In life, there are moments in which we go from the heights of euphoria to the bottom of the pit of despair in no time flat.An innocuous but vivid moment like that in recent memory was the Seahawks' loss at this year's Super Bowl.When Jermaine Kearse made that miraculous catch on his back almost at 5-yard line, I felt euphoric.They are going to win it!Then, two plays later the ill-advised pass was intercepted and euphoria became stunned disbelief.
We see this going on here between chapters 12 and 13.After the euphoric moments following Saul's coronation in chapter 12, we find a series of bad decisions on Saul's part that ultimately lead to undoing of his kingship and leave us with a sense of despair.
I.A Word about Saul's Age and Reign, 1.
A.This verse contains the usual formula that introduces the reign of a king.
1 Kg. 14:21 – And Rehoboam the son of Solomon reigned in Judah. Rehoboam wasforty-one years old when he became king. He reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city which the Lord had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, to put His name there. His mother's name wasNaamah, an Ammonitess.
B.It makes sense that the official introduction to his reign is here since he was just officially crowned in chpt. 12.
C.There is an issue, however, with the numbers in this verse.
1.Our translation tries to do its best by translating the Hebrew numbers as one and two.
a.That is a valid translation of the words themselves.
b.But that doesn't fit the context because the verse would then say, "Saul was one year old when he began to reign and after he had reigned for two years…."
2.Some translations have tried to solve this problem by leaving the numbers as blanks.
a.The earlier editions of the ESV did that following the tradition of the RSV.
b.Even though this is an attempt to be faithful to the text, it is not helpful.
3.One scholar tried to explain the one and the two by saying that Saul had lived one year as the adopted son of Samuel (based on being a new man in 1 Sam. 10:9), but Saul is never referred to as the son of Samuel and always as the son of Kish, which is the pattern found when this formula is used for other kings.
4.The best way to figure out what these numbers should be is to look at the immediate context and the context of the rest of the Scriptures.
a.In v. 2, we see that Jonathan was old enough to lead 1,000 troops, which would put him at least at 18 years old – so, Saul needs to be old enough to have a son who is in his late teens or early twenties.
b.In Acts 13:21, Paul says that Saul reigned over Israel for 40 years.
c.Putting these two facts together, we can conclude that Saul was close to 40 years old (maybe 41) when he started reigning and he reigned for about 40 years (maybe 42) – that would account for the one and the two without any other number.
II.A Series of Bad Decisions, 2-7a.
A.After the euphoric moments following his coronation, Saul dismisses the men of Israel into a reserve role and keeps a standing army of 3,000 troops, 2.
1.Israel has a current standing army of 160,000 troops with a population of 7.8 million; US army = 1.4 million troops.
2.Saul divided his troops into two armies under his command and Jonathan's command.
3.This decision to dismiss the men of Israel and keep only 3,000 troops will prove to be woefully inadequate and demonstrates Saul's inability to accurately assess threats, 5.
B.As bad decisions are plied upon bad decisions, Jonathan attacks a forward position of the Philistines, 3.
1.We are left with the impression that Jonathan didn't really think through this attack very well.
2.The brief account of the attack is followed by the ominous words "… and the Philistines heard of it."
3.Saul had enough wisdom to realize the trouble they were in and to call up the reserves, 3b-5.
C.The battle is set with the Philistines digging in at Micmash and the Israelites setting up in Gilgal.
1.But as soon as the mighty army of Israel, the Lord's army, sees the strength of the enemy, they run away as fast as they can before even one shot is fired, 5-7a (trained by the French).
2.Notice that they were giving up on the promise of the Lord that the land would be theirs by actually fleeing away from the Promised Land.
a.Somehow God was not able to deal with the Philistines.
b.Or losing their lives for God's promise was the worst thing that could happen to them.
III.Then, A Really Bad One, 7b-15.
A.The statement "all the people" should be understood in terms of all the people who remained with Saul.
1.We learn in v. 15 that his army was reduced to 600 trembling men.
2.Though the odds were stacked against them, victory was still in their reach because they were the army of the Lord.
a.Gideon was told that 600 troops was too many men in the battle against the Amalekites.
b.Jehoshaphat understood this concept that the battle is the Lord's.
2 Chron. 20:15 – And he said, "Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the Lord to you: 'Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God's."
B.Saul's assessment of the situation led him to make a decision that ultimately led to his losing his kingdom.
a.He is overpowered militarily;
b.His army is defecting;
c.Samuel hasn't shown up yet;
d.He hasn't heard from the Lord and is afraid he hasn't done enough to secure God's favor.
