Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10) We begin where we ended last time with the prayer of Solomon’s father, David. The word create means to bring into existence something that was not previously there. There’s more here than David...
And the women sang to one another as they celebrated, “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” (1 Sam. 18:7)
We continue today with the story of Saul and David; two kings whose lives moved in very different directions. Saul chose the path of rebellion against God. You never find repentance in Saul. That shows that though he was a religious man, he was not regenerate.
Saul admits that he has sinned when he gets found out (1 Sam. 15:24), and we certainly find him filled with regret. But Saul never comes to repentance. All he has is self-pity.
Saul is a tragic figure in the Bible. He is a warning to us all. This is NOT the way! Do NOT walk in it! The way of the sinner is hard. The path of rebellion against God is filled with pain, especially for the person who has some knowledge of God but has pushed him away as Saul did.
Then we are learning about David—the Lord’s anointed. God chose David. Although Saul was still on the throne, David had been anointed by God as the future king.
The anointing had been done in secret. Samuel came to Bethlehem and poured oil over David’s head. People who were there would have known that God had called David to something special, but nobody knew for sure what it was. That would have given them something to talk about in the Starbucks at Bethlehem!
Last week we saw how David the shepherd from Bethlehem was brought into to Royal court. David played the harp (lyre). In the hours that he practiced, David could not have imagined the doors God would open through the skill he developed in music. You never know what God will use to open doors into the future he has planned for you.
David, the shepherd, whose father didn’t think he was worth introducing to Samuel, comes to the royal court. Then something happened that brought David to everyone’s attention.
In 1 Samuel 17, we have the marvelous story of David and Goliath. God’s hand was on David, and with a stone and a sling, David felled this giant who had oppressed and mocked the people of God.
We take up the story today in 1 Samuel 18, where we learn from the path chosen by three characters: Saul, David, and then Saul’s son Jonathan.
Saul: The Broad Road that Leads to Destruction
We looked last week at the harmful spirit that tormented Saul. When Saul chose rebellion against God, he found himself in the company of spirits who shared his rebellion. God gave Saul up to what he had chosen and to what he continued to choose.
I want you to notice that the harmful spirit occurs here in 18:10, and again in 19:9. After that we never hear of the harmful spirit again.
A Dutch writer by the name of De Graaf, makes this fascinating comment:
During this period, Saul was possessed by the evil spirit only occasionally. Later we do not read about the evil spirit any more. The reason is that Saul’s situation had become worse – not better. By that time he had consciously surrendered to the evil spirit of hate. Therefore it was no longer necessary for the evil spirit to attack him violently from time to time. 
There is a process by which sin gains control of a person’s life. Saul kept opening the door to sin in his life. He allowed sin to gain a chokehold, a stranglehold in his life. I want you to see how this happened. We need to know how sin gains power in a person’s life so that we will have our defenses ready against it.
a. An impulse of the heart
And the women sang to one another as they celebrated, “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” (1 Sam. 18:7)
It has to be said that this rather gory song was not particularly helpful. How much better it would have been if these women had given glory to God rather than to David for the great victory over Goliath?
It’s helpful to compare this with another song that followed an even greater triumph in the miracle of crossing the Red Sea. Miriam took the tambourine, and led all the woman in singing, but their song was not about the greatness of Moses. And Miriam sang to them:
“Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
the horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.” (Ex. 15:21)
Miriam and the women in Exodus 15 gave praise to God, but here in 1 Samuel 18, the women give praise to David. We are reminded here of the great danger of making too much of personalities. “Saul has struck down his thousands, David his ten thousands.” Where is God in that?
The women should have said, “Look at what God did” and given glory to him, but instead they said, “Look at what David did.” He is better than Saul! And that caused all kinds of trouble.
It’s in our casual conversation that we betray what we really think. These folks really think it is David who did it: “We’re going to be winners because we have Saul and we have David.” They completely forget it was God who gave the victory and that without God, David can do nothing.
When Christians get focused on the people God uses, it’s a sure sign that they’ve taken their eyes off the Lord. That’s what happened in the church at Corinth. Some liked Paul, some liked Apollos, some liked Peter, and they made a great deal about them. Paul says, “What are we? We are only servants! Paul planted, Apollos watered, but God makes things grow.”
The faithless song of these women, became a snare to Saul: “Saul was very angry and this saying displeased him” (1 Sam. 18:8). I don’t suppose that the women who were singing David’s praises intended to be a snare to Saul, but they were.
