When our parents and grandparents make willful choices, sometimes the entire family feels the consequences for generations to follow. Whether it was an ugly divorce, spiritual rebellion or an immoral lifestyle, these moments create emotional baggage for children.
And lugging around a painful legacy is burdensome for sure. Today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll reminds us that the insidious cycle of generational sin has been broken by the one who gave his life for us. Let's turn to the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel.
Chuck titled his message, Two Deaths, a Study in Contrast. In 1 Samuel 31, two significant things happened all of a sudden. First, there was a battle that was raging, and second, there was a king who died.
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. The battle went heavily against Saul, and the archers hit him. So the point is, he couldn't escape. He was dying.
So Saul took his sword and he fell on it. 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. Suicide is murder. It is the ultimate in murder. It is also the ultimate cruel death, where you leave your remains for your closest to find you and to provide some kind of dignified service for you. In case you would like to know, here are some proven facts that have been documented by the Los Angeles Suicide Prevention Center.
Just listen to the stats. Once every minute, someone in the United States attempts suicide. Every day, 70 Americans succeed.
They take their own lives. That's almost three every hour, every day. In this country, there are 24 percent more deaths by suicide than by murder. In LA County, more people kill themselves than die in traffic accidents. Suicide is the number nine cause of adult death in the U.S. For Americans between 15 and 30 years of age, it's the number three.
For teenagers, it's the number two killer. Suicide rate for Americans under 30 years of age has increased 300 percent in the past decade. Until recently, women attempted suicide three times as often as men.
The latest statistics show a drastic increase in successful attempts by women, especially young black women. Four of five people who commit suicide have tried it previously. 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. That's a ghoulish subject. I don't enjoy addressing it, but I think it needs to be addressed.
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. I have not kept a record of it, but it would be of interest to all of us, me included, how many people have written me during the week following a Sunday saying, that day was the lowest day of my life, and I came with thoughts of suicide in mind, and God's Word has opened a whole new dimension of hope that I did not have before. I linger on it only long enough to remind you that when you hear the Word, and when you hear it spoken of, red flags should go up in your mind. Don't laugh it off. I have buried more suicides in the last five years than ever in my ministry.
It's a growing way to cope, which really is no coping at all. Saul chose to take his life, and he died an infamous death, and if you think that's a bad scene, hold on, the next one is even worse. 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.
Then the Philistines came and lived in them, so they moved in, they sacked the area, and they simply began to live in the cities where the Israelites had once lived. It came about on the next day when the Philistines came to strip the slain that's normal in battle. We were taught, and you that are veterans were taught, that in battle when you take the enemy, you take all that you can in the process. It might mean your survival as the battle rages in days to come, and so it's common to strip the enemy.
Take everything you can take that's safe to take. At least you remove it from there, taking it back later in battles against you. So they began to strip the slain, and look, they stumbled upon Saul. It says that they found Saul, verse 8, and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. Tragic Philistine, look what follows. They cut off his head, stripped off his weapons, sent them throughout the land of the Philistines to carry the good news to the house of their idols and to the people.
How about that? The man who once knew the joys and blessings of the kingdom, the man who was the representative of God to the greatest of all the chosen people, this man Saul is now headless, and his head is carried from place to place. They made jest of it.
They made light of it. I'm sure made all sorts of profane comments regarding the Jehovah of that people. Verse 10 says that they put his weapons in the temple of Ashteroth, and that's, by the way, the goddess of lust. They fastened his body to the wall of Beth-shan. What pathos.
Alfred Edersheim has written a work entitled Bible History or Old Testament History. He has a way of putting in few words the truth of passages like this. He writes, And now it was night, a dark Philistine night. The headless bodies of Saul and his sons deserted by all swung in the wind on the walls of Beth-shan amid the hoarse music of vultures and jackals.
It need never have been. That's the tragedy of it all. This man with all the promise of youth need never have died like this. He chose his path. He chose inch by inch, day by day, to compromise and to live in the light of disobedience.
