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Heavenly Father, we pray for Your grace. We don’t pray in this brief moment before the sermon because that’s just how we start sermons; we pray because we need Your help. We need ears to hear or this will be wasted time. I need Your Spirit, or what I preach will just be my own words. Teach us, shape us, correct us. Do a mighty work in our midst, according to Your grace, by Your Word, we pray. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
We come to 1 Samuel, chapter 11. When I was laying out this summer series on the life of Samuel, I debated where to stop. You could really go through chapter 15, where Samuel comes again on the scene and announces for the Lord that Saul’s kingship has been rejected, or you could have stopped already, before we get into this transition with Saul.
But there’s one more chapter next week with Samuel’s farewell address, and so we’ll press ahead with chapter 11, even though this series on the life of Samuel this morning is really more about the beginning of Saul.
We read beginning at verse 1.
“Then Nahash the Ammonite went up and besieged Jabesh-gilead, and all the men of Jabesh said to Nahash, “Make a treaty with us, and we will serve you.” But Nahash the Ammonite said to them, “On this condition I will make a treaty with you, that I gouge out all your right eyes, and thus bring disgrace on all Israel.” The elders of Jabesh said to him, “Give us seven days’ respite that we may send messengers through all the territory of Israel. Then, if there is no one to save us, we will give ourselves up to you.” When the messengers came to Gibeah of Saul, they reported the matter in the ears of the people, and all the people wept aloud.”
“Now, behold, Saul was coming from the field behind the oxen. And Saul said, “What is wrong with the people, that they are weeping?” So they told him the news of the men of Jabesh. And the Spirit of God rushed upon Saul when he heard these words, and his anger was greatly kindled. He took a yoke of oxen and cut them in pieces and sent them throughout all the territory of Israel by the hand of the messengers, saying, “Whoever does not come out after Saul and Samuel, so shall it be done to his oxen!” Then the dread of the Lord fell upon the people, and they came out as one man. When he mustered them at Bezek, the people of Israel were three hundred thousand, and the men of Judah thirty thousand. And they said to the messengers who had come, “Thus shall you say to the men of Jabesh-gilead: ‘Tomorrow, by the time the sun is hot, you shall have salvation.’”
“When the messengers came and told the men of Jabesh, they were glad. Therefore the men of Jabesh said,” and here is seems clear they’re speaking now to Nahash and the Ammonites, ““Tomorrow we will give ourselves up to you, and you may do to us whatever seems good to you.” And the next day Saul put the people in three companies. And they came into the midst of the camp in the morning watch and struck down the Ammonites until the heat of the day. And those who survived were scattered, so that no two of them were left together.”
“Then the people said to Samuel, “Who is it that said, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Bring the men, that we may put them to death.” But Saul said, “Not a man shall be put to death this day, for today the Lord has worked salvation in Israel.” Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingdom.” So all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before the Lord in Gilgal. There they sacrificed peace offerings before the Lord, and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly.”
The thing about history is that we don’t know how to evaluate the past until we get to the future. I was listening to an interview recently with an intellectual historian and someone was asking, “Well, what do you think the legacy of this famous person will be?” And the man said, “Well, we won’t know what historians will say until we get several years later into the future. Even though perhaps the man’s work is done, we won’t really know the effect of it until we see, so the most important elements are yet to be discovered.”
And he’s right. You think about say evaluating a president’s legacy. In large degree, it depends on what comes next. Do the policies lead to peace and prosperity? Or do you see in the years ahead that the policies set in motion lead to economic hardship and loss of freedom or to cultural decline. You don’t know until you get more of the future.
When you’re in the middle of the story, you don’t know how things will end up. It’s a good reminder because sometimes we criticize people for not seeing in the moment what everyone sees clearly some years later. You look back with hindsight and you say, “How could you not know?” about that person or that plan or that idea. Well, because life is usually very complicated when you’re living it in the moment.
And how someone might evaluate your life at 25 years old is probably different than how they evaluate your life at 75. And in fact, what they say about 25-year-old you is going to be shaped by what 75-year-old you turn out to be.
Now all of that is to help get our perspective as we try to figure out what to do with this passage. Because we have here the high point of Saul’s life and ministry, and for those living in that moment in the middle of the story, for all they could tell in this particular moment, this king is absolutely the right king.
