Why Did the Holy Spirit Depart From King Saul?

Calvinism is still alive and well in the world. John Calvin, Calvinism’s founder, may be long gone to his reward, but Calvinism and its so-called “biblical” teachings still exist. Before you prepare to laugh at Calvinism and its adherents and tell yourself, “I’m not Calvinist,” you may find yourself surprised at the fact that many modern-day Christians are Calvinists. “How,” you ask? The answer is found in the church’s majority position on Eternal Security. The first 600 years of church history, including the apostles’ age in the church after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, existed without any teaching on the Doctrine of Eternal Security. If you hold to Eternal Security, or Calvin’s view of Perseverance of the Saints, congratulations: you hold to the fifth tenet of “TULIP” (“P” stands for “Perseverance of the Saints”).

Calvin’s fifth tenet of the system that bears his name stands for “Perseverance of the Saints,” but the nomenclature gives the assumption that those who oppose Calvin do not hold to it. That’s simply not true. Rather, one should understand that Calvin’s doctrine is that he argues for unconditional perseverance (a perseverance that isn’t based on faith or anything else) while others such as Arminians argue for a conditiona l perseverance — that is, one must persevere in faith.

When it comes to Calvin and Calvinism, there’s always been one passage that proves to be a conundrum: that is, the statement in 1 Samuel 16:14 where we’re told that “the Holy Spirit departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him.” This is a verse that few Calvinists discuss; not even John Calvin touched the subject of the Holy Spirit leaving Saul in his Institutes of the Christian Religion. Calvin says there that God was right to depart from Saul, but some pages earlier, he says that Saul was God’s chosen man to be king. How “Saul is God’s chosen” and “God was right to depart from Saul” fit together is anyone’s guess, but Calvinism, in particular, has no answer for it.

There’s rationale behind why Calvinism can’t reconcile the Holy Spirit departing from elect Saul with its TULIP doctrine: it can’t be reconciled! If the Lord picks and chooses certain individuals, as He picked Saul, then how can He depart from that individual unless He’s a cruel God who uses people, then tosses them? Calvin believed that God could give “teasing grace,” then “abandon them and smite them with greater blindness,” he said when referring to those who are saved for a short time, then fall away. And yet, few of us believe that God gives teasing grace; either God gives it or not.

Saul was God’s chosen, this no one denies. But the question comes down to, “If Saul was chosen, why would God abandon him? Why does the Holy Spirit depart from Saul?” It’s clear that the Holy Spirit’s departure for Saul is the divine judgment, since Saul gets an evil spirit from the Lord afterwards. The New King James says the word is “distressing” instead of “evil,” but the Greek word poneros doesn’t deceive here.

In this article, we’ll provide an answer to this question by looking at both Saul and David. David succeeds Saul, but David is key to helping us understand what happens to Saul. Saul sins and the Holy Spirit departs; David sins, but the Holy Spirit remains. Why the disparity in the divine judgment between Saul and David?

There is an answer. We’ll get to it. First, let’s examine the circumstances surrounding Saul’s sin and the departure of the Holy Spirit.

Saul’s Second Recorded Sin

Samuel also said to Saul, “The Lord sent me to anoint you king over His people, over Israel. Now therefore, heed the voice of the words of the Lord. 2 Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt. 3 Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’ ”

4 So Saul gathered the people together and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand foot soldiers and ten thousand men of Judah. 5 And Saul came to a city of Amalek, and lay in wait in the valley.

6 Then Saul said to the Kenites, “Go, depart, get down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them. For you showed kindness to all the children of Israel when they came up out of Egypt.” So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites. 7 And Saul attacked the Amalekites, from Havilah all the way to Shur, which is east of Egypt. 8 He also took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. 9 But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed. (1 Samuel 15:1-9, NKJV)

The Lord told Saul to “utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them” (1 Samuel 15:3), but Saul spares King Agag and the best of the animals and possessions, in direct violation of the divine command. This is Saul’s second recorded sin in Scripture; his first was to offer the sacrifice at Gilgal instead of waiting seven days for Samuel, as the prophet had told him (1 Samuel 13:1-14).

Once again, Saul has disobeyed the divine commandment. Instead of obeying God and killing everything, Saul did what he believed “was right in his own eyes”: he killed the worthless items and spared the best.

The Lord’s response to Saul’s sin is that the Lord regrets making Saul king:

10 Now the word of the Lord came to Samuel, saying, 11 “I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments.” And it grieved Samuel, and he cried out to the Lord all night. 12 So when Samuel rose early in the morning to meet Saul, it was told Samuel, saying, “Saul went to Carmel, and indeed, he set up a monument for himself; and he has gone on around, passed by, and gone down to Gilgal.” 13 Then Samuel went to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed are you of the Lord! I have performed the commandment of the Lord.” (1 Samuel 15:10-13)

The Lord said “I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments” (v.11). God says that Saul has “turned back from following Me.” In other words, “Saul was once with Me; Saul was once a follower of Mine. When I made Saul king, Saul was godly. He obeyed My voice, he listened to Me and performed my commandments. But over time, Saul has changed; he isn’t the same man anymore that he was when I made him king over Israel.” This is a paraphrase of what God says in that one sentence in verse 11, but it shows that Saul wasn’t always evil. If Saul had been forever evil, God would never have made Saul king in the first place. Why would He have Samuel tell Saul “the Lord is with you” (1 Samuel 10:7) if Saul was evil from the start? How could God say “he has turned back from following Me” (1 Samuel 15:11) if Saul never followed God at all?

God regrets making Saul king because Saul has apostatized. In just three short years, Saul, once a godly man, has become ungodly. How do we know? First, God’s words tell us so. Saul turned away from who he was originally. The sad part is that the text tells us in 1 Samuel 10 that “God gave him another heart” (1 Samuel 10:9). Saul was regenerate, had been “changed” or transformed by the Lord. And yet, we find this regenerate king apostatizing from God. How does a regenerate person apostatize from God?

Wait. This question above demands that we pause to accept something: that is, that a man or woman can be regenerate and yet, apostatize and fall away from God. But if you’re an eternal securitist who espouses the Doctrine of Eternal Security, “this never happens. Those who fall away were never saved to begin with.” The phrase “never saved to begin with” is a phrase I wish we’d toss out of our minds, hearts, and lips because it isn’t applicable for everyone who falls away from salvation and Christ. What it proves to be for us is a psychological comfort that insulates us from the truth about our salvation and apostasy. Believing that Saul was “never saved to begin with” makes us feel as though we are spiritually invincible to sin and its out-of-control spiraling, but it does little to deliver the truth.

