Trinity Baptist Church July 20, 2008
Portrait of a Politician
The Deposed King
1 Samuel 15-31
In tough economic times maybe you’re thinking about polishing your resume and applying for a different job. If you find yourself looking, let me give you a little help. I came across several statements from actual resumes and job applications – and you might want to take notes and file these under the category of “what not to use” on a resume or application.
First this one – it was under the “qualifications” line on a resume. “I was wholly responsible for two failed financial institutions.” That might be more information than the person realized he was giving. Another one from the “too much information” category: someone wrote, “I intentionally omit my salary history. I’ve made money and I’ve lost money! I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. I prefer being rich!”
In a similar vein was this one -- “I’m a man filled with passion and integrity, I can act on short notice. I’m a class act and do not come cheap!” Another person -- proud of past accomplishments -- wrote, “I have an excellent track record, even though I’m not a horse!”
There were others who revealed things without saying them. One person attached a note to a resume saying, “Please do not misconstrue my 14 jobs as ‘job-hopping”. I have never quit a job in my life!” Really? Then there was the person who completed a question this way: Number of dependents -- 40!
There’s this answer on an application question, asking about the “reason for leaving last position.” One person answered -- “My supervisor expected everyone in the office no later than 8:45AM. I refuse to work under those circumstances!” One lady said the reason she left her last job was for “maturity leave”!
A prospective employer needs to be able to contact the applicant. One guy wrote, “I’m loyal to my employer at all costs -- please feel free to contact me on my office voice mail.” Finally, under “references” -- one person wrote -- “none – I’ve left a path of destruction in my wake!”
So, if you go job-hunting, double check your resume for lines like those! What you discover with almost any position is, it has a list of qualifications. There are four common kinds – one is education.
A position may require the completion of either H.S. or college – or, it might ask for course work related to the job. There’s an experience requirement. For most jobs, there will be a benchmark of a number of years. Then there are skill requirements. The fourth could be specific licensing or certification.
And of course, if you don’t meet the minimum requirements, it might or might not be worth applying or sending a resume. That more the case when the position involves major leadership responsibility.
Did you ever think much about God’s qualifications for leaders? Both Old and New Testaments inform us God has qualifications – and they’re very different from ours. We usually take use leadership qualities learned from observing the culture. For instance, in churches and Christian organizations we often put people in positions of responsibility “just because”. For instance -- “just because” they’ve led somewhere else; “just because” they reached a certain age; or “because” they’re actively involved, or can talk long and well at meetings. When those become the qualifiers, churches and organizations often pay a high price by getting the wrong leaders.
We’ve been examining a leader whose qualifications fell short. He was Saul, the first King of Israel.
You remember from chapter 8 of 1 Samuel that Saul was selected after the people came demanding a king. They had a list of qualifications -- it was pretty sparse – they mentioned someone leading them out to war -- someone to fight their battles – and, most of all, they wanted someone to be king so they’d be like all the other nations. The saddest part about that last qualifier was, God never intended His people to be like other nations. Their legacy and calling was to be unique – distinctive -- among the nations on earth. They were the only nation that could ever say with confidence and Truth, “God is our King!” But that sad day, as God put it to Samuel, they’re not rejecting you, they are rejecting Me. 1 Samuel chapter 8 taught us, what we demand often is very often not what we need.
Saul’s reign could be outlined by using the word rejection. God used it first – saying the people had rejected Him as their King. So He gave them the desire of their hearts. Saul did okay initially -- but progressively – this new King rejected both God and God’s ways. We saw in chapter 13, how Saul rashly offered the priestly sacrifices because Samuel didn’t show up on Saul’s schedule. In chapter 15 Saul rejected God’s word and God’s authority and did things his way. Today, as we overview the rest of the book, we’ll observe that Saul’s reign and life grew very dark because it’s now God Who has rejected Saul.
We heard that word – first in chapter 13 – and again in 15 -- God has already removed the kingdom from Saul and given it to another. As far as God is concerned, that’s “present tense”. Saul though is still resisting and struggling against God’s reality.
It’s fascinating – in the opening pages of 2 Samuel – to hear David’s sad lament over Saul and Jonathan, after they die in battle. That’s when he says, “How the mighty are fallen.” Those words could just as well be God’s epithet over this man who could have – but would not follow Him wholeheartedly.
I’ve said it before -- this is sad stuff. But it’s necessary and helpful for us to think through – it’s also vital that we consider for ourselves how Saul’s approach to leadership instructs and informs us.
Tim re-read a few verses that we considered last time – there at the end of chapter 15. Let me encourage you again to pick up a Bible and get there to 1 Samuel 15. Keep it open because I want to show you a number of verses sprinkled from the end of 15 all the way to the end of the book. Notice there in 15:26: twice that word rejected is used. Samuel is speaking to Saul – at first, he told him I will not return with you; for you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.
