Viktor Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist of Jewish decent. He was famous for writing his books around psychiatry during his tenure in the Nazi concentration camps during World War II. He had the opportunity to study the effects that the concentration camp had on himself and his fellow prisoners from the perspective of a psychiatrist. One of the most famous ideas he wrote about was that life still has meaning through the most painful and dehumanizing situations if the person has something to hope in or live for. This is one of the accounts that he recollects while a prisoner in the concentration camps:
“We stumbled on in the darkness, over big stones and through large puddles, along the one road leading from the camp. The accompanying guards kept shouting at us and driving us with the butts of their rifles. Anyone with very sore feet supported himself on his neighbor’s arm. Hardly a word was spoken; the icy wind did not encourage talk. Hiding his mouth behind his upturned collar, the man marching next to me whispered suddenly: ‘If our wives could see us now! I do hope they are better off in their camps and don’t know what is happening to us.’
That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife’s image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.
A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which Man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of Man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when Man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way – an honorable way – in such a position Man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, ‘The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory.’”
So that brings us to the question, what drives our life? For Viktor Frankl, his life at that moment was driven by the idea that his wife loved him and that he loved her back. It gave him something to hope in and live for, the idea that she may still be alive and the joy he would have to once again spend time with her and enjoy her presence. In other words, every action he took and every choice he made from that point onwards was to achieve that goal, to be reunited with his wife once again. That is all he was living for. That is what he found as purpose in life. Now if we were to consider ourselves along that same line of thought what is it that drives our life? Let’s take a look at two closely related yet completely opposite characters in the Bible and see what drove their life. Most of the passages that we will be looking at will come from 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel since we will be considering the lives of both King Saul and King David. Though they were both kings of Israel, who lived at the same time, and were closely affiliated with each other, they had completely different purposes that drove their lives.
Saul’s life was driven by approval from so many different sources. He very much longed for the approval of his people that served him, his counterparts, and even Samuel but the way he went about it gives us a true picture of his heart. Let’s take a look at 1 Samuel 13 to see one example in which his life is driven by approval.
1 Samuel 13:8-14
8 Now he waited seven days, according to the appointed time set by Samuel, but Samuel did not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattering from him. 9 So Saul said, “Bring to me the burnt offering and the peace offerings.” And he offered the burnt offering. 10 As soon as he finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him and to greet him. 11 But Samuel said, “What have you done?” And Saul said, “Because I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the appointed days, and that the Philistines were assembling at Michmash, 12 therefore I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not asked the favor of the Lord.’ So I forced myself and offered the burnt offering.” 13 Samuel said to Saul, “You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you, for now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom shall not endure. The Lord has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.”
Here we see that Saul is waiting on Samuel to come to Gilgal, sacrifice before the Lord, and bless him and his soldiers before they went to war against the Philistines. You would think that Saul did a noble thing by taking up the responsibility of God’s servant and offering a sacrifice to God personally rather than waiting on Samuel but we see otherwise based on the intentions that he shows in the latter verses. Saul did this in no way to ask for God’s acceptance or approval before going out for war, he already had his mind set out on that. He did this so that he could gain the approval of his soldiers and the men around him. He saw that his soldiers were losing faith since the Philistines had such a massive army and Samuel hadn’t showed up yet to ask for God’s guidance. In an effort to boost their morale and gain their favor, Saul offers the sacrifice. This was not an act of service to God. Saul’s life was being driven by the approval of the people NOT the approval of God. Now let’s take a look at an instance in David’s life and who he sought for approval.
2 Samuel 6:20-22
20 But when David returned to bless his household, Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David and said, “How the king of Israel distinguished himself today! He uncovered himself today in the eyes of his servants’ maids as one of the foolish ones shamelessly uncovers himself!” 21 So David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel; therefore I will celebrate before the Lord. 22 I will be more lightly esteemed than this and will be humble in my own eyes, but with the maids of whom you have spoken, with them I will be distinguished.”
