Life was simpler when the good guys wore white hats and the bad guys wore black. Every cowboy that walked into a scene was able to be identified immediately by the hat they wore. Wouldn’t life be easier if we could just recognize the good and the bad at a glance.
Actions reflect the man. Saul’s actions would lead to multiple attempts on David’s life. Maybe you have had spears thrown in your direction? Perhaps you were the one throwing them? Chances are, at one time or another, you have been both. It could be that you are living life under the charge of one who is trying to stick you to a wall? Maybe you are the one in charge and wondering if you are in danger of starting to throw spears? The characteristics of a spear thrower can be found in the middle of 1 Samuel 18.
The spear thrower was angry (1 Samuel 18.8). The hebrew word is chara. It is a word that means more than just frustration, or hatred towards someone. Chara is anger ready to act. This type of anger is different for two reasons: (1) It is ready, as it resides just below the surface. Cain was angry (Gen. 4.5) and sin was crouching at his door, ready. Jonah was angry (Jonah 4.1), and it took a mere word from God to bring it out. Like a hedge post that is smoldering, a slight breeze can flare up (chara) into a massive fire. Saul’s anger lived just underneath his skin and not even Jonathan was safe from it (1 Sam 20.30). (2) It acts. Chara makes itself known. When the Lord’s anger is aroused He answers with fire (Num. 11), a plague (Ex. 32.10), a donkey (Num. 22.22), a death (2 Sam. 6.6), and a journey (Num 32.13). Humans answer with a killing (Cain), a beating (Balaam [Num 22.27]), a death wish (Jonah [4.9]), and thrown tablets (Moses [Ex 32.19). For Saul it manifested itself with two spear thrusts (once at David and once at Jonathan [1 Sam 20.30]) Chara always makes itself known. But for what? The first characteristic of a spear thrower is: when they care too much about who gets the credit. What made Saul angry? A simple song declaring that David killed his ten-thousands vs. Saul’s thousands. (1 Samuel 18.7) Have you ever served with, worked with, been related too, or friends with, someone who needed the credit? Their name had to be first, biggest, and brightest? Have you ever needed to be known for your involvement, your name in print, or the praises of men? If you have known or have been, then you know a potential spear thrower!
The spear thrower was galled (1 Samuel 18.8). Literally the hebrew means “saw evil in his eyes” [ra’a b’ayin]. In front of Saul stood a threat to his kingdom. Saul was looking into a future where he would not be the focal point and that really bothered him. “What more can he get but the Kingdom?” Saul wondered to himself. Which brings us to the second characteristic of a spear thrower: When they begin to own something that was never theirs to begin with. Saul had to protect his Kingdom. The pronouns are important. Instead of Saul being charged with the care of God’s people, it became his Kingdom to rule and protect. When it starts being your church, your ministry, your possessions, or your money, as opposed to the ministry you serve, the money God has given, or the things God has blessed you with, you are well on your way to becoming a spear thrower. Saul want to protect his kingdom. David, on the other hand, was “taken” from the pasture to the throne (1 Chronicles 17.7). He was in charge of a Kingdom he never built, in a throne he didn’t own, to do a job he wasn’t worthy of. David knew the true owner and possessor of this Kingdom, Saul though he was it.
The spear-thrower was jealous (1 Samuel 18.9). This is the only time that this word is used in scripture (called a hapex legomena for those that care). Saul “kept a jealous eye” on David. Up to this point David had assuaged Saul with his harp playing, fought battles in his honor and brought victory to his name. He had dined with him and advised him. David was a faithful servant to the King. Now at every dinner Saul had to look cross-eyed across the table at his servant. He double checked everything David did. It takes a conniving person to think everyone is conspiring against them. So Saul kept watch. When they/you start to look at everyone around as a threat, potential usurper, and enemy you’ve got a potential spear thrower on your hands. David knew what Absalom was doing in Hebron (2 Samuel 15.7-9) but refused to look at his son as a threat. The kingdom, after all, belonged to whom God had chosen, therefore, David would not stand in the way. David refused to “keep a jealous eye” towards his son. Saul, however, looked at everyone that way.
Finally, the spear-thrower was afraid (1 Samuel 18.12). Saul’s fear was rooted in two things: 1) the realization that God was with David (v.12) and 2) the success of David made Saul uncomfortable (1 Samuel 18.15). The Hebrew word yare’ [afraid] is supposed to be used in response to God:
- “I was naked and I heard you walking, so I was afraid.” – Adam (Gen. 3)
- “I hid my face because I was too scared to look at God.” – Moses (Ex. 3)
- “Do Job fear you [God] for nothing?” – Satan (Job 1)
It is a word that is meant to be used of men understanding where they stand before a Holy God. For Saul, however, it was a word used to describe his character and his rule. The object of Saul’s fear was not God, but men. Saul was afraid [yare’] of the people (15.24), Goliath (17.11), David (18.12), and the Philistines (28.5). The great leader had become fearful of men. Fear would define him. When the work of God and His people begin to frighten them/you, then you’ve got a potential spear-thrower on your hands. Saul was bothered by God’s chosen servant, David, and God’s chosen direction, movement against the surrounding nations. It can get scary when God’s leaders, start to be afraid of what He is doing and how He is doing it.
All these qualities wrapped Saul’s fingers around a spear and thrust it towards David (1 Sam. 18.11). So what’s your bosses excuse? What is your brother or sister’s excuse? Is a co-worker displaying some of these qualities’? Are you starting to get a “cross-eyed” look from leadership, or a sense of fear from a pastor? What about you? Have you taken census of your own soul? Are you fearing the direction God is going? Are you gripping for something that was never really yours to begin with? Do people alongside you elicit fear every time their name comes up? Do you need your name in lights or a mention on facebook or a shout out in a captioned photo? Where is your heart as your serving? Hoping a picture will get leaked somewhere?
But what happens when you’re the target?
The inspiration for this study came from a fantastic book by Gene Edwards called “A Tale of Three Kings”