A Tale of Two Kings: The Difference Between Saul and David

Two of the most prominent Kings of Israel in the Scripture are Saul and David. These two men are given the most attention in 1 and 2 Samuel. David and Saul are foils of one another. Saul was rejected by God while David was a man after God's own heart. However, if you've studied their lives carefully both of the men had some incredible failures in their life. Saul failed to obey the Lord in his commands and David committed adultery with Bathsheba. If both men had grievous sin in their lives, why was one rejected and the other blessed? What is the difference between these two men? As we will see, the difference between the two Kings is in their response when confronted in their sin.

Saul's Response to His Sin

When Saul disobeyed the Lord's direct command, the prophet Samuel goes to confront Saul in his sin. Rather than owning up to his sin, Saul tries to justify his actions. (1 Sam 15:15) He makes excuses for his disobedience. Rather than owning his sin and asking for forgiveness, in pride he follows the foot steps of Adam and argues that his sin is not that big of a deal. He points the finger at everyone else rather than pointing it at himself.

Saul started out with a bright future. He was the first King of Israel. His anointing was cause for great celebration. Yet due to his sin and refusal to repent the Lord would leave Saul and reject him as King.

David's Response to His Sin

David too would commit some horrific sins, but his response is very different from Saul. Just as the prophet Samuel confronted Saul in his sin, the prophet Nathan would confront David. When the prophet calls David out for his adultery and conspiracy of murder, David immediately responds "I have sinned against the Lord". (2 Sam 12:13) David took ownership of his sin rather than making excuses. However David describes in detail the thoughts and emotions he was experiencing during this time in a beautiful song, Psalm 51.

David writes calling out to God for mercy. He owns his sin singing, "For I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me". (Ps 51:3) David owns his sin and is truly broken. He lays himself bare before the Lord asking for forgiveness and restoration.

A Model of True Repentance

David serves for us as a model of true repentance that is accompanies saving. David sings "For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise". (Ps 51:16-17)

What God desires from us is true brokeness. Not self-justification and not even penance. He requires broken and contrite heart. In Matthew 5:3 Jesus kicks off the sermon on the Mount with the beatitudes. The first beatitude rings a powerful truth "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven". Those who enter into the kingdom of heaven are the Davids, not the Sauls.

In our sin, we must most own up to our spiritual poverty. We must confess our unworthiness and fall on our face. We must own our filthy rags that cloth us. Brokeness is the only proper response to our sin. Yet, brokeness is not only the proper response to proper, it is the only saving response. Where there is no sorrow over sin there is no genuine repentance. Those who have not recognized their spiritual poverty and their need for grace will not inherit the Kingdom. If we are not broken over our sin, then what need do we have of a savior? Only those who embrace the shame of their transgression can share in the glory of the cross.

Those who cry out "Woe is Me!" will find that God is more than gracious to blot out our transgression. By God's grace he sends a savior to spiritually destitute sinners, and rather than asking us to make up for our sins through good works (which we could never do) he sends a savior to die in our place.

Are You Saul or David?

The question is not "Am I a sinner". You are. Both Saul and David were great sinners. Yet one was broken over his sin and the other was apathetic. One was a man after God's own heart, the other a failed and tragic king. As you look at the sin in your life are you responding like Saul or David?

Do not attempt to justify your sinful actions. Own up to them and fall on your face before your God. Plead for mercy and grace. Confess your spiritual poverty. It is when we are broken that God will heal. He will take our filthy rags and give us the riches of Christ. He will forgive our sin and clothe us in the righteousness of Christ. The bitter tears of brokeness are quickly covered by the sweet blood of Jesus.