And he spit in the face of the one who gave him grace as if to say, I don't need you. I'll live and die as I please. F. B. Myers says, This is the bitterest of all to know that suffering need not have been, that it has resulted from indiscretion and inconsistency, that the vulture which feeds on the vitals is the nestling of one's own rearing.
Ah, me, this is pain. Hey, friends, it's one thing to sit here and look at Saul and cluck our tongues and think, what a shame, what a sad scene, how pathetic, and to live a life just like that, though not half as popular. Just to inch out one day after another, just to make eight hours at work, just to nullify our testimony and live in mediocrity and to choose or to opt for the easy way like the world because it's tough to live for Christ.
Week in and week out, counting for eternity, but what a rewarding life. When Saul turned off the light at night, I tell you, the room was filled with bats. Guilt and despair and bitterness ate like acid inside him. He chose that life. I emphasize it again. And it need not have been.
Now, someone did take pity on this man. Look at verse 11. Oh, oh, I should mention something. See the words, Beth, the wall of Bethsham, the little geographical study and I found out that that was not far from where Saul was inaugurated.
Isn't that something? His entire 40 years, four decades as the king, and he made no headway territorially for the nation Israel. He wound up right where he started. In fact, he backed up a few feet, hanging his body hung silhouetted against the moonlit night, not far from where in his heyday the trumpets blasted and he was announced king of Israel. It's tragic. Well, these people came, not the Philistines, but the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead.
Look at this. And they heard what the Philistines had done to Saul. And all of the valiant men rose and walked all night and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Bethsham.
They came to Jabesh and they burned him there. This is the only account of cremation in all the Bible. This verse, you should mark that when you come across such one time only verses, you should mark them. People will ask you, what does the Bible say about cremation? By the way, this is not all the Bible says about it. The Old Testament includes passages in Leviticus where cremation was to be used among the ungodly Jews as the ultimate punishment for their crimes.
Remember Achan and his ilk? They were to be burned. Apparently, the Jews did not opt for cremation. When they buried their dead, they buried them bones and all. In fact, you find where Jacob and Joseph, the bones were maintained and they were carried. When Jesus died, he was placed in a grave. When Abraham died, he was placed in a grave alongside Sarah. There was often the reminder in Scripture of the place of burial where the dead, the remains, were placed in a site that could be visited. Now the Greeks cremated, the Romans cremated, heathen tribes cremated on a regular basis.
In fact, it was not uncommon for there to be child sacrifices where the living were burned to death. But having said all of that, I have to honestly say there's nothing in the Bible that directly attacks cremation. For some traditional believers, by that I mean, haven't had too many fresh thoughts in the last 40 years, if you're among that group, you'll have trouble even thinking about the possibility of such. But you show me Bible verses and I'll become more convinced. The Bible is silent. Now arguments from silence are a little weak. In other words, if you say it doesn't mention it, therefore we shouldn't do it, you'll have a hard time finding justification for driving a car, right?
Or for wearing a necktie. In other words, arguments from silence are simply that. The Bible is silent.
And in such cases, a person must have his preference, and he must in his preference have peace with God. Land is increasingly more at a premium in our generation. In fact, they're now burying two deep, and they're speaking of burying three deep. I mean, you didn't know that.
Some places are emphasizing for the sheer fact of the premium sense of land that sea mation is the answer. The burning of the remains, taking the remains over the sea, and sprinkling it out there. By the way, it gives some people trouble to think that a body could be cremated and then later resurrected. That's no problem with God. He can handle that.
Seriously. He made us from nothing. He can bring us back from nothing. Think of the men who died at sea, and their remains were never found. Think of the men and women in battle who died, their bodies blown to bits, and they will never be put back together.
But some of them were believers, and at the resurrection, he'll do it. Let me give you a thorny one. If you want to study a knotty problem of resurrection, study the life of Roger Williams.
