THE BOOK OF 1 SAMUEL—Week 10
Crisis 10: Delayed Promises (1 Sam. 16-26; focus 1 Sam. 23:14-29)
There is great comfort in the promises of God. When we are discouraged, they buoy our spirits. When we are fearful or questioning of our calling, God’s promises strengthen and encourage us. God’s promises are such a gift, but what happens when the fulfillment of those promises is delayed? How do we persevere when it seems as if life and circumstances are actively working against what we believe God has called us to do?
Throughout Scripture we see the pattern of what appears to be the delay of the fulfillment of God’s promises. God promised Abraham a son, but Abraham had to wait 25 years to see that promise fulfilled. Joseph spent 13 years in prison before his dreams were fulfilled. Moses spent 40 years in exile in the desert before God told him it was finally time to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Even our Lord Jesus, did not begin his public ministry until he was 30. In this week’s passage, we see that David had to experience just such a delay. In Chapter 16, David was anointed by Samuel to be the next king of Israel as a teenager, likely around the age of 15. Yet, Scripture tells us that David did not ascend to the throne of Israel until he was 30. For approximately 15 years, David had to not only wait on the fulfillment of God’s promise, but he also had to wrestle with the reality of powerful enemies who were actively working against the fulfillment of that promise. Saul, who was both David’s king and his father-in-law, tried to kill him on multiple occasions and hunted him relentlessly. The mortal enemies of Israel, the Philistines, also hunted him because of the many victories David had won against them. Just when it would seem as if David was back on track to see God’s promises fulfilled, he would once again find himself on the run, hiding in a cave in the wilderness. It had to be very discouraging.
It such times of delay and discouragement, it is easy to fall into the trap of trying to help God fulfill his promises. We see this in the story of Abraham, when he goes to his wife’s servant, Hagar, and fathers a son with her. We see Moses fall into the same trap when he kills the Egyptian slave master for beating an Israelite. Though Moses thinks his actions will make him a hero to the Hebrews, all it does is make him despised by both the Egyptians and the Israelites. David, on the other hand, does not fall into this trap. Though he has multiple opportunities to kill Saul (see Chapters 24 and 26), David does not try to force God to fulfill his promise in David’s timing. Instead, and to the great consternation of his closest friends, David repeatedly pursues what’s right rather than what is expedient, trusting that God will be true to his word. How does David find the courage to live in such trust and patience?
I think the key is found in Psalm 63, a psalm David wrote during the events of 1 Sam. 23:14-29. In this psalm, we see the attitude of David during those trying times in his life. While those around him chafed under the strain of the delay, David leaned into it. In the difficulty of his circumstances, David found the metaphors of his life—beautiful word pictures to describe his heart’s longing for a deeper understanding of and relationship with his God. Though he certainly didn’t enjoy his circumstances, he nevertheless understood how the difficulties experienced in the delay were drawing him into a deeper relationship with God. Because David was sure he could trust God with his future, he was free to experience all God had for him in that moment. In the same way, let us lean into God’s faithfulness to his promises when we are frustrated with the delay, knowing that doing so frees us to comprehend all God is doing in us and for us in the moment. Though the world calls us to seize the day, let us instead embrace the delay.
- Why is it important for us to not try to force the fulfillment of God’s promises? List some examples from Scripture of those who tried to take matters into their own hands? How did that work out for them?
- Read Psalm 63. How did David’s circumstances shape his vocabulary about God? What are some of the keys according to this psalm to trusting in God to fulfill his promises?
- Have you ever faced a delay in God’s promise? What frustrations did you face? Were you tempted to, or did you take matters into your own hands? What did you learn during that season of waiting?