Summary: 3rd in a series on King Saul, "Portrait of a Politician" -- looking at Saul’s failed leadership.
Trinity Baptist Church July 13, 2008
Portrait of a Politician
The Lyin’ King
Norman Schwarzkopf called leadership a potent combination of strategy and character. But, then he said -- if you have to be without one, be without strategy.
It would seem that far too many leaders in our generation prefer to abandon character. A few of you are old enough to remember and American president in the ‘70’s resigning in scandal and disgrace. Another in the 90’s was mired in immorality and dishonesty. The recent business climate has given us CEO’s and corporate leaders so hungry for power and money, they’ll gladly rip off both investors and employees.
The sad thing is -- we’re not shocked anymore if even a pastor or priest commits the vilest of things. You don’t have to look very fare to find a raunchy leader.
It’s not a new phenomenon. Ever since people were given or have taken responsibility and power, their fundamental character – whether good or evil -- has surfaced. As believers, the issue of a leader’s character always comes down to the question of “where is God” in the person’s life? When a leader follows God, it makes all the difference in the world. When that is not the case -- that leader’s story is not going to end well.
We’re studying one of those tragedies. We started three weeks ago studying Saul -- an OT leader who demonstrates classic leadership failure. Saul was Israel’s first king. I’ve called his account a “portrait of a politician” – for several reasons. For one, this was a man who cared more about his image than his character. He’s was more “fluff than stuff.” When his core showed through – like when he was stressed or angry – the picture was not a pretty one….
Saul cared more about what people thought, than what God thought. He was self-absorbed and therefore a jealous leader – and those traits made him cling to power like a drowning person clinging to a life preserver.
You remember how it all began. In 1 Samuel 8, God’s people realized their aging prophet Samuel wouldn’t be around much longer. So they came to him -- and demanded he change their government and appoint a king for them – something Israel had never had, because the Lord God was their King. Their motive for that request was mentioned twice in chapter 8. They wanted to be like all the other nations. To Samuel’s amazement, God told him to grant their request. The man Samuel anointed was Saul.
Saul would likely have been a popular candidate in a political climate like ours. He was a big man -- head and shoulders over every other. He stood out – and he wasn’t afraid to take action. At the beginning, he seemed to be modest. All that fit the scriptural principle we can read just a bit further on in 1 Samuel: it says, man looks on the outward appearance.
Things haven’t changed much in our TV/YouTube generation – outward appearance very often seals the deal. And from all appearances everything looked good – it looked like Israel got the very best choice. But like we saw the first week of our study, God was only giving them what they asked for – but Saul was not the leader they needed. And that was the beginning of his tragic reign.
Two weeks ago, we read that sad account in chapter 13. Samuel the prophet told Saul he’d come to the battlefield where Israel faced a massive Philistine army. Saul had begun with a meager force and when his soldiers saw the Philistine hordes, they began deserting. Saul got desperate – and instead of waiting for God’s man – who would come and offer sacrifices and ask God for a supernatural victory, Saul impulsively offered the sacrifices himself. By his actions, he disregarded God’s and His holiness.
At that point, Samuel told Saul, “It’s over!” He said, God has looked for a man whose heart is fully His, -- and in so many words, he said -- “Saul, you’re not that man.”
Now in 1 Samuel 15, Saul is given another mission from God. It’s precise and clear.
As Zac read chapter 15, you heard the assignment spelled out. It’s in verse 2 -- God’s says, I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all he has, and do no spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.
A little history -- God says this issue extends back to Israel’s exodus from Egypt. The Amalekites had occupied the southern part of Canaan. When the Jewish people set off from Egypt, this was one of the first nations they encountered. The same group would become one of Israel’s neighbors and continue to attack and harass them. Initially, the Amalekites refused to let Israel even move through their territory. When the whole nation was exhausted from the journey and simply requested permission to travel through their territory, they turned them down. Instead they attacked. As late as Gideon the judge’s time, this group remained a thorn in Israel’s side.