The Christian author Gene Edwards wrote, “A Tale of Two Kings” where the lives of King Saul and David are considered and with penetrating insight the author calls the reader to careful self-reflection. Undoubtedly he used portions from these texts to peer into the souls of two men that are instructing believers today in how and how not to approach life.
First, the man after God’s own heart is depicted as a fierce warrior (25:2-38; 27:8-11; 30:1-20) whose skill in battle was nothing to be trifled with. David, unlike Saul, understood authority and those in such places are to be revered even if they are wicked. This is clearly witnessed when David stays his weapon from murdering King Saul—opportunities that repeatedly presented themselves to him (26:8-25). Thus, David was a fierce warrior who understood authority but could also demonstrate a reasonable tender heart when properly approached (25:18-35). Too often, leaders are harsh, not patient nor reasonable and those under their care suffer deeply.
Second, David also understood (unlike King Saul) that the kingship comes from God, not from man’s strength. This is evident when the Amalekites raided the Negev and Ziklag:
“Then it happened when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day, that the Amalekites had made a raid on the Negev and on Ziklag, and had overthrown Ziklag and burned it with fire; 2 and they took captive the women and all who were in it, both small and great, without killing anyone, and carried them off and went their way. 3 When David and his men came to the city, behold, it was burned with fire, and their wives and their sons and their daughters had been taken captive. 4 Then David and the people who were with him lifted their voices and wept until there was no strength in them to weep.5 Now David’s two wives had been taken captive, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite. 6 Moreover David was greatly distressed because the people spoke of stoning him, for all the people were embittered, each one because of his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God. 7 Then David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelech, “Please bring me the ephod.” So Abiathar brought the ephod to David. 8 David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I pursue this band? Shall I overtake them?” And He said to him, “Pursue, for you will surely overtake them, and you will surely rescue all.” (1 Sam. 30:1-8)
How did he strengthen himself in the LORD? I think the man after God’s own heart recounted God’s acts in redemptive history and trusted in God’s promise to him of being king over Israel (Ps.18:2; Rom.4:20). Thus, David with his actions would sing with us today, “When all around my soul gives way, he then is all my hope and stay. On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand; all other ground is sinking sand.”
Unfortunately Saul’s account is much different, much sadder and much more difficult to bear. First, Saul, unlike David, was a man after his own heart, not God’s. Because of this, Saul’s pride caused him to lose his mind (E.g., see Dan.4 where Nebuchadnezzar goes mad because of pride), to turn on those who were most loyal to him, which resulted in God’s word of promise—his kingship is removed (1 Sam.28:6-25; 31:6).
Second, Saul’s life reminds us that greatness will be absolutely diminished because of pride. God said, “…to obey is better than sacrifice”, but Saul did not get it, he did not understand. His pride blinded him to God’s word. Thus, he did not do justice, love mercy and walk humbly before God. But David did. Why? Ultimately I think it’s because David was God’s choice, not the people’s selection. Ponder this.