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Saul’s Schemes, Plots and Plans

For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been working our way through 1 Samuel chapter 18 – and we’re discovering that King Saul had quite a complicated relationship with David.

On one hand, David was his most successful military commander! Ever since David killed Goliath and began serving in Saul’s army – David has had nothing but success! No matter what Saul asked him to do – he did successfully! Whether he was playing the harp for Saul or leading the men into battle, David served Saul both faithfully and successfully.

But on the other hand, David’s success was increasingly concerning to Saul. Saul feared that people were starting to like David more than they liked him. David was becoming quite a popular celebrity… What if they decided to make David king instead of him?! Saul’s jealousy and fear had begun to undermine Saul’s relationship with David.  In fact, it got so bad, that Saul determined to kill David!

Now of course, Saul can’t let on to anyone how badly he wants David dead! After all, everybody loves David! The officers in Saul’s army love David because he wins every battle. The people of Israel and Judah love David – even singing songs about how successful David is! Even Saul’s own son Jonathan is best friends with David and has made a lifelong pact with him to support David as the next King of Israel. 

So how can Saul kill David without causing a riot in the streets, mutiny in his army, or ripping his family apart!?

The fact is, he had already attempted to kill David once and had failed. You’ll remember last week that we read in 1 Samuel 18, verse 10 & 11….

10 The very next day a tormenting spirit from God overwhelmed Saul, and he began to rave in his house like a madman. David was playing the harp, as he did each day. But Saul had a spear in his hand, 11 and he suddenly hurled it at David, intending to pin him to the wall. But David escaped him twice.

1 Samuel 18:10-11

Notice that David escaped from Saul twice. For Saul to try to kill David twice in the same way, tells me that somehow Saul hid his true intentions of wanting to kill David or else David wouldn’t have stuck around for Saul to try the second time.

I would guess that Saul used the excuse of being overwhelmed by this tormenting spirit to justify his actions. Kinda like pleading insanity – “I just got overwhelmed… I don’t know what came over me – I just kinda lost it! I’m so sorry, David! Please come back and play your harp again….”

Now that’s a little bit of speculation on my part, but based on what we’re about to read today, it certainly seems like Saul is trying very hard to appear to love David – all the while desperately trying to kill him! But you can make that determination for yourself as we go through the passage.

We’re going to begin in 1 Samuel chapter 18, starting at verse 17.

17 One day Saul said to David, “I am ready to give you my older daughter, Merab, as your wife. But first you must prove yourself to be a real warrior by fighting the Lord’s battles.” For Saul thought, “I’ll send him out against the Philistines and let them kill him rather than doing it myself.” 1 Samuel 18:17

You’ll remember back before the David killed Goliath, that Saul had been offering a huge reward to anyone who dared to fight the giant. That man’s family would never have to pay taxes again and Saul would give that man one of his own daughters in marriage. Well, the day had come for Saul to pay David the reward that he had offered. But as we can see here, Saul’s motives were much less than honourable! 

In Saul’s mind this was the perfect opportunity to show everyone how much he loved David, while secretly setting him up to be killed by the Philistines. And of course, Saul made it all sound very honorable and noble.

He said to David, “I am ready to give you my older daughter, Merab, as your wife. But first you must prove yourself to be a real warrior by fighting the Lord’s battles.”

Now first of all, these conditions were not part of the original agreement. Saul had simply said that whoever fought the giant would get his daughter as a wife – there was no mention of “proving himself by fighting the Lord’s battles.” But even if that HAD been part of the agreement – don’t you think David had already proved himself?!?

I mean – not only has he killed the Philistine champion Goliath, but he has also led Saul’s men successfully into battle on many occasions. Remember: “Saul has killed his thousands and David his ten thousands”?

It seems to me that David had already established without a doubt that he was indeed a ‘real warrior’ as Saul put it.

But as we can see, this is all just Saul’s evil scheming to get David killed. If he can get David killed in battle, then his problems are all solved! David would be out of the picture and no one could pin David’s death on him. It was the perfect solution. There was only one problem with Saul’s plan. David’s humility. Take a look at verse 18.

18 “Who am I, and what is my family in Israel that I should be the king’s son-in-law?” David exclaimed. “My father’s family is nothing!” 19 So when the time came for Saul to give his daughter Merab in marriage to David, he gave her instead to Adriel, a man from Meholah.

1 Samuel 18:18-19

While most ambitious people would jump at the chance to marry into the royal family, David humbly states that he’s not really ‘royal’ material. David comes from a simple family of sheep farmers in the little town of Bethlehem – not exactly high society. And so David graciously and humbly turns down Saul’s offer – even though it would have really further’s David’s political career. I mean, if David is one day going to be king, it sure can’t hurt to marry the king’s daughter! But David doesn’t seem to be motivated by political ambitions – even though God has told him that he will be the next king of Israel! 

