As I read these four chapters my attention kept coming to King Saul’s disposition as a man and a leader of God’s people. First, Saul did not understand the limits of his authority. This is evident when he chooses to sacrifice offerings to the LORD which is only the duty of Samuel the prophet (13:9-14). God calls Saul “foolish” because he did not heed the commandment given (13:13) but took matters into his own hands. He, unlike David, was not a man after God’s own heart—one whose disposition is to love and live according to God’s inscripturated self-disclosure (13:14).
Second, Saul put confidence in people rather than in God. The king here has a lapse of faith and disobedience results (13:11-12). Unlike Jonathan his son, who understood that victory in battle did not come from people or the performance of religious duties, but it came from the LORD (14:6-23), Saul did not get this. In fact, it was Saul’s fear of people rather than fear of God that proved to be his snare. To lead as God demands will usually result in angering the crowds / creatures, not the Creator.
Third, Saul was rash in making decisions. Rash oaths are impulsive decisions made on the spot that increase the burden of leading and a tendency we should guard against. Saul’s rashness to speak and to act clouded his judgement and often proved detrimental to Israel (14:24-52). Again, disobedience to God’s word is the downfall of any leader (15:1-29) and Saul’s story is a sad example of said negligence. Obedience that pleases God is never partial, but absolute (15:20-21).
Who can be totally obedient? For even David, the man after God’s own heart had horrible lapses of faith! David’s son, Jesus of Nazareth perfectly obeyed. As such, he is not only the true reigning king, but our assurance of acceptance before a holy God. That is, because of his obedience, I’m to walk as he did who gave the Spirit to comfort and guide me in His ways.
Fourth, Saul did not delight in obeying God. The text says, “…to obey is better than sacrifice…” (15:22) and is a loaded truth claim. Essentially it’s telling God’s people that ritual apart from adherence to His revelation of how He’s to be worshipped and what is to be done, is greater than “mere” acts of religious actions. Here again, God is exalting and showing the primacy of His word compared to “all other things”. It’s God’s word that created everything, sustains everything and that gives His people light in their darkness—especially to his leaders.
May God’s word ever be our delight which always leads us to You LORD of heaven and earth, the source of all that is.