Saul and Jonathan were beloved and pleasant in their lives, And in their death they were not divided; They were swifter than eagles, They were stronger than lions.2 Samuel 1:23
King Saul of Israel died in a failed military campaign (1 Samuel 31). When David heard what happened, he wrote a song of lamentation. In the song he described Saul as “beloved and pleasant.”
It is hard to imagine many people in Israel thinking of Saul in those terms.
Saul had numerous failings as a leader.
- He did not do what God commanded him (1 Samuel 13: 8-13; 1 Samuel 15).
- He killed innocent people (1 Samuel 22: 6-19; 2 Samuel 21: 1).
- He made poor military decisions that allowed the nation be overrun by its enemies (1 Samuel 13; 1 Samuel 23).
He also had character flaws.
- He was prone to violent outbursts (1 Samuel 18: 11; 1 Samuel 19: 10; 1 Samuel 20: 30-34).
- He was self-centered and petty (1 Samuel 13: 11; 1 Samuel 15: 30).
- He allowed jealousy to drive his actions.
- He viewed David’s qualities as a threat to his reign, so he tried to kill him.
- Saul pursued David and forced him from his home into hiding.
Yet Saul had some virtues.
He was bold in his defense of the people of Jabesh-gilead when they were threatened, for example, and he rescued them from their enemies (1 Samuel 11). They remembered, and many years later they showed their appreciation for what Saul had done for them (1 Samuel 31: 11-13).
It appears that David, like the people of Jabesh-gilead, chose to focus on the good that Saul had done. He was not blind to Saul’s faults, but that is not where his mind went when he thought of Saul. Why? David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13: 22). He saw more as God does.
Today I am going to try to see people more like David and more like God. I want to look for the positive in them and make that my focus.
David had far less reason than anyone else to see Saul in a positive light, and yet he did. He recognized him as God’s anointed, but maybe he also recognized Saul’s mental illness. Maybe he knew that Saul should not be defined by his fits of rage and his paranoia. Just as we should not judge others by their behavior; we don’t know hearts or brain chemistry.
Kathy Rose says
Thank you Casey, for making this point. Mental illness often causes others to be blinded to that person’s basic goodness. Let us not be judgmental. Jesus wasn’t.