At the end of the book of 1 Samuel, King Saul finally dies, years after God has sworn that He would remove the kingship from the unfaithful man and give it to David, a man after His own heart. In fact, the anointing has already been shifted.
So at the beginning of 2 Samuel, an Amalekite runs to find David where he is hiding with his men and deliver the news that Saul and his son, Jonathan, are dead and that David can finally step into his rightful places as Israel's king. And the Amalekite tells an interesting story about how this all went down.
Essentially, the Amalekite takes credit for killing Saul, saying that he found the king wounded and begging for mercy, so he rammed a sword through the injured king. The Amalekite thought that this would be good news for David and that his faithful, heroic effort in killing the disfavored king would bring him good fortune with the Lord's anointed.
Instead, David kills him for his so-called "good news."
And the most tragic part of this entire story is that the Amalekite's story wasn't the truth.
Turn back to the end of 1 Samuel, and we see that Saul was, indeed, injured and that he did, indeed, beg for his armorbearer to kill him so that he would not suffer the indignity of having been killed in battle, but the armorbearer refused to do so out of reverence for the Lord's choosing of Saul in the first place, so Saul fell on his own sword and killed himself. No Amalekite anywhere to be seen.
So why did the Amalekite take credit for something he didn't do? Simply put, he thought it would be good news to the king. And hey, if the king is going to be happy, he might as well be happy with the Amalekite. Right?
It's the trap we fall into all the time, even about important things. Even about holy things. We tell others what we think they'll be happy to hear. We share with them what we're pretty sure is good news. And more often than not, we spin the story just a little bit so that we get a measure of the credit for it. So that we come off looking good.
We usually come off looking bad.
It's what happens when we sit around with our friends and neighbors, telling them about all the wonderful things we've involved in with our church, while we all drink beers, curse, gossip about mutual acquaintances, and make dirty jokes. We tell them the good news - there's this guy named Jesus, and He died for you. And then we tell them the great news, manifest in our own life, that being a Christian really isn't all that hard. In fact, you don't have to change anything at all. That's what Jesus is for.
Then they read the Gospel for themselves, they see what it's all about, and our great news isn't even good any more. Know why? Because we're nothing but hypocrites. That's why. Because we've twisted the message of the story that's been plainly told in order to come off better in it, and it's damaged everything. We don't come off good. Jesus doesn't come off good. And our friends, who were willing at least to give Jesus a chance, now turn away from Him entirely, discouraged and disgusted by what we were sure was what they wanted to hear.
Sound familiar? It's happening all the time. And it's driving a sword right through the heart of the Christian faith as God intended it. No wonder the church is struggling. No wonder the church is mocked. We've taken good news, tried to turn it into great news (so that, you know, we get the credit we deserve for being who we are), and it's become nothing but bad news - for the world, for the church, for us.