April 22, 2019
If life is likened to a rope, human life is like a rope that’s not visible where the ends are. We know when it has started, we also know how long it has been done, but we don’t know when it will arrive at the end node. How much time we have left cannot be measured by how long it has taken, because each person has a different length of rope. To be sure, everyone only has one chance to live life in this world.
Now let’s pause from all the busyness to reflect on the life we have been through. Some of us have gone through it for decades, some may have been a dozen years. What kind of life have we lived? What kind of deep impressions and images are captured by others about us? Have all of our behaviors built a good or bad reputation? Has our reputation been established on a solid foundation? If in a moment we are faced with a choice between reputation or foundation, which one will we prioritize? Do we attach importance to displaying a glorious reputation or prefer to build the right foundation even though for a moment we seem to lose our reputation ??
Saul: Concerning the Image in the Human Eye
In 1 Samuel 9-10 Saul was anointed as king by Samuel. The people exclaimed “Live the king” cheering him because they were happy to have a king for the first time. Even the valiant men followed Saul because their hearts were touched by God. However, in the midst of the respect he received there was a group of people who doubted and even insulted him. Saul’s reaction to this matter is really interesting: “But Saul kept silent.” (1 Sam. 10: 27 NIV) It seems that Saul didn’t care, but apparently it hurt him. This can be seen from the decisions that show how much Saul thirst for recognition and respect from others.
One of the events that clearly shows how people’s recognition and respect is very important to Saul is when Israel fought against the Philistine forces: Jonathan attacked the Philistine outpost at Geba, and the Philistines heard about it. Then Saul had the trumpet blown throughout the land and said, “Let the Hebrews hear!” So all Israel heard the news: “Saul has attacked the Philistine outpost, and now Israel has become obnoxious to the Philistines.” And the people were summoned to join Saul at Gilgal. . . . Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear. (1 Samuel 13: 3-7 NIV)
Jonathan fought and defeated the Philistine army but Saul made it in the eyes of the people as if he had defeated the Philistines. Saul’s goal was for the people who were afraid of the retaliation from the Philistines to become dependent on him. Until this stage the goal seemed successful. Saul went to Gilgal according to Samuel’s instructions and the people followed him. But that didn’t last long. The people who followed him began to leave because Samuel had not arrived yet, while the Philistine army was ready to attack.
Knowing that he had begun to lose control of the people, Saul decided to take a shortcut by offering burnt sacrifices without waiting for Samuel. This is a violation because Samuel clearly ordered Saul to wait (1 Samuel 10: 8). When Samuel rebuked his folly, Saul made the excuse: “When I saw that the people were scattered from me . . . .” (1 Sam. 13: 11 ) For the sake of not being abandoned by his people, Saul chose to violate God’s decree.
What happened next further reinforced the tendency of Saul’s heart which emphasized reputation rather than obedience to God, namely when Saul was ordered to crush Amalek. Since Israel was still in the wilderness, in Exodus 17: 14 the Lord commanded them to crush the Amalekites to extinction because of their wickedness. This command was further confirmed by Moses in Deuteronomy 25: 19. Then Samuel commissioned Saul to carry out the Lord’s command (1 Sam. 15: 2-3). Unfortunately Saul was disobedient. He only killed everything that was despised and weak, but Agag, the king of Amalek, was left alive. He also took the best sheep and oxen. When Samuel rebuked him, Saul used his people twice as an excuse and shield to justify his disobedience: The soldiers took sheep and cattle, . . . . Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the men and so I gave in to them. Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord.” (1 Sam. 15: 21, 24-25 NIV)
Saul twice on behalf of others for his mistakes and twice he asked Samuel to return with him. The second request was even followed by words so that Samuel would honor him before the people: “I have sinned. But please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel; come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord your God.” (1 Samuel 15: 30 NIV) This is an insincere confession of sin. Saul confessed to sin only so that Samuel would not leave him.
Saul asked Samuel to remain with him not because Saul realized that he needed God’s guidance, but because he was afraid that the people would leave him if Samuel left him, because at that time the priest had a huge influence. This shows that Saul’s actions and words were controlled by what people say and how people perceive him. We know how Saul became angry and jealous of David because the people sang “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him. “They have credited David with tens of thousands,” he thought, “but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?” And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David. (1 Samuel 18: 8-9 NIV)
Saul was very concerned about the words, impressions, and views of people about him. Saul is concerned with reputation, even if necessary he will violate the truth if his reputation is disturbed. The end was Saul losing what he had been chasing and trying to maintain it in various ways. The Spirit of God departed from Saul and the king’s position was given by God to David.
