August 8th, 2011 by Kristi Stephens
The day came when Israel asked for a king. It opened a new chapter in Israel’s history full of ups and downs, obedience and apostasy.
Of course, the first two kings of Israel are two of the best known: Saul and David.
Saul was physically impressive and appealed to the people’s desire for a king who looked the part. They wanted someone who looked good in a crown. So, God gave them a man who looked good from the exterior.
“They ran and brought him out, and as he stood among the people he was a head taller than any of the others. Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see the man the LORD has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people.” Then the people shouted, “Long live the king!”” - 1 Samuel 10:23-24
Unfortunately, Saul’s heart was not as impressive as his stature. Early on in his reign, Saul was commanded to carry out God’s judgment against the Amalekites, completely wiping them and their animals out. Saul chose to disobey, sparing the Amalekite king and the best of the cattle and sheep to sacrifice to God. He refused to see that sacrificing something as an act of worship that one only has because of disobedience is not pleasing to the Lord at all. Unfortunately, his next actions made the situation even more glaringly sinful.
“Early in the morning Samuel got up and went to meet Saul, but he was told, “Saul has gone to Carmel. There he has set up a monument in his own honor and has turned and gone on down to Gilgal.”” – 1 Samuel 15:12
Saul blatantly disobeys, then displays his sense of entitlement by setting up a monument in his own honor, feeling downright self-righteous about what he has done. When Samuel goes down to confront him, Saul’s response is stunning to me.
Samuel said, “Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king over Israel. …Why did you not obey the LORD? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the LORD?”
“But I did obey the LORD,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the LORD assigned me…” – 1 Samuel 15:17-20
“But I did obey…” Amazing. God’s response to Saul is swift and non-negotiable – he was rejected as king, and David is anointed. It would be years before David would sit on the throne of Israel, and Saul spends much of his time and energy hunting David like an animal, jealous of God’s hand on his life and clinging desperately to the throne – seeing it as his throne.
Years later, David has his own sin issues. Serious sin issues. From our perspective, David’s sins of adultery and murder seem far more serious than Saul keeping back some animals in order to sacrifice them later. Why does God reject Saul but call David a “man after His own heart”? (1 Samuel 13:14) When David is confronted with his deep sin, his response is nothing like Saul’s arrogant justification of his actions. One simple verse contains David’s humble response: “I have sinned against the LORD.” – 2 Samuel 12:13
Saul settled himself firmly on the throne, claiming it as his own. He disregards God’s clear instructions, and when confronted justifies himself and refuses to agree with God about the seriousness of his actions. David sits lightly on the throne – as you read through the accounts of his reign, his responses are often puzzling and surprising to people because he never seems to feel entitled to anything by his position. While he reigns as a human king, chosen and anointed by the Lord, he never forgets: he is not really the king. God is King. God is the only one entitled to rule and reign. And when David is confronted with the truth of what he had done, his response is immediate repentance and confession.
When I think of all the roles in my life – wife, mother, ministry leader, teacher, etc – am I sitting lightly? Do I feel entitled to these positions, entitled to honor and recognition? Entitled to do what I want to do and say what I want to say? Do I justify and defend my actions, self-righteously refusing to see when I have sinned against God?
I fear that we often are much more like Saul in our mentality than we are like David. How much division in our churches is caused by a feeling of ownership, entitlement, self-righteous importance in our ministries? How often do we feel that others owe us respect and honor that really belongs to God? How often are we confronted with our sin and we respond defensively, or with denial, or in anger? How often do we spend our time jealously eying those we see as a threat rather than acknowledging that whatever influence, leadership, position, authority that has been entrusted to us belongs solely to God Himself?
Sit lightly, my friends. We are the limited and flawed servants – only our God is holy and wholly worthy.
We’re continuing our One Summer, One Story series – a fast-paced overview of the “big story” of the Bible! Missed anything? Find all the past posts here. Just a reminder, also, that we have two different “blog ministry projects” going on right now – please consider joining us for Got Milk? and the SOS Project – because although the problems are overwhelming, our God really IS BIGGER!