Judgment always has this purpose: to turn people back to God, where they can find joy and grace.

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2 Samuel #22 . 2 Samuel Chapter 24

This is yet one more of those difficult passages in Samuel. Thankfully, it is the very last chapter of the book J. Even so, as with the other difficult parts, there are rich and grace-filled lessons to be learned here.

This same incident is also recorded in 1 Chronicles 21. I’ll be using both passages to help us understand. It says here that the Lord was angry at Israel, and stirred up David to take a census. In Chronicles, it says that Satan, plotting against Israel, incited David to sin by taking a census. Either way, we can see that the consequence of David’s sin was that all Israel suffered. I think one of the first questions should be, “Was it God or was it Satan?” As I have mentioned in previous messages, there are several other places in the Old Testament where the Lord used evil spirits to accomplish his purposes: Judges 9:23-24, 1 Kings 22:18-23 1 Samuel 16:14, and Job 1:6-12. In each case the picture we get is the Lord allowing an evil spirit to affect a particular person or group. In each case, the evil spirit wants to do the evil, but must get permission from God first. God’s permission seems to be limited to what will accomplish his purpose. In most of these cases, the purpose is to bring judgment, and if possible, repentance. [For a longer discussion of this issue please go to one of my previous sermons: Does God Send Evil Spirits?]

So it is entirely consistent to see God allowing a limited evil influence upon David in order to accomplish his purposes. It was Satan who tempted David, but it was ultimately God who allowed it. The answer to our first question then is: both. It was both God and the devil.

The next natural question is, “Why did God let this happen?” My most honest answer is, “I don’t know for sure.” I do have some ideas, however.

Clearly, the Lord felt that there was something not right in David’s heart – and also not right in the hearts of the people. Let’s start with an clear biblical understanding of sin and punishment and judgment. There is only one satisfactory and just punishment for sin. According to the Bible that one appropriate punishment is eternal separation from God. Since God is the source of all Life and all Good, that separation means death and unimaginable suffering. So if David and the people of Israel were not killed and sent away from God’s presence forever (that is, hell) then they were not being punished for doing wrong. They were being judged. There is a difference. In fact, it was God’s punishment for our sins that Jesus took upon himself.

In the Bible, God’s judgment establishes that his actions are right and good, and that ours are wrong and sinful. God uses judgment to try and get people to repent and turn to Him and receive life, hope and forgiveness in Jesus. Judgment always has this purpose: to turn people back to God. It isn’t vindictiveness or anger or even righteous punishment. It is an extreme measure of love. It is like amputating a limb to keep the deadly cancer from spreading, or taking the cars keys away from someone who drinks too much. It seems harsh, but it is intended for good, for love.

So God allowed the sin in the hearts of David and his people to be revealed through temptation, and then he brought judgment to turn them back to Himself.

When I was fifteen I tore open the back of my heel in accident, and had to have stitches. The wound became infected. It sealed up on the outside, but underneath, it was filled pus and infection. Left alone, it would have looked all right, but eventually it would have developed gangrene and rotted my foot and leg, finally killing me. My dad realized what was happening. He made me lie down, while he clamped my leg to hold it still. He squeezed around the wound and it was incredibly painful. The wound burst open and what came out was truly disgusting. For almost a week afterward I had a gaping hole in my heel. I still have a scar. But it was absolutely necessary that the infection be exposed and cleaned out.

So, the Lord exposed what was hidden in the hearts of David and of the people, and then cleaned the infection, though it was a painful, awful-seeming process. My dad inflicted pain upon me in order to bring about my healing. He didn’t cause the infection, but he did cause me pain in order to first expose it, and then eliminate it. So God did not cause the problem in the hearts of his people, but he loved them enough to engage in the painful process of exposing it and judging it, to bring them back to himself.

Now, another question that I have is, what was so bad about taking a census? Moses did it twice – because God told him to. So why shouldn’t David do it? How did the census expose the sin of David and of Israel? I think this is an important question to ask.

I want to admit, this part is speculative. Here are some possible reasons. Perhaps it was pride. Maybe David wanted to know how great his kingdom was. Or maybe he was contemplating a new conquest that was not sanctioned by the Lord, and he wanted to know if his army was big enough to do it. Another possibility is that he was afraid of another rebellion, and was using the census to ferret out any potential enemies. The men of Judah and those of the other tribes were recorded separately. So maybe David was afraid, and was trying to see if the men of Judah had enough soldiers to defeat the other tribes if it came to civil war again.

