There are times in Scripture when God gives a quick postscript on someone’s life. That is what we have in 1 Chronicles chapter 10 – a postscript on the life of King Saul of Israel. It is actually a very good thing for us to read, because it reminds us of some very important truths upon which to build our lives. Let’s take a few moments today to learn three important truths from the postscript on Saul’s troubled life.
So Saul died for his trespass which he committed against the LORD, because of the word of the LORD which he did not keep; and also because he asked counsel of a medium, making inquiry of it, 14 and did not inquire of the LORD. Therefore He killed him and turned the kingdom to David the son of Jesse. 1 Chronicles 10:13-14 (NASB)
First, we learn of the trespass which brought about Saul’s premature departure from this life. The word “trespass” is very telling as God begins this postscript. The word comes from the Hebrew word “maal” which means to act unfaithfully or treacherously. It is the word that the Scriptures use when referring to adultery as an act of unfaithfulness and treachery in a marriage. Saul had been very unfaithful to the Lord. The trespass is further described as not keeping the Word of Jehovah. Let’s take a deeper look at this first sin. When God speaks to us He is giving us His Word. That is not a small thing and it calls for obedience to God. Unfortunately Saul received God’s Word more as a suggestion than a command. When asked to deal with the Amalekites he decided to only destroy what he thought was evil, keeping the king as a trophy as well as everything that he though looked good enough to keep. He even figured he could use that “good stuff” to sacrifice to God. When told to wait for the prophet Samuel to offer a sacrifice before a battle, Saul started to worry about defections from his army and forced himself to offer the sacrifice. The problem there was that Saul was not to do that. This was something that only the priests were to do. Saul saw that as just an inconvenience to what needed to be done. His life is a sad story of disregarding the Word of Jehovah to do what he wanted instead. When God made it clear that David was going to replace him because of his disobedience, his response was to attempt to kill David repeatedly. “Who cares what God has said – I’m going to be king!” was his response to that news. By the end of his life his disobedience reached disastrous levels. He slaughtered an entire village of priests by proxy to be sure his own will prevailed instead of God’s will. In the end God’s will prevailed (as it always will). David became king – and God put Saul to death for his treachery.
Second, we learn that Saul’s treachery toward the LORD had a second manifestation – he sought the counsel of a medium. What is amazing about this is that Saul himself had just removed all those who were involved in this occult practice from Israel. He did this because God’s Word forbids it. But that was before he found himself in a difficult situation with a large Philistine army on the other side of a battlefield. Saul was in trouble – and God was not answering him no matter what method he tried. Of course, Saul did not respond to this well, nor did he take time to consider why God would not answer. There was enough disobedience and sin to make a mountain between Saul and God. He had rejected God’s Word, rejected God’s king, and even murdered God’s servants. None of this came to mind. Instead, all Saul could think of was that he needed to have Samuel tell him what to do. Never mind that earlier he had sent soldiers to drag both Saul and David before him to answer for supposed rebellion. Never mind that many times before Samuel had spoken the Word of the Lord to him only to be ignored. Saul needed a word and he needed it now.
This is what led to Saul hatching a very unwise, ungodly plan. Samuel was dead – and he still needed to hear from him. What better way to accomplish this than to get a medium and have a séance! We can bring Samuel up from the dead and get the advice and Word from God we need! This was how convoluted Saul’s reasoning had become. But then again in our day we have people consulting horoscopes and tarot cards, palm readers and other occult means to get advice. When we no longer hear from God – we have a tendency to want to hear from whoever or whatever else is out there – right? The problem for Saul was that he knew somewhere in the midst of his confusion that this was still a capital offense. He knew it because he had previously reminded all Israel of it when he threw out all the mediums earlier. This was the second reason he would soon forfeit his life. That is even what Samuel told him at the séance – if that truly was Samuel. What a reminder to us to seek God – and if things have turned silent between us and Him to do everything possible to return. Such moments are not a time to turn to a second choice – but to repent and return – to weep and grieve our sin – to seek God with prayer and fasting until there is once again an open line between us.
The last thing we see here is a very sobering statement made by the LORD in this postscript. Let me reiterate it before we look at it closer.
“Therefore He killed him and turned the kingdom to David the son of Jesse.”
WHAT!? Did we just read that God said He killed Saul for his sin and rebellion? Yes, that is what we read. By the way, God does not apologize for this, nor does He do anything to soften the statement of this death sentence on Saul’s life. That is sobering – oh let’s be perfectly honest – it’s frightening! Some would even react by saying that “their God” would never do such a thing! But that is exactly what God did – and He continues to do it even today. When one of God’s own starts living in rebellion and continues to do so – there is a point where God will take them home. Now we should note that Saul was not killed by a lightning strike from the sky. He was killed in the battle against the Philistines. Nevertheless this passage makes it clear that God killed Saul because of his treachery. That should at least be a reminder to us that God, being sovereign, can engineer whatever is necessary to accomplish His purposes – even if His purpose is discipline on a rebellious king.
Saul’s story is such a sad one. He had so much potential at the beginning of his kingdom. He was humble and responsive to God early on in his life. But his choice to do things his own way rather than God’s way led him to a very ignominious end. Having read of his life in Samuel and Chronicles, may we be reminded to avoid such choices in our lives.