1 Samuel 15-16
The First King: Saul (man’s choice), cont’d. 1 Samuel 9-15
1 Samuel 15:1-35-Samuel directs Saul to attack the Amalekites (descendants of Esau) and totally destroy them and all their possessions for what their ancestors did when the people had left Egypt (Exodus 17:8-13; Deuteronomy 25:19). Saul spared Agag, king of the Amalekites and all of the possessions...disobeying what Samuel had told him to do. Saul tried to justify his actions by saying that he intended to sacrifice the animals to God. However, Samuel said that God wants obedience, more than sacrifice (:22-23). Saul confessed his sin and asked Samuel to go with him...but he refused. When Samuel turned to leave, Saul grabbed his coat...but it was torn from his hand. Samuel used this as an illustration that the kingdom would be torn from his hand. Samuel went back with Saul and worshipped God with the people. Then, he killed Agag. Samuel then left Saul...and they never saw each other again until the day Samuel died.
God was deeply disturbed over Saul’s disobedience and “regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel.” In some translations the word “regretted” is translated as “repented”.
What does it mean when the Bible says that God repents? See:
- When the Scriptures speak of God’s repentance, anger, zeal, and the like, ascribing to Him human affections and dispositions, and consequently changes, we cannot regard these anthropopathisms as merely figurative statements; these representations, after leaving out the ungodly human element, as Nitzsch (Syst., § 79 A. 2) remarks, have “realness and validity; it is not a human, but a divine movement that is spoken of, and we must therefore deny that it is sinful and passionate, but not that it is efficient and true.” The anthropopathic representations set forth a real relation of the living God to man who bears His image, only described from a human standpoint. They are the means of maintaining vigorously and effectively the thought of the living God and His real relation to man, and of saving it from being dissipated in abstractions. Kling admirably says on the two passages in point in this chapter (Art. “Reue” in Herzog): “The latter (ver. 29 “he does not repent”) refers to the firm, irrevocable resolution to give the kingdom to a better man; the repentance (ver. 11) looks to the fact that Saul, an humble man when he was called and fitted to discharge his duty in faith and obedience, was now changed, exalted himself in his office, would be his own master, and, setting aside God’s express command, followed his own pleasure. Thus he showed himself no longer fit to be king in Israel, God’s people, and the divine will, which made him king, changed to the opposite,—a repentance which betrays no mutability in God, but rather reveals His constancy alongside of the mutability of man, His unvarying will that the humbly obedient shall be king in Israel.”
Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Erdmann, D., Toy, C. H., & Broadus, J. A. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: 1 & 2 Samuel (pp. 211–212). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software
A Jewish website explains God’s repentance this way. Pay attention to the last paragraph:
The question arises: How can God, on account of man's repentance, change His resolve, and avert the unfavorable judgment passed upon him; and does not such action conflict with the doctrine of the immutability of His plans? The answer to this question is that God never changes His will; and when man is able, through conversion, to escape the unhappy fate which would otherwise have been his, such escape is due to the fact that it was included in God's original plan. "Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?" (Ezek. xviii. 23, 32). Sufferings and misfortunes were preordained for man on account of his sins; but it was also preordained that they should afflict him only as long as he persisted in his ungodly life and evil ways—the cause of his sufferings. And it is preordained, also, that when man through repentance removes the original cause of his sufferings, these and his misfortunes shall leave him (comp. Albo, l.c. iv. 18).
The sages of the Talmud expressed this as follows: "Even before the world was created repentance ["teshubah"] was called into existence" (Pes. 54a); which means that before God created the world and human beings, before He decreed any fate for man, and before He made any resolutions, He had "teshubah" in mind; ordaining that through penance, which changes man's attitude toward God, God's attitude toward man should also become more favorable. Man's repentance, therefore, causes no change in God's will or decisions.
The Waiting King: David (God’s choice) 1 Samuel 16-31
1 Samuel 16:1-13-The LORD leads Samuel to go to Bethlehem to anoint the next man to be King. He tells him to invite Jesse to join him at the feast. He sees one of Jesse’s sons who had physical attributes that made him think that he was the one to be anointed. But God tells him to not look at outward appearances…”for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearances, but the LORD looks at the heart” (:7). One by one, he met the sons until Samuel thought that he had met them all…but there was one left. Jesse says, “There remains yet the youngest, and behold, he is tending the sheep” (:11). Samuel tells Jesse to send for him. When David walks in the LORD told Samuel, “Arise, anoint him; for this is he” (:12). Verses 13 says, "...and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward.”
1 Samuel 16:14-"Now the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD terrorized him". This was God’s judgment on Saul for his disobedience. It resulted in a mental disturbance…that caused him to act like a madman. His servants thought that music might calm him down, so they found a man who would play the harp...David. It worked. When David played the harp it calmed Saul down. Saul "loved him greatly; and he became his armor bearer."
Prayer: Lord, I know that since Pentecost, when we accept Christ the Holy Spirit indwells us and doesn’t just come upon us (as in the days of Saul). I know that I can never lose the Holy Spirit…because I can never lose salvation. But Father, I also know that I can grieve the Holy Spirit and lose my fellowship with Him. Please help me to have a pure heart…to never allow anything in my life that would disrupt the constant fellowship that I share with the Holy Spirit.