This passage is speaking about when the Ark of the Covenant was being returned to Jerusalem after being in the possession of their enemies for quite some time. David goes out personally to meet the priests and Ark as it is brought into the city but he does it in one of the most unnatural ways. David is not clothed in his royal robes or even fully clothed to say the least. Not only is he not dressed correctly but he goes out to meet the Ark with music and dancing. When his wife Michal sees this, she is both embarrassed herself and embarrassed for him. She immediately reprimands him and says how the King of Israel could behave himself so shamelessly among his people. He explains that he did it out of the joy of his heart and to worship the Lord. We find out later on that Michal is actually cursed from that day forward by being unable to conceive children. David, when dancing before the alter, must have looked extremely foolish especially when being half dressed, but his primary concern wasn’t to gain the approval of his wife or the people around him but rather to be viewed as righteous in the eyes of God. He completely blinds himself of everything and everyone that was around him and expresses true joy knowing that God’s presence was once again in Jerusalem. Though these two instances may seem twisted to us as to why God got angry at Saul but was happy with David, we have to look much deeper than the surface level. God looks at the heart and he could tell who each of these Kings truly sought for approval. So we have to ask ourselves, who do we seek approval from? Is it our friends, parents, or spouse? Do we depend on what they think about us above how God values us as his child? Remember the only person that we should seek approval from is God which is the reason we were made for! We seek approval through our worship, actions, and obedience towards him!
Materialism is another common driver in peoples’ lives. People often make the whole purpose of their life to acquire wealth and things in general thinking that it will give them ultimate happiness. When you think of King Saul the first thing that comes to your mind is not materialism but we do see one significant instance in 1 Samuel 15 where his choices were driven by materialism.
1 Samuel 15:17-23
17 Samuel said, “Is it not true, though you were little in your own eyes, you were made the head of the tribes of Israel? And the Lord anointed you king over Israel, 18 and the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are exterminated.’ 19 Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord, but rushed upon the spoil and did what was evil in the sight of the Lord?” 20 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I did obey the voice of the Lord, and went on the mission on which the Lord sent me, and have brought back Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. 21 But the people took some of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the choicest of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God at Gilgal.” 22 Samuel said, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. 23 “For rebellion is as the sin of divination, And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king.”
Saul was directed by God to completely destroy and wipe out the Amalekites. Saul does this for the most part but he ends up sparing their king along with taking for himself the spoils of the land. He spares the best of the livestock as well as anything he could find of value for his own personal riches. Though God had told him specifically to destroy everything, he was captivated by his own greed to take the best resources that the land could offer for himself. When Samuel asks him why he did it, he tries to twist the truth by saying that it was to offer up as sacrifices to the Lord. What he doesn’t realize is the irony of his statement. Burnt sacrifices were usually offered as a method of reconciliation before God for sin that had been committed. He, by taking the livestock of the land, was committing sin through the act that was meant to bring reconciliation. Saul’s intention from the beginning was not to reconcile him before the Lord but rather to see what he could collect for his personal gain. Saul was driven by his own materialism. Now let’s take a look at an instance in the life of David and see how he reacted to a similar situation.
1 Samuel 30:21-25
21 When David came to the two hundred men who were too exhausted to follow David, who had also been left at the brook Besor, and they went out to meet David and to meet the people who were with him, then David approached the people and greeted them. 22 Then all the wicked and worthless men among those who went with David said, “Because they did not go with us, we will not give them any of the spoil that we have recovered, except to every man his wife and his children, that they may lead them away and depart.” 23 Then David said, “You must not do so, my brothers, with what the Lord has given us, who has kept us and delivered into our hand the band that came against us. 24 And who will listen to you in this matter? For as his share is who goes down to the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage; they shall share alike.” 25 So it has been from that day forward, that he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel to this day.
This is an instance in the life of David where he could have exercised materialism but he chose not to. David and his men had just defeated an entire army of Amalekites and they had taken the spoil for themselves. Before going into war David had left 200 of their men behind since they were too weary to fight so he assigned them to watch the camp while the rest went into battle. Once David returned with his men, some of them suggested that they just split the spoil among those who fought since they did all the work. We see David react out of the goodness of his heart and say that these men who stayed back would receive an equal share because their role was just as important as those who fought. David practices generosity by this act and established himself among his men as one who is not just focused on the spoils of war but rather a king who cares for his people. David had the capability and authority to keep all the spoils to himself even without going into battle with his men, but he clearly showed that materialism didn’t drive his life. Do we have some worldly ambition that drives our life? It could be that degree that will provide us status, or that next promotion that will launch our career, maybe it’s that one car that has all the accessories, or that even that house with all the options included! In the end all these pursuits are futile. It will not bring ultimate satisfaction at the end of the day but rather a larger empty hole to fill that will never be satisfied of enough “stuff”. I am not saying it is wrong to want, pursue, or even own these things as long as they are not the driving force in your life but rather a means to glorify and serve God!