In any case, it did not arise from faith. Romans 14:23 says: “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” We want a book of rules, so we can just take care of things on our own, and not make the effort of staying close to the Lord. Rule 447, paragraph 8, section c: “Do not ever take a census.” But living that way actually separates us from God, because it allows us to function “righteously” without really interacting with him. Even if we do the right thing, it needs to be because we are living in right relationship. Taking a census is not always wrong. But David was not walking in faith.

Here is one other possibility with this census. It could be that David ordered it to be conducted in a way that violated something the Lord said in Exodus 30:11-16.

The LORD spoke to Moses: “When you take a census of the Israelites to register them, each of the men must pay a ransom for himself to the LORD as they are registered. Then no plague will come on them as they are registered. Everyone who is registered must pay half a shekel according to the sanctuary shekel. This half shekel is a contribution to the LORD. Each man who is registered, 20 years old or more, must give this contribution to the LORD. The wealthy may not give more and the poor may not give less than half a shekel when giving the contribution to the LORD to atone for your lives. Take the atonement money from the Israelites and use it for the service of the tent of meeting. It will serve as a reminder for the Israelites before the LORD to atone for your lives.” (Exod 30:11-16, HCSB)

The point of this was to recognize that the Lord owns all of the people. They don’t own themselves – they owe their lives to the Lord. In the same way, no leader owns the people – they all belong to God. It may be that the people did not want to pay the census fee, nor did David want to require it of them. This exposed that in their hearts they were not serious about belonging to God as a people. This may be the sin in the hearts of the poeple that God was exposing.

With the sin exposed, God acted in judgment, to bring the people back to himself. Because David repented so quickly, the Lord gave David a choice about the form of judgment: three months more of rebellion and battle, or three years of famine, or three days of a plague. David chose the last one, as I would have. He trusted God’s mercy (in the form of the plague) more than the “mercy” of a human enemy.

As the plague was coming to Jerusalem, David apparently had a vision of God’s angel striking the people. He cried out for mercy for them, pleading with God to limit the judgment to himself, to strike him and save the people. God did not do that, but he did end the plague at that point. The angel in the vision stopped. David’s plea to be punished instead of the people echoes the heart of the ultimate chosen one, Jesus, whom God did strike in place of all sinful people.

What follows is very interesting. The Lord sent the prophet Gad, who told David to make sacrifices and offerings on the spot where he saw the angel stop. If you remember, Jerusalem in David’s time was fairly small, maybe ten or fifteen acres. It was on the tip of a ridge, with deep ravines to the east and west and south. Behind David’s city to the north, the ridge rose to the top of the mountain. It was there, at the top of that ridge or mountain, where David went to offer his sacrifices. This was about 1/3 of a mile from the south wall. The picture below gives you a rough sense of the geography, though it is not 100% accurate.


He found the land was owned by a Jebusite, not an Israelite. Refusing to take it as a gift, David purchased the land, and made offerings and sacrifices there. This ridge-top was the very place where Abraham had taken his son Isaac, when he obeyed God’s call to sacrifice him. On that mountaintop, Isaac, not knowing what was to come, asked what they were going to use for a sacrifice. Abraham answered prophetically, saying, “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” (Gen 22:8, HCSB). God stopped Abraham when he saw that he was willing to give up even his son. Instead, God planned to give his own son. And so on this same spot, almost eight hundred years later, the plague was stopped. On this same spot, David offered his life in exchange for his people, but again, the Lord refused that sacrifice, looking ahead to the time he would offer his own son. And this same spot, purchased by David, Solomon built the temple of the Lord, where for years they offered sacrifices that were all a shadow, pointing toward the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus to save people from their sins.

So David ended his reign, still being used by the Lord to point toward the ultimate messiah. 2 Samuel 23 records the last psalm he wrote:

These are the last words of David: The declaration of David son of Jesse, the declaration of the man raised on high, the one anointed by the God of Jacob, the favorite singer of Israel:

The Spirit of the LORD spoke through me, His word was on my tongue.

The God of Israel spoke; the Rock of Israel said to me, “The one who rules the people with justice, who rules in the fear of God, is like the morning light when the sun rises on a cloudless morning, the glisten of rain on sprouting grass.

Is it not true my house is with God? For He has established an everlasting covenant with me, ordered and secured in every detail.

