“For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king.” 1 Samuel 15:23
Crossing the finish line after a grueling marathon must incite a feeling of overwhelming relief and accomplishment. I say “must” because I am not a runner. However, I can imagine the feeling, having “finished” other things that seemed impossible and required perseverance to endure (like raising teenagers). Unfortunately, King Saul did not finish well. In fact, I would say he is one of the most prominent cautionary tales in the Old Testament. Anointed the first king of Israel, as a young man King Saul was humble in his own sight. However, as he grew in power he also grew in self-reliance and pride. Therefore, by the time Samuel admonishes Saul in 1 Samuel 15, he is rebellious, prideful and distant from the Lord.
Personally, finishing well gives me great satisfaction and joy; especially since completing a project or achieving a goal is not my strongest attribute. So, when it does happen I feel great, especially if God was glorified. Even greater will the joy be when, at the end of my life, I finish the race, running across the finish line straight into the arms of Abba who says, “Well done!” Still, the question remains, why didn’t King Saul finish well? How did this tall, handsome, humble man become a king with a hard heart? Most importantly, how did this anointed King fall out of favor with God? 1 Samuel 15:10-11 tells us: “Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel, saying, ‘I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands.’ And Samuel was distressed and cried out to the Lord all night.”
Most assuredly, the answer is pride. Saul had decided in his heart that he was just as capable of making “good” decisions as God. Little by little Saul recessed into the bowels of self-absorption until he no longer honored God or His prophet, Samuel. Self-absorption and hard-heartedness are stones that build a path to spiritual calamity. We are all prone to the idea that we know better. Romans 9:20a says, “But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God?” The word translated “talk back to” is the Greek verb antapokrinomai. It means “to contradict in reply, to answer by contradiction, reply against” (Strong’s G470). Which prompts the question; am I talking back to God in any area of my life? It can be a subtle slide into spiritual fatigue as we log the miles this side of Heaven. I want to encourage you to finish well, as many have spurred me on in the race of life. If you don’t already, surround yourself with Christian encouragers who are running with perseverance. More importantly, be that encourager to someone else, thinking little of yourself as you “stimulate one another to love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24) so we may all finish well as we break the ribbon between heaven and Earth.
“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” Acts 20:24