Slouching towards your Gilboa, Part One

Posted on March 16, 2012

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Slouching Towards Your Gilboa

Part One of Eight

I Samuel 31:1-7

We have the sad story of Saul contained in the book of I Samuel. Depending upon your level and amount of bible reading the entire story of Saul may not be one that you would read in just one sitting, considering that it encompasses about twenty chapters. So I want to condense and abbreviate the story and draw out some key points and make some application.

You can start well and ending by falling on your own sword in suicide, in order to prevent the enemy from killing you. Saul had spent a prior evening at a witches house trying to speak to the dead. The spirit to whom he spake, declared to him, that God was his enemy. This was not always the case. We will see that at one point, the scripture even says that ‘the Spirit of God came upon him.’ I think the question that we need to answer is how we get from the Spirit of God being upon us, to being the enemy of God. We are at point B in I Samuel 31. How did we get from point A to point B is the question that I desire to answer. It was a series of small perhaps, but altogether significant, decisions made by Saul that brought us to the fateful field of Gilboa. I am reminded of the words of Esther when she said, ‘come to the kingdom for such a time as this’ Saul came to the kingdom at an interesting time as well. I can’t say it was a good time, but I do believe it was a good time for him. The nation as a whole was in some form of rebellion against God. That being said I don’t think it necessarily translated to Saul personally. The fact is, he had great opportunity to be a great man leading God’s nation and people. He started well. He got sidetracked, and did not finish well. I do believe that Saul was in the unique position to be one of the great men in the Old Testament. For this reason; he was the first king of God’s chosen people. Up to this point the ‘nation’ of Israel had been a loosely affiliated of tribes, often without any true sense of power centralization. They were a theocracy. Ruled by God and God alone through judges and prophets. That no longer was Good enough for the people. The first leaders of any country are optimally situated to long be remembered and revered for the part the play in forming a nation and setting up a government. I would point you to the example of George Washington. If you were to take a poll, you would likely find that Washington is in the top three along with Thomas Jefferson (another founding father) and Abraham Lincoln. While many of the people polled would be hard pressed to even say anything that George Washing accomplished or believed. All that people know is that he won a war, and was the first president. I say all that to reinforce my supposition that simply being the ‘first’ gives you a head start. One that Saul had, and lost. In fact, if we would be honest, I think that the first thing that comes to most people’s mind about Saul is that he hated David. Wow! That’s a great thing to be remembered for. I would like to spend a few moments this evening looking at the downward spiral that was Saul’s life and perhaps try to learn a few things from it. We are all very familiar with the story of Saul, so I would ask that you fill in some of the blanks I leave for yourself. This is not meant to be an exhaustive exposition but rather simply short character study.

Saul’s Call – I Samuel 10:20-27 – A Humble Man

20 And when Samuel had caused all the tribes of Israel to come near, the tribe of Benjamin was taken. 21 When he had caused the tribe of Benjamin to come near by their families, the family of Matri was taken, and Saul the son of Kish was taken: and when they sought him, he could not be found. 22 Therefore they enquired of the LORD further, if the man should yet come thither. And the LORD answered, Behold, he hath hid himself among the stuff. 23 And they ran and fetched him thence: and when he stood among the people, he was higher than any of the people from his shoulders and upward. 24 And Samuel said to all the people, See ye him whom the LORD hath chosen, that there is none like him among all the people? And all the people shouted, and said, God save the king. 25 Then Samuel told the people the manner of the kingdom, and wrote it in a book, and laid it up before the LORD. And Samuel sent all the people away, every man to his house. 26 And Saul also went home to Gibeah; and there went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had touched. 27 But the children of Belial said, How shall this man save us? And they despised him, and brought him no presents. But he held his peace.

Where do we pick up the story? Let me give a little bit of background. As I mentioned earlier, the people were demanding a king. It was against God, but they seriously pushed the issue. The great philosophically deep reason they gave for it was that they wanted to ‘be like all the nations around them.’ Do I even need to point out what a bad reason this is? Samuel tried to discourage them. He told them everything that a king would do to them. Notice! A king would do stuff TO  them, not FOR  them. And such is the nature of all human governments. The real issue here is not so much that they wanted a human king, but that they were rejecting their divine ruler. As we find so often in scripture God gave someone their whining request to their own hurt. You whine, you may just get what you want. But it won’t make you happy.

Firstly we see that Saul was divinely chosen. Vs. 21…Saul the son of Kish was taken…. They used lots to determine the will of God. A common practice throughout the Old Testament. Another example that come immediately to mind is casting lots to determine that Jonah was the cause for the storm. Lots were one of the ways that the Lord revealed his will in this day. Just as an aside note; he now uses his word…and only his word, to reveal his will. They started by taking the right tribe, then the right family. They continued till it fell upon Saul. He was just the man God was looking for. The people wanted a king, God would pick their king. I do believe this is important. God is the one that appointed Saul. He had divine authority, right, and power behind him. As saved individual, we can claim the same calling and appointment that Saul did. God chose us, God saved us. God wants to use us. He has given us everything we need to succeed. Most people find themselves, at some point in their lives, at the point where Saul was at now. The only question then is, will we take advantage of all that God has place at our disposal, or will we end up falling on our own sword.

Secondly we see that Saul was initially reluctant. Vs 22 …Behold, he hath hid himself among the stuff.… As a practical application, considering our own political climate, it is better for a soon-to-be king to be hiding in the ‘stuff’ than out there pandering for applause….this would come soon enough. I wonder if a reluctance to be in a position of power and authority does not better suit one to be in exactly that position.

We also observe from this passage that Saul had a kingly presence. Vs 23 …He was higher than any of the people from his shoulders and upward….I suppose that there is something to be said for looking the part. And Saul definitely looked the part. He had a kingly presence. If you are going to lead men, it helps if you have a commanding presence. Saul, if nothing but for his size, had that commanding presence. He was a man who could be respected for his physique. Unfortunately this ended up being all that was respectable. Physique is passing and beauty fades. It is here today, and gone tomorrow. If you have the praise and adulation of men because of how you look. You will eventually lose it. Given enough time, someone will come along that is better looking and stronger than you. There need to….no, there must be something of worth on the inside. None like him among all the people. Saul was the best of the best. He was eminently suited to be King over God’s people.

Saul also had a divine presence Vs 26…There went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had touched…This verse is key to my initial point. And the point is this. God was with Saul at the beginning. God was touching the hearts of men around him. It is far too easy to let the overarching story of Saul erase some facts from early on in his reign. Being unable, as humans, to divorce ourselves from the following story and the subsequent rise of David, we forget that it was Saul, not David, but Saul whom God wanted to lead his kingdom. It was Saul’s to lose. What, have you been given? What is yours to lose? If you can’t identify any specific things…You are likely in the process of losing them.

Lastly we see a reluctant kingdom. Vs 27…How shall this man save us? And they despised him, and brought him no presents… God wanted Saul to be king. And so Saul would be king. Of course there were people around that didn’t like Saul. There will always be people who don’t like the leadership God has chosen. But it doesn’t change the fact that they have been chosen, appointed and ordained by the Lord. Saul was not picked to fail. God doesn’t pick his men to fail. God didn’t put Saul in this place to be a worthless vagabond of a King. He put him on the throne to be God’s man on the earth leading His people. God doesn’t pick any of his people to fail. If we fail, it is on us. We failed. Not God.

Next time…Saul’s Victory – I Samuel 11:5-7, 11-15 – A Confident Man

…Saul’s Victory, A Confident Man – Part Two….

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