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Bible Narratives Devotional, Week 17: Saul’s Rise and Fall

This entry is part 17 of 39 in the series

"Bible Narratives Devotional"

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Week 17: Saul’s Rise and Fall

Weekly memory verse:

1 Samuel 15:22 – “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.”

Weekly hymn:

“Jesus Shall Reign” (free download)

Weekly catechism:

What are the results of sin?
Because of sin, all mankind lost communion with God, are under his wrath and curse, resulting in the miseries of this life, death itself, and the pains of hell forever.

Day 81: Saul’s Coronation

Reading: 1 Samuel 11:1–12:25

Notes

Chapter 11, Verse 4. Gibeah. This was Saul’s home town and the first capital city of the monarchy.

Verse 14. Gilgal. This town between Jericho and the Jordan River was a major religious center for early Israel.

Summary

By all outward appearances, Saul would be a strong leader and deliverer for the people of Israel. Yet Samuel still warns they people that their desire for a king is evidence of their distrust in God and their syncretism with the pagan nations. He urges them to follow after God and obey his commands alone.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why do you think Saul refused to kill the people who had rejected him as their king?
  2. What significance was Samuel’s statement “Here I am” (12:3) at the beginning of his address?
  3. Why did Samuel recount the history of Israel?

Day 82: Saul’s Disobedience

Reading: 1 Samuel 13; Psalm 72

Notes

1 Samuel 13, Verse 9. Offering. Kings were allowed to sacrifice before the Lord (see 2 Sam 24:25; 1 Kings 8:26–64), but Samuel had told Saul to wait for him seven days before offering a sacrifice (10:4). This was to test Saul, and Saul failed the test by asserting himself and offering the sacrifice on his own without Samuel’s assistance as he had been commanded.

READ
The Hebrew Worship Textbook

Psalm 72, Verse 1. King. This is a coronation psalm dedicated to Solomon at the beginning of his reign (1 Kings 2). Although it is not referred to as such in the New Testament, the psalm contains several apparently messianic references (vv. 7, 17), and Isaac Watts applied it to the future earthly reign of Jesus Christ in “Jesus Shall Reign.”

Psalm 72, Verse 8. River. This refers to the Euphrates River, the eastern boundary of the promised land.

Summary

Saul’s failure as a leader of God’s people is evident very early in his reign with his disobedience to the clear command of God’s chosen prophet. This leads God to choose one after his own heart, one who would stand at the head of a line of kings culminating in the Messiah himself, the God-man who will rule God’s people perfectly.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why do you think Samuel commanded Saul to wait for him for seven days before offering a sacrifice?
  2. Why do you think Saul disobeyed Samuel’s command?
  3. Why is a king who is both God and man the only successful fulfillment of God’s promise to reign over his people on earth?

Day 83: Jonathan Defeats the Philistines

Reading: 1 Samuel 14

Notes

Verse 2. Pomegranate cave. Pomegranate trees are common in Israel. This may have been large tree under which Saul was camped or a cave surrounded by trees.

Verse 18. Ark of God. The Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) reads “ephod” here, which is more likely correct than “ark” since the ark remained in Kirjath Jearim until David later recovered it. The ephod, worn by Ahijah the priest (v. 3), contained sacred implements such as the Urim and Thummim used to determine the will of God. This fits what happens next in verse 19 better as well. “Withdraw your hand” refers to stopping the inquiry into the Lord’s will.

Verse 21. Hebrews. These were Israelite deserters who had joined the Philistines.

Summary

Saul accomplished many military victories and expanded Israel’s borders, but this account emphasizes his week and unwise leadership. Saul’s son, Jonathan, is clearly a better leader and blessed by God in battle. It is no accident that Jonathan and David become close friends.

READ
The People at the Cross

Discussion Questions

  1. Why did Jonathan decide to fight the Philistines on his own?
  2. How do we know that God won the battle on Jonathan’s behalf?
  3. What did Saul’s oath reveal about him?

Day 84: God Rejects Saul

Reading: 1 Samuel 15; Psalm 28

Notes

1 Samuel 15, Verse 2. Amalekites. These descendants of Esau were nomadic desert people.

Verse 12. Carmel. This is not the Mt. Carmel later associated with Elijah (1 Kings 18:20ff).

Verse 24. I have sinned. This confession puts the blame on the people rather than on himself, revealing that he did not have a true heart of repentance.

Psalm 28, Verse 2. Lift up my hands. Outstretched hands in prayer was a sign of lament and pleading.

Summary

God’s rejection of Saul becomes complete with Saul’s second clear act of disobedience. Yet it was not Saul’s actions alone that led to the rejection, for later David would sin in even greater ways. Rather, it was Saul’s unrepentant heart and concern only for himself rather than the will of God that proved his unworthiness to rule God’s people.

Discussion Questions

  1. What did Saul’s refusal to kill all the people reveal about him?
  2. What evidences in this passage show that Saul was concerned primarily for himself?
  3. Why was Samuel so grieved?

Day 85: David is Anointed King

Reading: 1 Samuel 16

Notes

Verse 10. Seven of his sons. Jesse had eight sons, including David. The fact that 1 Chronicles 2:13 says he had only seven sons is not necessarily a contradiction; one son may have died later and thus is not mentioned in Chronicles.

Verse 13. Anointed. David was anointed three times: once, here in the presence of his family, a second time before a tribal assembly (2 Sam 2:7), and finally before the nation (2 Sam 5:3).

Verse 13. Spirit of the Lord. Like with Saul, this is not regeneration but rather God’s theocratic anointing of his chosen mediatorial leader in order to especially empower him to lead. This is the same anointing that David pleads with God not to take from him after his sin with Bathsheba (Ps 51:11). Since David now has God’s blessing as chosen leader of Israel, this same anointing is removed from Saul (v. 14).

READ
Jesus, Lord and Christ

Verse 16. Lyre. This was the predominant instrument of Israelite worship.

Verse 23. Refreshed. This testifies to the power of music to affect people’s emotions.

Summary

While the people of Israel chose Saul based on his external qualifications, God chose David on the basis of his character. God’s choice of this mediatorial ruler provided the foundation for the ultimate mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who will one day rule over God’s people on David’s throne as the perfect fulfillment of what David foreshadowed.

Discussion Questions

  1. Did God tell Samuel to lie about his reason for going to Bethlehem in order to protect himself from Saul? Is it ever right to lie, even to protect life?
  2. Why did the elders of Bethlehem tremble when they saw Samuel (v. 4)?
  3. Why did Samuel assume God had chosen Eliab to be king (v. 6)?
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Scott Aniol

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is Chair of the Worship Ministry Department at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.

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