One moment of madness and it’s the end of civilisation as Samuel wanted it.

“Listen Saul! I know You are the King, but Yahweh is Lord of All, or He isn’t Lord at all. You are out boy!”
(1 Samuel 13:1-15)
map of michmash battle 1 Samuel 13 14
So, assuming you, the reader, have already read the full story, let’s take inventory here.  A Stock Check if you will.

WRONG CHOICES ARE DESTRUCTIVE

In this and the next but one chapter, we are about to negotiate the narrative of two incidents in the life of Saul and its bearing on what God had said through Samuel to Saul. It is a sad tragedy.  If I knew Saul personally, instead of simply reading it in the bible, I would cry.  I would shake him and plead with him.  I would shout and stop him at crucial moments of his life.  And in this chapter we have the first moment of madness that was to start his plummeting downwards.  Not of fate, mark me, but of his own personal choice. It is that matter of choice that makes the story so upsetting. It wasn’t that Saul accidentally fell into disobedience, he chose his direction and jumped. None of us sin accidentally. He did not fall into a pit he didn’t see. He saw the pit, examined the pit, and jumped into the pit willfully. The repercussions are simply horrific. Sin is not accidental – it is deliberate. We are not responsible for true “accidents.”  The world is full of many people who shake a fist at “accidents” that were actually their own fully thought out and chosen route of action. We are all fully responsible for our choices. These two stories that we are about to negotiate are all about Saul willfully and intelligently making horrific choices and reaping the results for those choices. Rest assured that nobody mocks God and gets away with evil, no matter what or how it seems to our sight and information received. We live amongst a generation that thinks with their eyes and believes with their emotions. That, in itself, precipitates all kinds of wrong beliefs and actions.   Whatsoever a man sows that is what he shall reap. When we make sinful choices, we sow to the wind, but, what we reap is the whirlwind. God give us mercy in this process. Saul reached for the gnot, but finished up swallowing the camel of destruction.

Saul!  Saul! Oh if I could only have been there to speak to you.  If Saul had conducted himself differently than he did on these two instances, Saul’s dynasty would have been as celebrated today as is David’s now.  In fact, had Saul walked circumspectly in these  two issues that we are about to see, none of us would know who David was, or is.  Saul would be the heroic definitive essence of Jewish history and religious culture.
So let’s go and catch up with Samuel in the next instance that we see him in.  In following the prophet we are now walking with him, howbeit possibly through the Philistine battle lines.  The whole story is a strange one, and no full explanation of it all is given in the scriptures.
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REMEMBER AND ACT ON PROPHECY RECEIVED THOUGH IT TAKES YEARS TO FULFILLMENT
So where do we start to explain this complex context?  Well! Let’s go back to where we just left him in the last sound byte of our story.  Samuel has seemingly attempted to step down out of the limelight as far as governmental leadership is concerned, but there is one prophetic word he has spoken to Saul that has not yet been fulfilled.
To see this we need to go back to that moment when Samuel poured oil on Saul’s head and told him he was to be king.  It was the day after Saul was told that his father’s donkeys had been found.  The prophet told him about all the things that would happen on Saul’s route home, signifying that what Samuel was saying was the word of the Lord to Saul. In the same breath, having explained all that would happen on that very day, Samuel suddenly takes a telescopic leap  with his prophetic word to an undefined moment of time and said, “You will go down before me to Gilgal, and behold, I will come down to you, to offer burnt sacrifices, sacrifices of peace offerings.  Seven days shall you wait for me till I come, and I will show you what you shall do.”  When, how and what was that all about?
This is truly amazing.
The importance of those words must surely have been stressed and even repeated whenever Saul and Samuel met after that day.  This is not actually stated, but that must have happened, or when Samuel spoke the words there was some heavy duty anointing of the Spirit that made the words unforgettable.  In plain terms, imagine being present when somebody is telling you what is about to happen to you throughout your working day. You would listen and remember, and then when everything happens as per the prediction you would be in a state of amazement and conclude that God had spoken to you, and the man that spoke was speaking prophetically. But there is a little more to the account. Without a pause, however, I suspect with a sudden change of tone in Samuel’s voice, the prophet talks to the same person about  waiting for him at Gilgal and not to be tempted to make a sacrifice, but to wait for Samuel to arrive to make the afore mentioned sacrifice.  Without any comment as to the time and the context of history. Three years later, at least, Saul found himself at Gilgal, and thus remembered and waited for Samuel’s arrival.  Even if my conjecture is in error here, Saul had this word in his mind so strongly, that when he was in Gilgal, under great stress, he simply knew he was waiting for the prophet, as predicted such a long time previous. 
