By Kerwin Holmes, Jr.
God often places us near others of His children for mutual benefit…especially during times of trouble. Sometimes though, we fail at life by not realizing God uses the uncomfortable to make us more comfortable to be around Him. We become sometimes worse off than we were beforehand.
So, before we saw how God had rejected Saul because of Saul’s finickiness and unwillingness to obey God’s simple instructions at the cost of his popularity among the people. We also learned of how God chose David over Saul to succeed in being the prince of Israel (or the human king in God’s nation Israel). But, we also got a glimpse of how God alone can see into the heart and very persona of a person even while we as humans cannot. We saw how Samuel was utterly incapable of judging exactly as God judges– by judging the heart of the person and not the outer appearance.
And now things get a little more interesting, and awkward, as in this narrative we are given a vantage that we often don’t discuss nowadays but which exists just as real as the nebulae in the sky (that we often also do not see). In short, Saul loses the temporary covering of God’s Spirit as his anointing and instead becomes tormented by an evil angel.
Now, we firsthand see that God sent this spirit to Saul. Does this mean that God is evil? No. Over and over again we see how God often uses evil to punish evil. God even manipulates evil in order to accomplish good to a fuller and richer extent (read the book of Job when you can to see this in real-time). God punishes people to bring about the repentance of the person and to also serve as a sign for the rest of us watching of what not to do in order to avoid creating the same evil in the world.
Evil is essentially the nature that is no longer straight to the way that God intends it to be, or a good desire now turned warped. Evil very much is the corruption of good, no matter how slight or how drastic. This is why God in human flesh spoke to us concerning demons that often times once a demon is defeated spiritually, if the person does not receive the covering protection of God’s Spirit of truth, the demon will return with a vengeance with other spirits more evil than itself in order to secure the damnation and failure of the person the demon enjoyed. Demons rely upon the evil already present within ourselves in order to influence us to fall to our temptations. Even demons are slaves to sin, but they now live lives far more hopeless than we do, so because misery loves company they busy themselves with proving their power and might over humanity and bringing about mankind’s doom and full depravity. We often see human beings take on the same sinful spirit whenever God is rejected and men turn to oppressing one another and getting the most out of their lives by any means before they die. Fallen angels are sadly no different in that regard, but by their nature their potential for evil is far more sinister…especially when combined with the like motivations of a human sinner. Now, we have already covered angels and demons in other posts, so I will leave you to read those for yourself.
But did God punish Saul in this way to bring about his repentance. Yessss…it probably is why things turned out as weird as they did. Saul was from the tribe of Benjamin, and Benjamin’s territory was right above Judah’s territory. In fact, Gibeah was the town in Benjamin where Saul had his kingdom, and it was on one of the hills just north to Jerusalem…which is actually pretty close to Bethlehem, which was just south of Jerusalem.
Mhmm. Things are about to get pretty weird.
Now we can imagine how the evil spirit plagued Saul’s mind. After all, Samuel had just told him that his kingdom would be given to another, and that “other” could be anyone in his realm. Saul had done so much in order to appease the Israelite people (who generally were never satisfied, which was how they got into this mess in the first place). Saul had even forsaken his responsibilities as king to obey God first. And now, that same misplaced loyalty had not only ended up with Saul losing the kingdom, but it had ended with Saul now knowing that another person in his realm, among the people that he had sacrificed it all for, would be reigning instead of him. How would this be? Would his successor be merciful, or take over by force? Would he overthrow one of Saul’s sons when he was gone? Surely Saul’s son Johnathan was a mighty warrior, but come on, Johnathan had rotten luck of being at the wrong place at the wrong time…and the sight of Johnathan reminded Saul of his embarrassment in front of his entire army because of the very pride that got Saul into trouble.
The material that that little imp had to work with was endless.
Saul was tortured so much that he was petitioned by his servants of the court (the term used here is ebed, the same word used for “slave” in the Old Testament) that Saul would look for someone who could really play the lyre well so that whenever the fears and anxieties plagued Saul, the person would play to settle Saul’s mind. See, the servants in Saul’s court (and his slaves also by extension) had the wisdom to know that this was a punishment from God. And God mercifully lent them wisdom on how to do deal with the torment. God gave the punishment and provided a way for Saul to find relief, albeit temporarily. But if followed through, the relief could have given Saul total peace.
So…Saul relents and follows the advice of his court officials and his slaves. Saul sends out his servants into the surrounding territory to find such a musician. And they don’t have to get far…because a young man comes and reports straightaway that he saw a young man named David, a strong warrior who was of good character and also handsome, who happened to have been playing the lyre, and playing it very well, as he was running about. The musical talent of David was so attractive that the man said that God Himself was with David as he played.
If he only knew.
And so, on behalf of King Saul, David is summoned away from his now very ecstatic and proud father, and the time Saul spends with David and David’s godly character, musical talent, and impressive ability at warfare makes Saul employ David as his personal armor-bearer…aka the guy who maintains the armor of the king, carries it during mobilization, and who acts as personal bodyguard to the king in the heat of battle, deflecting and neutralizing unseen threats and finishing off the king’s wounded adversaries during battle. The two apparently made a good tag team. And whenever Saul was seized by the anxiety caused by the evil spirit, David played the lyre to sooth Saul’s spirit and to totally ruin what the demon tried to do with Saul so that the demon would eventually leave in frustration.
And that’s how David the warrior and king-to-be met Saul the warrior and king-to-fall. God no doubt wanted David to learn from the example of fallen Saul, and for Saul to learn from the example of humble but victorious-still David.
Did Saul really learn anything by being near David…or did his own vanity (and his new diabolical influence) once again put blinders upon him, but this time blinders far worse than what we have seen before?