Samuel anointed Saul as Israel's first king. He was tall, handsome, strong, and a mighty warrior. All the qualities someone of the world would look for in a leader. Saul was a man of the world. We heard nothing about his faith when he was anointed king, and it doesn't take long to see that he Is not much of a God-fearing man. He had not reigned very long, and the Philistines came to fight. He chose 3,000 men to fight with him and his son Jonathan. The fighting did not go well, and the Philistines defeated the Israelites. And Israel became a stench to the Philistines. The Philistine forces were gathered at Micmash, about 20 miles from Gilgal. Saul and his army were vastly outnumbered, and his men began to slowly slip away to hide because they were afraid of the Philistines. Samuel had commanded Saul to wait for him at Gilgal for seven days and now the seventh day had come. Saul saw his men disappearing and grew impatient. He was the anointed king. He shouldn't be kept waiting. Soon he would be there by himself. And he was afraid. So, he took the role of priest upon himself and offered up the sacrifices Samuel was coming to offer. This meeting between Saul and Samuel was the Lord's way of testing Saul’s faith and patience. Because without faith and patience we cannot receive what the Lord promises. Unbelief and impatience are marks of spiritual immaturity.
Until we learn to trust God and wait on His timing...which isn't always easy...we can't learn the other lessons He wants to teach us. And, we cannot receive the blessings He has for us either. Saul may have been handsome, strong and taller than the other men but if he didn't have a heart that was right with God, he didn't have anything. It's one thing to go into battle when you have 300,000 men but quite another when there are only 600. This is where faith comes in. Remember Gideon? Saul didn't want to go into battle without first offering a sacrifice to the Lord. But this seems more like superstition than it does true worship...sort of like Eli’s sons carrying the ark of the covenant into battle.
We know that God seeks obedience and not sacrifices. Samuel arrived in the camp just as Saul was finishing the sacrifice. If he had been patient or even faithful, he would have waited until Samuel arrived. He was living way outside of the will of God for him. We see in Saul the same thing many have used. It was there in the beginning. I only ate because the serpent deceived me. I ate because the woman you gave me God, gave it to me. Saul was quite adept at deflecting the blame for his mistakes onto others. Here he is blaming Samuel because he was late in Saul’s mind. Saul’s sin here at Gilgal cost him the dynasty God had promised him and his sin involving the Amalekites cost him the kingdom. Saul would retain the throne, but his descendants would not follow him.
There is a marked difference between Saul and his son Jonathan. It is clear Saul walked by sight and his son Jonathan walked by faith and did many exploits for the Lord. Jonathan knew that it wasn't the size of the army that was important but the strength of the leader’s Faith. He also knew the Lord didn't need huge numbers to accomplish His purposes, but He did honor great faith. Chapter 14 focuses on Jonathan. He was a courageous warrior, a born leader, and a man of faith who sought to do the will of the Lord. We watch as the two armies face off. Saul hesitated in unbelief, but Jonathan charged ahead acting in faith. Saul is a tragic example of the popular man of the world who tries to appear religious and do God's work, but who lacks a living faith in God and a heart to honor Him.
Jonathan struck out on his own with a plan to rout the enemy. He did not tell his father because he would have vetoed the idea. Jonathan and his armor bearer quickly killed 20 Philistines and the Lord honored their faith by sending an earthquake that caused terror and confusion in the Philistine camp. Saul watched the battle wondering what was happening and who was involved. He had wasted precious time watching the battle and he had put his army in great danger by forbidding them to eat until he had gotten his revenge on the Philistines. It was poor leadership on Saul’s part. This won't be the last time we see that unfortunately. No leader with any sense would deprive their troops of food and energy while they were fighting the enemy and if the Lord had commanded it, He would have given them the strength they needed to fight. But the Lord gave Saul no such command. Saul’s edict that anyone who ate would be killed nearly cost Jonathan his life, but we see the respect the army has for him. And soon they will side with Jonathan over Saul.
Once again Saul seals his fate by being disobedient. They set out to fight the Amalekites at the command of the Lord. They are descendants of Esau, but treated Israel badly when they came up out of Egypt and were headed to the promised land. Saul was to totally destroy all their cities and towns as well as all the people and livestock living there. Saul managed to kill all the Amalekites and everything else but left the king alive as well as the choicest livestock. Again, he angered both Samuel and the Lord. The most telling statement was when Samuel questioned Saul about the livestock they kept, and Saul replied it was to sacrifice to YOUR God. He didn't even claim the Lord as his own God. This was the final straw for the Lord, and he took everything away from Saul but let him rule until he died. Saul had willfully disobeyed the Lord.
King Saul had lost his dynasty, his character, and his throne and crown. He had also lost a Godly friend. And when David appears on the scene, Saul will lose his self-control and his good sense and eventually he will lose his last battle and his life.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W