Friday, September 9, 2011


Today's passage: I Samuel 31
    It seems that a warrior's life can end in two ways, at the hands of his enemy (with possible torture preceding it) or by his own hands.  Saul chose the latter, once he was certain he would not be able to escape the Philistines.  Even in death, Saul chose the easy way.  His three sons died fighting.  Saul died by his own sword.  And really, he wasn't even brave enough to do the deed himself.  He pleaded with his armor-bearer to finish him, but this young man was too wise to follow those instructions.  Can you imagine how that might have played out?  This armor-bearer with blood on his sword, and Saul's blood on his hands?  He might have been accused of murder.  How could he explain that the now dead king requested it?  There would have been no witnesses to speak in his defense, and he was not about to be tried for treason.  He declined.  So Saul has no choice but to fall on his sword himself.  Actually he did have another choice, but he knew what happened to kings that fell into enemy hands.  I can't fault Saul for not wanting to die such a horrible death, he was definitely going to die, God had told him this already.  But didn't those who died in torture or a martyr's death become legendary?  I mean, couldn't this have been an opportunity for Saul to leave a lasting legacy?  Battling the Philistines to the death?  The Philistines were going to tear him apart anyway, but doesn't it seem a little less noble when the body is already dead?  I guess I've watched Braveheart one too many times, where William Wallace is tortured but refuses to leave this life without uttering one more anguished "Freedom". 
Saul Falls on His Sword--Taken from Treasures of the Bible
By Henry Davenport Northrop, D. D.
International Publishing Company, 1894
     I just don't think Saul died heroicly.  He copped out.  And still, the Israelites who had fled for the hills by now, have enough sense of duty to travel all night to retrieve Saul's separated body from the Philistine temples and walls to burn it and bury the bones properly.  Thus ends the reign of the first king of Israel.  I wonder if it was everything the Israelites had envisioned?  I wonder when Samuel warned them at the anointing what a monarchy would be like if they expected it to end like this?  I wonder as they dug the hole under the tree at Jabesh, the smell of burnt flesh still in their noses, whether they were looking forward to the next king's reign?  God gave them what they wanted, or what they thought they wanted.  Would they dare go to God and tell Him they no longer wanted a king anymore?  Surely, as far as leaders go, it couldn't get any worse.  And it doesn't with David, or even really with Solomon.  Beyond that, I'm sorry to say, it gets much, much worse. 
     Saul looks angelic compared to future Judean kings.  With his many failings, the Bible does not record him ever leading the nation into idolatry.  Disobedience. Yes.  Greed. Yes.  Occultism.  At times.  If I compare Saul with many of the kings who follow, Saul looks like a pretty decent fellow.  But the Bible very specifically says not to compare ourselves with others.  It is not wise (I Corinthians 10:12).  Reflecting on Saul's life, have I been a little hard on him?  Probably, yes.  But I am hard on myself as well.  Anybody who knows me knows that.  I don't feel I have a hyper-critical spirit, I just have a tendency to always want to improve.  Even as a teacher, I was never satisfied with what I had accomplished that year.  What could I improve for the next school year?  As a parent, I am always looking to see what more I can do to better raise my children.  That is my nature, I'm afraid.  That doesn't mean I look for every flaw, but I am always looking for how God can better use me.  I guess maybe when I read the Bible, I look for the same in those people too.  Isn't that why God put them there?  To learn the lesson?  To get the message?  To follow or not to follow?  As I see the close of this book, the close of Saul's life, I can't help but think about how he could have been so different.  If he had allowed God to work in his life more, if he had asked God more for wisdom, if he had waited on Him.  He was short on patience, and it shortened his life.  Saul was not the worst king there ever was.  Saul had some good qualities (especially in the beginning of his reign).  Saul was a sinning human being, just like me.  Am I too hard on Saul?  Not any harder than I am on myself.  Because I have to compare Saul to the One who made Him.  I have to compare myself to the One who made me.  And when I do, I still have a long way to go.

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