Posts Tagged 'disobedience'

The Fruit of Disobedience


Obedience to the will of God is an absolutely essential component of the Christian faith. Yet there is always a tension between obedience – how we live and what we do – and grace. In Ephesians, Paul wrote this:

Because of his kindness, you have been saved through trusting Christ. And even trusting is not of yourselves; it too is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good we have done, so none of us can take any credit for it. (Ephesians 2:8, 9 TLB)

Our salvation isn’t dependent on how closely we align ourselves to God’s will, yet as Christians God expects us to do just that. We can look the basics of salvation in the way God dealt with Israel. Very shortly after He delivered the Israelites from Egypt, God gave them His Ten Commandments, which began like this:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:2, 3 NIV)

Their deliverance – their salvation – came first, followed almost immediately by a call for absolute obedience and faithfulness. In terms of their deliverance, God did all the work. But after that, the Lord expected His people to live their lives according to His terms.

“Obedience” is a characteristic that is the hallmark of true believers and disciples of Jesus Christ. Think of how many times the great apostle Paul referred to himself as a “servant” of Christ. What does a servant do if not obey his master? Christians are also referred to as “servants” who serve the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God… (Romans 1:1 NIV)

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. (Romans 6:22 NIV)

It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:24b NIV)

We can learn a lot about obedience by looking at someone who wasn’t very obedient, King Saul.

1 Samuel 13:1 – 14

When the men of Israel saw the vast mass of enemy troops, they lost their nerve entirely and tried to hide in caves, thickets, coverts, among the rocks, and even in tombs and cisterns. Some of them crossed the Jordan River and escaped to the land of Gad and Gilead. Meanwhile, Saul stayed at Gilgal, and those who were with him trembled with fear at what awaited them. (1 Samuel 13:6, 7 TLB)

We aren’t told how old Saul was at this point in his life, but we can make an educated guess. His son, Jonathan, was by now a great warrior in his own right, so with a grown son, Saul was likely in his forties.

Jonathan’s attack on the Philistine garrison at Geba triggered the events that led to the men of Israel acting like a bunch of scared school girls. Saul, the man who looked like a king, didn’t really act like one. He cooled his heels at Gilgal, the very place he had been proclaimed king. Samuel hadn’t forgotten about him.

Samuel had told Saul earlier to wait seven days for his arrival… (1 Samuel 13:8a TLB)

Saul had to do one thing: wait a week at Gilgal. That’s all. One week. We aren’t given the reason why; perhaps he was. From the story, we know he had to wait for Samuel to arrive to offer some sacrifices for some reason. However, things had deteriorated quickly, and the king decided to take matters into his own hands. It is here that the true character and temperament of Saul begins to surface. Saul was an impatient man and he was a presumptuous man. As far he was concerned, he had three valid reasons for disregarding his instructions: the people were leaving, the Philistines were coming, and Samuel was nowhere in sight. Saul was behaving like a lot of Christians behave today; he was rationalizing his disobedience. Christians are a funny bunch. They instinctively know God’s will in a given situation, yet believe they are the sole exception to it. As Saul did, they rationalize and justify their disobedience, as if God’s rules applies to everybody else, but this time, not to them. It’s a foolish way to think and has the potential of being a dangerous way to live.

Here was the king’s big mistake:

…he decided to sacrifice the burnt offering and the peace offerings himself. (1 Samuel 13:9 TLB)

Eventually, Samuel showed up and he was not happy. Saul’s response to the prophet also shows us what this first king’s character was really like. To put it in way modern man would understand, the buck never stopped at Saul.

Samuel said, “What is this you have done?”

“Well,” Saul replied, “when I saw that my men were scattering from me, and that you hadn’t arrived by the time you said you would, and that the Philistines were at Michmash, ready for battle, I said, ‘The Philistines are ready to march against us and I haven’t even asked for the Lord’s help!’ So I reluctantly offered the burnt offering without waiting for you to arrive.” (1 Samuel 13:11, 12 TLB)

Saul did wrong and he knew it. But instead of owning up to his disobedience, he deflected any blame onto: the people scattering; Saul arriving late; the Philistines; and even God! So it was everybody’s fault that he had to offer that darn sacrifice; everybody’s but his.