But if you know the rest of the story, you know that Saul turns out to be quite a failure as a king. So in chapter 10 he’s proclaimed king at Mizpah, here in chapter 11 we find he hasn’t really began much of his reign. You notice in verse 5, he’s still in the field behind the oxen. So he’s not a king on a throne somewhere and leading out an army as of yet. He goes back and, “Hey, I’m king. Well, all right. I guess I go back and I farm the land.”
There’s a further step that happens at the end of this chapter at Gilgal where now the kingship is renewed. That means he is further established and now it’s not just Samuel saying, “You’re the king.” Now by the end of chapter 11 the people are ready to follow him and say, “Yes, that man is our king.”
That’s what the people knew at the end of the story, but we know more of the story. And the author here of 1 Samuel would have known more of the story to understand what Saul was like in the long run, and so we know that he doesn’t on the whole obey the Lord. He doesn’t show himself for the rest of his life to be terribly brave. In fact, he’s jealous, petty, vindictive, people-pleasing, idolatrous, and disobedient. That’s what Saul turned out to really be like.
But here on this moment, on this occasion, we find Saul at his best. The high point of Saul’s reign. So how should we understand this story of Saul’s life in light of the rest of story that we know and that the author would have known?
I want to draw three lessons from Saul’s character in this chapter in light of what we know about his overall character as king. Three lessons for us.
Here’s number one. Lesson number one. For a short time, at least, Saul demonstrated the best traits of a great leader. For a short time, Saul demonstrated the best traits of a great leader. And it’s an example, a model for us, in this one moment.
Here’s the situation, and if you have a Bible, maybe you turn and you look at one of the maps in the back. Sorry, the pew Bibles don’t have those. Or you could just sort of picture Jabesh-gilead is on the eastern side of the Jordan. So you have this sliver of land hugging the Mediterranean, which is on the west, and then running down the middle is the Jordan River, and on the eastern side of the Jordan is this town Jabesh-gilead, 20 miles south of the Sea of Galilee. Sort of halfway between the Dead Sea in the south and the Sea of Galilee in the north.
And if you think about Israel at this time, they are surrounded by various enemies and opponents. So we’ve heard a lot about the Philistines, they’re down in the southwest. You have the Edomites and the Moabites, who are in the southeast. You have the Arameans in the north. And then here on the eastern side, you have the Ammonites, and we’re introduced here to this man Nahash; his name means “snake,” and so he was. He had been oppressing the people of Jabesh to the point where they’re now ready to surrender and they come out and they say, “Make a treat with us, okay? Enough is enough. Make a treaty.”
And implicit in that is, “We will be your servants. Let’s strike a deal. We’ll vow allegiance to you, Nahash.” And Nahash then says in response, “Okay. I’ll cut a covenant with you, but first you need to cut out all of your right eyes.”
On the one hand, it’s a very shrewd tactic, because even without one eye, they could still be subsistence farmers and from their produce they could still pay taxes and tribute to Nahash. So they’re good for something.
And yet without that right eye, they’re not probably going to be much of soldiers as an entire nation, so it subdues them in that respect. And above all of that, we read in the text, he wants it to be an embarrassment, end of verse 2, “And thus bring disgrace on all Israel.” Every time you literally open your eyes it will be a reminder of how puny and pathetic you are and how great and superior Nahash and the Ammonites are.
So the elders respond, verse 3, “Give us seven days. We’re going to try to find a deliverer, and we’ll get back to you.”
Now it may seem strange that the Ammonites would say, “Okay, yeah, sure, take seven days and see if somebody can save you.” But a couple of reasons they would do so.
One, simply out of arrogance, “Yeah, go ahead, yeah, take a week, fine. We are not threatened. Go ahead, take a week, work through your e-mail list and see if you can find anyone to come rescue you. We’ll wait and then we’ll gouge out your eyes.” So there’s a sense of arrogance and pride.
But beyond that, you see what happens? They send messengers throughout Israel to say, “Would somebody come and save us?” and this serves the purpose of the Ammonites, they figure. Remember, the Ammonites want this to be a disgrace, so what better way to signal the embarrassment and the disgrace then for Jabesh itself to send out the messengers, all across Israel as the messengers run to and for, and say, “Jabesh-gilead is about to be overrun by Nahash and all of their right eyes are to be gouged out.” So the embarrassing, shameful circumstances are spread by the Israelites themselves. “So go ahead, take seven days, get back to us, and when you’re thoroughly humiliated, we’ll defeat you then.”
