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Online Text Sermon - Saul's Sad Confession, 1 Samuel ch.26 v.21

PreacherRev. Maurice Roberts, Inverness
Sermon TitleSaul's Sad Confession
Text1 Samuel ch.26 v.21
Sermon ID9

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Now, one of the reasons, why we can understand that the Bible is the Word of God and not the word of men, is because of its sheer honesty. The Bible does not glamorize the characters even of good men or of great man. It tells the truth about them. I am sure we are all familiar with the way in which in human literature we tend to lionize people, we tend to glamorize them. We omit the faults and we emphasize the virtues of those of whom we are writing especially when it comes to kings and great leaders, and important men and women. We overlook their faults and we emphasize their good points. But now, the Bible, does not do that. Let me give you one or two examples of what I am talking about.

One of the greatest men, of course, in the Bible, is Moses. And yet, we are told, at one point in his life and ministry, Moses lost his temper and he sinned against God. And that is written down in the Bible that he sinned by impatience. And then you can take the case, if you like, of King David. There really isn't a greater man in the Old Testament than David. And yet you come to a point in David's life when we are told about the terrible sins that he committed. Something entirely out of character with that wonderful man of God. Now had you and I been writing the Bible, so to say, I think we would have missed out that episode. But the Bible does not gloss over the weaknesses of men. Only one man appears in the Bible to be without sin. Christ alone has no sin. Others were great in their ways but they have their weaknesses too.

Now what I say, is true of this man, Saul. I am not saying he was a good man but he was a great man. Many chapters of the Bible are taken up with recounting the life and deeds of King Saul. And I want today to look at what Saul said at the end of his life or towards the end of his life. Because the words for my text, are Saul's commentary on his own life shortly before he died. Listen to his word again, "Then said Saul, I have sinned: ... behold, I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly." (1 Samuel 26, 21). My dear friends, that is a sad way for a man to end his life. It is a sad commentary on all that he has been and all that he has done. And the reason why the Bible shows us words like this at all, is so that you and I may not repeat the mistakes of this man. It is a warning to us. And a beacon to show us that we must be careful that we don't also end our days having to confess that our lives also have been one of sin and error and of playing the fool.

Now in opening up my subject, let me begin by saying to you, that this King Saul had a very promising start. He had a very promising beginning to his kingship. He was after all the first king over God's people. Before that, you remember, there were the judges. And the days of the judges were terrible times. The people of God wanted a king in the day of Samuel the prophet. They wanted a king they said because they wish to be like other nations. And God was angry with them, you remember, for asking a king for that reason. You see, the people of God are not like other people. They are different from other people. God is their King. And God was the King of Israel. But they have forgotten that they were different. They wanted to be like the world. 'Give us a king that he may reign over us that we may be like the other people' (1 Samuel 8:5, 6), they said.

You know there is a spirit abroad today among many professing Christians which is very similar to that. We want to be like other people. We want to behave like other people. We want to dress like other people. We want to amuse ourselves like the world. My friends, when the people of God behave like that, and think like that, and talk like that, it always displeases God. Now that is what they asked and they asked for a king. And God gave them their request. Not because He approved of what they wanted but as a judgment on them for asking something which was not good for them. He gave it to them. You remember the word of the Psalms, "He gave them what they sought but he sent leanness into their souls" (Psalm 106:15). When people asked for what is not good for them, at times, God may give it to them as a judgment not as a blessing. We must be content to receive what is good for us.

Well, God gave them a king and Saul was the man. He was head and shoulders above everybody else, obviously a handsome man. Really a very tall, strong, impressive figure. And God called Samuel to anoint him. He had a horn of consecrating oil and he poured it on his head as a divine sign that here was the man that God had appointed. And if Saul had behaved himself well, he and his royal family would have lasted for centuries. We use the word we often have in this connection, we would say his dynasty would have lasted for centuries. A royal family of dynasty would have gone on and on for generation. But it didn't. And it was Saul's fault that it didn't. He threw away his great opportunity of being important in the history of the Bible. He wasted the opportunity. And there are many people who waste their opportunities. And opportunity does not knock forever. Oh, don't waste your opportunities - your opportunities to get right with God.

