It’s tough getting old. It’s tough drawing to the end of your career or ministry. It’s tough trying to find your successor and we all want to put it off for as long as possible. What’s to say I haven’t got another 20 years in me anyway?
It is so much harder being asked to move over so someone else can move into your role and take over your responsibilities. And the worst case is when you are asked to do that because you have failed to meet expectations or have been found to have a flawed character.
Saul experienced the worst extreme because God had rejected him as king. The God who chose him, anointed him and appointed him now opposed him and diss-appointed him. Notice, however, that God did not remove His anointing – as David reminded us again and again.
David was anointed by Samuel to be king before he arrived on the scene to defeat Goliath. Incidentally, if Saul was head and shoulders taller than anyone else in Israel, how come he didn’t see fit to fight Goliath? He was the most appropriate opponent. Yes, of course, God had rejected him and so he dared not fight his enemies.
So David enters stage left and goes on to defeat the enemy – not through using Saul’s man-made power – but through the divine authority and action of a Holy God. Saul was no doubt mercifully relieved at the outcome – who in their right mind wouldn’t be?
The problem arose when the women came out on the streets for the home-coming street parade and began to sing their song of deliverance –
Saul has slain his thousands and
David his tens of thousands.
Now that got up Saul’s nose. Saul the great King – Israel’s first – the king chosen by the people – now had his status usurped by a slip of a boy. It would have been bad enough had it been Jonathan, his son, the prince – but he had been supplanted in the minds of the people by a mere shepherd boy – a sheep-watcher.
Instead of rejoicing in the battle won; instead of rejoicing in David’s victory; instead of rejoicing in the released joy of the women, Saul indulged in his fear and jealousy. Just like Herod, who would eventually succeed him centuries later, he determined to kill the man born to be king.
At first Saul invited David near so Saul could watch him and pick his moment of attack. Then he sent out spies to report on David’s every move. Then he sent soldiers to kill him. Then he took soldiers with him in an attempt to kill him, and finally he took the whole of his army out to hound David from valley to rocky crag, determined to exterminate the one who would be his successor.
How sick was that? How much better would it have been if Saul’s attitude was like John the Baptiser, who said of Jesus – He must increase, I must decrease? And you? How are you treating your successor?