And in response, as the word comes in verse 4 to Gibeah of Saul, the people hear it, they cry, and Saul responds. Here’s the first trait that Saul shows of a great leader: Bravery. He has a righteous anger. Anger is often, usually sinful, but there is a time for appropriate anger, and this was one of them. A righteous indignation. How dare you! The Spirit of God comes upon him for this great act of rescue and courage. He musters the people at Bezek, 300,000 from Israel, 30,000 from Judah. You already have a sense of what we’ll see later in Israel’s history that the kingdom is going to be divided between north and south. There’s already some sort of regionalization here.
Now this is a really large army, 330,000. And it may be that it simply was that large or it may be indicative of all of the fighting men who were available, and not every last one of them might have come out. Or some scholars argue that the word here for “thousand” could be understood as a military contingent, and so just like a centurion, the name was given to be in charge of 100 me, but it may not have actually had 100 men, so maybe the thousands here is a military unit that wouldn’t have necessarily had to have a literal thousand, so the number you could argue might not have been this big.
But it is a substantial turnout, and it instills in them great confidence. Verse 9: “Tomorrow, by the heat of the day, we’ll be victorious.” They are feeding off of Saul’s righteous indignation, his bravery.
We see his second trait, strategy. I almost said strategery, but strategy. The men of Jabesh tell the Ammonites, in verse 10, “All right, time’s up. Looks like tomorrow we’re going to have to surrender.” And incidentally, there’s no indication that they did something sinful by deceiving the Ammonites in this way, than when you are in a moment of war to deceive your enemy is not a violation, it seems, of the commandment, “Do not bear false witness against your neighbor.” This is not a court of law and you’re bearing false witness against your neighbor.
All throughout the Bible you see this, that there’s military ambushes, there’s “we’re going to have lights in the camp so it looks like a people, but we’re over here.” You do this in the course of military activity. You don’t want to telegraph and be transparent with your activities, and so they tell him, “Okay, yeah, tomorrow we’ll surrender.” That’s what happens in war.
But of course, they don’t. Saul has divided his men into three companies, typical military tactic, and in the morning watch, which would have been between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m., the last watch of the night, they come and they rout the unsuspecting Amorites, Ammonites, rather. And they flee not two to a person, all scattered, thoroughly defeated.
Bravery. Strategy. There’s a third trait here. Unity.
Notice what Saul does earlier in the chapter. He cuts up an oxen and he sends the pieces throughout the territory, and he says, “God will chop you into pieces like this oxen if you don’t come out and help us.”
Now we’ll come back to this in just a moment, but there’s a story, a very twisted, nasty story earlier in the Bible at the end of Judges, where something similar happens, except it’s not an oxen, it’s a concubine, and she’s chopped up and sent in pieces to Israel, that everyone would fight against Benjamin, and there the same sort of plea goes out, “Everyone come and marshal your troops as one man,” and ironically perhaps if you have a real knack for Bible trivia, you may remember there was one city that it turns out did not send men to go and fight against Benjamin at the end of Judges, and that was Jabesh-gilead. So now the shoe is on the other foot, “All right, for their sakes, all of you come out as one man.”
But here’s the problem. Israel had often had a very difficult time in marshalling all of the people together. They didn’t yet have a sense of national identity. You can understand if you know something about the history of this country; it was hard at the beginning. Are we really going to come together and fight against the British as one nation? As opposed to Virginians and North Carolinians and Pennsylvanians and men from Boston, look out for our own, our own cities, our own colonies, here our own cities.
We read throughout the Old Testament each of these cities usually had their own elders, and we read it here. They had their own governing sort of unit, and so it’s a challenge. Can we really get everybody to come out when they say, “Look, we’re several days’ journey away from Jabesh. We have problems of our own. We got Philistines down here. Do we really have to leave our home, send out our men, and fight?” Well, here because of Saul’s leadership, they do.
And here’s a fourth trait, finally: Magnanimity. Saul proves himself and when he does so, notice what happens in verse 12. The people are eager to be vindictive. They say to Samuel, “Who is that said, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?'”
Now if you see this and you look back in chapter 10, notice in chapter 10, verse 24, the people shout ‘long live the king!” Verse 25, “Samuel told the people about the rights and the duty of kingship.”
