The story of Israel’s first two kings is interesting. In an act of rejecting the Lord’s total control over them, Israel asked for a king. God gave them exactly what they wanted: Saul, the “kingliest” king possible, a go-getter, a an of action.
When the Ammonites threatened the city of Jerush Gilead, Saul went to their aid with a vengeance, and Israel was rescued (1 Sam. 11:1-13). All was good for Israel and Saul.
Then bad blood arose between Israel and the Philistines. Did Saul sit idly by while the conflict begun by his son resulted in the deaths of his people? Did he twiddle his thumbs waiting for Samuel the prophet-priest to get there and tell him what to do? Of course not! He made sacrifices to and inquired of the Lord himself–and as a result, incurred God’s wrath and promise that his descendants would not inherit his throne (1 Sam. 13:3-14, 15:17-29).
So along came David, the youngest son, a mere shepherd boy. Samuel anointed him the next king of Israel by the direction of the Lord–hurray! (1 Sam. 16:12-13). David became Saul’s servant (1 Sam. 16:14-23). The Philistines again mocked Israel and their God–and it was David who won victory by killing their champion (1 Sam. 17). And coming back from his glorious victory, David waited.
Everyone loved David. He led them to victory again and again. Saul grew jealous and tried to kill David, but his son Jonathan saved David’s life (1 Sam. 19-20). David fled, and had to live in hiding, and when he had the opportunity twice to kill Saul and end his hiding, take the throne like he had been promised–he waited.
Finally, what the Lord had promised came to pass! Saul and his sons were killed in battle, leaving the road clear for David to assume the kingship. Yet when an Amalekite brought the news, boasting that he himself had delivered the killing blow to Saul, David had him killed, and then he mourned Saul and Jonathan’s deaths (1 Sam. 31; 2 Sam. 1).
At last! David was anointed king of Judah! But Israel chose Ish-Bosheth, Saul’s one remaining son, as their king (2 Sam. 2:1-11). He didn’t try to press his case and defeat Ish-Bosheth. War ensued–but when one of Ish-Bosheth’s army commanders was killed, David lamented. And he waited. For years, he waited.
He waited until two leaders of raiding bands murdered Ish-Bosheth in his sleep. Those men, like the Amalekite, he punished with death for killing his enemies. It was only when the elders of Israel asked David to be their king that he finally became what the Lord had promised years before, the king of Israel.
So why was Saul rejected by God, but David “a man after God’s own heart”? There seems to be a qualitative difference in the faiths of these two men. Saul seemed to say, “God said it, I’ve got to do it.” In modern terms, he would probably live by the phrase, “The Lord helps those who help themselves.”
David, on the other hand, seems to say, “God said it, He’ll do it–and the ends do NOT justify the means.” His faith was not based on his ability to accomplish what God said he would do. It was based on GOD’S ability to accomplish what He said he would do.
This strikes me as blindingly different from the way many of us, including often myself, live. We stress about forcing to happen what God has revealed we should do. When there are people who know where God is taking them and aren’t pouring twenty-five hours a day into getting to that place, we frown at them and say, “It’s not going to happen on its own, you know. You’ve got to do something.”
I think that if David was part of the modern American (and maybe global) Church, we’d call him a lazy Christian. We’d rebuke him for laziness and point at Saul–“See how he’s passionately pursuing the path God laid out before him? You should be more like Saul.”
And we wonder why we’re missing the rest Jesus promises.
I think that faith should look much different. When we strive to make something happen, are we really trusting God’s ability to bring about what He says, or are we trusting our own ability to do so?
Obviously, there is a need for action. In Ephesians, we are warned to be productive members of society. And David, when he was waiting, was by no means lazy. On the contrary! He consistently fought the enemies of the Lord, earning the reputation of being more productive in that sense than even Saul.
But I think David knew that the important thing was not the end result of being king. The thing of utmost importance, eclipsing everything else, was God. God was David’s prize, and consequently he had faith to take God’s road to kingship, a road that was a long journey but ultimately succeeded in developing his character, preparing his heart and mind.
The same is true for us. In our lives, the only real end goal is God. He is the worth of heaven; without Him, heaven would be valueless. Everything else is part of a journey, a long, frequently painful, journey about which God promises that He works all things for our good (Romans 8) and that He will be with us every step of the way (Joshua 1:5; Matt. 29:20).
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Do you trust that He is able to accomplish what He has promised you, or do you think you need to do it for Him?