1 Samuel 13
If you’re tracking along here at Reformation and Revival, then you’ve likely noticed that Thursdays are for biblical mediation. Tuesday’s post will leap to and fro like a gazzele on the mountain going after whatever catches the eye. Thursdays we are marching our way through Scripture with a general summary of the text and applications. The book of Samuel has been first up for these Thursday meditations and this is the ninth Samuel installment. We’re looking at chapter 13 today where we will see Saul make his first of three major blunders. But before we do. Here’s a reminder of where we are in the story.
Samuel Thus Far
The book of Samuel opens up during the time of the judges. God had brought Israel out of slavery in Egypt, through the Red Sea, the wilderness, and into the Promised Land. But they had no king and everyone did what was right in their own eyes. Eli the priest served at the tabernacle in Shiloh. And Hannah prayed bitterly there at the house of the Lord for she was barren (chapter 1). But God opened her womb and brought forth the prophet Samuel who eventually ministered with Eli.
Eli’s sons were rebel priests and their father did not restrain them (chapter 2). So God announced through the prophet Samuel that He would judge the house of Eli (chapter 3). The prophecy was fulfilled as the Philistines slaughtered Israel at the battle of Aphek, killed Eli’s sons, and took the ark putting it in the temple of their god, Dagon (chapter 4).
God vindicated His own name as the idol Dagon fell before the ark of God (chapter 5). Yahweh then sent plague upon the Philistines until they returned the ark to Israel (chapter 6). Samuel gathered Israel at Mizeph that they would turn away from their idolatry and unto the Lord. But the Philistines attacked Israel as they were assembled at Mizeph. As Samuel offered up a sacrifice, the Lord thundered against the Philistines and Israel defeated them (chapter 7). Israel was delivered as one of her leaders looked to the heavens offering sacrifice. Interestingly, at the very end of the book of Samuel, we see the same thing. Israel is delivered as David offers up sacrifices (2 Samuel 24). These bookends remind us that it is the LORD and no other who delivers from the enemy’s hand.
After the LORD’s deliverance at Mizpeh, Israel turns to demand a king like the nations (chapter 8). Having a king was not the problem. But, wanting a pagan king was. God warned Israel that the king they desired would be a curse rather than a blessing. But, they wanted him all the same. Saul was anointed and chosen to be king; he even made a good start by defending Israel against the Ammonites (chapters 9-11). However, last week we saw that all was not well with Israel as Samuel delivered a farewell address, saying their wickedness was very great (chapter 12). God sent rain in dry season as a sign: Trust not in the weather cycle but the one who cycles the weather. Trust not in the king but the King of Kings.
Today we come to chapter 13 where King Saul begins his great fall.
The Text – A Summary
Saul’s son Jonathan struck a blow to Philistines (v. 3). The Philistines responded by assembling like the sand on the sea shore to attack Israel (v. 5). The men of Israel, who had just seen God send rain and thunder in dry season, trembled in fear and fled into caves, thickets, rocks, high places, and pits (v. 6). The repetition tells us that Israel was scared senseless. They were spread all over God’s green earth. Saul waited to start the battle at Gilgal as Samuel had ordered. But, he had eyes in his head. Seeing his army scaterring about, he disregarded God’s Word, took Samuel’s job and offered up the burnt offering (v. 9).
Samuel arrived as the smoke still filled the air and questioned Saul. Saul lined up excuses, following after our first father, Adam (v. 11-12). Samuel announced that Saul’s kingdom would not continue and God had sought a man after his own heart who would rule his people Israel (v. 14). The passage closes with a note that Israel did not have any weapons of war. They merely had farming equipment. And to boot, they had no blacksmith in Israel. So they took their agriculture tools down to the Philistines for sharpening (v. 20).
Saul’s first big blunder was grabbing. He waited days for Samuel’s arrival. But, he eventually had enough and decided to take matters into his own hands. That’s what a king like the nations does. That’s what our first parents did when they took of the fruit. Like Veruca Salt, we want it now.
We can feel quite justified in our impatience, especially if the end in view is noble. “Here I am fighting the Lord’s battles, Samuel. Here I am, putting myself on the line. I’m trying to accomplish the right thing. Can’t you give me a break?” But Saul’s impatience clearly sprang from a lack of faith. It was nothing less than an attempt to take God’s hand off of the steering wheel and replace it with his own.
Indeed work is good. We ought to labor to bring forth fruit for our Lord. But, we must go about that work as God intends. Work and pray. That is our pattern. And we may not leave off one or ther other.
Our hope comes from the lips of the prophet Samuel. While Saul has fallen—and in his fall we see the fall of humanity—God has sought a man after his own heart whom he will raise up to be captain over his people (v. 14). Surely David is in view here. And at the same time the Greater David is ultimately in view. Christ is no Saul. Patience is found in Him. Endurance of the greatest kind is found in Him. If you find yourself grabbing, then look to Him. There you will find love. And love is patient, so patient that it endures all things—
“Let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2)