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13:8 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. 9 So Saul said, “Bring to me the burnt offering and the peace offerings.” And he offered the burnt offering. 10 And it came about as soon as he finished offering the burnt offering, that behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him and to greet him. 11 But Samuel said, “What have you done?” … 13 And 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 (1 Sam 13:8-13).
The big question stemming from 1 Samuel 13 is, “Why did the Lord seem to reject King Saul so quickly?” Does the Lord not show mercy and grace? Saul’s defense and Samuel’s clear accusation clearly show that there is a bit of history behind this action and explanation on why Samuel waited seven days instead of four or six. This is found earlier in 1 Samuel 10.
And it shall be when these signs come to you, do for yourself what the occasion requires; for God is with you. 8 “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 Sam 10:7-8).
Saul’s guilt comes from his disregard to Samuel’s clear order, but this does not fully explain the greatness of Saul’s sin. This was not just a play for power between two leaders. The real answer is found only by further contemplating the situation as God saw it.
The most obvious answer, at least to theologians or those acquainted with the scriptures, is found in how Saul, the king, usurped the priest’s duty of offering up a sacrifice. There is, in scripture, a clear demarcation between those who reign and those serving in the priestly line.
Priests like Aaron were not to take over leadership positions such as Moses (Num 12:1-5). Nor were kings to usurp the role of the priests. King Uzziah, for example, got leprosy because he dared make an offering, “But when he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the LORD his God, for he entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense” (2 Chr 26:16).
The only times these two roles of king and priest are mixed, such as in David’s case (1 Sam. 21:1–6), for he was a precursor to the Messiah such as in Melchizedek (Ps 110:4), or Jesus Himself who offered Himself. Separation of offices was important to protect the people from corrupt leaders. Only the Messiah could rightly combine the offices without going astray.
But there are, I believe, other reasons for the rejection of Saul. If we look closely at 1 Samuel 13-15, we actually see Saul fails three times, chapter 13 being only the first. God’s rejection should not be seen as sudden or as if the Lord did not fully understand the situation.
We are given three examples of Saul’s failures so that we see the reason for God’s rejection of King Saul. The second fault is seen in chapter 14. Though the Lord did later deliver the Israelites through Jonathan (14:23). Saul put everyone under a curse from eating until the enemy was vanquished (14:24). Jonathan ignorantly did eat but was not put to death. The army, being so hungry, greedily ate the food and so everyone sinned against the Lord because of Saul’s curse (14:22). Saul’s command was an improper and severe rule, typified by man’s religion rather than reliance on God’s strength.
Chapter 15, the third example, is more well-known. Saul spared the best of the Amalekite’s resources rather than wiping them out as the Lord clearly instructed (15:1-4). Although Saul confessed his sin in 15:24, the scriptures again state how the Lord has rejected Saul from being the anointed king (15:26-29). His choices revealed his true allegiance.
Saul clearly thought too much of himself and was willing not to submit to his God King. He repeatedly went against the Lord’s commands. So we see chapter 13 was not an isolated time of ignorance or even disobedience but a heart problem plaguing his life. Even though God had many times helped Saul, Saul would still disobey the Lord. Once he became king with some success and renown, Saul was not able to abide by the Lord’s rule but acted as a despotic ruler. Chapter 13 spends extra time portraying Saul’s confidence in himself (13:1-4), evidently coming from the victory over the Ammonites where God established Saul’s authority.
Through all of this, we see, the main issue is that Saul had the same sad mindset of the people, putting more confidence in an earthly king than God, the true King. This shows how Saul along with the people rejected their true Lord. Of course, Saul should not have touched the sacrifice, the king should not have usurped the priestly role, but the main issue focuses on the willingness of a king and his people to follow a man rather than God. In other words, this affair was about putting one’s confidence in one other than God the Creator which is plain idol worship, lifting up a person in God’s seat–something more like the anti-christ.
So instead of the king and people rejoicing in their God, God would remain on the outside of their religious shell. They could not perceive His provision, accept His laws as good, or love Him with all their hearts. This is why the Lord would appoint another who had a heart after Him, “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” (13:14). God rejected Saul and would choose one that others rejected, David, a type for Jesus the King, whom the Lord would later send.
The application for this passage is relevant to our lives. God is looking for a people who delight in Him. The main issue in life, then, is not regarding power and outward success, but living out our lives in obedience to the Lord. Our confidence is in God’s direction rather than in our own schemes. Our call is not to look ‘important’ but be genuine in the Lord’s sight. If we can allow the things of the world not to interfere with our pursuit to please the Lord, then we will be truly successful.
Check out our Digital Old Testament Library for a huge collection of resources on 1 Samuel and all of the Old Testament!