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The Peril of Presumptuous Sin

1 Samuel 31:1-6

 

When we left this story a couple of weeks ago, David faced a clear choice to kill Saul, taking matters into his own hand or to trust in the Lord to protect him from Saul. On two occasions, David found Saul in a vulnerable position and could have killed him and ascended to the throne, but he chose a different path. In a self-imposed exile to preserve his life and the life of his king, David lived in the land of his enemies-the Philistines for over a year, waiting for God to take His vengeance on Saul. It was all a matter of trust-trust that his God could and would protect him and take vengeance on his king who was trying to kill him.

God used two of Saul's greatest enemies to defeat Saul. Let's read, 1 Samuel 31:1-6 to see who they were, "Now the Philistines were fighting against Israel, and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines and fell slain on Mount Gilboa. [2] And the Philistines overtook Saul and his sons; and the Philistines killed Jonathan and Abinadab and Malchi-shua the sons of Saul. [3] And the battle went heavily against Saul, and the archers hit him; and he was badly wounded by the archers. [4] Then Saul said to his armor bearer, 'Draw your sword and pierce me through with it, lest these uncircumcised come and pierce me through and make sport of me.' But his armor bearer would not, for he was greatly afraid. So Saul took his sword and fell on it. [5] And when his armor bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell on his sword and died with him. [6] Thus Saul died with his three sons, his armor bearer, and all his men on that day together."

The battle turned against the armies of God and one of Saul's enemies-the Philistines-killed all three of his sons. Advancing into the core of Israel's command, the archers hit and weakened Saul. Saul knew the end was near, so he commanded his assistant to draw his sword and kill him. Saul did not want his enemies to have the satisfaction of killing or even torturing him. But his assistant refused to obey the order. So Saul's greatest enemy-himself- fell on his own weapon.

Saul ascended to greatness, but was never a great man. Instead of living with humility and gratitude for his opportunities, he lived the tragic life of presumption. He presumed to decide which of God's commands he would follow and which he wouldn't. God told him to utterly destroy the Amalekites-he chose to spare some of them and keep the spoils of battle. On another occasion, he presumed to offer sacrifices unto the Lord, a task that was reserved for the priests. The psalmist wrote, "Also keep back Thy servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me; Then I shall be blameless, And I shall be acquitted of great transgression." (Psalm 19:13 NASB) A prayer Saul would have done well to pray. Instead, he gave into his base desires. Deut. 17:12 gives the penalty for presumptuous sin, it says, "And the man who acts presumptuously by not listening to the priest who stands there to serve the Lord your God, nor to the judge, that man shall die; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel." (NASB) In falling on his own weapon, Saul was executing the judgement of Deuteronomy 17.

In his book, Lake Wobegon Summer 1956, Garrison Keillor says something that most people have thought, but few have vocalized as succinctly. After gossiping a bit about all the men folk at Lake Wobegon who were caught cheating on their wives, he wrote: "Men believe in their hearts that God will make an exception in their case and look the other way." (The Atlantic Monthly, Sept, 2001, p. 70)

As accurate as Keillor's assessment may be of what men believe, it doesn't reflect what will happen. God doesn't look the other way when we sin, neither does He make exceptions in our case. Galatians 6:7 says, "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." (KJV)

God did not look the other way when Saul sinned.

Saul's tragic life proves the old adage, "evil carries within itself the seed of its own destruction." Saul's presumptuous life ended at his own hands. His remains would fall into the hands of the Philistines who would make a spectacle out of them to bring great shame upon the people of God.

How do you think David will respond to the news that Saul is dead? Will he gloat? Will he presume to race back to Israel to take his rightful place on the throne? 

Let's rejoin the story in 2 Samuel 1:1-16 "Now it came about after the death of Saul, when David had returned from the slaughter of the Amalekites, that David remained two days in Ziklag. [2] And it happened on the third day, that behold, a man came out of the camp from Saul, with his clothes torn and dust on his head. And it came about when he came to David that he fell to the ground and prostrated himself. [3] Then David said to him, 'From where do you come?' And he said to him, 'I have escaped from the camp of Israel.' [4] And David said to him, 'How did things go? Please tell me.' And he said, 'The people have fled from the battle, and also many of the people have fallen and are dead; and Saul and Jonathan his son are dead also.' [5] So David said to the young man who told him, 'How do you know that Saul and his son Jonathan are dead?' [6] And the young man who told him said, 'By chance I happened to be on Mount Gilboa, and behold, Saul was leaning on his spear. And behold, the chariots and the horsemen pursued him closely. [7] And when he looked behind him, he saw me and called to me. And I said, 'Here I am.' [8] And he said to me, 'Who are you?' And I answered him, 'I am an Amalekite.' [9] Then he said to me, 'Please stand beside me and kill me; for agony has seized me because my life still lingers in me.' [10] So I stood beside him and killed him, because I knew that he could not live after he had fallen. And I took the crown which was on his head and the bracelet which was on his arm, and I have brought them here to my lord.' 

[11] Then David took hold of his clothes and tore them, and so also did all the men who were with him. [12] And they mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and his son Jonathan and for the people of the Lord and the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword. [13] And David said to the young man who told him, 'Where are you from?' And he answered, 'I am the son of an alien, an Amalekite.' [14] Then David said to him, 'How is it you were not afraid to stretch out your hand to destroy the Lord's anointed?' [15] And David called one of the young men and said, 'Go, cut him down.' So he struck him and he died. [16] And David said to him, 'Your blood is on your head, for your mouth has testified against you, saying, 'I have killed the Lord's anointed.' " (NASB)

David was heartbroken to hear of the death of his loyal friend Jonathan and of King Saul, the man who'd been trying to kill him. He tore his clothes, mourned, wept and fasted out of grief for his losses. Instead of responding with glee at the news of Saul's demise, he avenged his death by having the man who'd assisted Saul in his suicide put to death. David acted with complete humility.

It is only natural to rejoice when evil befalls an enemy, but David wasn't living in the natural-he was a man after God's own heart-a self-secure man who trusted in God for the large things of life, and the small. David was a man who was willing to take revenge over someone who harmed his enemy, but would never take revenge over his enemy. At this stage of his life, David was a tool of God's justice, but never took justice into his own hands.

How difficult is it to forgive someone who does you harm? Fred Goldman won a moral victory when a jury found O. J. Simpson liable for the death of his son Ron, but Goldman is not a happy man. Money could never fill the void in his life since Ron's death. In his book "His Name is Ron: Our Search for Justice," Goldman writes that he has fantasies about killing O. J. (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

I cannot begin to feel the weight of Mr. Goldman's pain; it must be unbearable. I understand his desire to take revenge, don't you? Could any father forgive his son's murder? 

John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." 

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