Today I want to talk to you about a man who became the Israelites first king. Before the Israelites had a king, God appointed judges or religious leaders to help guide His people. We are going to talk about a time when Samuel was the leader of the Israelites. Samuel was a good Judge of the Israelite people, but the Israelites were discontent and wanted something more than just religious leader.
1 Samuel 8:4-9
“4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah,
5 And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.
6 But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the Lord.
7 And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.
8 According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee.
9 Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.”
As we see here, Samuel was not happy about the Israelites’ demand for a king but despite his feelings, Samuel prayed to God regarding their request. God was also displeased with their discontent and desire for a king. Yet, God told Samuel to allow it, but also instructed him to tell the Israelites what consequences their choice would bring. God also explained to Samuel that by asking for a king the people had not rejected Samuel but in truth the Israelites had rejected God. Samuel was obedient to God and faithful to the Israelites. He told them of the serious consequences that would occur by having a king instead of a religious leader. For example, a king would take their sons and make them captains to fight their wars. A king would take their daughters to be servants and maids. A king would tax them and take their oxen and cattle, but the Israelites did not care. Regardless of the consequences, the Israelites insisted on a king so they could be just like the other nations around them.
“19 Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us;
20 That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.
21 And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the Lord.”
Samuel did as God said and went searching for a king. If you ask God long enough you will get what you ask for, but it may not be the best thing for you, and the people got exactly what they wanted.
1 Samuel 9:1-2
“1Now there was a man of Benjamin, whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Bechorath, the son of Aphiah, a Benjamite, a mighty man of power.
2 And he had a son, whose name was Saul, a choice young man, and a goodly: and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he: from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people.”
The Bible teaches us the first king of Israel would be a young man named Saul. Saul was a good and humble young man who knew nothing of Samuel’s search for a king. Meanwhile, Saul was out in the country looking for his lost donkeys. He and his servant were out three days and traveled a long distance when finally, Saul’s servant suggested that they should go into the city where the prophet Samuel lived and ask Samuel for help. Since they were close by Saul agreed, and the two left together to find Samuel. God had already told Samuel that he was going to meet a man out of the land of Benjamin, and he was to anoint this man as king of Israel. Samuel did just as he was told by God and Saul became Israel’s first king.
1 Samuel 9:17-21
“17 And when Samuel saw Saul, the Lord said unto him, Behold the man whom I spake to thee of! this same shall reign over my people.
18 Then Saul drew near to Samuel in the gate, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, where the seer’s house is.
19 And Samuel answered Saul, and said, I am the seer: go up before me unto the high place; for ye shall eat with me to day, and to morrow I will let thee go, and will tell thee all that is in thine heart.
20 And as for thine asses that were lost three days ago, set not thy mind on them; for they are found. And on whom is all the desire of Israel? Is it not on thee, and on all thy father’s house?
21 And Saul answered and said, Am not I a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel? and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? wherefore then speakest thou so to me?”
However, when Samuel introduced Saul to the Israelites, not everyone was accepting of him as their King. So, Saul showed himself as a fearless leader and the people consented. “
1 Samuel 11:6-7
“6 And the Spirit of God came upon Saul when he heard those tidings, and his anger was kindled greatly.
7 And he took a yoke of oxen, and hewed them in pieces, and sent them throughout all the coasts of Israel by the hands of messengers, saying, Whosoever cometh not forth after Saul and after Samuel, so shall it be done unto his oxen. And the fear of the Lord fell on the people, and they came out with one consent.”
Two years into Saul’s reign of Israel, he chose himself an army and went into battle with the Philistines. The Philistines we know were longtime enemies of the Israelites and Saul defeated them once again in this battle. However, there was a problem. Before the battle Samuel gave Saul specific instructions to follow. He told Saul to wait for Samuel seven days before offering sacrifice to God. Unfortunately, Saul did not obey God’s instructions. When Samuel did not arrive by day seven, Saul became impatient and offered sacrifice without him.
