Samuel had told the Israelites to devote themselves to the Lord wholeheartedly in obedience otherwise they and their King would surely face God’s wrath (1 Sam 12:24-25). Unfortunately, it doesn’t take too long before the men of Israel, King included, disregard this command.
In today’s chapter we read that King Saul had gathered 3,000 men to face Israel’s longstanding enemies, the Philistines. Jonathan saw victory over the Philistines at Geba, and this led to a mounted offensive of 30,000 Philistines. Israel was surpassed by the Philistines numerically and strategically. It appears that the Philistines had monopolised the manufacture of iron and as such Israel lacked iron weaponry during war periods (v19-22). Amidst this backdrop, many Israelite fighters bottled it and fled leaving just 600 men with Saul.
The temptation of fearing man over fearing God is prevalent in all of our lives. Much of Israel where shortsighted in viewing the might of the Philistine army at the exclusion of the far greater might of God. God through Samuel had been reminding and teaching Israel of his faithfulness to overcome insurmountable enemies on their behalf. Akin to the Israelites, God expects us to size up our enemies against God rather than our own capabilities. Anything less than this will produce anxiety, fear, and a lack of trust in God which displeases him.
Saul also wavered in his resolve to fear God rather than man. In chapter 10, Samuel had given a command from God to go to Gilgal, and wait there 7 days for Samuel to come and offer burnt offerings to God and provide direction (1 Samuel 10:8). Stricken with fear in the face of a Philistine onslaught, Saul defies this word. He took it into his own hands to offer sacrifices in the hope that God would bless him with victory against the Philistines. God’s judgement upon Saul was the result (v8-15). Saul would lose the throne, his sons would not succeed but God would choose “a man after his own heart” (v14) .
This famous phrase is often confused as referring specifically to David. Rather, “after his own heart” reflects God’s decision to choose according to his divine will (Wolf and Homstedt, Baker’s illustrated bible commentary, 2013). David is the imperfect man whose God’s favour lands on for succession to the throne. And through David shall come the Anointed One (Christ Jesus) who will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end (Luke 1:33).”
Are you trusting and waiting on God to bring about his promises? Saul failed to trust and allowed fear to take precedence in his decision making. Let’s learn from Saul’s mistake and wait patiently and boldly on God, “For the word of the Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness.” (Psalm 33:4).