David, the Man After God's Heart
teacher's guide Lesson 3

Lesson Three

David and Saul (early)

Text: 1 Samuel 18, 19

The purpose of this lesson: to give an example of a quality of David being a man after God's heart. The quality: the nature of God, not the injustice of Saul, determined how David treated Saul.

The purpose of this lesson does not center on a chronological timeline concerning the earliest contacts between King Saul and David. Three factors are suggested for consideration of those earliest contacts: (1) the purpose of the writer in that material; (2) the nature of servant/royalty relationship at that time; and (3) the author's condensing of material of interest to us but not of interest to the intended original readers. Today we need to avoid the temptation to make scripture say more than scripture says. Often our motives for knowing are not identical to the author's motives in revealing.

There are many questions that can be raised in the earliest history concerning David and Saul's interaction and relationship. The author of 1 Samuel did not include enough information to answer those questions. Most answers include significant speculation. We do not need the answer to all those questions to see the qualities/characteristics that created the closeness between David and God.

Obviously, after David killed Goliath he rose to prominence quickly as an important person among Saul's valiant men. Though David declared he was a son of Saul's servant (1 Samuel 17:58), he rapidly became a close friend of Saul's son, Jonathan. What began as an amiable relationship between friends became a relationship Saul held in contempt.

David's rise in significance began with his killing Goliath. Remember, this young man did something with confidence in God that no other warrior in the Israelite army would attempt. Everyone else was too afraid! A person with the faith and courage of David would be an obvious asset to Saul's military efforts. David's continued success would increase his importance to Saul as he resisted the domination of the Philistines. While David became a person that a suspicious King Saul should "keep an eye on," David at the same time became a person that Saul's son, Jonathan, admired and loved. Evil looks with suspicion on godly motives; godliness looks with love on godly motives.

Each student is asked to consider this reality: the problems that existed between Saul and David were instigated by Saul's weak faith and character flaws, not by David. Saul came to hate and fear David, but David only served Saul. Though David had many "self" justifications for despising Saul, David kept only a sense of respect for Saul because King Saul was chosen by God to be Israel's king. Though Saul attempted to provoke and destroy David in numerous ways, David refused to act as Saul's enemy. Literally, Saul lived as long as he did because David refused to function as Saul's enemy.

Make certain that your students understand that the tension in the Saul-David association was generated by Saul, not David. David would not let Saul determine who he was or how he acted. David chose to determine who he was and how he acted instead of reacting to King Saul's godless behavior. The moment a person starts reacting, he or she places the control of himself or herself in another person's hands. That person determines who "I am" rather than God and me determining who "I am."

The problem in the King Saul-David association began with Saul's jealousy. David served a dual role to Saul: (1) a valiant man in Saul's military (especially in trying to break the Philistine's control over Israel); and (2) a musical comforter to Saul when he was controlled by the depression of his dark moments. Once as David returned from a victory over Philistine forces, he was greeted by some Israelite women singing and dancing. Their song declared Saul had killed thousands and David had killed ten thousands. David was popular with and admired by many of the Israelite people.

The godly person functions in many roles to ungodly people. While the ungodly seek to "use" people, the godly seek to "serve" people for their benefit to awaken them to God's greatness. Ungodly users feel danger and threat from godly servers. The more you serve the more you are appreciated by other honest people who see the situation for what it is, yet your service is of no threat to the ungodly. Jesus himself is an example of that truth.

King Saul was deeply offended by David's reception. He wanted to be seen and honored by the Israelite people as Israel's deliverer. The fact that these Israelite women made David more prominent than King Saul angered the king. From the moment of that incident onward, King Saul looked at David with suspicion.

Ungodly people feel threatened when their personal ambitions do not achieve what service rendered by faith in God accomplishes.

Amazingly, we always use our attitudes and motives to explain the actions of people we distrust. If "that" would have been "my" motive, "that" must be "his or her" motive. If "I" would have acted in "that" way, "he or she" must be acting in "that" way. Though King Saul had nothing to fear from David, King Saul's suspicion became jealousy and anger, his jealousy and anger became hate, his hate become imagined danger, and imagined danger made David an enemy to be destroyed. He intended to destroy David before David could destroy King Saul and his family.

Among Satan's greatest deceptions is the personal conviction that other people's actions can be explained by "my" motives and attitudes. David's same characteristics produced jealousy and hate in Saul but love and devotion in Jonathan, Saul's son.

David was the opposite of Saul. David had absolute confidence in God (as demonstrated in his facing Goliath). Saul did not include God as a factor in his decisions (all he wanted was God's protection; he did not think in terms of honoring God). David was a man of faith who placed matters in God's hands. Saul was faithless and took matters in his own hands. David had such confidence in God that he believed God was at work in his dire distress--he often asked for more faith and protection, but he frequently declared his God knew what He was doing. Saul commonly questioned God's decisions/actions and sought to justify his own. King Saul seemed to think God operated capriciously, but he (Saul) functioned on the basis of reality.

Seeing why David was "a man after God's own heart" becomes more obvious by seeing the contrast between King Saul and David. Emphasize those contrasts. Note Saul's behavior was that of a person who wanted to use God to compensate for his own insecurity. David's behavior was that of a secure person who wanted to serve God.

It was obvious to the fearful King Saul that God was with David (1 Samuel 18:12). Samuel earlier told King Saul in unmistakable terms that God was no longer with him, and God's decision was not reversible (1 Samuel 15:26-29). As the situation unfolded, King Saul knew David, not his son Jonathan, would be the next king of Israel (see 1 Samuel 20:30, 31 and 24:16-20).

The person who experiences God's withdrawal recognizes God's presence in others. The negative attitudes of the one who experienced God's withdrawal are irritated by God's presence in others.

Though King Saul made David's life miserable, David refused to function as King Saul's enemy. Though King Saul sought opportunity to kill David, David showed nothing but respect for King Saul. Though David had opportunities to kill King Saul, David refused to kill the king. David also prevented his followers from killing King Saul.

David illustrates that basically we are in charge of who and what we are as a person. David would not give King Saul the right to determine who or what he was as a person. King Saul's behavior might necessitate David's actions as one who fled, but King Saul would not make David a hate-filled, hostile person.

It is essential for us to understand that David's attitude toward King Saul was founded on his attitude toward God. David's attitude toward God: "God knows what He is doing; a person must not 'second guess' God!" Thus, when God makes Saul King of Israel, that was God's decision, not David's. Though David was anointed by Samuel to be Israel's future king, his anointing did not give David the right to kill God's present anointed.

A second attitude that made David a "man after God's own heart": the guiding conviction that God knows what He is doing.

On the two occasions David had opportunity to kill King Saul (who was seeking to kill David). David declared that he could not kill God's anointed (1 Samuel 24:8-12; 26:6-12). The fact that King Saul served as King of Israel was God's business, not David's. David understood that in spite of King Saul's actions, there was no justification for David killing King Saul.

Even though David was anointed by Samuel to be Israel's future king, he refused to take matters in his own hands. He did not look for a self-justification for eliminating Saul as Israel's king. David's attitude: God made Saul king. God would end Saul's kingship. God would do it in His own way by His own decision.

David understood this truth: leave God's affairs in God's hands!

Satan is very successful in tempting us to believe that we are doing God's will--especially when we are more concerned about our desires than God's purposes!

For Thought and Discussion:

  1. What impact on David came as a result of his defeating Goliath?

    He quickly rose to a place of prominence among King Saul's valiant men.

  2. What reality is each student asked to consider?

    The problems in the King Saul-David association were caused by King Saul's character weakness and flaws, not David's.

  3. What made King Saul jealous and suspicious of David?

    King Saul's jealousy expressed itself as a result of the Israelite women who welcomed David's return from a successful battle with the Philistines. The women sang that Saul had killed thousands of Philistines, but David had killed ten thousands of Philistines. Saul was offended that they honored David's acts above his acts.

  4. What two roles did David assume in his service to King Saul?

    David played music for Saul when Saul was controlled by depression, and David was a warrior in Saul's army that fought against the Philistines.

  5. Why was King Saul deeply offended by the reception the women gave David?

    He wanted to be honored as Israel's deliverer. He wanted no rival to that position.

  6. How do people often use their attitudes and emotions?

    People often use their own attitudes and emotions to explain/understand other people's motives and actions.

  7. Name some ways in which David was the opposite of Saul.

    Ways in which David was opposite to King Saul: He trusted God enough to render service to God's great name whereas Saul tried to use God for his own purposes; David accepted God's decision while Saul took matters into his own hands; David trusted God even when he was distressed, but Saul trusted only himself when he was distressed; David knew God was in charge and acted with purpose, but Saul often thought there was no reason for God's actions.

  8. Though King Saul made David's life miserable, David refused to become what?

    David refused to become Saul's enemy.

  9. What was the foundation of David's attitude toward King Saul?

    David's attitude toward God was the foundation of David's attitude toward Saul.

  10. Discuss this statement: "leave God's affairs in God's hands."

    At the center of the discussion should be this truth: God knows what He is doing. God's actions are not determined by my desires, but by His purposes.

Link to Student Guide Lesson 3

Copyright © 2005
David Chadwell & West-Ark Church of Christ

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