If we left David in some turmoil last time, living in Gath and about to fight for the Philistines (1 Sam 27), our focus now returns to King Saul, who is in an even worse position. Knowing that the Lord has departed from him and facing the might of the Philistines, Saul is terrified. Not receiving answers from God in any conventional way, he turns to what is prohibited and seeks a medium in Endor to conjure up the spirit of Samuel to tell him what to do. (1 Sam 28) If he thought that would bring reassurance and positive news, he is sorely disappointed. Samuel does not hesitate to remind him of his disobedience which has brought him to this place and even predicts his death at the hands of the Philistines and the passing over of his kingdom to David. Saul ends the chapter devastated and broken, a terrified man with no hope and no future.

Saul has not learned wisdom or humility. 1 Chronicles 10:13-14 gives us a blunt obituary: ‘Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord; he did not keep the word of the Lord and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the Lord. So the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.’ Throughout recent chapters, we have seen repeatedly that Saul does not fully turn away from his sin; his moments of lucidity and recognition of God’s will are outweighed by his own sense of entitlement and fear. He is a vivid example of how not to live. He never seems to embrace God’s plans for his life, but keeps on trying to do things his way.

His independence, stubbornness and wilful disobedience (since he had banished all the spiritists and mediums from Israel, he could hardly plead ignorance of God’s law!) are all typical of mankind. We too can be like Saul, justifying our actions, having a spirituality that is only skin-deep. What God requires, David learned, was truth in the inward parts; integrity which has absorbed God’s commands and submitted to them, no matter what the circumstances. Sadly, Saul does not learn, does not repent. The consequences, Samuel reminds him, will come. We do well to learn from his mistakes so we avoid repeating them (see also 1 Cor 10:1-13).