"But now your kingdom shall not endure The LORD has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you."1 Samuel 13:14(NASB)
Although there is some confusion as to the age of king Saul when he started to reign in Israel and the length of time he ruled over the nation, there are clear lessons that we can learn from his rebellious behaviour towards the Lord and His prideful unbelief.
In chapter 13 of first Samuel, we discover that due to their strategies and the battles they fought against their enemies "Israel had become a stench in the nostrils of the Philistines." As a result, Saul summoned his warriors to assemble at Gilgal, having been given clear and explicit instructions from Samuel to wait for him there.
Samuel was a prophet in the priestly line of Levi, and he was the last of the judges to lead Israel. It was getting near to the time of his death and Samuel had already given his farewell speech to the nation where he reminded the people: "If you will fear the Lord, serve Him, listen to His voice, and not rebel against the command of the Lord, then both you and also the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God. But, if you will not listen to the voice of the Lord, and rebel against the command of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you as it was against your fathers."
Samuel had agreed to meet king Saul at Gilgal so that he could seek God's will on behalf of the king, by offering burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to the Lord. Saul was to remain there until Samuel's arrival. However, he became restless because of the prophet's delay and foolishly set about making a sacrificial offering himself. This was strictly against the Law of Moses - for only God's anointed priests were permitted to sacrifice to the Lord - on behalf of the people and their king.
This not only displeased Samuel, but caused the anger of the Lord to rise up against the disobedient king: "You acted foolishly, and have not kept God's commands," Samuel thundered, "so now your kingdom shall not endure. The Lord has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart and the Lord has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you."
Saul made a seemingly valid excuse for his disobedience which even sounded quite spiritual: "My troops were abandoning me and the Philistines were advancing," he pleaded, "so I forced myself to offer the burnt offering!" Although Saul attempted to justify his actions, his disobedience cost him his crown and his kingdom. The Lord was going to replace him with a man who trusted His Word and obeyed His commands. Saul was to be replaced with "a man after God's own heart."
What a solemn lesson for all God's children. The Lord is not mocked, and He is no respecter of persons. We have clear instructions on how to be saved (justification) and how to live the Christian life (progressive sanctification) and we are expected to obey. Throughout the New Testament, believers have been given clear directions on how to walk in spirit and truth and what to do to carry out God's plans and purposes in their Christian walk. The Bible gives us all the tools we need to be a man or woman after God's own heart.
We have been saved by grace through faith - but this is not a license to sin. Having been saved by grace through faith, we have been given all we need for life and godliness. Having been saved by grace through faith, we are called to become a living sacrifice that is holy and acceptable unto the Lord. Having been saved by grace through faith in Christ's sacrificial death and glorious Resurrection, we have been fully equipped, by the Holy Spirit, to walk in newness of life - and become men and women with a heart for the Lord and a desire to obey His Word.
Let us not make lame excuses for disobeying the Word of the Lord, for we are called to be pure in thought, word, deed, and motive. Let us honour the Lord in all we say and do and think and are, by acting on His Word and obeying His instructions. Let us live our life as unto the Lord and grow in grace and in a knowledge of Christ.. as we die to our own desires and live for Christ alone.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the lessons that we can learn from the life and disobedience of king Saul who tried to justify his ungodly and rebellious ways. Help me to be like king David who was a man after God's own heart. Help me to eschew evil, trust You implicitly, and obey Your Word in spirit and in truth. Keep me low at the Cross and broken before You, and may I live to Your praise and glory in all I say and do. In Jesus' name I pray, AMEN.