Will He not bring about my whole salvation and my every desire? (2Sam 23:1-5, HCSB)



Saul begins to reap the deadly benefits of religion without relationship.

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1 SAMUEL PART#27. Chapter 28

Remember all that we have learned about king Saul. One of the most important things we discovered is that he was a religious man, but not a man of faith. Time after time, when he felt he could somehow use or exploit God, he did so. But when he was confident in himself, or when he felt that God had nothing to offer him, he ignored God. He had the trappings of religion and he used them to control others and manipulate God. But he did not live in a day to day walk of faith, trusting God in all things, relating to him, loving him. The depths of Saul’s spiritual poverty are revealed in 1 Samuel chapter 28.

Saul, having no real trust in God, was terrified when he saw the Philistines. Now consider something. Every time Saul was involved in a battle with the Philistines up to this point, God saved the Israelites. The Lord used Jonathan in chapter 13, and David in chapter 17, and several other times. But none of that seemed to make any difference to Saul. He was just as scared and faithless as he had always been.

I want to pause and say something about that here. Sometimes we think that if God just did a miracle for us, then we would really trust him. If we saw the Lord do something really great, then we wouldn’t doubt, then we wouldn’t disobey or draw back in fear. But that wasn’t the case with Saul. God’s previous miracles didn’t matter. The same was true with the first Israelites who came out of Egypt. They saw many miracles. Their food and water were daily miracles. And yet it did not help them to have faith and surrender to the Lord.

Jesus addressed this issue in his own ministry. Though he did many miracles, often people came and demanded miracles on the spot – basically asking him to prove himself to them. Jesus addressed this Luke 11:27-29:

27 As He was saying these things, a woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “The womb that bore You and the one who nursed You are blessed! ” 28 He said, “Even more, those who hear the word of God and keep it are blessed! ” 29 As the crowds were increasing, He began saying: “This generation is an evil generation. It demands a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. (Luke 11:27-29, HCSB)

John records that many miracles (‘signs’) still did not convince people who did not want to be convinced:

37 Even though He had performed so many signs in their presence, they did not believe in Him. (John 12:37, HCSB)

In another place, Jesus told a story about a poor man named Lazarus, and a rich man. At the end of the story, the rich man found himself in hell. He begged that someone be sent from heaven to tell his family the truth about the afterlife. Jesus concludes the story like this:

31 “But he told him, ‘If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.’ ” (Luke 16:31, HCSB)

When people in the New Testament say “Moses and the Prophets” they mean “the bible” since that was as much Bible as they had at that time. What Jesus is saying is this: if you don’t trust God’s word and the promises in scripture, no amount of miracles will cause you to trust.” The problem can’t be fixed by a miracle. That is both hard and good for us to remember. Seeing is not believing. With God, believing is seeing.

So Saul, in spite of all that he has seen God do, is a religious pretender, not a man of real faith. Therefore, now, facing the Philistines, he is quaking in fear. It says that he inquired of the Lord. As before, Saul doesn’t go to the Lord unless he thinks God can do something for him. So now, he inquires of the Lord only out of fear and a desire to manipulate God. It doesn’t tell us what Saul was asking God. I think it is most likely that he made an animal sacrifice to the Lord, and was hoping for some prophecy that God was pleased with the sacrifice, and would give Saul the victory. But he didn’t hear anything by way of the “sacred dice” (the urim and thummin) or through prophets, or in dreams. Basically, Saul is demanding another sign here, before he will really trust God. He has had God’s help all his life, but he still won’t trust the Lord without some kind of additional sign.

God has been working on Saul all of his life. Remember how he called him to be king? Remember how he gave him the victory at Jabesh Gilead? Remember how even after Saul proved to be useless to God, God kept pursuing Saul’s heart, sending him a troubling spirit to get him to turn to the Holy Spirit for relief? Saul has had decades to surrender his heart to the Lord. The Lord has never quit trying to win him over. I think this lack of a sign is one more chance for Saul to surrender his heart. The Lord has put him in a crisis where he has the same two choices he has always had: 1. Trust God, or 2. Manipulate God and other people to control his own destiny, and get the outcome he wants. Before this, Saul has always chosen #2. He doesn’t know it, but this will be his last chance to give his heart to the Lord.

