THE book of 1 Samuel presents a striking series of events that form the basis for vital lessons in worker relationships in God's cause today. On one side we see King Saul filled with an evil spirit of jealousy; on the other, David controlled by the spirit of humility, love, and loyalty to God and mankind.
The background of this experience is briefly as follows: Saul had sinned in not utterly destroying the Amalekites. We read, "For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king" (1 Sam. 15:23).
"But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him" (chap. 16:14). When God's Spirit is withdrawn because of man's rebellion and persistent, stubborn will, Satan and his host move in to trouble and torment until the grave is a welcome relief.
Soothing Disturbed Nerves
Saul, recognizing his separation from divine favor, became depressed and moody.
The search for a cunning player of the harp to soothe disturbed nerves resulted in David's appearance in the royal court. How amazing! It worked! The evil spirit was not interested in keeping company with the heavenly music produced by the son of Jesse. Multitudes in this day could find similar help if their ears would only be tuned again to the melody of that which is pure and noble.
Well known to young and old is the story of David's encounter with the Philistine giant. This youth from the Judean hills was no match for one learned and seasoned in the art of hand combat. But long before, he had committed all to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and as a result he found himself connected to a power sufficient to meet every crisis. In his hand was a key with which he unlocked "heaven's storehouse, where are treasured the boundless resources of Omnipotence" (Steps to Christ, p. 95). With this divine strength properly credited to the Lord of hosts, a victory was gained that day which rivals any on the books of record.
Saul, both amazed and impressed with this demonstration of bravery, made David part of his court and placed him over the men of war. Even an evil man at times seems to come to his senses long enough to recognize the value of having good men around.
Jealousy Over Ten Thousands
The evil spirit, however, gave Saul but short respite, for a victory celebration was held in honor of the returning conquerors. Listen, "Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands" (chap. 18:7). Filled with hatred and jealousy, Saul now embarked upon a plan to rid the earth of the very one whom God had used to spare his house and all Israel from cruel slavery and death. Again and again he attempted to take the life of the youth who had soothed him in sorrow and saved him in battle. Declaring, "What can he have more but the kingdom?" the king pursued David throughout the land. How dangerous and desperate a rebellious heart can become under the control of wicked spirits! This whole experience gives modern Israel a brief glimpse of what lies in store for those who have committed all to Christ in earth's last hour.
Through all of this display of jealousy, hatred, and devil-possessed actions, how did David react? What did he do to defend his cause? After all, had he not been anointed by Samuel, thus marked of God to be the next king of Israel? Did he take matters into his own hands, as did Abraham in his moment of weakness, and as did Jacob in his hour of impatience to get on with the divine plan? The record is very clear. "And David went out whithersoever Saul sent him, and behaved himself wisely" (verse 5).
He behaved himself wisely! What a simple yet beautiful description of a consecrated, dedicated, and loyal servant of man and of God. No better remark could be made, no more valuable recommendation written, no more fitting epitaph inscribed for a minister of God's twentieth-century church than this: "He behaved himself wisely in all his ways."
Cease to Commit Wrongs
The worker is human. He is not yet perfect. He fails. He, too, makes mistakes. He, too, stumbles at times. But we who have been so mercifully reclaimed from the pit of evil, we who have felt the call of God and have received the summons to leadership of churches, districts, missions, and institutions through God-ordained and Spirit-led committees, should long ago have ceased to commit deliberate and avoidable mistakes.
King Saul's actions were premeditated and deliberate. His behavior was no mere accident. He knew his feelings, plans, and transactions were wrong, but still he proceeded, being possessed with a spirit contrary to that which is noble.
Refused to Touch God's Anointed
David, while he knew he was being called to leadership, refused to participate in any attempt to hurry the plan of God. Even though there were men around who repeatedly urged him to remove the incumbent leader and take the throne, David behaved himself wisely. He declined to enter into that which the Lord had not directed. As long as God retained Saul on the throne, he, as a citizen of Israel, was determined to respect him as the chosen leader. When given the chance to take Saul's life at the cave of En-gedi, David declared, "The Lord forbid that I should . . . stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord" (chap. 24:6).
Who Are Satan's Most Effectual Agents?
Today, as in Israel of old, there are two kinds of sin being committed. First, there are the sins of commission. Under this heading come the deliberate, premeditated, planned acts of evil. They are the deeds that could have been avoided had the one concerned been willing to accept the power of Heaven to turn aside from the path of sin. This list of avoidables could be very lengthy, but a sampling would include cutting words deliberately spoken to hurt, actions intended to embarrass, letters written in retaliation, and sermons preached in a spirit of revenge. How tragic that such should ever be committed by chosen leaders in the cause.
"When men, standing 'in Christ's stead' to speak to the people God's message of mercy and reconciliation, use their sacred calling as a cloak for selfish or sensual gratification, they make themselves the most effective agents of Satan."—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 580."
The other type of wrongs common to mankind are the sins of omission. Here are the unintentional mistakes of life. The aims and purposes of life are noble. The trend is on the upward way, but here and there in the struggle an occasional slip backward is experienced, a stumbling on the rough road, a fall by the wayside. But remember, it was not purposely designed this way, and the sincere soul that recognizes mistakes made, will cry out with the prophet Micah, "Rejoice not against me, 0 mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me" (Micah 7:8).
The Entire Ministry Dishonored
The worker in this cause who proclaims "liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound," and then gives in to selfish interests, yields to the flesh and passion, surrenders to pride and self-esteem, fails in upholding his baptismal and ordination charges, or sets the wrong example in the home and community, brings the entire ministry into a bad light. "They may pursue their evil course in secret for a time; but when at last their true character is exposed, the faith of the people receives a shock that often results in destroying their confidence in religion. There is left upon the mind a distrust of all who profess to teach the Word of God. The message of the true servant of Christ is doubtfully received."—Ibid.
Paul brings to our hearts some very pointed counsel in these words: "Giving no offense in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed" (2 Cor. 6:3). Again we read, "The ministry is a sacred and exalted office, and those who accept this position should have Christ in their hearts and manifest an earnest desire to represent Him worthily before the people in all their acts, in their dress, in their speaking, and even in the manner of speaking."—Testimonies, vol. 2, p. 615.
Ours is a high calling, fellow workers. Let us be sure of that calling. The ministerial course we took in school is no guarantee. We may love to preach, but this, too, is no complete assurance. We must be positive God has called us, chosen us, and ordained us that we be colaborers with Him in preparing a people for eternal fellowship.
When we are sure of this divine appointment, our sermons, deportment, dress, home life, relationship with members and friends, financial matters, recreational activities, and all other practices will be demonstrations of wise and sanctified behavior.
If the ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church fails, who will succeed? We must, by God's help, rise above the disappointing experiences and make sure our own feet are planted on the solid Rock. Daily we must take inventory to make certain that after we have preached to others we not become castaways.
By God's grace working in and through each one of us, may it be said of us by laity, friends, and fellow workers, "He behaved himself wisely in all his ways; and the Lord was with him."
Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me,
All His wonderful passion and purity.
O Thou Spirit divine,
All my nature refine
Till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.