Saul was regenerate in 1 Samuel 10, but within 5 chapters, we discover that this regenerate, “elect” king (yes, I’m using Calvinism’s favorite word, elect) has apostatized from God and no longer performs God’s commandments. There are more clues in 1 Samuel 15 of Saul’s apostasy, such as the one below:

12 So when Samuel rose early in the morning to meet Saul, it was told Samuel, saying, “Saul went to Carmel, and indeed, he set up a monument for himself; and he has gone on around, passed by, and gone down to Gilgal.” (1 Samuel 15:12)

The word for “monument” is “he has built something by his own hand for himself,” a statue being the likely choice here. Whatever it was, Saul built it by his own hand for himself. In other words, Saul was so consumed with himself that before he went to do what God commanded him to do, he was occupied with his own self-glorifying monument. Saul wasn’t only egotistical and narcissistic at this point; he was also apostate, and happily so!

When Saul sees Samuel the next morning, he pretends as though nothing has happened:

13 Then Samuel went to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed are you of the Lord! I have performed the commandment of the Lord.”

14 But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?”

15 And Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen, to sacrifice to the Lord your God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.”

16 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Be quiet! And I will tell you what the Lord said to me last night.”

And he said to him, “Speak on.”

17 So Samuel said, “When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel? And did not the Lord anoint you king over Israel? 18 Now the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go, and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ 19 Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do evil in the sight of the Lord?”

20 And Saul said to Samuel, “But I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me, and brought back Agag king of Amalek; I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. 21 But the people took of the plunder, sheep and oxen, the best of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.” (1 Samuel 15:13-21)

The Lord told Saul as king to kill every person and destroy every possession. Instead of doing that, Saul killed everyone except King Agag and kept the best of the possessions. When he is confronted, instead of taking responsibility as the nation’s leader, he blames the people instead: “the people spared the best of the sheep” (1 Samuel 15:15), “the people took of the plunder, sheep and oxen, the best of the things which should have been utterly destroyed” (1 Samuel 15:21). “The people” did this, “the people” did that, Saul said. Do you see the problem here? Saul has built a monument to himself because he’s so full of himself; yet, when he’s called out about his sin, he’d rather blame the people than accept personal responsibility as Israel’s king. The sound of the sheep in Samuel’s ear is a testimony to Saul’s disobedience, but again, he blames the people.

There’s something else about the excerpt above worth pointing out: that is, Samuel never calls the Lord “the Lord my God,” but instead, “the Lord your God” when he’s talking to Samuel (1 Samuel 15:15, 21). Samuel doesn’t call the Lord his God, but rather, “your” God, the word “your” implying that “God may be your God, but he isn’t mine.” When we read that God tells Samuel that “he has turned back from following Me,” God is saying, in effect, that Saul has given up God. God is Samuel’s God, but He is not Saul’s God. Saul has abandoned Him, so Saul responds to Samuel with, “your God.” David had no problem with calling the Lord “My God” (Psalm 5:2; 7:1, 3; 18:2, 6, 21, 28, 29; Psalm 22:1, 2, 10; 25:2; 31:14; 35:23-24, etc.).

The Lord through Samuel asks Saul an important question: “When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel?” (1 Samuel 15:17) Saul was once “little in his own eyes,” but, as the monument at Carmel Saul built reminds us, those days were gone; the Saul who was once little in his own eyes is now the Saul so full of himself that he can’t even recognize how far he’s fallen before God. And then, to see Saul claim that he had “performed the commandment of the Lord” is even further proof of just how spiritually lost Saul was.

Samuel’s words to Saul about the sacrifice are worth considering:

22 So Samuel said:

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,

As in obeying the voice of the Lord?

Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,

And to heed than the fat of rams.

23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,

And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.

Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,

He also has rejected you from being king.” (1 Samuel 15:22-23)

The Pharisees should have had to read 1 Samuel 15 and discover how wrong they were. When the Pharisee in the temple boasts of his religiosity and then compares himself to the publican (tax collector), he forgot that all his “offerings,” whether burnt or otherwise, mean little if he disobeys the Lord. Samuel asks Saul a question here: “Do you really think God prioritizes the burnt offering above obedience to Him?” This is a serious question, because it shatters the basic understanding of the law that the Pharisees had. They believed that the routine and ritual were godly, but the Lord prioritized obedience and walking with God above all. In other words, someone who offers a burnt offering (like Saul) that doesn’t obey Him isn’t any better than someone who never offers a burnt offering.

Samuel asks Saul a question as an indictment against him. Taking possessions that God has said He didn’t want, possessions that He wanted destroyed, then offering them to God doesn’t compensate for someone’s disobedience. In the case of Saul, his burnt offering to God or offering the forbidden possessions wouldn’t change the fact that he disobeyed God. God cannot be bought. He isn’t a “Judas,” someone that will jump at something when money or possessions are given and forget His law. God cannot be bribed, He cannot be “swayed” from righteousness, justice, or His Law. What Samuel tells Saul is that God desires obedience above all else. And Saul disobeyed above all else, thus incurring divine wrath.

“Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams,” the Lord says through Samuel to Saul in 1 Samuel 15:22. To obey God is better than offering a sacrifice. To obey God, to “heed” the Lord and listen to His words, is better than “the fat of rams.” What God is saying is that, even if you give rams and their fat (the fat was the choicest portion of the animals that was reserved for God when an offering was given), it doesn’t undo one’s disobedience if he or she disobeys.

23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,

And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.

Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,

He also has rejected you from being king.” (1 Samuel 15:23)

“Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.” In the eyes of the Lord, to rebel against God is no different than if one committed witchcraft. In other words, God hates rebellion against Him as much as He hates witchcraft. Stubbornness “is as iniquity and idolatry.” To be stubborn is no different than sin (iniquity) and idolatry. To sin is to commit idolatry because, when someone sins, he or she chooses to go his or her own way instead of God’s way. To seek anyone or anything outside of God, including ourselves, is idolatry. It is no different than the Israelites bowing before the golden calf, or a statue made of stone or wood. When one consults anyone or anything outside of God, when one is egotistical, as Saul was (building a monument to himself), this is idolatry. Saul spent more time focusing on his monument than he did listening to and obeying the word of the Lord.

Rebellion and failure to listen to God are just as bad as witchcraft and idolatry, the Lord says. This doesn’t fit with our modern-day sensitivities in the church. We, like the Pharisees, have put a hierarchy on sin: “murder is one of the worst,” adultery isn’t as bad, telling a ‘small’ lie is not as bad,” we say. We have a list of sins that we characterize as “okay” and “terrible.” The church has become such a place where sins are “graded,” where homosexuality is the “worst” while the Pastor sleeping with the Deacon’s wife or daughter is “not as bad because at least he’s heterosexual.” But in the eyes of the Lord, sin is sin is sin. There is no grading scale of sin in His eyes. Only in our humanity is it okay to say “this sin is not as bad as this.” God’s ways and thoughts are different from ours, the Lord tells us (Isaiah 55:8-9).

We distinguish between sins, but the Lord says that all sin is idolatry and witchcraft. Many Christians believe they are better than those who practice witchcraft, than those who bow down to statues, and do other sins, but God’s Word says that we aren’t any better. If we’re so busy pointing fingers at others and condemning them for their sin, then we’re cognizant of our own sin before God. If we realize how offensive the sin of others is to God, and we know we have sin in our lives too, then clearly, we’re aware of how heinous our sin is to God.

