SAUL: The Enemy

Saul and David in the cave

The Enemy

Selected chapters of 1 Samuel

It has been said,

Best things perish of their own excess, and quality overdriven becomes defect.

Lowell could have said that about King Saul.  Here was a man picked by both God and the people out of obscurity to be Israel’s first king.  According to the inspired record, Saul was an “impressive young man, without equal among the Israelites” (1 Samuel 9:2).  What turned a man like that into manic, dishonoring caricature of himself?  Here was a man who began his career in the Spirit of God yet ended in the flesh.  Jesus said—

The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.  (John 6:63a)

Paul wrote to the Corinthians—

I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.  (1 Corinthians 15:50)

Jean Ingelow wrote:

Fool that I was!  I will rehearse my fault:
I, wingless, thought myself on high to lift
Among the winged!  I set these feet that halt
To run against the swift!

Because Saul tried to do his work in the flesh, he was ill prepared, under equipped, and completely out of his depth.  Saul, like every single backslider of every generation, ended up the way he did because he turned away from the revealed Word of God.  Saul, out of step with God’s will, out of the faith, was well on his way to a ruined life.  Saul, once God’s chosen man would become the avowed enemy of the man after God’s own heart, David.   Verse 29 says—

Saul became still more afraid of him [David], and he remained his enemy the rest of his days.

When Saul became David’s enemy, he became—

1.  A man against his own family, 18:20, 21

Now Saul’s daughter Michal was in love with David, and when they told Saul about it, he was pleased.  “I will give her to him,” he thought, “so that she may be a snare to him and so that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” So Saul said to David, “Now you have a second opportunity to become my son-in-law.”

Saul sank to a low, even for him, seldom reached by others.  Michal, his daughter, loved David, so Saul schemed and manipulated circumstances to get them together.  Why?  Not because he cared for either of them, but to make his daughter a widow.   In asking David to kill all those Philistines, Saul was counting on David, his nemesis, being killed.  Ironically, Saul claimed that he wanted to kill the Philistines to take revenge on his enemies. That was probably a true statement; David had most certainly become Saul’s enemy by now.

But there was something else pushing Saul; there was something else percolating under the surface that was driving Saul to do what he was doing.  Consider this—

Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.  (verse 1b)

But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he led them in their campaigns.  (verse 16)

Saul’s daughter Michal was in love with David.  (verse 20a)

Saul realized that the LORD was with David.  (verse 28)

Saul, because the Lord had withdrawn His favor from him, had marginalized himself.  Saul was in the process of losing his throne, but he had already lost the loyalty of his nation, of his family, and he lost the presence of the Lord.  Such is the case of all backsliders.  They, in choosing their way over God’s way, cut themselves off from everybody.

2.  A man against the Holy Spirit, 19:19—24

Word came to Saul: “David is in Naioth at Ramah”; so he sent men to capture him. But when they saw a group of prophets prophesying, with Samuel standing there as their leader, the Spirit of God came upon Saul’s men and they also prophesied.  Saul was told about it, and he sent more men, and they prophesied too. Saul sent men a third time, and they also prophesied.  Finally, he himself left for Ramah and went to the great cistern at Secu. And he asked, “Where are Samuel and David?”

“Over in Naioth at Ramah,” they said.

So Saul went to Naioth at Ramah. But the Spirit of God came even upon him, and he walked along prophesying until he came to Naioth.  He stripped off his robes and also prophesied in Samuel’s presence. He lay that way all that day and night. This is why people say, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”

I’m sure the Holy Spirit did not intend this scene at Naioth to be comical, but as we read it, we cannot help but smile;  all these hardened warriors suddenly prophesying all at once.  Saul, the crazy king, arriving to investigate, suddenly began to prophesy, stripping off his clothes of as he did so.  What was that all about?  What really happened that day at Naioth?  There are, in fact, two schools of thought.

  • It should be noted that the Hebrew word translated “to prophesy” is naba, and was used to describe the incoherent ravings of false prophets as well as the inspired utterances of God’s genuine prophets (Pukiser).   How it is translated is determined by the immediate context.  So it is thought by some that what happened here was not a genuine move of God at all.  Saul and his soldiers may have been imitating the prophets in an attempt to gain public confidence.
  • Ronald Youngblood in his commentary skirts the issue of the genuineness of what happened and chooses, rather, to dwell on what Saul did.  He literally arrived on the scene and “stripped naked” as he prophesied.  As he removed his regal robes, he was demonstrating in graphic fashion unfitness to be Israel’s king.  This forced the people to ask the question, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”   Now, this was a kind of proverb by now, and it demanded a negative answer:  No, Saul is not among the prophets.

Saul was not afraid to use his family for his own ends, nor was he afraid to use the Holy Spirit.  Neither legitimate king nor genuine prophet, Saul is racing toward the end he himself is creating.  A person cannot mock God, and Saul has done that, and a person cannot grieve the Holy Spirit, and now he has done that.  The prophet Hosea wrote—

“They sow the wind
and reap the whirlwind.
The stalk has no head;
it will produce no flour.
Were it to yield grain,
foreigners would swallow it up.”  (Hosea 8:7)

Saul is about to find that without God he is nothing.

