Call to Worship December 5 2021

Expository Thoughts on 1 Samuel 31

While David had been rescued by God from joining the Philistines against his people and from the wiles of the Amalekites (Ch. 29&30), Saul was in a battle for his livelihood and life (31:1). When the Philistines were fighting against Israel, they killed Saul’s sons and eventually the king himself. Just as Samuel foretold, Saul’s reign as King of Israel came to an awful end. After the archer’s arrows mortally wounded him, he chose to fall on his sword. His armor bearer had been unable to end what Saul finished for himself. His head was severed from his body by the Philistines and eventually his body was hung on the wall at Beth-shan. They proclaimed their perceived dominance over the LORD by their parade of corpses and exhibition of Saul’s weapons in their pagan temple. Israel fled many of the villages in the region and the Philistines gladly inhabited those cities as further evidence of the demise of Israel’s God.[1]

What happened after such a promising start to Saul’s reign? Ultimately Saul was engrossed more with himself, his needs, and his wants, instead of being focused on honoring God. In his dealing with Agag and the Amalekites, he listened to the voice of the people rather than God’s word. Their desires encouraged his longings, which was to stay in power. He forgot who anointed him and gave him the power of the kingship in the first place. Furthermore, he did not inquire of the Lord in repentance, but tore the robe of Samuel with ineffectual penance. Saul thought he could do something to change his status before God by having Samuel make an offering. He had learned nothing from Samuel’s previous proclamation from God. God did not want a sacrifice; he desired obedience. The only way to appeal before God after disobedience was in honest repentance of sin. Saul never inquired of the Lord in repentance of his sin. 

The last time Saul called to the LORD, “the LORD did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by prophets (28:6).” Instead of reacting like Jacob who learned over time the necessity of God’s blessing and the need to never let go of the LORD (Gen. 32), Saul turned to a spirit medium. He sought Samuel’s word, but by his own means (Ch. 28). He did not seek the LORD in repentance once again. He was only serving himself. Saul’s life in this aspect is directly opposite of David’s life. David often “inquired of the LORD,” especially when he was confronted with his sin. Saul’s sin of divination revealed to Saul his coming death, but offered him no hope in his demise. His final act of falling on his own sword was the act of self-willed murder.[2] Matthew Henry called him a “miserable man,” who only thought about himself. “As he lived, so he died, proud and jealous, and a terror to himself and all about him.”[3] He did not leave himself in the mercy of God nor did he call out to God.  

There was hope and grace to be found, but only in repentance by inquiring of the LORD. He is the covenant God who saves, but repentance is always involved in salvation by grace alone (Luke 13:1-5, Acts 3:19, Rev. 2). There will be no comfort in dealing with our sin unless thoughtful and thorough repentance occurs.[4] May we remember to seek the LORD for repentance of sin and follow His commands in how we seek Him. May we understand that our sins and their consequences ultimately dishonor the Triune God and His church. Our sins dishonor the sacrificial life of His one and only Son the Lord Jesus (Heb. 10:26-39). May we not be like Saul and seek to remedy our sinful obedience by our devised plans or desires to hold on to our personal pride and power. “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other” (Isa. 45:22). Soli Deo Gloria! 

[1] Dale Ralph Davis, I Samuel: Looking on the Heart, (Christian Focus Pub., Great Britain, 2014.), pg. 326-327.

[2] Gordon Keddie, Dawn of a Kingdom: The Message of I Samuel, Welwyn Commentary Series, (England, Evangelical Press, 1988.), pg. 273.

[3] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 2, (Revell Co., New York.), pg. 444

[4] Obadiah Sedgwick, The Anatomy of Secret Sins, (Soli Deo Gloria Pub., Morgan, PA., 2004.), pg. 200-201. Obadiah Sedgwick (1600-1658) was a 17th Century puritan writer and this volume was published based on a last printing in 1818.