Friday, May 26, 2023

King Saul dies in battle with the Philistines

Have you ever had a loved one in your family pass away? Can anyone relate? I think we've all probably had someone pass. And for some of us, it was someone we loved dearly. That's so incredibly hard. 

Then again maybe we don't have a good relationship with our parents or with our moms. God loves you, remember that. And he is going to speak to you, I think through this message. But God bless you all today. And this is kind of a sad story, a sad part of First Samuel 31. And it's about how Saul finally came to his end. 

So Saul has been persecuting David, David and his men have been fleeing from Saul for so many years now. And King Saul has been persecuting them, chasing after them trying to harm them. And David keeps refusing to harm Saul back, he very much is a man of humility and honor. 

He keeps saying, "Who am I to harm the Lord's anointed?" But finally, it comes to its final point here. It says that the Philistines, this enemy nation, right near Israel, they are attacking Israel. There's there's a huge battle going on. And many were slaughtered. It says on the slopes of Mount Gilboa they fought.

Mount Gilboa, it's actually a place that a friend of mine visited. She visited Israel a few years ago and stood in that place. It's beautiful, it overlooks a city today. See when we look at the scriptures, this is real stuff. You can go to Israel and see these places, these things really happened. So there's a battle going on here between the Philistines and Israel at this Mount Gilboa.

And it says, The Philistines were defeating Israel, they're a very powerful nation, they had powerful weapons, they had more advanced weapons than Israel, they had learned advanced metallurgy. And so their weapons were more advanced. 

And the Philistines are closing in on King Saul and his sons. They're in the battle themselves. And it says this, they killed three of his sons right there. 

The battle is fierce. The Philistines are now basically right near Saul himself. I mean, all his men are in battle around him. He's in battle and it's growing very fierce right around Saul and he's already watched his three sons die in the battle and he must be distraught, devastated. Saul takes an arrow from archers nearby. He's hit. Saul quickly realizes it's a mortal wound. So Saul turns to his servant whose with him, and says, "Hey, take your sword and run me through before these taken Philistines run me through and humiliate me." 

But the armor bearer was afraid and would not do it. So Saul took his own sword and fell on it. He kills himself right there. This is bad stuff, it's a dark moment! But he took his sword and fell on it. When his armor bearer realized that Saul was dead, he fell in his own sword too, and died beside the king. 

So Saul, his armor bearer and his sons died that day. When the Israelites on the other side of the desert Valley and beyond the Jordan saw that their army had been routed, and that Saul and his sons were dead, they abandoned their towns and fled. So the Philistines moved in and occupied those cities. So the Philistines have a total victory.

Here they are, they've won this battle. The next day, when the Philistines went out to strip the dead, they found the bodies of Saul and his three sons on Mount Gilboa. So they cut off Saul's head and stripped off his armor. And they proclaimed the news of Saul's death in their pagan temples, and to the people throughout the land of Philistia. 

"They cut off his head and stripped off his armor, and they sent messengers throughout the land of the Philistines to proclaim the news in the temple of their idols and among their people. They put his armor in the temple of the Ashtoreths and fastened his body to the wall of Beth Shan." -1st Samuel 31:9-10

When the people of Jabesh-Gilead heard what the Philistines had done, their warriors traveled all night to Beth Shan and took the bodies of Saul and his sons down from the wall. They brought them to Jabesh, where they burned the bodies, and they took their remains and buried them beneath the tamarisk tree at Jabesh. And they fasted for seven days. So this is the end of Saul and his family, a very sad moment.

And then mocked by his enemies. But thankfully, a nearby people in Jabesh-Gilead brought his body and gave him a proper burial. That was good thing they did that day. Then they fasted and mourned for seven days.

This is a very sad moment, but Saul has been sowing the wind for his whole life. He's been embracing a course of evil. 

Unfortunately, that when we make those choices, or hurt people, it's a lot of the innocent and will come back to harm us in the end. And that is how 

First Samuel 31, that's it. That's how the book of First Samuel ends, with the great defeat of King Saul and Israel by the Philistines. 

And then the book of Second Samuel starts. First Samuel goes all the way back to even before David was born, and then it goes through the life of David, as he's persecuted by Saul to the moment that Saul dies. And then second Samuel really begins the journey of King David, beginning to ascend to the throne of Israel. 

So David, after being harmed by Saul all these years, finally, his enemy is gone. And David begins to replace him as King of the nation of Israel. And these will begin to be much better days for Israel. Thankfully, a wicked ruler has passed away, a new, better King is about to take the throne. And things are about to get better for an entire nation. Because David has been through all the bad stuff, and it's kept him humble. He is a humble leader now. 

