And Saul waited seven days for the time appointed by Samuel, but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the troops began to desert Saul.
1 Samuel 13:8-15. (GILGAL.)Genesis 2:17), but they involve important principles, and the manner in which they are endured is followed by serious consequences. The position of Saul necessitated a trial of his fidelity to the fundamental principle of the theocratic kingdom, viz., unconditional obedience on the part of the king to the will of God as declared by his prophets. He was directed
(1) to wait for Samuel seven days, and
(2) to attempt nothing till he came (1 Samuel 10:8). He omitted the former and did the latter, and thus took his first wrong step - a step never retraced, and leading to a course which ended on the fatal field of Gilboa. Observe -
I. ITS APPARENT EXPEDIENCY. His conscience told him that it was not right, as he virtually acknowledged in the defence he offered for his conduct (vers. 11, 12). Yet he persuaded himself (as others are accustomed to do) that it was venial, expedient, and even necessary, because of -
1. The pressure of worldly circumstances. "Because I saw that the people were scattered from me," etc. Resources diminish, and danger is imminent. When they are considered in themselves alone, anxiety and fear increase, and temptation becomes strong to make use of any means of relief that may be presented. How often are men tempted by the plea of necessity to disobey the voice of conscience! The tempter says, "It is better to steal than starve, better to sin than perish."
2. The disappointment of religious expectations. "And that thou camest not at the appointed time." "Help has been long waited for, but it comes not; nor is it likely, now that the seventh day is drawing to a close, that it will come at all. The promise has not been fulfilled. The time for action has arrived, and the long delay indicates that the most expedient course must be taken. Nothing else remains. If there be any blame, it cannot be attributed to one who has waited so long, has been left in such extremity, and acts for the best."
3. The efficacy of ceremonial observances. "And I forced myself, and offered a burnt offering." Inasmuch as such an offering was required on entering upon his enterprise against the Philistines, he could not hope to succeed without it, and he had at all times great regard for the external ceremonies enjoined by the law (1 Samuel 14:33, 35). A doubtful or wrong act is often supposed to be blameless when performed in connection with sacred rites, or with a righteous end in view (John 16:2); and disobedience is sometimes clothed in a religious guise, its real nature being thereby obscured to the view of conscience, and its commission rendered easy.
4. The prospect of immediate advantages. Apparent and immediate good is the first and last and most powerful incentive to departure from the path of duty. "The tree was good for food, and pleasant to the eyes," etc. (Genesis 3:6). "And the history of Adam is as ancient as the world, but is fresh in practice, and is still revived in the sons of Adam."
II. ITS REAL CULPABILITY. "What hast thou done?" said Samuel, speaking' as with the voice of God, and seeking to arouse his conscience and lead him to repentance. He had been guilty of -
1. Disobedience to a plain commandment. "Thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God" (ver. 13). The fact could not be denied. He had not waited all the appointed time, and he had acted without Divine direction. He had rejected the supreme authority of the Divine King, and no excuse that might be made could do away with his guilt. "Sin is not estimated by God according to its outward form, but according to the amount and extent of the principle of evil embodied in that form."
2. Distrust of promised help. Men sometimes wait long for the fulfilment of Divine promises, but not long enough; and their lack of perseverance shows weakness or absence of faith. The force of adverse circumstances is exaggerated by being exclusively dwelt upon; doubt of the power of God prevails through disregard of preservation from harm hitherto afforded; and as faith unites the soul to God, so unbelief severs it from him, leaves it a prey to disquiet and impatience, and leads it to adopt worldly and godless expedients. Unbelief was the root of the transgression of Saul, as it is of the transgression of men generally.
3. Formality in religious service. A burnt offering was a symbol and expression of consecration, and when offered aright, in a spirit of obedience, it honoured God and obtained his blessing; but when wrongly offered it was worthless, dishonoured him, and was abomination in his sight (1 Samuel 15:22; Proverbs 21:27; Isaiah 1:13). It is the same with other outward forms of service. "Saul is a specimen of that class of persons who show a certain reverence and zeal for the outward forms of religion, and even a superstitious reliance on them, but are not careful to cherish the inner spirit of vital religion" (Wordsworth's 'Com.').
