This is the first of a series of messages called “History Lessons” where we will seek to learn some lessons from the lives of some of the kings of Israel/Judah. You might be tempted to think that those kings lived too long ago to be able to learn anything relevant to 2015, but don’t give in to it! There are profound lessons to be learned that have the capacity to change your modern life for the better! This particular week examines some of the life of King Saul, the very first king of Israel. His lesson has to do with the power of obedience
It’s so important to understand history! Those who don’t remember their history are condemned to repeat it. One of the important factors in living a relatively trouble free life is to understand and follow lessons learned from the past.
Sometimes it’s the little things and sometimes it’s the larger things.
When I was younger, I noticed something about my Dad. One of my Dad’s fingers was shorter than the others, cut off actually. I remember asking him about it and he told me the story. When he was a little guy his dad, my grandfather, was cutting the grass. Somehow the mower was left unattended and my Dad, curious as little guys can be, made contact with the blade and off came the end of his finger. Guess what I think about every time I work around our mower. I am very careful to not risk a spinning blade and any part of me, because I learned from history.
Here’s the main point God wants us to take home:
Finding the will of God and living it out, for love of Him, is the very best life you can live.
King Saul presents us with some great history lessons. He was the first human king of the nation of Israel. He is one who teaches us what not to do, so don’t follow his example. Instead learn from his failures. Saul’s mentioned in 32 chapters of the book of 1 Samuel.
1 Samuel 9:1-3
“There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish the son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Bechorath, the son of Aphiah, a Benjamite, a mighty man of power. And he had a choice and handsome son whose name was Saul. There was not a more handsome person than he among the children of Israel. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people. Now the donkeys of Kish, Saul’s father, were lost. And Kish said to his son Saul, ‘Please take one of the servants with you, and arise, go and look for the donkeys.’ ”
Saul is the son of a rancher and a good looking young man at that. He and a servant are going out to look for some lost donkeys, but he didn’t know God had other plans for him.
Samuel, the prophet, heard from God, who told him that Saul was coming and that he was the guy chosen to become the first king of Israel. After meeting each other, at an appropriate moment, Samuel anoints Saul as the king.
I Samuel 10:1, 6-8
“Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head, and kissed him and said: ‘Is it not because the Lord has anointed you commander over His inheritance?’ Then the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man. And let it be, when these signs come to you, that you do as the occasion demands; for God is with you. You shall go down before me to Gilgal; and surely I will come down to you to offer burnt offerings and make sacrifices of peace offerings. Seven days you shall wait, till I come to you and show you what you should do.”
It was an unexpected calling! It came at an unexpected time, a “high” time, in the feast celebration. Samuel had heard from God about Saul before Saul came, and it was plain that Saul was God’s choice and therefore Samuel’s guy.
But Saul lacked something. He was lacking in character. What you have in impressive gifts and in remarkable moves of the Holy Spirit in anointing won’t offset a lack of character, ever.
Saul apparently didn’t think much of this anointing or its effect on his life, or of the One who called Him. Here’s the scene when the 7 days were up and the whole country came for his inauguration…
1 Samuel 10:20-24
“And when Samuel had caused all the tribes of Israel to come near, the tribe of Benjamin was chosen. When he had caused the tribe of Benjamin to come near by their families, the family of Matri was chosen. And Saul the son of Kish was chosen. But when they sought him, he could not be found. Therefore they inquired of the Lord further, “Has the man come here yet?” And the Lord answered, “There he is, hidden among the equipment.” So they ran and brought him from there; and when he stood among the people, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward. And Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see him whom the Lord has chosen, that there is no one like him among all the people?” So all the people shouted and said, “Long live the king!” ”
There was no voting, except by God through the casting of lots. It was one way He confirmed His will. So when they worked their way through the entire nation, whittling the choice down like March Madness brackets, they ended up with Saul. But what was Saul’s reaction? He hid, in the supplies and God had to tell them where he was.
The lack of character in Saul had to do with His lack of faith in God and a resulting disobedience to God’s clear call and commands.
We could stop right here and learn a lot. How many of us do exactly what Saul did here? We know what God has for us through prophecy, gifting assessments, and from the encouragement of those around us. The equipment is the necessary structure of life. The daily routine – work, home, travel, sleep, do it again.
Thankfully God is patient, especially when it’s all new to you!
So Saul goes back to the farm, but one day he heard that there were enemies preparing to attack a city of Israel.
1 Samuel 11:4-6
“So the messengers came to Gibeah of Saul and told the news in the hearing of the people. And all the people lifted up their voices and wept. Now there was Saul, coming behind the herd from the field; and Saul said, “What troubles the people, that they weep?” And they told him the words of the men of Jabesh. Then the Spirit of God came upon Saul when he heard this news, and his anger was greatly aroused.”
Israel ends up completely destroying the enemies and everything looks good for a while.
1 Samuel 11:12-15
“Then the people said to Samuel, “Who is he who said, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Bring the men, that we may put them to death.” But Saul said, “Not a man shall be put to death this day, for today the Lord has accomplished salvation in Israel.” Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and renew the kingdom there.” So all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before the Lord in Gilgal. There they made sacrifices of peace offerings before the Lord, and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly.”
It confirms our key principle: Finding the will of God and living it out, for love of Him, is the very best life you can live.
Now the next chapter begins. The Philistines come along. They already occupied parts of Israel with garrisons and they prevented the Israelites from making weapons to defend themselves. They were definitely enemies.
The Philistines were the Klingons of ancient Israel.
They were gathering to attack the nation, with more weapons, technology and people than Israel could win against. Everybody went into hiding. Saul was instructed by Samuel the prophet to wait for him to come to where Saul was hanging out with 600 men so that Samuel, the only one qualified to offer a sacrifice to God and lead the appeal to God for help.
1 Samuel 13:8-13
Then he waited seven days, according to the time set by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him. So Saul said, “Bring a burnt offering and peace offerings here to me.” And he offered the burnt offering. Now it happened, as soon as he had finished presenting the burnt offering, that Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might greet him. And Samuel said, “What have you done? And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done 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.”
You won’t be the beginning of a long line of kings, Saul. It’s going to end with you. Not because you weren’t called. Not because you aren’t good looking or smart, but because of your lack of character which comes from your lack of love for God and disobedience to His will.
God gave Saul an assignment in chapter 15, to go and attack the Amalekites and wipe them out; they, their livestock, everything. God had His reasons. But what did Saul do? He kept the king of the Amalekites alive and kept the best livestock alive. So Saul is told by Samuel that someone would take his place as king. We find out later that it’s David. Saul spends the rest of the book trying to kill David and ends up dead on the battlefield, a broken man.
So we all have some choices. Again, here’s the history lesson: Finding the will of God and living it out, for love of Him, is the very best life you can live.
And its corollary: What you have in impressive gifts and in remarkable moves of the Holy Spirit in prophecy and anointing won’t offset a lack of character, ever.
Have you ever disobeyed God? There is this gift from God that Saul never considers. It’s called repentance. What do you do when you find you have disobeyed God? Fold up your life and give up? No. You humble yourself and ask His forgiveness through Christ. You repent. You turn your life, with His help, back to the will of God. Then through the Cross, God restores you.
Can you live out the will of God? Yes, with His help. The real question is do you love and trust Him?
Do you know that God wants you to do? Learn from history! Out of love and trust in Him, go and do it. Don’t be like Saul. Focus your life on doing the Will of God. It’s the best life you can live.