The battle became heavy against Saul, and the archers overtook him; and he was wounded by the archers.
1 Chronicles 10:3
Samuel details the reign of Saul more than Chronicles does. Chronicles spends nine chapters on genealogy and one on the reign and demise of Saul. In fact, Chronicles is not even concerned with Saul’s reign, per se, but makes passing remarks about Saul’s transgression and asserts that it was due to a few specific transgressions that Saul was killed on the battlefield. This chapter also devotes some space to the exploits of the men of Jabesh-Gilead in retrieving the bodies of Saul and his sons.
One thing that did catch my attention is the statement that the archers overtook [Saul]. When Paul wrote to the Ephesian church, he spoke of the armor of God and wrote of the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil [one] (Ephesian 6:16).
One of the things that I often find myself thinking on is the method of warfare in the ancient world. The phalanx was already an old method of war by the time the Romans came along and made it more effective than it had ever been before. It is entirely possible that Saul and the ancient Israelites knew and practiced the phalanx.
The thing about a phalanx is that it must be executed by a group in order to be effective. In fact, it must be done by a group of like minded individuals, with the same goal, and moving in the same direction for it to be at its most effective.
Saul was overtaken by the archers when there was no one else around but his armor bearer. He was isolated. Whether the Israelites knew and practiced the phalanx or not, being isolated on a battlefield is often a recipe for defeat.
And the same is true in spiritual warfare.
I am convinced that Paul wrote of the Christian life as spiritual warfare for more than one reason. The imagery had been used by others, including King David, but the Roman Empire’s mastery of the phalanx would have been something that every believer in Paul’s time was familiar with. The imagery, particularly the shield, would have brought with it the implication that a shield is most effective when used in conjunction with other shields borne by fellow soldiers. I, as a believer, am not at my safest — as I have often heard — when I am daily reading and praying and practicing the other Christian disciplines. These disciplines are necessary and vital to my ability to be effective when God calls me to action and I should be practicing them. But I am at my safest when I am in the company of fellow believers who are also practicing Christian discipline. It is when our shields; our faith is used to protect one another as well as ourselves; to occupy its place in the phalanx that our faith is most effective in sheltering us — all of us — from the attacks of the Enemy.
Father, thank You for this reminder that I need to stand with my brothers and sisters and be a help and shelter for them just as You want them to also be a help and shelter for me. Please restore such fellowship to my life. I know that I have become isolated and that it is a mixture of circumstance and my own choice. Please sort out the circumstance and I will choose not to isolate myself, that I might stand firm beside my fellow believers.