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.
The end of 2 Kings 2 has one of the most interesting events in Biblical history. It was in the time shortly after Elijah’s departure in a flaming chariot that Elisha the prophet took a journey from Jericho to Bethel. While on the way a fairly large group of young men began mocking him. Elisha looked behind him to see them and cursed them in the name of Jehovah. Considering the wickedness of Israel in that day – and their ungodly king – this kind of roving group of blasphemous young men would not be all the strange to encounter. But what happened next was strange. After Elisha’s curse, two mother bears came out of the woods and ripped up (the word means to tear something in half) 42 of those ungodly young men. When we read this – we are a little shocked at the judgment that comes so quickly and at the violence of the event.
What is going on in this passage? What was it that moved Elisha to curse the young men – and even more – what moved God to have two bears come and tear them up in this way? Well, let’s take a look at that and see why Elisha and God found the sin of these young men so unbearable.
The first sin we see in this passage is that of disrespect. There was disrespect on a number of different levels. We need to remember how ungodly the nation was at this time. Idolatry was running rampant in the country – as was violence toward God’s messengers and message. The people had watched Ahab and Jezebel rule – and it was pretty well known that Jezebel was systematically killing all the prophets of God that she could find. In addition to this the people of Israel were following a false god – and thus respect and honor for the true God was at an all time low. Here, evidently, was the new prophet chosen of God – the very God who had struck their nation with a 3 and a half-year famine! Supposedly he was the heir apparent after Elijah was taken up in a flaming chariot to heaven. These young men began to mock Elisha in a very disgusting way. First of all they referred to his lack of hair by calling him “bald-head.” There are two possibilities for this name. First would be that Elisha was baldheaded by nature. Being called “baldy” is not exactly an honorable way to address the new prophet. The second was that Elisha had shaved his head to mourn his mentor as Job had done when he lost everything. If the second of these is true – it was not only disrespect of Elisha – but also a horrible lack of graciousness to someone who had lost his greatest mentor and friend. I tend to lean toward the second of these because they not only mocked him for his baldness – but also they also said, “Go up you baldhead.” The phrase “go up” was in reference to how Elijah had been taken from him. It was a mocking phrase that meant that they didn’t want Elisha around either. They reacted this way because the last thing they wanted was another prophet of Jehovah coming around and continuing to make trouble like Elijah did. “Yeah baldy – why don’t you go up too with the other guy who was such a bane to our existence.”
The second sin of these young men was that of rejecting the Word of Jehovah that was already coming from Elisha to the nation. They didn’t want it when Elijah was there – and they certainly didn’t want another one of these prophets of Jehovah! These guys made their lives miserable. So there was a rejection of God in all that they were saying – of Elisha and of Elijah.
Elisha simply turned his head to look back – and he cursed them in the name of Jehovah. We come from a time in history when people are squeamish about God judging and cursing people. But such things are a fact of Scripture as God has revealed Himself to us. We live in a time when we think our rights are what are most valuable and important. We have come to think that for someone to judge us is wrong in every case. Reality – at least Biblical reality thinks far different from this. God has made it clear that those who disobey the law are cursed. God had an entire ceremony when two groups of people stood on two opposite mountains. They called out not only the blessings of God upon those who obeyed – but they also called out the curses on those who disobey. God also has the authority to call actions wrong – even using words like abomination when referring to sins we commonly embrace in our day. We need to grasp that to be guilty of sin before a holy God will render us cursed if we have nothing to pay for our sin and speak on our behalf. We can furrow our brow at the thought of God judging and cursing people – but He does not dwell under our judgment – we dwell under His.
When Elisha cursed them in the name of Jehovah, he was simply speaking the same thing Scripture does. God is merciful in not giving us what we truly deserve for sin. But we should remember that this was God’s newly anointed prophet. The rejection of him and of his predecessor was a very stupid and wicked thing to do. God was about to make an example that would ring in the ears of the people and warn them not to mess with Elisha. We need to remember that Elisha did not call for the bears. He simply uttered a curse – it was God’s providence that immediately afterward 2 mama bears came out and torn in half 42 of their number. It was a lesson that would long be remembered. Before we get to huffy about God doing this we might want to revisit the beginning days of the New Testament church. It was in the very early days of the church that a godly man named Barnabas sold his land and gave all the proceeds to the church. In a wicked plan to gain favor and honor – a couple named Ananias and Saphira decided they would do the same, but would keep back money for themselves. Even though they kept money for themselves, they would lie to the church and make it seem like they gave it all to the Lord! There was only one problem – God can see behind closed doors – and into dark hearts. The Holy Spirit, who had been lied to through all this, moved through Peter to confront Ananias about this – and when Peter did this – God struck him dead. Just as the men who took his body to bury it arrived back at where the church was meeting – in came Saphira – who confirmed their godless plan – and God then spoke through Peter as He struck her dead. Yep – that was pretty judgmental of God wasn’t it – except that God was absolutely just and right in doing this. The fledgling work of God was facing a serious threat – just like Elisha did through the mocking of these godless young men. God found both situations unbearable – or at least he found Ananias’ and Saphira’s unbearable. Considering what happened – we might say He found Elisha’s situation very “bear-able.”
God is not mocked. We cannot reject or lie to Him without serious consequences. Just because He shows great mercy so often does not mean that His justice doesn’t exist – or that judgment of the severest kind in not in order for all who disobey Him. We praise Him for showing such incredible mercy every day. But we would be very unwise to think that His mercies mean that judgment is not coming. He is praised throughout the Psalms because He is coming to judge the earth and the peoples with equity and in truth. We would do well to remember that as we read of a group of young men who had to bear the weight of their rebellion and disrespect towards God and those who brought His message to them.
Most of these articles are taken from the Calvary Courier, a weekly newsletter that is sent to the folks who attend Calvary Chapel Jonesboro. Due to the response to these articles, we've decided to print some of them which proved to be very helpful to God's people at the fellowship.
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