Saul was Israel’s first king. Like a shooting star, his reign started out brilliantly. However, over time, his worshiped failed, his glory faded, and all became dark. The final chapter of his life is recorded in the Chronicles of Israel:
So Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the Lord in that he did not keep the command of the Lord, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance. He did not seek guidance from the Lord. Therefore the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse. (1 Chronicles 10:13–14)
Saul knew of God; he was acquainted with Israel’s “real” King. He was privileged to know his name, see his hand at work, enjoy his victories, partake in his worship, and even enjoy several “tastes” of his Spirit.
Saul also knew of God’s Law. He was in close proximity to God’s prophets and priests. He was well-acquainted with the sacred writings of Yahweh. He knew well the many commands of the Lord.
Saul understood merit and demerit. He understood his duty to perform God’s bidding and the blessed or cursed consequences he would receive based upon his performance. In the Covenant of Works, commendation followed faithfulness while condemnation followed unfaithfulness.
Saul understood spiritual failure. Sins of commission and omission characterized this very troubled man. This is only a partial list of his transgressions, but he consulted a medium for guidance, he forsook the counsel of the Lord, and he did not keep the Lord’s commands. Saul broke faith with the Lord; this was his track-record, report-card, or performance-review.
Therefore, Saul received from the Lord that which he deserved. The Lord paid him his fair wages. Rightly he was judged, and justly he was treated in accordance for his lack of merit. The Lord put Saul to death for his breach of faith, and the Lord gave the kingdom to his little “m” messiah — David the son of Jesse.
Hmm … That’s interesting, for this was also the sad testimony of the Son of Jesse. David proved to be one who daily transgressed the Covenant of Works and broke faith with his God. David never consulted a medium, that we know of, but David did listen to the false counsel of his wicked flesh. He, like Saul, forsook the good counsel of the Lord on numerous occasions and did that which was right in his own eyes. Sins of commission and omission surrounded Israel’s second king every day of his life. He too was unfaithful; he broke faith with his Lord.
However, for some reason, the Lord chose not give David the merit he deserved. Instead of receiving fair-justice or his earned-wages, God granted incredible mercy and grace to David. He suffered some of the horrid consequences of his sins, but he was not judged in accordance to his demerit. David seemed to be judged in accordance to the merit of another.
Friends, as it was with Saul and David, so it is true with you and me. Until the day of our death, we are all connected to our totally depraved flesh. In our natural condition, according to our old man, we are all acquainted with God and his ways and transgressing them each and every day. God’s ways are higher than our ways, his Law is higher than we can comprehend, and none of us are able to keep all his ordinances with our hearts, minds, mouths, hands, and feet. Breakers of the Covenant of Works we are. All of us have broken faith with the High King of the universe, and all of us deserve to die.
Therefore, the question before us is:
Will we be blessed or cursed based upon our merit? (I.e. Saul)
Will we be blessed or cursed based upon the merit of someone else? (I.e. David)
Friends, let’s be instructed — God’s Law is high and holy. God is the all-seeing, all-knowing, and always-present Judge. He is the one who prescribes merit or demerit based upon performance, and he misses not a lust, thought, word, or deed.
Let’s be humble — There is no one righteous, no not one. Because God does not grant partial credit, and he hates any measure of sin with holy wrath, no merit has been earned by us. Only demerit is found on our account. We are all spiritually poor based upon our own performance.
Let’s be sorrowful — Let us understand the beauty of righteousness, the heinousness of sin, the blasphemy of our God, the excommunication of God, the personal consequences of our transgressions, the societal impact of our sin, and the horrific reality of hell.
Let’s be wise — Let’s also hear the Gospel truths from God’s Word. Let’s meditate upon Jesus’ substitutional and satisfying life and death. Let’s believe these doctrines to be true and rest in Christ’s work alone for salvation, reconciliation, and blessing. Let’s us place our faith and hope in the “merit-swap” of God. Christ has taken our demerit; he has given us his merit, and this is available to all who come to him in faith.
Let’s be glad — Let’s fall on our faces and cry, kneel on the ground in awe, stand in reverential allegiance, raise our hands in praise to the heavens, wave our palm branches in wild excitement, sing with skill, shout with passion, dance with fervor, play tambourines and drums as victors while expressing our gratitude to the King of Kings who lived and died in our stead.
Let’s be motivated — Great is the Lord, good is his Law, and further graced are those who follow his counsel and walk in accordance with Christ’s wisdom. Yesterday, he came to save us while we were yet in our sin. Yesterday, he saved us from the penalty of sin. One day, he will save us from the presence of sin. But today, he is saving us from the power of sin. Therefore, let us walk in the Spirit, supplicate for sanctifying grace, flee temptation, fight the devil, and walk more in the newness of life that is our glorious inheritance. Because we have been made holy, let us walk in holiness!
Let’s repeat — Like David, we will be forced to confess our transgressions regularly. It is good for us to talk with Christ about the sins he has already died for and forgiven. And it is good to apply Christ’s Gospel Balm to our sin-stressed souls each and every day. In this way, repentance becomes a daily delightful for us, for at the end of Gospel-repentance, we always find ourselves more instructed, more humble, more wise, more glad, and even more motivated to walk in Christ’s ways and enjoy seeking to keep his good will which has been written on our holy hearts.