Lessons from the life of Saul of First Samuel
See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God – that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble and by it many be defiled. – Hebrews 12:15
A Brief Summary of King Saul and His Bitterness
The people of Israel wanted a human king and God gave them one – Saul.
They wanted a king like other nations had and God gave them one – Saul.
Saul acted like other nations kings – he thought he was top dog and defied God’s commands (15:22)– so God removed his blessing and Spirit from Saul.
The Lord had Samuel the priest anoint another man – God’s man – to be the 2nd king of Israel. His name was David. He was just a teen when the Lord chose him but already he showed he had a heart for God and His law. He was also proving to be a great warrior in fighting against Israel’s enemies (Goliath). As he fought he became a ‘star’ – Saul has killed his 1000s, David his 10,000s.
Saul knew the Lord’s blessing and spirit had left him – it was no secret. And Saul knew that David was
growing in popularity but more importantly, David had God’s blessing. And Saul became very jealous and afraid of David and sought to kill him.
Saul’s son – Jonathan — who would have been the king had his father not have defied God – loved David. And Saul’s daughter, Michal, loved David. In fact, David killed 200 Philistines as a dowry so Saul would let him marry Michal.
But Saul’s bitterness wouldn’t allow him to let his children enjoy their friendship and love of David. He tried to get Jonathan to kill David. He tried to get Michal to tell him where David was hiding.
But you know what, David stayed loyal to Saul!
For whatever reason God had to keep Saul on the throne, David honored him. He never tried to hurt or kill Saul. He spoke respectfully of him. Twice he had the opportunity to kill Saul and David’s armies encouraged him to do it but David wouldn’t do it. As much heartache and confusion Saul was producing David refused to play God.
Saul’s bitterness became so twisted that he manipulated others to the point that eventually one of his soldiers became convinced it was okay to kill about 85 prophets and their families (22:6-19).
Dear people, David was not Saul’s problem. God was. Saul treated God’s holy name and his law lightly and as a result God disciplined Saul. Instead of accepting it and yielding to it, Saul took out his anger on David – even though David had done nothing to him.
Three lessons to be applied
Hebrews 12:15 – Let no root of bitterness spring up among you – many be defiled.
Bitterness is not first resentment against people; it is against God (I Peter 5:6-11). Someone has wronged us. We get overlooked or ignored. We get taken (real or imagined). Consequences for our sin go public and we are exposed. Instead of humbling ourselves before God and depending on Him to right wrongs and give us understanding, we resent Him! Don’t think your bitterness terminates on the person who wronged you; it terminates on God. Beware of the hypocrisy that on Sunday sings, Great Is Thy Faithfulness, and on Monday nurses resentment against that same faithful God!
Bitterness is a communicable disease. Mark it down, our bitterness will defile others (Hebrews 12:15). It will spread and defile God’s people. Like Saul’s distorted self-pity was bought into by Doeg, someone will buy into your ‘woe’ and take your godless view of the situation and try to fix it to make you feel better.
Sustained bitterness necessarily raises the question of salvation (Hebrews 12:14-17). The writer of Hebrews associates bitterness with immorality and godlessness (12:16). He uses Esau as an example of one so indifferent to the sovereignty of God because he was so lazer-focused on getting back the blessing his father had given Jacob (12:17; Gen. 27:30-40). His bitterness against the way God was fulfilling His divine plan choked out any sense of his need of repentance and submitting to God.
That should be a sober warning to us all – just as the Holy Spirit intends it to be. Members of Christ’s body are called to lovingly confront one another about bitterness (12:15). That’s not easy but when the root of bitterness is ripped out before it defiles others, the reward is peace with others and growth in Christlikeness (12:12-14).