Whatever Saul asked David to do, David did it successfully. So Saul made him a commander over the men of war, an appointment that was welcomed by the people and Saul’s officers alike. When the victorious Israelite army was returning home after David had killed the Philistine, women from all the towns of Israel came out to meet King Saul. They sang and danced for joy with tambourines and cymbals. This was their song: ‘Saul has killed his thousands and David his ten thousands.’ This made Saul very angry. ‘What’s this?’ he said. ‘They credit David with ten thousands and me with only thousands. Next they’ll be making him their king!’ so from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David. I Samuel 18:5-9
In last week’s lesson we learned of the godly covenant of friendship made between Jonathan, the king’s son, and David. Jonathan, the heir apparent to the throne, set aside his right and his inheritance to defer to God’s choice of the next king of Israel. His father has just the opposite attitude. Jealousy took over and though the prophet Samuel had already told Saul that the Lord had ripped the kingdom from him, he was holding on to his throne and his power. His son honored God’s choice but Saul felt utterly threatened when the people sang their praises of David.
When we are first introduced to Saul, we are told that he stood ‘head and shoulders’ above everyone else. One would have hoped that his impressive height would be reflected in his character but it was not to be. The very next day after the triumphal parade Saul threw a spear across the room at David as he played the harp for the king. When that attempt to kill him was unsuccessful Saul sent David to the front lines, hoping he would be slain in battle. However, David only grew more successful for the Lord was with him. Saul’s jealousy and hatred increased.
There is an anger that human beings exhibit at times which explodes into rage without any kind of rational thought. It is raw emotion, unbridled by common sense. It is very often fueled by jealousy. In Hebrew, the word for this kind of anger is charah which means ‘to burn, to be kindled, to be incensed, to grow indignant.’ It is the inevitable result in the soul of one from whom the Holy Spirit has departed. (I Samuel 16:14)
There are various kinds of trials and hurts we can experience as we go through life but perhaps one of the worst is suffering the jealousy of another towards us, particularly if it is someone from whom we least expected it. Jealousy causes tremendous pain both to the one who harbors it as well as to the one towards whom it is directed.
There are two kinds of jealousy. In Exodus 20:5 we read: ‘for I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God.’ There is a jealousy that is not sinful. The prophet Zechariah explains God’s jealousy: ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says, I am very jealous for Jerusalem and Zion.’ Zech: 1:14 and the prophet Joel wrote: ‘The Lord will be jealous for His land and take pity on His people.’
There is a little word in both of those verses that is big in meaning: for. If Saul had been jealous for David, instead of jealous of David, the result would have been completely different. To be jealous of someone else is self-centered; it betrays an unholy desire to have what they have, whether possessions, talents or popularity. By contrast to be jealous for someone is a selfless longing that the other person should always have the best and be the best they can be. This is the kind of jealousy God has towards us. It is motivated by His love and His desire that you and I fulfill the purpose for which He created us and find our deepest joy in relationship with Him.
When a seed of jealousy creeps into our soul, great danger lurks. In Saul we see the tragedy of allowing that seed to grow into a hatred and bitterness that leads even to murder.
Saul’s kind of jealousy actually displays a deep insecurity, lack of trust, and lowered self-esteem. Jealousy is a fruit of self-loathing, the fear of not being worthwhile. Jealousy creates a need for control of persons and/or situations but in the very attempt to be ‘in control’, the jealous of person destroys relationships and becomes more and more miserable. Jealousy never leads anywhere good or productive.
Jealous feelings, however, are different from jealous behaviors. If Saul had only said to himself, ‘Wait a minute! I’m feeling jealous but I don’t have to act on it.’ Jealousy is a feeling that rises up inside you. True. BUT, you don’t have to act on it. That is the key.
It would not have helped Saul to deny his feeling, but rather to acknowledge it, discipline it with the help of God and refrain from acting out what he felt.
Saul’s behavior towards David, more of which we’ll see next week, is a warning to every generation of Bible believers. It reminds me of David’s cry in Psalm 51:11 ‘Do not banish me from Your presence and do not take your Holy Spirit from me.’ Starting each new day in prayer, seeking God’s guidance and assistance to live out that day in a spirit of love and holiness is a priority we cannot afford to ignore. Whether five minutes of fifteen, an hour or more, I cannot overemphasize the importance of starting our day with a set aside time to commune with the Lord.