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Sermon preached on 1 Samuel 16:1-13 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 5/17/2015 in Novato, CA.
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1 Samuel 18 1-16
“What More Can He Have But the Kingdom?”
Jealousy. Jealousy can cause great inner turmoil in you. And jealousy can wreak havoc in your life. Of course, I’m not talking about that righteous jealousy that we sometimes read about in the Bible. That’s the kind, for example, that God uses to describe how he is jealous for his worship, that he doesn’t want people to worship idols. Such jealousy by God is right because he’s concerned about zealously maintaining what rightly belongs only to himself. But the kind of jealousy we are going to be talking about is the sinful kind of jealousy. This is the kind of jealousy you are probably most used to thinking about when you hear the word “jealousy.” It’s when someone has sinful resentment toward someone’s successes or position in life. You are upset because you want for yourself, what belongs to someone else. All sin starts in the heart of man, but its especially easy to see how sinful jealousy is a sin of the heart. We humans can be so concerned about ourselves. So self-focused; so selfish. In our pride, we are not content with the place God has put us, or the things he’s given us. We can want that which does not belong to us, but to another.
This is what we see here with Saul. Because of Saul’s own sin, God had already rejected him as king. Already God had de facto taken the kingdom away from him. And yet, refusing to accept this divine reality, Saul clings on to the kingdom with all that he can. And yet Saul knows God has said he would be giving his kingdom to another; to a neighbor better than himself. And so when David begins to rise in prominence, Saul is not content with the prospect that David might be the one God was talking about. And so we’ll see that as David rises in his prominence among the people, that Saul’s efforts to get rid of David rise as well. But it is futile to try to oppose the will of God. And so Saul only contributes to his demise and downward spiral in looking to oppose David. And so as we stand back and look at this passage, we can see how Saul’s jealousy only made things worse for Saul. Saul could have embraced the chastisement the Lord brought to him as God’s will for his life. He could have accepted that God was bringing a new king that was not himself. He could have been happy in the Lord for David as David was used by God in some great ways among the people. But Saul’s jealousy would not allow this. Saul’s jealousy caused him to reject and persecute the Lord’s Anointed One. He did not gladly receive the Lord’s Christ. There a lesson for us to learn here as well in terms of how we are receive Jesus Christ. We’ll develop that further in our third point for today.
But first, let’s look here at the context for Saul’s jealousy. It’s the fact of David’s rise as a leader among the people. This chapter recounts how David came back from the battlefield after killing Goliath to songs that celebrate his victory. The women sang in great joy, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” Not only that, but after his great victory over Goliath, Saul had initially saw that David’s someone he should have in his full time service. So we read in verse 2 of how after that victory over Goliath that Saul took him into the king’s full time service. He could no longer go back to serving his father. Remember that before David was serving as a musician for King Saul, but last chapter we learned that this was only part time. That some of the time he still tended sheep for his father Jesse. But now that is changing. Coming off this victory over Goliath, Saul was pressing him into full time service for the crown.
Well, we see part of what this service entailed in verses 5, 13, 16. There David is described as going out and coming in. As we read these verses closely, we see that this is military language. Saul appointed David as a captain in the army, to lead a group of soldiers. And the text emphasizes that served as a military leader in a good way, that he conducted himself very wisely. David’s wise conduct is repeatedly emphasized here. Surely, it all comes back to what it says in verse 14. That the LORD was with him. And so people noticed David’s commendable service. Look at verse 16. The people loved David; not just his own tribe of Judah; but all Israel! The whole nation fell in love with David and how God was so clearly at work through him. They recognized how God was doing great things through David. And so they were thankful for David and loved David because they knew God was with him, and blessing them through David. And it’s not just the people in general who love him. In verse 3, we see how much Prince Jonathan came to love David. And in next week’s passage will see how Princess Michael also comes to love David. Everyone seems to love David. Of course the first person we are told that came to love David was two chapters back, in chapter 16. That was King Saul. 16:21, Saul came to love David greatly. And yet, that changes here in this chapter. You see, it’s so right to love this man whom God is clearly providently using in your midst. It’s right to love him and love how God is using him as a leader among you. Everyone in the nation is recognizing it.
And yet it’s precisely that same recognition that causes the opposite effect in King Saul. Instead of loving David all the more, Saul’s jealousy rises up. And his sinful jealousy causes Saul to begin to hate David instead. How sadly ironic this is. As we see David’s rise to prominence here, there is nothing in the passage that would suggest that David was coveting Saul’s place of privilege. Remember, David knows that God has anointed him to be the next king. But there is never any sign of David being jealous of King Saul that Saul is still reigning, even after David’s been anointed. No, there is no sign of such jealousy by David. David seems content for the Lord’s will to be worked out in the Lord’s time. On the other hand, Saul has received a clear word from God that he’s been rejected as king. Saul’s still reigning as king only on borrowed time, so to speak. And yet Saul in his jealousy, won’t even be happy for David in how God’s using him. As David finds theses successes from God, Saul’s jealous hatred only intensifies for David. It’s very sad. But again, when there is such jealousy present, you can end up acting in the exact opposite way than you should. In your jealous anger you can have trouble thinking clearly, and the result can be a downward spiral of sin. Again, think to your own life and see the difficulty that such sinful jealousy has brought to you and you can begin to relate to what was going on for King Saul.
