25. God’s Alternative

Meditations in 1 Samuel   25. God’s Alternative

1 Sam 13:13-14    “You acted foolishly,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the LORD’s command.”

It’s all about the heart. No, not the valve pumping blood round the body, but that central feature of a person where emotions and will interact with intellect and direct the person. Pharaoh who opposed Moses was known to be ‘hard-hearted’, utterly fixed in his pride. As we said in the previous meditation, what makes one person strong-hearted and another person weak-hearted is a mystery. We may suggest that there are some elements of it that are inherited while there are others that are learned but, nevertheless, we sometimes find identical twins who turn out utterly differently and people who go through similar life circumstances but turn out completely differently. It is a mystery.

Samuel has discerned Saul’s heart as foolish and godless. He has received help and more help from God but when the pressure comes he doesn’t turn to God, he seeks to use Him. Samuel’s discernment has to be God’s judgment or assessment of Saul. This isn’t just a one-off failure, this is what Saul is like.

Now when you put it like that we wonder again about God’s providence that we considered earlier in respect of Samuel himself. Samuel’s sons had not provided hope for a good future in the nation and so the people took the opportunity to reject judges and demand a king – just to be like everyone else. The Lord had warned them what a king would be like but when they insisted He gave them exactly the sort of man they wanted and yet very soon he showed that he was not the sort of man that God wanted, a man who would turn to Him, rely upon Him, seek His wisdom and counsel and generally let the Lord of the universe be the leader of this special people.

It was almost as if the Lord was saying to us, “Very well, I will give you a lesson in people and a lesson in choices. You can work on human wisdom or godly wisdom; you can survive by human endeavour or godly provision. The choice is yours. I’ll give you a man who looks good, a man you might think is big and strong and therefore you (wrongly) think will be a good leader and I’ll do everything I can to encourage him, but watch him and you’ll see that this isn’t enough to lead my people. You need a man who will turn to me, seek me out, seek my wisdom and my counsel, and be a channel for me to pour my goodness into the life of this nation. For me to be able to do that, you need a person who understands my heart, who realises human frailty but also realises that I love you and am for you and desire to lead and bless you so you become strong, a man who shares my heart, a man after my own heart.”

If we could have heard, I believe that is what we would have heard in this situation. Now look at what the Lord says through Samuel and note the tenses of each of the verbs: “the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people.” Did you see that?  “has sought out” and “appointed.” It’s already happened. Now one of the things about 1 Samuel is that it shows us in a most remarkable way the way the Lord works. Eli had been given opportunity after opportunity to repent and correct his wrong family situation, but didn’t and so died. Samuel is raised up as the first prophet after Moses to lead this people and that he does somewhat uneventfully. It is all slow and ponderous change, it seems. Then the people demand a king and are given one to match their desires. When he fails to live up to the requirements of this job as the spiritual leader of this special people, the Lord chooses someone else who will be more suited to the task – but it is going to be many years before this chosen king steps into this role and that is what the rest of the book is all about, about all of the things that will happen until the way is eventually opened for that to happen. It will be a slow business.

Now one of the strange things is that Samuel does not immediately ‘demote’ Saul and take him out of kingship. He knows (from his prophetic words) that God has got someone else for the job but he also knows not to rush the situation; he has learnt only to move as God moves and for the time being the Lord will just let the circumstances unravel. The big motivating factor, the thing that will bring change, is the existence of the enemy on their south western borders, the Philistines, who we read (1 Sam 13:17) send out raiding parties against Israel. What makes it worse is that Israel have virtually no weapons (1 Sam 13:22) because the Philistines had systematically wiped out all the blacksmiths so there was no one in Israel to forge weapons. Thus at this point only Saul and Jonathan had swords. What a situation.

This is the background upon which the book now proceeds. Israel are weak in terms of weapons and they are weak in leadership. Their king has been rejected by God and somewhere God has another man who will eventually replace Saul. Watch this space!

How, we might ask, has this any relevance to our lives today? Well, consider the United Kingdom for instance. We have a few nuclear submarines, a limited army and navy which, if larger nations such as say Russia or China attacked us, would be totally inadequate. Financially we are weak, in debt to other nations, and we have a largely godless leadership of the nation. The leaders in the main denominations seem largely voiceless and the Lord appears to have hardly any voice into the nation. Prophecy has come into parts of the church but had not yet stirred and armed the church to be a tool for righteousness in the land. We await a David, a person or people after the Lord’s own heart. Just what that means appears crucial to the coming studies. As we said, watch this space!

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