1 Samuel 13 … Consider His Lesson in the Negative

Samuel said to 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. 14 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 as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.” [13:13-14]

As a former theatre teacher and director I often recall my acting/directing professor from my university days repeatedly convey, “you can never learn from a truly excellent production, but oh how you will learn from the awful!”

The idea being, when things on stage flow smoothly, the audience is so enraptured with each moment they are not dwelling on what needs improving. But a horribly flawed production practically holds up neon signs declaring all its shortcomings. It’s a lesson in the negative so to speak.

Here in 1 Samuel 13, we are anything but enraptured with the jarring plot as it unfolds. And it is here we are introduced to God’s beloved and chosen man described as “a man after His own heart” [13:14], but there is no description offered of this man. What is provided is the portrait of the turbulent transactions of a man who is not “a man after His own heart,” and in a sense, class is in session as we learn His Lesson in the Negative.

Now he waited seven days, according to the appointed time set by Samuel, but Samuel did not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattering from him. So Saul said, “Bring to me the burnt offering and the peace offerings.” And he offered the burnt offering. 10 As soon as he finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him and to greet him. 11 But Samuel said, “What have you done?” And Saul said, “Because I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the appointed days, and that the Philistines were assembling at Michmash, 12 therefore I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not asked the favor of the Lord.’ So I forced myself and offered the burnt offering.” [13:8-12]

Based on the outward activity, it may seem as though Saul had no choice. The people were scattering; he had to do something. But the LORD had told him through His prophet, Samuel, precisely what he must do.

And you shall go down before me to Gilgal; and behold, I will come down to you to offer burnt offerings and sacrifice peace offerings. You shall wait seven days until I come to you and show you what you should do.” [1 Samuel 10:8]

Saul was instructed by the prophet Samuel, the spokesman for the LORD, to wait for his arrival for seven days. Disregarding the words of Samuel was tantamount to ignoring the counsel of the LORD. But Saul grew impatient as he looked upon the encroaching enemy… and a truly “awful” production transpires. And so the curtain closes on Saul’s kingdom, but His Lesson in the Negative continues to this day.

Consider His Lesson in the Negative

  • Saul assessed his situation apart from faith
    • Now he waited seven days, according to the appointed time set by Samuel, but Samuel did not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattering from him. [13:8]
  • Saul determined to gain the LORD’s approval and salvation through his own sacrificial offering rather than trusting in God’s provision through Samuel
    • So Saul said, “Bring to me the burnt offering and the peace offerings.” And he offered the burnt offering. [13:9]
  • Saul, when confronted with his sin, chose to justify himself rather than repent in humility
    • As soon as he finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him and to greet him. 11 But Samuel said, “What have you done?” And Saul said, “Because I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the appointed days, and that the Philistines were assembling at Michmash, [13:10-11]
  • Saul was fixed on his outward actions rather than the condition of his heart.
    • …therefore I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal…, and I have not asked the favor of the Lord.’ So I forced myself and offered the burnt offering.” [13:12]

How do we respond to His Lesson in the Negative?

In a sense His Lesson in the Negative is played out before our eyes in the truly flawed performance of a man who completely misses the mark of a man after His own heart. This man after His own heart, although flawed, trusts in the LORD at all costs in unwavering faith.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight. [Proverbs 3:5-6]

And in Saul we see the story of a man who plummets deep into the negative. Because Saul did not trust in the LORD with all his heart, because he did not acknowledge Him in all his ways, but chose to lean on his own human understanding, his path was anything but straight. Instead of following after the LORD’s heart he veered off onto his own path of self-destruction and decline.

Let us learn from His Lesson in the Negative the areas the LORD would not have us emulate. Let us take from His heart to ours His Lesson in the Negative that we would turn from our own understanding and learn to trust in Him with all our hearts.

  • Let us turn from dependence upon our physical sight and learn to assess every situation through eyes of faith.
    • Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. [2 Corinthians 4:16-18]
  • Let us turn from seeking our own way to gain His salvation and approval and learn to trust only in God’s provision through the sacrificial offering of His Son.
    • But he who boasts is to boast in the Lord. 18 For it is not he who commends himself that is approved, but he whom the Lord commends. [2 Corinthians 10:17-18]
    • For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. [Ephesians 2:8-9]
    • Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval. [Hebrews 11:2]
  • Let us turn from the sin of pride and learn to repent in humility as we trust His grace gift of justification through faith in Christ Jesus.
    • Behold, as for the proud one,
      His soul is not right within him;
      But the righteous will live by his faith.
      [Habakkuk 2:4]
    • …for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith… For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. [Romans 3:23-25, 28]
  • Let us turn from the temptation to trust our own good works and learn what is truly pleasing to Him.
    • “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also. 27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” [Matthew 23:25-28]
    • …for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), 10 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. [Ephesians 5:8-9]

May we learn much from His Lesson in the Negative.

Let’s Grow Together!

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