Saturday, April 9, 2011

Fear of Man and Its Consequences

"He (Saul) waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the people began to slip away from Saul.  So Saul said, "Bring the burnt offering here to me..."  And he offered the burnt offering.  As soon as he finished offering the burnt offering, Samuel arrived..."
-1 Samuel 13:8-10, emphasis mine

I've read this Bible passage multiple times, but this morning that little phrase, "and the people began to slip away from Saul", really jumped out at me.  In this passage, Saul, who has just been appointed king over Israel,  is waiting for the prophet Samuel to come to Gilgal and offer sacrifices to God.  They are in the midst of a battle with their enemies the Philistines, and it's pretty intense.  People are hiding in caves and tombs (see 1 Samuel 13:6).  The people are afraid and Saul really wants to hear from God on how to go about winning this battle.  As he is waiting for Samuel, seven days go by.  Samuel is still not there, and that's when we see the people begin to "slip away" from Saul.  So Saul does something rash.  He offers the sacrifices himself.  And as soon as he is done, Samuel arrives.  Saul explains to him what happened and Samuel says, "You have done foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which he had commanded you...now your kingdom will not continue" (vs. 13-14).  Ouch.

Whenever I read this story, I used to think Saul was pretty stupid.  He should've just ignored the people and waited for Samuel like he was supposed to.  Today, though, I empathize with him.  He was a new king and as he saw people slipping away from him and doubting him, he went ahead and sacrificed anyway.  I got to thinking about how many times I've done that in my own life.  I've heard God give me specific instructions about a situation or a sin pattern in my life, but because I fear what people think of me, I either ignore it or try and jump ahead of what God plans for me.  And it always turns out badly, as it did for Saul.  Today I asked for forgiveness and I'm definitely going to attempt to keep this story in my mind as I try to follow Christ.  I don't want to trade what I think is a "good reputation" or how I think I "should" act or speak for a close walk with God and obedience to Him.  In the end, all of my "kingdoms" will pass away, but my relationship with Him stands forever.  Why not give all of my life to Him?

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