24 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. 25 Now therefore, please pardon my sin, and return with me, that I may worship the Lord.”

26 But Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you, for you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.”

27 And as Samuel turned around to go away, Saul seized the edge of his robe, and it tore. 28 So Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. 29 And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor relent. For He is not a man, that He should relent.”

30 Then he said, “I have sinned; yet honor me now, please, before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, that I may worship the Lord your God.” 31 So Samuel turned back after Saul, and Saul worshiped the Lord. (1 Samuel 15:24-31)

In verse 24, Saul says “I have sinned…I feared the people and obeyed their voice.” Saul realized he’d sinned, that he’d transgressed God’s law and command, but he wanted to look good in the eyes of the people. He “feared the people” above God, to the point where it didn’t bother him to disobey God. This is how far Saul had fallen: to the point where he feared the people more than God, and was consumed with himself instead of being consumed with the things of God.

Samuel delivers the sad news to Saul that the Lord had rejected him from being king. At this point, we see God remove the kingship. Saul told him that the Lord had rejected him, had found someone else He’d give the kingdom to: The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor relent. For He is not a man, that He should relent” (1 Samuel 15:28-29). The Lord made His decision to strip Saul of the kingship, and that was it. God had made His decision; there wouldn’t be a renegotiation. Even after Samuel knew that Saul was evil, he still mourned for him. He mourned Saul after God’s decision, and he mourned Saul after delivering the sad news.

There are many who would never have guessed the Lord would eliminate someone from the kingship, but it was His sovereign right to give it and take it from ungodly Saul.

After the message that God had rejected Saul as king was delivered, the text says that Samuel went his own way:

34 Then Samuel went to Ramah, and Saul went up to his house at Gibeah of Saul. 35 And Samuel went no more to see Saul until the day of his death. Nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul, and the Lord regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel. (1 Samuel 15:34-35)

Samuel went back to his home. Saul went to “Gibeah of Saul,” a place name that perhaps indicates that Gibeah was named after Saul in honor of Saul. This is the same Saul that built a monument at Carmel to himself. What we see here is that after Samuel delivers the gloomy news and the end of Saul’s kingship, he goes to his place and “went no more to see Saul until the day of his death. Nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul, and the Lord regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel” (1 Samuel 15:34-35). Samuel did not visit Saul again, seeing that Samuel died before Saul did. Saul went to a witch at Endor to consult her about conjuring up Samuel so that he could inquire about the Israelite battle against the Philistines (1 Samuel 28:3-19). Samuel still mourned for Saul, though.

Samuel’s mourning for Saul before he delivered the divine rejection to Saul and after, shows us a man who loved God and loved His people. Saul brought the divine rejection on himself, not God, Samuel, nor anyone else. And yet, Samuel still mourned for him because of what Saul lost. Saul was Israel’s first king, and Saul’s family line could’ve stayed on the throne if he had obeyed God. Saul threw it all away because he would rather build monuments to himself than obey God. Three years in, the power is what got to Saul. He was overwhelmed with all the power he had come into, rather than remember why he was there in the first place.

It is in the following chapter that we see the Holy Spirit depart from the life of Saul:

14 But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the Lord troubled him. 15 And Saul’s servants said to him, “Surely, a distressing spirit from God is troubling you. 16 Let our master now command your servants, who are before you, to seek out a man who is a skillful player on the harp. And it shall be that he will play it with his hand when the distressing spirit from God is upon you, and you shall be well.”

17 So Saul said to his servants, “Provide me now a man who can play well, and bring him to me.”

18 Then one of the servants answered and said, “Look, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a mighty man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a handsome person; and the Lord is with him.”

19 Therefore Saul sent messengers to Jesse, and said, “Send me your son David, who is with the sheep.” 20 And Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, a skin of wine, and a young goat, and sent them by his son David to Saul. 21 So David came to Saul and stood before him. And he loved him greatly, and he became his armorbearer. 22 Then Saul sent to Jesse, saying, “Please let David stand before me, for he has found favor in my sight.” 23 And so it was, whenever the spirit from God was upon Saul, that David would take a harp and play it with his hand. Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him. (1 Samuel 16:14-23)

In 1 Samuel 16:14, the Holy Spirit departs from Saul. God had rejected Saul from the kingship, but nowhere were we told that the Holy Spirit was connected to the consequences of Saul’s sin. And yet, we see the Holy Spirit depart from his life. Why did the Holy Spirit depart from King Saul?

Why Did the Holy Spirit Depart From King Saul?

The Holy Spirit departed from Saul. This is fact. And yet, the question remains as to why it happened.

One theory proposed behind the departure of the Holy Spirit from Saul pertains to the kingship. I’ve heard it said that Saul lost the Holy Spirit because God rejected him from the kingship. But that presumes that the Holy Spirit in those days was tied to the kingship. The idea is false for a few reasons.

First, there were many who had the Spirit of the Lord come upon them that weren’t kings. The Spirit of the Lord came “upon” someone when He wanted them to do a unique task. Not everyone served as a king, so clearly, the Lord was present in the lives of non-kings. Saul wasn’t the only one in Israel at that time that had the Spirit of God. Samuel, the prophet, is an example of a non-king who had the Spirit of God.

Other evidence that seems to deny the idea that only kings had the Holy Spirit is that Scripture says that even the wicked wilderness generation had the Holy Spirit at one time:

7 I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the Lord, and the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord hath bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which he hath bestowed on them according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of his lovingkindnesses.

8 For he said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie: so he was their Saviour.

9 In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.

10 But they rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them.

11 Then he remembered the days of old, Moses, and his people, saying, Where is he that brought them up out of the sea with the shepherd of his flock? where is he that put his holy Spirit within him? (Isaiah 63:7-11, KJV)

What we see here is that, according to Isaiah 63, Israel was God’s people. The name “Isra’el” means “God contended” or “May God prevail.” This is why God refers to Israel as “My people, who are called by my name” (2 Chronicles 7:14). In Isaiah 63:10, we read that “they…vexed his Holy Spirit.” The Israelites could not have vexed a Holy Spirit they didn’t have. Thus, to vex the Holy Spirit means that God’s presence was among them. The Israelites weren’t kings (the kingship didn’t even exist among them at the time), yet they had the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence. In the New King James translation of Isaiah 63:11, the text says that “he put His Holy Spirit within them,” referring to God placing the Holy Spirit within the Israelites as opposed to the KJV’s reference to God placing His Spirit within Moses. In either case, the Holy Spirit rested within Moses and the Wilderness Generation (at first).

Lastly, and this is worth saying: Saul was only rejected from being king because of his turning away from God, his apostasy. As God told Samuel, “he [Saul] has turned back from following Me.” Saul’s loss of the kingship had everything to do with his spiritual condition: a man who was more concerned about building a monument to himself, then disobeying God by deeming the best of the sheep, oxen, and possessions worth keeping instead of destroying everything. And then, Saul believed that he had kept the commandment of the Lord even though he hadn’t and thought he could offer up the possessions as a sacrifice to the Lord — though God didn’t want any of it. When someone says that the Holy Spirit departed from Saul because he lost the kingship, that simply isn’t true; rather, by apostatizing in his walk with the Lord, Saul walked away from the Holy Spirit. In turn, the Holy Spirit departed from Saul and the kingship, designated only for someone after God’s own heart, was subsequently taken from him. God only chose kings who followed Him; Saul was no longer a God-follower and thus, was no longer fit or worthy to be king.