But, verse 27, “Some worthless fellow said, ‘How can this man save us?” and they despised him.”
So that’s what’s in the background. Some men, some worthless fellows, had said, “Hah, harrmph, I don’t think so. This is not going to be our king.” And now that he has proven victorious in such a spectacular fashion, the people say, “Well, let’s go and put an end to those sons of Belial, those worthless fellows.”
But Saul demonstrates this long lost art of magnanimity. It’s a good word for you. Put it into your vocabulary. It does not mean super-majestic. That’s the word “magnificent.” No, this is a different word. The dictionary defines it as “loftiness of spirit, enabling one to bear trouble calmly, to disdain meanness and pettiness, and to display a noble generosity.”
So to look the other way, when you are met with meanness and pettiness and instead to display a noble generosity. That’s magnanimity. It’s an old-fashioned word and we need more of it. The magnanimous person does not bear petty grudges. She does not wallow in self-pity. He does not demand penance. He does not advertise his suffering. He does not stoop to settle every score. Of course, this doesn’t mean that there’s never a time to cry out and pursue justice. Of course there is, and Saul does. But in an age where everyone is scrambling to be perceived as more aggrieved than everyone else, and we would think nothing of re-tweeting our own praise or re-tweeting our own insults, where apologies are routinely demanded and offended-ness is next to godliness, surely we have much to learn about magnanimity. A noble spirit of generosity.
Saul says today is not a day for settling scores, today is not a day of vengeance upon our own people. Today is a day of salvation. Let it go. They didn’t think well of me.
You see this spirit so often in David’s life, a spirit of magnanimity, not willing to stoop to the level of his enemies. Willing to look the other way and disdain the meanness and the pettiness against him, “I’m not going to get in the muck with you. So be it.”
He was, in this time, the leader that they needed.
Here’s the second lesson: The worst people can still manage to do some good things in life. The worst people can still manage to do some good things in life.
On the whole, Saul’s life was marked by failure, cowardice, and disobedience.
When I was a kid, I remember, and I still remember some of this, I bet some of you did this, too. You went through one of those weekend walk through the Bible seminars. I don’t know if they still do this, it’s probably of a certain generation, but you did it and you have somebody who leads you through the Old Testament, the New Testament, and it was a way of telling the whole story of the Bible with different symbols and motions and things you would do. And it was amazing, by the time you got done with one of those half-day seminars, you could with these mnemonic devices sort of tell the whole story line. And the one thing that has always stuck with me was this simple summary of the united monarchy. Maybe some of you remember it: Saul, no heart, David, whole heart, Solomon, half heart. That was the one sentence summary. Solomon, half heart; David, a man after God’s own heart; and then there’s Saul, no heart. That’s the one phrase description of this man and his kingship. He was not a good king.
But here we see at this moment he triumphed. It’s important to remember that. Certainly in our day and age, the world insists on making cartoons out of people. That is to say there are good guys who are all good and there are bad guys who are all bad, and that’s it. And usually whether you’re a good guy or a bad guy depends on whether you get one or two issues right that our world deems to be most important, and if you get those one or two issues right, as our world understands it, you can get everything else wrong. And if you get a whole lot of things right, but you run afoul of our world’s understanding of these one or two issues, then you’re whole record is worthless and you ought to be erased, and we just create cartoon versions of people. Just everyone angels or devils.
The Bible isn’t like that. David was a hero, but we know David did awful things. And they weren’t less awful because David was one of the good guys. And the fact that David sinned didn’t mean he still couldn’t be an example. Now the key with David is he didn’t just sin, he also repented.
Saul mainly got it wrong. So that seminar was right. If you need to summarize it in two words, “No heart.” But here he did get it right. And in this instance, Saul deserved to be celebrated and this act of valor and faithfulness was rightly remembered.
I mentioned earlier about Jabesh-gilead and the story from Judges. Well, there’s more to the story, and it helps you understand what’s going on here because there are a lot of connections in the Old Testament between Gibeah and Jabesh-gilead. It’s hard, because we don’t live in these places, we have to look on them and now where were they? It’s not like somebody saying Winston-Salem and Greensboro and places that we’ve been to. But when you understand some of the history, it helps to make sense what’s going on here.
Saul, remember, was from Gibeah. In fact, look at verse 4, it’s called Gibeah of Saul, because he’s the most prominent person, he’s the first king, he came, and so it became known as Gibeah of Saul. Where was Gibeah? It was in the territory of Benjamin, 42 miles southwest of Jabesh-gilead.
