There are two possible reactions or responses when people are confronted and exposed as having sinned. One will be the way of King Saul and the other of King David. One will lead to further sin and a journey farther from God, and the other will lead to contrition and a walk closer to God.
King Saul in the beginning was a humble man. He was the biggest man around in Israel. He was a shy person, so shy that he hid among the baggage animals the day he was anointed as Israel’s first king. For a good while he led Israel as a leader should, bravely throwing out the sorcerers in Israel and combating its enemies, the Philistines. He had a very good son in Jonathan, who was, as it turned out, a much better man than he.
The Amalekites had been a nomadic tribe who evidently had settled in Palestine. They were a vicious, godless, people who took no pity on their enemies and when the Israelites departed Egypt, they attacked them but in a supremely cowardly fashion. For their unprovoked and malicious attack, God decreed that they would be wiped out totally one day.
He let them go on for a good while and then gave King Saul the opportunity to fulfill His word against them. (We must realize that God, being omniscient, knew Saul would fail Him; but one cannot cast blame on someone who has yet to do the wrong! This was a test of Saul’s heart as much as anything; his fitness to be Israel’s king). The prophet and judge, Samuel, gave the order: the Amalekites were to be destroyed; their possessions “devoted” to Yahweh (in similar fashion as Jericho). None were to be left alive. (For those of you who think this unfair, please consider that God factors in everything; He knew what kind of people they were and everything they had done through the centuries. If anything He is a God of justice, and His patience with their brutality had to be addressed. They got as they had given through the years – no mercy). Saul had this opportunity to show His faithfulness. He went on the mission and was successful in the battle.
But he began a war with God.
Instead of obeying Yahweh’s command to obliterate them, he chose to keep the best of the herd animals and livestock. Worst of all he captured their king, Agag, obviously intending to bring him back to enhance his own personal prestige. God had expressed His regret to Samuel over this, and the prophet went to meet Saul coming home with the spoils. The entire story may be read in 1 Samuel 15.
Let us evaluate Saul’s response to the exposure of his sin in disobeying God.
- He claimed he did what he was told despite evidence to the contrary.
- He tried to deflect the guilt onto others to clear himself.
- He claimed his disobedience was for a worthy cause, his own invention.
- He was concerned only with saving face in the eyes of his peers.
- He grew angry and vindictive when he did not get his way.
These are all things people, even Christians, will do when confronted by a rebuke to their sin. Each of them reveals the status of the heart toward themselves and God.
- There is a serious lack of humility, but an overabundance of pride.
- There is little concern for their own error, but much concern for the error of others.
- They play the “blame game” but refuse to be participants therein.
- They will claim to apologize, but make it conditional, and hold out until their own terms are met first or at least partially.
- They fail to fulfill their own obligation and duty to God by repentance and restoration (where at all possible). Samuel himself cut Agag to pieces to rectify that failed duty.
On the other hand there is King David’s sin with Bathsheba. Actually he sinned against Uriah even more and even worse. This story is found in 2 Samuel, chapters 11 and 12 . He made several noteworthy errors leading up to this horrific event in his life:
- He was not where he should have been, doing other than what kings normally did at that time. (Does this not tell us to keep our mind on our work, keeping it active, and not letting it loiter too much?)
- He took the “second look.” The first look may have been Bathsheba’s fault, exposing herself to his view while bathing, but instead of turning away, he gazed upon her beauty and lusted so that it led him to sin with her. (What does this tell us about lust and pornography?)
- When she revealed to him she was pregnant by him, he tried to conceal it. The Law demanded death by stoning for adulterers and both would have died if that Law had been carried out. He was naturally fearful of this and who wouldn’t be?
- He compounded his sin of adultery by the murder of Uriah by the “sword of the Ammonites.” It didn’t matter who killed Uriah, her husband, as long as he died thus freeing him to wed Bathsheba to pretend the baby was legitimately his.
After Uriah’s predictable demise he married Bathsheba. Yet the Psalms reveal he was anything but happy and blissfully unaffected by what he had done; he was thoroughly miserable. (Read Psalms 32, 38, and especially 51). Yahweh sent Nathan the prophet to rebuke David’s sins. His reaction is the key element in this lesson, one that we must take to heart and duplicate as needed:
- He simply acknowledged, confessed, his sin and publicly at that.
- He offered no excuses for it, as King Saul had, never trying to justify himself.
- He did not get angry at Nathan. In fact, he apparently named one of his children after him.
- He accepted the consequences of his chastisement, which were very severe, without being bitter against God. He actually prophesied the exact penalty (four-fold restoration) for his twisted scheme which included securing Uriah’s death: David lost four sons as a consequence, beginning with the child Bathsheba carried. The others were Amnon, Absalom, and Adonijah. What a hefty price to pay for such needless, reckless, foolishness! God had blessed David with multiple wives (including Saul’s) and great abundance, “and if that had been too little” (that had to sting!) God would have given him even more.
- He praised God for having delivered him from his error and recommitted himself to greater service to God.
David’s response must be our response when we are confronted with our sins. We are all going to sin and blunder at times. Fatal exposure comes if we react as did King Saul instead of how King David did. Let us remember this the next time someone who has courage enough to confront, rebuke, and expose our sin to our face because they love us.
Our reaction and response will say much about the condition of our heart which is surely laid bare before God, He whom we can never deceive, nor conceal, our sins.