4. Self-will, pride, and presumption. In disobeying the will of God he set up his own will as supreme, and was guilty of pride, "by which sin fell the angels." It is not said that he offered sacrifice with his own hand, and he may have simply directed it to be done by the priest who was with him (1 Samuel 14:18); nor is it certain that if he had done so he would have gone beyond the privilege and prerogative possessed by other kings. His sin did not consist of intrusion into the priestly office. It was nevertheless very great. "He had cast away his obedience to God. The crown he thought was his own. From that moment he fell; for all our good qualities retain their ascendancy over our evil passions by the presence and power of God claiming them as his." "Samuel, according to modern expositors of the story, was angry because he felt that he was losing his own influence over the mind of the king. No; he was angry because the king was so much the slave of his influence, or of any influence that was exerted over him for a moment; because he was losing the sense of responsibility to One higher than a prophet, to One who had appointed him to rule not in his own name, but as the minister and executor of the Divine righteousness" (Maurice).
III. ITS EXCEEDING FOLLY. "Thou hast done foolishly" (ver. 13). The folly of the sinner appears in his -
1. Being deceived by the appearances of things - the magnitude of danger, the false promises of advantage, the specious arguments of expediency. He is like the foolish man who built his house upon the sand, instead of "digging deep and laying the foundation on a rock" (Luke 6:48). He is infatuated, fascinated, and under a glamour cast over his mind by his own evil desires and the spell of the tempter.
2. Making light of the enormous evil of sin. It is the only real evil. But he is thoughtless, ignorant, and foolish enough to account it a trivial thing, which may be easily excused and passed by. As he who says in his heart "No God" is called a "fool," so he who deems it a little matter to offend him is appropriately designated by the same name. "Fools make a mock at sin" (Proverbs 14:9); and he who makes light of sin makes light of God.
3. Leaving the only path of safety and honour. "For now" (if thou hadst obeyed his commandment) "the Lord would have established thy sovereignty over Israel forever."
4. Entering on a course of certain loss and misery.
(1) Inward - weakened moral power, increased tendency to sin, unsteadiness, rashness, etc. What a man does once he is almost certain under similar circumstances to do again. Saul's subsequent course was a continuation and complete development of the same kind of transgression as he now committed. He was already so blinded by sin as not to repent.
(2) Outward. "But now thy sovereignty shall not continue," etc. (ver. 14). The sentence "embodied the principle that no monarchy could be enduring in Israel which did not own the supreme authority of God," and it declared that Saul's crown would not be transmitted to his descendants; but not until afterwards was he personally rejected from being king (1 Samuel 15:23). Having failed to endure the trial to which he was subjected, he was left by Samuel (ver. 15), and nothing is further recorded of his intercourse with the prophet for some years. "He had not even accomplished the object of his unseasonable sacrifice, viz., to prevent the dispersion of the people" (Keil). O that he had waited a little longer! "Saul lost his kingdom for want of two or three hours' patience."
1. Beware of the first wrong step. "It is always marked by a peculiarity of evil which does not attach to any subsequent offences". (Miller). Principiis obsta.
2. If you have taken such a step, instantly repent of it. "It is not sinning, that ruins men, but sinning and not repenting, falling and not getting up again." - D.
And he tarried seven days, according to the set time that Samuel had appointed.1 Timothy 1:16): — The figure of Samuel is scarcely ever presented to us alone. In childhood it is ever set in contrast with the wicked practices of those sons of Eli. Those young men defiled with sin the sanctuary of God: that child adhered to duty in the very presence of their ill example. In manhood and old age, the prophet is ever confronted with the king; the messenger sent to select, to anoint, to counsel, at last to warn and to reprove, to judge and to condemn, with the unhappy object of all these ministrations; whose advancement seemed in the fore view so full of honour and of happiness, but was made by his ungoverned temper and perverse self-will so ruinous to his own peace and to his people's welfare. The king 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 wait. If he allowed any other considerations to come in, considerations of self-interest, of expediency, of what was reasonable or probable apart from the command, then, tried as he was to be, he would certainly anticipate the ceremony, and not wait. The seven days ran their course, and there was no sign of Samuel's approach. Meanwhile the people were discouraged. Accordingly the king's resolution gave way. There was some excuse, considerable temptation, no slight admixture of better motives, some superstition, some religion, some sense of the necessity of God's help, much neglect of God's directions as to the proper way of securing it. Saul's fell on this occasion through the operation of a principle (if so it can be called) 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 (as we express it) in a hurry, without having afterwards to regret it. Nothing so done is likely to be well done. A thing may be done quickly, and well done, but not hurriedly, not in impatience. How many things have to be done twice over, because they were not done once quietly! 