For some time now our first readings have been from the First Book of Samuel. They seemed to have been tales sung by court story-tellers after the time of King David.
When I was a seventeen-year-old seminarian I took down a book of sermons by John Henry Newman, and I read one that explained why God rejected King Saul while he called David.
He said David had committed some awful sins, but afterwards his sorrow over offending God almost tore him apart. Saul, on the other hand, had no feeling for God. He only used religion as a political tool. Let me mention three occasions on which he showed his religion to be fake.
One time was when Samuel was to offer a sacrifice for the Israelite’s success in a battle with the Philistines. When Samuel was slow showing up Saul offered the sacrifice himself, though he wasn’t a priest, he didn’t see that it mattered.
Then, when the battle was going his way, he thought a fancy religious thing for him to do was to vow under pain of death that none of his soldiers would taste food until sundown. Then, when his son Jonathan, not knowing about the vow, ate something, Saul ordered him killed as part of his religious charade. The soldiers had to explain to him that our loving God would not be pleased by a father killing a son.
To show off his religious side he banned all witches and soothsayers from his kingdom. But when his cruel campaign against David brought him to the edge of defeat he himself had recourse for help to the Witch of Endor.
To be truly religious we must have an ongoing relationship with God, trying to know what he wants of us.
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