What Fear Consumes

1 Samuel -The Heart of a king  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  28:39
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Saul in the Dark

Saul was desperate and afraid. Before him lay the armies of the philistines, beside him lay his own army of Israel. In just a short time he was expected to lead his people against the philistines. But Saul was paralyzed by fear. For the past few years instead of fighting the philistines Saul had been chasing his own neighbor David son of jesse.. to kill him had seemed more important than protecting Israel from the philistines. but David had fled from Israel and now Saul had no excuses..
Thus the great hosts before him and the battle ahead. Now in previous battles with the philistines Saul had seen great success when he had been guided by Samuel the prophet and judge of Israel. But now Samuel was dead.. and so where the priests of God that Saul might have been able to ask for guidance as well. Remember Saul had kill those priests as part of his vendetta against David.
So going into this Battle Saul was truly Alone. Without David by his side, Without Samuel to advise him of the Lord’s plan, without any other prophets and priests to speak to him on God’s behalf.
Fear does strange things to a man.. terrible things! And Saul in his fear was desperate to know what would happen on the day of battle. SO desperate that he did something that boggles the mind of the Hebrew reader and should amaze us as well. Saul told his men he needed to find a witch. Not the writer tells us that Saul had put to death the known witches and magicians in Israel in accordance with God’s law. So he knew that he had executed people for doing exactly what he was doing.. That it was a violation of God’s laws.. Still he called for a witch. Like I said Fear drives us to do foolish things.
And having found a witch that night Saul disguised himself and snuck past the philistine camp to reach her home..
Once there he asked her to call up Samuel the prophet from the grave.. Yes the Irony of asking a witch to to call a holy man from his rest so that a cursed king could speak to him is not lost on anyone! Saul’s fear had driven him to new lows..
But to our surprise and perhaps the even the witch’s the spirit of Samuel answers her summons and speaks with Saul.
The New International Version (1984) Saul and the Witch of Endor

The king said to her, “Don’t be afraid. What do you see?”

The woman said, “I see a spirit coming up out of the ground.”

14 “What does he look like?” he asked.

“An old man wearing a robe is coming up,” she said.

Then Saul knew it was Samuel, and he bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground.

15 Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?”

“I am in great distress,” Saul said. “The Philistines are fighting against me, and God has turned away from me. He no longer answers me, either by prophets or by dreams. So I have called on you to tell me what to do.”

16 Samuel said, “Why do you consult me, now that the LORD has turned away from you and become your enemy? 17 The LORD has done what he predicted through me. The LORD has torn the kingdom out of your hands and given it to one of your neighbors—to David. 18 Because you did not obey the LORD or carry out his fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the LORD has done this to you today. 19 The LORD will hand over both Israel and you to the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The LORD will also hand over the army of Israel to the Philistines.”

Here we have a few questions to answer before we can get back to Saul. first is this really Samuel? And what does it mean that he is called from below to speak to Saul.
I believe that it likely was Samuel.. why, because that is how the text treats him. Saul seems to recognize him as Samuel and the conversation they have includes references to other conversations that they had when Samuel was alive.
And what does it tell us.. It tells us that there is life after death.. that the dead do not disappear or sleep. but rather they wait for the Resurrection of the body. When Samuel says ,
The New International Version (1984) Saul and the Witch of Endor

15 Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?”

This is a makes sense in his world view of where the dead go.. they descend to the grave.. It doesn’t mean he was dwelling in a cave or in hell. It means he was waiting for the God to finish his work and for the coming of Christ.
Now Samuel comes forth and answers Saul to simply point out that this day is the fulfilment of his own prophecies concerning him and he prophesies again that tomorrow Saul’s sons and Saul himself will all die.
Having answered Saul’s question one final time Samuel is not mentioned again but we find Saul passed out on the floor of the Witch’s house. Where she quite concerned that he is weak, from fear and fasting and perhaps concerned that he will kill her such bad news to him. So she Kills a fattened calf and prepares a small but rich feast for Saul and his men.
After they have eaten they go back out into the night and sneak past the philistines again and prepare to fight a final battle the next day.
What message can we take home from this story.. Saul’s earlier ongoing disobedience had hardened his heart.. He couldn’t hear God or repent and seek his face.. THis is like the prophet Isaiah said.

