Today: [1 Chronicles Ten] Consulting Dead Prophets. In this chapter we shift from genealogies to the scene of Saul’s death at the hands of the Philistines. Saul and his sons were slain in battle because Saul rejected Samuel while he was living but attempted to raise him up to receive a word. We often look back upon the unimpeachable testimony of leaders from years past but neglect to identify and seek out the anointed directives of living prophets that God puts in our midst. In all of this the five lords of the Philistines prevailed against the people of God. By learning of Saul’s failures we gain wisdom in how to avoid the same pitfalls in our own life.
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[1Ch 10:1-14 KJV] 1 Now the Philistines fought against Israel; and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines, and fell down slain in mount Gilboa. 2 And the Philistines followed hard after Saul, and after his sons; and the Philistines slew Jonathan, and Abinadab, and Malchishua, the sons of Saul. 3 And the battle went sore against Saul, and the archers hit him, and he was wounded of the archers. 4 Then said Saul to his armourbearer, Draw thy sword, and thrust me through therewith; lest these uncircumcised come and abuse me. But his armourbearer would not; for he was sore afraid. So Saul took a sword, and fell upon it. 5 And when his armourbearer saw that Saul was dead, he fell likewise on the sword, and died. 6 So Saul died, and his three sons, and all his house died together.
The first nine chapter of 1 Chronicles cover the ethnic parameters and geneology of the Hebrew people right down to the time of the return from exile in Babylon. Ezra is establishing a reminder to the returned exiles of their contiguous connection by bloodline right down to the time of Abraham himself. Now he shifts and overlooking the histories of Moses, Joshua and the Judges begins his history by opening on the scene of Saul and his sons slain in battle.
It is interesting to note that the Philistines were few in number in the time of Abraham. They originated in the isle of Crete and only came in force to Canaan after Joshua led the people in conquest of the Promised Land. They were led by what the scripture refers to as the “five lords of the Philistines” and were fierce warriors. They were the first tribe in the region to widely and effectively make use of iron and because of this warred very successful against the tribes and peoples they usurped including the Israelites. They were also a seafaring people who imported arms and weaponry from foreign lands which they used to great advantage against Israel.
The five cities of the Philistines were Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron and Gath. The name Philistine means “one who divides” or “divider”. As skilled iron workers we know that iron in the bible is a type of judgment and judgmentalism. There is no greater weapon against God’s people than division fueled by judgmental attitudes. Of the seven things that God hates discord is strongly emphasised:
[Pro 6:16-19 KJV] 16 These six [things] doth the LORD hate: yea, seven [are] an abomination unto him: 17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, 19 A false witness [that] speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.
We often equate the idea of a Philistine with rampant secularism but in truth the character of a Philistine as revealed in scripture is much more descriptive of attitudes found in the prevailing religious mentality in Christian culture itself. The very nature of Christian culture is built in divisiveness and judgmentalism. There are over 16,000 identifiable denominations and sects. When two Christians get together very commonly the burning question is what are the divisions among them. What denomination or group are you a part of?
The Philistines warred against Saul and he and his sons are slain in battle. Saul himself is wounded by archers and falls on his sword to avoid being taken prisoner. When a people are divided and ruled by the five lords of the Philistines they very often will direct their firey darts at their leaders. The five lords of the Philistines represent the five senses and making judgment by natural means rather than judging righteous judgment. Isaiah spoke of righteous judgment in Isaiah 11:
[Isa 11:2-3 KJV] 2 And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; 3 And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:
Many times we make snap judgments based on appearances or rumours but if we choose to have the mind of Christ we refrain from yeilding to natural reasoning and wait to hear from God. Saul when seeing his grievous wound fears being abused by the Philistines and takes his own life.
7 And when all the men of Israel that [were] in the valley saw that they fled, and that Saul and his sons were dead, then they forsook their cities, and fled: and the Philistines came and dwelt in them. 8 And it came to pass on the morrow, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his sons fallen in mount Gilboa. 9 And when they had stripped him, they took his head, and his armour, and sent into the land of the Philistines round about, to carry tidings unto their idols, and to the people. 10 And they put his armour in the house of their gods, and fastened his head in the temple of Dagon.
After discovering Saul’s body the Philistines take his head as a trophy to the temple of their god Dagon. Dagon was a fish god and as such represents unredeemed humanity. What does the head of Saul represent? He was God’s anointed king. God was his head. When God’s people are led by leaders with a Saul mentality and allow divisiveness and natural mindedness to rule them – God becomes a mockery to lost humanity. The unredeemed look on at the ego driven leadership of the church and the divisiveness in our ranks and have nothing but scorn for the God we claim to serve. What is the alternative? Jesus made this plain in His teachings:
[Jhn 13:35 KJV] 35 By this shall all [men] know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
The world is not convinced and the devil is not intimidated by our belief systems or our denominational integrity. Our theology is ineffective in reaching the lost. The millions spent on impressive buildings, expansive programs, music and entertainment have not stemmed the tide of ungodliness and secularism. Church growth institutes study indepth to find the key to influencing our world for Christ but they ignore the lords of the Philistines who hold the people of God in thrall to leaders with a Saul mentality and divisiveness and competition. Jesus in John 13:35 presents the simple and radical solution to impacting our world – love not just for the sinner but for one another.
[Mat 23:11 KJV] 11 But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.
Leadership in the church is very much shaped by the Saul mentality of choosing a larger than life leader. Saul was a man said to be “head and shoulders” above his peers, a man of charisma with a forceful personality. This is not the key to greatness in the kingdom of God. Jesus tells us that he that would be great (Heb. “mega”) among us will do so by being a servant. Most leaders would say that is what they are doing so we must extract our definition of servanthood not from the gilded thrones of Christian leadership today but by the example set by Jesus and the disciples.
11 And when all Jabeshgilead heard all that the Philistines had done to Saul, 12 They arose, all the valiant men, and took away the body of Saul, and the bodies of his sons, and brought them to Jabesh, and buried their bones under the oak in Jabesh, and fasted seven days. 13 So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the LORD, [even] against the word of the LORD, which he kept not, and also for asking [counsel] of [one that had] a familiar spirit, to enquire [of it]; 14 And enquired not of the LORD: therefore he slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse.
Saul is dead. When our leaders falter and fail we usually expunge them from our minds and give no more heed to their fate. One of the most offensive things a fallen leader can do is to fail to go away and fade from view. The men of Jabesh were said to be valiant men who hazarded their lives to recover the body of Saul from the depredations of the Philistines. We have to decide while will influence us more – the testimony of a once great leader or the threats of the Philistines who will revile you because you refuse to mock with them over the failures of an imperfect man or woman who once led you in Christ? The men of Jabesh recovered Saul’s body and buried him in a revered location in their midst. They then fasted seven days to cleanse themselves ceremonially from the defilement of the whole situation.
Why did Saul die? Because the Philistines got the upper hand? No – Saul died because he was instructed of the prophet Samuel and decided to choose his own path. He died because he as a king in Israel rejected the prophetic. It is no different for God’s leaders today. The church mocks the idea of the prophet and continues to be defeated before her enemies. Leaders marginalize the need for the prophet and sadly and often pay a deep price of suffering at times in very personal ways.
Saul also died because he inquired of the dead or sought out a necromancer to raise up Samuel. So it is interesting that he rejected Samuel while he lived but sought him out after death. Do leaders do this today? They scour the histories to follow the example of prophets and leaders now dead whose testimonies are established but reject the living prophetic voices in their midst. The caution for you and I regardless how our leaders may fail we must make a determination when we will and when we will NOT follow their example.
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