1st Samuel 13
The Lord of life, the Creator–God Himself, once said something very sobering. He said that the day of our death is better than the day of our birth (Ecclesiastes 7:1-2). Why would He tell us that? Because at the end, after the life is finished, the real person is known. That life with all of its opportunities and obstacles, accomplishments and failures is ready for review.
The chilling fact of God’s Word is the individual life analysis that God Himself then performs—an autopsy not of the cause of death, but of the purpose of life. That is why the constant theme of Paul’s exhortations to us in the church revolve around the idea of finishing well at the finish line, a life that survive the fires of the judgment seat, and a ‘well done good and faithful servant’ analysis of our race by the Lord Himself.
So we will get the consequences of our choices in Heaven. There is a reckoning day for believers. So we do need to have regular investment reviews to think of what we are living for.
That brings us back again to the life of King Saul. The ominous warning of Saul’s life is that he had everything going for him possible. He was big, strong, blessed, gifted, chosen, empowered, and given every opportunity to serve God. But he didn’t.
Saul failed because there were severe deficiencies in his character.
- God doesn’t need brains—He wants character.
- God doesn’t need brawn (huge strong muscles)—He wants integrity.
- God doesn’t need anyone’s wisdom, power, or wealth—He wants obedience.
- God doesn’t need ambitious confidence—He wants humble dependence.
Over and over in God’s Word we see that God summarizes an entire life in a few words. The challenge of that summary is two fold. When God summarizes a life He means it, and it is accurate.
Do you remember God’s summary of David’s life? We can call that David’s epitaph. God distills David’s seventy-year life down to just 9 words in English.
Acts 13:36 “For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed. NIV
So what was God’s summary of Saul’s life? God only needs one word—rejected. God says five times in just three verses that Saul rejected God by disregarding His Word, so God rejected him.
The word that God uses for Saul’s treatment of God and God’s response back to Saul is a very strong word.
The Hebrew word that the Holy Spirit chose to describe Saul’s treatment of God is the Hebrew word # 3988 mawas, used 76 times in the Old Testament and most often translated despise 25, refuse 9, reject 19, abhor 4, become loathsome 1, melt away. In context when ever this word is used about someone’s response to God–it is always bad. This is the word (despised) that described Israel’s murmuring in the wilderness just before He sent the plague to kill many of them; this is the word that described Job’s boils and sores (loathsome); and this is the word that is used by God for Israel’s attitude they (despised) the worship of God the basis for His allowing Israel to be destroyed by her enemies and carried off into captivity.
So Saul rejected God when he used selective, self-serving obedience in place of total and God-honoring obedience. And what did he get as his consequence for that bad choice? Look at the record God left for us.
1 Samuel 15:23, 26 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king.” 26 But Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you, for you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.” NKJV
1 Samuel 15:35 And Samuel went no more to see Saul until the day of his death. Nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul, and the Lord regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel. NKJV
1 Samuel 16:1 Now the Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons.” NKJV
Can you imagine what it would be like to have it all and yet be rejected by God? I can’t because I want to obey the Lord. That longing, in spite of failures is the work of grace in our lives. You see David wasn’t perfect—just forgiven. Saul wasn’t perfect—just unconcerned.
1 Samuel 13:13-14 And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you. For now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.” NKJV
Which brings us back to Paul’s sermon in Acts 13.
Acts 13:22 And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’ NKJV
David was imperfect, David was impatient, David was angry at times, wrathful at times, depressed, distressed, fearful, hopeless and tempted—yet he was God’s man in that he didn’t like being that way and didn’t want to stay that way. He was grieved over his sin against God. What God said mattered to David, but it didn’t seem to matter to Saul.
Let’s experience the start of the fall of Saul. The first record of a problem he had that led to his ultimate disaster.
Please stand with me and follow along as I read 1st Samuel 13.
Now go back with me through this chapter and note the glaring examples God records for us in ways to fail, waste your life. Here is how not to serve the Lord!
Just as the Spirit of God bears fruit, so does the flesh. When we don’t obey God we are in rebellion against Him. There is no middle ground. The fruit of the flesh is also quite easily spotted in ungodly attitudes and actions. King Saul would not walk in step with God, so his flesh reigned in his life. Saul lived a life of ignoring the warnings of departure from God’s way!
What were those signs? His pathway of rebellion involved the following elements I call “Ways we Don’t Serve God”! These are still danger signs to caution anyone who loves God, wants to serve Him and seeks to follow the Lord to this day.
We could sum up the tragic shipwrecked life of King Saul by saying that you don’t serve God by doing what he did. Why not re-examine is life and see what made Saul the man who wasn’t after God’s heart. That is the contrast we find when we look at Saul and David side-by-side. (Emphasis added to the verses below.)
