TRA Wordtalks

TRA 18th February, 2001
The Disintegration Of A Great Man 

1 Samuel 19:1-10

THE world cricket scandal continues with fresh charges of corruption and match fixing among cricketers of India and Pakistan. The amazing thing lies in the admission of guilt of the captain of the South African cricket team, Hansie Cronje. What on earth was going on that a wealthy, morally upright, committed Christian, who was at the top of the list of the most admired men in South Africa and idolised in that cricket mad country, that he should take bribes of relatively small amounts of money to ensure certain results?

The now sacked Hansie Cronje said: "I find myself in an awful predicament brought about by my own foolishness and naivety. I realise that I face certain personal difficulties of my own making, but what concerns me most is the hurt and disappointment that I have caused my wife and family, cricket fans throughout South Africa, the United Cricket Board and my team mates in the South African side." Exactly! But why would such a well-educated and upright man become involved in selling information to very shady and grubby bookies in the Indian underworld? He will now almost certainly face a lifetime ban from cricket and if convicted in India go to jail. He faces currency crimes and taxation fraud. Why? For what? Was it greed? But if so, why for such little money? Was it some mid-life crisis from a captain who started thinking he was above the law, that he would never be found out, that it was all part of the game? The the clergyman who commits adultery, there is no excuse. "To whom much is given, much is required", said Jesus.

He was acting irrationally, illegally and immorally. Given his anticipated retirement in a couple of years, he would have remained one of South Africa's sporting icons and any position in public or corporate life would have been open to him. Now he lives in disgrace. It is sad to see a great man disintegrate before your eyes. There are many other examples we could mention, so many that we begin to look for the psychological sickness and mental illhealth for such bad choices and moral wrongs. Many times we are left wondering if such mental and moral disintegration is the result of inner mental collapse or whether such choices lead to such stress and guilt that they create mental collapse.

Mental health issues are giving increasing concern to our community. 15% of all adolescents have some form of mental health problems. One out of every five Australians has or will develop some form of mental illness. 10% of people over 65 years suffer from depression. 82% of all prisoners suffer from at least one mental disorder. 20% of Australians get depressed. 1% suffers from schizophrenia. 2% of teenage girls suffers from anorexia or bulimia. 8% of twelve Australians suffers an anxiety disorder. Most of these disorders come upon us from external factors, but some we bring upon ourselves.

A Biblical example is found in the life of King Saul. Allowing for the fact that the writer of 1 Samuel did not understand our terminology, descriptions of Saul's behaviour are so good that psychiatrists have no difficulty diagnosing the problems facing King Saul.

1. King Saul's Behaviour.

His behaviour deteriorated. Saul started with the blessing of God. He was the one anointed to be the first king of Israel. But as years passed he became deeply troubled. He suffered mood swings, depressed feelings, was troubled by an evil spirit, and had severe headaches. It was suggested that soothing music would help. This was how David the shepherd boy, who played beautiful music with flute and harp, came into the service of King Saul. His moods deepened and he turned upon those closest to him. Saul became envious of David's success against Goliath and absolutely paranoid when he heard dancing women in the crowd praising David's victory.

In 1 Samuel 19-31, you can trace the deterioration of a great man. Saul's envy turns to pathological hatred. He seeks to murder David by throwing a spear at him attempting to pin him to the wall. He acts unreasonably. He knows David's victory has saved his life, but instead of being appreciative he wants to murder David. He goes berserk when he finds his son Jonathan and his daughter Mical are supporting David. Saul believes his family are against him. He sends soldiers to find David, then goes and hunts him personally. He starts raving about God, and the writer, who does not understand that mentally ill people frequently claim to be spokespersons for God, says that Saul starts talking like a prophet. He is highly emotional and excitedly talking about God, and giving messages from God. Saul believes he has a message from God. Perhaps, the writer wonders, Saul is a prophet like Samuel.

In over forty years of counselling I have heard hundreds of mentally sick people claim to have messages from God. Every single week I receive scrawled letters of many pages of people giving me their message that the world must hear because of its great importance. After hearing and reading thousands of these prophecies, often couched in King James English, with special little ways God has for talking to each, I have concluded there has not been anything of significance in any one of them. Nor have I been illuminated by some spiritual truth not already found in the Bible. The unique message is often something like: "My little child, tell the peoples of this world that they must love each other, otherwise I will bring a great pestilence upon the earth." The message in this case is true, but it is neither unique nor unknown. It is already in the Bible. That is the case of modern prophecy: if it says less than what is in the Bible is it not needed; if it says more than what is in the Bible is it saying too much; and if it simply repeats what is already in the Bible it is unnecessary.

