Saul’s sad decline ends in suicide, rather than waiting for God to either deliver him or allow him to die an honourable death.
1 Samuel 31:1-13
Now the Philistines fought against Israel; the Israelites fled before them, and many fell dead on Mount Gilboa. 2 The Philistines were in hot pursuit of Saul and his sons, and they killed his sons Jonathan, Abinadab and Malki-Shua. 3 The fighting grew fierce around Saul, and when the archers overtook him, they wounded him critically.
4 Saul said to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and run me through, or these uncircumcised fellows will come and run me through and abuse me.”
But his armor-bearer was terrified and would not do it; so Saul took his own sword and fell on it. 5 When the armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he too fell on his sword and died with him. 6 So Saul and his three sons and his armor-bearer and all his men died together that same day.
7 When the Israelites along the valley and those across the Jordan saw that the Israelite army had fled and that Saul and his sons had died, they abandoned their towns and fled. And the Philistines came and occupied them.
8 The next day, when the Philistines came to strip the dead, they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. 9 They cut off his head and stripped off his armor, and they sent messengers throughout the land of the Philistines to proclaim the news in the temple of their idols and among their people. 10 They put his armor in the temple of the Ashtoreths and fastened his body to the wall of Beth Shan.
11 When the people of Jabesh Gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, 12 all their valiant men marched through the night to Beth Shan. They took down the bodies of Saul and his sons from the wall of Beth Shan and went to Jabesh, where they burned them. 13 Then they took their bones and buried them under a tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and they fasted seven days.
And so ends the story of Saul’s sad decline from being God’s anointed first king, to dying an ignominious death. Saul knew God had rejected him when the prophet Samuel pointed this out to him after his earlier disobedience to God in battle. It is ironic that Saul’s earlier rejection included God’s painful declaration that the sin of rebellion is like the sin of divination – exactly what Saul did before his final battle when he did not hear from the Lord. So Saul compounded his earlier sin of disobedience by seeking a medium to bring up the prophet Samuel to give him counsel for the impending battle. Unfortunately for Saul, the news was not good, and he was told they would lose the battle against the Philistines, and he and his sons would die.
As Saul and his army fled to higher ground on Mount Gilboa, forced to retreat to reduce the military advantage of the Philistine chariots on level ground, the archers continued to attack from below, until Saul was critically wounded. Samuel’s final words were coming true, and Saul was surrounded, having seen his sons slain and his kingly guard falling all around him. Instead of drawing on strength from God to fight to the end or surrender, Saul ends his own life, an ignominious end to Israel’s first king. John McArthur notes that Saul’s suicide is the ultimate expression of Saul’s faithlessness toward God at this moment of his life.
1000 years later Jesus was apparently defeated by his enemies. He was also handed over to his enemies to be abused, and his body also hung as an object of disgust and humiliation for all to see.
However, Saul died after his failure to obey God, while Jesus died in complete obedience to God’s will. Saul’s failure illustrates the futility of relying on human power, whereas Jesus shows that obedience to God results in ultimate victory as he was raised up to eternal life alongside his father. This reflects Hannah’s song, where she said “ the Lord brings life, and the Lord raises up, he will give strength to his king, and exalt the power of his anointed.” What a hope we have in God, who brings the ultimate victory.
Head: Think of some other examples of Saul’s disobedience and Jesus obedience to God the Father
Heart: How do you feel when you have disobeyed God, either in direct opposition to his written revelation, the Bible or when you have not followed the prompting s of the spirit.
Hands: Reflect on a time in your life where you have been disobedient, and if you have not yet, ask for the Lord’s forgiveness. Determine to reach out to someone today with love, as God directs your heart.
Prayer: Oh Lord, thank you for the great examples in your word of the consequences of disobedience and the blessings of obedience as illustrated by King Saul and King Jesus. Thank you that Jesus paid the penalty for our disobedience, and as we submit to you and your word, we may live lives worthy of the calling we have received. Forgive us for our disobedience, and give us the grace to live for you, even when it hurts. In Jesus name and by the power of your Spirit. Amen
A song to listen to: Only a Holy God
Sean Kluyts– Creek Road Presbyterian Church- Carina