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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A King, A Protector, A Commander

A King, A Protector, A Commander
Saul was God’s appointed king of Israel at the request of the Israelites. The Israelites wanted to have a king like the nations that surrounded them. They wanted a man who was a ruler of men, who stood a head above the others (1 Samuel 9:2). The Israelites wanted a military man. Though God had been and was the Israelites’ protector, they requested a protector. Saul was those things and strove to follow Yahweh. He made decisions after consulting God through Samuel. During times of decision-making, Saul often disobeyed God. God eventually withdrew His hand from his kingship (1 Samuel 15:11, 23). From the time He withdrew His hand from Saul, Saul chose his own way. He refused to repent and ask forgiveness from God.
            God chose David to be the succeeding king of Israel after Saul and his sons died (1 Samuel 16:12-13). Samuel anointed him while Saul still reigned. David was a well-equipped shepherd. His family had no experience of being kings. David learned quietness of spirit and listening for God’s voice while he was a shepherd. He learned the arts of protection as a shepherd. God would prepare David to be king of His nation and to be a leader of men. He taught him about the sanctity of His decisions, too, i.e. Saul was God’s anointed; Israel was God’s chosen people.
            While Saul chased David in the wilderness in 1 Samuel, David had an opportunity to kill Saul in a cave (1 Samuel 24). He chose not to harm Saul, but instead showed Saul his fidelity to him (1 Samuel 24:8-10). David taught his men and Saul he followed God by choosing not to kill His anointed king. He recognized the sanctity of Saul’s life. Saul epitomized the idea of a human king. He followed his own will instead of God, who anointed him. Notice David kept his sword and knife from Saul’s body. He would not harm God’s anointed king even though the king did not follow Yahweh. Saul was like the people who heard about God - His love and desire to be in relationship with them - but who chose still to follow their own paths. David was like people who responded to God’s message of love and choose to be in a relationship with Him, striving to follow His will in their lives. David could not harm Saul because he was God’s chosen leader for His people. Saul was David’s king.
            Saul’s armor-bearer was with him in the last moments of his life. He asked his armor-bearer to finish his life so he would not fall into the hands of the Philistines (1 Samuel 31:4-6). Saul feared torture by the enemy who beleaguered him most throughout his reign. He knew the Philistines would delight in claiming they killed the mighty king of Israel. Saul feared the pain he would experience from a slow death, too. He knew God removed His hands from him and this punishment fell on him and his sons because he did not obey God and kill king Agag of the Amalekites. Saul’s armor-bearer could not kill the king. He feared people of higher rank would learn of it. The armor-bearer was aware Saul was the king. He could not kill the king, his master, and the commander of Israel’s army. The armor-bearer would not seal the fate of death upon Saul. He honored Saul in death just as he did in life. Saul was his king and military leader.
            The men of Jabesh-Gilead learned about the death of Saul and his sons on Mount Gilboa (1 Samuel 31:11). They heard of the Philistines hanging their bodies upon the wall of Beth-Shan, a major crossroad within Israel. The name Beth-Shan means house of ease. The people named the city this because it was a place of tranquility and a refuge for travelers. With the nailing of these corpses upon the city wall, the tranquility left Beth-Shan and Israel. The previously anointed one of God was dead; the anointed sinful man met his judgment. Jabesh-Gilead was a town/village that Saul and an army of Israelites protected from the Philistines. The men felt indebted to their protector and savior, Saul. Their final act for him became a means of thanking and honoring Saul and his sons. The men of Jabesh-Gilead made their way by night to Beth-Shan and took the bodies off the wall (1 Samuel 31:11-13). They took them to Jabesh-Gilead to receive a proper royal burial and warrior’s remembrance. Saul was their savior-protector.
            Each of these men experienced Saul in different ways. Every one of them experienced him as king. The armor-bearer experienced him as the military chief, one who commands respect. He gave tribute and honor to Saul by not killing him and by killing himself when Saul died, which was common in that time of the relationship of servant to master. The men of Jabesh-Gilead experienced him as protector-savior. They honored Saul’s memory by giving him a king’s tribute – removal from the wall of shame in Beth-Shan and a proper burial. David experienced him as God’s anointed king for Israel, his first acquaintance to royalty, and the father of his best friend, Jonathan. He gave honor to Saul in his death and life. In life, David spared Saul on occasions when he could have killed him. In death, he honored him by killing the Amalekite who claimed to have killed God’s anointed one (2 Samuel 1:1-10). David honored him by writing one more song of loss and glory for the king and his best friend, Jonathan, Saul’s son (2 Samuel 1:19-27). Each of the men remembered, gave praise, and honored the man, Saul, whom God anointed for Israel.
Though God chose Saul to be the leader of the Israelites, He did not force His will upon Saul. He allowed Saul to choose whom he would follow, Yahweh or his own self. Saul chose his own way most often. God left him to his own demise since he followed his own will. God chooses humanity to receive His love and mercy through the salvation Christ offers. Many people, like Saul, will choose to walk their own way and make their own decisions. They fall into pits of their own demise like Saul. We remember these people with honor just as the men did of Saul.
God blesses the people who choose to follow His will. Those who choose to follow God’s will are they who accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. These people receive His mercy and grace. The loving Savior and strong King leads them. Jesus is the mighty Warrior who fights for the souls of everyone. The heroes of the faith - God’s forgiven children - are the ones remembered by men on earth. God will remember them in heaven, give them reward, and praise them for their works on earth. God will remember them throughout eternity. Jesus is the only true Savior, Warrior, and King. He is the One who saves from sin and death and battles the forces of evil for us. We make Him our King when we confess our sins, believe He is the Son of God, and follow Him.
We each must decide for ourselves whose will we will follow and
abide by the results of those decisions,
be it to death or life everlasting.
What is your choice?