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Tragedy … and a Glimmer of Hope

Scripture: 1 Samuel 31

I. You have hope that God will keep His word.

A. There’s not much to tell in this story of the fall of Saul and his sons. 1 Samuel 31:2 pretty much says it all. Saul’s sons die, and then in vs. 4 Saul dies. Then verse 6 reminds us that the death of Saul and his sons fulfills the prophecy of Samuel from 1 Sam. 28:19. The fact that this event is a tragedy is made clear in the language of chapter 31. Four times in the chapter the word fall is used. And four times the word dead or died is used. Israel is licked.

B. Where is the hope in this story? Did God keep his word? Yes, he did. It was a word of judgment that God kept, but – still – God kept His Word. God always keeps His Word. Israel may fall on Mount Gilboa, Saul may fall on his sword, but the word of God will never fall! Never! And if God’s word of judgment on Saul proved to be true, then won’t his word of promise to David that he will become king also prove true? Yes, it will.

II. You have hope that God will uphold His honor.

A. After the Philistines defeated Israel it was time for them to collect some victory trophies. The first trophy that they picked up according to vs. 9 was Saul’s head. They also took Saul’s armor as a trophy and put it in the temple of their god Ashtaroth. What was the gospel the Philistines preached in their temple (vs. 9)? “Ashtaroth has won! It is not just Israel that has been defeated. The LORD has been defeated. The LORD is a loser. Our god Ashtaroth is stronger.”

B. Where is the hope while God’s name is being dishonored? In 1 Samuel 4, the Philistines also defeated the Israelites in battle and Israel’s leader the priest Eli dies along with his sons. The Philistines took Israel’s Ark of the Covenant as a war trophy into the temple of their god Dagon. They mocked God. They said that Dagon was greater than the Lord. But God knocked Dagon flat in that temple and upheld his honor. God has upheld his honor in the world by sending His Son to earth. 2 Sam. 7:14: “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.”

III. You have hope that God will raise up people with a heart for Him.

A. Not all people are far from God like Saul and like Eli and his sons. There are always some who have a heart for God. Jonathan had a heart for God (vs. 2). He was faithful to God, to David and to his father Saul. The people of Jabesh-gilead remembered what Saul had done in saving their town (1 Sam. 11), and they honored Saul in giving him a proper burial (vs. 12-13). And David – the man with a heart for God – would now reign as king after Saul’s death.

There is always hope – even in times of tragedy. Put your hope in Jesus.

The book of 1 Samuel
Commentaries on Samuel by Dale Ralph Davis, Robert Bergen and Tim Chester


  1. Why is it good news that God fulfills His warnings to judge sin? If God keeps His promises of warning will He not also keep His promises of blessing?
  2. How is King Saul like Adam, the first son of God? And how is King David like Jesus, the second son of God? How high on your agenda is upholding the honor of God’s name?
  3. Even in dark times are there always people who remain who have a heart for God? How can you remember that it is not what we see but what God sees that matters? God always sees the heart!