Saul’s Lack of Faith

Posted: September 17, 2009 in 1 Samuel

1 Samuel 13-14, “Saul’s Lack of Faith”

At this point in 1 Samuel, the people have rejected God as King & asked for a king to be like all the other nations surrounding them. They believed that having a human king would make them safer – and they’re going to find out that’s not the case at all. The prophet Samuel has basically stepped down from his duties as being judged & installed Saul (the farmboy from Benjamin) as king. He’s already had his 1st major military victory & all Israel rejoiced.

That was then; this is now. Things have changed in the land – the Philistines have gained control again & kept Israel under its thumb, with Saul’s rule being ignored by many Hebrews. In Ch 13-14, another major battle with the Philistines is going to come – but Saul is going to have bigger problems; and he had no one to blame but himself for his lack of faith.

1 Samuel 13 (NKJV)
1 Saul reigned one year; and when he had reigned two years over Israel, 2 Saul chose for himself three thousand men of Israel. Two thousand were with Saul in Michmash and in the mountains of Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin. The rest of the people he sent away, every man to his tent.

A. If you’re looking for the biblical record of Saul’s good years, that was it. 🙂 2 years with relative peace in the land (there’s some textual debate about how many years are actually referred to). Saul’s record isn’t going to be judged on his military victories, but whether or not he walked by faith & obedience to God.

3 And Jonathan attacked the garrison of the Philistines that was in Geba, and the Philistines heard of it. Then Saul blew the trumpet throughout all the land, saying, “Let the Hebrews hear!” 4 Now all Israel heard it said that Saul had attacked a garrison of the Philistines, and that Israel had also become an abomination to the Philistines. And the people were called together to Saul at Gilgal. 5 Then the Philistines gathered together to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots and six thousand horsemen, and people as the sand which is on the seashore in multitude. And they came up and encamped in Michmash, to the east of Beth Aven. 6 When the men of Israel saw that they were in danger (for the people were distressed), then the people hid in caves, in thickets, in rocks, in holes, and in pits. 7 And some of the Hebrews crossed over the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. As for Saul, he was still in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling.

A. This is a grim situation, to be sure. Jonathan had carried out a raid against some Philistine soldiers, and the Philistines responded in all-out war. This wasn’t just a tit-for-tat; they brought out everyone they had & looked to obliterate Israel in a massive show of force.

B. How did the people respond? Understandably, in absolute terror! Fleeing the country – hiding anywhere they could hide… How should they have responded? By hitting their knees & seeking the Lord!

8 Then he waited seven days, according to the time set by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him. 9 So Saul said, “Bring a burnt offering and peace offerings here to me.” And he offered the burnt offering. 10 Now it happened, as soon as he had finished presenting the burnt offering, that Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might greet him. 11 And Samuel said, “What have you done?” Saul said, “When I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered together at Michmash, 12 then I said, ‘The Philistines will now come down on me at Gilgal, and I have not made supplication to the LORD.’ Therefore I felt compelled, and offered a burnt offering.”

A. What’s the problem here? Wasn’t Saul trying to do the right thing & seek the Lord in sacrifice? Maybe…but he went about it in the wrong way. Saul didn’t have the authority to present a sacrifice… He was the king; not a priest…
__a. Jesus DOES have the Authority! He is both King & Priest!

B. What could Saul have done? Sought the Lord in prayer… Rallied the people to God… Encourage the people to repent… Those were actions God had equipped and empowered Saul to do. But sacrifice was not Saul’s to make. In essence, Saul bucked the authority of God. Remember – Saul was the king, but the people still were God’s people. God was (is) still the ultimate authority, and Saul was supposed to submit to Him. Saul showed that he was not willing to wait upon the Lord or His timing. The 7th day wasn’t over by the time Saul offered the sacrifice & Samuel had caught him in the act.
__a. Ever find yourself in the same position? You’re waiting upon the Lord & waiting & waiting & it feels like God is never going to act – so you decide to take matters into your own hands. Be careful! There may indeed be something God wants you to do – but it will always be something that glorifies Him & is in line with His word. “But I really need this job – one little white lie won’t make a difference… But my spouse isn’t ever around; I have needs, you know… The company won’t miss this – and I’m desperate for something…” Be careful! What we imagine as God being silent may simply be His encouragement to wait upon Him in faith & walk according to His word & promises…

