Saul reigned one year; and when he had reigned two years over Israel,
1 Samuel 13:8-10
(with 1 Timothy 1:16)
King Saul had been expressly charged to await the coming of the prophet to offer an offering in Gilgal. It was a trial of fidelity and obedience. If Saul really believed that the direction was from God, and if he was really anxious to obey God, he would have waited. The seven days ran their course, and there was no sign of Samuel's approach. The king's resolution gave way. He offered the burnt offering, and scarcely had he done so when Samuel came.
I. Saul fell on this occasion through the operation of a principle which is natural to all of us—the principle of impatience.
How many errors, faults, and sins in our lives spring out of this source. We scarcely ever do a thing in a hurry without having afterwards to regret it. Impatience is always a waste of time; it almost always has to be made up for; sometimes, too often—and this is far worse—it cannot be made up for. Sometimes out of a little momentary act of haste springs a misunderstanding never to be cleared up, a quarrel never to be reconciled, an injustice never to be repaired.
II. Most of all is this working of the mind seen, as it was seen in King Saul, when there is not only a lurking imprudence, but also a lurking disobedience. Saul showed the strength of his impatience by letting it interfere with and overbear a plain command of God. In the hurry and eagerness, the impatience and the fretfulness, which too often drive us on, the sense of right is easily put aside and suppressed.
III. If Christ were like us in this prevailing habit of impatience, what would become of us? What a temptation there would be to close our day of grace, which, alas! for so many of us is rather a day of mischief! If He dealt with us as the very best of us deal with one another, there is not a man upon earth who would live to grow up. But the patience of Christ still calls us to repentance. Seeing Him as He is, we shall gradually become like Him, till at last the impatience of man is lost in the longsuffering of Christ.
C. J. Vaughan, Memorials of Harrow Sundays, p. 397.
1 Samuel 13:9Saul is an instance of a man whom God blessed and proved, whom He put on his trial, and who, like Adam, was found wanting. If he had waited one hour more before offering the sacrifice, he would have been saved this sin; in other words, he would have succeeded in his trial instead of failing. He was disobedient, and in consequence he forfeited God's favour. We are, like Saul, favoured by God's free grace; we are all tried in one way or another, and many of us fall like Saul.
I. How many are there who, in distress of any kind, in want of means or of necessaries, forget, like Saul, that their distress, whatever it is, comes from God; that God brings it on them, and that God will remove it in His own way if they trust in Him; but who, instead of waiting for His time, take their own bad way, and impatiently hasten the time, and thus bring on themselves judgment.
II. Again, how many are there who when in unpleasant situations are tempted to do what is wrong in order to get out of them, instead of patiently waiting God's time.
III. How many are there who, though their hearts are not right before God, yet have some sort of religiousness, and by it deceive themselves into the idea that they are religious. Saul in his way was a religious man, in his way, but not in God's way; he considered his very disobedience an act of religion. He offered sacrifice rather than go to battle without a sacrifice. Thus he deceived himself, and thus many men deceive themselves now, not casting off religion altogether, but choosing their religion for themselves and fancying they are religious without being obedient.
IV. How many are there who bear half the trial God puts upon them, but not the whole of it, who go on well for a time and then fall away. Saul bore on for seven days, and fainted not; on the eighth day his faith failed him. It is not enough to get through one temptation well; through our whole life we are on trial.
V. How many are there who, in a narrow, grudging, cold-hearted way, go by the letter of God's commandments, while they neglect the spirit. Saul fulfilled Samuel's directions literally and rigidly, but not in the spirit of love. With a word Samuel reproved and convicted, silenced, and sentenced him.
Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. v., p. 188 (see also J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. viii., p. 33.
Reference: 1 Samuel 13:13.—A. Blomfield, Sermons in Town and Country, p. 219.
1 Samuel 13:13-14I. The impression which Saul makes upon the average reader, at least at first, is beyond all question a favourable impression. He had many of those qualifications which always go to make a man popular. (1) His personal appearance was such as commands admiration from a large number of people in all generations. He was before all things a soldier. (2) To his personal appearance and martial habits Saul added undoubted courage and resolution. (3) He had higher qualities even than these, or he would never have been regarded with the affection he inspired first in Samuel and then in David. He was both modest and generous, and his reign was on the whole, and in the civil or political sense, a benefit to his country.
II. When we turn to the character of David, we find in it dark traits which the Bible makes no attempt to disguise. And yet, in contrast with Saul, he has on him from the first the notes of God's special approval. We must therefore ask, What was especially wanting in Saul? Saul gives no evidence of having upon and within him the permanent influence of religion, of having anything that we could call the fear and love of God in his heart. David, in spite of his grievous faults, had on his heart and conscience continually the impress of the majesty, the tenderness, the encompassing presence, of God. It is better to have our part with David than with Saul, with a loyalty to God that is not always consistent rather than with an outward propriety that is never really loyal.
