THE LIFE OF THE KING WHO WAS UP TO HIS NECK IN DEATH.
The Outward Form that lacked the Inward Power in the Monarchy of King Saul the First.
(1 Samuel 14:47-52)
“So Saul took the kingdom over Israel.”
I beg your pardon! What are we reading here?
I thought we had only just heard from the mouth of Samuel himself in the plainest of English, eh! …Hebrew that is, that King Saul was rejected! Out! Ejected! Expelled! The kingdom was taken from him. Another king is on the way! (Although, knowing the full story – we are aware that the king that succeeded him was not yet born.)
Note the reality. Saul’s dynasty was to be curtailed because of his disobedience. As God spoke to Samuel, the prophet used the past tense, for a present reality. “Yahweh has chosen a replacement and commanded him to be captain over Yahweh’s people.” So, literally as Samuel was prophesying to Saul we have the concept introduced to us of another person, a child, not yet born, who was to be a much younger contemporary of Saul, living life to the full with the idea of God’s covenant faithfulness and His never ending Chesed (love) filling his vision, ruling Israel and taking the captaincy over the nation. Captaincy as all Israeli’s knew, meant kingship.
From our elevated place of historical retrospect, we know that the person we are talking about would be looking after sheep in a field only a few miles away from Saul’s present home fighting off the odd bear and lion after his anointing, and being derided by his older and bigger brothers for being so little, so trivial, so naughty, and not nearly as important as they were. But David’s birth was still seven years away from that horrific moment at Gilgal. His elevation into royal circles as well as into the psyche of the nation had not yet even begun with the twinkle in his father’s eye, and would not be properly initiated until Samuel anointed him – I reckon, around the age of 12. But he had not yet even been conceived in the timeline of our story.
But we jump ahead of ourselves even to mention that story. Back to the present, and Saul.
So we have the king, with no future, battling on from day to day. And the Bible says: “Saul took over the kingdom of Israel.”
Whether he should have simply stopped and waited for death, which does not seem quite feasible, I am not sure. Perhaps he understood it fully and clearly as I have just explained it, i.e. “I, Saul, am enjoying the full divine mandate to rule and reign throughout my own lifetime, no matter how short or long that may be, although I am fully aware on the basis of what Samuel the prophet has said, that another man from another family will reign after me. Then again, that other man may be my son. In the content of the prophet’s words my son could still reign and the word still be fulfilled. Yet I know and understand, I am in disgrace before God” There was more light to come however, and that prophetic light would be spoken after further disobedience of Saul.
Although Samuel’s woeful prophecy was said, I am sure, in the full hearing of the three hundred soldiers, who had remained loyal and were still present with Saul as Samuel had arrived for the sacrifice at Gilgal, the king was truthfully and actually still on the throne. The word would have undoubtedly got round the nation of what had happened at Gilgal. It would have been a subject not to be brought up in the Kings presence, but constantly seated on the back burner of the national sub-consciousness. The nation would have known: “God has chosen another man.” Saul, knowing that the people knew what Samuel had said, and the people knowing that Saul knew that they knew …. If you get the gist …. was serious grounds for a dose of deep royal depression, if not neurosis – if not total psychosis.
But, for the sake of the narrative, reader, understand: Saul is still the publicly acknowledged national leader. He was still the king, the anointed of the eternal, known among the people of Israel as the “son of God.” Yet, the word of God had announced his fall and his departure. That departure was 37 years away in the future. However, God’s word was to come to pass.
If, objectively, from an impersonal distance, it confused the intellectuals of the nation, imagine the agonising trauma it subjectively permeated the king with. Rejection by man is distressing enough, but public declaration of rejection by God is more than serious. Could anybody’s rationale cope with such a dreadful concept in their life? Is it possible that any human being could live life and carry out their normal work, rest and pleasure while they have forever in their consciousness that not only has God Almighty rejected them, but His verified and confirmed prophet has said so, and the masses know it.
We have the epitome of an illustration of a man in high position having the form of power and kingship, but none of the fullness of majesty of what he should be holding and walking in. This is sad and we ask, “Could it possibly be any sadder?” Plod on avid reader!
“So Saul took the kingdom over Israel”. Saul established himself in the role to which he had been anointed by Samuel. He grew into the position given him by God. He took the kingdom, i.e.: with effort and fight, and strain and warfare. Saul took the kingdom.
“And fought” … The full time military leader with a full time standing army employed them and himself to the full.
And who did they fight? “… all his enemies on every side.” Every nation that was bordered onto that tiny plot of real estate we call Israel was an enemy. Sounds like the modern news reel: and as it was, so it is, and so it will be till the return of Christ. Every nation that bordered Israel was set against them, and so, with Israel’s new found faith and resource of a physical as well as a spiritual nature, Saul went round chasing off the land of Israel any other ethnic group that attempted to set as much as a tent on the land that God had promised them.
The number of close set neighbours was six. Saul fought “against Moab, and against the children of Ammon, and against Edom, and against the kings of Zobah, and against the Philistines: and where ever he turned himself, he vexed them … and the Amalekites” This was no mean feat. The King James Bible says, “where ever Saul turned he vexed them.” Most commentators agree with Luther’s excellent translation that “wheresover Saul turned he was victorious over them, and inflicted punishment.” In even plainer English, Lannons’ paraphrase says simply: Saul whipped the lot of them.”
I know it does not sound like a king walking under condemnation, but remember if everybody was judged by the exteriors of life, Hitler was prosperous, Mussolini accomplished what he believed in and Attila the Hun was a winner. Whether a person is blessed or cursed, that blessing or cursing refers to the end of that person. To be blessed or cursed always refers to where a person finishes, it may or may not refer to the way things are at the present. God looks on the heart. And that very phrase was not only the rationale uttered by God to Samuel in following God’s instructions to choose a successor to Saul, but common sense dictates that that phrase gives us the very reason why Saul was rejected.
“And he gathered a host, and struck the Amalekites, and delivered Israel out of the hands of them that spoiled them.” The host there mentioned, refers to either the standing army that he was continually recruiting for, or the actual gathering he called together in order to, “whip,” Amalek. This story of Amalek is shortly to be referred to in greater depth. We do however have to warn you dear reader of what is to come.
On modern TV, if a programme is about to be shown with doubtful scenes, bad language or sexual activity, or something similar, the viewer is told of them before the opening credits. This is in order to give you the viewer the moral choice to switch off.
We know you can’t switch off here; this is a blog for goodness sake … and I would not ever advise anybody to miss a chapter in any book, especially my own. The reader would be frustrated at the lack of continuity. But we have to state that the following account is as emotionally tragic and filled with horror as anything Hollywood ever produced.
Saul was walking up to his neck, every single day, in insipient death. No doubt he comforted himself with all his military successes, but what happened in Saul’s heart and the dialogue between Saul and Samuel, was, honestly and candidly, too much for Saul to handle.
If you are prepared, take a glass of cold milk and read on tomorrow’s blog.