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1 Samuel 31



Introduction

In this passage, the Israelites fought against the Philistines and were slain on Mount Gilboa (v1). It appears that the author is reluctant to revisit this war because it was a sad, dark and tragic chapter in Israel’s history. In contrast to Chapters 29-30, there was no sign of God’s help and deliverance. However, despite this woeful tragedy, there are four things that we can learn from the stories of Israel and Saul’s family.



  1. The faithfulness of God’s servant

In v2 – we see that even though Jonathan was the crown prince of Israel, he was willing to support David as the future king because he knew that David had been anointed by God (see 1 Sam 14). At the same time, Jonathan remained faithful by his father’s side till his death. Why did God not allow Jonathan to be king and instead let his life end tragically in war? This is an understandable question to have, but it comes from a fundamental misconception of God: which is that He will grant us success and answer all our prayers (according to our own will) if we faithfully obey Him and actively take part in His church. Jonathan served the Kingdom of God, and he knew that God alone had the sole right to choose who would be the King of Israel. Jonathan knew that his calling was to be faithful in his duty, in whatever capacity and condition. Echoing DL Davis, (who may have quoted Jim Elliott): “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose”.


  1. God’s Words never fail

In v6 – Saul, his sons and all his men died, which is the exact fulfilment of what was prophesied in 1 Samuel 28:19. Even though this was a disheartening prophesy, it is proof that God’s words never fail. In application, we can learn that just as His prophesies were fulfilled for Saul, so will His promises and grace be fulfilled in our lives (see Jeremiah 32:40-41). When we cannot see proof of God’s grace, let us remember that He sent His only Son, let us look to the cross. When we cannot see God’s goodness, let us walk by faith and not by sight.


  1. What our focus should be

In v8-10 – the news about Israel’s defeat was intentionally spread. In the Old Testament, wars were not only fought between nations but between Jahweh, God of the Israelites, and the gods of other nations. Because of this, the Israelites felt a deep sadness as the honour of God was at stake. Here, the author challenges us to discern if God’s honour is the main focus of our lives. One example is the story of Esther Edward Burr. Despite her deep sorrow over her 41-year-old husband’s death, she wrote a letter to her father, Jonathan Edward, to say that her biggest wish was to not bring dishonour to God’s name. Similarly, in Psalms 73, the psalmist resolved not to betray God despite his difficult situation, and instead tried to understand God’s perspective. God will honour those who honour Him.


  1. Our gratitude

In v11 – the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead risked their lives to take the bodies of Saul and his sons in order to bury them properly. The people of Jabesh-gilead acted in gratitude, for they remembered how Saul had helped them by defeating the Ammonites. This is similar to how the women who followed Jesus through His crucifixion and burial were the first to bring herbs to His tomb at the day of His resurrection. These are acts of gratitude, prompted by hears filled with thanksgiving. Let us do this also for our fellow brethren today.

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