Suffering vs. Judgment – 1 Samuel 31

As prophesied by the spirit of Samuel in EnDor, King Saul was at the end of his life. The mortally-wounded king would soon fall on his sword after being defeated in battle.

Then the Philistines followed hard after Saul and his sons. And the Philistines killed Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua, Saul’s sons. The battle became fierce against Saul. The archers hit him, and he was severely wounded by the archers.

… Therefore Saul took a sword and fell on it.  1 Samuel 31:2-4 (NKJV)

Israel’s first king, Saul, was now dead.  He would not make the genealogy of Jesus Christ.  The Bible makes clear that, despite starting out quite well, Saul greatly displeased the Lord.  His kingdom was removed from him and the line of Benjamin, and given to David in the line of Judah.

Saul’s son Jonathan was also dead.  He had been a great friend of David and a godly hero for the people of Israel.  Saul had tormented David for over a decade, forcing him to flee for his life and live on the run.  Saul had also killed 85 priests who were innocent victims of a misunderstanding over one of David’s escapes. God finally had had enough and removed Saul and his line from the throne, once and for all.  Jonathan was an innocent victim of Saul’s treachery, collateral damage in God’s permitted judgment against Saul for his wicked actions and unfaithfulness.  

The judgment of God came down hard on Saul and his family.  Sin can have serious consequences that impact the ones we love the most. But divine judgment of this type is very rare. Saul had been given innumerable chances to repent and to turn back towards God, but he always refused and continued to try to kill David, the Lord’s anointed replacement for his throne.

When horrible things happen to us or to our loved ones, we immediately assume that it is a judgment from God caused by our own sin or some displeasure we have brought upon God.  This is most probably not the case.  All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), yet many do not experience the same level of suffering that some others do.

Suffering may be USED by God to draw us closer to Him, but most likely He did NOT choose it for us.  Rather, for heavenly reasons, He has permitted it occur in our lives.  Suffering is a consequence of living in a fallen world, one that has been corrupted by the sin of all of us who live in it, and impacted, as well, by dark spiritual forces.

There are reasons why things happen that we may never know or understand in this life. The book of Job sheds some light on the types of spiritual battles that may lie beyond our perception when we experience suffering. It speaks of a heavenly conference where Satan and others are gathered in the presence of God.

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?”

So Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”

12 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.

So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.  Job 1:8-12 (NKJV)

Job had a pristine character and a faith which brought great pleasure to the Lord.  What more could a true believer want than to bring joy to God Himself through faith and generous action?

But we see in this text that there is a spiritual warfare going on behind the scenes in the world around us.  And for divine purposes, God permitted Satan to bring terrible pain and suffering into Job’s life.  This was not God’s idea or judgment, but He did permit it to occur.  As a result of Satan’s attacks, Job experienced miserable loss and tremendous personal suffering. It certainly appeared to Job that he had been forsaken by God, who, at Satan’s request, had lifted the divine hedge of protection that was over him. 

Job must have thought, as Christ would later speak on the cross, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”

Job was confused by his suffering, and had no idea what he had ever done to deserve to be abandoned by God like this.  To make matters worse, his wife prodded him to give up his faith and curse God. Job’s friends also incorrectly assumed that he had done something wrong to deserve the suffering, and this only added insult to Job’s injury.

Later, Jesus, the innocent Lamb, would voluntarily go to the cross to bear all of our sin and shame.  It was His pleasure to suffer for us – even though we were all living in sin and selfishness, He lovingly exchanged His life for ours. He did this so that we may be purified and qualified to live with Him forever in glory. He did not come to earth to condemn us, but to save us (John 3:16-17).

God also did not forget about Job in his suffering. 

10 And the Lord restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends… 12 Now the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning.  Job 42:10, 12 (NKJV)

Like many of us, Job went through his season of suffering, but it was clearly not a judgment from God.  Similarly, most of the suffering we experience is not a punishment for some sin we have committed.  Rather, it is a consequence of living in a world that is temporarily under the curse of sin.  This curse will be removed once Christ returns and sets up His eternal kingdom in the New Jerusalem, free from any enemies, tragedies or sicknesses to come against us.


What is the most severe suffering you have experienced in life?  Have you believed that God sent you this suffering as a punishment or personal judgment? Most likely, He did not.

Father God, thank you that You deeply love each one of us. May we take comfort in Your healing presence, and be a comfort to others who are experiencing a season of suffering. We ask for Your blessing in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NKJV)

May the Lord richly bless you and heal you of any hurts you are carrying in your heart today.

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