Ponder: 1 Samuel 17:12-24

Perceive: David was the kind of young man to faithfully discharge his father’s request to leave the sheep and personally carry provisions for his older brothers. God’s foresight brought him to the camp at the perfect time to see both sides lined up in battle array. Both sides were preparing to fight. It is another great example of our amazing God using time and circumstances in His will for individuals and nations especially men after his own heart.

Practice:  One can only imagine how David’s emotions ran wild at seeing and hearing this huge warrior taunt the army of Israel. Goliath was bold and daring. For forty days he appeared on the battle line and renewed his challenge imagining that his size and experience would bring him glory and victory. The men of Israel were acting timid and filled with fear and they all ran away. There are moments to retreat and moments to advance. David ran to the battle! Compared to a his big God, he was facing a small giant. Little did our hero realize he was about to move from anonymity to national fame.

Ponder: 1 Samuel 17:1-11

Perceive: One practice by ancient armies was to decide the outcome of a war through chosen warriors. These champions would meet in the middle, fight each other, and the winner would decide the fate of the combat. This avoided great bloodshed and loss of life. Saul’s army is facing a encounter with the Philistines championed by a giant named Goliath. Goliath taunts the army of God especially it’s fearful king. Goliath was about nine feet tall and appeared invincible to the entire army. No doubt Saul was worried since he was a tall and impressive looking king and the most obvious Israeli choice to fight the giant Goliath.

Practice: Sometimes our enemies appear much more invincible than they really are. Fear has a way of gripping a man's mind and causing him to lose a godly perspective. Jesus said it well in Matthew 10:28, "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a living God (Hebrews 10:31).

Ponder: 1 Samuel 16:14-23

Perceive: When Saul asked David to be a part of his administration, he obviously did not know that David was secretly anointed as the future king. In a unique way, God uses an evil spirit to torment Saul into needing a music healer to bring him relief. This appointment provided a young shepherd boy an opportunity to learn firsthand how a kingdom operates and inadvertently prepares him for leading the nation.

Practice:  After David was secretly anointed, it took about fifteen years for God to prepare him for the role as king. During this time Saul was still the sitting ruler of Israel. If we serve the Lord, then we are all in preparation for some type of service for His kingdom. Sometimes our plans, even clear plans where you are called by God, are put on hold indefinitely. Like David we can use a hindered time for learning and growing in dependence on Him. What has God called you to do as part of His kingdom? Are you using your time for learning and growing?

Ponder: 1 Samuel 16:6-13

Perceive: Like most men, Samuel evaluated Jesse’s sons by their physical appearance. David’s older brothers looked like worthy kings on the outside but not on the inside. Human beings judge a man by outward appearances; God judges a man by the state of his heart. All the kings of Israel were set apart as leaders by a consecration service. Once consecrated they were to serve as God’s representative to the nation. Unfortunately, God rejected Saul’s kingship and all of his descendants.

Practice:  Saul was tall and handsome with outwardly impressive looks. Samuel was evaluating the sons of Jesse by their outward appearances. When men judge by outward appearances, they may easily overlook those who have less impressive physical features. Outward appearances don’t reveal inward realities. God judges the inner realities of a man’s heart which is much more accurate. God knows what your heart is really like. What actions and attitudes are you taking to improve your inner man? How do you evaluate the men and women in your life?

Ponder: 1 Samuel 16:1-5

Perceive: The prophet Samuel’s task of anointing the new king was dangerous. As the leading prophet for the nation and having just delivered a negative word from God, his meetings and ceremonies would be of great interest to Saul. A natural reaction of a king who was just given his walking papers, would be to monitor the nations kingmaker and keep tabs on his actions. Consequently, the Lord gave Samuel an additional task that would help disguise the real purpose of his trip to Bethlehem in the ruse of making a sacrifice to the Lord. A sacrifice would have been something of a normal part of his ongoing ministry.

Practice:  To have anointed David publicly would have forced Jesse and his entire family into a dangerous situation with king Saul. Why? Because family members were often guilty by association of anyone who was an enemy of the king. By having a slight ruse, Samuel was being as wise as a serpent but as gentle as a dove. How are you at discerning evil and safety? When would it be OK to appear one way while actually doing something for the Lord?