Anger is a significant driver in peoples’ lives. People often make choices of who they will or will not interact with based on if that person has wronged them in some way. People have the natural tendency to hold grudges and despise people because of what they have done or even heard they have done. Materialism may have not been an obvious characteristic with Saul but anger definitely is! We know of several instances in Saul’s life where anger drives his actions and choices. One of the most significant instances of this can be seen in 1 Samuel 18.
1 Samuel 18:10-15
10 Now it came about on the next day that an evil spirit from God came mightily upon Saul, and he raved in the midst of the house, while David was playing the harp with his hand, as usual; and a spear was in Saul’s hand. 11 Saul hurled the spear for he thought, “I will pin David to the wall.” But David escaped from his presence twice. 12 Now Saul was afraid of David, for the Lord was with him but had departed from Saul. 13 Therefore Saul removed him from his presence and appointed him as his commander of a thousand; and he went out and came in before the people. 14 David was prospering in all his ways for the Lord was with him. 15 When Saul saw that he was prospering greatly, he dreaded him. 16 But all Israel and Judah loved David, and he went out and came in before them.
The first question that comes to mind when I read this passage is why did God send an evil spirit upon Saul? The answer to that can be seen in the previous passages. Saul had actually brought it to himself. Saul had made so many choices previous to this that showed he truly did not want to serve God but rather just benefit himself. Everything that he did was done out of selfishness and to gain himself wealth, power, and status. He did not live a life that was honorable to God so God assured him that he would take it away and give it to someone else. Saul was seeing first hand who would take over his kingdom. Saul knew in his heart what God required in order to serve him. God wanted a king that was humble, kind, caring, compassionate, looked out for the good of the people and lived to serve God. God wasn’t looking for a perfect king but rather someone who had the right intentions and strived to achieve them. Saul knew that he didn’t possess any of these qualities and was the furthest from the king that God wanted. Saul did see on the other hand that David did possess these qualities and in everything that David did, God was with him. This just made Saul’s anger burn and come out through actions of rage and violence towards David. Saul was definitely a person whose life was driven by anger. David on the other hand was the complete opposite of Saul when it came to anger. We see so many instances in David’s life where he acts out of the kindness of his heart towards so many people. What impresses me the most about David is kindness towards people even when they have done him wrong. He has all the right to react out of righteous anger but instead he reacts out of love and kindness. We see one of those instances in 1 Samuel 26.
1 Samuel 26:21-24
21 Then Saul said, “I have sinned. Return, my son David, for I will not harm you again because my life was precious in your sight this day. Behold, I have played the fool and have committed a serious error.” 22 David replied, “Behold the spear of the king! Now let one of the young men come over and take it. 23 The Lord will repay each man for his righteousness and his faithfulness; for the Lord delivered you into my hand today, but I refused to stretch out my hand against the Lord’s anointed. 24 Now behold, as your life was highly valued in my sight this day, so may my life be highly valued in the sight of the Lord, and may He deliver me from all distress.”
This is the second recorded instance where Saul pursues David out of his resentment towards him, knowing that one day the kingdom would be handed over to David. Saul was appointed by God to be the king of Israel but due to his lack of obedience, God had anointed David as the next king once Saul died. Saul tried to take the matter into his own hands by determining his own destiny which he found out very soon, he could not do. David has all the right to be angry at Saul. David could have killed him on the spot while he slept in two separate instances. David knew that he was the next in line to be King of Israel and, this would have only been a convenient means to an inevitable end for Saul but he chooses not to kill him. Even David’s men encourage him to end Saul’s life for all the wrong things he had done against David. In this situation, David could have acted out of anger and killed Saul on the spot but because of the forgiveness and kindness that drove his life, he chose not to. David is one of the best examples of forgiveness because he himself had been shown it several times in his life. David knew that he wasn’t perfect and that he had screwed up multiple times before God yet God chose to forgive him. This is the same logic he applies here with Saul. David justifies to his men that though Saul was pursuing him and trying to kill him without a righteous cause, he could not extend his hand and kill the Lord’s appointed. He would leave that to the person who put him there to begin with. We can learn so much from David’s forgiveness. There are countless instances in our life where we could hold grudges and stay angry at people for the wrong they have committed, but we have to ask ourselves what does it accomplish? Nothing. We need to practice forgiveness to those who have wronged us BECAUSE our God chose to forgive us when we committed the most heinous crimes against his son. Don’t let anger run your life, chose to forgive!
