1 Samuel 19-23 (9.24.22)
Last week, we saw God bring about a new king for Israel named David. For those of us familiar with David, we know God used him in mighty ways for God’s people and, more importantly, to point toward the truer King of kings, namely Jesus. Interestingly enough, as this week’s chapters in 1 Samuel show us, even though David was anointed king and prior to taking the throne brought about great victories for Saul, Saul greatly despised David and sought to kill him. Isn’t it crazy that the depth of our sin can run so great that we would, even at the cost of another life, go to such great lengths to keep the idols of our hearts? What’s really interesting here is the theme of the story in Samuel. Saul was raised up to position of king, and through all outward appearances, he seemed to be a great fit to lead the people of God. But as we all know and the Bible has declared, the outward appearance is not always trustworthy. Saul rises to power and quickly begins to trust in himself rather than obey God. Last week’s reading shows us Saul blatantly disobeying God in the destruction of the Amalekites and God punishing Saul for his disobedience. When this happens, we see the gears shift from Saul being the great king of the people of God to David, who from all outward appearances is the opposite of Saul. A major theme is that God looks upon the heart of man and not upon their appearance.
Looking back, we see the verse where Saul’s heart is hardened against David:
1 Samuel 18:6-9 As they were coming home, when David returned from striking down the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments. And the women sang to one another as they celebrated, “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him. He said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?” And Saul eyed David from that day on.
When the passage reads that “Saul eyed David from that day on,” it is intending for us to see Saul’s focus and desire to kill this threat to his “greatness.” You see, even though David was anointed as king, he did not attempt to overthrow Saul and was still striving to serve under him. David was not attempting to make much of himself; it was women in the town singing songs that caused Saul’s anger to rise. But notice what Saul said following this little song: “They are ascribing more praise to David. What more can he have but the kingdom?” You see, Saul had forgotten something very important here: The kingdom did not belong to him; it was entrusted to his leadership, but it was not his to own. Here we see the idolatry of Saul claiming something that was God’s to be his own. Unfortunately, here we see the effects of idolatry. When someone becomes a threat to your idols, if God does not grant you repentance from this sin, it can become a very dark and dangerous hole to travel down. Saul is now willing to stop at nothing to remove this threat to his supposed rule, and yet all the while he acknowledges that God has given David favor and left him. It seems crazy to us that someone like Saul could witness the very things he witnessed because of God’s work, and yet turn around and think he could change or stop or even affect something that God has decided to do. We even see Saul require priests who he believed conspired with David to be put to death.
Now in case you’ve missed it, pause here for a second and consider what lengths you have gone to protect and pursue the idols of your heart. Not many of us would likely say that we’ve killed to protect our idolatry, but perhaps some have. What I want to draw our attention to is that Jesus has claimed hating someone in your heart to be a form of murder, and I am quite confident that we’ve all done that in pursuit of our idols. In 2 Samuel, we will see an interaction between David and a prophet named Nathan. After David had pursued his sin with Bathsheba and had Uriah killed, Nathan the prophet comes to visit and tells David a little parable of two men in the same town. One was rich and one was poor. The poor man had a sheep he dearly loved, and it was his family’s only sheep. This sheep would sleep inside, as if it was part of the family. Well one day, the rich man who had many sheep had an unexpected visitor show up, and instead of killing one of the many sheep he had to feed the visitor, he took the poor man’s only sheep, slaughtered it, and fed the visitor. Nathan then asks King David what should be done to the rich man, and David says, “As surely as the Lord lives, the rich man deserves death!” This is where the tables turn, and Nathan says to David, “YOU ARE THE MAN!”
So I want to play the part of Nathan with you reading this today. Here’s my point: We can so easily see the pitfalls that Saul dives into and sit back shaking our head. Even though Saul was a true historical figure, the writer of Samuel wants us to be able to consider the figure’s character and how we might struggle in the same ways with the same things. So consider yourself: How many times have you wanted bad things for someone who never hurt you, just because they were more popular or people seemed to enjoy them more? How many times have we shaken our heads at wealthy people for the way they live, and yet we would do the same thing if only we had the chance? How many times have we judged others for doing the very same thing we ourselves do? My simplest example is texting or looking at your phone while driving. This is an unsafe practice, but I have certainly done it many times. The other day I was yelling at a person who did not see the green light because he was busy texting someone and looking down at his phone. In that moment, I was David, and Nathan the prophet could have said, “You are the man!” You see, we don’t even live up to our own standards. How desperate are we for a Savior?
Christ did not come to be the true King of kings and the sacrificial Lamb without reason. We are desperate for our Savior, and we long for the coming King to make all things new! Consider the present age and darkness; don’t be fooled by the idols of your heart into chasing more and more sin. Repent of these things, love others well, and remember your desperate need of a Savior and the answer we have in Christ Jesus.
**Special thanks to a faithful brother in Christ, Steven Obert, for his work on this week’s study.
By His grace and for His glory,
Pastor Joshua Kirstine