Saturday, October 18, 2014

The big lesson from all the attempts on David’s life in 1 Samuel 18

1 Samuel 18 has so much happening in it that it is really compacted.  A cursory reading makes it seem like the chapter only records two of Saul's attempts on David's life, but there are actually at least five.

Attempt #1

Attempt #2

After Saul's failed spearing attempt, v13-16 records:

13 Therefore Saul removed him from him, and made him his captain over a thousand; and he went out and came in before the people.
14 And David behaved himself wisely in all his ways; and the Lord was with him.
15 Wherefore when Saul saw that he behaved himself very wisely, he was afraid of him.
16 But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he went out and came in before them.

What this tells us is Saul put David over a thousand men in the army and David went out on military missions set by Saul.  Can we imagine Saul giving David easy stuff to do?  No.  He would give David the dirtiest, most dangerous missions in hopes of getting him killed.

Do you think David was blind to what was being done to him?  I doubt it.  I think he had a feeling he was being treated like cannon fodder.  He could have complained, but it doesn’t seem like he did, and instead he just did his best.  That uncomplaining obedience may be what the text means when it says he behaved himself wisely.

The result was that Saul’s attempt failed.  God kept David safe, and David kept his mouth shut, and he ended up more loved by the people than before, which was the opposite of what Saul wanted.  Perhaps Saul hoped David would turn out to be an ineffective leader and was trying to “promote to discredit.”  Instead, God used it to increase David’s talents and made good come of it.

Attempt #3

In Saul’s next attempt, he tries to praise and incentive-ize David into doing something exceptionally foolish to get him killed.

And Saul said to David, Behold my elder daughter Merab, her will I give thee to wife: only be thou valiant for me, and fight the Lord’s battles. For Saul said, Let not mine hand be upon him, but let the hand of the Philistines be upon him. (v17)

Notice Saul gives this incentive—marriage to his eldest daughter—and his instructions are “only be thou valiant for me; and fight the Lord’s battles.”  That’s like saying, “Your only job is to be brave and fight.”

But… war takes more than just bravery and fighting, and in asking David to do that, Saul was attempting to discourage David from being smart about how he fought, hoping he would take stupid risks and get himself killed.  (As an aside, I’ve recently been reading a sci fi space opera series that has as a major plot point a space fleet’s tendency to suffer terrible losses because bravery was higher priority than discipline and strategy.  It gave this verse much greater significance than it would have had otherwise.)

How does David respond?  He refuses to take the bait and says that he and his family are nobodies and the last people to become connected by marriage to the king.  He’s okay with not being famous or connected to the king’s family.  His humility saves him.

Attempts #4 & 5

This is a two-parter. 

20 And Michal Saul’s daughter loved David: and they told Saul, and the thing pleased him.
21 And Saul said, I will give him her, that she may be a snare to him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him. Wherefore Saul said to David, Thou shalt this day be my son in law in the one of the twain….
25 And Saul said, Thus shall ye say to David, The king desireth not any dowry, but an hundred foreskins of the Philistines, to be avenged of the king’s enemies. But Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines. (v20-21, 25)

Saul intends Michal to be a snare to David and of course he also requires David to pay a dowry of 100 Philistine foreskins to marry her, and we know he hoped David would get killed trying to fulfill that requirement.

But how did Saul intend Michal to be a snare?  I had to think about this one and read more about Michal to figure this out.  I have a feeling that Saul meant it in the same sense that the Lord told the Israelites the Canaanites would be a snare to them and the same way the Moabite women were a snare in Numbers 25.  Michal may have been idolatrous.  I Samuel 19:13,16 tells that she put an image in David’s bed as a decoy so that David could escape Saul’s servants.  But what was an image doing in their house when there is that commandment in the Law of Moses to not have any graven images?  This was a full-sized statue and it was moveable.  David was a man after God’s heart, so it had to be Michal’s.  So Michal was idolatrous.

It seems Saul hoped that Michal’s idolatry would begin to pull David down once he was married to her.  Saul hoped to destroy David’s righteousness and favor with God in a manner strikingly similar to what Balaam taught the Moabites to do to the Israelites.

No, David!  Don’t marry her!  It’s a trap! 

Yet David does obtain the 100 Philistine foreskins with God’s protection.  (Note: v27 says he brought back 200 foreskins, but 2 Samuel 3:14 says it was 100.)  And he does marry Michal.   (At this point we should holding our heads and yelling “Oh noooooooo!”)

But… instead of Michal becoming a snare to David, the Lord uses Michal as a means of delivering David.  Remember when Saul sent his men to kill David, Michal warned him of his danger and helped him escape.  Then, she took the image she worshipped and put it in service as a decoy.    The very things that Saul meant to destroy David became the means by which the Lord saved him.  How’s that for showing the Lord’s great power to bring good out of evil?

It’s really a sad thing reading about all the ways Saul planned to try to get rid of David.  Yet, we get a great lesson from David.  As we see all the ways that the Lord brought good out of evil for him, we can gain greater faith that the Lord does the same thing for us today.   If we try to be as faithful to the Lord as David was (at this time in his life), the Lord can similarly take the bad things and turn them to our good.   To use an airplane analogy, if we keep our wings tilted up, the winds of opposition will lift us higher.