David: Prioritizing the Right Heart
In many ways, David’s attitude was the opposite of Saul’s. Saul cared too much about his image in the eyes of others, David did not. For example, when David left the palace because of Absalom’s rebellion. Knowing this, Shimei, one of Saul’s family, cursed David and pelted David and his troops with stones along the road. David who was accompanied by soldiers and heroes didn’t counter at all. Instead, when Zeruiah was about to avenge Shimei, David said: “What does this have to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the Lord said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who can ask, ‘Why do you do this?’”. . . . Leave him alone; let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. It may be that the Lord will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today.” (2 Sam. 16: 10-12 NIV) Compared to anger, feeling insulted, and retaliating, David prefers to subject himself to the authority of God.
Saul did everything he could to maintain his image, David did not. More than once David had the opportunity to kill Saul but he didn’t do it (1 Sam 24, 26). In fact, if Saul died then David’s life would be calmer because no one hunted him again. If Saul died, the way to become king would soon be realized because he had indeed been anointed as king. But David didn’t do it because he didn’t want to touch the Lord’s anointed person. David respected God and feared God. Compared to doing it in his own way, David prefers to trust God.
Saul never truly repented, while David quickly regretted his sin. When the Prophet Nathan rebuked him for taking Bathsheba, David immediately said: “I have sinned against the Lord.” (2 Sam. 12: 13 NIV)David didn’t excuse or blame others for his sin.
In many instances, David prefers his heart to remain right before God. For him, God’s words are more important than human words. Most of the Psalms are the outpouring of David’s heart to God. How in joy and sorrow, in strong and weak, in various situations, he always comes closer to God. He isn’t afraid of being abandoned by humans, he just doesn’t want God to leave him. He doesn’t care about being antagonized by humans as long as God sided with him. The most valuable for him isn’t the treasure and throne, but God. That’s why God is pleased with David.
BUILDING THE TRUE FOUNDATION
A reputation, good or bad, will stick to someone as long as the person lives. Even for some people who have a big influence, their reputation will continue to be remembered even if the person is gone. As children of God, we must have a good reputation because a bad reputation will be a stumbling block. But a good reputation is not everything. The most important thing is whether that reputation has been built on the true foundation. The true foundation here isn’t true according to man, but true in God’s view.
The only absolute truth for believers is the Bible. So, whatever attitude and behavior of the children of God must be in accordance with God’s word written in the Bible. When we think, say, and act according to God’s word, what comes out of us is everything that is good and right, which in itself will build a good and right reputation. Indeed obedience to the word of God doesn’t always make us favored by others, or even makes us despised, because many of the values of this world are contrary to God’s word. But our duty isn’t to please people but to please God. What is the point of having a good reputation in human measure, but finally we are wrong before God.
A good and true reputation built on the true foundation will have eternal impact, not just to impress others. Conversely, if we try to build a reputation by relying on power, wealth, expertise, even good deeds, then we will be trapped in what people say about us. We can be encouraged to become hypocrites. We will easily compromise to please others. We will do good things just for the sake of good name, but there is no love and sincerity. We must remember that God always sees the heart, not what is in sight. If reputation is everything to us, then we will fall into arrogance and unnecessary competition with other people.
Therefore let us ensure our lives have been built on a solid and true foundation, namely the word of God. Don’t be like Saul who was more concerned with his name and image in the eyes of others than obedience to God. Be like David who was obedient and gentle in heart and makes God the most valuable treasure. Don’t put our values on the words and views of people towards us, but put our values in God. We are valuable not because we are successful, good, even godly. We are valuable because we are created like God and God loves us so much.
Let’s focus on what’s inside, whether our foundation is right or not, by always connecting with God. At the time we diligently build relationships with God and put God above all else, that’s the time we are actually building a solid foundation for our reputation. And at the time we choose to obey the word of God even though for that we will be left behind by people, that’s the time we are actually laying the right foundation for our lives. The foundation is indeed invisible but the foundation greatly determines the strength of whatever is built on it. Foundation will form reputation. Bad foundation means bad reputation. So, prioritize building the true foundation, not just a reputation.
By: Sella Irene – Beautiful Words
Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com (edited with pixlr apps)