemy? 17 The Lord has done what he predicted through me. The Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hands and given it to one of your neighbors—to David. 18 Because you did not obey the Lord or carry out his fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the Lord has done this to you today. 19 The Lord will deliver both Israel and you into the hands of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The Lord will also give the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines.”
20 Immediately Saul fell full length on the ground, filled with fear because of Samuel’s words. His strength was gone, for he had eaten nothing all that day and all that night.
This scene is tragic. Saul is utterly alone, his life collapsing around him – a desperate man. Even after taking the positive step of putting all the mediums out of the land, here he is, seeking out the very ones he had banished. Sheer desperation. Backtracking on any semblance of obedience, Saul will literally do anything to find help.
Saul is a man without an anchor. It’s the thing that’s most striking, and most agonising to witness. This rudderless, anchorless approach to life has been Saul’s from the beginning. Saul’s hiding amongst the baggage, his failure to obey God when the going got too tough, and his glory-seeking statue and attempted sacrifices, which mutated into an anxious, people-pleasing blaming of others, and finally into pleading with Samuel to retain some semblance of honour.
Samuel, and ultimately God, is clear what Saul’s problem is: disobedience. But Saul has shown us that obedience of life can only flow from an anchoring in God. From a personal relationship with God. Obedience is the fruit which can only grow on a tree whose roots run deep beside the stream of living water of who God is, and what he’s done. Obedience in the storms of life can only flow from knowing and trusting the One who has power over the wind and waves… and has promised to be with us in them.
Saul never really had a personal relationship with God. And he searched for glory, security, and significance everywhere except in the plan and purposes of his Creator.
Some days, I look in the mirror, and I see Saul. Insecure, longing for little glories of my own, blown about by my circumstances and the opinions of others. Faltering obedience. Desperate for some reassurance that I’m OK. And that’s when I close my eyes and open them again.
I look in the mirror, and I see Jesus.
Because that’s who God sees now when he looks at me. He truly sees me, for he made me and knows me – but I’m alive because I’m alive in Christ, and my Father sees him in me.
I’m not OK – none of us are. In our disobedience and sin, our only hope is Jesus’ death: my name, and your name engraved upon his hands with nails. Our only hope today is that HE IS ALIVE, because God raised him from the dead, not so that our hope would be in ourselves, but so that our faith and hope would be in God. So that we never have to face the darkness and hopelessness, and the God-forsaken death that Saul died. So that we never have to face the dark, God-forsaken death that our Jesus died… because he faced it for us.
Head: When do you feel “anchorless”? What situations or people seem to make you go searching for security and/or glory elsewhere? Why do you think that is?
Heart: How do you feel that, unlike Saul, you have the joy of God’s daily presence, because of Jesus’ sacrifice?
Hands: Seeing this dark and hopeless picture of Saul, separated from God – how might you take a step this week to reach out to those who don’t yet believe, with the good news of Jesus?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I don’t deserve your forgiveness of my sins, or your presence. Thank you that, because of Jesus, you hear me when I pray, and have given me security, significance, and hope. In light of Jesus, teach me the joy of obedience, and delight in your glory. And help me to go to the lost – knowing that you take no pleasure in the death of anyone. Amen.
A song to listen to: Anchor
Bloss Wilson– Creek Road Presbyterian Church- Springfield