1 Samuel 31:1-13 (Part 2) – Oh, How Could He Have Done That? I Never Would…

Posted: April 24, 2018 in Book of 1 Samuel

1 Samuel 31:1-13
The Death of Saul (Part 2 of 5)

On my favorite show from the past, Friends, Phoebe wrote a song for young Emma’s first birthday, the first line of which was “Emma, you name poses a dilemma. Nothing rhymes with Emma.” That song has no deep meaning to this blog. I just love making references to Friends and the fact that in this song, Phoebe actually incorporated the word, dilemma, into the words of a song. And dilemma is certainly what we have here in this passage. A moral dilemma.

Have you ever been in a situation where you have been asked to violate a law or Christian ethical standards? Have you ever been in a situation where you had to “throw somebody under the bus” to save your own skin? Have ever been in a situation where you had to lie to keep from some negative outcome? We as Christians are faced with moral dilemmas quite often. We may face these moral crossroads on a daily basis without even thinking about it. What would you do is the age old question posed to us in classrooms or work-related roundtable discussions and so on? We often do case studies of moral failures in school. And we analyze and breakdown, in these discussions, what the moral failing was and sit there and wonder how this person could have done what he/she did. We say to ourselves, I know I would have made a different choice. I would have avoided that moral failure. I know I would have, we say to ourselves. We say to ourselves, I would have recognized that critical moment where we had to make a choice between right and wrong and made the right choice. How arrogant are we when we say such things?

We think of many reports in recent years of the moral failings of high-profile pastors of these super large megachurches. Usually, it has involved inappropriate sexual relationships outside of marriage. This type of thing is commonplace in politics where every couple of years a representative or senator is taken down by thinking that having sex with someone who is not his wife is OK. As a Christian all of these things are most troubling. As a Christian and a pastor, the moral failings of these high profile megachurch pastors are particularly troubling to the witness of Christians to the world in which we live. It also reminds me that we, too, as local pastors, even as ones who do not have national or international celebrity are not immune to such moral failures that could disqualify us from being leaders in our local churches and that could cripple us from ever being a pastor again in the future.

We must remember that as leaders and as those who have dedicated their life to serving the Lord, we have a target on our back. And it doesn’t have to be preachers. We could be a really effective Christ follower who works a regular job in the secular world but is a person known to be a Christ follower through years of living with integrity and living to share the gospel through actions and words. Each of us as Christ followers who are actively seeking to expand the Kingdom has a target on our back. Satan is coming after us. He will influence people and situations to give us choices that when making the right choice with gather no press. But when making the wrong choice can discredit and disqualify us and tear down what we may have been doing for a lifetime. Satan always attacks us in what our weak point is – presenting us with situations where we have to make a choice between right and wrong. It often starts small and Satan sees that we will waver in that small choice and then he knows he’s got a weakness in us and will hammer away at it. Sexual sin, for example, always starts with innuendos, jokes with double meanings, touches, brushes up against someone’s body, a discussion about the failings of one’s spouse, and off to the races to adultery people go. Sexual sin, sins with money, and other moral failings of us as Christ followers do not up and happen one day. They are the end of a trail of smaller moral rationalizations and failures.

With all the moral failures of late of high profile pastors of large megachurches, we as pastors of smaller, less well-known local churches should take heed and notice. What are we doing to keep ourselves from those moments of moral choice where we have the opportunity to rationalize away a wrong moral choice? Where are we weakest? We can say it will never happen to us but there are moral failures daily around the country that cause pastors to have to resign their church and sometimes even have to quit being pastors altogether. We can say it will never happen to us but it can. We can say that we would make the right choice in those situations but Satan can cloud our judgment at times even if we are long-time pastors. And those of us who are new pastors such as myself, we must learn from these situations so that we can recognize the warning signs of a moral failure being on our horizons.

Being presented with that moment where we have to make a moral choice is what I thought of this morning as I read this passage/chapter, this final chapter of the book of 1 Samuel. That’s what I thought of this morning as we see the end of Saul’s life in 1 Samuel 31. Let’s read about it now:

31 Now the Philistines attacked Israel, and the men of Israel fled before them. Many were slaughtered on the slopes of Mount Gilboa. 2 The Philistines closed in on Saul and his sons, and they killed three of his sons—Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malkishua. 3 The fighting grew very fierce around Saul, and the Philistine archers caught up with him and wounded him severely.

4 Saul groaned to his armor bearer, “Take your sword and kill me before these pagan Philistines come to run me through and taunt and torture me.”

But his armor bearer was afraid and would not do it. So Saul took his own sword and fell on it. 5 When his armor bearer realized that Saul was dead, he fell on his own sword and died beside the king. 6 So Saul, his three sons, his armor bearer, and his troops all died together that same day.

7 When the Israelites on the other side of the Jezreel Valley and beyond the Jordan saw that the Israelite army had fled and that Saul and his sons were dead, they abandoned their towns and fled. So the Philistines moved in and occupied their towns.

8 The next day, when the Philistines went out to strip the dead, they found the bodies of Saul and his three sons on Mount Gilboa. 9 So they cut off Saul’s head and stripped off his armor. Then they proclaimed the good news of Saul’s death in their pagan temple and to the people throughout the land of Philistia. 10 They placed his armor in the temple of the Ashtoreths, and they fastened his body to the wall of the city of Beth-shan.

11 But when the people of Jabesh-gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, 12 all their mighty warriors traveled through the night to Beth-shan and took the bodies of Saul and his sons down from the wall. They brought them to Jabesh, where they burned the bodies. 13 Then they took their bones and buried them beneath the tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and they fasted for seven days.

In this passage, we see that Saul’s armor bearer faced a moral dilemma – should he carry out a sinful order from a man he was supposed to obey? He knew he should obey his master, the king, but he also knew that murder was wrong. He decided not to kill Saul. There is a difference between following an order that you do not agree with and following an order that you know is morally wrong. It is never right or ethical to carry out a wrong act, no matter who gives the order or no matter what the consequences of disobedience may be. Can you and I find the courage to follow God’s commands above human commands?

Maybe we are not being asked to commit murder in our roles as pastors. However, we must make similar moral choices at times as to whether to follow God’s commands and it makes no headlines. Doing the right thing often never makes headlines. However, we must always be cognizant as pastors and as Christ followers in general of our witness. It can take years to develop a reputation as person that is known to do the right thing because of being a Christ follower and can take one minute to destroy it all with a moral failure.

As Christ followers, and as pastors, let us think be aware that Satan is out for us. When we are doing nothing for Christ, Satan doesn’t care. He leaves us alone. If we are being effective for Jesus, Satan puts a target on our back. We must remember to we are sinful creatures with moral weakspots and we must seek God’s protection. Be honest with Him about where we are weak and seek His help. We must seek to steer clear of even the zip code of where we moral failures can happen and particularly those areas of morality where we are weakest and we all have a weak spot. Satan will find it and attack you there. Stay clean and close my friends. Stay close to God and pray that He helps you make the right moral choices. Satan’s coming after you. You can bank on it!

Amen and Amen.

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