Today from Chuck Swindoll. If you've ever stepped outside the boundaries and willfully disobeyed what you knew to be God's best, then you know the consequences far outweigh the short-lived benefits. In this next message, we'll be reminded that even those who once followed God with devotion can forget the futility of their rebellion. We'll begin by reading the passage together so that the story unfolds before our eyes.
Chuck titled his message, Two Deaths, a Study in Contrast. The late Peter Marshall, while he was the chaplain of the Senate, told a story that is hard to forget. Listen carefully. It was an old legend of a merchant in Baghdad who one day sent his servant to the market. Before very long the servant came back, white and trembling, and in great agitation said to his master, Down in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd, and when I turned around I saw that it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture. Master, please lend me your horse, for I must hasten away to avoid her.
I will ride to Samara, and there I will hide, and Death will not find me. The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant galloped away in great haste. Later the merchant went down to the marketplace and saw Death standing in the crowd. He went over to her, and he asked, Why did you frighten my servant this morning? Why did you make that threatening gesture? Death responded, That was not a threatening gesture. It was only a start of surprise.
I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I have an appointment with him tonight in Samara. We all have an appointment with Death, and for some life will end tragically, as it did for King Saul and all of his sons, as we will learn today from the section of Scripture we are looking at. Centuries later, however, Jesus would fulfill the plan of God the Father from eternity past and appear on earth as a man and as our Savior, Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, as Paul puts it in his letter to Timothy. For those who have believed this gospel and whose lives are in Christ, there is no more fear of death. Christ has abolished that fear.
These two deaths, as described in our message today, are studies in contrast. Please turn with me in your Bibles to 1 Samuel chapter 31. We will begin our reading with verse 1. 1 Samuel 31 verse 1. Now the Philistines were fighting against Israel, and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines and fell slain on Mount Gilboa. 2 The Philistines overtook Saul and his sons, and the Philistines killed Jonathan and Abinadab and Malkeshua, the sons of Saul. 3 The battle went heavily against Saul, and the archers hit him, and he was badly wounded by the archers. 4 Then Saul said to his armor-bearer, Draw your sword, and pierce me through with it.
Otherwise these uncircumcised will come and pierce me through and make sport of me. 5 But his armor-bearer would not, for he was greatly afraid. 6 So Saul took his sword and fell on it. When his armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell on his sword and died with him. 7 Thus Saul died with his three sons, his armor-bearer, and all his men on that day together. 8 When the men of Israel, who were on the other side of the valley, with those who were beyond the Jordan, saw that the men of Israel had fled, and that Saul and his sons were dead, they abandoned the cities and fled. 9 Then the Philistines came and lived in them. 10 It came about on the next day, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. They cut off his head and stripped off his weapons, and sent them throughout the land of the Philistines, to carry the good news to the house of their idols and to the people. 11 They put his weapons in the temple of Ashtaroth, and they fastened his body to the wall of Bethshan. 12 Now when the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, all the valiant men rose and walked all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Bethshan, and they came to Jabesh and burned them there.
13 They took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree in Jabesh, and fasted seven days. This is Insight for Living. For resources designed to help you dig deeper into today's topic, go to insight.org. And now Chuck Swindoll's message titled, Two Deaths, a Study in Contrast. Some time ago, my oldest son and I did something unusual. We took a stroll through the local graveyard. A couple of things happened.
First of all, you get a good deal of perspective on life. There's something about reading gravestones that does that. And second, you realize that your day is coming. And as you read the truth of what people write, and you'll be amazed, by the way, at what is written. You see a whole lot of things about life sort of passing in review. I read this past week about a tombstone that reads with these unusual words up in New England. Beneath this sod and lump of clay lies Arabella Young, who on the 26th of May began to hold her tongue. We run across a tombstone that read these words. Really read these words.
You can't win. Tells you a lot about that person, doesn't it? What's going to appear on your epitaph?
