Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Matthew Poole: "Why did God so severely punish Saul for so small an offence...?"

Note:  My sermon Sunday morning was What hast thou done? (1 Samuel 13) on the rejection of Saul.  Here is the conclusion of the message that makes use of Matthew Poole's thoughts on this passage:

There is yet one lingering spiritual question we might have in our minds about this passage. Why is God so sever with Saul? He transgresses in just one command and the Lord removes his kingdom and his prophet from him. Is this fair? It is like Moses not being allowed to enter the Promised Land, because of one act of disobedience.  He was told to speak to the rock but he struck it twice, and for this he could not enter the Promised Land (see Numbers 20:8-13).

Matthew Poole pondered this in his commentary. He offers something like a catechism on this point:

Question: Why did God so severely punish Saul for so small an offence, and that occasioned by great necessity, and done with an honest intention?

Answer: First, men are very incompetent judges of God’s judgments, because they see but very little, either of the majesty of the offended God, or of the heinous nature and aggravations of the offense. For instance, men see nothing but Saul’s outward act, which seems small; but God saw with how wicked a mind and heart he did this…. Besides God clearly saw all the wickedness that yet lay hid in his heart, and foresaw all his other crimes; and therefore had far more grounds for his sentence against him than we can imagine.

Secondly, God doth sometimes punish small sins severely and that for diverse weighty reasons, as that all men may see what the least sin deserves, and how much they owe to God’s free and rich mercy for passing by their great offenses….

Do you get Poole’s point? When you read 1 Samuel 13 you should not think “How could God treat Saul like that?” But you should think, “Why has God treated me as he has? Why has he cast all my infirmities upon his Son? Why has he removed my transgressions from me as far as the East is from the West?”

So then, it is, in the end, we who say to God, "What hast thou done for us in Christ?"



AJ said...

Thank you for the excellent fix on a proper perspective. It is only shocking to us to read of God's justice because we get desensitized by the continuous flow of grace and mercy from His infinite fountains. This reminds me of a YouTube-clip of a sermon by Arturio Azurdia (search for "God saves bad people").

Chris Kelly said...

Thanks, Jeff. I was hoping you might post this.

Jeffrey T. Riddle said...

Thanks for the feedback AJ and Chris. My admiration for Poole has grown as I've read his commentary on 1 Samuel. If you have Calvin, Henry, and Poole it seems there is little need for much else with regards to commentaries. Chris, it was good to meet you in person last Lord's Day.