Thousands! Saul had slain thousands of Philistines with the troops under his command. A reluctant leader at first, he had come into his own, giving the people exactly what they wanted — a king over them like all the nations, one who would judge them and go out before them to fight their battles (1Sam. 8:19-20). He was a success by any worldly standard of measure.
But therein lies the rub. Saul sought worldly fame over God’s pleasure. He was more interested in men’s applause than God’s commands. Thus, he fawned over the press clippings of his military might rather than faithfully worshiping the God of His fathers. While he may have been known on earth for his calculating strategies, he was also known in heaven for his prideful, sin-tainted sacrifices.
So, when the primary measure of a man is found only in the eyes of other men, thousands are only good enough as long as someone else isn’t racking up tens of thousands.
As the troops were coming back, when David was returning from killing the Philistine, the women came out from all the cities of Israel to meet King Saul, singing and dancing with tambourines, with shouts of joy, and with three-stringed instruments. As they danced, the women sang:
Saul has killed his thousands,
but David his tens of thousands.
Saul was furious and resented this song. “They credited tens of thousands to David,” he complained, “but they only credited me with thousands. What more can he have but the kingdom?” So Saul watched David jealously from that day forward.
(1Samuel 18:6-9 CSB)
Thousands. Not enough when someone else is credited with tens of thousands. Then, it’s only thousands.
Rather than thanking God for His favor on the battlefield, Saul was consumed with fury that God would favor someone else as well. Rather than rejoicing in the victories he had won, Saul was ravished with resentment towards a young man he could see only as a rival. Jealousy would rule Saul’s life from that day forward.
And here’s the thing that I’m chewing on, how unchecked jealousy can lead to unimaginable crazy.
The next day an evil spirit sent from God came powerfully on Saul, and he began to rave inside the palace. David was playing the lyre as usual, but Saul was holding a spear, and he threw it, thinking, “I’ll pin David to the wall.” But David got away from him twice.
Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with David but had left Saul.
(1Samuel 18:10-12 CSB)
Saul knew the Lord was with David. Yet, what does he try to do? He tries to pin David to a wall with a spear, that’s what. Multiple times! Tell me that isn’t crazy!
Discontent with his thousands, Saul becomes irrationally focused on but one — the Lord’s anointed. Nutso!
Disconnected from God, Saul would increasingly become disconnected from reality. Consumed with the need for worldly recognition, he would go to wacko lengths.
Hmm . . .
Oh, to be content to seek but a “well done” from an Audience of One. To look not to others to see how I fair in comparison, but to set my eyes on Jesus alone, that He might count me faithful in whatever my hand finds to do (1Cor. 10:31).
Only by His grace. Only for His glory.