Reformed Perspectives Magazine, Volume 8, Number 51, December 17 to December 23, 2006

Fighting God

1 Samuel 19:1-24

By Rev. Russell B. Smith

God has put king Saul under judgment because of Saul's wrong orientation of heart. Saul is much more interested in himself than in obedience to God. God has raised up David to be the next king, and David is serving as a servant of Saul's. Instead of plotting to overthrow Saul, he's waiting patiently for God to orchestrate events. Meanwhile, Saul has become increasingly jealous of David's success and becomes obsessed with destroying him. This time Saul comes out in the open with his hostility and demonstrates what a bad idea it is to fight God.

As we look at the story, Saul tries four different times to destroy David -- but take note of the different means through which God acts to preserve him. First, God raises up an advocate as Jonathan reasons with Saul. Then, God uses David's own military skill as David eludes Saul's spears. Next, God uses a protector when Michal delays Saul's henchmen from pursuing David. Finally, God supernaturally intervenes by overcoming Saul's henchmen and Saul himself with the Holy Spirit.

So we see immediately that God goes to whatever ends necessary to preserve his interests. In other words, it's a bad idea to go to war with God. It's a very bad idea to fight with him. However, don't we all at one time or another fight God's will? If we're honest with ourselves and we spend a little time in self examination, we'd see that this is the case. Our own fighting against God probably isn't as obvious as Saul's, but it is still present in our lives. For instance, we say things like, "I don't want to give up this one part of my life, even though my faith demands it" and "I don't want to examine myself for disobedience because I'm comfortable where I am." We even say, "I don't want to believe what Scripture teaches on this point because I just don't like it" and "I don't want to act on my faith in this way because people might think me a fanatic."

So we too are in the situation of Saul -- the question is, what do we do when we find our selfish schemes thwarted by God? A few years ago, a terrific book came out called How the Scots Invented the Modern World. One of the stories in the book is that of Bonnie Prince Charlie -- this is how the book tells the story -- the Grandson of Charles II who was furious that After Queen Anne's death, Parliament had chosen George I over his line. In 1745, Bonnie Prince Charlie lands in Scotland and he craftily appealed to the honor of the highland chieftains in order to persuade them to support his quest for the throne. Using the military prowess of the Scots, Prince Charlie swept through the north and took Edinburgh. Against the advice of the Scottish chieftans, he moved on toward London. When they got within 130 miles of london, The highland chiefs said they would go no further. They advise returning to Edinburgh -- Charles whines but capitulates. They retreat, but are forced into battle at Cullodeen Moor, where the English defeat the Scots. For their honor and loyalty to family ties, the Scots are brutally oppressed by the English. Meanwhile, Bonnie Prince Charlie slips back to Europe, ultimately ending his days in luxury in Italy, wasting his life as a drunkard, blaming everyone but himself for his failure.

Bonnie Prince Charlie had plenty of opportunities to hold on and consolidate his victories, but he didn't take them. He was never able to see how his blunders contributed to his defeat. In much the same way. Saul had ample opportunity to repent and follow God, and he didn't. In this story, after each failure, we don't see him examining himself and repenting -- we see a superficial repentence in verse 6, but we quickly see he has not changed. In the same way, we have ample opportunity to repent and follow God. Repentence is not a one-time act that we do when we accept Christ as our Saviour, it is an ongoing act of self-examination and confessing our sin.

Quick aside -- how are we to deal with the evil spirit sent from the Lord. A lot of people have trouble with this verse. First realize that Saul is under God's judgment already. The evil spirit is in part a consequence of God's judgment. There are consequences to sin -- and denying the power of God does have spiritual consequences. For another perspective, look to Job -- in that book we see God permitting an evil spirit, in this case Satan, to pursue his schemes. God in his soveriegnty allows the evil spirit to torment Job, but in his all-seeing wisdom, he's using that torment to a larger end that none but God can see until long after it is played out. The book of James has a helpful. perspective on this torment that Saul is under:( James 1:12-17)

12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. 13 When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. 16 Don't be deceived, my dear brothers. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

If Saul had understood this, he would have looked at how God had blessed him with such a mighty man, rather than being consumed by the temptings of the evil spirit.

So we've seen how God goes to any length to protect His interests, how futile it is for us to fight against God, now turn the perspective -- when you are aligned with God, then you are standing in the safest place you can be. I believe it was John Knox who said that one man with God constitutes a majority. And look at the defenses that God avails himself of to care for his people. Now this does not mean that life is comfortable or easy for David -- he's on the run constantly here and in threat of danger. We, as readers, have the privilidged position of knowing what could have happened to David.

But when we, as Christians, go through our own trials, we are often completely unaware of what we are protected from. For those of you reading through the McCheyne reading plan, you read Psalm 91 this week -- it gives us a sense of God's protection for his people.

9 If you make the Most High your dwelling—
even the LORD, who is my refuge—
10 then no harm will befall you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread upon the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
14 "Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call upon me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life will I satisfy him
and show him my salvation."

And why does God show this kind of protection and favor? Another of our readings this week, Deuteronomy 7, gives us some answers -- "7 The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt."

It's all based on God's grace. The thing that keeps us from experiencing our adversity as a Saul and helps us experience our adveristy as a David is God's grace. Jonathan acknowledges this in verse 5 -- he tells Saul that the Lord won the victory for both David and Saul. The Lord moves miraculously to stop Saul and his henchmen at Naioth. It is the Lord's hand alone that can turn our hearts away from our selfish desires and toward His will. It is futile to fight against God, But God's grace is irresistable.

It was the middle of the last century in Wales. A man who had been a committed Christian sinned terribly. He ran away from his wife and children to shack up with another woman in London. He wasted all his money and resources -- he even went home and lied to his wife to get more money. He found himself deserted by his mistress, broke and alone. He felt so miserable and ashamed that he decided to commit suicide. He was walking to the Westminster Bridge to throw himself in the Thames river when Big ben struck half past six. Suddenly a thought flashed into his mind "Dr. Lloyd-Jones will just now be entering his pulpit for the evening service." as a young man in wales, he had been captivated by the preaching of Martin Lloyd-Jones. Lloyd-jones was now pastor of Westminster Chapel in London, only minutes away from the bridge. Something, or rather someone, compelled him to the service. He arrived as Dr lloyd-jones was saying his customary 15 minute pastoral prayer and the first words he heard were "God have mercy upon the backslider" -- immediately, he felt everything come aright. He faced his wrongdoing, confessed and repented. Eventually he even became an elder in Westminster chapel and served in leadership in that church for a number of years.

So our question is, how will we handle the adversities in our life. Will they serve as hardening agents -- hardening us against God and others? Will they draw us into fighting God? Or will they serve as softening agents. Will the Holy Spirit use our adversity, even our self-made adversity, to lead us to examine ourselves and more fully rely on God? You think about that. Amen.

This article is provided as a ministry of Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill). If you have a question about this article, please email our Theological Editor. If you would like to discuss this article in our online community, please visit our Reformed Perspectives Magazine Froum.

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