13 And 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 the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.”

A. Saul’s sacrifice was foolish because he did not keep “the commandment of the LORD…” … In the end it demonstrated a fundamental lack of faith in God. The only thing Saul showed that he trusted was his own actions/abilities…he had no faith in the word & promise of God (otherwise he would have obeyed…). Saul’s sacrifice did not please the Lord because it was an unlawful sacrifice done out of obligation; not faith. Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. []
__a. Make no mistake: religious trappings won’t help us please God. Saul’s sacrifice was nothing but religious window-dressing…but as a ritual, it meant nothing. It had to be offered in faith, which means it had to be offered in the way God prescribed. For us, we walk with Jesus by faith (2 Cor 5:7) – not relying on religious “stuff”, but upon the Lord Jesus Himself through the power of the Holy Spirit.

B. What did Saul lose? The kingdom. And not just the kingdom for a time – but for a kingdom that would last forever. “Wait a second. Prophecy makes it perfectly clear that the Messiah King would come from the tribe of Judah (as will David), and Saul comes from the tribe of Benjamin. How could Saul have lost an everlasting kingdom? He never would have gotten it to begin with!” Yes & no. The prophecy is indeed absolutely clear that the Ruler will be the “Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Gen 49:9-10). And yes, God knew in His omniscience that Saul would fail miserably. But that doesn’t mean that God did not legitimately give Saul an opportunity to be a part of all that somehow. It was a real opportunity & it was really lost.
__a. We can’t blame God for our sin. When we sin, the responsibility is completely our own…

C. Who would God replace Saul with? “a man after His own heart…” At first, this is a reference to David…ultimately we can look forward to Jesus Christ. There is no one that knows the heart of God the Father better than God the Son!

D. Notice God had already chosen Saul’s replacement: “the LORD has commanded him…” David may not have yet known of God’s choice, but God did.
__a. God knows what He’s called you to do! Each of us has a calling to serve God in some way. There may be missionaries to Asia here; there may be missionaries to the accounting firm as well. Whatever vocation you have, God desires to use you for His glory – and He knows how He wants to do it.

15 Then Samuel arose and went up from Gilgal to Gibeah of Benjamin. And Saul numbered the people present with him, about six hundred men. 16 Saul, Jonathan his son, and the people present with them remained in Gibeah of Benjamin. But the Philistines encamped in Michmash. 17 Then raiders came out of the camp of the Philistines in three companies. One company turned onto the road to Ophrah, to the land of Shual, 18 another company turned to the road to Beth Horon, and another company turned to the road of the border that overlooks the Valley of Zeboim toward the wilderness.

A. Not only were they outnumbered; they were surrounded… [MAP]

19 Now there was no blacksmith to be found throughout all the land of Israel, for the Philistines said, “Lest the Hebrews make swords or spears.” 20 But all the Israelites would go down to the Philistines to sharpen each man’s plowshare, his mattock, his ax, and his sickle; 21 and the charge for a sharpening was a pim for the plowshares, the mattocks, the forks, and the axes, and to set the points of the goads. 22 So it came about, on the day of battle, that there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people who were with Saul and Jonathan. But they were found with Saul and Jonathan his son. 23 And the garrison of the Philistines went out to the pass of Michmash.

A. Not only were they surrounded; they were outgunned. The Philistines had all the blacksmiths, which meant that there was no armament for the Hebrews…just a few in Saul’s company had weapons.

B. So what can be done? The Hebrews are hopelessly outmanned, outmaneuvered, outgunned – the people were in hiding or fleeing as refugees. Things look pretty grim here; truly impossible odds from man’s point-of-view. Answer? What is impossible for man is possible with God…someone needed to have faith in what God wanted to do. See Ch 14…

1 Samuel 14 (NKJV)
1 Now it happened one day that Jonathan the son of Saul said to the young man who bore his armor, “Come, let us go over to the Philistines’ garrison that is on the other side.” But he did not tell his father. 2 And Saul was sitting in the outskirts of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree which is in Migron. The people who were with him were about six hundred men. 3 Ahijah the son of Ahitub, Ichabod’s brother, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the LORD’s priest in Shiloh, was wearing an ephod. But the people did not know that Jonathan had gone. 4 Between the passes, by which Jonathan sought to go over to the Philistines’ garrison, there was a sharp rock on one side and a sharp rock on the other side. And the name of one was Bozez, and the name of the other Seneh. 5 The front of one faced northward opposite Michmash, and the other southward opposite Gibeah. 6 Then Jonathan said to the young man who bore his armor, “Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the LORD will work for us. For nothing restrains the LORD from saving by many or by few.”

