Welcome to the Act 4 of the Shakespeare play. Where the plot twists are everywhere, the symbolism is on point, and everyone either dies or cries. Seriously, my inner English nerd is freaking out.
The Redefined Student Ministry is studying the life of David in January and February, but it’s impossible to talk about everything in just seven meetings. We’ll have to skip some stuff from one week to the next, so we’re covering all the in-between stuff here on the blog. Read on!
First, a random young man, all dirty and covered in torn clothes, comes up to David as he’s coming back from taking down the Amalekites (the people who had kidnapped all of the wives and children in Friday’s lesson). When David asks this guy what’s up, all the drama starts.
More Plot Twists Than an M. Night Shyamalan Flick
King Saul and all of his sons are dead, including Jonathan, David’s best friend. Turns out, Saul chose to kill himself for the sake of not being killed and tortured by the Philistines, by the uncircumcised. But plot twist, Saul’s life held on even while being impaled by his own spear*, and so the young man who is telling David the story becomes the one who actually kills Saul, at Saul’s request to quicken his death.
Then, plot twist, this young man is actually an Amalekite, from the exact same country that Saul disobeyed God in not completely destroying, the exact same country that David had just taken down, and the exact type of people Saul had claimed he was trying to avoid being killed by: uncircumcised people.
Plot twist for this Amalekite, he probably should not have mercy-killed a king. The Amalekite is executed by David’s people, and then for a grand finale: plot twist, David mourns not only the death of his best friend Jonathan, but also the death of the man who tried tirelessly to kill him, Saul.
So there’s all of that. Let’s start with the big stuff.
The Symbolism of King Saul
Saul, throughout 1 Samuel, is a very interesting character. He’s remembered mainly for the way he failed as a king, just as God said he would—
- How he spared the best of the Amalekites and their livestock.
- How he got jealous and tried to kill David frantically.
- How he consulted a medium when God would not answer him, just to learn exactly what he already knew: “because you did not obey the voice of the Lord … [He] has done this thing to you this day” (1 Samuel 28:18).
But it’s important not to forget that Saul was still the one chosen by God to be the King of Israel.
When he was first chosen, Saul said, “Am I not a Benjamite, from the least of the tribes of Israel? And is not my clan the humblest of all of clans of the tribe of Benjamin?” (1 Samuel 9:21)—and Saul fell away when he saw the glory as his own and was no longer humble. The people of Israel even only called him great, at first, because of his height, instead of his humility.
Saul represents how the best of Israel became the worst; how Israel was incapable of being perfect.
The symbolism of Saul is killer (badum-tsh!). His death is not by his own hands but of the hands of the not-wiped-out-Amalekite, the consequence of his disobedience to God. It’s a powerful image of the relation between sin and death and humanities’ submersion in it all; the message of this chapter could just drop the mic and stop here.
But it doesn’t.
I Am Saul
David’s reaction to Saul’s death is not celebration of the justice of God or the victory of escape from Saul’s jealousy. Instead, he has the Amalekite executed for killing “the Lord’s anointed.” He laments for Saul. He writes a song to mourn his death and claims its tune should be taught throughout the country. We know David wrote many song’s as worship to God, and at the news of Saul’s death, writing is exactly what he turns to.
Because it’s not just Saul who failed. We all fail.
Our weakness is awful sometimes. Most times. Most of time we don’t feel the burning impact of hitting the ground, lift up our broken bones and say, “Well, God is good.” It hurts, and we feel the pain. It’s in our failure and our realization of our failure that we are able to surrender and worship God.
David knew that it was never about how great of a man Saul was. It was about who God is, and who Saul was to God: His anointed.
God’s Mercy Through Jesus
In all of our ups and downs, God stays the same. When we are at our worst, we can’t forget who we are in God. God doesn’t end our story with our submersion in sin. After our lamentation, our pain, and our surrender to Him, we have God’s anointing through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
Which is much more beautiful than anything Shakespeare ever wrote.
*Alternate interpretation: The Amalekite lied. His story isn’t entirely consistent with the account of Saul’s death in 1 Samuel 31 (sword vs spear, for example). In either case, the King of Israel is either finished off or plundered by an enemy he was meant to destroy years earlier.
Jenny is a Senior at South Elgin High School. You’ll find her behind the drum shield at Redefined. She’s a spoken word artist and a filmmaker. She will fight you, and she fangirls over things like anime and Tom Hiddleston.