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1 Chronicles 10:3
And the battle went sore against Saul.
The death of Saul
I. That a splendid beginning may have an awful ending.
II. That Divine judgments overtake men’s sins.
III. That in national calamities the godly suffer with the ungodly. (J. Wolfendale.)
The departure of God, the departure of strength
Why was the battle sore against the king of Israel? Saul believes himself to be forsaken of God, and therefore to have become the sport of man. Here we are reminded of the analogy of the vine and the branches. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can the Church make vital and faithful progress, except by continual fellowship with God. Saul was muscular as ever, as ambitious as ever, and as energetic as ever; but he had lost the consciousness of the nearness of the Almighty. What are all church buildings, formularies, ceremonies, pecuniary resources, literary achievements, when the Spirit of God has been grieved or quenched? (J. Parker, D. D.)
An unblest leader does not necessarily represent an unblest cause
Although the battle went sore against Saul, we must not suppose that Saul represented an unblest cause. The reason may be in Saul himself, rather than in the cause for which he fought. Sometimes leaders, captains, and commanders have to be overborne or displaced, in order that the great cause which they fail to grasp, and adequately to represent, may vindicate its own claim to a position of confidence and honour. It does not follow that because a man has been once a leader, that he must be always at the head of the army. Sometimes by the infirmity of old age the very princes of the Church are displaced and put behind. There are some trusts which we only keep as long as we keep our character. (J. Wolfendale.)
1 Chronicles 10:4
Drew thy sword, and thrust me through.
Suicide as illustrated by the case of Saul
1. Not merely accumulated misfortune, but long-continued wrongdoing.
2. Cowardly fear of suffering.
3. Caring more for disgrace than for sin.
4. Abandonment of trust of God as to this life and to the future life.
1. Others led by the example into the same folly and sin.
2. Personal dishonour not really prevented.
3. A crowning and lasting reproach to the man’s memory. (J. P. Lange.)
1 Chronicles 10:8-10
And it came to pass on the morrow, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul.
A good beginning with a bad ending
Many men begin with influential parentage, social station, ample education, pecuniary competence, yet they travel a downhill road, falling first into neglect and then into oblivion. Physical greatness, social security, public applause are being continually rebuked, humiliated, and put to shame. The proverb wisely says, “Call no man happy until he is dead.” The meaning is that at the very best a man may make a slip which will bring his whole life into degradation in every sense of the term. There is but a step between man and death--not physical death only, but the death of character, reputation, and influence. It remains with each man to say whether a good beginning shall have a good ending. This is a question of personal discipline, holy fellowship with God, and an acceptance of all processes which have been divinely established for the training and sanctification of man. The word comes with special urgency to young persons, to men of influence, to successful men, and to all who are plied by the temptations incident to high station and wide influence. (J. Parker, D. D.)
1 Chronicles 10:13-14
So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the Lord.
The doom of King Saul
We have no right to understand this account of Saul’s death as referring to one act of his life. It speaks as well of his general transgression against the Lord. Saul consulted the witch the night before he died; and whether it was his worst offence or no, it was the immediate precursor of his destruction, the last drop which made the cup of vengeance overflow: there remained for him no other recorded act of sin before his self-murder. Look well to the next sin you are tempted to commit. It may be your last act. If indulged it may prove a step on the road to destruction from which there is no receding. Was Saul a man who lived and died without repentance? In one sense--the highest sense of repentance--he was; in another he was not. The repentance which God acknowledges is not momentary sorrow or good resolutions, soon repented of in the wrong direction; it is that thorough change of heart which works in us the steadiness of real Christian principle; which makes us, who have been baptized and reared as Christians, to love the Lord Jesus Christ above all things; to hold His favour dearer than life itself; and to have no stronger desire than that our thoughts, feelings, life may be conformed to His will. Such a change the history leads us to believe King Saul never knew. After his first interview with Samuel, we read that “God gave him another heart.” But his after-life shows that this change was not an abiding change. Sin springing up, reckless self-indulgence, blighted and destroyed feelings of good which gave such hopeful promise at first. The true change of heart must be abiding. Look at the recorded acts by which Saul grieved God’s Spirit.
