I have been reading through 1 Samuel this last week. When I came to chapter 13, something struck me while reading the discourse between Samuel and Saul. Let me give you some background information before jumping into their discourse.
Saul was set to again fight against the Philistines after Jonathan had initial defeated them at Geba. After their defeat, the Philistines came out strong with thirty thousand chariots and six thousand horsemen and troops. The text says, “They were like the sand on the seashore in multitude” (1 Samuel 13:5). This caused the Hebrews to be afraid, some crossed over the Jordan, others hid, and the men who were Saul at Gilgal trembled. This was obviously a tense time for the nation of Israel and their leader Saul. There newly installed king had won a military victory once against the Ammonites and his son Jonathan had defeated the Philistines, but Jonathan’s victory seemed only to anger the Philistines, causing them to come out against the Israelites even stronger.
Apparently, Samuel had told Saul to wait at Gilgal for seven days (1 Samuel 10:8), but Samuel did not show up in the allotted time (1 Samuel 13:8). As a result, the people following Saul began to leave. Instead of waiting for Samuel, the prophet of God, Saul decides to proceed without him in offering sacrifices to the Lord. Just as Saul had finished offering burnt offerings, Samuel shows up and asks, “What have you done?” Sauls response is telling of his heart. He says,
“When I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines had mustered at Michmash, I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal and I have not sought the favor of the Lord.’ So I forced myself, and offered the burnt offering” (1 Samuel 13:11-12).
Samuel responds by telling Saul that he has not obeyed the commandments of the Lord, and, as a result, the kingdom will be taken from him. Immediately afterward he tells him,
“The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you” (1 Samuel 13:14).
Later on in Chapter 15 we read about another instance when Saul rejected the commandments of the Lord and did what the people wanted. There he did not kill all the Amalekites or destroy all their livestock, instead he spared their king, Agag, and sought to sacrifice the livestock to God because that is what the people wanted to do.
The common thread that is running through these narratives is Saul’s lack of obedience to the Lord and his desire to please his people.
- Instead of waiting for Samuel to come to Gilgal, he offered sacrifices to the Lord when the people started to leave.
- Instead of killing all the Amalekites and devoting all their livestock to destruction like he was commanded by the Lord, he listened to the people and kept the livestock to offer as a sacrifice to the Lord.
The result, is that Saul was to be removed as king over Israel (1 Samuel 13:14), and God regretted making him a king (1 Samuel 15:10-11).
Man After God’s Own Heart
Saul was not a man after God’s own heart; rather, he sought his own fame and glory by pleasing those he was ruling over. As I read about Saul, I saw a little of myself in him, but I also learned a valuable lesson.
If I want to be a man after God’s own heart, I need to obey God’s commandments even when it is not popular. Even when others will shun me, walk away from my leadership, or outright persecute me, I need to obey the commandments of the Lord because that is to what I have been called.
A man after God’s own heart obeys the Lord rather than people. He seeks the will of God rather than his own will.
David becomes our immediate example of a man after God’s own heart, but he failed from time to time, seeking his own will instead of God’s.
Even though he represents a man after God’s own heart in the immediate context, it is not until we get to Jesus do we see someone who perfectly exhibits what that means. Jesus lived a perfect life and was even obedient to the point of death, accomplishing the Father’s will instead of seeking to glorify Himself (Philippians 2: 6-11).
Salvation Before Obedience
Jesus is our example, but He must be our Savior first. Try as we might, we can never hope to live as Jesus did without first being raised from the dead. We are inherently sinful people, who want nothing more than to accomplish our own will and please ourselves.
If we ever hope to obey God’s commandments and live an obedient life like Christ, a life we will never fully live this side of eternity, we must believe that Christ is our Savior. When we do, will be made a child of God, given a new heart, and the Holy Spirit will indwell us. With our new heart and the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit, we will be better able to obey the commandments of the Lord.
Questions for Reflection
- Can you restate what it means to be a man/woman after God’s own heart?
- Do you understand why you must be regenerated before you can live as a person after God’s own heart?
- Do you ever seek others approval rather than living for the Lord?
- What is the chief end of man?