Read: 1 Chronicles 10:13 – 11:9
Consider: Today’s reading contains very strong words about Saul, the first king of Israel. It was Samuel who anointed Saul as king (1 Samuel 10:1) and Samuel who brought him before the people at Gilgal (1 Samuel 11:14-15), yet it is clear that Samuel regarded it as an evil thing that the Israelites had done in asking for a king to rule over them. Samuel reminded the people that they had wanted a king ‘… even though the Lord your God was your king’ (1 Samuel 12:12). However, we do read that Samuel reminded the Israelites and Saul in these words: If you fear the Lord and serve and obey him and do not rebel against his commands, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the Lord your God – good! (1 Samuel 12:14). Although we know that Saul reigned for forty-two years (1 Samuel 13:1), his epitaph is in today’s reading: Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord; he did not keep the word of the Lord and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not enquire of the Lord. So the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse (1 Chronicles 10:13-14).
Next we come to David; another man chosen by God to lead his people. Would David fare any better than Saul when it came to leading the people and being an example to them? Twice in the Bible David is referred to as a ‘man after God’s heart’ (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). Reading this it could possibly make us think that David lived an exemplary life. However, David was prone to human weakness. He committed adultery with Bathsheba and arranged for her husband, Uriah the Hittite, to be put into the thick of battle, guaranteeing his death. You are bound to wonder what God was doing in choosing such a man. In Matthew 1 we read in the genealogy of Jesus: Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife (Matthew 1:6). The incredible thing is that God would use a man like David to be a progenitor of Jesus. Prophecy about the promised Messiah speaks clearly of him coming from David’s line. In Isaiah 11:1-3 we read: A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse [father of David]; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord – and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. Also in Jeremiah 23:5-6 it says: ‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Saviour’ (Jeremiah 23:5-6).
The story of Saul and David reveals to us that God understands the motives of a person’s heart. He knew that Saul would show by his actions that he spurned God’s authority over him and God would reject him for this. On the other hand David, despite his weaknesses and failings, was ultimately a man who wanted to serve God. It also shows that sin can and will be forgiven if a person comes to God in genuine repentance. When confronted by Nathan the prophet, David expressed his regret and repentance (2 Samuel 12:13) and this would lead to his writing Psalm 51: Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge … Cleanse me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow … Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me (Psalm 51:4; 7; 12).
Two imperfect men, yet God chose them for the task in hand. One dishonoured God, while the other strove to serve God. One showed no regret for his wilful actions and this led to his rejection by God. The other turned to God in genuine repentance and was forgiven.
Pray: Father, we see in the lives of Saul and David how you regard and punish sin. You understand our weaknesses and are willing to forgive us when we fail and come to you in true repentance. Amen
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