Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A King, an Illegal Order, and Who Wins in the End

During my quiet time today, I read 1 Samuel 20-22.

There, the paranoia of King Saul is on full display. He's intent on ridding himself of David, who he sees as his enemy. Because of Saul's murderous intent, David is on the run.

When Saul learns that a priest named Ahimelek gave food to David and a few of David's men and that Alimelek "inquired of the Lord," that is, asked God to reveal His will to David, Saul is furious. He sees the priest as a co-conspirator with David, even though Ahimelek had done similar things for Saul and Saul's people. (Even though David was not conspiring against Saul, for that matter!)

Saul then issues an illegal order. He commands his guards to kill Ahimelek.

Although loyal to the king, the guards refuse to do what he commands: You don't kill priests for simply doing their work, for one thing. And you don't kill innocent people.

Unbowed, Saul ordered Doeg, his chief shepherd to kill Ahimelek. He killed Ahimelek, along with a total of 85 priests!

Saul had once been anointed by God to be the king. But the Spirit of God had left Saul when Saul stopped trusting in God and started trusting in himself, his power, and the trappings of his office. Nothing became so important to Saul as retaining the power that had been given to him.

But without faith in God, his use of power became self-serving. He worked at destroying the lives of those who got in his way, often, as with Doeg, with the help of people too weak or too ambitious to tell him, "No!"

God saves people from themselves--from sin, death, and futility--as a free gift to those who trust in God as ultimately revealed to everyone in Jesus.

When we have faith in Christ, God empowers us to live for more than just ourselves.

When we have faith in Christ, we understand that we belong to God forever and nothing can separate us from God's love, not even death.

But when, like Saul, we live for whatever this dying world has to offer us, we wreak havoc on our own lives and the lives of others.

As a man and as a ruler, when he turned away from God, Saul became a conduit for hell to enter the life of his country and his family. Saul hated Ahimelek because he was a conduit for the love and grace of God. So, Saul had Alimelek cut down. But who was the stronger? The one who fought for a piece of a world that we can only hold onto for a human lifetime? Or the one who fought to help others know the grace and love of an eternal God?

And who, Saul or Ahimelek, still lives in peace with God? Here's a clue: "...everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Joel 2:32)

[I'm the pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]

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