Elon, North Carolina
We are studying I Samuel. There are many pivotal chapters in this book. I Samuel 13 is one of them. Samuel lived about three thousand years ago. The nation at the time was rule by judges and had been for years.
In I Samuel 8, the nation wanted a whole new political system. They wanted a king. Every other nation had them and they wanted them. It was great that God was their King, but they wanted a king they could see. It wasn’t God’s best for them but that’s what they got. They got what they wanted.
Many of us do not get God’s best in our life. We screw up. We make really bad choices and end up with second best. What happens in that situation? Is there any hope? In I Samuel 12, Samuel says, “You did not get God’s best but there is still hope. You and your king still have a choice. You can choose to obey and be blessed or you can chose to disobey and be cursed.”
In I Samuel 13, Saul chooses to disobey. He completely blows it and it brings us to an interesting topic. All of us want to be successful in life. We do not want to completely waste our life. We do not want to live a long life and then die as a failure. I Samuel 13 tells us how to be losers. I Samuel 13 is a rather depressing chapter in the end.
It begins on a positive note. Saul’s son Jonathon attacks a garrison of the Philistines and has some military success (I Samuel 14:3) but it ends with his dad King Saul as a complete loser.
Saul started out great. He looked like a king. He was head and shoulders taller than everyone else. He was kingly in appearance. The people loved him. He was popular. He had leadership gifts. God’s Spirit fell on him and he prophesied. On top of all of that, he was humble. He was so humble that when they called his name by lot, he hid among the luggage. He was the reluctant ruler.
Now, Saul becomes a REJECT. Saul becomes rejected by God. He fell under divine judgment and was rejected by God. It is bad enough when people reject you. It is bad when a boyfriend or girlfriend breaks up with you. It is bad when a spouse divorces you. It is bad when an employer fires you, but it is even worse when God rejects you.
God rejected Samuel, not once but twice. He rejected him in I Samuel 13. He rejected him I Samuel 15. It had absolutely nothing to do with SALVATION. It had to do with KINGSHIP. Saul was the first King of Israel. God put him on the throne and later He rejected him as king.
This rejection happened gradually. It happened in stages. It got progressively worse. First, God rejected his kids. He said to Saul. “You are NOT going to start a dynasty. None of your kids are going to take over when you die.”
Saul had a son named Jonathon. He was in line to become the second king. God tells Saul that Jonathon will never be king. He would never become Saul’s successor.
God told him, “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.” (I Samuel 13:13 NIV). If Saul had not sinned, not only would Jonathon have become king, but the Messiah would have come from the line of Saul.
In I Samuel 13, God rejected Saul’s kids. In I Samuel 15, God rejected Saul himself. He said that he will NOT be king anymore. Not only will his dynasty not continue, he will not continue.
What is the setting of this chapter? What is going on here? The chapter begins with Jonathon attacking the Philistines and he is successful. Jonathan attacked the Philistine outpost at Geba, and the Philistines heard about it (I Samuel 14:3 NIV). That led to a counterattack. It led to a massive military response by the Philistines. Jonathon picked a fight with the Philistines and stirred up a hornet’s nest.
5 The Philistines assembled to fight Israel, with three thousand 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 (I Samuel 13:5 NIV).
The Philistines invade the land of Israel and come to Mickmash (I Samuel 13:5). Several things stand out here.
This was a MASSIVE INVASION. They came against Israel with thousands of soldiers, like the sand on the seashore.
It was a POWERFUL INVASION. They came against the Israelites with chariots which were basically like tanks.
It was TERRIFYING INVASION. They came to the very center of the country to Mickmash in the land of Benjamin. It was near the border of the northern and southern kingdom. It is an Arab town today.
This was a real crisis. The nation was in trouble. The situation was desperate. Morale was low. Mass defections were taking place. People were hiding in fear.
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. (I Samuel 13:6-7 NIV)
Where was Saul? He was at Gilgal (I Samuel 13:7) and invited the people to come there (I Samuel 13:4). He had an appointment. Samuel was planning on meeting him in Gilgal.
Before the Jews went into the Promise Land, they stopped at Gilgal and got right with God before they went into battle. They circumcised their sons (Joshua 5). Saul does not want to go into battle without the blessing of God. Sacrifices were to be offered to ask the favor of God before the upcoming battle.
Samuel told him to WAIT until he got there before any sacrifices were offered. When Samuel finally shows up, Saul had already made the sacrifices. In fact, he left Gilgal with making any. That brings us to our topic for today. Today, we are going to look at three signs of a loser from I Samuel 13.