9 He said, “Go and tell this people:

“ ‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding;

be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’

10 Make the heart of this people calloused;

make their ears dull

and close their eyes.

Otherwise they might see with their eyes,

hear with their ears,

understand with their hearts,

and turn and be healed.”

This Deafness and blindness is how Isaiah argues the wicked lose sight of God’s goodness, and mercy. They cannot see the opportunity to repent that is right under their noses.. and they persist in evil. like madmen playing in traffic. God’s judgement is clear and near but they stand convinced that they have mastered the art of Jay walking.
Saul had hardened his heart towards God. He had willfully chosen to disobey him and had shut his ears to the voice of God and his messengers. In his last days Saul could not hear God but instead of repenting he went and sinned again to force God to speak to him. And God’s wrath which had been restrained for many years grew ever closer till it would consume Saul and Saul’s own fear would become his undoing.
If you turn to Chapter 31 of 1 Samuel with me you can see how it happened.
Chapter 31 begins the morning after Saul’s Visit to the witch. The battle had turned horribly. His sons were dead, and he was wounded by archers.
And Saul was afraid that he would be captured and abused by the philistines commanded his armour bearer to kill him. but his armour bearer was too afraid to kill the king. So Saul fell on his own sword and killed himself. He did not try to run away.. he did not call out to God. he did try to lead his army in one last charge. Saul in his fear saw his death as his only escape from life. So he tragically took it.
Saul was not the only person in the bible to end his own life.. there are a few others.. And we do not believe that to commit suicide is to damn yourself to hell. In the bible it is simple a sign of desperation and hopelessness. It is not a noble thing either.
It is truly Tragic that Saul the first king of Isreal should die by his own hand.
After Saul died his body was found by the philistines and his head was cut off. his armour removed and his body was nailed on the walls of a philistine city to rot. But the beautiful ending to this book is that some brave men from a city that Saul had rescued back when he was young and the spirit of God was with him remembered Saul.. and they snuck up to the gates of the city, took his body. and properly buried it and mourned him for seven days.
I find their loyalty and bravery a beautiful tribute to a king chosen by God who was sadly twisted by the fear of men rather than the fear of God.
So is the moral and application of this story Kings shouldn’t visit witches in the dark of night. |I think Macbeth would agree with that moral.. but maybe we should look for something more.
But for us I think our application is two fold. Saul had given into sin so much that he knew no way out.. he was caught and bound in a web of his own creation. And that was what hardened his heart to the hope of redemption.
For us too some “little sins” habits of the heart, like unforgiveness, bursts of rage, or judgmental legalism and many more pet sins, we each know our own! Can grow and grow.. till what was just a simple weed, a sin that could be plucked from the garden of our souls with ease, has grown into a great forest of weeds that will take diligent work and much guidance and repentance to clear away.
For Saul it was his fears that were his downfall, In the begining he was afraid of men. Of their disapproval or distain, that grew into a fear of losing his kingly authority and the praise of those same men. And finally when all was lost it was Saul’s fear of the mockery and humiliation that he might receive from the philistines that caused him to kill himself.
Fear Consumed Saul.. He never escaped from its grasp.
But for the believer our answer to fear is death.. not our deaths, not even our enemies deaths but the death of Christ on the cross.
becasue Christ has died we know that God is not only good but merciful.
Because Christ has died and rose again we know that those in christ need not fear death.
And because Christ has died for our sins on the Cross the believer knows that he or she is forgive and that they are loved with a perfect love. 1 John 4:18 says

18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

Because we are loved by the never-ending never-failing love of God we need not be afraid!
Saul’s story is tragic because of his fear of men he could not recieve the love of God.
But we know that it is the love of god the overcomes all fears and equips us to love a broken world with God’s love.
My friends, Today may you cast aside the weeds that entangle your souls and embrace the hope that we have in the loving sacrifice of Christ.
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