Trusting When It’s Hard

Saul tore his gaze from the backs of yet another pair of soldiers running off into the woods long enough
to glance up at the sky. The sun was sinking lower. Less than an hour till sundown. The soldiers that remained
were shaken, almost literally. They jumped at every sound, and their heads darted from side to side like a
nervous bird. They too would flee at the first sight of danger.
 
How had they come to this? He started with 3,000 fresh troops, giddy from the victory Saul’s son
Jonathan had achieved over the Philistines. Samuel was supposed to show up, offer the sacrifices, and then the
battle could begin. Now, seven days later, fear latched onto the soldiers. Too much time to sit, with nothing to
stop them from dwelling on thoughts of the more numerous and technologically superior Philistines that could
attack at any moment. Day by day, more men deserted until Saul’s army shrank to the mere 600 men still with
him.
 
Something had to be done. Didn’t God make Saul King? These men are his responsibility. The very war
itself is his burden to bear. And who knows what happened to Samuel. He could have been captured. Killed!
The Philistines aren’t the only threats out there. One man alone could fall victim to highwaymen or even to wild
animals driven into frenzy by hunger. Should Saul keep waiting for what may never come?
 
So Saul stood up, and grabbed a branch from the campfire, the far end blazing like a torch. “Bring the
sacrifice!” he shouted. The men looked up, hesitant. Slowly, a few rose to their feet and went to the animal
pens. Moments later, the sacrifice was completed, and Saul could see the men’s spirit rising.
 
“What have you done?” Samuel’s voice lashed out of the near darkness. Saul jumped in spite of himself.
Saul was King, but Samuel made him feel like a young child standing before the principal. “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.”
 
At first glance, this might seem harsh. Saul was doing what he thought best. But he defied the explicit
command of God. Think about your life. There have probably been times that you thought, “I know God says
this, but surely he would understand. My situation is different.” And so we defy God’s commands, but God is
never glorified by our disobedience. And our own lives are harmed by our disobedience as well. When God
leads, our responsibility is to follow.