This biography is one of frightful consequences. It concerns a man not unlike the average Christian. In Saul’s youth, his connection to the God of Israel resembles that of many in the church today. Throughout his life, with exception of a brief period, he neglected personal religion and his great need of Christ. In the end, he placed his will wholly against the winning, drawing Spirit of God.
There has ever been in human nature a lackadaisical attitude of spirituality with God. At the fall of Adam, we lost that ardor for God which unites the soul with the Almighty. A relationship with God has always required effort, and it always will. Even in the perfect garden before sin, much effort was required to commune with God, but because of the strength of love and innocence, that effort was always naturally springing up like a geyser. Sin, the indulgence of self, and its resulting guilt, have debilitated that yearning for God’s friendship, along with the effort needed for making that connection with the God of purity, the God of infinite love.
But upon finding Adam and Eve in their fig leaves, even while still in their fear of destruction and in a rebellious frame of mind, Christ made it clear to the devil, that He would implant an animosity in their hearts against His enemy, which was His lawful right. After rebuking the unholy couple, He had them perform the first animal sacrifices and then He clothed them with the skins of those animals. Now, they must find that original holiness through difficulty and suffering. Never again would life be as nice as they had had it, and never again would communion and purity be so easily accessible.
Their weakness in spirituality, their propensity to let go their hold on God, would ever be a menace to themselves, to each other, and to their family, immediate or distant. They would see their progeny, from one generation to another, lose the lessons taught by those first parents, who had been taught by God Himself. They would see hatred, prejudice, suspicion, arrogance, bloodshed, until they finally laid their tired heads down for the last time.
The world into which Saul, the son of Kish, was born had endured many ages of sin and ignorance of heaven. Although Israel had been given great light and wonderful laws, these advantages were often not meditated upon or appreciated; the religious exercises expected of the Israelites, especially of the men, were often shallow and ineffective in growing faith and love for their Creator and Redeemer, the specific purpose for which God gave the feasts and laws.
Samuel had begun a great revival and reformation in Israel. This became the foundation for Israel’s soon exaltation in the world, when they would be free from all enemies. That revival of spirituality created, among the people, a renewed will to obey God’s commandments, thus preparing the way for His torrent of blessings. Yet many remained on the outskirts of this great event. Though it was known far and wide that there was a prophet in Israel, many did not respond in the fear of God. Their lives continued to be focused only around the mundane life. As glorious as physical activity and action and work are; as good as it is to have a land and a home to call your own; personal union with our heavenly Father makes all these bounties much more precious; and the gratitude of His children and their looking to Him, is His chief motivation for all His blessings toward them.
Saul was among those who remained on the outskirts of the revival. He had inherited an unassuming and even easily intimidated personality, traits which could have provided a beautiful tool in the hands of God. Yet faith had not grown with stature, and in his adolescence, the most easily influenced period of life, a friendship with Yahweh was passed by, and soon the confirmation of that neglect would produce its unwanted fruit of willfulness in his adulthood. He physically towered over all those around him, but his intimidating form was empty of the strong character that could and should have filled it.
Through providence, he found himself in the presence of Samuel. With respectful deference Saul joined with the famous man of God in a feast to the Lord. Far from comprehending what Samuel was telling him, Saul determined to obey. And just as Samuel had promised, “Thou shalt be turned into another man,
” that very hour, “God gave him another heart
.” (1Sam. 10:6,9). Saul received the New Testament experience of the new birth, he was privileged to be honored by The gift of God
. “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.” The Edenic condition, “I will put enmity” against selfishness, was accomplished in Saul. (Ez. 36:26;Gen. 3:15). In the Old Testament, as well as the New, “As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.” Jn. 1:12.
By another providence, just happening to cross paths with a group who knew the grace of God and were rejoicing and reveling in God’s mercy, Saul found it perfectly natural
to unite with them. Never before had he experienced conversion, and now he rejoiced in God his Saviour. “How could I have avoided the Spirit of God for so long?!” “Why had I kept God at arm’s length all my life?” we might hear him berating himself.
