The household of Saul was a mess (1 Samuel 18-20). He was disobedient to God and therefore was stripped of his power. In essence, he became a lame-duck king over Israel. Not a glorious start for Israel’s first ever royalty. In his place, David was anointed to be his successor. He was a faithful shepherd, not a warrior or carefully groomed prince, familiar with court intricacies or diplomatic intrigue; simply a man after God’s own heart. Perfect for the job, much to the chagrin of his older brothers who later chastised him for inquiring about Goliath as they quaked in their boots, refusing to meet the Philistine champion in battle.
Once the personal musician for Saul, David now became his champion, returning to him with Goliath’s head and battle armaments. The victor. The Israelite crowds cheered in delight in the days to come. They cried, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands!” So, even as Saul took David into his household, ostensibly as a reward for his valor, he secretly plotted to kill this heir apparent to his throne. And thus the court intrigue commenced.
Saul first tried to arrange marriage between his elder daughter, Merab, and David so that he could use her to plot David’s assassination. But she loved another and married that person. But all was not lost. Saul soon learned that his younger daughter, Michal, was in love with David. So he offered her hand in marriage to David, so long as David returned to him with graphic proof (read the text for yourself) that he had killed one hundred Philistines with his own hand in battle. David agreed to these terms, given that he did not have sufficient wealth to provide the normal dowry, and soon returned with the proof of his military prowess. Thus, what was intended by Saul to be an impossible demand ending in David’s death in battle, brought David into his household on an even deeper level as his son-in-law.
From the outset of David’s entry into Saul’s military service, both David and the young prince of Israel, Jonathan, became fast friends. Their hearts were inextricably united. Despite Jonathan’s situation as son to Saul and former heir to the throne, he quickly became loyal to David. His father’s influence on him apparently was minimal. Ironic, given the evidence that Saul’s influence on David would later be tragically seen through David’s own successful (sadly) deployment of Saul’s court intrigue tactics, committing adultery with Bathsheba and then arranging for her husband, Uriah, to be sent to the front lines of battle without sufficient support, thus ending in his death. All this, while David stayed behind, courting a woman not his wife.
Saul threw spears at David, ordered Jonathan and his chief advisors to kill David, threw a spear at Jonathan to kill him, ordered Micah to help kill David (she did not do this, choosing instead to help David escape, albeit telling Saul that David threatened to kill her), and eventually attempted to kill David even without Jonathan’s knowledge.
And people complain about mothers-in-law? Hello? Saul was nuts by virtue of the demonic influence which poisoned his motives and behavior. Certifiable.
His household was in disarray. Yet, David refused to lay a hand on him, even when he had opportunity later on. Jonathan and David were steadfast in their loyalty to each other, despite the clear pressure on them, both having been ostracised by Saul.
It is telling to look at the lives of Saul, Jonathan, and David, and their eventual outcomes. Who influenced who? Who chose best concerning how they allowed the others to influence them? Clearly, Saul chose poorly. We do not know how Jonathan might have done had he inherited the throne, but providence placed him in a support role to David and he appears to have done admirably, given the obvious temptations to resent losing his royal inheritance, and to defend his father even in the face of Saul’s demonic fits of rage.
David receives mixed reviews. Yes, he had a heart after God. He was God’s chosen one to lead Isreal, and he did so with excellence to a large degree. But something happened as he grew older. The influences from the household of Saul had infiltrated his way of thinking. Add to that his own sin nature. These two elements mixed with David’s own ingenuity to poison his once pure motives, and resulted in tragic choices with profoundly deadly results.
The difference between Saul and David? Saul used a form of confession/repentance to try to maintain his stature. David genuinely repented when confronted by the prophet.
In some ways, both men were influenced by circumstances outside their control. Yet, they also chose their influences. And they chose their responses when confronted by their bad behavior.
Indeed, God looks at the heart, not the outward appearance.
Our influences help form and develop our motives.
Our motives are expressed through our choices.
Our choices result in actions, behaviors, and habits, which lead to consequences, positive or negative.
Although we certainly grew up amid influences which we could not control, such as family, schools and neighborhoods, we can choose how we respond to those influences, especially as we grow older.
Questions: Who have you chosen to influence you? Whose words capture your imagination, influencing your motives, actions, and life-long habits?