David was a man of excellence. Whether this epic Bible character was working as a shepherd, a musician, or a warrior – he was skillful. Initially, this skill, animated by great faith in Israel’s God, was a source of profound joy and relief to king Saul. Let’s not forget that it was a good day for Saul when Goliath was so brilliantly defeated in an Israeli field…
But as is so often (and so regrettably) the case in relationships, what was initially a source of joy and comfort can hastily become a source of contention. In just the next chapter after Goliath’s killing we find these words:
“And Saul saw and knew that the LORD [was] with David, and [that] Michal Saul’s daughter loved him. And Saul was yet the more afraid of David; and Saul became David’s enemy continually.” [1 Samuel 18.28-29/ESV]
Do you have enemies? Maybe they’re not taking issue with you because you’re “in the wrong” as much as they don’t cope well with your success. And this can be painfully true if you’re excelling at a task that they’ve had a reputation for excelling in. Saul kicked-off his reign as king by soundly defeating Philistines, but by the time we pick up the story in chapter 17, he’s not exactly on his game. David was excelling in that which Saul had at one point excelled. Ouch! Excellence in one person exposes mediocrity in another. And it mustn’t have helped that Saul’s daughter Michal thought the world of David. Respect can be demanded, but not love. Saul struggled to grasp at one; David effortlessly enjoyed them both.
Of course, it wouldn’t be wise to just consider one side of this coin. Sure, this story helps us see our enemies with greater wisdom when we make ourselves out to be David, but at the same time we can also be Saul. Who is it that has been so excellent or so loved that we now feel exposed as being inferior? Have we turned someone into a villain simply because they’re more successful than we are? And at the heart of this devolution is fear. Fear that people with think less of us. Fear that we’re not as great as we’ve made ourselves out to be.
Let us apply the Gospel to this dark corner of our hearts. Let the perfect love of Christ – who demonstrated that love by dying for us – cast out that fear. How easily do we, like Saul, forget that we’re not wrestling against flesh and blood? We’re accepted in the Beloved and nothing can separate us from his love!