Summary: Lent Mid-week 2: Message based on (but not adapted from) Concordia Publishing House mid-week lenten series. Saul was chosen to be the Leader of God’s people. By choosing to disobey God, he lost God’s blessing and his position as king. Our King of kings
Do you remember the last time that you decided to make a big change in your life? I’m not talking about doing something that is a part of daily life and living – like really wanting to go watch a movie or having an ice cream cone – I’m talking about something really huge – something that would imply a major transition in your life: like getting married; quitting a really stable job in order to launch out on your own; relocating to a new city where you would have to make new friends, find a new place to live and work; or decide to go back to school to learn a new career. This kind of thing is huge and it implies a systematic re-orientation of our priorities, thinking, behaviors and attitudes.
Sometimes these adventures result in great and wonderful opportunities and sometimes they don’t. When it is an entire organization, society or nation that is going through this type of transition, the stakes are enormous. The capacity and integrity of the leader can make all the difference in the world. If the right person is in place when a transition happens – the chances of success improve. It doesn’t mean that things will be easy – just that the preferred outcome has a greater chance of becoming a reality.
The nation of Israel wanted to make a change – a big change. They were a theocracy – a nation whose head of state was God. They saw that the nations around them all had kings – and so they decided that they too wanted to be led by a human king. Samuel warned them. He told them about that the new king would implement a draft system and that the new king would tax them, but this didn’t give the people pause. They looked around and saw how the neighboring nations all had human kings and they decided that they wanted their own. The man tapped to lead them through the coming years was Saul.
Now Saul was a figure of a man. He stood head and shoulders above most others. He was handsome and presented himself admirably well. If you’ve been around the block a time or two, maybe the fellow that would epitomize this might be somebody like Tom Selleck. Further back in time we might be thinking of a Burt Lancaster or a Charlton Heston type. Closer to today the kind of guy that Saul was perceived to be is maybe a Russell Crowe – a sort of man’s man type of figure.
Now I’ve picked Hollywood actors for a reason. You see, much of who these folks are to the public, is image – what a PR firm promotes. The same issue was at play with Saul. He was a man who had a wonderful public image, and he really was a good warrior. But when things began to get really tough, some very serious questions about his integrity began to arise. Now, mind you, the shoes Saul was filling were and continue to be mighty large! Wouldn’t you hate to be the first leader - the first human king - of a nation that had heretofore been led by God? That person better epitomize integrity! That person better understand that all good things come from God. That person better understand that for things to go well, God’s hand of blessing must be upon him and nation. Unfortunately, Saul did not get that very well.
Saul was the poster perfect king, but he chose to disobey God. He set aside the clear commands that God had given to him and instead trusted in his own judgment. God had given Saul explicit orders about how he was to conduct his battle with the Amalakites. Saul chose to deviate from what God had commanded him – not a good idea for Saul nor for us in today’s day and age! You know, maybe the power and position got to him. Maybe the applause from the people made him think that he needed to give account to no one else. Maybe the victories that God granted to him gave Saul a big head. In the same chapter as our sermon text, it says that Saul erected a monument to himself after the battle. The boy had a bit of an ego!
At the end of the day, Saul failed to follow God’s commands. Saul’s sin was not obeying God. His sin was trusting in his own judgment more than God’s clear Word and direction. So God sent a message to Saul through the prophet Samuel: “Because you rejected the Lord, the Lord rejects you as king.” And after God removed his hand of blessing – Saul became more and more despondent and self absorbed.
How do we know? - We can see it in how Saul began to go off track more and more. Time and again we see Saul fearful when he went into battles. He failed to confront Goliath and instead left that job to a little shepherd boy. He was afraid of the Philistine army. Saul’s leadership began to be characterized by jealousy and ineptitude. Saul slowly began to lose the support of his people. Finally, in his last days, Saul resorted to the most brazen form of idolatry - instead of trusting God for help and direction, Saul went to get advice from a witch – the witch of Endor. His end was tragic – Saul committed suicide. Saul lost the important position that he had been given. Saul became the king who fell from grace.