August 8, 2011 Devotion Sharing

Submitted by Kenny Choi, Gracepoint Berkeley

What role might Saul’s murderous jealousy toward David, and his years of futile hunting of him played in Saul’s current state of exhaustion and inability to lead Israel at a time of crisis? Saul’s current state of exhaustion and inability to lead Israel at a time of crisis is the culmination of all the years that he’s been driven by his fears and insecurities. The portrait of Saul here is that he’s a terrified man. I underlined all the phrases that depict this sense of fear and they are numerous in this chapter alone. Because he’s been motivated by his fears all this time, its no wonder that in this time of national crisis, he responds in a cowardly way. He goes against the very law that he instituted by seeking out the medium from Endor, as a last ditch effort to find some way to avoid his greatest fear. He hoped that she would bring some good news, but instead she brings Saul the worst news possible, that he will die a disgraceful death at the hand of the enemy, the Philistines, and that his lifelong rival David will take over the throne. I think about people who are fueled by their fears and how exhausted they must be, trying to fight tooth and nail in order to preserve themselves to the point of exhaustion. They are so consumed by their fears, that paralyzes from doing anything else. Fearful people are not available for anyone else, because all their energy is being spent trying in minimize their losses and to whatever it takes to avoid their fears. As a leader, I can be consumed by a fear of failure and this perfectionistic approach to things, and as a result not attempt much for God nor be available for whatever needs rise up since my need to do a good job becomes the dominant preoccupation. Like Saul, its tiring and it makes me ineffective in loving others, in caring for people who need my care and attention since all my capacity is being gobbled up by my fears.

Review how Saul was portrayed in 1 Samuel 11:1-11 where he dealt with his first crisis and his reaction here in v. 5.  What is the proper source of courage? The way Saul is portrayed in 1 Samuel 11 is that of a man who had the Spirit of God come upon him in power. He was someone that burned with anger towards the Ammonites who were about to bring major disgrace to Israel and to the name of God. He acts in a way that shows he is not about to let them have their way because he cared deeply about God’s honor and how decisive he was in taking action, mustering up more than 30,000 men to fight. The proper source of courage is fear of God. But here, we see how far Saul has fallen, and he fears everything else but God. He fears David. He fears the Philistines. He fears what will happen to him and his legacy and his position as king. He fears dying disgracefully. All of these he fears more than he fears God, and from his actions, he acts in a very cowardly way. It takes to courage to repent, which is what Saul should’ve done, but instead he responds with cowardice as he tries to find some way to salvage his image and his future. The fear of God is the beginning point of how a naturally fearful person like myself can act with courage. I don’t have what it takes to muster up courage on my own and its only when I have that proper fear of God that I’m able to respond with courage and do things that seem beyond what I’m used to or comfortable with.

What can I learn from the fact that Saul looks for a medium to inquire of when “the LORD [does] not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets?”  What does this reveal about his view of God? The fact that Saul looks for a medium to inquire of even though he knew that the Lord wasn’t going to answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets shows his utter foolishness and desperation in clinging onto this lofty picture of him in spite of what was already told him by God. The commentary says that “in fear of the future, he returns to a past that cannot save him”. Its like a stage 4 cancer patient who has been told by numerous world-class doctors that he’s going to die and that the cancer is severe, and yet not willing to conform to the truth of their diagnosis but seeking out a second opinion that he’s hoping would tell him that he’s fine and that he doesn’t have terminal cancer. Saul’s view of God is that he has rejected all avenues through which God has spoken directly to him, because it clashes with how he views himself, and therefore doesn’t take God seriously in his life.

What can I learn about Saul from the fact that it was he who “had expelled the mediums and spiritists from the land” and yet he is now turning to one out of desperation? Saul is someone who thinks he’s above the law, making special exemptions for himself because he finds his situation particularly unique. Saul just basically thinks he can do whatever he want, and that in his mind, his circumstances are dire enough that he can do the very thing that he banned his own people from doing. This woman is fearing for her life knowing that if she gets caught, she is going to die for bringing up past spirits. But Saul clearly has this view of himself that he’s far above the law and that desperate times call for desperate measures, which seems like all the time for him. I think about how he responded to the desperate time when Samuel came late and how he overstepped his role to initiate the burnt offering back in 1 Samuel 13. Saul just has a pattern of doing things where he feels like his actions are warranted because he feels threatened and his fears seem to loom large over him.

Submitted by Joanna Oh, Gracepoint San Diego

1 Samuel 28: 1-7
Review how Saul was portrayed in 1 Samuel 11:1-11 where he dealt with his first crisis and his reaction here in v. 5.  What is the proper source of courage? The proper source of courage, which Saul had when he rescued Jabesh-Gilead was a concern and compassion for the people who were suffering under the Ammonites. Saul inquired why people were weeping and when he heard of the injustices of the king Nahash he burned with anger. This is one of Saul’s greatest moments because he’s deeply concerned about the people’s welfare. Here in his last battle, we see he is only concerned with himself and his own destiny.  He doesn’t have courage to show bravery in crises because he doesn’t care about any of the people.

Second, terror of the Lord or fear of God is another source of courage that is essential, which Saul lost.  In 1 Samuel 11, Saul’s anger caused the people to fear the Lord and to honor him.  Saul and all of Israel saw how God must view the situation, how he must’ve been so angry and full of wrath at the cruelty of Nahash the Ammonite king and how he was trying to drag God’s name through the mud. In 1 Samuel 25, there is no fear of God in Saul.  In fact, he violates a clear command of God by seeking out a medium to ironically ask Samuel what to do since God won’t answer him.

Right now, I don’t need courage to fight a battle against a tangible enemy like the Philistines, but I am called to bring the gospel to a campus that is godless and where there is a lot of opposition.  In order to push through the seemingly hopeless situation where one church of only 16 staff could make a difference on such a huge campus, I need to cultivate a heart of love and compassion for the people I’m here to minister to, and also to have fear of God. To persevere through the long haul, I cannot lose focus that the point of me being here, and the point of all my labors and energy is to save people from the bondage of sin.  I need to go back to my own testimony, pray through the campus, pray for the students who are back at home and do whatever to keep a fresh heart towards ministry.  Otherwise, I’m just going to start focusing on myself, expending my time, energy, and thoughts on how to make my life more comfortable, and getting more and more tired of the labor of ministry.

I also need to cultivate a heart that fears God.  I always remember that God’s honor and glory is at stake when I chose to give into my comfort or deny my flesh.  It’s not just about self-improvement for me or living a clean lifestyle, but in the little choices that I make throughout my day God’s honor is at stake. If I start to feel comfort slowly taking a grip on my heart, I need to act quickly and repent even if it means facing really ugly truths about myself. It’s not just because it hurts others, or kills morale, which it does, but it is first and foremost highly offensive to God and a betrayal of all that he’s done in my life.

I think one area where I need courage is to get over my fears of rejection and emotional discomfort and be a voice of truth people in my life. I need to have love for others to overcome my aversion to uncomfortable or awkward situations.  When someone is headed in the wrong direction I need to be clear on the true situation that he or she is moving away from God, and that the most loving thing to do is to speak truth that person and be like one of those friends to the paralytic and carry that person on the  mat to Jesus so that they can repent.

 

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