“So it happened the next day, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. 9 And they cut off his head and stripped off his armor, and sent word throughout the land of the Philistines, to proclaim it in the temple of their idols and among the people. 10 Then they put his armor in the temple of the Ashtoreths, and they fastened his body to the wall of Beth Shan.” [1 Samuel 31:8-10 (NKJV)].
This 31st chapter of 1 Samuel is one of the saddest in all of the Bible. It tells us of the death of Israel’s first king, King Saul. In battle with the Philistines, Saul’s son, Jonathan was killed along with three of his most valiant warriors. And when Saul receives this news, he falls on his own sword, killing himself.
The next day, the Philistines go over the battlefield to recover booty and find King Saul, Jonathan, and the valiant warriors. They decapitate them and hang their dead bodies on the walls of one of the cities they conquered.
The spiritual history of King Saul is checkered. He begins well when Samuel anoints him king in 1 Samuel 10:1. The Spirit of the Lord comes upon Saul and when he meets a group of prophets, he begins to prophesy with them, and these godly people recognize that the Spirit of Jehovah God rests upon King Saul.
After a couple of successful years of his reign, Samuel, under God’s orders, sends Saul to destroy the Amalekite people. However, King Saul listens to his men and they bring the best of the cattle back along with the king of the Amalekites to offer them before the Lord. Samuel meets King Saul and accuses him of disobedience which King Saul tries to avoid. Samuel’s response sounds the death knell of Saul’s kingship: “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king.”
From this point to the end of his life, King Saul’s life is a downward spiral until on the night before he kills himself, Saul consults with a medium of Endor who calls Samuel from the grave to tell Saul of his impending doom: “Why do you consult me, now that the LORD has departed from you and become your enemy? 17 The LORD has done what he predicted through me. The LORD has torn the kingdom out of your hands and given it to one of your neighbors—to David. 18 Because you did not obey the LORD or carry out his fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the LORD has done this to you today.” [1 Samuel 28:16-18].
The man upon whom the Spirit of God rested, has reduced himself to calling up a dead prophet to hear that God has taken his kingdom away from him and given it to David. A man who had the Spirit of God, finds himself without the power to even address God personally.
There is no such thing as faith that is divorced from obedience. Disobedience destroys our ability to trust God. And Saul dies at his own hands, without family, kingdom, or God. What a tragedy.
Prayer: “Lord, help us to understand the place obedience plays in our faith. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.”
Pastor Ivan Schwenn, July 21, 2021