As we continue with the story of David, which also involved the story of King Saul, we encounter a bizarre episode that makes us stop and ponder what in the world it could mean. Saul's attempts to kill David had failed, but that didn't stop him from trying. Finally, David took refuge with the prophet Samuel, and then we read this:
When David had fled and made his escape, he went to Samuel at Ramah and told him all that Saul had done to him. Then he and Samuel went to Naioth and stayed there. Word came to Saul: “David is in Naioth at Ramah”; so he sent men to capture him. But when they saw a group of prophets prophesying, with Samuel standing there as their leader, the Spirit of God came on Saul’s men, and they also prophesied. Saul was told about it, and he sent more men, and they prophesied too. Saul sent men a third time, and they also prophesied. Finally, he himself left for Ramah and went to the great cistern at Seku. And he asked, “Where are Samuel and David?” “Over in Naioth at Ramah,” they said. So Saul went to Naioth at Ramah. But the Spirit of God came even on him, and he walked along prophesying until he came to Naioth. He stripped off his garments, and he too prophesied in Samuel’s presence. He lay naked all that day and all that night. This is why people say, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” (1 Samuel 19:18-24).
Everything in me wants to skip over this and move on to something a bit easier to discuss, but I'm going to avoid that temptation and dive in. I invite you to make the dive with me.
Let me start by presenting a list of thoughts after reflecting on and doing some basic research on this story:
- We can't help but impose our understanding of what it means to prophesy on this story and our interpretation. Some see prophets as people who can predict the future. Others see it as someone who has "personal words" of guidance and encouragement for others. Still others see those who stand and teach God's word as His mouthpieces or prophets.The truth is, we don't know much about who these prophets were and what exactly they were doing that was so irresistible, even to those who not members of their entourage.
- This was not the first time Saul had exhibited this tendency to prophesy (see 1 Samuel 10:11). Samuel had told him he would prophesy as a sign of God's call on his life to be king, which Saul did. It was not an indication of Saul's spirituality or even his willingness to serve God, for keep in mind that signs are for the unbelieving, not those with faith. David needed no such sign to accept his call.
- The author of this story makes sure we know Saul's murderous attempts as a backdrop for this prophetic encounter. It would seem that God used these prophetic manifestations among Saul and his men as a protective shield around David and his purpose. Even the people were surprised, for they asked a question that became a proverb: "Is Saul also among the prophets?" We can paraphrase it by asking, "Him? Him? A prophet? Ha!"
- The result of Saul's prophetic frenzy was shocking: he lay naked all day and night. This was a humiliating posture, not consistent with the royal robes a king would normally wear. Saul's prophetic visitation was not to endorse his sinful ways but to manifest his shame. He had been laid bare before the Lord and found with nothing that would even resemble royalty—just the base motives of a depraved sinner.
So what conclusions can we reach from this story?
- Our spiritual gifts or even our encounters with the Spirit when He uses us are not necessarily an endorsement of our spiritual maturity or worthiness.
- We must be careful not to sanction bad behavior among those who seem to have God's anointing.
- The Spirit sometimes uses those who are not qualified or even open to minister to others.
There are probably many more lessons to learn from this and I invite you to share any that you see on the site where this is posted. My ultimate conclusion, however, is that God will protect His own through His own means. Saul had the army on his side; David had God on his side. Saul saw the throne as his; David saw it as God's and he was holding it on His behalf. The difference in their attitude and perspective made all the difference as to whose side God was on.
What can we learn from all this? First, we don't own what God has given us; we are stewards and Kingdom representatives. We are not to build our own kingdom but rather to extend God's Kingdom. Second, when God uses us, it's no guarantee or indication of our favor or spirituality; it's a matter of God using us for His purpose to reach others. Third, no matter the opposition, God is able to preserve those who are His, just like He did David.
Finally, Paul said we should all be zealous to prophesy (see 1 Corinthians 14:1). That means we should want to spread the message of God's love far and wide, not as unknowing or unwilling prophets, but as willing partners in the work of expressing our purpose that represents the love of God for His creation. Have a blessed week.