Act as Though You’re Deaf

by Leon Mauldin
The Old Hickory Bulletin, 5 November 2023

We trust that our readers are familiar with Israel’s request to Samuel that he make them a king, so “that we also may be like all the nations” (I Samuel 8:20). Having prayed to God, and having warned the people of how the reality of their having a king would greatly differ from their naive perception, Samuel sent the people home. Although the people might ask for a king, it was God, and not the people, who would select the king.

The next chapter (I Samuel 9) tells of Samuel’s first meeting with Saul when Saul was looking for his father’s donkeys, and how God had revealed to Samuel the day before that Saul was to be king. Saul was Samuel’s guest at supper and then spent the night with him. The next morning, as Saul was leaving to go back home, Samuel anointed Saul (privately) to be king. He told Saul of three signs that would occur on the way home, and it came to pass as Samuel had said, thus confirming that it was God’s will that Saul be king (I Samuel 10:1-2).

Then the appointed time came that all the people were assembled. When it came to presenting Saul to the people as king, Jehovah revealed that he was hidden among the baggage. But he was brought forth, and Samuel said to all the people, “See ye him whom Jehovah hath chosen” (I Samuel 10:24). “And all the people shouted, and said, Long live the king” (I Samuel 10:24).

However, the text goes on to show that these sentiments were not unanimous. “But certain worthless fellows said, How shall this man save us? And they despised him, and brought him no present” (I Samuel 10:27). Please remember that Saul did not run for office; he was not elected by the people. God chose him to be king. The people were happy with God’s choice. They were all very pleased, and satisfied, except those in this verse. It seems there are some in every crowd. Even though Saul was the man God chose, these few had nothing but scorn and ridicule for him.

But we are interested in looking at Saul’s response; how would the new king deal with those who spoke so disparagingly” of him? The text answers, “But he held his peace” (I Samuel 10:27). If you have a reference Bible, you probably have a footnote that reads, “But he was as though he had been deaf.” That does not say that Saul was deaf, for he was not. Nor does it mean that he did not hear what these “worthless fellows” said, for he did. But it means that so far as any reaction on Saul’s part, it was as though he were deaf.

I believe there are some important lessons to be learned from Saul’s behavior. For one thing, every unfair and untrue statement that someone makes does not have to become our lifelong obsession. While people should be made to be accountable for what they say, and although there is a time for confrontation, there is also a time to “act as though you are deaf.” Saul gained more ground by considering the source, and ignoring the snide remark than it would have been the case had he dignified them with a response. Sometimes the best way to extinguish unwanted behavior is to ignore it.

A second lesson has to do with self-esteem. We see from Saul that when one knows who he is, and is not in a defensive posture, that he doesn’t have to prove anything to unfair critics. You see, Saul knew that God had chosen him to be king; he knew what Samuel had told him in private conversation; the signs Samuel foretold had come to pass, confirming Samuel’s words. In short, though modest and humble, there was no doubt in Saul’s mind as to who he was; he knew he was king. Therefore, with proper self-esteem, he did not feel threatened because some were so ugly in their remarks which questioned his ability to serve as king.

The same principle holds true for children of God today. There is every reason for a child of God, who is striving to live as God reveals in His Word, to have healthy self-esteem. We do not deny that efforts will be made to intimidate a Christian or to put him in a defensive posture. But if we can remember who we are in Christ, we will be able to overcome these efforts of intimidation, and or feeling threatened.

A third lesson has to do with the difference between acting and reacting. When one reacts, his behavior depends upon the attitude and actions of others. If someone shouts at you, you shout back. If they call you a name, you call them one. If they revile you, revile them back. In short, when you react, you turn the “controls” over to others. On the other hand, when one acts his conduct is independent of what others do. He assesses the situation and then decides what his course of action will be. For the Christian, this means that one will always act in keeping with God’s word, regardless of what others may do (or not do). This may be illustrated in marriage. One given to reaction conducts himself/herself on the basis that “I’ll do my part if my spouse will do his part.” This is reacting. Acting is when one says, “I will be the kind of spouse God tells me to be, regardless of the conduct of my spouse.”

Saul acted instead of reacting. His conduct did not depend upon what these worthless men said. He retained control of himself, instead of turning it over to them. He did not allow them to cause him to assume a defensive posture, and retaliate accordingly. If only he had continued with this behavior. If only you and I would have the wisdom to apply these principles!

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