Taking the Bait

1 Samuel 31:10 “They put his armor in the temple of the Astoreths and fastened his body to the wall of Beth Shan” (NIV).

Observation: We see here the fruit of flesh at work. The Philistine army had conquered Israel and killed three of Saul’s sons. Saul himself had committed suicide ahead of their fearsome advance. First Samuel 31:8 tells us that when Saul’s body was discovered it was stripped and beheaded, and then his armor was sent to one Philistine temple while his headless body was fastened to the wall of the city of Beth Shan. First Chronicles 10:10 further reveals that Saul’s head was hung in another of their temples.

Application: What unmitigated barbarism! Have these people no refinement at all, no sense of propriety? Were they completely dispossessed of grace even in great victory? To strip and behead the corpse of a vanquished enemy was bad enough; to then display him in their temples and on a city wall is simply beyond the pale. What gradually overtakes us is the thought that we would never behave thus.

Think about the spiritual condition of the Philistines. These were a people who lived by physical and military strength, the natural result of which was to display trophies of their conquests for all to see, including their places of worship. Though these trophies would ultimately rot and could never provide lasting contentment, we can imagine a certain self-satisfaction as they viewed the relics of their success.

I must ask myself: has my own redemption been thorough enough to never behave similarly? What of my accomplishments have been nailed to a wall as an object of inner or outward worship? What are the positions attained, goals achieved, and things acquired that produce self-satisfaction when I review these life-fruits? In celebrating these trophies, am I all that different from the Philistines?

Christians are called to be a heart people. We ask God to tenderize our hearts so as to distinguish us from those whose rewards can be nailed to a wall. Our one true reward was nailed to a tree over two thousand years ago. It is in attaining His life that I ought to rejoice. My trophy must be to hear His “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Jesus was tempted to aspire to more, to pursue goals other than the Father’s, but He never took the bait. To the end, His purpose was as mine must be, to do only what He sees the Father doing (see John 5:19). Any other pursuit is unworthy of His sacrifice.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, forgive me for my Philistine-like pursuit of worldly trophies. Cause me to be a man of one purpose, to be satisfied in gazing upon none but You.

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