Once serious illness comes into a person's life, it is very much harder to pray. Once you are knocked down by a car, let us imagine and you lose a great part of your intelligence, it is very hard to seek God. Don't waste your opportunity. Seek God now. This man squandered his opportunity of getting good from God. Now I have to admit that there was something good about him to start with. He began quite well. He was a modest man. On one occasion, he hid himself behind the stuff. When they were looking for him to anoint him to be king, he hid himself. Another good thing he did was this - he had courage to stand up against the enemies of God. Now, that's a virtue. There are some people who don't ever seem to have enough courage to stand against evil. But this man did. He fought against the enemies of the Lord. And the Bible says about him, he became, at one point, he became another man. Now, that doesn't mean to say, he became a converted man. It means that God gave him a portion of divine grace for the work he has to do. It didn't save him. It wasn't saving grace but it was divinely given help to rule and to reign over God's people. If I were to comment on this man's soul, I would have to put it like this, he began well but its end was tragic. And this is what he said of himself, in my text, "Behold, I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly" (text).

Now, my very dear friends, may I say to you, you also could end up your life like this. It's happening every day. All around us in this world. People are doing the same. You may know that we were down in the south of Scotland for a few days this week. And when we were there, we met a stranger who began a conversation with us and told us about a footballer in the south of Scotland who was making up fortune kicking a ball and playing his football. But then he started to drink. And now he has lost his money and his marriage is on the rocks. His wife can hardly think to stay with him. Children were suffering. You see how you can throw everything away. A good start that was wasted or squandered.


Why was this man Saul such a failure? What led to his decline and down fall? Well,let me explain. I have to mention one or two incidents. I think there are three or four things told to us in the Bible about Saul that explained where it was he went wrong.

(a) He Did Something Foolish

And the first one I think is this. On one occasion, he had to wait till the prophet Samuel came to join him. And Samuel was late in coming and Saul the king couldn't wait. So he did something foolish. He acted the part of the priest and he conducted worship and offered up a sacrifice to God. Now the King had no right to do that. That was the work of a priest. And the king did what was not his duty to do. And as he was doing this, Samuel came on the scene rather late and he said to the king, 'What have you done?' And the king answered like this, 'I forced myself.' Samuel said, 'you have done foolishly, now the kingdom shall not continue with you' (1 Samuel 13, 12-14). My friend, life proves everyone of us. It proves that this man would not do what God commanded. And circumstances proved something about us all, you and me and all others.


Let me give you the second incident where he went wrong and which led to his downfall. God commanded King Saul to wipe out a certain small tribe who were bitter enemies of God's people. They were called the Amalekites - the Amalekites. They were the enemies of God and God's people. They had caused trouble in the past. So says God to this man, Saul, 'destroy them all'. So off go the king and his army, and he killed most of the people but he spared the king of the Amalekites, whose name was Agag. And also he and the people reserved for themselves the best of the sheep and the best of the oxen. Now along came the prophet Samuel and he noticed what Saul had done and he said this to Saul - one of the great statements of the Bible - 'What have you done? I thought you were commanded to kill this man and the sheep and cattle.' And Saul argued. Well, he said, 'we did but we reserve to ourselves the best of the sheep and cattle. And we kept Agag alive. But we kill all the rest.' 'You have done foolishly,' said Samuel, 'don't you realize, to obey is better than sacrifice and to hearken to God more than the fat of rams.' (1 Samuel 15, 22) Saul was arguing that by keeping the best of the animal they can offer sacrifices to God. You don't realize God is more concern about obedience than about sacrifice. 'Stubbornness', he said, 'is as witchcraft and idolatry' (1 Samuel 15, 23).

