The Death of Saul – A Story Worth Telling

The Messiah King

John Carter – April 14, 2013 – 1 Chronicles 10:1-10:14 – 1&2 Chronicles The Messiah-King
The Death of Saul – A Story Worth Telling

            Telling a story is a powerful thing. Good stories draw us in. Bad stories bore us. Funny stories makes laugh. Sad stories make us cry. Passionate stories cause us to love. But no story is ever told without being told with a purpose in mind. We do not tell the mechanic about the problem our car is having for the mechanic to do whatever he wants with the information. We want him to take the story about our car seriously so that he will fix the problem. The story told in our text by the author of Chronicles wants us to think, feel, and act in a certain way. The author of Chronicles is pointing us to a future Messiah-King. In this text we shall see what it means to have a story worth telling.


As the writer of Chronicles is pointing us to the Messiah king he uses chapter ten to focus on how Saul, the first elected king of Israel, fits into this story. So the writer interest is showing the fall of king Saul and the end of his kingdom.[1] In 1 Samuel Saul’s life is covered over the span of 23 chapters. But here in Chronicles Saul only gets one. This one chapter is almost a copy and paste of 1 Samuel 31. This should tell us how unimportant Saul is.

Verses 1-6 are a recording of the Suicide of Saul and the death of his sons and family. A king without sons and family is a kingdom that will end. Verses 7 tells of Israel fleeing at the death of their king. Verses 8-10 marks another low point for the history of Israel. The “Good news” for the Philistines is bad news for the Israelites. For there is nothing good in seeing your king’s body, head, and armor being displayed in the house of the god of your enemies. In verses 11-12 we see the men of Jabesh-gilead go and gather the bodies of Saul and his sons so that they may give them a proper burial.

Finally in verses 13-14 the writer offers his commentary on the events that took place. Saul failed to be a king who would represent the true Messiah-King. But in the middle of this dark moment in the history of Israel comes a glimmer of light. Rudolph Mosis says of these verses, “Out of the darkness, in which Saul sinks, shines forth the star of David.”[2] These verses are a break from the story and we are given a Holy Spirit inspired commentary on the events of Saul’s life. Therefore instead of digging through all of chapter ten to learn how we should respond to Saul’s life we will go straight to this commentary.

Saul Died For His Breach of Faith – Serving the LORD & Biblical Leadership

Saul was the king of Israel chosen by the people. He was their leader, and as their leader he failed. As a leader of God’s people Saul was called to serve the LORD in obedience. “Obedience to the will of God is the bedrock of biblical leadership.”[3] There is no way to faithfully lead God’s people without being obedient to God. The writer is contrasting the poor leader Saul is and the type of leader that the future Messiah-King will be. The future Messiah-King will serve God in obedience by being faithful in all things. This future Messiah-King is none other than Jesus.

1. Did not Keep the Word of the LORD

“The term ‘keep, obey’ is most readily associated with Deuteronomy.”[4] Saul had access to the law which is where we find Deut. 17:14-20. This passage is a list of requirements that the king of Israel was to obey. The final requirement is that the king was to write out the law by hand read it daily and obey it. The king of Israel was to be marked by a love for the Word of God.

We read in Matthew 5:17 that Jesus came to fulfill the Law. Jesus was the Word who became flesh, who obeyed the law, and fulfilled the righteous requirements of the law. The writer of Chronicles wants us to look forward to when the Messiah-King comes and is faithful to keep the Word of the LORD. We however look back to Jesus and see that it was Him who was able to keep the Word of the LORD.

“The centrality of the Word of God has always been the hallmark of godly leadership.”[5] As we progress through Chronicles we will see that the true Messiah-King is devoted to the Word of God and therefore worthy to lead God’s people.

Fathers, if we want to be worthy to lead our families, we must keep the Word of the LORD. Christian, how much time do you spend reading the Bible? How often do you memorize and meditate on verses from the Bible. When we read a passage in the Bible that says to ‘love our enemy’ and ‘pray for those who persecute us’, do we obey? Or do we spiritualize those commands? To keep the word of the LORD is to obey the Word of the LORD. Christian, do not read that Saul died for his disobedience and believe we won’t be held accountable for our disobedience. Jesus’ obedience to the Word of God cost Him His life. What will be demanded of us if we disobey the Word of the LORD?

2. Asked for Guidance from a Medium – He Did Not Seek the LORD’s Guidance

In a rare act of obedience to the Word of the LORD Saul had removed all the mediums form the land (Deut. 18:9-14, 1 Sam 28:3). But in 1 Samuel 28 we read that Saul sought a medium for guidance. With the presence of the Word of the LORD there is no need to seek guidance from anyone but the LORD. This is not to discounts the various forms that the Word of the LORD comes in (Bible, preaching, teaching, biblical wisdom). But there is no healthy alternative to seeking the LORD.  Saul, as the leader of Israel, taught the nation that going to a medium is a good thing to do. The sins of the leaders of Gods people matter. We should react to Saul going to a medium in the same way that you would react if I went to a psychic after preaching this sermon. Every aspect of my leadership would come into question.

