When you read 1 Samuel 22, you can’t help but to think to yourself, “How in the world can Saul be so blind?” Saul, who was appointed king by popular demand of the people so that they could have a king like the rest of the nations around them, confronts the priest Ahimelech about whether he helped David. Ahimelech answers that he did in fact help David by giving him the sword which belonged to him (Goliath’s sword) and inquiring to the Lord on behalf of David, something that he had done many times before. In other words, Ahimelech says that he did for David what any priest would have done for David, particularly in light of how faithful David had always been to Saul.
In response to this confession, Saul ordered that Ahimelech and all of his house, along with all the priests at Nob, be killed. Saul commanded his leaders to kill the priests of the Lord, but they would not. They could not. How could they slaughter the priests of the Lord? Unfortunately, a slimy Doeg—an Edomite—was in the presence of Saul, and he was all too willing to slaughter the innocent priests on Saul’s behalf. At Saul’s commands, Doeg, the Edomite, killed 85 priests. Then, he killed their wives and children and their oxen, their donkeys, and their sheep—all at Saul’s command and with his hearty approval. How could Saul be so murderously blind?
The answer is simple. Sin was in the heart of Saul. From the time that Saul heard ladies singing praises to David, he became consumed with removing David’s fame (along with his name) from the face of the earth. He more and more became consumed with one thought only: Kill David. So, he moved his armies and his affections from town to town in pursuit of killing David, although David never betrayed Saul and—on three separate occasions—could have killed Saul but did not.
The wages of sin is death. Sinful thoughts of wishing David’s fame away (to preserve his own) took root in Saul’s heart and became the driving passion of his life. Murder was all he wanted. The 85 priests and their families were merely nuisances to Saul along the path of his murderous way.
We find a life lesson through the life of Saul, mostly by way of antithesis. Saul teaches us how not to live a blessed life. He teaches us how to move further and further away from God until we end consumed by a particular sin. In the beginning of Saul’s service as king, he showed some signs of hope. He prophesied with the prophets of God. Yet, before long, he took upon himself the task of slaughtering animals for a sacrifice (1 Samuel 13:8) instead of waiting for Samuel, as he was instructed. And, not too long after his unauthorized sacrifice, Saul also refused to execute God’s commands concerning Agag and the Amalekites. Saul was supposed to execute justice over the Amalekites and was told to kill Agag and his animals, but he would not.
Ironically, Saul’s life became a pattern of killing those whom he should not kill and giving life to those who did not deserve it. Between the priests of the Lord and Doeg the Edomite, Saul chose Doeg—a betrayer. The reason he aligned himself with betrayers instead of with the priests of the Lord is that his mind was given over to sinful thoughts.
Like Saul, perhaps, we think we can allow sinful thoughts to percolate in our minds with no ill effects, but it simply is not so. The wages of sin (including sinful thoughts) is death.
Saul’s mind—more and more—became tainted because of the sinful lusts in his heart. As sin took root, disobedience inevitably followed. As sin and disobedience became the pattern, Saul’s judgment became less and less astute. Eventually, not only was Saul unable to discern good from evil, but he actually began exchanging evil for good, thinking that slaughtering priests and their children was a good thing.
It would be so easy to slide into a condemnation of Saul, but let us rather learn from him for our own good. Disobedience begets dullness of mind. Sinful thinking leads to ungodly thinking, which leads to a lack of moral discernment. The pattern is plain in Romans 1: God gave them over to a depraved mind. In his example in Romans 1, Paul concludes with the example of people who can longer distinguish male and female (Gender confusion). In the example of Saul, we see a man who cannot discern rightly between a betrayer and the priests of God.
In an example from our own culture, we will not be able to execute Major Nidal Hassan (the Ft. Hood shooter) or Jared Loughner (the Tucson shooter) without a major uphill battle against political groups and media elites. Instead of executing him for murder, we celebrate Jack Kevorkian as Dr. Death. And yet, we tolerate killing innocent babies—53 million of them—as long as we do it before they get completely out of the womb (although in some cases even that has been acceptable to some prominent Americans).
You wonder how we could ever get to the place in which we can’t see that murderers should be executed but babies should live.