Summary: Instant obedience is the only kind of obedience there is; delayed obedience is disobedience. Whoever strives to withdraw from obedience, withdraws from Grace.
Opening illustration: Picher, Oklahoma, is no more. In mid-2009, this once-bustling town of 20,000 went out of business. In the first quarter of the 1900s, Picher was a boomtown because of its abundant lead and zinc. Workers extracted the ore, which was used to help arm the US during both World Wars.
The town faded as the ore began to run out - but the biggest problem was that while the lead and zinc brought wealth, they also brought pollution. Because nothing was done to deal with the pollution, Picher became a toxic wasteland, and the government condemned the land.
What happened to Picher can happen to people. Prosperity can look so good that it’s hard to think about possible downsides. Actions that are detrimental to long-term spiritual health are accepted, and unless the problem is corrected, destruction follows. It happened to King Saul. He began as a good king, but in seeking success he failed to see the damage he was doing. Turning his back on God’s commands, he acted “foolishly” (1 Sam. 13: 13) and lost his kingdom (v.14). (Illustration by Dave Branon, Our Daily Bread)
Let us turn to 1 Samuel 13 and check out the foolish and toxic living of Saul and its consequences.
Introduction: Saul, though patriotic enough in his own way, was more ambitious of gaining the glory of a triumph to himself than ascribing it to God. He did not understand his proper position as king of Israel; and although aware of the restrictions under which he held the sovereignty, he wished to rule as an autocrat, who possessed absolute power both in civil and sacred things. This occasion was his first trial. Samuel waited till the last day of the seven, in order to put the constitutional character of the king to the test; and, as Saul, in his impatient and passionate haste knowingly transgressed (1 Samuel 13: 12) by invading the priest’s office and thus showing his unfitness for his high office (as he showed nothing of the faith of Gideon and other Hebrew generals), he incurred a threat of the rejection which his subsequent waywardness confirmed.
What formulates toxic living?
1. Impatience (not waiting) ~ vs. 7-8
This order Saul broke. He staid till the seventh day yet had not patience to wait till the end of the seventh day. Perhaps he began to reproach Samuel as false to his word, careless of his country, and disrespectful of his prince, and thought it more fit that Samuel should wait for him than he for Samuel. We are not told wherein it was that the people of Israel offended God, so as to forfeit his presence and turn his hand against them, as Samuel had threatened (chap. 12: 15); but doubtless they left God, else he would not have left them, as here it appears he did; for, I. Saul was very weak and impolitic, and did not order his affairs with discretion. Now, with the remainder of his army quaking in fear, Saul decided to take matters into his own hands. After all, he had waited the full seven days which Samuel had instructed him to wait. Who really knew why Samuel hadn’t come? Maybe something dreadful happened to him … But Samuel had again, on this later occasion, made an appointment at the end of seven days. It seems to have been as a trial of faith and obedience, under which, this time, Saul unhappily broke down.
(a) Like Saul, when we are hard pressed by the crises in our lives, we all have a natural tendency toward panicking and taking things into our own hands. It might be not paying your tithes because you are in a financial crisis, or marrying an unbeliever because God didn’t send you a godly prospect in your allotted timeframe; many times, I have seen Christians repeat Saul’s tragic mistake.
(b) In this story we also find the frustration (and mystery) associated with trying to understand God’s timing. When Samuel did not show up in seven 24-hour days, Saul immediately took matters into his own hands.
In my own experience, I have found it is almost impossible to understand the timing of God. What I think is going to happen “tomorrow” sometimes takes years. On the other hand, what I would like to put off for “years” seems to come into my life on the very day I am trying to avoid it the most.
In reality, it has far more to do with obeying God than knowing the exact details of God’s timing. His promises to you will be fulfilled in His time, not yours.
© What seemed to be a simple act of impatience would eventually cost Saul his entire kingdom. It would cost him both his kingdom and his destiny, because he would destroy it himself by taking matters into his own hands instead of waiting on God.