REFLECT: Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap: Galatians 6:7
APPLY: It is so easy to slide down a slippery path, uttering half truths, only half fulfilling one’s word. Do that, and before you know it, addressing a reputation harming mess – one you should have known better than to risk – will become the pressing priority of the day.
Don’t kid yourself: God sees all. He knows your heart and your motives are bare before him. Search your heart, unflinchingly. Keep short accounts. Take responsibility for your actions. Take every (judicious) rebuke to heart.
Saul started out as an unpretentious commoner. He was lacking in confidence, though full of potential and imposing in stature. He had flaws, as we all do. The tragedy was that his flaws were not contained or corrected – they were allowed to grow unchecked in his scope as king. Thus as he grew in regal stature – and became accustomed to his standing – he became full of himself (1 Sam 15:12) and turned into a bully. (1 Sam 24:11-15).
There are hints of other failings: he was fearful – running to hide when he was chosen as king (1 Samuel 10: 20-22); His most fatal flaw however, was that he likely never fully trusted in God. This is suggested by the pattern that emerged after he became king: rather than obey the instructions of Samuel the prophet, counselor to the throne, he repeatedly fulfilled instructions only partially, so he could take matters into his own hands while claiming to have done the right thing.
His behavior after a(n Amalakite) battle demonstrates this. He was given strict instructions by the Prophet to destroy the vanquished city completely, and to leave nothing alive, including the king. King Saul did not do as he was told, but when queried by the prophet, progressed through three discomforting stages:
First he pretended that he had followed the instructions (1 Samuel 15: 3, 13-14):
Then Samuel went to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed are you of the LORD! I have performed the commandment of the LORD. But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?”And Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen, to sacrifice to the LORD your God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.”
What we discover is that:
“… Saul and the people spared…the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.”
Second, when his pretense was countered with a damning summary of how he had strayed, King Saul doubled down, insisting that he had in fact done what he had been told:
And Saul said to Samuel, “But I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and gone on the mission on which the LORD sent me, and brought back Agag king of Amalek; I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took of the plunder, sheep and oxen, the best of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the LORD your God in Gilgal.”
Trying to squirm off the hook, he resorted to half truths (I brought back King Agag….) and responsibility dodging (the people took of the plunder…).
Third it was only when his justifications were decisively brushed aside and the consequences of his disobedience announced, that he stopped trying to deny the truth, and finally admitted his disobedience, confessing his true motives:
Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. Now therefore, please pardon my sin, and return with me, that I may worship the LORD.”
It was not unfortunately, the first time that he had behaved like this. On another occasion, instructed to wait for the prophet to make the sacrifice after a victory, when it seemed the prophet was taking too long to arrive, King Saul took matters into his own hands to offer the sacrifice himself (1 Sam 13:7-13)
The Bible cautions us that the human heart is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). That human motives run deep and only the person (and God) can truly know the intentions of that heart (Jeremiah 17:10). What makes it even more tricky is that we ourselves – when gripped by fear, greed, or other uglies – may be oblivious to our deeper motives.
Saul wanted to do the right thing – he wanted the prophet in his corner and he recognized that God determined destiny. Yet in the heat of the moment, his sensible inclinations were overcome by failings e.g. greed and fear, symptomatic of a dwindling relationship with the Lord. With each lapse, he drew closer to disaster, yet, rather than take to heart the unflinching rebuke of his prophet Counsellor, each time, he set a new low(er standard).
In the end, terrified by the doom he could sense advancing, King Saul disobeyed the stern prohibition that he himself had imposed against witchcraft, to consult a medium (1 Sam 28:9). He sought the posthumous advice of his prophet Counsellor – only to again be rebuked and have his doom confirmed.
PRAY: Father God, I am grateful that though I may sometimes be unmindful of my true motives, You are not, because NOTHING is hidden from You. Father Lord please guide me, save me from my willful tendencies (Psalm 19:13). Soften my heart to seek Your instructions and instill an eagerness to obey Your instructions sincerely. Grow a hunger for Your Word and Your ways in me that I may walk a straight path to fulfill my good destiny. In Jesus Name, Amen.