A. Amen! This is faith! What the people lacked – what Saul lacked – was demonstrated by Saul’s son Jonathan. God is looking for people to take a step of faith – may we be those people!

B. Was it faith, or wishful thinking? After all, with these odds, was it even possible for God to win the battle? Of course! God spoke the world into existence; none of the Philistines would have been able to breathe that morning if the Lord God hadn’t allowed them to do so. It’s been often said, “One man + God always makes a majority.” Amend a bit: GOD is always a majority! … Nothing is too difficult for the Lord to accomplish! Jeremiah 32:27 “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me? []

C. This is exactly what God promised them that they’d be able to do if Israel kept the covenant: Joshua 23:10-11 (10) One man of you shall chase a thousand, for the Lord your God is He who fights for you, as He promised you. (11) Therefore take careful heed to yourselves, that you love the Lord your God. [] God will always be true to His word. If there’s anything that we can have a firm assurance to place our faith in, it’s the word of God! We can trust it…

7 So his armorbearer said to him, “Do all that is in your heart. Go then; here I am with you, according to your heart.” 8 Then Jonathan said, “Very well, let us cross over to these men, and we will show ourselves to them. 9 If they say thus to us, ‘Wait until we come to you,’ then we will stand still in our place and not go up to them. 10 But if they say thus, ‘Come up to us,’ then we will go up. For the LORD has delivered them into our hand, and this will be a sign to us.”

A. Notice Jonathan wasn’t the only one who had faith. His unnamed armorbearer took a step of faith because Jonathan did… We may not be able to give someone our faith, but our faith can be contagious. As your co-worker sees you being a living out your faith on the job, it can inspire them to do the same… As one person takes a step of faith in the gifts (at the appropriate time), it can help the person sitting next to you do the same…

11 So both of them showed themselves to the garrison of the Philistines. And the Philistines said, “Look, the Hebrews are coming out of the holes where they have hidden.” 12 Then the men of the garrison called to Jonathan and his armorbearer, and said, “Come up to us, and we will show you something.” Jonathan said to his armorbearer, “Come up after me, for the LORD has delivered them into the hand of Israel.” 13 And Jonathan climbed up on his hands and knees with his armorbearer after him; and they fell before Jonathan. And as he came after him, his armorbearer killed them. 14 That first slaughter which Jonathan and his armorbearer made was about twenty men within about half an acre of land. 15 And there was trembling in the camp, in the field, and among all the people. The garrison and the raiders also trembled; and the earth quaked, so that it was a very great trembling.

A. Not bad! Two men kill 20 Philistines in a small space. The Philistines had tried to taunt them, but Jonathan took that as the sign that God had blessed the battle…

B. Notice what happened as a result of the battle: the entire army trembled with fear. And not just with fear; the entire ground shook as God miraculously “showed” Himself in the midst of the battle.

16 Now the watchmen of Saul in Gibeah of Benjamin looked, and there was the multitude, melting away; and they went here and there. 17 Then Saul said to the people who were with him, “Now call the roll and see who has gone from us.” And when they had called the roll, surprisingly, Jonathan and his armorbearer were not there. 18 And Saul said to Ahijah, “Bring the ark of God here” (for at that time the ark of God was with the children of Israel).

A. Saul’s trying to figure out what’s going on here. All the Philistine army was starting to flee, so Saul figures he’d better call roll to see who was missing – turned out to be Jonathan. … Why did he call for the ark? Probably to use as a religious trinket. The last time Israel had taken the ark into battle against the Philistines, it had been captured – but apparently no one learned the lesson, and they were trying to do the same thing again.

19 Now it happened, while Saul talked to the priest, that the noise which was in the camp of the Philistines continued to increase; so Saul said to the priest, “Withdraw your hand.” [seems that the ark & priest were just there for show] 20 Then Saul and all the people who were with him assembled, and they went to the battle; and indeed every man’s sword was against his neighbor, and there was very great confusion. 21 Moreover the Hebrews who were with the Philistines before that time, who went up with them into the camp from the surrounding country, they also joined the Israelites who were with Saul and Jonathan. 22 Likewise all the men of Israel who had hidden in the mountains of Ephraim, when they heard that the Philistines fled, they also followed hard after them in the battle. 23 So the LORD saved Israel that day, and the battle shifted to Beth Aven.

