Beginning in Chapter 13, the true nature of the people’s king begins to emerge. Saul grows impatient when Samuel does not show up to inquire into the Lord’s direction to fight the Philistines. So he assumes duties reserved only for priests and makes offerings to the Lord himself. Samuel starkly rebukes Saul:
“You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which he commanded you, for now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 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 ruler over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you” (13:13-14).
Notice very carefully: even though God feels rejected by the people for demanding a king, God’s never-ending love means he is willing to give Saul a chance. All Saul has to do is obey what God commands and Saul’s kingdom will be established forever! God does not expect us to be perfect. He gives us second chances to get it right. He does expect us to honor and obey him. Why is that so hard?
What does Samuel mean when he says God has found a man after his own heart? We get a hint in Chapter 14, when Saul’s son Jonathan decides to take on the whole Philistine army purely on faith. Jonathan says something that we must believe more than ever today:
“…the Lord will work for us, for the Lord is not restrained to save by many or by few” (14:6).
Jonathan has the heart of God in complete obedience to the direction of God in his life. Perhaps you and I are the few!
In Chapter 15, Saul is tested again, another chance offered by God, and again he fails. First, Saul fails to obey God’s direct command to completely destroy an enemy. Then he keeps some of the plunder for himself and sets up a monument – to himself! Then he pays false lip service to honoring Samuel and then proudly lies that he has obeyed the commandment of God. When Samuel rebukes him, he blames the people and claims that he did follow God’s orders. Finally, he pretends to repent, but it is only a show so that Samuel will make him look good before the elders. Samuel has heard enough and says:
“The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and given it to your neighbor who is better than you” (15:28).
That neighbor will turn out to be David.
God sets our rulers over all people, for better or worse. In America, we become God’s voice through our elections. What then is the test for a good candidate? A good candidate listens to the voice of God, obeys his commandments, is humble, does not lie, and does not blame others for his mistakes.
This is the sad song of Saul. And I must ask: when is the last time our President was seen going to church to avoid these negative character traits?