Tragically, Saul once again chooses to try to control his own life and outcomes, rather than trusting God. When he doesn’t hear from the Lord, trust is not even an option. Saul simply must find some way to manipulate God into saying what he wants to hear, or doing what he wants God to do. So he seeks out a medium, or witch, or spiritist, or whatever you want to call it.

Deuteronomy 18:9-14 says this:

10 There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer 11 or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, 12 for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD. And because of these abominations the LORD your God is driving them out before you. 13 You shall be blameless before the LORD your God, 14 for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the LORD your God has not allowed you to do this.

These practices were part of the reason for Holy War, which Saul failed to carry out as king. Not only were the people of God not supposed to do these things, they were supposed to wipe out those who did. Such things separate people from God and put them under the influence of hell. Saul did make some attempt to stamp out the practice of the occult, but obviously he wasn’t entirely successful. And now he is willing to deliberately abandon faith in God, abandon his previous laws against these things, and seek help from the dead.

Here is the final proof of Saul’s internal condition. Religion is just something to be used and manipulated, and if one approach doesn’t work to accomplish his aim, he’ll try another. So he and a few of his men disguise themselves and go to the witch. The disguise is actually pretty pathetic. The woman lives not far from the battlefield. Her visitor is the tallest man she’s ever seen, and he wants to talk to the ghost of the prophet Samuel. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out it is Saul. So at first she thinks it is a trap. Then when she is convinced, she pretends that the ghost of Samuel told her who Saul was.

Now it is natural to wonder, what really happened here? Was the woman a charlatan who made it all up? Was there really a spiritual presence there? And if so, was it really Samuel?

To answer that, we need to consider what the Bible says about life after death. Certainly, the entire New Testament teaches that at the end of time, there will be a judgment day. Those who rejected Jesus will be thrown into a lake of fire with the devil and his demons. Those who receive him will be physically resurrected to an eternal, joyful existence.

But there is that period of time in between. Samuel was in the period, as is every person who has died up until today (except for Jesus). Some people believe that in that “between-time,” you are unaware of existence until judgment day, at the end of time. Others believe, as I do, that there is a period of time when dead souls are either with Jesus in joy and freedom, or in hell. The presence of Moses and Elijah with Jesus in Matthew 17, suggests this very strongly. Jesus painted this picture of life after death in his story of Lazarus and the rich man. Revelation 6:9-11 shows people who have died, yet are aware and are waiting for the final judgment day and the resurrection. Actually several passages in Revelation suggest that there is life with Jesus between death and the physical resurrection that will occur at the end of time.

Therefore in order to believe that it really was the spirit of Samuel, we have to believe that some people on earth – mediums, fortune tellers etc. – have the power to pull people out of the presence of God and back to earth so we can talk to them. I don’t buy it for second.

There is another reason to believe that this was not really Samuel. God chose not to answer Saul when Saul wanted some reassurance. He did not answer through the urim, or through the prophets or in dreams. If God would chose not to speak to Saul through these holy and righteous means, why would he then work through the unrighteous means of a medium – basically rewarding Saul’s wicked behavior?

Even beyond these most significant facts, there are other things in the text which suggest that this was not Samuel. Saul himself could not see the spirit – he had to ask the medium what he looked like. Her reply was very vague: “An old man wearing robes.” That’s pretty much how I picture Samuel myself. Saul accepted this description as true, but there is nothing in it that actually identifies Samuel personally.

Finally, there is the message that Saul got from this apparition. Once again we need to question why God would speak through this illegitimate means after not answering by any legitimate route. But secondly, listen to the tone of the message. It is angry, bitter and hopeless. There is no encouragement. There is not even any opportunity for repentance. Not too long after this, Saul becomes wounded and commits suicide, rather than fight on with courage. I personally believe that his encounter with this evil spirit contributed to that act.

I do believe that there was something spiritual going on here – something creepy and utterly evil. Remember the other Saul, in the New Testament, the one who repented and came to Jesus, and later was known as Paul? He encountered a girl who could tell the future. But it was an evil spirit that gave her the power of limited fortune telling (Acts 16:16-19). I met someone once, who used to be involved in fortune telling, and spirit communication for money. She became a Christian and rejected all that. We asked her what was involved in it. She said that sometimes, she was just tricking people by being observant, and making vague statements combined with educated guesses. But she also told us that sometimes, she was aware of a spiritual presence which gave her information – which she now realizes was a demon.

