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Passage: 1 Samuel 13-14

On Tuesday, April 8, 2014, Yujin wrote,

Now the men of Israel were hard-pressed on that day, for Saul had put the people under oath, saying, “Cursed be the man who eats food before evening, and until I have avenged myself on my enemies.” So none of the people tasted food (1 Samuel 14:24).

The folly of Saul's curse is evident in that he almost killed Jonathon, his own son, because of it. It is very much like Jephthah's foolish oath in the book of judges, where he committed to sacrfice anything that came out of his house to greet him, not realizing that his only daughter would be that one (Judges 11:30-35). 

But today, I observe something else about Saul's oath. Notice that he said, "Until I have avenged myself on my enemies." Saul did not recognize that these were the enemies of Israel. More importantly, he did not recognize the greater point, that these Philistines were the enemies of God. 

Saul had made this battle with the Philistines a matter of personal vendetta. This is far from Saul's attitude in his first battle, where he refused to punish his detractors because "the Lord had accomplished deliverance in Israel" (1 Samuel 11:13).

Saul was less and less concerned with the LORD's honor and more and more concerned about his own stature. In an earlier confrontation with the Philistines, Saul was little concerned with the LORD's regulations regarding sacrifices (cf. 1 Sameul 13:8-14). Later Saul would disobey the LORD again when he did not completely destroy the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15:9-23).

In each case Saul had a "spiritual" excuse for his actions, but they were found to be empty, only highlighting Saul's true ambition, which was more for his honor rather than the LORD's honor. 

Friends, we must guard against this kind of self-focus ourselves. Though we may claim to serve the Lord, we may be found only to be serving ourselves. How many of us have tried to punish someone for wronging us, using the excuse that we just wanted to see the Lord's justice done and to discourage them from wronging someone else? I recently reported that World Vision chose to embrace homosexual couples, using the excuse that they just wanted to promote Church unity. I personally witnessed this latter rationale (i.e. preserving church "unity") being used to stifle genuine biblical discussion of a pastor's unbiblical views. 

Friends, being Christians does not mean that we are immune from our hearts being deceived by our sinful natures (cf. Romans 7 of Paul's inner conflict). I have battled bitterness on more than one occasion toward people, particularly professing Christian leaders, who I felt had wronged me.

My indignation toward them was not always righteous. Even though I prayed for them, I also secretly relished in any misfortune that happened to befall them. I was more concerned about their offense against me than against the Lord. 

My prayer is that God might make me to be "a man after His own heart" (1 Samuel 13:14). This kind of heart was found in David, who twice spared the man intent on killing him, King Saul, just because Saul was the LORD's anointed. David patiently waited some fifteen years before God dealt with Saul Himself and established David as king.

Friends, let us also all live faithfully as we patiently wait on the Lord, for He is good and greatly to be praised. 

Passage: 1 Samuel 13-14

On Monday, April 8, 2013, Yujin wrote,

Saul inquired of God, “Shall I go down after the Philistines? Will You give them into the hand of Israel?” But He did not answer him on that day. Saul said, “Draw near here, all you chiefs of the people, and investigate and see how this sin has happened today. For as the Lord lives, who delivers Israel, though it is in Jonathan my son, he shall surely die.” But not one of all the people answered him (1 Samuel 14:37-39).

Saul is upset because God did not answer him. He thought it was because someone broke the oath he made the people make. He did not even entertain the more likely reason, namely, that he disobeyed the LORD earlier in offering the sacrifices himself (1 Samuel 13:8-14).

Saul is a study in contrast to David, who would succeed him as king. Unlike David's hesitancy to harm his sons, even when they committed incest, murder, and treason, Saul was more than ready to kill Jonathan, his son, for violating the oath he forced the people to make, which Jonathan himself had not known about when he had tasted the honey. So, strictly speaking, Jonathan was not even guilty, though they cast lots and the lot fell on him. Since God did not answer Saul with respect to the battle, why would He answer him with respect to the lots?

Is Saul's attitude not consistent with his assigning 2000 soldiers to himself for the battle and only half as many to his son, Jonathan. Later, we learn that Saul attached to his personal guard anyone found to be particularly mighty or valiant (1 Samuel 14:52). Does he give this kind of consideration to his son Jonathan? What is more, even though everyone recognized that God had brought the great victory over the Philistines through Jonathan, rather than celebrating his son's bravery and faith, all Saul could see was that someone violated his foolish oath (1 Samuel 14:45). This jealousy for attention would be his undoing as he later turns against his most trustworthy servant, David.

It appears to me that Saul was losing his sense of discernment because he was more concerned about himself and his circumstances than he was about trusting and obeying God or even recognizing what God was doing through others, like Jonathan and later David. I encourage you to see how this plays out further in the forthcoming chapters of Saul's reign. 

Friends, we too need to be careful, because we can also lose our discernment if we fail to stay calibrated by the unchanging truth of God's Word. Jesus taught that believers are the salt of the earth, but it is possible for them to lose their saltiness

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.

I believe saltiness refers to the discernment of right and wrong, even one's Spirit-led conscience. Thus, to be the salt of the earth means that believers serve as a kind of a moral and spiritual compass to the world. If that compass gets demagnitized and loses its calibration, then it serves no purpose whatsoever. In fact, it may do even more harm them good, because people may trust it and be taken in the wrong location. It may even be life-threatening. This was reported in a CBC News post:

Errors in Apple's mapping application on the iPhone are "potentially life threatening," Australian police warn after several motorists were led off-track, and even stranded for 24 hours without food or water (

Even more than a mapping app or a compass being out of whack, when believers lose their discernment, they not only lead themselves astray, they can lead others astray as well. Thus, not only physical life but a person's eternal destiny may be threatened. This is what Jesus said the Pharisees were doing. They were blind guides:

They [the Pharisees] are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit" (Matthew 15:14).

