1 Samuel 31:1-13
The Death of Saul and His Sons and King Saul’s Burial
(Because of the great seriousness of this subject and a desire to treat it as such without error, I have used some notes from a prior study I did.)
In his dying moments on Mount Gilboa, Saul continued to assert his pride by stealing for himself a role reserved for our life-giving God. Saul murdered himself. Suffering and fear are real, but so is the power of God in repentance, prayer and His presence. In Saul’s most desperate moment, he called out to his armor-bearer and asked him to commit a crime against God. Instead of calling out to his Maker and facing death with praises to God on his lips, Saul insisted on ending his life and ordained kingship on his terms. How might even his final moments have been different if he had called out in humble repentance and dependence for help in the name of the Lord? Saul’s sin to commit suicide set into motion a series of devastating consequences for those he left behind. His armor-bearer immediately killed himself, as well.
Suicide is one of the most tragic choices that exists in our fallen world. We must stand with David who confesses to God, “My times are in your hands.” Psalm 31:15. Yet, all who trust the Lord as Savior are free from condemnation, no matter how they die. Suicide is sin. But not the “greatest sin” nor does it determine our eternal destiny. Suicide in our families, churches, school and communities is a call for believers to love all people well. We are to act in compassion and grieve with those who grieve. Believers should be known as people who will listen, help, speak truth in love, pray, cherish all life and practice humility and gentleness toward those surviving the consequences of another person’s suicide.
Then, the Philistines’ despicable treatment of the bodies of Saul and his sons shows the nature of those with whom David associated for a time. We marvel at God’s grace that David was not involved and not there. Instead, valiant warriors from Jabesh Gilead marched through the night to recover the bodies. Saul had begun his reign rescuing the people of that very city from the Ammonites. The people of Jabesh Gilead honored the dead king and his sons with burial at the site of his victory on their behalf, under a tamarisk tree.
Saul and David both missed many opportunities given by God to recognize his sin and repent. Repeated rejection of God creates a hardened mind and heart. The danger is that God will often let us be stubborn. But by His grace, the Holy Spirit shows us our sin so we can repent, confess our sin and stop saying “no” to God. Saul and David differed at this very point. David willingly turned to God to ask what he should do next. We must do the same Through faith in Jesus, who died to take the punishment for our sin, God hears and forgives!
—- Mary Mauderer