The House of Saul

A Game of Thrones  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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We are reminded that God upholds justice and extends mercy. We are encouraged to live mercifully and trust God to take care of us.

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This week we start a sermon series that will take us through the month of May. We’ll be following the account of David and Saul in 1 Samuel using thematic connections to the TV series Game of Thrones. Yes, I’m aware it was a book series first. Yes, I’m aware that the series is called A Song of Fire and Ice. I haven’t read the books though so we’re going use the TV series instead. I also want to state as clearly as I can that I am not advocating for you to watch Game of Thrones. There is a lot of mature content in the show and it’s definitely not for everyone. And don’t worry, if you haven’t seen the show you won’t be lost for the next month of sermons. There are going to be connections to the show, but nothing that is critical to the message itself.
I do want to give you a little background of the show that is what I’m going to be connecting to for these messages. The core principle is this, there are an increasing number of individuals vying for the throne of Westeros, the name of the kingdom in the series. Each of these individuals, to different extents, are supported by their houses. Each of these houses have iconic characters that you have undoubtedly seen on shirts, coffee cups, or used in various memes. What we’re going to be doing for the next five weeks is looking at the different “houses” in 1 Samuel. And today we start with the House of Saul.

Israel Asks For A King

One consistent character who hovers around the different powers-that-be in Westeros is a man by the name of Lord Baelish and one of his more iconic quotes is this, “there’s no justice in the world, not unless we make it.” And while we might not say it so dramatically, there’s a part of our nature that agrees with that wholeheartedly. We believe that we need to take justice, to take consequence and vengeance, into our own hands. When someone wrongs us, the temptation is to get even or to make sure they get punished. When we see someone getting things they don’t deserve, the temptation is to complain or to envy their success. When we feel like we’re being treated unfairly, our instinct is to fight for ourselves instead of turning the other cheek. These might be bold statements, but I’m not seeing much disagreement. In fact, some of you might be sitting there thinking “there’s nothing wrong with that.”
That was Israel’s thinking too. You see, Samuel was a faithful and powerful prophet. He led Israel well for years, but when he got old he made his sons leaders of the nation. They did considerably worse. They were not faithful to God, they took bribes, they didn’t handle Israel’s affairs fairly, and they perverted justice. The elders of Israel saw all of this going on and they go to Samuel and they say “now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” God had set them apart and led them more directly through prophets and judges, but they wanted to be just like all the other nations. God tells Samuel to give them a king, but to warn them about all of the ways it’s going to backfire first. And Samuel does, he says that this king will take their sons to be soldiers, this king will take their daughters to serve, this king will take their best crops and servants and animals. Samuel warns them that when they cry out to God because of the king, God will not answer them in that day. They hear all this, but a king would put them in control at some level, would allow them to chase after their own justice, to take vengeance on people who wronged them. So they tell Samuel that they want a king anyway. That king ends up being Saul.

Saul is Incompetent

I have to be honest, I struggled a lot when deciding which character and family from Game of Thrones to connect Saul to because there are a handful of bad would-be rulers in the show that connect to different aspects of Saul’s incompetence. Ultimately, I settled on King Joffrey of House Baratheon. This kid is kind of a scumbag from the moment you meet him. He has a dog put down in the first couple episodes and his character kinda just gets more and more dis-likable from there. In fact, when my brother and I were watching the show together before each episode and hope that it was the episode Joffrey died in. Once Joffrey inherits the throne, he does what he wants and treats everyone terribly and doesn’t take any advice from the wise people around him. He’s the poster-child for sociopathic, spoiled children. And because he insists on doing everything his way, the people he wants to punish most escape and ultimately he dies - which was a great moment for the show.
Saul similarly starts off not doing so hot. When we first hear about Saul, he is demonstrating how bad he is at being a shepherd. He loses his fathers animals and simply cannot find them, to the point where he and his servant decide to give up because people are going to start worrying about them more than the animals. Then Saul makes an offering to God, even though he isn’t a priest or a prophet. Then he makes a stupid vow that puts his men in a difficult position. Then he directly goes against God’s instructions because he thinks he somehow knows better. That’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back, and God rejects Saul as Israel’s king.
And the lesson here for us is to not put our trust in people, to not look to ourselves or our leaders to take care of us. Earlier I said that we believe that we need to take justice, to take consequence and vengeance, into our own hands. When someone wrongs us, the temptation is to get even or to make sure they get punished. When we see someone getting things they don’t deserve, the temptation is to complain or to envy their success. When we feel like we’re being treated unfairly, our instinct is to fight for ourselves instead of turning the other cheek. But God tells us through Paul in Romans 12:19
Romans 12:19 (ESV)
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
We really should worry much less than we do about what we deserve and what’s fair. If we shift that energy to our care for others or to building up our faith, we can trust that God will take care of justice for His people. If someone says they’ll do something for you and doesn’t follow through, forgive them and focus on moving forward rather than the disappointment and getting even. If someone says something to make fun of you, let it go instead of dwelling on it and care about them anyways. If someone insults your faith, focus on demonstrating God’s love for them instead of arguing with them in anger.

The Throne Goes to David

And that’s exactly what God does. The people of Israel suffer at the hands of Saul and God removes him from the throne. He sends Samuel to anoint David as king instead, a man who God knows will be faithful, a man after God’s own heart.
When the Philistines and the Babylonians and the Assyrians oppress Israel, God lifts Israel up and overcomes all of these other nations.
When people insist on rebelling against God and His designs over and over again, He works and they fall. When people strive to remain faithful, He builds them up.
When all of mankind fell into sin, God upheld justice. The price of sin is death and God collected.

David Spares Saul’s Life

But the one who paid was not us. It was not you. It was not me. We are all incapable of paying for our own sins, so Christ took that upon Himself.
David is used as an example of what Jesus is going to be. He gives us a little bit of a window into God’s heart. And God’s heart is one of mercy. In that cave, David entrusted his future to God but he also showed Saul incredible mercy. He was being hunted and instead of killing his hunter, he shows mercy and grace.
And when Jesus comes to this earth, He shows perfect mercy and grace. On Calvary’s cross, Jesus showed us incredible mercy by accepting the suffering and death we deserved. He was the one we sinned against and instead of giving us what we deserved, he took our punishment for us. Lord Baelish was right, there is no justice in this world. But we aren't the ones who make it, God does. There is no righteousness with God, not unless He makes it so.
We trust that God will ultimately take care of us, no matter the injustice or unfairness we face in this life, and that He will treat us with an incredible mercy that goes beyond what we can wrap our heads around. Amen.
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