Here is another large block to read, but it all tells one story. The Philistines were once again knocking on Israel’s door. Saul was desperate. Knowing that God rejected his leadership convinced him that the next battle would be his last battle.
Desperate people do desperate things: irrational things. Saul turned to a psychic to conjure up the spirit of Samuel. Psychics can often be phonies, but there is something to what they do. There is an alternative spiritual world out there. It operates outside of God’s rule. That’s why Samuel rid the country of all the psychics; not because they weren’t effective, but because they didn’t honor God.
This story gives us some insight into how kings heard from God. In addition to the priestly ephod which contained the Urim, they also heard from “prophets and dreams,” as Saul mentioned in verse six. None of these methods worked for Saul because God rejected his kingship.
Saul did what so many people do when they fail God: rather than repent and fall in line with God’s will, they keep walking away from God. I think their reasoning is that since they’ve failed God, God wants nothing to do with them.
But what if Saul turned to God and said, “I was wrong. Please forgive me. I know that I can no longer be king, but how can I best mentor David into this position? How can I prepare the country for a smooth transition? Although I’ve failed you, let me now work with you for the sake of the country?” Instead, Saul sought out a psychic only to be confronted by Samuel who rebuked him.
If you have failed God in a significant way, don’t keep running; turn to him now. You may not be able to eliminate the consequences of your sin, but you will be much better off walking with God than walking away from him.
Now, remember that David was hiding out in Philistine territory. David was all set to fight Israel with the Philistines! David had won the favor of the Philistine king. But the rest of the king’s leaders thought he was nuts to include David and rejected David’s help. We’ll never know if David would be true to his word to help the Philistine king or if he would have turned on him and fought for Israel. Interesting thought.
My guess is that this is another example of God intervening to save David from doing something he would regret. It was a no-win situation. He could thank God that the Philistine leaders sent him home.
When David returned to his town, Ziklag, they found that the Amalekites had ransacked it and taken all the people with them. David pursued them, defeated them in battle, and regained everything and everyone that was taken.
Two hundred of David’s six hundred men stayed behind due to fatigue. It’s notable that David shared the spoils with these men even though they didn’t fight. He said that it was the Lord who gave them the victory so the spoil was really a gift from God. No one could claim the goods as their own. Who were they not to share it with everyone? Besides, there was a role the 200 played in staying behind. They looked after their belongings.
This shows a generosity of David’s spirit vs. a vindictive one like Saul’s. David also used the spoil to make friends with the leaders in Judah, his homeland. He knew he would be returning soon to become king and wanted show his concern for them, and politically, win their support.
Sadly, Saul and his sons met their defeat in battle. It was just a matter of time. Thus ends the book of 1 Samuel. Onto 2 Samuel tomorrow.
Prayer: Father, help me to learn from Saul’s foolishness and turn to you no matter how far off track I’ve gotten. And might I also learn from David’s generosity. Rather than keeping everything to myself, help me to see that all that I have is from you and it’s my job to share it with others. Amen.