This is why it is so important that believers know the Bible. It provides the calibration. It gives discernment. 

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ JesusAll Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:14-17).

The Word of God serves as a mirror for our souls:

Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do (James 1:23-25).

God keeps account of everyone based on what He has revealed in His Word:

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account (Hebrews 4:12-13).

Samuel told the people and King Saul this very thing:

If you fear the Lord and serve and obey him and do not rebel against his commands, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the Lord your God—good!... Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will perish" (1 Samuel 12:14,25).

Therefore, friends, I reiterate to you the importance of being daily in God's Word. Because of the wickedness of our times, we need to spiritually and morally calibrate ourselves every day. It is not sufficient to trust your pastors and teachers for this calibration, just as the religious leaders of Jesus' day were no guarantee of truth. If the leaders you trust lead you astray, how could you discern this unless you yourselves are deeply invested in God's Word. Therefore, I encourage all of you to show yourselves approved before God by diligently studying and rightly interpreting the Word of God (2 Timothy 2:15). 

Passage: 1 Samuel 13-14

On Friday, April 8, 2011, Stephen wrote,

Dear brothers and sisters!
The battle scene has now changed from the eastern side to the western frontline against the Philistiens.  The situation is not quite favorable to the Israelites. Saul had only 3000 men on his side compared to the Philistiens who had ".three thousandc]">[c] chariots, six thousand charioteers, and soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore."  Being outnumbered by their enemy was not the only predicament of the Israelites.  They had NO WEAPONS!  There was not a blacksmith who "could be found in the whole land of Israel, because the Philistines had said, “Otherwise the Hebrews will make swords or spears!” 20 So all Israel went down to the Philistines to have their plow points, mattocks, axes and sicklesf]">[f] sharpened. 21 The price was two-thirds of a shekelg]">[g] for sharpening plow points and mattocks, and a third of a shekelh]">[h] for sharpening forks and axes and for repointing goads. 22 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."  If I were a soldier in Saul's army, I would've been scared to death.  My 3rd degree blackbelt in Taekwondo wouldn't have done much to regain my morale for the seemingly imminent epic battle.  The fear-stricken Israelites started fleeing, hiding in caves and even defecting to their enemy.  To make the matter worse, Samuel who was supposed to be there in 7 days was not there yet.(1 Samuel 10:8)  It is probably out of fear that Saul decided to offer the burnt offerings. God, however, demanded obedience from the new king of the Israelites even in that chaotic situation.  I wouldn't have met God's demand if I were Saul!  Whether their leader was faithful or not, God gave the Philistines over to the Israelites through His direct intervention.  Obdedience!  Obedeince!  I cannot say too much how important that is!  O, Lord!  Help me and my brothers and sisters to be faithful to the Lord even in insurmountable situation!

Passage: 1 Samuel 13-14

On Friday, April 8, 2011, Unmi wrote,

So why didn't Saul wait for Samuel? I think it is understandable why he panicked. His small army was facing "soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore" and "all the troops with him were quaking with fear."  He had been waiting 7 days already and Samuel had not yet arrived as promised. But why not just pray to God?  or just go into battle without performing the sacrifice? Why did Saul think performing the sacrifice was so critical for this battle?  If we look back to 1 Samuel 7, I think there is a clue to why Saul thought that the sacrifice was so important. The Philistines came to attack the Israelites as they gathered before the Lord at Mizpah and the Israelites were afraid. When the Philistines heard that Israel had assembled at Mizpah, the rulers of the Philistines came up to attack them. When the Israelites heard of it, they were afraid because of the Philistines. (1 Samuel 7:7) So what did Samuel do? Then Samuel took a suckling lamb and sacrificed it as a whole burnt offering to the LORD. He cried out to the LORD on Israel’s behalf, and the LORD answered him. (1 Samuel 7:9) What did the Lord do in response? the LORD thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites.  The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Kar. (1 Samuel 7:10-11)  Perhaps Saul thought the Lord would do the same thing again if only the sacrifices were performed. Saul mistakenly thought that it was the sacrifice that pleased the Lord.  However, if we go back to what happened at Mizpah, we see that the Israelites had gathered there to repent of their sins.  When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the LORD. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the LORD.” (1 Samuel 7:6) The Lord was pleased with the heart that was right before the Lord and therefore accepted the sacrifices that were made in repentance.  David understood this when he wrote Psalm 51. 

16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;  a broken and contrite heart, you, God, will not despise.
(Psalm 51:16-17)

Again, the story of Saul and his sacrifice points out how many people even today tend to put more value in religious rituals or in sacred relics than in actually having a heart that is pure before God.  Is changing our heart an impossible task?  Yes, on our own it is impossible, this is the work of the Holy Spirit. As we grow and mature in our faith, the fruit of the Holy Spirit should become evident in our lives.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Passage: 1 Samuel 13-14

On Thursday, April 8, 2010, Matt wrote,

The contrast between Saul and Jonathan is what stood out to me today.  Jonathan inquiring and trusting in the Lord is seen in his actions as he crosses the pass to the Philistines (1 Sam. 14:1-14).  Saul, on the other hand used brute force, sacrificed burnt offerings, bound the people to a purposeess oath and essentially took matters into his own hands without forethought of the Lord.  The latter bringing the promise of death to even his son if he were the one who broke the oath.  Luckily God was at work the whole time.  These events truly showed the short-comings of their much desired king.  I think about the kings of our days.  They are just men and women like us.  Flawed and not always exercising God's Word.  Our true king is God and although we are called to submit to the authorities bestowed upon us we should always act in accordance with God's law first.