It is time to move beyond genealogy! Our author moves into the line of Israel’s kings by skipping Saul’s works and going to his death.
I’m curious why the story begins here. I have often thought of Kings and Chronicles as covering the same stories but 1 Kings starts at the end of David’s life Saul is absent in it. Chronicles is apparently going to cover some of the ground 2 Samuel did.
There were many things that Saul did in his reign that brought him to this place on the hilltop. He didn’t start off as a bad king. Instead he started off as a reluctant king. He hid in the baggage when Samuel called him forward to stand before the people. The people searched for him and brought him out. His first act wasn’t done from a throne but from his field. He heard of the perils the people of Jabesh-gilead were facing. He slaughtered his oxen, offered them as a sacrifice and demanded the people go with him to their brother’s defense.
But Saul didn’t stay this humble king. He became arrogant in his actions and placed himself in the role God had not called him to. He put himself in the place of the priests. God had set up a clear division of roles and Saul ignored them so God told him He would remove him. From that point on, things went downhill in Saul’s behavior. His jealousy grew to the point in consumed him. He knew God was going to remove the kingdom from his household and give it to David. He did EVERYTHING he could to prevent that. In setting himself against God, he stopped hearing from Him. And when Saul stopped listening God stopped talking to him. This is what brought him to the witch at Endor who called up the spirit of Samuel.
That was the final slap in the face to God. Samuel told Saul that he and his sons would die in battle the next day; they would fall to the Philistines. Which brings us to the place where 1 Chronicles begins.
The battle was fierce. All the kings of the Philistines had come out against Israel. David had tried to ‘align’ himself with the Philistines only to turn on them in the end and help Saul but God made sure that didn’t happen. He and his troops were sent home and further delayed by an attack on their families in their absence. Saul, his sons, and the army of Israel would face the Philistines kings alone. God would not help them.
Saul’s sons have fallen already. They were struck down in the push up the mountain of Gilboa. Saul alone was left. As he fled the Philistines he was struck by an arrow and seriously wounded. He knew his demise was at hand. He didn’t want to be captured and tortured by the Philistines. He wanted to leave this life on his own terms. Saul called to his closest servant, his armor bearer, to end his life. “NO WAY!” was the reply he received. Saul had to end his own life. He drew his sword, pushed himself up, positioned it beneath him and lowered himself onto it. I’m imagining he did this rather quickly so he wouldn’t have a chance to change his mind at the pain.
Saul’s armor bearer drew his own sword and took his own life. He had failed his king. Not only had he not protected him in battle but he had not assisted him in death. In his eyes, his life was over. And he made it so with his own hands.
The Philistines took great joy in displaying their victory over Israel. Not only had they routed the troops on the battlefield but the inhabitants of the cities had fled before them. When the dust settled the Philistines went out to collect the spoils. The bodies of Saul and his sons were among their greatest treasures. They displayed them for all Israel to see. The bodies were tied to the city walls while their heads and armor were put in the new temple to their gods.
The first people Saul rescued as king would be his final rescuers. Men of Jabesh-gilead stole into the valley and retrieved Saul and his son’s bodies from the city wall. They buried them in the territory of Jabesh-gilead, where they would remain until David retrieved them MANY years later.
Something that struck me as I was reading was where we are told why Saul died. “So Saul died for his breach of faith, He broke faith with the Lord in that he did not keep the command of the Lord, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance, He did not seek guidance from the Lord. Therefore the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse” (verses 13-14).
Saul didn’t turn to the medium until AFTER God refused to answer him. He certainly “broke faith with the Lord” LONG before that night and lost the kingdom to David LONG before his death. But it feels cruel to say he died because of consulting a medium as part of the reason “the Lord put him to death.”
Saul was beyond redemption when he went to the medium. He had sought answers from God but He was silent. God wasn’t silent because He didn’t have anything to say about what was going on in His kingdom but because He had already said what was going to happen. Saul simply REFUSED to listen to His answers. Saul didn’t get a different answer when he went to the medium. He received instead a confirmation of the original answer he had already received and rejected. Just because Saul ‘put his fingers in his ears’ didn’t change God’s answer. I wonder if there would have been hope for him if he listened in the first place and supported David instead of sought to kill him.
I wonder how many ‘if only’ sins I have in my life. ‘If only’ I would have listened the first time. ‘If only’ I wouldn’t have taken that first step down that road. ‘If only’ I would have prayed more. ‘If only’ I had kept my mouth SHUT! ‘If only’ I had said something when the Spirit of the Lord urged me to. What will my list of “breach of faith” events look like?
Because of the blood of Jesus, EACH entry will be washed away. But the natural consequences of many of them will still remain. ‘If only’ I could protect everyone (including me) from the consequences of my ‘if only’ moments.
Lord Jesus, thank You for washing me clean! I would be as lost as Saul was without Your blood. I wonder what his life would have been like if he had been born after the promise of salvation. Would he have still made the same choices? Would he have sought out a personal relationship with You or continued to seek his own desires? I’ve sought my own too many times, even though I’m on this side of Your promise. Please forgive me and wash me clean again. Thank You for all the times You already have done this in my life!
Holy Spirit, help me see the ‘if only’ moments more clearly and make the RIGHT choice in them. Let me hear You clearly. And let my heart’s desire line up with Yours. I want ALL my ‘if only’ moments to turn into ‘because’ stories instead. ‘Because’ I listened I got to see a marvelous miracle done by You! ‘Because’ I chose love I got to see a healing that wouldn’t have happened any other way! ‘Because’ You are on the throne in my life I get to see ALL THE THINGS YOU can do!!!