First Lesson: 1 Samuel 8: 4-11, (12-15), 16-20, (11:14-15)
Responsive Reading: Psalm 138
Second Lesson: 2 Corinthians 4: 13-5:1
Gospel Lesson: Mark 3: 20-35
Grace and peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
This morning, I wish to tell you a soap-opera like tale of one of the Bible’s most complex characters. The story of a man who had it all only to see it destruct in the most spectacular of fashions through jealousy and faithlessness. This morning I wish to tell the story of King Saul.
Saul’s story begins in the land of Israel during the life of the Samuel. Samuel was a judge, only not a judge like you might think of judges. You see after the people of Israel ended their years in the wilderness after fleeing Egypt they set up a different type of government. The people of Israel had no central government. The people of Israel were led by a collection of leaders from each of Israel’s twelve tribes known as Judges. There were some very famous judges who you might know like Deborah the only female commander in Israel’s history, Gideon who brought down the Midianite army with the blowing of three-hundred trumpets, and Samson known for his long hair and supernatural strength along with his weakness around the female flesh.
The current judge was Samuel. People thought Samuel’s sons would take over for their father, yet there was a problem. Samuel’s sons were dishonest and untrustworthy. You could say Samuel’s sons were a bunch of crooks. The people of Israel had no intention of turning to Samuel’s sons for guidance. The people of Israel demanded that they crown a king. They wanted to be like all other nations. They believed that a king would magically fix all that ails them. Samuel didn’t think this was a good idea. Israel was not like all other nations. Israel was only a nation because several generations ago, their forefather Moses parted the Red Sea with a staff. Samuel eventually gives into the people’s demands. Samuel gives the people of Israel a grave warning though that they would face any consequences that their king is to bring unto their land.
God sends Samuel, a king in the form of a boy named Saul. Saul had it all! Saul had a story of humble origins. Saul came from the tribe of Benjamin which was the puniest and weakest of tribes in all the land. Samuel picked Saul from out of the fields where he helped raise his Father’s donkeys. But what made Saul stand out were his looks. Saul was the best looking boy in all the land. Saul was tall, his shoulders went to everyone else’s head. Saul was lean. Saul was muscular. Saul had the type of hair that all the single woman of Israel wanted to touch. Saul was perfect the definition of tall, dark, and handsome that the people sought in a leader. When people saw that Saul was their new king a great optimism emerged. Saul was the downtrodden basketball’s team number one draft pick that was going to change the future of the franchise. Saul was the dying church’s perfect new pastor. Saul’s reign starts out as a smashing success. Saul commanded military victory after military victory. People throughout the land loved King Saul. The good times could not last forever. Whereas Saul was perfect on the outside, the problem on Saul’s inside would soon come to the surface.
Saul had a big battle on the horizon. Saul was waiting to see Samuel for guidance. Samuel does not arrive on time. Saul had two options to pursue at this point. Saul could be patient waiting on the one true God that had brought him this far to keep his word, or Saul could lose faith and begin to offer sacrifices to other gods. Like plenty of other people, Saul was fickle. Saul viewed the world as a what have you done for me lately sort of business. Saul begins to invoke the name of other gods rather than his own while waiting for Samuel’s arrival. Saul’s rebellion was the exact scenario that Samuel feared when Israel demanded a king.
Samuel rebukes Saul with a harsh word of judgment. Samuel proclaims that God’s favor would no longer be upon Saul. As soon as Samuel turns his back, Saul’s future would be revealed. Saul ripped off a piece of Samuel’s garment. Samuel warned him that a garment tearing in two was what was about to happen to Saul’s kingdom.
At this time, a new character becomes central to Saul’s story a boy named David. David like Saul had humble origins working as a shepherd boy in his father’s fields. David is also one of the most skilled musicians in the land of Israel. One day when Saul is troubled by an evil spirit, he calls forth David a skilled harpist to try to soothe Saul’s troubled conscience. Saul at first didn’t think much of David until one day when everything changed.
The people of Israel were under attack by the Philistines. Saul’s initial winning streak had quickly turned into a losing streak. People were beginning to grumble that perhaps only a change in coaches could turn it all around. The Philistines greatest warrior was a giant named Goliath. Goliath stood nearly seven feet tall. Every soldier in the Israeli army was scared of Goliath. Out to the fields, one day though walks David to bring his three older brothers food. David though had an irrational confidence in himself that some might describe as faith. David looked at the giant Goliath and made the absurd determination that he could take him mano y mano. David versus Goliath seemed to be the definition of a mismatch a wolf versus a kitten, a bear versus a squirrel, a young boy versus a muscle bound freak. Saul decides to let David fight Goliath on his behalf. Saul figured it was the definition of emptying the bench hoping something would work. Slingshot, stone, and Goliath falls.
Not only would David’s life never be the same from this day forward, neither would Saul’s. God would soon make David successful in whatever battle that he enters. David quickly becomes Israel’s heartthrob. The women that used to yearn for Saul were now yearning for David. David is immediately considered to be a greater military hero than Saul. Saul becomes paranoid around David as a potential threat to his power. Saul becomes enraged as his son Jonathan becomes David’s best friend. Saul possessed by an evil spirit tries to kill David on two separate occasions. David’s life would be no more without Jonathan’s warning. David’s life now going forward would be defined by a constant fear of Saul trying to kill him. Try as Saul might though Saul could not kill David. David had multiple chances to kill Saul, yet David would refuse. One time, David comes upon Saul’s camp while he was sleeping. David decides against delivering a fatal blow, instead preferring to steal’s Saul’s spear and water jug instead as proof of what David could have done. The last time that David and Saul would stand in each other’s presence consists of David showing Saul his spear as proof of what he could have done. The two men reconcile, only it would be the last time that they would ever see each other.
