Saul and David
“So the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.” 1 Ch 10:14
No matter how and when Saul died, he eventually was going to die anyway. It was a violent death for sure, but it was to be expected. That was how most kings from both kingdoms of Israel died, wasn’t it? Besides, he lived to a ripe old age and died in battle heroically. All things considered, that might have been the manner of death Saul would have chosen. He died fighting for his people and, at the least, he managed to keep his duty as a king until the last moment of his life. Humanly speaking, he wasn’t doing so poorly. Yes, humanly speaking, indeed.
How humans perceive Saul doesn’t count at all. We can either laud or loathe the man; it makes absolutely no difference to the supreme Judge whose judgment isn’t swayed by our opinions in any way. The final verdict is clear: Because of his unfaithfulness, “the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.”
Was David going to be a better king than his predecessor? In some ways perhaps, but not in all ways. What separated David from Saul wasn’t the way he dealt with men; it was the manner he interacted with God. In the areas where Saul had failed, David succeeded. Saul might have been a man after people’s hearts, for he feared people’s opinion more than he did God; but David was just the opposite. He wasn’t called “the man after God’s own heart” for no reason. In dealing with men, David might have often stumbled, but in dealing with the Holy One David was all heart and often went all out in celebrating God goodness and greatness. We know how his wife reacted when he was dancing with all his might before the ark of the Lord; and how he honored the Lord’s anointed by not taking Saul life twice when he had a perfect chance to do so. On the other hand, Saul seemed to have taken sacred things rather lightly when he officiated at the sacrifice, which was something he was not entitled to do, merely because people were starting to grumble and lose their patience when Samuel was a little late arriving at the scene to perform his priestly duty.
Ultimately we will be defined and judged by the way we interact with the Lord, not the manner we deal with people. The ones who are lauded and glorified by us may not be found acceptable before the Lord. “What people value highly is detestable in God's sight.” How frightening is this pronouncement made by the Lord Jesus to you? Surely the way we deal with people should always be the direct result of how we relate to God, and the two are not mutually exclusive. It’s natural that we love our neighbors as ourselves if we love the Lord with all our soul and strength. The key is that we should always put God before men, not vice versa, when the two are in conflict and become irreconcilable. Saul might have done otherwise, which ultimately caused his downfall.