Saturday, September 7, 2013

Yesterday's Leaders: A look at King Saul

David and Saul are examples of two kinds of leaders. One became the leader of his day and had the strength of God; the other was yesterday’s leader, having lost the strength of God due to disobedience.

Long before David would take the throne, he was chosen by God to succeed the throne. In this we see the plan of God to prepare his servant long before he would actually arise to a place of leading God’s people.

David’s preparation began in the field, watching over his father’s flock, fighting the bear and a lion to prove his due diligence in protecting the family livelihood and inheritance.  One day David went to take lunch to his older brothers as they stood with the rest of the army against the Philistines. He was ridiculed and despised by his brothers and accused of having wrong motivation for even being out on the battlefield, yet David innocently asked, “What have I done? Is there not a cause?” There was a cause: jealousy. Even they mocked him, yet it did not daunt him when it came to assessing the nature of the problem at hand.

Imagine the scene, if you will. The Philistines are atop one mountain, the Israelites on a mountain peak across from them, and all they’re doing is yelling back and forth trading insults. That’s right. Insults. These are a bunch of supposed tough guys but they are so intimidated by the size and the threat of the Philistine army that they are reduced to fighting like a bunch of girls. Actually, I have known some girls that would fight better than them! In their assessment of the problem they faced, somehow they completely lost sight of the fact that GOD WAS WITH THEM. Even Saul, the reigning king, was down in the valley with his knees shaking, too afraid to lead his people into battle. That is where Saul really blew it.

Saul was controlled by fear and insecurity. He was an indecisive and weak leader that was ruled by a need for self-preservation. His need to think of himself first put everyone else at risk. He couldn’t rule effectively because he first stopped to think of how everything would affect him. Self-preservation caused him to be disobedient towards God and prove himself to be an ineffective leader. He had a careless attitude towards obedience which caused him to lose sight of the fact that he was put in authority to model faith and trust in God before the people. Saul had every opportunity to go up against Goliath just as David did. Even more so, as the people naturally looked to the reigning king to lead them into battle against their enemies. Saul was afraid and his delay in taking action was actually probably more to do with wondering how he could lead his people into action and not get hurt. The Philistine was threatening to make all of Israel their servants if the man they sent in to battle went up against Goliath and lost. Saul did not feel capable of winning the battle and so he hesitated, and kept hesitating, until someone with courage and faith stood up to do what he was not willing to do.

What Saul did not count on was the fact that his act of cowardice was breaking faith with God and in God’s estimation, an act of disloyalty. He showed no confidence that God would help them win the battle, but that was a key factor to him being disqualified Saul from leadership. Saul did a lot to prove himself unfit to rule on numerous occasions.

We all know the story of how David defeated Goliath. Even in the face of sneers and word curses from the impressive looking enemy, David understood three important things. 1) David had previous experiences where God had shown himself strong and helped him defeat other enemies. 2) God was not on the side of the enemy, because His covenant was with the Israelites. David knew that no matter how intimidating the giant appeared, the battle was already won. 3) The giant cursed David and defied the living God, and the Bible is clear that whoever curses a child of God gets repaid by God according to Genesis 12:3.

David saw things quite differently than Saul because David wasn’t thinking about himself. He was thinking about standing up for God’s honor and keeping his brethren from becoming servants of the enemy. His priorities were in the right order. David once again proved himself fit for leadership.

What happened to Saul? Scripture says the very next day a distressing spirit – a demonic, tormenting spirit – came upon Saul. The Spirit of God departed from his disobedient servant even though Saul was still the ruler that everyone looked to for leadership. The Spirit of God came to rest upon David and equip David for further conquests. Saul became even more jealous and insecure, and he tried to hold on to his kingdom, power, and influence – not by faith in God to preserve him – but by his own efforts. Saul contrived plot after plot to try and trip David up. He thought to himself, “God is with this man, I had better not touch him, but I will put him in precarious situations so that others will do what I should not.” (Read 1 Sa. 18:17).

I cannot say exactly what Saul said or implied to others, but he was a shifty guy. He started out by throwing spears and javelins at David, trying to pin him to the wall. That was in private. 1 Sam. 18:11. David showed wisdom and that made Saul even more determined to get rid of the man that was destined to become his successor. Saul’s evil mind calculated a wicked scheme that involved others to carry out his plot to get rid of David. Saul knew if he touched David, who had obviously gained God’s approval, he could get struck down by God himself. Ironically, in the end it was Saul who was killed by his own sword. Sword refers to the word or doctrine one lives by.