Saul’s life would quickly end in the darkest of fashions. The Philistines were once again quickly advancing. Saul had already run off his greatest military commander in David, and so desperate times called for desperate measures. Saul wanted to contact Samuel from beyond the grave once again, the man who had made him the king in the first place. Saul before a pending battle decides to go see the Witch of Endor with the hope of contacting Samuel. Saul visiting the Witch of Endor was a controversial move as Saul had previously made witchcraft a capital offense. The Witch did her job and got Saul in contact with Samuel. Samuel’s ghost did not bring Saul good news. Samuel proclaimed that God would no longer answer Saul’s prayers. The pending battle would be the last one for Saul. Saul would lose his life. So upon entering the battlefield, Saul does the job himself. The King, who started out with so much promise, would take his life surrounded by Philistines.
Saul’s story does not contain a happy ending. When people think of the great kings of Israel, they will remember David as Israel’s greatest king whose name was shouted by the crowds in Jerseleum as Christ Jesus marched on Palm Sunday over a thousand years later. People will remember Solomon for his wisdom, his building of the temple, along with achieving riches beyond anybody’s dreams. People will merely remember Saul for his jealousy of David and the depths of his fall. Saul maybe had the most potential of all Israel’s Kings only for his life to end in the saddest of fashions.
Is there anything that we could learn from Saul’s story?
In 2013, the TV show The Simpsons there was an episode centered on the local minister Timothy Lovejoy. The town of Springfield becomes consumed by a bedbug epidemic. When they turn to Reverend Lovejoy for help, all that he can do is preach boring sermons from obscure books of the Bible. With the hopes of fixing the problem, the area Parson appoints a slick talking new associate minister named Elijah Hooper. Elijah Hooper was everything that Timothy Lovejoy wasn’t. When Hooper preached the people hung on his every word. Instead of preaching on boring books of the Bible, Hooper invoked the most popular TV shows, movies and music of the day. Timothy Lovejoy was quickly out of a job. Like Saul, Elijah Hooper’s story would seem destined to have a happy ending only it didn’t. The town of Springfield would become quickly consumed by a frog crisis whereby they turned to Reverend Hooper. Reverend Hooper has nothing to offer other than being hip. Springfield is only rescued when a dull Timothy Lovejoy returns quoting from the 23rd Psalm.
I think what Saul’s story illustrates is how we often don’t get the ways that God works. When I was at Luther Seminary, I had a professor named Walter Sundberg who described the greatest influence that he ever had in ministry was a pastor named John Groettum. Groettum according to Sundberg might seem like an odd choice. Groettum wasn’t a seminary professor renowned by everyone he encountered for his intellect; he wasn’t a hero to his congregation for his smooth-talking or good looks. Groettum like Samuel merely possessed a heart for God’s people along with patience to follow God’s direction whether it made sense to him at the time or not.
Perhaps the reason that Saul failed as a king is to illustrate an important point about God’s Kingdom, how God chooses to uplift the weak at the expense of the strong. We often fail to grasp who God is and how God exactly saves. God does not save in the form of outward appearances as the people believed at the beginning of Saul’s reign. God saves rather at the very moments of our failure when we long for a savior. The people of Israel might have believed that Saul would fix all their problems, instead when it was in the midst of their problems that their salvation would come. Perhaps the failure of the tall, dark and handsome Saul ultimately points our eyes to the Cross.
I do not wish to speculate on Saul’s eternal destination any more than I would about the seemingly worst people that I know. Saul was a sinner, yet our God saves sinners. Our God saves thieves, tax collectors, and even prostitutes. Perhaps Saul’s fall is meant to serve as evidence that we never all really have it together no matter how good it might look on paper. Ultimately God is still working through it all. Amen
 Judges 4-5
 Judges 6
 Judges 13-16
 1 Samuel 8:3-5
 1 Samuel 8:6-9
 1 Samuel 9:1
 1 Samuel 9:3-4
 1 Samuel 9:2
 1 Samuel 11:1-11
 1 Samuel 11:15
 1 Samuel 13:1-10
 1 Samuel 15
 1 Samuel 16:1-13
 1 Samuel 16:14-23
 1 Samuel 17-18:5
 1 Samuel 18:6-7
 1 Samuel 18:7
 1 Samuel 18:10-11
 1 Samuel 19
 1 Samuel 23:7-29
 1 Samuel 24, 1 Samuel 26
 1 Samuel 28:3-25
 1 Samuel 31
 The episode is entitled “Pulpit Friction” which is the 18th episode of season 24. The episode originally aired on the Fox Network on April 28,2013.
 Great commentary provided on this episode by Joe Iovino entitled “The Simpson’s New Associate Pastor”. Associatepastor.org. 04.May.2013. Web. June.1.2015.
 Excellent commentary on Saul and David’s kingship written by Will McDavid “And the Least Shall Be the Greatest: Royal Résumés and Social Equality”. Mockingbird Ministries (MBIRD). 24.May.2012. Web. June.2.2015.