David declines Saul’s offer and effectively spoils Saul’s plot to get him killed! I’m sure that did not go over well with Saul and so as we see, Saul gives his daughter in marriage to someone else.

But Saul would have another opportunity to get David killed. This time through his other daughter! Verse 20 says…

20 In the meantime, Saul’s daughter Michal had fallen in love with David, and Saul was delighted when he heard about it. 21 “Here’s another chance to see him killed by the Philistines!” Saul said to himself. But to David he said, “Today you have a second chance to become my son-in-law!”

1 Samuel 18:20-21

It’s not unusual for fathers to be delighted when they learn that their daughter is in love – especially when it’s a good man like David. But Saul’s delight is not because of his daughter’s happiness – it’s delight that he has another opportunity to carry out his wicked plan.

It’s pretty sad to see how Saul’s jealousy and fear of David has made him willing to use his own daughters as a pawns in his plot to kill David. Saul certainly isn’t think about his daughter’s happiness or well-being. The fact that David’s death would cause incredible hurt and loss for his daughters doesn’t even cross his mind.

And he’s so two-faced about it all. To David he says, “Today you have a second chance to become my son-in-law!” – as if he was all excited to welcome David into his family…. But in his heart, he says to himself “Here’s another chance to see David killed by the Philistines!”

It’s like those movies you watch where the audience knows who the bad guy is and they can see exactly how he’s manipulating and deceiving and setting everyone up for disaster. But everyone else in the movie has no idea. They think he’s one of the good guys. They think he’s helping them – while all along, he’s been setting them up in his evil scheme! It’s those kind of characters that just make you mad, right?!

And if seeing that kind of deceitfulness and evil makes us mad – imagine how God feels about it!Well, we don’t have to imagine. Proverbs 6 tells us.

16 There are six things the Lord hates—

    no, seven things he detests:

17 haughty eyes,

    a lying tongue,

    hands that kill the innocent,

18 a heart that plots evil,

    feet that race to do wrong,

19 a false witness who pours out lies,

    a person who sows discord in a family.

Proverbs 6:16-19

That’s quite a list, isn’t it? It’s almost a little surprising to see which 7 things are on this list – and which things aren’t… 

But of these 7 things that the Lord detests, I think Saul’s pretty much got them all covered! Let’s see… haughty eyes (that’s pride…) Lying tongue, killing the innocent, plotting evil, eager to do wrong, pouring out lies, discord in the family – yup, I think he’s got them covered!

But lest we jump too quickly to judge and condemn Saul – perhaps we should look at our own lives!?

Who here has never never struggled with pride – haughty eyes?…. Who has never been less than truthful with someone else? Who’s never had a lying tongue? And perhaps your hands have never literally killed the innocent, but Jesus says that hating someone is just as bad. Has anyone here never hated anyone? Let’s face it, our hearts plot evil, our feet race to do wrong, there have been times when we’ve poured out lies, and I think we all have to admit that we have been the cause of discord in our families! (I know I have!)

Yes, Saul was a terrible, sinful person. But so am I! And so are you! As we read last week, all of us have hearts that are desperately wicked. We are sinful people through and through.

But thankfully, as I mentioned last week, Jesus died for sinful people. I love how the Apostle Paul puts it:

15 This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. 16 But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. 1 Timothy 1:15-16

Isn’t that fantastic!? “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”. He didn’t come to save the righteous. He didn’t come to save those who figured that they were good enough – or at least not as bad as those other guys. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—and I am the worst of them all.”

Through Christ, we can have our sins forgiven and completely erased from our record. As Psalm 103 puts it…

12 He has removed our sins as far from us

    as the east is from the west.

Psalm 103:12

When we put our faith in Jesus, trusting in his perfect righteousness, we no longer have to carry the burden of our sin’s guilt and shame. Jesus has removed that from us – in fact he took it upon himself when he died on the cross. Your debt has been paid. Your sin has been forgiven. You are now free to live for Him.

But you have to make that choice to accept God’s forgiveness. You have to be willing to trust and follow him alone.

Because if you insist on doing things your way, if you refuse to trust and follow Jesus, then God allows you to remain in your sin, and like it did with Saul, it will destroy you from the inside out.

Saul is consumed with his jealousy and fear – and he will bring a world of hurt and destruction to his family, to his friends, and actually, to the entire nation of Israel. The effects of our sin never remain with just us – it spreads and impacts far more people than we realize!

Of course, Saul couldn’t see that at this point, and so he continues to scheme, and plan, and plot the death of David. Verse 22

22 Then Saul told his men to say to David, “The king really likes you, and so do we. Why don’t you accept the king’s offer and become his son-in-law?”

