A Sad and Sorry Tale
1 Chronicles 10
This chapter records the sad and sorry end of Israel’s first king. Saul, who had so much promise, finally degenerated into a tragic figure of failure. His story and his decline are recorded in 23 chapters of 1 Samuel.
Michael Wilcock has commented that
“Of the twenty–three chapters which 1 Samuel devotes to the reign of Saul (9—31), the Chronicler omits twenty–two.
He simply tells the story of Saul’s death, and adds two verses of his own (13-14). For him, neither the gradual decline in Saul’s own fortunes nor those of Saul’s family after his death (2 Sa. 1-4) matters; so far as the kingdom is concerned, Saul’s house came to an end at Mount Gilboa (verse 6).
Saul’s disloyalty to God (13-14) is important in more ways than one. It highlights David’s loyalty. David, in contrast to Saul, is the man after God’s own heart (1 Sa. 13:14; the Chronicler does not quote the phrase, because his whole portrait of David will illustrate it).
It is only David’s obedience which can reverse for Israel the bad effects of Saul’s disobedience.”
Wilcock observes that for the exiles returning from captivity in Babylon, their more recent experiences (that is, for the Chronicler’s readers, the exile) parallel those of Saul’s reign (7; 5:25-26; 9:1b), then the way of restoration is to be learned from David’s reign (2 Ch. 33:8).
What can we learn from this short but sad chapter?
When writing to the Corinthian Christians Paul, in chapter 10:1-10 of 1 Corinthians, records some of the judgements that fell upon Israel in the wilderness for their spiritual failures. He then adds,
“These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.
12 If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. 13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” NLT)
Paul was addressing his converts in Corinth on the issue of idolatry, particularly as it involved the question of eating food that had been offered to idols. But his statement about the purpose of the Old Testament stories as being for their instruction, and his warning to avoid a false confidence that was leading them into doubtful practices, also address us.
Saul’s story addresses us. Obedience to God is the calling of all who have embraced God’s promise of mercy in Jesus. Challenges to our faithfulness will not be the same as those that confronted Saul. Nor will they necessarily be the ones current in Corinth. But certainly, our culture will and does offer us opportunities for spiritual compromise and final disloyalty. Whatever draws us away from purity, love, generosity, faithfulness to Christ, dependence upon Scripture, and engagement in prayer, can carry the seeds of final failure.
Paul warns his friends against over-confidence. We must remember that we are still in a fallen world with a fallen nature. Renewed we are by the Spirit of God, and the promise is that no temptation is more than we can bear. In addition, we are most certainly promised that those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved. However, we must to be watchful, prayerful and dependent upon God. We are called to moral excellence and spiritual growth: to live lives that please God.
Very conscious of my own frailty I hold two passages of Scripture regularly before me. One is Galatians 6:2: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ”. The other is 1 Peter 5:6-7: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
Putting those together I reason that I have no more wonderful Brother in the Faith who will carry for me my burden of concern for spiritual faithfulness than the Lord Jesus Himself. Since he cares for me, really cares for me like no other, I can cast all my anxieties about my life as His faithful follower, upon Him. He cares for me and He cares for you too.
Saul ceased to look humbly and trustfully to God. We can and must do better than he did.
Following the Way of Truth
Jude, generally taken to be, along with James, a brother of the Lord Jesus was confronted by teachers who were leading Christians astray both intellectually and morally.
He briefly recounts Old Testament history to remind them of God’s judgement on those who abandoned the Faith that was delivered to God’s people.
Verse 9 appears strange to us but is considered to be a reference to a first century work called the Testament of Moses. “It belonged to a tradition of stories in which Satan, as the accusing angel, and the chief of the angels, acting as the patron of God’s people, engaged in legal disputes over the people of God”. Jude uses the story to demonstrate how Michael differed from those whom he had in mind.
In almost every age the Faith once delivered to the saints comes under challenge both intellectually and morally.
Within the Anglican Church of Australia the doctrine and the way of life considered consistent with the will of God are expressed in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.
The three Great Creeds and the 39 Articles of Religion set out the intellectual parameters of the Faith. The Ten Commandments and the instruction in the Catechism give the shape of the moral life expected of those who follow Christ.
In our own times challenges are mounted to the uniqueness of Jesus as the only Saviour of the world. Issues like abortion, hetero-sexual engagements outside the bonds of faithful and committed marriage, and the approval of same-sex intercourse, challenge the accepted moral standards of the Faith.
We are all children of our own culture and what is common practice and outlook can gently and almost imperceptibly mould us into patterns of thought and behaviour that are either questionable or plainly disobedient. Perhaps as never before our modern modes of communication allow us and our families to be bombarded with values and ways of thinking and acting that are contrary to Christian truth and its moral ideals. We need to be watchful.
We cannot hide from our world. We are called to live in it. It is where we are called to be God’s image. We are just not to allow it to cause us to be disloyal to Christ and misrepresent the God we are to represent. We need to remember that there is a Day appointed for judgement to be rendered by God on all our thinking and living.