Not the pianist, but the reformer of years ago. Roger Williams is a man who was buried not far from an apple tree. And the root of the apple tree penetrated the coffin and made its way through the skull, down the spine, forking at the legs so that his body was inhabited by the roots of an apple tree. Now hold on.
The nutrients of the body and the remains went into the apple tree and became part of the fruit. So some of the people were eating Roger Williams. I could go on, but there's no need to do that. Hey, God can handle that.
When it comes the day to resurrect Roger Williams, he's got full force, glorified body. So don't be hung up on the fact that the burning of the body means God's going to have a problem on his hands as to getting you all back together. He didn't do it.
He'd pull that off in a moment's notice. All I'm saying is be comfortable in your spirit that it's what you should do. You will be hard pressed to find biblical justification or assault on it.
It's silent. It is significant that the Jews of old did in fact bury their dead and return to those burial sites, but however there was not such premium on land as now. It needs to be thought through.
It needs to be justified in your mind. Verse 13 says, they took their bodies and they buried them under the tamarisk tree at Jabesh and fasted seven days. And Saul dies. That's something.
You know, it is really a scene to consider. A man with that kind of promise died that kind of infamous death when all across his life could have been written, it need not have been. Behind the tragedy of all of this is a very interesting analogy, and I've done some thinking and meditation upon the analogy between Saul's death and Christ's.
They seem not to fit at all. They seem to be in no way congruent to one another. What in the world would we find common to Saul and Christ both?
But I think there are five or six things worth noting. First of all, Saul's death appeared to be the end of all national hope. The people who surrounded Saul's leadership must have thought that's the end of Israel.
The Philistines will conquer. Now, Christ's death. It appeared to be the end of all spiritual hope. If you question that, you haven't put yourself in the place of the disciples. They surrounded the cross. They looked, having run during the arrest and trial, having fled from him, some of them watching from the safety of the shadows, looked at the cross and thought, we believed in a hoax. It was a phantom.
There's no kingdom. We're finished. It looked like the end of all spiritual hope.
Here's another analogy. Saul's death. See, it seemed as though the adversary had won a final victory. The Philistines marched in triumph. They had the head of Saul and the heads of the sons and they dangled the body in front of all to see we won the victory. When Christ died, it seemed as though the adversary won. He must have strutted all over the gates of hell, declaring the victory is mine. I am the conqueror. The Messiah is dead.
Here's a third. Saul's death paved the way for an entirely new plan of operation. That happened with Christ's death. When Jesus Christ died, a whole new operation moved into action.
And if it hadn't been for the death, it could have never taken place. Fourth, Saul's death opened the throne room to David. Christ's death opened the throne room to the sinner, the Gentile who would never have otherwise been able to enter and come boldly in grace. Fifth, Saul's death ended an era of dissatisfaction and failure.
Christ's death ended an era of law and guilt. Finally, Saul's death displayed the foolishness of man. Christ's death displayed, if the men of earth could have declared it, the foolishness of God. Through the foolishness of God's plan, he brings to pass the incredible. He takes the preached word and changes lives because of his Son's death. They dangled the body of Jesus and shoved it in a grave in a hurry because the Sabbath was coming. Little did they realize that God was on the verge of doing the greatest miracle in the entire New Testament era when he brought him back from beyond. Ruth Harms Calkin puts her finger on our feelings when we go through times like Saul lived in and died in.
She calls it simply takeover. At first, Lord, I asked you to take sides with me. With David the Psalmist, I circled and underlined the words, the Lord is for me. Maintain my rights, O Lord. Let me stand above my foes. But with all my pleading, I lay drenched in darkness until in utter confusion, I cried, No, don't take sides, Lord, just take over.
And suddenly it was morning. It won't happen quite that fast for most of you, but I think he is saying to some Sauls who are in process of living out that kind of life. Now is the time to stop. Lord, don't take sides, just take over. And you show me again through the death of Christ the kind of power that you have available for me to rearrange my life and to put it back together again.
