Oh, Things Aren’t Supposed To Be This Way?

There are many people who harden their hearts when they hear God’s word or see God’s work. I have known many of them in the church and have considered them to be my brothers and sisters. Then one day, they are gone because things are not the way they are supposed to be. If God provides all things according to His will, we cannot rightly say things aren’t the way they are supposed to be. To say such a thing is to prove not to be submitted to God. After hardening their hearts, they scatter, complain, and make God’s servants their enemies while still claiming to be Christians. This is one of the oddest tendencies I have noticed in people who claim to be Christians but know not Christ. So, I want to ask this question: is your heart softened or hardened by God’s word and work? Your answer will reveal much about your standing before God.

1 Samuel 18:20-30

Now Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved David. When they told Saul, the thing was agreeable to him.

Saul thought, “I will give her to him that she may become a snare to him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” Therefore Saul said to David, “For a second time you may be my son-in-law today.”

Then Saul commanded his servants, “Speak to David secretly, saying, ‘Behold, the king delights in you, and all his servants love you; now therefore, become the king’s son-in-law.’”

So Saul’s servants spoke these words to David. But David said, “Is it trivial in your sight to become the king’s son-in-law, since I am a poor man and lightly esteemed?”

The servants of Saul reported to him according to these words which David spoke.

Saul then said, “Thus you shall say to David, ‘The king does not desire any dowry except a hundred foreskins of the Philistines, to take vengeance on the king’s enemies.’” 

Now Saul planned to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines. When his servants told David these words, it pleased David to become the king’s son-in-law. Before the days had expired

David rose up and went, he and his men, and struck down two hundred men among the Philistines. Then David brought their foreskins, and they gave them in full number to the king, that he might become the king’s son-in-law. So Saul gave him Michal his daughter for a wife. When Saul saw and knew that the Lord was with David, and that Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved him, then Saul was even more afraid of David. Thus Saul was David’s enemy continually.

Then the commanders of the Philistines went out to battle, and it happened as often as they went out, that David behaved himself more wisely than all the servants of Saul. So his name was highly esteemed.

Saul’s motivation unchanged (v. 20-21)

Now Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved David. When they told Saul, the thing was agreeable to him.
Saul thought, “I will give her to him that she may become a snare to him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” Therefore Saul said to David, “For a second time you may be my son-in-law today.”

David rejected Saul’s first daughter because she was being offered as a reward to him (v. 18). In contrast to Merab, Michal loves David. Here we see how far Saul has fallen into his own wretchedness. He sees his daughter’s love for David as an opportunity to set a trap for David.

David is set up (v. 22-27)

So Saul’s servants spoke these words to David. But David said, “Is it trivial in your sight to become the king’s son-in-law, since I am a poor man and lightly esteemed?”

From David’s perspective, Saul and his servants offered Michal as if marriage were a trivial thing—a means to an end. David did not see himself as worthy. He could not pay the dowry. Neither did he have the political status desirable for a political marriage. For David, marriage was not a means but an end in itself. No matter what David’s future relationships may be like, he desires to do things right at this juncture in the story.

The servants of Saul reported to him according to these words which David spoke.
Saul then said, “Thus you shall say to David, ‘The king does not desire any dowry except a hundred foreskins of the Philistines, to take vengeance on the king’s enemies.’” 
Now Saul planned to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines. When his servants told David these words, it pleased David to become the king’s son-in-law. Before the days had expired.

Saul has conflict with the Philistines. So, he proposes a dowry—100 Philistine foreskins (the skin cut from the penis during Israelite circumcision). Like in the previous passage, Saul’s goal is two-fold. First, he may see Philistines die. Second, he may see the Philistines kill David. In Saul’s mind, this was a win-win.

David agrees to the proposal. Michal loves him. He desires her father’s blessing. So, he will win her hand.

David rose up and went, he and his men, and struck down two hundred men among the Philistines. Then David brought their foreskins, and they gave them in full number to the king, that he might become the king’s son-in-law. So Saul gave him Michal his daughter for a wife.

Instead of dispatching only one-hundred Philistines, David and his men strike down two-hundred. David brings the trophies to Saul and marries Michal.

Saul finally notices God (v. 28-30)

When Saul saw and knew that the Lord was with David, and that Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved him, then Saul was even more afraid of David. Thus Saul was David’s enemy continually.

In the David and Goliath discourse and in verse 14, we saw that God has been with David in everything that David does. He has chosen David to be on His team. David has been striving to get people to recognize God as Israel’s only deliverer. Saul has consistently not seen God. Instead, he saw David as the victor over Goliath; then, David became his new Goliath. Here in verse 28, Saul finally recognizes God. He finally sees that God is the one making David successful and that David is not successful by his own power or merit. He recognizes God as the one who made David so popular in Israel and who caused Michal to love David. After finally recognizing God, Saul becomes more afraid of David and David’s continual enemy.

Let’s reexamine Saul’s life. 

  1. God made him king (8-12).
  2. The Holy Spirit move him to worship and war (10:10; 11:6).
  3. God moved him to deliver Israel from the Ammonites (11).
  4. Still, he did not honor God (13-16).
  5. He saw Israel delivered from the Philistines (16-17).
  6. He saw his enemy prosper against the Philistines (18).
  7. When he finally recognized God, his heart was hardened (18:29).

Not everyone who recognizes God repents. Some are hardened. Arguing from Romans 9:10-13, John Calvin wrote, 

Those whom [God] has created for perdition and eternal death to serve as vessels of his wrath and examples of his severity, he brings to their end either by withholding the ability to hear his word or, through its preaching, by blinding and hardening them even more (John Calvin. Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1541 ed. trans. Robert White [Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2014], 494).

Romans 9:10-13 says,

And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

In Romans 9, Paul quotes from Genesis 25:23 and Malachi 1:2 to show that God is providential over both those who would stand and those who would be hardened. One’s standing in Christ or hardening away from Christ is explicitly accomplished because of God’s calling, not because of human works. So, God finally revealing Himself to Saul served the purpose of hardening Saul’s heart instead of bringing Saul to repentance because of God’s calling.

I wonder how many people, like Saul, believe they are God’s chosen people and are religious but harden their hearts when they finally see God? Scripture reveals they really don’t belong to Christ. I have had many people forsake me and reject the Bible even though they presume to be really mature Christians. In fact, it’s those people who think very highly of themselves who normally find a reason to neglect Christ’s true church because they think they know better than God—they are, like Saul, looking for confirmation. When they don’t get it, their hearts are hardened. Pray for those who are like this. May our hearts break for them and may we yearn for them to know Christ as we do.

If you have been hardened because of some teaching that claims to be Biblical but tells you more about what you may or may not do or about how you can get God on your team, please know that sort of religion reflects Saul’s religion and He has been rejected by God. Sound Biblical teaching tells us about Christ’s work, not ours. May our hearts be softened as we hear Christ’s words correctly taught and rightly applied.

If you are wondering how to read Scripture well and discern between true and false teaching and how Scripture applies today, I have two new resources available for you.

Then the commanders of the Philistines went out to battle, and it happened as often as they went out, that David behaved himself more wisely than all the servants of Saul. So his name was highly esteemed.

God continues to raise David up. He continues to stand against Saul for His own glory as Christ’s throne is established in HIs creation through Israel. Pray, today. Ask our Lord to soften your heart. For, if our hearts are hardened as a result of hearing His word, we do not belong to Him and we do not have eternal life.

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