Then Saul said to David, “Here is my elder daughter Merab. I will give her to you for a wife. Only be valiant for me and fight the Lord's battles.” For Saul thought, “Let not my hand be against him, but let the hand of the Philistines be against him.” And David said to Saul, “Who am I, and who are my relatives, my father's clan in Israel, that I should be son-in-law to the king?” But at the time when Merab, Saul's daughter, should have been given to David, she was given to Adriel the Meholathite for a wife. (1 Samuel 18:17-19)
Saul promises David something that he has no intention of giving him, because he is trying to kill David. Likewise, the devil promises us things that he has no intention of giving us, because his goal is our eternal death. Saul does not want David to die at his own hand but at the hands of the Philistines. Notice that he tempts David with the prospect of fighting "the Lord's" battles, although the Lord has actually withdrawn his Spirit from Saul. David responds modestly, and then Saul responds to David by giving the same daughter to another, in order to humiliate David.
This eldest daughter of Saul's can be seen as the false church. Remember, the attack on the true church comes from two fronts: from without by the world and from within by the false church. The latter of these two enemies is the more powerful and tenacious. It is also the harder one to discern. One of my wife's friends gave a testimony on social media. The story was of a powerful, amazing vision this woman had received of Jesus standing beside her and speaking to her. Then within the same testimony came false doctrine that would lead readers astray from the way of the cross. Inspiring visions come straight from the false church, a tool of the enemy. Remember, the devil appears as an angel of light, and sometimes we cannot tell the difference between Satan and the Lord. However, the doctrine that comes along with the "light" needs to be biblical, in order for it to be true and come from God.
The devil does not kill Christ, but he sets up the situation so that the world will conmit the violence. The world is the enemy of the true church through violence and persecution. The false church is the enemy of the true church through distraction and obfuscation. The world crucifies Christ. The false church tells everyone that the crucifixion is insignificant. Many times the false church doesn't mention the crucifixion at all. The world wants to destroy the church. The false church wants to lead the church to self-destruction. Saul is essentially tempting David with the false church in order to lead him to destruction at the hands of the world. When the false church tempts us to fight the "Lord's" battles, remember that the Lord the false church is talking about is different from the Lord of the bible.
David's response is humility. He responds that he is not worthy to be the king's son-in-law. His lineage is not worthy. Likewise, the true Christian declares that he is not worthy of either the true church or the false church. The true church promises everlasting life, of which we are not worthy. The false church promises prosperity and worldly gain, of which we are not worthy. The best way to stand in the face of temptation is in an unworthy pose. Jesus said about himself, "Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. (Matthew 8:20)" Jesus, God himself, emptied himself of all value and became the poorest of men, one called "least", and denigrated himself even to death on a cross. Now he has been elevated to the highest place of honor at the table through that atoning sacrifice. No greater love has one than that he lay down his life for his friends. Think of others as better than yourself, for that is truly loving your neighbor.
Saul responds to David's humility by betrothing his false church to another. Now, this is good news, in that the devil will eventually depart from us. James 4:7 reads, "resist the devil and he will flee from you." Resist the world and false church and they will cease attacking you? Does this sound true? Well, eventually they will cease their attacks, but it may be when Christ comes again and wins the great war that has been waged against his church. What are we to do in the meantime?
Merab was given to Adriel instead of David, and we learn later that she bore Adriel five sons. This is the prosperity of the false church for all to see. The world sees this and either marvels or rejects all as a tremendous con job. What is the true church to do in the meantime? Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 8:9 for us to know that for our sake, Christ became poor, so that by his poverty we might become rich. This is not material wealth but sanctifying wealth. Our sanctification, our ability to love our God and neighbor, is dependent on our deep faith in Christ as our substitutionary atonement. We must meditate on his poverty and his death, which is only possible through an abiding faith. Many don't want to think about death in general at all. We keep our own deaths at a distance from our minds. When we read the beatitudes:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Think of them not as qualities that we should strive for but as qualities that Christ already has. He has them perfectly. He lived in poverty, he mourned for the state of the world, he was meek, righteous, and merciful, he was pure in heart and a peacemaker. Finally, he was persecuted for righteousness' sake. He experienced slow and agonizing torture and then one of the most painful executions possible. All of that happened so that everyone who believed in him and had faith in his blood would have everlasting life.
The world and false church will not go away until Christ returns. They will persecute and ridicule the true church. Put your faith in Christ's poverty, put your faith in his death. Hide under the shadow of his wing through the very end.