Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.
Who was Humpty Dumpty? Really, we don’t know. Legend tells us that he was an egg, but the children’s poem tells us nothing about his identity.
But the great tragedy is that once Humpty fell off the wall, his world shattered to pieces—and he never pieced his world together again.
Why would Humpty dare to sit on a wall and why wasn’t the wall equipped with guard rails?
We’ll never know.
But today, we’ll read about a man who suffered a similar fate. Please join me!
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
1 Samuel 15:1-16:23. In chapter 15, Saul’s kingdom begins coming down. At times when reading about Saul, I’ve felt sorry for him. The New Bible Commentary sheds some light on this character:
As with chapter 13, the modern reader’s sympathy tends to lie with Saul, not because of his lies, but because he wanted to save a man’s life. It is important, therefore, to realize from the start that Saul had no humanitarian motives whatever—that is not the point at issue. The issue, as the biblical author sees it, is whether a king of Israel was willing or not to obey God’s instructions as given through a prophet.
Incidentally, at that time, when a husband divorced his wife, he cut off the hem of her robe. So when Saul tore off a piece of Samuel’s robe, Samuel used the occasion to liken the event to God divorcing himself from Saul.
The next time God chose a king, he chose the anti-Saul. David wasn’t necessarily good looking (he was a red-haired, freckle-faced kid!) nor did he stand head and shoulders above the crowd. We read that he had “a fine appearance and handsome features,” but he was no Saul. I love the fact that David was Samuel’s last choice for king—even among David’s brothers!
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
I can readily acknowledge that I’m neither tall nor good looking. For the most part, those are characteristics that lie beyond my control. But the state of my heart—now that lies within my control.
The good news for all of us is, we can control our externals only to a point, but the part of us that is most valuable—and most usable to God—are the areas are that reside inside of us, which we can control.
The last insight for all of us is this: although David was anointed king, although he was a man after God’s heart, although the Spirit of the Lord was upon him, David still needed to wait a long time before becoming king. He still needed seasoning.
John 8:1-20. I know I’m getting ahead of myself here, in terms of The Word Made Fresh, but have you ever noticed that when people discuss the initial story about the woman caught in adultery, most of the time people limit their discussion to Jesus words, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her”? Yet they ignore Jesus’ words to the woman, “Go now and leave your life of sin.” At the same time, Jesus said he was judging no one.
Proverbs 15:8. “The Lord detests the sacrifice of the wicked, but the prayer of the upright pleases him.” This proverb coincides with our reading about Saul in 1 Samuel 15: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
Today’s reading in 1 Samuel 15 tells the story of Saul’s fall from grace, resulting in a shattered dynasty which is never put back together again—despite the efforts of the king’s horses and king’s men.
Not only does Saul disobey God’s instructions to completely destroy the enemy—but he keeps the best of the spoils for himself and his men and builds a monument in his honor. Initially, Saul seems unfazed and unrepentant by his disobedience.
Numerous psychologists have read Saul’s story and diagnose him as suffering from a variety of mental illnesses. They might be true, but I wonder if Saul’s power went to his head, which in turn drove him mad. You know the saying, “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Here are a few lessons I’ve learned from Saul:
God hates rebellion and arrogance. He hates it—likening it to divination and idolatry, both which were deserving of a death sentence back in the day. Saul’s example drives home the importance of being teachable and refusing to be defensive. Unfortunately, Saul refuses to humble himself until Samuel tells Saul that God has rejected him as king. By that point, the “bad egg” had already fallen off the wall.
Partial obedience is disobedience. Saul partially obeyed God’s instruction. He eliminated most of the people and possessions God told him to destroy. However, he failed to follow through completely.
The opposite of obedience is arrogance. Why did Saul refuse to obey God? He was afraid of the opinions of the people. But let’s look at this from a different perspective: Being popular with his men was more important that being obedient to God. Saul’s arrogance prevented his obedience.
The best gift we can give to God is our obedience. This tells us that obedience to God—a holy life—is an act of worship.
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- What do the words “to obey is better than sacrifice” look like in your life?
- In what ways do you resemble Humpty Dumpty and Saul? In what ways are you different?
- In what areas of your life to you struggle with partial obedience? What is the reward of obedience?
- How do you nurture your heart?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.