Hitting Bottom

Posted: November 12, 2009 in 1 Samuel

1 Samuel 28-29, “Hitting Bottom”
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Ever have one of those days when things get worse & worse? Both Saul & David are going to experience that tonight. On one hand, these two men couldn’t be any more different: one was anointed to be king; the other had the kingdom ripped from him. One was on the run; the other on the throne. One had a future; the other did not. Yet at this point in their lives, they’re acting remarkably similar to one another. Both are in a state of spiritual apathy, where they’ve backslidden in their walk with the Lord, and living in their flesh rather than in faith. As a result, things are going to get worse & worse. Through it all, God shows His grace – but Saul & David (like us) are going to learn some lessons the hard way…by hitting bottom.

1 Samuel 28 (NKJV)
1 Now it happened in those days that the Philistines gathered their armies together for war, to fight with Israel. And Achish said to David, “You assuredly know that you will go out with me to battle, you and your men.” 2 So David said to Achish, “Surely you know what your servant can do.” And Achish said to David, “Therefore I will make you one of my chief guardians forever.”

A. Reminder of context: David had been living among the Philistines, pretending to fight Israel for them. In reality, he’d been fighting enemies of Israel…

B. At this point, Achish is ready to make David one of his chief bodyguards – not a good position for the future king of Israel to have! …

C. Keep in mind why David is there: Saul had been trying to kill him, and David was running for his life. He had trusted the Lord through most of his time as a refugee (and showed fruit of this in marvelous ways!), but eventually fell back into his flesh because of fear. … Falling back into our flesh is not a temptation we’ll ever be free from, until we see Jesus… But it can (and needs to be) dealt with! Otherwise, we’ll end up like David, doing the wrong thing for the wrong reasons…
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3 Now Samuel had died, and all Israel had lamented for him and buried him in Ramah, in his own city. And Saul had put the mediums and the spiritists out of the land.

A. Samuel actually died when David was still roaming in Israel as a refugee – back in Ch 25… Several years have elapsed by this point. The point here is that Samuel is gone. The one person that Saul would have been assured to get the word of the Lord from is no longer available.

B. Keep the mediums & spiritists in mind – this is going to be a key part of the chapter. Interesting that Saul had actually put them “out of the land.” When this happened, we don’t know – perhaps at the prompting of Samuel, at the point that Saul actually listened to him. In any case, they were mostly gone.

C. BTW, this was in accordance with the Law. Mediums & spiritists = witchcraft, and God labels it as an abomination… Deuteronomy 18:10-12 (10) There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, (11) or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. (12) For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you. [] God had called Israel to be different, because Israel was going to be a light unto the Gentiles & Israel is where the Messiah would come from… God’s people had no business practicing witchcraft because it is directly opposed to the work of God! (Likewise Christians have no business playing around with it either…)
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4 Then the Philistines gathered together, and came and encamped at Shunem. So Saul gathered all Israel together, and they encamped at Gilboa. 5 When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. 6 And when Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by the prophets.

A. Philistines are preparing for war – this looks to be a huge battle. Israel (for prior to Saul’s reign) had been under Philistine control & they had been battling against Saul for years trying to control the land (not unlike Israel & Palestine today!). This was to be a decisive battle, and Saul is understandably apprehensive about it…

B. Yet when Saul asks of God, God is silent. He went to the priests, he searched his dreams, he asked the remaining prophets in the land, but God never answers him by any of those methods. God was silent with Saul & had good reason to be! Saul had sinned repeatedly against the Lord, the people, David, and even his own family. Saul had much to deal with in regards to sin…

C. Has God ever been silent with you in your prayers? Not always, but many times it’s due not so much to God, but to sin in our own lives. If we persist in sin, we ought to expect it to be difficult to pray – it’s no different in our relationships with our spouses… [] The NT provides a straightforward example in our marriages: husbands are to dwell with their wives with understanding, so their prayers may not be hindered (2 Pet 3:7)… Our prayer life is affected by our actions & heart.
__a. So what do you do if God is silent? Sometimes we just wait upon the Lord for His timing, but when it truly seems as if you are isolated from God, then examine your heart in light of the word of God. Feelings can be subjective, but the word of God is always true & it is a light unto our paths! Psalm 139:23-24 (23) Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; (24) And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting. [] Ask the Lord to search you & if there is sin there, confess it, repent, and make restoration if need be. Do what it takes to deal with the problem.
__b. What NOT to do? Act like Saul! See vs. 7…
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7 Then Saul said to his servants, “Find me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.” And his servants said to him, “In fact, there is a woman who is a medium at En Dor.”

