presents the David and Goliath series
Lesson 4: Saul
Written by Vaughan Durston, Founder of U.B. David & I'll B. Jonathan Inc.
The fourth character in the story of David and Goliath that we must consider is the king of Israel whose name was Saul. The Bible tells us that he was head and shoulders above everyone else in Israel. He wasn't as big as Goliath, but he was the biggest man that Israel had.
The Desire for a King
God never intended that Israel should have a king. God wanted to be their king. He wanted to fight their battles for them, and meet their needs as they would come to him in simple faith. Instead, the Israelites looked around them and saw that the heathen nations had earthly kings who were their leaders. You would think that they would rather have the God of the universe as their supreme commander than any earthly person, but this required them to walk by faith, come to Him in prayer, and wait on Him for His answers.
They decided that they would rather have a leader that they could see, an earthly king like the other nations had. You can read about it in 1 Samuel chapter 8. Time after time they would come to Samuel the prophet and make their request.
This displeased Samuel very much. Do you know that the Bible says that God knows what we say in our hearts as well as what we say with our mouths? It says so in Jeremiah 17:10. Can you imagine what the prophet was thinking when he listened to the people and realized what the people were saying, while God was listening? They were rejecting God from being their king.
God Looks for Little People
Whenever God has something to do with putting someone into leadership, He will always find a little person. By this I mean one who is small in his own eyes, humble, willing to listen and take direction.
Although Saul was a tall man when Samuel went to make him king, he was so small in his own eyes that he went and hid himself amongst "the baggage", according to 1 Samuel 10:22. It is interesting that the name Paul means small, and the name Saul means big. In the Old Testament, God found someone who was small in his own eyes, but as time went by he became big in his own eyes, and God could not use him. In the New Testament there was a man who was called Saul, who became small and God changed his name to Paul. What a lesson for all of us.
Saul, in our story, started out well. Because he was humble, God chose him to be king. Samuel anointed him, which was a sign before the people that this was not a decision of Samuel's but it came from God. God wanted Israel's kings to come to Him for guidance and help. When we realize that God loves us and is all wise and all powerful, we should constantly seek His wisdom and His power to do things.
The Danger of Disobedience
Saul said, "God saves," but was always saving himself.
Saul went wrong when he didn't wait on the Lord. You can read about it in 1 Samuel chapter 13. Because of not waiting for direction from the Lord he did the next thing that happens: he became disobedient. Saul's disobedience leads to cover-up, and lying. All this was displeasing to the Lord and led to the Lord rejecting Saul as king of Israel. A little later on, the Bible tells us that an evil spirit troubled him.
What a sad thing to see someone who used to do what the Lord wanted him to do but now is not obedient to Him. Is it any wonder when the giant Goliath came on the scene that Saul lacked faith in God and was fearful and dismayed?
A lack of faith leads to all kinds of strange behaviour. False beliefs, false feelings, and false actions caused Saul to function so strangely that many have questioned if he was a believer. I'm sure he would consider himself to be one, however.
The Danger of Self-Reliance
Saul was the man who should have fought Goliath but instead of looking to God to save him in the time of trouble, he looked at Goliath and then looked at himself and said, "I don't stand a chance."
All religion is either a 'save yourself' religion or a 'God saves' religion. Remember, Goliath's religion was "I will save myself." David's religion was, "God will save." Saul's religion was, "I believe that God saves too, but right now I'm saving myself." Saul was the type of person that said one thing and practiced another. He ended up with very little respect because his walk didn't match up to his talk. Today we would call him a carnal Christian because he didn't live like a mature Christian should.
Hebrews 11:6 says,
"But without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."
I'll never forget the day that I came to see that the only way I could receive eternal life was by accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as my Saviour, by faith. This is brought out throughout the Scriptures.
Then there came the day that I came to see from Scripture that we are to live the Christian life on earth by faith as well. David did this, but Saul did not. The evidence of whether we live our life on the earth by faith or not, will show up in our behaviour.
There is a truth running throughout the Bible and it is that he who lives for self (faithlessly) will find he has to save himself. If God saved him it would teach him that this was an acceptable way to live. Saul's faithlessness caused God to leave Saul without His help. Otherwise, how was God to teach Saul and us that this is not the way to live or to solve our problems? God is too wise to do this.
God Saves Those who Live for Him
He who lives for God will find that God will save him. David lived for God and God saved him. Goliath, who did not believe in God, lived for self and sought to save himself. You will notice that he did not do it very well. Saul would like us to think that he lives for God, but his actions show us that he is living for self.
Had he really believed that God would save, then he would not have needed to be fearful. He could have waited on the Lord to save him, been obedient to the Lord, not had bad attitudes, nor envied David and sought to kill him. You see, because he did not trust God one problem led to another.
On the other hand, as David trusted God in one situation, it encouraged him to trust God in the next challenge. One answer to prayer gave him faith to believe that the Lord would solve the next problem.
It is important to realize that, for the Christian, "Jesus saves" means more than just 'in the by and by', as wonderful as that will be. It should have to do with the here and now as well. This is basically the difference between the way David lived and the way Saul lived. Both would say that they believed that God saved, but in David's life you could see it, while in Saul's life you could not. Today people would call him a hypocrite. One lived the faith-rest life while the other didn't seem to know what it was about.
The evidence that we are living the "save-yourself-life-on-earth" is when we are arguing, fighting, living in rivalry, being immoral, or striving. Each of these things are sins that God will not bless. They all come from self will. There is nothing wrong with honest work; in fact God expects us to do this, only with a right spirit.
There are some important verses in Jeremiah 17:5-10:
"The Lord says, 'I will put a curse on people who trust in mere human beings, who depend on mere flesh and blood for their strength, and whose hearts have turned away from the Lord. They will be like a shrub in the desert. They will not experience good things even when they happen. It will be as though they were growing in the desert, in a salt land where no one can live."
"My blessing is on those people who trust in me, who put their confidence in me. They will be like a tree planted near a stream whose roots spread out toward the water. It has nothing to fear when the heat comes. Its leaves are always green. It has no need to be concerned in a year of drought. It does not stop bearing fruit…I, the Lord, probe into people's minds. I examine people's hearts. I deal with each person according to how he has behaved. I give them what they deserve based on what they have done.'" (NET Bible)
Saul and David were two believers who are contrasting examples of what these verses are about.
The sad thing about Saul is that although he started well he ended up in a bad way and died before he ordinarily should have.
What a sad thing to see some people start out well when they are young, but stop trusting in the Lord, begin to do the wrong things, and have a sad ending. This can happen to any of us if we are not on guard. Even David was not perfect, but the good thing about him was that he came to God in repentance (sorrow). God forgave him. This was what was really missing in Saul's life.
May it be a lesson for all of us.