Instead of harming David with his own hands, Saul put him on the front lines hoping the enemy would take him out. When that didn’t work, Saul got his own army to hunt him down and kill him. This is where Saul made another foolish mistake. In his arrogance and smug determination to destroy David, he forgot that the army wasn’t his army. Saul was the king of Israel and as such was supposed to represent God to the people. That army didn’t belong to him to carry out a personal agenda for vengeance. The army belonged to God to serve God’s purposes for the advancement of the kingdom. It doesn’t serve a person's best interests to forget who appointed them to leadership or why. Saul mistakenly thought he could use what belonged to God to carry out vengeance towards another man. Yet, David was not even an enemy; David was another brother in the Lord. Huge mistake on Saul’s part. Even Saul’s own son, Jonathan, asked his father why he continued to try to take David’s life and sin against innocent blood. 1 Sam. 19:5. “Why then will you sin against innocent blood, to kill David without a cause?”

Jealousy is a devious spirit, and is fueled by lust. Lust is never satisfied. Saul found himself unable to control his jealous rages and continued to conspire against David because it was the only way he felt he could rid himself of competition for the throne. His disobedience, cowardice and jealousy now added attempted murder to his list of sins. Saul stood guilty before God and had the opportunity to repent; instead, when confronted by the prophet Samuel he made excuses and shifted all the blame onto the people to be his scapegoats. Apparently Saul thought he could avoid accountability and blame others for his own disobedience. God wouldn’t have any of it. Saul’s days as king were numbered. Saul became yesterday’s man even though he was held the position of the reigning king. People still had their eyes on him because he was in the public eye. Perhaps that is how Saul got his army to go along with a scheme to carry out premeditated murder of an innocent man. They probably thought they were defending the king’s honor. He was, in fact, their king. Their leader. A trusted leader would not take advantage of their innocence to further his twisted agenda, would he? Their king would not intentionally mislead them, would he? It was unthinkable. Yet that is exactly what Saul did. He was appointed by God to rule the people. He was appointed by God to protect the people. Instead he led them into sin and used them to accomplish his personal vendetta.

The sad life of Saul is reviewed as a man who started out with every advantage in life, and had every opportunity to advance God’s kingdom, yet ended badly because of his disobedience. He lost his family, his inheritance and his future, and it started out with a need for self-preservation. Friend, do you see how devious the enemy is? How calculating? We need to trust God with every situation, and leave the results to Him. He can win any battle except for the one we insist on winning in our own strength and by our own hand.

The temptations of the enemy are very subtle and appealing. They will always appeal to our flesh nature, for that is the only way the enemy can get a hook in people to cooperate with him. I want you to stop and think about that for a moment. Consider some of the bait the enemy puts on his hook:

·         Fear. Fear of man, fear of losing our reputation, a position, friendships, all those fears and insecurities can make a person more concerned about what others think rather than being concerned about what God thinks about us. Never ever let anything move the fear of man into a higher priority than the fear of the Lord! It is a sure way to bondage. Sometimes people think they are submitting to authority when in fact fear of man has put them in a position of rebelling against God. Guard yourself from disloyalty towards the Lord.

·         Offense. The enemy uses offense as a tool to gather people to themselves, building their own personal army against another individual or people group. Never pick up another person’s offense and make it your own. Offense also works to create division. Strife, anger, and a spirit of division will bring spiritual weakness and disunity, robbing people of personal and corporate strength. It is also a key weapon against married couples and families.

·         Misinformation. People can end up supporting something they thought was a good or noble idea and later find out they really didn’t support what was being promoted. It’s like reading the fine print on petitions people want you to sign, or bills that are submitted to become laws. Get all the facts. The enemy will try to gain your support without disclosing all the information up front.

·         It’s not your fight. Getting involved in taking up a cause or fighting a battle that God has not told you to fight.

·         Bribery. Enticement or a suggested benefit in some form offers an incentive to get people to turn traitor against others. They can often be lured into becoming a tool the enemy uses to destroy the object of someone else’s wrath.