A. Note that Saul never repents. He had inquired of the Lord, but never once does the Scripture say he brought a sacrifice, mourned over his sin, cried out to the Lord in prayer, etc. He demanded an answer from God, and when he didn’t get it in the usual ways, he only sunk further & further into sin. In this case, he was willing even to go as far as paganism…

B. Beware of a hardened heart towards the Lord! Keep in mind that this kind of hardening & resistance to sin never happens overnight. It starts with little steps of disobedience, apathy towards the things of God, and progresses into larger & more blatant acts of sin. Saul didn’t start out his career as king by planning to go to a witch before he died (he began as a prophet!)… But little steps along the way took him down a path of more & more sin, and eventually he ended up at a place he never would have imagined.
__a. The time to stop backsliding in our walk with the Lord isn’t tomorrow; it’s always today! The moment you realize what’s going on in your relationship with Christ Jesus is the moment you ought to humble yourself before Him, confess your sin & repent. We want our hearts to be continually tender before the Lord; not hardened to His word.
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8 So Saul disguised himself and put on other clothes, and he went, and two men with him; and they came to the woman by night. And he said, “Please conduct a séance for me, and bring up for me the one I shall name to you.” 9 Then the woman said to him, “Look, you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off the mediums and the spiritists from the land. Why then do you lay a snare for my life, to cause me to die?” 10 And Saul swore to her by the LORD, saying, “As the LORD lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing.”

A. The witch knows this was a death sentence…she’s trying to avoid a “sting” operation.

B. How bad off is Saul in his sin? To the point of invoking the Lord in an oath prior to engaging in witchcraft. Words are cheap; Saul’s faith at this point is virtually non-existent.
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11 Then the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” And he said, “Bring up Samuel for me.” 12 When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice. And the woman spoke to Saul, saying, “Why have you deceived me? For you are Saul!”

A. Interesting reaction from the woman. She was told the Samuel was the person to bring up, but when she sees Samuel she cries out in terror & sees Saul for whom he is. Why would she be so surprised? Probably because it had never happened before! She had conned a lot of people out of money & pretended to talk to the dead – maybe she had even been deceived by demons herself. But when she saw Samuel, she knew this was real!

B. The occult is not something to play around with. There are very real demons out there who want to deceive and torment people, which is exactly what happens in false religion. [Paul warning against participating in idolatry] 1 Corinthians 10:19-20 (19) What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? (20) Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. [] So-called ‘psychics’ & others who play in the spirit realm have zero idea of what it is they are actually contacting (if contacting anything at all). What we can definitely be assured of is that they do not contact ghosts, spirits, or even other gods…if any spiritual activity takes place, it is demonic in origin.
__a. The good news is that the Lord Jesus is infinitely stronger than any demon! He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world… (1 John 4:4)
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13 And the king said to her, “Do not be afraid. What did you see?” And the woman said to Saul, “I saw a spirit ascending out of the earth.” 14 So he said to her, “What is his form?” And she said, “An old man is coming up, and he is covered with a mantle.” And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground and bowed down.

A. By this point, even Saul knew this was real. Whether he physically saw Samuel or not is debated – but he certainly recognized the presence of Samuel & bowed.

B. All of this begs the question: why didn’t God answer Saul through the priests & prophets (the proper methods), yet still allow Samuel to come up through pagan witchcraft? Is God blessing witchcraft? Certainly not! The witch was not the one who had any power over Samuel to bring him up from the dead; God was the one Who allowed this specific instance to take place. But why it actually happened, we can’t say for sure…Scripture is silent here. All we know is that it did happen.
__a. I suggest this was this a wake-up call to Saul. Perhaps at this point, God is still giving Saul to repent from his sin, and God knew that Saul wouldn’t understand the depth of his sin if he had received a word from the tabernacle priests (he could have assumed God’s blessing on his life). But to be chastised by the prophet Samuel from beyond the grave would be a crystal-clear show of how far Saul had fallen, with God’s full displeasure known. If so, it’s certainly unusual, but this event would be a demonstration of the grace of God, who loves us so much to discipline us when necessary.
__b. Sometimes God lets us hit rock-bottom in order that we would look up. Many people here only received the forgiveness of Jesus because they were at the bottom & had no where else to go. Like the prodigal son, they had a moment of lucidity as they found themselves eating the leftover pig-pods, and fell to their knees in confession & repentance. God loves us enough to let us get to that place, because we need to be in that place of humility.
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15 Now Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” And Saul answered, “I am deeply distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God has departed from me and does not answer me anymore, neither by prophets nor by dreams. Therefore I have called you, that you may reveal to me what I should do.” 16 Then Samuel said: “So why do you ask me, seeing the LORD has departed from you and has become your enemy?

