Read I Samuel 19 and Luke 18
And Saul listened to the voice of Jonathan. Saul swore, “As the Lord lives, he shall not be put to death.” I Samuel 19:6
But I say to you, do not swear at all. Mathew 5:33
Several days back, Daniel Triestman wrote a very thoughtful devotional regarding the character of Saul. We want to think that bad intentions, evil actions and negative outcomes are the exclusive property of rotten people. It is more comfortable to live in a world of clear contrasts between black and white, angels and demons, saved and unsaved, good and bad. In I Samuel 15 some may see Saul as nothing more than an evil, petty man. Others may find more complexity and ambivalence. As we read through Samuel, as well as journey through life, we do not need to be the soul-police looking for saints so that we may see goodness or sinners so that we may condemn. We are free to learn God's lessons of grace, justice, love, kindness, forgiveness, etc. through His dealings with all of His complex creation.
I’ve written several of the devotions since then expressing not much patience with Saul. In one I wrote, Saul was a complex man. If a person does not understand that God is all in all, the beginning and the end, that person becomes more and more complex, for his heart is moved in many directions.
That was a glib and simplistic response for I know what is in my own heart and I know there is much besides God in it. I know how hard it is for me to remember God’s overriding love when life’s circumstances go awry. But, curiously, my greatest spiritual strength is when I realize my own poverty.
I appreciate how Alcoholic’s Anonymous begins each of their sessions with everyone in the room identifying themselves by giving their name and then saying, “And I am an alcoholic.”
I wish I did not have to confess it, but I am a man with a quick temper. I remember once before I was married when I lost my temper and I was so ashamed. I wanted more than anything to promise my fiancé I would never ever lose my temper again. But I knew this would not be the case. I cried out to the Lord, “Please help me for I am so hopeless and helpless.” But, and this is so odd, it’s been a very long time since I’ve lost my temper.
Am I victorious? Could I swear to you that my temper will never again show its hideous face? I could not. I dare not. But whenever I feel my temper begin to form in me, and start to gain some momentum, I think, “Lord, please help me again, like you helped me last time. I’m so sorry for this again.”
Good for me, right? Good for me for being an overcomer! More than a conqueror!
I don’t think so. I know better than to be so pleased about anything in myself.
Scripture tells us that Saul listened to the rebuke of his son Jonathan. That’s good. But Saul should not have sworn to God that he would never try to kill David again. Instead he should have acknowledged his weakness, his sin, and thrown himself on the Lord’s mercy. He should have said, “My name is King Saul, anointed of God, and I am a would be murderer.”
We are all complex people with a complex history and complex motivations. But we all do have a simple solution: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Luke 18:13