As I’ve been reading the stories of the first kings of Israel (1 and 2 Samuel), I’ve noticed some differences in the way King Saul interacted with God and the way King David did.
Saul seemed to assume that when God spoke to him, he was giving some general principles, a kind of “destination” that Saul would then figure out how to get to based on his own experience, wisdom, and intelligence. Saul was constantly coming up with a better idea than God’s. Why destroy all the Amalekites’ stuff when we could keep some of it as plunder and offer it as a big sacrifice to God? Saul assumed he could see the big picture, he knew what God was “really after” and chose the most efficient way to get there.
King David led quite differently. He was constantly “inquiring of the Lord” and simply doing what the Lord said, kind of like turn-by-turn directions on a GPS navigation system. It demonstrated the relationship of trust David had with the Lord.
David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you deliver them into my hands?” The Lord answered him, “Go, for I will surely deliver the Philistines into your hands.” So David went to Baal Perazim, and there he defeated them.
Once more the Philistines came up and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim; so David inquired of the Lord, and he answered, “Do not go straight up, but circle around behind them and attack them in front of the poplar trees…” So David did as the Lord commanded him, and he struck down the Philistines all the way from Gibeon to Gezer.
David simply inquired often of the Lord, and did what the Lord told him. Simple trust and obedience, no need to have the end in view from the beginning, no need to see the whole map before venturing out, no arrogant assumption that he knew what God was “really after,” he simply trusted the Lord.
It made me think of turn-by-turn directions vs. seeing the whole route on a map. Whenever I punch an address into a GPS navigation system, I always want to see the whole route before I’ll trust that voice with the Australian accent when she tells me to turn right in half a mile. I have a very hard time trusting the GPS unless I can see the whole map.
It struck me that Saul is a little bit like that: wanting to have the map and devising his own route to get there if he wants, not truly trusting God to give him turn-by-turn directions. In the end, the only person Saul trusted was himself. He thought he knew the result God was looking for and thought he had better ideas than God about the most efficient way to get there, not realizing that God was far more concerned with who Saul was becoming than what he was accomplishing.
God doesn’t seem to be interested in giving us a map with the destination on it. He seems to be more into turn-by-turn directions. It’s all part of the training he wants to give us in trusting him instead of our own wisdom, intelligence, and problem-solving prowess.
It made me think of how Jesus would use parables to explain what life in God’s kingdom was like, and I thought that maybe today he would say something like this:
To what shall we compare the kingdom of God? What parable shall we use to describe it? The kingdom of God is like getting turn-by-turn directions without being able to zoom out and see the whole map. Instead of seeing the destination on the map and using your own route to get there, you just have to trust the voice that tells you, “In 500 feet, turn right on Fifth Street.”