Samuel addresses the people as Saul begins to rule as king. He summarizes the history of the Israelites and exonerates himself with full support of the people. He is now old and gray and has served faithfully his entire life. What an example.
But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will perish.” 1 Samuel 12:24-25
Chapter 13 begins with Jonathan attacking a Philistine outpost and Saul tooting his horn. All this seems to have done is stir up the Philistines so they assemble a massive army. Saul’s contingent is not nearly enough, so he calls for help, but the people are clearly frightened.
Saul’s Legacy Begins
Saul knew he had to do something, his credibility was on the line, not to mention the lives of Israel.Saul couldn’t text Samuel, he couldn’t send and email or make a call. He had to wait, but he didn’t know if it would be an hour or a month. Saul is probably thinking, Samuel is traveling about the land doing what he does, so who knows when he will arrive. The people are seriously afraid. He gets impatient and decides to make himself priest and offer sacrifices to please the Lord. Samuel arrives immediately after this decision and confronts Saul,
“You have done a foolish thing,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.” 1 Samuel 13:13-14
You would think this blunder early on in his career as king would serve as a solid course correction, but we know the rest of the story of Saul and that is certainly not the case. The challenge for leaders of leaders is to know when to call out the next generation. The requirement of the next generation is to listen to the old and gray leaders that have gone before–NOT because they are old and gray, we all become old and gray, but with a discerning ear that hears the voice of experience.
Moses made a remarkable blunder in striking the rock (twice), but took the rebuke well and led the people while mentoring Joshua. It was possible for Saul to learn from that example–they knew the history. However, it appears that he didn’t catch on.
Samuel departs and Saul’s “army” dwindles down to 600 men. Not a good sign. Even worse, they have few weapons, “So on the day of the battle not a soldier with Saul and Jonathan had a sword or spear in his hand; only Saul and his son Jonathan had them.” 1 Samuel 13:22
The Philistine tactic was to send out raiding parties to provoke the Israelites. The strategy was working well, so Jonathan talks to his armor bearer and devises a plan to attack an outpost.
If they say to us, ‘Wait there until we come to you,’ we will stay where we are and not go up to them. But if they say, ‘Come up to us,’ we will climb up, because that will be our sign that the Lord has given them into our hands.” 1 Samuel 14:9-10
The Philistines arrogantly invite Jonathan to their whipping party, but discover Jonathan is a fighter and they lose 20 men in half an acre (like my front yard!). God was with Jonathan and the Philistines panic: a panic sent by God 1 Samuel 14:15.
Jonathan Eats Honey
Saul apparently came up with this clever idea that no soldier should eat before evening, so his army was losing energy. Jonathan didn’t hear this crazy command and has some honey to give him a boost of energy. The men let him know about Saul’s edict. Instead of doing what was logical, we see a trial and verdict where Jonathan is guilty. However, Jonathan’s men stand with him so he is spared that day. It seems pursuing the Philistines is off the agenda, so they settle for maintaining their boundaries.
Chapter 15 is an important chapter for leaders to read and understand, especially those of large and growing organizations. Saul was given clear instructions from the Lord, but he heard what he wanted to hear and though he had great success, his ego got the best of him. Instead of destroying all of the Amalikites, he captured the king and kept the best cattle. Samuel hears about this and confronts Saul. Saul is in complete denial, but Samuel is on point:
“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.” 1 Samuel 15:22-23
Saul admits he has sinned and begs Samuel for forgiveness, to stay with him, but Samuel has had enough! As he leaves, Saul grabs his robe and tears it at them hem. This becomes a metaphor for Israel being torn from Saul’s hands.
The chapter ends with Samuel taking charge and executing the captured king of the Amalikites, something apparently Saul was not able to do.
Samuel leaves Saul as the problems are just beginning.