Today, in 1 Samuel 31, we see the death of Saul. His death wasn’t just any death, either. Saul suffered the greatest defeat. Quick and painless, it was not. To start, Saul watched as his army was overcome by the Philistines. Their press forward caused many of the Israelite warriors to simply give up the cause. They fled, abandoning Saul, their leader. The few loyal warriors were Saul’s own family. But, instead of comfort, they brought pain as he witnesses their slaying at the hand of the Philistines. As the pain becomes too much to bear, Saul concedes that the end is near. The emotional defeat is complete and the physical is not far behind. With the piercing pain of arrows, Saul is badly wounded. His last effort to save a shred of dignity is to have his trusted aid kill him. When the man refuses, Saul has no other choice. The only way to escape more torment is to fall on his own sword. Death is the only option.
I’ve wrestled with this story for several days. The despair is overwhelming. The complete absence of hope crushes my spirit. I read and re-read it searching desperately for something redeeming. It’s not there. It doesn’t exist. I am forced to accept Saul’s complete destruction. Thankfully, today I discovered something new. It appeared for me as I read the Chet Bandy’s post, “Leadership Lessons From David.” He presented a picture of David’s life that stands in such stark contrast to Saul’s.
Saul took action following his own direction. In 1 Samuel 13, Saul decided to offer the sacrifice on his own, and not follow Gods plan for it. Compare this with David who took action by after the Lord’s direction.
Saul used his own wisdom and made a ridiculous vow in 1 Samuel 14. It caused needless suffering and turmoil within his own family. David, however asked for the Lord’s wisdom and direction.
Saul made excuses for not following God’s direction, attempting to twist the failure into an offering in 1 Samuel 15. David, on the other hand, makes no excuses and quickly seeks correction in 1 Samuel 24.
Saul solicits answers from a medium and not going to the Lord in prayer in 1 Samuel 28. Contrast this with Davids effort. In 1 Samuel 30:6 he seeks and finds strength in the Lord.
Perhaps the most striking part of Saul’s story is the ease at which it happened. It reminds me of the phrase first slowly, then suddenly. You see, God didn’t yank him from the throne immediately. In fact, our gracious God stuck with him, desperately wanting to atone for him. Alas, Saul did not respond. His continual denial, betrayal and last rejection of God became his undoing.
Ironically, my final analysis of 1 Samuel 31 revealed hope. This hope, however, is only found within the context of Saul’s entire life. It’s revealed in God’s grace upon grace. God presented grace as patience toward Saul, waiting for his acknowledgement. The same is true for you and me. We have grace today for our failures. God still loves us, despite our failure to follow and honor him. Only one thing is required to stave off death. Acknowledge Him.
So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. Matthew 10:32-33 (ESV)