What words will say what your life was all about? You know, it's something to think about. It's interesting that in every one, on every one of those stones, there appears the same mark. No matter how long they lived or where they were born or what day they died or how great or how small, there is the same mark that reveals their life.
And that's a small little horizontal dash appearing between two dates. And that is life. From the beginning of that dash to the end of it, and it is about the right size in light of eternity to describe our lives, there is a life that is lived. Yet life is a lot like a coin. You can spend it any way you want to, but you can only spend it once. Only once.
How are you spending it? We're taking a little bit of a parenthetical trip in the study of David to discover what happened to the man who was the arrow in his side, the dart in his life, the savage, the man who could have been a discipler, but was, if he could have had his way, was David's murderer. And I want you to see, first of all, his epitaph, and then I want you to see how he died.
It's a sad, pathetic study and tragedy, really. The epitaph is in five words as they appear on the 21st verse of the 26th chapter of 1 Samuel. Locate that single verse and I'll show you the words as they appear. 1 Samuel 26, 21. Saul said, I have sinned. Return, my son David, for I will not harm you again because my life was precious in your sight this day. Behold, here's the epitaph, I have played the fool and have committed a serious error.
In one fell swoop, that describes the life of Saul, believe it or not. I have played the fool. I had God on my side and I lived as though he were not in existence. There was a great glorious sunrise in my career in which he anointed me as the king, or at least the people did. I was the pick of the litter in Israel. I was a head above all the other men, I was handsome, I was attractive, I was winsome, I was a strong natural leader.
I was the man who could do the job, voted the people of Israel. But they didn't know the inside of me and I have played the fool. J. Sidlow Baxter describes what it means to play the fool.
Listen carefully. A man plays the fool when he neglects his godly friends. A man plays the fool when he goes on enterprises for God before God has sent him. A man plays the fool when he disobeys God even in seemingly small matters. A man plays the fool when he tries to cover up his disobedience to God by religious excuses. A man plays the fool when he tries to persuade himself that he's doing the will of God, when all the while down deep in his heart he knows otherwise. He plays the fool when he allows some jealousy or hatred to master and enslave and deprave him as Saul did. A man plays the fool when he knowingly fights against God. A man plays the fool when he turns from God, the God he has grieved, and seeks an alternative in spiritism, in traffic with spirits in the beyond. Whether or not you want to believe it, Saul did all those things and he knew it. He willfully disobeyed and he wrote on his tombstone, David, I played the fool. People look at me and they think, my, what a king. But God sees me and he says, what a fool. What a foolish, empty life. Now before we turn to his death, I want you to ask yourself, the role you're playing today, is it authentic? Is it genuinely Christian? If someone were suddenly able to snap you from time into eternity, what would your family write on the stone?
Better than that, the only one that can read the secrets of your heart, what would he write on it? It's hard to be that honest, but Saul not only lived a foolish life, he died a foolish death. You can't believe it's the Saul that began so brightly as he began. In 1 Samuel 31, just five chapters later, we read the ending of his life and it's so sad.
It's the obituary account that God writes of Saul's closing days. You know, one of the helpful things about the ministry is that we traffic with people in crisis. And so we can't live in an unreal world. I don't know many pastors doing the right kind of job who are unrealistic, fantasy kind of men. We're a realistic bunch, not perfect, but realistic. We live in a real world where people die daily, where tragedy strikes, where calamity hits, where carnality strikes deeply and lives are led astray. And they come bleeding and bruised and finally willing to admit what's happened.
Sometimes they don't know. Saul had apparently lost all interest in counselors. He had no desire to be with those that could have helped him. And a man who could have been strategically used of God to train his replacement became an embittered small man.
What a way to die, huh? It says in verse 1 and down through verse 6 in this passage that two significant things happened all of a sudden. First, there was a battle that was raging, and second, there was a king who died.
Both of them are rather pathetic scenes, but they're realistic. Look at the battle. The Philistines were fighting against Israel, and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines and fell slain on Mount Gilboa. It's a picture of the battle and the battle that is being lost. Any of you men who fought in the Korean War need only remember the Choson Reservoir.