Samuel had to break some very bad news to Saul. The consequences for his arrogant presumption would be dire and far reaching.

“You fool!” Samuel exclaimed. “You have disobeyed the commandment of the Lord your God. He was planning to make you and your descendants kings of Israel forever, but now your dynasty must end; for the Lord wants a man who will obey him. And he has discovered the man he wants and has already appointed him as king over his people; for you have not obeyed the Lord’s commandment.” (1 Samuel 13:13, 14 TLB)

In the very first test of his kingship, Saul failed miserably. However urgent the circumstances may have been they were no justification for disobedience. It’s interesting that, at least in the beginning, Saul’s kingship would become a dynasty had be been obedient to God’s commands. It was never God’s will for Israel to have a king, but God allowed them to have one with one big stipulation: the ruler must obey Him. In other words, the king would himself be subject to Heaven’s King.

This is the kind leader our nation is in dire need of today; one who is governed by the Lord. All our problems as a nation stem from the fact that we are being led by a political class that has never been further from God. Naturally, the world will not see such a leader until our Lord returns, which is God’s ultimate will for our planet.

1 Samuel 15:1 – 11

Even though Saul was informed that he would have no dynasty and that his days as king were numbered, he was still king, and would be for while to come. He had his hands full and was most definitely “in over his head.” He battled the Moabites to the southeast, the Ammonites to the east, the Edomites to the south and east, the kings of Zobah to the north, and the Philistines to the west. But it was his Amalekite campaign that caused him the most grief. To keep his army strong, Saul instituted conscription, which Samuel had predicted.

If you insist on having a king, he will conscript your sons and make them run before his chariots… (1 Samuel 8:11 TLB)

God’s urgent command to Saul regarding the Amalekites couldn’t have been more clear. Not even Saul could misunderstand what God was requiring of him!

Here is his commandment to you: ‘I have decided to settle accounts with the nation of Amalek for refusing to allow my people to cross their territory when Israel came from Egypt. Now go and completely destroy the entire Amalek nation—men, women, babies, little children, oxen, sheep, camels, and donkeys. (1 Samuel 15:2, 3 TLB)

If this seems a little extreme to you, you might have forgotten what the Amalekites did to Moses and Israel generations earlier.

Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt. When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and attacked all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God. When the Lord your God gives you rest from all the enemies around you in the land he is giving you to possess as an inheritance, you shall blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget! (Deuteronomy 25:17 – 19 NIV)

Had the Amalekites lived, they would have been just as bad, if not worse, than the Philistines. Saul actually spared some of the Amalekites. In the book of Esther we meet one of them, a nasty gentleman named Haman, who attempted to exterminate the entire Hebrew race. Had it not been for God’s timely and imaginative intervention, Haman would have succeeded. When human history is viewed from God’s perspective, God’s actions and commands make sense.

The Amalekites were an evil, war-like people. Their fate was sealed. The Israelites would be God’s hand of judgment upon them. In this world or the next, God’s judgment are righteous and true. R.C. Sproul observed:

God is not obligated to save anybody, to make any special act of grace, to draw anyone to Himself. He cold leave the whole world to perish, and such would be a righteous judgment.

The root of disobedience ran deep in King Saul.

Then Saul butchered the Amalekites from Havilah all the way to Shur, east of Egypt. He captured Agag, the king of the Amalekites, but killed everyone else. However, Saul and his men kept the best of the sheep and oxen and the fattest of the lambs—everything, in fact, that appealed to them. They destroyed only what was worthless or of poor quality. (1 Samuel 15:7 – 9 TLB)

Apparently, Saul had learned nothing. Habits are hard to break, especially sinful ones. Saul and his men rebelled against the expressed will of God. They spared Agag, perhaps for the purpose of killing him later. But they also kept a lot of good Amalekite stuff. It would appear that for Saul, the only reason for attacking the Amalekites was to get his hands on their “stuff.”

Verses 10 and 11 are just pathetic.

Then the Lord said to Samuel, “I am sorry that I ever made Saul king, for he has again refused to obey me.” Samuel was so deeply moved when he heard what God was saying, that he cried to the Lord all night.

