*Good morning once again. Today we continue looking at the saga of King Saul. What a sad story! But, unfortunately his story mirrors that of so many folks today. Saul was overwhelmed by jealousy. His jealousy led to his obsession to get rid of David. Yet, each time David had a chance to rid himself of this threat he chose not to. David, the one who stood up to the giant Goliath, chooses not to stand up to Saul.

"But David thought to himself, 'One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul. The best thing I can do is to escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will give up searching for me anywhere in Israel, and I will slip out of his hand." (I Samuel 27:1)

When I had the privilege of visiting Israel several years ago I was able to travel to the Dead Sea region. It is breath-taking. We were able to visit an area not far from the Dead Sea where it is believed that David hid from Saul. There were giant crevasses in the cliffs that would have been ideal for hiding. David chose to flee from Saul instead of fighting against him. David traveled to the land of the Philistines where he found, not only refuge, but success. You have heard of people who, regardless of what they touch, it all turns to gold? That seemed to be David. David enters the service of the king of Gath (Philistinian) and appears to even fight against his own people. However, it is all a ruse. David never harmed his own people, although he cleverly convinced the king that he left none of those he fought against alive. David's star is rising (probably a pun in there), while Saul, poor Saul, is falling faster and faster.

"When Saul saw the Philistine army he was afraid; terror filled his heart. He inquired of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets. Saul said to his attendants, 'Find me a woman who is a medium, so I may go an inquire of her.'" (I Samuel 28:5-7)

Urim simply implies "lots." The Lord wouldn't answer Saul by any means. I still have to wonder why the Lord totally forsook Saul. Oh, I know the reason we are given, but don't we believe that all sin can be forgiven, except one: "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?" (Matthew 12:31) Was that Saul's sin? Wow! Was God that angry with Saul? In this story of Saul we see the extent of jealousy and the extent of extreme anger. Have you ever experienced anger so deep that it refuses to hear, or see, or...even forgive? I have, and it is ugly. This story is an ugly story.

Ironically Saul had expelled all mediums and spiritists from the land. (I Sam. 28:3) But, now he seeks the help of one. He is at his wits end. Saul asks the woman to bring up for him the spirit of Samuel. (Who has since died) Well, the poor lady did just what Saul asked and it scared her. In a funny moment the spirit of Samuel said to Saul: "Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?" (I Samuel 28:15) Poor Saul, he asks Samuel for help and advice as to what to do since the Philistines are now fighting against him, and God is no longer for him.

"The Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hands and given it to one of your neighbors-to David. Because you did not obey the Lord or carry out his fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the Lord has done this to you today. The Lord will hand over both Israel and you to the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me." (I Samuel 28:17-19)

Saul is doomed, and so are his sons. Remember, jealousy does not always just harm one person. It usually takes the innocent down too. Anger is the same way. There are no winners. The heavens are closed and Saul is estranged from God.

"The Philistines pressed hard after Saul and his sons, and they killed his sons Jonathan, Abinadab and Malki-Shua. The fighting grew fierce around Saul, and when the archers overtook him, they wounded him critically." (I Samuel 31:2-3)

Samuel had prophesied this would happen. Keep in mind Saul's son, Jonathan had been very close to David. The question for me is: Was Saul destined for such an end? If Saul obeyed the Lord in the beginning, would the outcome be different? I would like to think so. But, then I remember that the reign of Saul was a result of the people demanding a king. Was Saul's reign a reflection on the people of Israel? Or, was Saul's demise of his own doing?

"Saul said to his armor-bearer, 'Draw your sword and run me through...But his armor-bearer was terrified and would not do it; so Saul took his own sword and fell on it." (I Samuel 31:4)

Perhaps you have heard of the phrase "suicide by cop?" This is a case of suicide by armor-bearer. Years ago I pastored a small community church in Duggansville, Missouri. (Before I was a United Methodist) An event took place during my ministry there that I will never forget. One of my favorite television shows during that time was a syndicated program called: "Real Stories of the Highway Patrol." On this program actual footage of traffic stops would be televised. On each show there would be a re-enactment of an event involving the highway patrol and state police from around the country. I never dreamed that an event that happened in my ministry would end up being re-enacted on this program. But, in the spring of 1995 such an event occurred and it was re-enacted for this program some time later. (It's a long story, but) What began as a neighbor dispute ended with a police-assisted suicide. A local resident had engaged the Missouri Highway Patrol Special Response Team (SERT) in a gun battle. Needless to say, he lost. It was discovered in the end that this man had cancer. I asked a friend of mine at the time, Corporal Brian Thompson (MSHP), about the situation and he confirmed that it was basically the fellow not wanting to kill himself, so he enlisted the help of the patrol. The armor bearer refuses to help Saul. Wow! In the end, God won't help him, Samuel is dead and can't/won't help, his sons are dead and now his armor bearer refuses an order. Saul is left alone and all alone he takes his life.

The Philistines take Saul's body and behead it. They strip him of his armor and hang his corpse on a wall for everyone to see like a deer from the taxidermist. Fortunately, a group of citizens whom Saul had helped earlier recovered his body, along with his sons, and gave them a proper burial. Saul is gone now, his kingdom has been torn from him. Oh, remember when Samuel appeared to Saul from the grave. Samuel reminded Saul that his kingdom would be handed over to his neighbor. The only difference, Samuel named the neighbor. Yes, Saul went to his death knowing that the one who would reign over Israel was the very one he wanted so badly to kill; David. The throne is waiting for its new king. Join me tomorrow as we continue looking at this saga. -Pastor Rick

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