1 Samuel 13:3-15
3 Jonathan attacked the Philistine outpost at Geba, and the Philistines heard about it. Then Saul had the trumpet blown throughout the land and said, “Let the Hebrews hear!” 4 So all Israel heard the news: “Saul has attacked the Philistine outpost, and now Israel has become obnoxious to the Philistines.” And the people were summoned to join Saul at Gilgal. 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 Mikmash, east of Beth Aven. 6 When the Israelites saw that their situation was critical and that their army was hard pressed, they hid in caves and thickets, among the rocks, and in pits and cisterns. 7 Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear. 8 He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter. 9 So he said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” And Saul offered up the burnt offering. 10 Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him.
11 “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 Mikmash, 12 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.” 13 “You have done a foolish thing,” 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. 14 But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the LORD’s command.” 15 Then Samuel left Gilgal and went up to Gibeah in Benjamin, and Saul counted the men who were with him. They numbered about six hundred.
Does God make mistakes? Is it possible that God does not vet the person’s He chooses to carryout His work? I mean, when we look at the lives of some of the more prominent characters in scripture it would seem as though something was overlooked or missed in the screening process. Take for example Samson, God’s choice to defeat one of Israel’s enemies, was unable to control his desires. Moses, God’s choice to lead a nation, was desperately in need of an anger-management program. David, God’s choice to be the second king over Israel, could not control his own house. Again, I ask you is it possible the God makes mistakes?
On the surface it would seem as though some of the candidates that God chose to carryout His work were poor choices. However, if we take a closer look we will discover that it was not God who made the mistake, but the candidates God chose made poor choices. When we examine the lives of individuals that God chose we see that they were the root cause of their own undoing. Scripture points out that any person God chooses God also positions that person to be successful in their endeavors. Scripture also reveals that while God positions people for success people can undermine or short-circuit their success by the choices they make.
One such person was king Saul. The reign of king Saul was like that of a Greek tragedy it ended before it began. King Saul was God’s choice to lead God’s people and he had God’s assurance that God would be with him and provide direction for him. It seems that God’s assurance was not enough to prevent Saul from falling out of favor with God. As Saul was riding the wave of excitement over being God’s choice and gaining confidence with his victory over the Ammonites I’m sure he felt unstoppable. In August Wilson’s play Fences, the central character Troy Maxon in one scene says, “You gotta take the crooked with the straights.” It would appear that Troy understood something that king Saul missed, sometimes the odds will be in our favor and at other times they will be against us. Confidence is a wonderful thing and it is necessary to achieve success in life, but confidence must also be tempered with humility. Humility helps us to appreciate our victories and accept our setbacks. While it is clear that Saul was confident, it is also clear that he lacked humility. After his defeat of a smaller foe, the Ammonites, his army launched an attack against the Philistines. As the Philistines mustered their response their army outnumbered king Saul and his army. The odds were not in king Saul’s favor. The Bible says, “The rain falls on the just and the unjust.” In other words, everyone will have some good days, and we will have some bad days. The same way we revel in our good days, we also must learn how to deal with our bad days. One of the ways we learn to deal with our bad days is to remember that God is still with us. When the odds appear to be against us, it is imperative that we remember God is still with us. Just because the odds have changed it does not mean that God has changed. Therefore, when we remember that God is with us we will humbly take the crooked with the straights because we know that eventually if God is with us He will change the odds in our favor.
Difficult situations and challenging times are a shock to the system and a blow to the ego. One of the real issues for king Saul was that he was facing his first defeat and it was a blow to his ego. Ego is a good thing. I believe it is God given and a necessary part of our make up. Our ego is tied to our level of confidence and is driving force behind our ability to achieve and be successful in life. However, ego can also get in our way and be the source of our downfall. The greater our ego is, the smaller God becomes. Ego has the power to Ease God Out. It is impossible for a great big ego and a great big God to share the same space. And so, one will eventually push the other out. In Saul’s case his ego pushed God out. One of the problems with ego is that it fails to consider the consequences. When we look at world history we see that all great empires eventually fell because their ego got in the way. The Greeks, Romans, Babylonians, British, etc., they all kept extending their reach believing they were greater than everyone else. For as great as Saul thought he was, the reality that he was not immortal or invincible began to set in as he watched his army desert him. One of the real problems with ego is that it distorts our perspective. Once ego has pushed God out of the picture we must rely on ourselves to do the things that God has promised to do for us. To help us keep our ego in check, God has to remind us from time to time whose over all and who created all. God accomplishes this by removing all of the props. When God starts to remove all of the things that have been supporting us or we have been relying on it is an indication that God is getting ready to step into our situation or our circumstances. As God removes our props, God is shrinking our ego and making from for his entrance.
They say a Christian who is by themselves is in bad company because, they are self directed. As the Philistines mounted their attack Saul found himself feeling alone. The truth is that if God is with us we are never alone. However, fear will make us feel as though God has deserted us. As Saul’s fear began to grow he also began to hear voices in his head. The voices told him that Samuel, God’s representative, was not going to show up and he needed to take action. Our fears will speak to us and if they are left unchecked they will cause us to do the wrong thing for the right reason. The voices of fear will tell us it is ok to misappropriate resources to address a perceived need. The voices of fear will tell us it is ok find companionship with someone who belongs to someone else. The voices of fear told Saul it was ok for him to offer a sacrifice to gain God’s favor. The problem was God told Saul to wait. When the voices of fear start speaking to us we need to tell them to be quiet. When the voices of fear start speaking to us we need to remind them of the promises of God. It is hard to quiet the voices of fear when we do not remember the promises of God. The voices in Saul’s head convinced him that Samuel was not going to show up, God had deserted him, and he needed to do something.
He who acts in haste repents in leisure. Saul’s undoing was the result of his inability to quiet the voices in his head. After he made the sacrifice Samuel appeared. Samuel pointed out to Saul that had he waited God would have ensured his dynasty and his legacy. The truth is that there will be times when it seems as though God is slow moving and even slower in acting on our behalf, but no matter how slow God appears to be moving we still have to wait on God. Years ago before all night television, when television programming was about the end there would be a sound followed by an announcement saying, “This is only a test of the emergency broadcasting system.” When God seems to be moving slow and the voices of fear start speaking to us, we need to remember this is only a test. We need to remind the voices to be quiet, because God said wait. We need to remind our fears that if God has not shown up it just means that He is on the way and I am not going to do anything to fall out of favor or blow my blessings with God.