This may be an easy one to relate to for a lot of us but fear is one of the top drivers that run our lives. We are often fearful to move forward, to take that step of faith, to go in a different direction than we are used to going, or even to stay still, all because we want to be in control. We see this first hand in Saul’s life in a similar instance to the one we just read.
1 Samuel 24:17-22
17 He said to David, “You are more righteous than I; for you have dealt well with me, while I have dealt wickedly with you. 18 You have declared today that you have done good to me, that the Lord delivered me into your hand and yet you did not kill me. 19 For if a man finds his enemy, will he let him go away safely? May the Lord therefore reward you with good in return for what you have done to me this day. 20 Now, behold, I know that you will surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hand. 21 So now swear to me by the Lord that you will not cut off my descendants after me and that you will not destroy my name from my father’s household.” 22 David swore to Saul. And Saul went to his home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold.
This is the first recorded instance of Saul pursuing David to kill him. The obvious question is why does Saul want David dead? Saul knew that he was going to die some day and that another king would have to replace him, so if it is David then what is the big deal? Saul was concerned about his family line and the continuation of his reign through his sons. Saul had been guaranteed by God that the kingdom would no longer belong to him and his generation but in fact he had given it to David and his descendants because of David’s loyalty. Saul wasn’t able to accept this; he was too overcome by greed and power that he thought he could outsmart God by killing David and preserving his family line on the throne. Saul learns the hard way that no one is wiser than God. Saul acts out of fear and decides to take matters into his own hands. He tries to kill David multiple times but fails miserably after each try. In a moment of realization, he decides to plead before David having understood he would be the future King. He pleads for his own life and the lives of his family members. David, out of the goodness of heart, graciously grants it to him knowing that it wasn’t his decision to make to kill the king. We know that Saul doesn’t learn from his lesson because he’s back at it once again trying to take David’s life in 1 Samuel 26. Saul’s entire reign as king was ruled by fear because of his disobedience. Saul knew the inevitable end that God had chosen for him and instead of setting aside his wrongs and pursuing after God, he chose to drive his life through fear and take matters into his own hands. We see a very different perspective from David even starting at a very young age. This is probably a story we have heard countless times.
1 Samuel 17:41-47
41 Then the Philistine came on and approached David, with the shield-bearer in front of him. 42 When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him; for he was but a youth, and ruddy, with a handsome appearance. 43 The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 The Philistine also said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the sky and the beasts of the field.” 45 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands.”
This is one of my favorite Bible stories because of how impossible the situation seemed. I can just picture a small Israelite boy with a high pitched voice going up against this massive Philistine giant whose presence alone would scare you to death. In a situation when David was supposed to be scared according to all known logic, he isn’t! Instead his confidence resides in his God who he knows can do anything. David gives accounts in the previous chapters of going up against a bear and lion without weapons and killing them bare handed. He doesn’t take any of the credit for himself but he gives all glory to God. My favorite Psalm written by David is Psalms 91, take a look at these verses.
5 You will not be afraid of the terror by night,
Or of the arrow that flies by day;
6 Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.
7 A thousand may fall at your side
And ten thousand at your right hand,
But it shall not approach you.
8 You will only look on with your eyes
And see the recompense of the wicked.
9 For you have made the Lord, my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place.
10 No evil will befall you,
Nor will any plague come near your tent.