Others, who also had never known conversion, immediately commenced the subtle work of the Accuser of the brethren. “What is this that is come unto the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?” was their way of demeaning Saul’s unusual behavior (vs. 11). This is the exact same one-upmanship tactic Satan used to preemptorily get people to exalt themselves over Christ, undermine Christ's credibility, and attack His spirit, “Is not this the carpenter’s
son?” “Whose father and mother we know?” (Matt. 13:55;Jn. 6:42).
Saul traveled back, arriving home after several days. This most special experience he should have treasured up as his fondest of memories. In that one event, he gained the strength and courage of a bear, the wisdom of a serpent, and the harmlessness and self-deprecation of a dove. But treasure it up he failed to do, because he had never developed that immensely important habit in his youth, and the counter force of his old habit of living in unbelief would haunt him again and again. At home, again met with the old nominal religious environment and carelessness toward God and faith, Saul’s uncle desired to know of his whereabouts for so long a time. Saul’s answer betrays the first indication that he had not continued to dwell on the memorable experience, and had already lost the precious effects of his conversion. When he should have given his uncle a testimony regarding the wonderful work of God on his heart, his explanation encompassed the work animals he had left in search of, and nothing more. He had just been baptized with the Holy Spirit, he had been justified and had a holy standing before God! Now, being God’s beloved son, in whom He was well pleased, the Holy Spirit had performed for Saul what he could not do for himself, a 180 degree about-face. It was a new heart, truly 100% the work of God, and 0% the work of Saul.
But he had nothing to speak of to his uncle about that life-altering event.
But Jesus is so patient with His erring mortals! Of course, Saul wasn’t cast off! Christ would yet call to Saul and allow him a singular experience as coworker with the Divine. The Ammonites became agitated and attacked Israel. When the word got to Saul, his response was very unlike his early behavior when, being chosen king, he had tried to hide behind things. The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, like it had on Samson so many times, and he received the heart a lion. He grabbed a trumpet and blew it, and fearlessly commanded all Israel from every corner of the land, with the threat that they would be executed if they didn’t unite for the cause of the nation. Under the amazing generalship of Saul, the armies of Israel routed their enemies, and in short order the crisis was over.
But the next campaign didn’t turn out with the same wonderful manifestation of supernatural help. The Philistines almost won the war, and depending on his own capabilities, Saul began to make rash demands and the Israelite soldiers began to distrust him. Then God gave the command to attack and to completely destroy the Amalekites, who had attacked Israel in the wilderness in the days of Moses, and had been forewarned of vengeance, when “the iniquity of the Amorite” would be filled full. Now they had presumed on God’s mercy way beyond the limit, and the time had arrived for retribution.
But even though that campaign looked successful, something was wrong. Saul didn’t keep control of the people like he had under the guidance of the Spirit of God. Strict consecration to God as their true King disappeared, and following the slaughter, the Israelite people coveted the sheep and cattle so that they wouldn’t have to sacrifice their own herds to God. They even saved alive the king of the Amalekites when God had said nothing was to be left alive. In his own strength, Saul couldn’t seem to motivate the people to do what he knew they were supposed to do.
Why didn’t God come to the rescue and send the Spirit upon Saul so that he could do the job correctly? Why didn’t God give him a lion’s heart to make the people afraid to go against God’s will? God, where were You?
