14 Now the Spirit of the Lord had left Saul, and the Lord sent a tormenting spirit[a] that filled him with depression and fear. 15 Some of Saul’s servants said to him, “A tormenting spirit from God is troubling you. 16 Let us find a good musician to play the harp whenever the tormenting spirit troubles you. He will play soothing music, and you will soon be well again.” 21 So David went to Saul and began serving him. Saul loved David very much, and David became his armor bearer. – 1 Samuel 16:14-16,21
That portion of scripture intrigues me for a couple of reasons. One, I can’t help but wonder what could have happened had Saul become broken in spirit enough to repent before the Lord. Could there have been a godly transition between David and Saul? Might Saul have served David as an advisor? Would scripture have acquired another story of redemption? Those are just a few of the questions that run through my mind.
Second, it is quite the display of character that David was able to serve Saul, the one he would replace as king. David knew that Saul was no longer God’s choice. David knew that Saul’s reign was coming to an end. Perhaps David even knew about the Lord’s displeasure with Saul. Still, David served Saul.
Saul was not right with God. Saul had many character flaws. Saul disobeyed God publicly and privately. Saul was self-absorbed, insecure, competitive, jealous, and ambitious. Yet David served him. Saul was a terrible example of God’s anointed, yet David served Him.
And the Lord was not angry with David for serving Saul; He was pleased with David.
Saul, at that point in his life, was the worst example of a godly leader. He lived well below the standard of what we imagine to be deserving of honor.
Yet David served him.
And in serving Saul, David didn’t aid in Saul’s disobedience. David didn’t align himself with Saul’s every belief.
My point is this: Saul is one of the worst examples of leadership, yet David served him. This means that we are without excuse when we don’t honor the men and women of God who have preceded us.
I often hear critical believers making unkind remarks about the mothers and fathers of our faith. Quick to pinpoint every error and slow to forgive, the conspiracy theologians blame our predecessors for every problem in the church, claiming that they themselves will redeem the name of Christ among this generation.
That’s easy to claim. But what happens when they make blatant mistakes? Actually, what happens when even their positive actions are purposely interpreted as an example of ungodliness? What happens when their every word is twisted and taken from context? What happens is they learn that it’s not so easy to lead.
I am not trying to make excuses for Saul. I am conveying this very clear warning: We must avoid this sort of pharisaic accusation, lest we also prepare to take it upon ourselves. The called must honor their predecessors, even if their predecessors are like Saul.
Am I saying to endorse or enable sin? Am I advising you to sit under the teaching of blatant heresy? Of course not! I’m simply saying that we must not carry a hyper-critical spirit. We must be ready to honor those who God has placed before us, even if those placed before us have flaws.
The honor you place upon your predecessors is directly proportional to your promotion in the spirit.
Furthermore, not every leader is a Saul. But if we are supposed to honor the Sauls, how much more should we honor the godly examples of leadership?
Honor the anointing. Have grace for the man.