They’re song provoked a jealous impulse in Saul’s heart, and instead of recognizing it for the sin that it was and confessing it before the Lord, Saul took this into his heart and allowed it to stay there.
b. A habit of the mind
And Saul eyed David from that day on. (1 Sam. 18:9)
He kept watching David: “What is David doing now? What are people saying about him?” As long as his eyes are on David, his eyes are away from the Lord.
What we have here is an example of professional jealousy. Kings went to war, and they led their armies in battle. That was their job. It was part of their calling. Leading the armies of Israel was what Saul had been good at. He had struck down his thousands, and he was known for it.
But now David comes along, and David is even better. The talent of David outshines the achievement of Saul. Whatever you are good at, there will be others who are better in your field of expertise, and their talent will be your temptation.
If you are gifted in sports, the person who might take your place on the team will be the source of your temptation. If you’re a stay-at-home mom, the person who is better organized or sought out by others as the model mom will be your temptation. Why does everyone make such a big deal about her?
You can multiply examples of this in business, in music, in promotions, in academic achievement, in awards, in publishing, and in ministry. When someone else is praised in an area where God has given you a talent, you will be tempted. Why him? Why her and not me?
The enemy of your soul will always be drawing your attention to the person who has greater gifts, greater blessing, greater opportunity, or greater recognition than you do.
c. A pattern of behavior
Saul hurled the spear, for he thought, “I will pin David to the wall.” But David evaded him twice. (1 Sam. 18:11)
Notice the pattern here: A temptation has come into Saul’s heart through a tactless and faithless song. Instead of recognizing that the response of his heart was sin, Saul embraces the envy and sets his eyes on David. Sin builds its power over time.
The hurt feelings harden into jealousy, the jealousy hardens into hatred, and then Saul finds himself doing something he would never have imagined—he throws a spear at the person he once professed to love! (1 Sam. 16:21).
Not only once, the Scripture tells us this happened twice, so there is a pattern of behavior here. As we follow the story through the rest of 1 Samuel, Saul goes from bad to worse. He loses good judgment, and he loses self-control. The sin that he welcomed into his heart takes control of him, and he no longer has the power or the desire to do anything about it.
d. A cycle of frustration
Saul was David’s enemy continually. (1 Sam. 18:29)
The story would be almost comical, if it wasn’t so sad. Because from this point on in the story, Saul is always coming up with new ways to get rid of David, and nothing he does ever works.
- He throws the spear, but David evades him twice (18:11).
- He gives his daughter Michal to David as a wife because he thinks she will be a snare to David, but Michal loves David (18:21), and in chapter 19 becomes his deliverer.
- Saul thinks he can make David fall by the hand of the Philistines (18:25). It’s the law of averages. If I keep sending David out to war, one of the Philistines is going to get him eventually. But God is with David, and he returns victorious in even greater glory.
- So Saul tries to conspire with his son Jonathan, the crown prince, who more than anyone else has a vested interest in getting rid of David (19:1). But Jonathan loves David and tells him about all Saul’s murderous plans
Saul is always fighting David, and nothing he does ever works! Here’s why: “Saul was afraid of David because the Lord was with him but had departed from Saul” (1 Sam. 18:12).
Here is the root problem: The Lord was with David, but he had departed from Saul. Saul was fighting against God, and he lived in cycles of frustration because nobody who fights against God ever wins.
The best time to deal with sin is early. Ask God to search your heart for sins of professional jealousy. Identify the person your eye has been on (when it should have been on the Lord), and come to God in confession and repentance about that today.
Ask him to forgive you and ask him to deliver you from the power of this sin in your life. Ask him to give you a heart of thanksgiving for the many blessings that he has poured into your life.
If sin has gained a stronghold in your life, and you are living in a cycle of frustration, the best thing you could do today is to recognize that the real problem in your life is not your compulsive behavior, but your continued rebellion against God. This is the fight that needs to end.
Saul thinks he is fighting David, but David is the Lord’s anointed, and the real issue is that Saul is fighting God. Does that describe you?
