Thou hast done foolishly - Motives of worldly expediency were not to be weighed against the express commandment of God. All the circumstances and all the dangers were as well known to God as they were to Saul, and God had bidden him wait until Samuel came. Here was exactly the same sin of willful disobedience which broke out again, and was so severely reproved 1 Samuel 15:17-23.
When the Philistines, with their large army, prepared to make war with Israel, then the people were afraid. They had not that confidence that God would appear for them as before they had wickedly demanded a king. They knew that they were but a handful, compared with the armies of the Philistines, and to go out to battle with them seemed to be certain death. They did not feel as secure as they thought they should in possession of their king. In their perplexity they dared not call upon God, whom they had slighted. The Lord said to Samuel, They have not rejected you, but me, by desiring a king. 4aSG 68.1
Now, these men who had been valiant, and a terror to their numerous enemies, were afraid to go out against the Philistines to battle. They had their king, but did not dare to trust in him, and they felt that they had chosen him before the Strength of Israel. When they were brought into this perplexing condition, their hearts fainted. The people scattered, in their distress, and hid themselves in caves, and in thickets, and in high places, and in pits, as though escaping from captivity. Those who ventured to go with Saul followed him trembling. He was in great perplexity, as he saw that the people were scattered from him. He anxiously awaited the promised coming of Samuel; but the time expired, and he came not. God had designedly, detained Samuel, that his people might be proved, and might realize their sin, and how small was their strength, and weak their judgment and wisdom without God. 4aSG 68.2
In their calamity they repented that they had chosen a king. They had possessed greater courage and confidence while they had God-fearing rulers to instruct and lead them, for they obtained counsel direct from God, and it was like being led by God himself. Now, they realized that they were commanded by an erring king, who could not save them in their distress. Saul had not a high and exalted sense of the excellence and terrible majesty of God. He had not a sacred regard for his appointed ordinances. With an impetuous spirit because Samuel did not appear at the appointed time, he rushed before God presumptuously, and undertook the sacred work of sacrifice. While equipped for war, he built the altar and officiated for himself and the people. This work was sacredly given to those appointed for the purpose. This act was a crime in Saul, and such an example would lead the people to have a low estimate of the religious ceremonies and ordinances sanctified and appointed of God, prefiguring the sinless offering of his dear Son. God would have his people have a holy regard and sacred reverence for the sacrificial work of the priests, which pointed to the sacrifice of his Son. 4aSG 69.1Read in context »
Saul could not claim the honor of the victory, but he hoped to be honored for his zeal in maintaining the sacredness of his oath. Even at the sacrifice of his son, he would impress upon his subjects the fact that the royal authority must be maintained. At Gilgal, but a short time before, Saul had presumed to officiate as priest, contrary to the command of God. When reproved by Samuel, he had stubbornly justified himself. Now, when his own command was disobeyed—though the command was unreasonable and had been violated through ignorance—the king and father sentenced his son to death. PP 625.1
The people refused to allow the sentence to be executed. Braving the anger of the king, they declared, “Shall Jonathan die, who hath wrought this great salvation in Israel? God forbid: as the Lord liveth, there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground; for he hath wrought with God this day.” The proud monarch dared not disregard this unanimous verdict, and the life of Jonathan was preserved. PP 625.2
Saul could not but feel that his son was preferred before him, both by the people and by the Lord. Jonathan's deliverance was a severe reproof to the king's rashness. He felt a presentiment that his curses would return upon his own head. He did not longer continue the war with the Philistines, but returned to his home, moody and dissatisfied. PP 625.3Read in context »
This chapter is based on 1 Samuel 15.
Saul had failed to bear the test of faith in the trying situation at Gilgal, and had brought dishonor upon the service of God; but his errors were not yet irretrievable, and the Lord would grant him another opportunity to learn the lesson of unquestioning faith in His word and obedience to His commands. PP 627.1Read in context »
But Saul presumed upon his exaltation, and dishonored God by unbelief and disobedience. Though when first called to the throne he was humble and self-distrustful, success made him self-confident. The very first victory of his reign had kindled that pride of heart which was his greatest danger. The valor and military skill displayed in the deliverance of Jabesh-gilead had roused the enthusiasm of the whole nation. The people honored their king, forgetting that he was but the agent by whom God had wrought; and though at first Saul ascribed the glory to God, he afterward took honor to himself. He lost sight of his dependence upon God, and in heart departed from the Lord. Thus the way was prepared for his sin of presumption and sacrilege at Gilgal. The same blind self-confidence led him to reject Samuel's reproof. Saul acknowledged Samuel to be a prophet sent from God; hence he should have accepted the reproof, though he could not himself see that he had sinned. Had he been willing to see and confess his error, this bitter experience would have proved a safeguard for the future. PP 633.1
If the Lord had then separated Himself entirely from Saul, He would not have again spoken to him through His prophet, entrusting him with a definite work to perform, that he might correct the errors of the past. When one who professes to be a child of God becomes careless in doing His will, thereby influencing others to be irreverent and unmindful of the Lord's injunctions, it is still possible for his failures to be turned into victories if he will but accept reproof with true contrition of soul and return to God in humility and faith. The humiliation of defeat often proves a blessing by showing us our inability to do the will of God without His aid. PP 633.2
When Saul turned away from the reproof sent him by God's Holy Spirit, and persisted in his stubborn self-justification, he rejected the only means by which God could work to save him from himself. He had willfully separated himself from God. He could not receive divine help or guidance until he should return to God by confession of his sin. PP 633.3Read in context »
In Saul, God had given to Israel a king after their own heart, as Samuel said when the kingdom was confirmed to Saul at Gilgal, “Behold the king whom ye have chosen, and whom ye have desired.” 1 Samuel 12:13. Comely in person, of noble stature and princely bearing, his appearance accorded with their conceptions of royal dignity; and his personal valor and his ability in the conduct of armies were the qualities which they regarded as best calculated to secure respect and honor from other nations. They felt little solicitude that their king should possess those higher qualities which alone could fit him to rule with justice and equity. They did not ask for one who had true nobility of character, who possessed the love and fear of God. They had not sought counsel from God as to the qualities a ruler should possess, in order to preserve their distinctive, holy character as His chosen people. They were not seeking God's way, but their own way. Therefore God gave them such a king as they desired—one whose character was a reflection of their own. Their hearts were not in submission to God, and their king also was unsubdued by divine grace. Under the rule of this king they would obtain the experience necessary in order that they might see their error, and return to their allegiance to God. PP 636.1
Yet the Lord, having placed on Saul the responsibility of the kingdom, did not leave him to himself. He caused the Holy Spirit to rest upon Saul to reveal to him his own weakness and his need of divine grace; and had Saul relied upon God, God would have been with him. So long as his will was controlled by the will of God, so long as he yielded to the discipline of His Spirit, God could crown his efforts with success. But when Saul chose to act independently of God, the Lord could no longer be his guide, and was forced to set him aside. Then He called to the throne “a man after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14)—not one who was faultless in character, but who, instead of trusting to himself, would rely upon God, and be guided by His Spirit; who, when he sinned, would submit to reproof and correction. PP 636.2Read in context »