There is a good chance that in the midst of any gathering of Israel to go to battle, there was an unwritten law in the psyche of the people that they must all meet at Gilgal.  So with this prophetic word having been discussed, meditated on and thought about for something like thirty six months at the very least, Samuel knew either by discussion with Saul, the “grapevine,” or by supernatural means, he had to be at Gilgal on a certain day.
So!  What we will do now is recount briefly the story that brought about this scenario.  In the build up to this fateful moment in Israel’s history, we are not told of Samuel’s involvement at all.
THE BUILD UP TO CATASTROPHE
First Samuel 13 starts:  Saul reigned one year; and when he had reigned two years over Israel. This is one of those sections of the bible where the scrolls are vague on the subject of numbers.  Ellicott’s commentary gives what I accept as the best solution.  He says that the usually accepted meaning is that Saul had reigned one year when the events related in chapter twelve took place.  Then, after he had reigned two years he had chosen out his personal guard, and then did what is thus related in this chapter. This is a legitimate preface to the story.  It lets us know that no matter how distant the promises of God might be, when believed on and walked in they will come to pass.  You might forget what God says, but He will not.
Saul chose him three thousand men of Israel.  This statement gives us a key to this piece of history. Why did Saul do this?
0004 1sa_towns_in_1samuel13If it was for no other reason than to create a personal bodyguard it was a crass error.  The expense of such recruitment was truly disproportionate to the need.  It was an affront to the masses (330,000) who aided with the defeat of the Ammonites, so recently celebrated at Jabesh Gilead.  Why train such a small crack battalion of troops?  Why not send teachers to train the whole nation?
One of the answers to this question is the lack of arms among the Israeli’s.  But we go ahead of ourselves. These three thousand men were both body guard and “national SAS troops.”  With such a number of finely honed commandos they could inflict considerable damage on the Philistine infrastructure as well as create the new “image” of monarchical power and splendour that it would seem Saul wanted to portray.
Trouble would have come, however, if and when, the Philistines instigated a total war effort to rid the world of “Nasty Israel.”  The “Sea peoples” were undoubtedly still living with memories of Samson, and Samuel’s earlier success when Israel gave the Philistines a “whipping” at  Aphek.  In such a situation of a Philistine attack the body mass of the twelve tribes would be beckoned, and the whole “jealousy and pride”, “superiority and inferiority,” dynamics of human relationships would impact the morale of the nation escalating any confrontation on the battlefield to apocalyptic importance.  There would be three thousand trained troops who considered themselves, ”The Business,” and masses of fighting farmers who considered themselves, “green,” and surplus to needs.  This was overall, I believe, not a good idea of the king. It may have been a decision made on financial lack for a defence policy.
In any case, the fact was that Israel now had a personally conscripted standing army of three thousand.  Saul started something here that David and Solomon developed to perfection.  In the days of Saul’s immediate successors it ultimately made Israel one of the greatest powers in the Middle East.  They might have learned their trade on nobody but Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites and Edomite (read 1 Samuel 13 &14) but Saul left a seriously trained fighting machine, trained wonderfully well for war, deficient only in numbers and arms.
0007 PhilistinesIn the context of the story, this first verse is inserted to let us know that this 3000 elite soldiers had a negative effect on what we are about to be told.
“Whereof two thousand were with Saul in Michmash and in mount Bethel …” Michmash was a strategically placed site about nine miles north-east of Jerusalem.  It would seem Saul was holding back the Philistine hordes from this camp.