Some people wonder about God “being sorry” that He made Saul Israel’s king. Such a statement seems to go against what we know about God’s character. John Goldingay offers an interesting analysis:

To speak of God changing his mind about an act or regretting it suggests the reality of his interacting with people in the world…His reactions to the deeds of others reflect a coherent pattern rather than randomness. Further, whereas human beings make their decisions unaware of all their consequences, so that those consequences catch them out, God can foresee not only the consequences of his own actions but also the nature of the responses they will meet with and the nature of other human acts, so that he can in turn formulate his response to these in advance.

Goldingay takes a roundabout way to get to the point that nothing catches God off-guard, so He never needs to change His mind about anything. When God says that He “regrets” something, it’s a way saying the ways of man sicken Him; they don’t surprise Him, but they create a feeling akin to regret.

1 Samuel 15:12 – 29

Samuel replied, “Has the Lord as much pleasure in your burnt offerings and sacrifices as in your obedience? Obedience is far better than sacrifice. He is much more interested in your listening to him than in your offering the fat of rams to him. For rebellion is as bad as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as bad as worshiping idols. And now because you have rejected the word of Jehovah, he has rejected you from being king.” (1 Kings 15:22, 23 TLB)

When confronted with what he did, Saul once again passed the buck, but Samuel would have none of it. These two verses are among the most well-known passages on the importance of obedience and moral conduct. God rejected Saul as king because he is habitually rebellious and disobedient. Verse 22 has an interesting parallel in Egyptian writings: “More acceptable is the character of one upright of heart than the ox of the evildoer.”

But more is at play here than just Saul’s low character. The point of these two verses is this: any sacrifice made to God must be offered on HIS terms, not ours. Saul postponement of the complete destruction of the Amalekites, regardless of why he did it, was an obvious violation of God’s will.

There is a great lesson here for us. Many Christians today are doing just what Saul did. They do their best to serve and worship God on their terms; when they want to and how they want to. Rather than bend their wills to God’s, they try to bend His to theirs. God doesn’t work like that. If the Lord rejected Saul because of his continual disobedience, why do we think we’ll get away with it?

SAUL: The Lost Man

Saul rips Samuel's robe

1 Samuel 15

Last time we looked at Saul, we discovered that he was, in his heart, a disobedient man.  He disobeyed the plain word of the Lord given to him through the prophet Samuel.  In chapter 13 we learned the high price he paid for his disobedience:  he would be denied a dynasty.  Nevertheless, Saul was still Israel’s king and God was not eager to withdraw His favor from His king.  Such is the Lord’s “lingering grace,” which gives the stubborn a little more time for repentance.  Saul would be given one more chance to show himself faithful to God.  Sadly, with chapter 15 Saul’s decline would be complete and irreversible; he was denied his dynasty in chapter 13, and now he will be denied his kingship.

Let’s consider—

1.  Saul’s clear mission, verse 3

Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.

Samuel was sent with a message from the Lord to King Saul.  God’s patience had finally run out for the wicked, warlike Amalekites and He would choose Saul as His instrument to completely destroy them, as prophesied as far back as Exodus 17:8—16.

The Lord’s order to Saul was to not spare anything or anybody.  The Hebrew phrase (charam cherem) is somewhat complex but literally means “to put under the ban.”  It is usually used of people and objects that have been set aside as God’s personal property, either to be used of Him or destroyed by Him in an act of judgment.   It is a powerful phrase which to our modern sensibilities is difficult to fathom.  It is a concept that could be used to describe radical surgery performed by a skilled surgeon to prevent the spread of a malignant cancer.

This was no ordinary war; Israel was expressly commanded to take no booty, and all living creatures were to be killed.  This was to be a complete judgment of God upon an evil, godless race of people who were a blight on planet earth and a threat to the continued existence of God’s chosen people.  What a solemn responsibility Saul had been entrusted with!  God, as the sovereign owner of all He has created, may choose animate or inanimate objects to execute His will over His creation.  Sometimes, God had used earthquakes and storms to benefit His people or to judge them.  This time He will use Saul to deal with the Amalekites.

