I have a confession….I became a little obsessed with Saul. You know, Saul, the first King of Israel. Typically when people read or preach from 1 Samuel, the focus is on David. Don’t get me wrong, David’s story is fascinating. His faith and trust in God is to be modeled. But with reading the story I became just a tad bit fixated on Saul. Strange, I know. Saul was tall, handsome, strong, rich, and powerful, but he is definitely not one we should emulate. He was not a great king. I think it’s fair to say that he wasn’t even a great friend, leader, or father.
When it came time to bring Saul before the people as their king, he was hiding….with the baggage. Really, Saul? He didn’t want the responsibility of being a king. Ok, I’ll give him a pass on that. All of a sudden you’re thrown into a position you don’t think you are qualified for, you may very well hide with the baggage too.
As the story went on, it showed how manipulative, self-centered, paranoid, and obsessive he was. He lied to cover up his own disobedience. He made excuses for his behavior or lack thereof. He took credit for his son Jonathan’s accomplishments. He was more worried about his own reputation than the well being of the people he was accountable to and the army that served him. He had an entire town of priests killed, along with the women, children and cattle. He used God as his get-out-of-jail free card, instead of revering Him as Lord. And if we didn’t know that much about Saul we very well know about his obsession with killing his most loyal servant, David. He was extremely jealous and paranoid over David’s success and that God was with him.
Despite all of his shortcomings, Saul was still successful as king. But even with his success, his story ends sadly – he killed himself so that he wouldn’t be captured by the Philistines and his image be tarnished. Self-righteous to the end!
Throughout Saul’s story, he demonstrated over and over again his lack of faith and trust in God. He always took matters into his own hands, doing what was right in his own eyes. As I continue to read on, I got stuck on 1 Samuel 16:14 (NIV):
Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him.
Wait, what? An evil spirit from the Lord? Hold that thought, we are going to come back to that…..
Ok, so it says that “the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul”, which means that God had taken his gifts of courage, strength and clear mind from Saul. Got it. If the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul that means at one point the Spirit of the Lord was upon him. Saul was God’s anointed king; God’s chosen vessel to work through. God chose Saul to do His work. When the Spirit of the Lord left Saul, it was gone for good. His anointing went to David. Scripture describes Saul as being troubled. He was completely obsessed with David and his obsession consumed him. Because of his torment, Saul started showing signs of distress, anxiety, and agitation. He demonstrated over and over again that he was going to do things his way. God needed someone that was going to do it His way.
But when I read that an “evil spirit from the Lord tormented him”, it stopped me in my tracks. Those words weren’t just in 1 Samuel 16:14, but in 1 Samuel 18:10 and 1 Samuel 19:9. This evil spirit from the Lord kept coming on and going off of Saul. It tormented him, causing him to experience mental suffering. Some like to say that Saul was depressed, linking his condition to a mental illness. Saul’s condition could not be cured with medicine, depression can be. Saul’s condition was a spiritual matter and could only be cured by the Spirit of God. It was more than depression.
We tend to forget that God is ruler over everything. All things come from God – good and evil. I like to focus on the good things that come from God. But as Job told his wife, “Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” (Job 2:10, NLT). I must admit, I struggle with this from time to time, but I trust God. He has His many reasons for allowing and using evil. I hold in my heart Romans 8:28 (KJV)
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
This helps me to accept the good and the bad – it gives me hope as I am part of the “them”!
Saul had chosen not to follow God. He had the same free-will that we have. God doesn’t force Himself on us. So we must make a decision to follow Him every day. God leaves that choice up to us. If we decide to do our own thing, God allows us to do it, but He never leaves us without a way out or a way back to Him.
Our saving grace is Jesus Christ, Saul’s saving grace was David. God doesn’t leave us defenseless against evil, He always provides a way. Saul’s healing came through David, but Saul could not see this. He had given in to his own thoughts, feelings, and way. He was blinded by evil.
Whenever Saul became troubled David would play the lyre (musical instrument) for him. This would soothe Saul and give him some peace – a clear mind and an opportunity to recognize His mistakes and turn back to God. Scripture says the playing refreshed him. Unfortunately, Saul never associated his suffering with his relationship with God. Do we? He blamed David for his problems. Who do you blame?
Some of the things we suffer are warning signs telling us that we are off track in our relationship with God. You can’t be disobedient and not expect to be disciplined. Sometimes our sufferings are signs to remind us that we are not exempt from evil just because we are believers in Christ. Nope, sorry. Our Savior suffered, so shall we. And sometimes we suffer for the good of others.
Whatever the reason (there are more than what I just stated) God doesn’t leave us defenseless. Thank you, Lord! We have many weapons to choose from – prayer, devotion, study, fasting, fellowship, worship, and faith, just to name a few. Some weapons are for fighting and some for sustaining. Nevertheless, God provides a way. Trust Him!
Are you aligned with God?