Seeking out a medium for guidance is seeking out demonic activity. Visiting a psychic is a participating in demonic activity. Playing with Ouija boards and other mystical games is demonic participation. Another more common form of demonic activity is reading your horoscope even when it is ‘just for fun’. Changing our behavior because of superstitions is a way of engaging in demonic activity. Running into a dark bathroom to say ‘bloody Mary’ three times is exposing yourself to demonic activity. And most subtle of all is bitter jealousy and selfish ambition. According to James 3:15 even this demonic. Leave this stuff alone it is what caused judgment to fall on Saul. It is what Jesus spent time healing people from. And if you open the door for demons they will gladly come in.

1 Chronicles 10:13 says that Saul did not inquire of the LORD, but didn’t he? 1 Samuel 28:6 says that Saul inquired but the LORD remained silent. So did or did not Saul inquire of the LORD? It would be best to read this chapter and understand that “the general terminology used here suggests the writer is more interested in picturing the total life of Saul as one of unfaithfulness rather than pointing out specific sins.”[6] If we look back to 1 Samuel 13 and 15 we see two events where Saul fails to seek the LORD. These two events cause Saul to have the kingdom ripped from his hands.

We serve the living God. Seek him and you will find him (James 4:8) Seek Him by reading your Bible. Take time every day and set it aside just for prayer. Pray throughout your day. Seek out wise biblical counsel. Stay in fellowship with mature believers. If our sovereign God promised us that He can be found when we draw near to Him, then why would we go anywhere else?

God Killed Saul

Saul failed. He was appointed to lead Israel, and as we have already seen Saul’s leadership included rejecting the Word of God and seeking the counsel of a medium. This failure resulted in his own death. Which brings us to a conflicting point of view. Verse 3 says Saul was wounded by Archers, and verse 4 records that Saul committed suicide by forcing his sword through his belly. In verse 14 we read that it was God who killed Saul. This is a perfect picture of the collision of God’s sovereignty and Man’s responsibility. Did Saul kill himself or did God kill Saul? Both. To diminish either God’ sovereignty or Man’s responsibility is dangerous and theologically irresponsible.

We must understand that Saul willfully disobeyed God and willfully took his own life. We must also understand that God is a Holy God and He must judge sin. Although the suicide is a sin (because suicide is a willful destruction of an image bearer of God) it was not the suicide that brought about God’s judgment on Saul. “It was in his total behavior, not in isolated individual acts, that Saul showed himself to be unfaithful, and it was for that lack of faith that Yahweh rejected him and turned the kingdom over to David, the son of Jesse.”[7]

God Handed the Kingdom to David the Son of Jesse

It is in the final sentence of chapter ten that darkness is finally broken by the beam of light from the star of David. No longer will Israel be ruled by a disobedient king. Instead now the kingdom will be ruled by a man who loves God, who will obey his Word, and a king who will seek His guidance. This king will defeat his enemies and expand the kingdom to its greatest extent. The writer wants us to see David as the first of two messiah-kings who will resemble the future Messiah-King. But we should see that the Messiah-King that the writer was looking forward to is Jesus of Nazareth from the line of David son of Jesse.

Saul failed to serve the LORD with fear. We will see in the coming weeks that David, like to true Messiah-King, does serve the LORD in fear. We too should serve the LORD in fear. We see God move and show His sovereignty in events like this  we should also be moved to rejoice with trembling. Rejoice when everything goes wrong at work. Rejoice when there are bills and no money. Rejoice when the kids are on the frits and you are on the edge of breaking down. Rejoice when the family is too much to handle. Why? Because God has ordained every moment. God told Samuel anoint both Saul and David king of Israel. God made both the Israelite and the Philistine. God judges sin and rewards righteousness. Rejoice because God is sovereign. Trembling because our God will judge sin.

Tremble when you serve the LORD because at one time Saul served the LORD too. Tremble because at one time Saul did inquire of the LORD. Tremble because you and I are flesh just like Saul was. Tremble because you and I are capable of rebelling against God to such a degree that we could bring judgment on ourselves and on those whom we lead. We are to serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling (Ps 2:11). 


If the writer of Chronicles wrote a story about you, how would it be told? Would your life be summed up into 14 verses of judgment? Or would it be a glimmer of hope at the end of a very dark chapter? When people ask you to describe how you serve the LORD in fear, and how you rejoice with trembling will your story be worth telling?

[1] Roddy Braun, Word Biblical Commentary 1 Chronicles, p.149

[2] Roddy Braun, Word Biblical Commentary 1 Chronicles, p.149 – Translation of Rudolph Mosis from Untersuchungen zur Theologie des chronistischen Gechichtswerkes, p.96 “Aus dem Dunkel, in dem Saul versinkt, geht strahlend der Stern Davids.”

[3] John Sailhamer, First & Second Chronicles, p.29

[4] Roddy Braun, Word Biblical Commentary 1 Chronicles, p.151

[5] John Sailhamer, First & Second Chronicles, p.31

[6] Roddy Braun, Word Biblical Commentary 1 Chronicles, p.151

[7] Roddy Braun, Word Biblical Commentary 1 Chronicles, p.152