Monday, 7 December 2009

King Saul: a case study

I have been reading and meditating on the life of Israel's first legitimate king. Saul is such a tragedy. In his first beginnings he 'ran so well' but stumbled and fell.

His purpose, under God, was to break the power of the Philistines. 1Sam 9:16. His first battle was against Nahash the Ammonite; a man whose name means 'The Serpent'. 1Sam 11:1. The story has an echo of Eden about it. Gen 2:15. Adam was given the role of serving and guarding the garden, but he surrendered to the Serpent and the die was set for the human race.

Carl Marx apparently once said that 'all compromise carries within it the seeds of its own destruction'. That was certainly true for Saul. As his independence developed into outright rebellion we hear a Samuel's clear insight; rebellion is as witchcraft (divination) and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. 1Sam 15:23. These are strong comparisons. The essence of witchcraft and divination is the manipulation of God. Magic seeks to impose the will of man on powers greater than himself. Idolatry is the greatest sin; it maligns the nature and character of God. And yet we often smile at 'stubbornness' and will sometimes confess it with a sense of defiance.

There is an interesting side plot to this story. At some point Saul set his face against witchcraft and divination to the extent of banishing them from the land, 1Sam 28:3 and yet all the time the same seeds were sprouting in his own heart. It is often said that we are most intolerant of our own sins when we see them in others. Saul the zealot set himself against the outward expression of witchcraft and divination and at the same time was nursing the same attitudes of heart. 'the heart' said another prophet 'is deceitful and desperately wicked. Who can know it?' Jer 17:9.

Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. 1Cor 10:11,12.

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