Well, this leads us then to our next point. I’d like us to turn now and consider the growing demise of Saul in this passage. We are told here of three emotions of Saul here. His jealousy, his anger, and his fear. I said it with jealousy, and it’s true of those other two emotions as well, that there is a righteous way to express such emotions. You can theoretically have righteous jealousy, and righteous anger, and righteous fear. But that is not what Saul has here. No, he has sinful jealous, sinful anger, and sinful fear.
His jealousy is seen very clearly in verse 8. After he returns back from the battle where David had killed Goliath, Saul hears the song that the people are singing. Verse 8 shows us his thought process upon hearing the song. He observes that David seems to be getting greater praise in the song. And so he is jealous. This is his conclusion of it all: “Now what more can he have but the kingdom.” Now, on the one hand you might think Saul is overreacting; that he’s just being a bit melodramatic here. And yet remember, Saul has been the recipient of divine prophecy. God has told Saul in no uncertain terms that he is bringing up a replacement for him. And so when Saul hears this praise of David, he connects the dots in his mind. He rightly assumes that this must be the person God was talking about. And so Saul is now concerned that he’ll be losing his kingdom to David. Of course, that’s the wrong response of Saul. He’s jealous over something that at this point is not really his anymore. And yet Saul becomes jealous nonetheless, and begins to act to protect what he believes should be his. Verse 9 records the great suspicion he then begins to have for David.
So then, we also see Saul’s anger here. Not only are we told in verse 8 that he’s very angry, but we see that Saul then tries to kill David. Saul tries to put a spear through David while David’s playing music for him! David escapes, but as we continue to read on in this book, we’ll see that David finally realizes that he can’t keep just escaping like this from Saul’s anger. That if he doesn’t flee, that one of these times Saul will succeed in killing him. It will cause David to have to go on the run as a sort of refugee. So do you see how Saul’s jealousy expressed itself in this anger? And do you see how this anger ultimately resulted in this murderous rage? This is the problem with such sinful motives. Look where they can bring you too!
We see then Saul’s fear also come out. Verses 12 and 15 talk about how much he began to fear David. Next week we’ll see in verse 29 that this fear is again mentioned. But look at the nature of this fear. In verse 12, his fear is because he knows God is with David, but no longer with him. And in verse 15, his fear is because David is acting so wisely; clearly he perceives that as a threat to him. This is sad. It’s all Saul failing to accept what God has now decreed for him, and he’s a jealous, suspicious, and angry man so afraid of losing everything that he had come to have. Behind this all, is Saul’s pride. He wants himself to be exalted. He doesn’t want to give away his glory and his kingdom to David or anyone else.
Maybe you think I’m being too hard on Saul. Maybe you say, just think about it from Saul’s perspective. It would not have been easy to welcome and support and love someone who you saw as a threat to all that you held dear. How could we expect that of Saul, or anyone? Well, if Saul had a vested interest to act like this, there is one other person in this story who also would have had a similar interest, if not more. But look how differently he responds. I’m talking about Saul’s son, Jonathan. If David were not here, Jonathan would otherwise be heir to the throne. If anyone stands to lose the kingdom, it’s not just Saul, but its especially Jonathan. But Jonathan stands as a great foil to King Saul here. Because Jonathan recognized the hand of God with David. We’ve already seen the great love Jonathan has for the Lord. Jonathan has shown that he is content to serve the Lord in righteousness, however God would see fit to use him. And so when Jonathan sees that God is with David, Jonathan does not feel threatened. Instead, Jonathan embraces him in love. He embraces him in the closest of friendship. Verses 3-4 are so awesome here. The emphasize that Jonathan took the initiative to love David, and make a covenant with David. He even gives Jonathan his robe, and armor, and weapons. And so Jonathan doesn’t persecute David. He doesn’t see David as a threat. No, he partners with David. They both have the same goals anyways. They want to be used by God for God’s kingdom and for God’s purposes.
You see, that’s all Jonathan and David really were. They were but servants of God. Saul should have seen this as well. It wasn’t really Saul’s kingdom. It was God’s kingdom. Saul was anointed to serve God on behalf of the Lord’s kingdom. And if God was going to bring a new leader to replace you, then who are you to argue with God. The kingdom was never Saul’s to hold onto in the first place. That’s why his jealousy was so wrong. He was jealous over something that really wasn’t even his to be jealous over. Jonathan recognizes this and in great love and covenant embraces David. We don’t know if at this point Jonathan fully recognized that David was to be the new anointed King of God over Israel. But as we watch this relationship unfold, Jonathan will make clear that at some point he recognizes this. And he then clearly embraces it too. This is how Saul should have embraced David. But in his jealousy, he does not.
So then, realize the significance here. In the grand scheme of Old Testament typology, think of what this represents. This isn’t simply a story of one person’s jealousy over another. It’s a rejected leader of God’s people, in sinful jealousy, rejecting the anointed leader that God has chosen for his people. It’s Saul rejecting the Anointed One of the Lord, trying to jealously maintain his own power. Saul’s efforts of course are ultimately futile and self-defeating. There is no blessing in rejecting the Lord’s Anointed, for any reason; let alone for sinful jealous.