1. His sacrificing to the Lord (1 Samuel 13:9). Self-will was at the root of this act--that self-will which poisoned all Saul’s after-life.
2. The rash vow by which he forbade the people to taste any food (1 Samuel 14:24). This showed the same unchecked impetuosity, reckless in its self-willed way of honouring God.
3. His sparing the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15:9) These earlier acts of Saul’s rebellion were but the precursors of what was worse.
4. His yielding himself up to the one master passion of envy (1 Samuel 18:7-9). The king obviously is lost now, and there is no compunction, for he cherishes his sin.
5. The atrocious massacre of the priests (1 Samuel 22:17-18). And now his own life hurries to its miserable close. He feels that he is deserted of God, and that nothing prospers with him. Forsaken of God? Why? Because of unrepented sin. No wonder that the degraded king seeks death by his own hand, when life has become intolerable. Read here the melancholy end of the self-will and evil passions long indulged, till the soul becomes their slave, and all hope is gone, and God with it. The reckless self-willed life must lead to a death without hope. (Bp. Archibald Campbell.)
And also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit.
Saul inquiring of the enchantress
Thus perished one who entered with fair promise on an arduous office, and gave indications of capacities and dispositions which seemed to ensure a prosperous career. But “the root of the matter” was not in Saul; he had not been renewed in the spirit of his mind, and therefore was he unable to bear himself meekly in greatness, and gave way to an arrogant and impetuous temper, forgetting that “to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” Thus was he turned into a wild and desperate man, sparing not in his rage the priests of God, and calling to his aid enchantments and sorcery. So that at length it came to pass that Saul died for his transgressions against the word of the Lord--for asking counsel of one who had a familiar spirit. There are many important lessons that might be drawn from the history thus briefly reviewed.
I. You are carefully to observe that Saul, who here had recourse to witchcraft, had before taken measures, vigorous measures, for exterminating witchcraft; and it was at once a proof that he was far gone in iniquity, and an evidence that his ruin came on apace, when he could thus become the patron of a sin of which he had before been the opponent. There is no greater moral peril than that which surrounds an individual who, after he has given up a sinful practice, again betakes himself to it. “The last state of that man is worse than the first.” We cannot doubt of numbers amongst you, that they have had, and still have, their seasons of spiritual disquietude, when, obeying a mighty impulse, which is not of this earth, they break away from associations and customs which they feel to be injurious, and become, if not altogether, yet almost, Christians. Now our business with such is to announce to them their immeasurable peril, if, after being convinced of the sinfulness of a practice, and proving their conviction by temporary abstinence, they again indulge in what they profess to forsake. To resume a renounced habit is to give tenfold energy to the tyranny from which you broke loose. Are you then seared by the visit of Saul to the sorceress? do you marvel at the infatuation of the monarch as you mark him, under cover of the night, stealthily approaching the scene of foul arts and unhallowed incantations? are you ready with the sentence of stern condemnation, prepared to find Saul given over to destruction, now that you behold him tampering with witchcraft, and seeking to invade the repose of the dead? But what, after all, is the king of Israel doing, but that with which yourselves may be justly charged? He is only returning to that which he had forsaken; and the worst feature in his case (the worst, because it proves a seared conscience, and the absence of deep-wrought impressions) is just that with which your own conduct is marked--the seeking comfort where you had detected sin. If men have felt the evil of covetousness, for example, and if he have set himself vigorously against the love of money, and if, after a while, he yield himself once more to the passion for gold, what is he, if he returns to the dominion of avarice, but Saul hurrying to the cave of the enchantress? He was originally beguiled by the witchery of money, and he escaped from the witchery; and now he is again giving himself up to that witchery. If a man have been the slave of his appetites, and if he have felt the degradation, and acted on the resolve of “keeping under the body,” and if he then plunge back into sensuality, what is he, if he allow his passions to re-assume the lost sovereignty, but Saul consorting with the