Now the Philistines fought against Israel; and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines, and fell slain on Mount Gilboa. Then the Philistines followed hard after Saul and his sons. And the Philistines killed Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua, Saul’s sons. The battle became fierce against Saul. The archers hit him, and he was severely wounded by the archers. ( I Samuel 31:1-3 )
Most Christians, I believe, have tended to look at the story of Saul & Jonathan's fall on Mt. Gilboa ( 'swollen heap' ) in one one of several ways. We might focus either on the tragedy of their death at the hands of the Philistines, or we might think primarily of the fact that God's will was done, and that the sin of Saul, the federal head of Israel had finally caught up to him, and he had died, thus enabling his crown to pass to God's anointed and holy one, David.
The focus that many have noted in this story, and I believe it's a good one, is that David was not willing, even though he was providentially given the chance at least twice, to kill Saul, and rid himself of this adversary. He was not willing to be guilty of the blood of God's anointed, even though it would have been a clear case of self defense. I mean; Saul was trying to kill him, right?!
The question that most have not thought of ( to my knowledge ), though, is why was David not willing to kill God's anointed? Besides the fact that Saul had been appointed by God as the king that Israel had asked for, and deserved, do you think that David had any special affinity for Saul, particularly after Saul had attempted, numerous times, to end his life? One can imagine that David did feel some sort of love for this man who had been to him somewhat of a father-figure, and this affinity not totally snuffed out when Saul tried to kill him, but I don't think that this would explain satisfactorily, why David was not willing to take vengeance. So we are back to the first reason, with which I totally agree, but this, I believe, is not the strongest reason, by far!
Fast forward now, to the time of Saul's more modern ( not quite 2,000 years ago ) name-sake.
And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, 'Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus,[b] who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit'. Immediately there fell from his eyes [ something ] like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized. ( Acts 9:17 & 18 )
Among other things, one might note here, that the scales fell from from Saul's eyes before he received baptism. This passage does not clearly state, as many such passage do not, that this was a water baptism, but it most likely was, since this was a sign that Saul had received new life, and would now be a minister of the Lord of Life, rather than a minister of death.
In Luke's record of this event, we read, in verses 3 and 4 of the same chapter ( Acts 9 ), that 'as he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?' Saul, in essence, was killed, stopped dead in his tracks, both figuratively and quite literally! Later on we read that 'Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one', and that 'he was three days without sight'. This explains what we read earlier, about the 'scales' that fell from his eyes, and many ( most, if not all, really ) have speculated, quite reasonably, I believe, that when Saul was faced with the full ( Shekinnah ) Glory of Jesus, the Son of God, his eyes were seared, and most likely, even his retinas were damaged!
Why, though, does Luke see fit to mention, even accentuate, that Saul was 'three days without sight'? This almost sounds familiar, does it not? Remember that Jonah, when he would have fled from the Presence of the Lord, was 'three days and three nights' in the belly of the 'great fish' that God had prepared for just this purpose. Remember too, that when asked for a sign ( Luke 11:29 ), Jesus told the crowds ( Matthew ( 12 ) records that it was 'the scribes and Pharisees' ), 'This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet'. Matthew goes on to say that, 'as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth'. Jonah's ordeal, according to Jesus, was to serve as a picture of what was soon to happen to him, at their hands, even. We know, from the rest of the story, though, that just as Jonah was returned ( restored? ) to dry 'land', once more to stand up and walk in the land of the living, so Jesus Himself was raised from the dead; the grave, or death, could not hold Him; after 'three days'; He arose!
As we have seen throughout Scripture, the number 'three', and thus, even the phrase 'three days', is very significant; but significant of what, you might ask? I would venture to say that it is significant of resurrection; a resurrection to life, or a resurrection to damnation, but a raising up for judgment! One needs only to look at the story of Joseph in prison to see this.
Returning, once again, to the earlier story of Saul: as the king of Israel, Saul was anointed by God, to be the federal, or covenant head his people. The 'children' of Israel had asked for a king like those of the nations around them, a king that didn't scare them quite so much, so even though God, who was their True King, still had his remnant, interspersed among them, He acquiesced and appointed an earthly king for them, but one who was to be a representative of their heavenly King. Saul, as we can read from history, did an okay, if mediocre job. He was not a great king, though God did accomplish His purpose through him. At the appointed time, God set Saul a test, and just as Adam & Eve had failed their test, so Saul failed his, and eventually fell further and further, until at last, as we read above, God slew him. Though Israel was literally defeated at that time, they rose again to stand, fight, and defeat those same enemies under King David, whom God said was 'a man after My own heart'. At this time, though; Israel, because their king was dead, had died with him!
Once again, and finally, we return to the Saul that we know so well, he who became the writer of much of what we know as the Greek New Testament; the apostle Paul. Saul, as most can ascertain for themselves, was, in his own words, 'a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee' ( Acts 23:6 ). As a Pharisee, he was 'brought up in this city ( Jerusalem ) at the feet of Gamaliel' ( Acts 22:3 ), Gamaliel being 'a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people' ( Acts 5:34 ). Because this Saul was a Pharisee, and 'zealous for the law' ( Acts 21:20 ), and 'zealous toward God' ( Acts 22:3 ), 'persecuted the church of God beyond measure and [ tried to ] destroy it' ( Galatians 1:13 ( I Corinthians 15:9 ). After Saul was brought to his knees upon meeting his Maker on the road to Damascus, he made a complete turn-about from his former life. He was called by 'a new name' ( Isaiah 62:2 ), Paul, and became as zealous for the cause of Jesus, as he had been against him. When Saul was prostrated before the Christ, being judged in the Presence of God's own Glory, he in essence died, but was raise to a new life, to true Life, with a new name, as had been prophesied in Scripture, the Scripture that he knew well!
With the resurrection of Paul, a representative of national physical Israel, he who once had persecuted the Church of God, the Body of Christ, was now to be ( and was, most horribly ) persecuted for the sake of God''s people!
The 'tables had been turned'!
For the Glory of God,
And for His people,
Charles Haddon Shank