It seems rather strange that Samuel would anoint the shepherd-boy, David, to be king while the currently reigning king, Saul, still held the throne. Further still, David was not part of Saul’s lineage. Without kinship, David would be seen as competition. When a king feels threatened by a competitor trouble is sure to follow.
One might wonder why God would choose Saul to be king only to later reject him. We can’t really say for sure, but some reasonable assumptions can be made. In essence, I believe that God was communicating a very important message by giving Saul the opportunity to be the king of His chosen nation.
There 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. And 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. 1 Samuel 9:1-2 (NKJV)
Saul had an awesome pedigree. He came from an influential family that probably had both wealth and a legacy of valor in battle. In addition, Saul possessed the regal appearance of a king. If someone were given the task of going through all of Israel to find a king, Saul would have been the person to pick out of the crowd.
Saul had a problem, though—and it wasn’t a small one. He was insecure in his identity. In spite of the fact that he came from a prominent family, Saul knew nothing of his identity in the eyes of God. It was as though termites were chewing through the foundation of his life. Regardless of what was happening on the surface, a collapse was inevitable.
In the following months, Saul forfeited the throne by disobeying the very God who gave it to him. Why did Saul disobey the Lord’s commands? In each situation, Saul feared the opinion of the people more than he feared God. After being pressed, Saul eventually confessed his wrongdoing, but his attitude displayed no sense of genuine repentance. After a stern and final rebuke from the prophet Samuel, Saul responded by saying:
“I have sinned; but please honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and go back with me, that I may worship the Lord your God.” 1 Samuel 15:30 (NASB)
The thing that Saul cared about most was his own image. It didn’t seem to matter that he was alienating himself from God. Worse still, Saul became a jealous enemy of David—the young man God chose to be the future king of Israel. Saul’s life’s mission turned from leading his nation to killing God’s anointed man whom he perceived as a threat to his power.
At one of the lowest points imaginable, Saul had 85 priests of God and their families unjustly slaughtered. By this time, his quest for self-preservation had blinded Saul to the severity of his actions. His heart was dead to God and it was only a matter of time until his body went to the grave as well.
Saul may have blamed his demise on a lot of things, but, in the end, it was insecurity that killed the king.