David and Saul: No good deed goes unpunished

David and Saul: No good deed goes unpunished December 4, 2013

Now, where were we? Before the recent controversy intervened, I was ambling my way through 1 Samuel in a series looking at leadership lessons in the life of David and Saul. New readers may want to go back and look at some of those as we pick up where I left off in 1 Samuel 19 and 20.

What is striking in these chapters is the extraordinary injustice of Saul’s reaction to David. He was once like David himself. A young champion of war, a darling of the people, one whom The Lord was clearly with. He was a charismatic leader in the sense that he had been chosen, appointed, and anointed by God. Now he was just another king, striving to secure his legacy, and insanely jealous of any rivals. David’s very success had led to Saul’s selfish jealousy.

Saul wanted his son to succeed him. And yet it was already plain to see that wasn’t what his son wanted. His son, perhaps without even knowing of Davids future call to leadership, had chosen to follow him. That drove Saul crazy. What God had given to Saul as a gift of grace, he now clung to as a possession by right for him to hand on to whomever he chose. God didn’t come into his thinking. The good of the people didn’t come into his thinking.

I wonder how many church leadership teams look a bit like this. An aging has-been who has long since forgotten the enthusiasm of youth, the wonder that God would choose HIM, and the passion for Gods people he once knew. Accompanied by tomorrow’s man. A young, inexperienced, but highly gifted upstart. One who has a clear sense of purpose and call. But right now, if he is wise, all that the young one wants to do right now is serve the leader and the people.

Saul’s fear is surely that David is out to get him, to split the people, and to build his own empire. This was not be true of David, but sadly it can be true for many. Some in church leadership teams are just biding their time until they get “their turn” at being the “top dog.”  In some cases the contempt the younger leader holds the older one in is palpable, and open warfare results.  David hadn’t lost his surprise that God would choose him.  He was not resentful towards Saul.  He followed Saul and did him good. Unfortunately for David, Saul couldn’t cope very well with that.  And so we see the two leaders go their separate ways, with the tragic picture of Jonathan caught in the middle.

How many church plants, for all the pretense of it being a “led by the Lord” move, are in reality a split between an older leader who is threatened by the young upstart, and a younger leader who, unlike David, is only too keen to go off on their own.  If a church is started with that ugly attitude from both sides in its DNA, it is any wonder if it fails?

Oh for leaders like Jonathan who try to be peacemakers, and who recognize their own calling.  Oh for leaders who are willing to follow the one who God has chosen, even if they are more gifted and anointed, as David clearly was.  Oh for leaders who will gladly prepare their successor for the future, and not feel threatened by them in the process.  Oh for leaders who would put the advancement of God’s kingdom before the advancement of their own.

Ultimately King Saul forgot that it was not his people, not his kingdom, and in short it was not about him.

In response to this chapter, lets ask ourselves, are we content to serve God in the role that HE has for us? Or are we yearning for so-called “advancement?”

Once again this book shows us in King Saul how not to do it.  I think we see in Jonathan and David in this passage an exemplary model of how to do it.  Have you ever considered how humbling it must have been for Jesus himself to submit to his parents and quietly learn his earthly adoptive father’s trade? For thirty years he waited. He was in no hurry to press on with his ministry. He learnt obedience. And then, when the moment came, he followed the call of his heavenly Father and did what he saw him doing.

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