Posts Tagged ‘man’s declination’

Day Forty


Where Your Test Will Come

(Where your thinking trumps obedience to God)


“I thought …. So I forced myself to offer a burnt offering.”

1Sam 13:12 AMP


          Our trust in God is always a continual choice – allowing Him to overcome territory in us that He has not previously occupied.  To grow in trust, God continually provides choices where our rational intellect and understanding must step aside and give way for irrational faith to operate.  This, then, is the ground in us that the Lord truly possesses, and it becomes His new beach-head for further operations.  But where that choice is still to be made between being subject to our best reasoning or subject to obedience by faith – THAT is where our tests will come.  For faith to reign, for the Lord to reign in that area, requires our deliberate choice and surrender to obey.


          Take the example of King Saul in first Samuel Chapters 13-15.  Our first clues about Saul’s weakness come as the Lord commissions Samuel to anoint this man as King over Israel.  He tells Samuel: “He shall save them out of the hands of the Philistines.”  For a King — that is a destiny of very limited scope.  The Lord was already revealing the extent of Saul’s usefulness to Him, because of weaknesses that could not be overcome.  Even as Samuel broaches the subject of God’s call on Saul’s life, Saul is only able to see what is before him according to his rational perception: “Am I not a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel? And is not my family the least of all the families of the clans of Benjamin? Why then do you speak this way to me?”


          Now we look at Saul’s first major misstep.  From 1 Samuel Chapter 13, where Saul takes upon himself the priestly obligation (without the Lord’s sanction) of sacrificing a burnt offering before going to battle with the Philistines. It is no coincidence that everything appears to be arrayed against success.  The Israelites are seriously outnumbered by the Philistines, and the weight of both chariots and horseman increase the Philistine advantage.  The Israelite numbers are dissipating in the face of this threat, and they are forced to hide in caves, holes, tombs, and cisterns.  By the time the sacrifice has been made and the fight is on – Israel’s numbers are down to 600 fighting men left.  You can see logistically, rationally, with his best understanding about fighting and tactics – Saul is under a hard press here.  Samuel had given instructions to wait for him for seven days.  As he waits, Saul watches what looks like the chance for any survival, let alone success, dissipate before him.  Everything in him cries out, “Do something quick!” (Recognize Saul’s own thinking here.)


          At that moment – he had the chance to surrender that thinking and fear to God: to put it in the Lord’s hands.  If he had rolled and committed and trusted this work of the battle to the Lord and put all his reliance on Him – Saul would have succeeded, but more importantly so would have God (Prov 16:3).  But when he allowed his fear and urgency for action to lead him into priestly activities for which he was not authorized or called, he sealed not only the failure of that engagement, he secured the early demise of his own reign as King.


          Two more opportunities to obey are presented to Saul before he is thoroughly rejected as King.  In Chapter 14 Saul’s son Jonathan takes his armor bearer over enemy lines and wipes out 20 of the enemy for a stunning strategic blow.  It garners the validation of the Lord with the trembling of the earth and the trembling of the Philistine forces in terror and panic. Yet Saul has already pronounced a (self-led) edict cursing anyone who would eat until “he has vengeance on his enemies” (it’s about his vengeance).  His own son Jonathan eats of honey-comb after his fight, and is refreshed but now is under that pronounced curse.  When the people realize Jonathan (who had just whooped up on the Philistines) is cursed to die they rescue Jonathan by siding for him.  Saul has stepped into the arena of religious practice by his edict and curse.  It is complicated when Jonathan unknowingly eats.  Jonathan nails it when he comments that his dad has troubled the land.  The Israelites were so famished they were unable to deal with the Philistines as effectively, so the battle was not fully successful.  Plus, by the time the people could eat they brought themselves under judgment by eagerly eating the meat with the blood.  Now as Saul is instructed to inquire of the Lord as to whether he should pursue the Philistines – the Lord is silent.  He gives no guidance.  So now Saul asks for lots to be drawn to find out who has sinned and caused God’s silence.  This is when he finds out his son has eaten.  Yet instead of honoring his edict and offering his son to the Lord, (and paying his vow) he allows the people to dissuade him from following through. Here, now, was a chance for Saul to humble himself and come clean.  He could have confessed being self-reliant and self-led.  He could have confessed being led by his own religious notions and not the Lord; botching the victory; causing the people to sin.  But instead he kept face – stood steadfast, and moved more deeply into the terrain of disobedience and self-reliance.


          1Samuel Chapter 15 is the setting for the famous “What then means this bleating of the sheep…” quote.  It is the inevitable declination of a man who could have fulfilled his destiny except for his steadfast reliance on his own thinking.  Saul is commanded by God (through Samuel) to go and smite the Amalekites: “to destroy all they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”  Saul does not.  Again, moved by his own rational processes rather than faith in the Lord, Saul allows the people to save the best of the sheep and oxen to sacrifice to the Lord.  His obedience is tailored to his own notion of pleasing God and pleasing the people.  This is considered evil in the Lord’s eyes.  To obey only in part is no obedience.  Saul is in fact saying, “I weigh my own skill in thinking higher than I weigh your command Lord.  My confidence in myself is greater than my confidence in You.”  Thus, with this episode Saul is finally rejected as King and he will no longer hear the Lord from any avenue.


          It is a dismal story.  Launched with every potential, every ability to wildly succeed – Saul is tested and found wanting at the very point of his greatest weakness which he trusts completely:  his thinking.  This is where we must all beware.  Our own perceptions and interpretations of God’s commands can end up disqualifying us from use, but even worse – from the Kingdom.  Just as God’s word is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, this same word will touch the very place where God does not reign in us – in our own thinking.  This is where the test comes. He precipitates an event, which requires us to either defer to our judgment or defer to our faith in Him.  These are adversarial things – they cannot both operate at the same time.  We must choose.  In the very act of choosing – we solidify the terrain of our soul either for success or failure, obedience or disobedience, greater growth or diminishment of the Kingdom of God operating in us.


          This may be the test before you, and only a test – but out of it expands one Kingdom or another: God’s or this world’s.  The choice is yours.


Be-loved:  Be confident in the Lord.  Be faithful.   Be obedient.  May His Kingdom rule in the hearts and minds of men!



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