Monday, August 25, 2014

Examining Consequences of Saul Offering the Burnt Offering in 1 Sam. 13

The beginning of King Saul’s fall is when he offers the burnt offering instead of waiting for Samuel to arrive and do it.  When Samuel finally gets there, he chastises Saul and pronounces some consequences.  It is worth looking at these consequences to see what we can learn.
13 And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever.
14 But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee. (1 Samuel 13:13-14)
It sounds like Saul’s kingdom would have been established forever if he had kept the commandments and not offered the sacrifice, but because he had, his kingdom would not continue.  That is quite a big consequence hanging on a single act.  Why was this the case?

I think one possibility is that Saul showed he couldn’t handle the pressure of being in a tight spot without deciding to break commandments.  And he was in a tight spot.
1)    His people were scared and were deserting the army.
2)    Samuel didn’t come when he said and there was no indication of how long he’d be delayed.
3)    They were facing a humongous Philistine army that looked like it would attack at any moment.

That’s a very tense, high pressure situation.  If I were in that situation, I’d be so stressed I’d be ready to have a litter of kittens or something.  (Yes, I am a type-A personality.)
It is only natural to want to do something to escape that tension somehow as quickly as possible.  But Saul broke the commandments to do it.

The trouble is, that wasn’t going to be the only high pressure situation King Saul would face, and if he couldn’t learn to face it the right way, it would be very hard to hold the kingdom together without continuing to break commandments out of expediency.  Soon every situation looks one where it is expedient to break commandments of the Lord.  That’s the kind of thing that destroys a king’s moral authority.  But if he could keep the commandments and make it through, then he’d become stronger and more capable of keeping stability, even in the most tumultuous times.

This has a good lesson for us too.  If we can learn to keep the commandments even when in tight spots and under pressure, then we become stronger and more capable and our little kingdom (as small as it is) will be established.  If parents can keep the commandments in family crisis, then their family will be more firmly established.

As a final note, we can notice that when Samuel anticipated “a man after [the Lord’s] own heart who would be commanded to be captain over the Lord’s people, we can see that as a dualistic prophecy.  It anticipates the rise of David as king, but also the mortal ministry of Jesus Christ.  Christ was a man after God’s heart and was made captain over God’s people as the captain of our salvation.  (Samuel says little things like this that anticipate and prophecy of Christ throughout his ministry and they are always worth noticing and marking.)