Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Read: 1 Samuel 13 to 31

Saul was a clever man; a great military leader; an able statesman; yet his life was a miserable failure because he tried to put himself in the place of God and to carry out his own plans.

We can follow his gradual decline as he begins to take matters into his own hands, make rash vows, disobeys God's commands, is shamed by his son Jonathan's simple nobility and became jealous, bitter and depressed, wasting his time hunting down David, desperate for guidance he stooped to spiritism which he earlier had banned, and finally became one of the Bible's rare suicides. In four words we may outline the career of Saul.
1. Annointed, 2. Crowned, 3. Disobedient, 4. Rejected. We could subtitle this lesson, "The King who went wrong."

(1) Anointed

The elders of Israel had gathered at Ramah and demanded that Samuel give them a king (8:3-20). Samuel is displeased and lists the many disadvantages of having a king (8:11-18). Samuel then receives the prophecy from God that he is to give Israel a king and that the king would come to him in 24 hours (1 Samuel 9:16).

We first meet Saul in quest of his father's asses which had strayed from home. He came to inquire of the prophet Samuel as to their whereabouts and unknowingly fulfills the prophecy given to Samuel. (1 Samuel 9:18-20).
  • Saul is privately anointed by Samuel at Ramah (10:1).
  • Saul is publicly acclaimed by Samuel at Mizpeh (10:24).
Four Things in Saul's Ordination:

1. Divine Ordination (1 Samuel 9:3-20) He went out with a bridle and came back with a scepter.
2. Prophetic Ordination (1 Samuel 10:11) Samuel was his tutor and friend. What an advantage but it was thrown away. How often we do that today!
3. Spiritual Ordination - The Spirit of God came upon him (1 Samuel 10:10) He grieved this Spirit, then he quinched Him.
4. Popular Ordination - "and all the people shouted and said, 'God save the king.'" (1 Samuel 28:7)

(2) Crowned

All Israel assembled in Mizpah at the call of Samuel to choose a king. When the lot fell on Saul, the people searched for him and found him among the baggage. Saul felt unworthy at this point of being king (9:21) and actually hid himself. When Samuel officially proclaimed him king, he had to be brought out of hiding (10:21). "And they ran and fetched him thence: and when he stood among the people, he was higher then any of the people, from his shoulders and upward" (1 Samuel 10:23)

Saul returns to Gibeah (10:26).

Saul raised an army of 330 thousand to rescue the Israelite city of Jabesh-Gilead who had been surrounded by a cruel enemy. (11:8-15).

As we studied last week, Samuel gathers Israel at Gilgal and gives his farewell address to the people. He warns both Saul and the people about the consequences of disobeying God (12:25). God punctuates this warning by the miracle of thunder and rain (12:18)

(3) Disobedient (1 Samuel 13:1)

Saul began early to manifest a rebellious spirit against Jehovah. When he was sent to destroy Amalek, he spared a pagan named Agag the king and the best of the cattle and his city (15:9).

By offering the sacrifice of a priest (13:9)

By ordering the death of his own son. Saul had foolishly ordered no food to be eaten by his troops until the Philistines were defeated. Jonathan, his son, unaware of the command, ate some honey: The people, however, refused to let Saul carry out his foolish law and thus saved Jonathan (14:45). God saved Israel that day; this was done in spite of Saul’s stupidity, through three things:
  1. Jonathan’s battle plan and personal courage (14:6)
  2. a divine earthquake (14:15)
  3. panic among the Philistine troops (14:19)
(4) Rejected

Because of his failure to obey the word of the Lord in the matter of Amalek (15:9), the event was significant because it marked the total rejection of Saul by God (15:11)

It illustrated a great biblical principle. When Saul lamely excused his actions in not killing the animals as instructed, but in saving them for sacrificial reason, God sent Samuel to denounce Saul's wickedness:

"And Samuel said, Hath 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 hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king" (1 Sam. 15:22, 23).

In other words, it is better to obey than to sacrifice (for sins) because when one obeys God in the first place, he need not offer a sacrifice. (It is therefore better to apply the principle laid down in Eph. 6:13 than the one found in 1 John 1:9.)

"Thou has rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord hath rejected thee from being king over Israel" (1 Samuel 15:26).

It was the last meeting between Saul and Samuel until Samuel died (15:35).

The closing years of Saul's reign are shadowed by the struggle between the wayward king and God. At last in a terrible hour of defeat and despair Saul died by his own hand on the slopes of Mt. Gilboa.

