Each Saturday, I am going to post about something I’ve been studying in Scripture. This is the second of a series of posts delving into the topic of jealousy. In the first, I outlined how jealousy starts with fear, leads to anger, and eventually to some pretty destructive sin. Let’s look at the relationship between King Saul, his faithful servant and friend, David, and Saul’s son, Jonathan.
Saul was the first king of Israel and he actually reigned for over 40 years. But, he made a critical error early on in his career – he disobeyed God, which was so not good considering God was the one who gave him the job – and things pretty much went downhill after that. In order to figure out how that happened, we have to go back to not long after he became king, when he lost God’s favor and then was tormented by an evil spirit (cue headaches, anger, frustration, discontentment, and general grumpiness).
Ever lived with or worked with anyone who was suffered from any of those ailments? Then we can all understand why those around the king were desperate for a solution. Eventually, a servant recommended Saul have a young musician named David come play the harp to try and soothe the king. The Bible says this arrangement worked out quite well and the two became friends (1 Samuel 16:21).
Later, that same David killed Goliah with his slingshot. (Remember that story?) The crowds danced and sang praises to him. It’s not like the king didn’t have plenty of praise being thrown his own way (seeing as how he was king and all), but nevertheless, the Bible tells us King Saul became jealous of the attention being given to his talented and faithful friend.
Have you ever felt that way? Anyone ever had a friend who was stronger, or braver, or more talented, or better looking, or more loved? Yeah, me too.
What happens when we open the door to jealousy – even just a tiny bit – in our lives?
First Samuel, chapter 18, tells us what happened to Saul when he opened that door: Saul became very angry when he heard the people praising David. The people were essentially taunting Saul, saying, “Nanny, nanny, boo boo, he’s better than you.” And the Bible tells us that Saul looked at David with suspicion from that day on.
Opening the door to jealousy – even just a bit – ushered in years, decades even, of pain and suffering for Saul. It completely changed how he looked at his friend. Our ability to see the whole story gives us a clearer picture of how a little thing like jealous suspicion can become a lifetime of pain and regret.
Because remember, this was not just a pair of acquaintances who just drifted apart. Chapter 16 tells us that King Saul loved David greatly. But that was when Saul was in charge and David was his helper. After David became such a household name, Saul let jealousy get the better of him. Saul then became worried that David would steal the kingdom from him. Verses 14 and 15 tell us:
In everything [David] did he had great success, because the Lord was with him. When Saul saw how successful he was, he was afraid of him.
Based on these verses, what does God tell us was the root of the problem? That’s right: fear.
And what was Saul’s response to that fear? Jealousy. Paranoia. Bitterness. Hate. Anger.
Ugh. I really don’t want to fall into this trap.
Returning to our story, Saul sent David away to fight and lead his troops. But in case you think he was giving him a promotion, let’s examine his motives. Gone was the love for this faithful ally. Instead, he plotted against David, saying to himself, “I will not raise a hand against him. Let the Philistines do that!” (v. 17)
Before we judge Saul on his unfriendly-like conduct, let’s consider just how close to home this hits for us. How many of us have ever found ourselves in and out of like with certain friends? When we feel like our confidants have betrayed us, or let us down in any way, we can say and do some pretty nasty things (and oh how the Internet has made that perfect clear in the past two decades).
When Saul’s plan to have the Philistines kill David in battle doesn’t work, he comes up with another idea, this time involving his own daughter! Can you see how jealousy causes us to do absolutely ridiculous things, damaging not only our relationship with the other person, but with all those around us? But we’re not done. Because eventually, when we feed jealousy enough, it turns into rage.
And rage is never pretty.
Chapter 19 in 1 Samuel starts off with a clear picture of how that tiny seed of jealousy sprouted in to a tree of rage so large it blocked out the light of truth in his life: “Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David.”
Make no mistake: jealousy killed any chance of lasting friendship between David and Saul. And yet… it was quite different for Jonathan and David. You see, Jonathan had the exact opposite reaction to David’s successes. In David, Jonathan found a kindred spirit. They shared the same faith, and came to trust one another with their lives.
In order to see the other side of the equation, to see how someone else reacted to David’s successes without jealousy, we’ll continue in 1 Samuel next week.