Meditations in 1 Samuel 38. Success breeds Antagonism
1 Sam 18:5,8,9 Whatever Saul sent him to do, David did it so successfully that Saul gave him a high rank in the army. This pleased all the people, and Saul’s officers as well….. Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him. “They have credited David with tens of thousands,” he thought, “but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?” And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David.
And so the drama unfolds. David is now with Saul and is successful, so successful in fact that he is promoted and given high rank: “Whatever Saul sent him to do, David did it so successfully that Saul gave him a high rank in the army.” (v.5a) Now we asked the question previously why was it that God brought about a situation where the heart man was serving under the head and shoulders man, and we suggested it was so that he could rise up in the sight of Israel and be ready when the time came to be accepted by all Israel as their king after Saul. Thus we now find in respect of his promotion, “This pleased all the people, and Saul’s officers as well.” (v.5b) David was clearly a natural leader and was quickly approved by all – well not quite all as we shall soon see.
David’s successes clearly raises the morale of the people: “When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with tambourines and lutes. As they danced, they sang: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” (v.6,7) Oooops, that’s not so good in the light of the sort of person Saul is: “Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him. “They have credited David with tens of thousands,” he thought, “but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?” (v.8) Bear in mind that David is not looking for anything, but Saul now has thoughts that David might plot to take the kingdom from him. Paranoia! “And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David.” (v.9) So note the stages in Saul: anger and then jealousy, but it’s about to get worse:
“The next day an evil spirit from God came forcefully upon Saul. He was prophesying in his house, while David was playing the harp, as he usually did. Saul had a spear in his hand and he hurled it, saying to himself, “I’ll pin David to the wall.” But David eluded him twice.” (v.10,11) Now these are a really weird couple of verses. Saul is in his home, David is playing the harp for him and that seems to release the Spirit of God so that Saul is prophesying!!!! BUT as this happens an evil Spirit from God comes forcefully upon Saul!!!! What a conflict! What is going on here! Let’s try and analyse it.
When the man after God’s own heart plays the harp it opens the door for the Spirit of God to come and bless Saul. Now that is amazing because Saul is in a place of unbelief and rejection but still, in the right environment, can receive God’s blessing. Remember Jesus taught at one point, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous,” (Mt 5:45) meaning that God’s general blessings are there available for all to receive, including those who are out of sorts with God. An unbeliever can come into a church service and hear a prophetic word that is for them and be blessed by it. Amazingly they can even be swept up in the worship and be blessed by it. That doesn’t make them saved, it just makes them blessed.
Now it’s that fact that they are still not saved that means they are still open and vulnerable to the enemy and so when they go outside of the presence of God they lose that sense of blessing and in fact come under the power and presence of the enemy. I have seen it happen. Now something we learn from Job 1 & 2 is that Satan is limited to what he is allowed to do, and how far he is allowed to go with his agents. Now there are clearly times when God uses Satan to discipline people (see 1 Cor 5) and He does it by allowing Satan or his demons access to that person who is in rebellion. When it says an evil spirit from God, it is more likely to mean an evil spirit who has been given permission by God to move against this person. The fact that the word ‘forcefully’ is used here, suggests that Satan bursts into the room, so to speak, breaking in on what is going on, demanding his right to attack Saul. Remember, all by the permission of God, and only in respect of a rebellious person.
But why? Partly because the Lord is disciplining Saul. At any time (when not under the attack of the enemy) Saul could have whole-heartedly repented, but he didn’t. Discipline is designed to bring change of action but where there is a hard heart even that discipline will not work. Partly also, I suggest the Lord is allowing the enemy access through Saul’s anger and jealousy to provoke the situation and allow it to develop as it does so eventually David will separate out from Saul, as we will see soon.
So twice David elides Saul’s attack and so we find, “Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with David but had left Saul. So he sent David away from him and gave him command over a thousand men, and David led the troops in their campaigns.” (v.1`2,13) So see now the combination of things in Saul’s life: anger, jealousy, demonic attack and fear. Saul’s problem is his paranoia, the fear that people might plot against him. He doesn’t want to upset his people and yet they like David, and so he has to keep David to please them. To do this he sends David away with an army force to do battle and we find, “In everything he did he had great success, because the LORD was with him.” (v.14)
Saul is in this cleft stick, we tend to say, because, “When Saul saw how successful he was, he was afraid of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he led them in their campaigns.” (v.15,16) Again, watch this space.
Now what should we take hold of out of this. Well first, we need to learn to discern what is going on with people. It all goes back to their heart. If their heart is ultimately in rebellion against God then they are vulnerable to the enemy, especially if they have had contact with occult things, tarot card reading, playing with Ouija boards, seeking out fortune tellers and spiritists etc.; all these things leave you vulnerable to the enemy and you need to renounce all such things.
Second, people can appear to be blessed of God but unless these issues are resolved properly before God they will keep on coming back to bite you. I have seen people blessed and blessed again by God but still they are vulnerable to the enemy suffering acute depression and having thought of suicide, all because they have never fully renounced those past works of darkness and received full cleansing by a work of the Holy Spirit. These are very real issues in the Christian world.