Saul among the Prophets
“[Saul] went there to Naioth in Ramah. And the Spirit of God came upon him also, and as he went he prophesied until he came to Naioth in Ramah” (v. 23).- 1 Samuel 19
David served well in the court of King Saul, playing music that soothed the ruler’s madness and winning great victories over the Philistines. He even became part of Saul’s family by marrying Michal, daughter of the king (1 Sam. 17–18). Yet none of these things would permanently endear David to Saul. Jealous of the people’s love for David and afraid of the young man because the Lord was with him, Saul made his chief goal the elimination of David and the threat he posed to his own reign.
Given that God told Saul he would not endure as king (15:22–23), Saul’s attempts to preserve his throne were futile. After all, the Lord “can do all things” and “no purpose of [His] can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). Moreover, even Saul’s own family would not join the king in opposing David. In fact, as we see in today’s passage, Saul’s children saved David from their father’s murderous plots on several occasions.
When Saul revealed his intent to kill David, his son Jonathan interceded for the son of Jesse. Unlike his father, Jonathan was sound in mind, and he convinced Saul to abandon his evil plan by appealing to the great service David had rendered to the king. Saul even swore not to kill David as “the LORD lives”—that is, he said it would be just as impossible for him to move against David as it is for God to die. Yet Saul offered only a temporary reprieve, for once David won another great battle against the Philistines, Saul tried to kill him again. Since the king had sworn an oath, he was now guilty not only of attempted murder but of breaking a lawful vow (19:1–10; see Num. 30:2).
Michal, Jonathan’s sister and David’s wife, also acted to save David from Saul by sneaking him out of a window and placing an idol in David’s bed to make Saul’s messengers think he was still at home (1 Sam. 19:11–17). Does Michal’s easy access to an idol indicate that she mixed false religion with the worship of Yahweh? We cannot say for certain. In any case, Saul’s daughter disobeyed her father to save David’s life.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of 1 Samuel 19 is how the Spirit of God overcame Saul’s messengers and even Saul himself to keep them away from David at Naioth (vv. 18–24). The Lord Himself intervened to save His chosen, even forcing David’s enemy to prophesy. That God did this to stop those opposed to David (and thus to Him as well) shows that speaking prophecy does not itself prove that the Lord approves of the speaker. But it shows that the Lord may use anyone He chooses in order to accomplish His will.
Matthew Henry sees today’s passage as confirming that serving in ministry is in itself no proof of conversion. He writes, “Many have great gifts and yet no grace, prophesy in Christ’s name and yet are disowned by him.” Saul prophesied, though his heart was set against the Lord. It is possible to do great things for the church and yet be unconverted. We must trust in Christ for salvation, not in what we do in His name.
Passages for Further Study
1 Samuel 10
1 Corinthians 13:2