Well, it’s September again and for many of us, September means “back to school” time.
Now going back to school can be a good thing or not-so-good thing depending on your perspective. For some people, “going to school” is associated with pointy-headed teachers and exciting lectures like, “The Economic Climate of 17th Century Asia and It’s Effect On Banana Production.” That’s a joke actually but it illustrates a problem that many people say that they have with school- you learn a lot of things but when will you actually ever get to use any of the things you learn?
This question is something that makes reading the Bible different from reading a lot of the stuff that you have to read at school. While some people consider the Bible to be a dull, boring book, the truth is that it is filled with all sorts of things that you can use in your life right now- if you’re willing to invest the time it takes to read it.
Take Israel’s King David for example. When you think about the life of King David, what comes to mind? Well if you’re like most people, two events in David’s life tend to stand out:
- David’s fight with Goliath (1 Samuel 17)
- David’s sin with Bathsheba and his later attempts to cover it up (2 Samuel 11)
It’s probably safe to say that these two incidents are all that most people really know about David. But in reality, there’s a whole lot more that we can learn from this man who was called a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). In fact, David’s relationship with Saul (the first king of Israel) reveals many important truths that we can apply in our lives right now- today.
So if you’re interested in getting some real-life instruction (and not a stuffy, boring classroom lecture from some textbook), hold on for a quick tour around the book of 1st Samuel and some important lessons from the life of David…
In 1 Samuel 13 we find Israel’s King Saul making a decision to call up the army to fight against an enemy known as the Philistines. This first incident doesn’t deal with David directly but it did play a big part in his selection to be the king as we’ll soon see.
We’ll pick up the account as the Israelite soldiers prepare to fight against a Philistine army that is said to be “as thick as sand along the seashore…”
“When the men of Israel saw the vast mass of enemy troops, they lost their nerve entirely and tried to hide in caves, thickets, coverts, among the rocks, and even in tombs and cisterns… Meanwhile, Saul stayed at Gilgal, and those who were with him trembled in fear at what awaited them.
“Samuel had told Saul earlier to wait seven days for his arrival, but when he still didn’t come, and Saul’s troops were rapidly slipping away, he decided to sacrifice the burnt offerings and peace offerings himself. But just as he was finishing, Samuel arrived. Saul went out to meet him and receive his blessing, but Samuel said, ‘What is this you have done?’
“‘Well,’ Saul replied, ‘when I saw that my men were scattering from me, and that you hadn’t arrived by the time you said you would, and that the Philistines were at Michmash, ready for battle, I said, “‘The Philistines are ready to march against us and I haven’t even asked the Lord’s help!'” So I reluctantly offered the burnt offering without waiting for you to arrive.’
“‘You fool!’ Samuel exclaimed. ‘You have disobeyed the commandment of the Lord your God. He was planning to make you and your descendants kings of Israel forever, but now your dynasty must end; for the Lord wants a man who will obey him. And he has discovered the man he wants and has already appointed him as king over his people; for you have not obeyed the Lord’s commandment’ ” (1 Samuel 13:6-14).
Lesson: It must have seemed like a good idea for Saul to go ahead and ask for God’s help and not wait around for Samuel. After all, if Saul’s army had continued to desert him, pretty soon he would have no one left to fight the Philistines, right? The truth is that the logical thing to do may not always be the right thing to do. Remember- a good idea becomes a bad idea once it’s out of the will of God.
In the opening verses of 1 Samuel 16 we’re told that God sent the prophet Samuel on a mission to select the new king of Israel saying, “…take a vial of olive oil and go to Bethlehem and find a man named Jesse, for I have selected one of his sons to be the new king” (verse 1). So Samuel went to Bethlehem and met up with Jesse and his family. When Samuel got a look at Jesse’s seven oldest sons, he thought that God had surely chosen one of them to be the new ruler. But God had an important lesson for Samuel- and us…
“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Don’t judge by a man’s face or height… I don’t make decisions the way you do! Men judge by outward appearance, but I look at a man’s thoughts and intentions'” (verse 7).
So each of Jesse’s oldest sons were rejected until David -the youngest- was finally called in from watching the sheep in the fields and anointed as the next King of Israel.
Lesson: You don’t have to be the oldest or the smartest or the best looking to be used by God- God is more concerned with what you are on the inside than what you look like on the outside.
A little later in 1 Samuel, Saul made a deal with David in the hope that he could get rid of him- permanently. But things turned out a little differently than Saul had planned…
“One day Saul said to David, ‘I am ready to give you my oldest daughter Merab as your wife. But first, you must prove yourself to be a real soldier by fighting the Lord’s battles.’ For Saul thought to himself, ‘I’ll send him out against the Philistines and let them kill him rather than doing it myself.'”
‘”Who am I that I should be the king’s son-in-law?’ David exclaimed. ‘My father’s family is nothing!’ But when the time for the wedding came, Saul married her to Adriel, a man from Meholath, instead. In the meantime, Saul’s daughter Michal had fallen in love with David, and Saul was delighted when he heard about it.
‘Here’s another opportunity to see him killed by the Philistines!’ Saul said to himself. But to David he said, ‘You can be my son-in-law after all, for I will give you my youngest daughter.’ Then Saul instructed his men to say confidentially to David that the king really liked him a lot, and that they all loved him and thought he should accept the king’s proposition and become his son-in-law. But David replied, ‘How can a poor man like me from an unknown family find enough dowry to marry the daughter of the king?’
‘When Saul’s men reported this back to him, he told them, ‘Tell David that the only dowry I need is one hundred dead Philistines! Vengeance on my enemies is all I want.’ But what Saul had in mind was that David would be killed in the fight.
‘David was delighted to accept the offer. So, before the time limit expired, he and his men went out and killed two hundred Philistines and presented their foreskins to King Saul. So Saul gave Michal to him” (1 Samuel 18:17-30).
Lesson: Don’t “play games” with people by having hidden agendas and false fronts like the ones we see here. It’s hypocritical, it doesn’t honor God and it often backfires on you- just as it did here with Saul. If you can’t be honest and upfront with people about your true motivations then maybe there is something wrong with your motivations.
“One day news came to David that the Philistines were at Keilah robbing the threshing floors. David asked the Lord, ‘Shall I go and attack them?’ ‘Yes, go and save Keilah,’ the Lord told him… They went to Keilah and slaughtered the Philistines and confiscated their cattle, and so the people of Keilah were saved…”
“Saul soon learned that David was at Keilah. ‘Good!’ he exclaimed. ‘We’ve got him now! God has delivered him to me, for he has trapped himself in a walled city!’ So Saul mobilized his entire army to march to Keilah and besiege David and his men. But David learned of Saul’s plan and told Abiathar the priest to bring the ephod and ask the Lord what he should do.
“‘O Lord God of Israel,’ David said. ‘I have heard that Saul is planning to come and destroy Keilah because I am here. Will the men of Keilah surrender me to him? And will Saul actually come as I have heard? O Lord God of Israel, please tell me.’
“And the Lord said, ‘He will come.’ ‘And will the men of Keilah betray me to Saul?’ David persisted. And the Lord replied, ‘Yes, they will betray you.’ So David and his men -about six hundred now- left Keilah and began roaming the countryside…” (1 Samuel 23: 1-2, 5, 7-13).
Lesson: You would think that the people of Keilah would have shown their appreciation for what David did by protecting him from Saul. But that was not the case. It can often be the same for us today- sometimes we aren’t always appreciated for the things that we do for others. The important thing is that David asked God what to do and then he went and did it. If we are doing what God has called us to do, then we can be totally confident that we are doing the right thing even if people don’t always notice or appreciate it.