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. It is thus that impatience shows itself in the little daily acts of life: but it has a still more serious influence upon life's greater changes. Every condition of life has its less pleasant side: those who think they have a right to a portion wholly agreeable fret under these alloys of enjoyment, and can sea almost nothing else in the lot assigned to them. Every rank and every age is liable to this feeling. A servant has become dissatisfied with his present position, and in the hurry of his impatience he suddenly resolves to make a change: how often, how often, for the worse! He has changed perhaps a kind master for one cold and considerate, a Christian home for a worldly, a safe place for one full of temptation, and in point of comfort, meanwhile, he has gained nothing. He would fain have returned, but the door is closed, and even if he could, pride would not let him. And how often has a man of mature age erred, and marred his life, through the very same impatience! Keenly alive to the trials of his present position he has greedily seized some opening for change. Bitterly may he one day regret that unthankful spirit of human impatience, which doubled the aggravations of the then known and present, and blinded him to the certain dangers of the then untried and future. But most of all is the working of this mind seen, as it was seen in King Saul, when there is not only a lurking imprudence but also a lurking disobedience. It was not merely that Saul was too much in a hurry, and did that precipitately which he might have done quietly: he showed the strength of his impatience by letting it interfere with and overbear a plain command of God. And how often now is the same sin committed! A man impatient of what is, is in no safe state for choosing what shall be. To say nothing of things positively forbidden, choices which can only be made by absolute sin, there are many things wrong for the individual though not wrong for another, and of which God, in the manifold workings of conscience and of His Spirit, leaves us not in ignorance or forgetfulness. But, like all God's admonitions, these may be overborne, and often are so. There is yet, perhaps, a just application of the history before us to the subject of human impatience in matters more entirely and purely spiritual. There is a strong yearning in the heart of man for the realisation of God. We long, and it is right to do so, for something more than a mere book knowledge or a mere head knowledge of Christ and of His salvation. We would believe, not because of the saying of another, but because we have seen Him for ourselves, and know that He is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world. But, O how many, in the sickness of a hope deferred, have at last discarded it; in the impatience of nature, they have said at last. The happiness, the blessedness, of a realised conviction is not for me: they have either ceased to look for it, and gone back into the world of sense and sin, or they have accepted some lie in its place; have put their trust in forms or in shadows, in things external and ceremonial. Thus, in one way or another, after waiting their seven days almost but not quite to a termination, they have despaired of the promised advent of comfort and illumination; they have seized some offering of their own, and offered it instead of that which God hath provided; they have satisfied conscience and stifled the Spirit. Human impatience has forced itself into things spiritual, and destroyed for the soul itself God's best and highest gift. I have reserved the last few words of my sermon for that beautiful and touching thought which should correct as well as contrast with the impatience of man, the thought, I mean, of the long suffering of Christ. St. Paul gives this as the object with which he, once a blasphemer and a persecutor, he the chief of sinners, had obtained mercy, that in him first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering for a pattern to those who should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting. If Jesus Christ were impatient like us, where should we be at this time — where, and what? His ways are not as our ways: if He dealt with us at all as the very best deal with one another, there is not a man upon earth who would live to grow up: one and twenty years of such provocation would be absolutely impossible. But to all things there is an end. A day of grace implies a morning, a mid-day, and an evening; implies too a deep dead midnight when all work has stood still, when all prayer is silent. Let patience have her perfect work, the patience of Christ which so long calls you to repentance.
(C. J. Vaughan, D. D.)
