*This article was published in the July/August 2017 Christian Woman Magazine http://www.gospeladvocate.com
Mount Gilboa, located in the Lower Galilee region, is considered “One of Israel’s most beautiful spots . . . a stunning, tranquil area [with] pretty wildflowers” growing. A refreshing cool breeze on the mount offers its visitors a break from the “intense summer heat” (www.touristisrael.com). But, on a certain day, over 3,000 years ago, it wasn’t the mountain’s beauty, but the “Beauty of Israel” (2 Samuel 1:19) observed—perishing. It was there, on that mount, where Saul, the first king of Israel “Fell slain” (1 Samuel 31:1).
While the specific details of the tragic event that would claim the king’s life—and the lives of his three sons were not revealed to him beforehand, King Saul was not ignorant of his demise. In fact, just the night before, God told Saul that he and his sons were going to perish the next day at the hands of the Philistines. How his end happened is recorded rather simply: “The battle became fierce against Saul. The archers hit him, and he was severely wounded by the archers” (1 Samuel 31:3). Not wanting the Philistines to come and “Abuse” (31:4) him, He asked his armorbearer to kill him with his sword, but the lad was too afraid, so Saul took a sword and fell on it, killing himself. What a tragic way for “The mighty” (2 Samuel 1:19, 22,25,27) to fall! What exactly did the king do to perish in such a way; and what lessons can we learn from this mountaintop?
Saul died on the mountain “For his unfaithfulness which he had committed against the LORD, because he did not keep the word of the LORD, and also because he consulted a medium for guidance. But he did not inquire of the LORD; therefore He killed him, and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse” (1 Chronicles 10:13-14).
Saul perished because he did not keep the word of the LORD. He “Turned back from following [God]” and “Did not perform [His] commandments” (1 Samuel 15:11). “The LORD sent [him] on a mission” (15:18); that mission was to “Go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them” (15:3). Why? Because hundreds of years before, the Amalekites “Ambushed” (15:2) the Israelites when they had come up from Egypt. God had not forgotten, and they were going to be punished! But, instead of heeding God’s command, Saul spared king Agag—and the “Best of the things” (15:21) that should have been destroyed. Blinded by arrogance—and ignorance, Saul set up a monument for himself! When Samuel saw him and asked about the mission, Saul boasted that he, in fact, did follow God’s commandment. He said that he saved the best of the livestock in order to “Sacrifice to the LORD your God in Gilgal” (15:21). (It’s interesting to note Saul’s word choice: “your God,” not “our God.) Samuel quickly reminded him of a time when he wasn’t big, but “little” (15:17) in his own eyes; Samuel then responded to Saul’s futile and blind attempt at obedience. (15:22-23):
“Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.”
Saul ignorantly thought that his way was better, but Samuel compared his actions to those in which they resembled: witchcraft, iniquity, and idolatry.
Saul told Samuel that he saved the king because he “Feared the people and obeyed their voice” (15:24). For Saul to be more afraid of people than God exposes a weakness in his relationship with God. In his foolish actions, Saul violated God’s requirement made at the beginning of his rein: to fear the LORD and serve Him and obey His voice (1 Samuel 12:14).
Saul also perished because he “consulted a medium for guidance. But he did not inquire of the LORD; therefore He killed him, and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse” (1 Chronicles 10:13-14). Interestingly, it is written that Saul did inquire of the LORD, but the “LORD did not answer him” (28:6,15), so he went to the medium for help. It is then, through her, that Saul speaks to God—through the deceased Samuel, who tells him of his fate the following day—and reminds him of the why: “Because [he] did not obey the voice of the LORD nor execute His fierce wrath upon Amalek” (28:18). Saul violated God’s requirement: to fear, serve and obey Him, so Saul’s fate fell after the “If”: “If you do not obey the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then the hand of the LORD will be against you, as it was against your fathers” (1 Samuel 12:15). And from that time forward, God’s hand was indeed against king Saul. At that same meeting, Saul was reminded: “The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you” (15:28).
The first king of Israel perished on Mount Gilboa for his unfaithfulness to God; for not trusting in God. What lessons can we learn today from this mountaintop record?
We, like Saul, must keep the word of the LORD!
“Saul died For his unfaithfulness which he had committed against the LORD, because he did not keep the word of the LORD” (1Chronicles 10:13).
None of us desire to perish for unfaithfulness; for not keeping the word of the LORD; for failing to do that which He has told His children to do. And what is that? Oh, it seems so simple, yet it requires so much sacrifice: L-O-V-E. He has told us to love—everyone on the face of the earth—as He does! But that four letter, one syllable word has an enemy; it’s another four letter, one syllable word: S-E-L-F! Self is what keeps us from being faithful to God’s command—and that is where the challenge lies. Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). The struggle is in the denying of self; learning to love God more—that’s a lifetime challenge! Jesus also said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Notice the conditional “if” in that clause. We can only keep His commandments, if we love Him. And in order to love Him, we must know Him. In order to know Him, we must spend time with HIm.Many people claim to “love” the LORD, but love is only a four letter, one syllable word sitting there unless it has been cared for—nurtured and allowed to grow by the grace of God.
We must consult God alone!
“Saul died . . . because he consulted a medium for guidance. But he did not inquire of the LORD; therefore He killed him . . . (1 Chronicles 10:13-14).
In our modern day of instant information, it is easy to consult anyone for guidance on any life problem. “Answers,” whether good or bad, are literally right at our fingertips. But God, through the sweet psalmist of Israel, tells us:“Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the paths of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2). The blessings are received only by those who delight in and meditate always on the law of God. Such purposeful actions require the close relationship previously mentioned. Consulting God for all of life’s problems is a gracious gift we have been given, but sadly, many never open the gift. It just sits there, gathering dust; and the people who either refuse to open it, or don’t know it’s there, suffer. It is only through a relationship that we gain knowledge of and trust in Him. We must put in the effort!
We must work, or our job will be given to someone “better.”
“The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor relent. For He is not a man, that He should relent” (15:28-29).
Because God desires “All men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4); and because He does not show partiality, but all are equal to Him (Job 34:19:20), His word will continue to go forth—and produce (Isaiah 5511); His glory will continue to be seen by all (Psalm 19:1-2). To be used by Him, we must be usable! To be effective workers, we must spend time with Him: studying to show ourselves approved—workers of His that do not need to be ashamed (2 Timothy 2:15). We must pray, meditate on Him and His word (Psalm 1:2); and do good unto all (Galatians 6:10).
Saul simply did not have a good relationship with God: he did not trust Him, or love Him enough to obey the command that God gave him: to fear, serve and obey the voice of the LORD (1 Samuel 12:14). So, because of that, the LORD’s hand was against the “Beauty of Israel” and without protection, the “Shield of the mighty” (2 Samuel 1:21) lay cold and useless on the blood-soaked ground. God has not changed (Hebrews 13:8); to fear, serve and obey the voice of the LORD is certainly the lesson we must learn from the mighty one slain on the mount.