The world has no shortage of snake oil to cure whatever ails you. Peruse the self help section at Amazon, or, if you still have one located nearby, your local bookstore. Dr. Phil can help solve your every problem. Or if he can’t help, then surely Dr. Laura can. Or perhaps what you need is someone to help cure your addiction to sex, to pornography, to drugs, and to rock n’ roll. If that is the case, then Dr. Drew is there to fix you right up. Maybe what you need though, is a motivational speaker. Why not try Tim Ferriss, he has angel stock; and if he cannot help, then go with that old standby, Tony Robbins. For every pain there is a pill, and for every pill there is a seven-step, ten-step, or twelve-step program to help you start the vicious circle all over again.
From the moment Adam disobeyed and then tried to hide his fear and shame with a fig leaf, the world has been telling us that our sins and our guilt, our grief and sorrow, our depression and our addictions can all be solved with a good talking to, a little self help discipline, and a nice pep talk. And if that doesn’t work, then name your poison; here is a pill, a plant and a drink.
Of course none of these things cure anything. This is because the root of our problems is sin rather than psychology. Sin is ultimately the cause of it all, whether it is sin we have done to others, or sins someone has done to us. The cure is not psychology nor the lack of pep talks. The cure is resurrection!
But psychology sells. And so the self-help books continue to fly off the shelves. What is more, this self help nonsense gets inside churches where the gospel gets turned into a psychobabble, self help message about Christ dying to make His people mentally and emotionally happy. The cross gets the hippie treatment, man.
Let me say from the start that I am not against psychiatrists or counselors, per se. Proper counseling can indeed help a gospel believer learn to cope with mental disabilities that are physical in nature. The problem, however, comes when people with spiritual issues try solving spiritual problems with psychobabble nonsense. Understand that if you are believer, and your emotional issues are not physical in nature, then the only cure is the gospel. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look then.
1 Samuel 16:1-11
The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” 2 And Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me.” And the LORD said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ 3 And invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do. And you shall anoint for me him whom I declare to you.” 4 Samuel did what the LORD commanded and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling and said, “Do you come peaceably?” 5 And he said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Consecrate yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
6 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed is before him.” 7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” 8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” 9 Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” 10 And Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen these.” 11 Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here.”
Why wasn’t David already there?
After all, Samuel was the most important person in Israel at this time. He was a prophet of God, and he judged Israel. He had invited Jesse and his sons. Was Jesse confused? Did he forget he had another son?
Put it this way, if the most important man in Israel, the man who judged Israel at that time, an authentic prophet of the Lord God of Israel, had invited you and your sons to come dine with him, would you not bring your youngest to meet him? And keep in mind that we are not talking about a toddler here. David was no toddler at this point in time. He was at least old enough to look after the old man’s flock by himself. Would you not then, as his father, have brought him with you so that Samuel could meet him? Especially if you were “advanced in years” as the Bible says Jesse was, and knew your time was near? Would you not think to introduce your youngest to the judge of Israel, and a prophet of God?
Let us put that on hold for a moment.
1 Samuel 17
Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle. And they were gathered at Socoh, which belongs to Judah, and encamped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim.2 And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered, and encamped in the Valley of Elah, and drew up in line of battle against the Philistines.3 And the Philistines stood on the mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with a valley between them.4 And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six and a span.5 He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze.6 And he had bronze armor on his legs, and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders.7 The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron. And his shield-bearer went before him.8 He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me.9 If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.”10 And the Philistine said, “I defy the ranks of Israel this day. Give me a man, that we may fight together.”11 When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.
12 Now David was the son of an Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah, named Jesse, who had eight sons. In the days of Saul the man was already old and advanced in years. 13 The three oldest sons of Jesse had followed Saul to the battle. And the names of his three sons who went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, and next to him Abinadab, and the third Shammah.14 David was the youngest. The three eldest followed Saul,15 but David went back and forth from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem.16 For forty days the Philistine came forward and took his stand, morning and evening.
17 And Jesse said to David his son, “Take for your brothers an ephah of this parched grain, and these ten loaves, and carry them quickly to the camp to your brothers.18 Also take these ten cheeses to the commander of their thousand. See if your brothers are well, and bring some token from them.”
19 Now Saul and they and all the men of Israel were in the Valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines.20 And David rose early in the morning and left the sheep with a keeper and took the provisions and went, as Jesse had commanded him. And he came to the encampment as the host was going out to the battle line, shouting the war cry.21 And Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army.22 And David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage and ran to the ranks and went and greeted his brothers.23 As he talked with them, behold, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him.
24 All the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were much afraid.25 And the men of Israel said, “Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel. And the king will enrich the man who kills him with great riches and will give him his daughter and make his father’s house free in Israel.”26 And David said to the men who stood by him, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”27 And the people answered him in the same way, “So shall it be done to the man who kills him.”
28 Now Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spoke to the men. And Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, “Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and the evil of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.”29 And David said, “What have I done now? Was it not but a word?”30 And he turned away from him toward another, and spoke in the same way, and the people answered him again as before.
I hear ridicule in Eliab’s words. I hear undue criticizing. Few. “Those few sheep.” As though to say, that’s all you’re capable of, David, that’s all you are worth to me, to be left alone at home to take care of a few sheep.
But notice David’s reply. This was not the first time he had heard such criticism. Listen to his reply again. “What have I done now?”
That word “now” tells me a lot. It tells me that this is something David has heard time and time and time again. Now what is it, Eliab? What have I done now?
Eliab is a bully! He, and maybe the other brothers too, have been bullying David for some time, if not his entire life. Nothing he does is good enough. Nothing he says is right. Worse yet, either his father has bought into this (unlikely), or else he is just too old and too tired to deal with it. David is my youngest, and I would like him to meet Samuel, but there will no peace in the family if I take him, so David, my son, perhaps you ought to just stay home tonight, after all.
Now you might say, but a lot of brothers are like that. In fact, that is pretty much how brothers are, at least until they mature and grow up. True. But that does not mean it never has any effect upon the brother being bullied. Not every person responds to bullying the same way.
But put all this on hold too, because David’s journey towards tragedy and heartbreak is only about to begin.