A sin-sick mind: King Saul's journey into darkness

We read many times in the bible that sin corrupts the mind. A mind without Christ will not work right, it will be blind, deluded, corrupt, twisted.

The perversion of a sin-sick mind varies from person to person. Not all people are as totally evil as they could be. But sin piling upon sin will corrupt the mind in increasingly evil ways. Here is one example: King Saul.

I wrote recently about Saul and David. Saul was king, the people's choice and God allowed it. Yet when David had earned victories and the people sang of them, Saul became jealous. In jealousy, Saul cast a wary eye against David. What happened then? The next day an evil spirit came to Saul. (1 Samuel 18:7-10).

The point of that essay was to show how quickly sin will rise and seize the opportunity to magnify itself in a man's heart and mind. Sin does not wait for a second invitation. Sin does not lollygag. Sin pounces at any opportunity, with all haste.

The point of this essay, in still viewing King Saul through the biblical lens, is to see how sin that's unaddressed degrades a man's mind.

David plays the harp for Saul, Rembrandt
Some time has gone by, and Saul is by now deeply tormented by David. He has no cause to be. David is Saul's servant, gaining the king victories. David never gave reason or cause to Saul for any lack in his duties as servant and subject. David played the lyre to soothe Saul. David has made no move against Saul and has only supported Him. Yet Saul is jealous. Saul threw a javelin against David while David played music for Saul. David escaped the piercing. It must have been the hand of God, for Saul was large and tall, skilled in battle, and one would surmise Saul's javelin did not miss his target in close quarters. Yet it did.

David ran. His wife, Michal, told Saul's messengers who appeared as his house that David was in bed, sick.

And when Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, “He is sick.” Then Saul sent the messengers to see David, saying, “Bring him up to me in the bed, that I may kill him.” (1 Samuel 19:14-15).

Saul's fear, envy, jealousy, insecurity ... all negative values that show us Saul was not standing in the hand of the LORD. His negativity had grown to monstrous proportions. Monstrous, because Saul purposed to kill his servant. His servant was said to be sick, in bed, and Saul decided to kill him in bed. Saul said he will kill his servant David while David was at his most vulnerable and could not even fight back.

This is a perverted mind and a blackened heart. Of course, David was not actually sick, his wife was trying to gain her husband time for David to flee. However, Saul's act here was a watershed.

You've heard the phrase, "he drifted in and out of consciousness"? Saul had been drifting in and out of God. He was in God's hand at his anointing. Samuel the prophet tells this to Saul:

Then the Spirit of the Lord will rush upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man. Now when these signs meet you, do what your hand finds to do, for God is with you. (1 Samuel 10:6-7)
Saul threatening David, by José Leonardo.

Here Saul learned the Spirit would be:
  • with him
  • equipping him
  • giving success to him
Initially all was well. But then Saul disobeyed and gave an unlawful sacrifice, and he lied to Samuel the Prophet about it. Events in Saul's life and kingship lost their luster and eventually "the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and a harmful spirit from the Lord tormented him." (1 Samuel 16:14)

Verse 23 of that same chapter shows us that the harmful/evil spirit came to Saul and at times departed from Saul, usually when David was playing the lyre. Saul drifted in and out.

In 1 Samuel 18:10 when the harmful spirit tormented Saul, this time Saul began raving. Here is the key:

Saul was afraid of David because the Lord was with him but had departed from Saul. ... And when Saul saw that he had great success, he stood in fearful awe of him. (1 Samuel 18:12, 15)

Saul was looking at man, and not at God.

Saul knew the reason for his troubles and the reason for David's success. Does not Saul believe God is a mighty God and a loving God and a listening God? If Saul had humbled himself before the LORD and asked for forgiveness of his jealousies and violence against a man of GOD, does Saul believe the LORD would not have forgiven? Saul knew he was out of the LORD'S will and pleasure but Saul remained in awe of David, not in awe of God. Saul refused the antidote that was poisoning his mind and polluting his heart.


What a joy we have in our Savior, Jesus Christ. He shed the last blood the Father will ever need. He stands with the Father, interceding for us in our sins.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2:18)

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

The truly gracious gift to us from the Father is Jesus, who atoned for our sins. When we do sin after conversion, He listens and accepts and forgives. We need not fear the departure of the Spirit as the Spirit departed Saul, and we have the bible as our holy writ to guide us into all truth. It is on this foundation we stand, and looking to Him, our Savior and our Friend, when we repent.

We live in a truly gracious age! We should celebrate our opportunity to repent, be forgiven, and grow in renewing our minds with pure truth of holy scripture. Once converted and justified by grace, our minds are no longer degraded and polluted, but it is still our responsibility to read the bible so as to renew it in truth. It is our responsibility to wash ourself daily with it. It is our responsibility to pray mightily to God for forgiveness of our daily sins, and appeal to our High Priest who stands at the ready to bring our cares and sins and woes to the Father. David washed himself often in prayer to God in repentance and in heartfelt plea for forgiveness.

Saul and the witch of Endor, Gustave Dore
More than that, what a joy it is to do so! Saul did not, and ended up in 1 Samuel 28 where all people with unaddressed sin end up: at the devil's door. In this case, the Witch of Endor's house. In his sin-sick mind, when Saul finally sought to address his problem, it was too late. His mind was too far gone to think right.

And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets. (1 Samuel 28:6).

And so Saul went to the devil 'to inquire' of the devil instead of to God. Worse, Saul swore to her 'by the LORD.' Oh, Saul wretch of a man, swearing to the devil by the precious LORD! What has Light to do with darkness?

David did pray and repent often and seek to live in God's will, and ended even his most tearful prayer in hope and joy and peace at pouring out his woes to God. David was called a man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22), not because he never sinned. Why did David's mind not become sin-sick as Saul's did? Because when David sinned (unlike Saul) he repented and in so doing saw God ever more clearly as the savior, protector, gracious and revered Eternal Hope.


  1. Very good! I've often wondered about people who seem to have been "born without a conscience" - such as those diagnosed with "borderline personality disorder". I have known people like this, and they are charged up and energized by playing their games to manipulate and torture people, with no conscience whatsoever, In fact they play on others who do have a conscience. I've wondered how these people have gotten to where they are at, and if there is any hope at all for them. Since they have no conscience of sin, how can they be made to see how lost they are. I don't know. I believe Nebuchadnezzar was a narcissist yet God humbled him and brought him to repentance. I do believe there must be some place in the heart of a person like this where they made the choice to turn off their conscience and satan took over from there.


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