Three Signs of a Loser
SIGN ONE: You think that you are more important than you actually are
We become spiritual losers if we get a little too big for our britches. We become spiritual losers if our head gets a little too big for us. It could happen to a politician. It could happen to a pastor. It could happen to a boss. It could happen to anyone. Usually, it happens to someone in power, because power tends to corrupt.
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. (I Samuel 13:8-9 NIV).
The Law of Moses said that not just anyone could offer up sacrifices. Only certain people were allowed to do that. Only Levites could offer sacrifices. Saul was from the tribe of Benjamin. He was not a Levite. He was not allowed to offer any sacrifice, but he did it anyway. He should have focused on the ministry that God called him to do, instead of trying to do someone else’s ministry. He had plenty to focus on as king. He had a big job.
God set it up so no king could ever be priest and no priest could ever be king. There is one famous story in the Bible about this. It is about a man named Uzziah. He was another man who was a king and who started out great but ended terrible. In fact, he died as a leper. You might think that you do not know him, but we have all heard his name many times. In the year he died, Isaiah saw an incredible vision of God (Isaiah 6:1). What does the Bible say about Uzziah?
Then all the people of Judah took Uzziah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king in place of his father Amaziah. 2 He was the one who rebuilt Elath and restored it to Judah after Amaziah rested with his ancestors.
3 Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-two years. His mother’s name was Jekoliah; she was from Jerusalem. 4 He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Amaziah had done. 5 He sought God during the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God. As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success…
But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the Lord his God and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense. 17 Azariah the priest with eighty other courageous priests of the Lord followed him in. 18 They confronted King Uzziah and said, “It is not right for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord. That is for the priests, the descendants of Aaron, who have been consecrated to burn incense. Leave the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful; and you will not be honored by the Lord God.”
19 Uzziah, who had a censer in his hand ready to burn incense, became angry. While he was raging at the priests in their presence before the incense altar in the Lord’s temple, leprosy broke out on his forehead. 20 When Azariah the chief priest and all the other priests looked at him, they saw that he had leprosy on his forehead, so they hurried him out. Indeed, he himself was eager to leave, because the Lord had afflicted him.
21 King Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died. He lived in a separate house—leprous and banned from the temple of the Lord. Jotham his son had charge of the palace and governed the people of the land. (II Chronicles 26:1-5, 16-21 NIV)
Are you humble or proud? Being humble doesn’t mean that we don’t have any self-esteem. Being humble doesn’t mean that we go around feeling bad about ourselves. Being humble doesn’t mean that we don’t have any confidence. Being humble doesn’t mean that we can’t have satisfaction in anything we have ever done.
Pride is different than all of these things. When you are proud, you have feelings of excessive or inflated self-worth. When you are proud, you go around thinking you are better than other people. When you are proud, you look down on other people. When you are proud, you can never admit you did anything wrong.
SIGN TWO: You refuse to do what God tells you to do
The second way to become a loser is to not do what God tells us to do. Samuel meets Saul in this chapter and confronts him. He has some strong words to say. In the Bible, prophets had the right to confront kings. Hebrew kings were not absolute monarchs. They weren’t dictators. Notice what Saul said.
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 (I Samuel 13:9-11 NIV)
“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. (I Samuel 13:13 NIV)
Jesus said that you are a fool if you do not BELIEVE the Bible. Remember, He said to some disciples, “O fools and slow of heart to be believe all that the prophets have spoken” (Luke 24:25) Samuel said you are a fool if you do not OBEY the Bible.
Saul disobeyed a direct order. He disobeyed a clear command. Many Christians do the same thing today. Some Christians simply refuse to what God says in His Word, even when what it says is very clear. Do we do what God tells us to do? What was Saul told to do? He was told to go to Gilgal and wait until Samuel got there.
“Go down ahead of me to Gilgal. I will surely come down to you to sacrifice burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, but you must WAIT seven days UNTIL I come to you and tell you what you are to do.” (I Samuel 10:8 NIV).
He went ahead and offered sacrifices without Samuel. What are the takeaways from this? There are three:
- If you disobey God, you always lose
The world thinks today that if we follow old-fashioned biblical commands, we will lose. We will be held back in life. We will miss out but if we disobey the Bible, we will win. We will be better off. The truth is that if you try to live your life contrary to the Word of God, you ALWAYS lose
- You can have good intentions and be disobedient
Saul meant well but he was still disobedient. Saul offered a sacrifice. He offered it to God. He thought he did a good deed, but God rejected him. It is not enough to have good intentions. It is not enough to be sincere and passionate. Many fanatical Muslims have so much zeal for their faith that they will kill themselves. We can have all kinds of zeal but, as Paul said, zeal has to be according to knowledge (Romans 10:2).
