Continuing on in our study of David’s life from the time he was anointed King until he actually became King, we find ourselves now in 1 Samuel 18.10-30:
10 The next day an evil spirit from God came forcefully on Saul. He was prophesying in his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he usually did. Saul had a spear in his hand 11 and he hurled it, saying to himself, “I’ll pin David to the wall.” But David eluded him twice.
12 Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with David but had departed from Saul. 13 So he sent David away from him and gave him command over a thousand men, and David led the troops in their campaigns. 14 In everything he did he had great success, because the Lord was with him. 15 When Saul saw how successful he was, he was afraid of him. 16 But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he led them in their campaigns.
17 Saul said to David, “Here is my older daughter Merab. I will give her to you in marriage; only serve me bravely and fight the battles of the Lord.” For Saul said to himself, “I will not raise a hand against him. Let the Philistines do that!” 18 But David said to Saul, “Who am I, and what is my family or my clan in Israel, that I should become the king’s son-in-law?” 19 So when the time came for Merab, Saul’s daughter, to be given to David, she was given in marriage to Adriel of Meholah.
20 Now Saul’s daughter Michal was in love with David, and when they told Saul about it, he was pleased. 21 “I will give her to him,” he thought, “so that she may be a snare to him and so that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” So Saul said to David, “Now you have a second opportunity to become my son-in-law.” 22 Then Saul ordered his attendants: “Speak to David privately and say, ‘Look, the king likes you, and his attendants all love you; now become his son-in-law.’ ” 23 They repeated these words to David. But David said, “Do you think it is a small matter to become the king’s son-in-law? I’m only a poor man and little known.” 24 When Saul’s servants told him what David had said, 25 Saul replied, “Say to David, ‘The king wants no other price for the bride than a hundred Philistine foreskins, to take revenge on his enemies.’ ” Saul’s plan was to have David fall by the hands of the Philistines.
26 When the attendants told David these things, he was pleased to become the king’s son-in-law. So before the allotted time elapsed, 27 David took his men with him and went out and killed two hundred Philistines and brought back their foreskins. They counted out the full number to the king so that David might become the king’s son-in-law. Then Saul gave him his daughter Michal in marriage.
28 When Saul realized that the Lord was with David and that his daughter Michal loved David, 29 Saul became still more afraid of him, and he remained his enemy the rest of his days. 30 The Philistine commanders continued to go out to battle, and as often as they did, David met with more success than the rest of Saul’s officers, and his name became well known.
We have one lesson and one difficult aspect that we need to discuss. But let’s start with this: David is described as experiencing great military success in several different passages (18.5,14,30 & 19.9). It is against this backdrop that we will learn our lesson.
Problem of Evil
An evil spirit from the Lord is sent on Saul at least two times: 18.10, 19.9. If we are to interpret the Scriptures correctly, we find that God uses evil agents and evil in general to accomplish His purposes as well as using angels and those who follow Him. The number of passages in the Bible are numerous enough and the problems presented with trying to find an explanation that fits other than the plain reading of the text are so difficult, that it seems best to simply say that God can use evil for His purposes and yet He is never to be charged with doing evil nor is He the source of evil. This would fit with His absolute sovereignty: nothing is outside God’s control – including all of evil. While this does present its’ own set of problems, I would rather serve a God who is fully sovereign and powerful over all that is evil and good than I would to serve a God for whom some evil is just too strong or too great to be within His control. Happily, the Bible presents God in this light.
So, given this: what is the relationship between God and Evil?
As we see in this passage, God may use evil to fulfill His purposes. Yet God Himself never does evil. God uses willing, moral agents to bring about the evil that fulfills His purposes and yet God holds those agents responsible for their choices. God never takes pleasure in evil, God is never to be blamed for evil and yet God uses evil deeds to fulfill His purposes.
Consider the story of Joseph. His brothers hated him, wanted to kill him, did wrong when they cast him into a pit, sold him into slavery and lied to their father (Gen 37). Yet Joseph says that God sent me before you (Gen 45.5) and that God meant it for good (Gen 50.20). consider that God hardened Pharoah’s heart numerous times in the story of the Exodus (chapters 4-10). Both God and Pharoah caused his heart to be hard (Ex 8.15, 32, 9.34). In addition, the Lord hardened the Canaanites hearts (Josh 11.20). Samson’s demand to marry an unbelieving Philistine woman was from the Lord (Judges 14.4). We know that King Saul was tormented by an evil spirit sent from the Lord (1 Sam 16.14) and God used evil to punish David after his sin with Bathsheeba (s Sam 12.11-12). Later on, the Lord used Satan to incite David into sin (2 Sam 24.1 with 1 Chron 21.1) and yet God still held David accountable for His sin. The Bible tells us that the Lord raised up evil kings to punish Solomon (1 Kings 11.14, 23) and that God gave permission to Satan to torment Job (Job 1-2). He put a lying spirit in the mouth of Ahab’s prophets (1 Kings 22.23) and He sent the wicked Assyrians as “the rod of my anger” to punish Israel (Isa 10.5). Even though He sent the Babylonians as his instrument of punishment on Israel (Jer 25.9), God punished the Babylonians for their evil acts that He caused them to do (Jer 25.12). A false prophet with a deceiving message is brought by the Lord (Ezek 14.9) and evil befalls a city by the hand of the Lord (Amos 3.6). Then in Amos 4, God reminds the people that the disasters were brought by His hand, “yet you did not return to me”.
