One of my favorite stories in American History is about George Washington, after he was elected President. There were men that wanted aplomb and a lavish entry for President Washington. It became quite clear to George that they wanted to make him like a “king” instead of a person like everyone else that is trying the best he can with a government that was designed by the people, for the people. George made it very clear he was not interested in looking “kingly” by saying, “I didn’t fight George III to become George I.” George fully understood they had just fought a war not to have a king; why would we want to go back to what we fought so hard to leave? When I had read that story years ago, it had reminded me of the Israelites wanting their own King just like all the neighboring people. Samuel warned them, told them they would not be happy with this choice and tried to convince them their King was better than any human king. Yet, still they wanted to be just like everyone else…so they got Saul. Humanity always is looking for a king in their life….I believe it is because God put the desire in us….we just need to look for it in the right place not at humanity but at God.
As humans, we tend to do what the Israelites did. We tend to look at the story of Saul and David through the wrong starting point or the wrong perception. Maybe it is because this is what we have been taught for years in regards to this story. Here is how I have learned what this story about David and Saul means maybe it is the same for you:
- David did the honorable thing by not killing Saul so Christians should always treat their leaders with honor even if the leaders are not treating them with honor.
- David never talked badly about Saul so we as Christians should never talk badly about leaders.
- God took care of Saul and his wickedness so Christians need to just sit back and let God take care of the problems with leadership.
- David then got promoted because of his good behavior so Christians you need to behave and then you will be promoted too.
These have tended to be the underlying theme in almost any message I have heard over the years about this story. Today though I would like to share a fresh perspective I believe came from the Lord to help me see Him and His Kingdom in His way (repentance).
As I pondered this story with the Lord, I felt He asked me a question. That question was what might have happened if David had instead killed Saul in those two opportunities (1 Samuel 24 and 26). The possibility that came to my mind was that maybe Jonathon wouldn’t have died at the hands of the Philistines. Now, I don’t know that for sure but I know God doesn’t ask a question just to ask…for me it is usually to get me asking Him questions…or He follows up with scripture for me. He wanted me to take the timeline of Saul’s life (1 Samuel), why the people wanted a king (1 Samuel 10:17-19), Samuel’s warning to the people (1 Samuel 8:10-22), the point that David had already been anointed as the next king (1 Samuel 16:12-23)(he was righteous because of his faith in God (Psalm 32) and David fully understood where his authority came from–remember Goliath (1 Samuel 17:31-58)), David was never stripped by God from his kingship even though he made multiple mistakes and did not always act ‘honorably’, Saul killed himself and the Philistines killed his sons then beheaded Saul and fastened all their bodies to a rock (1 Samuel 31:1-13). Next, He took me to the story of the sons of Zebedee. Remember when their mother came and asked Jesus for her sons to sit on His right and left (a place of honor) and Jesus said it was not His to give. Jesus used this very moment to teach and to help change His disciples thinking (repentance) about how leadership looks in the Kingdom of God. Here is what He said:
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”(Matthew 20:20-25, emphasis mine)
As I read this verse, I sensed Holy Spirit telling me the way this story of David and Saul has been taught is well….wrong. The natural tendency for humanity is to want power, to lord it over people and for people to want to be led by a human rather than God Himself. What really happens when this story is taught this way leads to a “Saul” or “Gentile thinking” leadership trying to be taught as the way the Kingdom works and this then causes a people who are reliant on leadership/pastors rather than the Holy Spirit who is now living in and through them. Yet as Jesus said….It is NOT that way among you. When we continue to use this story to speak of leaders as “kings/queens” (like Saul) and how laity (David) is to act towards them is well–detrimental to both the leaders Christ put in place and the people. I believe this story is used by pastors and teachers to “keep their sheep in line”, and makes people reliant on humans rather than a Father in Heaven who gave them a Holy Spirit because God truly desires direct communication with His Beloved. Jesus made this very clear when He said:
“Don’t let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that. You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates. Don’t set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do. No one else should carry the title of ‘Father’; you have only one Father, and he’s in heaven. And don’t let people maneuver you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life-Leader for you and them—Christ.” Matthew 23:8-10 MSG.
Jesus was making it so very clear that the playing field was level in the Kingdom of Heaven. The people should not make it difficult for the leaders to serve, by not putting them on a pedestal and expecting the leaders to be Holy Spirit for them. Yet, what I have seen happen far too many times is leadership isn’t serving but lording it over the people and using the story of David and Saul to rally their ability to act in such a way. This then leads the people to be reliant on the leaders instead of God. This can also in turn cause the enablement of pastors and leaders to spiritually abuse people, all in the name of God. The so-called “silence of David” is continually used to perpetuate another great crime against God’s Beloved Body (both leaders and people). The way this story has been taught for so many years have caused a great disservice to both leader and people.
It is time for the church to take a fresh look at a wonderful story with a fresh starting point that comes from the God’s Kingdom, not man’s.
Maybe what we need to teach with this Old Testament story is how God had opened up choices to David and even though he didn’t take those choices God was still with David because David believed (faith) and how secular government or a pastor/leader will never be able to be a substitute for the great, good and noble Heavenly King. We need to remember in the New Covenant all people who believe in Who Jesus is receives the Holy Spirit. Jesus truly leveled the playing field when He went and embraced the Cross for the whole world.
To see more of what I wrote on this subject read, Because of Christ Believers in Him are Seated in Heavenly Places