Bible Readings for August 27th
Saul’s desperation to kill David grows in 1 Samuel 19, fueled in no small part by the fact that both Saul’s son Jonathan and his daughter Michal help David to escape Saul. The storyline of 1 Samuel traces carefully the slow, agonizing descent of Saul deeper and deeper into sin, madness, and torment as he seeks to kill David.
The overall downward trajectory of Saul’s life from this point on is not a direct path but is rather characterized by awkward lurches forward and backward spiritually. Here in 1 Samuel 19, for example, Saul’s son Jonathan is able to convince his father for a time not to harm David. But, Saul goes back on his word almost immediately, and astonishingly, we read that he does so because Yahweh himself sends a harmful spirit to torment him (1 Sam. 19:9). Is God inhibiting Saul’s repentance?
In fact, there’s even more about Yahweh’s affliction of Saul with which we must wrestle. When Saul sends messengers to Naioth in Ramah to take David, Yahweh sends his own Spirit upon all three sets of those messengers, causing them to prophesy (1 Sam. 19:18–21)—and when Saul himself goes, Saul also prophesies (1 Sam. 19:23), just as had happened when Saul was first anointed king over Israel (1 Sam. 10:10). The prophesying, though, is not a blessing but rather a curse, as it drives Saul mad to the point that he strips naked, prophesying for Samuel all night and day (1 Sam. 19:24). When Israel revives the proverb “Is Saul also among the prophets?” (1 Sam. 19:24; cf. 1 Sam. 10:12), they are expressing not joy and wonder but revulsion.
What we are seeing here is a classic example of the principle that Yahweh often gives people exactly what they want. Saul had demonstrated almost immediately in his reign that he wanted his own ways more than he wanted Yahweh, and so Yahweh gives him his heart’s desire. Since we were created to know, love, and serve Yahweh, it is a curse for Yahweh to withdraw the joy of his presence from us. This does not mean, however, that we can flee Yahweh’s presence altogether—instead, we will experience him through emotional and spiritual anguish, as Saul did.
Stories like this force us to take account of our own spiritual desires. If you want life, then you will want Jesus, since “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12). And, by extension, if you do not want Jesus, then you will not receive life, since Jesus is himself true God and eternal life (1 John 5:20). Any who reject Jesus will find nothing but agony, since everything outside of Jesus is death.
Therefore choose life in Christ, that you might live.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.