Read I Samuel 12 -- 14:23
King Saul, the first King of Israel, was a man of great ability as an administrator and a warrior, but he had a fatal flaw. Perhaps three years after Saul became king, his first great failure occurred when he did not depend on the Lord for guidance but on his own judgment. The Philistines gathered themselves together to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots, and six thousand horsemen, and people as the sand which is on the sea shore in multitude (I Samuel 13:5). The Israelites were greatly outnumbered, and, from a human point of view, they appeared to be doomed to defeat.
Samuel had instructed Saul not to go into battle until he returned in seven days to offer sacrifices to the Lord, but to wait in Gilgal (13:7-8). When Saul's army realized the military might of the Philistines, the majority deserted him and hid themselves in caves, eventually leaving Saul with a mere 600 soldiers (13:6,15). Saul realized that their only hope was in God. Perhaps blaming Samuel for being late in returning, Saul offered the burnt offering. . . . (but) as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came! (13:8-10). Sauls decision to assume the role of priest and offer sacrifice violated the Word of God as well as ignored the instructions of Samuel, the prophet and priest of God. Saul first made an excuse to Samuel, saying: You did not come within the days appointed. . . . Therefore I thought, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the Lord: I forced myself (felt obligated) therefore, and offered a burnt offering (13:11-12).
The burnt offering was a symbol of surrender to God; however, when Saul assumed the position of priest the sacrifice became an abomination to the Lord (15:22-23; see Numbers 16; Proverbs 21:27; Isaiah 1:13).
What seemed to Saul a tardiness in Samuel's arrival was in reality a test of Saul's obedience to the Word. Samuel spoke bluntly to this self-willed king: You have done foolishly: You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you: for now the Lord would have established your kingdom . . . for ever. But now your kingdom shall not continue (I Samuel 13:13-14).
During Saul's 40-year reign, he drifted further and further from God, and his reign ended as it began, in battle with the Philistines in which he lost his life on the slopes of Mount Gilboa.
We are all tested from time to time and tempted to justify violating the Word of God to satisfy our desires, assuming that circumstances demand it. Saul's presumption demonstrates the importance of always obeying God's Word. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Christ Portrayed: By Samuel the intercessor (I Samuel 12:23). Right now Jesus is interceding for believers (Heb. 7:25).
Word Studies: 12:11 Jerubbaal means Gideon; 13:17 spoilers means raiders; 13:20 share, coulter, and mattock are agricultural tools, possibly a plow blade, spade, ox, hoe, sickle, or pickax; 13:21 goads means pointed rods used to prod an animal.
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Optional Reading: Acts 5
Memory Verse for the Week: Matthew 6:33