In these next few chapters of the book of 1 Samuel, we see Saul acting like king, going out with the troops and proving his kingship in their eyes. This is sort of the third phase of his becoming king, he was privately anointed, publicly proclaimed, and now proven by his actions. Remember after his anointing and proclamation, he simply went home. The tribes of Israel did not function well as a nation, and no one knew really how to proceed under a king, let alone the guy who was anointed as king. So he went home, and was farming once again.
11:6 The Spirit of God led Saul to hate what God hates; this is how the Spirit leads us too, is it not? All who are led by the Spirit are putting to death the deeds of the flesh–we hate our sin, we hate the feeling that comes from sinning against God and so we hate what He hates, and as we follow the Spirit’s leading He works in the realm of our desires. When the Spirit was upon Saul, Saul too would be angry at the words spoken by the men of Jabesh. This anger spurred Saul on and he was able to rally the troops, as “the dread of YHWH fell on the people.” The dread of YHWH led the Israelites to battle against God’s enemies.
11:12 does it ever fare well fo those who challenge God’s prophets? Remember those who grumbled against Moses? Yet the people are not permitted to put to death those who spoke against what Samuel proclaimed. Rather, Samuel led the people to a renewal ceremony; they worshiped and rejoiced, and then listened to Samuel tell them “you got what you asked for!” He reminds them of the Exodus and the years in the wilderness; and the years of judges, numbering himself with the most well known and declaring that under the judges “you lived in security.” This security was not pervasively felt, as we read in the book of Judges. There were some years of peace amidst all their years of “doing evil continually;” they suffered the consequences of following their own ways, namely conflict with surrounding nations.
This kingdom renewal ceremony took place at Gilgal. Later, we will be told of Saul’s unfaithfulness in Gilgal, keep this in mind as we proceed. (12:17) God’s word is clear, their ‘asking’ for a king was evil/wicked; He judges the thoughts and intents of the heart, not all asking is evil, but this was.
Have you pondered why?
They did not honor God with their petitions, they sought to push Him further away.
Thunder again! God can providentially order nature, as well as acting supernaturally. Here God uses thunder once again to remind the people that He is in control, and is to be feared. They do fear, but it is not reverential fear, but an ungodly fear–the fear of those who know they will face His wrath; the fear of those who feel their separation from God.
“So Samuel called upon YHWH, and YHWH sent thunder and rain that day, and all the people greatly feared YHWH and Samuel.12:18
What does God show the people through this? How does this impact your own ‘fear of the LORD’?
Do Not Fear!
“Do not turn aside from following YHWH, but serve YHWH with all your heart. You must not turn aside, for them you would go after futile things which can not profit or deliver, because they are futile. For YHWH will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because YHWH has been pleased to make you a people for HImself!” [Cf Titus 2:11ff; and Deut 14:2]
Is this what you expect to hear, in the midst of your own rebellion? Is this what they would have expected to hear? It is good news! God is faithful; though He sends consequences, He does not abandon His people. War with the Philistines is on the horizon, and will continue during all the days of Saul’s kingship. Yet, fidelity to God is not futile; He alone can profit and deliver!
13:5 keep in mind the dates of the Iron Age, and look forward to verse 19, Israel was depending on the Philistines for works of iron, and did not have the tools or knowledge to do much on their own concerning iron tools. This puts them at a great disadvantage, and should remind us that the Philistines were skilled, knowledgeable, etc. They had great learning in other aspects as well, reading and writing, seafaring, etc. These were a formidable foe, not as some sometimes picture them–as though they were “stupid” and only had brute force on their side.
Most would fear them! But chapter 13 opens by telling us that Jonathan has been victorious when fighting the Philistines. This should bolster Israel’s morale, but when the Philistines assemble for battle again, the Israelites hide, tremble, and some begin to scatter.
Saul’s First Sacrifice
13:8 Saul knew to wait for Samuel’s arrival, yet—disregards God’s commands and acts in Samuel’s place. He does not know how to fight his enemies, or how to keep his own people assembled.
How often do people in redemptive history do this? It never makes it right; we cannot feel sorry for Saul saying “well, it is hard to wait…” God has given orders, it is ours to obey, not to come up with ways of going around as though it were “good enough.” Saul’s sacrifice was wrong. Ours is to be a life of faith and repentance; not making do, trusting our own ways, blame shifting and making excuses.
13:14 foreshadowing the next king! And though the next king is David, it all points us to Christ, the King of kings! “Because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.” The reason is plain, and if we are honest, we know this is the human condition apart from Union with Christ: we cannot keep His word, we cannot keep what God has commanded.
We will happen upon Saul trying to make his own way, create ways to appease God; which too is common among mankind–we will get into that more the next time Saul tries to meddle with the worship of YHWH in his own way (chapter 15, next time). What is our remedy, for the fact that we do not keep His commands? David will not perfectly keep His commands; though we will see in David a man who repents, who knows God must cleanse him from his sin. And in Christ we see:
For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.Romans 8:3-4
Jesus did not do away with the laws we could not keep, but fulfilled them in our place, and gives us His perfect righteousness. No earthly king can solve that matter for us. Saul turns out to be the very foil, showing us that our flesh will try so many ways to weasel out of our responsibility. David will show us that “a man after God’s own heart” will run to God, especially in repentance.
So at Gilgal, 13:12-15, Saul acts foolishly blaming his actions on trying to keep the people in line, but Saul is told that because of this he will lose kingship. The kingdom will be given to another man, a “man after His own heart.” Moreover, Samuel tells him that this man has already been appointed by God.
In chapter 14 we see the difference between Saul and Jonathon–one foolish, one bravely believing. One having knee jerk reactions stemming from pride and fear and unbelief, the other experiencing victory. Saul treats the Ark like a good luck charm again. Later, as Saul keeps trying in his own strength, he is encouraged to draw near to God, so he inquires about how to proceed, but God does not answer. Why? And what does Saul do, wait or charge ahead?
When Saul’s foolishness results in his people sinning, we see him blameshifting, once more. Instead of repenting and walking with God, Saul seeks someone to take vengeance on. And so the chapter ends by Saul very nearly killing his own son, but the people will not allow it.
The chapter closes by summing up for us that Saul’s reign was one of constant warfare, “severe” even. The next several chapters show us his downward spiral–keep in mind that Saul knew that entire time that the kingdom was not going to transfer to Jonathan, and he knew his days were limited.
Remember why they asked for a king? And did it turn out as they hoped? Or as Samuel warned? These are questions to keep in mind as we continue into chapter 15 next.
Grace and peace, beloved; as you abide in His Word.