Any of you that fought in the days of the Second World War can only remember the misery of Bataan as it fell and fell miserably. Here was a scene of battle in which their bodies strewn like litter along the highway, the freeway, and the Philistines have come to mop up and to finish off the job a sadistic bunch. Those Philistines, they loved nothing more than bloodshed. We read that they overtook Saul and his sons.
Look at the massacre. The Philistines killed Jonathan, that's David's closest friend, Abinadab, and Malkeshua, the sons of Saul. All three, maybe right in front of Saul, maybe right down the hillside where Saul and this vantage point where the king would be watched the slaughter of his sons.
We don't know, but they died in that battle at Mount Gilboa. Then it fell Saul's turn. The battle went heavily against Saul.
Note this carefully. The archers hit him. I take it that the arrows stuck in his body.
He couldn't get them out and he began to bleed profusely. The archers hit him. He was badly wounded by the archers. The Latin Vulgate says he was wounded in the abdomen. It was a mortal wound. The point is he couldn't escape. He was dying. The arrows were pierced into his body. It was an abdominal wound and he could not get away. He was dying.
It's a pathetic scene and look at what he does. He said to his armor bearer, draw your sword and pierce me through with it, lest these uncircumcised come and pierce me through and make sport of me. But his armor bearer would not for he was greatly afraid, loyal to the end, wasn't he? He wouldn't take the life of his master.
So Saul took his sword and he fell on it. John Toland has written a biography on the life of Hitler, calling it simply Adolf Hitler. In the last part of the second volume, he reveals the infamous death of this mad dictator.
I just reviewed it this evening before I came to the service. It's amazing the similarity between these two deaths, by the way. This man did not want the enemy to sport with his body. That was one of the driving desires in Adolf Hitler. He did not want to be found dead. He didn't want to be embalmed and then strutted all over the allied countries to prove how futile his dictatorship really was. So he left explicit plans. He, along with his wife Eva, sat alone in a room and she took poison, a small capsule, and he put his trusted revolver to his temple and he blew his brains out. He, by direct design and by his plans, called upon his aides ahead of time when they found him. After hearing the gunshot, they would go in, they would take the bodies out, put them in a slight recess there, and they would drench them with gasoline and set them on fire.
That's exactly what happened. And Toland reveals that when the remains were charred to a little pile of dust, they were picked up in bags and placed deep within a trench and covered over so that no remains would ever be found of his or her bodies. And Saul said, I don't want to be sported by the enemy. I don't want the adversary to have anything to say about Saul. Isn't it interesting he's very concerned about his image with the enemy, but not concerned too much about his relationship with God. By the way, that happens when we're carnal. We're very, very concerned about what people will say to us, even to the end, but somehow there's a lost contact with what God thinks and what God might say.
There's not a word in here about prayer. It says that he fell on his sword and he died, and his bodyguard, his armor bearer fell on his sword, and all those men died together that day. There are five suicide accounts in the Bible.
My counting is correct. These are the first two, Saul and his armor bearer, and they died by the sword. The next is the account in 2 Samuel 17, 23, where I think it was a believer. It's hard to say for sure, but probably a believer by the name of Ahithophel, a counselor of Absalom took his life by hanging. It says he got his house in order and he hanged himself. The fourth account in the Bible of a suicide is Zimri, Z-I-M-R-I, a king who burned himself to death in a house. 1 Kings 16, 18, Zimri takes his life, and the last account of a suicide, of course, is Judas.
According to Matthew 27, 5, he hanged himself. It's interesting, when you study these five suicides, you discover that all five were living with pressures with which they could not cope. They were backed into a corner, most of them by their own doing, and in that corner they found no way out but that one.
I think it needs to be addressed, though I don't want to camp on it, that the issue of suicide is no slight one, especially in our day. Chances are there are people sitting in this very place who have given serious thought to it. You say, well, how could you say that? These are mainly Christian people. I know that. Remember, two of the five that we named were Christians or believers in the Bible.
