It is hard to believe that only about one and a half weeks ago I referenced today’s story while posting my way through the book of Numbers and the story of Balaam (here). Before I get to that though, there is a quick and unrelated observation I’d like to make which will have far reaching reprocussions.
“Righteous Acts of the Lord” (i.e. Righteousness of God)
You’ll recall two days ago we saw how the phrase “righteous acts of the Lord” – especially in the context of Israel’s deliverence from Egypt – is the righteousness of God or the covenant faithfulness of God (terms employed interchangeably). This is because God was faithful to his covenant promises by delivering Israel from Egypt, and the O.T. writers refered to his covenant faithfulness as “the Righteous acts of the Lord” [Judges 5:11].
In today’s reading we see this phrase used again, and again in reference to God’s delivering acts in the Exodus event which was his upholding of the promises he made to Abraham in Genesis 15:
Now then, stand here, because I am going to confront you with evidence before the Lord as to all the righteous acts performed by the Lord for you and your fathers. After Jacob entered Egypt, they cried to the Lord for help, and the Lord sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your forefathers out of Egypt and settled them in this place. – 1 Samuel 12:7
I want to emphasis this motif every time I come to it because if this is what the ancient Israelites meant by the term “righteous acts of the Lord” then when we come to Paul in Roman’s we’ll see how the phrase, “righteousness of God” is understood as God’s faithfulness to the covenant (covenant faithfulness) by the delivering work of the Cross which is received by the same faith as father Abraham.
Does God Change His Mind?
Back on January 15, (Day 12) we explored this verse a bit:
God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. – Numbers 23:18
And in that context I also sourced today’s reading which I’ll do again:
He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind. For he is not a man that he should change his mind. – 1 Samuel 15:29
I feel obligated to remind you that the key to this passage is found in the phrase, “he is not a man”. Like the story of Balaam we have another situation where human pride is endeavouring to “bribe God” (as it were) to change his mind. But God “is not a man” meaning that he does not succumb to such manipulation. I should emphasis that it does seem quite apparent that God often will not change his mind, but this suggests that he can but won’t [Jeremiah 4:28; Ezekiel 24:14; Isaiah 31:2 et cetera]. It seems even more evident not only that God can change his mind, but that he often will change his mind and on occasion he did [Habakkuk 1:11; Jeremiah 26:13; Exodus 32:12 et cetera].
Rise and Fall of Saul
People who believe in “Once Saved Always Saved” (or some more nuanced version of it) have a difficult time dealing with the story of Saul. Here are the oppositions:
A) Saul WAS “saved” to the end and went to wherever the saved people went in the O.T. despite the fact that he received an evil spirit from the Lord because of his disobedience.
B) Saul NEVER was “saved” in the fullest sense, he only “appared saved” or was called by God for a specific purpose, but denied eternal life in the end proving that he never was truly saved in the first place.
C) Saul was “saved”, but as a result of his disobedience he fell away from the Lord and thus was denied eternal life.
I think it is safe to say that most of us would reject A because it’s view of salvation and grace is greacy to say the least (despite certain advocates like Charles Stanley). Most Calvinist’ and Lutherans take the B road out of necessity. If he was denied eternal life he must have never been saved in the first place. They would then say that he only “appared” saved. But this view of Eternal Security offers no “security” to the believer at all since maybe you, O believer, have only been called for a purpose and “an apparent salvation” but not to eternal life. You’ll never know until you die.
The third options seems to be the most natural route for several reasons. First it avoids the problems presented by the other two (A = greasy grace; B = unsecurity). Second, it seems clear from the text, not only that Saul was a true follower of Yahweh, but that he was actually born again! Notice this verse:
[Samuel speaking to Saul]: The Spirit of the Lord will come upon you in power, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person. – 1 Samuel 10:6
Changed into a different person! What do you suppose that means? An “apparent change”? NO! An actual change. Keeping in mind that the Spirit of God is given to those who obey him [Acts 2:38]. But in case someone finds some ambiguity in that passage, notice this one:
As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart… the Spirit of God came upon him in power. – 1 Samuel 10:9
God changed Saul’s heart! What do you suppose that means? Does it mean an “apparent new heart”? NO! An actual [re]new[ed] heart [Ezekiel 36:26].