“And when you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites came against you, you said to me, “No, but a king shall reign over us,’ when the LORD your God was your king.” 1 Samuel 12:12
“So Samuel called to the LORD, and the LORD sent thunder and rain that day; and all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel. And all the people said to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to the LORD your God, that we may not die; for we have added to all our sins the evil of asking a king for ourselves.” Then Samuel said to the people, “Do not fear. You have done all this wickedness; yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart.” 1 Samuel 12:18-20
Now Saul was not responsible for the people asking for a King instead of trusting God’s favor. He was not at fault because the people forgot the favor and blessing of God as He had proven so often in the past to provide for them and to deliver them from their enemies. Indeed God chose Saul to be the answer for the people, and as long as they both followed the Lord and submitted to Him, He would still bless and preserve them.
And this was the warning and promise from God, despite their unwise choice.
“And do not turn aside; for then you would go after empty things which cannot profit or deliver, for they arenothing. For the LORD will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you His people. Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way. Only fear the LORD, and serve Him in truth 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.” 1 Samuel 12:21-25
The covenant between God and His people was sealed in blood and it is a covenant forever sworn with an oath. God is Israel’s God and there was to be no king to rule over them until the King of Kings came to set up His kingdom forever. When the Philistines came against Israel the prophet Samuel was called to come, and to make sacrifice for the people and pray for God’s favor to be with them when they went up against the Philistine army.
But Saul was impatient and not willing to wait for Samuel, so after seven days he took it upon himself to make burnt offerings before the Lord which was unlawful. As a result his reign as king was taken from him. When Samuel arrived and found him bringing disfavor on himself and the people by this unlawful act, from that day on his reign suffered defeat and failure. But God favored his son Jonathan in this battle. When it happened that none of Saul’s army had any weapons, save those with Jonathan and himself, Jonathan secretly by night went into the Philistine’s camp with his armor bearer only.
“Then Jonathan said to the young man who bore his armor, 'Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the LORD will work for us. For nothing restrains the LORD from saving by many or by few.' ” 1 Samuel 14:6
He was convinced and faithful to believe that God saves not by the strength of numbers of men but by the agency of faith and trust in Him alone, a lesson his father, King Saul did not learn. Saul continued to disobey God and follow the dictates of his own mind instead. This only served to the detriment of the people and the destruction of his reign as king. So, God took the kingdom from Saul and raised up “a better man” to reign in his place. [1 Samuel 15]
And then there is Saul’s arrogant and blatant disobedience in the fight with the Amalekites when God charged him to go up against them and utterly destroy them and everything they owned, people livestock, material trappings, to save none of it, but utterly destroy it all, he didn’t do it. He took the best of the herds, the sheep and goats, and gave the plunder to the people to gather for themselves. When the prophet came he tried to greet him as though he had faithfully executed God’s command. But the prophet said to him, then what is this bleating of sheep and lowing of oxen that I hear? He tried to explain it away but to no avail. His reign was over.
“But Samuel said, ‘What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?’ ” 1 Samuel 15:14
The story of Saul’s reign as king is the story of a man who was chosen because of his humility of heart and willingness to serve God’s cause, but who after gaining one victory after another and tasting the intoxicating favors of power he became prideful, arrogant and dismissive of the Law and the commandments of God who had raise him up to his place of power. He chose to serve himself and his desires rather than obey the Lord. When confronted with his sin he chose to lie to the prophet to make excuses for his actions. When that didn’t work he tired to bargain with him but it was too little too late. He did not end well.
Among the lessons for us that may be drawn from the reign of Saul are these. Power, without wisdom and humility, produces pride which leads inevitably to a fall. Making rash judgments is the result of not seeking and heading good council. Disobedience in a leader negatively affects every one in his aegis of authority. “When evil men rule, the people morn.”
“When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.” Proverbs 29:2