Studying the Old Testament had been quite interesting. The choices of the children of Israel continue to fascinate me. It seems like they all have short-term memory loss. The best example of this is when Moses parts the Red Sea, a miracle right before their eyes, and after they cross on dry ground, they choose to fashion an idol out of gold. It’s hard to understand why the majority of those who had witnessed God’s power would fall away so easily.
Later on, during the time of Samuel, again the Israelites made a bad choice when they asked Samuel for a king. Samuel tried to warn them of the dangers of having a king, but they wouldn’t listen and insisted on a monarch. The Lord, in his infinite love and patience with the house of Israel, revealed to Samuel that Saul should serve as king because he was a “choice young man, and a goodly: and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he . . .” (1 Samuel 9:2). Apparently, the Lord was allowing the Israelites to use their free agency to choose a king and he wanted to give them the best opportunity to succeed.
Saul proved to be a good king for a time until he made the mistake of performing a priesthood ordinance that he was not authorized to perform. He was instructed to wait for Samuel and then Samuel would offer burnt offerings to the Lord, but Saul, after waiting the seven days that Samuel asked him to wait, became worried that his army would be destroyed before Samuel came to offer the sacrifice. Saul apparently understood that he needed the Lord’s help, but instead of waiting for the Lord’s anointed servant, he took it upon himself to offer the sacrifice.
When Samuel found out, he told 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 forever” (1 Samuel 13:13). The Lord was planning to manifest great power through Saul, but could no longer do so because Saul had not kept the commandment to wait for Samuel and had offered the burnt offering himself.
Saul was then commanded to kill all the Amalekites, but chose to save their wicked king, Agag, and some of their best animals for the purpose of sacrificing the animals to the Lord. Because of this choice, the Lord rejected Saul as king and the spirit of the Lord left him. Samuel taught Saul a very important lesson, “ . . .Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22).
What can we learn from Saul? He was, at one time, a righteous man who wanted to serve the Lord and listen to Samuel, but then made the mistake of relying on himself instead of on the Lord. How many times do we try to make decisions without the Lord? Or, know what the Lord wants us to do, but think we know better than the Lord? Saul could’ve been a great leader and been an important instrument in the hands of God. So it is with us. We can also be great instruments in advancing the kingdom of God, but we must hearken to his counsel and follow his commandments. When we do, the Lord will magnify us in ways we cannot even comprehend.
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