5.15 1 Samuel -- the Spirit
The sign that the Spirit of God had left Saul was not only that he was now plagued by a tormenting spirit, but that he sat fearful in his tent while Goliath yelled taunts at curses at Israel for 40 days. Remember the false expectations of the Israelites concerning their ideal king:
"we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles" (1 Sam 8:20).
Reality was that this king tried to bribe other men to fight his own battle. Saul in the flesh knew that he could not face the Philistine. Without the divine empowerment, he knew he would be beaten. Once he had had that supernatural "baptism", but he had lost it -- lost it as surely as Samson had when he let Delilah cut his hair. And in both cases, the results were the same: powerlessness.
This shows us the nature and necessity of the divine visitation. When God chose a judge or a king, He gave that individual a personal bestowal of extraordinary ability, something beyond their own capability: physical strength, or hearing the voice of the Spirit, or authority over men. It was a "take charge" attitude. This phenomenon in the Old Testament was identical to Jesus' description in the New:'
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you" (Acts 1:8a).
And it was power to achieve a task. The New Testament task was to "be my witnesses." For the judges and kings it was to rule the nation.
Yet there is another aspect to this visitation that must not be missed because it is just as important. In addition to the power aspect there was also communication, or better, communion. The anointed one was given fellowship with the Divine Spirit, such that he or she was able to act as the finger of God in history. One not only received power, but also the guidance and wisdom as to how to use it. Isaiah warned us that God's thoughts are higher than human thoughts (Isa 55:8-9). Yet for the anointed person, this incompatibility is "partially overcome." "Partially"? Yes, because Samuel's natural mind kicked in when Eliab stood before him. But also "overcome": because he did not anoint Eliab, but heard God correct him and tell him David was the one. Another example: when God told Samuel to go anoint a new king, he at first responded in natural fear: "What are you asking? Saul will kill me!" (1 Sam 16:2). But then he heard God give him a plan that would allow him to avoid Saul's detection. So we see both natural and supernatural capacities in alternation.
And the point is that these anointed leaders could shift between natural and supernatural modes at will. Samson did it all the time. Apparently, Saul did too. When God first rejected Saul, Samuel said,
"the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart" (1 Sam 13:14).
Amazingly, the coming of the Spirit upon a man was not sufficient to give him this heart for God. Nor was the direct act of God upon the natural heart (1 Sam 10:9). In spite of both of these impartations, Saul still fell. For an unknown number of years, the Spirit had lived in Saul -- we have guessed at least 20 years. The judgment of God against him was pronounced before the Spirit left him. The Spirit did not leave Saul until after David's anointing.
And yet -- this is a warning to us -- the presence and empowerment of the Spirit in Saul's life did not mean that he had developed a heart for God. In fact, that God enabled him to be a successful military hero for so long masked the truth that he was really serving himself all along (1 Sam 15:12). This seems to have been a character issue, and no supernatural provision could alter the inclination of Saul's heart. God did not override his personal choice. Instead, the egocentric nature in Saul used the gifts of God to expand itself, rather than to seek intimacy with the Spirit. This Spirit was present in him and willing to hold communion with him, but he did not respond. Saul was not a worshipper, not a God-seeker: the number of Psalms and Proverbs attributed to Saul is zero.
Saul is the forerunner of countless Christian leaders through the centuries who used the gifts of God to further their own careers. Preachers, missionaries, educators, evangelists, founders of denominations -- oftentimes the anointing and the fruits have been genuine, yet the underlying motivation has been to "build a monument" to himself. How sad that "success" as a leader so easily leads us back into pride, the primal sin. It is like the child's game of Chutes and Ladders, where we advance so far only to land on a slide, and tumble back to the start.