The study of Israel’s first two kings is a study of contrasts. Saul had everything going for him: he came from a wealthy family, had incomparably good looks, and literally stood head and shoulders above all his countrymen (cf. 1 Sam. 9:1-2). On the other hand, David had so little going for him his dad did not even consider him when Samuel asked Jesse to bring his sons to a consecration and sacrifice (16:5). David, the youngest of eight sons, was left caring for the sheep. The most striking contrast is the presence of the Lord: following Samuel’s anointing, “the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward”, while “the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul. (16:13,14)” Since the Lord’s rejection of Saul in chapter 15 and the subsequent anointing of David, the lives of these two men trend in opposite directions. Saul’s tearing of Samuel’s robe is the stark illustration of the Lord’s tearing of the kingdom from Saul (15:27-28). The movement in his life is downward to death in an increasingly disturbing fashion. He moves from jealousy, to plotting, to attempting to kill David; to killing priests; to such desperation that he consults a witch (chapter 28). He dies by falling upon his own sword (31:4). In contrast, at many points in David’s life the bible tells us, “The Lord is with him. (cf. 1 Sam. 18:12,14,28; 2 Sam. 5:10; 7:3,9)” Though David’s life is not exemplary in every way, there is ample evidence that he is, indeed, a man after God’s heart (1 Sam. 13:14; Acts 13:22).
Something to Understand
Thus far, the unspoken contrast between Israel’s first kings is Saul’s disobedience against David’s obedience. Following Saul’s rejection of the word of the Lord to him regarding the Amalekites, Samuel offers this stinging rebuke in 1 Samuel 15:22:
“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to listen than the fat of rams.”
‘Is my life a delight to God’ is a question that hangs heavy upon the heart of every human. It may not always be obvious, but we have a tremendous capacity to construct sacrificial systems to convince ourselves that God must delight in us. This central verse to the story of Saul and David helps us as readers to frame their respective lives in the context of obedience. Godly obedience is a big topic, but I hope we can consider a few key aspects of it this week to help us toward more faithful walk with the Lord who does delight in his children.