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.

How Jesus Handled Grief


Jesus Experienced Grief

Losing someone we love really hurts. Grief often takes over and like a vine, begins to choke the life out of our soul. Our emotions are numb. Tears don't seem to stop. All we want to do is be alone and be by ourselves. Losing a family member or a friend is a very personal and emotional experience. Even Jesus himself experienced the gamut of emotions that comes with losing a friend. When Jesus' friend Lazarus dies, he weeps. Even though he knew he would raise Lazarus back to life, he was still overwhelmed with emotion that he just began to cry. Jesus teaches us that it is ok to grieve. It is ok to cry.

Jesus not only lost his good friend Lazarus to death, he also lost his dear friend and cousin, John the Baptist. John the Baptist died a terrible death. John was arrested by Herod, because John was vocally disapproving of Herod's sin. However, after the debase Herod watched a teenage girl's seductive dance, he gave her the opportunity to ask for anything. At the influencing of her mother, she asked for the head of John the Baptist. John the Baptist, whom Jesus called the greatest born of men, died by beheading at the request of a teenage girl. John's disciples took care of burying his body and they went to tell Jesus.

Jesus Responds to Grief

In Matthew 14:13, we are told that when Jesus heard the news about John, he got on a boat and went to head to a desolate place. You see, Jesus was grieving. He was heartbroken to hear what happened to John. And Jesus wanted to just spend some time alone, praying and thinking. You have to wonder what thoughts were running through Jesus mind when he heard the news. I imagine that he must be thinking about his mission, the cross. Jesus knows that what happened to John the Baptist is going to happen to him. Jesus knows that he came to die for the sins of humanity, and he knows that the cross is coming. I'm sure hearing about the death of John made Jesus painfully aware of his coming death, and filled with emotion, he just wanted to be alone with His father.

So Jesus gets in the boat and heads to a desolate place. However, the crowd hears where Jesus is going. So they travel by foot and meet Jesus on the other side. As Jesus is approaching the shore, he sees the crowds gather, waiting for him to arrive. You almost feel kind of sorry for Jesus. The guy just wants to get away to mourn the loss of his friend, and he can't get away. Life is like that isn't it? It never slows down. You lose your family member or friend and your back at work the next day like nothing ever happened. All you want to do is get away and be by yourself and grieve, but the demands of life don't allow it. Life just moves to fast.

Put yourself in Jesus' shoes for a second. How would you respond to seeing the crowd on the shore? You might think, "Really God, ministry now, I just want to be alone!". You might even hate these people, wishing they would just all go away. However Jesus doesn't respond in either ways. Jesus sees the crowd and he has compassion on them and he immediately got to work healing their sick. Although Jesus grieves the loss of his dear friend, his grief empowers him for ministry. In the midst of his emotional pain, Jesus turned outward instead of inward. Rather than turning in on himself and thinking "woe is me", he turns outward to serve and to love the crowds.

Our Grief Empowers us for Ministry

What does Jesus tell us about how to handle grief? He tells us that we must use our grief for ministry. We must be so very careful that in our mourning we don't turn our sorrow in to self-pity and loathing. Our sorrow empowers us to love and serve others. All that hurt, all those emotions you feel, take them and use them to show compassion on people who desperately need the love of Jesus. In your brokenness, God is able to use you to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others. In your desperation, your dependence on Jesus serves as a powerful testimony to this lost and dying world. It is ok to grieve. It is ok to cry. It is good to mourn for lost loved ones, but may our emotions turn outwards to radical, Gospel driven, compassion.