Thursday, April 7, 2011

Lessons In the Life of Saul: Saul and Sorcery I

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For a long while, I have failed to convince myself of every explanation from pulpits and books that there is a direct relation between disobedience and sorcery. While it is true that the sin of disobedience leads to all sorts of evil, I have never seen the logic why the Prophet Samuel, during his judgment of a rebellious, unmanageable and unpredictable King Saul, singled out witchcraft and not, say, murder or adultery in associating to his disobedience. That was until I realized that the Prophet in I Samuel 15:23 was not trying, nor was in any mood, to teach a truth to the king, as pastors today warn us against willful disobedience of God’s ordinances. Samuel was actually making a prediction on Saul’s life.

At this point, the Prophet was giving one last advice to Saul, using the prediction as a warning that the disobedience of his heart has by then carved out a path towards his association with sorcery. And just like any other prophetic warning, there was one way of averting it: that is, if Saul stepped down from his throne and handed the reigns of national administration to Samuel until the anointed successor was ready to assume responsibility. But to abdicate the throne was not in Saul’s plan, immediate or somewhere in the distant future. Instead, after the moment of the Prophet’s pronouncement, Saul pleaded to Samuel:

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“…please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel; come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord your God” (I Samuel 15:30).

Saul’s concern for his honor “before the elders of [his] people and before Israel” hints on his passion for the position. Several times it was noted how he even confessed of being “afraid of the people and so [he] gave in to them” (verse 24). Remember how he was “compelled to offer the burnt offering,” in the standoff at Gilgal in I Samuel 13:12, which Samuel was supposed to accomplish, all because Saul saw that his soldiers were scattering and the Prophet was delayed in his arrival (verse 11). It was a “foolish” act, according to the Prophet, a faithless, disobedient act that cost Saul his future as king.

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“You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command” (verses 13–14).

But his lust for the throne grew worse. I Samuel 18 shows David’s rise to kingdom-wide fame that made Saul “very angry” (verse 8), very jealous (verse 9), very afraid of David (verse 12), and very oppressed by an evil spirit that “came forcefully upon Saul” while “he was prophesying in his house” (verse 10). During the times I read this passage, I was always tempted to conclude that it was this evil spirit that drove him mad. I was wrong. It was Saul’s rebellious, unrepentant heart that drove him mad. And this, hence forward, became Saul’s condition until his last stand in I Samuel 31.

God was after a man after His own heart, and He found it in David. It should have been Saul, and He did everything to make it Saul. He had the guidance and the assistance of the greatest Israelite judge of his time in the Prophet Samuel. He baptized him with his Holy Spirit, a rare thing that ever happened in the Old Testament. It is said in I Samuel 10:10 that “the Sprit of God came upon [Saul] in power, and he joined in [the prophets’] prophesying.” The next verse showed how the people were baffled by this sight that it became an adage—“Is Saul among the prophets?” It was something very uncommon in those days, but it did happen and later on, according to the Prophet Joel, it would be classified as an evidence of the New Testament outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church—“your sons and daughters will prophesy” (Joel 2:28). From one individual who broadcast his timidity by huddling among the baggage to conceal himself during his inauguration day to one who would intimidate an entire nation to call for the salvation of Jabesh Gilead, God had changed Saul and equipped him with all the reasons and resources to be the one after God’s own heart. Sadly, however, in spite of all the divine equipping and patience, Saul failed the measure and there no longer was any purpose for him to be occupying the throne. What needed to be done was to surrender his authority to the stewardship of one who anointed him, the Prophet Samuel, who would in turn search for the successor. Had Saul abdicated the throne at any point before his final battle, his life and sanity might have been preserved. What happened instead was Saul holding tighter to the crown, entrenching himself deep into an irreversible path that led to sorcery and his humiliating death in the hands of his Amalekite armorbearer.

[More to come.]