Jesus said, “All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you WILL THINK THEY ARE OFFERING A SERVICE TO GOD. 3 They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. (John 16:1-3 NIV)
- You can religious and be completely disobedient
Saul was religious. He performed a religious ritual. He offered a sacrifice. He offered it to the true God. He was trying to worship God. We can be religious and still rebellious.
All kinds of people in this world are religious but that does not mean they are saved. The Pharisees were very religious but many of them were unsaved. God does not even accept all worship to Him, to say nothing of those who worship other gods. Jesus says that some people honor God with their lips, but their heart is far from Him (Matthew 15:8).
SIGN THREE: You make excuses for your sin
The third way to lose is to make excuses when we do sin, to rationalize it. That is what Saul did and it is what people still do today. It goes all the way back to the garden.
Adam and Eve did that. Adam blamed his wife for his sin (“THE WOMAN you gave me caused me to eat the forbidden fruit”). He blamed God for his sin (“The woman YOU GAVE ME caused me to eat the forbidden fruit”). Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent. Saul did the same thing. He gave Samuel four excuses for his disobedience.
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” (I Samuel 13:11-12 NIV).
What were some of his excuses he used? He made four excuses. One excuse had to do with his troops. One had to do with Samuel. One had to do with the Philistines, and one had to do with God.
The FIRST EXCUSE is that the men were scattering. The troops are fleeing. “Everyone is deserting me. I have to do something, and I have to do it now.” That is the excuse of situation ethics. Ethics are determined by the situation. “The situation requires me to take action immediately and not wait any longer.” It is based on the view that circumstances dictates policy and dictate morality.
God’s eternal moral laws do not change with the situation. They do not change with culture. There is never a time when adultery is ever right at any time or in any place. There is never a time or a place when it is right to worship an idol. It is always wrong.
The SECOND EXCUSE is that Samuel did not come. He has not made it to Gilgal yet. Samuel was not there so he jumped the gun and took matters into his own hands. He blamed Samuel for his own actions. “It is your fault because you did not come on time”. His second excuse involved guilt transfer. It involved blameshifting. It involved blaming other people, instead of taking responsibility for your own actions.
The THIRD EXCUSE was that the Philistines were assembling at Michmash and were going to come down against Saul. He had thousands of Philistines and ten thousand chariots all around him.
This is the excuse of pragmatism. This is the ends justify the means excuse. The problem here is that the end does not justify the means. Why not say–as some slanderously claim that we say–“Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is just! (Romans 3:8 NIV)
The FOURTH EXCUSE is “God wants a sacrifice. I have to give it to Him, so I have to disobey you to obey God.” This is the religious excuse. He felt he had to do it to please God. I have not sought the Lord’s favor.’ So I felt COMPELLED to offer the burnt offering” (I Samuel 13:12 NIV). The problem here is that Saul was not pleasing God here. He was deliberately disobeying God.
How People Rationalize Sin Today
We can criticize Saul for what he did but how often do we do the exact same thing today. Many people today act just like Saul. What are some of the ways they do it? We cannot look at all of them but here are three common approaches used today.
1. They deny any wrongdoing
The first rationalization is denial (“It is not wrong). They do not admit that they have even done anything wrong. They will flat-out deny that what they are doing is sinful. If we quote a Bible verse that says that something is sinful, they will say that we have the wrong interpretation of the verse or just reject the Bible as outdated. They would never say that what they have done is wrong. The Bible must be wrong.
2. They redefine wrongdoing
They redefine what is right and wrong. In fact, instead of condemning sin, they embrace it. They celebrate it (gay pride). Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. (Isaiah 5:20 NIV).
We do everything we can today to soften sin and to sugar coat it. We use all kinds of euphemisms today. God calls something sin. The world today calls it something else. They completely redefine it and call good evil and evil good.
3. They attack the accuser
When you criticize them, instead of going on the defensive, they turn the tables and go on the offensive. They say that no one has the right to criticize them. No one is perfect. Everyone sins. Judging is wrong. Jesus said NOT to judge people. Only God can judge us.
Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:1-2 NIV)
Are they right? Jesus is not saying that all judgment is wrong. He is not saying that you can never judge anything in that passage. In the same chapter, he tells us to look out for false prophets (Matthew 7:125). You cannot do that without, making a judgment. When we tell people what the Bible says, we are not judging them. The Bible is. God is.
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 NIV)