Twilight Kingdom (2)

The More Things Change (1 Samuel 13:1-14:52) 

Ruin can come suddenly. In chapters 11-12 of the book of 1 Samuel, it appeared as though the nation of Israel might experience sustained victory over their enemies. Facing his first test of leadership, King Saul led his massive army to destroy the Ammonites. The nation’s prophet, Samuel, used the military victory as an opportunity to call for the people to repent of their treasonous desire for a king; upon their recognition of this sin, the Lord forgave them. The final words of Samuel, however, suggest that he realized that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Samuel warned in 1 Samuel 12:24-25: “Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.” In his prophetic speech, Samuel linked the fate of the nation to their king. In verses 14-15, he said, “if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God, it will be well.But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you and your king.” This is exactly what happened in the next chapter of the story. 

Chapters 13-14 relay the dark narrative of Saul’s failure and Israel’s helplessness. Under the looming threat of the oppressive Philistines, King Saul took matters into his own hands. Rather than waiting for Samuel to arrive to offer the burnt offering, Saul panicked because of the desertion of his army and made the offering himself. This one act of disobedience and lack of trust was enough for God to take away the kingdom from Saul and give it to another; as Samuel said, “But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.” Saul’s armies dwindled as many people deserted him; even Samuel the prophet and Saul’s own son, Jonathan, left him.  

Chapter 14 describes the rapid downfall of Saul, who consistently demonstrated weakness and a lack of faith. On the other hand, his son Jonathan demonstrated consistent faith and fortitude. In this story we learn how faith leads to victory while disobedience and impatience result in ruin.