1. Neglect God’s Leadership of your life so that you underestimate the strength of your enemy—and get completely defeated. 1st Samuel 13.1-7
King Saul faced a whole new type of enemy, he was the King—and he didn’t even know how strong his enemies were! The times since Joshua’s conquest had produced a whole new type of enemy. Fresh in from the islands of the Mediterranean, the sea peoples settled on the coasts and mixing with the ancient inhabitants became the Philistines. Saul needed God to defeat his enemies. So do we. Saul neglected God’s leadership and failed. So will we if we also neglect to allow God to lead our lives.
Fact File on the Philistines:
1. The Philistine’s had a rich ethnic heritage: They sailed from the Aegean world (Greece) and settled along the coast of Palestine from about 1400-1200 BC; about the time of the Judges in Israel. The Philistines developed a sophisticated culture around a circle of five city states named in the Bible as: Gath, Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Ekron.
2. The Philistine’s had excellent logistics: The five main Philistine city states were located near the Via Maris trade route, which went through the coastal plain or lowlands along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea of Israel. So, the Philistines dominated world trade and greatly influenced other nations.
3. The Philistine’s had massive industrial production: These powerful European businessmen had an elaborate olive pressing industry. (At Ekron alone archaeologists have found the remains of about 200 installations that could produce more than 1,000 tons or two million pounds of olive oil! Plus the entire infrastructure for what we already learned about last time–their famous for iron making.
4. The Philistine’s had advanced military technology: From the excavations, the graves, the paintings and etchings comes a historical picture revealing that Philistine soldiers were quite tall, clean shaven, and wore breastplates and small kilts. The soldiers carried small shields, and fought with straight swords and spears—all superior to their enemies as they were made of iron.
5. The Philistine’s had sophisticated artistic skills: These talented artisans were part of the centuries old Greek culture and continued to create intricate pottery with red and black geometric designs on white backgrounds.
6. The Philistine’s had an evil and dark religion: Two words sum up the religious traditions of these sea peoples—they were very sophisticated and very immoral. The Philistines engineered and built carefully planned temples. These temples and their gods show up all throughout the Biblical record. There were Philistine temples in the south in Gaza and Ashdod, and in the north at Beth Shean. The Philistine gods also are the constant nemesis of the people of the Living and True God. Dagon, their main god, was thought to be the god of grain. Believed to be his mistress, the goddess Ashtoreth was associated with war and fertility. Baal-Zebul, thought to be Dagon’s son, was worshiped at Ekron.1
So as Israel emerged from the period of the Judges, and picked their first king—he faced these newcomers to the region that had all new weapons that were far stronger than Israel’s—unless they would rely upon their true source of power— the Lord God Almighty. Saul was chosen to lead the people to seek God’s help and find His victory! The same is true for us each day.
1 Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. NKJV
If you want to waste your life—neglect God’s Leadership of your life so that you underestimate the strength of your enemy—and get completely defeated. 1 Samuel 13.1-7.
2. Get impatient and use your impatience as an excuse to do your own thing instead of obeying God. We can’t serve God by—Impatience. “Then he waited seven days, according to the time set by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him” (1 Samuel 13:8).
Saul was impatient with God’s plan. He sought the approval of man before he sought the approval of God.
If you want to waste your life—get impatient and use your impatience as an excuse to do your own thing instead of obeying God. We can’t serve God by—Impatience.
3. Neglect your primary responsibilities that God has entrusted to you by only taking care of your own needs. We can’t serve God by—Neglect. “So it came about, on the day of battle, that there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people who were with Saul and Jonathan. But they were found with Saul and Jonathan his son” (1 Samuel 13:22).
Saul neglected to provide for those entrusted to his care. He made sure he had what he needed to defend himself, but not that those he cared for were armed for the battle. In the New Testament, God says such a person is worse than an infidel:
“If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).
If you want to waste your life—neglect your primary responsibilities that God has entrusted to you by only taking care of your own needs. We can’t serve God by—Neglect.
4. Get so out of touch with the battle raging around you—that God can be doing mighty things, and you miss them completely. We can’t serve God by–Lazy indifference. “AND SAUL was sitting in the outskirts of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree which is in Migron. The people who were with him were about six hundred men. Ahijah the son of Ahitub, Ichabod’s brother, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the Lord’s priest in Shiloh, was wearing an ephod. But the people did not know that Jonathan had gone” (1 Samuel 14:2-3).
Saul became lazy and indifferent; he was unaware of his son, the battle, and even the victory. He missed it all!
If you want to waste your life—get so out of touch with the battle raging around you—that God can be doing mighty things, and you miss them completely. We can’t serve God by–Lazy indifference.
1 Ray Vander Laan, with Stephen and Amanda Sorenson, Faith Lessons on the Promised Land Leader’s Guide. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1999, Pg. 136.