One of the hardest things we do is wait. In the military we had a very popular phrase, “Hurry up and wait.” We used that phrase because we usually had to be somewhere or have something ready at a precise time. And usually upon being ready to go, we had to wait because of other factors. Needless to say, we complained a lot about waiting. It was one way to pass the time as we waited. But when it comes to God, if He hasn’t answered, we need to be patient. We must wait. God sees things we don’t see. He knows things we don’t know. And He knows the correct timing of everything. We don’t. Impatience with the Lord can only lead to trouble for us.
The Philistines assembled to fight Israel, with three thousand chariots, six thousand charioteers, and soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore. They went up and camped at Micmash, east of Beth Aven. When the men of Israel saw that their situation was critical and that their army was hard pressed, they hid in caves and thickets, among the rocks, and in pits and cisterns. Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead.
Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear. He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter. So he said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings. ” And Saul offered up the burnt offering. Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him.
“What have you done?” asked Samuel.
Saul replied, “When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Micmash, I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the LORD’s favor.’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.”
“You acted foolishly,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the LORD’s command.”
– 1 Samuel 13:5-14, NIV
Saul was certainly in a tough spot, something we can all appreciate. Lined up against his troops was an army of Philistines, and that army was massive. His own men were scared. They saw the opposing army and the numbers and they reacted as one might expect. After waiting for Samuel for seven days, the time Samuel said he’d be, the army ranks began to thin as men began to desert. Saul felt he had to do something. What he chose to do was wrong.
We don’t see or hear about Saul reminding the people about how God had fought for them before. We don’t see reminders of Jericho and other battles where the Lord had come through. We don’t read about Saul doing the type of inspirational things you would have expected, like with David or with Joshua. And we don’t read about a reliance on God like with Gideon. This isn’t surprising because the Israelites demanded a king like the peoples around them. And God delivered exactly what they wanted so they could understood the foolishness of their choice. As a result, Saul impulsively decides to go ahead and offer the sacrifice that Samuel was supposed to offer. And then Samuel shows up. Talk about perfect timing.
Samuel’s rebuke was quick and to the point. Saul had received a command from God. He did not keep it. He needed to wait. But he didn’t. Instead, he pushed forward because he thought that was best. How wrong he was. Because of Saul’s demonstrated disobedience and lack of dependence on the Lord, Samuel tells Saul he will lose his kingdom. It will not last. We know the rest of the story. The next king of Israel would be David, who wasn’t from Saul’s line. In fact, Saul’s impulsiveness will lead to David’s ascension, because he would rush into a battle he should never have fought, with his sons at his side. None of them returned alive.
Now we may say God was being unfair to Saul, but God isn’t unfair. Saul’s lack of faith and trust, his reliance on his own impulsive judgment, and his focus on his own greatness (as time would reveal) made the case for God. What about us? Are we patient in awaiting the Lord’s answer or His timing? We always talk about asking of God and receiving. But in talking about asking, we must also talk about waiting on the Lord’s timing. If we don’t, we are demonstrating a lack of faith and trust in the Almighty. We are demonstrating the same lack of faith and trust which King Saul demonstrated. We saw how that turned out. Therefore, we must learn to be patient and wait on the advice and direction of our King. It’s the only sure way to receive the goodness and blessing God intends for us. It’ll be worth the wait.