“… And a thousand were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin.” This is the first biblical mention of the great man Jonathan.  Jonathan was based by his father King at his home town “Gibeah of Benjamin.”  This was undoubtedly because the philistines were permeating the land of Canaan round about Benjamin’s territory, and the King’s home town needed to be held for the sake of the morale of the nation,  i.e. “if the king lost his home to the enemy, what hope do the rest of the nation have?”
“And the rest of the people he sent every man to his tent.” Here’s another crucial question that can be answered by nothing but conjecture!  Why did he send folks home?  If they had war with the Philistines all the years of Saul’s reign, why group three thousand only and ditch the rest?  In defence of Saul, it has to be conceded that it is hard to keep a nation in “war mode” for over long.  Joshua had the same problem. But the people must have turned out ready to fight or they could not have been sent home. It is possible that Saul could see that they had no skills or arms to match the other war machines of the neighbouring nations, especially the philistines.
“And Jonathan smote the garrison of the Philistines that was in Geba.”  So the first falling domino of our story starts here.  While all this basis of the three thousand and their respective camps was established, the Philistines were astride the vital pass that led to the Hebrew dominated highlands, namely Geba. 
Jonathan never puts a foot wrong in the whole of scripture.  He seems to be the perfect warrior.  And this attack must have been extremely effective in breaking the minds of the five Philistine kings, for they determined to respond in the most dreadful of warlike attacks.  Matthew Henry wrote, centuries ago, in quite the opposite perspective.  He thought that this attack by Jonathan and his thousand men was a total mistake, and one that brought about the attack from the Philistines, and hence the downfall of his father.  I think not!  War was the normal, “name of the game,” in the days of which we are talking!  Who struck the first blow is not really an issue.  As per the political scene of today, the Philistines did not consider the right of Israel to exist a legitimate or legal concept.  Israel’s attitude to the Philistines (or Palestinians) was not the same. Israel did not deny the other nations the right to exist, but they did deny them the right to any of the land promised to them by God Himself. This same story is being played out in the state of Israel even as I write.
0009 i_sam_14_13_and_jonathan_climbed_upThe Philistines reacted strongly. “And the Philistines heard of it.”  Then the king realised the dynamics of a scenario that had been created by Jonathan, and realised he needed more troops. “Saul blew the trumpet throughout all the land.” The trumpet would seem to be more than a declaration of good news and the triumph of Jonathan’s action.  It was meant as a rallying call for all fighting men to come to the king’s aid … at Gilgal. He wanted the men he had sent home, now to leave their homes again and to fight.  Saul  sent saying, “Let the Hebrews hear,” and all Israel heard say that “Saul had smitten a garrison of the Philistines…” Even though we are just told that the victory was activated by Jonathan, still, typical of Jonathan’s spirit as presented in the rest of scripture, he credited his father with the victory as Commander–in–Chief.  Either that, or Saul willfully stole the glory.  “… and that Israel also was had in abomination with the Philistines.” 
The hatred that the Philistines held towards the Israeli’s is often highlighted throughout the book of Samuel.  This would, at moments of weakness, dominate and ravage the morale of Israel.  Not only did the Philistines respond in hatred and a quest for vengeance, but they came in great force and magnitude.
And so, “the people were called together after Saul to Gilgal.”  Saul withdrew from Michmash, and probably out of deference, to the long standing holy place at Gilgal.  This was far removed from the front line near to Philistine fortresses.  The gathering of the people to their king was as quickly activated as with the earlier call, as well as the later dispersal.
On the south West bank of the Jordan River, slightly north-east of Jericho was the city of Gilgal.  Gilgal seems to have been the very first settlement of Israel on the West bank of the Jordan.  All through Joshua’s day it was the assembly spot, the HQ of Israel, if you will.  Its practical importance dissipated when government was transferred to Jerusalem, but Amos 5 :5, and Hosea 4:15 and 9:15 suggest it was still considered holy to the Jews in Samuel’s time.  Gilgal was a large flat plain and easily attacked.  It was a piece of land defended with great difficulty.
No matter how expert or otherwise Saul was in his war strategy, Samuel’s well remembered prophetic word, some three years earlier, stopped him from moving.  The word was that he would have to wait seven days before Samuel came to tell him how to meet the situation.  The silent wait was on.
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“LORD GIVE ME PATIENCE … BUT HURRY!”