A. Saul lays out the problem for Samuel, and Samuel doesn’t waste words. Basically tells Saul, “Of course God hasn’t said anything because He departed from you & is your enemy.” … We do not EVER want God to be our enemy! Without the saving grace of Jesus Christ, mankind is at enmity with God as we war against Him in rebellion – but this is much worse. Instead of Saul fighting against God, God is now fighting against Saul! Who could withstand?
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17 And the LORD has done for Himself as He spoke by me. For the LORD has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David. 18 Because you did not obey the voice of the LORD nor execute His fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore the LORD has done this thing to you this day.

A. Reiterates Saul’s sins against the Lord. Saul had rebelled against the direct command of God by not wiping out all the Amalekites, and had even gone on to perform illegal sacrifices with animals that should have been destroyed. (1 Sam 15) God had ripped the kingdom away from Saul at that point, and now Saul was going to experience the consequence of that moment.
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19 Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with you into the hand of the Philistines. And tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The LORD will also deliver the army of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.”

A. Bad news! Israel is going to lose the battle, and Saul & his sons are going to die…

B. Question: is Samuel saying that Saul will still be saved? “you…will be with me” as in Saul would be in the bosom of Abraham with Samuel (i.e. a place of Paradise awaiting the day of Jesus’ resurrection)? Or simply that Saul will be in the place of the dead (Sheol)? Again, Scripture is somewhat silent on this point. Perhaps Saul was just experiencing the sin that leads to death (1 John 5:16), but Saul had never really shown any fruits of repentance either. We’ll find out one day…
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20 Immediately Saul fell full length on the ground, and was dreadfully afraid because of the words of Samuel. And there was no strength in him, for he had eaten no food all day or all night. 21 And the woman came to Saul and saw that he was severely troubled, and said to him, “Look, your maidservant has obeyed your voice, and I have put my life in my hands and heeded the words which you spoke to me. 22 Now therefore, please, heed also the voice of your maidservant, and let me set a piece of bread before you; and eat, that you may have strength when you go on your way.” 23 But he refused and said, “I will not eat.” So his servants, together with the woman, urged him; and he heeded their voice. Then he arose from the ground and sat on the bed.

A. Saul had a lot of grief, but no repentance. He fasted, feared, & fretted, but to no avail. How utterly sad! Never once does he break in humility before God, nor confess his sins & seek the face of the Lord. He’s sorry, but not sorry enough to repent. Whether or not the consequences would have changed is irrelevant…he was about to be judged by God Himself, and yet he never asks for mercy from the One who is rich in it. No wonder the Scripture tells us, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Jas 4:6). A little sin leads to a lot of sin, which leads to hardened hearts…

B. Woman is begging him to eat. She doesn’t want the king of Israel to die under her roof as a result of her witchcraft…her own life might have been in danger.
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24 Now the woman had a fatted calf in the house, and she hastened to kill it. And she took flour and kneaded it, and baked unleavened bread from it. 25 So she brought it before Saul and his servants, and they ate. Then they rose and went away that night.

A. Had a hasty meal (no time for leavening) & then Saul left. The next time we’ll see Saul will be the day of his death.
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1 Samuel 29 (NKJV)
1 Then the Philistines gathered together all their armies at Aphek, and the Israelites encamped by a fountain which is in Jezreel. 2 And the lords of the Philistines passed in review by hundreds and by thousands, but David and his men passed in review at the rear with Achish.

A. Big battle array & parade… David is right in the midst of it & the entire camp of the Philistines sees him with Achish. Can you imagine the picture of the warrior of Israel – the anointed one of God – the conqueror of Goliath being paraded in front of the Philistine army? All sorts of things wrong with this picture!
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3 Then the princes of the Philistines said, “What are these Hebrews doing here?” And Achish said to the princes of the Philistines, “Is this not David, the servant of Saul king of Israel, who has been with me these days, or these years? And to this day I have found no fault in him since he defected to me.”

