1 Samuel 13:1-15

1 Samuel 13:1-15

Sermon preached on January 25, 2009 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

Last week Cara-Leigh and Natalia told me an interesting story about their recent visit to Saigon in Vietnam. They said that they couldn't believe the number of scooters on the streets and that there were so many of the whizzing by that it seemed like you would never be able to cross the street without getting hit by one. But their professor told them to just to step out and walk across the street normally and that the motor scooters would avoid them. He also told them not to run across, or they'd get hit and not to stop because then they'd get hit then as well. But he assured them that if they just walked normally—they'd get across just fine. They found it hard to believe but they ventured across they said it worked. They just stepped out and walked and all the scooters avoided them. They'd be whizzing all around them, some in front, some in back, but they'd never hit them. It seemed incredible but it worked. There was danger all around, but it never actually came to them.

Walking with God is sometimes like that. At times it may seem like we're not safe. It may seem that God isn't looking after us, that He doesn't care for us—that He has forgotten about us. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Saul knew what it was like to have danger all around him. In the passage before us his situation seemed desperate and most precarious. His son Jonathan had provoked the Philistines and made them angry so that the Israelites had become a stench to the them. The Philistines assembled to fight against Israel. They were an impressive force. According to verse 5 (Hebrew text) they had 30000 chariots, six thousand horsemen and troops as numerous as the sand on the seashore. Saul, on the other had, had 3000 men. The Philistines had ten times as many chariots as Saul had men. Besides that they had twice as many horsemen as Saul had men. The Philistine troops were more than could be counted. Not only that, but later in the chapter we are told that the Israelites didn't have any weapons. Only Saul and his son Jonathan had a sword and spear. Not only that, many of Saul's men were so afraid that they started deserting, fleeing to hide in the caves and thickets in the mountains, so that at the end of it only six hundred men were with him.

Thus from an earthly perspective things looked very bad for Saul and the Israelite army. Saul's situation appeared to be very grave.

Samuel had told Saul to wait seven days and that at the end of seven days he would surely come to him and sacrifice burnt offerings and fellowship offerings and tell him what to do. But when Samuel didn't turn up at the time that Saul expected him, Saul took matters into his own hands and offered sacrifices to seek the Lord's favor. Just when he finished Samuel arrived and rebuked him. He told him that if he had remained faithful, God would have established his kingdom for all time. But because he sinned, he was told that his kingdom would not endure.

This is a very instructive passage. Indeed, I think this in one of the most profitable portions of Scripture that we have in regard to teaching us some of the truths about sin.

First of all, Saul shows us that

one of the things that leads people to sin, that makes them particularly vulnerable to sin is a lack of faith in God.

Lack of faith in God is in itself sinful and we see here that it leaves the door wide open for other sins. A lack of faith in God is a weakness that Satan can easily exploit.

Look at King Saul here. His basic problem was that he didn't trust God. He exhibited a lack of faith in God's prophet, in God's promises, in God's calling. He was looking at things with earthly eyes.

So he did something he wasn't supposed to do. He offered the sacrifices without Samuel being there. He infringed on the priestly office inappropriately. He disregarded what Samuel said and acted on his own.

He and his men were really in no danger. The Philistines didn't attack like everyone expected. They didn't do anything. They just waited. It wasn't until days later when Jonathan attacked them that a battle took place. So although Saul seemed to be in an emergency situation, he really wasn't. This is clear from Samuel's words. When he arrived he said to Saul,

"You acted foolishly.
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."

Samuel told him that it was all a test. Saul and Israel were never in any danger. God was controlling everything. He was in complete control of the Philistines, of the battle, of the men of Israel. Saul didn't have to be fearful. He didn't have to be impatient when he thought that Samuel was late. All he had to do was be faithful to the Lord. But he didn't do that.

It's interesting that there are
strong parallels between the situation Saul faced and the situation that Gideon faced in the book of Judges. Verse 6 of our text, which describes the men of Israel hiding in caves, is nearly identical to Judges 6:2, which describes the situation in Israel at the beginning of Gideon's ministry on behalf of the Lord. There are other parallels. Like Saul, Gideon was facing what seemed to be a desperate situation. Both blew the ram's horn. But by accounts, Israel's enemies were likened to the sand on the seashore. Another parallel was the fact that in both accounts the Israelites had no weapons. You'll remember that when Gideon and his 300 men went forth, Gideon told them not to take any weapons—but only trumpets with torches inside. When Saul faltered, he had twice the number of men that Gideon had when he defeated the Midianites.

Peter J. Leithart writes, (A Son to Me, p. 82)

"Saul lost his nerve and acted without faith. Saul had become an anti-Gideon, putting his trust in numbers rather than the Lord."

Gideon was victorious because He trusted in the Lord. He waited on God and followed God's directions.

So the principle we see here is that

if you trust in God you can be much better prepared to stand when temptation comes.

You'll remember that after Jesus had gone 40 days without food He was hungry. The tempter came to Him and said, (Matthew 4:3-10)

"If you are the Son of God,
tell these stones to become bread."

