Rarely does the prey catch the predator in such helpless transparency. But such was the moment when David presumed upon Saul with his back turned, pants down and the lights out. The two men had entered the cave separately, not knowing of each other's presence.
The unsuspecting and jealous Saul had a nation to run; yet his daily life was ruled by the budding success of David. Paranoid of people and parched of God's presence, Saul had long ago misplaced his mission.
The grudge match between Saul and David has many sequels in the modern church. Though few are humble enough to see it on their own, they too "lead" like Saul--driven off course by their unresolved anxieties toward another minister.
Do you have an offense? The initial offense may have been as simple as a tiny scratch. But a scratch ignored becomes infected. And in some cases, it can become life threatening. For Saul, his scratch came in the form of a song: "'Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands'" ( 1 Sam. 18:7, NKJV).
Maybe your scratch happened years ago, when another gospel singer was chosen to travel with the renowned evangelist. Years later your feelings of disappointment still burn when you see them singing on a Gaither Homecoming Video.
Or maybe your scratch happened when the other candidate got the big church. He was younger; you called him inexperienced. He was well-liked; you called him political. As you bitterly wait by the phone for the invitation that never comes, the songs of Saul play on louder than ever: "'Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.'"
Saul's middle name was paradox. The early record reveals a life of solid foundations. Well-versed and well-raised, he was a near guarantee as Israel's first successful monarch.
But soon after his inauguration, the scepter of privilege seduced him. Somewhere he started to believe he had been given a free pass, that he was not bound by everyday accountabilities. That deception, along with the strain of palace administration, became weightier than his calling. Raped of all humility, Saul's steady decline magnified with each passing day.
Are you resentful? Resentment rarely aims its arrow at someone walking in a calling different from our own. Resentment chooses to rage against those who have redeemed what we have squandered.
David was not spitefully stealing away the personal greatness of Saul. He just faithfully served, which allowed God to walk him through the thresholds that fit with his anointing. But having forsaken the presence of God, Saul could only watch through paranoid eyes as young David developed his gifts and following--a sight that drove Saul insane.
David finished well because he understood the practical workings of grace along the way, even while trapped inside a leadership struggle. David overcame because his tender conscience was well-positioned beneath the lordship of Jehovah.
Urged to do what he had done to the bear, the lion and the giant, David did the unthinkable. Instead of dismembering Saul's body, he dismembered his garment. Instead of cutting his throat, he cut the corner of his robe. But instantly he felt the Spirit's conviction for doing so and quickly made remedy for his deed.
The body of Christ needs this same example. What hope of restraint do they have if all they see and hear are church leaders destroying other church leaders?
Jealousy and bitterness in a minister's soul will drive him or her from destiny to a desert and from the position of influence to the place of isolation. The final audit of Saul reveals a man driven by image, not integrity. A life of great promise died ugly as Saul failed the most basic of all kingdom lessons: That clay was never created to destroy clay, only to live in submission to the palms of the potter. *
Scott Hagan is senior pastor of Harvest Church in Elk Grove, California, which he and his wife, Karen, planted 10 years ago. They have four children.
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