A Big Man, But a Small Person: the Many Opportunities and Failures of Saul

When I visit cemeteries, I enjoy reading the epitaphs on gravestones. Most are serious. A few are humorous. Some reflect hobbies a person had, some reflect a lifestyle the person had, some reflect a religious verse or perspective. Usually the point of an epitaph is to summarize a person’s life in a short, brief statement. They are as different as the people who live around you and me.  If there was a statement that was reflective of the man we will study today it would be 1 Sam 26:21 “I have played the fool and committed serious error.” As tragic and sad as that is, his life had so many opportunities.

Saul had many great features. He had…

A great pedigree, 1 Sam 9:1

The right father, mother, family tree. He had status He was born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth

A great physique, 1 Sam 9:2

He was quite attractive and tall, he was pleasing to look at.

A great financial situation 9:3, 11:5

He had more than one donkey and more than one servant (9:3) and more than one ox (11:5).

Great positive features

Perseverance, he kept looking for the donkeys, 9:3-5

Compassion for his father, 9:5

Humility 9:21

Victory at Jabesh Gilead, 11

A great opportunity to be king look at 10, 12

Confirmation, 10:2-8

God was good to give to him signs of his confirmation

Private anointing, 10:1

Public inauguration, 10:17-26

Public victory, 11:1-13

Gifts to do the job, 10:7, 9

Every opportunity to succeed, 12:12-15, 23-25

A great religious posture–outwardly

Often took oaths in the LORD’s name, 1 Sam 14:44; 19:6

He often spoke of God as though he had a relationship with him, 1 Sam 23:7, 21.

Worshipped outwardly, sacrificed publicly, 13:9; 15:31

If Saul was a baseball player, he was a “can’t miss” prospect. If he was a pastor, he was pastor who would soar to great heights. If he was a businessman, he was a business man who had success written all over him. He would be a first round first pick draft choice of any team.

– Whenever we study a passage of Scripture that is primarily negative…..I think its important for you to know that we don’t assume that everyone in the church is just like this character in the Bible Yet ….none of us has arrived, on this or any issue….- and while your pastors will never take a passage like this one with the attitude….here’s what wicked Saul did and you’re just like him….- the other side of that is…its wise for each of us to look at a passage like this and say….here’s what wicked Saul did….Are there any ways I’m like him? Romans 15:13 these things were written

Saul had a fatal wound

He had an Achilles heel

During the Civil War, injuries to the intestinal tract were almost always fatal. These were the days before antibiotics, and to perforate the intestines would allow bacteria to enter the bloodstream that would bring about a slow, but certain death.

Saul was large in stature, he was small in character.

He didn’t have a heart for GOD.

1 Samuel 13:14; 16:7 

How was this failure expressed?

Interestingly enough, in religious experiences.

His failure was his fear of man

Saul feared people more than he feared God. He desired their approval more than he desired God’s approval. He cared much more about what people thought about him than what God thought about him. He was an approval addict. He feared man’s displeasure and longed for his approval more than God’s. The fear of God is to be earnestly concerned about God’s disapproval

Luke 12:4-5; Proverbs 29:25

4 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.  5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him, Luke 12:4-5

Fear of man will prove to be a snare,  but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe, Proverbs 29:25

All of us struggle with it, he was dominated by it.

Are you?

He feared failure as a king more than he desired obedience to God, 1 Samuel 13

He wanted God’s blessing so that he could be victorious in the eyes of his army more than he wanted obedience

1 Sam 10:8; 13:5-13, he fails to trust and obey, test 1.

He had to win, even at the price of disobedience. Winning makes you look good. He feared failure as a king more than he desired obedience to God.

THIS IS HARD, but obedience often is.


I fear being single, so I’ll marry the wrong person or date the wrong kind of person.
I must be successful in my job, what would people think if I failed? I fear not being promoted, so I’ll cut corners
I want what I want and I want it now, so I foolishly use credit cards instead of waiting for God’s provision.
I fear being late, so I’ll break the speed limit or lie about why I was late.
I fear what people in the church will think about me. Am I a good parent? Am I a good husband or wife?

What God said about it: “You acted foolishly,” 13:13

There is something more important than victory. There is something more important than success. There is something more important than security, than career.

It is fearing God’s displeasure and longing for his approval more than anything else.

When people can see
When people can’t see

1 Samuel 13:13b

He wanted to be honored in the eyes of people by the quality of his worship service.

What God told him, 15:3; 18

What he did, 15:9

Why he did it, 15:12, 24, 30

Incomplete obedience based upon the fear of man, 1 Samuel 15:12, 13, 14, 22-2, test 2.

Want people to think well of you, want to gain their approval, so you date a man who professes to be a Christian but really isn’t living for the Lord.
I am afraid of what people might think, of what my family might think, so I won’t get baptized.
I know the boss is doing something unethical and he’s asked me to cooperate, but I won’t discuss the matter with him because I fear losing my job.
I know there are people with sinful attitudes in my church, but I won’t confront them, because I am afraid of what might happen, to me, to them, to our friendship. I’ll just pray for them.
Peer pressure…

His fear of Goliath, 17:11

His fear of David’s success, 1 Sam 18:15, 29

His jealousy of David, 1 Sam 18:8-9

His murderous pursuit of David 22—27

His misconception of David’s intent to kill him, 1 Sam 22:8

His murder of the priests 22:16-21

He feared they were on David’s side and couldn’t be trusted

Saul’s religion—he isn’t an irreligious pagan!

Saul isn’t an atheist; he isn’t advocating open promiscuity, didn’t get drunk and abuse his wife, wasn’t protesting for gay marriage nor advocating partial birth abortion.

He wants God to be his genie, to make him great in the eyes of people.

Saul keeps using “religion” to secure the victory for himself, 14.

He wants public worship of God, 15

He wants direction from God, 28:6

God, please bless my business

Bless my financial portfolio

Bless my job, bless my health

Lord, please bless my agenda, my career, give me success . . .

Why do we pray those prayers? Because somebody might think I’m a failure?

James 4:2

He has remorse over his failure, 24:16-21; 26:21-25

His remorse was great, he was filled with sorrow, heartache in his life, but NO repentance.

Nothing ever changed!

He died like he lived

1 Samuel 31:4

He was afraid of what people would do to him.

Contrast 2 Timothy 4:7-8

Not Like Paul “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.

So what?

See that the fear of man can look very “spiritual.”

Don’t assume you are problem free.

All of us struggle—if you think you don’t you are prime for failure in this arena.

God is good to warn you about this problem.

It will cause you the loss of rewards at the bema

It will cause you great sorrow in this life

It can keep you out of heaven, John 12:42-43

Be committed to grow in the fear of the Lord

Psalm 34:7,9,11

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