1 Samuel 28-31; Psalm 18
As we near the conclusion of 1 Samuel, the kingship of Saul will come to an end, just as God had declared. Before his untimely demise, Saul once again displays behaviors that are an affront to God revealing a man who continued to go it his own way rather than being the obedient leader a king was ordained by God to be for Israel.
The Philistines had gathered to fight against Israel. Achish told David that he and his men must accompany him in battle against Israel. David agreed and Achish made David his bodyguard for life.
When Saul saw the Philistine army gathered at Shunem, he became frightened. He inquired of God what he was to do, but God had long stopped speaking to Saul. Saul told one of his attendants to find him a medium. Hearing there was a medium in Endor, Saul disguised himself and went to see this woman. The woman reminded Saul that all the mediums had been cut off (put to death) and she asked why she was being placed in a trap to be caught and put to death herself. Saul promised she would not die.
The woman then asked Saul who the individual was he wanted to bring up. Saul answered that he wanted to speak with Samuel. Seeing Samuel, the woman cried out and Saul asked her what she saw. She responded by saying she saw a ghostly figure of an old man wearing a robe. Saul knew it was Samuel and spoke to the apparition, asking what he should do in response to the Philistines. Samuel responded by telling Saul that God has ripped the kingdom from Saul and given it to David. Furthermore, Saul would die along with his sons at the hands of the Philistines. Hearing this tragic news, Saul refused to eat. It was only at the urging of the medium and Saul’s servants that he finally agreed to eat.
As the Philistines began to march on Israel, David and his men were occupying a place in the rear. After some rumblings among his men, Achish decided to send David back to Ziklag. David asked if it was something he had done and Achish responded his decision was related to the attitudes of his commanders and not anything David had done.
David and his men made their journey back to Ziklag. While all the men were gone, the Amalekites had raided the town and burned it, taking captive the woman and everything in it. When David and his men arrived and saw what had happened, they wept till they had no more strength. David then found strength in God and inquired as to whether he should pursue the Amalekites. God told him to pursue them for He had given them into David’s hand.
David took his men and pursued the Amalekites to the Besor Valley. Two hundered of David’s men were too exhausted to continue so he took the remaining four hundred men. They came upon an Egyptian who gave David and his men food and drink. This Egyptian told David he was the slave of an Amalekite who had been abandoned when he took ill a few days back. David asked the slave to lead him to the raiding party of the Amalekites. As the Amalekites were eating and drinking from their great plunder, David attached them and killed them all, taking back everything they had plundered. David also sent some of the plunder as gifts to his friends in Judah.
The Philistines fought against Israel and the Israelites fled with many falling dead on Mount Gilboa. Saul’s sons Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malki-Shua were killed in battle. As the fighting few fierce around Saul, the archers of the Philistines critically wounded Saul. Knowing he was about to die, Saul asked his armor-bearer to kill him with his sword. When the armor-bearer refused, Saul took his sword and fell on it. Seeing Saul was dead, the armor-bearer also fell on his sword. When the Israelites saw that Saul and his sons were dead, they fled, abandoning their towns to the Philistines. The next day when the Philistines came to strip the dead, they found Saul and cut off his head, sending messengers throughout the land of the Philistines to proclaim the news to their people and in the temple to their gods of their victory. They put Saul’s armor in the temple of their gods and fastened his body to the wall at Beth Shan.
When the people of Jabesh Gilead heard of this, their valiant men marched to Beth Shan and took down the bodies of Saul and his sons and buried them under a tamarisk tree at Jabesh.
Psalm 18 is a psalm of David sung to God in thanksgiving for being delivered from the hand of his enemies, in particular from the hand of Saul. David notes that God is his rock and fortress. God is worthy of praise. In his distress, David called out to God and was delivered from the cords of death. The descriptions of God acting on behalf of David that are noted in this psalm are quite impressive. God is described as thundering from heaven, shooting arrows from heaven, exposing the valleys of the sea, and rebuking the wicked a blast of breath from his nostrils.
Also of note is the description of God reaching down and taking hold of David, speaking of the care God has for His people. God dealt with the wicked according to His righteousness. David knew the pursuit of the wicked was not based on his rejected of God’s law and thus he had confidence God would deliver him and would punish the wicked. I appreciated most this verse:
“With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful; With a blameless man You will show Yourself blameless; With the pure You will show Yourself pure; And with the devious You will show Yourself shrewd. For You will save the humble people, But will bring down haughty looks.” (Psalm 18:25-27)