Saul’s Haste – 1 Samuel 13

The tensions between the Philistines and the Israelites were growing. Saul gathered the troops to attach the Philistines and was able to muster up three thousand men. He summoned the people of Israel to meet them at the holy site of Gilgal. But seeing the strength of the Philistine army, the Israelites were scared and hid in caves and cisterns. Some even fled their homes and went to the land across the river Jordan. Saul remained at Gilgal with his army of three thousand men, all quaking in fear.

The men were already terrified along with the entire country. The Philistine army dwarfed the army of Saul. Saul would have wanted Israel to gain their confidence by knowing that God was with them. The way he acts at Gilgal makes me think that He was using God only as a placebo to rile up his troops.

Haste Makes Waste

One of the most confusing passage, and yet it has been cited as the beginning of the end of Saul’s reign, due to his haste. The Philistines had all their soldiers and chariots, “numerous as the sands of the seashore”, and the Israelites were running scared and running out of places to hide. Somehow Saul managed to muster up his troops who were still quaking in fear. He patiently waited seven days for Samuel to arrive and perform his priestly obligations, but after waiting so long in fear, he finally gave up on waiting for Samuel and performed the offertory ceremony himself. I’ve often asked myself, why was Samuel late and why does Saul after having waited for seven days couldn’t wait a few more hours for Samuel to arrive?

The latter part is the part we all can relate to. How often have we waited patiently for an answer from the Lord, yet we take matters into our own hands thinking that we can handle it. Samuel’s delay was for a reason, to test Saul’s obedience and patience. Those few minutes of hastiness on his part was the reason for God rejecting Saul as a king. But when we look at our lives and Saul’s, we often ask, does God really expect us to be this patient when our enemies are surrounding us, when there seems no way out, when we are tested to our limits by the people around us. How long should we wait?

We may think the circumstances justify our impatience, like in Saul’s case he knew his army was ready to flee as they were all trembling in fear seeing the Philistine army . If he had waited any more he would lost more men. They had already waited for seven days in fear. How much longer could he have waited?  But God anointed David who went through all this and even more and waited nearly thirty-two years since being anointed by Samuel as a young boy to the day he was proclaimed king of Israel. During that period he is chased by Saul, cheated by his friends and leaves his family to escape the king’s wrath but was always patient. Even when he had the chance to kill Saul, he waited, as he knew that it was not his time. And even after becoming king of Israel, he faced humiliation from his son, curses from Saul’s descendants, threats to his kingdom from Absalom, yet he never strayed from the promises he made to Jonathan (that no harm will fall on his son) and Bathsheba (that her son Solomon will be his successor) and patiently waited as the Lord tested him through these people.

Even Christ patiently waited 30 years while God prepared Him for His three and half years of ministry. He was tempted for forty days as part of His preparation. And we like Saul find it hard to wait for a few more hours or days. Just imagine if Saul had waited a few more minutes, the entire history of Israel could have been different. The impatience of the Israelites who did not want to wait any longer and wanted a king resulted in Saul being anointed as king in the first place and because of their impatience, the whole country was in turmoil during the feud between Saul and David. If only had they waited and trusted the Lord, David would have been the first king of Israel, but instead, Saul was chosen as king over Israel.

James (Chapter 1) , writes about welcoming trials and tribulations with pure joy and further writes that these trials test our patience and develop our perseverance. We should look at these trials as opportunities given to us by God to develop our perseverance and take heed from the life of David and Christ who spent more than three decades developing their perseverance which later helped David in his reign dealing with his opposition and helped Christ persevere the burden of the cross that came with the insults and torments of His oppressors. We need to develop such patience within us. This can’t happen with our human efforts but we need God’s intervention to help us develop this patience.

Israel Without Weapons

All the blacksmiths in Israel had been bought out by the Philistines, leaving Saul’s men without swords or spears, anything that could damage the Philistine forces. They had to make do with farming tools and used them as makeshift weapons. God is teaching us to not be self-reliant or even depend on our fellow men but only rely on His protection. The Israelites still won the war even with their diminished capacity and the poor excuse for armoury and weapons. Saul’s haste cost him his throne but above all God’s Spirit eventually moved out of Him. The closer we are to God, the less we would depend on this world. Let us not end up losing His protection by trying to trade it for security and comfort that this world can never provide us.

Discussion Questions

  • V13:4 – Why go to Gilgal when the Philistines are breathing down their necks?
  • V13:11 – What was wrong with what Saul did?
  • V13:22 – At the end of the chapter, more than half of Saul’s men had fled. They had no weapons and were sharpening their farm tools at exorbitant rates at the hands of their enemies. What is God teaching Israel and us through them?

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