Neither personal feelings nor human reason should stand in the way of fulfilling God’s will and purpose.  When God tells us to do something, we must obey to the letter His command, not embellishing it with our ideas and reasoning.  If God should tell us to walk on the water, we need to be prepared to do just that.   If God should tell us to sell all we have and give the proceeds to the poor, we must obey that command, no matter how strange it may seem to us.  To not obey the word of God is to show Him the highest form of contempt.

2.  Saul’s disobedience, verse 9

But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.

The express command of God was to spare nothing, but Saul spared a lot.  He allowed his feelings and his eyes to determine his action and his level of obedience.  Saul allowed his natural instincts as a shepherd, and as a dealer in cattle, to overrule the direct command of God, which no doubt made no sense to Him all; he spared the very best, but destroyed the weak and useless.

How easy it is to give God the things we don’t want and to keep the best for ourselves.  God was not at all pleased that Saul partly obeyed; do you suppose God will accept our partial obedience?  Do you suppose God will accept the weak and the useless from us, even as we keep the best for our own purposes?  To partially obey is to disobey and whenever self-interest is allowed a place in our service to God, we are faithless and open to His rebuke.

3.  Saul’s lame excuses (more of the same), verses 13, 15 20, 21

When Samuel reached him, Saul said, “The LORD bless you! I have carried out the LORD’s instructions.”

Saul answered, “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the LORD your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.”

“But I did obey the LORD,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king.  The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God at Gilgal.”

This singular event was Saul’s final probation; he had been warned many times before and repeatedly came up short.  It is quite possible that verse 11 is about the saddest verse in all of Scripture—

“I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” Samuel was troubled, and he cried out to the LORD all that night.

The Hebrew for “grieved” is nacham, meaning “to sigh,” “to be sorry,” “to rue.”   It does not mean that God somehow changed His mind about Saul, as some have suggested.  God does not “learn” about us nor does God have to “adjust” His thinking toward us.   God interacts with human beings all the time and His reactions to what we do show that God is absolutely coherent in his thoughts and He is never caught off guard.  That is, we can predict how He will react with certainty if we act in a dishonoring manner or if we act in way that pleases Him.  The difference between God and human beings is that when we act we often have no idea what the unintended consequences of that action will be.  However, God does.  Our actions never catch Him off guard, and so He never has to change His mind about us.

Walter Kaiser:

God can and does change in His actions and emotions towards men so as not to be fickle, mutable, and variable in His nature and purpose.

God was broken hearted that Saul disobeyed, and Samuel’s reaction was a mirror reflection of how God was grieving.

When the prophet finally met up with Saul after Saul had erected a monument of his victory, the excuses came flowing out of Saul like wet cement.  Like the crowing of the rooster when Peter denied his Lord, so the bleating of the sheep mocked the Word of the Lord to Saul.  To make matters worse, Saul insisted that he had been obedient. Once again, he thought that partial obedience would be good enough for God.

It is pitiful when we, like Saul, justify our sins of disobedience when confronted.  But how many of us are masters of self-deception?  How many of us have actually convinced ourselves that partial obedience is good enough?   How many believers have deluded themselves into thinking they are “right with God” because He hasn’t sent a plague on them or struck them dead?   Galatians 6:7 is a frightening verse—

Do not be deceived:  God cannot be mocked.

You will reap what you sow; if you continually sow seeds of disobedience, you will reap what Saul is about to reap.  God is predictable in how He deals with disobedient sinners.  And God knows your heart, like He knew Saul’s.  We can’t delude Him.

If Saul had only obeyed, how different things would have been.  But most of us are about as reliable as Saul was.  Complete obedience is so hard.  Some Christians think complete obedience is impossible.  Is it really impossible?  Not according to this verse—

For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.  (2 Chronicles 16:9)

That is all God wants from any of His children:  a full commitment.

4.  Saul’s “confession,” verse 24

Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the LORD’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them.

The more Saul spoke, the more his heart was revealed.  He was right to confess that he sinned; he had been caught.  But then the secret came out:  He feared the people, and the fear of man did him in.

