Welcome to Part 2! (If you missed Part 1, you can check it out here.) In my previous post, King Saul gave us a great example to follow. In the chapters we’ll be looking at today, however, you almost can’t tell it’s the same guy.
Now, in chapter thirteen, we see his first (recorded) mistake. Saul and his men have gathered to fight the Philistines, Saul’s men are totally freaked out, and some of them even start to run away. However, Saul can’t begin the battle yet; he’s waiting on Samuel, so that a sacrifice can be offered and the Lord’s favor sought. After seven days (the set period of time), Samuel still hasn’t shown up, and Saul begins to lose even more men. Tired of waiting for Samuel, he goes ahead and offers the burnt offering.
What’s wrong with this? Saul wasn’t supposed to give the offering; only prophets were allowed to do so. Saul failed to be patient and trust in God to watch out for him and his men. Samuel arrives just as Saul finishes making the offering, and rebukes him. Rebuke, perhaps, is too light a word. See what he says:
“You acted foolishly,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”
Saul was impatient and broke one of God’s commandments, and now he’s paying the price. It doesn’t sound like the humble man who gave glory to God just a couple chapters ago.
In the beginning of chapter fourteen, Jonathan (son of Saul) decides that something needs to be done with the Philistines, who have scared the Israelites so much that they’re hiding in caves, thickets, pits, etc. (verses 6 -7 of chapter thirteen). Jonathan, accompanied only by his armor bearer, approaches a Philistine outpost. Though if they were to fight they would be severely outnumbered, Jonathan asks for a sign from God. When he receives it, he attacks the Philistines and is victorious, killing about twenty men!
It gets better, though. After this, the whole Philistine army starts to panic. Verse sixteen of chapter fourteen says, “Saul’s lookouts at Gibeah in Benjamin saw the army melting away in all directions.” Verse twenty says, “Then Saul and all his men assembled and went to the battle. They found the Philistines in total confusion, striking each other with their swords.” Clearly, God has rescued Saul’s army, and once the Israelites realize this, they come out from hiding and join the pursuit of the Philistines.
At least, it would seem clear that God had just given victory to the Israelites. However, verse twenty-four says this:
Now the men of Israel were in distress that day, because Saul had bound the people under an oath, saying, “Cursed be any man who eats food before evening comes, before I have avenged myself on my enemies!” So none of the troops tasted food.
“Before I have avenged myself on my enemies.” You notice that there’s no mention of God there? No, Saul must avenge himself on his enemies. God is clearly no longer part of the equation for him, despite the fact that God just gave him a huge victory. In effect, he’s taking the credit for himself.
There’s more to Saul’s story, which you can read in the rest of 1 Samuel, and it only goes from bad to worse (Saul even disobeys God and tries to shift the blame! Chapter 15). Here’s my point, though: Saul started out as a humble man, just serving God and glorifying Him. As he ceases to seek the Lord, however, he begins to seek glory for himself, and his life, character, and kingship begin to fall apart.
Remember that in everything you do, give God the glory! Nothing would be possible with out Him, and everything that we do is a result of His blessing in our lives.
But He gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” (James 4:6)
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)