Saul’s Downfall 1 Sam 15:17 CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
King Saul had four problems that caused his downfall: pride, the fear of man, envy, and an evil spirit from the Lord. Three of these were his problems. The fourth was given to him by the Lord as a result of the first three.
We’re going to study how these problems manifested themselves in Saul’s life and how they affected him. As we do, you need to check how these problems may be affecting your own life. How they affected Saul is how they will affect you. Saul’s downfall resulted from:
Pride – 1 Sam 15:17 – at the beginning of Saul’s reign, he was “little” in his own sight. He was humble [1 Sam 10:22]. But during his reign, it became evident that he was very proud. When he offered the sacrifice at Gilgal, he justified himself by saying, “the people we scattered from me,” [1 Sam 13:11]. After failing to keep the commandment of God in his battle against Amalek, Saul said, “I have performed the commandment of the Lord,” [1 Sam 15:13]. Even after he was proven wrong, he said, “I have obeyed the voice of the Lord,” [1 Sam 15:20]. When he was rejected by the Lord, he asked Samuel to “honour me now, I pray thee, before the elders of my people,” [1 Sam 15:30]. When David escaped to Adullam, Saul complained to his men, “That all of you have conspired against me, and there is none that sheweth me that my son hath made a league with the son of Jesse, and there is none of you that is sorry for me, or sheweth unto me that my son hath stirred up my servant against me, to lie in wait, as at this day,” [1 Sam 22:8]?
It was Saul’s pride that compelled him to pretend to be spiritual. He used “the worship” of God to bring himself personal honor [1 Sam 15:30]. In this regard, he was just like the proud Pharisees [Jn 5:44; Matt 23:2, 5]. When the battle continued after Jonathan’s success against the garrison, Saul made an oath saying, “Cursed be the man that eateth any food until evening, that I may be avenged on mine enemies,” [1 Sam 14:24]. This wasn’t about God; it was about Saul.
Look at the difference between him and Jonathan and him and David. Jonathan depended upon the Lord and the Lord fought for Jonathan [1 Sam 14:6, 12, 23, 45]. David depended upon the Lord and the Lord fought for David [1 Sam 17:45-51]. These men had real faith in the Lord and the Lord blessed them for his glory. By contrast, Saul used the Lord for his own glory. How about you? Are you being “spiritual” so you can attract attention to yourself? This could be your downfall.
The fear of man – Saul started out as a good man [1 Sam 9:2]. The Spirit of God came upon him [1 Sam 10:10]. And the Lord gave Israel victory through him in battle [1 Sam 11:6-13]. After his initial success, God gave conditions for Israel’s continued success [1 Sam 12:14-15]. They and their king were to fear God, among other things.
However, after this, the next problem appeared. Saul feared his own people. Yet, he was not afraid to use God to mitigate that fear. When the Philistines gathered to avenge their losses after Jonathan defeated the garrison of the Philistines that was in Geba, the people hid and scattered from Saul [1 Sam 13:6, 8]. So, Saul offered a burnt offering to keep the rest of the people from fleeing [1 Sam 13:11]. When you fear men, you do not fear God. This was a terrible sin.
Later, Saul called for the priest to bring the ark after Jonathan and his armorbearer killed the garrison of 20 men between Michmash and Gibeah [1 Sam 14:18]. He was just using the ark for the same effect that the elders of Israel had used it in 1 Sam 4:3-5. He was using it to make it look like God was on his side. It was for show. There was no fear of God in that decision.
When Saul disobeyed the commandment of the Lord in his battle against Amalek, he confessed the reason was, “because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice,” [1 Sam 15:24]. He justified his decision by offering to sacrifice some of the spoil to the Lord [1 Sam 15:21]. He was just like the Pharisees [Matt 21:46; Mk 11:32, 12:12]. A big religious show for the people. Is your “worship” motivated by the fear of man? This could be your downfall.
Envy – 1 Sam 13:3-4 – Saul could not stand anyone else getting more credit than him for Israel’s victories. Jonathan smote the garrison but Saul took the credit. When God used Jonathan and his armorbearer to start the great victory against the Philistines in 1 Sam 14, Saul was ready to kill Jonathan over it [1 Sam 14:39, 44]. Of course, he made a big spiritual display by casting lots, but his fear of the people prevailed and he couldn’t go through with his plan [1 Sam 14:45]. Note: Jonathan was taken by the casting of lots because Saul was merely interested in revealing the man who violated his curse [1 Sam 14:24 (yet he was innocent, see 1 Sam 14:27)] rather than the sinner whom God refused to answer [1 Sam 14:37-38].
And when it came to David, the situation was even worse. After David killed Goliath and then performed valiantly in battle, Saul couldn’t stand David [1 Sam 18:7-9]. As David continued to have success, the problem only grew worse [1 Sam 18:28-29]. And you know, from reading 1 Samuel, that Saul pursued David until he finally left Judah and fled with his men to Achish. In this regard, Saul was just like the Pharisees [Matt 27:18]. The Pharisees couldn’t stand that Jesus had more power and more of a following than they did. Who do you envy that the Lord appears to bless more than he blesses you?
The evil spirit – 1 Sam 16:14 – this aspect of Saul’s problems explains his drastic “mood” swings. On the one hand, he loved David [1 Sam 16:21] and was glad to have him with him [1 Sam 18:2, 5]. He even called him “my son,” [1 Sam 24:16]. But, on the other hand, he was obsessed with killing David. He relentlessly pursued David to kill him and then he would repent [1 Sam 19:16; 24:16-22, etc.]. This strange, inconsistent behavior was the work of that evil spirt in Saul. What similar evidence is there that an evil spirit might be messing with you?
Conclusion: pride, the fear of man and envy will ruin you in your walk with God. Like Saul, it may take years for these things to reveal themselves in their fulness in your life. If you recognize any of these in you now, cut them off before an evil spirit takes hold and really messes you up. They were Saul’s downfall; don’t let them be yours.