When You Are Stabbed in the Back: David & Saul
1 Samuel 18:6-11, 17-20, 25-29
Rev. Sandy Johnson
August 28, 2016
Our series on the life of David continues this morning. Two weeks ago we encountered David when he was just a boy, a shepherd tending his father’s sheep. The prophet Samuel was sent by God to David’s family in order that God could identify the new king, the one who would replace King Saul. To everyone’s surprise, it was the youngest son, David who was anointed. Scripture said that the spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him from that day forward. Our second experience with David was when he was a bit older, stronger, but not yet a man. He had the audacity to go head to head with a giant named Goliath. With the odds stacked against him, he defeated the beast with the help of God and earned the adoration of King Saul and the Israelites.
This morning the story continues with David, the unlikely future king as he begins his life in the palace with King Saul. He had been brought to Saul as a distraction, playing the lyre to bring relief when Saul was tormented by an evil spirit. David became Saul’s armor-bearer and was trusted by the royal family.
David had a good relationship with Saul’s son Jonathan, in fact scripture says, Jonathan loved David so much that he gave him his robe, his armor and even his sword. Even Jonathan recognized the anointing upon David and through his symbolic gesture Jonathan gives David his right the throne. You see the robe symbolized the kingdom that would have been Jonathan’s based upon hereditary. Jonathan was Saul’s first born son. But that was not what God intended. Jonathan recognized David’s role in the future kingdom and submitted to David early on.
David’s popularity began to grow, especially after defeating Goliath and it soon became apparent that David was in fact more popular than Saul. Even the women sang about David, comparing him to Saul, “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” This made Saul angry and he began to watch David. Wary of this young man and the anointing he had received, for surely if God was with him and chosen as the new king, David would bring terror and destruction to Saul.
Saul began to plot against David. One evening while David was playing for him, trying to calm him and bring peace to him, Saul attacked David with a spear. Thankfully athletic David was able to elude him. Saul continued to be afraid of David and conspired to get David out of the way. He sent him into battle, made a commander of a thousand men. Certainly David would perish in battle. That was Saul’s plan. A little benevolent sabotage, know what I mean? I think it’s interesting that David used this same technique years later to try to get rid of Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah. When I think that perhaps David was unknowing of what Saul was doing, I think again. Maybe David was learning from King Saul how to be king.
In spite of Saul’s attempts to have him killed in battle, it turned out that David was made for warfare. His combat acumen was uncanny. He was a first class warrior and had success in everything he attempted. The more Saul tried to put David down, the more successful and esteemed he became. Saul couldn’t win. There had to be something else, something that he hadn’t tried yet.
Saul decided he would trick David and offer him to marry his daughter. Although David didn’t believe he was worthy to be married to the king’s daughter, he did agree; perhaps because of the promise that had been made when he battled Goliath. Saul led David to believe that he was the one chosen to be his son-in-law and at the last minute Saul changed his mind. Stabbing David in the back, again, for the third time. The first time when he tried to kill David when he was playing the lyre. Next when he sent him into battle, wishing that he would perish.
Although scripture doesn’t tell us what David was thinking, I can’t help but wonder why David stayed around. I suspect that his youthful ignorance was his downfall. Years ago JJ and I worked for the State of Nevada at Children’s Behavioral Services, running a group home for emotionally disturbed girls. We had done quite well at the job but then became part of a lawsuit against the agency over how they were paying us. The Department of Labor had told the state that they needed to change the method they were paying us because we should have been hourly employees, not salaried.
Once we signed on the lawsuit we went from being nominated for employee of the year to not being able to get time off, hassled and challenged every day while we tried to do our job. I can remember going head to head with my supervisor, dumbfounded as to why he was so stubborn and unwilling to work with us. Young and dumb is what I call it. I couldn’t believe that he had changed his tune and I continued to come back over and over again, trying to influence a different outcome.
I think that David may have felt the same way. So shocked at the change in Saul from ardent supporter to zealous adversary. It took David a while to catch on. He had endured blatant attack, benevolent sabotage and then was jilted at the altar. You’d think David would give up. But he didn’t. Saul continued to conspire, this time with his second daughter, Michal.
