There are some real lessons to learn from the life of King Saul. In a way, I can’t believe that Saul, the first King appointed, reigned for one year, and then in only the second year of his reign screwed up completely. By this I mean he was disobedient to God in a big way. In Chapter 13 of the first book of Samuel, Saul grew impatient waiting for Samuel to arrive and decided to sacrifice the burnt offering and the peace offering. This was against the law which is laid out in Numbers 18:5. Saul was clearly doing a good thing by offering a sacrifice to God before a crucial battle, but he did it at the wrong time and in the wrong way. When we are under pressure, as Saul was, our spiritual character is revealed and the way in which we go about achieving our goals is as important as the goal itself.
The next interesting screw up is the foolish vow Saul made that any man who ate before evening would be cursed. The men were weakened in battle by not being able to eat and in fact ended up eating raw, bloody meat which was clearly prohibited. Unfortunately, as well, Jonathan, his son had not heard his father’s command and ate some honey. When there was no reply from God about what to do next, Saul realised there was something wrong and Jonathan owned up to his actions. Jonathan showed great character by owning up, even though he was unaware of the order at the time of eating the honey, he was willing to accept the consequences of his actions, he said ‘I tasted a little honey.. It was only a little bit on the end of a stick; but now I must die’ (1 Samuel 14:43). Fortunately the people saw sense and didn’t let him have to die for this, I just hope I can respond like Jonathan when I do wrong even if it’s unintentional.
The next screw up was around disobedience again. This time, he was given clear instructions through Samuel to completely destroy the entire Amalek nation, but Saul kept the best of the sheep and oxen and lambs, in fact any thing that he fancied; totally not what God had told him to do. The excuse Saul used was that they kept the sheep and oxen to offer as sacrifices to God. Samuel responded by saying, ‘…Obedience is far better than sacrifice’; this was the first of numerous places in Scripture where you can find this theme. Samuel goes on to say, ‘For rebellion is as bad as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as bad as worshiping idols. Wow that put disobedience in perspective! The up shot is that Saul was rejected by God as king.
In one of Jesus’ last conversations with his disciples before he died, Jesus talked of the importance of obedience too:
‘The one who obeys me is the one who loves me; and because he loves me, my father will love him: and I will too, and I will reveal myself to him’ (John 14:21)
Jesus goes on to say:
‘…I will only reveal myself to those who love me and obey me. The Father will love them too, and we will come to them and live with them. Anyone who doesn’t obey me doesn’t love me. And remember, I am not making up this answer to your question! It is the answer given by the Father who sent me’ (John 14:23-24)
I don’t think obeying comes naturally or at all easily to me, but Saul’s story and Jesus words on the subject make it clear that it’s just got to be done!