49. Saul, Quite A Character


By Bethany Brockman

‘But when they said, ‘Give us a king to lead us,’ this displeased Samuel; so, he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: ‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day, I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you.’ 1 Samuel 8:6-8

First King of Israel

‘But the people refused to listen to Samuel. ‘No!’ they said. ‘We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.’ When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the LORD.’ 1 Samuel 8:19-21

Saul was chosen by God to appease the Israelites’ cry to have a king rule over them. Samuel was sent to anoint Saul and give assurance that God was with him, 1 Samuel 9:16 / 1 Samuel 10:1 / 1 Samuel 10:6. Saul was the son of Kish from the house of Benjamin and was the most handsome man in all of Israel. He stood a head taller than any other Israelite, 1 Samuel 9:2.

How does a person’s outward appearance affect how we relate to them?

Does it make him/her a better leader or easier to follow?

Saul became king at age 30 and ruled Israel for 42 years. In that time, Saul made many grave choices that cost his family line the kingdom and turned it over to the house of David.

Saul’s Disobedience

‘Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear. He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter. So, he said, ‘Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” And Saul offered up the burnt offering. Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him. ‘What have you done?’ asked Samuel. Saul replied, ‘When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Mikmash, I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the LORD’s favour.’ So, I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.’ ‘You have done a foolish thing,’ Samuel said. ‘You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the LORD’s command.’ 1 Samuel 13:7-14

Saul prepared to battle the Philistines at Mikmash but didn’t wait for Samuel to offer the burnt offering to seek the Lord’s favour. He conducted the sacrifice himself because he feared the people would flee. When Samuel rebuked him, Saul blamed the people for his impatience. He was easily swayed by the peoples’ desire and foolish in disobeying God’s command. As the king and leader, Saul was to set the standard, but chose instead to be the follower.

How do we allow our impatience and weakness to rule over our decisions?

Why do we do this?

‘Samuel said, ‘Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king over Israel. And he sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; wage war against them until you have wiped them out.’ Why did you not obey the LORD? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the LORD?’ ‘But I did obey the LORD,’ Saul said. ‘I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God at Gilgal.’ But Samuel replied: ‘Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.’ Then Saul said to Samuel, ‘I have sinned. I violated the LORD’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the men and so I gave in to them. Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the LORD.’ But Samuel said to him, ‘I will not go back with you. You have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you as king over Israel!’ 1 Samuel 15:17-26

God had commanded Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites, because of how they had treated the Israelites. Saul instead spared their king Agag and the best of the livestock, etc. Afterwards, Saul had a shrine built to himself. When confronted about this, Saul deflected Samuel’s accusations about his disobedience and made excuses for his behaviour. God obviously wants our obedience above all else! 1 Samuel 15:22-23.

How do you react when faced with the truth of personal sin, downplay the transgression or own up to it?

How do you think God feels about our attempts to avoid obeying His clearly expressed will?

‘Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had mourned for him and buried him in his own town of Ramah. Saul had expelled the mediums and spiritists from the land. The Philistines assembled and came and set up camp at Shunem, while Saul gathered all Israel and set up camp at Gilboa. When Saul saw the Philistine army, he was afraid; terror filled his heart. He inquired of the LORD, but the LORD did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets. Saul then said to his attendants, ‘Find me a woman who is a medium, so I may go and inquire of her.’ ‘There is one in Endor,’ they said.’ 1 Samuel 28:3-7

‘Samuel said to Saul, ‘Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?’ ‘I am in great distress,’ Saul said. ‘The Philistines are fighting against me, and God has departed from me. He no longer answers me, either by prophets or by dreams. So, I have called on you to tell me what to do.’ 1 Samuel 28:15

Saul was terrified and chose to consult a medium to inquire of the Lord how the battle would go. He is rebuked by Samuel’s spirit and reminded of God’s promise to remove the kingdom from him. He was also told of his and his sons’ imminent deaths. Saul lived in fear and it shaped all his decisions, bringing him and his family down a trail of destruction.

How can we keep from making fear-based decisions?


"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

1 John 1:9