“And the Philistines gathered themselves together to fight Israel, thirty thousand chariots, and six thousand horsemen, and people as the sand on the sea shore: and they came up, and pitched in Michmash, eastward from Bethaven.”  The Philistines were pitched where Saul was at the start of our narrative.  Of all the accounts in scripture of the Philistines gathering for war, never did they come more numerous, ominous, and ruminous as at this moment.  Israel were terrified to put it mildly.
The scene is set for battle, and the Philistines were grouped for a veritable holocaust to be inflicted on Israel.  But no battle was forthcoming from Saul, neither could there be.  He had been ordered, by the word of the Lord to wait for Samuel.  He is ready to fight. willing to fight, and had the troops ready for battle, but until Samuel was present nothing would be allowed. The prophetic word had said so, years before. Can you feel the tension?
“When the men of Israel saw that they were in a strait, (for the people were distressed,) then the people hid themselves in caves, and thickets, in rocks, high places, and in pits.  And some of the Hebrews went over Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead.”  Oh dear! To saul’s physical eyes, this was sheer catastrophe. The national resolve, faith, hope and positive expectancy dissipated and disappeared into the atmosphere in silent cowardice and retreat.  Faith needs feeding, folks!  Fear is a horrible thing.  It gripped all and a sundry in the camp of Israel.  Saul also was beginning to tremble. The nation caught the disease of fear from their king.
The sight of the awesome size of the Philistine force, the knowledge of their hatred for Israel, the inability of Israel to have weapons, and sharp ones at that (see verse 19 of the same chapter), the inner national conflicts between the masses and the standing army of 3000 all started to play on people’s minds.  Not only was the tension and the pressure too much for the masses to hold (they all fled  – and so fearful were they of what was to happen,  that they did not even go home) but ultimately Saul was left with a mere 600 troops. Yes indeed, we are talking of potentially 333,000 fighting men, reduced to 600.  This meant that at least 2400 of the standing army had fled too.  This must have shaken Saul to the foundation of his roots of faith and confidence. Personal self confidence of the king must have gone. People drop dead with this kind of fear. The word picture of grown men hiding in caves and holes out of terror suggests that the fear of what the Philistines would do to them was monstrous in size and imaginative in breadth.
00010 1 sam 13This was the severest of tests for Saul. It would have been the severest test for any king. The panic that ran rampant through the hearts of the Israeli soldiers was thinning the troops as every hour passed.  Surely he had heard of Gideon and his few hundred.  Surely he knew of Abraham slaying four kings and their armies with 318 men.  The point was, that he should have held tight Samuel’s prophetic word, and thus was divinely challenged to believe that the same was about to happen in his day and generation. No matter what his thought processes were, the Word of God had told him to wait seven days for Samuel, and that is exactly what he had initially set out to do – I think.  The anxious wait was full of artery busting tension and negative expectancy throughout the entire army of Israel. His resolve was seeping away.
THE MOMENT OF TRUTH AND DETERMINATION
“As for Saul, he was yet in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling.” The Kings’ courage should have inspired the people.  Instead, the people’s fear gripped the King. “He tarried seven days, according to the set time that Samuel had appointed.” Here we have the prophecy of Samuel referred to without explanation as to how it was kept so high in Saul’s consciousness. “But Samuel came not to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him.”   There are two questions testing and pressurising Saul.
Number One:  Is the King the autocratic ruler of Israel, or is he simply the servant and agent of Yahweh putting His plans and orders into being?
Number two:  Could Saul control his impetuous nature?
0005 Samuel_rebukes_SaulFrom the text, it would suggest, that even if they all had stayed, the Israeli army was wildly outnumbered by the Philistines. The point was that the Philistines were quite near and ready for battle.  Saul’s army was rapidly depleting, and battle engagement seemed imminent over a horribly tense seven days.  The Philistines, obviously, did not know what Samuel had prophesied.  Was it reasonable to expect God to restrain the Philistines from attack?  Why not?   Saul obviously did not think so.  For at the point of the seventh day of waiting, with only a short period before the end of the day, Samuel had not arrived.   The elastic band of the king’s nerves was stretched beyond its limit. His peace was gone, his faith was gone. He was seeing the situation in terms of mathematics and from a human point of view, instead of from the divine perspective. That is how his decision was made. We will all have to answer for decisions we make from a human point of view. Saul’s nerve snapped.