I'll trust you to do that for me. We want nothing to interrupt the worship, so therefore let's bow together. Let's blush out all of the thoughts of tomorrow and yesterday.
Let's concentrate right now in time on our lives. All we like sheep have gone astray. We have turned everyone to his own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. As a lamb before his shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. We come before our Lord as sheep, most of us who have gone astray, all of us in one measure or another, some needing cleansing, some needing simply salvation.
Our Father, may there be nothing that interrupts the thoughts of your sheep. Some are bleating and crying because of the way they have chosen. Some are rejoicing because you have brought them to their knees. You have shown them the value of the committed life, the life that has chosen to walk with God in time. Some are confused, not knowing your way. Some are reeling in the midst of difficult, hard times. Whatever might be the condition of the sheep, make that of less and less importance as we focus upon the shepherd, our Savior, our Lord, the one who has gone before us and will see us through.
We love you and we adore you. In Jesus' name, amen. Today, Chuck Swindoll is teaching from 1 Samuel, where we see the striking contrast between Saul's self-inflicted death and the selfless one that came much later. There's much more teaching ahead on insight for living when our study on the fascinating life of David continues.
So please stay with us because we'll hear a closing comment from Chuck in just a moment. If you'd like to learn more about this ministry, we invite you to visit us online at insightworld.org. If Saul's demise demonstrates anything, it's this. The people we meet in the Bible were imperfect and flawed, just as we are.
Their tragic stories provide a striking contrast of Jesus' death, which offered eternal redemption and hope. Along those lines, we received an encouraging note from one of your fellow listeners who said, Good morning from Chicago. Thank you for leading me back to Christ. I am five years clean from all drugs. I owe it to God first and you insight for living. I found your program while in prison. There I was staying up at night and I found insight for living on the radio. The first sermon I heard was on addiction and bad habits. Laugh out loud. God is good.
Yes, he is. And your letter is a shot in the arm to all of us who financially support insight for living. It's our mission to help people discover the meaning and relevance of the Bible, because we can't overcome our daily struggles without God's help.
Here's Chuck. Thank you, Bill. Our subject on insight for living is none other than David, the one of whom God said there, that one is after my own heart. What a grand heartwarming statement. And what would God say that of David? Well, David, we're learning, walked in harmony with God.
He had his priorities straight. And even when David fell short, he didn't waste time recovering with genuine humility and bone deep integrity. He was, after all, a man after God's own heart. By the way, you can become a person of spiritual passion and destiny, just as David was.
No matter who you are, regardless of what you may have been through, Jesus Christ gives us supernatural strength to live for him. This is the heart of our message and insight for living ministries. And now it's time to rally around this shared mission, and that is to proclaim God's truth and to make disciples of all the nations. You see, many depend upon this daily program as their single source of Bible teaching and spiritual insight. Occupying that place is my honor and absolute privilege. But I can't do this alone. This is a genuine partnership.
It's a team effort. So as God prospers you, and as you measure the impact of our daily program on your life and in your home, please take a few extra moments to give a donation before the June 30th deadline arrives. Together, let's tell the whole world that no matter how difficult life has become, no matter how far a person may have strayed from God's best, it's never too late to become a woman or a man after God's own heart. Thanks, Chuck. You can respond right now and get in touch with us by going online to insight.org. By the way, one of your fellow listeners wrote from far away and said, Chuck, you are a blessing here in Soweto, South Africa.
It's unexpected comments like these that are made possible because people like you give generously to Insight for Living. You can give your donation by calling us. If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888, or it may be quicker to give your contribution online at insight.org slash donate. I'm Bill Meyer. Join us when Chuck Swindoll describes the dramatic story of David's ascent to the highest position in Israel. That's Tuesday on Insight for Living. The preceding message, Two Deaths, a Study in Contrast, was copyrighted in 1978, 1988, 1997, and 2009, 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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