8 And he tarried seven days, according to the set time that Samuel had appointed: but Samuel came not to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him.
9 And Saul said, Bring hither a burnt offering to me, and peace offerings. And he offered the burnt offering.
10 And it came to pass, that as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might salute him.
11 And Samuel said, What hast thou done? And Saul said, Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash;
12 Therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the Lord: I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering.
13 And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever.”
After this instance it appears that Saul continued to be successful over the enemy, at least in his earlier ventures, but his proclivity to disobey would become an issue again. In 1Samuel 15:1-3, we find Samuel gives Saul specific instructions to follow prior to the attack on the Amalekites. These were not options but rules of war that Saul needed to obey, given by God to Samuel. Unlike Saul, Samuel was faithful to obey God and he delivered the information as instructed by God to Saul.
“Samuel also said unto Saul, The Lord sent me to anoint thee to be king over his people, over Israel: now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the Lord.
2 Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt.
3 Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.”
The reading shows us that Samuel clearly told Saul he and his men should not take anything from the enemy but destroy it all. Saul set out to battle and was victorious, but he did a few things just a little bit different than what Samuel instructed. Saul’s men did not destroy everything as they were told. They took what they believed was good and even spared the life of the Amalekites’ King Agag who had brought great harm against the Israelite people in the past. God told Samuel of Saul’s disobedience. So, Samuel set out to confront Saul.
“13 And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the Lord: I have performed the commandment of the Lord.
14 And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?
15 And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.”
Saul started good then he became lifted up in his own eyes. Starting good is not good enough in God’s eyes. So where did it go wrong for Saul? It began with deception. Notice, when Saul greeted Samuel, he told Samuel that he had performed God’s commandment, but this clearly was not true. Then Saul made excuses for his behavior rather than admitting his wrong. Saul lied to Samuel and blamed the people to make himself look innocent. Saul’s trouble began when he thought it okay to do what he wanted regardless of what God instructed.
Partial obedience is complete disobedience. There is no way around this. We cannot obey part of God’s word and disregard another without allowing disobedience into our life. Saul obeyed when it suited his purpose, and this is the same as saying, Saul did not obey God at all. He did not obey in sparing the good and destroying the worthless as God had commanded. Saul allowed sin into his heart and sin always separates us from God.
1 Samuel 15:17-23
“17 And Samuel said, When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the Lord anointed thee king over Israel?
18 And the Lord sent thee on a journey, and said, Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until they be consumed.
19 Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the Lord, but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the sight of the Lord?
20 And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and have gone the way which the Lord sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.
21 But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in Gilgal.
22 And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.”
Saul’s story is tragic. He started well but he allowed himself to be deceived along the way. He did not stay humble, and this came at a great cost. His sin separated him from God leaving him with nothing in his soul. Samuel would no longer come to see Saul and Saul lived the rest of his life in desperation, and unable to find a place of repentance. In the end, Saul took his own life. What a contrast, a man called of God, a man led of God, but a man who turns from God, and then takes his own life. Unless we remain close to God, we too will lose fellowship with God. Christ must be first in our lives.
“35 And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the Lord repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.
1 Samuel 31:4
4 Then said Saul unto his armourbearer, Draw thy sword, and thrust me through therewith; lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and abuse me. But his armourbearer would not; for he was sore afraid. Therefore Saul took a sword, and fell upon it.”
In closing, let us consider a marathon runner in a race. He or she may be off to a good start and that is good, but the runner must run the race well to finish well. There are no short cuts and the runner must follow the course as it is mapped out to cross the finish line and win their race. If the runner takes a short cut, this will disqualify him or her from the race, and this result is an unsuccessful finish. Thus, a man that starts well with God is good, but we must also live well to end well. Remember partial obedience is plain disobedience and there are no short cuts. So, make a good start or in other words do start well, but live well consistently in obedience to God’s word so you can finish well too.