The Gift of God’s Mercy.
1 Samuel 13-14, Romans 9
“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion,but on God, who has mercy. – Romans 9:15-16 ESV
Saul was an impetuous, impatient man who seemed to have a hard time waiting on God. He was impulsive and quick to act, and even quicker to defend or excuse his actions when they didn’t turn out as expected. At times he appears religious and faithful, turning to God for counsel, but then just as quickly, he acts on his own impulses rather than wait for a word from God. It’s clear that Saul was disobedient to God. Samuel the prophet informed him, “But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you” (1 Samuel 13:14 ESV). Saul was going to be replaced with another man, a man who would have a heart for the things of God. But interestingly enough, God continued to give Saul victories in battle – in spite of his stubbornness and disobedience. Even Saul’s unwise and unnecessary vow to put to death anyone who ate until the Philistines were defeated, did not keep God from giving the people of Israel victory over their enemies. But it did almost end up with Saul having to execute his own son, Jonathan. Unaware of his father’s vow, Jonathan had eaten honey in order to regain his strength from a long day of battle. Saul’s vow also caused the people of Israel to sin against God. Because they were so famished by the time the Philistines had been routed, they ended up slaughtering and eating some of the animals they had taken as spoil, but in their haste they failed to drain off the blood. In so doing, they violated the command of God. “Only you shall not eat the blood; you shall pour it out on the earth like water” (Deuteronomy 12:16 ESV). Rather than take the blame for the people’s sins, Saul looked for a scapegoat. When he discovered that his own son had violated his vow, he determined to put him to death, preferring to place the guilt on his head rather than his own. But God showed mercy and intervened, causing the people to step in and stand up for Jonathan. Despite Saul’s sinful, selfish, rash actions, God showed mercy and spared Jonathan’s life and gave the people victory over their enemies.
What does this passage reveal about God?
Over in Romans 9, Paul records the words of God: “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” (Romans 9:15 ESV). God is sovereign. He can and will do whatever He wants to do. He does not have to answer to man. In fact, Paul asks the question, “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?” (Romans 9:20-21 ESV). God is free to do as He wills. And what He does, He does not because man deserves it, but because He willingly, mercifully wills it so. “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Romans 9:16 ESV). Paul reminds us that God shows mercy on whomever He wills and he hardens whomever He wills. We struggle with that concept because it appears to go against our idea of free will, but we must never lose sight of the fact that, ultimately, God is in control of all things.
What does this passage reveal about man?
Saul was a control freak. He had to have things his way. While he may have been reluctant to take on the kingship of Israel at the beginning, he seems to have warmed up to the task. In time, he let the power go to his head. He even saw no problem with extending his authority beyond what God had ordained for him as king. When Samuel the prophet commanded Saul to go to Gilgal and wait seven days for his arrival, he became impatient. On the seventh day, when Samuel had not yet shown up, Saul decided to take maters into his own hands, offering sacrifices to God – a right reserved for the priests of God alone. This sinful act would lead to Saul’s removal as king and his replacement by a man after God’s own heart. But mercifully, God did not remove Saul immediately. He did not put him to death for his sin. God showed Saul mercy, and even gave him victory over the Philistines.
This entire story is a tremendous testimony to God’s sovereignty. God was acting behind the scenes to accomplish His will and fulfill His promises made to Abraham. He was orchestrating His divine plan for the salvation of mankind. It would be into David’s line that Jesus would be born, not Saul’s. It would be to David that God would make the promise to provide him with a perpetual kingdom and a descendant who would rule on the throne of Israel forever. And yet God had placed Saul on the throne. He had given the people the king they wanted so badly. But God was not done yet. In spite of their rejection of Him, God was going to show them mercy and continue to fulfill His covenant promises.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
God is at work in my life, oftentimes in spite of me. His mercy is not based on my actions or on my qualifications. He extends His mercy graciously and undeservedly. His gift of His Son had nothing to do with my worth or inherent value. He sent His Son to die for me while I was completely immersed in sin and in rebellion against Him. And even now, as a believer in Jesus Christ, I have the propensity to live selfishly and sinfully, refusing to do things God’s way. But He continues to show me mercy. He will not renege on His promise to provide me with eternal life and an “inheritance of the saints in light” (Colossians 1:12 ESV). I must accept the fact that God is in control and has the right do whatever He desires to do. I may not always understand His actions. I may not always like what I see Him doing. But I must never question His motives or doubt His goodness and righteousness. The ways of God are a mystery to us. We have limited capacity to understand what He is doing. We aren’t able to see the outcome or discern the purpose behind His plans for our lives. But we must learn to trust Him because He is God and He is trustworthy. That is one of the characteristics that set David apart from Saul. He was a man after God’s own heart. He seemed to have an innate understanding of God’s character and was willing to trust Him with his life, his future, and his kingdom. Oh, that I might do the same thing.
Father, Your mercy is great. Your power is beyond my capacity to understand. I can’t comprehend all that You are doing in my life. I don’t always get what it is that You are doing in the world today. But I know that You are in control. You are sovereign. You are mercifully accomplishing Your will in the lives of men, accomplishing Your divine plan to perfection. Help me to trust You, even when I don’t understand You. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men