Three Great Failures

(sermon based upon a sermon by Batsell Barrett Baxter)


1 Cor. 10:6-12


6Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.  7Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. 8Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. 9Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. 10Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. 11Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.  12Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.


From time to time It serves a good purpose to review some of the things that have happened to God’s people in the long ago...


The apostle Paul writing to the Corinthians and from our text   I Cor. 10:11-12  said,


 6Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted….11Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. 12Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.


The Old Testament constitutes nearly three-fourths of the entire Bible, we read it for inspiration and for instruction. 2 Tim. 3:14-17 Paul stated to Timothy.  all inspired scripture is profitable”


We find in the Old Testament some examples that inspire us and other examples that warn us. The apostle Paul informs us in Romans 15:4


4For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.


 In this study we take three Old Testament examples and feel the impact of their lives. 


Israel became a great nation under God’s guidance and blessing. The zenith of its power was reached while Saul and David and Solomon sat upon the throne.  At that time the nations around Israel brought tribute to God’s people and there was a vast influence emanating from Jerusalem through most of the inhabited earth. Never again, after the division of the kingdom which followed Solomon, did Israel regain its power and its prestige.


 want to review some of the story of these first three kings of Israel, remembering


11Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition


These MEN have many things in common.  They were chosen of God to become kings of his people. They had also in common the fact that they were men of great ability.  Single out any one of them and he towers above his contemporaries because of his ability. 


They were also alike in that each one did some outstanding things during his reign, each one of them began his life with great promise.  It would be hard to think of a better beginning  Than each of these kings had when he became king of God’s people.


But with each of these men, there was a great failure. It would also be hard to think of a more disappointing failure than each became sometime during his life. These men inspire us in some ways; they warn us in others.


 But let us begin with the first of the three, king Saul, and read a little  of the story.  The story begins in the 8th chapter of I Samuel.


Prior to this time God’s people had been ruled by judges and not by kings, but the Canaanitish nations round about had kings and the people wanted to be like them. I Sam. 8:5-7    describes how


The people came to Samuel and said: Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto Jehovah. And Jehovah said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee; for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not be king over them.”


Samuel, the great prophet and priest of God, made a speech to plead with the people not to take an earthly king and reject God as their real king. The people’s hearts had already been set, so Samuel’s persuasive words fell on deaf ears.  Here is the account,     (I Sam. 8:19-22).


19Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us; 20That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles. 21And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the LORD. 22And the LORD said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king. And Samuel said unto the men of Israel, Go ye every man unto his city.    


The opening verse of chapter nine tells about the man whom God had selected to be 1st king.


1There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish the son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Bechorath, the son of Aphiah, a Benjamite, a mighty man of power. 2And he had a choice and handsome son whose name was Saul. There was not a more handsome person than he among the children of Israel. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people. (I Sam. 9:1-2).


Not only was he physically fine, he was fine in many other ways. He was modest, for when he had been told that he was to be king, and when the people had been brought together, Saul slipped away and hid in the baggage.


Though his modesty is most impressive, he was not able to keep it throughout his life. In chapter ten, verse twenty-four says,


24And Samuel said to all the people, See ye him whom the LORD hath chosen, that there is none like him among all the people? And all the people shouted, and said, God save the king.   


Israel now had its king. This great young man went out immediately and rallied the people together to throw off the yoke of their conquerors. Saul was a fine, promising young man, but we soon find that Saul did not remain as modest and self-effacing as he had been at the beginning.


It was unlawful under Moses’ law for any but a priest to offer sacrifices.  Saul faced a situation where he thought a sacrifice needed to be offered. He waited for the priest and the priest did not come. Then, impetuously, he took the matter into his own hands and offered the sacrifice--an ill-advised, unlawful sacrifice.  Samuel, God’s prophet, came and said to Saul,


13And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you. For now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14“But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.”  (I Sam. 13:13-14).

From the young, inexperienced, modest boy he has grown into a man who feels that he has the right to set aside God’s commandments and do as he pleases.


It is only a short step to the 15th chapter, and there we find the second glaring evidence of the change in the thinking of this young man. God commanded Saul to go down and destroy a long-standing enemy of Israel, the Amalakites.


 He was to destroy all of them and to bring back nothing.  When Saul got there he liked the looks of some of the things and wanted to bring them back, so he brought them back. Hardly had he returned when Samuel went out to meet him and asked,              ( I Sam. 15:14).


14But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?”


In other words, the sounds that preceded Saul told Samuel that he had not kept God’s law.  Then comes one of the great passages in the Bible,         (I Sam. 15:22-23).


22Then Samuel said:  “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. 23   For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,  And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king.”


We can almost see Saul as he grows older. From that timid, modest young giant whom God selected, he becomes proud of his strength, proud of the way he can organize an army and proud of his conquests.


