The story of Saul is a heart-breaking one. But, it is one that I am afraid is repeated more than any of us would like to admit. Maybe not so much among people who end up being God’s anointed king, but among people who are supposed to be His lights in this world…but fail.
Saul was anointed by God through Samuel to be the first king of Israel (1 Samuel 10). The Spirit of God descended upon him and for a short time he even mingled with prophets and prophesied with them. The following chapters in 1 Samuel record the great victories God gave Israel over their enemies under the leadership of this new king. But then he starts to fall, and he falls hard. Although he struggles through his reign for quite a few more years, the culmination of his fall is really seen in 1 Samuel 15. It becomes clearest in his view of who God is in his life.
In 1 Samuel 15, Saul has just experienced a mighty, God-assisted defeat of the Amalekites. But, God told Saul to completely destroy the Amalekites. He was to leave no living thing alive, whether man, woman, child, or animal. But, although Saul kills all of the people, he captures the king alive and he picks out the best of all of the livestock and keeps it all as spoil of war. In short, his own pride and covetousness trumps obedience.
When Samuel confronts Saul, he tries to justify his sin by claiming that he saved the animals for the purpose of sacrifice to the Lord. But here is where we begin to see his real heart. Unlike many other people in the history of Israel, Saul never refers to God as “my Lord.” It is always “the Lord” or “the Lord your God.” Nowhere are those references more profoundly clear than in this passage.
God is never personal to Saul. Saul is benefiting from the anointing of God. He is leading a nation under the banner of the Lord God. But, apart from the times when the Holy Spirit literally takes over Saul’s body and actions, Saul is never truly personal with God. He’s his own man, determined to benefit from God but not be ruled by Him.
We would be fooling ourselves to say we are not surrounded by people just like Saul. In fact, many of us are just like him ourselves. In a “Saul” mindset, salvation is a benefit. It provides an escape from hell and makes sure that our prayers are heard. He is “the Lord” to us. He is “the Lord (someone else’s) God.” There is no personal relationship. There is no personal interaction. And, when it comes down to it, our own selfish desires will always trump His Word and His commands.
It’s not enough to go to church, state that we are Christians, and enjoy the freedom to lift up prayer requests to Him. No, it’s not enough at all. When we just follow those motions, we are just like Saul. We are people of the world in a Christian robe.
[Okay, a wacky illustration just popped into my head. It’s just too fun to keep to myself, so I’m going to go ahead and use it. For those like-minded folks who enjoy a good Star Wars movie, when we are like Saul, we are essentially like any ole warrior deciding on a whim that he wants to be a Jedi. So, he pulls on the appropriate garb. He might even wield a light saber. But, he doesn’t have the discipline or the true skills to back up and authenticate the dress or the weapon. So, no matter how much he looks like a Jedi, when the rubber meets the road, he falls apart. There, I got that random thought out. Now back to the post…]
A true follower of Christ claims God as his own. Not only that, but he submits his life to God’s authority. God is “the Lord my God” to this true follower, not “the Lord” or “the Lord your God.” All interaction is personal. Now, submission to God is not always going to be automatic. There will be times when the true follower slips and stumbles. We see it in Samuel himself in the first verses of 1 Samuel 16 as he lets his grief and fear get the best of him and needs to be redirected by a little “smack” from God. We see it in David, the man after God’s own heart. We see it is the patriarchs and in many heroes of Scripture. They were human and faulty. And so are we! But, if we are true followers, then we come back from those faults and slips and grow from them.
Saul did not. The rest of his life was one of great and repeated tragedy. He hurt himself. He hurt his family. He hurt nearly everyone he touched. All because he rejected the intimacy of his anointing by God.
Is your faith personal? Is it intimate? Is the Lord your God? If not, maybe it’s time to stop and contemplate where you stand in your relationship with the Lord. It’s not an easy road to submit to Him as Lord of your life. But, without that submission, there is no way you will escape the tragedy of Saul. Be His and discover the incredible delight of belong wholly to Him.