Tuesday, February 28, 2012

1 Samuel 16:14-23

14 Now the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him.
15 Saul’s attendants said to him, “See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. 16 Let our lord command his servants here to search for someone who can play the lyre. He will play when the evil spirit from God comes on you, and you will feel better.”
17 So Saul said to his attendants, “Find someone who plays well and bring him to me.”
18 One of the servants answered, “I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the lyre. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the LORD is with him.”
19 Then Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, “Send me your son David, who is with the sheep.” 20 So Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, a skin of wine and a young goat and sent them with his son David to Saul.
21 David came to Saul and entered his service. Saul liked him very much, and David became one of his armor-bearers. 22 Then Saul sent word to Jesse, saying, “Allow David to remain in my service, for I am pleased with him.”
23 Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.

Points of interest
  • ‘the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul’--apparently the divinely inspired kingliness we saw yesterday can only rest on one person at a time. As it falls on David, it leaves Saul. This creates something of a dicey situation. Saul is still in actuality the king, but David is the one equipped by God to pull off the job. We have one person with everything it takes to be a king except the crown, and another person with the crown but not the wherewithal to rule well.
  • ‘an evil spirit from the LORD’--this is a head-scratcher. Sending an evil spirit doesn’t seem like the kind of thing God would do, and obeying God doesn’t seem like the kind of thing an evil spirit would do. It’s likely that ‘evil’ here should be translated more like, ‘harmful’ (Baldwin, Joyce. 1 and 2 Samuel: An Introduction and Commentary. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988). In other words, it’s not so much that the spirit is morally evil, but rather that it happens to have a negative effect on Saul. That, at least, would explain away the impression that God is in league with the devil. Still, while I can understand it’s God’s prerogative to bestow favor wherever God wants, it feels a little like hitting below the belt to go on to purposely do harm to the person now in disfavor. I wonder if this evil spirit is a side effect of God’s actions rather than God’s specific intent. In other words, the removal of God’s favor sends Saul into a mania or depression of some sort; it’s ‘from the Lord’ because it’s a direct consequence of God removing the anointing, not because God specifically sent it.
  • ‘I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem’--ironically, the very person at the heart of Saul’s torment is brought in to soothe it.
  • ‘a brave man and a warrior’--the rosy-cheeked child from yesterday’s passage is now described as a brave man and a warrior. I don’t get the impression that much time has passed: the Spirit departing from Saul seems to follow directly from it resting on David; and David is still out with the sheep, just where we left him. I wonder if the Spirit’s anointing is already doing its work. Young though he is, people are starting to see him differently. It also could be that today’s passage comes from a different story source than yesterday’s; as we’ll see in the next couple of days, the story of how Saul and David first meet gets a little convoluted.
  • 'a donkey loaded with bread, a skin of wine and a young goat’--I think Jesse is either making sure his son will have plenty to eat (like giving your child their own credit card when they go to college) or he’s sending a thank-you gift to Saul for the honor of having someone from his family serve the king.
  • ‘and the evil spirit would leave him’--regardless of just how directly responsible God is for this evil spirit, I find it very interesting that it becomes the job of God’s new favorite to relieve the torment of the one he is replacing. Maybe David owes Saul a little help for the trouble he is causing him. Or maybe this is a lesson for Saul: his suffering will go away if he’s just willing to embrace God’s new anointed one.

Taking it home
  • For you: Of all things, David, this would-be king, turns out to be a harp player--and apparently quite a good one, since he was asked to play for the king. What are some of the things that you really like doing? Consider that all of your hobbies and hidden, little talents could be ways through which God could work. Ask God to meet you in these activities that you really love, and to use them for God’s purposes.
  • For your six: Maybe it’s not quite as pronounced as the torment Saul experienced, but are there particular ways in which any of your six seem routinely tormented? By stress? Fear? Depression? Pick a few of your six and pray for God to break whatever tormenting feelings they might be experiencing today.
  • For our church: Saul’s courtiers had a very specific need, and they were able to find someone with exactly the right skills to fill that need. Pray that it would be that way for our church as well. Pray that God would consistently be sending us the people with the right skills to accomplish what we are trying to do. And pray that we would make good use of the wealth of talents in our midst.
  • For families: Hobbies are things you like to do: hiking, drawing, playing an instrument. David’s hobby was playing the harp. What are your hobbies? Talk about how you help each other have time to do these things. What would it look like to invite God to be a part of these activities, and to even do them for God?