1 Samuel 26-28

1 Samuel 26-28…Communication with the dead?

These chapters describe a rare and unusual occurrence where someone from the dead came back to respond to one yet living. God allowed Samuel to communicate with Saul, though Saul was wrong to seek the help of a medium to begin with. Scripture forbids that practice (Deut. 18:10-12). Samuel’s responses do not describe current conditions; they are based on a message he apparently received from God that Saul and Israel would go down in defeat (1 Sam. 28:15-19).

Some teach that our deceased Christian loved ones can see us from heaven. They frequently cite from Hebrews 12:1, which says: “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us . . . run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

They interpret that to mean our departed loved ones watch us like spectators do in a stadium, seeing our every move and cheering us on. While that may seem comforting, I don’t believe the Bible is really teaching that.

The witnesses in that verse are not modern-day loved ones, but the faithful saints in Hebrews 11 who lived victorious lives by trusting God. Those saints are witnesses to us because their lives testify about the value of trusting God no matter what hardships we face. They are active witnesses who speak to us by their example; not passive witnesses who watch us with their eyes.

Consequently, when we understand Hebrews 12:1 in its context, we realize that it doesn’t really support the idea that our loved ones are watching us from heaven. Our comfort comes not from knowing they can see us, but that they can see Jesus and one day we will see Him with them as well-never to be separated again.

1 Samuel 14-16

1 Samuel 14-16…Jonathan defeats the Philistines, the Lord rejects Saul, and David is anointed King.

It was in the midst of a great national crisis that David was selected to rule over the nation of Israel. After Saul proved to be a great failure (1 Samuel 15), the Lord came to the prophet-judge Samuel and instructed him to anoint a new monarch who would replace him. At first, Samuel was afraid to follow God’s instructions because he knew that Saul would kill him if he learned there was a conspiracy to replace him. This fear is not unlike what many of us feel when we realize what we are supposed to do for the Lord’s glory but know we will meet worldly opposition.

In any case, God reassured Samuel with a plan to keep secret the true purpose of his mission in Bethlehem. So he went forth to the house of Jesse. What followed was a long process of having each of Jesse’s sons stand before Samuel one at a time so that he might discern which of them the Lord had chosen to be the new king. Certainly God could have just told Samuel to find the boy named David and anoint him straightaway, but it seems that He had the prophet go through the ritual to teach him and those who would hear and read this story a lesson. We often select charismatic people for leadership, not the “least likely” candidate. But in having Samuel choose the least of Jesse’s sons to be the king, God demonstrated that the real way to choose a godly leader in the church is to look at the heart of the person under consideration. Samuel thus anointed David according to the Lord’s will, and the Holy Spirit came on the young man to prepare him for leadership.

1 Samuel 11-13

1 Samuel 11-13…King Saul is not King Jesus

God’s miraculous calling of Saul as King of Israel is encouraging. Saul was supernaturally changed, and the result was a humble, wise leader, willing to serve God. Saul was used by the Lord even though the desire for Israel to have a King went against the Lord’s ways. Saul led the Israelite army to defeat the Ammonites, and the men of Israel rejoiced greatly at the end of 1 Samuel 11.

Samuel delivers a typical, biblical sermon to the people in 1 Samuel 12, and outlines God’s providential hand on their lives, despite their sin and rebellion. In 1 Samuel 13, Saul shows why he is not the ultimate King. Like all men, he sins, and is therefore only a picture of the true King, who would save people from sin. Saul disobeys the Lord by rushing through the burnt offering process. He didn’t wait for the Lord, and instead of trusting the Lord’s timing and being patient until Samuel arrived, he went on his own. Samuel rebukes Saul; “You have done foolishly.”

How often do we do the same thing? The Lord’s timing is perfect, and He often has us wait so we’ll grow in our trust of Him. This is how He brings glory to Himself. Thankfully, King Jesus trusted the Lord perfectly, so that even our sins of impatience and distrust would be forgiven, if we repent and believe. Do you repent from distrust of the Lord? Consider ways in which you have not trusted Him fully in your life, and turn from your distrust, and pursue contentment in His timing. Preach the gospel to yourself, as a reminder of the fact that you have been given way more than you deserve.