A. While Saul was still trying to figure out what was going on, God was defeating the Philistine enemy by throwing them into such confusion that they started to fight against themselves. Eventually the Israelites understood what was happening, and they joined the fight against the Philistines (as well as some other Hebrew hold-outs).

B. Huge victory from the Lord! Miraculous! … If God is for us, who can be against us?

24 And the men of Israel were distressed that day, for Saul had placed the people under oath, saying, “Cursed is the man who eats any food until evening, before I have taken vengeance on my enemies.” So none of the people tasted food.

A. Apparently the oath had come earlier, before the victory had been gained. By this point, the men of Israel would have been pretty hungry.

B. Why the oath? Superstition. Fasting in order to seek the Lord was one thing; abstaining from food as a “good luck” charm was something else…

25 Now all the people of the land came to a forest; and there was honey on the ground. 26 And when the people had come into the woods, there was the honey, dripping; but no one put his hand to his mouth, for the people feared the oath. 27 But Jonathan had not heard his father charge the people with the oath; therefore he stretched out the end of the rod that was in his hand and dipped it in a honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth; and his countenance brightened. 28 Then one of the people said, “Your father strictly charged the people with an oath, saying, ‘Cursed is the man who eats food this day.’ ” And the people were faint. 29 But Jonathan said, “My father has troubled the land. Look now, how my countenance has brightened because I tasted a little of this honey. 30 How much better if the people had eaten freely today of the spoil of their enemies which they found! For now would there not have been a much greater slaughter among the Philistines?”

A. Jonathan hadn’t known about the oath, so he ate a bit of wild honey & was refreshed – which was apparent by his face looking brighter & stronger after eating. … By this point, Jonathan recognized the foolishness of his father. If Saul had simply trusted the Lord to provide & allowed people to eat & conserve their strength, the already massive victory would have been even larger…

B. Two problems with the fast. Problem #1: Saul was attempting to “manipulate” God by imposing a legalistic fast on the people. There was no faith in what he was proposing; there was no proclamation to seek the Lord. The Ninevites (re: Jonah) showed more faith during their fast than what Saul did. All he did was make the people hungry because that was the “strategy” he thought would turn the battle his way.
__a. There are many spiritual practices that are wonderful to participate in! Prayer – fasting – meditation – worship… But they aren’t actions to just try to endure or force. The only way prayer, etc., has any impact is when it is done in faith & sincerity…

C. Problem #2: Saul withheld that which was good in exchange for a cheap pseudo-spiritual substitute. Psalm 119:103 likens the word of God to honey – Proverbs 24:13 compares Godly wisdom to honey. The “honey” was available to the Israelite army, but Saul imposed his own will & legalistic fast upon them. They could have truly sought the Lord with all their heart – they could have “fed” upon the word of God; but Saul held back the best for something cheap & forced.
__a. How many times do we do the same thing? We HAVE what is best! We’ve been saved by the Lord Jesus – we’ve been equipped by the Holy Spirit – we’ve been given the Holy Scriptures… But too often we turn to the cheap substitutes instead. We look for a quick “spiritual fix” rather than eating of the true honey God already provided for us…

31 Now they had driven back the Philistines that day from Michmash to Aijalon. So the people were very faint. 32 And the people rushed on the spoil, and took sheep, oxen, and calves, and slaughtered them on the ground; and the people ate them with the blood. 33 Then they told Saul, saying, “Look, the people are sinning against the LORD by eating with the blood!” So he said, “You have dealt treacherously; roll a large stone to me this day.” 34 Then Saul said, “Disperse yourselves among the people, and say to them, ‘Bring me here every man’s ox and every man’s sheep, slaughter them here, and eat; and do not sin against the LORD by eating with the blood.’ ” So every one of the people brought his ox with him that night, and slaughtered it there. 35 Then Saul built an altar to the LORD. This was the first altar that he built to the LORD.

A. Saul’s foolish vow not only deprived Israel of a greater victory, but it stumbled them into sin. The people were so famished after the battle that they began to eat animals with the blood…

B. At first glance, his response was one of the best things he did all day! Call the people to repentance & built an altar to the Lord… Yet considering all the other times (in one day) Saul has tried to make himself appear “religious” in front of the people, it makes us wonder if he’s not doing the exact same thing here. Like the boy who cried “wolf!” there’s no way of telling when Saul is & isn’t sincere.

