1 Samuel 31:1-13 - The Tragic End of Saul and His Sons – The Surety of God’s Word
Nothing is any more certain than God's Word. Whatever God says will come to pass. Heaven and earth will pass away, but the words of the Lord will not. They will endure forever and so it is with judgment. When God says that judgment is coming, it will come. Nothing will stop the judgment, for it was pronounced by the Lord Himself. And when He gives a pronouncement, it is inevitable. It must take place.
Years before the event of this Scripture, God had pronounced judgment upon Saul. And just the day before this event, God had repeated His prediction: Saul and his three sons would die on the battlefield. And now the event was about to take place. The day had finally come. Just as God had predicted, Saul and his sons were about to die (28:19).
A. The Tragedy and Death of Saul (v.1-7).
1. The Surety of God’s Judgment.
a) God gave a message of judgment to Saul (1 Samuel 28:1-25).
(1) Here we see the tragedy and death of King Saul, just hours after he had consulted with the spirit medium.
(2) Remember, the Philistines had already invaded Israel with a massive army. Their objective was to kill Saul and to put an end to his dynasty because of the trouble he had caused the Philistines for the past forty years of his rule (Acts 13:21).
(3) Saul had been stricken with terror when he saw the massive army, knowing what their objective was. For this reason he had gone to the spirit medium for counsel.
(4) Shockingly, the medium claimed to see Samuel in her séance and the message Samuel gave was a message of God's judgment. Saul and his sons were to die in the battle that was about to take place with the Philistines.
b) How sure can we be that God will judge the human race?
(1) History teaches us that God’s judgment is inevitable (Deut.7:2) – God told the Israelites to destroy their enemies totally. How can a God of love and mercy wipe out everyone, even children?
(a) Although God is loving and merciful, he is also just. These enemy nations were as much a part of God’s creation as Israel was, but God does not allow evil to continue unchecked. God had punished Israel by keeping out of the promised land all those who had disobeyed.
(b) The command to destroy these nations was both a judgment (9:4-6) and a safety measure. On one hand, the people living in the land were being judged for their sin, and Israel was God’s instrument of judgment—just as God would one day use other nations to judge Israel for its sin (2 Chronicles 36:17; Isaiah 10:12).
(c) On the other hand, God’s command was designed to protect the nation of Israel from being ruined by the idolatry and immorality of its enemies. To think that God is too “nice” to judge sin would be to underestimate him.
(2) God’s judgment comes according to his own timing (Romans 2:1-16 esp.v.5) – Although God does not usually punish us immediately for sin, his eventual judgment is certain.
(3) Christians will be judged as well (Romans 14:9-13; 1Cor.3:5-17).
(4) God’s judgment is complete and final (Heb.9:27; Revelation 20:11-15).
(a) At the judgment, the books are opened. They represent God’s verdict, and in them are recorded the deeds of everyone, good or evil. We are not saved by deeds, but deeds are seen as clear evidence of a person’s actual relationship with God.
(b) The book of life contains the names of those who have put their trust in Christ to save them. Death and Hell are thrown into the lake of fire. God’s judgment is finished.
!!!! c) Saul witnessed many being slain (v.1-7).
(1) Saul witnessed his army routed and many slain (v.1)
(2) Saul witnessed his sons, including Jonathan, killed (v.2)
(3) Saul himself was critically wounded in the midst of fierce fighting (v.3)
(4) Saul chose to commit suicide: To keep from being tortured and mutilated (a Near Eastern custom) (v.4-5) see (Judges 16:25 Samson)
(a) Saul first asked his armor-bearer to strike the final blow of death: He refused (v.4a)
(b) Saul was shamefully forced to commit suicide (v.4b)
(c) The armor-bearer himself then committed suicide (v.5)
(5) Saul and his sons and his army shamefully fell that very day: Saul's dynasty, his kingdom, collapsed (v.6)
(6) Saul's death and the army's defeat tragically impacted the nation (v.7)
(a) The Israelites of northern Israel abandoned their cities and fled to remote regions, becoming refugees (v.7a)
(b) The Philistines occupied their cities (v.7b)
2. Saul did not seek the Lord.
a) Saul is dying and offers no prayer of repentance or plea to the Lord.
