At this point in our narrative, David has found refuge in Philistine territory and managed to keep up such a false face that the king of Goliath’s hometown believes him to be one of his greatest allies! In fact, as King Achish prepares to wage war against Israel, he calls upon David to help and promises to make the outlaw one of his top men in reward for his “loyalty.” And David, in sync with his undercover identity, agrees to come along and fight against his own people.
The scene closes there and shifts to Israelite territory. The narrator quickly reminds us that the beloved prophet Samuel is dead and that Saul has purged the land of “mediums and spiritists.” Then the camera zooms in on Saul himself.
He has the people camped at Gilboa. It’s a place with historical significance, for it was here that Gideon had camped with his tiny army before defeating the Midianites and Amalekites.
But Saul does not seem to find any comfort in that amazing history, for when he sees the Philistine armies gathering together, his reaction is one of great fear.
Looking for encouragement, Saul tries asking for guidance from the LORD.
But there is no answer. Only silence. No dreams of barley loaves knocking down enemy tents this time around.
Last time Saul had this problem, he figured there was sin blocking the reception and cast lots to determine whose fault it was.
But this time, he doesn’t even bother with that. Maybe he doesn’t want to see the lot fall on himself.
So instead, Saul stoops to his lowest, and commands his servants to go find a medium.
In a land where witchcraft is outlawed, his servants seem suspiciously quick to point him in the right (er, wrong) direction.
The woman herself is hesitant – she knows her powers are illegal. But Saul swears by the God he cannot communicate with that she will not be punished.
We know how the story goes. The witch of En Dor brings up the spirit of Samuel, and Saul pours out his distress to the ghost of the man who faithfully prayed for Saul even when the king had been rejected by God.
But now Samuel’s words are no more comforting than God’s silence: because of his disobedience, Saul and his sons will die in the battle, Israel will lose to the Philistines, and the kingdom will pass to David.
As can be imagined, Saul falls into complete and utter despair.
“Oh, how the mighty have fallen!” David will lament just a few chapters from now. How true – how sad – those words are.
Saul fell from being a man empowered and emboldened by God’s Spirit, to a man distressed by demons, cowering at the sight of the enemy.
He fell from a place of humility where he felt small in his own eyes, to puffing himself up in pride and paying the price of his arrogance.
He fell from wanting to seek God, to not even bothering, and choosing instead to seek man.
He fell from a zeal for the LORD and His law, to willful participation in the sin he had so firmly condemned in the past.
As Christians, we have been gifted with the Holy Spirit in our lives, made heirs of a kingdom, and granted access into God’s presence. What do we do with these gifts and privileges?
We have been handed a mission to complete and a task to fulfill. Are we accomplishing the purpose God has given us?
Or, like Saul, have we been slowly walking away? Have we wasted the gifts we’ve been given? Have we stopped trusting in the Lord and started turning to the world? Have we fallen into the same sins we have so heartily condemned in others? Have we messed up so many times that we’ve just given up on even trying to do the right thing?
21 You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal?
Romans 2:21 NKJV
I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. 2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. 3 Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.
2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
16 For a righteous man may fall seven times And rise again, But the wicked shall fall by calamity.