God doesn’t force our will. If we do not like to retain God in our thinking, if we don’t search His laws and counsels in our meditations, if we don’t hide His Law in our heart, we forfeit God’s help because we have not given Him permission to act in our behalf. According to the rules of the freedom of choice, God can only go as far as we let Him. He will never trespass our permission even for Him to do what He infinitely yearns to do for us. The holy God had worked with a man who had never exercised volition toward faith in Him. In all that God had done for Saul, he never responded of his own volition to seek God. So God backed off; He had to use hard-ball strategy to get through to Saul, now king and fully responsible for God’s children. The Bible is full of examples of this. When the ambassadors from Babylon came to see Hezekiah, “God left him, to try him, that He might know all that was in his heart.” (2Chron. 32:31). Similarly, the Lord “moved David against them [Israel] to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.” Really, God had to step out of the way, and immediately Satan stepped in to fill the vacuum, to do his work of temptation (2Sam. 24:1;1Chron. 21:1). But God took responsibility for it, as recorded in holy scripture. He must back off from David to let David see the consequences of walking apart from God, as He also needed to test Hezekiah, for evidently both had been departing from God for some time. And both failed the test. Christ tested His 11 disciples when He commanded them to cross the sea of Galilee at night without Him because they had chosen to follow Satan’s disciple. But He went to a mountain to pray, all the while as a watcher from the shore, He made sure that their little craft, with its precious cargo, didn’t capsize in the storm that He sent them. He tested Job under the same premise. “Hast thou considered my servant Job...? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst Me against him, to destroy him
without cause.” Job 2:3. Christ had to lift His protection, and He accepted the responsibility for doing so; Satan did the actual destruction and led the people to blame God; Job learned a good lesson of departing from God, the lesson on self-glorification that he had been subconsciously eluding. (Job 32:2).
We are tested the same way. If we don’t “examine ourselves, whether we be in the faith,” if we don’t put ourselves to the litmus test, God will take the liberty of testing us Himself, preempting our blindly placing of ourselves beyond His ability to help us, and also protecting the reputation of His Father since we profess to represent Him. Evidently David, Hezekiah, the disciples, and Job weren’t examining themselves, even though they had had wonderful careers in service to God, seeing His salvation in very marked ways. Yet a great past doesn’t excuse a present lack of trust or dependence on God. In perfect fairness, He is no respecter of persons. “Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?” Is. 2:22.
We will be tested by heavier and heavier tests for our weakness at wandering away from God, until the very last great trial just before Jesus comes. We must be tried and prepared, or we will not be able to stand in the presence of the Son of the Holiest in His power and glory. When He leaves His heavenly sanctuary to return to Earth, we will stand before a holy God without Christ as our mediator. Some theologians have had a difficult time understanding this, because we’ve been promised to have Jesus’ constant help and presence to the very end of the age, and we’ve been commanded to maintain a constant dependence on our Saviour. “Why would He ever expect us to try to stand, without Him as our mediator?” is their struggling bepuzzlement. But we have Biblical precedents for Christ “leaving” His servants. Nevertheless, it is for the purpose of purifying them, while He keeps close watch over His precious children. There is no merit in us praying, but the Jacob’s Trouble experience that God’s people go through just prior to Christ’s appearing has some special significance in the struggling─seemingly alone, with all the faith they can muster as a result of the previous work
of Christ in sealing them with the Early Rain of His Spirit before
He left the heavenly sanctuary. And that struggling is looked upon by the great Judge as having its own worth since it is a response
to the previous abundant bestowal of grace. That struggle brings out every smidgeon of faith and grace that God had been putting in them. Those 144,000 don’t hear it, but God says it: “As a prince hast thou power with God and with man, and hast prevailed.” “They shall walk with Me in white; for they are worthy.” (Gen. 32:28;Rev. 3:4). Only
with God’s help, they have read those promises and internalized them. Now, by the Father’s help they must cling to them with unrelenting faith. Wise virgins, they woke up from the slumber with extra oil, and now they must use that emergency supply. And, as that final separation from Jesus extracts the deepest faith from them, in a simultaneously mutual exchange, they give the Father permission to protect them in the tumultous presence of His holy Son and His indignant angels. Their unflinching dependence on Jesus during that period of darkness proves God’s act of declaring them worthy of translation and of citizenship in the approaching kingdom, and their firmness of faith is an argument that satisfies the holy, never-having-fallen hosts of heaven.
This unfinching dependence on Christ’s mercy Saul never knew. Due to his lack of personal religion, his lack of daily choosing to be a Christian, the few times the Spirit of God fell upon Saul was all Christ was allowed to do for him, without trespassing Saul’s freedom of choice. God more than exhausted His bank of grace for Saul, who had never cultivated holiness of heart, and now, as king, Saul would have great difficulty doing so. “For this shall every one that is godly pray unto Thee in a time when Thou mayest be found
: surely in the floods of great waters they will not come to nigh unto Thee.” “If in the land of peace
, wherein thou trustedst, they have wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?” (Ps. 32:6;Jer. 12:5). In the quiet of Saul’s pastoral home life, while Samuel was making the call to the hearts of the youth, Saul had the best opportunity to learn of Christ and become friends with Him. Now under the pressure of great responsibilities, on front stage, under the spot light of the world, with the threat of great worldly loss, and with ambition and prestige and every other temptation Satan could throw at him, it would be an impossible feat to learn conversion and godliness. At that point, his best chance for repentance and conversion would be to step down from the throne, turn it over to Jonathan or David, and go search out God if haply he might feel after Him and find Him. Christ had rejected Saul as highest leader of His people and foremost representative of His Father; He did not reject him as a potential subject of heaven
. For that His mercy endureth forever
. But pride, just another of Saul’s master’s myriad temptations, wouldn’t allow it. By his own unconfessed past
and unsanctified present
choices, Saul painted himself into a corner. God didn’t abandon Saul; for forty years Christ worked with the rebellion in this man. For forty years Saul banished God from ruling his heart and will, and during that time, Satan made his moves to ultimately checkmate the defenseless man.
When Saul had distanced himself from God, when Saul couldn’t hear God’s voice anymore and he refused to give back the throne to its Antitypical King in heaven, Saul was approaching the guilt of the unpardonable sin. Aggravated and more aggravated were his crimes against the son-in-law who so much loved and highly respected him, but whom Saul knew was his divinely chosen replacement, and whom he hated because David’s beautiful character constantly exposed his spiritual deficit. Extending the boundaries of grace once more, Christ again privileged Saul with another dispensation of repentance and joy in the Holy Spirit, similar to what will be experienced by the Gog and Magog billions on the day of judgment. Despite his grievous past, Christ reminded Saul, unmistakably, of that first conversion experience of his younger days. “And he went thither to Naioth in Ramah: and the Spirit of God was upon him also and he went on, and prophesied, until he came to Naioth in Ramah. And he stripped off his clothes also and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night.” 1Sam. 19:23,24. Yet, his predisposition to hateful jealousy, as of the wicked billions at the end, quickly destroyed that precious gift from heaven and insulted the Giver. Now nothing would penetrate the deadness of Saul’s soul. Now he was just a hollow spirit, reacting to what he could hardly comprehend. Satan had orchestrated so dense a darkness and confusion on this poor man, that when his desperation led him to what he well knew was a direct mark of contempt toward God, he threw off all hope in the mercy of the God of Israel, and went to the medium at Endor. In Saul was demonstrated the solemn exhortations, “It is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves
the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame.” “If we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.” (Heb. 6:4-6;10:26,27)
Out of that meeting stumbled a spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, and physically wrecked man. Satan had full control now; God had none. Later that day, as he looked out over the falling armies of Israel and the approaching army of the enemy, and his own armor bearer having refused to obey him, his blind soul saw no other option than to fall on his own sword. “The dead know not anything.” “Neither any that go down into silence.” (Ecc. 9:5;Ps. 115:17). That last horrific pain of the sword was all that he remembered before shock took him. He never knew the ignominious abuse of his body, which was decapitated, dragged, and strung up like an animal skin, nailed to a wall; alongside his naked and mutilated body was the bodies of his sons, including his eldest─faithful and honorable and loving, Jonathan.
What more could God do for Saul? He cannot go beyond our permission to give us help
. What eternal sorrow pierces the great heart of the infinite God because of the billions of examples of stubborn rebellion, worldwide! Infinitely small humans will never know. Let’s not put God in that horrible position. Let’s seek the Lord while He may be found. Let’s seek after Him, because He is “not far from every one of us.” His promise is, “Ye shall seek Me, and ye shall find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart.” (Acts 17:27;Deut. 4:29;Jer. 29:13).