Summary: Saul and David illustrate the differences between true and false success in life.
If there is a quote that I count among my favorites, it is the quote from George W. Truett, who said that “True success is knowing God’s will and being in the center of it.” Implied in that quote is that there is a type of success that is true and another that is false.
In this passage, we see a wonderful example of the truth of this statement in the life of David. In a sense, both Saul and David were successes, but while Saul’s success was a curse, David’s was a blessing; because David’s success was true, while Saul’s was false. As we consider the contrast between these two men, let’s make note of the differences between false and true success in life.
1. False Success is Grasped; True Success is Given - vs. 1-5
Saul wanted to remain king and pass along his legacy to his son, Jonathon. All through-out 1 Samuel, this is his focus. He finds himself fighting against God as he strives to tighten his grasp on the throne.
By contrast, David is not striving to grasp hold of anything. He simply focuses on remaining faithful to God by making the most of what opportunities for service God gives. As a result, success is not something he had to gain through his effort and ingenuity; it was something that was given by God’s grace. This is beautifully portrayed in what we are told about Jonathon’s covenant with David (vs. 3-4). The very one that represented the continuation of Saul’s legacy as king of Israel, recognized David as the God appointed heir to the throne. That is what Jonathan’s actions portray.
A) Jonathan gave David the benefit of his royal position. Giving his robe and tunic to David symbolized that everything belonging to him also belonged to David.
B) Jonathan gave David the benefit of his royal power. Giving David his sword, bow, and belt indicated that Jonathan was pledging himself to David’s defense; placing his power at David’s disposal.
You see, God had a plan for David. He was destined to be Israel’s king. And as David was faithful to take each step God provided, he eventually entered into that destiny. If God opens doors for you, no one can shut them; if God closes doors to you, nothing can open them.
The only one who can close a door God opens to you is yourself.
That is what Saul did through his disobedience. But by his obedience, David saw the door God opened to him simply open wider and wider; until it opened so wide that even the heir to the throne recognized being king was a destiny that belonged to David.
Sometimes, we think there is nothing for us to do until God reveals His plan for our lives. Then we will get busy. Instead, we need to see that God’s destiny is something that He brings about in our lives as we are faithful with each opportunity to serve Him.
David served as the shepherd of his father’s sheep. As a result, he had the opportunity to trust god to help him to defeat the lion and the bear. As a result, he had the opportunity to trust God to enable him to defeat Goliath. As a result, he had the opportunity to become part of Saul royal court. As a result, he had the opportunity to become the close friend of the king’s son, Jonathon. As a result, he was given opportunity to serve the king as a leader in the royal army.
True success is given, not grasped. It is given one step at a time; and fully received as we are faithful to obey God in every opportunity.
2. False Success is Jealous; True Success is Joyful - vs. 6-9
Now, after defeating Goliath, the armies of Israel pursued the Philistines and defeated them. Apparently, David accompanied them, and showed himself to be even more courageous in doing so.
Consequently, upon the armies of Israel returning from their defeat of the Philistines, they are greeted with a song sung by the women, who are rejoicing in how God used Saul and how God had used David. They were not seeking to make any kind of comparison or to dishonor Saul - quite the opposite! But Saul didn’t see it that way. Saul was jealous because he wasn’t honored as the “top dog.”
Because false success is based on my efforts and ingenuity rather than on my faithfulness in God given opportunities, one is always going to be concerned with being recognized more than giving God the glory.
This is the attitude that characterized Saul. David, on the other hand, seemed to join in the celebration led by these women - a celebration designed, not to bring honor to any man, but to bring honor to God.