July 11, 2015

That Green-Eyed Monster

1 Samuel 18:1–19:24, James 5:13–20, Psalm 120:1–7

Jealousy is powerful and can provoke even a king to do violent things. Saul was jealous of David. Right after the lad conquered Goliath, they were coming home and “the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments. And the women sang to one another as they celebrated, ‘Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands.’”

Saul was very angry and said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?” And Saul eyed David from that day on. (1 Samuel 18:6–9)

Watching David was one thing, but Saul had murder in mind. More than once, he hurled his spear intending to pin David to the wall and was in fear of him because God was with David and not with him. (1 Samuel 18:11-12)

Saul sent him away as a commander in his army, but David was successful at that too, putting Saul in greater fear and awe. It didn’t help that all Israel and Judah loved David. (1 Samuel 18:13–16)

Then Saul offered David his eldest daughter, but gave her to someone else. When another daughter said she loved David, Saul thought, “Let me give her to him, that she may be a snare for him and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” (1 Samuel 18:20–21) He set a bride-price that would again put David in danger against the Philistines, but the Lord was with David and that scheme didn’t work either.

So Saul gave David his daughter Michal for a wife, yet soon realized that the Lord was with David, and that his daughter loved David and was not the snare he’d hoped. At that, “Saul was even more afraid of David. So Saul was David’s enemy continually.” (1 Samuel 18:27–29)

Saul was on my mind as I read those verses and even after reading NT verses. “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19–20)

I could not help but wonder about Saul. Didn’t anyone love that king enough to correct him? I suppose people respected his title, and were not about to harm their king, but godly people are supposed to love sinners like God loves us. This includes correction as an expression of that love. I’ve often said that God accepts me just as I am, but He loves me too much to leave me in that condition. Did no one love Saul?

Actually, as the story goes on, Saul’s son Jonathan tried to correct him. He spoke well of David to his father and said, “Let not the king sin against his servant David, because he has not sinned against you, and because his deeds have brought good to you. For he took his life in his hand and he struck down the Philistine, and the Lord worked a great salvation for all Israel. You saw it, and rejoiced. Why then will you sin against innocent blood by killing David without cause?” (1 Samuel 19:4–5)

This worked, at least the first time he said it. Later, David would say similar words with mixed responses. Eventually, Saul would not listen to any correction.

As for today’s reading from the psalms, the author isn’t named, but Psalm 120 sounds like something David might write after his experiences with the on/off attitude of King Saul:

“In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue . . . . Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace. I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!” (Psalm 120:1-2, 6–7)

As for me, two things I desire of the Lord: One, that He guards my heart against jealousy — the sin of wanting what belongs to someone else instead of trusting Him to give me what I need. Secondly, my hope is always that the Lord gives those around me enough love and courage to challenge me when I’m behaving in sinful ways.

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