Laughing Kings and Dead Priests

“And [Saul] said, ‘You shall surely die, Ahimelech, you and all your father’s house.’ And the king said to the guard who stood about him, ‘Turn and kill the priests of the LORD, because their hand also is with David, and they knew that he fled and did not disclose it to me.’ But the servants of the king would not put out their hand to strike the priests of the LORD. Then the king said to Doeg, ‘You turn and strike the priests.’ And Doeg the Edomite turned and struck down the priests, and he killed on that day eighty-five persons who wore the linen ephod.” ~ 1 Samuel 22;16-18 [ESV]

Saul, Israel’s first king, is a disastrous biblical character. The backstory of Israel rejecting God as their king should serve as a clue that things were not going to bode well for the tall Benjaminite. And of course, the back-to-back tales of Saul a.) doing what he was not authorized to do in 1 Samuel 13, and then b.) NOT doing what he was told to do in chapter 15 sealed his fate. It was that second story that came to mind as I read the text in chapter 22. The man who refused to kill King Agag – a brutal murderer of Israel’s soldiers – insisted on assassinating Ahimelech, one of the Lord’s priests (and his kinsman)!

How does one end up in such a state? I think if we filter through the host of issues Saul was facing it comes down to one simple thing: Saul refused to accept the Lord’s work in his life. The son of Kish who was hiding in the bags for fear of being proclaimed king (1 Samuel 10.22), was now resisting the will of the God for him to be removed from that appointment (1 Samuel 15.26). He was jealous of David’s anointing…the very word “jealous,” connoting that he considered that kingly anointing to be rightfully his, and the only way he could even rationalize that was to deem God’s rejection of him to be wrong!

So, have we ever found ourselves looking at another person, maybe even someone who does what we do, and struggled with jealousy? Maybe we sense that this other person is more popular than we are, or they are poised to replace us somehow? And this jealousy gives birth to rage, the kind of rage that will attack anyone who is even remotely supportive of our newly labeled adversary. But at the core of all of this jealousy and rage is a heart that has never come to terms with how God has dealt with us. There is a heart that is not contrite and humble in the face of Jehovah’s judgments. There is a heart that refuses to remember what life was like before the thrones and crowns and parades. We start to tighten our grip on that which was only a sovereign gift in the first place, trying to control it and own it. We find ourselves defined by our appointment and the very thought of losing that appointment can drive us to murder…

Thank the Father for his Son Jesus! While Saul was murderously attempting to hold on to a position he rightfully lost, Jesus freely gave up his position that he never had to lose!

“though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” ~ Philippians 2.6-7 [ESV]

This is the mind(set) we need to have if we’re going to leave a life free of the complexities and the drama that jealousy inevitably brings. Rather than being a Saul, whose identity is so caught up in secondary things that we  reject God’s working in our lives, let’s look to Jesus and be free to walk away from titles and success and admiration. Maybe a few Ahimelechs can be spared in the process…

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