When Looks Aren’t Enough.
“But be sure to fear the LORD and sincerely worship him. Think of all the wonderful things he has done for you.” – 1 Samuel 12:24 NLT
Saul was now king and he looked the part. He was tall, good looking, and a natural-born warrior. But God was looking for more than appearance. He was looking for obedience. Samuel made this clear in his address to the people. He reminded them of the faithfulness of God and all He had done for them over the years. He had rescued them from Egypt and delivered them to the promised land. But they had forgotten all about God. And this latest episode – their demand for a king – was the latest in a long list of offenses against God. Saul told them, “…you came to me and said that you wanted a king to reign over you, even though the LORD your God was already your king” (1 Samuel 12:12 NLT). And God had gone ahead and given them their king. But Saul also warned them that having a king would not be enough. They would still have to be obedient to God.
Now if you will fear and worship the LORD and listen to his voice, and if you do not rebel against the LORD’s commands, and if you and your king follow the LORD your God, then all will be well. But if you rebel against the LORD’s commands and refuse to listen to him, then his hand will be as heavy upon you as it was upon your ancestors. – 1 Samuel 12:14-15 NLT
Saul pleads with them to follow the Lord with all their hearts. He warns them not to turn aside and go back to worshiping worthless idols that cannot help or rescue them. That has been their track record for generations. And having a king was not going to change that. No more than having judges had changed that. Saul reminds them that God will never completely forsake them, because of His concern for His own name. But He will allow them to reap the consequences of their disobedience if they forsake Him again. “But if you continue to sin, you and your king will be destroyed” (1 Samuel 12:25 NLT).
And it doesn’t take long for things to go south for the people of Israel. Their new king reveals his true heart in just a matter of days. His actions expose the real nature of his character. And good looks is not enough to cover up what is going on inside the man. Saul had been given instructions by Samuel to go down to Gilgal and wait for him there. Saul obeyed, but when he arrived, he was faced with some difficult circumstances. Jonathan, his son, had led a group of men in a battle against the Philistine garrison at Geba and won. But this little victory had stirred up a hornet’s nest of trouble. The Philistines were now massing for war against the Israelites and the people were in a panic. So much so, that many of them were running away and hiding in caves. Others had fled across the Jordan into Gad and Gilead. Saul had a real problem on his hands. He was outnumbered and under-equipped for war. The Philistines had chariots and weapons. His troops had farming implements to fight with. So when Saul arrived at Gilgal and Samuel didn’t arrive on time, he took matters into his own hands. He decided to offer up sacrifices to God on his own – refusing to wait for Samuel and disobeying his orders (1 Samuel 10:8). What had Samuel said to the people? “But if you rebel against the LORD’s commands and refuse to listen to him, then his hand will be as heavy upon you as it was upon your ancestors” (1 Samuel 12:15 NLT). Saul made excuses and tried to defend his actions. He attempted to explain that the circumstances demanded that he act as he did. But Samuel wasn’t buying it. His reaction clearly indicates that he knew the real problem – Saul’s heart. He didn’t have a heart for God and it showed up in his disobedience. “But now your dynasty must end, for the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart. The LORD has already chosen him to be king over his people, for you have not obeyed the LORD’s command” (1 Samuel 13:14 NLT). Saul had a heart problem. He looked like a king, but he didn’t know how to act like a king. Because he lacked the inner character and heart of a man who loved God and was willing to obey Him in spite of the circumstances surrounding him. Rather than trust God and obey Samuel’s command, Saul had taken matters into his own hands. He had panicked and disobeyed. And as a result, he lost his kingdom and his kingship.
God deserves our allegiance. He deserves our obedience. He has done nothing to warrant our constant turning from Him to other things for our hope, happiness, deliverance or comfort. He only asks that we obey Him. He asks that we serve Him. He asks that we put Him first in our lives. Is that too much to ask after all He has done for us? Saul’s reign was dependent on his obedience. His ability to obey was directly tied to the condition of his heart. He didn’t really know God or trust Him. He was not a man after God’s own heart. And it showed.
Father, You are looking for men and women after Your own heart. You want obedience. You are not impressed with outward appearance and the level of our capabilities. You look at the heart. You look into the inside and determine the true worth of a man or woman. May we be men and women after Your own heart. May we love what You love and hate what You hate. May we learn to trust You more, regardless of the circumstances that surround us. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men