Other passages speak to the Lord’s use of evil to fulfill His purposes. For example, evil comes from the mouth of God (Lam. 3.38). God creates both prosperity and evil (Is 45.7). The crucifixion of Christ was ordained by God (Acts 4.27) yet the apostles clearly attach no blame to God and they held the willing choices of sinful men accountable (Acts 2.23). The greatest evil ever perpetrated in this world was ordained and planned by God Himself to fulfill His purposes.
As people stray from the Lord, He brings about evil and destruction on them through other evil people, yet he holds those who commit the evil accountable for their actions. God brings about his plan through the willing, sinful choices of men whom He then holds accountable for their sin. When evil comes into our lives, we can know the providence of God is at work to cause all things to work together for good (Rom 8.28).
God is so sovereign, He has even reserved some evil men for the day of judgment (Prov 16.4). Again, God never does evil and is never to be blamed for evil (James 1.13-14). Though God ordained that evil would come about, God is removed from actually doing evil and bringing it about does not impugn His holiness or render Him blameworthy. For example, Job didn’t blame God for the evil that came into His life, the Scriptures never blame God for evil’s existence and work and neither should we.
Any other conclusion doesn’t make sense. Either we would need to conclude that God is not completely sovereign because there was evil that He did not anticipate and cannot control, or, we must conclude that God does evil and therefore is blameworthy. But neither of those come even close to who God is and how He presents Himself in the Scriptures.
Because God is completely sovereign over evil, His promises of protection, to work all this together for our good and His offer of salvation have complete credibility. This same God who….
- Directs the winds
- Feeds the animals
- Keeps this world and its institutions going
- Who uses both good and evil to fulfill His purposes
…..ordained that His Son would be slayed for you and me so that we could have an intimate, personal relationship with Him! If we see His sovereignty over good and evil coupled with His love for us and His willingness to die for us, then we can see that His triumph over evil is grounded in His sovereignty over evil and His love for us is a complimentary characteristic which evokes our worship, praise, adoration, awe and wonder for what He has done for us!
We can know that the salvation He offers us is real, powerful and effective because His sovereignty gives Him complete credibility to claim that He has triumphed over evil (John 16.33: “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world!”).
Back to Saul and David
Saul tries to kill David at least three more times and his own son once in an effort to keep the Kingdom in his family: 18.10, 17, 25, 19.10, 20.31-33. Yet God gave David much favor with: (18.1-7)
- The people
- Other commanders
- Michael (18.20)
Saul is the classic picture of a man living in sin, trying to hold on to power (authority) against the will of God. This opens Him to control by evil spirits and embroiled in anger and hatred, he attemptes murder at least 5 more times. Saul lives with a fear of losing what he has. He is afraid of losing authority and power. Saul is a picture of how the world handles power:
- Power is mine
- Power is “claimed”
- Power makes it “about my agenda”
- Loss of power is tantamount to failure
- One’s Identity becomes tied to a position of power
- So holding onto position and power is the ultimate goal
- So holding onto power becomes the organizing principle of one’s life
Yet the Christian is supposed to handles power very differently. As Christians we:
- View power is an entrustment from God
- Power is stewarded
- It’s about God’s agenda
- We cannot lose power because we never really have it
- Identity tied to Christ, not our position
- Attaining heaven and seeing Christ face-to-face is the ultimate goal
- Love for God & others is organizing principle of our lives
So, Saul is a picture of a man who knows his days are numbered, yet is without hope and realizes that his dreams will never be fulfilled. He is in bondage to sin, which leads to a life without peace. He is lonely, bitter and increasingly unstable. He is a picture of a man whose authority is less and less effective, more and more vacuous and more and more “losing it” mentally and emotionally. Saul once walked with the Lord but turned away from Him.
The qualitative difference between David and Saul is this: when David sinned, he turned back to God. When Saul sinned, He did not. As a result, David’s authority and his reign were far more impactful and better than Saul’s simply because of this one core difference.
When we look to find leaders for our businesses, organizations and nation, we should look for people who are not perfect, but instead, know how to admit when they have sinned or messed up and learn from their mistakes. This will give them a higher quality of authority and a higher level of respect among the population – even among those who disagree with them.
Bill English, CEO