Thursday, July 8, 2010

1 Samuel 12-15: No More Excuses

I never understood Sunday School Saul and why God punished him for making an offering when Samuel was late.

How unfair of God.
How undemocratic.
How un-American.

Except that God's not about being fair.
And God isn't democratic.
And God isn't American.

God is supreme.  Above all things.  Above all people.

Still, it's good to look at this more closely to hopefully understand what's going on in this story, to ask why Saul offers the burnt offering and why God, through Samuel, responds by taking away the kingdom.

We've got some pride going on.  Some rebellion.  Some rationalization.
The Philistines have assembled and are waiting for a battle.
And Saul has called the people to join him.
And now they're waiting.  Waiting.
Some of Saul's soldiers hide in caves.  Some leave.
The rest are "quaking with fear."

Now Samuel had said, "I'll be there in seven days."
And on the seventh day, Saul took matters into his own hands.

It's important to recall that in those days, God spoke through Samuel.  Samuel's words were God's words.
When Saul took matters into his own hands, he was really saying, "I've got it, God.  But I can go through the motions--I'll ask for your favor on my own."

Samuel asks, "What have you done?  Why didn't you wait?"
Saul offers excuses.  The men were leaving.  You were late.  I had to do this.

No repentance.
No mourning.
No submission.
Not even after Samuel tells Saul that his kingdom will not endure.

After that it just gets crazy.
Saul makes arbitrary rules.  Like telling his soldiers not to eat.  His own army has to rescue Jonathan, who didn't know the rules because he was off saving Israel.

And Saul picks and chooses which of God's instructions to obey.  And which ones to ignore.
Like when God says kill all the Amalekites and all their lifestock.  And he decides to save the best livestock in order to offer it as an offering.

But the Lord doesn't delight in burnt offerings as much as in obedience.
Because when we obey, even when we don't understand, we acknowledge God's sovereignty, his supremacy, his role in the world.  We acknowledge that God is greater than we are.

This time Saul is sorry. But it's too late.
And it's not about fair.
It's about surrender to a living God.

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