A few years pass and he is thinking of Saul more than he ever has before.  Saul is the apple of his own  eye. The problem is self-centeredness,   It is  a problem that can ruin any of us, it is the problem of thinking more of one’s own will and one’s own desires than the will and desires and commandments of God.


 Being self-centeredness, and selfishness are like cancer in a man’s life. There is a destructive power that comes into any man when he begins to feel himself important, when he begins to feel that it is by his own strength and by his own power that accomplishments are made.


This is a very old story, but the sin that ruined Saul’s life is also very modern.  God, at one time was very great in the eyes of Saul, but later on, God was displaced by Saul’s own conception of himself.  We turn a few more pages and in the 16th chapter of I Samuel  we read about the jealousy that resulted from this self-centered feeling in Saul’s heart.


It happened after the young shepherd lad, David, had killed the giant. On the way back the multitudes came out and sang this song of triumph, “Saul hath slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands.


8Then Saul was very angry, and the saying displeased him; and he said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed only thousands. Now what more can he have but the kingdom?” 9So Saul eyed David from that day forward.  (I Sam. 16:8-9).


His own self-concern ruined his life and caused God to remove him from being king.  After a time God brought David to come into the place of Saul.


We read David’s story in 2ND Samuel and it is a wonderful story.

He was a fine shepherd boy, brave, courageous and full of faith. He stood alone before Goliath in triumph. He also had many other fine qualities.


David had a different kind of failing from that. of Saul.   2 Sam. 11:1-5 we read his mistake


1And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried still at Jerusalem.  2And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king’s house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon. 3And David sent and enquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?  4And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanness: and she returned unto her house.  5And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, I am with child


 Adultery was followed by murder to cover the sin. David’s sin was not so much being self-centered; David’s sin was the lust of the flesh, another of the great causes of the downfall of men.


David lived his life after this to make right his wrong, and we read with a great deal of sympathy his 51st psalm, a psalm of penitence for this sin. How wonderful it would have been if the life of David had not been marred by the events of the 11th chapter of II Samuel. It is a black chapter that stands out to mar the record of God’s great king David.


In the course of time David grew old and from among his sons Solomon was selected to be king in his father’s place


Solomon must have been a fine looking boy and he must have had many abilities. This is evidenced by the fact that he became so powerful a king. Solomon’s ships were not only in the Mediterranean, sailing as far as Spain, but also down in the gulf of Akaba.


Then there were the copper mines, and the tribute brought from many nations. Solomon became very great. Part of his greatness was due to the fact that early in his life he leaned heavily upon God. 


Soon after he had been called to be king, God came to him and said, “Ask what I shall give thee. “ The answer Solomon gave has become well known.


And now, O Jehovah my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child; I know not how to go out or come in. And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude. Give thy servant therefore an understanding heart to judge thy people that I may discern between good and evil; for who is able to judge this thy great people?” (I Kings 3:7-13).


He asked for wisdom; God was pleased. God gave him wisdom and also wealth and power.


Then Solomon made his mistake. We read of it a in the 11th chapter of I Kings.  Solomon brought around him a great many people who did not fear Jehovah and he entered into intimate relationships with these pagans.  The result was then as it is now. As Paul said it, “Be not deceived: Evil companionships corrupt good morals.” (I Cor. 15:33). 


Here is the way it happened with Solomon, (I Kings 11:1-4).


1But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites— 2from the nations of whom the Lord had said to the children of Israel, “You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. 3And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. 4For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David.


I wish we had the power to visualize each of these three great kings.  There stands Saul, we look up to him because he is seven or perhaps eight feet tall.  What a man!  Yet he was a man whose self-centeredness blasted the success that his life might have had.


Remember in the New Testament Paul’s admonition to the Romans,


For I say to every man that is among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but so to think as to think soberly, according as God has dealt to each man a measure of faith.” (Rom. 12:3).


Let us remember our own weaknesses. Let us always remember that it is only when we trust in God that we are strong.


When we look at David, we see him with all of his wonderful virtues..... But we also remember the secret sin of his life, weakness of the flesh, which blackened an otherwise beautiful record.  We are reminded of Paul's advice to a young man Timothy.

     2 Tim.3:22 flee youthful lusts….and follow righteousness.


Then we remember Solomon, wisest of men,  skilled ruler, respected and honored throughout the earth, but a man whose companionships pulled away his heart from that which was right.


Evil companionships still corrupt good morals.  These men lived and died in the long ago, but their lessons continue until now. Our prayer is that as each of us listens again to God’s story of his broken kings, we may determine to avoid their failures.


The best way to avoid any of these faults is to anchor ourselves to Christ.   Believe in God with all your heart; believe in Christ; commit yourself unto the Lord and follow his ways; be penitent of past sins. Begin it all by being buried with your Lord in baptism that your sins may be washed away.  


Ron Cope Minister churches of Christ


phone:  (678)617-9658