It’s important to read this entire section in one sitting to appreciate what is happening and see the mind of God.
First, the context. Saul is the new king with one victory under his belt. He decides to send much of his army home but keeps 3000. It doesn’t say why. Overconfidence? Maybe.
Jonathan takes out a Philistine outpost and that gets their attention. They rally with the full force of their army staring down at them. The Israelites freak out. All but 600 of them go running for the hills. Some hide. Some flee the country. Some join the Philistines.
The tradition was to offer a sacrifice before battle to ask for God’s favor in battle. Samuel said he’d be there to offer the sacrifice but he didn’t show. So Saul got desperate and offered it himself. Bad decision.
Just then Samuel shows up and is shocked to see what Saul has done. He tells him that he and his son Jonathan and his sons sons would have held the kingdom for years. But this one act of disobedience proved that he wasn’t worthy of being king.
It’s About God’s Holiness
Harsh? Here’s the deal: when God appears to be harsh in the Bible, it almost always has to do with his holiness. There is no compromise with God’s holiness. To us, mere mortals, it does seem harsh, like an over-reactive temper tantrum on God’s part. But that’s only because we don’t understand that God is not like us. He is pure in every way. We need to respect that.
God established an elaborate system for worship, involving priests and sacrifices showing that you don’t just come tripping into the presence of God. But that’s what Saul did. He felt like he could break all the rules of worship because he was going to lose his battle. He put his concerns ahead of God’s.
There are few lessons in the Bible more important than this. I think this might be THE problem at the heart of the church: not appreciating the holiness of God. It takes us off track and out of God’s will every time.
After reading what Saul did, you’d assume that the army would have been crushed as punishment for Saul’s behavior. But God used Jonathan’s solo mission as a springboard to reveal his glory. It’s like God was showing Saul that he should have trusted him more. If God could route the entire army through Jonathan and his armor bearer, how easy would it have been to route them with Saul and 600 men?
The point here is that we often compromise our faith and morality because we think we “have to.” We see no other option. We have to help God out. But with God, obedience to him is the only option. And when you honor him, he will honor you.
Prayer: Father, help me to get this one thing right. Help me to understand your holiness and honor it through my obedience. Holy Spirit please challenge my justifications and poor excuses for why disobedience is the right path. God, you are worthy of my obedience. Help me to trust that you will show up on my behalf if I have the courage to trust you today. Amen.