As you continue reading Saul’s account from here to his death, you realize that
1. Saul’s reign became increasingly self-driven. (1 Samuel 16-18)
Let’s watch how it happens. God has issued His verdicts on Saul’s leadership. Just a bit further down, in chapter 16, God instructs Samuel -- go to Bethlehem and anoint David the shepherd boy, as Israel’s next king. There’s another critical event in chapter 16.
Look at 16:14 – It says, the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul – and an evil spirit from the Lord terrorized him. Now if that statement doesn’t make you stop and ask a couple of questions, you weren’t listening! What’s that mean – God’s Spirit left Saul? Well, first, it’s clear – back when Saul was chosen – that He was first filled with God’s Spirit -- for the purpose of ruling God’s people! We read that God’s Spirit came on him – it overpowered him -- and he prophesied just like any of the prophets. In other words, God moved in power in Saul – both for Saul’s benefit and for the benefit of God’s people. That tells us, God provided Saul every resource he needed – so he would follow Him, depend on Him, and obey Him. But Saul abandoned God’s resources.
Now, in the OT, the Holy Spirit operated differently than He does in the NT. For NT Christians, God’s Spirit moves into your life and takes up permanent residence when you put your faith in Christ. The NT tells us that God’s Spirit is God’s gift – He becomes the source of all God offers us by way of strength and power and encouragement. For OT saints -- for leaders in particular – God’s Spirit came on a person for God’s time and God’s purpose – in Saul’s case it was first to be God’s man and then to lead. That order was crucial – and it’s no different for us. First you are God’s woman or man and then you are His leader. The Holy Spirit would have enabled Saul powerfully to be God’s faithful man in his position – because – and we need to get this -- Faithfulness to God is God’s primary qualification for leaders.
But -- Saul rejected God’s power – he abandoned God’s Word and God’s leadership in His life. So, God removes His Spirit from Saul. It says, God even sent a spirit to trouble and terrorize Saul.
I can only conclude from that -- God was hemming Saul in – He was pressing him on every side to repent, or to give up the throne. But there was going to be only one result from his refusal to following God in his high position.
Jump to chapter 18. David has been anointed. Then he became Saul’s harpist – sometime later he fought and killed Goliath – over time David became Saul’s highest general. And like we talked about in our first study, there’s that critical scene in 18:7 as David and the army return from victory in battle – and the women go out to greet them and they sing – Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands.
How’s Saul respond to their little ditty? It says in 18:8 and 9, he …became very angry for this saying displeased him…he goes on -- Now what more can he have but the kingdom? Saul looked at David with suspicion from that day on. (1 Samuel 18:8, 9)
Without God’s Spirit Saul’s mind and heart grow dark. There is no more spiritual perspective, there’s no illumination or leadership – and no strength and Truth and power from God’s Spirit – so Saul sinks into depression, into great fear – why -- because he’s got only one place to which he can retreat – as a leader he’s now depending solely on his own resources and trusting only in himself. There’s not quicker path to the delusion and deception you see so vividly in Saul. And there are few conditions more powerful and more dangerous than spiritual deception and delusion. Obviously, it’s bad for any one – but it’s deadly for a leader. This brings on what people today call the dark side of leadership, where “self” rules absolutely – where a leader becomes fully centered on self – and in Saul’s case then, insanely jealous and murderously suspicious.
Chapter 18 goes on to inform us that Saul begins to plot David’s death. Look at verse 12 of chapter 18 -- Saul was afraid of David, for the Lord was with him but had departed from Saul. Then verse 15 -- he greatly dreaded David. Finally 18:29 -- Saul was even more afraid of David. Thus Saul was David’s enemy continually. When you get to this point, you realize that
2. Saul lost all perspective of righteousness and reality. (1 Samuel 18-27)
This is where you begin to realize that Saul’s not just self-centered, he’s bought into a demonic-styled deception that makes him do some inconceivable things.
There are several illustrations of this. As Saul’s plot against David begins in chapter 18, the loyal friendship between David and Saul’s son, Jonathan also begins. In chapter 19, it’s Jonathan that informs David of his father’s scheme.
Then, because deluded Saul has traded good for evil – one illustration of that perspective is he even tries to kill his own son. David has fled -- Saul interrogates Jonathan and Jonathan covers for his friend. In a fit of fury, Saul hurls his spear at his own son, even as he’s telling him -- David will take the throne that should belong to Jonathan.
Another illustration: it’s the convoluted accounts in which Saul tries again and again to hunt down David and kill him. As you’re reading these chapters, you have to ask at some point, “what exactly is David’s crime?” He’s been a loyal general – the accounts tell us, he’s the one who faithfully did all that Saul gave him to do. He led the army to great victories, providing more security for Israel. Even as part of a devious scheme of Saul, David went and killed 200 Philistines to gain Saul’s daughter in marriage. In reality, David’s only crime is -- God has had him anointed as Israel’s next king. He’s made no move against Saul, and he will not, but that decision of God is enough to make David – in Saul’s twisted view -- an enemy of the state.
