Today I discovered where a well-known Christian saying came from. Have you heard the phrase “a man after God’s own heart”? I’ve heard that saying most of my life, and knew it was somewhere in the Bible, I just never knew where. Until now.
King Saul got impatient and disobeyed God by offering a burnt sacrifice rather than waiting for Samuel to get there and do it. Samuel rebukes him by saying, “You acted foolishly. 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. But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.” (1 Samuel 13:13-14).
I think it’s kind of crazy that such a small statement, easily overlooked, has grown to have the significance that it does now.
What’s even crazier is that Saul didn’t learn his lesson. Again he directly disobeyed God’s orders. This time, when he was supposed to destroy everything that belonged to a conquered people, Saul kept the best of the livestock. He justified his actions by saying that he kept them because he wanted to honor the Lord with sacrifices.
How often do I do that? Justifying sin comes very easily to me. I can justify anger, fear, disobedience, lying, etc. You name it, and I can probably justify it. But Samuel correctly identifies what lies beneath justification–rebellion.
“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.” (1 Samuel 15:22-23)
This chapter ends with God being grieved that he had made Saul king of Israel. How often do I cause God grief? I’ve failed him so many times (and if you’re a regular reader, you’re very aware of that). But there is an important distinction between Saul and myself (I think so, anyways). Saul’s attitude was never what it was supposed to be. Each time he disobeyed God, rather than owning up to it he always justified the action and blamed it on something else. Even after he finally “got it” and was able to just say “I have sinned,” he followed it up with a plea for Samuel to make him look good in front of everyone else.
Wrong attitude. It’s destructive!
Enter David. I think the introduction of David in the Scriptures is interesting. Samuel is sure that Jesse’s oldest son, Eliab, will be the anointed of the Lord because he is strong and tall. But God chides Sam and tells him, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (Note: this also goes back to why Saul was rejected–heart/attitude.) After this statement, we are still told what David looks like–”ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features.” Why take the effort to tell us what he looks like right after we’ve been told it doesn’t matter?
Back to Saul. Saul is still the king of Israel, but he’s deeply troubled now. The Spirit of the Lord has departed from him and he’s tormented by “an evil spirit from the Lord.” Basically, that means that God has left Saul to his own devices (otherwise known as God allowing Saul the sinful desires of his heart). And how does Saul “relieve” himself of this Spirit? He gets David to play the harp. Rather than turning to the Lord for help, he looks elsewhere for relief. Saul just makes mistake after mistake. I cringe while reading about Saul because I just want to reach through the pages and knock some sense into him. But then, it’s easy to see someone else’s flaws, isn’t it? If someone were reading an account of my life, I wonder how often they’d want to do the same to me.
The last section I read today was the story of David and Goliath (everyone knows that one) and how Saul got so jealous of David afterwards. What I didn’t remember (either because I just forgot or this part isn’t taught in VBS) was that after David killed Goliath, he cut off his head. If teachers had left that part in, more little boys would have really gotten into the story!