His name means: "The One Asked For, Requested"
His work: As Israel's first king, his role was to unite the tribes of Israel against their enemies and to begin the process of establishing Israel as a monarchy.
His character: Though his reign began well, Saul failed to live up to his calling, trusting himself more than he trusted God. Mentally unstable, he became so jealous of David that he tried to murder him. His last battle with the Philistines ended in his suicide and in the death of his eldest son, Jonathan.
His sorrow: To become so alienated from God that he could no longer hear the Lord's voice or receive his help; to have the kingdom torn from him and his heirs because of his unfaithfulness.
His triumph: His impressive military conquests, including victories over the surrounding Moabites, Ammonites, Philistines, and Amalekites.
Key Scriptures: 1 Samuel 13:5-14; 16:14-23; 18:5-9
A Look at the Man
A well-known adage indicates how hard it can be to get things right the first time around, reminding us that "the first pickle is always the hardest to get out of the jar." That bit of folk wisdom could certainly apply to Israel's first attempt at transforming itself into a monarchy.
A head taller than other men, Saul must have seemed an excellent choice as a ruler. God, after all, had selected him, the prophet had anointed him, and the people had all shouted, "Long live the king!" But even divine affirmation and popular support were not enough to ensure Saul's success. Only Saul could guarantee it by responding faithfully to what God was asking.
But time after time, Saul prevaricated. Told to wait, he took matters into his own hands. Commanded to kill the Amalekites and destroy everything they owned, he spared their king and preserved the best of their livestock. Though fortune-telling was forbidden, he consulted a medium. Whenever he was confronted with his disobedience, he made excuses:
"You didn't come."
"The Philistines were about to destroy us."
"I felt compelled to offer the sacrifice."
"We saved the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the LORD, but we totally destroyed the rest."
"God won't talk to me, and I need to know what to do."
The excuses kept coming, like one bad penny after another. Centuries later they seem so plausible, so familiar, so understandable—at least to us. But not to the God who reads our hearts by how we act or fail to act.
So Saul's life and his rule as king gradually disintegrated. His mind became poisoned by jealousy and fear. A son and a daughter were estranged from him because of their love for David. Paranoia finally drove him to attempt an impossible task—to kill a man God himself was determined to protect. In the end, he lost more than a kingdom, forfeiting everything that matters in life—his family, his future, his own integrity.
Reflect On: 1 Samuel 28:5–20
Praise God: For his word in Scripture.
Offer Thanks: For all the ways God has spoken during your lifetime.
Confess: Any tendency to disregard God’s Word and its authority in your life.
Ask God: To increase your desire to read and pray the Scriptures.
Today's reading is a brief excerpt from Men of the Bible: A One-Year Devotional Study of Men in Scripture by Ann Spangler and Robert Wolgemuth (Zondervan). © 2010 by Ann Spangler. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Enjoy the complete book by purchasing your own copy at the Bible Gateway Store. The book's title must be included when sharing the above content on social media.
"The first pickle is always the hardest to get out of the jar."