1 Samuel 13:13 “‘”You acted foolishly,’ Samuel said. ‘You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you…'”
Saul mustered 6,000 troops to face the imposing army of Philistia, which numbered 6,000 cavalry and countless thousands of infantry. Sam had told Saul to wait seven days for him to arrive before a sacrifice would be offered to God and receive God’s blessing on the day. The tension from the waiting and the ever-imposing enemy force caused Saul’s men to cower and to desert him. When his troops were reduced 90% and Sam had not yet arrived by day seven, Saul took it upon himself to make sacrifice to God. Sam rebuked Saul for not waiting for him and for not obeying God’s Law about priests offering sacrifices.
As I read this passage, I noticed three things to be gained from Saul’s mistakes. Those three things are the following: distrust, disobedience, and disappointment. They usually occur in that order. Let us look deeper into them and see what God will teach us today.
The first thing Saul did was distrust Sam and more importantly God. He had been given instructions to wait on Sam for seven days, at which time Sam would offer the sacrifice. When the time passed and Sam had not yet arrived, Saul distrusted the Word of the Lord and took matters into his hands. He usurped God’s authority and acted out of his fear and distrust. God said he would fight for Israel, but Saul didn’t trust God to act in his good timing. Sam did appear at the end of seven days just as Saul had finished offering the sacrifice. God kept his word. However, Saul became anxious over the desertion of his troops and feared defeat by the enemy rather than trusting God to do battle for Israel, as he had done with Gideon’s army of 300.
Next, we see that Saul in his fear and distrust assumed that he could take authority as king and offer the sacrifice when he had been given explicit instructions to wait on Sam. Rather than continuing to trust in God, Saul acted rashly and had complete contempt for God’s commands because he thought that defeat was imminent given the imposing forces he faced in light of his men deserting him. Distrust will always lead to disobedience. When we have no faith in God, we seek out our solution to our problems. We see examples of this throughout the Bible. Abraham had Sarah lie to Pharaoh to protect his life and had a child with Hagar to bring about the promise of God. Isaac had his wife lie to protect his life. Jacob was born fighting with his brother and deceived him out of his birthright to gain their father’s blessing. There are many others. When we try to force God’s hand, we bring calamity upon ourselves.
Finally, after Saul had distrusted God and Sam and then taken matters into his hands, he learned of God’s disappointment in him. When we distrust and disobey God, we disappoint him. God had great plans for Saul and anointed him as king over his chosen people Israel. Sam told Saul that had he obeyed God, God would have established his kingdom forever over Israel. However, because of his unbelief and rebellion against God, Saul lost the throne forever. Instead he would later anoint David, of Judah, to be king over Israel and establish his throne forever and fulfill the prophecy spoken over Judah as the tribe from whom the Scepter of Israel would come. Saul had his 15 minutes (really 42 years) of fame I the limelight but fell from grace and power because of his sin. Sin separates man from God since the moment Adam disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit. Later on in 1 Sam. 15:10-11 God said, “Then the word of the LORD came to Samuel: ‘I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.'” There is no greater statement of disappointment than that.
Father, I come before your throne boldly today but in a heart and spirit of humility. After reading of Saul’s total reckless abandon of your Word and unbelief in you, I sense your Spirit speaking to me about areas in my life that need to be addressed by you. There can be no room for rebellion in my heart. There can be no room for unbelief in my heart. There can be no room for disappointing you in my heart. I am a realist, however, and know that I am human and will from time to time disappoint you. Help me to learn from my mentor, Saul, on what NOT to do. Instead, teach me the lesson that Saul failed, “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” I want to be your ever-faithful servant, who is unworthy of anything. I exist only for your good pleasure and do so by your grace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.