·         Seduced to be a pawn. The enemy is quite skilled in seducing others to become his pawns. He appeals to a person by first softening them up; working on their emotions, playing on both what they fear as well as what they hold dear. Sometimes when attacking a strong person directly is too much of a threat, the enemy will attack someone or something his intended victim holds dear. That way he forces his real victim to put himself in a precarious position and then he can shift to a direct attack when the time is right. A seducing spirit tailors the bait to each person’s personal weaknesses and psychological makeup.

·         Rushing into a fight. The enemy bets on the fact that he can cause people to rush into an emotional decision and end up siding with wrong alliances based on incomplete information. Always know which side of an issue God is on before you get involved. Don’t go to war with the people that don’t have God on their side! David was smart; he knew God was on Israel’s side and not with the Philistines, which gave him confidence to stand against the giant, no matter how intimidating Goliath seemed to be.

·         Fear of losing acceptance. Pressure from others to prove your personal loyalty or allegiance towards them.

·         Lies and deception. The enemy creates an illusion of a problem or makes it seem as though something exists when in fact it does not. It also works in reverse; the use of lies and deception to make people think nothing wrong exists, when the reality is quite the opposite. Propaganda is the intentional misuse of information in order to deceive and mislead others. Brainwashing is a continual repetition of wrong information to convince people that the information they have been fed is certain and true.

·         The scapegoat. Pin everything on a scapegoat and deflect attention from the source of the wrongdoing. The scapegoat offers a hope that by sacrificing one, the rest will avoid suffering the consequences. This is never true in God’s kingdom. Blame shifting is never a legitimate excuse. Every person is accountable to God for their actions.

·         Entertaining and supporting a spirit of self-pity. Self-pity is a spirit that makes one person a victim and blames others as perceived sources of their pain.

·         The trap of assumption. The enemy uses very strategic words, information, conversation and expressions to convey an implied thought or feeling, and leaves it deliberately vague and open-ended, knowing that others will fill in the blanks with their own version of truth and reality. It’s like when a person suggests a leading thought with few words and then just leaves the sentence hanging in mid-air, never finished. He knows that people will connect the dots in their minds and draw a certain conclusion based on what information has been fed.

·         Believing a false appearance. The enemy knows appearance is everything and what is unseen doesn’t count. He will find ways to become a magnet for attention in order to continuously influence others to accept what is seen publicly, while the truth of a situation may be something completely opposite. What is unseen may be far less evident because it is not open for public scrutinization.

Beloved of God, Saul may have been a king for a long time, but he lost the approval of God early on.  God’s people needed time under oppressive leadership to teach them not to desire a counterfeit replacement for God himself. God prepares a people just as much as He prepares a leader, for they must be able to receive the leader God has chosen for them. For many years the people were not yet ready, and Saul remained on the throne. The people needed to grow tired of the wrong sort of leadership and yearn for a leader that truly represented God and His kingdom. Saul made sport of them. God wanted to be their King, but the people so insisted on having a king just like all the other nations that they offended God in the process. So He decided they needed to learn an important lesson before they would be truly ready for His leadership. Perhaps some people thought David was plan B, but not in the heart of God. It was David, not Saul, who was God’s choice all along, because David was known as a man after God’s heart. David was far from perfect and he had his weaknesses, but he was quick to repent and he knew how to please God with his heart. There was a huge difference between the two men who ruled Israel.

I hope that you’ve found this article helpful. Study the strategies of the enemy. Don’t take the bait. Guard your heart, and guard your ways. Pray that the Fear of the Lord would keep you in righteousness all the days of your life.

If you find yourself dodging spears from your leader, like David, remember to behave wisely. Pray for strategies to outwit the enemy. Don't expose he weaknesses of your leader. Forgive quickly and do your very best to keep your heart innocent of wrong motives towards them. Someone honorable lives in you (Jesus). Let His Spirit guide you. Jesus never changed his responses as to how others treated him. He remained true to Himself. God sees all. He notes your responses just as much as He does to someone else. The Sauls of today that oppress and treat others with injustice are yesterday's leaders and their days are numbered. As difficult as it may be to deal with injustice, you must pass the test of learning to bless them and walk in integrity. God's desire is to promote you, but before He does he will test you by allowing you to be trained in the house of an enemy. That way, when you come into position you will not want to become the type of person that mistreated you. You will desire integrity, honor and righteousness to be the motivators of your heart because you know it pleases the Lord. Weak and insecure leaders always have a day of their undoing. You can count on it. Your job is to love God and love others. Micah 6:8 says it like this: "He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy  and to walk humbly with your God."

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