Michal loved David. It’s interesting that this part of the story is told because it generally didn’t matter if there was love in a marriage. Marriages were arranged by parents for the benefit of the family, not for love. So the fact that Michal love David was a bonus and Saul sought to use it against him. He intended for his own daughter to be used as a snare to David, this time at the hands of the Philistines.
When Saul told David that he would give him his daughter Michal in marriage, David again protested that he wasn’t worthy. This time Saul tells David, through his servants, that the bride price he expects is the foreskin of 100 Philistines. Certainly this would stop the young hero. Saul was certain that David would never be successful in attacking and killing 100 Philistines. David’s demise was nearly certain.
Imagine Saul’s surprise when David came into court with a bag full of foreskins! Now the king didn’t have a choice. He had to follow through. So David and Michal were married. It seemed that Saul was more afraid of David than ever before. No matter what Saul did, David was victorious. It was almost like David was protected by God. Gee, ya think?
Saul did everything he could think of to cause David to fail, but no matter what he conspired to do, God protected David from ultimate harm. The story doesn’t give us much insight into what David thought throughout this sequence of events. Was he hurt by the continuous abuse heaped upon him by Saul? Being stabbed in the back can be an awful experience, especially when it is from someone you love or trust.
Years after I worked for the State, I was working as an account executive with a convention company. I was well respected and successful. I had worked hard to build the accounts I had and was well paid in return. I had an unfortunate thing happen shortly after a new Vice President was hired. I was called into his office and he told me that one of my best clients had fired me. They said they didn’t want to work with me any longer and that the account was being taken over by another Account Executive. He instructed me to not contact them. The transfer was final.
I was shocked. I couldn’t believe that one of my best clients had fired me, seemingly without cause. A few days later my client called me and asked about getting started on our next project. I told her that I thought she had fired me and someone else had been assigned to her account. She denied it and said that if I wasn’t working on her account, she wouldn’t use our company.
Rut ro! So, I went back to the VP and told him about our conversation. I was put on probation for disobeying his order not to speak to my client. He had told me not to contact her, and even though she contacted me, I was at fault. I did get the client back for the one job, but he got me in the end as the probation was 6 months and I was passed over for a promotion as a result. Thankfully I had friends in higher places and they were able to intervene. His intention had been to have me fired.
Being stabbed in the back is never a good experience. In fact it hurts. It can make us question humanity! What kind of a person goes after another person with intent to harm? Why do we have to endure the pain inflicted by others, particularly when it is unjustified and unnecessary? Only God knows the answers to these questions, but what I do know is this. In David’s case God was watching over him. It didn’t prevent the hurt and frustration from penetrating David’s exterior, but it did keep him alive and ultimately it brought David to where he needed to be, King of Israel.
The trials he faced as a result of King Saul’s attempts to harm him gave him the experience to rise above the pain and anguish and become one of the greatest King we have in scripture. Being followers of Jesus Christ doesn’t mean that we won’t be stabbed in the back, but it does mean that God will pull the knife out, stop the bleeding and heal our wounds. In a perfect work we all behave nicely and we don’t have people attacking others, but that is not the world we live in.
God gave us freewill which we see expressed every day through the awful violence that is perpetrated against one another. Being a Christian won’t keep the pain from happening, but it will always bring us comfort and the promise of God’s love and care. When things are toughest I rely on scripture. Roman’s 8:28 is one of my favorite. “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”
In some miraculous way God always works out the details for his children, maybe not in the way we think best, but in the way God thinks best. Years ago when my job at the State got so bad, we eventually left, rather than stay and endure the hassle. At that time God led me into a new career with Mary Kay Cosmetics which was instrumental in teaching me valuable tools that help me today as your pastor. I couldn’t see then that the stabbing in the back I received was necessary to push me where God wanted me to go. When we love the LORD we can rest assured that as his children, he puts our needs first and he will never leave or forsake us.
Let us pray: Gracious Lord, we don’t ever wish to be on the receiving in of an attack or a stabbing in the back. You know that it happens and we ask that you be with us, tending to us, and helping us to heal and move forward. Give us the courage to face the trials and learn the lessons so that we can continue to grow into the people you call us to be. We thank you Lord God for your constant presence, calming, leading, guiding and loving us. Amen.