3.  A man against God’s people, 22:17—18

Then the king ordered the guards at his side: “Turn and kill the priests of the LORD, because they too have sided with David. They knew he was fleeing, yet they did not tell me.”
But the king’s officials were not willing to raise a hand to strike the priests of the LORD.

The king then ordered Doeg, “You turn and strike down the priests.” So Doeg the Edomite turned and struck them down. That day he killed eighty-five men who wore the linen ephod.

Saul the backslider, the man who used his own family and the Holy Spirit to get his way, was now so desperate, that he murdered in cold blood God’s priests.  In a misguided effort to “punish” those who preferred God’s man, David, Saul turned into a man on a rampage.  Those who favored David had become Saul’s enemy.  That is the way it is to this day.  The relationship we have with Jesus Christ determines our attitude to others.  We will love others because He does.  But also, our relationship to Jesus Christ will determine how others treat us, as demonstrated by the priests, who were the first to suffer martyrdom for the cause of David, God’s man.  Zechariah 2:8—

For this is what the LORD Almighty says: “After he has honored me and has sent me against the nations that have plundered you—for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye.

Saul was about to bring unimaginable misery upon himself because he was messing with God’s chosen man, David, and because he murdered the servants of God.

4.  A man against his country, 23:27—28

[A] messenger came to Saul, saying, “Come quickly! The Philistines are raiding the land.”  Then Saul broke off his pursuit of David and went to meet the Philistines. That is why they call this place Sela Hammahlekoth.

While Saul was busy chasing David, his real enemy, the enemy of Israel, marched against the country.  In other words, while he was resisting the clearly revealed will of God, the enemy came in like a flood.  There is a dual lesson and application here.  First, for individual believers, we may be so busy pursuing our own wills and ignoring God’s will that we, like Saul, fail to notice the enemy of our souls gaining a foothold.  He will come between us God, robbing us of His blessings, favor, and grace.  It is a terrible thing to walk out from under the protective covering of God for we open ourselves up to all kinds of evil we would otherwise be sheltered from.  Secondly, for a nation that actively opposes God’s will robs that nation of God’s blessing and God’s favor.  When a nation’s leaders go against God’s will and God’s people, those leaders will fail because they will prove themselves to be a hindrance to that nation’s highest good.  People are quick to forget what causes a nation to prosper and they are slow to acknowledge God’s unseen hand of blessing.  But God will not be mocked, not by a man and not by a nation.   Neither can survive when they set aside God’s anointed, because God’s anointed is the only channel of blessing.

For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.  (1 Timothy 2:5)

5.  A man against his own conscience, 24:16—17; 26:21

When David finished saying this, Saul asked, “Is that your voice, David my son?” And he wept aloud.  “You are more righteous than I,” he said. “You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly.

Then Saul said, “I have sinned. Come back, David my son. Because you considered my life precious today, I will not try to harm you again. Surely I have acted like a fool and have erred greatly.”

Saul knew he was wrong, yet he continually “played the fool” because the Holy Spirit was not constraining him.  A person always plays the fool when the go against the will of God.  It is the presence of God in one’s life that elevates that person to greater heights.

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.  (Philippians 4:13)

When we choose our own way, we not only fight against God, we fight against our own base nature.  We lose that battle every time.

[B]ut the one who sins against me harms himself.  (Proverbs 8:36, Holman Christian Standard Bible)

6.  A man against the providence and purpose of God

When a person is living out of God’s will and contrary to what they know to be true, they open themselves up a world of hurt.  To such a person, the world is a cold and heartless place.  Things that just seemed to “go right” while they were serving the Lord suddenly “go all wrong.”  Phillip II of Spain remarked after the destruction of the Armada,

I was prepared to conquer England, but not the elements.

The elements in the hands of an overruling God have to reckoned with.  You see, when we are faithful to God, He is faithful to us; He protects us and watches out for us.  But when we leave Him, we leave all that providence behind, after all, how can God help those who won’t be helped?  Saul was David’s enemy and God’s favor rested on David.  When we are at enmity with the Son of David, we can no longer expect God’s favor to rest on us.

Near the end of his life, resisting God’s will and God’s man, Saul was like the desperate Boy Scout trying in vain to put up his tent in the middle of hurricane.  Only a mind blinded by the Devil and driven mad by a rebellious self-will would expect to succeed at anything contrary to the determinate will of Almighty God!   It was the fixed purpose of God exalt David to the throne of Israel; nothing and nobody could change that plan.  It is the fixed purpose of God exalt His Son, Jesus Christ, to the throne of universe, as the only sovereign King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:15); nothing and nobody can change that.

What kind of fool would try to live his own will when doing so would most certainly result failure?  The cards are stacked against a person like that; they cannot succeed.   Psalm 2:12 gives a great piece of advice—

Kiss the Son, lest he be angry
and you be destroyed in your way,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him

For your own good:  wise up!

(c)  2009 WitzEnd

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