Recently I’ve been reading through the book of 1 Samuel and couldn’t help but notice how Saul and David mirror each other with their stories but contrast one another with how they react to the Lord moving in their lives. Saul was the first king of Israel, and David was one of the greatest kings of Israel (or, at the very least, the most memorable), yet the two men could not have been more different.
When Saul was anointed king over Israel, he had to be pulled out of a pile of luggage where he was hiding (1 Samuel 10:22-23). Samuel told him that he would become the king, yet when the time came, he was so scared that he tried to hide from his calling and from God. David, too, had to be brought in to accept the call on his life. The difference is that while Saul had purposefully hidden himself, David was out in the field caring for his father’s sheep. Just as Saul tried to hide himself from God, David’s family tried to hide him from the Lord. Both men stepped into their new positions and callings with questions and uncertainty. Both were reluctant kings at first, but each handled this crazy life change in drastically different ways.
Saul wanted the glory and honour of being a victorious king for himself. He let pride take root in his heart and relied on man’s strength rather than on the Lord. Saul took the Lord’s commands as simple advice, as suggestions that he could edit and add to as he thought fit. His heart might have been in the right place (1 Samuel 13:8-14), but Saul forgot that the Lord desires our obedience over superficial holiness (1 Samuel 15:22). God wants us to love, honour, and obey Him in our words, actions, and thoughts, because being a “good Christian: on the outside will never be enough, there needs to be a soul-deep heart change as well.
“And Samuel said,
“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,1 Samuel 15:22 ESV
as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to listen than the fat of rams.””
On the other hand, David continually inquired of the Lord and sought refuge in the shadow of His wings. It was nearly fifteen years between David being anointed king at his father’s farm and his taking over the throne. In those years, David faced trials and triumphs. He defeated giants and hid in caves, scared for his life. He was hunted by Saul relentlessly, and even though David had several opportunities to kill Saul, he never did. David respected and honoured that the Lord had made Saul king over Israel, and he would serve his earthly king because he worshiped and honoured the King of Kings. David wrote psalms, prayers, and songs of praise. He danced and shouted in the streets, fought battles and defeated enemies. But he wasn’t perfect, and he sinned in some significant ways. But what stands out between Saul and David is that David repented of his sin and used that as a catalyst for deepening and renewing his relationship with God. In contrast, Saul only got more tangled up in it.
It can be so easy to see one man as better than the other, but the truth is that both were sinful men living in a profoundly broken world. And the same is true for us today. It can be so easy to see one person as better or more spiritual than another, but that’s not the truth. There are times when we’ll be more like David, soaking in the Word and inquiring of the Lord as we go throughout our days. And then there will be days when we’re more like Saul, hiding in the luggage to avoid our calling and seeking worldly solutions to our problems. We are all sinful people living in a deeply broken world. But the wonderful news is that we don’t have to stay there, and we don’t have to go it alone. We have a heavenly Father who loves us and wants the best for us; we can go to him anytime. So don’t be discouraged or downcast by your life’s situations; instead, bring them to the Lord and feel his love, grace, and mercy wash over you.