Editorial Comment: Sadness Over Saul -- By: Henry B. Smith
Editorial Comment: Sadness Over Saul
Earlier this summer I traveled to Israel for the first time, visiting a variety of Biblical sites and spending a week excavating at Hazor with people from all around the world. It was one of the most edifying and amazing experiences of my life. I would highly recommend a study tour of Israel for pastors and teachers who want to deepen their understanding of the Scriptures.
Several places brought out strong emotions: Gethsemane brought tears of thanksgiving, appreciation, and empathy for my Lord and His horrible suffering for my wretchedness and sin. Masada brought tears as well: tears for the great courage of a small group of Jews who defied the tyranny of the Romans for three long years. Stones and rubble from the Temple and a large hole in the street at the base of the Western Wall were sobering reminders of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in AD 70. When I saw those stones piled as a memorial. I was overcome with a reverent fear of the temporal consequences that result when humans sin against a just and holy God.
I felt the greatest sadness when we visited Beth Shan, the place where the Philistines hung the bodies of King Saul and his sons. When I began to ponder all that could have been for Saul and his posterity, my heart sank. Instead of dying with honor and in right standing with God, Saul’s life ended in disgrace:
when the Philistines came to strip the dead, they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. They cut off his head and stripped off his armor, and they sent messengers throughout the land of the Philistines to proclaim the news in the temple of their idols and among their people. They put his armor in the temple of the Ashtoreths and fastened his body to the wall of Beth Shan (I Sm 31:8).
Despite the dishonor Saul brought upon the throne of Israel. and although Saul tried to murder David on many occasions. David responded with a tender and broken heart when hearing of Saul’s death:
Then David and all the men with him look hold of their clothes and tore them. They mourned and wept and fasted till evening for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the army of the LORD and the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword (2 Sm 1:11).
Being in the very place where Saul’s body had been hung was a powerful experience. I pondered the mystery of God’s sovereign control over all things, including Saul’s life, and the personal responsibility and free will that God has granted to all humanity. Each person, great or small, has choices to make in life. These choices have both temporal and eternal consequences, both for the individual and their posterity. It ...
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