1 Samuel 13
-In the middle of the action, there is a brief aside to tell us the age Saul was when he began to reign over Israel and the duration of his authority as king. He was 30 years old when he became king by the anointing of God through Samuel. He reigned 42 long years over Israel as their first earthly ruler (1 Samuel 13:1). Getting back to the narrative, Saul chose for himself 3,000 men (2,000 with him in Michmash north of Gibeah and 1,000 with his son Jonathan actually in Gibeah where the king’s house was in Benjamin), but the rest were released back to their tents at home. In Geba, Jonathan smote the garrison of the Philistines who were there. This initiated an intense conflict with the two people groups as the Philistines heard of the attack of demolition and responded. Saul, for Israel’s part, blew the trumpet of war throughout the land that the Hebrews would hear the news of what happened at Geba and to prepare for an onslaught from the Philistines. “The people were summoned to Saul at Gilgal.” This was just to the western side of the Jordan River in the fertile valley area near Jericho. The Philistines assembled for a fight with 30,000 chariots, 6,000 horsemen, and people so numerous than they were like the sand which is on the seashore. They gathered at Michmash in the hill country east of Beth-aven. This ominous collection of Philistines sent the Israelites of the area scrambling. They saw that they were outnumbered and in a strait (tsar- distress, adversity, a tight place figuratively as in trouble), which made them hide themselves in caves, thickets, cliffs, cellars, and pits. Some crossed over the river into Gad and Gilead, but Saul stayed near the river on the west side at Gilgal. Some people followed him there, but they were trembling with fear and trepidation (1 Samuel 13:2-7).
-Saul waited there for seven days according to the appointed time that Samuel had set; however, by the end of this period, Samuel had still not arrived in Gilgal and people were beginning to scatter from the king in confusion. Saul, instead of waiting on the prophet of God, took matters into his own hands out of personal anxiety. He ordered the burnt offerings and peace offerings to be brought to him, and he sacrificed them himself in the place of Samuel. As soon as he finished making the burnt offering, guess who showed up? Yep, you guessed it, Samuel. Saul came out to greet him, but the prophet was perturbed. Samuel exclaimed, “What have you done?” Saul replied, “Because I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the appointed days, and that the Philistines were gathering at Michmash, therefore I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not asked the favor of the LORD.’ So I forced myself and offered the burnt offering.” Samuel scolded the king, “You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which He commanded you, for now the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not endure. The LORD has sought out for Himself a man after His own Heart, and the LORD has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you (1 Samuel 13:8-14).”
-Though the text does not say it, Saul had to have felt like dirt with a great sense of loss and depression with these stinging words of rebuke and prophesy. Samuel went back from Gilgal to Gibeah of Benjamin, and Saul numbered his men at 600, who were presently remained with him. Saul, his warrior son, Jonathan, and the people who were with him proceeded to Geba of Benjamin, where the initial victory over the garrison of Philistines had occurred. Again, the Philistines camped at Michmash. Philistine raiders came now in three companies turning toward: 1) Ophrah, to the land of Shual, 2) Beth-horon, and 3) the border which overlooks the valley of Zeboim toward the wilderness. There was another problem for Israel. Somehow the Philistines had taken control over all the blacksmithing work in the land and would not allow any Hebrews to work with iron. They feared that the Hebrews would make weapons of war, and had monopolized the industry to keep them subjugated in this area. All Israel had to go to Philistines if they needed fixing or sharpening of plowshares, axes, or hoes. They would be charged two-thirds a shekel for work done on plowshares, mattocks, forks, axes, and hoes. They were in a quandary, for they had neither sword or spear in the hands of any of the people who were with Saul and Jonathan. However, Saul and Jonathan did have some weapons. Now, as the chapter ends, the garrison of Philistines confidently went out to the pass of Michmash ready for battle (1 Samuel 13:15-23).
-*Application* What seemed like a virtually unimportant rash decision by the king, proved to be a monumental turn in the kingdom of Israel for perpetuity. God would have established Saul’s line, but out of fear of man and circumstances he regressed and disobeyed the commands of the LORD. The rising tension proved too much for the impetuous king. Patience is indeed a virtue. It is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. We are constantly instructed in Scripture to “wait” on the LORD (Genesis 49:18, Numbers 9:8, Psalm 25:3; 27:14; 37:7-9, Isaiah 49:23, Acts 1:4, 1 Corinthians 4:5, Galatians 5:22, James 5:7-10 to name just a few). Today, think about how we can rob ourselves of blessing, honor, and favor by being too aggressive when God simply wants us to wait, be patient, and let Him get His deserved glory in all things according to His schedule, not our own.
Verse to Memorize: 1 Samuel 13:14