Now think back to Judges. In Judges 19, Gibeah is the city that abused the Levites’ concubine and left her for dead. That was Gibeah. And because of Gibeah’s crime, first they tried to kill the Levite and then they violated his concubine, because of that, all Israel went to war against Benjamin, because it was in the tribe of Benjamin, and against Gibeah in particular.
Some of you may remember the story. It’s a horrible story because everyone did what was right in their own eyes. The tribes of Israel had sworn after they would defeat Benjamin, they had sworn not to let their daughters inter-marry with the tribe of Benjamin. So after the slaughter of the Benjaminites, then they’re left saying, “Okay. Now what do we do?” because this is a tribe in Israel and they have to propagate and they have no wives.
So what do the Israelites say? If you remember the story. They say, “Hmm, we need to find wives for Benjamin. Who did not come up at Mizpah,” and that’s Mizpah, notice, and remember that was where Saul also was proclaimed king, this great gathering place, “Who did not come up at Mizpah to fight against Gibeah?” And you know who didn’t show up? Jabesh-gilead.
So they go and they steal 400 young women from Jabesh-gilead and bring them to the tribe of Benjamin, which was horrible and sinful. But it meant that Gibeah and Jabesh-gilead had a double connection. First, Jabesh-gilead didn’t send men to fight against Gibeah. Now, in the story of Judges, that’s seen as a bad thing because they didn’t do their part. But you can imagine now, years later, when Gibeah hears that there’s trouble in Jabesh-gilead, they think, “You know, that was the one city that didn’t come out and attack us. Maybe we ought to do something for them.”
So that’s one connection. And the second connection is 400 young women from Jabesh-gilead were brought to Gibeah. So there was much intermarrying. Would have been all sorts of family connections between these two places. So both of those facts are certainly in Saul’s mind.
And there’s another connection that happens at the end of the story. When Saul dies in 1 Samuel 31, the Philistines strip his armor, cut off his head, and they put his head, his armor, and his body scattered across their pagan temples, as evidence of further shame and disgrace, just like when they captured the ark they put it in the temple of Dagon. “Ha, we killed your king, we took off his head, his armor, his body, we scattered it around into our temples. What shame and disgrace for you Israelites.”
But who comes? Risking life and limb to retrieve Saul’s dead, dismembered body? Well, we read in 1 Samuel 31, “But when the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, all the valiant men arose and went all night and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan, and they came to Jabesh and burned them there. And they took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree in Jabesh and fasted seven days.”
In other words, when this despicable king finally died, disobedient, the kingdom stripped away from him because of his idolatry and his sinfulness, his people pleasing, his cowardice, yet the men of Jabesh-gilead say, “We remember. He may have been all of those things, but there was a time when he marshalled the forces of Israel and he saved us and every one of us who can blink with two eyes will never forget what Saul did for us.”
And so, of course, the men of Jabesh, the valiant men, would go and raid the Philistine temples and would retrieve the dismembered body of Saul. They burn it because it’s all disgrace but they take the bones and they give it a proper burial back in Jabesh, because of all the places in Israel, these people of Jabesh-gilead are going to remember what Saul had done for them. He may have been a bad king, he may have died in defeat and failure, but every man from Jabesh with two good eyes had Saul to thank. With all his sins and mistakes, there was still something in Saul’s life worth remembering, worth respecting, even the worst of the bad guys sometimes do something right, and here he did. And so he was remembered.
There’s a final lesson. A good beginning does not count for much if the middle and the ending are all bad. A good beginning does not count for much if the middle and the ending are all bad.
This is not the case of someone living a faithful life in service to God and then in their last years they get a little cranky and crotchety and they sort of limp over the finish line in old age. That’s not what we’re talking about. No, this first moment in Saul’s kingship was for all intents and purposes the best moment in Saul’s kingship. It was all downhill from here. He had a tremendous beginning, but it didn’t last.
There’s often a distinction exegetes make between the Spirit in the Old Testament and the New Testament, that the Spirit in the New Testament at Pentecost comes and indwells us, fills us, baptizes us, immerses us, but the Spirit in the Old Testament is often said to come upon someone, rush upon them. The Spirit gives you the ability to accomplish a specific aim or end, and that’s what happens here. It didn’t really change Saul, but the Spirit of God came upon him.
