Repentance and Courage in the Lives of Saul and David

There is an unfortunate paragraph division in the NIV between 1 Samuel 16:13 and 14. The verses read,

So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed [David] in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came on David in power. Samuel then went to Ramah. Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul and a harmful spirit from the Lord tormented him.

In a previous post on The Holy Spirit’s Role in the Old Testament I mentioned the power of God’s Spirit to accomplish several things in the Old Testament one of which was its ability to ordain and empowering kings. The giving of and withdrawal of God’s Spirit was the rise and fall of the king. As seen in the verse above Samuel holds the fall of Saul and the rise of David in tension. Why had the Spirit of the Lord departed Saul? In 1 Samuel 15, we find out that Saul’s heart is not where it should be. God orders Saul to destroy the Amalekites. Instead Saul spares their leader and keeps “the best of the cattle, the fat calves, and lambs-everything that was good.” (15:9). When confronted by Samuel dozens of rationalization hoops spring up that Saul has to jump through to make what he did seem right in his eyes, “But I did obey the Lord. I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal…” (15:21).

Samuel makes it clear in 15:22-23 that Saul had disobeyed God and had rejected His word. As a result Saul had been rejected. Even after he realizes he had sinned (15:25) he is still more interested in the favor of men than the favor of God (15:30). As Reggie McNeal would say, Saul used the call of God to serve Saul rather than Saul serving God through the call. David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam 13:14). However, David was not without his faults and problems. The difference was when Saul was confronted about his sin he was more interested in what men thought than what God thought. When David was confronted about his sin he did everything he could to mend that relationship regardless of what men thought about him. A man after God’s own heart is a man who understand their dire need of repentance.

How often do we let the opinions of others set the priorities of ministry rather than what we can best ascertain is the will of God in a given situation? David was a man who let the word of God rule in his heart. That means the decisions were made for him because he was driven by God’s call on his life. Remember the story of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17? David went down in the valley to fight the giant because he knew it was the will of God. If he had listened to his brothers, to Saul, to the surrounding terrified troops fear would have gripped him and he would not have lived out the anointing he had received in the previous chapter. When he faced the giant he spoke with certainty saying, “This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands and I will strike you down and cut off your head…for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give all of you into our hands.” He spoke that way because he had courage that could only come from an understanding that God was the one who would do it.

Who are you listening to? Are you listening to God who says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid.”? Or are you listening to all the voices of doubt and despair who, out of fear, never enjoy the mountaintop view of success that is empowered by God himself. Fear builds walls. Courage rooted in God tears them down. Fear closes doors. Courage opens them. Fear paralyzes the soul and short-circuits our opportunities to minister to others. Courage that comes from being in line with the will of God gives strength to the spiritually paralyzed parts of our spiritual body, the church, and can raise the spiritually lame to their feet again. A man after God’s own heart is one who find courage when all others are afraid because they know that the battle is the Lord’s and not their own.

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