Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Saul, melancholy man of contradiction

Last week I posted a couple of times on Jonathan. Today let's consider his father.

Hosea 13:11 - I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath.

The life story of King Saul is one of the Bible's saddest tales. This man with so much potential, humanly speaking, recklessly scatters it on a refuse pile. Saul was a masculine specimen, standing head and shoulders above his countrymen. Thus he commanded fear and demanded respect, as do most men of large stature. Yet he was also humble, or as Samuel put it "little in thine own sight." The Spirit of the Lord descended on him, and on occasion he prophesied. He exhibited wise and compassionate leadership when he refused to wield vengenance on those who opposed his accession to the throne. He led armies into battle. He removed from the land those who dabbled with familiar spirits. Such was Saul.

This manly man could tremble in fear or rave like a madman. His humility turned to pride and pride to jealousy as women sang of David's valorous battle deeds. The Spirit of the Lord departed and an evil spirit came upon him, turning his speech from prohesying to rantings and cursings. His wise counsel turned to foolishness when he sought to execute Jonathan for unknowingly disobeying his rash oath. In desperation he turned to the very darkness he had driven from the land -- one who dabbled in familiar spirits. In the end this man who stood head and shoulders above his countrymen suffered the indignity of having his head parted from his shoulders, his head displayed in an idol's temple, and his body nailed to a wall. Such was Saul.

Thus we remember this poor deluded man -- a melancholy man of contraditions. It is right to recognize he had many faults, as pointed out in the Scriptures. Saul "kept not the commandment of the Lord," "rejected the word of the Lord," "an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him," he "had slain the Lord's priests," and in the end "took a sword and fell upon it." But let us, men subject to like passions, also be as charitable as the man Saul hunted like a dog who sang, "Ye daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you in scarlet, with other delights, who put on ornaments of gold upon your apparel. How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle!"

In Saul we see that in the best of men is also the worst of men; he was a living contradiction. Also we learn to look not on the outward appearance (I Sam. 16:7); Saul appeared to be the "man for the job" (there is none like him among all the people). David was (the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart). Remember to lean not on thine own understanding (Prov. 3:5).

And think of how we often say, "There, but for the grace of God, go I." Often we say this, but do we really believe it? We say "There, but for the grace of God, go I." But does our heart really mean, "There, but for my good works and the good choices I've made, go I."

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