I personally believe that Saul unknowingly sought (and received) an audience with a demon, masquerading as Samuel. Saul was rewarded with the kind of the thing you would expect from a demon: condemnation and hopelessness. By turning to witchcraft and séance to try and control his life, he was turning his back utterly on God and seeking help from hell. And he got exactly what you might expect from hell.

So where to do we go with this text?

First, if this isn’t too obvious, don’t play around with séances, spirit-guides, mediums, psychics and so on. That stuff comes straight out of the pit of hell, and you are inviting the depths of hell into your life if you fool with it. Saul’s results were dramatic and self-destructive.

I find some reminders here about religion. There are many people like Saul who go to church and talk the religious talk as a way to manipulate God or influence others. It became a way of life for Saul, and ultimately it destroyed him. God never gave up on him, but by his empty religious spirit, Saul took himself out of God’s jurisdiction. I hate religion. I love Jesus, but I hate religion. I think maybe God hates it too. Religion is about appearance and manipulation. Real faith is about surrendering your heart to the One who created you, and cares about you more than anyone else in the universe. Saul had plenty of religion. David had faith.

There is also a caution here about how you view miracles. I’ve seen miracles. I love it when God does them. But my faith does not depend on them, and I know I cannot demand them from God, on my cue. We sometimes think (like Mike and the Mechanics) that all we need is a miracle. Not so. All we need is the Lord, and to get him all we need is faith to believe he is there and to trust him. Miracles are real, and great, but if we make them necessary to trusting God, we are in trouble. Jesus himself warned against that attitude.

I think there are many times when we get ourselves into situations like Saul’s. We come face to face with a problem. We can try to manage and control life ourselves; or we can trust the Lord and surrender to him. I pray that we make the second choice, not the first.

I guess the main message is the same message we hear over and over through scripture: Trust the Lord. Base that trust on his word and his promises, not on anything else.



Christians need to recognized that we are not in neutral territory. We are in the middle of a spiritual war.

1 Samuel #17 Wars within and Without. 1 Samuel chapter 18

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1 Samuel chapter 18 is part of a larger section that records the development of David as a warrior and leader, and the increasing tension between Saul and David.

In number 10 in this series, we looked at 1 Samuel chapter 14, and saw that Jonathan, son of Saul was a very different man from his father. Jonathan was a man of faith. He trusted that if God wanted to deliver his people, he could do it, whatever the odds. I have wondered at times, why Jonathan, being the man he was, did not fight Goliath. The bible doesn’t tell us, but I suspect that Saul might have forbidden him to do it. In any case, it was God’s desire to use David in that situation.

David approached Goliath with exactly the same kind of faith that Jonathan had when fought the Philistines earlier. Jonathan recognized the faith of David and recognized in him, a kindred spirit. Without any pretensions as the king’s son, and in self-confident humility, Jonathan honored David and made a covenant with him. A “covenant” was a solemn agreement. It doesn’t spell out here what exactly the covenant was. I think we can assume that it was a little bit like the old native American tradition of becoming blood brothers. Certainly, they became lifelong friends, inseparable in spirit, loyal to each other in spite of the difficult circumstances that could have come between them. In addition, after the victory over Goliath and the Philistine armies, Jonathan gave David his precious iron-age battle equipment.

Saul had made a vow to honor the giant-killer with marriage to his daughter, and riches, and exemption from royal taxes (17:24-27). But there is a great contrast between Saul and his son. Jonathan made no vow, and yet rewarded David with honor, and such gifts as he had power to give. Saul made promises, and then reneged on them.

After Goliath was killed, the armies of Israel pursued the Philistines to the gates of two of their cities. Previously, Israel had won only defensive victories – they had driven the Philistines out of the hill country when the Philistines invaded. However, this time, spurred by David’s feat of faith, they took the battle into Philistine territory. As they returned from the fight, the people celebrated and sang songs and verses. In their songs they sang that Saul had killed thousands, and David tens of thousands.

This was a faith opportunity for Saul. He could trust that God was Lord of both him and David, and that God would be merciful and good to him even now. But instead, Saul gave in to fear and doubt and insecurity – as he always did. 18:10 says this:

10 The next day an evil spirit sent from God took control of Saul, and he began to rave inside the palace. David was playing the lyre as usual, but Saul was holding a spear, 11 and he threw it, thinking, “I’ll pin David to the wall.” But David got away from him twice. (1Sam 18:10-11, HCSB)

Previously, when the Lord used the evil spirit to try and bring Saul to repentance, Saul was able to find hope and relief by God’s spirit working through David’s music. But this time, Saul utterly rejected God’s spirit. He chose to not live by faith. He chose to try and control his own fate, apart from God’s plans. And so when David played the lyre for him after this, there was no relief, because Saul cut off all of God’s efforts to reach him.