Plain Sermons by Contributors to the, Tracts for the Times.We are all on our trial. Every one who lives is on his trial, whether he will serve God or not. Saul is an instance of a man whom God blessed and proved, as Adam before him, whom He put on his trial, and who, like Adam, was found wanting. Before Saul went to battle, it was necessary to offer a burnt sacrifice to the Lord, and to beg of Him a blessing on the arms of Israel. He could have no hope of victory, unless this act of religious worship was performed. Now priests only and prophets were God's ministers, and they alone could offer sacrifice. Kings could not, unless they were specially commanded to do so by Almighty God. Saul bad no leave to offer sacrifice; yet a sacrifice must be offered before he could fight; what must he do? He must wait for Samuel, who had said that be would come to him for that purpose. What a great trial this must have been! Here was a king who had been made king for the express purpose of destroying the Philistines; he is in the presence of his powerful enemy; he is anxious to fulfil his commission; he fears to fail; his reputation is at stake; he has at best a most difficult task, as his soldiers are very bad ones, and are all afraid of the enemy. His only chance, humanly speaking, is to strike a blow; if he delays, he can expect nothing but total defeat. Yet he is told to wait seven days; seven long days must he wait; he does wait them; and to his great mortification and despair, his soldiers begin to desert. Yet does be govern his feelings so far, as to wait all through the seven days. So far he acquits himself well in the trial; he was told simply to wait seven days, and in spite of the risk, he does wait. Though he sees his army crumbling away, and the enemy ready to attack him, he obeys God; he obeys His prophet; he does nothing; he looks out for Samuel's coming. But now, when his trial seemed over, behold a second trial — Samuel comes not. The prophet of God said he would come; the prophet of God does not come as he said. Why Samuel did not come, we are not informed; except that we see it was God's will to try Saul still further. O that he had continued in his faith! but his faith gave way, when his trial was prolonged. When Samuel did not come, there was no one of course to offer sacrifice; what was to be done? Saul ought to have waited still longer, till Samuel did come. He had had faith in God hitherto, he should have had faith still. He who had kept him so safely for seven days, why should He not also on the eighth? however, he did not feel this, and so he took a very rash and fatal step. That step was as follows: since Samuel had not come, he determined to offer the burnt sacrifice instead of him; he determined to do what he could not do without a great sin; viz, intrude into a sacred office to which he was not called; nay, to do what he really could not do at all; for he might call it a sacrifice, but it would not be really such, unless a priest or prophet offered it. This is a crime often denounced in Scripture, as in the case of Korah, and Jeroboam, and Uzziah. Korah was swallowed up by the earth on account of it; Jeroboam had his hand withered, and was punished in his family; and Uzziah was smitten with leprosy. Yet this was Saul's sin. You see, if he had waited but one hour more, he would have been saved this sin; in other words, he would have succeeded in his trial instead of failing. But he failed, and the consequence was, he lost God's favour, and forfeited his kingdom. How much is there in this melancholy history which applies to us at this day, though it happened some thousand years ago! We are, like Saul, favoured by God's free grace; and in consequence we are put on our trial like Saul — we are all tried in one way or another; and now consider how many there are who fall like Saul.
1. How many are there who, when 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 way, their own bad ways, and impatiently hasten the time, and thus bring on themselves judgment! Sometimes, telling an untruth will bring them out of their difficulties, and they are tempted to do so. They make light of the sin; they say they cannot help themselves, that they are forced to it, as Saul said to Samuel; they make excuses to quiet their conscience; and instead of bearing the trial well, enduring their poverty, or whatever the trouble may be, they do not shrink from a deliberate lie, which God hears.
2. 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! What is this but to act like Saul? he had very little peace or quiet all the time he remained in presence of the enemy, with his own people falling away from him; and he, too, took an unlawful means to get out of his difficulty.
3. Again, 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 an idea that, they are religious! Observe, Saul in his way was a religious man; I say, in his way, but not in God's way; yet his very disobedience he might consider an act of religion, He offered sacrifice rather than go to battle without a sacrifice. An openly irreligious man would have drawn up his army and fallen upon the Philistines without any religious service at all. Saul did not do this; he desired to have God's blessing upon him; and, while he felt that blessing to be necessary, he did not feel that the only way of gaining it was seeking it in the way which God had appointed. Thus he deceived himself; and thus many men deceive themselves now; not casting off religion altogether, but choosing their religion for themselves, as Saul did, and fancying they can be religious without being obedient.
4. Again, how many are there, who bear half the trial God puts on 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. O, may we persevere to the end! Many fall away. Let us watch and pray.
5. Once more, how many are there, who, in a narrow, grudging coldhearted way, go by the letter of God's commandments, while they neglect the spirit. Instead of considering what Christ wishes them to do, they take His words one by one, and will only accept them in their bare necessary meaning. They are wanting in love. Saul was told to wait seven days — he did wait seven days; and then he thought he might do what he chose. He, in effect, said to Samuel, "I have done just what you told me." And, in like manner, persona now-a-days, imitating him, too often say, when taxed with any offence, "Why is it wrong? Where is it so said in Scripture? Show us the text:" all which only shows that they obey carnally, in the letter and not in the spirit. How will all excuses, which sinners now make to blind and deaden their consciences, fail them in the Last Day! Saul had his excuses for disobedience. He did not confess be was wrong, but be argued; but Samuel with a word reproved, and convicted, and silenced, and sentenced him. And so in the Day of Judgment all our actions will be tried as by fire.
