The Downfall of Saul

The Downfall of Saul

Saul’s decision to leave the path of righteousness is taken one step at a time.  At each moment of decision he falls deeper and deeper into jealousy and rage as his power slips from his fingers.  The author of 1 Samuel paints Saul’s motives in a bad light, seeking revenge, and acting in a jealous rage.

Oftentimes youth are confused as to how or why people commit evil acts.  Where I live in the Salt Lake Valley, we have an example of a young man who committed unspeakable deeds.  His actions have not only affected his immediate family, but have caused grief and pain across the state of Utah.  (see: http://bit.ly/x8sXWc )

Although there is much we do not know, this we do know: choosing the path of darkness will always bring misery.  Unless one gets off the wrong path, repents, and corrects his ways, he will wind up in a horrible place.  This is one of the lessons we can learn from King Saul.  His jealousy and desire for power over David blinded him to the work the Lord would have him complete.  Each decision to walk on the path of darkness made it more likely that he would continue on that path.  As his progression along this path continued, his ability to repent was diminished significantly.

Sin becomes a habit.

President Spencer W. Kimball put it this way: Sin is intensely habit-forming and sometimes moves men to the tragic point of no return. Without repentance there can be no forgiveness, and without forgiveness all the blessings of eternity hang in jeopardy. As the transgressor moves deeper and deeper in his sin, and the error is entrenched more deeply and the will to change is weakened, it becomes increasingly nearer hopeless and he skids down and down until either he does not want to climb back up or he has lost the power to do so. (Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 117)

Another problem facing those steeped in wrong decision making is not only the deep entrenchment of sin, but the sinners inability to see their choices as being a problem.  The more you walk in the mists of the world, the harder it is to see clearly.  CS Lewis put it this way:

When a man is getting better, he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him. When a man is getting worse, he understands his own badness less and less. A moderately bad man knows he is not very good: a thoroughly bad man thinks he is all right. This is common sense, really. You understand sleep when you are awake, not while you are sleeping. You can see mistakes in arithmetic when your mind is working properly: while you are making them you cannot see them. You can understand the nature of drunkenness when you are sober, not when you are drunk. Good people know about both good and evil: bad people do not know about either (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book III, Ch. 4, Para. 10, p. 87).

We went through the downfall of Saul by covering the following situations:

1.  1 Samuel 13:3-4 He takes credit for Jonathan’s victory

2.  13:8-9 – Saul offers unauthorized sacrifice

3.  14:24, 27, 43-45 – Saul makes a rash oath – not to eat during battle.

Jonathan unknowingly eats

4.  15:9, 23-24- Saul keeps the best sheep & other animals of the Amalekites

5.  15:13 – Saul lies, saying he kept the commandments

6.  18:7-8 – Saul becomes jealous of David’s successes

7.  18:10-11 – Saul attacks David with a javelin

8.  18:17,21,25 – Saul requires David to kill 100 Philistines in order to marry Michal.  Saul hopes that in doing so that David will die by the hand of the Philistines

9.  19:1 – Saul asks his servants to kill David

10.  19:9-10 – Saul attacks David again with a javelin

11.  20:32-33 – Saul tries to kill Jonathan (Saul isn’t a very good shot!)

12.  22:17-19 – Saul commands his men to commit murder

13.  28:7 – Saul visits the Witch of Endor

14.  31:4-6 – After being shot in battle, Saul kills himself

This struggle to hold on to the fruits of the world caused Saul no end of grief and pain.  The more Saul craved power and revenge through violence, the more he faced the consequences of his deeds.  Many in the east refer to this as karma.  There is a Hindu parable that portrays how the more we cling to the fruits of the world, the more we carry the consequences with us through our lives.

The Wishing Tree

A Hindu parable

One way of gaining insight into the doctrine of karma is through the parable of the Kalpataru,  or the Wishing Tree:

Into a room full of children at play walks their uncle, who, of course, knows better. Laughing at their preoccupation with make-believe games, he asks them to go out to the massive banyan tree, which will grant them whatever they wish! The children rush out, stand under the branches of this huge tree that cover the sky, and ask for what all children crave: toys and candy. In a flash they get what they want, but along with an unexpected bonus: the built-in opposite of what they wished for. With toys they get boredom; with candy, tummy aches.

Sure that something has gone wrong with their wishing, the children ask for bigger toys and sweeter candy. The tree grants them their wishes, and along with them bigger boredom and bigger tummy aches. Time passes. They are now young men and women and their wishes change, for they know more. They ask for wealth, power, fame, sexual pleasure–and they get these, but also cupidity, insomnia, anxiety, and frustration/disease.

Time passes. The wishers are now old and gather in three groups under the all-encompassing branches. The first group exclaims, “All this is an illusion!” Fools, they have learned nothing. The second group says, “We are wiser and will wish better wishes next time.” Greater fools, they have learned less than nothing. The third group, disgusted with everything, decides to cop out and asks for death. They are the most foolish of all.

All this while one child has been unable to move out of the room. Being lame, he was pushed down in the scramble and when he dragged himself to the window, he was transfixed watching his friends make their wishes, get them with their built-in opposites and suffer, yet compulsively continue to make more wishes. Riveted by this utterly engrossing display of desire and its fruits, a profound swell of compassion welled up in the heart of this lame child, reaching out to his companions. And in one dazzling, illuminating spectacle he saw this whole thing and stood there, marveling at the spectacle of the universe—these are the words now, very carefully used when the story is told again and again by village storytellers, by mothers, by others, whoever tells it, “marveling at the spectacle of the universe”—at the cosmic swindle of life, at the divine comedy (well, tragicomedy). There was a gush of compassion in his heart for his companions under the tree. And in that gush of compassion, he forgot to wish. He forgot to wish and the tree couldn’t touch him. He was free.   He is the liberated one, for the tree has no power over him.

See also: Ensign, Dec 1979, p. 70-72, Symposium Examines Literature of Belief-  http://bit.ly/x65lA3

BYU Religious Studies Center, Literature of Belief: Sacred Scripture and Religious Experience: The Hindu Experience: An Examination of Folklore and Sacred Texts –   http://bit.ly/yd7Oi9

(See also: Purushottam Lal in chapter 5: Literature of Belief: Sacred Scripture and Religious Experience, p. 92-107.)

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About LDS Scripture Teachings

I write about ways scripture applies in our lives: LDSScriptureTeachings.org
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