This is the first time I have read 1 Samuel and felt sympathy for Saul. Previously I’ve been a tad self-righteous thinking “he should have tried harder, known better.” Maybe I’m more mature now, maybe I see that none of us can know better, try harder and succeed without God’s help.
Saul had blown it, hugely almost right from the start. When the people were calling for a king and he was revealed as God’s anointed where was he? Hiding among the baggage. In fact, he kept the fact that he had been anointed king secret even from his uncle despite many signs he had received that it was true. You can read the catalogue of errors that led to God rejecting him as king in 1 Samuel. Yes, God rejected him as king – God didn’t reject him as a child of Israel but Saul seems to have been so caught up in being king that it was all he focussed on. That’s understandable, I don’t know if you have ever been ‘demoted’ in some way but it stings. It stings so much that we can try to hang onto what is no longer ours and be like men trying to carry water in our hand: no matter how tight we hold on it trickles through our fingers and is gone.
I think God had something else in store for Saul, maybe it was just a quiet life herding the donkeys, looking after his family, being normal. That would be a huge change from being king, but it was what he was born to, raised to do after all. Instead, he spent his time plotting ways to kill David – who would have been content to be a shepherd if that was what God wanted I think. 1 Samuel 18 is full of Saul plotting against David who just kept being faithful to Saul. Towards the end of the chapter, Saul asks for the foreskins of 100 Philistines as a bride price for Michal his daughter who was in love with David.
27 David went with his men, killed 200 Philistines, and presented their foreskins to the king so that he could become the king’s son-in-law. So Saul gave David his daughter Michal in marriage; 28 but when the king saw how David enjoyed the favor of the Eternal One, and that his daughter Michal loved him, 29 he felt even more threatened by David. After his plan failed, Saul considered David his constant enemy.
30 Whenever the commanders of the Philistine army came out to fight, David distinguished himself against them more than any of Saul’s other servants, so that everyone valued him.
Verse 29 is the height of irrationality. David was doing everything Saul asked to the point of risking his life yet all it did was make Saul more paranoid about David’s intent. Everyone else (Verse 30) can see the value in David except the one mortal person David was actually out to serve – Saul.
God changes things, He moves us around altering things as He sees fit because He sees the end from the beginning. Sometimes, because we are flawed, proud, self-important beings, that leaves us feeling slighted, neglected, dismissed. I am going to highlight that word ‘feeling’ – our feelings are not our friends. If Saul had done less feeling throughout all his reign he might well have made fewer mistakes. He spared Agag because he didn’t want to feel the people were angry with him because it felt right to him to keep the valuable things as an offering.
We don’t live by feelings but by what we hear from God either in His Word or directly or through godly advice. Trying to hold on to what God has not given us, or has removed from us is like trying to grasp water or cage the wind – it will slip through our fingers leaving us angry, disappointed, dissatisfied. Instead, we have to be like David and serve when it hurts. Maybe God will ‘raise us back up’ – maybe He won’t – whatever He does do will be for our good, and for the good of those around us.