1 Samuel 28-29
(In the Enemy's Camp)
March 29th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

Some time later, the Philistines gathered their troops to fight Israel, and Achish said to David, “Of course you understand that you and your men are to fight on my side.”

“Of course,” David answered. “I am your servant, and you will see for yourself what I can do.”

-1 Samuel 28:1-2 (GNB)

Summary of Chapters

Saul and David have both joined the enemy’s camp. One of them has done it as a double-agent, but the other does it as an act of desperation that resulted in the pronouncement of his death. We had read in chapter 27 that David sought refuge among the Philistines and that he had led them to believe he was making raids on their behalf. In chapter 28 of today’s reading, the Philistines call David’s bluff by enlisting him for an upcoming battle against his own people. David does not flinch as he trusts in God to bring a resolution.

This tension remains unresolved as the scene artfully shifts to Saul, who has observed the Philistine army assembled and ready to attack. Saul is more vulnerable than ever. God has abandoned him, his best warrior (David) is estranged from the family, and his spiritual advisor has died, as we learned in yesterday’s study. To whom can he turn? He frantically turns to a witch - a practice that is forbidden by God, as described in Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 18). The use of witchcraft was also outlawed by Saul's own decree. Therefore, he is literally beside himself. He is authorizing himself to break his own rules.

The witch was overwhelmed when she realized that it was Saul who had come to see her and then was overpowered by God, who brings Samuel back to earth to address his lame duck king (it was God who brought forth Samuel, not the witch). Samuel invokes the name of the LORD (Yahweh) seven times in a speech that resembles a judge handing down a verdict. He summarizes the offenses committed by Saul and describes the capital punishment to be carried out by the Authority, who will use the Philistines as his executioners. For the first time, he also explicitly informs Saul that it will be David who succeeds him. The reader has known this all along, and Saul has suspected it, but now Samuel makes it official.

In chapter 29 the scene shifts back to David and the Philistines. Will he participate in the victory over Saul and the Israelites? Will he be the one who finally puts an end to Saul? Once again, the LORD intercedes for David. This time the LORD inserts fear, jealousy, and paranoia into the minds of some of the commanders, who objected to David’s presence in their army. They were correct in assuming that David was not really loyal to them, but David played the part perfectly, as he counter-objected and professed his fidelity.

David was dismissed with honor.

The LORD resolved the situation in a way that did not endanger David and did not put him in a situation in which he would oppose his own people.

Reflection and Application

Do you have a few questions spinning around in your mind right now? Maybe your most important question is the following: Would God ever abandon us the way he abandoned Saul? Saul desperately wanted to be reconnected with God, but the door was closed. Why? Perhaps the best explanation is that Saul had not sincerely confessed and renounced his behavior.

We will find out in the second book of Samuel that David also disobeyed God in ways that resulted in tragedy for his family and for other people. Why didn’t God also abandon David? The reason is that David repented after he realized what he had done. The earthly consequences would not be reversed, but the sin against God was wiped clean, like sidewalk chalk washed away in the rain. There was no trace of it remaining in God’s eyes.

As for us, if we sincerely seek forgiveness and restoration then it is always available, and our sins are deleted from his memory. We are never so far away from God that he will not seek us out and allow for restoration. Part of Saul’s problem was that he sought God for the wrong reason. He wanted restoration of his earthly power – that was his priority. If our priority is a reconciliation of our relationship with God, then we get it, immediately. There is no long process, no paperwork, and no tests to pass. All we need is a sincere heart.

You might also have some questions about the scene with Saul and the witch at Endor. Can you imagine the leader of your country slouching down to the same level? Could you picture him or her leaving the Executive Office in disguise to find a medium on one of the seedy streets of the city? They are available in the 21st century for anyone that wants to go down that road. Even in the midst of our most sophisticated cities one can find plenty of people who pay money for these services believing that they are going to get some valuable insight into their future.

Where else do modern people go when they are in trouble? The entertainment industry tends to reinforce the notion that the place to go when you have troubles is the closest bar or tavern. There is nothing inherently wrong with these businesses, which provide food, refreshment, entertainment, and a social atmosphere. However, the problem occurs when we see these places as our primary temples of restoration. Keep track for yourself as you watch TV and movies and see how many times the characters end up in a bar when they have a problem they can’t resolve. If it’s not a bar, then it’s often some type of violent or pleasure-seeking activity.

There are exceptions. In the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the main character, George Bailey, had gone to a bar when he reached his low point, but then turns to God in prayer, even though he confesses he is not a praying man. God hears his prayer and sends an angel to help George see the value of his life.

Where should we turn when we find ourselves at the end of our rope? Not alcohol, violence, pleasure, or spiritual mediums, but instead we should seek out he who is larger than life itself – our Creator. You can call on him from anywhere, even if you have a low signal on your cell phone. You can receive his valuable advice, even if your credit is bad. You can receive the peace of his presence that gives you mental clarity, physical strength, and a sense of hope in a hopeless world. He can intercede in our lives in ways that we can’t even begin to imagine.

Speaking of his intercession, perhaps you are still wondering about the ghost of Samuel. The story in chapter 29 is like a fantastic tale from a Charles Dickens novel. The ghost of Samuel might remind you of the ghost of Marley that returned to visit his former business partner, Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. The differences are as follows: In Scrooge’s case, the visit was designed to give him a second chance, which is consistent with the opportunity that God gives each of us. In Saul’s case, the visitor tells him he has no more chances. The other difference is that one is fiction and the other is truth.

Did God really bring Samuel back from the dead to speak with Saul? Do you believe he brought Jesus back from the dead and that Jesus brought Lazarus and a little girl back from the dead, as recorded in the Gospels? There is no limit to what God can do. If you are the author of a novel, you can devise any plot twist and climax that you desire. God is the author of our lives and of our universe; he can do what he wants.

One note of caution: The acknowledgement of the truth of the story of Samuel and the witch does not mean that we should seek conversations with the dead. God does not want us seeking out witches or mediums who claim to see into the future or speak with the dead. God reveals the future to his people through the prophets and the other books of the Bible. When we get to the book of Revelation in December we will read of a future revealed to the Apostle John that has yet to come. In the meantime, we are encouraged to seek conversations with the one who conquered death: The Son of God and our Savior who gave his life for his friends so that we may live.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. When was the last time you made a prediction and what was the methodology you used? For example, it may have been a sales projection, project plan, weather forecast, or a “pick” in a sports tournament. How accurate was your prediction?
    2. What is the most surprising way that God ever interceded in your life?
    3. What holds us back from seeking God when we are in trouble?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we know you can intercede into our world in any you see fit, including audibly. Please help us to seek you instead of false idols when we need help.

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: 1 Samuel 30-31 (Saul Falls on His Own Sword)

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