There have been those men in history who are known primarily for their over indulgence and selfish ambition. While well known because of their ambition, history has not been kind to them because of their blatant disregard for the quality of life of those upon whose backs they climbed to their positions of power.
Ruthlessness often has its short-term rewards—money, fame, respect. That’s generally possible because of the you-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours principle. There are so many influential people who put their own interests above others, it has always been fairly easy for an unprincipled leader to successfully snooker the common people with their assistance in promoting lies and false security.
Sometimes leaders start out principled, but selfish ambition takes over later on. Unfortunately, there are always those opportunists who foster that success at any cost with a complete disregard for the wellbeing of those people who should matter.
History usually uncovers the rest of the story, but generally to a generation who has no vested interest. When so many people are complicit in a cover up, it is difficult to get to the actual truth of a matter in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, even historians are often affected by political bias.
In our daily reading schedule on , we are looking at the life of King Saul of Israel. Saul was a man who began out with apparently a heart for God and good motivations, but was corrupted by selfish ambition. He began his leadership career with a desire to serve the people of Israel, but lapsed into the self indulgent leadership style which history treats unkindly.
Saul forgot the God who had made him successful. Well, it’s not that he forgot; he deliberately turned his back on God. Saul mercilessly eliminated anyone he perceived as a threat to his authority. It was fortunate for Israel that God raised up King David in Saul’s stead. What David did not realize after being picked and anointed by Samuel to be the successor to Saul, was what a tough road was ahead to the throne. It took many years of being on the run from King Saul for David to ascend to the undisputed position of King of Israel.
The Bible says of David that he was “a man after God’s own heart.” Saul, on the other hand, was a man dedicated to promoting Saul. Our Biblical account of Saul’s life in I Samuel reveals to us that Saul was a ruthless man—started out right, but turned very, very ruthless. Ironically, many of Saul’s contemporaries were not privy to Saul’s God-rejecting wickedness. However, the biblical record exposes the side of Saul that I’m certain he hoped no one would ever see.
You know what’s particularly ironic about the life of Saul? Like many of our Bible heroes, God’s purposes were accomplished through the self-serving, God-rejecting legacy of King Saul despite his motivations. He was a warrior king who was completely comfortable with the principle that the end justifies the means. Even though it was his own success that was of most interest to him, the tactics he employed did move Israel into a position of eventual prosperity under his successor (David) as a result of this ruthless king’s efforts.
If it’s any consolation, history will one day uncover the truth with regard to those who leave a large footprint.
Pastor Wayne Turner of Fayette Bible Church in Fayetteville, Georgia is also the author of Bible Track, an online daily Bible-reading schedule and commentary which may be accessed at http://www.bibletrack.org.