April 10 — 1 Samuel 9-12 — Tall, Dark, and Handsome (period of 1043 – 1042 BC). What a beginning for this man Saul! He had significant physical advantages: he was both tall and handsome (9:2). He was also given several privileges: Samuel gave him a seat of honor at the head table of a feast (9:22) with a choice lamb leg (9:24) and he was privately “anointed … to be prince” (10:1) and then publicly made a king (11:15). He also had spiritual advantages: When he met the prophets, the Spirit rushed upon him and turned him into another man (10:6) — “God gave him another heart” (10:9), which was a very unusual Old Testament experience. He also showed positive character qualities: He was humble, referring to being from the small clan of Benjamin (9:21) and hiding among the baggage in the process of being selected as the future king (10:22). He was also forgiving toward men who opposed his leadership, holding his peace (10:27) and refusing to have them put to death (11:13). But all these advantages evaporated later when he began disobeying God and “the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul” (16:14). We have advantages and blessings from God, too, which continue through wholehearted faith and obedience.
April 11 — 1 Samuel 13-14 — “I forced myself.” (about 1041 BC). Samuel had instructed Saul not only to wait at Gilgal for seven days but also to wait “until I come to you and show you what you shall do” (10:8). He wasn’t to do anything until Samuel arrived. However, Saul and his small army were afraid. Three thousand Israelites faced 36,000 chariots and horse-mounted soldiers, not counting the ground troops (13:5). Saul’s poorly-armed soldiers were scattering to hide (13:6) until there were only 600 left (13:15). Saul wanted to seek “the favor of the LORD,” so he said, “I forced myself” to offer a burnt offering to God (13:12), breaking “the command of the LORD” (13:13) that only a priest may offer sacrifices to God. Saul “forced” himself to be disobedient because of the pressing circumstances around him, even though he knew it was wrong. It is similar to when we sometimes “force” ourselves to lie because of circumstantial difficulties. Saul was called “foolish” because of his decision (13:13) and his kingdom was thereby doomed (13:14). Our sinful acts have negative consequences. Rather, let us “force ourselves” to be obedient when difficult situations pressure us!
April 12 — 1 Samuel 15-17 — Better Than Sacrifice (period of 1028 – 1024 BC). Saul had a hard time with complete obedience. In a college class, he might earn a B+ (or 90%) but in God’s course of life, he had failed. God said, “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he … has not performed my commandments” (15:11) and the Lord refused to extend his reign to his descendants. Saul argued for a B+, saying, “I have obeyed the voice of the LORD. I have gone on the mission on which the LORD sent me” (15:20). When confronted with his partial obedience, he began making excuses: “But the people took of the spoil … to sacrifice to the LORD” (15:20). Then he blamed his soldiers for saving the best things, claiming that it was for a good purpose: to use the animals in sacrifice to God. When Samuel pressed him again, he made a full confession: “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice” (15:24). In reading about this story, has God brought to your mind an area of incomplete obedience in your own life? You can’t compensate for it by worshiping on Sunday. Obedience is better than worship.
April 13 — 1 Samuel 18-20, Psalms 11, 59 — Poor Aim (period of 1015 – 1013 BC). King Saul was made crazy by the harmful spirit sent to him through God’s direction in order to accomplish His purpose. Three times in these chapters, Saul tried to kill David with a spear (18:11; 19:10) and even once trying to do the same to his own son Jonathan (20:33). He missed all four times. His poor aim was a part of God’s plan to sustain the life of David until he would replace Saul as king. Saul was also poor at reading the motives of others because this “enemy” David was completely innocent (20:1). Although he had been anointed by Samuel as the next king, David did nothing to attain that position until God would cause it to happen. In the meantime, he had to endure undeserved persecution. Have you ever suffered unjustly? It is painful and humiliating but it builds character and it allows time for God to accomplish His purposes for us. Psalm 11 and 59 were written by David during this terrible time of persecution by Saul.
April 14 — 1 Samuel 21-24 — What is Man? (period of 1012 – 1011 BC). In two of David’s psalms, he asked the question, “What is man that you are mindful of him?” (Ps. 8:4; cf. 144:3). Often, mankind doesn’t seem worth caring about. In our chapters for today, even David, the man after God’s heart (13:14), lied to the priest Ahimelech about being sent from the king (21:2) and he deceived the king of Gath by pretending to be insane (21:13). In spite of his failures, God protected him from the murderous pursuit of Saul. The spy Doeg not only squealed on Ahimelech but ended up killing 85 priests and essentially all people living in their town (22:18-19). What is man? Sinful! How about the ungrateful people of Keilah? God sent David there to save them from Philistine attacks (23:5), yet after being rescued, they were willing to surrender David to King Saul (23:12). But there were kindnesses shown in these chapters as well: The servants of Saul refused to obey his command to kill the priests of Nob (22:17), Jonathan sought out the fleeing David to “strengthen his hand in God” (23:16), and David cut off the corner of Saul’s robe instead of killing him (24:11). What is man? Though sinful, still loved.
April 15 — Ps. 7, 27, 31, 34, 52 — At All Times (about 1011 BC). David was often in trouble. These five psalms were written when David was running from Saul’s intent to kill him: he “was in a besieged city” (31:21), he was driven out of Gath by King Abimelech (34:1—called “Achish” in 1 Sam. 21:13), and he was betrayed by Doeg (52:1). Yet, in these times of trouble, David’s practice was to not only cry out for help but he said, “I will bless the LORD at all times” (34:1). It is easy to bless the Lord when circumstances are favorable but harder when we are knee-deep in trouble. Notice David’s many positive expressions in the midst of difficulties: “I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to … the Most High” (7:17); “I will rejoice … in your steadfast love” (31:7); “his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the LORD … Oh, magnify the LORD with me!” (34:1-3); “I will wait for your name, for it is good” (52:9). If you run into trouble today, ask the Lord for help but don’t forget to praise Him as well. April 16 — Ps. 56, 120, 140-142 — Fearful but Trusting (about 1011 BC). David was on the run. He fled to Gath where the Philistines seized him (Ps. 56) and he hid in caves (Ps. 142). His enemies were not only Saul, who wanted to take his life, but also many foreigners in the places where he ran to hide. What does one do when in deep trouble? David said, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you” (56:3). Trust God when in trouble! Then, he said that “With my voice I cry out to the LORD … I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him” (142:1-2). Ask God when in trouble! It is interesting to me that even in the midst of these life-threatening circumstances, David took time to write psalms of prayer and praise. While he waited, he worshiped: “… my eyes are toward you, O GOD, my Lord” (141:8), “God is for me … whose word I praise” (56:9-10), and “… you know my way … you are my refuge” (142:3, 5). Worship God when in trouble! When we are in trouble or are fearful, we need not only to call on God for help but we should also trust and worship Him.