God Using Scoundrels

If you have lived for any length of time, you have come across situations where God appears to be using, even blessing, people in ministry that we wouldn’t use.

I don’t mean when God uses broken people.

We all fall into that category.

I mean scoundrels.

Most of us have lived through the exposure of prominent people God has been using, until it is revealed that all the while they were living a double standard. And when the story hits the press, it leaves us scratching our heads. Why would God use or bless scoundrels through whom His power to save and heal is being effective?

How can this be?

This issue confronted me again recently when reading 1 Samuel 19 in my quiet time.

King Saul had fully committed himself to killing David. First he sent his men, then he goes himself to Naioth at Ramah to do the job. At Naioth, the Scripture says that the Spirit of God came upon Saul and he prophesied. Saul’s encounter with the presence and power of God was so significant that it kept him, for the moment, from killing David.

It was not the first time Saul experienced God in this way. Back when he was first set apart by God to be king of Israel, he was overcome by the Spirit and prophesied (1 Samuel 10:6).

However, between chapter 10 and 19, Saul had turned away from God, disobeyed several direct orders from God, had the kingdom torn from his hands and had fallen prey to an evil spirit.

By chapter 19, in a fit of jealousy, he is on his way to personally kill the threat to his throne… young David.

So, what in the world is Saul doing, on his mission to kill David, prophesying under the influence of the Spirit of God all day and night?

It makes no sense!

So… I did what I always do when something in the Old Testament stumps me. I e-mailed a professor friend of mine who teaches Old Testament at Lee University. Dr. Rickie Moore’s response was so rich, I had to copy my question and his answer for you below.


Dr. Moore, I realize that this was a defensive move from God, keeping Saul from killing David… but could you comment on the application of that text to people today please? Could people today be walking in outright disobedience to God and still be “overcome” by the Spirit of God and prophesy?


Alec, these kinds of odd narrative episodes, in my view, are intended to pose just these very kinds of questions, making us think and ponder and struggle to discern God’s ways in relation to our ways. This episode with Saul reminds me of similar episodes in the book of Judges. There, as here in 1 Samuel, leadership was on a descending trajectory, but God’s Spirit would graciously come upon questionable characters, giving respite for the moment (both for the person and for the people)—a moment that gave opportunity to change the trajectory but a moment of opportunity that could quickly be lost, as indeed it was. This becomes a really important lesson to “people of the Spirit” not to elevate the import of momentary spiritual experiences to the neglect of the covenant trajectory of our lives. 

 According to Dr. Moore, Saul’s encounter with the overwhelming presence and power of God was another opportunity for him to repent and turn back to God. Instead Saul apparently took the experience as God’s endorsement of his lifestyle, and continued on the path to destruction.

What a mercy of God!

What a chilling reminder of the deceitfulness of sin!

It’s the kindness of the Lord that He intends to lead us to repentance!