Saul’s First Mistake

13 “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.
14 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.”
1 Samuel 13:13-14 (NLT)

We shall continue with the story of Saul from the previous article. Saul began his career as a king with a bang. He managed to build an army and defeated the Ammonites. Soon, the Philistines attacked Israel again. Again Saul selected 3,000 men and defeated the Philistine garrison at Geba. His reputation grew among the Israelites. Unfortunately, his victory got the Philistines more determined to destroy him.

5 The Philistines mustered a mighty army of 3,000 chariots, 6,000 charioteers, and as many warriors as the grains of sand on the seashore! They camped at Micmash east of Beth-aven.
1 Samuel 13:5 (NLT)

They sent in their main force. Even their charioteers were double the amount of Saul’s soldiers, not counting their immerse numbers of foot soldiers. Not only were the Philistines superior in numbers, they also had technological advantage. The Philistines were in Iron Age while the Israelites were still in Bronze Age. When Moses lead the Israelites out of Egypt, the only metal they used for weapons and instruments was bronze. However, when they reached the land of Canaan, the inhabitants there like the Philistines had discovered the method to extract iron and they kept the technology secret. This means the Philistines had better weapons. The Israelites were out numbered and out gunned. The only people in Israel’s camp that had proper weapons were Saul and his son Jonathan. The Israelites responded in fear.

6 The men of Israel saw what a tight spot they were in; and because they were hard pressed by the enemy, they tried to hide in caves, thickets, rocks, holes, and cisterns.
7 Some of them crossed the Jordan River and escaped into the land of Gad and Gilead.
1 Samuel 13:6-7 (NLT)

King Saul was in a desperate situation. His soldiers were deserting him and there was nothing he could do about it. It seemed that the Philistines had succeeded in defeating him even before the battle began. They just scared off the Israelite soldiers.

Incidentally, Samuel had instructed Saul to wait for him to offer burnt sacrifices to the Lord. Traditionally, worshiping the Lord through burnt sacrifice and peace offering could turn bad situations around. Saul knew that and he was relying on Samuel to be on time to do those. He also realized that only selected people like prophets were allowed to do those.

However, as more and more of soldiers ran away from him, plus the fact that Samuel had not arrived, Saul lost his cool. He took over Samuel’s role in offering sacrifices. Maybe he was hoping that God did not notice. When Samuel arrived, he was shocked by the sin Saul had committed and he pronounced God’s judgement on Saul.

13 “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.
14 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.”
1 Samuel 13:13-14 (NLT)

It was a real pity. Saul’s dynasty could have last forever. Yet, a momentary panic made him lost it. Now, the Lord only allowed his kingdom to be limited to his rein. In today’s language, Saul only had a one term government. The only difference is his term lasts until he died. In other words, Saul could still keep his job but not allowed to pass on his kingdom to his son.

A potential great dynasty was reduced to a single term government.

Let us stop here and revise the lesson here. King Saul had missed the chance of a lifetime. How often has God promised an everlasting kingdom to anyone? Saul was the first one who got this promise. The only condition he had to fulfill was to obey God. He knew he should not perform the sacrifice but he still did that when he was panicking. It was totally irrational. Think about it. God had promised to bless Saul’s kingdom. This means Saul could never be destroyed even if the enemy had 3,000 chariots and 6,000 charioteers. Did Saul believe in God’s faithfulness in delivering him? There can only be 2 answers, yes or no. Let us explore each of them.

If Saul truly believe in God faithfulness, there was no reason to be panic. His only job was to keep his end of the covenant, which was to obey God. He should just relax in his tent while waiting for Samuel to come. His soldiers were running away but his true deliverer is the Lord. Just wait for Samuel.

However, if Saul had stopped believing in the faithfulness of God, then there was no reason to do the sacrifices in the first place. He could run away, stay to fight or even work out peace. The bottom line is performing sacrifices to the Lord was meaningless if Saul had stopped believing in his faithfulness.

The lesson for us here: When we are in a highly stressful situation, the first thing we must do is to keep our cool. We must remain rational at all times because if we are not, we may end up making bad decisions. In other words, never make any decision when you are not calm and rational. When you are in an agitated state, your first priority is to calm yourself as soon as you can. Only when you are calm, then you will be in position to analyze the situation, produce alternatives, seek God, select the right solution and execute your solution.

Don’t be like Saul where a momentary panic caused him to lose an everlasting dynasty.

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