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Saul and David/Righteousness and Folly

January 11, 2014Filed under theology#devotionsMarkdown source

I have made it my goal to write short posts reflecting on my devotional reading every day. These posts are composed off the cuff, in 30 minutes or less. The following is one such post. Before writing this post, I read: 1 Chronicles 6–10, Psalm 11, Proverbs 11.

The books of Chronicles serve as something of a parallel and supplementary account to the books of 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings.1 There are a few significant differences between the books, though. First, Samuel and Kings take considerable time to trace out Saul’s history and then divided their attention fairly evenly between Judah and Israel, with a slight emphasis on Israel because of Elijah and Elisha’s ministries there. The Chronicles skip almost entirely over Saul and focus predominantly on the Davidic line in Judah.

Second, Samuel and Kings generally let events speak for themselves, with little commentary. Yahweh is always in control, but the author rarely provides explicit theological interpretation of the events recorded. The Chronicles, rather strikingly, often make straightforward claims about divine action and provide moral commentary on the events they record. After its long list of genealogies, 1 Chronicles turns to a narrative of the history of the Hebrews in the kingdom era, picking up with Saul’s death—and immediately offers a theological interpretation of the events (2 Samuel and 1 Kings simply report the events and a few people’s responses):

So Saul died for his breach of faith. he broke faith with the Lord in that he did not keep the command of the Lord, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance. He did not seek guidance from the Lord. Therefore the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse. (1 Chronicles 10:13–14, ESV)

No ambiguity, no reason to misunderstand what happened. Kings made it clear by literary structure. The Chronicles just come out and say it: Yahweh took the kingdom away from Saul because he was unfaithful to him, and he gave it to a man who—whatever his faults, and they were indeed many—would follow Yahweh.

In Psalm 11, David evinces the very trust in Yahweh Saul lacked. He proclaims his confidence that Yahweh will save him. To the warning that “the wicked bend the bow; / they have fitted their arrow to the string / to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart” (Psalm 11:2, ESV), David has a simple reply: “The Lord is in his holy temple; / the Lord’s throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man” (Psalm 11:4, ESV). David’s confidence was not in his own strength. His hope was not in being free and clear of anyone who would oppose him, but in the one whose throne is in heaven. Saul spent his days troubled and afraid because he was never secure in Yahweh.

Proverbs 11:28 (ESV) comments:

Whoever trusts in his riches will fall,
    but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.

The whole chapter resounds with the contrast between trust in riches or power or mortal plans and righteousness. Righteousness, it seems, is in trusting and obeying Yahweh. There is no righteousness that trusts in one’s own strength. There is only the righteousness “which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Philippians 3:9, ESV). I am reminded tonight not to trust in my own abilities, nor in the provision God has given us,2 but in God himself.

  1. Originally these four books were a single book, just as 1 and 2 Chronicles were a single book; it is rather unfortunate the modern divisions obscure this.

  2. What folly to put our trust in the material things we have, when they are not ours save by the generous gift of God!