In your opinion, and feel free to leave your answer in the comments, what movie has the best ending ever? Movies like Citizen Kane, Casablanca, Usual Suspects, Shawshank Redemptions, and, one of my all-time favorites, Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, all go down in cinema history as having some of the best endings ever. In fact, if not for the endings, these movies wouldn’t be classics. All that to say, endings are important.
Although Chronicles is buried in the middle of our English Bibles, it is the very last book of the Hebrew Bible. Like many books towards the end of the Old Testament, one of the major themes is the Messianic King, the hope of Israel. Because this book is about the Messiah, it features the one through whom the Messiah would come, King David. And although it is an accurate telling of David’s story, it’s going to highlight the good parts more than his failings. 1st Chronicles is going to present David as a type of the one who will come.
As we look at today’s passage, you can’t tell the story of David’s kingship without discussing his predecessor. With very little fanfare, the narrative section of 1st Chronicles begins with Saul’s death. Verses 1–12 tell of Saul’s final battle, his demise, and the after-action report of the men of Jabesh-gilead going to rescue the king’s remains. This account is very similar to 1st Samuel 31, which expands on this story. However, verses 13 and 14 are different. 1–12 is simply descriptive, while 13–14 gives us the commentary—“Saul died for his trespass which he committed against the Lord.”
The end matters. It helps us understand Chronicles; how and why it was written. Likewise, as we examine the end of Saul’s life, it’s a sad reminder. From a secular point of view, Saul was a good king—a great king in fact. If you examine the nation of Israel at the end of Judges to the end of Saul’s life, he accomplished a lot.
In 1st Samuel 11, Jabesh was in trouble from Ammonite invaders. Because the nation was not unified, nobody was coming to help. When the newly promoted Saul heard of this, “the Spirit of God rushed upon Saul… and his anger was greatly kindled.” (1 Sam 11:6). He hacked up a yoke of oxen and mailed the pieces around Israel saying in so many words, “If ya’ll don’t show up, I’m going to do this to you.” Israel got the message and swiftly defeated the Ammonites. Israel was then united under one great king, Saul.
Saul was setup to lead his nation well, but he disobeyed God. In 1 Samuel 13 he made an unlawful sacrifice. Because of this, Samuel told him that his kingship would end with him. And, as bad as that was, it didn’t even make the life summary in 1st Chronicles. He died for disobeying the word of the Lord and consulting a medium. His legacy had already been shattered, but he was disgracefully killed and paraded by Gentiles as a trophy until his remains were rescued.
The story of David begins with the death and disgrace of a man poised for greatness. Yet, what we will see is that greatness is found in obedience, humility, and loyalty to God’s Covenant. David wasn’t perfect, but when you tie together some of the best moments, we see a picture of Christ. What will your legacy be? Will your ending be great or a disgrace? The end, for all of us, starts now.
By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate