Bible Readings for September 6th
In 1 Samuel 31, we read about the death of Saul, Israel’s first king. While Saul was troubled from almost the very beginning of his reign, this passage is not written to demonize Saul but to underscore the tragedy of his life. Saul had so much promise initially, but his heart did not follow after Yahweh’s, causing him to rebel against Yahweh with deliberate disobedience—and ultimately, causing Yahweh to rip away the kingdom of Israel from him.
To begin, we should acknowledge the touching gesture of the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead, whose valiant men, when they heard about how the Philistines had desecrated the body of Saul, “arose and went all night and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan, and they came to Jabesh and burned them there. And they took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree in Jabesh and fasted seven days” (1 Sam. 31:12–13). Back in 1 Samuel 11, Saul had summoned all Israel to come to the defense of Jabesh-gilead when they were under siege from the Ammonites. This act of valor to reclaim Saul’s body, then, is a fitting tribute to the memory of what Saul had done for them. But more than that, this story keeps us from forgetting the positive aspects of Saul’s reign.
And yet, we should also remember that the consequences for Saul’s sin were severe, as illustrated by the death of Jonathan in 1 Samuel 31:2. Jonathan knew that he would never be king, since Yahweh had anointed David as king. He did not, however, attempt to take the situation into his own hands by harming David in order to preserve the throne for himself; rather, he rejoiced in the hope that he might sit beside David (1 Sam. 23:17). Instead, Jonathan becomes a casualty of Saul’s disobedience.
In Saul’s life—as in the lives of many of the rest of the kings of Israel—we read a somber warning to persevere. There are so many kings who start off well only to make shipwreck of their faith to varying degrees. All of them, however, force us to remember that there is still much of the battle left to be fought until we come into our eternal inheritance. It is critical that we not allow the actions at the ends of our lives to betray the positive ways in which we began our lives.
Brothers and sisters, let us heed the warning of Saul and keep going. Jesus is worth it. Let us fix our eyes on the prize of gaining Christ on the last day, for he is infinitely better than the weak, corrupt pleasures this world offers us in exchange for the glory of Christ.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.