(1) Instead, he goes to a medium to ask of things but in his death he still does not seek God
(2) He is more interested in how his appearance is (v.4). He doesn’t want to die and have his enemies gloat over him. Even in his dying he is more concerned with his reputation that with his character.
(a) Reputation is what people perceive you to be and you can make them think a lot of things about you, but character is who you are when no ones looking.
(b) This is similar with (15:30)
(3) The thief on the cross, however, did offer a prayer of repentance (Luke 23:42).
B. The Abuse of Saul’s Body (v.8-10).
1. A picture of false god’s and false religion.
a) They found the bodies of Saul and his sons:
(1) Cut off Saul's head and stripped off his armor (v.8-9a)
(2) They announced and celebrated the victory in their temples throughout the land (v.9b-10)
(a) Gave Saul's armor to their god of war, Ashtoreth (v.10a)
(b) Fastened his body to the wall of Beth Shan (v.10b)
C. The Respect of Jabesh Gilead for Saul (v.11-13).
1. A lesson on respecting God’s anointed.
a) Hearing about the abuse of Saul’s body.
(1) They heard about the abuse of Saul's body and rescued it (v.11-12)
(2) Sent a squadron out under the cover of darkness (v.12a)
(3) Recovered the bodies of Saul and his sons and burned them (v.12b)
(4) They buried their bones at Jabesh (v.13a)
(5) They fasted for seven days (v.13b)
!!!! b) Saul was the appointed ruler, God’s anointed.
(1) No leader ever deserved to be disrespected or dishonored any more than Saul.
(a) Given every opportunity possible to succeed, he failed and failed miserably. He became a jealous, angry man filled with so much hostility that he became mentally insane, extremely paranoid.
(b) Murdering anyone he could who stood in his way, even priests, he dedicated his life not to governing God's people but to destroying a young man whom God had appointed to succeed Saul as king.
(c) Despite knowing this fact and despite being loved and courageously supported by the young man David, Saul was fiercely determined to destroy him. And the intense pursuit continued for years.
(2) Nevertheless, Saul was the appointed ruler, God's anointed.
(a) For that reason he was to be respected. And Jabesh-Gilead demonstrated this respect, setting a dynamic example for us. We must respect our leaders, no matter who they are.
(b) Even when a leader is wrong, we are to respect the office. Of course, we are not to indulge or give license to evil behavior and unjust decisions. But when we oppose, our opposition is to be carried out in righteousness and honor. The official position of God's anointed is always to be honored and respected.
(c) Romans 13:1; 1Thess.5:12-13; 1Tim.5:7; Heb.13:7
2. Saul died at the same place he began (11-13b).
a) Saul’s first battle was at Beth Shan.
(1) Interesting Note: Beth Shan is only a few miles north of where Saul began his ministry. You may remember that Beth Shan was the place where Saul came, the very first battle as king, to save the men of Jabesh Gilead. So Saul died at the same place he started.
(2) Now Think About It: he reigned for forty years, as a king he gained no more land for the nation, did not succeed in driving out the Philistines rather the land was inundated more with Philistine occupation than ever before. So he actually lost ground, and he did not gain ground and where he started is where he finished.
(3) Now what about when you die?
(a) How much spiritual ground will you have gained for the kingdom of God? How much spiritual growth will there be? Will it be said “Yep, he was a Christian for forty years, I mean… I think he was, he went to church and said a few prayers”
(b) Are you going to end where you began or did you gain spiritual ground?
(c) Saul own words (26:21)
(d) Remember how Saul began? Filled with the Spirit, God was with him, God gave him a new heart, now at the end of his life, “Kill me, I want to look good”.
(e) You may say, “Ronnie, a gave my life to the Lord 2 years ago and I shed real tears that night, great, but are the changes still visible today? Are you marked by growth? If not, you are playing the fool just like Saul.
(4) How could have Saul have ended well?
(a) Saul could have taken sin more seriously. He cried out “I have sinned” but really made no life changes
(b) Saul could have placed character over reputation. He could have been more concerned with what God thinks about him rather than what man thinks about him.
(c) Saul could have taken advantage of friends. He had Samuel, David who was loyal to him, the men of Israel. Proverbs says “A man who isolates himself, seeks his own desire”.
!!!!! (5) It is possible to destroy all that God is trying to build in your life. God wants to do a great work with you, He has a plan and a purpose for your life, don’t play the fool and error exceedingly.