THE DECLINE OF THE KING
1 Samuel 13
Fighting The Philistines
Saul was confirmed as king, and he set out to capitalize on the enthusiasm of the people. Saul organized an army of three thousand men and stationed them at Michmash, Bethel, and Gibeah. The forces at Gibeah were under the command of Saul's son Jonathan. The rest of the people were sent home. Jonathan and his men attacked the Philistine garrison at Geba which triggered hostilities with the Philistines. Anticipating a retaliatory attack by the Philistines, Saul had the trumpet blown throughout the land to summon the people of Israel to Gilgal. The Philistines assembled a vast army to invade Israel and camped at Michmash. The Philistine army terrified the men of Israel, so they began to desert, seeking refuge in caves, holes, rocks, tombs, and cisterns. Some even fled across the Jordan. Saul and his troops remained in Gilgal, but they were trembling at the prospect of fighting the Philistines.
Disobeying The Prophet And The Law
Saul waited seven days for Samuel to arrive in Gilgal. Samuel delayed his arrival, and every day more of his troops ran away. Saul grew impatient and ordered burnt offerings and peace offerings to be prepared. Impatience is one thing, but willful disobedience is quite another. Saul crossed the line, and he officiated at the sacrifice. Saul had just finished offering the burnt offering when Samuel reached the camp. Saul went out to greet him as though nothing were awry. Samuel immediately confronts Saul and demands an explanation for his actions. The King defends himself and offers three arguments. He blamed the people because they were scattering and he felt he had to act quickly. He blamed Samuel because he was delayed. Finally, he blamed the Philistines. Saul was convinced that the Philistines attack was imminent, so he forced himself to offer the burnt offering. Samuel rebukes Saul for acting foolishly and disobeying the commandment of the Lord. Had he been obedient, Saul and his kingdom would have been established. Next came the devastating news that God had already sought a man after his own heart who would become the ruler of God’s people because Saul had not done what the Lord had commanded him.
Saul was in quite the predicament. Samuel left him so he would not have the benefit of prophetic guidance and there were only six hundred men still with him. They took up defensive positions near Geba, but he was helpless to deal with the raiding parties dispatched to the north, to the south, and the west. Saul's army lacked the proper weaponry needed, and the Philistines had removed the blacksmiths so they could not make swords and spears. The Israelites were forced to get their agricultural tools sharpened. Only Saul and Jonathan possessed spear and sword on the day of the battle. The Philistines moved their garrison and were headed for combat.
Things To Consider:
- How does conflict reveal character?
- Why do some people respond differently to fear?
- Why is impatience a struggle?
- Why is sincerity not enough when it comes to behavior?
- Why do people excuse disobedience?
- Are you blaming your circumstances or others for your disobedience?
- How do you think Saul felt when Samuel left?
- How does Saul handle adversity?
- How does Saul show great courage?
- Why is courage no substitute for repentance?