“And Saul said, “Bring a burnt offering to me, and peace offerings.”  And he offered the burnt offering.”  Oh dear! Get into the story. Feel the passionate fear of the whole graphic.  Thousands upon thousands of well armed tall fighting Philistines were creeping up on the Israeli’s.   Saul’s force was reducing and reducing till they only had 600 men who did not have arms, chariots, or armour.   The fear is dark and dismal.  Saul has waited seven days.  The seventh day had not ended, but Saul’s patience and faith had. Perhaps he thought, “If I wait any longer I will be facing the Philistines on my own.”  Possibly he reasoned, “If the three thousand hand picked army had crumbled to six hundred, what chance do we have at all?”  Frankly stated: Fear was larger than faith in Saul’s heart.  His fear knotted thoughts contagiously gripped the fighting men that were still there. The murmuring cowardice of the people spoke louder than the prophetic word of God spoken by Samuel. In an action that could not have taken more than 5-10 minutes, Saul called for the animal and offered the sacrifice.

THE DIFFERENCE A SINGLE MOMENT MAKES TO LIFE
Saul’s action was no sooner complete, than Samuel comes over the horizon and stands in Saul’s face. “It came to pass, that as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, Samuel arrived.”
0003 Nebi-SamuelStudents of scripture note that the Kings’ hand should not have touched the sacrificial animal, and that the Levitical priests were anointed for that job. Prophet’s for the word. King’s for the rule. Priests for the sacrifices. Those remarks always have the ring of truth to this writer’s ear, even though the scripture itself does not even raise the point.  The truth is that when King Uzziah himself made sacrifices in 2 Chronicles 26 his conduct is highlighted as a major sin. The fact that it is not here mentioned as a sin suggests that Saul could possibly have utilised the priests to offer the sacrifice. However even if he had authorised some priest to offer the sacrifice, the offering was still against what Samuel had spoken to Saul. It does seem, that throughout Saul’s reign, neither the Ark of the Covenant, nor the Tabernacle was commonly used, if at all. There is a single verse suggesting Saul utilised the Ark. My thoughts are that Saul was a true “country yokel” who knew little of the spiritual history of his nation. 

Oh the agony of that meeting!  Saul’s motives, decision making processes, hidden thoughts and fears, all contrived to bring him to this moment of dreaded horror.  It is difficult to explain the gravity of the implications of the moment for Saul.  Similar to Adam and Eve taking a slight thing like fruit off a tree and plunging the entire cosmos into darkness, so here, Saul’s action, seeming slightly more than trivial to the modern mind, was grave and mammoth in its significance.

No sooner had the sacrifice been made than Saul’s action was seen to be a crass error.   The animal still crackling under the flames, the smoke still rising to the sky, the people still kneeling in religious observance of what was taking place, and lo …. there…. through the smoke, is the aged Samuel sternly striding towards the king.
If Samuel was so near as the sacrifice was made, why on earth wasn’t he told? Why didn’t Saul have look outs?  Where were the watchmen, surveying the area who could have told Saul that the prophet was almost among them?  Why doesn’t Samuel explain his lateness? How did Samuel get through the Philistine lines?  How could a man walk through a camp of countless Philistines into a camp of six hundred Israeli soldiers unseen?  What is going on here?
The situation is a dreadful one.  The power and the anointing of God sitting on Samuel as it did caused all and sundry to perceive in his emotions and responses, as well as his spoken word, the will of Almighty God Himself.  If Samuel was angry – so was God.  If Samuel spoke – so did God.
“Saul went out to meet him, that they might salute him”.
Saul was under the spell of a delusion. And make no mistake, delusions are spellbinding. His fear had motivated him to offer the sacrifice.  While under the delusion he ran to meet Samuel with great reverence.  This reverence of Saul to the prophet lasted all of Samuel’s days, and as we will see later, even after Samuel’s death.
