Summary: Let’s examine the events that surround King Saul’s death and use them to engage in a Biblical discourse on dying.
A DISCOURSE ON DYING
I enjoy reading interesting and humorous tombstones. A tombstone in England reads: "Remember friend, as passing by, as you are now so once was I. As I am now, so you will be, prepare for death to follow me." And someone scribbled in chalk below that message: “To follow you I’m not content, until I know which way you went." But maybe one of the best was written by a Christian, by the name of Solomon Peas, in Alabama. He had written on his stone: "Here lies Solomon Peas. Peas is not here, only the pod, Peas shelled out and went home to God."
Well, as we conclude our study of the life of David I want to take a step back chronologically and go back to the death of his predecessor, King Saul. I want to do that for a couple of reasons. (1) David apparently died a natural death. Before he went to be with God he passed on, in a very smooth transition, the Kingship of Israel to his son Solomon. But David had to deal with death and one of his most poignant dealings and most uncomfortable was dealing with the death of Saul and his best friend, Saul’s son, Jonathan. I think that makes it worthwhile to look at that situation. (2) Death is the great equalizer. All of us face it and talking about it can be uncomfortable. Maybe that’s why we like the humorous epitaphs. We may think If we make light of it perhaps it won’t weigh too heavily upon us. But since it is such a part of life I believe we need to discuss it openly and honestly. We especially need to talk about it in light of the Scripture. After all, if the Bible is going to be our source book for life we ought to know what it also has to say to us about death. There is a sense in which King Saul wrote his own epitaph and it is far from humorous. In 1 Sam. 26:21 there is a statement given by Saul that kind of summarizes the monarch’s life. Saul tells David, "I have sinned... Surely I have been a fool and very, very wrong." Saul began his Kingship with all kind of advantages. He was physically impressive, he had the charisma to lead people and he had the support of God but he played the fool. He became so self-centered, so egotistical, so jealous, so disobedient to God that he ended up frittering it all away. Of Saul it was true, as it is of so many today, that passage in Proverbs 16:25 that says -"There is a way that seems right to a man but in the end it only leads to death." And although Saul looked good to the world, deep in his soul he knew that God observed his heart and said, "What a foolish and empty life!"
Let’s examine the events that surround King Saul’s death and use them to engage in a Biblical discourse on dying. I think this incident has some vital lesson that should interest us. Here are four principles that this passage gives us to ponder.
I. SUICIDE IS NOT WHAT GOD WANTS FOR US:
The first is: that suicide, the taking of one’s own life is certainly not what God wants for us. King Saul died a foolish death. Our text tells us that the army of Israel was engaged in a disastrous battle with the Philistines. Saul’s troops were outclassed and out numbered and the enemy killed three of Saul’s sons, including Jonathan, who was David’s best friend. And I imagine that Saul with a view from the mountain, witnessed the death of his own sons. And in the midst of that slaughter, Saul himself was wounded. The Latin Vulgate says that "he caught an arrow in the abdomen and it was a mortal wound." And as so often happens with a wound like that Saul did not die immediately but clung, painfully to life. When Saul realized he could not escape the Philistines, a pathetic scene followed. Saul asked his armor bearer to kill him but the young man could not do it. And so rather than turn his life over to God the King fell upon his own sword in order to commit suicide.
You see, he was concerned that the enemy not humiliate him by torturing him, so he took it upon himself to end it all. Hitler was a mad dictator and exhibited that in his life and reveals his instability in his infamous death. Apparently, like Saul, Hitler did not want the enemy to sport with his body. He thought they would embalm it and strut it across the countryside. So, he and is wife sat in a room and she took poison and he shot himself with a revolver. Hitler had instructed his aides that when they found him dead to drench his body with gasoline and set the body afire. Then they were to place his ashes in a bag and bury them so that they could never be found. And that was Saul’s attitude. He was so concerned about his image before the enemy that he was not concerned about his relationship with God. Isn’t that sad? Here’s a man who was experiencing his last moments on this earth. And rather than praying to God to have mercy on his soul, he was worried about what the enemy was going to do with him. I think Saul had drifted so far away from what was right that he didn’t even have his priorities straight when his life ebbed away.