These chapters unfold to us the colorful and painful account of two distinct kings.  On the one hand, Saul, is trying to hold onto that which God has removed from him—the kingdom.  On the other hand, David desires to be a faithful subject to the king—he’s not trying to overthrow Saul and take what’s rightly his by God’s command (the throne).

In chapter 18 we see David welcomed into the house of Saul.  The king’s son, Jonathan is taken by the person of David such that the text says; “The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David…Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself” (18:1-3). Moreover, when the women sang of Saul’s exploits compared to David’s it was obvious the young man was the people’s choice, not King Saul; “Saul has slain his thousands, David his ten thousands” (18:7).  Thus, David’s popularity boiled over Saul’s jealousy and rage such that he would never trust David (18:9)

What occurs next is baffling, troubling and often denied by professing believers regarding God’s way of accomplishing his purposes.  The text reads:

10 Now it came about on the next day that an evil spirit from God came mightily upon Saul, and he raved in the midst of the house, while David was playing the harp with his hand, as usual; and a spear was in Saul’s hand. 11 Saul hurled the spear for he thought, “I will pin David to the wall.” But David escaped from his presence twice.  12 Now Saul was afraid of David, for the Lord was with him but had departed from Saul. 13 Therefore Saul removed him from his presence and appointed him as his commander of a thousand; and he went out and came in before the people. 14 David was prospering in all his ways for the Lord was with him.15 When Saul saw that he was prospering greatly, he dreaded him. 16 But all Israel and Judah loved David, and he went out and came in before them.  (18:10-16)

Here, we are told that God, not Satan, sent an evil spirit on Saul that essentially drove the king mad.  The kingdom had already been removed from Saul (15:35-16:7), it was only a matter of time for that to materialize.  In God’s providential plan to exalt David, Saul’s madness and spear would be used to teach David to trust in the LORD and show Saul he was no longer God’s man.

There were at least four other murderous attempts by Saul toward David but these would fail (18:17-19:12) for he had favor with Saul’s house (Michal Saul’s daughter and Jonathan his son).  Again, in chapter 19 the text re-iterates the origin of Saul’s madness and rage:

Now there was an evil spirit from the Lord on Saul as he was sitting in his house with his spear in his hand, and David was playing the harp with his hand. 10 Saul tried to pin David to the wall with the spear, but he slipped away out of Saul’s presence, so that he stuck the spear into the wall. And David fled and escaped that night.”      

The author is making it clear that these horrible turn of events are coming ultimately from God’s hands, not Satan’s.  God ordains his purposes which are often hidden from us.  David could have cursed God and died, but instead he chose to trust the LORD.  In chapters 20-21, the text reveals Saul’s incessant desire to murder David, Jonathan’s determination to save David, and David’s survival skills through deception and manipulation.

Much can be considered here, yet the core which must not be overlooked is that God is always working things out through the drama of human history where our choices are significant but never ultimate.  Kings come and go but this King was chosen by God for he was a man after His own heart (frail as he was, nevertheless a godly man).

Often, God will use our enemies to sanctify us on the journey of faith, often it will be difficult to bear but He is present to help, frequently it will be a puzzle to us but not to Him, commonly it will frustrate us but He is working all things together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.  May we trust the God who is there when our souls demand answers and none are forthcoming.


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