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Jealousy

14th June 2007

Today, we're looking at 1 Samuel 18v5-16.

Verses 5-8
Whatever Saul sent him to do, David did it so successfully that Saul gave him a high rank in the army. This pleased all the people, and Saul’s officers as well. When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with tambourines and lutes. As they danced, they sang: "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands."
Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him. "They have credited David with tens of thousands," he thought, "but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?"

Saul was King, and David was a young man in his service. And David served him extremely well. So well that the people sang songs about how Saul was great, but David was even greater. Saul hated that. As he considered how successful and popular David was, he asked himself “What more can he get but the kingdom”.

It was understandable. Saul was King and wanted to remain King. Saul was jealous.

In modern English, the words “jealousy” and “envy” have become more or less synonymous. But there was once a difference:

  • Envy is wanting what belongs to someone else.
  • Jealousy is wanting to keep what’s mine.

That’s why the second commandment describes God as a jealous God:

Exodus 20v4-6
"You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Envy is always sin. Jealousy can be sinful, but may not be (as in the passage we just read in Exodus). It’s not sin to want to keep what’s mine. But it can lead to sin because we’re willing act immorally or unkindly to try to keep what’s ours. It can also be sin if God wants us to give something away and we’re not willing to obey Him.

John the Baptist had victory over the wrong kind of jealousy. When he was told that Jesus was becoming more popular than himself, he responded with true meekness:

John 3v26-30
They came to John and said to him, "Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan — the one you testified about — well, he is baptising, and everyone is going to him."
To this John replied, "A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.

Sadly, not many of us have the grace to respond to the will of God in this way.

Getting back to Saul, the next thing we read is:

Verse 9
And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David.

Saul was looking after number one – and number one’s ego. He would fight to protect his leadership, and the respect that he thought was the result of being a leader.

But when we adopt bad attitudes, we open ourselves up to evil influences:

Verse 10a
The next day an evil spirit from God came forcefully upon Saul.

And, having succumbed to the temptation to treat his own position as more important than godliness or obedience, he started to attack the person whom he perceived as a threat:

Verses 10b-11
He was prophesying in his house, while David was playing the harp, as he usually did. Saul had a spear in his hand and he hurled it, saying to himself, "I’ll pin David to the wall." But David eluded him twice.

Why? Here’s why!

Verse 12
Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with David but had left Saul.

I don't think this means that God was 100% with David, or 0% with Saul. I think it means that God was blessing and prospering David much more than Saul. Of course, God has the right to prosper whomsoever He wants.

Because Saul was afraid that David would continue to grow in the people’s esteem, he sent him away:

Verse 13
So he sent David away from him and gave him command over a thousand men, and David led the troops in their campaigns.

The jealous man can’t bear to have the blessed, successful man near him – he feels threatened, even when the other person means no harm against him. But however negatvie you feel about somone, whatever you try to do to him, if God intends to bless and prosper him, He will:

Verse 14
In everything he did he had great success, because the LORD was with him.

Verse 15 says:

When Saul saw how successful he was, he was afraid of him.

And this is SO sad, because David was serving Saul, doing as Saul directed, all this time. And David never sought Saul's harm.

No matter how much Saul hated David and threatened him (because he mistakenly felt threatened by him) he couldn’t stop God or the people loving him:

Verse 16
But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he led them in their campaigns.

As we get older, we will find young, enthusiastic Christians who can preach better than us, lead worship better than us (and stay awake longer than us) and who are more popular than us. Let us choose to rejoice that God is raising up such people. They’re not a threat to us, they’re God's new army :-)