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.  (Proverbs 29:25)

How many believers never accomplish anything for God because they fear what man will think?

  • I’m afraid to witness to my friend because I don’t want lose his friendship.
  • I don’t go to church because it might make my wife mad.
  • We don’t say grace in restaurants because it’s embarrassing.

We, who think things like this, need to pay heed to what the Lord said to the prophet—

“I, even I, am he who comforts you.
Who are you that you fear mortal men,
the sons of men, who are but grass.”  (Isaiah 51:12)

The child of God is clothed in the armor of God, but so-called Christians with no backbones are cowards.

The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?  (Psalm 118:6)

5.  Saul’s final rejection, verse 26

But Samuel said to him, “I will not go back with you. You have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you as king over Israel!”

According to Luke 9:26, to reject God’s Word is to be rejected of God—

If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

Saul’s so-called confession and so-called repentance was too little to late.  Verse 27 shows the violence in Saul’s heart—

As Samuel turned to leave, Saul caught hold of the hem of his robe, and it tore.

The arrogance of the man!  The tearing of the robe dramatically illustrated the loss of the kingdom.  But God’s ever-faithful prophet had the last word—

Samuel said to him, “The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors—to one better than you.   (verse 28)

Of course, that neighbor was David.  Just as “obedience is better than sacrifice” so David was better than Saul.  How ironic that Saul “was better” and “without equal” when God first called him?  Saul’s downfall was his doing; he was his own worst enemy.

Verse 29 says more about Saul’s character than it does about God’s—

He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind.”

Everything good about God was nowhere to be found in Saul.

It is possible to be a Christian, full of the Holy Spirit, yet not live the kind of life that glorifies God and brings honor to His Name.  It is possible to be a Christian but live in disobedience to the revealed Word of God.  But be warned:  such believers live in danger of becoming lost at any moment; shipwrecked on an island of sinful isolation from the body of Christ, a stumbling block to the rest of us and an offense to God.  Someone once wrote:

There is line by us unseen,
That crosses every path;
The hidden boundary between
God’s patience and His wrath.

How close are you living to that line?

(c)  2009 WitzEnd

SAUL: His Decline

Samuel and Saul

1 Samuel 13:1—15

The history of Saul’s reign as Israel’s first king really begins in chapter 13, and according to the custom of recording the history of the kings, it begins with a statement of his age.  The NIV begins like this—

Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned over Israel forty-two years.  (1 Samuel 13:1)

A look at how the RSV translates this verse shows the difficulty translators had in tackling this verse—

Saul was…years old when he began to reign; and he reigned…two years over Israel.

And the literal version sounds like this—

A son of a year [is] Saul in his reigning, yea, two years he hath reigned over Israel.

What does all this mean?  The NIV has calculated that Saul was 30 years old when he became king, but the text does not say that.  In fact, Saul could have been 40 years old.  What we know for sure is that his son, Jonathan, was fully grown by now and an accomplished warrior.   So why is the Hebrew so obscure?  Given the disaster that Saul would become, some Bible scholars offer this paraphrase of the obscure Hebrew—

Saul was like a child of one year when he began to regin

Saul was chosen out of obscurity and rose to dizzying heights in such a brief time that he was unprepared for the office and as clueless as the people he was leading.  According to God, the only preparation Saul needed was to be obedient to Him.  But no, he could not do that.  Saul was a product of a corrupt generation and the people got a leader exactly like they were.

While the story of Saul’s reign begins here, so does the story of his decline.  It is not a stretch to say that after an initial victory at Jabesh Gilead, Saul was a complete failure as a political leader.  But the prophet Samuel, in love and faithfulness to the Lord, told the nation of Israel in his farewell address in response to this request—

The people all said to Samuel, “Pray to the LORD your God for your servants so that we will not die, for we have added to all our other sins the evil of asking for a king.”

“Do not be afraid,” Samuel replied. “You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart.  Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless.  For the sake of his great name the LORD will not reject his people, because the LORD was pleased to make you his own.  As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right.  But be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.  Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will be swept away.” (1 Samuel 12:19—25)

Saul was given every opportunity to succeed in his new career, and like another king of Israel, Uzziah, he was helped by God until he was strong—

In Jerusalem he made machines designed by skillful men for use on the towers and on the corner defenses to shoot arrows and hurl large stones. His fame spread far and wide, for he was greatly helped until he became powerful.

