Today we are going to look at the Life of Israel's first King and the worst in more than one way. Saul is a character in the Bible who had brilliant beginnings but ended up as a miserable man. He is said to be the most handsome person in Israel at the time he was chosen to be King, he stood taller than everyone in the land. He can be compared to a film star of today. He had everything but he threw it away. We will be closely following the events in his life which led to his downfall.
Saul comes to the fore when Israel decides that it needs a king like all the other nations of the world. Before that, theocracy prevailed in Israel meaning that God was the king of the whole nation. He commanded the whole kingdom and they acted accordingly. God talked to the general public through his prophets out of which Samuel was an important one. People overtime became bored of this theocracy and they voted in Monarchy. Its really funny, we are daily struggling with democracy. Think about electing a monarchy. What were the Israelites thinking. These are the words the Israelites used before Samuel had to go look for a King.
"Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations"
Another reason as to why the people needed a king was that the sons of Samuel who were supposed to take up the reins from their father did not know the Lord. Few days ago, we looked at how Eli failed to train up his kids in the right way and now the Scripture shows us that Samuel did not do a better job either. Samuel was not happy when he heard the people's new need. But, God like a good parent allowed his children to choose for themselves a king. Saul was then made king.. During his inauguration he was so modest that he hid without showing himself to the people. This modesty would soon give way to arrogance and pride. Saul, then became a hero in his own right with victories over the Ammonites taking his popularity to a whole new level. However, things were going to change and it all started at Gilgal.
Arrogance at Gilgal
Saul provoked the Philistines to war. This was not wrong because the Philistines were a constant thorn in the flesh for Israel. So, he stationed his troops at Gilgal. His orders from God through Samuel were simple:
"And you shall go down before me to Gilgal; and behold, I will come down to you to offer burnt offerings and sacrifice peace offerings. You shall wait seven days until I come and show you what you should do."
This was another sign to Saul that God was still and will always be in charge of the Nation of Israel. Saul just could not grasp that simple fact. Samuel was to arrive after seven days at Gilgal to offer the sacrifices. God commanded Saul not to attack till then. But, seven days passed and most of the army had deserted Saul by then because they were afraid of the strong Philistine army. Saul then committed a great sin when he himself burnt the offerings to God. This was more like a pagan ritual than a true Hebrew offering.He had no right to burn the offerings because it was a job given to the priests and the prophets. Saul was so impatient that he wanted to get it done fast. He was so obsessed with winning that he gave winning more importance than God's commands.
Saul's insubordination at Amelek
The settings were more or less the same. Israel was again involved in war and it was the turn to wage war against the Amalekites. Here, once again God gives the instructions to Saul about what to do and how to go about doing it. Once again, it seems like Saul was not paying attention to Samuel. The instructions went like this.
"Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey".
That was as clear as clear could get. Go and destroy everything you see. Do not spare anything or simply put Show no mercy. But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs and all that was good. They won the war, but failed to obey God's commands again. This time Samuel was filled with anger and let Saul know that his time as king was coming to an end and that God has already found a replacement in David. Saul, instead of admitting his mistake tried to rationalize again by pointing out that all the sheep and other animals were intended for sacrifice. This event marked the beginning of the end for Israel's celebrity king.
There are two important things we can learn from this story.
- Obedience is Necessary
- Be quick to admit your mistakes
- Anyone can be replaced.