Ponder: 1 Samuel 14:14-23

Perceive: This story is a classic example of God bringing victory by a few. The young prince Jonathan and his armor bearer relied upon the LORD and were directed by God into this battle.  Once these two men had climbed up the steep embankment, they killed twenty soldiers where the immediate effect was the spread of fear in the Philistine camp. It was the enemy’s response to Jonathan’s reliance on God. The LORD is able to save when men they act in faith.  What began as the adventure of a young man and his armor bearer soon became the cause of the whole nation. In the end, it was a victory for which God received the credit.

Practice:  When you are facing a difficult situation, or a battle of huge consequence, to which personally feel woefully inadequate, God will develop helpful circumstances as you rely on Him. The helping circumstances will arise as you faithfully continue to accept your calling and to act with some competence.  The historical record of God’s faithfulness to his people should make us calm, strong, and immovable in any mission undertaken to advance Christ’s kingdom. How are you at living by faith in the battles of life?

Ponder: 1 Samuel 14:1-13

Perceive: How exciting is it to see God use a few men to lead a charge against superior numbers and route an enemy? In this story, Jonathan and his armor bearer lead a charge against the pagan Philistines army. While everyone else in the Israeli army was afraid, these two men trusted God. They realized that the magnitude of the enemy would not limit God’s ability to use them. God honored their faith and courage and brought about an incredible victory.

Practice:  Have you ever felt surrounded by an adversary or confronted with devastating circumstances? God is at no time overwhelmed by the dimensions of an enemy or the difficulty of a situation. With Him, there are continuously enough resources to fight the pressures of any circumstance and win the battle. If God has called you to act, then courageously commit what resources you have and depend on Him to lead you to a triumphant end.

Ponder: 1 Samuel 13:16-22

Perceive: In this text we see the Jewish army lacking numbers of men and weapons of warfare. The weak group of Hebrews had been disarmed by the Philistines. Even the very means of agriculture had to be taken for repairs to the anvil of their sworn enemy. It is impossible to imagine a more hopeless state of affairs: all the tools of warfare on one side, the Philistines have all foresight, all judiciousness, and all determination. The enemy appears triumphant; the Israelites appear filled with despair. Against such superiority, the Israelites were at a serious disadvantage.

Practice:  The battle history of the Jews with their pagan neighbors and their foes is typical of the existing relations of the Christian and the world. It should not surprise us if Christians sharpen their ploughshares at Satan’s workshops. It should not surprise us if the guidelines of commerce, if the rules of judiciousness, if the conformities of society, are dictated by a selfish, exclusive spirit of an anti-Christ. Satan seeks to disarm us in every means possible. Our battle with him is daily. Christ withstood and defeated every temptation that can befall the hearts of men. How could the Israelites hope to rout their oppressors? Only with God's help. He wanted to give Israel victory without earthly weapons so they would see true strength, His strength. In the same way He wants to give us victory in daily living by His power, by His weapons, and by His strength.

Ponder: 1 Samuel 13:11-15

Perceive: Under the pressure of failure, Saul found it difficult to trust God’s word. He lacked having a full army and the men who were with him were fleeing in the face of obvious danger. When his apparent time was running out, he took matters into his own hands and clearly disobeyed God. He was “compelled” to perform the sacrifice because he feared that the Philistines would attack him before he had sought the LORD’S favor. Instead of trusting God he substituted a ritual in the place of real faith. Saul faced a difficult situation and made a decision that cost him the kingdom. God often uses timing and delays to test a man’s obedience.

Practice:  Saul made several seemingly great excuses for his partial compliance with God’s word. Like Saul, we often minimize our inaccuracies and iniquities by attempting to rationalize and spiritualize our actions because of our unique situations. There is a difference between a reason and an excuse. Most of our justifications are ways to hide our sins and excuse our disobedience. The LORD knows true motives. When we are honest about our sins, God forgives, restores, heals, and blesses.

Ponder: 1 Samuel 12:1-11

Perceive: In Samuel’s farewell address he challenges the people to point out any wrongs he has personally committed during his life and times as judge of Israel. This was a clear way for him to ensure the people to own their request for a king. It was their idea and they will own the consequences good or bad. Wrong choices do not thwart God’s eternal purposes. He retains power to overthrow human choices to accomplish His will and to discipline His people in the process. Humans repeatedly make wrong choices and are quick to forget the goodness of God and must live with the consequences. Israel’s history is a reminder of the goodness of God and the need to repent for wrongdoing. Time after time God would save them from their oppressors.

Practice: God chose to deliver His salvation to the nation of Israel in the midst of her sin and rebelliousness through humans and often weak leaders. Salvation is about deliverance. Today as followers of Christ, we need to remember sin has consequences even though we are forgiven. Lord, forgive me for letting the cares of the world often reach in and choke my revelation of your goodness to my life and the lives of your people.

