Now the Philistines fought against Israel; and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines, and fell slain on Mount Gilboa. Then the Philistines followed hard after Saul and his sons. And the Philistines killed Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua, Saul’s sons. The battle became fierce against Saul. The archers hit him, and he was severely wounded by the archers. Then Saul said to his armorbearer, “Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised men come and thrust me through and abuse me.” But his armorbearer would not, for he was greatly afraid. Therefore Saul took a sword and fell on it. And when his armorbearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell on his sword, and died with him. So Saul, his three sons, his armorbearer, and all his men died together that same day. And when the men of Israel who were on the other side of the valley, and those who were on the other side of the Jordan, saw that the men of Israel had fled and that Saul and his sons were dead, they forsook the cities and fled; and the Philistines came and dwelt in them. So it happened the next day, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. And they cut off his head and stripped off his armor, and sent word throughout the land of the Philistines, to proclaim it in the temple of their idols and among the people. Then they put his armor in the temple of the Ashtoreths, and they fastened his body to the wall of Beth Shan. Now when the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, all the valiant men arose and traveled all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth Shan; and they came to Jabesh and burned them there. Then they took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days. (1 Samuel 31:1-13)
A Sad And Tragic End For A King
The story of Saul, son of Kish, is a tale of great opportunities squandered by arrogance and pride. Chosen first ruler of the united nation of Israel Saul was a choice handsome young man who stood taller than any of the people. Samuel anointed him as commander of the inheritance of God. As the anointed one Saul would rule God’s people for four decades. Sadly his reign would not be one of glory but of unlawful sacrifices, rebellion and madness. Rejected by the Lord because of his self-centered pride his life would become a mad folly of suspicion, hatred, and calamity. His death was of no less glory. Consulting the witch of En Dor Samuel had appeared to Saul foretelling of his death (1 Samuel 28). What a tragic end to a man who had so many opportunities to be great among the people of God.
The end of life is often a telling of the kind of life one has lived. As king of the powerful nation of Israel Saul knew the history of the conquering Israelites. The nation of Egypt had been defeated by the hand of God and nature itself bowed to the glory of the Lord as the Red Sea parted allowing His people to be saved. Flowing from the Law of Moses were the stories of the power of the Lord in the wilderness and conquering of the land of Canaan. History was rich with the testimony of the goodness and severity of God. Saul should have ruled with these stories vividly placed within his mind. Sadly he failed to seize the opportunity to be a hero of scripture and trusted in himself rather than God. His death was one of shame. A life wasted. A life lost.
This is a great story because of what it tells us today. Saul was the king, the anointed one of Israel yet he allowed Satan to mar his life to end in shame. He lost his sons, his army, his respect and his God. Why? Pride. How great the fall. When he should have waited and trusted in the Lord he took it upon himself to offer the sacrifice. Commanded by the Lord to utterly destroy his enemies he decided he knew more than God. As madness descended upon him he spent much of his life chasing a flea in the desert (David). Saul’s life ended because he had left his Lord.
Save the coming of the Lord death will take us all. Our story will be written upon the pages of God’s book of memory in either words of glory or shame. We have more today than Saul in the testimony of God’s power. How are we using His word to guide our lives? It is easy to trust in ourselves rather than the Lord but it is the most tragic mistake we will make in life. When we live our lives apart from the word of God our death will be heartbreaking. Death may take us peacefully unlike Saul and his army but the end will be the same if we do not follow the will of God. We live in a day of opportunity. Seize this time to be a person of righteousness to live for the glory of God’s faithful. Let us all die as faithful and diligent soldiers of Christ fighting for truth. Live for the glory of God.
Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities, because … it is the quality which guarantees all others. (Winston S. Churchill, Great Contemporaries, 1937)