What does it say?
Twenty-two years pass between chapters 14 and 15. Saul is ordered to destroy the Amalekites, descendants of Esau, longtime enemies of Israel and proponents of pagan deities. All the warning signs we saw previously now culminate in Saul’s disobedience and rebellion against God. This will be the final direct contact between Saul and Samuel.
Saul privately anoints David to be the next king (1Sam 16), the youngest of Jesse’s sons. Saul’s increasing mental derangement has now opened the door for evil spirits to torment his mind. David’s skill as a harp player lands him a job in court to soothe Saul during these demonic attacks.
The story of David killing the giant Goliath armed only with a slingshot is one of the better-known stories in the Bible (1Sam 17). The ten foot tall giant was the Philistine champion and he dared any of the Israelites to take him on in individual battle. David’s victory gains him immediate fame in Israel and also Saul’s daughter as his wife according to the promise Saul made to the one who would take on the giant.
What does it mean?
Samuel’s statement that rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft becomes a common thread throughout the writing of the prophets. God desires our obedience, so it stands to reason that rebellion is about as bad as sin can get. In 1Sam 15 Saul claims to have obeyed, but the truth is revealed that he had only partially obeyed. It is partial disobedience that Samuel classifies as rebellion on the level of witchcraft.
Western readers often struggle with the statement that an evil spirit from the Lord troubled Saul (16:14). This simply means that God allowed an evil spirit to torment Saul as part of the promised consequence of his disobedience.
David’s courage in taking on the giant was not just a matter of personal bravery, but of David’s understanding that God’s mission in Israel was at stake. He saw that no one else was willing to stand for God’s purposes. There is no giant too big for the individual that clearly sees God’s mission.
How will I respond?
Are there areas of incomplete obedience in my life? If I really understand that incomplete obedience is the same as rebellion, I will take steps today to be in full compliance to God, not in legalistic fear, but in loving devotion to the God who saved me, gave me life and calls me to partner with him in his global mission.