Saul was and no doubt Ahithophel was. It can happen to saints. Contrary to popular opinion, people who threaten suicide often mean it. The old myth, those who talk don't jump, is dangerously false. Threats should be taken seriously. I want to say this evening that if you struggle with thoughts such as this, you need help and you need it desperately and you need it soon. If you have children that speak of this rather regularly, they need help and they need it soon. And it needs to be professional help. If you have a roommate, a close friend, who speaks of it, even to the point of talking of the details of it, you better seek help for that person.
They are probably not joking. To underscore Chuck Swindoll's point, if you or someone you love has fallen into deep depression, we urge you to seek professional help. No one should walk through the deep valley of despondency alone. This is Insight for Living. To learn more about this ministry, be sure to visit us online at insightworld.org. To learn more about this ministry, visit us online at insightworld.org.
Even though we've come to a pause in today's message, there's still much more ahead. What you heard today is the first portion of message number 11 in a comprehensive 24-part teaching series on David. And if you're intrigued by this man's story and ready to learn more, we invite you to purchase Chuck's biography on David. It's called David, A Man of Passion and Destiny. At Insight for Living, we take delight in helping listeners and readers learn how to apply the truth of God's Word to every aspect of their lives. In this biographical study, Chuck's practical insights help readers learn to think biblically no matter what issues they face, no matter how bad they've blown it. David's life, as you'll recall, was rife with struggle and some major blunders along the way. You can discover what made him stray in his journey of faith and how he returned to live a life in harmony with God. When you purchase a copy of David, A Man of Passion and Destiny, it's available at insight.org slash offer or by calling us.
If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888. Here's Chuck. Thanks, Bill. Across Great Britain and beyond, he was affectionately known as the Prince of Preachers. Revered by a generation who looked to him for spiritual direction, Charles Haddon Spurgeon made his mark. When the accolades poured in and people were making a big fuss over his life and his success, Spurgeon deflected the attention and pointed to the Gospel. He clarified it this way.
It's not me doing the work. It's not me who defends the Gospel. No, he said the Gospel is like a caged lion. And now I quote directly from one of his sermons. Spurgeon declared, A great many learned men are defending the Gospel, yet I always notice that the Gospel itself is not being preached. The best apology for the Gospel is to let the Gospel out of the cage.
I love that. Spurgeon added, Let the lion out and see who will dare to approach him. Preach Jesus Christ and him crucified.
The lion of the tribe of Judah will soon drive away all his adversaries. My friend, since 1979, Insight for Living Ministries has followed the same model. We've released the lion from its cage over these years, and we have stepped out of the way year after year, broadcast after broadcast, so the Spirit of God can do his work through the Gospel, but never alone. Our ministry is a together ministry. God has used men and women just like you to come alongside us with financial support. Without you, we couldn't have continued. So, as we conclude another year of partnership together, please be generous as you give to Insight for Living Ministries. Our deadline, remember, is June the 30th. Together, let's preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ with abandon.
And then, let's all step out of the way and allow the lion of the tribe of Judah to do his great work. Thanks, Chuck. And we invite you to give generously toward this worthy cause.
Here's how to respond. Give us a call. If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888. That's 800-772-8888. Or you can give online at insight.org slash donate. I'm Bill Meyer, inviting you to join us when Chuck Swindoll continues his biography of David, a man of passion and destiny. That's Monday on Insight for Living. The preceding message, Two Deaths, A Study in Contrast, was copyrighted in 1978, 1988, and The preceding message, Two Deaths, A Study in Contrast, was copyrighted in 1978, 1988, 1997, and The preceding message, Two Deaths, A Study in Contrast, was copyrighted in 1978, 1988, 1997, and And the sound recording was copyrighted in 2009 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved worldwide. Duplication of copyrighted material for commercial use is strictly prohibited.
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