And there may be something worth noting that we read it was the Spirit of God. Usually when we have this language it’s called the “Spirit of the Lord,” given the covenant name Yahweh. Five Israelites were said to have the Spirit of the Lord come upon them in the Old Testament: Othniel, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson, and David. Only twice do we have this reference, this Son of God: One, Saul, the other, Balaam. And maybe we’re meant to see something there because in both of those cases, those men did not end well, and though they had a moment where the Spirit of God led them into triumph, it did not last.
I hope you had the opportunity to watch almost as much of the Olympics as our family did. We watched a lot. Especially swimming, track and field. And if you watched those races, you realize it’s great to have an opening sprint out of the blocks or off the wall, but what you really want is to be the person whose got the great kick at the end. And there were some great races, in the pool, just dusting the people in the last 25 meters, or on the track.
The same is true in life. You want to be a finisher, not a fader. Not just boom! When you were in college and you were in crew or CO or RU, you boom! You got out of the blocks. You were so sprinting for Jesus. And it’s been a limp and a tumble and a fade the rest of the way.
1 John 2:19 gives us the warning: They went out from us, but they were not of us, for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.
Saul is the poster boy for that verse. He began with them but he didn’t finish. I guess in the New Testament it would be Judas, one who began with them but didn’t finish the race.
And we heard about Jabesh-gilead and some of its history and its tie to Gibeah, but there’s another place mentioned here, and its history is important. Gilgal. In 1 Samuel 10:8, recall Gilgal is where Saul waited for seven days before being established as king. So at the outset, Samuel said, “There, wait at Gilgal and you will be established as king.” And then in chapter 11, verse 14, Samuel says again, “Come, let us go back to Gilgal, and there we will renew the kingdom, you will be further cemented and enthroned as our king.”
Well, do you know the place in 1 Samuel 15 where Saul’s kingship will be rejected? Again, it’s at Gilgal. Gilgal was the story of Saul’s life in one place. The kingship received, the kingship renewed, and the kingship rejected. He started, but he didn’t finish.
You can have what looks to be spiritual success without being spiritually changed. Let me say that again. You can have what looks to be spiritual success without being spiritually changed. God is not interested just in you doing a couple of noteworthy, Christian things in your life if it means that you’re not actually from the inside out a genuine Christian person.
Saul could have said, “Well, but what about, remember, what about Jabesh-gilead?” And if it was like the way that, you know, we do funerals, hopefully as Christians we’re different, but you go to funerals. You can always find something to say. You know, okay, his whole life was kind of a dismal failure, but let’s just remember Jabesh today.”
Well, they were right to remember that. That was a part of Saul’s life, too, but it wasn’t tantamount to who he really was.
Saul should be a warning for us. Ask yourself these questions: You had a beginning, how’s your middle, how’s your ending?
Are all of your spiritual high points long ago in the past? If you were to talk about the great work of the Lord in your life, is it all decades ago? Have you mistaken a moment of triumph for a lifetime of faithfulness? And you just keep looking back, that one moment, that one moment, that one great mountain top experience, that one Jabesh-gilead in your past, and then a lifetime of wandering.
Hebrews 12 gives us the antidote. “Let us lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely and let us run with endurance.” Not just boom out of the blocks when the gun goes off. Endurance. The race that is set before us. Well, how are we going to run this race and not end up like Saul?
Here’s what Hebrews says: Looking to Jesus, the founder and the perfecter, of our faith. He’s the one who gets us going and keeps us going. You look to Jesus. You look to Jesus to forgive you when you fail and you wander. You look to Jesus to give you strength to get by. You look to Jesus for the grace that you need when you fail and when you stumble, and you look to Jesus for the power that can be ours to keep running the race with endurance. You need Jesus who will ensure not just that you have a good beginning, but that you run the race to completion and have a good ending.
Let’s pray. Father in heaven, there are lessons for us all throughout Your Word, and so we pray that we would learn from Saul, the good, the bad, and the ugly. We pray most of all that our best spiritual days would not be behind us, but in front of us. That we would not be living on past glories, that we not merely be those who have one or two occasions of Christian experience or success, but a lifetime of plodding, growing, faithfulness. Help us to that and to that end we look to Jesus to keep us going all the way to the end. In His name we pray. Amen.