You would expect a national hero, someone who courageously risks his life and single-handedly saves his people from slaughter and slavery, to be rewarded. The promise was there. The conditions fulfilled, but things didn’t pan out in a predictable, glorious fashion. Things didn’t go they way they ought.
As we continue our study of First Samuel and the lives of Saul and David, we gather much encouragement about our God and His sense of justice. We all face situations that fall far short of our expectations. Perhaps we’ve felt cheated or even hated. Maybe we’ve been betrayed by a close friend or family member. How do we deal with that? How do we live righteously when we feel surrounded and pursued by our enemies? Or sacrificed by those who are supposed to love and protect us?
This is where our Big Word discussion went last night.
We’re in First Samuel 18–20. One might think Goliath presented the biggest challenge in David’s life. It turns out Goliath was just the prelude. Upon his return to Israel, David faced many life changes: new friendships (Jonathan), a promotion in the military (even though he wasn’t old enough to enlist), marriage (to a princess) — oh! And multiple assassination attempts on his life at the hands of his boss, king, and new father-in-law. David was soon forced to flee and live in exile.
But, wait — I thought Saul loved David! He did … until all the women of the region sang about their victories crediting David with ten times Saul’s success. No man likes to be out-done or out-praised, especially an insecure king. Saul was jealous of David. He wanted the praise for himself, but he also afraid. He recognized that God was with David. This only confirmed Samuel’s prophecy that God’s spirit would leave Saul and that his kingdom would be given to his neighbor. Saul felt threatened, rightly so. And maybe part of his change of heart was at the influence of the evil spirit pertually plaguing him.
Check out these verses for some insight into the dangers of envy:
- Job 5:2
- Proverbs 14:29-30
- 1 Peter 2:1–3
Is there a difference between jealousy and envy? God often refers to Himself as a jealous god, but if jealousy is wrong, it cannot describe our righteous Creator. While we frequently consider them synonymous, there is a difference between jealousy and envy. Both can want what others have, but jealousy includes a sense of guarding or protecting what is rightfully due. Envy simply desires what others have. It’s a fine line, but when you consider them in the framework of worship due to God or faithfulness in a marriage, it makes sense. God is jealous of our affections; He doesn’t want us worshipping idols because all worship is due to Him. A husband should be jealous of the attention his wife gives another man, because her affections should be reserved for her husband. Both demand exclusive, passionate loyalty.
Growing Through Adversity
Why would God send an evil spirit upon Saul? Doesn’t that contradict His nature? It seems to, but when we remember that a loving father disciplines his sons, we can see this differently. Perhaps the pain was intended for good. The ladies in our in-home group saw a parallel between this passage and the account of Nebuchanezar in the book of Daniel. God sent an evil spirit then, too. There are two reasons (that we thought of) why God may have done this.
- God wanted to draw Saul unto Himself. Discipline is intended to bring the subject back to right.
- God wanted to highlight the contrast between righteous and unrighteous. The spirit ampliphied the wickedness already in Saul’s heart. This made it easy to see the righteousness God demands evidenced in David’s character.
Think of a time when God used something painful to turn you back to Him. Did it work?
Trials can be effective … if we are willing to receive correction. Arrogance can turn to bitterness. Bitterness is a vile inhibitor of growth and truth. When we have faith that consistently affirms God’s goodness, He can use anything to draw us closer to Him, even the worst of circumstances.
King Jehoshaphat offers an excellent example of this in 2 Chronicles 20. He cries out to God, admitting that he and his people don’t know what to do. They feel oppressed and powerless, yet they resolve to keep their eyes on God. Check out these verses, quoted from the NET version:
“Jehoshaphat stood before the assembly of Judah and Jerusalemat the Lord’s temple, in front of the new courtyard. He prayed: ‘O Lord God of our ancestors,you are the God who lives in heaven and rules over all the kingdoms of the nations. You possess strength and power; no one can stand against you.'” (vv. 5-6)
“We are powerless against this huge army that attacks us! We don’t know what we should do; we look to you for help.” (v. 12b)
“Then in the midst of the assembly, the Lord’s Spirit came upon Jachaziel … He said: “Pay attention, all you people of Judah,residents of Jerusalem, and King Jehoshaphat! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Don’t be afraid and don’t panic because of this huge army! For the battle is not yours, but God’s …You will not fight in this battle. Take your positions, stand, and watch the Lord deliver you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Don’t be afraid and don’t panic! Tomorrow march out toward them; the Lord is with you!’” (vv. 14-15, 17)
“Believe in the LORD your God, and you will be established! Believe His prophets, and you will succeed.” (v. 20)
How encouraging is that? No matter the challenges we face, if we keep our eyes on God, He will fight our battles for us and we will have victory. All praise is due to Him!
Victory may not come in the exact forms or timing we expect. While we wait for God to fight our battles, we can learn and become prepared for what lies ahead.
A lot happened to David. It was unpleasant and long-suffering, but God used this time and the given circumstances to prepare David for a successful kingship. Here’s how:
- David learned whom to trust.
- It cemented his relationship and commitment to God.
- It forced him to rely entirely upon God. Total dependence brings humility, strength, discipline and patience. See Psalm 46:10.
Your Turn: What have you learned through painful circumstances in your past? What is God using in your life now to purify your character for Him?
The homework for our next section is now available for free download. You’ll notice it’s a little different. We’ll be comvering a larger portion of Scripture — seven chapters! — so I’ve combined a couple “days” and decreased the questions to balance the increased reading. Let me know if you have any questions. If you’ve missed any of our discussions or past homework packets, visit the Big Word tab for all the links.