The Editor’s Desk By Shawn McMullen
Saul was not a perfect ruler. It didn’t take him long to succumb to arrogance, jealousy, and anger. Still, he did a few things right in his early days as Israel’s first king.
He displayed an admirable humility when the prophet Samuel anointed him (1 Samuel 9:21). And he demonstrated a gentle spirit of forgiveness when insulted by a group of discontented subjects.
When chosen by lot to lead the nation, Saul was nowhere to be found—until he was discovered hiding among the supplies (10:20-23). When their new king was brought out and presented to the people, many shouted, “Long live the king!” (v. 24). But a group identified only as “scoundrels” objected. “How can this fellow save us?” they asked. In addition, “They despised him and brought him no gifts” (v. 27).
Talk about raining on Saul’s parade! On a day that should have been a day of great celebration for all Israel, and especially for the new king, already a band of malcontents was forming—and they weren’t keeping quiet about it.
How did the new king take the insult? The Bible simply says, “But Saul kept silent” (v. 27).
Not long after this the residents of Jabesh Gilead appealed to Israel for protection against Nahash the Ammonite, who was besieging their city. When the news reached Saul, “the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him” (11:6). He rallied Israel’s warriors and defeated Nahash and his army.
When the dust from the battle had settled, the people of Israel asked Samuel, “Who was it that asked, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Turn these men over to us that we may put them to death” (v. 12). But Saul graciously responded, “No one will be put to death today, for this day the Lord has rescued Israel” (v. 13).
In this series of events Saul modeled two important principles of forgiveness.
First, he shows us that forgiveness doesn’t always require an explanation. At times it is best conveyed by silence. The writer of Proverbs observed, “Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult” (Proverbs 12:16). Paul reminds us, “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). Dying to the world means dying to its weaknesses. When we’re no longer slaves to self-promotion and self-protection, we’re not easily affected by slights and insults. Taking it a step further, we not only resist retaliation when insulted, we no longer have the desire to retaliate.
On the other hand, as Saul demonstrated, there are times when an explanation is helpful in the act of forgiveness. In publicly forgiving—and protecting—those who had previously insulted him, Saul honored God as their deliverer and set a positive example for the nation. When you sense that discussing your motivations for forgiving will bring glory to God and show others how to forgive “as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13), you should feel free to talk about it.
Sometimes we’ll offer forgiveness by holding our tongues. At other times we’ll provide an explanation for God’s sake and for those around us. Whatever course we choose, the most important thing is that we forgive.