Saturday, November 06, 2004

Fatal Flaw

Following his coronation, the Bible records mostly negative things about King Saul. In situation after situation, he is outright disobedient or foolish.

1. He makes an offering when he was to wait for Samuel to do that (I Samuel 13)

2. He puts his army under a foolish ban not to eat anything when they’re in the thick of battle. (What’s with making these outrageous promises or vows? Do Saul and others think God needs to be convinced of their sincerity, or a push to be on their side?) Then after the victory, when he asks God a question, gets no answer, inquires about why and discovers it’s because Jonathan has broken the no-food ban, Saul is ready to and would have offered (killed) his son if the army hadn’t spoken up in Jonathan’s defense. (1 Samuel 14).

3. He defies God’s command to kill the Amalekite King Agag and completely wipe out the Amalekite people, and instead "spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs – everything that was good." (Contrast this unwillingness to destroy these material things with his willingness to sacrifice his son Jonathan a little earlier.) When Samuel confronts him with his disobedience, he spins it into a good thing: "‘Yes I have obeyed the voice of the Lord and have gone the way which the Lord sent me, and have brought Agag the king o f Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things to be utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal’" (1 Samuel 15:20,21)

God doesn’t buy it. After this last incident, He announces to Saul (through Samuel) because of his disobedience, rebellion, arrogance and rejection of God, he's effectively finished. (I Samuel 15:22,23).

What was at the root of Saul’s actions? Is there a common thread weaving all these instances together?

I see in all these vignettes a rebellious "I know best" attitude. Obedience is replaced with an attempt to force or manipulate events to get the desired results another way. He himself would perform the sacrifice if the man of God didn’t show up on time. He would move God’s hand by putting his army under an impulsive ban. He would make the decision of what survived of the Amalekite spoils. (I wonder what he really planned to do with King Agag and the plunder he saved.)

It’s easy for me to cluck my tongue at bad King Saul. But don’t I often see the same tendencies in myself. I follow my own "good judgement" because waiting for God to come through seems too risky. I make rash promises or vows to force God’s hand. And I rationalize away the extreme sacrifice God wants of me - my life, everything - by keeping segments of it for myself to further my own agenda. Then when He asks, "What about that?" I figure out a way to spin my rebellion to look like consecration.

I can learn a lot from Saul.

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