Israel’s first and newly appointed king, Saul, was told by Samuel to “Go down to Gilgal ahead of me. I will join you there to sacrifice burnt offerings and peace offerings. You must wait for seven days until I arrive and give you further instructions” (I Samuel 10:8. NLT).
With the Philistines on the attack and Saul’s army getting very nervous, “Saul waited there seven days for Samuel, as Samuel had instructed him earlier, but Samuel still didn’t come. Saul realized that his troops were rapidly slipping away. So he demanded, ‘Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings!’ And Saul sacrificed the burnt offering himself.
Just as Saul was finishing with the burnt offering, Samuel arrived. Saul went out to meet and welcome him, but Samuel said, ‘What is this you have done?’” ((I Samuel 13:8-11a).
As God’s messenger, Samuel had delivered God’s instructions, not his own – and Saul was fully aware of this. Saul hadn’t willfully disobeyed Samuel – he’d disobeyed God. But just like us today, Saul had an excuse ready, and a pious one at that:
Saul told Samuel that he realized “‘The Philistines are ready to march against us at Gilgal, and I haven’t even asked for the Lord’s help!’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering myself before you came” (I Samuel 13:12).
Backpedal all you please, folks; there’s still no right reason for going against God’s commands. And in Saul’s case, he committed an irreversible act, the consequences of which were going to be life-shattering.
“‘How foolish!’ Samuel exclaimed. ‘You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. Had you kept it, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom must end, for the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart. The Lord has already appointed him to be the leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command'” (I Samuel 13:13-14).
And Saul doesn’t seem to ever get any smarter. His son Jonathan and his armor bearer slipped over to the Philistine encampment and wreaked havoc on their enemies. “Panic broke out in the Philistine army… And just then an earthquake struck… Saul’s lookouts in Gibeah of Benjamin saw a strange sight – the vast army of Philistines began to melt away in every direction” (I Samuel 14:15a, 15c, 16).
The Philistines were running in absolute panic, even turning on each other in all the confusion. Saul, taking advantage of this, sent his troops after them and “the Lord saved Israel that day” (I Samuel 14:23a).
Saul’s men were completely exhausted because no one had eaten anything that day. Why? Because Saul had made them take this ridiculous oath: “Let a curse fall on anyone who eats before evening – before I have full revenge on my enemies” (I Samuel 14:24b). Note the “I” problem Saul was already developing. Too, nothing helps an army in battle like a day without food, huh? But in spite of Saul, God was on their side.
Problem was, though, that “Jonathan had not heard his father’s command, and he dipped the end of his stick into a piece of honeycomb and ate the honey” (I Samuel 14:27a). Now what?
When Saul found out what Jonathan had done, he exclaimed, “you must die! May God strike me and even kill me if you do not die for this” (I Samuel 14:44b).
Would Saul take the life of his own son? We’ll find out what happened tomorrow.
Copyright © 2013
Judy Woodward Bates