THE END OF THE ROAD
Heavenly Father, today may I hear your voice over the clatter of daily distractions, and the din of many attractions.
Read 1 SAMUEL 31
Saul Takes His Life
31 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.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.’1
Saul has reached the end of the road: his sons are dead, he is severely wounded, and the battle is turning against Israel (vs 2,3). Samuel’s words are being fulfilled and Saul’s own death is inevitable. The king has always run from the consequences of his actions and walked further and further down the path of destruction: of others and himself. To the last, he tries to have control by commanding his armor-bearer to run him through, then by killing himself (v 4). His death in all its heartbreaking pathos encapsulates his life of holding on to power. A tragic figure, he epitomizes the truth that the wages of sin is death,2 not only in the physical sense but in the spiritual-moral devastation of what life is meant to be. Long before he died, sin and disobedience destroyed him.
Even in tragedy, however, the story points to hope. The people of Jabesh Gilead, who now save Saul’s body from the enemy’s mistreatment of him in death (vs 11–13) were once saved from attackers by Saul in those far-off days before sin took hold of Israel’s first king.3 His faithfulness then engenders faithfulness now and highlights the spiritual truth that we reap what we sow.4 Saul could have chosen to sow repentance and renewed obedience even if he could not have undone the consequences of losing the kingdom. Saul’s death also opens the way for David to become king and establish a rule that seeks to embody God’s reign and bring blessing to his people. In David’s figure we see a foreshadowing of another King, who also put the interests of others before his own and refused to grasp and abuse power but died to give us life.
‘I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live … by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him’.5 Lord, help us to choose LIFE daily.
Loving Father, enable me to avoid a life that is wasted, and to live a life worthy of you at all times.
1 Ps 90:12, NASB 2 Rom 6:23 3 1 Sam 11 4 Gal 6:7 5 Deut 30:19,20, NASB
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