It’s because Saul turned back from following God that the Lord sent Samuel to tell Saul that God rejected him from being king. Samuel’s exact words were the following:

Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,

He also has rejected you from being king.” (1 Samuel 15:23)

“Because you have rejected the word of the Lord” says it all. Saul was regenerate, but there was no irresistible grace at play. Saul used his power to choose to disobey the Lord willingly. That’s why Saul lost the kingship. And that is why Saul also lost the Holy Spirit’s presence in his life. He abandoned the Holy Spirit long before the Holy Spirit abandoned him. Anyone more consumed with building monuments of themselves in their own honor and sparing possessions because they deem them “worth keeping” is someone who clearly has forgotten his Lord and his spiritual obligation to be a man of God. Saul was “so past” that phase in his life. Can you imagine disowning God and turning your back on God and the Holy Spirit in just three years of being the ruler of Israel?

Think back to when Saul first becomes king. Let’s see what Scripture says:

17 Then Samuel called the people together to the Lord at Mizpah, 18 and said to the children of Israel, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all kingdoms and from those who oppressed you.’ 19 But you have today rejected your God, who Himself saved you from all your adversities and your tribulations; and you have said to Him, ‘No, set a king over us!’ Now therefore, present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and by your clans.”

20 And when Samuel had caused all the tribes of Israel to come near, the tribe of Benjamin was chosen. 21 When he had caused the tribe of Benjamin to come near by their families, the family of Matri was chosen. And Saul the son of Kish was chosen. But when they sought him, he could not be found. 22 Therefore they inquired of the Lord further, “Has the man come here yet?”

And the Lord answered, “There he is, hidden among the equipment.”

23 So they ran and brought him from there; and when he stood among the people, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward. 24 And Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see him whom the Lord has chosen, that there is no one like him among all the people?”

So all the people shouted and said, “Long live the king!” (1 Samuel 10:17-24)

When Saul is chosen by God, he ends up “hiding among the equipment.” He didn’t want the task, was quite the shyster. God selected him for a task that he would never have taken on his own. And yet, in a matter of a few years, the task went to his head. His narcissism and egotism didn’t take long to develop.

To complete the puzzle, David is worth examining. Let’s take a look at David’s sin and his response.

Murder and Adultery: David sins

Of what is David guilty? Scripture calls him “a man after God’s own heart,” and Samuel says the same thing to Saul when referring to David (1 Samuel 13:13-14; 1 Samuel 15:27-29).

David did love the Lord. He was one who pursued God’s heart. Yet, David wasn’t without sin. He wasn’t sinless or perfect, and Scripture doesn’t hide his wrong from us:

It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.

2 Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king’s house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold. 3 So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 4 Then David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her, for she was cleansed from her impurity; and she returned to her house. 5 And the woman conceived; so she sent and told David, and said, “I am with child.”

6 Then David sent to Joab, saying, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David. 7 When Uriah had come to him, David asked how Joab was doing, and how the people were doing, and how the war prospered. 8 And David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” So Uriah departed from the king’s house, and a gift of food from the king followed him. 9 But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. 10 So when they told David, saying, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “Did you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house?”

11 And Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are dwelling in tents, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are encamped in the open fields. Shall I then go to my house to eat and drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing.”

12 Then David said to Uriah, “Wait here today also, and tomorrow I will let you depart.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. 13 Now when David called him, he ate and drank before him; and he made him drunk. And at evening he went out to lie on his bed with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house.

14 In the morning it happened that David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. 15 And he wrote in the letter, saying, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retreat from him, that he may be struck down and die.” 16 So it was, while Joab besieged the city, that he assigned Uriah to a place where he knew there were valiant men. 17 Then the men of the city came out and fought with Joab. And some of the people of the servants of David fell; and Uriah the Hittite died also.

18 Then Joab sent and told David all the things concerning the war, 19 and charged the messenger, saying, “When you have finished telling the matters of the war to the king, 20 if it happens that the king’s wrath rises, and he says to you: ‘Why did you approach so near to the city when you fought? Did you not know that they would shoot from the wall? 21 Who struck Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? Was it not a woman who cast a piece of a millstone on him from the wall, so that he died in Thebez? Why did you go near the wall?’—then you shall say, ‘Your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.’ ”

22 So the messenger went, and came and told David all that Joab had sent by him. 23 And the messenger said to David, “Surely the men prevailed against us and came out to us in the field; then we drove them back as far as the entrance of the gate. 24 The archers shot from the wall at your servants; and some of the king’s servants are dead, and your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.”

25 Then David said to the messenger, “Thus you shall say to Joab: ‘Do not let this thing displease you, for the sword devours one as well as another. Strengthen your attack against the city, and overthrow it.’ So encourage him.”

26 When the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband. 27 And when her mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord. (2 Samuel 11:1-27)

David saw a beautiful woman by the name of Bathsheba, bathing, while he was on the rooftop of his palace. Lusting after her, he desired to be sexually intimate with her. He commanded his servants to bring Bathsheba to him, then had sex with her. The result of this encounter is that Bathsheba became pregnant. David then tried to cover up his affair. First, he encouraged Uriah to lay with his wife, to create the illusion that Uriah had gotten his wife pregnant. But Uriah, the Hittite, a Gentile, was too loyal to David, the army, and Israel to have any pleasure with his wife while the nation was at war. So Uriah didn’t go down to his house. The next step of the cover-up was to get Uriah drunk so that he’d go into Bathsheba and have sex with her. Uriah became drunk, but he didn’t go down to his house to be intimate with Bathsheba. For the second attempt, David had failed once again.

Finally, fearing the worst and realizing that Bathsheba would start to show (Uriah would quickly figure out he hadn’t slept with her and that it wasn’t his child), he decided that Uriah had to be done away with once and for all. It seems odd that David would kill Uriah as a last resort if he wanted to cover up his one-night stand with Bathsheba because perhaps Uriah would have forgiven David and Bathsheba for the pregnancy, or raised the child as his own. Uriah was loyal to the king, though that loyalty was compromised by David. We don’t know how Uriah would have responded had he known the truth, but David didn’t seem to care about Uriah’s knowledge of the events. He tried to get him drunk, tried to get him to lay with his wife, anything he could do to cover up David’s own adulterous affair. Throughout all that happened, David wasn’t thinking about Uriah but rather, about himself. When he couldn’t get Uriah to do what he wanted, he had him killed and then pretended as if Uriah’s death was a normal casualty of war:

25 Then David said to the messenger, “Thus you shall say to Joab: ‘Do not let this thing displease you, for the sword devours one as well as another. Strengthen your attack against the city, and overthrow it.’ So encourage him.” (2 Samuel 11:25)

David’s response to Uriah’s death was “the sword devours one as well as another.” In other words, David’s response was one of indifference. Though he’d lost a loyal soldier, a Gentile who wanted to defend the ark, Israel, and Judah, one who was loyal to him and would have been a lifetime loyalist, David had very little reaction to news of his death. In other words, in the mind of David, Uriah’s death was “just another death” in typical war. David had already decided that Uriah didn’t matter as much as David, that what he, David, wanted, was greater than what Uriah needed or deserved. For all Uriah’s loyalty, he deserved it in return — and his king, the one he did it all for, killed him instead. Can you imagine your king being your worst enemy all because he lusts after your wife? That’s what Uriah’s circumstances were. The sad thing is that Uriah died, not knowing what happened, not knowing that Bathsheba had been pregnant, not knowing that David had taken his loyalty and trampled it underfoot. Uriah’s loyalty was, in the minds of many, a loyalty wasted.

But Uriah’s loyalty wasn’t wasted. God saw everything that happened. David took Uriah’s wife to be his own after she mourned the death of her husband. Why Bathsheba mourned Uriah and then became David’s wife is likely chalked up to the fact that she had no choice in the matter. But any man who murders a woman’s husband to be with her isn’t necessarily in love but in today’s view, a psychopath.

At the end of 2 Samuel 11, we see an injustice done, adultery, followed by another injustice, the death of a king-loyal soldier, and we think there’s no justice to be found in the world. But there’s one sentence that suggests otherwise: “But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord” (2 Samuel 11:27b). David didn’t get away with the adultery or the murder, despite all human appearances that he had escaped unscathed.

God sends Nathan the prophet to King David (2 Samuel 12:1-15)

David sins in a big way, and the sin is ugly before the Lord and displeasing in God’s sight. God doesn’t wait to act; His first form of condemnation is to send His prophet, Nathan, to David to confront him with his sin and motivate a confession:

Then the Lord sent Nathan to David. And he came to him, and said to him: “There were two men in one city, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and herds. 3 But the poor man had nothing, except one little ewe lamb which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children. It ate of his own food and drank from his own cup and lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him. 4 And a traveler came to the rich man, who refused to take from his own flock and from his own herd to prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”

5 So David’s anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! 6 And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.”

7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your keeping, and gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more! 9 Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon. 10 Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ 11 Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. 12 For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun.’ ”

13 So David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. 14 However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die.” 15 Then Nathan departed to his house. (2 Samuel 12:1-15)

Nathan, speaking on God’s behalf, tells David that his sin will cost him his wives, the curse of death on his family (“the sword shall never depart from your house because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife,” the Lord says in 2 Samuel 12:9). David not only committed adultery with Uriah’s wife and had him killed to protect the sin, but killed him with the sword of the Ammonites or “the sword of Ammon.” The Ammonites were hated and despised by God, never spoken of by the Lord in good terms (Deuteronomy 23:3; Judges 10:6-7).

For this, David would have his wives taken from him, see his relatives, including his children, die, and the child he had with Bathsheba would die. The Lord said that David “despised Me” when he sinned against the Lord, showing that all sin is hatred of God. When we sin, we’re saying in effect that we hate God. As Samuel said to Saul in 1 Samuel 15, rebellion is as witchcraft and idolatry. And idolatry and witchcraft are forms of “going around God” and despising His commandments. They are forms of hatred against the divine.

And yet, in 2 Samuel 12, David has a different response than Saul did in 1 Samuel 15. Saul builds a monument to himself, then says, “I have kept the commandment of the Lord” when he hadn’t. When he’s pressed about his sin, he blames “the people” twice, and then refers to God as Samuel’s God instead of his own. He couldn’t call God his God because he had long abandoned God — which is why the Holy Spirit departs after God rejects Saul as king.

David, in turn, confesses his sin before the Lord and listens to the prophet. Two different kings, two different responses. While we read of David’s quick confession here in 2 Samuel 12, David gives us the full picture of what confession looks like in Psalm 51. It is to Psalm 51 that we now turn.

The Davidic Confession of Psalm 51

Have mercy upon me, O God,

According to Your lovingkindness;

According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,

Blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,

And cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I acknowledge my transgressions,

And my sin is always before me.

4 Against You, You only, have I sinned,

And done this evil in Your sight—

That You may be found just when You speak,

And blameless when You judge.

5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,

And in sin my mother conceived me.

6 Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts,

And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.

7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;

Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

8 Make me hear joy and gladness,

That the bones You have broken may rejoice.

9 Hide Your face from my sins,

And blot out all my iniquities.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,

And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

11 Do not cast me away from Your presence,

And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,

And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.

13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,

And sinners shall be converted to You.

14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,

The God of my salvation,

And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness.

15 O Lord, open my lips,

And my mouth shall show forth Your praise.

16 For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;

You do not delight in burnt offering.

17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,

A broken and a contrite heart—

These, O God, You will not despise.

18 Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion;

Build the walls of Jerusalem.

19 Then You shall be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness,

With burnt offering and whole burnt offering;

Then they shall offer bulls on Your altar. (Psalm 51:1-19)

David’s confession is one that, though I wish he’d never have to make it, I’ve never gotten over reading it each time. In it, we read the soul of a man who has been confronted by Nathan the prophet with the realization that he, David, has sinned before God. He committed adultery with Uriah’s wife, then killed Uriah to avoid the consequences of his impropriety and treated Uriah’s death as “no big deal.” David played on the loyalty of Uriah to kill him and remove him from the picture — all because David coveted Uriah’s wife. Lust is what drove David to do what he did because, as king, well, he could clearly have whatever (and whomever, I might add) he wanted. The fact that David killed a Gentile just adds another complication to the circumstances.

And yet, we see that God didn’t accept David’s adultery and murder without punishing David. There was a punishment for David’s sin. Not only did the Lord send Nathan to rebuke David; He also told David that his love child with Bathsheba would die as a result.

Here in Psalm 51, David cries out to God and confesses his sin while seeking forgiveness:

According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,

Blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,

And cleanse me from my sin. (Psalm 51:1b-2)

David says to the Lord, “since you have tender mercies, since your mercies are great (“the multitude”), remove my transgressions.” The word for “blout out” here is the Greek word ἐξάλειψον (exaleipson), a word that refers to removing something or “crossing it out” as though it doesn’t exist. David is relying on God’s mercy and the wealth of His mercy to plead for forgiveness. David says “my transgressions” (1b), “my iniquity” (v.2), and “my sin” (v.2), phrases that show he accepts responsibility for his wrongdoing.

3 For I acknowledge my transgressions,

And my sin is always before me.

4 Against You, You only, have I sinned,

And done this evil in Your sight—

That You may be found just when You speak,

And blameless when You judge. (Psalm 51:3-4)

In verses 3 and 4, David continues to acknowledge his sin, but in this case, he points to the righteousness and holiness of God. “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in your sight.” David acknowledges the wrong he’s done against God, and calls it “evil.”

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;

Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

8 Make me hear joy and gladness,

That the bones You have broken may rejoice.

9 Hide Your face from my sins,

And blot out all my iniquities. (Psalm 51:7-9)

“Purge” (v.7), “wash me,” (v.7) are references to removing his sin. David realizes that he is “dirty” and “filthy” in sin. “The bones you have broken” is not a reference to the physical breaking of bones but rather, the brokenness inside David feels as he is aware his sin has separated him from his Lord. “Hide your face” is a phrase that indicates God sees all sin; David wouldn’t request God to hide His face if God didn’t see all his sin.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,

And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

11 Do not cast me away from Your presence,

And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,

And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.

13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,

And sinners shall be converted to You. (Psalm 51:10-13)

In verse 10, David requests that God “create in me a clean heart,” a statement that shows that David cannot be clean unless God makes him clean. A clean heart is not something we can give ourselves. Humans are too stained with sin to make their hearts clean. We need God to “create” a clean heart within us, that which we do not have within ourselves. It’s interesting that the world we live in always tells us that we can create our own destiny and reality. And yet, David realized that he wasn’t God, that he didn’t have the power God does, and that he wasn’t as holy and righteous as God is. Here’s where we see differences between Saul and David. When Saul is confronted with his sin, he blames the people and then requests that Samuel come back and worship with him to save his reputation in the eyes of the people. When David sins, and is warned by the prophet, he goes before God and confesses his sin to the One to whom he must give an account.

Psalm 51:11-12 (Psalm 50 in the Septuagint or LXX) are two key verses that strike at the heart of our discussion. David pleads with God in verse 11 not to “cast me away from Your presence.” In other words, he realized that he was in the presence of God and that he was before the Lord, but he also realized that God could do away with him, that God could abandon him. He also says, “do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” David says here that he doesn’t want God to remove the Holy Spirit. Notice here that his pleading with God has nothing to do with the kingship.

Why did the Holy Spirit depart from Saul? Some say the kingship is the reason. Saul loses the kingship. And yet, losing the kingship was not the cause of the Holy Spirit’s departure, but rather, the result of Saul’s sin — which happens to be the reason why the Holy Spirit departs from Saul. Saul turned back from following God. And David knew this because he was the musician appointed to play music for Saul, who was haunted by the evil spirit the Lord placed upon him:

14 But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the Lord troubled him. 15 And Saul’s servants said to him, “Surely, a distressing spirit from God is troubling you. 16 Let our master now command your servants, who are before you, to seek out a man who is a skillful player on the harp. And it shall be that he will play it with his hand when the distressing spirit from God is upon you, and you shall be well.”

17 So Saul said to his servants, “Provide me now a man who can play well, and bring him to me.”

18 Then one of the servants answered and said, “Look, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a mighty man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a handsome person; and the Lord is with him.”

19 Therefore Saul sent messengers to Jesse, and said, “Send me your son David, who is with the sheep.” 20 And Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, a skin of wine, and a young goat, and sent them by his son David to Saul. 21 So David came to Saul and stood before him. And he loved him greatly, and he became his armorbearer. 22 Then Saul sent to Jesse, saying, “Please let David stand before me, for he has found favor in my sight.” 23 And so it was, whenever the spirit from God was upon Saul, that David would take a harp and play it with his hand. Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him. (1 Samuel 16:14-23)

Saul had an evil spirit, though the NKJV says the spirit was “distressing.” The Greek word “poneros” means “evil,” and is next-to-never used in Scripture to mean “distressing.” When used with the discussion of spirits, “evil” is used as the word’s meaning.

Saul was sent an evil spirit from the Lord, and the Holy Spirit had departed from his life. When the Holy Spirit departs from your life, an evil spirit and spiritual trouble (mental, physical, emotional, etc.) are all that await you. Saul was feeling and experiencing the effects of the Holy Spirit’s departure. The Spirit of God brings peace, but when He departs, trouble and unrest are all that remain. Saul experienced this and had to hire a musician to play music to bring peace to his troubled mind. David was that musician Saul selected. He was a skillful harp player, with musical talent. It was David’s playing that would bring peace to Saul and remove the evil spirit from him.

First, let it be known that David had seen Saul’s unrest, his depression, the void in his life that Saul experienced on a daily basis. And David had seen it because he was the one playing the harp to help bring peace to Saul. It’s likely David thought about how sad a situation Saul was in. “Saul doesn’t have any peace; I have to play the harp to help restore his mental and emotional peace. I don’t want to end up like Saul. I don’t want to end up with a life devoid of the Holy Spirit, where the Holy Spirit departs from me as it has done Saul.” David saw Saul’s life devoid of the Spirit up-close, enough to know that he didn’t want to live his life in the same manner.

So when David pleads with the Lord to not cast him away from the divine presence and to not take away the Holy Spirit, he was referring to his salvation. As he says in the next statement, “restore to me the joy of Your salvation.” David’s joy in being saved was gone because of his sin. The issue is sin. David realizes that, as an adulterer and murderer, the Spirit could leave his life. His sin was so heinous that the Spirit could walk away from him as He did Saul. And yet, David didn’t want that.

Some today do not have the same belief as David; he believed the Holy Spirit could depart from his life, but many do not. Many today would say, “The Holy Spirit can’t depart from the lives of genuine believers.” If this is true, then what did David fear? Was his fear unjustified? Here in Psalm 51, David genuinely confessed his sin before God. I highly doubt that he was being insincere and saying what he did merely for theatrical effect. David meant it when he pleaded with God not to take the Holy Spirit.

David’s concern in that moment was not the kingship, but rather, his salvation, his relationship with the Lord. Having seen Saul’s relationship with the Lord disappear, he didn’t want to be next on the divine’s enemy list. He wanted his salvation to remain. He wanted God’s presence to forever remain with him. How was God present with believers? Even in the Old Testament, God resided within believers by way of the Holy Spirit. We’ve seen this in our study of Isaiah 63. One such example is that of Joshua, whom Scripture says had the indwelling of the Holy Spirit:

18 And the Lord said to Moses: “Take Joshua the son of Nun with you, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him; 19 set him before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation, and inaugurate him in their sight. 20 And you shall give some of your authority to him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient. 21 He shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire before the Lord for him by the judgment of the Urim. At his word they shall go out, and at his word they shall come in, he and all the children of Israel with him—all the congregation.” (Numbers 27:18-21)

The Lord tells Moses to lay his hands on Joshua to transfer some of the power he had to Joshua. The Lord specifically refers to Joshua as “a man in whom is the Spirit” (Numbers 27:18). The Spirit of the Lord, the Holy Spirit, lived within Joshua, as He lived within Moses. And if these two men had the Holy Spirit, then every saint in the Old Testament had the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. They were not alone.

The Holy Spirit’s departure from the life of Saul, and possibly from his own, was a real possibility. And he prayed fervently against the Holy Spirit’s departure from his own life. I think we should have the humility of David, never forgetting that God can cast us from His presence and remove His Holy Spirit from us if we put our sin before Him and sin without care for God’s law. David feared losing the Holy Spirit and the divine presence; today, we act as if David was merely exaggerating in his prayer. In this discussion and on this subject, I side with David.

Conclusion

Why did the Holy Spirit depart from Saul? The Holy Spirit departed from Saul because Saul “turned back from following Me” God said, and cared more about himself and the people than he did the God of the universe. With his monument built to himself in Carmel, it was abundantly clear that Saul was king in name only. Really, he would rather enjoy the riches of his position than remember why God assigned him to it in the first place. The kingship was about God, and the king was appointed to serve God, meditate on the law, live out God’s law, and to call the people of Israel to do the same. Saul would rather live in wealth than live by the word of God and the divine law.

When God told Saul to kill the Amalekites, their king, and destroy their possessions, Saul killed the Amalekites but kept the king and the best of the possessions alive. Agag even thought he’d avoided death because Saul refused to kill him — but Samuel the prophet finished him off to prove that God willed his death, and it would happen regardless of Saul’s obedience or disobedience.

When Saul calls God “your God” in talking with Samuel, we understand that Saul has reached a tragic place: he had given up the God he once lived for and worshipped. Whatever happened in the three years that Saul was king, something had happened. Saul went from hiding among the stuff and being shy for the kingship to craving the riches, wealth, and power that came with the kingship. He’d forgotten that the kingship was for God, and started believing it was about magnifying his greatness (i.e., the Carmel monument of himself).

Which is why, when we see the Holy Spirit depart from Saul’s life in 1 Samuel 16, we have a good idea of just how tragic Saul’s situation is. He has an evil spirit sent to him from the Lord, a sign that God had given Saul up to his eternal condemnation. The wicked are never truly at ease, and the same can be said for the apostate king Saul. He had to have David come and play music to help with his mental anxiety and depression. Then, when he went to pray to God about direction for the battle with the Philistines, he shows that he still didn’t understand what it meant for God to reject him as king.

There are many today who, like Saul, don’t grasp the idea that the Holy Spirit can depart from a believer’s life. Like Saul, they seek and pray but hear nothing, and yet, fail to reflect on their own heart and mind to see that God has left them. They tell themselves that God will never leave them, that the Doctrine of Eternal Security is true, that “nothing can separate me from the love of God” while forgetting that Jude tells us to “keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 1:21). Saul was told “God has rejected you from being king” but he had no spiritual radar to discern just what that meant. This is why he goes to pray about the battle against the Philistines. By trying to contact God through the traditional means that had once been made available to him as king, he forgot that God had nothing else to say to Saul.

Saul then goes and seeks a medium/witch, against the direct commandment of the Lord. As king, Saul had eliminated mediums from the land, but in his desperation, he sins again, thinking little of it. He goes to a medium by disguising himself at night, all to see Samuel (who, at this point, was a deceased prophet). The message he gets is a dire one: “tomorrow, you and your sons will be with me.” And the following day, in battle with the Philistines, Saul is mortally wounded and falls on his own sword. It’s easy to think that Saul willed his own death, but Samuel’s dire prophecy to Saul comes not because Saul chooses to die but because of the Lord God Himself:

13 So Saul died for his unfaithfulness which he had committed against the Lord, because he did not keep the word of the Lord, and also because he consulted a medium for guidance. 14 But he did not inquire of the Lord; therefore He killed him, and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse. (1 Chronicles 10:13-14)

“Saul died for his unfaithfulness which he had committed against the Lord” (1 Chronicles 10:13). These words remind us that, to be unfaithful to someone, there must be a covenant. At one point, Saul belonged to the Lord; over time, he had given that up and no longer followed the God of Israel. He died because he was unfaithful to the Lord and “also because he consulted a medium for guidance.” Saul dies because of both actions. When Saul can’t eat before the medium at En Dor, it’s a reminder that he is as shocked by the prophecy as anyone. And, it is a reminder that God would finally put an end to Saul by killing him. Even after being rejected as king, Saul was spiritually clueless. It was evident that nothing would lead Saul to return to the God of Israel.

The Holy Spirit departs from Saul because Saul left God. When he left God, he made a decisive break and never returned to the Lord. Saul hadn’t plan on returning to God. He wasn’t sorry over his sin, wasn’t grievous over his sin. He didn’t feel any remorse for how separated from God he really was. In such a person, who resists the Holy Spirit’s wooing no matter how strong such wooing is, the Holy Spirit makes a decision to leave that person’s life because, to use a familiar statement, “He doesn’t stay where He isn’t wanted.”

Be the first to know when we publish new articles.


Comments

13 Responses to “Why Did the Holy Spirit Depart From King Saul?”

Read below or add a comment...

Newer comments are at the top.

  1. Andrew Lee - November 2, 2018 at 11:41 pm

    Thank you for this article.

    God will never leave us nor forsake us ,IF we still choose to follow Him.In the old testament, there were plenty of examples when kings who were evil but repented, God still restore them. What more we are now in the new covenant.

    Though we would never lose our salvation in our day and age of the new covenant because of Jesus’s finished work on the Cross,there is also something we should be wary about. We may not lose our salvation because of our sins, but Christ’s finished work would be in vain in us, which means we may live a powerless and fruitless life as a result of our disobedience. Is there a remedy? Yes of course, go back to the Saviour to be embraced by Him again ..

  2. ND Damsan - September 22, 2018 at 4:14 pm

    So lovely,but where iam confuse is when God anointed Saul as a king, He didn’t know from the beginning what’s going to happen? Because I surely know that myGod knows end of everything even in the beginning.

    • Andrew Lee - November 2, 2018 at 11:43 pm

      He knows, He even knows Adam and Eve would disobeyed him . But He allowed it still for greater purpose

  3. Lawrence - September 17, 2018 at 5:00 am

    please do not lie to us. Lord Jesus the Holy Spirit will be with forever that means if you have been baptised by the Holy He will never leave. He will be with you forever , that means you don’t really have Him. So don’t lie to us

  4. Harrison - September 12, 2018 at 5:09 am

    Thanks for bringing the word to our level. Pls kindly help me unravel the following question: From Gen. 6:6 & 1sam 15:35, can God regret any decision or actions he ever made?

  5. Barth Nwauzoma - September 11, 2018 at 11:57 am

    This exposition and other contributions have livened by spirit. May the good Lord preserve and keep us from falling into the error of Saul.

  6. norma lofton - September 10, 2018 at 6:17 pm

    What a profound article! I feel like this describes both my parents.

  7. joseph miller - September 10, 2018 at 1:27 pm

    2cor. 1:22 ephesians 4:30

  8. Bobby Vanduren - September 10, 2018 at 1:06 pm

    Saul didn’t have a true heart of repentance but instead a heart of rebellion and pride wanting honor instead of him honoring Yahweh. God resist the proud and His holy spirit can’t dwell in a rebellious heart. I heard a well known pastor on the radio say he believes he will see king Saul in heaven. Yahweh know all who belong to him. So did Saul loose his internal salvation or his position of being king over Israel.

