When Fear Leads

1 Samuel 13:7b-15
7bSaul was still at Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling. 8He waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the people were scattering from him. 9So Saul said, “Bring the burnt offering here to me, and the peace offerings.” And he offered the burnt offering. 10As soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came. And Saul went out to meet him and greet him. 11Samuel said, “What have you done?” And Saul said, “When I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines had mustered at Michmash, 12I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the favor of the Lord.’ So I forced myself, and offered the burnt offering.” 13And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you. For then the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.” 15And Samuel arose and went up from Gilgal. The rest of the people went up after Saul to meet the army; they went up from Gilgal to Gibeah of Benjamin. And Saul numbered the people who were present with him, about six hundred men.

I can think of nothing worse than having the Lord withdraw His blessing from my life. And while I don’t think God has ever withdrawn from me, I do believe there have been times when He has allowed me to move on my own plans, knowing full well I will suffer negative consequences. Saul stands in just such a situation at this point in the story. He is going to have to face the Philistines, but the decisions he makes in the moment are not good ones and he will suffer personal consequences for those choices.

If you read 1 Samuel focusing on Saul’s actions, you will find that he is a man led by his own fears most of the time. As Philistia gathers forces against him, he leads with fear rather than faith. Yes, it looks like he’s acting as a man of faith when he offers up the sacrifice, but that is most certainly not the case. His own army is buying into Saul’s (perhaps warranted) fears and they begin to flee. His response is to take up a role that God has not given to him, that of priest. Samuel is still the spiritual leader of God’s people. He is the one who is supposed to do that work, but Saul panics and decides  to “force himself” to offer up the sacrifice to God. This decision costs him and his whole family the monarchy. In this moment of faithlessness, he loses the kingdom to another (who at this point remains unnamed).

14But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.”

Even before his identity has been revealed, we know that David is “a man after [God’s] own heart.” Saul does not fit that description, and so he is rejected. While this may seem harsh, it is completely warranted. He has overstepped a boundary that he knew existed. He panicked and took up the role of priest; a role to which he was not called. He has stepped out from under God’s care and is going it alone. The price for that is high.

How often do we step away from God and try to make things happen under our own power? What roles might we take on that do not belong to us because we want to be in charge? I ask these questions not of you, but of myself. There have most certainly been times when I charged ahead, without God’s permission or blessing only the mess up everything. Only in looking back do I see those mistakes.

But we live in the grace of God who sacrificed His Son for our fear-filled decisions. I can admit that every time I have moved independently of God, I have suffered negative consequences, and I’m sorry for those mistakes. But I also know that the blood of Jesus has been shed for those sins and grace resounds through my life.

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