Out With the Old, In With the New

(Today's post by Adam Cooper)

1 Samuel 16

So for the past few chapters we have seen Saul sin against the Lord to the point where the Lord is so grieved that He removes Himself from Saul. In this chapter we see God taking the next step to provide for the Israelites by having a new leader anointed from the house of Jesse. God has chosen the youngest of Jesse’s sons and anointed him over all of Israel. We also see that not only has God removed His favor from Saul but He has also provided a constant torment to Saul. A torment that is so bothersome that Saul must seek out the young David to play his harp to soothe the tormentor within him.

WOW! When I first reread this and began thinking about what to write for today the point escaped me. I mean this is a story that we have heard before. It is also a story that has been acted out throughout the Old Testament with other actors. Israel sins and then they are handed over to their own vices for their destruction. They learn their lesson and turn back to God and are redeemed. But as I prayed and thought about it more I began to see that this story may appear the same on the surface but it is not as cut and dry as those others.

In this story God removes His favor from Saul but then he provides torment for him; constant torment. This could be compared to the Israelites being handed over to their enemies as slaves. However, there is no redemption for Saul from his sins. There is no time when he is set free like the slaves were. He is tormented constantly. And not only is he tormented, the only thing that can soothe that torment is music played by the one that has been chosen to lead after him. There really is no redemption in Saul’s future; God is so angry with Saul for his failure to do as he was directed that Saul is handed over to be tormented, seemingly forever. Of course there is also a necessary point to be had from this chapter as well. Unlike the Israelites in other stories who turn back to God and are redeemed we see Saul continuing to stay distant from God.

I think it is important to see the constant stories of sin, repentance, and redemption throughout the Bible. I think it is equally important to notice how this also plays a major role in the Old Testament as well. God is announcing His overall plan throughout the entire canon of Scripture; a plan that comes to a tremendous climax at the cross with Jesus. So with that being said where does this story fall within that grand plan? What are we to draw from this story that shows Saul completely turning his back on God?

I may stir up some discussion from what I see in this small story but through discussion we can grow and become stronger so I am just going to lay it out there. Saul sinned. Saul grieved God tremendously and for that God handed Saul over to torment. I see the tormenting spirit that God placed on Saul much the same way I view the conviction that the Spirit places on us when we sin. When we sin we are tormented with conviction over that sin until we make a choice: continue to be tormented and risk moving further away from God or face up to our sins, confess them, repent from them, and then seek God even stronger in order to end the convicting torment of the Spirit.

God allows the Spirit to dwell within us when we believe and place our faith in Christ. This indwelling of the Spirit is a tremendous gift because it provides that direct link to God in much the same way Samuel provided the direct link to God for Saul. The Spirit is also a tremendous gift because of the conviction that it places upon us when we sin. Without this conviction of sin we would simply go on sinning and growing further and further from God and continue to live apart from Him until He drew us to Him.

Unfortunately stories like Saul’s, where God continues to torment him, have led to many misunderstandings over the years. Misunderstandings that lead some to think that God is some great puppet-master dangling us all around by strings choosing to torment some, unleashing His wrath and anger when they do wrong, and choosing to bless those who do right. However, I look at stories like this as a way to bring emphasis on the new covenant that was initiated under Christ. Seeing the active role God had in the Old Testament makes me thankful for the grace and salvation that are mine through the cross and Christ’s substitutionary atonement for my sins. It makes me thankful that there is nothing I have to DO to earn my salvation. I believe looking at God like some grand puppet-master belittles God’s ultimate power by making Him more reactionary rather than omnipotent and omniscient. It makes Him seem as if He does not know the whole story from beginning to end and that He is merely reacting to what we humans do.

So the take away from this story is two-fold: you do not have to be the biggest or strongest in order to serve God effectively; and, the Spirit of God indwells us to guide us through our decisions and actions and provide us with conviction to draw us back onto the correct path when we stray. What happens when we continue to stray away from God, as in Saul’s case, remains a discussion for yet another day.

Have you ever known anyone who thought of God as a great puppet-master, choosing from one moment to the next what happens to you or I?

If you found yourself in the middle of torment are you walking close enough with God to recognize it as conviction from the Spirit for a continued sin in your life?


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  • Brice Hope

    Many times in my life the “torment” is from my own sin and stupidity. I can look back and realize that I’m going through a difficult time for something stupid I did in the past. The goal of discipline is to help us realize the errors in our ways and cause us to change for the better. We should remember the pain of our torment and strive not to fall in the same mistakes and sins that have plagued us in the past.

    It is a sad story to read how Saul is never redeemed. God gave Saul opportunities beyond anyone else in Israel at that time. He had power, privilege and prestige, but he was never to get beyond himself and become 100% submitted to God. Even with God intervening through Samuel, his tormenting and the humility of Jonathon and David, Saul never chose to fully submit to God. It is a tragedy.

  • Jeff Morton

    Ok this runs parallel with what it spoke to me. However I see me in Saul, and I am thankful for the torment just as I am thankful to the surrendered men God has placed in my life who are teaching me what it means to abide. My take always from this story are:
    1) we will be attached to a spirit, God, or idol at all times. It can be the flesh, sin nature, or demon. The only other option is the Holy Spirit or spirit of God.
    2) we have a choice even when plagued with discipline, or a tormenting spirit to run away from something we can’t escape or to step into the light surround ourselves with spirit led men where we can be comforted as Saul was by David. What a beautiful picture of Christ and the Holy Spirit in this chapter.

  • Chrissy Whisenhunt

    Ok jumping into Saul’s lesson: what happens when abusing the GIFT of leadership when being part of the ministry. It was possibly what kept me from being involved for the longest time, fear of misleading. Fear of not being an example Christian, fear of being judged, fear that it I would fail because the act came from my doing. Now bringing the take in on conviction, it is all God’s doing that I became involved, I am only an instrument for his kingdom, taking direction from Him. It is a gift that if followed out in sin could lead someone else away permanently, to their eternal death. I constantly hear “hypocrite Christians” are why atheist want nothing to do with God. Allowing conviction into my life is the only way I can continue following His purpose and not begin living a lie of who I am.

    • Adam Cooper

      Chrissy, thank you for jumping in. For the longest time I was deterred from follow God’s path for my life because of those “hypocrite Christians” of which you speak. The church I grew up in was full of them and I wanted nothing to do with that. But when we let Christ in, fully in (to use Marc’s line from yesterday), we do have that conviction that reminds us when we are stepping out of our intended path so that we can correct ourselves. That leads me to the question of whether those hypocrites are just ignoring that conviction or simply aren’t fully in. Your fear of misleading though is credible because we are advised in Scripture that as leaders we are held to a higher level of accountability than others; it is definitely not something to be taken lightly.

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