I've been reading 1 Samuel again, this time studying David's nemesis, Saul. One of the frustrating things for a "type A" person like me is the tendency to run ahead of God and try to do things in my own strength. This week, the Lord gently revealed to me that I had done something very "Saul-ish," and hadn't waited for His leading. (ouch!) I appreciated the correction (only God can tell you that you've completely missed it and still have you love Him in the end!) The Scripture He gave me actually opened up the idea for today's post. So here it is, in raw form, for you.
The context is 1 Samuel 13 where Saul, who had been anointed King of Israel only one year before, faced the threat of battle against a massive Philistine army at Michmash, near Gilgal. Israel was for the most part defenseless - partly because they had neither sword not spear (verse 22), and partly because many of Saul's men had fled in fear to hide themselves in caves, thickets, cellars, and cliffs (v. 6). Saul had been instructed by Samuel earlier (1 Samuel 10:8) to wait seven days for him at Gilgal, and Saul himself was growing fearful and impatient.
Samuel (God's prophetic representative) was nowhere to be seen, even as the seventh day arrived. We can be fairly sure this was a test for Saul which he failed (and would fail again in chapter 15). Saul knew his people were fleeing; he feared the thousands of Philistines assembled against him, and he didn't see any help from God showing up. So he took matters into his own hands, commanding the priests to bring him burnt offerings and sacrifice peace offerings: things that Samuel had said he would show Saul how to do when he came. (1 Samuel 10:8).
On the outside, this looked like the right thing to do. After all, Saul was offering sacrifices and seeking God in the hope of currying His divine favor and help in battle. In Saul's own words, "The Philistines will now come down on me at Gilgal, and I have not made supplication to the Lord. Therefore I felt compelled, and offered a burnt offering." (1 Samuel 13:12). But Samuel was not impressed. Although Saul had kept the outward ceremonies, he had not honored God in his heart, and had acted foolishly. His sin was a childish one, not the action of a man who intimately knew and trusted God, but the work of one who doubted whether God would show up. We know from Romans 14:23 that what does not proceed from faith is sin.
Saul's excuse to Samuel in verse 11 reveals three things that hindered him from waiting on God:
1. "I saw that the people were scattered from me" (fear of rejection and a need for approval)
2. "You did not come within the days appointed" (fear of not hearing from God)
3. "The Philistines gathered together at Michmash" (anxiety and fear of his circumstances).
The result was that because Saul rejected God's commandments, God ultimately rejected him from being king, and established David as a more godly ruler instead.
Here's the clincher. Saul didn't know it, but his situation was exactly the kind of setup he could have used to tap into the greatest power known to man. Defenseless, he could have made God His defense. Had he been willing to wait for God, he could have seen an explosive victory, overcome his own fears, and deepened his spiritual life by working in partnership with God. Instead, someone else became instrumental in winning the battle.
Our fears do little to further the Kingdom of God. Today, the Holy Spirit actually dwells within us in order to convey God's specific instructions and timing. The test, however, is the same for us as it was for Saul: Saul had to wait for Samuel; we must wait for God. I believe that in our busy world, this is an even bigger challenge. We often fail. And the enemy loves to "compel" us to move out ahead of God's timing. Unfortunately, this causes us to miss out on the power of the gospel, as we end up reducing it to mere words or ceremonies.
Thankfully, when we fail to wait for the Spirit's leading, God provides an advocate for us through His Son: My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.
~1 John 2:1, NASB.
When we bring our failures to the cross of Christ, we do not have to fear condemnation. We can become more like David instead of Saul, keeping our hearts tender towards God and making sure our consciences stay clean. Through prayer, we can ask God to help us resist the urgency of the enemy and learn to trust Him. He will show us if one of Saul's three fears might be hindering us from waiting for Him. And by His grace, our failures will become the grounds for our training, not our disqualification. When this happens, the Philistines of the world had better look out, because we will be coming forth with God's anointing and power, and in Him, we will be unstoppable.
Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage
and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait for
and hope for and expect the Lord
~ Psalm 27:14, AMP.
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A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.