Waiting For The Word
1 Samuel 13:8-14 (8) And he tarried seven days, according to the set time that Samuel had appointed: but Samuel came not to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him. (9) And Saul said, Bring hither a burnt offering to me, and peace offerings. And he offered the burnt offering. (10) And it came to pass, that as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might salute him. (11) And Samuel said, What hast thou done? And Saul said, Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash; (12) Therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the LORD: I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering. (13) And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever. (14) But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee. For this meditation, it will be helpful to remember that Saul had been made Israel's first king as a judgment from an angry God (HOS 13:11). Israel wanted a king like other nations had when God was already their King Who was well able to protect and provide for them (1SAM 8:4-9) and it was a dark day (literally so, 1SAM 12:17-18) when that O.T. church (as Israel is called, ACT 7:38) decided to rely on civil power rather than God. It remains a dark day when N.T. churches do likewise, incorporating for perceived benefits from the state, not considering that they thus cede to the state jurisdiction over the church's actions, property and even doctrine (for the state will have a legal right to forbid doctrine which contradicts its laws and values). In times of challenge from the state, it may be said of many churches as it was said of Paul, they might have been set at liberty had they not appealed to Caesar (ACT 26:32). Believers do well to render only to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's (MAT 22:21). King Saul showed his colors early; he had only reigned two years (1SAM 13:1) by the time of the events of today's text. Among his faults, Saul was impatient. Samuel had on a previous occasion told Saul to wait seven days at Gilgal until he came with word as to what to do (1SAM 10:8) and that pattern was repeated here (1SAM 13:8). But it seemed to Saul as if he were not coming at all. So Saul forced himself therefore, and offered a burnt offering (1SAM 13:12). “The circumstances were special, expediency must overrule principle and surely the ends must justify the means,” he reasoned. But sacrifice was a priestly function and Saul was no priest. The offices of priest and king were only to be combined in one man, Messiah, Who would be “...a priest upon his throne...” (ZEC 6:12-13), a priest-king after the order of Melchisedec (HEB 6:20 – HEB 7:1). Nothing less than a perfect, holy, harmless man (HEB 7:26) dare ever have both ecclesiastical and civil power, and history is replete with the awful consequences of fallible sinners assuming to have them both. Again, let Caesar have his domain, but never give him God's. Let Caesar regulate man's outward relations to his fellow man but not man's conscience towards God. God only gave the priesthood to Aaron's house and threatened impostors (NUM 18:6-7; HEB 5:4). God's ordinances are to be kept as delivered (1CO 11:2 c/w DEU 12:32), specific offices to whom delivered, and though departures from divine order might get results, the results are the offspring of sin and tainted with trouble. Moses struck a rock when he should have spoken to it, and needed water came forth (NUM 20:7-11). He got results! But for this, Moses was barred from the promised land (NUM 20:12). How many Christians, how many churches justify unbiblical practices on the basis of results, and consider not this solemn lesson. Such things are written to warn us and teach us (1CO 10:11-12; ROM 15:4). Saul had here exalted religious ritual over duty (a very common, durable folly), an unacceptable inversion repeated again two chapters later and for which came another stinging rebuke: “...Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams" (1SAM 15:22). Religious ceremony, ritual, pomp or pageant are fetid substitutes for obedience. They are then nothing but a form of godliness (2TI 3:5), they are not godliness. Tithes of mint, anise or cummin (outward performances of religion) will never on God's balance scale outweigh judgment, mercy and faith (MAT 23:23). Saul was not unlike the prophesied scoffers in the last days who mock the promised coming of Christ, the Word (2PE 3:3-4) and proceed with their own theory or agenda as if His just can't get the job done. Mark it well: in the last days there shall be many impatient waiters like Saul who are heady (2TI 3:1-4), i.e., headstrong and hurried on with passion, abandoning Biblical truth and faith for expediency's sake, perhaps even wedding humanistic evolutionary folly with Christianity to take away the reproach of the gospel and make it more palatable to a wise and scientific world (see 1CO 1:21; ROM 1:22; 1TI 6:20) so that many more can be “saved.” Some even seem to think that the return of Christ has been prolonged by too much intolerance of unbiblical values and so water down Christianity to make it more tolerant, which is to say, make it more worldly. But it is an evil servant that says in his heart, “...My Lord delayeth his coming...” and then proceeds to be like the world (MAT 24:48-51). It is easy to read of Saul's mistake and find fault. We can similarly read in GEN 16:1-4 of Abraham and Sarah's impatience for the “coming” of the Lord and His word (for so His gracious visitation upon Sarah is described in ROM 9:9) and find fault. We marvel at the shallowness of Israel's faith as they tired of waiting for Moses to come with the word at Mt. Sinai (EXO 32:1-6). But how oft have we grown tired of God's timetable and, like Abraham, hatched an Ishmael, a seemingly bright idea or decision which was a substitute for God's order and which we later regretted? How many times have we, like Israel, grown weary of waiting for our Leader, His help or His answer and so given ourselves over to the indulgence of the flesh? How commonly have saints abandoned faith in the written word because an answer to a perceived textual problem was slow in coming but it would have eventually been resolved with faithful prayer (JAM 1:5-6), study (2TI 2:15) and progressive light (PRO 4:18)? May we be as critical of our own fretting against God's timetable as we are of Saul, Abraham or Israel. Believers must be patient in awaiting the Lord, for blessing accrues to those who are “...not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (HEB 6:12). As long as this world exists, patience will not be unfashionable: “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord...stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh” (JAM 5:7-8). We are to “...run with patience the race that is set before us,” (HEB 12:1), not race to run ahead of the Word Who is set before us in Scripture. Though the situation seem desperate and the Lord seem tardy, wait on Him, wait for Him, faithfully seeking him “...after the due order” (1CH 15:13), sticking to the commandments and promises of Christ. In the fulness of time “...he that shall come will come, and will not tarry” (HEB 10:37). The Word is always right on schedule. Let us adjust our lives' clocks accordingly. Syncing with Him is better than sinking without Him (MAT 7:26-27).