1 Samuel 18:22

This time, Saul wanted to make sure that David had a little encouragement to accept the offer of his daughter’s hand in marriage. And of course, the men had no reason to doubt Saul’s intentions for David and I’m sure they too, thought it would be great for David to marry into Saul’s family! Saul and David were a great team! And so they encouraged David to accept Saul’s offer, as Saul had requested. verse 23

23 When Saul’s men said these things to David, he replied, “How can a poor man from a humble family afford the bride price for the daughter of a king?” 1 Samuel 18:23

Of course, in those days a potential husband had to pay a dowry to his bride’s family if he wanted to marry her. And to marry a king’s daughter, the dowry would most likely be very significant. And so David says in essence, “Sure, I’d like to marry her, but there’s no way I could afford the dowry!” verse 24

24 When Saul’s men reported this back to the king, 25 he told them, “Tell David that all I want for the bride price is 100 Philistine foreskins! Vengeance on my enemies is all I really want.” But what Saul had in mind was that David would be killed in the fight. 1 Samuel 18:24-25

Saul’s not going to let a little thing like a dowry to stop David – in fact, this would fit in perfectly with Saul’s plans! Certainly, a brave warrior like David would charge into battle to try to kill 100 Philistines in order to earn his bride! And when he did, Saul thought, David would surely be killed in the process. It was the perfect plan!

And in fact, David thought so too! Look at verse 26…

David was delighted to accept the offer. Before the time limit expired, he and his men went out and killed 200 Philistines. Then David fulfilled the king’s requirement by presenting all their foreskins to him. So Saul gave his daughter Michal to David to be his wife.

1 Samuel 18:26-27

Saul’s evil plan completely backfired on him. Not only did David accept the offer and go out to battle the Philistines, but he was so successful that he returned with twice the number of kills that Saul had required!

So now, not only was David still alive, and had an even greater record of success, but on top of all that,  Saul would have to give his daughter to him as his bride and Saul would become David’s father-in-law! What a complicated relationship that would be! And it would get even worse for Saul…

28 When Saul realized that the Lord was with David and how much his daughter Michal loved him, 29 Saul became even more afraid of him, and he remained David’s enemy for the rest of his life.

30 Every time the commanders of the Philistines attacked, David was more successful against them than all the rest of Saul’s officers. So David’s name became very famous.

1 Samuel 18:28-30

So now Saul has two of his children, Jonathan and Michal, who deeply love David! What’s more, David continues to have more success against the Philistines than anyone else! While the whole world seems to grow to love David more and more, Saul grows to fear David at the same increasing rate!

And as we see in verse 29, even though no one else knew it at this point, Saul remained David’s enemy for the rest of his life.

I can only imagine the tension and the discord in Saul’s family from that time on. In fact, in the very next chapter we see both Jonathan and Michal working against their father to protect David, as Saul’s subtle schemes against David erupt into open hostility. For the rest of Saul’s life, he will openly and actively attempt to kill David.  And all this stems from jealousy!

And jealousy doesn’t usually strike us as “a really serious sin.” It’s not so blatantly sinful as murder or stealing or sexual immorality! We kinda think of jealousy as one of the lesser sins – you know, the ones that don’t really hurt anybody!

But that’s just not the case. All sin is utterly destructive  – and if we allow it to remain in our lives, it leads to death. James 1:14 says…

14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.

James 1:14-15

I can’t think of a better example of someone who allowed sin to grow than Saul. When he first heard that song about how “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands”, Saul had a choice.

The temptation was there to become jealous of David, but it was up to Saul to decide if he would allow that sin to grow or not.

It’s a bit like weeds in the garden. I may not have much control over which weeds pop up in my garden, but I get to decide which ones I allow to grow.

So this morning I would just encourage you to have a look in your garden – have a look in your heart. Which seeds, which sins, have you allowed to grow? Jealousy? Lust? Pride? Greed? Bitterness? Anger? The more you allow them to grow, the harder it is to dig them out. But if we don’t dig them out, if we allow them to grow, they will give birth to death.

So I encourage you today, to dig those sins out. Don’t allow them to grow any further. And the good news is that Jesus is happy to help you do that! He’s the master gardener. He doesn’t want to see hurt and destruction in your life any more than you do. He loves you like crazy and wants you to experience joy and peace and real abundant life! But all of that gets choked out by the sins we allows to grow in our lives. Jesus was to free you from the sin that chokes the life outta you!

And what’s more, he’s brought you here to this family! All of us know what it’s like to deal with those persistent weeds in our lives and we would love nothing more than walk with you and to help you deal with the weeds in your life too! We all share the struggle. We’re not perfect. We’re not immune. We all wrestle with the sins in our lives.

But through the power of Christ, with Him working in our hearts, and with the help and support of one another, we can have victory over sin.

So if you’re struggling today, and I know many of us are, I’d encourage you to reach out and come talk to me or talk to someone else here that you trust, and we would love to do some gardening with you. We’d love to help you cut down those weeds and get something good growing in there!

In fact, let me pray for you right now!

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