He came from nothing but then suddenly gained everything. You’d think that would be enough, but like many humans, he couldn’t handle it. He came from one of the smallest tribes in Israel and almost overnight became king. Nope, I’m not talking about David. I’m talking about his predecessor, Saul.
Israel just couldn’t stand not being like everyone else around them. They wanted to be led by a king rather than relying on God as their king, so they begged Samuel to find them a king. Reluctantly, Samuel approached God, and God picked Saul out from the crowd, which wasn’t very difficult seeing as Saul was a head taller than anyone else around. In fact, the only thing the Bible qualifies about Saul is that he was a handsome man. Nothing about his ability to command a nation.
Is that telling? Should they have realized from the beginning that Saul wouldn’t know how to lead a nation? Instead, they saw what they wanted to see. He’s good looking. He couldn’t possibly get us into trouble.
Saul is instated into his position and has early success against the Ammonites. Things seem to be going well for the king and the kingdom. That is until Samuel delivers his farewell address. In 1 Samuel 12:14-15, he leaves Israel and Saul with some final thoughts: “If you will fear the Lord and serve him and obey his voice and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follows the Lord your God, it will be well. But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you and your king.”
Simple enough, right? Follow God, everything will go well. Don’t follow, things will get bad. Yet Saul, and so often the rest of us, can’t do something that simple. In the very next chapter (granted, it is a couple years later) Saul forgets Samuel’s words.
In 1 Samuel 13, we see Saul waiting for Samuel to arrive to offer a sacrifice. Samuel doesn’t show up at the appointed time, so Saul gets impatient and offers the sacrifice himself. Ironically, Samuel shows up as soon as Saul finishes offering the sacrifice. Samuel proceeds to reprimand Saul for not keeping the commands of God. The consequence is that Saul’s kingdom will not last.
He follows that up in chapter 14 with a rash vow. After battling hard during the day, Saul puts forth a vow in verse 24, “Cursed be the man who eats food until it is evening and I am avenged of my enemies.” First, can we just talk about the foolishness of not allowing your tired, hungry, battle-weary soldiers eat anything? Additionally, his son Jonathan, who was around to hear this vow, eats some honey.
So, if we’re keeping score, Saul has now destroyed the chance of his kingdom lasting as well as inadvertently cursed his own son. Great leader, huh? Wait, there’s more. Chapter 15 tells us that Saul has actually built a monument for himself because of the military victories they have achieved.
It gets so bad that God even says in 1 Samuel 15:11, “I regret that I have made Saul king.” It’s pretty bad when God himself regrets doing something nice for you.
Saul gets ahead of himself and God. How many times do we get our timetable off from God’s and get impatient with Him? We get it in our head that things have to happen within a certain time frame, and when it doesn’t, we take it upon ourselves to act in God’s place.
From my experience, patience plays out just like the sacrifice of Samuel. If Saul had just waiting a few more minutes, everything would have been fine. I’ve found that it’s usually just on the other side of our patience where relief comes.
It’s also a matter of control. One of Saul’s problems seems to be that he didn’t want others telling him what to do. Again, from experience, every time I try to take matters into my own hands, I usually cause myself worse problems. When I surrender myself and simply accept what God puts in front of me, I find that not only do I not stress so much about it, everything usually ends up better.
Take a couple lessons from Saul. Stay patient. Trust God. Let go.