In many ways he's what the people wanted... "a man of standing" who was "a head taller than any of the others." In other ways he isn't what the people wanted... beneath the surface he was insecure and fearful of what people thought of him. Put into leadership anyway, he made all kinds of reactive mistakes at thirty-years old that eventually severed God's favor upon him.
The youngest in his family, David was the runt that more than likely smelled like sheep. An expert with the harp, though, he eventually joined Saul's crew and played music to soothe Saul's oppression from an evil spirit. Soon after David came in and slew Goliath - something Saul couldn't/wouldn't do... and then things went crazy. People cheered for David, celebrating the new leader... and Saul found himself becoming so embittered that he couldn't stop trying to take the guy out. It got so bad that Saul literally did everything he could to chase David out of the kingdom.
Where in life do you feel like you are being persecuted by another person? What do you do when someone else has a problem with you just being you? Granted, there are those times when we will do something wrong and someone will dislike us for it… but what about those times when it’s just uncalled for?
Here's what is amazing... not every one wants to reconcile with those they have issues with. Maybe non-Christians can get away with this, but Christians are bound to do whatever it takes to continually reach out to everyone. Otherwise it's having the appearance of godliness and denying its power. Perhaps this is why so many call the church hypocritical, for how can a Christian taste of God's forgiveness and then ignore such a simple request to do the same?
Yes, I have personal baggage with this. Maybe you do, too, so let's say it together - "Samsonite."
Maybe you're like me and you've been on the receiving end of this... or maybe you're also like me and you've been on the dispensing end of this, too. Through the Scriptures, here's the pattern that develops:
- Celebration of another. Saul initially was a fan of David, celebrating his skills on the harp as well as the young man's victory over Goliath and in other battles. Saul even tried to dress David up in his own armor - maybe to protect him, or maybe so that people might think Saul was involved in the victory. Everyone in Saul's association liked David, too, including his own son Jonathan. David was on a roll... and everyone wanted in.
- Help, LORD, for the godly are no more; the faithful have vanished from among men. Everyone lies to his neighbor; their flattering lips speak with deception. (David, from Psalm 12:1-2)
- We do this all the time, don't we? We celebrate people for their strengths and accolades... think about how many phone calls this week were you calling up someone (or them calling you up) "because you needed something." It's tempting to build associations with people who will make you feel good and look good, isn't it? How long do you think that lasts before it turns into something else, though?
- Internal jealousy toward another. There was this concept during that era called "the spoils of war" - it basically meant that if one nation conquered another they could go in and claim whatever and whomever they wanted in the enemy's cities. This is why the ladies were excited when the army of Israel returned, and why they did a little shout out to the King (the old hero) but an even bigger shout out to David (the new hero).
- And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David. (1 Samuel 18:9).
- So your new co-worker just got recognized for something and you didn't... or the local competition produced a killer commercial that is stealing your business... or you've worked hard on a project for quite some time and someone who just walked into the room topped your presentation... how does that feel? Think about how it feels when you're on one end of that versus the other... this is where jealousy comes from, creating a poison within you whenever you think of that person. Sometimes we will even study that person's every move, thought, and word in order to read into it and feel righteous in our spirits.
- External jealousy toward another. One day Saul's internal jealousy gets to him... so he picks up a spear and throws it. David, though, eludes him twice. You know what David didn't do? He didn't pick up the spear and throw it back. You know what else is interesting? Saul has a spear... why would the king who is surrounded by bodyguards need to be holding a spear to begin with? How could Saul be so secure and yet so insecure?
- The next day an evil spirit from God came forcefully upon Saul. He was prophesying in his house, while David was playing the harp, as he usually did. Saul had a spear in his hand and he hurled it, saying to himself, "I'll pin David to the wall." But David eluded him twice. Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with David but had left Saul. (1 Samuel 18:10-12)
- It's funny how many spears we have in our aresenal that we don't consider spears. From self-righteous blogs to conversations where belittling is the dominant thread, spears abound. Why? Or maybe it's a staff meeting you miss where you're somehow the topic of conversation? Why? Or that classic family dinner when everyone needs to share their disappointment about the alleged "black sheep." Why? Per my last post, it's classic us/them stuff over and over again.
- A personal grudge is formed toward another. When Saul's jealousy was left untended it became a grudge - a resentment strong enough that it created retaliation.
- Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. (1 Samuel 19:1)
- We have a choice when jealousy kicks in... let it go and find freedom or feed it and grow a grudge. The only way to cut the strings is to embrace the backward reality of the Gospel - "Bless those who persecute you" and celebrate the success of others. This is true whichever end you're on, for even when people speak of the one hurtling spears at you there is potential for you to say, "You know, here are some things I want to affirm about the guy/gal."
- A collective grudge is formed toward another. The sad reality here is that Saul began using his God-given resources to sway others against David. Gathering up whomever will follow him, the guy did whatever he could to destroy someone God has put His hand upon. Why?
- And Saul called up all his forces for battle, to go down to Keilah to besiege David and his men. (1 Samuel 23:8)
- You know what's odd? How when we feel someone has wronged us we whip out our phones and "vent" to another person who is otherwise unaffected by it. Think about that for a moment - what comes out of vents? Hot air... and cold air... that affects everyone in the room (not to mention the overall climate).
- Separation from another. Saul forces his own son to distrust him, his own army to question him, and his best ally (David) into the desert. Why?
- While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that Saul had come out to take his life. And Saul's son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. "Don't be afraid," he said. "My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this." The two of them made a covenant before the LORD. Then Jonathan went home, but David remained at Horesh. (1 Samuel 23:15-18)
- When has the chasm between you and another increased? What was behind it? Often we settle into "agreeing to disagree" that we start thinking this is what Jesus taught. This is especially sad between Christians who (again) have been receivers of forgiveness but not dispensers.
- Crisis point of the grudge. One day David has the chance to kill Saul, but instead he cuts off the corner of Saul's robe. This causes David great grief for many reasons, for this particular piece of Saul's robe had his status symbolized upon it - some theologians even believe it was a stitched in prayer shawl with the Torah on it. This means that David physically removed from Saul the symbol that he was king... maybe because he wanted to use the authority of God to remind Saul what was what (because for whatever reason nothing else was getting through).
- He came to the sheep pens along the way; a cave was there, and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were far back in the cave. The men said, "This is the day the LORD spoke of when he said to you, 'I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.' " Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul's robe. Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. He said to his men, "The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD's anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD." With these words David rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way. (1 Samuel 23:3-7)
- Sometimes there is no solving issues on our own... this is why the Bible is so important for us. It serves as the final judge between our actions and God's Words. If we choose to ignore the principles of reconciliation we may feel justified in our apathy but will one day answer for it. Likewise, God's Words prevent the attacked from becoming vengeful - even "an eye for an eye" was preventative against "beyond fair justice" revenge.
- Recognition of the grudge. Finally... finally... Saul recognizes things have gone too far. This is after he's chased David down and had his life spared when David didn't kill him. Granted, later Saul chased David down once more and David stopped short of killing Saul again. But at long last the grudge is realized and said out loud. Note how this conversation begins:
- Confessing the value of the person: Then David went out of the cave and called out to Saul, "My lord the king!"... When David finished saying this, Saul asked, "Is that your voice, David my son?" And he wept aloud. (1 Samuel 24:8, 16)
- Note how David's humility becomes contagious.
- Confessing the value of the apology: "You are more righteous than I," [Saul] said. "You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly" (1 Samuel 24:17)
- As Saul apologizes he doesn't try to justify himself. How often do we engage in "asterisk apologies?" Someone says, "I'm sorry, BUT the reason I did it was because you..." There are no asterisks here... just ownership of junk.
And perhaps it bears mentioning that like Saul there can be an evil spirit oppressing the attacker to be acting in such a manner (perhaps without even realizing it).
So a few questions:
- When have you been a David?
- When have you been a Saul?
- Where are you facing tension with another person right now? Which role are you playing?
Ah... what's interesting is that in 1 Samuel 25 David holds a grudge of his own. But that's another part of the Story. Meanwhile, the sacrificial life of our Lord and Savior gives us this reminder and an amazing kind of strength to not pick up the spears when they are thrown at us... but rather to overcome evil with good.