2.He was under extreme pressure.
C.So, when under pressure, what did he do?He ignored the Word of the Lord.
1 Cor. 4:6 – Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other.
1.Samuel had told Saul to go to Gilgal and wait for him there.
2.In 1 Sam. 10:8, Samuel said he would come to Gilgal to offer sacrifices AND tell Saul what to do.
a.Bur for Saul, the Word of God could be dispensed with as long as he did things to secure God's favor.
1)I am sure my situation is unique and what God said doesn't apply to it.
2)I know God said to wait, but I know better I'll do it my way.
3)There is no way that God meant for me to do things exactly like he said.
b.Some say that Saul's sin was offering the sacrifices, but the same language is used of both David and Solomon without any consequences and the language allows for Saul using priests for the sacrifice.
c.Ultimately, the big issue here is that Saul thought that it was ok for him to ignore what God had told him through his prophet – that is, Saul decided to do things differently than what the Word of God told him to do.
d.That cost him the kingdom, 13-14.
D.Notice Saul's reaction when Samuel confronted him, 11-12.
1.It was the people's fault, 11b.
2.It was Samuel's fault, 11c.
3.It was the Philistines' fault, 11d.
4.I didn't have a choice, 12b.
E.We tend to come hard on Saul, but we are much more like Saul than we would like to admit.
1.We tend to favor our words instead of the Word of God.
2.We fear our situations more than we fear God.
3.We despair in the midst of challenges of living in a sin-cursed world.
4.And we go beyond what is written
"James VI of Scotland was notoriously rude when attending worship services.On one occasion he was seated in his gallery with several courtiers while Robert Bruce preached.In his usual form James began to talk to those around him during the sermon.Bruce paused, the king fell silent.The minister resumed and so did James; Bruce ceased speaking a second time.Same result.When the king committed his third offense Bruce turned and addressed James directly: 'It is said to have been an expression of the wisest of kings, "When the lion roars, all the beasts of the field are quiet": the Lion of the Tribe of Judah is now roaring in the voice of His Gospel, and it becomes all the petty kings of the earth to be silent."Davis
a.This is true of kings and it is true of us.
b.When the Lion of Judah speaks, we listen.
IV.The Consequence: Despair, 16-23.
A.We read the whole chapter and we have this downward feeling of despair.
1.The Philistines are raiding the land, 16-18.
2.There are no weapons in the land, 19-23.
B.But the worst immediate consequence for Saul was that Samuel went on his own way, 15.
C.Saul is now on his own
"To be stripped of the direction of God's word is to be truly impoverished and open to destruction." Davis
Amos 8:11-13 – "Behold, the days are coming," says the Lord God, "That I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but shall not find it.In that day the fair virgins and strong young men shall faint from thirst.
"I cannot help but think that Saul's predicament is very like that of middle- and upper-class churches in our country.A church may provide all the trappings people crave: hyperkinetic programs for all ages of children, fun activities for youth, support groups fro diverse needs, counseling services for people in crisis, aggressive visitation, high-quality music ministry for the talented and/or interested.And yet for all the activities and programs that church is fundamentally alone if it lacks the faithful preaching and teaching of the word of God.The presence of glitz cannot substitute for the absence of the word." Davis
D.The SCOTUS decision to re-define marriage is the result of the church being more concerned with glitz than the Word.
1.All kinds of Christians have put all kinds of harsh words on social media concerning this decision, but at the end of the day Christians and the church have devalued the Word of God and obedience to the Word of God.
2.This decision will help the church in that soon real persecution will be coming through legal system and will separate those who treasure the Word from those who love glitz.
V.Joy Comes in the Morning
A.This is a gloomy chapter that leaves us a bit depressed.
B.But chpt. 13 leads us to chpt. 14 where Jonathan once again takes the initiative and this time he has victory.
C.That's how our life in Christ and also history.
1.Despair is for a moment for Jesus Christ reigns.
2.He is the king over Saul and he is the king over the Supreme Court.
Ps. 30:5 – For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
2 Cor. 4:17-18 – For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
3.The Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us and he will not let his church perish.
"When the dust settles after the culture's destruction, the church of Jesus Christ will be there to pick up the pieces and put it back together again—as we have done since God picked up his Son and brought him back to life." Daniel Hyde.
The solution for the current crisis in the Church and in society is the same: the Gospel of Jesus Christ.The solution is for Christians to be in love with their Savior, for Christians to be satisfied with their Savior's love for them.When Christ alone is our portion, we are able to change the world.