God Trains His People for a Purpose

1 Samuel 16-18:5

David faces different challenges every day as he tends his father’s sheep. Foremost among these challenges are the loneliness of isolation and the danger of wild animals that prey on his flock. What David learns in the field is valuable as preparation for his future task as King. He first has to gain confidence and learn how to be brave before God lets him face Goliath – this Philistine who “insults the army of the living God.” He has to be alone for long stretches of time to become meditative and sensitive to God’s voice.

David’s call is to protect and preserve the land God gave Israel. His basic ground training for leadership is guiding and leading foolish animals to safety and provision. This he does expertly and with pride, that when Saul tells him you-are-just-a-boy-how-can-you-fight-Goliath, he replies boldly:

    “Your majesty, I take care of my father’s sheep. And when one of them is dragged off by a lion or a bear, I go after it and beat the wild animal, until it lets the sheep go. If the wild animal turns and attacks me, I grab it by the throat and kill it.

    “Sir, I have killed lions and bears that way and I can kill this worthless Philistine. He shouldn’t have made fun of the army of the living God. The Lord has rescued me from the claws of lions and bears, and he will keep me from the hands of this Philistine.”

David’s confidence comes not merely from his knowledge of what he is capable of doing. He does not boast only of his own strength. He repeatedly stresses that God is the secret of his successes. When Goliath mocks him, saying,

    “Do you think I’m a dog? Is that why you’ve come after me with a stick? Come on, when I’m finished with you, I’ll feed you to the birds and wild animals.”

David faces up to the challenge and says,

    “You’ve come out to fight me with a sword and a spear and a dagger. But I’ve come out to fight you in the name of the LORD ALL-Powerful. He is the God of Israel’s army, and you have insulted him too!

    “Today the LORD will help me defeat you. I’ll knock you down and cut off your head, and I’ll feed the bodies of the other Philistine soldiers to the birds and wild animals. Then the whole world will know that Israel has a real God. Everybody will see that the LORD doesn’t need swords or spears to save his people. The LORD always wins his battles, and he will help us defeat you.”

In all of David’s life as King, through his rise and fall, God is his captain and his shield, the promoter of his causes, the ONE who goes before him in his battles. When this is not the case, he loses the fight. He becomes a poor steward of his skills, and he is defeated. He fails to listen to God’s direction on his leadership, and he gets surrounded by more enemies.

David’s rule is one of the bloodiest times in Israel’s history. But David’s training, interests and ambitions not merely coincide with those of God’s, but rather are God’s own causes. God in His goodness has determined long time ago, that King David, will go down in history as “a man after his own heart.” David fails, falls and flounders but his weaknesses highlight God’s might and strength. His victories promote God’s agenda. His mistakes give way to God’s judgments. His failures underscore God’s mercy. Whatever skills and talents David have gained through the years are never for his self-actualization but for the fulfillment of God’s plan to bless him and Israel. The word “bless” is an understatement, because in order to do this, God has to work through him, a man, using even all the limitations of his earthly life.

Questions to Ponder
Read Also: Psalm 139
1. What are your natural abilities? Have you thought about who gave you those abilities and why?
2. How do you nurture those abilities? Do you take care to become better at them? Do you discipline yourself in order to develop them towards excellence?
3. What skills have you gained through the years in all phases of your life? How are you using those skills now?
4. Have you ever pondered on how God has blessed other people through the abilities, training, and skills He has given you? Or are you using your skills and abilities to the detriment of others?
5. Have you ever praised God for all his blessings in and through your life? Or do you consider yourself self-made?

When We Seek Honor

1 Samuel 15

The Amalekites were cruel to the Israelites when the Israelites passed by their territory on their way out from Egypt. This was at the time of Moses. But remember that to God, a hundred days is as one day, and in His eternity, the transgression of the Amalekites happened only yesterday.

Samuel recites to Agag the sin of his fathers, “You have snatched children from their mother’s arms and killed them” (v 33). Why Saul spared King Agag when God commanded him to annihilate every man, woman, child, and animal among the Amalekites is a mystery. The Bible says that the Lord told Samuel, “Saul has stopped obeying me, and I’m sorry that I made him king.”

Saul was beginning to have a taste of glory and he was reveling in it. “[He] went to Carmel where he had a monument built so everyone would remember his victory,” (v 12).
After Saul’s 210,000 troops conquered the Amalekites, the valuable sheep and cattle they looted and left alive to sacrifice to God did not please God at all. After all, these were blood-acquisitions. How could anything won by sheer murder of the innocents be pure in God’s sight? God wanted everything destroyed; everything was worthless and tainted in His eyes. All have sinned. Everybody was guilty by virtue of their ancestor’s acts of cruelty. Indeed the sins of the Amalekite fathers had been passed on to the next generation.

Saul turns out to be a deeply flawed man, who craved for recognition. It turns out that he wanted to please his men (v 24). But first, he rationalized his actions and belittled his act of disobedience. His pride won’t let him accept that indeed, he committed a serious act of rebellion against God.

What were his intentions? Did he really want to sacrifice the best animals? Or was that a second thought because he was pressed against the wall by Samuel’s accusations? “Tell me,” said Samuel, “Does the Lord really want sacrifices and offerings? No! He doesn’t want your sacrifices. He wants you to obey Him. Rebelling against God or disobeying him because you are proud is just as bad as worshipping idols or asking them for advice. You refused to do what God told you, so God has decided that you can’t be king.”

Once Samuel had declared him persona-non-grata, Saul’s main request was for Samuel to honor him before the leaders of the army and the people of Israel. Saul, who, before he became King, felt little, still felt insecure even while he was King, and this insecurity never left him until the day he died. He remained so in spite of God’s anointing: “You may not think you’re very important but the LORD chose you to be king, and you are in charge of the tribes of Israel.” God placed a heavy trust upon this man who never thought himself important. But Saul wasn’t able to see his value in God’s eyes. Instead, he sought value and approval from the eyes of the people. In doing so, he lost his anointing.

God sees our worth even if we think we are worthless. He puts us in positions of His trust, even if we think we aren’t capable of delivering His assignments. He gives us honor even if we don’t seek it. We sin when we crave to be recognized through acts of patronage to gain people’s acceptance and approval. Often times, we can be truly unpopular, but if we are sure about God’s appraisal, our actions toward goodness and benevolence should be motivated only by love of God and obedience to his will.