Read 1 Samuel 9:1-16:23
One of the greatest challenges every Christian man faces is to keep his spiritual, ethical, and moral bearings on his journey through life. As I reflect on my own journey, I'm reminded of a number of close friends who once walked with God, particularly in their younger years. But at some point, they deliberately and willfully chose to walk out of the will of God. Though some enjoyed "the passing pleasures of sin" (Heb. 11:25), the ultimate results were tragic. Their marriages ended in divorce. Their children turned their anger against God. Their wives ended up in despair—or in their own moral failures. Some remarried and, sadly, some of those marriages also failed. Others failed in their business lives. Some died of sexually transmitted diseases—or committed suicide. In every instance, these men "reaped what they sowed."
What I've just shared is not new. The Bible unfolds story after story of men who made a great start in life but ended in tragedy. We have, of course, plenty of positive examples—Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Nehemiah, Joseph, Elijah, Daniel, and many others. In fact, King David—the man we are about to get to know on a very intimate basis—was a "man after God's own heart." But he too failed God miserably at one point in his life. Though his heart was broken and he sincerely repented, he paid dearly in reaping what he sowed. Those who suffered the most from his sins were his own family members.
We cannot study the life of David without looking carefully at the life of Saul. These two men's lives are inseparably linked in the biblical narrative.
They have some things in common. Both were outstanding young men. Their early experiences with God reflected sincerity and humility. However, their great beginnings did not keep them from terrible failure later in life. The main difference: Once Saul turned away from God, he continued to deteriorate and his life ended in tragedy. David, however, sincerely sought God's forgiveness for his sins and returned to a vital relationship with God.
Saul's life pulsates with irony. Though "there was not a more handsome person than he among the sons of Israel," he became a weak and jealous man; though "from his shoulders and up he was taller" than all others (1 Sam. 9:2), on the inside he reflected a "smallness" of character that is shocking.
A Sincere Beginning
The story of Saul's life is even more ironic when you study the unusual humility with which he began his career. When the prophet Samuel first approached Saul regarding his God-appointed post as the first king of Israel, Saul's response was definitely sincere: "Am I not a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel, and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin?" (v. 21). When his appointed time came to be king, he disappeared. He literally hid from the leaders of Israel. When they eventually found him, they had to persuade him to accept the position (10:22-23).