What do Saul, David, and Solomon all have in common? Let's do some comparison and contrasting in Old Testament scripture. Because after all, their similarities are urgent for us today.
Contrast these two scriptures:
1 Samuel 9:2
"And [Kish] had a son, whose name was Saul, a choice young man, and a goodly: and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he:..."
Now here is Saul some years later:
1 Samuel 13:14
"But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart,...because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded [him]."
Saul began as a man that was described as "there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he...", yet with the passage of time the Lord removed the kingdom from Saul because he had "not kept that which the Lord commanded thee."
Many today know of Biblical Saul. Not only did he decide to worship how, where and what he may (see 1 Samuel 13:8-14), but he continued to attempt to kill David (who was the Lord's newly anointed servant and future king); Saul even tried to kill his own son, Jonathan, for speaking rationally about David (see 1 Samuel 20:29-33).
Saul's choices perhaps made sense to him, but they were willful choices and selfish ones at best. No wonder he lost all that God had given him (the sad account in its entirety is found in 1 Samuel in the Old Testament).
Contrast the following two scriptures. The first is David speaking as a youth. He is aghast and enraged that one such as Goliath would defile the God of Israel and His people. Note David's honor and valor!
1 Samuel 17:45
"Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defiled."
Flash forward years later. David requires that Bathsheba "lay with him." She becomes pregnant. David wants to cover it up. He commands that Uriah, Bathsheba's husband, come home; his intent is to give Uriah a "weekend pass" with his wife.
Uriah honorably balks. He now is the one with honor. He cannot stomach forgetting his fellow soldiers fighting a vicious war. David's response to this honest response? The next morning, David sends Uriah to the front lines of battle to have him killed. Now who has defiled whom?
2 Samuel 11:14-15
"And it came to pass in the morning, that David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah.
"And he wrote in the letter, saying, Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten, and die."
Contrast these two scriptures. The first is when Solomon is a new king. The Lord asks of Solomon whatever Solomon wills. Solomon requests wisdom, which immensely pleases the Lord:
1 Kings 3:11-12
"And God said unto him, Because thou has asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment;
"Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee."
Now flash forward to Solomon years later in his old age:
1 Kings 11:5-8
"For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.
"And Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord,...
"Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon."
For those who are not familiar with ancient pagan gods, the Lord found pagan worship ceremonies more than repugnant. For example, worship of Molech and other ancient pagan systems utilized even infant sacrifice at times (see Samuel Fallows, Bible Encyclopedia, s.v. "Ashtoreth," 1:168).
Not only did Solomon participate in worshipping ancient pagan gods during the end of his life, he actually built places of pagan worship as we can read above. According to Biblical verse and commentaries, these activities were reprehensible to God due to human sacrifice involved as well as the sexual orgies and the turning of hearts away from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
What do Saul, David, and Solomon all have in common? A very disheartening and sorrowful fall from grace. What do their stories have for us? That we must watch ourselves in every manner to ensure that we do not follow lives of selfish abandonment.
The Lord watches His people. He gives prophets to teach us to also watch our own lives. As King Benjamin said in the Book of Mormon:
"But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not" (Mosiah 4:30).
How urgent to learn from these ancient Biblical men; how important that we continue to "watch ourselves" so that we will be ready for the Savior's coming when He actually is here. Truly a sobering thought.
Struggling with your teens? C.S. Bezas' book, POWERFUL TIPS FOR POWERFUL TEACHERS: Helping Youth Find Their Spiritual Wings, is now available in bookstores and online at DeseretBook.com. It has been called an essential tool for parents of teens and youth leaders. Order a copy today and watch changes begin.