A Healing Word from On High

Any reading of the stories about Saul leads to a basic storyline: a handsome and gifted man, anointed by God as the first king of Israel, successful, odd, failure after failure, and my colleague, Claude Mariottini, proposes one reason for this man’s nightmare catastrophes — and we’ll get to it in just a moment. (We are reading his Rereading the Biblical Text.)

Saul and the prophet Samuel had a rocky relationship, and clearly Samuel has more charisma and blessing from God. Saul does not listen to Samuel: Saul chose to do what he was not anointed to do — offer a sacrifice (1 Sam 13:8-14) — and then he spared the life of Agag (15:1-11). He did the latter to save face with his soldiers.

So Samuel had to withdraw his support for the king, and then he begins to hear rumors about David arising in status. Saul was undone. Claude now begins to probe into Saul’s character and sees the words of Samuel (15:17) coming to the surface.

Samuel said, “Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king over Israel.”

Here Dr. Mariottini sees a problem in Saul’s character: bad self-esteem, an inferiority complex, and perhaps even deeper a failure to embrace and absorb who he was in God’s eyes.

Saul thought he was a nobody; Samuel points this out to him. Saul doesn’t accept he was — king; Samuel points this out. Even more: he was king because YHWH had anointed him king over Israel.

Dr. Mariottini’s helpful pastoral point: many of us do not embrace, absorb, and live in light of what God has made us or who God has made us. We are God’s beloved children, welcomed in Christ, and fully embraced in the love of the Father for the Son since we are “in the Son.”

We have no reason to be little in our own eyes, as Saul was, because we are the “apple of God’s eye” (Deuteronomy 32:10).

A healing word from on high is to learn to see ourselves as God sees us — he sees us in Christ, and in him we are truly loved. He picked us.

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  • I don’t how the historical Saul and Samuel really were for it is clear we have to do with texts which were written much later.

    They conveyed a historically conditioned theology but they truly have some universal messages which can touch us even today.

    But when I read them, my whole attention is focused on the genocide of Amalekites which they attributed to God.
    To my mind, this atrocity is a clear defeater to the belief God might have directly inspired these stories.

    Lovely greetings from Europe.
    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son


  • If only… How difficult this is when human parents haven’t done the job of affirmation.

    How does one undo that wickedness and allow God to heal and re-frame how we think of ourselves, that is my perpetual question.

  • Dana

    Thank you for this, Scott. I will be leading a group today and we will be talking about how Christ transforms us into new beings which guides us and empowers us. We have been meeting for weeks and the idea that we are sinners and defined by our sin is a persistent one. I have been surprised at how resistant the people in the group are to letting go of that thought for even a moment. I’ll find this useful in our discussion today.

  • Ted M. Gossard

    I’m afraid I have been a victim of this kind of thinking and attitude. I know in my head, but my heart hardly follows. It is so important what parents and others say, as well as their attitude toward their little ones as they grow up. Interesting way to look at Saul, and never saw it quite like that. It brings out an important point, for sure.

  • Trin

    I find this most common among my Reformed friends.
    But we are a NEW creation in Christ; the OLD man is GONE, the NEW man is come. We are now saints who sometimes sin – his chosen and adopted, much-loved sons and daughters. Continuing to self-inflict 90 lashes is to call God a liar, imho.

  • MatthewS

    This is striking. I think of Saul hiding in the garbage versus Saul willing to kill in order to hang onto his deteriorating kingship. Saul too afraid to confront Goliath bur Saul throwing a javelin at David. Saul grabbing onto Samuel’s cloak, desperately clinging to the shroud of his public image, and finding both Samuel’s cloak and his kingdom literally ripped out of his hands.

    I’ve known some people who remind me of Saul (channeling Gene Edwards’ “Tale of Three Kings”). One in particular comes to mind right now, outwardly a proud, angry, defensive, a dangerous person to cross. Inwardly, hiding in the garbage, “small in his own eyes,” not able to comfortably rest in who he is in God’s eyes.