What if . . .

I don’t normally like to ask hypothetical ‘what ifs.’ They can lead to most unhelpful conclusions. But reading of the last two days of King Saul’s life it struck me how different the outcome could have been.

By that point, Saul’s fatalistic outlook on life had driven him partly mad. He knew he had disobeyed God. He knew the kingdom was slipping away from him. He was powerless to turn the tide of popularity away from David back to himself. Most tragically, he knew of God but heard nothing from Him anymore (1 Sam. 28:6, 15).

So desperate was he that he broke his own law and visited a medium (1 Sam. 28:3, 7). He knew that God abhorred mediums but he so wanted insight into the spiritual framework undergirding the political crisis that he chose to compromise his own standard. What he precipitated was the final seal on his own doom.

First Samuel 29 takes us back to the enemy camp. David had cunningly won the trust of King Achish of Gath. David and his men had been living in Philistia for sixteen months (1 Sam. 27:7). Achish was convinced that they had deserted to him but his officers were suspicious (1 Sam. 27:12). While Saul was sealing his own fate, the Philistine military commanders were objecting to David’s presence. They feared that David would suddenly side with Saul in the middle of the battle, so they insisted on leaving David behind

The commanders of the Philistines said to [Achish], “Make the man go back, that he may return to his place where you have assigned him, and do not let him go down to battle with us, or in the battle he may become an adversary to us. For with what could this man make himself acceptable to his lord? Would it not be with the heads of these men? (1 Sam. 29:4)

In that verse is a hint at what might have happened if . . . . What if Saul had repented in humility?  What if he had finally recognized the utter foolishness and wasted energy of fighting against God’s will? God is always ready to give grace to the humble (Jas. 4:6) and accept the contrite (Isa. 57:15). Is it possible that the Lord would have silenced the objections of the Philistine lords, placed David’s clandestine army where the Philistines were most vulnerable and, between Saul and David, wiped Philistia out forever? Could a simple act of repentance have changed Israel’s history through a decisive victory?

Never mind the hypothetical. Is it the eleventh hour of your trials? Remember, none of us knows in advance what secret army of solutions lies over the horizon just waiting to sweep in at God’s command. What if you could stand firm in faith in His ability to provide, protect, heal, or to intervene in other miraculous ways?

Does a needed act of repentance seem too shamefully humiliating? Consider the alternative, and the blessings of restored relationship with God.

What if you consistently choose to live according to His standards, never compromising for any reason or expediency?

David was ready to be the humble servant of King Saul and he would have made a first class commander-in-chief. What if King Saul had been able to accept David?

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