Let’s be honest, this chapter is crazy. We continue to witness Saul’s decline into obsession, and it ain’t pretty. In chapter 18, David’s fame increased as he continued in a string of military victories. Saul was probably having a good day, until he heard the songs of the women, “Saul has slain thousands (“Alright!”), and David his tens of thousands (“Wait, what?”).”
Before we begin bashing Saul and his poor character, let us remember that he has been a good king. He has united a divided and ruptured Israel, he has expanded the boarders, increased their influence in the region, and people are now safer. For any political leader, that’s a pretty good scorecard. From a secular perspective, Saul has been a great king. From a spiritual perspective, however, it’s a different story.
As I read this story, I can’t help but ask myself, “What do I love more, God or God’s blessing?” For Saul, he wanted God’s blessing without God’s presence or rule in his life. God had given him authority and power, David threatened that, what we witness in 1 Samuel 19 is Saul’s reaction to that threat.
Jonathan tried to remind Saul not to kill the golden goose (19:4–5); after all, God’s blessing towards David benefitted the nation and Saul (19:8). Saul made an oath (19:6), but went against his own words not long after as he tried to kill him (19:10). Although Jonathon sought to protect David through truth, Michal (who loved David) protected him through deception (19:14), giving us a glimpse into her character as well.
David fled and went to the prophet Samuel (19:18), and here we get this whacky event. Saul sent three teams of men who ended up being invaded by the Spirit of the Lord and they started prophesying (19:19–21). Saul decided that he’d take matters into his own hands and go himself and he ended up prophesying as well (19:23). Not only that, but while he was walking along he ended up stripping off his garments (19:23–24).
The idea of Saul’s prophesying includes worship. However, we would do well to consider this warning by commentator Warren Wiersbe, “These two events [of Saul prophesying] prove that a person can have a remarkable religious experience and yet have no change in character. . . . Special religious manifestations aren’t evidences that a person is even saved (Matt. 7:21-23).”
Saul sought to thwart God by killing his anointed. Instead, God thwarted Saul by radically interrupting his pursuit. Saul may not have been completely naked, but stripping down to the inner cloak was considered as such. He may or may not have had on a stich of clothing, but either way, this is incredibly shameful. Don’t miss this, the shame of sin will only stay hidden for so long. It will be exposed. Saul had been a great king on the outside, but what do you think the conversation around the water cooler will be the next day—Saul’s victories, or his nude camping? Saul’s shameful pursuit of David ended up shaming Saul.
Thankfully, we get insight into David’s heart during this time as we read in Psalm 59.
You are my strength, I sing praise to you;
you, God, are my fortress,
my God on whom I can rely.
Saul loved his power; David loved the Lord. Saul pursued David; God exposed Saul’s shame. Today, realize that sin cannot remain hidden. God is a fortress for those who love him. Take a moment and praise God for his blessing, but remember that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance (Romans 2:4).
By: Tyler Short