Saul's disturbed nature is seen in his behaviour. After becoming ecstatic with his messages from God, he strips off his clothes, and goes about naked. He finally falls from exhaustion where he stays prostrate for a day and a night. Incidentally, on closely examining the text I see that this happened at full moon! It was this kind of behaviour at full moon that led to the belief that people are impacted by the lunar cycle giving rise to the word "lunatic". I listen for an authentic word from the Lord through some person I am counselling, but it is usually madness talking.

Saul's mood swings again. He becomes sorry for himself. He rationalises his behaviour, excusing himself. He believes people are conspiring against him. He is paranoid about others. He orders 85 priests to be killed because he thinks they were conspiring with David. Worse than a mentally deranged ordinary person, is a mentally deranged powerful person.

Saul continues to hunt David who is living like Robin Hood and his band of men. David has over 800 men following him like a modern day group of guerilla fighters, living off the land and on the run. Several times David has opportunity to kill Saul as he blunders after him, but doesn't. The King is still the King, the anointed of God, and David respects his office, even though his personality is falling apart. The once great man is declining. Once when they meet, Saul has a moment of clear insight and regrets his behaviour. David says: 1 Sam 24:10f "Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, 'I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the Lord's anointed.' I am not guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life." Saul replies: "Is that your voice, David my son?" And he wept aloud. "You are more righteous than I. You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly. You have just now told me of the good you did to me; the LORD delivered me into your hands, but you did not kill me. May the LORD reward you well for the way you treated me today. I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands." But there is no reconciliation. They part.

Saul is still deeply troubled and can find no answer for his distress from priests and the normal insights of faith. He consults an occultist, a woman who says she can read the future and contact the dead. He asks for the medium to call up from the dead the prophet Samuel. What a dramatic moment! The last person to consult would be Samuel. For Samuel makes him feel guilty. He knows what Samuel would say. It is not the medium who is talking; this is Saul's conscience! Distressed, he refuses to eat. Night and day he goes hungry. He is in no fit state to lead his nation.

At that moment the Philistines attack and Saul is in a heap. The battle is lost. His three sons are killed. Grief overwhelms him. Arrows injure him. He knows all is lost. He asks an armour bearer to draw his sword and kill him. But the soldier is too afraid to kill his king. So Saul takes his spear and impales himself upon it. The Philistines find his body, decapitate it, carry his head and body to a nearby town and nail then up on the walls for all to see. Thus ends the life of a man who started out magnificently and deteriorated so sadly. I have met people, like Saul. His symptoms of decline are those some of us meet daily.

2. What Can Be Done If You Are Like This?

Good people in our community become mentally ill. Sometimes their illness causes the onset of their behaviour. Sometimes their behaviour exacerbates their mental condition. Like Saul they deteriorate. What should you do? Wesley Mission has a ministry of compassion and healing for those who are like King Saul.

1. You should listen to a counsellor. Do not talk just with anybody. Talk with a trained counsellor.

2. You should seek professional help. Wesley Mission employs Christian doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists who can help heal you. If you need time apart, then we have our own hospitals in which you can rest and receive treatment. We will care for you.

3. You should look to the resources of your faith. Through the Bible and through prayer and fellowship, you can be strengthened and healed.

4. You should remain within the fellowship of a worshipping congregation and no go off by yourself. Sick people want to avoid others in the belief that they do not need others. But healing is here!

5. You should trust the Scriptures not your own feelings. Feelings change constantly. God's Word is unchanging. Hold on in faith believing.

6. You should become involved serving others. Get your mind off yourself and into helping others.

7. You should remember that suicide is the answer to nothing. It is the ultimate act of a person so self-centred they can think of nothing else but self.

God does not willingly remove His spirit from anyone of us. But by our rejection of God, we can remove ourselves from His presence. But as any loving father, God yearns for His troubled child as much as any other. God waits in mercy to receive us back home. We must make the response to His call, but God is willing to receive us. You do not have to deteriorate. You can take control of your own health and future. But you should align yourself with Christian people and the faith.

Gordon Moyes

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