By Allen White
Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear. He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul's men began to scatter. So he said, "Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings. " And Saul offered up the burnt offering. Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him.
"What have you done?" asked Samuel.
Saul replied, "When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Micmash, I thought, 'Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the LORD's favor.' So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering."
"You acted foolishly," Samuel said. "You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the LORD's command." 1 Samuel 13:7-14 (NIV)
As a boy, I enjoyed building model cars. I even had a model of the lunar module with the lunar rover. (Readers born after about 1979 have no idea what that is. It’s not the space shuttle). I enjoyed working on the models, but I wasn’t very good at it.
Assembling models required more patience than was available to me at the time. I always wanted to finish the work in one sitting. As I charged through the steps, I soon found that pieces basically “melted” due to the over application of model glue. I ended up with a headache by the end of it. The car was a mess, and the model glue didn’t have a warning label back then.
Now, I could be spiritual and say that I was “compelled” to finish the entire model car right then and there. I would sound dignified and justified like Saul did in this passage. Saul ended up with a headache all his own.
Saul’s compulsion was driven by fear. Morale among his troops was at an all time low. The enemy was preparing for battle. Samuel was, well, tardy. Saul was compelled to break the rules and approach God on his own terms.
Samuel congratulates Saul’s efforts with a harsh word: foolish. It was foolish to presume that God wouldn’t act in due time. It was foolish to take matters into his own hands. It was foolish to assume that the offering of incense was more significant than his obedience. The whole thing just melted into a big mess.
When are we tempted to approach God on our own terms? Whether we feel that we’ve performed well as a Christian and deserve for God to act or whether we’ve entered into bargaining with God, these approaches fall into the same category as Saul and his incense.
Now, don’t get me wrong. You and I should never feel inhibited to boldly approach God. We live in a much different time than Saul. But, how are we approaching God? Are we coming with demands or asking for directions? Much of our frustration is over our unmet expectations. The closer that we can align our expectations with God’s will, the less frustrated we will become.
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