1 Samuel 14:47, 48
So Saul took the kingdom over Israel, and fought against all his enemies on every side, against Moab, and against the children of Ammon…
When a locomotive engine slips off the rails, it would do little harm if it could stop at once; but its momentum carries it forward. It ploughs up the way, it dashes over an embankment, and drags ever so many carriages and passengers to destruction. So is it with the deflection of a man of force and influence from the right course. If he would stop at once, or if he should soon die, the mischief might be small. But the momentum of his character and position drives him on; he goes further and further from the straight lines of righteousness, and in the end not only hurls himself on ruin, but pulls many after him to their hurt. It was so with king Saul. He sinned, and the prophet Samuel intimated to him the Lord's displeasure. Had the king stopped there, no great damage might have been done; but he could not stop. The vehemence of his nature, and what seemed to be the necessities of his position, drove him on. He became more and more arbitrary. So we see him in this chapter of the history issuing the most unreasonable restrictions and commands, lenient when he should have been strict, and severe when he should have been lenient. By his rashness he very nearly turned to mourning the signal triumph over the Philistines which crowned the faith and valour of Prince Jonathan, and from that day he fell even below his own subjects in his perception of right and wrong, forfeited their respect, and became more and more wayward and unreasonable. Yet he had successes - great successes as a warrior. His martial temper and skill did not leave him, and all the surrounding nations felt his heavy hand. Not content with defending the territory, Saul organised and disciplined the army of Israel, so as to be able to use it in aggressive war, and smite the nations which had at various periods oppressed his country. Whithersoever he turned himself he was victorious. And yet Saul did not conduct those wars or win those victories in a manner worthy of a servant of Jehovah. There is no trace of his having command or counsel from God. There is no reference to the fulness of Divine promise regarding the land such as one sees in the thoughts of David when he enlarged the territory of Israel till they possessed all that the Lord had assigned to the posterity of Abraham. Saul struck right and left as the mood seized him, and "whithersoever he turned himself" he conquered. This is worth noting. A man may have many successes in life; nay, may have them in the Church, and in vindication of sacred truth, yet not have them as a Christian ought, and so not please God. Especially may this be the case in ecclesiastical and theological controversy. One may be quite on the right side, and may strike heavy blows at errorists and heretics all round, just as he "turns himself," and yet have no communion with the God of truth whom he seems to sense, obey motives unworthy of a servant of Christ, and indulge a harsh and wilful temper such as God cannot approve. Restlessness indicates an undisciplined, unhallowed energy. Restfulness belongs to those who submit all their plans to God, and lay all their energies at his feet. No men are so deaf to expostulation and so hard of recovery as those who try to keep an accusing conscience quiet by ceaseless activity. They turn hither and smite, thither and smite again. Perhaps they attack what deserves to be smitten; but it is a bad sign of themselves that they are never still before the Lord, letting his word search them. Under ever so much noise of debate and controversy, what hollowness may lurk, what degeneracy! Alas, it is so easy to go wrong, and having gone wrong once, easier to do it again. And then it is so hard to accept blame before God or man, and to submit to correction. Why not brandish our swords, and show ourselves brave Christian soldiers? Will not this compensate for our faults? O foolish Saul! O more foolish followers of the restless, haughty king! Lord, keep us back from all presumptuous sin! - F.
Parallel VersesKJV: So Saul took the kingdom over Israel, and fought against all his enemies on every side, against Moab, and against the children of Ammon, and against Edom, and against the kings of Zobah, and against the Philistines: and whithersoever he turned himself, he vexed them.
WEB: Now when Saul had taken the kingdom over Israel, he fought against all his enemies on every side, against Moab, and against the children of Ammon, and against Edom, and against the kings of Zobah, and against the Philistines: and wherever he turned himself, he put [them] to the worse.