Death of a King

Britain’s King Edward VIII shocked the world when he gave up the throne in order to marry his lover Wallis Simpson. In his abdication speech, the king declared, “I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as king as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love.” Israel’s first king lost his throne under even more shocking circumstances: Saul was stripped of his divine authority and was eventually slain because of his unfaithfulness to the Lord (10:13).

The tragic events described in today’s passage were the culmination of a spiritual decline that began shortly after Saul was anointed king. Although his reign began with admirable humility, Saul’s subsequent behavior demonstrated an inability to trust God, combined with a reckless disregard for His word (1 Sam. 13:6–14). The Chronicler does not review these events in detail but instead focuses on the tragic final collapse of Saul’s kingdom. The author is clear about what brought Saul’s end. It was not the military failures Saul suffered that were his ultimate undoing but his refusal to rely upon God: “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 inquire of the Lord. So the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse” (10:13–14).

Viewed through the lens of faith, Saul’s story actually ends on a positive note. When Israel’s first king proved unworthy, the Lord provided another. Israel had initially demanded a king like all the other nations had. When that king failed, the Lord replaced him with a better one, who was “a man after his own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14).

Apply the Word

David was not perfect, but he did differ from Saul in both character and practice. Many leadership books today focus on skills and strategies. As important as these may be, they are no substitute for godly character. Take time to pray for your church’s leaders today. Ask God to help them be people of faith who hold God’s word in high regard.

BY John Koessler, Chair and Professor of Pastoral Studies

John Koessler serves as chair and professor in the division of applied theology and church ministry at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He is married to Jane and has two sons, Drew and Jarred. John is the author of The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody) and True Discipleship (Moody). John has written several other books and articles and serves as a contributing editor for Today in the Word.

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