H. P. Liddon, Family Churchman, July 21st, 1886 (see also Penny Pulpit, No. 1161).
References: 1 Samuel 13:13, 1 Samuel 13:14.—Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, 3rd series, p. 136; S. Wilberforce, Sermons before the University of Oxford, 1863, p. 63; Preacher's Monthly, vol. v., p. 352.
1 Samuel 13:14This expression clung to David, as "The Friend of God" became the title of Abraham. Yet no words have given rise to so many fierce invectives; none perhaps carry on their front more serious difficulties. We must remember in connection with this title and David's apparent unworthiness of it: (1) That it is plain by a reference to the context that the title "after God's own heart" was only comparative, not absolute. By the side of Saul, David was the man who attracted the favour of God. (2) The title was given him in his early days, before his life had become overcast with the cloud of sin and error. (3) David's repentance was far more deep than appears on the surface of the narrative. (4) It is most necessary to bear in mind, in considering the career of David, the severity of punishment which followed upon David's sin.
R. Winterbotham, Sermons and Expositions, p. 67 (see also Contemporary Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 364).
References: 1 Samuel 13:14.—R. D. B. Rawnsley, A Course of Sermons for the Christian Year, p. 300. 1 Samuel 13:19.—J. M. Neale, Sermons in Sackville College, vol. ii., p. 31. 1 Samuel 13:19, 1 Samuel 13:20.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. viii., p. 342. 1 Samuel 13:20.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 62.
1 Samuel 13:22The history of the relations of the Jews with their neighbours and their foes is typical of the existing relations of the Christian and the world. This history is therefore a personal matter to all of us. The wretched Hebrews had been disarmed by the Philistines, their most persistent foes. The very implements of husbandry had to be taken for repairs to the anvil of the enemy. It is impossible to imagine a more hopeless state of affairs: all the instruments of warfare on one side; all forethought, all prudence, all resolution, on one side. We see the triumphant scorn of the heathen, the sullen despair of the Israelite, and we reflect with wonder that to this state God's people had fallen.
I. We may expect that Satan will strive to disarm us. We may also expect that in some cases he will succeed. With this history before our eyes, it need not surprise us if Christians sharpen their ploughshares at Satan's workshops. It need not surprise us if the maxims of business, if the rules of prudence, if the conventionalities of society, are not much influenced by the rule of life laid down by Christ, but are dictated by a selfish, exclusive spirit.
II. This state of the Hebrews is easily accounted for. They had been idolatrous, depraved, and torn by civil strife. They were also wrapped up in money-making. They were busy in everything but the chief concern of life. We see here revealed the extent and the nature of the power of sin. Sin may be so persisted in as to render recovery hopeless. Satan disarms us, and there is neither sword nor spear in our hand.
III. With every one of us the process of arming or disarming is daily going on. Christ is above, but He sees us here below, and will buckle His own armour upon us. He will give us the armour with which He foiled the tempter, the armour with which He withstood and defeated every temptation that can befall His people.
F. Case, Short Practical Sermons, p. 62.
Reference: 1Sam 13, 1Sam 14—Parker. vol. vi., p. 323.
Saul chose him three thousand men of Israel; whereof two thousand were with Saul in Michmash and in mount Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin: and the rest of the people he sent every man to his tent.
And Jonathan smote the garrison of the Philistines that was in Geba, and the Philistines heard of it. And Saul blew the trumpet throughout all the land, saying, Let the Hebrews hear.
And all Israel heard say that Saul had smitten a garrison of the Philistines, and that Israel also was had in abomination with the Philistines. And the people were called together after Saul to Gilgal.
And the Philistines gathered themselves together to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots, and six thousand horsemen, and people as the sand which is on the sea shore in multitude: and they came up, and pitched in Michmash, eastward from Bethaven.
When the men of Israel saw that they were in a strait, (for the people were distressed,) then the people did hide themselves in caves, and in thickets, and in rocks, and in high places, and in pits.
And some of the Hebrews went over Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. As for Saul, he was yet in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling.
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.
And Saul said, Bring hither a burnt offering to me, and peace offerings. And he offered the burnt offering.
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.
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;
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.
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.
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.
And Samuel arose, and gat him up from Gilgal unto Gibeah of Benjamin. And Saul numbered the people that were present with him, about six hundred men.
And Saul, and Jonathan his son, and the people that were present with them, abode in Gibeah of Benjamin: but the Philistines encamped in Michmash.
And the spoilers came out of the camp of the Philistines in three companies: one company turned unto the way that leadeth to Ophrah, unto the land of Shual:
And another company turned the way to Bethhoron: and another company turned to the way of the border that looketh to the valley of Zeboim toward the wilderness.
Now there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel: for the Philistines said, Lest the Hebrews make them swords or spears:
But all the Israelites went down to the Philistines, to sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and his axe, and his mattock.
Yet they had a file for the mattocks, and for the coulters, and for the forks, and for the axes, and to sharpen the goads.
So it came to pass in the day of battle, that there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people that were with Saul and Jonathan: but with Saul and with Jonathan his son was there found.
And the garrison of the Philistines went out to the passage of Michmash.