The next day an evil spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. Saul had his spear in his hand; and Saul threw the spear, for he thought, ‘I will pin David to the wall.’ But David eluded him twice.
Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him but had departed from Saul. So Saul removed him from his presence, and made him a commander of a thousand; and David marched out and came in, leading the army. David had success in all his undertakings; for the Lord was with him. When Saul saw that he had great success, he stood in awe of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David; for it was he who marched out and came in leading them.
The further Saul drifts from God, the more hateful everything becomes to him. At first, David is the only person who can keep him calm by playing the lyre. But soon, even the sight of a righteous man is too much for him to bear. Saul hates, fears, and envies David because without God hate, fear, and envy are the only things he can feel. Any other emotion must have a source of goodness, and the source of all goodness is God!
The worst punishment someone can receive is to lose the Spirit of God. Read what David himself prays in Psalm 51:10-12 after his rape of Bathsheba.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit.
Part of his plea for forgiveness is for God to remain with him! David, who witnessed Saul’s madness without God, knows that his ability to even feel remorse is only possible with God’s help! Without God we are unable to seek God. Without God we are unable to even recognize that we want to leave Hell. God allows us to want forgiveness. God enables us to feel love and grace and joy.
It’s frightening to think of ourselves as half-blind, unable to determine what we even want or need, but the story of Saul reveals that our judgement is horribly wrong without God to guide us. We tend to think of Hell as a place of evil demons who trick us with their wiles and deception. It may be closer to a dusty, cramped closet that we run and hide in like children because we can’t let go of our spite.
Hell is the logic of a spiteful child.