But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the LORD his God, and entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense.  (2 Chronicles 26:15—16)

The pride that resulted in his success would surely end in Saul’s destruction.  Did God forsake Saul?  According to Samuel, Saul forsook God and reaped what the seeds of his disobedience produced.

1.  Saul’s duty was obvious, verse 8

He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter.

In order to fully understand this verse, we need to glance back at 10:8—

“Go down ahead of me to Gilgal. I will surely come down to you to sacrifice burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, but you must wait seven days until I come to you and tell you what you are to do.”

This was some time before the events of chapter 13, but this was what Saul was supposed to do when the situation warranted it.  But here is the true nature of Saul’s heart working itself out in disobedience.   This word from God given through Samuel was given, perhaps, as many as three years before, but that did not negate it; this was a standing order from God for Saul’s benefit.  Saul needed God’s help, and all he had to do get it was to obey.

Saul’s sin was not that as king he was forbidden to offer sacrifices.  Consider what Kinds David and Solomon did—

David built an altar to the LORD there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the LORD answered prayer in behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.  (2 Samuel 24:25)

Then Solomon awoke—and he realized it had been a dream.  He returned to Jerusalem, stood before the ark of the Lord’s covenant and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings.  Then he gave a feast for all his court. (1 Kings 3:15)

Saul sinned simply because he disobeyed God’s word through the prophet Samuel, and he would do it again near the end of his career.

What is our duty as Christians?  To obey the Word of God; our responsibility is to live according to the light we have in God’s revealed Word, the holy Bible.  There are those in Church today who teach that parts of the Bible are outdated and no longer apply to modern Christians.  Liberal theologians teach that these parts of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, are “lesser inspired” and modern Christians can overlook them.  But, here is what some “lesser inspired” verses say—

Preserve my life according to your love,
and I will obey the statutes of your mouth.

Your word, O LORD, is eternal;
it stands firm in the heavens.

Your faithfulness continues through all generations;
you established the earth, and it endures.  (Psalm 119:88—90)

The eternity of God’s Word is linked to His unfailing love.  If we, like Saul, are conscious of having been chosen by God and anointed by God by being filled with His Holy Spirit, then the revealed Word must become our absolute rule to live by; it needs to be the unconditional law of our lives—all of it, not just the parts we like or make us feel good.

2.  His faith was tested, verse 5

The Philistines assembled to fight Israel, with three thousand chariots, six thousand charioteers, and soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore. They went up and camped at Micmash, east of Beth Aven.

These ancient enemies of God’s people hated Israel; Israel literally stunk to them.  As a result, Saul mustered his troops to Gilgal.  He started out waiting for Samuel as prescribed by the prophet.  But we read this—

He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter. (verse 8)

Why did the men scatter?  Obviously they scattered because they were afraid and they were afraid because Saul was not leading them.  Beyond one single battle, what had Saul ever done to inspire the confidence of his people?  In fact, the great military brain of the family was Saul’s son Jonathan, not Saul!  Jonathan won a great victory and his father took the credit for it!  Who would trust a man like that?  He took credit for something somebody else did!  So the men took to hiding.  Poor Saul; he was unable to keep his troops together.

What we are witnessing here is a test of Saul’s faith.  Notice that Saul outwardly obeyed God.  His problem was he failed to trust God, failed to trust Samuel and instead he couldn’t take his eyes off his frightened soldiers.  In other words, Saul’s outward circumstances determined the strength of his faith instead of the other way around.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.  This is what the ancients were commended for.

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.  (Hebrews 11:1—3)

For we walk by faith, not by sight.  (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Of course his circumstances were desperate; desperate circumstances always highlight a person’s faith.  And there is always a struggle between faith and sight.  But the reality for the believer lays, not in what they can see, but in their faith in what God has said.  We assume that what we see is what is real, but that is not what the Bible teaches. But this is what Saul thought; the desperate circumstances he found himself in negated God’s word.  God Word is never negated by circumstances.

