Self-Pity and Paranoia.

Now Saul heard that David was discovered, and the men who were with him. Saul was sitting at Gibeah under the tamarisk tree on the height with his spear in his hand, and all his servants were standing about him. And Saul said to his servants who stood about him, “Hear now, people of Benjamin; will the son of Jesse give every one of you fields and vineyards, will he make you all commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, that all of you have conspired against me? No one discloses to me when my son makes a covenant with the son of Jesse. None of you is sorry for me or discloses to me that my son has stirred up my servant against me, to lie in wait, as at this day.” Then answered Doeg the Edomite, who stood by the servants of Saul, “I saw the son of Jesse coming to Nob, to Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, and he inquired of the Lord for him and gave him provisions and gave him the sword of Goliath the Philistine.”

Then the king sent to summon Ahimelech the priest, the son of Ahitub, and all his father’s house, the priests who were at Nob, and all of them came to the king. And Saul said, “Hear now, son of Ahitub.” And he answered, “Here I am, my lord.” And Saul said to him, “Why have you conspired against me, you and the son of Jesse, in that you have given him bread and a sword and have inquired of God for him, so that he has risen against me, to lie in wait, as at this day?” – 1 Samuel 22:6-13 ESV

These verses provide us with a stark contrast. David was in a cave surrounded by misfits and malcontents, but now we see Saul sitting under the shade of a tree surrounded by his servants. The contrast doesn’t stop there. David provided protection for his family by sending them to the king of Moab for refuge. Yet Saul was busy accusing his own son of treason and of conspiring with David to kill him. David was surrounded by men who were willing to die for him. Saul was surrounded by men who feared him and some had even abandoned him to follow after David. But the greatest contrast between these two men is their relationships with God. David received a prophetic word from God that told him to leave the Cave of Adullam and return to Judah. But Saul had not word from God. In fact, he had no relationship with God at all. God had removed His Spirit from him. Saul was on his on and was by all accounts, God-less. The result was a growing paranoia. He truly believed everyone was against him. His daughter and son had turned on him. His servants were untrustworthy. No one could be trusted. And his paranoia led to a heavy dose of self-pity. He was all alone. And his little speech to his servants reveals the extent of his self-pity.

“Has that son of Jesse promised every one of you fields and vineyards? Has he promised to make you all generals and captains in his army? Is that why you have conspired against me?” – 1 Samuel 22:7-8 NLT

“You’re not even sorry for me.” – 1 Samuel 22:8 NLT

Saul even accused Ahimelech the priest of treason, seeing his actions to help David as a personal attack against him.

“Why have you and the son of Jesse conspired against me?” – 1 Samuel 22:13 NLT

Without God in his life, Saul was susceptible to all kind of irrational and unrighteous thinking. His capacity to mentally process the circumstances of his life was greatly hindered by his lack of God’s presence in his life. He had become a fool, lacking reason and rational thought. He could not even process the fact that all of this was the outcome of the prophet’s warning that God was removing His hand from Saul’s life and giving his kingdom to another. Saul was in a state of denial and suffering from delusion, thinking that he could somehow prevent the inevitable and stay the hand of God. But his unwillingness to accept the will of God would simply cause him to sin against God, committing greater and greater transgressions, all in a hopeless attempt at self-preservation.

Standing among Saul’s servants that day was Doeg the Edomite, who might be better known as Doeg the Snitch. He had hurried back from Nob eager to share the news that David was there and had been given food and the sword of Goliath by Ahimelech the priest. When Saul heard this report, he immediately sent for Ahimelech, his family, and all his fellow priests who served alongside him at Nob. If Ahimelech had been scared when he saw David show up in Nob (1 Samuel 21:1), he must have been petrified at the news of a summon from the king, and any fears he had would prove to be justified.

Saul was a man possessed, both figuratively and literally. He was constantly beset by a “harmful spirit,” the result of God’s removal of the Holy Spirit from his life. Without the influence of God’s Spirit, Saul’s reasoning was impaired. He became self-absorbed and suspicious of everyone and everything. Over time, he would become a man-obsessed, unable to think of anything other than the destruction of David. Essentially, he would no longer act as the king of Israel. His whole life would be focused on one thing: David’s death. The very thing he was trying to protect: His kingship, would get lost in his obsessive-compulsive quest to kill off the competition. Sadly, Saul would be unable to enjoy the benefits of being king, because he lived in constant fear of no longer being king.

One of sad realities of godlessness is that it always results in joylessness, discontentment, fear, jealousy, anger… In fact, the apostle Paul outlines the characteristics or “deeds” of a godless or flesh-based life in his letter to the Galatians.

…sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. – Galatians 5:20-21 NLT

Saul was miserable, not because he was losing his kingdom, but because he had lost God. His unhappiness, paranoia, self-pity and misguided attempts at self-preservation were driven by his lack of a relationship with God. His decision-making was totally flesh-based, driven by his own sin nature and devoid of any wisdom from God. He had lost his capacity to see things from God’s perspective. Everything had become all about him. He was no longer concerned about the good of Israel or the honor of God’s name. His only thoughts were for self.

The life of the godless is not a pretty picture. And the truly sad thing is that many, who have a relationship with Christ, can end up living godless lives, refusing to seek His will, listen to His Word, or heed His direction. Rather than living God-centered, God-directed lives, they become self-absorbed and susceptible to the flawed input of their own sin natures. While the Spirit of God never leaves them, they quench and grieve the Spirit through disobedience and wilful, unrepentant sin. Rather than enjoying the fruit of the Spirit and the joys of sanctification, they become obsessed with self-preservation and paranoid about protecting what it is they think they have. Jesus said, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10 NLT). Saul had been deceived by Satan into believing that joy would be found in pursuing and eliminating David. But nothing could have been further from the truth. And Satan is constantly attempting to deceive us into believing that our way is preferable to God’s way. But our way is the way of the flesh, and it eventually robs us of joy, kills our capacity to love, and destroys any hope of having a rich and satisfying life. Satan offers what he cannot give. Jesus promises what He died to make possible. The God-less life is a paranoid, self-pitying, joyless life. But the godly life brings joy in the midst of sorrow, peace in the middle of the storm, hope when all looks hopeless, contentment in the face of loss, and strength in spite of our own weakness. 

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson