The Fear of Man Is a Snare

1 Samuel 18

Every man will fear something. The options are: fear the Creator and not the creature; or fear the creature and not the Creator. David proved that he was no manfearer when he struck down Goliath on the battlefield. He feared God and thus feared nothing else. The other option being not fearing God and fearing everything else. If you choose the latter option, then you will be caught in a snare. Proverbs 29:25 says so—”The fear of man bringeth a snare.” That’s precisely what happened to King Saul in 1 Samuel 18.

The Text – A Summary

After David stuck down Goliath, King Saul and his son Jonathan both thought quite highly of hin. Jonathan covenanted with David and remained a true friend. And Saul set David over the men of war (v. 5). David conducted himself wisely. And it is obviously important that he did so because his wisdom is refereced four seperate times in the chapter (v. 5, 14, 15, and 30). 

All was well until the ladies came out singing David and Saul’s praises. There they are with their music and tambourines, and things are about to get bumpy. Isn’t that always the case? These ladies were evidently not infected with our social justice nonsense because they went to awarding medals of various worth. Saul received the silver medal; he had slain his thousands, the ladies sang. But, David was awarded the gold medal; he had slain his ten thousands. 

As Saul listened to these singing ladies, he was put on to the scent of what God was doing. He had already been told that God would tear the kingdom from him and give it to another who was better than him (1 Samuel 15:28). Saul ran the numbers and discovered that ten thousands was indeed better than thousands. He saw the man to whom God was giving his kingdom. Displeased, he lamented, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but the kingdom” (v. 8)? Then the problem got worse for Saul because he began to eye David (v. 9). 

An evil spirit from God came upon Saul. And Saul tried to pin David to the wall with his javelin. He missed. Saul was afraid of David (v. 12). Saul removed David from his presence, but David kept behaving wisely. And we’re told again that Saul feared him (v. 15). Saul’s fear of David is an important theme. It comes up three seperate times in the passage. Saul’s trouble just got worse and worse for all Israel and Judah loved David (v. 16). The singing ladies loved him. His own daughter Michal loved him (v. 20). And his own son Jonathan loved him (v. 1). The fear of man is indeed a snare. 

Saul comes up with a plan to give Michal to David as a wife for he thinks she will be a snare to him. All the while, he is the one being ensared. Saul hopes the Philistines will kill him. So he requires one hundred foreskins of the Philistines as a dowry. David doubled it. Saul missed again. Saul knew that the LORD was with David (v. 28). And this only made Saul more afraid of him (v. 29). 

It is amazing to watch God work. He sent Samuel the prophet to anoint David as king. God would take the kingdom from Saul and give it to David. But, now we see how God does it. And He does not camoflauge this mission. Saul knew what God was doing. He knew God was with David. But knowing what God is doing and loving what God is doing are two different things. John the Baptist could say, “He must increase but I must decrease.” But, Saul did not have that in his bloodstream. 

God advances His purpose and kingdom in like manner today. He ensnares those who fear man and brings them down, while he lifts up the humble and wise. If we would not be ensnared, then we simply have to stop caring so much what people think about us. But if you would stop caring what people think about you, then you must fear God. The fear of man is rooted in unbelief. God was the One who controlled David. God was the One stripping the kingdom from Saul. God was the One who sent the evil spirit upon Saul. But, Saul neglected all of that. He forsook God and was left with the fear of man and a trap.

There is a way out of the trap. His name is Jesus Christ. He proclaims liberty to the captives. Those who stop eyeing others and eye Him by faith, they are the freemen who have the fear of God—”Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread” (Isaiah 8:13).