Jesus answered,

"It is written:
'Man does not live on bread alone,
but on every word
that comes from the mouth of God.''"

In that temptation, and the other two, Jesus stood firm in His trust in God and His Word. He knew that the Father was not going to let Him die of hunger. He rested firmly in the fact that His Father would take care of Him. He emphatically met every temptation with,

"It is written…"

Satan wants you to be just like King Saul. He doesn't want you to have great trust in God. He doesn't want you to trust His Word. He wants you to have doubts. Thus the world today tells you that shouldn't believe in God's Word. It'll tell you that you shouldn't believe in the biblical account of creation—that scientists have disproved it. The world will tell you that you shouldn't believe in Jesus, that religion is just a crutch for weak and old people. They will tell you not to believe in the miracles in the Bible because they're just myths. They'll tell you not to believe much of the teaching of the Old Testament because it was written by men who were sexist, homophobic and mired in their cultural traditions.

You must resist this. Sometimes it's hard to resist. They'll tell you that intelligent people don't believe in God, that most scientists are atheists. They'll hide behind a cloak of intellectualism and pretend that they're so smart and tell you that you should join them. That can be hard to resist.

Yet at other times, the efforts of atheists are laughable. Have you heard about the atheist bus campaign in England? They want to convince people to become atheists so they decided to put big signs on some busses to advertise their cause. It's sponsored by humanism.org.uk and richarddawkins.net and the athiestcampaign.org. Do you know what they came up with to put on their signs? The best sign they could come up with is:

"There's probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

"Probably?!" I mean, that's so weak. I find it hard to believe they're so inept, but I'm thankful for it. When I'm trying to get someone to accept Jesus, I don't say,

"There's probably a God. You had better believe, just to be on the safe side."

I know that Pascal's wager could be stated that way, but really, that's pretty weak. When I'm urging someone to accept Jesus, I say,

"There is a God. He's alive and real and rules all things. He created you for His glory and He demands that you turn from your sin and serve Him."

But whether the arguments of the atheists are strong or weak—you need to resist them all. You need to stand on God's Word, on God's promises, like the heroes of the faith did. You need to be like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They knew that the God they served was able to deliver them. They resolved to obey Him whether or not He did. You need to be like Esther. She was willing to die in the effort to obey God and save her people. She said,

"If I perish. I perish."

You need to be like Abraham.

Romans 4:18-21

"Against all hope,
Abraham in hope believed
and so became the father of many nations,
just as it had been said to him,
So shall your offspring be.
Without weakening in his faith,
he faced the fact that his body
was as good as dead—
since he was about a hundred years old
—and that Sarah's womb was also dead.
Yet he did not waver through unbelief
regarding the promise of God,
but was strengthened in his faith
and gave glory to God,
being fully persuaded that
God had power to do
what he had promised."

So Christians, don't be weak in the faith. Be absolutely convinced of the truth of God's Word. Stand on it like Jesus did.

So that's the first thing. You should trust the Lord when you're faced with a difficult situation. You should not forget that Jesus is ruling all things for His glory and for the church.

The second thing our text teaches us about sin is that

it is not inevitable. It is not reasonable. It is the utmost foolishness.

You never have to sin. Indeed, sin is utter foolishness. When Samuel arrived he said to Saul,

"What have you done?"

Then he said to Saul,

"You acted foolishly."

Notice the order here. Samuel said, What have you done? Saul gave his excuse. Then Samuel told him that he acted foolishly. That teaches us that there is no excuse for sin. Saul thought he had a good excuse for what he had done—but his excuse was worthless.

This exact Hebrew phrase, "what have you done" is sometimes used to indicate the absolute foolishness of what someone has done. It sometimes expresses absolute incredulity.

God used it with Cain after he had killed his brother Abel. God said to him, (Genesis 4:10-11)

"What have you done?
Listen! Your brother's blood
cries out to me from the ground.
Now you are under a curse
and driven from the ground,"

What have you done? It's a shocking question. Sin is not reasonable. It is not acceptable. It is the utmost foolishness.

Moses used the same words when he came down from the mountain and saw that Aaron had made the people a golden calf. What have you done? Moses is expressing his shock, his horror, his surprise at what Aaron and the people had done. It was not reasonable. It was of the utmost foolishness.

Joshua used it to Achan when Achan had taken some of the plunder from the city of Jericho. The Israelites had taken Jericho and were set to march victoriously into the promised land. But they met a set back at Ai because of Achan's sin. When Joshua confronted him, he used this exact phrase,

"What have you done?"

Joshua couldn't believe it! Sin is not reasonable. It is not wise. It is the utmost foolishness.

This phrase was also used by
Abimelech to rebuke Abraham after Abraham lied to him and told him that Sarah was his sister. Abimelech took Sarah. When he found out that he and his household were facing death because of Abraham's deception, he said to Abraham, "What have you done?"

Every time it was,

"What have you done!"