Ponder: 1 Samuel 11:12-15

Perceive: Although Saul was anointed by Samuel a Ramah and publically chosen at Mizpah, it is his defeat of the Ammonites that confirms his rule as king of Israel. Just after his selection a group of dissenters rejected their new king. At this time some people want to put to death the early dissenters but Saul majestically intervenes and thereby averts a mob rule which spares the lives of some men who previously were outright rebellious. Instead of focusing on the maliciousness of some men who now support him, Saul rallies all the people and directs their focus on the greatness of God.

Practice: Take some time today to think about your kind of Christianity. Are you someone who focuses more on your problems or more on the promises of God? Lord, help me to lean on you today and always. Your greatness is beyond comprehension.

Ponder: 1 Samuel 11:1-14

Perceive: Saul in his early role as king has a few great moments. In this text he is filled with God’s Spirit and exercises a righteous anger. Anger is a powerful emotion. It often drives to act in ways that hurt other people with abusive speech or physical violence. In contrast, anger directed appropriately toward sin and the abusive mistreatment of others is not always wrong. Saul’s anger at the Amorites was justified since they were attempting to humiliate and mistreat his fellow Israelites.

Practice: When some sort of injustice or sinful behavior makes you angry, ask the Lord how you can channel the anger in a positive way to bring some sort of biblical change. O lord, help me to stand up for righteousness when others are mistreated. Show me how to be your servant when injustice is at hand.

Ponder: 1 Samuel 10:17-27

Perceive: The prophet Samuel gathers the people before the Lord to present to them their new human king. In his opening comments he reminds them that God is the true king and by demanding a human leader instead of the Lord they are in fact rejecting their true King for an earthly one. God gives them a king that looks great on the outside but is not so good and wholesome on the inside. When the Israelites assembled to select their king Saul knew he was the chosen one yet, instead of coming forward, he hides in the cover of baggage. Even before his coronation he displays signs of weakness and low self -esteem.

Practice: Two things stand out in this section. Are you rejecting God by pushing Him aside and making someone or something your first priority? It is by God we are saved from calamities not human beings. The second one is dealing with our own inadequacy. Often we hide from important responsibilities because we are afraid to fail, afraid of what others may think, and not sure exactly how to proceed. Stepping into a role that God has assigned is sometimes like Peter getting out of the boat. You won’t know what is going to happen until you take that first step. It’s time to lean on God’s provision rather than holding back because of a sense of inadequacy. Step up and step out!

Ponder: 1 Samuel 10:9-16

Perceive: A prophet is a mediator between God and men. He is God’s spokesman relaying what he hears and sees in visions or dreams. A priest is a mediator that represents the people to God. He intercedes on the Lord’s behalf of His people. A king is mediator of God’s judicial and executive power as he rules in the name of Jehovah. In this section of Scripture, we see Saul speaking God’s words as the Holy Spirit impacts his life. While God may tell a prophet to speak about an event, He is more concerned with a prophet instructing and inspiring the people to live in faithfulness, something king Saul new little about. As a Christian man, you are to act a godly prophet by speaking the truth of Scripture to those in your sphere of influence. All godly men are: empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:18), able to share a message of sin, salvation, wrath, and grace (1 Cor. 15:1,2), expounders of God’s truth as it has already been revealed (2 Tim 4:2), and desirous of prophetic truth (1Cor 14:1).  They work at being: strong on knowing and applying God’s word, responsible for accurately delivering God’s word to those in their sphere of influence, and concerned about social change in line with God’s delivered word.

Practice: Lord, forgive me for all the times I have failed to speak your word of truth. Help me to be faithful in delivering the message of hope and forgiveness as well as to warn of the consequences for rejecting who you are. You are Lord and as reigning Lord you offer the gift of eternal life to all who truly repent and receive as Lord of their life. Help me speak this truth daily.

Ponder: 1 Samuel 10:1-8

Perceive: When a king took office he was not only crowned, he was also anointed. In ancient times the coronation ceremony was the act of establishing the new king as a ruler. The anointing of oil was the religious act of making the new king God’s appointed representative to the people. He was always anointed by a priest or prophet. Anointing oil was poured over the king’s head to symbolize the presence and power of the Holy Spirit and act as a reminder to lead the people by God’s wisdom. Israel's kings were to be subordinate to the leading prophet and to his prophetic word. Saul and all the other kings after him were to derive their royal authority secondary to the Lord's authority. But as so many leaders go, very few seek God first including Saul. Saul was commissioned, prayed over, anointed, and provided with several affirming prophecies including possession of the Holy Spirit. Before he departs Samuel gives him specific instructions which he must follow through.

Practice: Have you ever had someone try and take advantage of you by asking you to bend the rules? Someone who acts like they respect your authority and position but not the authority you are under? Saul was that kind of man. Ultimately he rejected the authority of God. How about you? Do you want others to bend the rules for you? If so, you too are rejecting the authority that is over others.