♣ Great Beginnings, Grave Endings
1 Samuel Chapters 9, 10 and 31
ASIDE FROM THE ‘Fall of Man’, the biographical account of King Saul has to be one of the most – if not the most – lamentable and pitiable human events recorded in Scripture.
Saul began great only to end in horror. Many who start off well end bad; many who start bad finish good in the economy of God’s grace.
Saul had so many positive and prosperous factors that paved the way to him possibly being Israel’s greatest king:
- in all of Israel, none were more handsome than Saul (this being the least of all).
- he had a sensitive conscience.
- though he was of humble beginnings he was quickly exalted to royalty.
- the Spirit of the Lord frequently descended on him powerfully.
- he was given another heart by the Lord.
- God was with him in whatever he did.
- he won favour in the eyes of all men.
- he reigned as king under perpetual blessing and the unbroken favour of God in the first few years of governing Israel.
Some authorities, while others are not so certain, state that Saul’s first two years of reign were lived in unbroken obedience and closeness to God. Undoubtedly, Saul felt special – so much so that he took matters into his own hands by unlawfully sacrificing to God after having been given clear instructions to await Samuel who would carry out what only he was authorized to do. This was Saul’s first visible descent.
In the midst of blessing, Saul became complacent, conceited and careless. What a warning that should be to us! It is by the sheer mercy of God Who permits our trials to humble us. No wonder we are to rejoice in them.
Another visible sign of Saul’s descent was, rather than fear God, he feared man and salved his conscience by justifying his actions to ‘sacrifice’ rather than obey God. Many professing Christians rather than slay their sin or worldliness have attempted to salvage what they can from it or even convert it. It will not work. The apostle Paul was not in the least bit vague or in the habit of using impressive allegory for the sake of it when he said, “Put to death what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). He was affirmative in his declaration: “…the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). Such standards were not confined to Paul alone, but to every one of us who profess Christ: “So you also must consider yourself dead to sin…” (Romans 6:11).
What a long, miserable and continual fall Saul endured throughout the remaining thirty-eight years of his reign. Spiritually he had descended further than king Nebuchadnezzar, who had turned from his pride unto the Lord; there was no true repentance with Saul as there was with Nebuchadnezzar. Saul’s spiritual decline worsened as he multiplied in bitterness; the longer he lived the more he became twisted.
The next most grieving aspect of Saul’s life was not the moment when God rejected him as king and tore away the kingdom from his hands, in preparation for David who would truly shepherd Israel, but when the Lord rejected him as a person. The Spirit of the Lord departed from him. There can be nothing more miserable than this. “Life without Thee is nought” says the hymnist. No wonder David cried, “Cast me not away from Your presence, and take not Your Holy Spirit away from me” (Psalm 51:11). Without uncertainty, David was mindful of Saul’s drastic end when he penned that. David had nothing to lean on but the mercy of God. A right sacrifice in God’s eyes was a broken spirit and a contrite heart, of which Saul had none. Is it any wonder why it was said of David, that he was a man after God’s own heart? Even though Saul was once given another heart by the Lord, no such tribute shall be given to him.
When the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, a harmful or evil spirit rested on him. The Dove found nowhere to rest on Saul and had to depart. Where Saul once knew soundness and peace of mind, instead, he encountered torment, mental instability and double-mindedness. Atrocities of the worst kind were either ordered or committed by the hand of Saul (1 Samuel 22:6-19). When the Lord removes His restraining hand and protective shield from people and nations, we can surely expect chaos and depravity of unimaginable degrees. Is it not what we are witnessing in America? And it will only heighten if the Church continues to sleep.
Drawing towards the end of his life, Saul, in his desperation sought a medium – what he once condemned as punishable by death. So distressed in soul and impaired in thinking, he searched for guidance other than from God, until he was made aware that, not only had God departed from him, He also became his enemy. Indeed, as a result, Saul had lost the very will to live.
Observe both Saul’s first meal with Samuel, that spoke of a priest’s portion – an indication of the sacredness of Saul’s kingship – (1 Samuel 9-22-24) and his last meal of the fattened calf (after being persuaded to eat, 1Samuel 28:24-25). His first meal on the occasion of his anointing was eaten with gladness and joy; his last meal was eaten with dread. What thoughts must have raced through His mind! Risen to a king from insignificance; now fallen to humiliating depths and to the point of no return. All that lay ahead for Saul was the unavoidable consequences of God’s severe judgement through the humiliation of his enemies triumph (1 Samuel 31:8-10). What a tragic end to a glorious beginning.
Someone may ask, what has this got to do with the Church; are we not under the dispensation of grace and the New Covenant? Why these warnings to those of us who are secured by God’s grace – that’s Old Testament stuff? Paul’s statement, in answer to that question, is sufficient in and of itself. Obviously, it is in context of Paul expounding on the glorious fact that God has not given up on the Jews, despite their present blindness; God still has a small remnant of such people being saved – but I strongly believe these verses from Romans 11:17-22 serves well in warning professing Christians today: “But if some of the branches [Israel] were broken off, and you [Gentiles], although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, ‘Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.’ That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in His kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.”
In addition to that, the author to the Hebrews, in chapter 4:12-14, carries the same tone of warning – not to unbelievers, but to those in the faith: “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.”
“The evils that befall others should be warnings to us.” – Matthew Henry
Have we not witnessed and heard of others that started out well, with what seemed to be a bright and promising future, only to see them lose all that they had? Have we not seen this among well respected leaders in the church – people who we thought could never fall, but did?
Unfortunate family upbringings do not seal or determine a person’s end, neither does being reared in a loving, Christian home – although an advantage – guarantee the desired results. Some believers in their early years seemed very unpromising, but by the grace of God have outpaced those who were deemed anointed and well-to-do Christians. It is amazing to observe those who limit the grace of God in the lives of others, but time does often tell, that those who self-righteously judged others are no longer walking with God. In fact, they are either in denial of the faith or walking contrary to God’s ways.
Man may disqualify and shelve others as no good and useless in the kingdom of heaven, but often times that’s where God qualifies: “The first shall be last and the last first; the least the greatest and the greatest the least.” Much of what man qualifies God disregards.
It is not how we start life’s race, but how we run and persevere in mid-course and above all – how we finish.
Posted on March 19, 2013, in ♣ Devotional and tagged 1 Samuel 10, 1 Samuel 22:6-19, 1 Samuel 31, 1 Samuel 9, Atrocities, bitterness, careless, chaos, Christian leaders falling, church asleep, Colossians 3:5, complacent, conceited, dead to sin, dead to the world, depravity, devotional, disobedience, distressed, double-mindedness, economy of God’s grace, Fall of Man, fear of man, finishing the race, Galatians 6:14, glorious beginning, God rejecting Saul, God's protective shield, God's restraining hand, Great Beginnings Grave Endings, humiliating, impaired, insignificance, King David, king Nebuchadnezzar, King Saul, life of king Saul, life's race, limiting God's grace in others, Mark Anthony Williams, Matthew Henry, mental instability, obey God, Psalm 51:11, Romans 11:17-22, Romans 6:11, sin, Spirit of God departing, torment, tragic end, trials to humble us, twisted, warning, Worldliness. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.