Now here’s a character I really relate to—Saul. No, not the apostle, unfortunately. His story turned out pretty well, considering he wrote over half the New Testament and all.
I’m talking about the Old Testament Saul, and the making of the erstwhile monarch of Israel. It’s not like he asked for the position, after all, and despite all the positive social markers, he had a serious fear-of-man-self-preservation complex going on.
Thus, I can relate.
Here’s what’s going on:
The prophet Samuel has told Saul to wait for him seven days at Gilgal. Samuel will arrive, present the offerings to God, and then Saul and his army will go wipe out the enemy de jour. This was a clear mandate, unmistakable in its direction and timing. No discussion needed.
But there was a problem. Samuel didn’t show up. And on top of that:
“The Philistines mustered a mighty army of 3,000 chariots, 6,000 charioteers, and as many warriors as the grains of sand on the seashore!”
Which, granted, would be a bit intimidating. It certainly was for Saul’s men, who suddenly must have heard their wives calling them home for lunch or something. Consequently, Saul’s army began thinning out, and fast. The king made a decision:
“So he demanded, “Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings!” And Saul sacrificed the burnt offering himself.
Just as Saul was finishing with the burnt offering, Samuel arrived.”
Needless to say, Saul’s explanation was less than effective, and Samuel’s edict was unfortunate, as was the rest of Saul’s reign.
“’How foolish!’ Samuel exclaimed. ‘You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you. Had you kept it, the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom must end, for the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart.’”
Saul didn’t know it, but God had had him uniquely positioned for a serious breakthrough. But Saul blew it.
Whereas our modern-day markets and media value tangible results, heavenly success is measured in terms of obedience. If Saul had remembered his history, he could have leaned on the exciting story of Gideon and his paltry three-hundred, or even Moses at the Red Sea before the onslaught of Egyptian chariots. Instead, the first king of Israel decided to interpret his situation by his own (very limited) appraisal.
Sadly, his assessment left out one incredibly big Resource.
Because our God specializes in seemingly no-win situations. He will bring me to a breaking point where I have a clear choice between obedience or expediency. When that happens, it can mean that sometimes—or many times—He will actually let me be broken, shattered, shards on the floor. Careful where you step. Part of the dream is over there; a piece of my heart is in that corner. Where’d I put the broom?
What I desperately need to remember in those periods, (and they do come), is that obedience proceeds breakthrough. That is, God will do the breaking, then I have to walk through it. This gets a bit uncomfortable for a time; nevertheless, I am never alone. Ever.
“Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.”
There’s that word “through” again. (Selah…)
I also need to remember that the condition of my heart in obedience before God is more important to Him than the size of my “army”…or church…or bank account…or any relationship. My focus needs to be, and stay, on the clear directive.
Because God will show up; He always does.
1 Samuel 13:5,9-10,13-14; Psalm 23:4 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved