1 Samuel 31:6
So Saul died, and his three sons, and his armor bearer, and all his men, that same day together.
I. THE CHARACTER OF SAUL.
1. Proud preference of his own will to God's, carried out boldly in the life; deadly jealousy, that coloured and distorted his view of things, determined the special mould of his character and destiny, and threw over both deep shades of darkness; cruelty, that was causeless as against an innocent man, unnatural as against a son-in-law, sacrilegious, in smiting without scruple a whole city of priests with their families; impiety, that dared to stand up against God. Potentially the tyrant lurked in the king, the monster in the man. Circumstances alone would not, could not, make him such as he became. They helped to mould and colour his character, and gave it its peculiarity of aspect. But the regulating power lay within. From the same circumstances a different character would have been fabricated by a different disposition. Does not the same sunlight nourish Hemlock and All-heal, the Nettle and the Lily, the Thistle and the foodful Grain? Do not all flowers drink their own colours from the same flood of sunbeams? Even so, the plastic power of evil within employed for deadly harm the very circumstance which another would have turned to good and holy purposes.
2. His careless naturalism of heart. Let us call it by its Scripture name: "carnal mindedness." This was the warp on which were woven all the glaring designs of his life. His heart was never broken by a sense of sin, or melted with the love of God, or touched by the marvellous grace that shone in the economy of type and shadow.
II. THE MORAL PURPOSES OF HIS REIGN.
1. Punitive. His whole reign was a judgment. Disaffection, despondency, internal strife, and enfeebled power, were but different aspects of the same black cloud. It was throughout a ministry of retribution.
2. Disciplinary. These terrible years had a forward as well as a backward look. The harvest of the past they were also the seed time of the future.
(1) The Divine holiness was solemnly held forth. Every new infliction of judgment was a new demonstration of God's hatred of sin.
(2) Conviction of sin. This would be the very result of an impression of Divine purity. The inference in a quickened conscience, would be immediate and pressing. Instinctively the contrast would be felt. The conviction of impurity would be the dark dreadful shadow of Divine intolerance of it.
(3) Turning to God again. Left, for this dark series of years, to follow their own ways, with a king as they desired and such as hey would have chosen, it was proved to them how foolish they were to separate themselves in the smallest measure from the God whose love had guarded them. They could not direct their own steps. It was suicidal weakness to think of walking alone. Their weary hearts looked wistfully back from the gloom that had settled on the land to that happier sunshine which now seemed gleaming on those vanished years of closer allegiance to God.
(1) The meeting of two lines of providential agency in the accomplishment of a certain intended result — a principle which finds frequent illustration in the early history of the New Testament Church, as when Simeon and the Infant Saviour, Peter and Cornelius, Paul and Ananias, from different points, were borne divinely to a meeting.
(2) The judicial arranging of events and circumstances so as to make the sources of perplexity, temptation, and ruin, to the wilful soul — an awful truth which has been repeating itself in actual life ever since Pharaoh, in his infatuation, hastened after Israel because "the wilderness had shut them in." But these truths, and many like them, were developed by particular occurrences in the life of Saul. When that life is looked at as a whole, it yields most useful lessons for men of every age.
1. No change of circumstance can slacken God's hold of His creatures. Convincing proof of this might have been given by a character and history directly the opposite of Saul's. But doubly impressive is the demonstration made by a life like his.
2. No human institution can of itself bring real blessings to a people. The Hebrews fondly dreamed that royalty would bring with it healing for all social ills. In their case the dream was not only baseless, but signally dishonouring to God. In every case it is really so. The folly of it is written conspicuously on all history. It is taught clearly by our common sense. With multitudes, a bright vision of happiness seems hovering over some great political amelioration yet to come. And it is to be feared that the noble instinct of our nature, which craves for true enjoyment, is bidden fill itself here. Deluded multitudes, to set down an immortal nature to these husks of the prodigal! True happiness is a heavenly gift. It is madness to seek it growing among the political improvements or social amenities of earth.
3. No combination of outward advantages can save or sanctify the soul of man. We cannot well conceive a human being surrounded by greater and more powerful means of improvement than was the first king of Israel.
4. There is in human nature a tendency to growth in evil. Here, again, Saul stands for the race. And in him this growth is terribly conspicuous. The modest man has come to stand without shame in the light of a public exposure; and he who had been so winningly regardful of the life of rebels now pants for the blood of the righteous, and barbarously sacrifices to the Moloch of his passion the whole innocent population of a city. Keeping pace with the monstrous growth of evil, and probably accounting for it, we observe in him the gradual consolidation of infernal agency. The human nature refused to admit its full operation all at once. At first the dark influence came in pulses over him, like the sullen ripples of the sea of death on a boat's resisting sides. But soon that influence gained so thorough a mastery that all sounds of resistance ceased. With terrible facility the infernal power abated the reluctancy of his nature, and at last identified itself so completely with him that all trace of a struggle vanished, and the occasional impulses of its first contact changed eventually to a steady and uniform influence. It would be comforting to believe that this appalling progressiveness was peculiar to Saul. But this consolation we dare not take. While differing from him in the line of descent, and in the circumstances, enormity, and visible effects of our growth in evil, that growth itself is beyond question. The heart gravitates to sin. A malign influence has breathed upon our race. As surely as the body of the newborn babe tends earthwards unsupported, its moral nature tends to corruption. Deeper and deeper it sinks into sin. Habit adds new strength to nature. Surrounding temptations hasten the speed of the soul's departure from God and holiness. How dreadful this downward pressure! What miracle has preserved the world from perishing by the excess of its own vices? A kindly Providence has done it.
(P. Richardson, B. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: So Saul died, and his three sons, and his armourbearer, and all his men, that same day together.