3.  His failure was complete, verses 9, 10

So he said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings. ” And Saul offered up the burnt offering.  Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him.

Saul waited almost the whole time, but he grew impatient with Samuel.  Really, Saul grew impatient with the will of God; things were not happening fast enough for him; God wasn’t doing things the way Saul thought they should have been done, so he took matters in own hands.  He chose his own way and stepped out of God’s will and favor.

Every single Spirit-filled believer will have their faith tested.  Even our Lord, Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, was not exempt from this testing.  As soon as He was baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit, He was purposely led into the wilderness to be tested by that same Holy Spirit!   Thank God He remained faithful.

Abraham was tested, and thankfully he passed otherwise he never would have become the father of the faithful!

Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God.  (Romans 4:20)

And Moses was tested and the whole nation of Israel survived because he stood his ground and remained faithful—

By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.  (Hebrews 11:27)

That is how you become useful to God:  by enduring as seeing him who is invisible.  If, when we face our testing, we fear and we take our eyes off of God and see our circumstances, we become life-long cripples in the work of the Lord; we become useless to Him.  Whenever, as servants of God, we choose our way rather than God’s way as revealed in His Word or when we rush ahead of God instead of waiting on Him, we become like bones out of joint in the Body of Christ.  What a painful way to live.

5.  His excuse was lame, verses 11, 12

“What have you done?” asked Samuel.

Saul replied, “When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Micmash,  I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the LORD’s favor.’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.”

In a sense, we can almost understand Saul’s motivation to offer the sacrifice.  His army was deserting him, the Philistine army was pressing in, Samuel was long in coming, and Saul’s own patience was waning.  Saul’s excuse to Samuel was to point to the circumstances and point out the urgent need to seek God.  What Saul did not realize is that animal sacrifice was not what moves the Hand of God.

And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.  (1 Samuel 15:22, KJV)

There is never an excuse for disobedience.  We all want to be the exception to the God’s rule, and we make lame excuses just like Saul did:

  • My marriage was falling apart and my secretary loves me more than my wife, so I don’t think I really committed adultery.
  • Things are really tight this month, so God will understand why I don’t tithe.
  • I didn’t lie, I misspoke.
  • Who cares if our new pastor is gay.  He still loves God, and really, everybody sins, right?  He such a nice man.
  • Well, I know that what Jesus said, but nobody can live up to that!  Besides, God knows I am only human, right?

No argument and rationalization can mitigate the guilt of doing what we know to be contrary to the Word of God.   The saddest part of this story is how Saul tried to justify what he did by blaming everybody but himself.

What’s worse is that even after Samuel’s rebuke and solemn warning; Saul showed absolutely no signs of sorrow or repentance.  He proceeded to number his followers.  When we have sinned and when we find out we have made a mistake, when we stumble and fall and fail, and when we disobey, repentance and confession is the only way to get back into God’s favor and make things right.

6.  The consequences terrible, verse 14

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 turned away from God, and so God chose another man to take his place.  Saul was a man after his people’s heart, but God’s new man would be a man after God’s own heart.  We might look at this and think God was reacting harshly to what Saul did.  But Saul was warned not once but twice that if he did not obey God’s command, he would be replaced by someone else.  This tells us what Saul really thought about God; he didn’t think God really meant what He was saying.  Or he thought God was not a God of His word.  He soon found out otherwise.

God means what He says in His Word.  There are no exceptions to His rules.  We, who live in this present dispensation of grace are fortunate enough to experience the forgiveness of our sins.  But God’s rules are still for us.  We have an obligation to live in obedience to them.

For Saul, all his plans for establishing his kingdom in Israel  would come to nothing because Israel’s God had plans and nothing Saul could do could change that.  Saul’s power was gone.  It is sad but true  that there are believers who perform like Christians very well but they are doing so in the power of the flesh because there is no Spirit empowering them.  To choose to live our lives according to our set of rules is to choose a life of defeat and failure.

May God give us the wisdom and the ability to allow Him to work in us to will and to act according to his good purpose (Philippians 2:13).

(c)  2009 WitzEnd

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