Over the doorways of the great Gothic Cathedral in Milan located in Lombardy, northern Italy, are engraved three inscriptions. Over the right-hand door there is this motto: All That Pleases Is but for a Moment. Over the left-hand archway the words read: All That Troubles Is but for a Moment. Over the central door there is a simple sentence: Nothing Is Important Save That Which Is Eternal.
1 Samuel 24 is an interesting and inspirational chapter if you read between the lines. Saul, the king of Israel whose throne is threatened by the brutal Philistines, chased David with insane madness. Eventually the Lord delivered Saul into the hands of David in a cave in the desert region of En Gedi but in an amazing twist of fate, the shepherd refused to slay the lion. The boy will not kill the bear. I find embedded in this chapter an amazing, and somewhat amusing, verse which is a sub-title in the main story line of the chapter. David asked Saul, “Against whom has the king of Israel come out? Whom are you pursuing? A dead dog? A flea?”
The question was both appropriate and appalling. David’s question is more than a statement of humility combined with an appeal for Saul to call off the hunt. It called a king to account for his time, talents, and treasure. “Saul, what are you doing? You’re a mighty king. There are enemies camped at our border waiting to topple your throne, kill innocent people and overrun the nation. It makes no sense for you to waste your time and energy on the likes of a flea like me.”
Saul lost the focus that kings are indebted to keep. In chasing David from one rocky mountain top to the next ravine, from cave to cavern, he abandoned the priorities of a king. While his kingdom was in peril he engaged himself in a flea hunt!
The simple lessons in life are difficult to learn for both peasants and kings. Indeed, “All that pleases is but for a moment.” Obviously, Saul didn’t believe that or subscribe to the truth of a popular proverb, “There are no pockets in shrouds.” In just a short time Saul would be dead, not at the hands of David, but his real enemies, the Philistines. “All that troubles is but for a moment.”
David’s question halted a king and yet it still confronts a peasant like me: Christian, Whom are you pursuing? I am compelled to pray, Lord, help me understand, nothing is important save that which is eternal.