Rut Roh!

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 13:10-14

"Rut Roh!" That will probably be the only reference I ever make to the cartoon character Scooby Doo but it certainly fit here. You can almost hear Saul gulp when he realizes that Samuel is nearby. No kind of explaining away would work. Saul had erred and tried to cover over it. 

"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."

Seems like a very harsh punishment, doesn't it? It was Saul's first real test as King of Israel and he failed miserably. Again, as in a previous devotion, we don't know the extent of the agreement between Saul, Samuel and the Lord, but Saul didn't really put up a fight so he knew he was in the wrong. How would you like to continue on as King after that kind of rebuke, and from a man that Saul had to have respected greatly.

Throughout this series on the Kings of the Old Testament I will again ask you to pray for your leaders. Pray for the judges who must make wise choices and discern many difficult cases. If you're in the U.S. pray for the Supreme Court Justices by name: John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, David Souter, John Paul Stevens,
Clarence Thomas. Pray that God would guide them as only He can.

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Do the Right Thing

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. 1 Samuel 13:5-10

The Philistines clearly outnumbered the Israelites. The Israelite cowered in fear. Then as the Israelites were scattering, Saul decides to offer a burnt offering, hoping that the Lord would look favorably upon that sacrifice. It's not recorded, but Samuel had told Saul to wait for him for seven days. Scripture doesn't tell us what the actual agreement was. Saul waited but Samuel didn't show. The new King Saul was impatient. He obviously trusted the prophet of God to arrive when he said he would. It's clear from the following text (starting at verse 11) that Saul knew the right thing to do but didn't do it.

Again, we see our leaders knowing the right thing to do in many instances but failing to do it. It seems it's like that in issue after issue after issue. One of my favorite quotes is from a radio show host and columnist in Minnesota, Joe Soucheray, "If we don't stay on them, they're gonna get it wrong."

Pray that our leaders and politicians do the right thing in every circumstance. Many, many things are black and white. They are non-negotiable. Those are the "things" I'm referring to.

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Saul’s First Military Battle

Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned over Israel forty-two years. Saul chose three thousand men from Israel; two thousand were with him at Micmash and in the hill country of Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan at Gibeah in Benjamin. The rest of the men he sent back to their homes. 1 Samuel 13:1-2

Saul is starting to step into his reign. He's a young man with great ambitions. From the Scripture, he uses his "resources" carefully. No more than is absolutely necessary to finish the job. He entrusted his son Jonathan with a third of the men to go to Gibeah. Jonathan himself couldn't have been more than fifteen or sixteen. Ruling a land at 30 takes a lot of wisdom and courage. At such a young age, you will be criticized and harassed with every action you take.

We have seen rulers around the world who were very young. Many came into power through their parents. There are young leaders of varying degrees of power in all of our lands. We probably can't pray for these leaders enough. There are thousands of pressures and temptations to do things that would give them gratification in the short term but would undermine the laws of their land. Pray for your leaders.

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Samuel Prays

Samuel said to all Israel, "I have listened to everything you said to me and have set a king over you. Now you have a king as your leader. As for me, I am old and gray, and my sons are here with you. I have been your leader from my youth until this day. Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the LORD and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these, I will make it right."…. "Now then, stand still and see this great thing the LORD is about to do before your eyes! Is it not wheat harvest now? I will call upon the LORD to send thunder and rain. And you will realize what an evil thing you did in the eyes of the LORD when you asked for a king." Then Samuel called upon the LORD, and that same day the LORD sent thunder and rain. So all the people stood in awe of the LORD and of Samuel. 1 Samuel 12:1-3, 16-18

The entire Chapter 12 of First Samuel is a fascinating read. Before Samuel departs Saul so that he could rule the people, he has a few words for the Israelites. It was a wise man in that society giving the people advice. It happens in all societies. We certainly need more wise men and women in to dwell among us. We need that wisdom that comes from 70 or 80 years of real-world, hard-knocks, tell-it-like-it-is experience. We definitely need to elevate those in our society who possess that Godly wisdom.

And most certainly, we need those wise men and women of God who will pray for us. I had one of those women of God pray me into the Kingdom of God. She has since departed this earth, but it was sure nice to know that someone of that caliber "had my back" so to speak. Praise God for men and women like that.

Perhaps you're in that age group and have already taken on the challenge of praying for someone 50 or 60 years younger (or even more than one person!). Keep at it! They will certainly need your prayers. You are a blessing to that person.

Or perhaps you're in your twenties. Seek out those Godly men and women, and ask them to pray for you, even if it's for only one or two minutes a day. You will certainly not be turned away or laughed at for such a request.

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Saul the Diplomat

The people then said to Samuel, "Who was it that asked, 'Shall Saul reign over us?' Bring these men to us and we will put them to death." But Saul said, "No one shall be put to death today, for this day the LORD has rescued Israel." Then Samuel said to the people, "Come, let us go to Gilgal and there reaffirm the kingship." So all the people went to Gilgal and confirmed Saul as king in the presence of the LORD. There they sacrificed fellowship offerings before the LORD, and Saul and all the Israelites held a great celebration. 1 Samuel 11:12-15

When you first read this, it's almost as if the people have what is termed "buyer's remorse." This is what happens almost immediately after you purchase something expensive and regret it. Something similar happens in politics: you choose somebody and after further examination while the person is in office, you regret your decision. But we also see that Saul is starting to play the role of the diplomat, trying to smooth the rough edges of the people. They go to Gilgal and are "on the same page," seemingly for the first time in his brief reign.

Leaders strike a delicate balance at times. They have to make difficult decisions at times and will never please all of the people all of the time.

Pray for your nation's leaders. They must make difficult decisions amidst enormous pressures from many sides. Pray that they will have wise and upright counsel.

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