Open Your Bible
1 Samuel 10:1-27, 1 Samuel 13:1-14, Numbers 18:7
For me, reading through 1 Samuel is like learning Israel’s history for the very first time. I’ve been so fascinated by this story because Saul seems so well-intentioned, at least based on outward appearance. But when I look a little closer, I realize that Saul was a man of great fear, one who was constantly seeking the approval of other people. What’s more, Saul shrouded his insecurity in half-obedience to the Lord.
Ugh. Knife in the gut.
I could so easily replace Saul’s name with my own in both of the sentences above. I am a woman of great fear. I hide all of my insecurity by pretending I’m following the Lord, when really, I’m looking for other people’s approval.
In today’s reading, Saul’s habit of half-obedience is on full display—twice. In Chapter 10, the prophet Samuel is surrounded by crowds, and the people are looking around, trying to find Saul to put a crown on his head and officially make him their king. Saul already knows he’s been chosen, but he’s so very fearful of the job that he literally goes and hides himself in a big pile of baggage (1 Samuel 10:22).
The metaphor is too good to pass up. Hiding in baggage? Yep, I totally do that too. And I think I do it for two paradoxical reasons. First, I hide because I’m afraid; I’d much rather be hiding in the shadows than be up front where if I fall or make a mistake, people will see. The baggage—my past mistakes, what other people have said about me, the lies I believe about myself—allows me to keep a safe distance from any kind of leadership.
I also hide because I want to be important enough to be found. Scripture tells us that after Saul hid himself, the people ran and brought him out, shouting, “Long live the king!” (v.24). That must have felt nice. He was so important, that even though he was hiding, the people wouldn’t let him hide for long. They came and found him and put him in the spotlight. Maybe that’s what Saul really wanted: to feel chosen by the people. Perhaps being anointed by God wasn’t enough, because he wanted the seal of approval from the people more.
In Chapter 13, Saul commits a sin fatal to his kingship when he offers burnt offerings on the altar only entrusted to Samuel (vv.1–14). His action is one of half-obedience. He was told to wait, and he did wait—but only for so long. He knew that there would be sacrifices, and so he took those sacrifices into his own hands. He wanted to prove to the men around him that he was doing something. He was afraid of being deserted, not by God, but by his soldiers. Once again, his obedience to God was only a farce to hide his reliance upon others. Saul feared man—not God.
But here’s the thing: God had already chosen Saul, and God has already chosen us (1 Peter 2:9; Ephesians 1:4). We do not need to hide. And we do not need to be found, because we will never be deserted by Him. Even if everyone else falls away, even when we fail, God will never desert us.