By the time you read this on Sunday, these contrasts could illuminate the currents moving America through another economic harbinger, even as I write. Do we have a modern-day Saul ruling us today? Is there a David coming with God’s blessing to save us? Or is our nation about to be engulfed by the Philistines, as God’s judgment of a godless leader?
In this passage, David has no choice but to seek protection by living with Israel’s enemies. He walks a fine line between trying to save his life plus the lives of his 600 men and not being ordered into battle against his own flesh and blood, Israel. His strategy works for one year and four months, but ultimately the Philistines do not trust David – the one who has killed his ten thousands of Philistines – when war with Israel looms, and they send him and his men away.
David and his men then return home to Ziklag, only to find their city burned to the ground, plundered, and all their wives and children kidnapped. David’s men turn on him in grief and consider stoning him to death! But rather than lash out in anger, David pursues his unity with God and inquires of God as to whether he should try to pursue the kidnappers and rescue all the loved ones. Given a green light by God, he succeeds.
Meanwhile, Saul is terrified of the Philistines, knowing that God has left him. He finds a fortune-teller to tell him what he should do and asks her to conjure up Samuel from the dead. She does (God can do anything that serves his purposes!). Samuel tells Saul (likely through the Holy Spirit, not the sorcerer) that he is not to be disturbed since God has departed from Saul and given the Kingdom of Israel to his neighbor, David. Saul is on his own.
Saul proceeds to go to war against the Philistines and God’s judgment rains down on him at last – his army is slaughtered. Saul and his three sons, including David’s dear friend Jonathan, are killed.
1 Samuel closes with David poised to accede to the throne of Israel with the full blessing of God in 2 Samuel.
Ironically, I have been reading the classic Great Expectations by Charles Dickens this week, where a young, dirt-poor boy is awarded an astonishing fortune by a rich benefactor. The book describes the “great expectations” of British society as he rises from poverty.
So it struck me with Dickensian flair that a wonderful Benefactor had great expectations for David, but not for Saul, since he became God’s anointed only as punishment when Israel rebelled against God the Benefactor as their king.
This leads to a troubling question: is Barack Obama more like David or Saul? Does he have great expectations because of his daily unity with God or has the Benefactor given up on him and “torn the kingdom from his hand?” If the latter, God’s judgment is surely to follow, for king and country.
Those who believe in Jesus as their Savior also have great expectations set by a loving Benefactor! And when judgment comes, our unity with God and his never-ending love will escort us to paradise! What the Dickens!