(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?