Monday, August 08, 2016

Blinded by Ambition

My Life Group lesson for August 7, 2016, using Lifeway's "Explore the Bible" commentary as a guide, with an assist from John McClendon ...

FIRST THOUGHTS

What are your favorite conspiracy theories?

--- Assassination of John F Kennedy (Oswald, mafia, Russians?)
--- Roswell UFO (Weather balloon, aliens?)
--- NASA faked the moon landings (Shot in the desert!)
--- The Illuminati (shadowy cabals control the world!)
--- Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married (It's in a popular book! There's a V in The Last Supper painting!)
--- Shakespeare wasn't Shakespeare (other writers did the work, not much historical evidence this guy did anything)

Why do we tend to believe that people are conspiring against us?

Our study today focuses on Saul and his unwillingness to recognize David as the anointed one of God.

Instead, the king was consumed by ambitious pride, triggering a chain reaction of jealousy, fear, hatred, paranoia, and desperate decisions. David’s popularity, success, and favor with God placed him in Saul’s crosshairs.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT
1 Samuel 21:1–23:29

*** Many years before the events of chapter 22, God told Samuel to let Saul know that his line would go bye-bye.

*** Saul—towering, stately, physically robust—had been the people’s choice to be Israel’s king, but he had failed miserably and sinned egregiously, so God rejected him.

*** Saul wasn't about to give up his crown so that this heroic and newly anointed pretty boy could take over, and even worse, he didn't care that he was disobeying God.

*** Saul was so jealous of David and determined to hang on to his crown that his son Jonathan told David to flee far and fast, lest he be killed.

*** This week we'll read about David on the run from Saul's increasing paranoia.

PURSUED BY SAUL (1 SAM. 22:6-10)

6 Saul heard that David and his men had been discovered. At that time Saul was in Gibeah, sitting under the tamarisk tree at the high place. His spear was in his hand, and all his servants were standing around him. 7 Saul said to his servants, “Listen, men of Benjamin: Is Jesse’s son going to give all of you fields and vineyards? Do you think he’ll make all of you commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds? 8 That’s why all of you have conspired against me! Nobody tells me when my own son makes a covenant with Jesse’s son. None of you cares about me or tells me that my son has stirred up my own servant to wait in ambush for me, as is the case today.” 9 Then Doeg the Edomite, who was in charge of Saul’s servants, answered: “I saw Jesse’s son come to Ahimelech son of Ahitub at Nob. 10 Ahimelech inquired of the LORD for him and gave him provisions. He also gave him the sword of Goliath the Philistine.”

*** It’s not paranoia if everyone is in fact out to get you.

--- Saul's throwing a royal pity party.

--- Note how Saul is behaving: Feeling rejected, acting closed-minded, defiant, argumentative, and disagreeable. He's decided that he's on his own, and everyone's out to get him.

(In short, non one loves him, guess he'll go eat worms.)

--- Saul is known for having a violent temper, and he's holding a spear in his hand, ready to strike anyone who acts against him. (Just as he threw it at David twice, and Jonathan once, in earlier Scriptures: 18:10-11; 19:10; 20:33)

--- Saul was equally paranoid that his son Jonathan had conspired against him and helped David set up an ambush, which was a blatant lie.

--- Saul’s jealous clinging to power had made him irrational, and he may well have believed the lies he was telling.

--- Of course, Jonathan had been helping David, but not because they were trying to kill Saul, but to protect his friend. David was always steadfast in his loyalty to Saul as his king.

*** A royal pain.

--- Think back to 1 Samuel 8:11-18, when Samuel warned the people against asking for a king. Samuel said that kings would favor their friends and oppress everyone else.

--- It's clear in verse 7 that Saul has been using his kingdom to give his fellow tribe of Benjamites power and property.

--- David was a member of the tribe of Judah, so Saul was trying to make his followers as paranoid as he was about losing power.

--- Paranoia is what happens when you focus on yourself and believe everyone is out to get you. It causes you to assume things that aren’t true and to jump to conclusions that destroy relationships.

*** Question - One might say that hate leads to fear, and fear leads to suffering. How do unchecked ambition and pride lead to paranoia and fear? (How can people convince themselves that what they want to believe is true?)

GUILT BY ASSOCIATION (1 SAM. 22:11-15)

11 The king sent messengers to summon Ahimelech the priest, son of Ahitub, and his father’s whole family, who were priests in Nob. All of them came to the king. 12 Then Saul said, “Listen, son of Ahitub!” “I’m at your service, my lord,” he said. 13 Saul asked him, “Why did you and Jesse’s son conspire against me? You gave him bread and a sword and inquired of God for him, so he could rise up against me and wait in ambush, as is the case today.” 14 Ahimelech replied to the king: “Who among all your servants is as faithful as David? He is the king’s son-in-law, captain of your bodyguard, and honored in your house. 15 Was today the first time I inquired of God for him? Of course not! Please don’t let the king make an accusation against your servant or any of my father’s household, for your servant didn’t have any idea about all this.”

*** Saul's reign of terror. (Like the French Revolution, anyone, including other revolutionaries, were guillotined.)

--- Saul's paranoia ended up costing Ahimelech the priest his life, and his entire house.

--- Unfortunately, David played a part in this story, as told in chapter 21.

