Sunday, October 27, 2013

Saul Meets His Gilboa

We ended the class with a ghost story from the Bible, which was right at the place we were in the story anyway, and so near Halloween. Since ghost stories need to be told around a campfire, and I didn't think it would be a good idea to have a real campfire in church, I found one on YouTube, and we moved to a darker room. To get the full effect, play the video while you're reading the blog post.

Saul Meets His Gilboa

Have you heard people say that someone met their Waterloo? It means that they lost their last battle. Maybe a president was defeated in an election and never ran again. After defeating enemies over and over, French Emperor Napoleon was defeated for the last time in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. This story is about Saul’s Waterloo.

David was young when God rejected Saul as King, but it was probably somewhere around 15 or 20 years more that Saul reigned after that. God gave him lots of chances to turn his life around, but he just couldn’t get over his pride and jealousy.

Samuel had grown old, and while Saul was busy chasing David, his time came to go. After Samuel’s death, he was buried, and the people of Israel mourned for their last judge and prophet, who had anointed their current king and their next one. Saul and Samuel had had their disagreements, but Saul still respected him.

Sometime after the incident with Saul’s spear and water, Saul and his army prepared to fight the Philistines on Mt. Gilboa, and as he watched the enemy getting closer, he could see the Philistine army was terrifying. What could he do? He tried asking God, but got no answer. He tried asking the prophets who were still alive, but still no answer. That left one option, which should not have been an option. Earlier in his reign, Saul had told all the fortunetellers to leave Israel. Now, he decided he needed one, and he found out that the nearest one was in Endor (which was not a forest moon). Even though the Law of Moses included strict commandments against consulting fortunetellers and using witchcraft, King Saul disguised himself and went to Endor.

The woman was scared. Fortunetelling was illegal in Israel, punishable by death! She was afraid this man she didn’t recognize was setting a trap for her after Saul had deported them, but the mysterious man told her she wouldn’t be punished. He just wanted her to call up a dead spirit. So, he told her to call up Samuel. The woman saw Samuel’s spirit coming up, and suddenly she realized the truth. “You’re Saul!” she said. Now she was really scared.

“Don’t worry,” said Saul. “What do you see?”

“I see an old man in a robe,” she said.

Saul was glad to find out that this had worked. Samuel’s ghost didn’t seem too happy about it, though. He wanted to know why Saul had called him up. So Saul explained his problem. “God has left me. The Philistines are threatening us, and I can’t figure out what God wants me to do, no matter where I turn or how hard I try. I’m getting desperate!”

So Samuel gave his last prophecy. “Why are you asking me? God has left you and become your enemy. You refused to obey His commands to completely destroy the Amalekites, so He has taken the Kingdom of Israel away from you and given it to David. Tomorrow, the Philistines will defeat the Israelite army, and you and your sons will be joining me!”

Saul was so shaken that he didn’t want to eat, but he did after the people who were with him convinced him that he needed food.

Meanwhile, Achish, King of Gath, was still very impressed with David. Unfortunately, the other Gittites (people from Gath) didn’t trust David. So Achish sent David back to Israel. When he and his men arrived in Israel, they discovered that the Amalekites had attacked the region where they were. So David did what Saul had refused to do so many years earlier. He led his band of fugitives against the Amalekites and defeated them. Only 400 Amalekites survived.

On Mount Gilboa, Saul led his army against the Philistines. It was a terrible battle. Three of his sons, Princes Jonathan, Abinadab and Malki-Shua, were killed. The Philistine archers shot Saul, and he was injured. When his armor bearer refused to obey his order to put him out of his misery, he drew his own sword, and King Saul fell. When the Israelite army found out their King and three Princes had died, they turned tail and ran. Saul’s son Ish-Bosheth survived. When the remaining family learned the news, the nurse Jonathan had hired to take care of his 5-year-old son Mephibosheth picked up the young prince and ran. She was so desperate that she dropped the boy, and he broke bones in his feet. They never healed right, and he had trouble walking for the rest of his life. More about him in a couple weeks.

Meanwhile, David was just getting back to Israel after his victory against the Amalekites, when a messenger ran up to him with a very sad story. According to him, Jonathan had been killed in battle on Mt. Gilboa. The messenger knew that Saul was David’s enemy, so he came up with a lie to try to make David feel better. He said that Saul had been mortally wounded, and had asked him to kill him. This man claimed to have obeyed Saul and killed him. Wrong thing to say to David, who was loyal to the King who was not loyal to him. No matter how Saul had treated David, David knew that Saul had been God’s choice of King, and nobody would get away with killing God’s choice. The messenger didn’t live to retell the tale.

David went from best day ever to worst day ever in a few minutes. He wrote a song and lamented the loss of the great King and Prince. “How the mighty have fallen!” he cried. “Don’t mention this in the Philistine strongholds of Gath or Ashkelon, or they might be happy about it! Let the Mountains of Gilboa be cursed, because Israel’s greatest died there! Saul and Jonathan were admired and loved in life, and they fought bravely. Daughters of Israel, weep for Saul, who gave you so much! Jonathan, my brother and best friend, you were very dear to me. How the mighty have fallen!”

So Saul met his Waterloo, and David became King, in extreme grief for his family that he had lost.

Be very careful about your choices. If you make a bad choice, you may not be the only one who suffers for it. Saul’s choices not only cost his own life, but those of his sons, and David lost his dearest friend.

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