(Plain Sermons by Contributors to the "Tracts for the Times.)
I. THE NATURE OF THE SIN ITSELF DEMANDS EXPLANATION. We find Samuel saying to Saul, in prospect of the kingdom, "And thou shalt go down before me to Gilgal; and, behold, I will come down unto thee, to offer burnt offerings, and to sacrifice sacrifices of peace offerings: seven days shalt thou tarry till I come to thee, and show thee what thou shalt do." Now, from the whole tenor of the narrative, we conclude that this direction was not intended to apply to any one single occasion, but that it was to be a general rule for his guidance; that whenever a difficulty arose Saul was to proceed to Gilgal, as a place of religious resort, and to wait there for Samuel's arrival, which, he was given to understand, might not be until seven days had expired. Looking, then, at this requirement, we are at once struck with the abundant wisdom which is manifest in it. It was a simple but a very significant way of telling Saul that he was not an independent monarch — that he must not act as though he were — that as he was Divinely appointed, so he must consent to be Divinely guided — and that Samuel was to be the medium through which this guidance was go be obtained. This requirement, therefore, was a test by which it might be ascertained whether or not there existed in Saul's bosom an acquiescence in God's plan. In the same way, all Divine precepts become tests of character. If they are followed out, they afford the proof of a spirit of obedience; if they are neglected, they expose the lurking spirit of opposition. And now the time of emergency had come — the Philistines were up in arms — the public danger was great Saul is found at Gilgal — Samuel does not arrive — Saul is impatient Not a moment longer will he wait. He did not mind running the risk of offending God: and be sure, that when even the possibility of doing wrong can be lightly viewed — when, there being a doubt even, we take advantage of that doubt to gratify our own passions, rather than act on the principle of denying ourselves in case we should be wrong — be sure, that when we do this, our hearts have begun to be callous, the searing process on our conscience has already commenced. And then, as it often happens in such cases, Saul had scarcely committed himself to the wrong course before he was detected. It is clear that his conscience told him that he was wrong, from the vain excuses which he made. He told Samuel that he did it reluctantly — "I forced myself." He charges Samuel with delay and want of punctuality. "Thou camest, not within the days appointed." He assigned a religious motive — "I had not made my supplications to the Lord." Here we see that sort of special pleading which always shows a consciousness of guilt.
II. THIS FIRST WRONG STEP PROVED FATAL TO THE PROSPECTS OF SAUL. Is it objected that the penalty was severe, for not waiting a little longer than he did, till Samuel arrived? We answer, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" And though we should never volunteer a justification of the Divine proceedings as though they needed this, yet, we may find that there is a power in such thoughts as the following, to throw light on the Divine dealings in this case.
1. Sin is not estimated by God according to its outward form, but according to the amount and extent of the principle of evil embodied in that form. There may be as much of downright rebellion against God in what men would call a little sin, as in a series of what, they would describe as flagrant offences.
2. The first wrong step is always marked by a peculiarity of evil which does not attach to any subsequent offence. Men are accustomed to palliate the first offence, because it is the first: a more accurate estimate would show that this habit of judging is thoroughly erroneous and fallacious. There is more to keep a man from committing a first offence, than there is to keep him from committing a second or any subsequent criminal act. The impression of the command is at least one degree deeper than it can possibly be after it has been trifled with. The first sin involves the taking tip of a new position, and this is harder work than to maintain it. It is assuming a character of disobedience, and this requires more hardihood than to wear it when it has been once put on. It is breaking through consistency, which is a strong barrier so long as it is unbroken; but if once broken through, sin becomes easy. It is the first offence in any particular direction which Satan aims at inducing us to commit; that sin committed, the habit of doing right is broken through, and the next offence in the same direction will be easier. It is to this point that he addresses his most specious plea, "Only this once," — "The first time, and it will be the last." But did it ever prove to be the last? All history says, No; and loud, among other evidence, is the testimony of the narrative of Saul. Have we been brought into the right path, and tempted to forsake it, then be this our answer — "No! not even the first step will I venture again out of the path of duty."
(J. A. Miller.)
(H. O. Mackey.)
(H. O. Mackey.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)
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