PLAYING THE FOOL
Have you ever played the fool? King Saul described himself as hav ing 'played the fool' when he looked back on how he had behaved with his loyal subject David (1Sam.26:21 KJV). Saul had to come to that conclusion because he had manifested a total lack of discernment about the sincerity of the godly, and the sovereignty of God.
Saul had not dreamt of being a king. He had an inferiority complex. When Samuel indicated that Saul had been chosen to be the king of Israel, Saul's response was that he was a nobody (9:21). Seems a bit silly and futile to say that to God's prophet, who was announcing what God Himself had planned. As Saul went back home, everything that Samuel had predicted had happened, even the fantastic experience of coming under the power of God's Spirit and prophesying (10:9-11). Still, when Samuel turned up at his home to announce that God had chosen Saul, he hid himself (v.22). That was how reluctant he was to shoulder the responsibility of leading a nation. His behaviour made some troublemakers ask whether such a man could save the nation (v.27). After the anointing had taken place, incredibly, Saul went back to farming (11:5).
Saul finally rose to the task when confronted by an enemy nation threatening an Israeli city (vv.6-11). When he returned victorious, his supporters wanted to punish the troublemakers, but Saul was magnanimous and said that no one would be punished because the Lord had given the nation its salvation (vv.12-13).
Exceeding The Limits
Up to that point, Saul had shown proper humility. But being king did go to his head thereafter. He lost his 'sense of proportion' and began to exceed the limits of his kingship.
Saul had to go into battle with an enemy nation. When Samuel didn't come in time to bless their campaign, Saul took things into his own hands by not waiting for God's prophet and assuming the role of God's prophet (13:7-10).
Saul forgot that he had been anointed king of the people, but that in God's court he was not king; he too was just one of the people. Gentile nations believed that their kings were demigods to be worshipped. Not so with Israel. Their king had no authority in the tent of worship. In the tent of worship, only the man of God dedicated to worshipful activity had authority to function as the intermediary between God and His people. Saul exceeded his authority and brought his kingship into play in the presence of God.
Saul's excuse was that his army was beginning to disband (vv.11-12). Gone was the Saul who had attributed the earlier victory to God. Gone was the dependence on God and instead, his behaviour suggested that Israel's salvation depended on him. Saul wasn't willing to wait for God to choose the moment to act. He would take things into his own hands and proceed. He was going ahead and God's prophet could follow whenever he wanted to.
Defying The Lord's Order
Next Saul flouted a clear order. God had ordered that nothing was to be saved from the battle. Everything would be dedicated and consigned to the flames like a great big sacrifice to God (1Sam.15:3). Instead, Saul led his soldiers in saving the best and he was partial to the enemy king. They burnt up only what no one wanted (v.9). When confronted, Saul pretended devotion was the reason for saving the best of the enemy's possessions: he said that they had saved them to sacrifice to God (v.15). This was patently false, because the total destruction was itself the sacrifice to reflect total devotion to God.
Samuel said then, "What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to His voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams" (v.22, NLT; cf. Isa.1:11-16; Jer.6:20; 7:21).
His disobedience left Saul disturbed internally. The Lord's Spirit left him, and he was tormented by a demonic spirit (1Sam.16:14-15).
When people give up their faith in God, they become tormented souls. Just as nature doesn't allow a vacuum to exist, there cannot be a vacuum in the spiritual realm. The space emptied by God gets taken over by demons. When people leave God, they become open to occupancy by evil spirits. That is what happened to Saul.
Our Lord told a story about an evil spirit being cast out and rendered homeless. It kept searching for a place to stay, until its wanderings brought it back to the space it had been thrown out of. The evil spirit discovered that the space was still vacant. The soul that had been liberated from being possessed by the evil spirit had not bothered to fill up the emptiness. The evil spirit quickly repossessed the space along with a bunch of its friends. The Lord said that the last state of that soul was worse than its first state of being possessed by one spirit (Matt.12:43-45).
In Saul's disturbed state, he was not able to recognise his own friend. Even though David had joined Saul's service earlier to be a personal attendant who would soothe and heal his disturbed state with gentle music (1Sam.16:21-23), he is unable to recognise David when David showed that he was a very brave soul (17:55-57). Blinded by his envy of David (18:6-9), Saul tried to kill David at the very time when David was doing him good with his music (vv.10-11). Saul then plotted David's death by sending him on a very dangerous mission (vv.17-29) and kept on trying again and again to murder David. Even after David had spared his life (24:1-22), Saul was unable to discern loyalty when he saw it in David. In the end, he lost the services of his most loyal servant (27:1-2).
Another Loses Sanity
One aspect of Saul's lack of discernment was that of his not discerning the sovereignty of God. From time to time, he did manifest an awareness of it (18:28-29; 24:20-21), but he didn't go beyond the awareness to submit to the Lord's sovereignty. Instead, he kept bucking God's authority again and again. Having had a taste of power, he was not ready to give it up even at the Lord's command.
