Thursday, May 9, 2013


“Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the Lord is with him.” – 1 Samuel 16:18

King Saul was a slave to his emotions, easily influenced and provoked. His greatest character flaw, however, was his chronic failure to take the instruction of God seriously. It ended up costing him a kingdom. In this chapter of 1 Samuel, we read that about the same time the Spirit of the Lord came upon young David, when Samuel anointed him to be the next king of Israel, the same Spirit of the Lord left King Saul, and “an evil spirit from the Lord” began to trouble him. His servants, who, no doubt, would bear the brunt of his ill humor, had a suggestion.

What was needed was some nice, soothing music, ideally from the hand of a “cunning player on a harp” (vv. 15-16). “Yes, get me one,” says Saul. And one of the servants knew just the man for the job. He described David to him in verse eighteen; I may be wrong here, but it would seem to me that in his exuberance, he painted an unnecessarily inflated resume for Jesse’s youngest son. For instance, he calls him “a man of war,” yet when war with the Philistines was waged, he was made to stay home, while his other brothers went off to war (1 Sam. 17). And when Saul questioned about his war experience, he offered only a story of defeating a bear and a lion.

“So, he exaggerated,” you say, “Big deal!” You may consider this to be questionable quibbling, but Saul was the last person to whom you should brag about someone else…especially the young, gifted David. If you’re familiar with the saga of Saul and David, you know that before it was over, Saul’s jealousy of David reached a fever pitch of paranoia that drove him to hound him like an animal. Most people date the genesis of Saul’s obsession against David from the choruses of praise about him that were sung by foolish women (18: 6-9); but I would contend that the seeds of jealousy were planted by this servant who couldn’t say enough about David, even to the point of exaggeration. And in this case, the seed of exaggeration grew to a mighty oak of ruination.

Exaggeration is going beyond the truth to what could be. It’s a sin. But it’s also a sign. It’s a sign that our argument lacks true wieght without false facts. It’s a sign of our own need to shock and/or overwhelm. It’s all right to embellish a story, as long as people recognize we’re using “literary license,” just trying to tell a good story. But, at the end of the day, we should look in the mirror and know that we have spoken truth with “our neighbor” (Eph. 4:25), and be able to say with Paul,
“I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not…” (1 Tim. 2:7).
There is nothing more pristine than the unspoiled, unvarnished truth. The truth…nothing less…and nothing more.

There are some people so addicted to exaggeration that they can't tell the truth without lying. -  Josh Billings

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