  9. Kelly Welicky - September 10, 2018 at 11:58 am

    This is a well/ researched article. Thanks for post it.

    I would like to add one missing angle.
    There is a very significant difference between the Old Testament and New Testament way that the Holy Spirit integrates with His saints.

    Before Christ, a believer was onlt visited by the Holy Spirit. A believer in Christ is supernaturally made a clean and holy vessel by His blood, clean enough for the Holy Spirit to actually dwell inside him permanently. A New Testament saint is sealed by the Holy Spirit for salvation. Because Christ gives him a new spirit, the Holy Spirit does not leave him, except by reason of blasphemy if the Holy Spirit.

    In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit would rest upon a believer as He was lead to by God. It was not a permanent residing, although it could be a lengthy residence. King David pled with God to “ not take your Holy Spirit from me” when he committed adultery.

    The animal sacrifices were not good enough to cleanse one’s spirit. They were a temporary symbol of repentance. When Chist died, the perfect sacrifice for sin was permanent, finally. In Chist, a believer can become a permanent temple for the Holy Spirit.

    There, it would seem, to be the fundamental difference between a N.T. saint and the O.T. ones.

    Now, also regarding the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit and Saul’s apostasy is another fundamental spiritual principle. The Holy Spirit can be driven away by choice of any believer.
    The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is not something a believer does by accident. It is a vehement rejection of God that drives Him away. It is a forceful repulsion by the apostate, a command for the Holy Spirit to leave them. The Holy Spirit will not deny an apostate such an emphatic order. He will not indwell or rest upon anyone by force.

    Saul probably did quite a bit more than we are told to drive away the Holy Spirit. A suggested clue might be that God “regretted” making Saul king. The only time I personally remember God just flat-out regretting something He had done is in Genesis. God “regretted” the creation He made, and destroyed them with a flood. He destroyed man, animal- and something else: the Nephilim giants whom He had NOT created, that had artificially corrupted and driven the evil of men to a supernatural level of wickedness that the original creation was not even capable of on their own. Not only had the apostate angels destroyed the course of the natural creation by adding their hybrid monster offspring, but they had also created creatures en masse that were not redeemable from sin.

    Why is this important? Well, God had regrets , not because He felt He had made a mistake. (God doesn’t make mistakes), but because Satan had corrupted the human race with his own seed. He regretted what He had permitted Satan to do.

    To fix this atrocity, God called for complete destruction, except for His own chosen survivors, Noah and his family, They are chosen because Noah alone is a godly man, and he has no genetic corruption from angels in his DNA/ lineage.

    Now, when God called for this mysterious and extreme measure of mass murder of all humans (and often all their animals) in the Old Testament, there is always a certain factor involved: giants, the Nephilim race before the flood, and various other tribes such as Rephaim afterwards. The sin of widespread copulation with angels and/ or animals is the sin that brought a city or nation this most severe
    and complete destruction. The Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, the nations that God commanded Joshua to destroy in the acquisition of the Promised Land are examples.

    Giants and unnatural hybrids are abominations. These creatures are not able to be redeemed by Christ’s blood. They are damned.

    This seems terribly unfair to these corrupt children-because it is. This is the main reason for their utter destruction by God’s commands. Ironically, it is by His grace and mercy to command His servants, or by His own direct intervention, to completely destroy and stop the proliferation of these poor creatures.

    To assist in the conception of Nephilim giants or animal hybrids is absolutely outlawed. There is no room for any doubt or exception.

    Back to Saul. God gives this most severe iof commands to Saul regarding the Amalikites- destroy them all, even their animals- and take nothing for spoil. Since this command is always given when going to was against a nation that has been badly corrupted by Nephilim DNA, we can safely assume that is the case with the Amalikites.
    Saul disobeys this order, and God regrets making Saul king. God’s regret, and the desertion of Saul by the Holy Spirit suggests that Saul may even have consorted with the Amalikite sorcerers to be genetically altered to become like a giant himself. This may seem pretty far-fetched, but it was done in the early post -flood world by the king of Babel(Babylon), Nimrod. Angels are exceedingly intelligent. After the pre- flood apostate angels were severely punished for copulating with human women to create the Nephilim giants, it was necessary to go about recreating the giant race another way. Apparently, Nimrod was their willing guinea pig. He “became a mighty one” in the earth.
    Mighty is used to describe great giants. The interior of the earth is where apostate angels and their followers escaped to after the Flood, and are there to this day.

    Did Saul, in his desperation to retain his kingship, decided to seek supernatural means to rebel against God, as Nimrod did?
    Saul rebelled against God’s command to never go to a witch to speak to the dead, and he even sought out one of the witches that escaped from Saul’s own previous command to kill and expel all witches from the land. Saul enticed the witch of Endor to call up Samuel the prophet from the dead, so he could get Samuel’s advice about a final fatal battle against the Philistines.

    My closing point is that the Holy Spirit did not permanently dwell with a believer until Christ was sent to give all believers the gift of true supernatural cleansing from sin. This alone allows believers to be clean and holy enough, through faith in Christ’s blood, for the Holy Spirit to live in them forever. Before Christ, the Holy Spirit would abide, but not live within, believers, as God chose.

    If Saul rebelled against God’s decision to take away Saul’s kingship and give it to David, and willingly compromised his DNA with angelic DNA or a Nephilim giant’s blood/ DNA, the Holy Spirit could not abide with him anymore. Period. He would have become a corrupted, damned creature, beyond the grace and hope of redemption from sin that God reserves for His own people, the original race that He created to be able to receive it.

    This idea is hardly beyond the supernatural intelligence of apostate angels or some hybrid giants.
    It is a possibility worth pondering.

  10. Rosalina Corser - September 10, 2018 at 8:42 am

    The comparison between Saul and David. Saul was only repented so he can save his pride that’s how far he is gone from the Lord , his repentance is not from the heart . there is no brokenness in his heart , his mind is already figuring out how he is going to look like in front of his people instead of true repentance for the people to witness . He lost his opportunity to witness to the people. Its dangerous for a figurehead to be a leader because a leaders character multiplies into his subject and God cannot trust Saul to be good figurehead for his precious people.
    While David had always had a humble heart , He repented right away he accepted responsibility of his sin with Bathsheba,In another instance, when he looked at himself as a king by sending his servants to fetch water from a well Dangerous for anyone to cross over to , and they went and willingly obeyed him and made it through . David refused to drink it instead he poured it as offering to the Lord his heart cannot accept the sacrifice the men has done to fetch the water for him.So he choose to offer it to the Lord . His obedient to the Lord was always his intention .He is quick to consult the Lord in all his ways even going to war he would ask God if he is suppose to go.

  11. Geraldine - September 10, 2018 at 8:35 am

    This article is giving me insight into my thinking. I am reading again and again Ps 51.

    Also I came to Jn 3:8, the latter part that says, so is everyone that is born of the Spirit, what does this mean for me as a believer.

  12. Rosemary Ramey - September 10, 2018 at 7:23 am

    Awesome, timely teaching that’s needed in our lives today. Humbled and Grateful.

Leave A Comment...

*