Great beginnings are extremely important. But if you run well to begin with and then either give up the race near the end or turn to run in a whole different direction at the end, it won’t matter much how well you did at the beginning. King Saul had such a great beginning. He was chosen by God, partly becasue of his humility and willingness to trust God. When Samuel had anointed him to become the first king over Israel, he was God’s chosen king for the people. Yet when the time for coronation came, they couldn’t find him. He was hidden among all the stuff and they had to seek him out to bring him before the people. Some thought he wasn’t up to the task, but God’s Spirit came upon him and he prophesied along with the prophets and was a great leaeder as long as he followed the Spirit’s lead. When he led the people at the beginning against the Philistines and they had God fighting on their side, he was seen as a great king and the right choice from the Lord for the people. But it didn’t take long for a different pattern to appear. Samuel the prophet told him to gather his men and wait for seven days for him to come and to offer the sacrifice to God and seek his blessings and guidance for the mission. Saul waited, the men began to complain and some even started to scatter as they waited for Samuel to arrive. On the seventh day when Samuel still had not arrived as he had promised, Saul became afraid that he would lose all his men and took it on himself to go ahead and offer the sacrifice that Samuel was to offer. Just as he finished his offering, Samuel arrived and asked Saul what he had done. He told him then that God’s plan to establish a dynasty around Saul’s family had been changed and he would raise up a king after his own heart.
But things got worse, as Saul grew older, he became horribly jealous of David because the women sang, “Saul has killed his thousands and David his ten-thousands.” A man who had been loyal to him to the hilt became his enemy that he sought to have destroyed. He sought in every way he knew to kill David.
Perhaps the worst time came when God told Saul and his army to go down against the Amelikites and utterly destory them because of the idolatry, the horrendously sinful behavior of the people. Saul went down in battle. He defeated the Amelikites, but failed to obey God’s command to utterly and completely destroy them. He brought back the best of the sheep and oxen and king Agag, alive. When God sent Samuel to talk to him, Saul acually came out to meet Samuel in a jovial way declaring how he had obeyed God. Samuel’s response was, “What then is the noise of bleating of the sheep and the lowing of the oxen?” Saul began with excuses that they had utterly destoryed the Amelikites but the men wanted to save the best of the animals and wanted to bring back the king. Samuel informed Saul that to obey is better than to sacrifice and to listen to God is better thant he fat of rams. He demanded Agag be brought before him and immediately put him to death. Saul still sought Samuel’s blessing so he wouldn’t look back among the people.
A life of promise turned into a life of tragedy when he actually sought out a medium to call up Samuel to ask his advise. He died along with both his sons on the hill of Gilboa at the hands of the Philistines.
A great start, but pitiful ending to his life. Another man named Saul, whom we know better as Paul had a lousy beginning as a man wanting to destroy the church and anything that had to do with Jesus, but God changed his life and set him on the right course. Even though that course involved lots of hard, persecution, jail, prison and rejection by his own people, Paul remained faithful to the Lord to the very end of his life. As he reached the end of life his plea was, “I am now ready to be offered and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight. I have finnished the course. I have kept the faith. Henseforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous judge shall give to me and not to me only but to all those who love his appearing.”
Great starts are important. But a great finish is vital. There is no place to stop in our service to God until we reach that home with him in glory. Tell me something, are you getting closer to God, more on fire for him and more dedicated to doing his will as the years pass? The end hasn’t been written yet.