David: The Strange Enigma of Walking with God
The blessing of God on David could hardly be clearer in this story. Three times we are told that the Lord was with David:
- Saul was afraid of David because the Lord was with him (18:12)
- David had success in all his undertakings, for the Lord was with him (18:14)
- Saul saw and knew that the Lord was with David (18:28)
Four times we read about David’s success:
- David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him (18:5)
- David had success in all his undertakings (18:14)
- Saul saw that he (David) had great success (18:15)
- David had more success that all the servants of Saul so that his name was highly esteemed (18:30)
God’s hand was on David. Blessing follows him wherever he goes. By God’s grace he is plucked from obscurity and anointed king. By God’s kindness he is brought from night watchman for sheep into the royal court as chief musician to the king. By God’s wisdom and strength, he overcomes Goliath, the great enemy whose armies threaten God’s people.
David becomes the great hero of God’s people. God is with him and gives him great success. Wouldn’t you just love to be David?
And yet here is the strange enigma of walking with God. David served with complete loyalty in the royal courts, but instead of being loved and trusted, he is eyed with jealousy.
Traps and snares are set around him by people who want to bring him down. Does this sound familiar to you? Can you see that this was also the experience of Christ, who honored the Father in all that he did?
God placed David in a school of spiritual formation. It wasn’t a classroom experience! I had lunch with someone from a Christian ministry this week and he said to me, “We only hire people who walk with a limp.” David’s godly character was formed in the school of hard knocks.
It was through enduring the jealousy, the relentless suspicion, and even the open attacks, that God made David into the man he would use in such a remarkable way. God gives special trials to people with high callings, to prepare them for their task. Even our Lord learned obedience through what he suffered.
Here is the strange enigma of walking with God: God was with David. He was with him when the spear was thrown. He was with him when the woman he thought he would marry was given to somebody else. He was with him when he was being eyed with suspicion and envy. He was with him when he had no other option but to escape from the royal court and run to the hills.
Do not be surprised, by the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you…If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. (1 Peter 4:12, 15)
This was true of David, true of Jesus, and it will be true for you too. Here’s the great enigma of walking with God: There will be painful trials, but even in them you’ll be blessed because the Spirit of God rests on you.
Jonathan: The Narrow Path that Leads to Life
Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. (1 Sam. 18:3)
Jonathan was Saul’s son. He was the boy who was born to be king. Jonathan was raised in the royal court and mentored there for the day he would wear the crown. Jonathan could say, “I was born to be king.”
But David was the Lord’s anointed. Somehow after the triumph over Goliath, Jonathan knew that this was true: “Jonathan, you are not the one. God has chosen David to be king.”
Both Saul and Jonathan knew this, and they reacted in completely different ways. David is the Lord’s anointed, and Saul said, “I will fight him.” David is the Lord’s anointed, and Jonathan said, “I will love him.” Saul says, “David must go,” and he reaches for his spear. Jonathan says, “David must reign” and he pledges his loyal allegiance.
That’s the significance of the verses with which we end today: “Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.”
Dale Ralph Davis says,
The clothes signify the person and his position – hence Jonathan renounces his position as crown prince and transfers, so far as his own will goes, the right of succession to David. 
Ancient kings wiped out their rivals to secure their positions. Jonathan takes off his royal robe and gives it to David: “You are the one David; not me.” Then Jonathan lays down his weapons and gives them to David: “David, you will have no trouble from me. Here and now I give you my sword. I pledge my allegiance to you.”
What an act of faith that was. Faith surrenders the rights we might claim over our own lives to the One who is truly the King. Jonathan makes me think of John the Baptist, who points to Jesus and says, “Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” Then he says of Jesus, “He must increase, I must decrease.”
David points us to the Lord Jesus Christ who is God’s anointed. The Scripture says, “He must reign until every enemy is under his feet.”
With respect to Christ, the Son of David, every person is either like Jonathan or like Saul. Some are like Saul. In their hearts they say of God’s anointed, “I will fight him. Give me my spear, I will protect the throne of my life.” Christ, who came to serve, receives no thanks from them, only suspicion, resistance, and relentless antagonism.
Others are like Jonathan. In their hearts they say, “I will love him. He is the great conqueror of the enemy I could never overcome, and the best thing I can do is to surrender my claims and my weapons into his hands. I will serve him. I will love him. I will follow him.”
Saul walked the broad road to destruction. Jonathan walked the narrow path to life. Every person you will ever meet is on one path or the other.
Which are you on?
 S. G. De Graaf, “Promise and Deliverance,” vol. 2, (Grand Rapids: Paideia press), p. 108, 2012
 Dale Ralph Davis, “1 Samuel: Looking on the Heart,” (Fearn: Christian Focus), p. 156, 2001
© Colin S. Smith
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