Saul sent messengers to David’s house to watch him, that he might kill him in the morning. But Michal, David’s wife, told him, “If you do not escape with your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed.” So Michal let David down through the window, and he fled away and escaped. Michal took an image and laid it on the bed and put a pillow of goats’ hair at its head and covered it with the clothes. And when Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, “He is sick.” Then Saul sent the messengers to see David, saying, “Bring him up to me in the bed, that I may kill him.” And when the messengers came in, behold, the image was in the bed, with the pillow of goats’ hair at its head. Saul said to Michal, “Why have you deceived me thus and let my enemy go, so that he has escaped?” And Michal answered Saul, “He said to me, ‘Let me go. Why should I kill you?’”
Now David fled and escaped, and he came to Samuel at Ramah and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and lived at Naioth. And it was told Saul, “Behold, David is at Naioth in Ramah.” Then Saul sent messengers to take David, and when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as head over them, the Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied. When it was told Saul, he sent other messengers, and they also prophesied. And Saul sent messengers again the third time, and they also prophesied. Then he himself went to Ramah and came to the great well that is in Secu. And he asked, “Where are Samuel and David?” And one said, “Behold, they are at Naioth in Ramah.” And he 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. And he too stripped off his clothes, and he too prophesied before Samuel and lay naked all that day and all that night. Thus it is said, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” – 1 Samuel 19:11-24 ESV
Saul’s fear of and subsequent hatred for David continued to intensify. To a certain degree, Saul could not seem to help himself. Throughout the story, we will see that Saul had an underlying, deep-seated love for David. All the way back in chapter 16, when David first came into Saul’s employment, we are told, “And David came to Saul and entered his service. And Saul loved him greatly, and he became his armor-bearer” (1 Samuel 16:21 ESV). But Saul had to deal with a “harmful spirit from the Lord” (1 Samuel 16:14 ESV) which tormented him on a regular basis. This spirit, more than likely demonic in nature, would possess Saul and cause him to lose all control. It was while under the control of this spirit that Saul attempted on three different occasions to kill David with a spear. While the text describes this tormenting spirit as coming from God, that does not mean God was the cause of Saul’s possession. This would be contrary to the character of God. The apostle James cautions us: “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one” (James 1:13 ESV). By removing the Holy Spirit from Saul, God knowingly and willingly made Saul susceptible to demonic possession. He removed the protective power of the Holy Spirit and left Saul vulnerable to the influence of Satan. This was all part of His divine plan.
Saul’s evil bent was by the permission and plan of God. We must realize that in the last analysis all penal consequences come from God, as the Author of the moral law and the one who always does what is right. – Gleason L. Archer Jr., Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, p. 180.
Saul’s obsession with David’s death was most likely the result of his own possession by a demonic spirit. This reveals that the conflict between Saul and David was really a spiritual one. Satan was using Saul in an attempt to thwart the plan of God for David. David had been anointed by Samuel to be the next king of Israel. David was a man after God’s own heart. Unlike Saul, David was obedient to God and lived his life in an effort to please and honor God. Obviously, Satan preferred Saul over David. And Satan’s real objective was the destruction of the people of Israel. From the first moment when God placed His curse on the serpent in the garden and pronounced his pending doom, Satan had been out do destroy the offspring of Eve.
“I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.” – Genesis 3:15 ESV
When God later chose Abraham and revealed that He would make of him a great nation and through him all the nations of the world would be blessed.
“I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” – Genesis 12:2-3 ESV
God would go on to clarify His promise to Abraham…
“I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” – Genesis 17:6-8 ESV
And the apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, would give a further, more detailed understanding of what this promise of God really entailed.
Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. – Galatians 3:16 ESV
Satan had it out for David because David represented the faithful people of God. He had been anointed by God for a reason and Satan realized that this young man presented a threat to his rule and reign over the world and mankind. All throughout the Bible we see a cosmic conflict taking place between Satan and God, as Satan continually attempts to thwart the will and divine plan of God to bring into existence the “offspring” of Abraham, Jesus Christ the Messiah. And this conflict would intensify all the way into the New Testament and reach its apex at the cross, where Satan through he had defeated the plan of God once and for all.
But back to the story of David. An earlier attempt by Saul to eliminate David by using his son, Jonathan, had failed. Now he would be foiled by his own daughter. She would betray her father by protecting David, warning him of Saul’s plot and helping him escape. She would even lie to Saul, risking his anger and possible revenge. It is interesting to note that Michal would use a household idol, a false god, to thwart the plans of Satan, the god of this world. A lifeless image of a non-existent god would be used to spare the life of the man whom God had chosen to lead his people. What an amazing picture of the sovereign power of God Almighty. And when Saul sent men to capture David, God would intervene again, turning David’s pursuers into prophets – “the Spirit of God came upon Saul’s men, and they also began to prophesy” (1 Samuel 19:21 NLT). This would happen three separate times to three different groups of troops. Finally, Saul would get fed up and go after David himself. But he would suffer a similar fate.
…the Spirit of God came even upon Saul, and he, too, began to prophesy all the way to Naioth! He tore off his clothes and lay naked on the ground all day and all night, prophesying in the presence of Samuel. The people who were watching exclaimed, “What? Is even Saul a prophet?” – 1 Samuel 19:23-24 NLT
Men who were set on capturing the servant of God ended up prophesying on behalf of God. The enemies of God became the tools of God. The plan of Satan was radically altered by the sovereign will and power of God. This was a spiritual battle being waged behind the scenes and by powers far beyond the comprehension of Saul and his minions. The war going on here is not between Saul and David, but between God and the forces of Satan. And that has always been the case. The apostle Paul reminds us that it will always be the case, until Jesus Christ returns and completes God’s redemptive plan.
A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. – Ephesians 6:10-12 NLT
So in the meantime, we must be strong in the Lord. We must rely on His power and stand firm in the knowledge that the battle is His. David would have to do the same thing. He was going to learn that this battle was far more than one man’s personal vendetta against him. This was the forces of wickedness waging war against the sovereign reign of God.