You can hardly blame Saul. Oh sure, Samuel had told him: “Go down ahead of me to Gilgal. I will surely come down to you to sacrifice burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, but you must wait seven days until I come to you and tell you what you are to do.” (1 Samuel 10:8) But now, the enemy army was preparing to attack; Samuel had not arrived; and Saul had not yet sought the Lord’s blessing for the imminent battle. And so, he did what he thought he had to do: he went ahead and offered the sacrifices without waiting for God’s prophet as he had been instructed. (1 Samuel 13:7b-10)
I wonder how frequently we’re prone to make the same mistake. We face some decision or challenge, and it’s pretty clear that God’s direction for the time being is, “Wait.” But we feel pressed for time. And beside, the only reason we’re going to forge ahead is because we want to honor the Lord. But in our eagerness to do what we think is the “timely” and “right” thing, we rush right past the “obedient” thing. Just this morning, Hobby Lobby — the Christian-run arts and crafts supplier — settled a case in which they were accused of smuggling artifacts out of Iraq (learn more). These artifacts were destined for a Bible museum, which is a worthy and God-honoring desire, to be sure. But apparently, there were numerous signs that something was wrong with the transaction. And in the end, patience and obedience might well have honored God far more effectively than moving forward ever could.
When Samuel got word of Saul’s disobedience, he pronounced God’s judgment on the matter:
“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. 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.” (1 Samuel 13:13-14)
Unfortunately, Saul didn’t learn his lesson. Read two more chapters in the saga of Saul, and you’ll discover that he once again chose the expedient thing over the obedient thing. And in response, Samuel pronounced a lesson that we would all do well to learn: “”Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22)
May we be eager to honor the Lord today. And may obedience to His will be our first priority as we seek to give Him glory.