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Monday, August 15, 2022

The Division Between David and Saul

It grieves God’s heart when there is disunity among His people.  His desire is that we would all be united in love and obedience to His Word.  But we also see in Scripture that God never sacrifices Truth for the sake of a false unity.  If there is to be unity, it must be a unity where people agree to worship and obey the Lord in Spirit and in Truth.  When obedience and Truth are at stake, God may be the very One who divides people.

Last week we saw how Abram and Lot went their separate ways.  Today, I want to study another division among God’s people in the Holy Bible—the division of David and Saul.

A little background.  Saul was the very first king anointed to rule God’s people in Israel.  The people wanted Saul to be their king because he looked like a king—he was tall, head and shoulders above everyone else.  Saul physic inspired people to follow him into battle to fight Israel’s enemies, but Saul’s heart was not right.  He was more concerned with what the people thought than what God really wanted.  He was always getting caught up in trying to please his constituents, even if it meant disobeying God.

And so, God rejected Saul and chose David to replace him.  David was an unlikely King.  He was the youngest of all his brothers who was always overlooked by his family.  David wasn’t as tall or physically imposing as Saul, but David was “a man after God’s own heart”.  David trusted God with his whole heart and always cared what God wanted more than what anyone else wanted.  David was the kind of man who would obey God even if no one else wanted to, even if it cost him.

So one day, God sent the prophet Samuel to call Saul out for his disobedience, and to tear the kingdom of Israel out of Saul’s hand in a dramatic display.  Saul had just won a battle against the Amalekites.  Saul won the battle but disobeyed a direct order from God afterwards.  Saul kept the spoils of the battle even though God had told him to destroy everything.  Saul’s army was greedy and thought it would be a shame to destroy all the loot they’d just plundered from their enemies.  Saul listened to his army instead of God.  God sent the prophet Samuel who called out Saul’s disobedience.

1 Samuel 15:24-25
Then Saul admitted to Samuel, “Yes, I have sinned. I have disobeyed your instructions and the Lord’s command, for I was afraid of the people and did what they demanded. 25 But now, please forgive my sin and come back with me so that I may worship the Lord.”

King Saul
God is patient and merciful—even in the Old Testament.  Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first time Saul disobeyed God.  Saul had already disobeyed God repeatedly.  This time was the last straw.  To make matters even worse, Saul is not really sorry for what he’s done.  He is still more concerned with what his people will think that what God thinks.  God is in the midst of calling Saul out for disobeying battle orders, and the most important concern in Saul’s mind is saving face in front of his army.  He want’s Sameul to join him in a public worship ceremony—probably something to honor Saul and his army for their victory over the Amalekites.  Saul is not taking his sin seriously and doesn’t even really care that he has already dishonored God by his disobedience.  To Saul, worshipping God is just a show.  He doesn’t even really care about God.  He only cares about public relations and his own position as king.

1 Samuel 15:26-29
But Samuel replied, “I will not go back with you! Since you have rejected the Lord’s command, he has rejected you as king of Israel.”

27 As Samuel turned to go, Saul tried to hold him back and tore the hem of his robe. 28 And Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to someone else—one who is better than you. 29 And he who is the Glory of Israel will not lie, nor will he change his mind, for he is not human that he should change his mind!”

1 Samuel 16:7
God tore the kingdom of Israel away from Saul, not just because Saul was disobedient, but because Saul’s heart was not right.  He cared more about pleasing people than pleasing God. 

And so in the next chapter, 1 Samuel 16, we find God sending the prophet to anoint David to be the new king of Israel.  David will be faithful to God.  He won’t always do the right thing.  He made some big mistakes of his own.  But the thing that was different about David is his number one concern was his relationship with God. 

God told the prophet Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

Align Your Heart with God’s
In this world, we will always be tempted to go along with the world’s values. 
We want to belong.  We want to fit in.  But the world is not right.  The world is corrupted by sin.
Part of the healing process for our soul is learning to trust in God more than our own selfish desires to fit in with a fallen world. 

Sometimes our call to keep our hearts aligned with God’s heart means turning away from a from people or groups in this world.  Even Jesus said in Luke 12:51-52, “Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I have come to divide people against each other! From now on families will be split apart, three in favor of me, and two against—or two in favor and three against.  Father will be divided against son and son against father; mother against daughter and daughter against mother; and mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’”  Jesus' claim as absolute Lord of all forces people to choose sides.  Jesus doesn't want people to be divided, but inevitably some will receive Jesus as Lord and some will reject Him.  Their rejection divides them from those who accept Him. 

Has your heart been torn in two because someone you care about deeply has turned away from you because you disagree about one of your deeply held core values?  I know that hurts and breaks your heart.  But if your heart is right with God, you’ve done the right thing.

There are many hearts that are breaking in our current divides between the life of faith and the corrupt values of society.  Many of you may be facing these.  I know it’s hard.  I know it’s hard when a family member or a close friend says your religious beliefs are ignorant or outdated or hateful because you believe what the Bible teaches.

I think about so many churches in the United Methodist tradition right now.  Many churches across the state of Georgia are divided—some 70/30, some 60/40, some even 50/50—divided about whether the congregation should disaffiliate from the UMC.  In those churches, no one is going to be totally happy.  Many of those churches will end up being torn apart—whether they stay in the UMC or if they leave.

I don’t want that sort of thing to happen at Pleasant Grove.  And I don’t think it needs to because I think we are more united in our core values than most churches.  We have hearts that want more than anything to be aligned with God and His Word.  But even if we lose one family or one person through this transition, it will hurt.  Yet, we must be faithful to God.  And it is also very important that we strengthen the ties that bind us to other believers who share our values.  What are you doing  to help with that?

Let us be willing to give up any thing, but never let go of God!
Let us walk away from any relationship, but never walk out on God!
Let us be torn apart from any group, political party, denomination, faction,
      but never be torn apart from God!
Let us rend our hearts in sorrow at the loss of friends or family or church members,
      but let us always rejoice that we remain faithful and true to God and His Word.

For in the end, our relationship with God is the only thing that matters. 
It is the only thing that is eternal.  All these other things will soon melt away.

God Shelters Us In Difficult Times
But we can learn yet one more thing from the story of David and Saul.
As you can imagine, it wasn’t an easy life for David to be chosen as Saul’s replacement while Saul was still the King of Israel.  It was a dangerous life for David.
Saul grew more and more jealous of David and paranoid for his own position.
Saul went mad trying to hold onto power and a kingdom God had already torn away from him.
And Saul chased David around the countryside trying to kill him.
David had at least two chances to exact revenge and kill Saul,
but David refused to take matters into his own hands. 
David would let God work out how to finally take the kingdom from Saul and give it to David.
Through all David’s difficult years as a fugitive running for his life from Saul,
God took care of David. 
And so David could write God's sheltering protection in one of his most beautiful psalms:

Psalm 64:10 - The godly will rejoice in the Lord and find shelter in him.  And those who do what is right will praise him.

Close your eyes and consider:
In what ways has your faithfulness to God caused divisions in your life and relationships?
How can you seek shelter to protect you from pain and sorrow and even real harm?
Now imagine that God, our Heavenly Father, is with you right now, sheltering you in His loving arms.  He is pleased with Your faithfulness, despite your suffering.  And He will honor your loyalty.

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