36 Now Saul said, “Let us go down after the Philistines by night, and plunder them until the morning light; and let us not leave a man of them.” And they said, “Do whatever seems good to you.” Then the priest said, “Let us draw near to God here.” 37 So Saul asked counsel of God, “Shall I go down after the Philistines? Will You deliver them into the hand of Israel?” But He did not answer him that day. 38 And Saul said, “Come over here, all you chiefs of the people, and know and see what this sin was today. 39 For as the LORD lives, who saves Israel, though it be in Jonathan my son, he shall surely die.” But not a man among all the people answered him.

A. What Saul was doing was pretty common. When a king of Israel needed the counsel of the Lord, they’d go to a priest & the priest would inquire of God (usually via the urim & thummim)… But this time, when the priest sought the Lord, God was silent. So Saul started to bring the leaders of the people to the priest in order to narrow down the reason why God wasn’t providing an answer to the priest. Almost prophetically, he mentions Jonathan. Perhaps he already knew what Jonathan had done & was attempting to show himself as the truly “spiritual” leader – avoiding any attempt for the people to raise Jonathan up over himself.

40 Then he said to all Israel, “You be on one side, and my son Jonathan and I will be on the other side.” And the people said to Saul, “Do what seems good to you.” 41 Therefore Saul said to the LORD God of Israel, “Give a perfect lot.” So Saul and Jonathan were taken, but the people escaped. 42 And Saul said, “Cast lots between my son Jonathan and me.” So Jonathan was taken. 43 Then Saul said to Jonathan, “Tell me what you have done.” And Jonathan told him, and said, “I only tasted a little honey with the end of the rod that was in my hand. So now I must die!” 44 Saul answered, “God do so and more also; for you shall surely die, Jonathan.”

A. Jonathan was chosen as the person who had sinned; Saul condemned him to death…
B. Question: had Jonathon really done anything wrong? Yes & no. Yes – he had unknowingly broken the direct command of the king (who had been placed in authority by God)… No – he hadn’t done anything against the Lord God; in fact he had demonstrated mighty faith in the Lord. Because Jonathan had broken the word of the king, he was rightly chosen by lot; but the problem was that Saul’s judgment was unjust.
__a. We serve a just God! People will always mess up from time to time, but God is always just. We don’t often see justice here on earth, but we will see it in eternity for sure.

45 But the people said to Saul, “Shall Jonathan die, who has accomplished this great deliverance in Israel? Certainly not! As the LORD lives, not one hair of his head shall fall to the ground, for he has worked with God this day.” So the people rescued Jonathan, and he did not die.

A. Technically, it was God working through the people that rescued Jonathan. Every good & perfect gift comes from God (Jas 1:17)…

46 Then Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, and the Philistines went to their own place. 47 So Saul established his sovereignty over Israel, and fought against all his enemies on every side, against Moab, against the people of Ammon, against Edom, against the kings of Zobah, and against the Philistines. Wherever he turned, he harassed them. 48 And he gathered an army and attacked the Amalekites, and delivered Israel from the hands of those who plundered them. 49 The sons of Saul were Jonathan, Jishui, and Malchishua. And the names of his two daughters were these: the name of the firstborn Merab, and the name of the younger Michal. 50 The name of Saul’s wife was Ahinoam the daughter of Ahimaaz. And the name of the commander of his army was Abner the son of Ner, Saul’s uncle. 51 Kish was the father of Saul, and Ner the father of Abner was the son of Abiel. 52 Now there was fierce war with the Philistines all the days of Saul. And when Saul saw any strong man or any valiant man, he took him for himself.

A. The wars & commanders of Saul. He was a strong military commander, but he was a man of very little faith.

This is the 1st of several failures in Saul’s reign as king…but all of them center around his lack of faith & disregard for the word of God. He tried to put on a show, but in the end it just didn’t work. Why? Religious “stuff” does not impress God; God is pleased by faith alone. Saul tried to impress God by his (unlawful) sacrifices, through religious trinkets, through rash oaths…none of that stuff pleased God. What Saul was missing was faith.

Jonathan, on the other hand, had faith…and what great faith it was! He knew God was in command & that nothing is impossible for Him to accomplish. Facing unbelievable odds, Jonathan would rather have his life hanging in the hands of God than to retreat & do nothing. What a great example of faith!

We may not face Philistine armies, but we have our own battles to face. How are we going to face them? … May we be the ones that take a venture of faith, knowing that Jesus has the ultimate victory & nothing is impossible for Him!

Is there an area where you’ve been hesitating walking in faith? Leave it at the altar tonight…


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