Union Presbyterian Church

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1 Samuel 31                                                                                                                                                                                          2 Peter 1: 1-11

                                                           Squandered Potential

            May the Lord be with you!  (And also with you…)

            As you shall clearly notice, we are now all of sudden jumping past nine whole chapters in First Samuel, and in fact, we’re jumping right to the very end of the book.  And it’s not because I just want to finish this, that’s really not it.  But, what I will say, is that chapters 22-30, although of course very interesting parts of the story, are essentially retellings of the same story that we heard about last week.  David does not return to be near to Saul, he just doesn’t trust him.  And he really believes in his heart of hearts that at some point Saul will try to kill him when given the chance, even though, David has now proven to Saul that he would never harm him.  Too, Saul has married his daughter, who was David’s wife, off to another man, ..in this then punishing not just David, but also his own daughter who did love David.  What does David really have to go back to?  Saul really has lost it.

            You’ll remember from last week how Saul is chasing after David and learns that he’s in Engedi, the desert oasis.  And so he goes there.  David could easily have killed Saul but doesn’t and then David approaches him, putting it in his face that he could have just ‘taken him out’ but didn’t.  Saul admits that he’s been wrong, but Saul has also already done all of the damage to their relationship that could be done, it’s too late, there’s just absolutely no trust there now.  And what follows after that is another instance then, in which David could easily have killed Saul but doesn’t, once again he puts it in Saul’s face.  And what seems to be going on is that David’s almost kind of caught up in this sense that he just has to prove to Saul over and over again just how completely wrong the king has been.  Even after he’d taken away from David all that he could, David still viewed Saul as God’s anointed and therefore, in David’s thinking, it would be up to God on how God would deal with him.  He didn’t want to bloody his own hands killing God’s anointed.

            In those final chapters, David goes off and has a big battle with the Amalekites, just about wipes them out apparently.  And then we get to today’s reading and we hear that Saul is in the midst of battle with the Philistines, and things aren’t looking really good for Saul.  The Philistines kill first Saul’s sons, and then were able to wound Saul by way of bow and arrow.  Saul tries to get his armor carrier to kill him before the pagan Philistines would do just that, the armor carrier refuses, so Saul decides to lean down onto his own sword taking his own life.  The next day the Philistines realize what has come to pass and do as their traditions have always led them to do.  They take the body of Saul and his sons, they strip them and cut off their heads and hang their bodies in some public place so that everyone will know that the Philistines are the power that is now in charge, the power that has been able to defeat the enemy – the Gods are clearly on their side, or so they believed. 

            Now I know that when we look at this story of Saul that we can come to lots of varying conclusions.  For instance, I’m sure that we can have the thoughts that this all just happened the way God had wanted it to.  God had wanted David to take over as the leader of his people, and so God had to get rid of Saul first, notice that all of Saul’s sons were also killed, there wasn’t anyone left in succession to Saul by birth.  Who else is going to take over then beside David?  Not only was he actually a son in law to the king, but he was also a war hero and military commander and pretty much loved by all the people.

And we could also conclude that Saul just ended-up getting what he deserved.  He’d been going after David and punishing anyone that even had the gumption to disagree with him, including his own children.  And, as I mentioned last week, most historians do tend to think that there was some serious mental illness issues going on with Saul, most believe that he most likely was suffering from syphilis, which was very common at that point in time.  Syphilis can drive a person eventually into a crazed psychological state with neurosis and dementia. 

His suicide is something that some may bring up, looking at suicide as this terrible sin because you’re killing or wiping out what it is that God has made.  But, we have to know that this action on the part of a soldier, especially at that time, was not thought of at all in the way that we may think about it in more recent decades.  If you’ll remember, Saul had wanted the armor carrier to kill him ‘before these pagan Philistines run me through and humiliate me.”  That would certainly have been a worse fate, especially for a soldier, and even today I’d say that that would probably be the case most of the time. 