Questions for thought:

Insomuch as Saul was granted to Israel as king in response to Israel's sinful demand for a king, contrary to God's will, did Saul ever really have a chance to "make good" in God's sight? Could he possible have succeded under such circumstances? Was he not condemed by God to failure even before he started as king?

1 Samuel 12:12-15 - The prophet of God tells Israel that although they demanded their king in defiance to God (12), if both they and their king would fear Jehovah and serve Him, all would be well. Note what follows (verses 16-18). In verse 19 we see Israel confessing her sin of asking for a king, and Samuel reassures Israel promising blessing if they serve God.

The only reason why a soul is ever rejected by God is because that soul has first rejected God. God takes the initiative in love. "We love Him, because He first loved us." (1 John 4:19) Man takes the initiative in sin (1 Samuel 15:23)

Give God His Right-of-way

All through the years Samuel morned for Saul. When he failed, Samuel was faithful in warning him, then in loneliness he mourned over him. Multiplied verses tell the story. (1 Samuel 15:35)

In the battle of the philistines, Saul and his three sons met death. Here a life so full of promise ended in defeat and failure. Saul had not obeyed God absolutely. For example: If I should sell 1000 acres of land and reserve 1 acre in the center, I would have the right to go over those 1000 acres to get to mine. One trouble with us is that we reserve a room for satan in our hearts and he knows he has right of way. This was the trouble with Saul.

Think of the differance between Saul (of Tarsus) and Saul the king! One put God first, the other himself. God is showing that He must be all in all! That His children have no blessing apart from Him. The dawn morning of Saul's life was bright but soon the sky became overcast. Then his sun set in the blackest storm clouds taking him from rise, to reign, to ruin.

Application Notes:

The only reason why a soul is ever rejected by God is because that soul has first rejected God. God takes the initiative in love. "We love Him, because He first loved us." (1 John 4:19) Man takes the initiative in sin (1 Samuel 15:23)

We must be right with God. God chooses and uses those who's hearts are right with Him. He gifts, empowers and blesses those who serve him. He is equally prepared to judge and confound those who disobey Him. A good start is no guarantee of future success. We need to keep right with Him, obedient and trusting all along, not just in spots.

Samuel's Lament

As Abraham mourned once for Israel
I have mourned for Saul
His future looked so bright to me
Spirit filled, strong and tall

The demand (at Ramah), for a king was made
Saul was anointed there
At Mizpah the command of God I obeyed
Much more I could not bear

"Rejection of My Prophet", God said
was not what they had done
It was rejection of their Lord that day
And it wont be the only one

Israel was promised blessings there
If they would obey God's will
But Saul took a very different path
His own life, he'd fulfill

"To obey is better than sacrifice"
was my response to them
Because he had rejected The Word of the Lord
Kingship would be removed from him

As Abraham mourned for Ishmael
I have mourned for Saul
His lack of obedience cost his life
And he died by his own fall

Sources: KJV, Burroughs,Scofield, Willmington,Mears,Larkin,Balchin,David C. Brown, A.T. Worley, C.O. Staggs and my own personal study notes


Meg said...

"Saul raised an army of 330 thousand to rescue the Israelite city of Jabesh-Gilead"

Is that a typo? That's upwards to the amount of soldiers we have had in the middle east, isn't it?

James said...

This number was actually derived from the following verse:

"And when he numbered them in Bezek, the children of Israel were three hundred thousand, and the men of Judah thirty thousand." --1 Sam 11:8

This was a vast army, but the Septuagint make it even more: "All the men of Israel were ἑξακοσιας χιλιαδας, Six Hundred thousand; and the men of Judah ἑβδομηκοντα χιλιαδας, Seventy thousand." Josephus goes yet higher with the number of the Israelites: "He found the number of those whom he had gathered together to be ἑβδομηκοντα μυριαδας Seven Hundred thousand." Those of the tribe of Judah he makes seventy thousand, with the Septuagint.

The interesting thing here to me is that it is recording during the united kingdom stage of Israel's history but the text is careful to separate Judah and Israel in the counting of the people.

One suggestion has been which tribe is mentioned distinctly, because a noble and warlike tribe, which usually first went up to battle; and though the number of them at this time assembled may seem comparatively small, yet this may easily be accounted for; because they bordered upon the Philistines, who watched every opportunity to take an advantage of them, and therefore could not leave their tribe destitute, but reserved a sufficient number to guard their coasts.

Also remember another reason for the distinction of Judah is the promise in Gen_49:10, The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.