And what if he had taken the throne without any difficulty? Do you think he would have been as great of a leader? Probably not. Because sometimes we have to go through hard stuff. Sometimes we have to go through difficulties that keep us humble. And remind us that we need to rely on God completely. Sometimes we have to go through the wringer. And then when we're given authority, we won't abuse it. When we're given authority, and then we'll use it properly. 

So that's the first big point I want you to notice today is that it often takes going down to a dark place, a rock bottom, to be able to handle a better future where you're going to need to stay humble. 

Maybe that's the greater challenges after the struggles, to stay humble as God gives you many good gifts along the way. That may be the challenge for your future, is as God blesses you and builds you and grows you, you're gonna have to stay humble. Otherwise pride will destroy you. That's always a danger for any human on a path of victory: Pride starts to seep in. 

So let's see, we saw what happened to Saul here tragic and now let's see what happens with David. 

It says in Second Samuel 1:1-9, "After the death of Saul, David returned from striking down the Amalekites and stayed in Ziklag two days. 2 On the third day a man arrived from Saul’s camp with his clothes torn and dust on his head. When he came to David, he fell to the ground to pay him honor.

3 “Where have you come from?” David asked him.

He answered, “I have escaped from the Israelite camp.”

4 “What happened?” David asked. “Tell me.”

“The men fled from the battle,” he replied. “Many of them fell and died. And Saul and his son Jonathan are dead.”

5 Then David said to the young man who brought him the report, “How do you know that Saul and his son Jonathan are dead?”

6 “I happened to be on Mount Gilboa,” the young man said, “and there was Saul, leaning on his spear, with the chariots and their drivers in hot pursuit. 7 When he turned around and saw me, he called out to me, and I said, ‘What can I do?’

8 “He asked me, ‘Who are you?’

“‘An Amalekite,’ I answered.

9 “Then he said to me, ‘Stand here by me and kill me! I’m in the throes of death, but I’m still alive.’

So apparently Saul had attempted suicide, but it didn't work. So he calls to this man and says, "Hey, come finish me off. I'm dying here and I feel terrible." 

In verses 10-12: “So I stood beside him and killed him, because I knew that after he had fallen he could not survive. And I took the crown that was on his head and the band on his arm and have brought them here to my lord.”

11 Then David and all the men with him took hold of their clothes and tore them. 12 They mourned and wept and fasted till evening for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the army of the Lord and for the nation of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword."

This is something that they would do in ancient times. Clothing was obviously very, very valuable in ancient times. And to show you were super upset, you would rip your clothes. I mean, you're doing the damage to something very valuable to express your grief. 

It says in verse 12, they mourned and wept and fasted all day for Saul and his son, Jonathan, and for the Lord's Army and the nation of Israel, because so many had died that day. So here we see them mourning this loss. 

I mean, David has been harassed and pursued by Saul and Israel, but yet he's mourning the loss of the army. He's mourning, this great defeat, because he's a godly man. He knows that this is a horrible tragedy. So he mourns. And it's okay in your life to mourn as well when you're sad. It's okay to mourn, to weep, to be upset, to simply allow yourself to be in that spot for a while. It's okay to feel grief. And sometimes when we're in grief, we may fast as well. 

Have you ever been so upset that you couldn't eat? That's a dark place to be. So at the same time, I'm sure David is thinking, well, this is my time to ascend to the throne. But that's not his approach to the situation. Instead he mourns. 

Then in verses 13-16, "David said to the young man who brought him the report, “Where are you from?”

“I am the son of a foreigner, an Amalekite,” he answered.

14 David asked him, “Why weren’t you afraid to lift your hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed?”

15 Then David called one of his men and said, “Go, strike him down!” So he struck him down, and he died. 16 For David had said to him, “Your blood be on your own head. Your own mouth testified against you when you said, ‘I killed the Lord’s anointed.’”

This man was a murderer. He killed Saul. David has him executed. Wow, that's intense. Was this the wrong decision? I don't really know. My first reaction is to think, well, that doesn't seem quite right. But I guess he did strike down Saul. Then it says this... (verses 17-27)

17 David took up this lament concerning Saul and his son Jonathan, 18 and he ordered that the people of Judah be taught this lament of the bow (it is written in the Book of Jashar):

19 “A gazelle lies slain on your heights, Israel.
    How the mighty have fallen!

20 “Tell it not in Gath,
    proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon,
lest the daughters of the Philistines be glad,
    lest the daughters of the uncircumcised rejoice.

21 “Mountains of Gilboa,
    may you have neither dew nor rain,
    may no showers fall on your terraced fields.
For there the shield of the mighty was despised,
    the shield of Saul—no longer rubbed with oil.