Now that's a lesson that very very few people have learnt. And a lesson if you and I take it to heart, will be one of the greatest lessons we can learn in our life. That God requires, first of all, above everything else that we do what he says. Far more important than long prayers. Far more important than beautiful language or wonderful preaching or wonderful anything. God said, 'What I first want is obedience. Do as I say,' says God. King Saul offered to God a partial obedience and he paid a terrible price for it. Shall I tell you what it was? He not only lost the chance of his family becoming the royal family forever in Israel but something personal happened to him. "The spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him" (1 Samuel 16, 14). Let me tell you what that means. It means that God began to remove His presence from this man. He began to remove His blessing from that man. And God began to give this king over to the influence of the devil. Now that's all it can possibly mean. "The spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him" (1 Samuel 16, 14). So that Saul was given over to envy, and jealousy and persecution of David.

And many of the chapters in 1 Samuel, especially the last chapter of 1 Samuel, they deal with the hatred which Saul had for David. Well, this proved one thing, doesn't it? It proved that Saul was not a godly man. It proved that Saul was a man who had outward privileges only but his heart was never put right with God. He is a case of a religious man who is not a converted man. It is a case of someone who is outwardly alright with God but inwardly unsaved. The grace of God was simply common grace. Giving him the ability to rule and to reign up to a point but did not make him a holy man. Now, it is possible for us to receive common grace, which makes us up to a point, patience, up to a point, sweet tempered, up to a point, decent, up to a point, virtuous, up to a point, devout and religious even. The common grace does not make anyone holy. It does not make them truly godly. It does not bring them to Heaven. And this man is a man who is a warning to us. Though he was another man, he did not become a good man.

My friends, there is food for thought in what the Bible tells us here about Saul. You and I need something more than decency, and religion, and virtue and outward propriety of life. We need that grace of God in our souls which will make us hunger and thirst for God and long for fellowship with Christ. And yearn for Heaven at last. Well, these and the other similar circumstances in the Word of God, they tell us this tragic end of Saul. To the point he had to say this as a comment on his own life "I have sinned... behold, I have played the fool and have erred exceedingly" (text). To err is simply to go wrong, that is what it means, to go terribly wrong. I had made a blunder of my life, that's what it means. My life is a catalogue of hollow. I have squandered my life. I have ruined my life. My life is a tragedy of terrible proportion. One thing for a common man to have a terrible end to his life. It is a terrible thing indeed when a king had a terrible end to his life. Now, my friends, Saul's confession was perfectly accurate. He wasn't exaggerating. It wasn't the language of a modest man simply making a few thoughts of his otherwise great life to the exaggerating. No, no, he was very guilty of playing the fool.


Let me mention just two or three ways concerning this man to show you he had really played the fool. He really had sinned and done unwisely. One thing, was this, he allowed his life to be eaten away with envy, with jealousy. He allowed his heart to be filled with anger against David. And it was all because of something the women were singing. You remember on one occasion the women were singing in Israel. This is what they sang, "Saul had killed his thousands, but David his ten thousands" (1 Samuel 18, 7). And Saul heard and it filled him with this spirit of jealousy. Now, this shows that the spirit of God was going away from him and the spirit of the devil was coming into him, more and more. Oh, what a terrible thing jealousy is! Oh, what a hateful thing is envious! It eats away the life of man!

Let us watch this same spirit. It can creep into anyone's heart. And it can ruin people's life like a cancer. I once knew a dear Christian lady who is a very highly placed medical person. And she was suffering also from cancer. And she had cancer in her bones. And she would talk about the cancer in her body. She has passed away now to be with the Lord. Some of you can guess whom I am referring to in the Highlands. She wrote one or two books and they had been a help to many people. What strikes me was the way she referred to cancer. 'Oh', she said 'cancer gets into the bone'. Well, in her case at least, it is in the bone. And she said, 'It's like a mouse', she said, 'eating cheese, it make hole in the bone'. Well, I am not medically trained and I knew nothing about it. But that expression stuck in my memory. It's like a mouse, eating cheese, making holes in the bone. Well, that is what envy does. It eats into the heart and makes people terrible to live with.

