“And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son… The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places: how are the mighty fallen! Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon; lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph” (2 Sam. 1:17-25).
This was a tragic end of a story of a man that had started so well. The story of a man who was a mighty warrior. A man who led Israel through powerful victories in war. The story of a great man – “whose name was Saul, a choice young man, and a goodly: and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he: from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people” (1 Sam.9:2).
Our question: How did the “mighty” fall?
First notice where they fell from – “the high places”! Normally, we expect the mighty to be strong and enduring, and we expect the high places of power to be secure with fortitude. That word “fortitude” means “bravery over a long period of time.” That’s exactly what often characterises people who ascend to high places; they reach there through a long journey of overcoming many obstacles, and in the process there is so much to learn and this in turn should build virtue in a person’s character. It is for this reason that when your life climbs a certain high place – whether as a parent, a leader in church, or whichever situation of your life – there will be people looking up to you as an inspiration. However, it is in that high place that many have fallen. Now, many fall from the high place not because there are greater temptations there but because of losing the consistent firm stand they once had. Please always remember that there is no such a thing as a temptation greater than your strength. Whatever temptation comes your way, there is already sufficient strength in you to overcome it – “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Cor.10:13).
It is important to know that it can take quite a long period of time for conditions and circumstance to transform a person into a form that can make them a pillar of their household, but yet it can only take seconds for one to destroy everything when they fall in error! Do you know that King Saul was called and chosen of God? In Samuel 10:1 we read about the prophet Samuel exclaiming to Saul, “Is it not because the LORD hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance?” Furthermore Samuel announced to the people, “See ye him whom the LORD hath chosen” (1 Sam.10:24). Surely Saul was called and chosen. However, he was not faithful in his calling. And it is faithfulness that really matters. We cannot boast, so to speak, of our calling or election as we are called and chosen not on the merits of anything but on the basis of Him who foreknew us. However, to be acclaimed “well done, my good and faithful servant” requires a test of time during which one should prove their calling. It is during this process that the mighty fall, either due to FEAR OF PEOPLE, CARES OF LIFE or JEALOUSY. At least we know that these are the things that caused King Saul to fall.
Notice that whenever King Saul was caught disobeying God’s command, his excuses to Samuel always had something to do with fear of the people. At one time the Philistines gathered to war with Israel. As usual, they had to wait for Samuel to offer the sacrifice. That was not the task of a king to do. But on that day, as people panicked and Saul felt that Samuel had delayed to show up, he went ahead to offer the burnt offering. Then as soon as he was done presenting the burnt offering Samuel showed up. “What hast thou done” the prophet asked. “I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash” (1 Sam.13:10-11). And as we shall see later, there was another incident when King Saul was ordered to destroy everything but he spared some spoil. When he was questioned by the prophet, he explained: “I feared the people, and obeyed their voice” (1 Sam.15:24). The weakness of Saul was always trying to please people. A person with such an attitude will have very little use in God’s hands. It is important to know that people will always have opinions, likes, and dislikes whether you do the right thing or not. In being obsessed with thinking about what people would say or think, Saul ended up making grave mistakes. It has been said that there are three important things: being sincere with people, being sincere with God and being sincere with yourself and the greatest of these is being sincere with yourself. You cannot be sincere with people if you are not sincere with God, and you cannot be sincere with God if you are not sincere with yourself! Believe it or not, much of the great events that we read about in history of how certain men set the right direction for others to follow would never have been if the men and women God used were so obsessed with what people felt about them. It is important to know that whereas in politics the strength of a leader is in being in favour with people, in God our strength is in standing upon His Word and nothing else.
Going back to the incident when Saul was afraid of the people and hence had to spare the spoil, here is what he first explained to Samuel: “the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God in Gilgal” (1 Sam.15:20-21). Really? Were the people truly concerned about giving sacrifices to God? Remember recently these are the same people who had disregarded the words God had spoken to Samuel regarding the choosing of the King. How did they suddenly get so concerned about worshipping God and offering Him sacrifices? Well, the real reason is evident in what Saul later explained when Samuel rebuked him: “I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice” (v.24). Look at those three words – “I feared the people.” How could Saul fear the people if they were merely expressing a desire to worship God? Here it is: there was something about the conduct of these people that never wanted to ‘waste’ the spoil of war by burning up and destroying everything. They certainly wanted something to keep of “the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings” (v.9). Their words and behaviour to Samuel were simply deceptive. Behind their words was a care more for what they could gain from the spoil of war than worship and an offering to God. King Saul knew this but went ahead to display the deceit before Samuel. That is what happens when people are so obsessed with cares of this life – money, wealth, security and all such things. Before one realises it, he or she willl find themselves tending to the cares of life at the expense of God’s Word. Surprisingly, when a person is in such a situation, they can deceive themselves to justify some aspects of their actions to be of service for God. However, one cannot truly serve both God and mammon – “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Mat.6:24). Think of it, what has caused all the confusion in the Pentecostal movement? It is the lust for fame and the wealth of the world.
The vice of fame is motivated by jealousy – living as though you are in competition or on a race with someone. This is what led to much of the madness of King Saul. When David killed Goliath, King Saul felt that people were now giving attention to the young man instead of to the king of the land – “And the women answered one another as they played, and said, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands. And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him; and he said, They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but the kingdom?” (1 Sam.18:7-8). It is interesting to note that jealousy can thrive on petty issues and make its actor look foolish as he or she plays the drama of portraying themselves to be the prominent or superior ones. If one doesn’t guard against it, he or she may end up in a delusional state. It is important to always remember that in life you are not in competition with anyone, neither are you supposed to race against other people. You have a unique story to write and it has its own unique tests, so there is no need to plagiarise or compete. The only thing you have to race against with is that thing called Time. You are equipped with the ink of blood and the pen of life to write a story on the pages of time. Write your story well. Also note that what make up the highlights of your story are not your happy moments but times of your trials and tests.