Profound sadness gripped my soul as I read the disheartening account of the story in first Samuel Ch. 13. The last verse (v22) reads…
“So on the day of battle not a soldier with Saul and Jonathan had a sword or spear in hand; only Saul and his son Jonathan had a sword in hand.”
Can you imagine how helpless you would feel facing your greatest battle with no defenses at all? And as the king leading a whole nation, can you picture the pressure and anxiety of not being able to protect your own people… their possessions, the children, elderly and most vulnerable? Can you imagine looking at your oldest son (the only other person with a sword in the entire nation; other than you)? A son who is now looking up to you for military directives, knowing you are outnumbered, overpowered and don’t stand a chance to win the battle set in front of you?
For years and years, Israel had been oppressed, harassed and attacked by the Philistines and this day was no different. The Philistines had assembled to fight against Israel. Their army consisted of 3,000 chariots, 6,000 charioteers, and soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore, while Israel, on the other hand, had 2 armed men and a dwindling army of 600 men whose counterparts had run off in fear to hide in caves, rocks, and thickets—some even crossing the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead.
Saul too was afraid. His ONLY consolation was that Samuel was on his way. The only problem, Samuel was late. Samuel represented something BIGGER to Saul and the whole nation. Samuel’s presence was as good as God’s presence in Israel. He was the mouthpiece of God. A prophet and a judge, a consecrated priest who God had appointed at a very young age to take the place of Eli and his (irreverent sons—Hophni and Phinehas). If Samuel came, it was 99.9% likely God would deliver Israel with a miracle. And oh’ how Israel needed a MIRACLE at that very moment.
Unfortunately, however, with more men dropping off the force, and Saul unable to contain his fear—he gives into the pressure and decides to do what Samuel alone was appointed to do. He offers the sacrifice. Desperate to seek the LORD’s favor, Saul offers the sacrifice (a sacred role reserved for God’s priests). But just as soon as Saul is finished offering the sacrifice, Samuel arrives. “What is this you have done? You have done a foolish thing” if Saul’s heart could sink any deeper—these were seriously not the words he needed at a time like this, but wait, there was more.
“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.”
What a sorrowful day for Saul. Could things get any worse?
Can you think of a time when things were going so well, and God’s favor seemed to overtake you at every turn? You were thriving, you were flourishing, you were prosperous and secure—but then things began to fall apart. Samuel leaves Saul and heads to Gilgal. The Bible never even mentions his input into the current attack and war Saul was facing. I cannot even begin to imagine the despondency. It’s one thing for a man to forsake you—but can you fathom God withdrawing His precious Spirit and presence from you?! I sure cannot.
Those who have tasted the grace and glory of God know O’ too well what a terrifying glimpse of life without that grace might look like. And like King David, we all shudder and cling to the dust–on our faces, earnestly groaning—Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me (Psalm 51:11).
With the aid of God, we are still at best dependent and unfit for His service. So without His aid, we are undone, we are unblessed, and we have no chance to stand against the evil that seeks to hound and overwhelm us on every side.
Glory is seldom abruptly stripped from a life, family or nation. It is usually a slow fade. To lose sight of the greatness of our sin and wretchedness, the brutality and price of Calvary—the precious blood God shed for our own redemption and the magnitude of the debt of gratitude we owe to a gracious God for such a redemption–is to lose at every front.
Let us examine our ways o’ glorious ones! If you have known peace, joy, hope, and a blessed flourishing life—then let us keep in step with the Spirit of God who has so richly blessed each one of us, lest our glory fade and we come to know our unblessed nakedness without the Spirit of the LIVING GOD!
That is why Israel is unable to stand against her enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction (Joshua 7:12)
For HIS glory!