GOD’S WORD FOR YOU
1 CHRONICLES 10:13-14
13 Saul died because he was unfaithful to the LORD. He did not keep the word of the LORD and even sought out a medium for guidance. 14 He did not seek the LORD. So the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.
The word ma’al means “to be unfaithful.” But it would be worthwhile to observe the reason we use this meaning for the verb. It is used for a wife who “turns aside” from her husband and is ma’al, “unfaithful” to him (Numbers 5:12). It is an unfaithfulness to the legally definable relationship of trust that exists between two people, whether a husband and a wife, or a person and God. It is most often a theological term: “To commit unfaithfulness against the Lord.” In verse 13, the author uses an interesting Hebrew idiom by using the noun form of ma’al along with the verb. “In his unfaithfulness, he was unfaithful against the Lord.” And so the Lord put him to death. Four charges are leveled against Saul:
1, He was theologically unfaithful to the Lord.
2, He did not keep the word of the Lord.
3, He sought a medium (a witch) for guidance.
4, He did not seek the Lord.
The first two charges might seem similar, but we know that Saul was guilty of sins of commission (being unfaithful) and sins of omission (failing to keep God’s word). He was intentionally unfaithful when he was commanded by Samuel to wait for him for seven days after a certain battle, and then Samuel would come to offer sacrifices. Saul won the battle and waited the seven days, but on the last day, seeing his men beginning to “scatter” and wander off, he made the sacrifices himself, at which point Samuel arrived and condemned his action. Samuel said: “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. If you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure” (1 Samuel 13:13-14).
Saul also failed to keep God’s commands (sins of omission) when he did not annihilate and destroy every one of the Amalekites and their possessions (1 Samuel 15:1-10), after which God said, “I am grieved that I made Saul king” (1 Samuel 15:11). O, may God “forbid the hour when thou failest!”
Thirdly, Saul sinned by consulting the witch of Endor. God commanded Moses, “A man or woman who is a medium or deals with spirits of the dead must certainly be put to death. They must be stoned to death. Their blood is on them” (Leviticus 20:27). If someone practices witchcraft, is involved with the occult, or if they are superstitious (believing in good luck charms, horoscopes, etc.), they are sinning against God’s name because they are trusting in power that ultimately comes from Satan and is opposed to the power and will of God.
Fourthly, Saul is charged with not seeking the Lord. This is the sin that walks hand in hand with seeking a witch or a medium. What he should have done was to consult the Lord through his word or his representative. Samuel the prophet had already died by this time (1 Samuel 25:1), but there were priests in Israel at the tabernacle of the Lord who could have been consulted by Saul. There were Levites in Galilee. We have already seen in 1 Chronicles that Bileam (also known as Ibleam, 1 Chronicles 6:70; Joshua 17:11) was a city for Levites, and it was not far from Endor, and Beth Shemesh was even closer (1 Chronicles 6:59). But Saul did not even ask a Levite, let alone a priest or a prophet. He did not consult the word of God in any way.
This brings us in the text to the way that we each keep the Second Commandment. The command is of course not to misuse God’s name or not to use it in vain. But the application is also not to avoid God’s name, either, but to use it correctly and for the reason God has given us his name to use. We should constantly urge and encourage one another “to honor God’s name and keep it constantly on our lips in all circumstances and experiences, for true honor to God’s name consists of looking to it for all consolation and therefore calling upon it. Thus, as we have heard before, the heart by faith first gives God the honor due him, and then the lips do so by confession” (Large Catechism).
The devil hates to hear God’s name and he can’t remain nearby when God’s name is invoked in faith. This is why it is excellent to begin worship with the name of God, and also to begin private prayers “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” and so on. The devil wants very much to thwart God’s plans in the world and to do each one of us personal mischief and injury, and even to kill us, as we know from the Gospels (Mark 9:22; John 8:44). We see here in this passage about the death of Saul that God is pleased with the right use of his name and will richly reward such use, even as he will terribly punish its misuse. So David, a man after God’s own heart, became king after Saul, and prayed, “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings” (Psalm 17:8).
Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, New Ulm, Minnesota
God’s Word for You – 1 Chronicles 10:13-14 Saul’s second commandment sins