It was Samuel’s opening words that shook Saul back to reality.  The delusion instantly lifted, and Saul started lying to defend himself and cover up his actions.
7f8b9-a0a0a0a0samuelrebukingsaul
LIES IN ANSWER TO SIN’S DISCOVERY
“Samuel said, “What have you done?”” The pain of guilt suddenly revealed, when not handled rightly, leads to nothing but lies, cover up and deceit.  Saul responded with a mouthful almost before Samuel had finished his question. 
“Saul said, “Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that you came not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together At Michmash; so I said, “the Philistines will come down now upon me at Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the LORD:  I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering”. 
Surely Saul could not have been sincere with these words.  I can’t believe that.  He actually put the blame on Samuel for coming late.  “Your non – arrival, Samuel, forced my hand,” is what he really wanted to say?  But not having the face to look at Samuel and say these words, he blandly and obliquely put the blame on impersonal “circumstances”   It’s like Aaron’s ridiculous pleas of “they gave me their gold earrings, I threw them into the fire and …. Oops! Out came this golden calf.  Nothing to do with me!”  Samuel withheld from saying, “I am here and within the time stated.”
How could Saul’s understanding of Samuel’s character have been so superficial?  One did not need to be a brain surgeon to understand that Samuel could see through lies and knew the mind of God, and that by the Spirit of Yahweh he could see into people’s motivations.  In lying to Samuel, Saul was lying to God.  Like Ananias and Sapphira, in lying to God’s leaders on earth, they were said to have been lying to the Almighty. 
“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 would the LORD have established your kingdom upon Israel for ever.  But now your kingdom shall not continue: the LORD has sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be captain over this people, because you have not kept that which the LORD commanded you”.
The scene is too horrible for words.  The awesome trauma of this moment was undoubtedly one of the major precipitating causes of Saul’s irrational conduct for years to come.  This was a mammoth negative shock to Saul’s nervous, emotional and spiritual system.  It hit him so hard he became sick.  Before 600 soldiers who were trembling because of his lack of leadership and courage, he was publicly shamed.
THE CRUX OF THE MATTER THAT JUSTIFIES THE JUDGEMENT
Many commentators and preachers, even those that claim to be fundamentalist in belief systems, seem to slate both Samuel, and even God himself here, for a judgement that seems hideously disproportional to the sin committed.  How stupid!  Josephus vindicated the magnitude of the divine punishment by saying that Saul, “did not fully obey the command.” God is always right and just, and the rationale behind Samuel’s gravity in the situation needs to be put into context to grasp the significance of Saul’s actions. The very existence of the nation of Israel was due to the generosity and choosing of Yahweh.  Their faithfulness to Him would guarantee the increase, expansion and prosperity of the nation.  Their relationship to God was the bottom line, and the key to the blessing.
In the middle of an artificially created internal crisis of national “want”, Israel asked for a king, and God gave them Saul to rule.
29. One moment of madness and it's the end of civilisation as Samuel wanted it.While Israel walked with God and obeyed the precepts of scripture nobody could stand before Israel.  But once Yahweh was removed from the ultimate throne and leadership of the nation, the reverse occurred.  With God, the ultimate in blessing and prosperity.  Without Him, they would sink even lower than that nations around them.
The issue here is that Saul overstated his role as king over Israel, and in so doing he moved Yahweh aside from where He should have been.  In plain English, the sight of the slowly evolving monarchical infrastructure and the over-rated success at Jabesh-Gilead, Saul thought that the covenant with Yahweh was not as essential as it actually was.  Bad Move!  That was a catastrophic paradigm shift.  Saul’s delusions of grandeur and self importance were unacceptable for a man in his position.  It was definitely unacceptable to God.
This moment of time was a hinge upon which an incredibly important door to the future of the nation hung, and the birth of Christ was concerned.  This was the moment when Samuel first spoke the Word of the Lord saying, “Yahweh would have established your kingdom upon Israel forever.”  An eternal destiny, set by God, had just been destroyed by one crass act of disobedience.  God would have established his kingdom forever …. but!