Ponder: 1 Samuel 15:30-35

Perceive: Saul, distressed about keeping his place of authority over the general public, asked Samuel a second time to come back with him and worship the Lord together.  In a seeming exertion to pacify the prophet and reclaim his support, Saul confessed he sinned and yet still wanted to worship the Lord. He requested once again that Samuel come with him and honor him before Israel. Saul recognized that he needed the validation of Israel’s spiritual patriarch to govern the society successfully.

Practice:  Saul was more concerned about what others would think of him than he was about the condition of his relationship with God. Needing the prophets visual backing, he begs him to worship in front of the people as a public means of visual support. If Samuel would have refused, the people most likely would have lost all confidence in king Saul. Saul wanted to look good no matter what!

Ponder: 1 Samuel 15:24-29

Perceive: What had driven Saul from total obedience to God’s command? At the core of his thinking, it was fear of men rather than fear of the Lord. Because of his misguided fear, Saul found it more important to hear and act on the complaints of men instead of listening to the voice of God.  In addition, he enjoyed the economic gain from the spoils of war and the possession of a prized prisoner.  Both items he could display as trophies.

Practice:  Saul disobeyed the Lord in a matter of utmost importance. He had consistently disobeyed the Lord on previous occasions and now the Lord rejected him as king. The way Saul attempted to justify his partial obedience proves his motives were wrong and sinful. All of us can face situations where the favor or men feels more important that the favor of God.  Stay the course and trust in God.

Ponder: 1 Samuel 15:22-23

Perceive: Samuel was not saying that a sacrifice is unimportant. Instead, he was urging Saul to examine the reasons for making a sacrifice rather than the sacrifice itself. When a person’s heart is not right with God, a sacrifice becomes a hollow ritual. Rebellion and self-importance are severe sins as they comprise far more than being self-governing and single-minded. God’s word equates them with the sins of witchcraft and idolatry, which were punishable by execution.

Practice:  Saul started well but ended poorly. Early in his reign he developed both a rebellious and arrogant lifestyle. It didn’t take long for him to become this way and God finally took away his kingdom giving it to a godlier man. Rebellion against God is perhaps the most severe sin of all because as long as a man rebels, he closes the door to forgiveness and restoration. Restored men live healthier lives.

Ponder: 1 Samuel 15:10-21

Perceive: What an amazing contrast we see in Saul as compared to other national leaders. After being victorious his first order is to set up a monument in honor of himself. Saul thought he had the right to celebrate his great victory over the Amalekites, but God saw it as a huge failure. Not only did Saul fail in his assigned task, but he tries to distort the truth when he greets the prophet Samuel. Perhaps Saul thought his partial compliance with God’s word would have been enough to appear as obedient or perhaps he wanted to justify his actions. Regardless of his motive, Saul was deceiving himself. God saw the truth and spoke it to Samuel.

Practice:  The more you distort the truth or promote have truths and partial lies, the easier it becomes to fabricate a story to justify your actions. Untruthful men soon believe the deceptions they construct around themselves. The more untruths, the more they lose the ability to distinguish reality from falseness. By believing your own false descriptions you deceive yourself and you will lose believability in your interactions with others. 

Ponder: 1 Samuel 15:1-9

Perceive: Through the prophet Samuel, God gave Saul clear orders to be His instrument against the Amalekites for their attacks and ongoing raids against the nation of Israel. Saul and his men did not fully obey God’s command. Instead, they kept Agag the king and the best livestock for themselves. When God bans something, it is to be completely destroyed (Deut. 20:16-18)! This was His command in order to prevent the spread of idolatry. Many of the spoils they took became a focus of worship and were turned into idols.

Practice:  When we justify our sin in order to keep what we have or gain substantial possessions and wealth, we aren’t being discerning; we are violating God’s laws. Selective compliance is another form of clear disobedience. Idolatry comes in many forms but especially in the area of wealth and material possessions.