I want to point out a few things that come out of this particular incident. First, when we close the door on God, it means we open a door to the realm of Satan and evil spirits. I don’t mean that this happens every time we make a single mistake and choose wrongly or fall into sin. But Saul persistently and deliberately rejected God over a long period of time. It seems to me that chapter 18 records a time when Saul makes a firm, final decision to not trust God. Therefore, God had no way to reach him anymore. And since Saul put himself beyond God’s reach, he was a sitting duck for the devil.

Second, we see the intention of all evil spirits – to destroy the work of the Holy Spirit. David was the instrument of the Holy Spirit at that time. The evil spirit, when given control took the most direct route – destroy God’s chosen instrument.

I think it is important for us to recognize the spiritual war that this reveals. David was aware of it in the battle against Goliath. Jonathan was aware of it in his earlier battles. The devil wants to destroy the work of God. Jesus said, talking about Satan in John 10:10 said, “a thief comes to kill, steal and destroy.” Peter wrote this:

8 Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. (1Pet 5:8, HCSB)

This world is not neutral territory – it is a battle ground. All of us who trust in Jesus are now the chosen instruments of the Holy Spirit. The devil cannot kill us all. But he seeks to undo the work that God wants to do in and through us. We don’t need to fear the devil – Jesus told us that he has won the definitive victory over Satan.

18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:18-20, ESV)

Satan cannot harm us if we remain in Jesus. Therefore the New Testament tells us to be alert (1 Peter 5:8), to remain in Jesus (John 15:1), to resist the devil (1 Peter 5:9 and James 4:7) and to take our stand against all the powers of evil in the spiritual realms (Ephesians 6:10-18). We don’t need to be afraid, but we shouldn’t be naïve either. If the devil could, he would drive a spear through you too. Saul shows us the only way the devil can get at us – when we shut God out.

When you feel particularly angry, ask yourself – is my anger level unreasonable? Could the devil be tweaking an already tense situation? Perhaps you feel a weight of sadness and depression that is out of proportion to the situation you are in. Pay attention to it. Don’t just submit to it and let it hang like a cloud over your life – ask the Lord about it. Maybe when you try to move ahead with what the Lord has for you, you encounter continual discouragement — maybe even physical roadblocks. Don’t just accept this. Ask the Lord about it, and you may need to pray specifically against spiritual opposition. Satan’s biggest weapon is deception. If he can get us to believe he isn’t involved, we will never kick him out of places where he doesn’t belong.

Consider David for a moment. He was God’s chosen instrument. He killed the giant. But after the party, the biggest result is that now the king hates him. Reading on, we see more opposition. Saul promised his eldest daughter in marriage to the giant killer. But he reneged on it, and had her marry someone else. As it turns out, that was OK, because Saul’s younger daughter, Michal, loved David. When this came up, Saul, no doubt realizing that not keeping his promises would make him unpopular, proposes that those two marry.

Now, in those days, in that part of the world, a prospective groom was supposed to give goods and property to the father of the bride. This gift was called the “Bride Price.” They did the same thing in Papua New Guinea where I grew up. In New Guinea, the price was usually paid in livestock and other property, and ancient Israel was probably similar. In chapter 17, the wording implies that killing Goliath is more or less equal to providing the bride price. However, in chapter 18:23-25, an additional bride price was clearly part of the negotiations. David said basically, he couldn’t afford to become the king’s son in law. This means two things: first, Saul is now requiring something more from David than the death of Goliath. Second, it means that Saul also went back on his promise to make the giant killer a wealthy man (17:25) – since David had no resources to pay the Bride price.

Saul now requires a new price – that David kill 100 Philistines, and bring back a certain gruesome proof of each death. He was hoping that the extreme danger involved in doing this would actually put an end to David.

None of this is fair. None of Saul’s treatment of David from here on out is righteous or godly. David is God’s chosen instrument – and yet through Saul, the devil is continually cheating him and threatening his life.

