Sunday, November 2, 2008

When Facing Difficult Circumstances...Find Strength in the Lord!

The blog notes return this week (I couldn't find time to get last week's notes up) as we continue our study of 1 Samuel. Today, we will be focusing on chapter 28 and 30, comparing how Saul and David face troublesome circumstances. We will see what approach God honors and how we should approach circumstances that cause fear and uncertainty in our life.

At this point, Saul has intermittently been pursuing David with the intent to kill him. David has taken refuge among the Philistines of all people. In fact, one of the Philistines (Achish) gave David property (Ziklag). Imagine how good David must have felt to have a place that he could call home after being on the run for so long. By this point, David has also acquired 2 more wives along the way (in addition to his first wife Michal who was Saul's daughter) and he has about 600 men that fight with him. In addition, since Saul had murdered 85 priests including Ahimelech, Abiathar (Ahimelech's son) was with David.

Chapter 28: 1-5. The Philistine army gathers to fight Israel. Samuel is dead. Saul sees the mighty Philistine army and it is superior in number and in advanced weaponry to his own. Verse 5 says that Saul was afraid to the point that terror filled his heart. Some of us unfortunately have been there. Circumstances arise and the odds against us appear overwhelming. The future looks uncertain and bleak. In fact, it looks like there is no escape. We are uncertain what we should do. We are afraid and our fear gives way to terror.

Chapter 28: 6. Saul does what many do when in trouble; he asks God for help. However, God remains silent. Why does this happen? First, notice that Saul really has no relationship with the Lord before his request. There is no mention of remorse or repentance for past sins. In fact part of his petitioning includes asking the false priest (Urim) that he established after murdering God's priests! Finally, in 1 Chronicles 10:14, we are told that Saul doesn't ask God for help at all. In other words, his request for help was so shallow that it really wasn't a request at all. We need a solid relationship with Jesus before we find our backs against the wall. God promises us that if we need wisdom He will give it to us if we ask. (James 1: 5-6)

Chapter 28:7. Receivng no answer from God, Saul turns to a witch even though he knows this is abhorrent (v.3 says that he ordered the mediums and spiritists expelled from the land). However, he does what many do when they have no relationship with which to anchor their life. He looks for help in the wrong place. What about us? If we don't get an immediate answer from God, do we wait on Him. Do we ask again? Do we look in other places for answers (horoscopes, palm readers, advice from seemingly successful but non Christian people, Oprah, self help books, etc.)?

Chapter 28: 8-19 The witch calls up the spirit of Samuel who tells Saul not what he wants to hear (what he should do about the Philistines) but what he has done wrong before God and what his judgement will be (he and his sons will be killed by the Philistines).

Chapter 28: 20-25 Hearing this news, Saul falls to the ground and is filled with fear. Those around him provide encouragement and food. However, they provide no spiritual advice. Eventually Saul leaves during the night apparently resigned to his fate. We need to ask for help from those that will give us Godly advice. Who knows what would have happened had Saul truly repented of his sin when confronted with it by Samuel. Had a true priest of the Lord been with him at that moment, who knows how Saul might have been encouraged to seek God earnestly! Surrounding ourselves with Christian people when we need help/advice certainly gives us a much better chance of deciding on a course that is pleasing to God. We simply cannot expect advice that will grow our relationship with the Lord from non Christian sources.

Chapter 30: 1-5. David and his men are sent home from the impending battle between Israel and the Philistines since the Philistines did not trust them to fight on their side. They arrive home in Ziklag to discover that it has been pillaged and burned. All of their possessions and their family memebers have been taken or destroyed. They are devastated. These battle tested men weep aloud until they have no strength left with which to weep. How despondent they must have been! We also will have "Ziklags" in life. We go to work like any other day and receive a phone call that brings bad news. We go to a routine doctor's visit and learn of a lump or abnormal test. The stock market crashes or real estate values plummet putting our financial future at risk. We see our children make bad choices or our spouse one day leaves without warning and suddenly our place of security and comfort (our Ziklag) is destroyed.

Chapter 30:6. It gets worse. David's men, his loyal followers, blame him. In fact, they blame him so strongly that they actually consider stoning him. After all, he is their leader and it was his choice to leave compound unguarded. At this point David does what we all should do in such a circumstance. He turns to the Lord his God and finds strength in Him. What a resource! When troubled, think of all of the promises that God has made to you, His child. Meditate on them. Claim them. Part of this process must include evaluating the quality of our commitment to Him. We must confess the sin that permeates our life. If we do these two things, God will strengthen us just as He did David.
Watch the Selah song below about how God can raise us up to do great things.

Chapter 30:7-8. After reaffirming his relationship with God (something Saul never did), David calls the priest and asks God what he should do. Notice that the request came in the exact manner that God had put forward in the law (David asks for the ephod or linen cloth with special stones in it because God had said that he should do so in order to petition Him). Even in his time of distress, David is fully obedient to God. Due to David's belief, God answers. David is told to pursue the captors.

Chapter 28:9-17. David and his men set out. However, 200 of them are so exhausted that they can't go on. They are left behind. The other 400 charge ahead but discover an Egyptian slave that has been cast aside by the raiding party. David's band nurses him back to health and the Egyptian is instrumental in delivering the captors into David's hands. The captors are routed. As we respond to what God tells us, we need to use all of the resources that He provides. Who would have ever guessed that a dying Egyptian slave would have been so important. Certainly not the man that cast him aside on the road to die. And probably not even David when the man was first discovered. However, he was an invaluable resource none-the-less.

Chapter 28: 18-25. David recovers everything... his family, his possessions, and also all of the possessions from all of the other cities that the Amalekites had raided. Some of the 400 with him want to keep it all but David insists that everything be returned to the rightful owner. The 200 men that stayed behind will share equally. Not only that but he also sends gifts to the places that he had previously roamed. When the crisis is past and we have been restored, we must resist the temptation to grow "fat and happy". This is a very difficult temptation to overcome. It is in our nature to store up treasure here on earth and to rely on our own strength as we plan for the future. We should look for ways that we can share our good fortune with others and therby encourage their relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. Success is our opportunity to tell others what God has done for us!

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