A. Achish defends David – doesn’t realize how David has deceived him all this time…
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4 But the princes of the Philistines were angry with him; so the princes of the Philistines said to him, “Make this fellow return, that he may go back to the place which you have appointed for him, and do not let him go down with us to battle, lest in the battle he become our adversary. For with what could he reconcile himself to his master, if not with the heads of these men? 5 Is this not David, of whom they sang to one another in dances, saying: ‘Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands’?”

A. Philistines are rightly afraid that David will turn on them in battle. They still remember his victory over Goliath & how he took 200 foreskins of the Philistines as a dowry for his wife. Saul may be David’s enemy now, but what would happen in the heat of battle – the Philistines simply couldn’t trust David enough to stand side-by-side with him in a battle against Israel. Interesting that the Philistine army here has more sense than either David or their king!

B. Ultimately, this isn’t the work of the Philistines; this is the work of God. God is providentially moving upon the hearts of the Philistine army to get David out from between a rock & a hard place! There’d be no way for David to assume the throne of Israel if he had fought against Israel as a traitor – and thus God is protecting David from himself… And as a consequence God is protecting His promise of the Messiah. Even though the covenant with David had not yet been made, God would later promise that the Messiah would be a descendant from the lineage of David. God was ensuring His word was kept long before He ever made the promise!
__a. Our God is a faithful God!!
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6 Then Achish called David and said to him, “Surely, as the LORD lives, you have been upright, and your going out and your coming in with me in the army is good in my sight. For to this day I have not found evil in you since the day of your coming to me. Nevertheless the lords do not favor you. 7 Therefore return now, and go in peace, that you may not displease the lords of the Philistines.” 8 So David said to Achish, “But what have I done? And to this day what have you found in your servant as long as I have been with you, that I may not go and fight against the enemies of my lord the king?”

A. Achish basically fires David – doesn’t want to cause a mutiny among the troops…

B. Was David happy that he didn’t have to go to battle? Did he rejoice in God’s deliverance from this tough spot where he would have had to fight against his own people in Israel? No. David is actually upset! He believes he’s being wrongfully terminated & disgraced in front of the Philistine army.

C. What happened? David had stayed in his flesh & sin so long that he lost perspective. He couldn’t tell the difference between right & wrong any more. Instead of desiring to please the Lord God, David’s upset that Achish is afraid of displeasing the lords of the Philistines. In Ch 24 & 26, David was grieved at even the thought of lifting his hand against the Lord’s anointed king, but now here he was upset about not being able to enter into battle against him. Persistent sin causes us to lose perspective.
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9 Then Achish answered and said to David, “I know that you are as good in my sight as an angel of God; nevertheless the princes of the Philistines have said, ‘He shall not go up with us to the battle.’ 10 Now therefore, rise early in the morning with your master’s servants who have come with you. And as soon as you are up early in the morning and have light, depart.” 11 So David and his men rose early to depart in the morning, to return to the land of the Philistines. And the Philistines went up to Jezreel.

A. David is released from the battle, but he still doesn’t end this well. Knowing that he was rejected by the Philistines, does he go home to Bethlehem? No. David actually would rather return to “the land of the Philistines” than to return back to the land of promise…

Conclusion:
Two kings of Israel make the same mistake. At this point we expect Saul to remain in his flesh & not humble himself before the Lord in repentance – and Saul stays true to his character. Yet David – the one who had been so reliant on the Lord in the past does the exact same thing. He acts out in his flesh, and is deadened to the work of God in his life. Both of them had spent so much time living in their sin by this point that neither had any perspective on the will of God for them… …

Be careful! It can be so easy for us to take our relationship with Christ Jesus for granted. We get saved, start walking with the Lord, rejoice with Him, pray, worship, help others, etc. We’re so passionate at first! There’s little comparison with the zeal of a new believer… … But over time, things change. We pray less – we depend on the Lord less – we start falling into old habits & acting out in our flesh. Before long, we’re living like we’ve lost all perspective on what God desires for us – we just become apathetic to it. Beware! This is the trap of the Laodiceans (Rev. 3:14-22)… … Don’t take the Lord Jesus for granted!

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