--- David had moved from town to town, he was hungry and desperate, and told Ahimelech that he was still working for Saul on a super-secret mission.

--- Ahimelech didn't know what he was getting into. He gave David bread and the sword of Goliath.

*** Law & Order.

--- Saul's henchman, Doeg the Edomite, had been in Nob when David was there, and leaked the information about Ahimelech.

--- Saul summons the priest, who came with his whole family, not knowing he was about to be charged with treason and tried in a kangaroo court.

--- Ahimelech, as we know, was misled by David. But Saul assumes that the priest plotted with David, and that's enough for him. No evidence required.

--- Saul’s personal ambition now ran amok. He was blinded to Ahimelech’s loyalty to God and the king and blinded to Ahimelech’s obedience to come when summoned.

--- Ahimelech displayed insight and courage in dealing with King Saul. He was “honest, sincere, and well-crafted” as he “defended David’s character.”

--- Look at the five truths that Ahimelech used to defend David: He’s faithful, Saul’s son-in-law, captain in the military, honored among the king’s house, and sought God.

--- David was the kind of guy who followed the Lord’s way: The golden rule, treat others as you want to be treated.

--- Saul, on the other hand, believed that those who ruled could treat others as they wanted.

*** No listening to reason.

--- David had been loyal to Saul. Ahimelech, too. There was no rebellion.

(No one was going “Rogue One” on Saul’s home looking for plans to destroy his Death Star.)

--- When selfish ambition takes hold, it is like looking at a distorted mirror at a funhouse: reality becomes misshapen.

--- We become suspicious, hostile, and quick to judge, and we do it in a particularly irrational manner.

--- Jesus showed us a different and better way. He humbled Himself and took the form of a servant. Paul tells us to make our own attitude that of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5)

--- Jesus hung out with the edges of society. David did, too, and they flocked to him. Saul not so much. He verbally abused his people and gave favors to his tribe.

*** Question – How do you respond when you watch someone allowing personal ambitions to destroy them?

In our law courts we have “due process” for dealing with an accused person. What kind of internal “due process” should take place in our heads when dealing with people that we think have done something wrong to us?

How could a person use the approach taken by Ahimelech when responding to a critic or when accused?

Are there other steps Ahimelech could have taken that would not have compromised his integrity?

DESPERATE MEASURES (1 SAM. 22:16-17)

16 But the king said, “You will die, Ahimelech—you and your father’s whole family!” 17 Then the king ordered the guards standing by him, “Turn and kill the priests of the LORD because they sided with David. For they knew he was fleeing, but they didn’t tell me.” But the king’s servants would not lift a hand to execute the priests of the LORD.

*** I’m Spartacus! No, I’m Spartacus!

--- The king's temper had so overcome him that even his servants were refusing to do his evil bidding to kill a priest and his family.

--- This is the ultimate in “killing the messenger” rather than dealing with the truth.

--- Ahimelech’s fate wasn’t due to his own sin, but to the sin of Saul.

--- Just as Jesus’ fate wasn’t due to any faults of His own, but religious leaders of His day who refused to see reality and demanded He be crucified.

*** A tragic ending.

--- To the guards’ credit, they weren’t going to do the king’s bidding, knowing it was immoral and part of Saul’s personal crusade against David.

--- Think about it. These guys are under orders to do whatever the king says. Many are fellow Benjamites.

--- When everyone you used to trust is telling you that you’re a fool, you should pay attention.

--- Unfortunately it didn't end there. Saul's henchman, Doeg the Edomite and his men were just fine with killing Ahimelech and 84 other priests.

--- They then went to Nob and kill all the people there, which would have been all the families of the priests, their servants, and even ordinary people who had nothing to do with the priests.

--- As news of the massacre spread, more and more Israelites sympathized with David against Saul.

--- Before this there was no rebellion, no real dissent. But Saul brought it all on himself.

--- The longer one refuses to believe in the truth, the harder his or her heart becomes.

REVIEW AND TAKE-AWAY POINTS

Saul was breaking bad, like a high school teacher-turned-meth dealer.

Saul could have had greatness, but instead he chose murder and madness.

We may ask what Saul should have done.

The answer is surprisingly simple: he should have acknowledged David as the anointed one of God.

Had he done so, Israel could have had peace instead of civil war, and David could have served as Saul’s military commander until he became king.

There was no danger that David would seek to eliminate Saul or his family. He was never hostile, and he willingly entered a covenant with Jonathan. But Saul could not stand the thought of losing his crown.

The prophet Jeremiah declared, “The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable—who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9).

We can easily be led astray by our own ambitions.

All of our goals and desires need to be filtered through the will of God.

When Jesus called for His followers to deny themselves, He included personal ambitions (Luke 9:23).

God is not out to strip us of the joys of life. Instead, He wants us to experience the greater joys of life, not settling for what the world has to offer. We must trust that His ways are better than our ways.

We must allow Him to shape our ambitions so that we can find true and lasting satisfaction.

*** Personal ambition when left unchecked can lead to sin and destruction.

*** When you are confronted with a leader or someone close to you who has let personal ambition cloud his judgment, be willing to say “no, I can’t do what you have asked me to do."

*** Take some time to evaluate your ambitions and motives for what you do. Ask God to reveal to you any selfish ambitions you need to give to Him.

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