So then, in our last point for today, I want us to think about how we see this story reprised in the future with Jesus Christ. What Saul and David here represent typologically finds a greater fulfillment with Jesus Christ. Think about how we see something similar in the life of Jesus. He came into this world and began to teach the people. He conducted himself in great wisdom, like David. He went among all the people, town to town, proclaiming the coming of the kingdom. In spiritual military might he exorcised demons along the way. And the result was that in general the people loved him. More and more people began to receive him and his message. Some began even to realize that he was the Christ, the promised Anointed One of the Lord. So what did the existing leaders of God’s people do? In general, what was their response? Did they receive him in love, like Jonathan received David? Did they herald him as King and covenant to follow him?
No, they did not. Instead they began to persecute him. And when they brought him before Pilate to be condemned to death, guess what Pilate realized? It says in Mark 15:10 that Pilate he recognized why the religious leaders wanted to put Jesus to death. It says that it was out of envy. Envy! In other words, the same kind of jealousy that Saul had here for the anointed David, the religious leaders had for Jesus the Anointed One. Now yes, some of the religious leaders began to realize who Jesus really was. And some of those religious leaders, like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea began to follow him. But they too serve as foils; foils to all the other religious leaders who should have embraced Jesus. Instead they handed him over to be put to death.
And that’s where David shows that he is not the ultimate Christ. For David’s life was preserved from Saul so that he could take the throne as the Lord’s Anointed One and reign over God’s kingdom. David escaped the spear that was thrown at him, and many other attempts at his life. Now yes, Jesus also evaded capture or death many times; we see that recorded in the gospels. But when his right time came, he finally allowed himself to be arrested and put to death. He willingly went to the cross. He died there, and even had a spear thrust through him. But this was part of his wise conducting of himself. For he was pierced for our iniquities. In this he combated sin and death and Satan. In this, he loved us first. In this he secured a high position in the kingdom of God, when what we deserved is to rejected eternally from that kingdom.
And so, the application of this passage is more than just about putting off sinful jealousy and envy. Yes, yes, we should put off such things. They are not things for the people of God to embrace. But this passage is more than just about the evils of such sinful jealousy. It’s about how bad leaders among God’s people reject the Lord’s Messiah, who is the real leader for God’s people. It’s about how they reject the Messiah out of envy. Because they want themselves to be the focus and not the Lord.
That’s the most specific application then, that comes out of this passage. We need to see that our ultimate leader and king is the Lord Jesus Christ. We need what he has won for us at the cross. And so we ought to make sure our leaders are leading us to Christ, not to themselves. Our leaders need to exalt Jesus, not themselves. It’s like what Jonathan did here with David. And it’s like what John the Baptist did with Jesus. John the Baptist was content in the role of leadership that God gave him. That role meant that when Jesus came and rose into prominence, that he himself becoming less, and Jesus become more. We need to follow leaders that will become less. That will teach us to follow Jesus. That will make things not about their own kingdoms, but about the Christ’s kingdom.
As I look around Christendom today, I see too many churches with leaders that have built up little kingdoms that are not about Christ and his heavenly kingdom. I am not about sheep stealing from other Bible believing churches. But when there are so called Christians churches that are no longer about Christ and his kingdom, but about their own organization’s growth, and when they are no longer teaching the gospel, then I have no problem in engaging in a rescue mission. And I point to the book of Acts as an example. The early church pulled their members from two sources. Yes, one source was from the unchurched gentiles. But the other was from the synagogues led by these religions leaders who out of envy wouldn’t receive Jesus as the Christ.
And there comes the final application for today. In the book of Acts, when the apostles started doing their ministry, the religious leaders persecuted the apostles out of a similar jealousy when the apostles tried to save people away from the religious leaders’ anti-Christian teachings. So the application is that we should not be ashamed to try to bring people out of such so-called churches that no longer bring people to Christ and the gospel. But we should also not be surprised when such churches, particularly their leaders, don’t like it. We should not be surprised if in further jealousy they persecute it. Of course the point is that this is how they persecuted Jesus, and so as we follow Jesus, it will be how they persecuted us. David as a type of Christ, experienced some of this from Saul in today’s passage. And as we engage in this world, we should expect the same.
But we take heart, for Christ has overcome the world. He’s our leader. Let us keep following his lead, and by his sufficient strength. Let us in his wisdom, then, seek to engage in spiritual battle with this world. Even in combat with those churches that have ceased to really be churches and actually have become synagogues of Satan. Let us pray for wisdom to discern the difference. But let us not miss this great call to point people away from themselves and unto Christ.
We know how the story of David ends. Despite many attempts by Saul, David is established as king in glory. And we know how the bigger story ends too. It hasn’t ended yet. But here’s a spoiler alert: Jesus Christ wins. He will come again and be established in glory in his kingdom. A kingdom that he has made us apart of through faith in him. Praise be to God! Amen!
Copyright © 2015 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.