OR, we can look at Saul’s ending for the merits of the lesson that it’s trying to teach us overall, to see the big picture sense.  Saul died a humiliating death after a pretty failed existence.  It’s recorded that he was king for forty years, I don’t know how accurate that number can be, but all in all, his wasn’t a very stellar life.  Saul is not held up the way that David is, he’s not seen or believed to have been a hero or great on most any level.  He’s seen instead as simply a man that was made king.  A man like most, a man who relied on himself instead of on God, a man that refused to recognize that essential role of God in his life, a man that never learned how to not just respect God, but to know God as the parent and as the one who could offer forgiveness for the many acts that made his life an overall unhappy one.  I do believe that if Saul had admitted that he wasn’t perfect, admitted that he was sinful, that God would certainly have forgiven him.  Saul had needed to, but never did, work to accept the responsibility for all that he did that was against God, from the disobeying acts in battle, or the statue he had dedicated to himself, or the punishments that he gave to his own children for seeing David as a friend, or how about simply for the grief that he brought to David’s life.  And all because of jealousy and greed, ..and perhaps some psychosis too.  Saul never asked God to change him, he never asked God to show him how to depend on the very God that he knew was responsible for all that he was blessed with, Saul squandered much of his life and never embraced God.  To God, Saul was clearly a person representing squandered potential, as he is too, to probably most everyone that reads his story. 

You know, I know that we always talk about God as parent and creator and provider of everything.  But really, just for a moment, try to put yourself in God’s shoes.  Here’s your child, whose name is Saul, you’ve brought this child into the world, you’ve nurtured, you’ve given everything to them that you could.  You forgive their mistakes over and over and pray for a better day to come very soon…that is, at those moments when you’re frustrated with parts of the child’s life that you certainly wouldn’t live as they are.  And no matter what, at the end of the day, you love them, you love them and just want to see them happy and healthy and prosperous.  You don’t want to see this child swallowed up by greed or jealousy or self-centeredness or self-destruction.  And you want to see them make all the right choices, and then to respect you, to respect you and to love you back.  And they don’t have to love you back the way that you love them, but at least kinda sorta.  To listen when spoken to, to NOT simply disregard when a request is made, to help out with tasks instead of that common human emotion that God, or someone else will simply take care of it. 

Now remember, that’s God with Saul – and with humanity using the example of Saul.  And so does that sound anything like what our human parent/child relationships may be like too?  You bring your child into this world, you nurture them and give them all that you can.  You forgive their mistakes over and over and pray for a better day to come very soon…that is, if you are frustrated with some of the things in their lives that you would have done differently.  But no matter what, at the end of the day, you love them, you love them and just want to see them happy and healthy and prosperous.  You don’t want to see them swallowed up by greed or jealousy or self-centeredness or self-destruction.  You want to see them make all the right choices, and then to respect you and to love you in return.  Not having to do anything and everything they can to show you that love, ..you accept far less, but at least kinda sorta.  To listen to you when you have something to say, to not disregard when a request is made and then to help out with picking up the house and maybe mowing the lawn every once in a while.  I think we can get a pretty good grasp on what it was that God was going through with Saul….and what God goes through with all of us on a pretty regular 24/7 kind of schedule.  Like God, we simply want to see our children not be like Saul, we don’t want to see our children be an example of squandered potential.

Instead, we look to Peter’s words that we heard today, and I want you to listen to them again.  I think hearing them again will give the perspective and message that’s needed more than any other. 

                        ***Read 2 Peter 1: 1-11

 

“So make every effort to apply the benefits of God’s promises to your lives…”  As the children of God, God is our parent, we have to be responsible for our relationships with our God, as well as with His church.  Our relationships with God and the work of the church isn’t going to happen by itself.  And relying on someone else to do it is just like waiting around for God to just handle it on his own.  And in so doing, our faith really will grow, and it’s that faith that then leads to what so many are so often looking for…hope, love, contentment in this life, satisfaction in what it is that you do on a day to day basis. 

Verse 10, “So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen.”  Let us live up to that promise and then live that promise.

In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

 

 

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