The verse that speaks out to me the most is verse 7. “A THOUSAND may fall at your SIDE and TEN THOUSAND at your RIGHT HAND, but it shall NOT approach YOU.” Wow, what an amazing thought! God has you covered in the palm of his hand if you put your trust in him. Even when complete chaos is going on all around you, you will be secure right where you stand. That is the God that David believed in, that is the God David trusted in, and that is the God whom he kept in mind as he was about to kill Goliath! A song call God of Angel Armies goes like this:
You hear me when I call
You are my morning song
Though darkness fills the night
It cannot hide the light
Whom shall I fear
You crush the enemy
Underneath my feet
You are my sword and shield
Though troubles linger still
Whom shall I fear
I know who goes before me
I know who stands behind
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side
The one who reigns forever
He is a friend of mine
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side
The God of angel armies is always and forever by your side if you trust in him! Don’t let your life be driven by fear; you can do the impossible if God is on your side!
Now this is a driver in our life that all of us can relate to! Due to the past sin in our life, we often let it determine our future. This is a dangerous driver to be associated with just because of the lasting impacts that it can have in the life of a believer! We see this driver close to the end of Saul’s life when he consults with a spirit medium to figure out what would become of him.
1 Samuel 28:8-20
8 Then Saul disguised himself by putting on other clothes, and went, he and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night; and he said, “Conjure up for me, please, and bring up for me whom I shall name to you.” 9 But the woman said to him, “Behold, you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off those who are mediums and spiritists from the land. Why are you then laying a snare for my life to bring about my death?” 10 Saul vowed to her by the Lord, saying, “As the Lord lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing.” 11 Then the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” And he said, “Bring up Samuel for me.” 12 When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice; and the woman spoke to Saul, saying, “Why have you deceived me? For you are Saul.” 13 The king said to her, “Do not be afraid; but what do you see?” And the woman said to Saul, “I see a divine being coming up out of the earth.” 14 He said to her, “What is his form?” And she said, “An old man is coming up, and he is wrapped with a robe.” And Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground and did homage. 15 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” And Saul answered, “I am greatly distressed; for the Philistines are waging war against me, and God has departed from me and no longer answers me, either through prophets or by dreams; therefore I have called you, that you may make known to me what I should do.” 16 Samuel said, “Why then do you ask me, since the Lord has departed from you and has become your adversary? 17 The Lord has done accordingly as He spoke through me; for the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, to David. 18 As you did not obey the Lord and did not execute His fierce wrath on Amalek, so the Lord has done this thing to you this day. 19 Moreover the Lord will also give over Israel along with you into the hands of the Philistines, therefore tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. Indeed the Lord will give over the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines!” 20 Then Saul immediately fell full length upon the ground and was very afraid because of the words of Samuel;
Taking a look at this passage, it is easy to confuse it as Saul’s method of consulting with Samuel in order to find out what would happen to him. Looking closer at the means by which he did it, we see where Saul’s fault lies. First of all, if Saul wanted to find out what would happen to him, why didn’t he just go directly to God? Saul didn’t have that personal relationship with God to even approach his presence in that way. He knew that he had disobeyed God throughout his reign as king and now he felt so unworthy because of his sin that he didn’t even think he could come before God’s presence. Saul decides to improvise and go to the one person that had always played the mediator between him and God, Samuel! The only problem with his master plan is that Samuel is dead. He thought that the only way to reach out to Samuel beyond the grave was through a conjuring. See how far his sin had taken him! Just because he felt so guilty, he was too ashamed to approach God’s presence personally, but rather decided to sin even further by going to a witch to conjure an evil spirit. Yes, an evil spirit! The spirit that the witch brings up is not Samuel. It is just a demon that takes on the form of Samuel to tell Saul what he already knows. Saul knew even before he approached the witch of Endor that he would most likely face an untimely end to his life. He was so lost in his sin and overcome by his guilt that he didn’t even know how to turn back! That’s exactly what sin does in our life! It corrupts and clouds our judgment to the point that we are so overcome with guilt that we think we can’t even approach the throne of grace. We see a very different approach in David’s life though. As we stated before, David was not a perfect person. He had committed his share of sins and had his own short comings just like Saul, but what made David so much different was the way he reconciled his mistakes. There are several examples of this given in the scripture but we are going to take a look at a certain sin which cost him the lives of thousands of his own people.
