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The Two Sauls

Notes of address given at opening of new meeting room at Rickman Drive, Birmingham

Dr. Daniel W. Paterson

Scriptures read:

  • 2 Timothy 3:1-15
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
  • 2 Timothy 4:4
  • 1 Samuel 26:21(b)

Two of these scriptures have been suggested by a local brother and are of the greatest importance. The first (2 Timothy 3:1-et seq.) tells us in unmistakable terms the true state of the Christian testimony today.

It has to be read alongside the features of the heathen world in Romans 1:19-32. It is truly shocking, and it is made infinitely worse when we remember that the verses in Romans 1-2 describe the situation in the heathen world but the features in 2 Timothy (many of them in exactly the same terms) accurately tell us what characterises the Christian testimony today. If you don’t believe me, have a look at them when you are at home. And they are true today in England, the so-called western world. We have reached the stage where even church leaders deny the foundations of the Christian faith, the inerrancy of the holy scripture.

Preachers preach smooth things; even good men today are questioning the truth of hell fire when the scripture tells us “there is revealed wrath of God from heaven” (Romans 1:18). Alas it meets us every day – clear Christian witness is not to the cross and the blood but to good works and “social” Christianity with conformity to the world. It is lukewarm, and the Lord will shortly “spue it out of His mouth” (Revelation 3:16). Are we, as seeking to follow the Lord, going to be ‘down-hearted’? Not at all. The coming of the Lord draws near, and this leads us to the second scripture (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you”. What a refreshing difference from the general state of the church! A home above, a precious loving Father, Christ as our Saviour, the scriptures of truth, the Spirit of God our constant guide, the Christian company as our companions as we travel homewards – we have plenty to rejoice in and also to give thanks for. And prayer, what a privilege – access to God at all times, at home privately and with family, prayer in the assembly. Why, we can pray without ceasing even now!

All this is excellent but we have to take up these matters not only when we are together but also individually. Moreover these matters are for every day. We have to recall that one day there will be a review of our whole lives. The two scriptures read bring out two men with the same name but who steered a totally different course.

- The first it the apostle Paul, our apostle, the apostle of the Gentiles. He was an outstanding Jew, a chosen vessel, and what a man he was – a thoroughbred Jew. His biography you can read in Philippians 3:4-6, but in his more sober moments he speaks of himself as a “blasphemer, an insolent overbearing man” 1 Timothy 1:13 (JND version). But the Lord had His eye on him and met him on the Damascus Road (Acts 9) and arrested him in his path of folly and shame and changed him into a model Christian. What a pleasure it is to see him in his subsequent life and missionary journeys and to study and search out his epistles. Well, the time came when he finished his course and in 2 Timothy 4:7,8 he reviewed his own life, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith…” and then he tells us what awaited him – what a prospect! – “a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day”. But then notice he leaves the door open for you and me, “and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing”. Wouldn’t you love to be among them?

- But by contrast, let us now look at another Saul, Israel’s first King, the King of the people’s choosing. In Israel there was mot a more comely person “from the shoulders and up he was higher than any of the people” (1 Samuel 9:1-2). He started well, anointed with oil, and he began to deliver the children of Israel from the dominion of the Philistines. But he went wrong, seriously wrong. It is important to see where he went wrong. A clear word was delivered to him by “Jehovah of hosts” from the mouth of Samuel the prophet (1 Samuel 15:3 et seq. JND version). “Go and smite Amalek (type of the flesh), and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not…” Saul mustered Israel’s forces – 200,000 footmen and 10,000 men of Judah. He obeyed and went a long way, but he spared Agag and the best of the sheep and oxen. Samuel then came to view the situation and he had to say to Saul, “What means then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of oxen which I hear?” Saul replied that the people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen “to sacrifice to Jehovah thy God and the rest we have utterly destroyed.” So Samuel gave answer to Saul, “Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the LORD?” (v19 AV). And then we get those well-known words: “Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22 AV).

Failure in obedience cost Saul the kingdom and it inevitably led to lowered thoughts of David, the man after God’s own heart. In the Valley of Elah, David had overcome Goliath with a sling and a stone. He proceeded to cut off Goliath’s head with Goliath’s own sword. All Israel rejoiced and the women came out of their cities and celebrated the victory, dancing and saying, “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 17:7). Saul was “very wroth” and we read, “And Saul eyed David from that day and forward” (v.9). In his folly, he cast his spear against him and became his enemy continually. He even chased him and sought him as a flea, as “as when one doth hunt a partridge in the mountains” (1 Samuel 26:20). Striking language to show the length to which his enmity had gone. Needless to say, the Lord preserved David wherever he went and Saul went from bad to worse. What a sad end awaited him. The Philistines again attacked Israel and Saul, turning to the Lord, found that He answered him not. In desperation he sought a spiritual medium and it was only to learn his fate. It quickly followed him. He perished on Mount Gilboa, his sons with him, probably committing suicide. Sad end indeed, and Saul, as he reviewed his pathway (as we all shall have to do at the end of our days) uttered those sad, sad words, “I have sinned … I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly” (1 Samuel 26:21).

This would be my word to us all on this important day, the opening of this lovely new room. What is our answer to be to the opportunity now confronting the saints meetings locally, but also to us all, as we see so clearly that the coming of the Lord draws near? May the Lord graciously hear our prayers and the prayers of the many elsewhere who are thinking of us today. With the help of the Lord – may it be the prayer of us all – let us walk in the steps of the apostle Paul and not in the sad pathway of the first King of Israel.