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mule April 13 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): 1Samuel 13-14; 1Chronicles 8:1- 9:1a; 1Chronicles 9:35-44; 5:7-10; 5:18-22

Faith or Obstinacy?

“I don't want any help. I can do it myself!” says the small child (many times teens and adults say the same thing, right?). While we want to encourage children to try things for themselves and learn to succeed, sometimes the tasks are too great for them. They have to learn to trust their parent(s) for awhile and learn to do things right. What should we do when children (or adults) are obstinate? Today we will learn what to do.

King Saul began his reign well because he was humble and his power to command was from God. Saul showed godly concern and zeal in helping the people of Jabesh Gilead, who were seriously threatened by the Ammonites. He cut up a pair of oxen and sent the pieces to the twelve tribes of Israel and threatened that God would do this to them if they did not get behind him and Samuel to defeat the Ammonites. Immediately, a force of 333,000 men was mustered to fight against the Ammonites, and God gave them a great victory. Then Saul was reaffirmed as king. Saul showed generosity in overlooking the insults of those who earlier opposed him, and he led the Israelites to give praise to God for the victory. God was gracious to Saul, and Saul was faithful, but quickly that all changed. He began to foolishly rely upon himself; his position as king, and his victories went to his head.

Now, King Saul faces threats by the Philistines. He is encamped at Micmash in the hill country of Bethel with 2,000 men. His son Jonathan is encamped at Gibeah with 1,000 men. Evidently, this is Saul's regular army. However,

The Philistines assembled to fight Israel, with three thousand chariots, six thousand charioteers, and soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore. They went up and camped at Micmash, east of Beth Aven.
When the men of Israel saw that their situation was critical and that their army was hard pressed, they hid in caves and thickets, among the rocks, and in pits and cisterns. Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear (1Samuel 13:5-7, NIV).

Sometimes when the pressures of life are great, we feel we must do something, even when the best thing to do is wait on God. King Saul faces pressures that cause him to disobey and lose his privilege to have an enduring kingdom. The Philistines are attacking, and his men are scared and disbanding or hiding (1Samuel 13:1-14). Samuel had instructed Saul to wait for him to come and offer the sacrifice, but he is late. Instead of trusting the LORD, like Gideon, and encouraging his men, Saul panics and offers his own burnt offering in order to get God's blessing before going into battle. He does this even though he is not a priest. For disobeying the LORD, Samuel declares God will not allow his kingdom to endure. God wants a man after His own heart to lead Israel.

At first glance we might think this judgment is rather harsh. After all, we might succumb to the same pressures if it were us. This may be true, but are we leaders of God's chosen people? To whom much is given much is required (Luke 12:48). Saul is not just a political leader; he is also a spiritual leader. Whichever direction the king leads, the people follow. In our modern day we have tried to divorce politics from religion and morality, but it simply is not and never has been possible. Most people will follow their leaders, and decisions that are made for the country always involve morals. The king of Israel is not just protecting his people and leading them into physical battles; he is also leading the nation spiritually. Whether we are government leaders, business leaders, church leaders, or simply parents we must keep in mind that we are affecting others. We will either lead others toward God or away from Him. Even spiritual indifference will lead others away from God.

Saul acts foolishly by relying on himself. Saul's son, Jonathon, however, demonstrates more faith than his father (1Samuel 13:3-5; 14:1-15). Jonathan leads an attack on the Philistines. In his second attack, only Jonathan and his armor-bearer attack the Philistines. Jonathan has faith that God can save by many or by few. Saul counts on the numbers of his troops; Jonathan counts on the LORD. God helps Jonathan by sending an earthquake and a panic into the Philistine army, and the Philistines are then routed by Jonathan and Saul's army.

What a leader does when he is under pressure reveals his true character. Besides the incident at Gilgal in 1Samuel 13, Saul does some other foolish things (1Samuel 14:24-45; 15:12). In an attempt to get glory for himself, he binds his army with an oath not to eat any food until he has avenged himself of his enemies. This is his selfish ambition and ego; he does not care for the welfare of his troops. Does his army raise objections? No, although he is foolish and self-willed, he is the king, and they let him experience the results of his folly, even though they suffer for it. Saul's foolish vow causes the famished troops of Israel to sin by eating blood of the animals they capture in plunder. Saul redeems himself, somewhat, by setting up an altar so the meat can be offered up to God, cooked, and then served to the men.

Saul is, however, a slow learner. He does not confess his own sin in making a foolish vow that causes his men to sin. Rather, he again seeks advancement by praying for another blessing from the LORD to give him victory. But, the LORD is displeased and will not answer him. Saul is at least astute to realize something is wrong.

Saul therefore said, “Come here, all you who are leaders of the army, and let us find out what sin has been committed today. As surely as the LORD who rescues Israel lives, even if it lies with my son Jonathan, he must die.” [Jonathan, not knowing about the curse, had eaten some honey].

But not one of the men said a word. …“Do what seems best to you,” the men replied. (1Samuel 14:38-40, NIV)

They do not try to correct their obstinate king. Those who are obstinate are convinced they are right and will not listen. When it is safe, those who are stubborn should be allowed to make their own mistakes, whether they are a child, teen, or adult. Success and failure are part of life as each person must find out for himself. Saul in his pride is willing to keep the vow and sacrifice his own son, Jonathan, who helped initiate the great victory God gave them. Thankfully, Saul's army stops his foolishness. Sometimes we, too, have to stop the foolish behavior of willful people because the results can be devastating. Saul would have lost not only his son but the confidence of his army.

Despite Saul's self will, God still uses him to win victories against the Philistines. Like Samson, who was also self-willed, God uses Saul to punish the Philistines because He loves His people. Most of us have served under self-willed leaders so this gives us some hope. Neither Samson nor Saul, however, had an enduring rule with God's favor upon them. Do we want God's blessings on us to continue? We need to act with humble faith, not foolishness. We need to choose to seek God's glory, not our own.

During the time of Saul, the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh are also busy fighting wars (1Chronicles 7:10). They, too, are given victories like Jonathon. He answers their prayers because they trust in him (1Chronicles 5:19-20, NIV), and so the eastern tribes of Israel plunder these city nations.

They seized the livestock of the Hagrites-- fifty thousand camels, two hundred fifty thousand sheep and two thousand donkeys. They also took one hundred thousand people captive, and many others fell slain, because the battle was God's. And they occupied the land until the exile. (1Chronicles 5:21-22, NIV)

Lessons to Live by:

•  If you are obstinate, are you tired of being that way? God can forgive you, give you peace, and give you spiritual life (more...)

•  When God is gracious to give us leadership, we need to be humble, careful and responsible. We need to remember that God gives us this responsibility to serve others and glorify Him, not ourselves.

•  We need to wait on God even when we are afraid or pressured.

•  We will either lead others toward God or away from Him.

•  Be responsible, or he may give your leadership to another who is more deserving.

•  What a leader does when he is under pressure reveals his true character.

•  When it is safe, those who are obstinate should be allowed to make their own mistakes. Other times, however, we have to stop the foolish behavior of willful people because the cost is too great.

•  Do we want God's blessings on us to continue? We need to act with humble faith, not foolishness. We need to choose to seek God's glory, not our own.

Today's Bible memory verse:

1Samuel 14:6c “Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few.” (NIV)

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