22 “From the blood of the slain,
    from the flesh of the mighty,
the bow of Jonathan did not turn back,
    the sword of Saul did not return unsatisfied.
23 Saul and Jonathan—
    in life they were loved and admired,
    and in death they were not parted.
They were swifter than eagles,
    they were stronger than lions.

24 “Daughters of Israel,
    weep for Saul,
who clothed you in scarlet and finery,
    who adorned your garments with ornaments of gold.

25 “How the mighty have fallen in battle!
    Jonathan lies slain on your heights.
26 I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother;
    you were very dear to me.
Your love for me was wonderful,
    more wonderful than that of women.

27 “How the mighty have fallen!
    The weapons of war have perished!”

How the mighty heroes have fallen! Stripped of their weapons they lay dead! Wow. He is mourning, mourning for the loss of his friend Jonathan, mourning for the loss of someone he loved, King Saul. Even though Saul persecuted him and harassed him he loved him. 

He mourns their loss. But history is changing, their things are moving and adjusting. The story is shifting. History is shifting. One King is passing away, and another is rising up. This is the way of all life. Things change over time, don't they? Nothing is permanent. Except for Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and forever. But human life changes. 

We were talking about that at Sunday school this morning. Pastor Chan said in the study on Job, "What were you feeling in 1923? Nothing. You weren't there." We're just a tiny blip in the spread of history.

We live 70, 80, 90 years, maybe 100? If we're lucky? We're just a tiny blip on history, we think we're so important that history revolves around us. 

Yet it does matter. David will perhaps be the greatest king that Israel has ever seen. Because he is a man after God's own heart. And at last, we've seen David chased, harassed, mocked, ridiculed, miserable, alone, living in caves, living empty, wondering when are things going to change. 

And finally he has his victory, where Saul is gone, and he's going to become king, and he can't even enjoy it. He is mourning for the loss of Saul. What a strange moment, don't you think? It's finally happened, his persecutor is defeated. And he can't enjoy it. 

He had mourned, cried, and ripped his clothes. Because he lost someone closer than a brother Jonathan is friend, someone who protected him from Saul. Frankly, David loved Saul. And I've experienced that too, with leaders, politicians, people in the Salvation Army that maybe I didn't agree with it, I still loved them, you know, still, I still cared about them and their soul, you know, you care. You can't help but care. So it's a strange and a sad moment. 

But it's also a hopeful moment, right? It's a hopeful moment, because David doesn't have to live in caves anymore. And it is God's will for David to be king. And David will be a great king. But it's sometimes it takes sorrow, to break through to victory. I'll tell you that. And oftentimes, it's a very mixed feeling, isn't it? 

When things change, it's like, Man, I'm happy. And I'm sad, and I'm hurt. And I'm blessed. And it's all just kind of together in this bowl of emotions. 

Like when you get saved in Jesus Christ, it's very much a mixed thing. Because at one point, you're so excited because you're a new person, you're born again, got the Holy Spirit, at the same time, you're mourning, because all of your sins were so ugly, and Jesus had to pay for them with his own blood. That's how bad my sin was. And you regret what you did. But then you're moved forward, past them.  

You're also a little nervous as well, looking toward a future that seems difficult, as a Christian, to begin to live by a different standard. So there's all these kinds of conflicting emotions, you feel sad yet excited, nervous yet confidence, mourning yet rejoicing. 

So welcome to the Christian life. It's kind of a balancing act between different feelings and thoughts. But fundamentally, we have a good thing here. And that's being a Christian. We have a wonderful, beautiful life walking in the grace of God every day.

Our sins have been washed away and we're new. We have the Holy Spirit, this rope hanging down from heaven that plugs into us and we light up with God's presence. We have this new power source that we're plugged into in heaven through the Holy Spirit. 

And yet life is kind of challenging because at the same time you look at the world and you see everyone who needs Jesus and you feel a little overwhelmed, like, "I want all these people to know the Lord!" And yet, it seems just out of reach a lot of times, so it's kind of tough. So, let's get used to that, used to an awkward balance of competing emotions. 

But I want to end on this note: This is a great moment because David is going to be a great king. This is a moment that the entire nation prayed and hoped for. God, please, grant us a Godly leader! And Israel now had a godly leader.

And imagine if in our country, Jesus appeared and said, "I'm the new president." That would be the day! Marantha! (Come Lord Jesus)

Prayer for Today: Heavenly Father, we've experienced a lot of these emotions, and it's tough. We walk in Your Grace, God, our sins have been forgiven by Your precious blood, Lord Jesus. Help us to walk in that sometimes awkward path. Help us to mourn those we've lost, but also to see the hope and the future that we have. Thank you, God, In Jesus Name, Amen.