My friend, this spirit is what is ruining the world. It is what makes our lives so difficult. It is because people are envious of one another, jealous of one another. And that is what spoiled this man's life. He hated David and he persecuted him and pursued him and sought to kill him. And David showed him nothing but precious in return. Here is a great lesson - never avenge yourself. What a touching thing it is, when David was fleeing from Saul and Saul went into a cave, probably for to take a little siesta. The sun would be hot. He lied down and covered himself with the robe he was wearing or possibly something like a blanket. And there in the cool of the cave, he was evidently taking a nap. But what he didn't know was that all around the side of the cave David and his men were there armed with swords, spears, bows and arrows. Somebody whispered to David, 'here's your chance, God has given you this man's life, now, kill him!' David took up his sword and cut off a part of the robe at the bottom of Saul's long gown, I supposed you call it the hem today. He cut off the hem of the bottom like cutting the helm of a man's trouser, in modern form of dress. And then he retired back into the cave, into the shadow. And he said, 'God forbid that I should put forth my hand against the Lord's anointed. This man is the anointed of God' (1 Samuel 24, 6). 'You can't touch the Lord's anointed and be guiltless.' And he waved the little cloth, which is all he would touch of Saul.

And Saul awoke eventually and came out of the cave and have gone a hundred yard and David cried out to him. 'O King, Look I could have killed you this day but your life is precious in my sight. And let my life be precious in your sight'. My friend, we must never avenge ourselves. "Vengeance is mine" (Romans 12, 19) saith the Lord. God will avenge your enemies. But what happened was that this envy fired up and raged to such a degree in the heart of Saul that he persecuted David from pillar to pillar. He chased him to the wilderness. He chased him into dent and cave. Chased him round mountain high. Chased him through woods, to the hills. Every time David just escaped with the skin of his teeth because God was with him. The end of the law is with those that fear God. My friends, if you sanctify God and trust in Him in your heart, He will never forsake you. Do not avenge yourself.

And there was a second opportunity which David could have killed him and we read that in this Chapter. They went down into the camp where Saul was asleep with his men, and David and Abishai went right up to Saul and took his spear right up from the ground at his bolster, pillow head. And then took away one of these which was at the side of the bed where Saul was sleeping - a jug of water, or a cruse of water. And away they went to the top of the hill and shouted down and the King heard his voice. And David said, 'Oh, King, I would have killed you again today but your life was precious in my sight. What are you fighting against, O King? I have done you no harm. You are chasing a partridge in the wilderness. You are chasing a flee. I am a nothing and a nobody. Whom am I that you are chasing a nothing such as I am?' And this is what the King said in my text, "I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly" (1 Samuel 26, 21). "Blessed be thou, my son David: thou shalt both do great things, and also shalt still prevail" (1 Samuel 26, 25).

My friend, are you doing any harm to somebody else through jealousy, through envy, through malice. Are you wishing harm to anybody? Are you trying to get your spike out of somebody? David here confesses to God. If somebody has done you harm, bring your cause to God and trust in Him. He will deal with them sooner or later as he dealt with Saul. David said this in my passage doesn't he? He said 'The Lord render to every man according to his faithfulness'.

And the day came when Saul's life was over. You remember how that was. Saul became worst and worst and worst. We are told in the Bible that the Lord would not speak to him even. Either by Urim or Thummim or by prophets or by seers or in any other way. What were the Urim or Thummim? Well, nobody knows. Some sort of stones that were in the breastplate of the high priest. And in some ways God used to speak and give knowledge of His wills to the people who consulted Him. But the details are not known to anyone but it was something of that nature. God won't speak to Saul. God won't speak to him either in one way or another. God was silence. That is a terrible thing. I can't think of anything more dreadful than that God stop speaking to us.

There are some people and they don't like God's voice. So, they stopped coming to Church. Well, that is easy, isn't it? If you don't like God's Words and if you don't like God's voice and God's message, then there is a very simple remedy - stop coming to church. And then that terrible Gospel will never be preached to you any more. And they won't be telling you that you are a terrible sinner going to hell without Christ if you will not repent. And it is very easy to say, I am never going back to that place. He is always telling me how wicked I am and I need Christ to be my Saviour and I need to be washed by His blood. So it is very easy to stop coming to church. And I will shut God out of my life. Well, you can do that. And people are doing it all the time. But the problem is, what are you going to do when you die? Because when you die, immediately your soul goes to face God. And then if you have not loved Him in this life, you certainly won't love Him in the life to come. And if God has been shutting His voice against you in this life, He certainly will be shutting His voice against you in that life. That's why we have a Gospel so that we might prepare to meet our God by believing in the blood of Christ, the Son of God who died for us.