wizard? He was originally under the spell of voluptuousness, and he broke that spell; and now is again weaving that spell. If a man have lived in utter carelessness with regard to another world, and if he have been stirred from his insensibility, so that he have set himself in good earnest to the making provision for death and for judgment; and if, after awhile, he relapse into moral apathy, what is he, as he goes back to his stupor, but Saul seeking out a woman with a familiar spirit? Observe, we entreat of you, that it was not until Saul had consulted God, and God had refused to answer him by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets, that he took the fatal resolve of applying to the necromancer. We fear for those of you on whose minds some serious impressions may have been wrought, and who have been made uneasy as to their spiritual condition, lest, not finding much comfort in religion, they should seek it once more in the world. Men are apt to forget, when roused to anxiety as to the soul, how long they have made God wait for them, and how justly, therefore, they might expect that the peace and happiness of the gospel will not be imparted at the first moment they are sought; and then there is great danger of their being quickly wearied, and turning to other and worthless sources of comfort. They have consulted God, and they have received no answer, “whether by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets”; and therefore they seek peace in earthly fascinations, and strive to lull the conscience by enchantments of the sorceress. Oh! if there be any amongst you who, in order to get rid of uneasy thoughts about their souls, would bury themselves in the occupations and pleasures of the world, we stand here to arrest them in their fatal determination.
II. There is something very touching in the fact that it was Samuel whom Saul desired the witch to call up. Samuel had boldly reproved Saul, and, as it would appear, offended him by his faithfulness. And yet Saul said, “Bring up Samuel.” And herein is an instance of what frequently occurs. How many who have despised the advice of a father or a mother, and grieved their parents by opposition and disobedience, long bitterly to bring them back, when they have gone down to the grave, that they may have the benefit of the counsel which they once slighted and scorned I If they could go to the necromancer in the hour of their distress, it would not be, “Bring me up the companion who cheered me in my gaieties, who was with me at the revel, and the dance, and the public show,” but “Bring me up the father, with his grey hairs, who solemnly told me that ‘the way of transgressors was hard’; or the mother who, with weeping eyes and broken voice, admonished me against sinful indulgences.” Yet if you neglect the Lord, and continue to resist the strivings of His Spirit, so that at length He departs from you as He departed from Saul, what would it avail that the grave should give up its inhabitants--that the parent, or the friend, or the minister should return at your bidding? The father or the mother could only say, “Why hast thou disquieted me to bring me up? and wherefore dost thou ask of me, seeing the Lord has departed from thee, and become thine enemy?” And thus also is it with your minister. He has reproved and admonished week by week, and year after year, and you have been either indifferent to his offended at their pleadings, or urgency. And then he dies; and you are, perhaps, almost pleased to be freed from his pointed remonstrances. But you may think of him again when you feel that this world is slipping from your grasp, and you have not laid hold on eternal life. You shall have your wish. “An old man cometh up, and he is covered with a mantle.” But what can you expect to hear from his lips? Your wretchedness is of your own making. If you have no hope, it is because God hath called a thousand times and you would not answer. If you are oppressed with terror, it is because Christ hath entreated you for many years to receive pardon through His blood; and you have set at nought the Mediator. What then, shall the minister say to you, when you exclaim with Saul, “I am sore distressed, for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets nor by dreams”? what shall he say to you if not what Samuel said to Saul--“Why hast thou disquieted me to bring me up? Wherefore dost thou ask of me, seeing the Lord is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy?” (H. Melvll, B. D.)
I. The possibility that a man may fall from spiritual communion with the divine and invisible.
II. The rapidity with which a man may fall from the highest eminence.
III. The certainty that one day the impenitent will want their old teachers. (City Temple.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "1 Chronicles 10". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29