Even so, David did not become bitter, or even disrespectful toward Saul. He did not even confront him about his false promises. He continued to trust the Lord to work in him and through him. He continued to do what the Lord put in front of him to do. And through the Lord, he was protected and blessed in his endeavors. He and his men killed not 100, but 200 Philistines. While he remained trusting in the Lord, the devil could not get to him.

So I have a few thoughts for application here. Are you engaged in the mission that God wants to accomplish through your life? If you don’t know, I challenge you to pause and ask God about it right now. If you know you aren’t, I want to warn you that you are endangering the work of God, and yourself.

In addition, when we are letting the Lord live his life through us, we ought to heed the warnings of the New Testament. We need to be alert and aware that the devil is out to attack the work of the Holy Spirit. He wants to stop you from experiencing grace. He wants to stop you from the mission God has for your life – from touching others the way God wants you to. We aren’t in neutral territory – we need to be aware that the devil will try to use every discouragement, every burst of anger, unforgiveness, hate, envy, discord – anything we do not turn over to the Lord.


1 Samuel 16:14 says God sent an evil spirit to torment king Saul. What do we make of this?


1 SAMUEL #15. 1 SAMUEL CHAPTER 16:14-23

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Now the Spirit of the LORD had left Saul, and an evil spirit sent from the LORD began to torment him… (1Sam 16:14)

When we first read this, it almost feels like one of the most troubling verses in the Bible. I believe, however, when we really understand what was going here, it becomes one more instance for us to thank God for his incredible grace to human beings.

First, let’s remember the context. Saul, since the very first record of him in the Bible, has either ignored God, or considered Him a tool to be manipulated and used. Time after time, Saul betrayed his own securities. Time after time, he refused to trust God, and sought instead to protect his own interests. When he did worship God, it was to get the people to remain in the army, or to try and manipulate God into helping him. Saul represents the very worst in religious leaders – he tries to use religion as a way to exercise power over others, all the while avoiding personal trust in the Living God.

Finally, the Lord told Samuel that he had rejected Saul as king. God simply could not use Saul as His chosen instrument in that generation – Saul wouldn’t let him. After this, God directed Samuel to David – a boy who had given his heart fully to God. David became God’s chosen instrument in that generation. (Remember in those days, Jesus had not come, and so the Lord worked usually only through one or two people at one time. Today, all believers are the given the Holy Spirit. We are all supposed to be his chosen instruments in this generation)

Now, to understand what happens next, to make sense of God sending an evil spirit to Saul, we need to understand this situation completely. God rejected Saul from being king. He rejected him as God’s chosen instrument for that generation. Samuel makes this quite clear (1 Samuel 15:23). But this does not mean that God has given up on Saul as a person.

When I was a child, I remember I desperately wanted a knife. A knife represented power and maturity. It was both weapon and a tool. It was the next logical step in my progression to responsible adulthood. After a lot of powerful legal maneuvering on my part, I got my parents to give me one. Looking back, I realize now that my wise parents gave me a tiny pen-knife, something I couldn’t do much damage with. But back then, after carrying it around for a while, I realized that I wasn’t really using it. Out in our yard we had a clothesline made of rope. I opened my knife and took a swing at it. To my delight the line parted like the waters of the red sea. Later on I examined the metal fly-screen on one of our windows. I wonder if this knife will cut metal? I thought. There was really only one way to find out. It did. I was awed by the power I held.

I don’t remember much about the discipline that followed these incidents. But I do know this: my parents continued to love me and teach me, while at the same time, they took away the knife until I was older. I wasn’t ready for that kind of power. Even so, they loved me, and didn’t reject me. They just rejected the idea of me with a knife.

I think that when they took the knife away, I was probably more upset about losing the knife than I was about the fact that I had done wrong. I don’t remember, but I probably had to be disciplined in other ways so that I could see that what I had done was wrong.

Saul is in this situation. When Samuel tells him that the Lord has rejected him as king, Saul is naturally upset. But to me, it reads like he is upset about losing his position as God’s chosen instrument, far more than he is upset about the fact that he hasn’t trusted God. As we continue through 1 Samuel, we will see that this is in fact the truth.

Now, even though God rejected Saul as king, as His chosen instrument, God does not force Saul to abdicate the crown. He remains king until the day he dies. He just isn’t God’s chosen king. What grace – that God allowed him to continue as king, even when he couldn’t use him.

Continue reading “DOES GOD SEND EVIL SPIRITS?!”