There is a way that seems right to man but the end thereof is death.
A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
Saul was relentless, hounding us day and night. Being constantly on the run finally wore me down to a point where I guess I just lost faith in the Lord’s willingness to rescue us.
(Looking back I realize I had forgotten three critical promises the Lord makes to each of us. They’re all found in Psalm 34. The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry; The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. The LORD redeems his servants; no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him.)
In desperation I finally turned to Israel’s enemy, the Philistines, thinking that if we hid there Saul wouldn’t pursue us. I went to Achish, King of Gath, asking for refuge for my men and me, and he granted it. This strategy worked, for when Saul heard I was in Gath he stopped chasing me. After a while I asked Achish for permission to leave the Royal City and settle in a small town in the south country and he did me one better. He gave me the village of Ziklag and we settled there. Ziklag had once belonged to the tribe of Simeon, whose lands bordered on Philistia, but had been captured by the warriors of Gath. For the next year and four months we lived the life of bandits, raiding the Geshurites, the Girzites and the Amalekites, nomadic people who lived in the deserts south of Israel on the way to Egypt.
We didn’t leave any survivors behind on our raids, taking only their livestock as plunder. I didn’t want Achish to find out what we were up to, and dead men tell no tales. I justified this because these people were ancient enemies of Israel who had tried to prevent Moses from bringing our people into the Promised Land. God had sworn to erase the Amalakites from the face of the Earth for this and actually it was Sauls’ failure to take full vengeance on them that got him into such trouble with the Lord. To prevent Achish from discovering what we were really doing, I told him we were raiding Jewish settlements.
In accepting sanctuary from Achish, I had to agree to help him in case of war, so when the Philistines gathered up a large army to go against Israel, Achish reminded me that my men and I were obligated to fight at his side, even making me his personal bodyguard.
When we camped near where the Israelite army had assembled, Saul became overcome with terror at the sight of the Philistines. He wanted to know what the battle’s outcome would be so he asked the prophets to pray and the priest to consult the Lord through the Urim and Thummim. Then he asked the Lord to show him in a dream. Receiving no answer from any of these sources he panicked, and violating his own decree as well as God’s Law, asked for a medium to help him see what was coming. (After Samuel’s death, Saul had expelled all the mediums and soothsayers from Israel, making their profession illegal.) His advisors directed him to one in the nearby town of Endor, but suggested he disguise himself to avoid scaring her off. Wearing someone else’s clothes, he and two of his men visited her that night.
This woman, known to all as the Witch of Endor, soon recognized Saul and accused him of trying to trick her into revealing her illegal activities so he could punish her. Convincing her that he meant her no harm, Saul asked her to contact the spirit of the dead prophet Samuel. She did, and then became the medium through whom Samuel spoke to Saul.
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 turned away 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.”
Samuel said, “Why do you consult me, now that the LORD has turned away from you and become your enemy? 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. Because you did not obey the LORD or carry out his fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the LORD has done this to you today. The LORD will hand over both Israel and you to the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The LORD will also hand over the army of Israel to the Philistines.”
Needless to say, Saul was devastated by this news. Knowing in his heart that what Samuel said was true, he realized that by consulting a medium he had broken the Law, (Deut. 18:9-13) and in disobeying God again had sealed his fate and that of his sons and his army.
(Here’s a little food for thought for all you modern day believers. God wouldn’t have prohibited things like this unless they were real, and dangerous. For example, there’s no prohibition in the Bible against turning green because God knows it’s impossible to do so. But it’s obvious from the text that this wasn’t some parlor stunt designed to bilk Saul out of his money. This was a real event. Consulting the dead through a medium, or channeler as you call them, was forbidden because it opens doors to evil forces that mean harm to God’s people. It’s a good idea to periodically review all the things God has forbidden and to look for signs of them in your life to be sure you’re not unknowingly endangering yourself.
Also, as a New Testament Christian, you might be puzzled at the way God seems to have abandoned Saul here. Let me remind you that in my day the Holy Spirit could come upon a person, and even abide with him, but was never sealed within any of us. That didn’t happen till after the cross.
When Saul disobeyed God by not completely destroying the Amalekites, God withdrew His Spirit from him. The resulting spiritual vacuum in Saul’s life attracted the evil spirits who then afflicted him. Today he would be diagnosed as insane. By continuing in his state of disobedience, Saul cut himself off from God’s wisdom and His guidance and was fair game for the evil spirits who eventually destroyed him.
While your un-confessed sin will interrupt your fellowship with God, the Holy Spirit can’t be withdrawn from you. And while evil forces can oppress out-of-fellowship believers within limits established by God for the purposes of instruction and restoration, you can’t be possessed by them the way Saul was. See 1 Corinth. 5:1-5 and 2 Corinth. 2:5-11)
Meanwhile, I was in a little trouble of my own. Even though I had won Achish’s trust, the other Philistine commanders weren’t so sure. They didn’t like seeing these Hebrews in their ranks, and knowing my reputation, they were afraid I’d turn against them in battle and help swing the tide toward Israel. They demanded I take my men and leave, so at sunrise the next morning that’s what we did.
Three days later, as we approached our homes at Ziklag, we saw the smoke rising into the clear morning air. While we were away, the Amalekites had attacked our village, taken our women and children captive, and burned down our houses. As you might expect, the men were enraged about this turn of events, but even though my family was among the captives, I found strength in the Lord and kept my wits about me. I asked the priest for God’s direction, and was told to pursue the Amalekites, that we would be successful in retrieving our loved ones and property. We left immediately and on the way found a sick slave they’d left behind to die. After we revived him with food and drink and promised to spare his life, he led us to their camp.
Once there, we attacked them immediately, fighting non-stop till the evening of the next day. When it was over we had defeated them soundly. Amazingly we got all our women and children back unharmed, plus every bit of the plunder they had taken from us. Nothing was missing!
Before leaving for home, we rounded up the Amalekites’ herds and flocks and took them as spoil. I sent a portion of our gain to each of the regional leaders of the Israelites as a sign of my fidelity to them. I didn’t want to chance that someone might have seen me among the Philistine troops and gotten the wrong idea.
Soon the word came back to us that when the Philistines engaged the Israelites a fierce battle ensued from which the Philistines emerged victorious. Moreover Saul’s three sons were killed and Saul himself had died, just as Samuel had foretold. After being seriously wounded, Saul had fallen on his sword to avoid being taken captive. The Philistines located his body, cut off his head and nailed his body and those of his sons to the gates of Beth Shan.
Two lessons emerge from this story. The first is that when I took matters into my own hands and fled to Philistia, I got temporary relief from Saul but made no progress at all in my walk with God. In fact I slipped the wrong way, living a deceitful life and resorting to the ways of this world for my sustenance. It wasn’t till I submitted myself fully to the Lord again that I became victorious and had everything restored to me.
The second is found in the contrast between Saul and me as we each prepared for battle. Because of his un-confessed sin of disobedience he was out of fellowship, and though he sought the Lord he got no answer. Instead of confessing so he could receive forgiveness and be restored, he allowed his emotions to control his behavior and turned to forbidden means, sealing his fate. His family was destroyed, his battle lost, his reign as Israel’s king over, and his life ended.
When My men and I returned from the battle lines to find our houses burned and our families captured, I stayed calm, immediately sent for the priest, and inquired of the Lord. Being in fellowship, I received an answer; victory was assured. My family was restored unharmed, my battle won, and my life as the King of Israel was just beginning. More to come. 4-10-05