Samuel said, “Although you [Saul] were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king over Israel – 1 Samuel 15:17 (NIV)
We are born with an innate need for security. Newborns accustomed to the cozy confines of the womb must be swaddled for a period of time to feel secure. Near the base of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is safety, which is synonymous with security. Security is a God-given need. As it was God who created this need, he also intended to fill it. However since the fall of man, Satan has sought to subvert God’s plan. Satan cannot genuinely create, he can only counterfeit and mar God’s creation. Such as it is with security. Satan will tempt us to look for security apart from God. Sources of security apart from God are not sustainable and ultimately result in insecurity. Seeking security apart from God is like scooping up handfuls of sand and not expecting any grains to fall out. It’s fighting a losing battle.
With this as a backdrop, let’s look at the cautionary tale of Israel’s first king, Saul. God instructed the prophet Samuel to anoint Saul as king. Samuel tells Saul that the favor of the entire nation of Israel is directed toward him. (1. Sam. 9:20). What was Saul’s reaction? Saul answered, “But am I not a Benjamite, from the smallest tribe of Israel, and is not my clan the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why do you say such a thing to me? (1. Sam 9:21)(NIV). Saul was looking to fulfill God’s calling while relying on his, not God’s, resources. His reaction was quite natural and similar Gideon’s, Moses’ and others when God called these men to do great tasks. The difference, however, is that Gideon and Moses came to eventually rely on God’s empowerment while Saul did not.
Once anointed as king, Saul attempted to do everything in his power to maintain the monarchy. Like many men today, Saul saw his identity and worth as a person wrapped up his title. David, the valiant warrior, was loyal to Saul. Saul and the rest of Israel were beneficiaries of David’s military conquests. Instead of relishing in David victories which meant the vanquishing of Israel’s enemies, Saul saw them as a threat. Saul became particularly enraged when the women of Israel ascribed greater military prowess to David than to him. When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with timbrels and lyres. As they danced, they sang: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” Saul was very angry; this refrain displeased him greatly. “They have credited David with tens of thousands,” he thought, “but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?” (1 Samuel 18:7)(NIV).
Saul completely forgot that he only become king in the first place through divine fiat. God spoke to the prophet Samuel to anoint Saul as king. Samuel had to search him out. He found Saul hiding among the baggage (1 Samuel 10:22). As an aside, we must not permit our own “baggage” from interfering with us in answering God’s call on our lives. Whom God calls, he equips.
Our true priorities are revealed when we are threatened with loss. Do we value career, status and possessions above God? Saul’s priorities were tested when he was instructed to wait for Samuel to offer a sacrifice before an impending battle with the Philistines. Saul’s men became fearful and started to desert him. Saul sensing defeat and valuing his reign above all took matters into his own hands and offered the sacrifice. When Samuel finally did show up, he rebuked Saul for his disobedience and told him is kingdom would not endure (1 Samuel 13:1-14).
This episode marked Saul’s descent into wanton disobedience. Knowing he was going to lose the kingdom caused Saul to become increasing irreligious. He intensified his paranoid pursuit of attempting to kill David. He ordered the killing of 85 priests and their families (1 Samuel 22:17 – 19). He consulted a medium (1 Samuel 28:3-25), something God expressly forbid his people to do (Leviticus 19:31). Ultimately Saul died in disgrace, falling on his own sword (1 Samuel 31:3-6).
We must not allow our pursuits for power, acclaim or wealth to eclipse our pursuit of God. As Jesus told his disciples, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Matthew 16:25-26)(NIV).