Sin is unreasonable. Sin is not at all what we should do. Sin is always foolishness. Sin is the act that fools commit.

The world today will tell you that sin is inevitable, that you can't really avoid it and so you shouldn't really view it as a big thing. Everyone's doing it is what they say.

Some people today will tell you that sometimes you can find yourself in a situation where you have to choose
the lesser of two evils. They will tell you that sometimes you'll find yourself in a Catch-22 situation—that you have two choices before you, that both of the involve sin, and that the best that you can do in such a situation is to choose the lesser evil.

But that's not true. Sin is not inevitable. In 1 Corinthians 10:13 the apostle Paul wrote,

"No temptation has seized you
except what is common to man.
And God is faithful;
he will not let you be tempted
beyond what you can bear.
But when you are tempted,
he will also provide a way out
so that you can stand up under it."

All the heroes of the faith knew that sin was not inevitable. That's what made them the heroes of the faith—they knew that sin was not inevitable and they resisted temptation with everything in them and through God's help they stood firm.

One of the things that you Christians should always keep in mind is that Jesus died to deliver us from the power of sin. He didn't just die to deliver us from the consequences of sin—but from it's power. In Romans 6:6 Paul said to Christians,

"For we know that our old self
was crucified with him
so that the body of sin might be done away with,
that we should no longer be slaves to sin"

And in Ephesians 4:17-24 he wrote,

"So I tell you this,
and insist on it in the Lord,
that you must no longer live
as the Gentiles do,
in the futility of their thinking.
They are darkened in their understanding
and separated from the life of God
because of the ignorance that is in them
due to the hardening of their hearts.
Having lost all sensitivity,
they have given themselves
over to sensuality
so as to indulge in every kind of impurity,
with a continual lust for more.
You, however,
did not come to know Christ that way.
Surely you heard of him
and were taught in him in accordance
with the truth that is in Jesus.
You were taught,
with regard to your former way of life,
to put off your old self,
which is being corrupted
by its deceitful desires;
to be made new in the attitude
of your minds;
and to put on the new self,
created to be like God
in true righteousness and holiness."

And then in Titus 2:11-14 he wrote,

"For the grace of God that brings salvation
has appeared to all men.
It teaches us to say 'No'
to ungodliness and worldly passions,
and to live self-controlled,
upright and godly lives in this present age,
while we wait for the blessed hope
—the glorious appearing
of our great God and Savior,
Jesus Christ,
who gave himself for us
to redeem us from all wickedness
and to purify for himself
a people that are his very own,
eager to do what is good."

So that's the second thing. Sin is never reasonable. It is never inevitable. It is never the thing to do. It is the utmost foolishness. Christians, never give yourself an excuse for your sin. There is no excuse.

The third great lesson we learn about sin from our text is that

you should never blame someone else for your sin.

To do so is deadly because it's not the right way to deal with sin.

Saul blamed his sin, in part, on Samuel. In verse 11 he said,

"When I saw that the men were scattering,
and that you did not come at the set time,"

In the Hebrew text the 'you' in 'you did not come at the set time' is emphatic. Saul blamed his sinful actions on Samuel.

The problem with blaming your sin on someone else is that that's not the proper way to deal with it.

The proper way to deal with your sin is to acknowledge it, put it away from you and ask forgiveness for it. In Psalm 32:3-5 we read,

"When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand
was heavy upon me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said,
'I will confess my transgressions
to the Lord—
and you forgave the guilt of my sin.'"

Blaming your sin on someone else is deadly. My impression from Scripture is that one of the characteristics of those who blame others for their sins is that you don't see them repenting of their sin. You don't see spiritual life in them afterward. You see a spiritual deadness. That's what we see in Saul from this point on. It was the same in Adam. We see it in Adam. He blamed Eve. After that you don't see one sign of spiritual life in Adam. That's the pattern we see in Scripture.

Christians, don't blame your sin on someone else. Blame it on yourself. Repent of it. Go to God and ask forgiveness. That's the only way to deal with it.

The fourth thing we see from our text about sin is that

it disables you for effective service of the Lord.

Saul was supposed to be leading the Israelites against the Philistines. But at the end here—he just leaves. He goes to Gibeah. Even later he doesn't take the initiative against the Philistines—his son Jonathan does that.

Christians, get sin out of your life. With sin in your life you can't be effective for the Lord. If we want our church to grow—we all need to become more holy. That's the only true way to get our church to grow.

Lastly, this passage shows us

how thankful we ought to be for Jesus Christ.

Saul failed. He failed because of His sin. He failed to deliver Israel from her enemies.

Jesus faced temptation and He didn't fail. He stood firm and triumphed over temptation. He did great battle with the enemy—by taking our sins and paying the price for them—and so thoroughly defeated our enemy.

If you're not a Christian, you'll be like some of Saul's soldiers who died with him on Mount Gilboa. They were fighting in a losing cause. Their king couldn't save them and they perished. Don't let that happen to you. You need Jesus—a King who can save and lead to victory. Go to Him today.