2 Samuel 24:18-25
10 Now David’s heart troubled him after he had numbered the people. So David said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O Lord, please take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have acted very foolishly.” 11 When David arose in the morning, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying, 12 “Go and speak to David, ‘Thus the Lord says, “I am offering you three things; choose for yourself one of them, which I will do to you.”’” 13 So Gad came to David and told him, and said to him, “Shall seven years of famine come to you in your land? Or will you flee three months before your foes while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ pestilence in your land? Now consider and see what answer I shall return to Him who sent me.” 14 Then David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Let us now fall into the hand of the Lord for His mercies are great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man.” 15 So the Lord sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning until the appointed time, and seventy thousand men of the people from Dan to Beersheba died. 16 When the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the Lord relented from the calamity and said to the angel who destroyed the people, “It is enough! Now relax your hand!” And the angel of the Lord was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. 17 Then David spoke to the Lord when he saw the angel who was striking down the people, and said, “Behold, it is I who have sinned, and it is I who have done wrong; but these sheep, what have they done? Please let Your hand be against me and against my father’s house.” 18 So Gad came to David that day and said to him, “Go up, erect an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.” 19 David went up according to the word of Gad, just as the Lord had commanded. 20 Araunah looked down and saw the king and his servants crossing over toward him; and Araunah went out and bowed his face to the ground before the king. 21 Then Araunah said, “Why has my lord the king come to his servant?” And David said, “To buy the threshing floor from you, in order to build an altar to the Lord, that the plague may be held back from the people.” 22 Araunah said to David, “Let my lord the king take and offer up what is good in his sight. Look, the oxen for the burnt offering, the threshing sledges and the yokes of the oxen for the wood. 23 Everything, O king, Araunah gives to the king.” And Araunah said to the king, “May the Lord your God accept you.” 24 However, the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price, for I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God which cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. 25 David built there an altar to the Lord and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. Thus the Lord was moved by prayer for the land, and the plague was held back from Israel.
We know from this passage, that Samuel and Saul have already been dead and gone for several years now. This is later on in the reign of King David when he decides to take a census of all his people. Why was it so wrong to take a census? We do it regularly in the US, or at least once every decade. The reason that it was considered a sin by God was due to the pride of David. David thought to himself that his kingdom was so great, he had a massive army, he ruled over the twelve tribes of Israel, and that he had accomplished all of this by his own power. If there is one thing about God, he doesn’t appreciate sharing his glory, even with the man that was after his own heart. God is gracious to give him three options of punishment which would ultimately have the same effect at the end of the day, a whole bunch of people would die! God wanted to hit David at the root of his pride. God knew the one thing that made him arrogant would also be the one thing that would humble him. David pleads before God hoping that he himself would be sacrificed rather than all his people but his efforts are futile because God cannot let sin go unpunished. God chooses his punishment for him by selecting the quickest option which ends up wiping out 70,000 people from the tribes of Israel. 70,000 people gone just because of one man’s sin! What makes David so different from anyone else is what he does next. David instead of wallowing in his guilt and going out and making some more not so wise choices because of the despair he was going through, decided to approach the presence of God and offer up a sacrifice. Even though God had killed 70,000 Israelites because of David’s sin, David realizes that it could have and should have been a lot worse. David knows that God loves him and that he is a merciful God. That is why he goes up and offers a sacrifice of repentance and thanksgiving rather than letting guilt drive his life. We ourselves are not perfect either, we sin all the time. When I consider myself, I am so far from who David was but I know that even though I sin I can approach the throne of grace and ask for forgiveness. I know that I don’t have to let fear run my life. I know God has forgiven all of my past sins, present sins that I am currently committing, and all the future sins that I will ever do! Don’t let fear drive your life!
So we were able to look at all the different things that can motivate and drive our life. We considered the drivers of approval, materialism, anger, fear, and guilt. We saw each of the ways these can have a negative impact on our purpose to serve the Lord. We specifically saw the contrast of these effects in the lives of Saul and David. We know that neither Saul nor David were perfect people. Just by the way they responded to the situations that life presented them, we saw how different of an impact each had. Saul responded negatively each time God gave him an opportunity to serve him and that translated to all those different drivers ruling his life. David on the other hand responded positively to each of the opportunities that God presented him and that translated to him being considered as the “man after God’s own heart!” What an awesome title to have, to be considered so close to the heart of God! That is not only something that we should long for but something that we can achieve in the short life that God has given us here. These short years that we have are just the proving grounds for the life to come! We have been put in a race and asked to persevere to the end; it’s up to us what we chose as our driver and how we cross the finish line!