August 12, 2011 Devotion Sharing

Submitted by Peter Choi, Gracepoint Berkeley

Points of contrast between Saul and David in 1 Samuel:

  • “I did obey the Lord” and “I have sinned. But please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel; come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord your God.” vs. “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.”
  • Saul’s pursuit of David vs. “I will not lift my hand against the Lord’s anointed”
  • Saul’s life different from David’s life – for David, always some apparent difficulty that God pulls him through
  • Saul’s life is a one-generation life. That is the only kind of life that can result of a man who is interested in his own honor. Contrast with David’s life which is a life that results from desiring to honor God. Such a life is one that retains value over time, and whose true value cannot be regarded fully in a single lifetime. It’s ripple effects are clear.

How sad that a man who started out so humble ended up becoming a caricature of a man disgraced due to his pride! At the start of the story, Saul’s physical attributes needed to be described in order to highlight his humility. “But am I not a Benjamite, from the smallest tribe of Israel, and is not my clan the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why do you say such a thing to me?” These words may not have been as poignant if one were to imagine a scrawny little man with a high voice. But because Saul was a physical specimen, a head taller than anyone else, we can discern that his character was not unlike that of David in the very beginning. So faithful, looking for his father’s donkeys. So humble that he was hiding in the luggage when Samuel wanted to anoint him king. Yet somehow his self-importance became something he took far too seriously and he began to believe the hype surrounding ‘King Saul’. He became yet another self-important monarch, expending much of his energies trying to live up to his title rather than being a true leader. From this I am reminded that I need to frequently go back to the truth of who I am, so that I don’t buy into my own hype and become so self-important that the character that God cherishes in me – faithfulness and humility – are in scarce supply. The truth is that I am a sinner, and the things that I do and the position that I have are a privilege, come to me out of God’s mercy, and are unmerited. I must not lose sight of this plain fact or else I will become competitive, jealous, anxious, rash, prone to bad judgment, and feeling like God is no longer speaking to me.

Another contrast between David’s life and that of Saul was that people were not chasing after Saul to assassinate him. Pretty much he was “the man” after he became king. He was not dealing with any mutiny. Actually he had a young David who wanted to support his reign and be Saul’s right-hand-man. (Just from that angle it was very unwise for him to try to kill David) Yet Saul was filled with anxiety and lacked peace. What a contrast with David, who was treated like a traitor by his own king and his own son, yet in the light of such difficulties, he was still able to experience a regular strengthening in God. In a way it is the difficulty that forced David to rely on God and become certain of God’s presence in his life. From this I can learn that the tough situations that I face from day to day are things that I could welcome. Not in a strange masochistic way, but I should not try to avoid these situations because they are opportunities for my trust in God to grow, and become more deeply rooted. One of my old coworkers once told me that I should remove the poles that hold up the trees straight in my front yard as soon as possible. She said that I should allow the strong winds to blow because it’s the tough weather that causes the tree to root down stronger, which will result in a stronger tree in the end. That is what happened with David, and the picture that he paints in Psalm 1 seems appropriate “He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever he does prospers.”  Even though I want my life to be free of difficulty, even though I don’t like things to be stressful or hard, even though I don’t like it, I don’t want it, the strong winds of life are what will cause me to root down, forcing me to become more deeply rooted in my relationship with God. But as I look back my own life, I find that the tough times are the times in which I was able to realize new insights into the character of God and how truly gracious and merciful he really is. So the avoidance of difficulty is something that I have to revisit in my life in response to what I see as a contrast between David’s life that of Saul.

Saul allowed his self-importance and pride to reach a ridiculous point of self-deception. “I did obey the Lord” and “please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel” are such cringe-worthy statements, especially when contrasted with a proper response, as modeled by David: “Against you, you only, have I sinned… so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.” The Bible is so true to life because from my own experience I know how pride can lead to this level of self-delusion and self-deception, ultimately resulting in a life that ignores God altogether. David’s response is the model that I need to follow – to acknowledge God and simply say “sorry” rather than to say “I could not have possibly done that”, going through all kinds of mental gymnastics to justify myself. I need to be wary and suspicious of any such thoughts, and insist on reminding myself that a God who loves me is not going to stop watching and listening just because I ignore him or wish that he was not there.

As I was thinking about the contrast between Saul and David this time around, the thing that God says to Samuel struck me. “I regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” I am reminded of something that Pastor Ed said a long time ago about these words. They are not the words of a god who doesn’t want to deal with Saul anymore because he was insubordinate and needed to be removed. In fact, God wanted use Saul to reveal his glory, but Saul didn’t want it. And that is the meaning of God’s grief here. Saul didn’t want that role as soon as the hype of “King Saul” got to his head. Maybe to God Saul was a sweet, little boy who suddenly became like a surly teenager content with his own little corner of the universe. And the expression of grief is that the kingship is what made him that way. At times I feel that way about my own son and pine for days gone by, when he came running, calling me “daddy” with arms open wide. And that expression of grief is one that hit me hard this time, and it is one that I don’t want God expressing about me. I want to do much more to repent of my pride, and don’t want God’s numerous blessings to become a curse, and worse still, cause for God to grieve over me.

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