“I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the Lord’s favor.’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.” 13 “You have done a foolish thing,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. 14 But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.” 15 Then Samuel left Gilgal[d] and went up to Gibeah in Benjamin, and Saul counted the men who were with him. They numbered about six hundred.“ 1 Samuel 13.12-15
“I felt compelled…” This was Saul’s excuse for disobeying the Lord’s command and offering the burnt sacrifice without Samuel, the Lord’s anointed. Not only was it not acceptable for King Saul to play the role of a priest, it was against the law of God.
“Then the priest is to sacrifice the sin offering and make atonement for the one to be cleansed from their uncleanness. After that, the priest shall slaughter the burnt offering,” Leviticus 19.14. “But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance,” Hebrew 9.7.
Saul knew this was what God had commanded. He knew the rules. It wasn’t as if it just sprang up on him. This priestly system had been operating for hundreds of years before he arrived on the scene. It was a part of who the Jews were going all the way back to Adam and Eve arguably. (They sinned and shed blood of animals in order to cover their shame and nakedness.)
This action really got Saul in trouble. It cost his family the inheritance of the kingdom. No longer would his sons be kings. No longer would they sit on the throne. Saul put himself in the place, not only of Samuel, but of God. He took matters into his own hands, trusting his own desires rather than the Lord or his servant Samuel.
I wonder how often we get ahead of God. We think we know more, care more or see more. We think we are better than someone else that God has placed in a position of influence or power. But in truth, God has us right now where he wants us. He has given us gifts and influence for the present, to the people around us. Perhaps we are frustrated because we think the Lord has made a mistake and the assignment we have is not what we want. Or, maybe he’s given us an assignment and simply needs us to trust him with the outcome.
Let’s not make the same mistake as Saul and replace our trust in God with trust in ourselves. Let’s rely upon the Lord for strength, hope and comfort. Let us turn to Christ to be the covering for our sin, the way maker for our waywardness.
“O Lord God, I confess, I have fickle faith. Like Saul, sometimes I take matters into my own hands. Sometimes I act according to how I want to act and fail to trust in your word. Come now, Holy Spirit, help me walk in step with you. Help me place my faith in your word and in your love to save me. I praise you Lord for this day and for the many opportunities I have to love you and love others. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen