By Amber Noel
A Reading from 1 Samuel 19:1-18
1 Saul spoke to his son Jonathan and to all his servants about killing David. But Saul’s son Jonathan took great delight in David. 2 Jonathan told David, “My father Saul is trying to kill you; therefore be on guard tomorrow morning; stay in a secret place and hide yourself. 3 I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where you are, and I will speak to my father about you; if I learn anything I will tell you.” 4 Jonathan spoke well of David to his father Saul, saying to him, “The king should not sin against his servant David, because he has not sinned against you, and because his deeds have been of good service to you; 5 for he took his life in his hand when he attacked the Philistine, and the Lord brought about a great victory for all Israel. You saw it, and rejoiced; why then will you sin against an innocent person by killing David without cause?” 6 Saul heeded the voice of Jonathan; Saul swore, “As the Lord lives, he shall not be put to death.” 7 So Jonathan called David and related all these things to him. Jonathan then brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence as before.
8 Again there was war, and David went out to fight the Philistines. He launched a heavy attack on them, so that they fled before him. 9 Then an evil spirit from the Lord came upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his spear in his hand, while David was playing music. 10 Saul sought to pin David to the wall with the spear; but he eluded Saul, so that he struck the spear into the wall. David fled and escaped that night.
11 Saul sent messengers to David’s house to keep watch over him, planning to kill him in the morning. David’s wife Michal told him, “If you do not save your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed.” 12 So Michal let David down through the window; he fled away and escaped. 13 Michal took an idol and laid it on the bed; she put a net of goats’ hair on its head, and covered it with the clothes. 14 When Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, “He is sick.” 15 Then Saul sent the messengers to see David for themselves. He said, “Bring him up to me in the bed, that I may kill him.” 16 When the messengers came in, the idol was in the bed, with the covering of goats’ hair on its head. 17 Saul said to Michal, “Why have you deceived me like this, and let my enemy go, so that he has escaped?” Michal answered Saul, “He said to me, ‘Let me go; why should I kill you?’”
18 Now David fled and escaped; he came to Samuel at Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done to him. He and Samuel went and settled at Naioth.
We might be reminded of others in Scripture fleeing with help: the Israelite spies in Jericho, St. Paul any number of times. Only Jesus somehow slips away from those who mean to do him harm — sieze him, manipulate him, throw him off a cliff — without apparent human assistance.
Saul is still vacillating, but we who know the story know that he’s now given over to being ruled by his disordered feelings — his “passions” — instead of by facts, by reality, by what God gives and reveals. These are the facts Jonathan puts before him: David has been faithful. Whatever you feel, look again at the evidence.
When we’re in the habit of acting on “passions,” it is difficult to escape from them, even with others’ help. Reminders of God’s gifts and revelations in reality may ground us for a time, but it is truly battle — spiritual warfare, if you will — to remain aligned with them, to be made free.
We walk by faith and not by sight, so what’s all this talk of “evidence”? Well, God’s work, though not always apparent (and usually not as apparent as our passions), is always substantiated in reality and vindicated over time. And our feelings, our hearts, our instincts and desires, need to be cleansed so that they can respond properly to what’s real, not only to what we want or imagine.
Christians have long been taught to flee from the passions; but we also need to be delivered from them. We need God’s supernatural help out of the crowd of clamoring, demanding voices. Even if our very hearts vindicate or condemn us, we may still need a reality check: “God is greater than our hearts” (1 John 3:20). Don’t be shy to ask for his deliverance. And then fight to accept the help he sends.
Amber Noel, M.Div., is Associate Editor at the Living Church and Associate Director of The Living Church Institute. Off the clock, she is the author of short fiction, book and culture reviews, and work for the stage.
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Today we pray for:
Collegiate Church of St. Paul the Apostle, Savannah, Ga.
The Diocese of Marathwada (Church of North India)