THE TEST OF WAITING
God of the ages, I celebrate the truth that you are the God of the present and of the future, too.
Read 1 Samuel 13:1–22
Samuel Rebukes Saul
2 Saul chose three thousand men from Israel; two thousand were with him at Mikmash and in the hill country of Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan at Gibeah in Benjamin. The rest of the men he sent back to their homes.
3 Jonathan attacked the Philistine outpost at Geba, and the Philistines heard about it. Then Saul had the trumpet blown throughout the land and said, “Let the Hebrews hear!” 4 So all Israel heard the news: “Saul has attacked the Philistine outpost, and now Israel has become obnoxious to the Philistines.” And the people were summoned to join Saul at Gilgal.
5 The Philistines assembled to fight Israel, with three thousand[c] chariots, six thousand charioteers, and soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore. They went up and camped at Mikmash, east of Beth Aven. 6 When the Israelites 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. 7 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. 8 He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter. 9 So he said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” And Saul offered up the burnt offering. 10 Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him.
11 “What have you done?” asked Samuel.
Saul replied, “When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Mikmash, 12 I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the Lord’s favor.’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.”
13 “You have done a foolish thing,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. 14 But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”
15 Then Samuel left Gilgal[d] and went up to Gibeah in Benjamin, and Saul counted the men who were with him. They numbered about six hundred.
Israel Without Weapons
16 Saul and his son Jonathan and the men with them were staying in Gibeah[e] in Benjamin, while the Philistines camped at Mikmash. 17 Raiding parties went out from the Philistine camp in three detachments. One turned toward Ophrah in the vicinity of Shual, 18 another toward Beth Horon, and the third toward the borderland overlooking the Valley of Zeboyim facing the wilderness.
19 Not a blacksmith could be found in the whole land of Israel, because the Philistines had said, “Otherwise the Hebrews will make swords or spears!” 20 So all Israel went down to the Philistines to have their plow points, mattocks, axes and sickles[f] sharpened. 21 The price was two-thirds of a shekel[g] for sharpening plow points and mattocks, and a third of a shekel[h] for sharpening forks and axes and for repointing goads.
22 So on the day of the battle not a soldier with Saul and Jonathan had a sword or spear in his hand; only Saul and his son Jonathan had them.
- 1 Samuel 13:1 A few late manuscripts of the Septuagint; Hebrew does not have thirty.
- 1 Samuel 13:1 Probable reading of the original Hebrew text (see Acts 13:21); Masoretic Text does not have forty-.
- 1 Samuel 13:5 Some Septuagint manuscripts and Syriac; Hebrew thirty thousand
- 1 Samuel 13:15 Hebrew; Septuagint Gilgal and went his way; the rest of the people went after Saul to meet the army, and they went out of Gilgal
- 1 Samuel 13:16 Two Hebrew manuscripts; most Hebrew manuscripts Geba, a variant of Gibeah
- 1 Samuel 13:20 Septuagint; Hebrew plow points
- 1 Samuel 13:21 That is, about 1/4 ounce or about 8 grams
- 1 Samuel 13:21 That is, about 1/8 ounce or about 4 grams
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Meditate on the psalmist’s words: ‘Wait for the Lord and keep his way, and he will exalt you’.1
Are you an impulsive person? Are you someone who easily gets anxious when things don’t work out exactly as planned? I suspect Saul was both of these, and maybe we can all sympathize with him! Samuel had clearly told him to wait for him.2 Whether that was a one-off, or a regular agreement, Saul was expecting Samuel to turn up at any moment – and he didn’t. Yet the Philistine army was massing in huge numbers, Saul’s own soldiers were slipping away in fear and he felt a desperate need to involve God at this critical time. That’s good – but not at the expense of disobedience. Saul had no priestly authority to offer sacrifices.
Then Samuel arrived – on schedule, just as Saul was completing the sacrifice. If only he had waited! Do we take things into our own hands sometimes, when we feel that whoever’s in charge isn’t doing things fast enough? Waiting can be very hard. As I write, the world is in lockdown because of Covid-19. Some are tempted to go out anyway – but that could prove disastrous. It was disastrous for Saul. Samuel had hard things to say before he left. Meanwhile the Philistine threat remained. Furthermore, apart from the king and his son, no one had any iron weapons (vs 19–22). The Iron Age was new, and clearly the Philistines didn’t want to share their knowledge with their enemies!
Evans points out that Saul was God’s choice – and a good choice: ‘Any failures in Saul’s reign came not because he was the wrong person in the wrong place, or because there was never any possibility that he would succeed, but because he failed to keep the command the Lord his God gave.’3 Don’t throw away the privilege of being God’s choice for the role you play in his service!
Has God been speaking to you about any way in which you are trying to force his hand?
Father, forgive me for readily judging and categorizing others. Help me to remove barriers I place in front of others.
1 Ps 37:34, ESV 2 1 Sam 10:8 3 Mary Evans, The Message of Samuel, IVP, 2004, p85
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