“But now your kingdom shall not continue”.  How horrible for Saul.  No date!  No timing!  No statement of how the discontinuation was to come about.  Was Saul supposed to just pack his bags and leave, and wait for another?  Was he to be assassinated?  Was he to be demoted?  When will it all happen, Samuel?  Tell him!  Tell the poor man!
But Samuel could not say what he did not know.  The prophet only speaks what he hears Yahweh speak.  No more, and definitely no less.   Saul was to lose his throne.  That’s as far as Samuel could see, so that’s as far as he could say.
A MAN AFTER GOD’S OWN HEART, YET UNBORN, HAD BEEN CHOSEN TO SUCCEED SAUL
“Yahweh has sought him a man after his own heart”.  The point here is, I believe, that the people had achieved a king who was after their heart.  God had a man, somewhere in time and space on planet earth, after His heart and he would be their future king.  Saul died after a forty year reign when David was thirty years old. So David “blinking, stepped into the sunlight” ten years into Saul’s reign. This story was three years into Saul’s reign. The fact is that the man we are talking about that God had promised was to be Saul’s successor was not even born at this moment of time in our storyline. This was possibly the cruellest agonising pressure on Saul’s sanity.  Another had already been chosen, even though he had not even been conceived as Samuel spoke.  God had his eyes on a replacement king, and one that had a heart after God.  A right heart towards God, even now, could have saved the man’s mental and spiritual balance.  But no!
“And Yahweh has commanded him to be captain over his people.”  The words suggest that the person, whoever he might be (as if we did not know!) was somehow, in his spirit, already aware of what he had been called to.  Now that is amazing! David must have been born with some kind of presentiment in his heart towards kingship.
“Because you have not kept that which Yahweh commanded you.” We learned earlier that none of Samuel’s words ever fell to the ground.  Here is the evidence of a weighty, grave, and nationally important Word from God uttered on the spur of the moment where every jot and title happened just as he said.  Awesome!
What would you have done if you had been Saul?  Step into his sandals, and see if you do not feel and grasp the entire futility of being cast off by God.  He started to look inward instead of Godward.  That world view itself would add to the pain.  The view he had was all.  His life was now spent.  It was borrowed time.  For what purpose was his life? I have no doubt that deep repentance and seeking God could have softened the blow remarkably, but none of those spiritual excellencies were ever seen in Saul again from that moment until the end of his life.
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IN CONCLUSION
The Bible gives us two moments of godless self-will that were precipitated by Saul’s free choice, and were the means by which Samuel saw into Saul’s heart and made the divine pronouncements of a future so shocking to Saul and his family – so full of blessing for a man called Jesse, and Israel as a whole.
The concept and demand of total and absolute obedience to every word of Yahweh as presented by Samuel was in the end the very ruination of Saul.  King Saul was fully and fairly tested.  He flunked!  The higher one climbs in God’s blessing, the narrower the criteria for judgment, the stricter and more full must be the obedience.
As a side line, I have to note, that not only was Jonathan at Gilgal when Samuel made the pronouncement, but that he heard the word as well.  So Jonathan was aware that he was not going to be king in his father’s place all through his future relationship with David.  This makes his actions through the coming years all the more amazingly honourable and righteous.  (See 1 Samuel 13:16)
“And Samuel arose, and got him up from Gilgal unto Gibeah of Benjamin”.
Samuel actually went to Saul’s home town.  Saul, Jonathan and the six hundred followed Samuel.  No reason is given why the party walked towards Gibeah.
“Saul numbered the people that were present with him, about six hundred men.”  I can hardly believe what I am reading.  After what Samuel said, Saul counts the men.  To what purpose? Possibly to reward them for sticking with him throughout the entire seven day wait.
Although the Bible does not say what happened next with Samuel, I think he went home to Ramah just a couple of miles away from Gibeah. The Philistines, no doubt by Divine interference, did not fall on Israel to destroy the people.  They split their camp into three parts and camped them around, keeping a fearful grip on Israel
So this day ended with the words of divine rejection resonating in Saul’s mind.  Divine rejection!  Note; that is enough to send anybody mad! 
0001 Gilgal-in-one-slider
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Categories: 1 Samuel 13 verses 1 - 15, One moment of madness and it's the end of civilisation as Samuel wanted it | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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