Well, I say, Saul became worst when God would not speak to him. Saul did something wicked. He went to the witch of Endor. Now God forbids getting in touch with the dead. God forbid spiritualism as we call it today. He forbids witchcraft. He forbids sorcery. He forbids new age movement. He forbids everything. His Words says, we are not to do that. We are not to get in touch with the dead for the sake of the living. That is superstition. That is abominable with God. And Saul knew but he did it because he was desperate. And Saul asked the witch of Endor for guidance. And God permitted a vision to appear to the woman of Samuel the prophet saying to the King 'Today, you will be where I am and you and all your sons will be dead.' What a thing to hear! And it came through. And he was slain in the battle of Mt Gilgal. He and Jonathan and all his sons. And when the battle was over, they were all of them dead on the field of battle.


Well, my beloved friends, there is one great lesson that comes to us forth from the life of Saul. And it is this lesson - the most important thing you can do is to die well. And it is possible to die well. And I want to show, as I close, how you can die well. Jesus tells us about two builders. One would build on the sand. And he says, everything went fine for a while. The house went up very quickly. There wasn't very much digging to do. Rear up the wall in no time, then came the roof and then decoration. And the man moved in with his furniture. It was built on the sand and it was beautiful, just like any other house. Until the wind began to blow and the rain began to descend and the flood began to arise. And because it was built upon the sand, it all collapsed. That's the picture of the man and woman who does not have Christ in their life. They are building upon the sand, it's not going to last. When trouble comes, if you haven't got the Saviour, you won't stand. Now when you come to die, you won't stand before God.

On the other hand, says Christ in His illustration, there was a man who build on the rock. It was mighty hard work, hours of sweat and labour. Then when the foundation was really prepared, up went the wall at last. This fellow in the house built on the sand, he was living in comfort for 2 years before this other fellow moved in. When this man got his furniture in and all his bedrooms were in order, and moved in then came the winter and the storms and the wind and it shut against the house but it fell not because it was founded upon a rock. And that is the picture of the man and the woman or the young person who has Jesus as their Saviour. Oh yes, you will be shaken by the wind. You will have troubles in your life - many tears, many sorrows, like everybody else. You will not be insulated by all that will upset you. But God will look after you in the end. Your house will be sure, your life will be certain. Your soul will be saved. And that is the best thing you can have in all the world.

As I close, I remind you, my friends, that there were two Saul's in the Bible. I talked about King Saul in the Old Testament. But you know, there was another Saul who became Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. He lived a wicked life at the beginning. He began badly but he ended well. He was exactly the opposite of the Saul of the Old Testament, who began well and then did badly. The Apostle Paul who began as Saul also came to die. And at the end of his life, this is what he said, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." (2 Timothy 4, 7-8).

Now that is how his end is. Do you want to die like King Saul or like the New Testament apostle Paul? And it is very much up to you. You can't make yourself good. But you can cry to God to give you His Holy Spirit so that you will be born again and when you are born again of God's Spirit, and when you come at last to die, you will never have to say what this unhappy King said, "I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly" (1 Samuel 26, 21). No, not, those who trust in Christ will die a very wonderful death. Such as you have described in the Bible, when it says "Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord" (Revelation 14, 13). And you get this picture in the Pilgrim's Progress when the pilgrims come right to the end of their journey, with all their trials and sufferings from warfare and they crossed the river. And they got into the heavenly Jerusalem, that delectable mountain and when they got there, John Bunyan said 'the trumpet sounded for them on the other side and they were welcome home to God.' Well, will it not be worth going through all the suffering of this life to come to Heaven at last!

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