This week two things have been talking to my spirit- the series David Jeremiah has been doing on David, and along the way Saul; and the bio of Martin Luther I have been reading. And from them, two things emerged. One was Jeremiah talking about how Saul was with the Lord for a while, then left Him- to which I said, "I don't think Saul ever really WAS with God. There are a lot of evidences to the idea that God was just something he used, and not someone he knew." More on that as we go in. The other came from the bio.
In it, a section of what Pope Hadrian wrote to Frederick the Wise in asking him to execute judgement on Luther stood out:
"...Be not beguiled because Martin Luther appeals to Scripture. So does every heretic, but SCRIPTURE IS A BOOK SEALED WITH SEVEN SEALS (emphasis mine) which cannot be so well opened by one carnal man as by all the holy saints..." (Bainton, pp 193-4)
Besides being a horrible mistranslation of Revelation 5, it made me say, "if there ARE seven seals on Scripture, they didn't come from God." But that isn't quite right, either... if you look at Saul's career, you can come up with seven things that can seal Scripture to an individual.
1- When he hid at his coronation (1 Samuel 10:21-22)
Already anointed by Samuel the Judge, already having prophesied under the Spirit, when it came time to be announced to the people, he was found "hidden among the equipment". They had to drag him out before the people. If he was truly with God, why fear the people? He had no confidence in God, that much is sure. And lacking confidence in the Word will keep us from getting anything from our Bibles. We are told to go BOLDLY before the Throne. Have confidence not only in God's word, but the Spirit's ability to reveal what it is saying to YOU.
2- When he did the sacrifice without Samuel (1 Samuel 13:8-9)
When the seven days' wait had passed facing the Philistines without Samuel making his appearance, and the people started slinking off in fear (leadership comes from the top, no?), Saul went ahead and sacrificed to the Lord- which he would have known better than to do had he any idea of what he was doing. If he had been truly ground in God, he would have remembered the not-that-long-ago tale of Gideon, who defeated the Midianites with half the men Saul had left. But he lost PATIENCE with Samuel- and through him, God. You aren't going to get a lot out of the Bible if you open it to a random page and demand God fill you in right then and there. Read with patience. Wait for God to get His point across.
3- When he pronounced his stupid curse (1 Samuel 14:24)
"Cursed is the man who eats any food until evening, before I have taken vengeance upon my enemies." How wrong could a man go in one sentence? He got cocky because they were winning in the early part of a battle- that was accomplished more by Jonathan his son acting in the will of God than anything Saul did; a self-defeating oath, guaranteeing his forces would get weaker as the day went on; "HIS" vengeance, "HIS" enemy, instead of the Lord's. His, his, his- the victory, the vengeance, the enemy- and his SON who almost paid the price, except for that common thread for Saul- he feared the people, who demanded that Saul couldn't kill the real hero of the battle.
You cannot get anything from reading the Bible if your purpose is me, me, me. Not anything that God actually WANTS you to see, that is. In all things of faith, God MUST come first.
4- His failure to obey God by killing all of Amalek (1 Samuel 15:24)
He was told BY GOD to kill everything of Amalek, from the king Agag down to the mangiest dog. However, he took the king prisoner, and let the people collect the choicest spoil. After Samuel lowered the boom on him, he finally confessed he did it "because I feared the people and obeyed their voice".
You aren't going to get anything out of your Bible if you are afraid to DO WHAT IT TELLS YOU because of what people might say. Without obedience, it's just a novel with some high and low spots. And excuses won't alleviate that responsibility. If you want the Bible unsealed to you, you must remember that every time you pick it up you will be taking on a responsibility.
5- The Spirit leaves him (1 Samuel 16:14)
This is how atheists and others can read it and find an evil, corrupt God, or contradictions, or cherry-picked items that seem to excuse all manner of behavior. You have to have the Holy Spirit within you, revealing each page like an onion being peeled, layer upon layer of meaning coming through every new time you look at a passage. Without Him, you not only aren't going to "get it", you are going to have an empty spot like Saul, just waiting to be filled with a "distressing spirit" that will lead you to destruction.
6- The song (1Samuel 18:7)
"Saul has slain his thousands,
and David his ten thousands...
Then Saul was very angry, and the saying displeased him; "They have ascribed ten thousands to David, and they have ascribed to me but thousands. What more can he have but the kingdom?"
One thing every non-Christian hates about the Bible is that it destroys his self-image. To the people who think good deeds are enough, it tells them no; to those who violate natural rules of sex and marriage, it calls their "lifestyle" abominable; to false teachers, it tells them they'd be better off at the bottom of the sea. If our self-image is more important than God, you might just as well read a comic book.
7- The witch (1 Samuel 28:7)
For a second, and more desperate time, Saul sought out the Lord's counsel when he was in over his head. And perhaps, if Saul TRULY knew God, and saw Him as "an ever-present help in time of trouble", and came repentant, and seeking God's WILL rather than His advice, He might yet have answered. That did not happen; and when he finished 'going through the motions' (" by dreams, or by the urim, or through the prophets"), he did as he would do when any other resource in his toolbox failed- he tried another one. In fact, he with full knowledge of what he was doing (for he, in a younger day, had cast the mediums out of Israel), did a complete 180 on God. That it worked was more to God's plan than his own- else why would the witch have screamed when "her seance" caused Samuel to appear?
If God is not speaking to you in Scripture, if He isn't answering you, look at how you are approaching Him. Is He the one you go to as "just another resource"? Will you try another way if you don't get the answer you want?
Martin Luther continued his resistance to Rome because every time they refuted him, they did NOT use Scripture but the teachings of men. If they had been WITH God, they would have seen in that one statement how they were failing the Faith. But it was their eyes that were sealed with seven seals-
They put their confidence in "the holy saints"-men instead of God.
They refused to even hear him out, only meeting with him to give HIM the chance to recant.
They feared the destruction of their power structure, and the source of their purse.
They feared to admit that ANYBODY with faith could be as discerning as they "were".
They did not fall upon the Spirit to guide them.
They refused to set down their places of pride, especially noted when Luther called upon the Pope to stand "as a stinking sinner" when he took Communion rather than sitting with a bowing Cardinal offering it to him.
And the stood with man instead of God- "The Scripture needs to be interpreted. And the Pope is the interpreter." (To which Luther replied, "His Holiness ABUSES Scripture!")
What seals do YOU put on the Bible? Do you read without confidence? Do you expect ready answers at your convenience? Do you come looking for God to tell you what YOU want? Are you afraid to put what you read into practice? Do you pray for guidance before opening the Book? Are you afraid to see yourself in it? Do you even believe it to be the truth? You CAN overcome those seals- but only by putting God first and the rest of the people second. Saul never did.