When David had fled and made his escape, he went to Samuel at Ramah and told him all that Saul had done to him. Then he and Samuel went to Naioth and stayed there. Word came to Saul: "David is in Naioth at Ramah"; so he sent men to capture him. But when they saw a group of prophets prophesying, with Samuel standing there as their leader, the Spirit of God came upon Saul's men and they also prophesied. Saul was told about it, and he sent more men, and they prophesied too. Saul sent men a third time, and they also prophesied. Finally, he himself left for Ramah and went to the great cistern at Secu. And he asked, "Where are Samuel and David?"
"Over in Naioth at Ramah," they said.
So Saul went to Naioth at Ramah. But the Spirit of God came even upon him, and he walked along prophesying until he came to Naioth. He stripped off his robes and also prophesied in Samuel's presence. He lay that way all that day and night. This is why people say, "Is Saul also among the prophets?" (1 Samuel 19:18-24).
Saul has not been a very good king. He has not shown much of an interest in the things of God, except when he has been in trouble and calls upon God for help. The prophet Samuel has informed Saul that God has rejected him as king, and while he still sits upon the throne of Israel, David has already been anointed as his successor.
First Samuel 19 recounts one of several occasions when Saul attempts to kill David. David flees to Naioth, but it is not long before spies report his whereabouts to Saul. Saul sends some men to capture him, but the plans of God are much larger than the plans of any earthly king, even the king of God's people. As the men approach, the Spirit comes upon them and they begin to prophesy. When Saul hears of this, he is too determined to be deterred. Two more times, he sends men to bring David back, but they too fail to complete the mission as the Spirit falls upon them as well. Apparently, God is even more determined.
In frustration, no doubt, Saul decides to go himself; and even Saul-- the king rejected by God, the monarch trying to kill God's next king, the man who refuses to let go of his throne even though Samuel has told him that God has taken it from him-- this Saul begins to prophesy as well, as the Spirit comes upon him. The experience is so powerful, so out from under Saul's control, that he strips off his robes, and lays naked on the ground all day and night, prophesying. What a sight this must have been!
When I think about this story, I wonder whether the power of the Spirit is something I want. Here is the mighty King Saul reduced to a naked blitherer laying on the ground for all to see! Do I truly desire for the Spirit to get ahold of me and to have his way with me?
The temptation to domesticate God is strong. We say we are willing for the Spirit to use us, but are we willing to be used by the Spirit in ways we do not expect? We like the imagery of the Spirit gently nudging us in a certain direction, wooing us toward God, but are we open to the possibility that the Spirit instead may grab us by the scruff of the neck and throw us into a place or into a situation we do not desire? We meditatively sing, "There's a sweet, sweet Spirit in this place." What happens when the music turns dissonant and God startles us to attention with the clanging cymbals of a Spirit that does not gently lead, but pushes us where we do not wish to go?
I try to imagine King Saul laying on the ground in the buff and proclaiming the things of God with no control of his own, and I ask myself, "Do I really want the Spirit to come upon me?"
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I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)