Another illustration of Saul’s distorted perspective is his willingness to send a whole army out to scour the wilderness – to look for and kill one man. Again and again in chapters 23-27 it seems like Saul’s purpose in life and in his reign is to kill Israel’s next ruler.
A final illustration of his twisted perspective – it happens the night before Saul is killed. In fear again of his old adversaries – the Philistine army – Saul does another desperate thing; he stoops to what the OT calls spiritual adultery. In 1 Samuel 28, the last chapter of Saul’s life and reign, he visits a witch – a medium – and he gets her to “call up” the spirit of the dead prophet Samuel -- so he can consult him about his future.
His last desperate act leads to his sad conclusion.
3. Saul’s leadership ended in disastrous failure. (28-31)
That visit with the witch got Saul some news he had not wanted to hear. Bible scholars speculate about that so-called spirit that Saul saw, and we don’t have time today to delve into it – but apparently God allowed Saul see the figure of someone who at least looked like and spoke like Samuel because Saul heard words he’d heard before, but refused to accept.
Look at 28:18 – The Lord has done accordingly as He spoke through me; for the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to you neighbor, to David. As you did not obey the Lord and did not execute His fierce wrath on Amalek, so the Lord has done this thing to you this day. Moreover the Lord will also give over Israel along with you into the hands of the Philistines; therefore tomorrow you and your sons will be with me.
Saul now has a long history of systematically opposing God and God’s ways. He has been unfaithful to God -- unfaithful to God’s Word. He even imagined he could kill David, God’s anointed ruler – something which – by the way, David himself twice refused to do when he and Saul met in the wilderness.
Saul has been an opportunist – self-centered and jealous, madly trying to maintain power. His leadership was all about him and for a long time his life and reign had not been about God.
Let me show you God’s last words about Saul. Turn over a couple of books to 1 Chronicles, to chapter 10. Look at 1 Chronicles 10:13. So Saul died for his trespass which he committed against the Lord, because of the word of the Lord which he did not keep; and also because he asked counsel of a medium, making inquiry and did not inquire of the Lord. Therefore He killed him and turned the kingdom to David the son of Jesse. (1 Chronicles 10:13, 14)
In God’s final words, He simply says, Saul was unfaithful. As I’ve said, faithfulness to God -- is God’s foundation stone for leadership. You can be a leader -- of people in any organization or movement on earth. But leadership in God’s kingdom fails and falls whenever faithfulness to God goes missing. That’s God’s final word over Israel’s first King. Saul wouldn’t b the last King or leader in Scripture to die prematurely or to have his leadership wrenched away because he wasn’t faithful.
So what is faithfulness? Like a lot of biblical terms, we’ve robbed that one of most of its biblical meaning. Faithful today can refer to almost anyone who consistently does almost anything. But let’s get hold of two aspects of biblical faithfulness – first, as I’ve said,
Faithfulness means *committed loyalty to the Truth of God and Jesus Christ.
Saul’s fundamental problem was he kept playing at the edges of who God is!
And that’s why King Saul still wasn’t convinced that he owed God any allegiance. Saul is so like an average good lethargic American Christian, content as a cow in tall grass, who never really gets past square one in the faith. Biblically, to be faithful means you’ve got faith that is rock-solid conviction about God, anchored in the eternal Truth of Who He is and all He’s revealed.
Secondly, faithfulness means
* consistently living out commitment. It is “pressing on” and living according to the faith. It’s not living life like you did back when you first believed – it is living life because the One in Whom you believe. Faithful people have realized that knowing Christ changes everything. Plenty of Christians lived life like “practical atheists”. Like Saul, they’re more than glad to use God-words they picked up in Sunday school or church. But when it comes to life and decision-making and its hard core issues, they repeatedly choose their agenda over God’s.
Steps I will take
I’ve been an observer of people all my life. I’ve watched the authentic ones and the “would-be” people. I’ve observed the pattern in friends I’ve had, in fellow seminary students, missionaries, pastors, and church leaders. I’ve witnessed the pattern in husbands and wives and parents; in bosses and community leaders. Most of all I’ve watched it in my own life.
The pattern involves two pathways. And I’ve come to a conclusion over and over. It’s the same one you’ve witnessed from Saul’s experience. It’s this.
There is first a man or woman or young person who simply walks in faithfulness to God. They honor Him first; they spend time seeking God and His ways; spend time openly and regularly in Scripture and speaking to Him. That faithful person then can qualify as a real and authentic leader --- maybe in a small place, maybe in a large place.
And then there is the “would-be”. As Jesus said one time, they want to build the house without the foundation. Actively, or passively, they have decided, to follow – their own way, their urges, their understanding.
The life and reign of Saul are wisdom and a warning to you and to me. Don’t be the person who “might have” been faithful to God. Believe me when I tell you – you will not learn faithfulness years at the point when you’re called on to lead. You will learn it day-by-day, decision-by-decision, habit-by-habit, as you simply and intentionally walk humbly with your God.