Summary: Don't let ritual rise above your relationship with God. Don't let your ways rise above God's ways.
Last week we saw the marks of a great servant in Prophet Samuel. He is a man of integrity, faithfulness and a genuine love for his people.
• Today we will see the new leader Saul, and sadly, the opposite of what we see last week – the marks of a disobedient servant.
Let’s read 1 Samuel 13:1-15.
Let me explain two things before we go on. There are 2 problematic translations in this passage – verse 1 and verse 5 - both has to do with numbers.
• Different versions use different ancient manuscripts and the numbers in your bible version will be different.
Verse 1 – original Hebrew: “Saul was ____ years old when he became king, and he reigned over Israel ___ two years.”
• Later manuscripts put in the blank, with 30 and 40 respectively. (Acts 13:21 mentioned Saul reigning for 40 years.)
• No one is sure of the numbers, but the most likely translation is “Saul was a year old from being anointed king, and he is now two years into his official reign” the event in chapter 13 happens.
Verse 5 has a problem with the numbers too.
• In the Hebrew manuscript it’s 30,000 chariots but most felt this may be inaccurate because there are only 6000 charioteers. 3000 is more likely the number. In Hebrew the figures 30,000 and 3000 look very similar.
But the main message of the passage is still intact. Nothing significant is lost with these because the context is that Israel is greatly outnumbered by the Philistines.
Saul was put in a very difficult position. This was a TEST of his trust and dependence on God as the new king of Israel. But he failed.
• His failure revealed the condition of his heart towards God.
• The problem is not with the problem. It is with his relationship with God.
• The crisis exposes his heart towards God and the things of God. This is the HEART of the matter.
The Philistines gathered against Israel and was greatly outnumbered.
• How do you stand up against a force “as numerous as the sand on the seashore)? You can’t. Only God can.
• Not only that, they had no chariots and no weapons. Later part of chapter 13 tells us the men were without proper weapons. 13:22 says only Saul and his son Jonathan had a sword and spear.
Beside these “hardware” problems, we have “software” problems.
• The men were so afraid they fled and hid in caves and thickets, in whatever holes they can find among the rocks.
• Some even fled across the river Jordan to the East. At the end of the day, verse 15 tells us Saul has only 600 men with him. Down from the 3000 he had.
This is the right setting for a pious heart. Saul needs to depend on God!
Samuel had told Saul to wait for him – 1 Sam 10:8 “Go down ahead of me to Gilgal. I will surely come down to you to sacrifice burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, but you must wait seven days until I come to you and tell you what you are to do.”
• The words of Samuel have been prophetically accurate. We saw that in chapter 10 when he spoke to Saul and Saul knew it.
• But Samuel did not turn up at the time he expected. I say “he expected” because I don’t think Samuel was late. 13:10 “Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived.” How late can that be?
• Moreover, Samuel has never been inaccurate in what he says. He probably arrived near the end of the 7th day, but that’s not a time Saul would like.
Saul was COMPELLED to offer the burnt offering, he said. He was driven by fear and desperation, and his men were running away.
• So Saul took the matter into his own hands and broke God’s command by offering the sacrifices himself, a role reserved only for the priests.
• Saul probably says, “I can do it too. I’ve seen how Samuel did it and I can just do the same.”
No regard for God’s command. No respect for Samuel. Only the desire to satisfy his own needs and get the favour of God.
• Let me tell you the oddest thing here, which can happen to us sometimes. Saul says he needed to do the burnt offering to seek the Lord’s favour (v.12).
• This is a contradiction! We can never gain God’s favour doing something contrary to His will. We can never win God’s favour by acting apart from God’s Word.
No wonder Samuel said, “You acted foolishly!” You are a fool.
• Prov 9:10 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom…”