Beware of power. It not only corrupts the soul in its relationships and dealings, but it also stands defiant before the Lord God Himself, because power sees itself as power. Within its own circle, power is absolute and defies the sovereignty of God. That is what happened to Nebuchadnezzar.
God gave Nebuchadnezzar a vision of the future of generations to come. He sensed that this dream was different from all the meaningless ones he had shared with his wise men allowing their silly interpretations to amuse him. So, unlike at other times, he refused to tell the wise men his dream. He figured that if they really could discover the meaning of a dream, they ought to be able to discover the dream itself. His wise men assured him that they could come up with an interpretation for his dream, if they were told the dream. But Nebuchadnezzar was determined to safeguard against fraud.
When the order to kill the wise men went out, Daniel and his friends prayed for God's revelation. The dream was revealed to Daniel and he told the king that the dream was about four empires, starting with Nebuchadnezzar (Dan.2). Even though Daniel's interpretation made it clear that ultimately Nebuchadnezzar and all other earthly powers would be displaced by the last king, Nebuchadnezzar decided to honour himself by erecting a huge statue of himself to be worshipped. He forgot that the displacement order had already been given from heaven.
When Daniel's friends refused to give in to the command to worship the king's image, Nebuchadnezzar should have remembered that he was not the main point of the dream. He should have backed off from demanding to be worshipped. After seeing God's intervention, rescuing Daniel's friends from the fiery death, Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged God's greatness and power (ch.3), but otherwise, continued to ignore all that God's servant had taught him.
God tried to reach Nebuchadnezzar a second time with a dream. It was a disturbing dream with weird images, a tree trunk that had the mind of a man, and that mind becoming like an animal's. This time, the wise men didn't try to interpret the dream, knowing that the king would see through their falsehoods. Daniel gave warning that doom was coming, but the king, while honouring Daniel as the man who could interpret dreams, continued to enjoy his power as though God didn't matter. The dream happened. Nebuchadnezzar became insane for seven years as predicted. Healing and the return to sanity came only with Nebuchadnezzar acknowledging God to be God (ch.4).
Coming To Oneself
In the story of the prodigal son, we see the younger son insanely asking for his share while the father was alive. No one inherits while the original owner is still around. He mistook the father's kindness and generosity for his own craftiness.
The man went as far as he could to get away from all the influences of his home. As long as he had the means to ply people with food and drinks and have a good time, he was surrounded by fair-weather friends. When the means were gone, the friends were gone. No one would give him a helping hand when he needed it, and he ended up looking after pigs. He was so desperate that he tried to live on pig's food. That is when he came to himself (Lk.15:17 KJV).
The young man had thought that he could find happiness far from his father, his home, and all the godly influences in his life. He let himself go. He thought he was enjoying himself. In the end, it was the memory of his father and his home that helped him retrace the steps till he found himself once again in his father's home. Thank God for the godly influences in your life. Their memory may one day save you when you wander off. They will serve in bringing you back to your spiritual home.
The prodigal youth did not have the discernment to see that bad friends could not be good friends. They don't know how to be friends. They are not in it for your good. Sometimes, we too fool ourselves with such people, imagining that they are our friends. They are not friends, but those who only want a good time all the time.
The rule of thumb that the prodigal discovered is that any friendship that requires us to do a one-sided spending of all of our worldly goods is not friendship. Any relationship based on possessions is not a relationship.
The prodigal son came to himself: that was when he came to his senses. He knew he had to go back to his father whom he had hurt with his demand for his share as though he wished the father was already dead. He knew he had hurt his father by going away and he knew it was time to end the exile and return home even with a sense of unworthiness. It was foolish to have gone away. It would be foolish to stay away after coming to one's senses. It would be foolish not to recognise that it is time to go home.
While the prodigal came to himself, our Lord taught about two who were fools to the end. One thought it foolish to waste time on foundations. He believed in quick results and proud displays of how quick he was in achieving his aims, while another was plodding along slowly and painstakingly, laying a foundation in rock. The foolish build on shifting sands. The wise build on rock. Both superstructures look the same, until the storms come. It is then that the structure built on rock shows its solidity (Matt.7:24-27).
The second fool thought that planning his life was all important. His plans were great, and he had bigger and better plans. He thought that all he planned was all that mattered. Sounds like one of us, doesn't it? The man made all the plans for this life, and none for the next. God looked down from heaven, shook His head and whispered, "You fool. Tonight when your soul is required to appear before Me, who will all that belong to?" (Lk.12:16-21).
We do not have all the time in the world. We have so very little time. If we had all eternity to make up our minds and take decisions, then we could delay the moment when we must stop playing the fool. But we don't have all eternity for that. The time to stop playing the fool is now.