He sat in his customary place by the wall, opposite Jonathan, and Abner sat next to Saul, but David’s place was empty. —1 Samuel 20:25
In a season when many of us are gathering around the table with our family and friends, it seems apt to talk about who’s around the table. In 1 Samuel chapter 20, we see a picture of the person Saul has become. Having once been a man of God—to the point that God chose and anointed him to be King—with direct access to the voice of the Lord through his prophet Samuel, he’s now chased away that wise and just voice and replaced it with a yes man, Abner.
God directs people in and out of our lives. He sends the right people, to the right place, with the right plan. And if we are open to His voice, we will recognize these people in our lives. The problem is, the enemy does the same thing. He sends people into our path as well; hoping the distraction and ego stroking will cause us to invite the wrong people to sit at our table—to join our inner circle.
If you surround yourself with the RIGHT VOICES, you’ll make the RIGHT CHOICES. Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future. Look around your table as you gather for Thanksgiving, “Friendsgiving,” and Christmas this year. Who’s there? And better yet, who’s missing?
Saul used to have wise and godly people around him, but pride entered his life. And when pride entered his life, he began to isolate himself from wise counsel. When he started out, the most predominant voice in his life was the voice of God. The voice of God came to him, through Samuel the Prophet. God used Samuel. 1 Samuel 3:19 says the Lord “let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground.” God backed up everything he said. And this was the voice that came to Saul and said “God has chosen you to be king of Israel. The first king to ever be on the throne of Israel will be you, Saul."
Over time Saul grew prideful and surer of himself than of God’s wisdom. Can you relate? It’s not easy to admit so, but we’ve all been there. When we know in our heart of hearts what the right choice is, but the immediate rewards of the wrong choice—or the less right choice—makes so much more since in our circumstance. We don’t think we’re mocking God by rationalizing a decision, but whom did that decision REALLY benefit?
Saul’s errors didn’t begin with blasphemy and murder. It was simple disobedience. God wanted his obedience, but Saul thought it better to sacrifice. This happened more than once. And with every choice Saul made to put his own wisdom before God’s, he drove the voice of God farther and farther away, until we reach 1 Samuel 20, where he is so jealous and fearful of God’s anointed one, David, that he’s completely removed the voice of wisdom from his table—from his inner circle.
The spiritual chair was empty. The voice of God was missing from the table. The chair of Godly influence was vacant. There were no voices to encourage him to do the right thing, to follow the Lord, to make the right choice anymore. Instead, he had even pushed his own son across the table, and sat closer to Abner than anyone. Abner, who would later betray him to David. Abner, who only got close to Saul for his own promotion and purposes. Abner, who never had Saul’s interest at heart. Abner, the yes man; the one who told Saul what he wanted to hear instead of what he needed to hear. Abner, who the Bible later called a fool.
Who’s at your table? Who’s missing? What voices have you allowed into your inner circle?
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For through wisdom your days will be many and years will be added to your life. If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you. —Proverbs 9:10-12
When you remove God's voice, you remove wisdom. When you remove God’s voice, you start hearing other voices, and at the end of the day, there are really only two voices: God’s or the devil’s.
You need people around you who have God's heart, who are spiritually awake. You need voices in your life that are not fools. Fools make fun of church, fools say, "There is no truth in that book. There is no hell, there is no heaven, party now, live now, YOLO." And they’re not always that apparent. Fools ask, “Who’s going to find out? Who will ever know?” Fools encourage, “Just one more, just try it, just take it.” Fools insist, “It’s just a movie, it’s just a song, it’s just one party, it’s one lie, you can make up for it later …” Does that voice sound familiar? Have you surrounded yourself with Abners instead of Samuels?
Samuel’s voice kept the enemy at bay. Abner’s voice led to destruction.
For Saul, it cost him his life. It cost him his family's life. It cost him everything. But it’s not too late for you! We need the voice of people who sometimes get in our business and people who sometimes preach to us and people who constantly ask us, "Why were you not in church?" And, "Where were you?" And, "I missed you." And, "Why weren't my grandbabies in church? I didn't see my grandbabies." You need those people at your table.
Proverbs 13:20 is so powerful, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will be destroyed.” It does not say the fools will be destroyed. It says the companion of fools. Don’t be destroyed because of the company you keep.
We're called to know Him. We're called to be close to Him. We're called to be people of His presence. You don't have to be perfect, but you do need some passion if you want to be a person after God's heart. Start by adding more of God’s actual Word back into your life. Read, worship, and pray get to know God’s voice when He is speaking to you—then look for those people He has sent into your life to lift you up.
Surround yourself with the right people, and you’ll be empowered to make the right choices!